Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Join the Mug Club! Table Lodge 2011


We are a few weeks away from hosting Buffalo's original German Table Lodge. All 50 reservations are spoken for, and there is a growing waiting list. If you have a reservation, but have not yet paid, you need to act NOW! You can do this easily at http://harmonie699.com/members_only.aspx   by paying via paypal or by mailing a check to the secretary. Entrance is $30 and with that you get the limited edition 2.75 oz Harmonie Toasting Cannon. You get this with your purchase of the ticket the day of the event to use in sharing our fraternal toast. I know that some of our Brothers would love to attend but cannot due to being busy or simply live too far away. That is no reason to not get a hold of one of these wonderful Toasting Cannons.

For $5 each you can have one of these wonderful Cannons to share in a toast where ever you may be. You can pick them up at Lodge or we can ship them to you. Shipping and handling is $6.00 for up to 3 Cannons. If you are interested in ordering a few for yourself our your Lodge please contact me via facebook or email info@harmonie699.com. All the proceeds will go towards the Lodge, so please Brothers pick up a set.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

An Excerpt from Albert Pike's "Morals and Dogma"

IN the Ancient Orient, all religion was more or less a mystery and there was no divorce from it of philosophy. The popular theology, taking the multitude of allegories and symbols for realities, degenerated into a worship of the celestial luminaries, of imaginary Deities with human feelings, passions, appetites, and lusts, of idols, stones, animals, reptiles. The Onion was sacred to the Egyptians, because its different layers were a symbol of the concentric heavenly spheres. Of course the popular religion could not satisfy the deeper longings and thoughts, the loftier aspirations of the Spirit, or the logic of reason. The first, therefore, was taught to the initiated in the Mysteries. There, also, it was taught by symbols. The vagueness of symbolism, capable of many interpretations, reached what the palpable and conventional creed could not. Its indefiniteness acknowledged the abstruseness of the subject: it treated that mysterious subject mystically: it endeavored to illustrate what it could not explain; to excite an appropriate feeling, if it could not develop an adequate idea; and to make the image a mere subordinate conveyance for the conception, which itself never became obvious or familiar.
Thus the knowledge now imparted by books and letters, was of old conveyed by symbols; and the priests invented or perpetuated a display of rites and exhibitions, which were not only more attractive to the eye than words, but often more suggestive and more pregnant with meaning to the mind.
Masonry, successor of the Mysteries, still follows the ancient manner of teaching. Her ceremonies are like the ancient mystic shows,--not the reading of an essay, but the opening of a problem, requiring research, and constituting philosophy the arch-expounder. Her symbols are the instruction she gives. The lectures are endeavors, often partial and one-sided, to interpret these symbols. He who would become an accomplished Mason must not be content merely to hear, or even to understand, the lectures; he must, aided by them, and they having, as it were, marked out the way for him, study, interpret, and develop these symbols for himself.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Janusian Masonry

Harmonie Lodge practices Janusian Masonry. Like the Roman God Janus, we have one face looking backward and one looking forward. With both feet firmly planted in the twenty-first century, we look back to the eighteenth century – The Age of Enlightenment – for inspiration, and forward to the technological transformations that the twenty-second century promises to bring. We are a Traditional Lodge with modern sensibilities.

Harmonie Lodge is traditional in our emulation of the forms, ceremonies, and practices developed during the eighteenth century, when Freemasonry was a progressive tool of the Enlightenment and a driving force in the evolution of society. We are inspired by the Golden Age of Freemasonry and the legacy of Brothers Benjamin Franklin, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Voltaire.

While tradition guides us in spirit, our Lodge is fully vested in the culture and technology of the twenty-first century. We have integrated modern technology in all aspects of our operations, from lodge business, Masonic education, and degree ceremonies. Wireless Internet, surround sound, and multi-media presentations have greatly increased the efficiency and beauty of our enlightenment based enterprise.

The brethren of Harmonie Lodge are not afraid of change and embrace progress with open arms. While acting within the Ancient Landmarks and the Constitutions of the Grand Lodge of New York, we seek enlightenment on an individual level and modernization of Freemasonry at the institutional level. For it is only by living intensely in our own times that we may strive to improve ourselves and the world at large.

With the lessons of the past to guide us in our quest, we boldly stride onwards and upwards, looking forward to the advances of the next century and the continued evolution of Man. 

Craft Beer Masonry

The renowned beer writer Pete Brown often uses the imagery of a world viewed somehow, magically, more clearly through the lens of a beer glass. At least for me, that would seem to be true. Like any lover of good beer, I took the news that Anheuser-Busch Inbev had purchased Goose Island Brewery in Chicago with shock, outrage, but most of all a heavy heart. So I poured a Goose Island IPA, which had become a staple in my fridge, into a glass that evening and sat down to read what the pundits and pontificators had to say. I really didn't need to. All of the expected answers were out there. The company talked about how excited they were to have an opportunity to expand. A-B Inbev said nothing. Many of the faithful beer drinkers said they would continue to drink it until they noticed a change. A significant portion of the beer community, however, vociferously stated that they refused to put another cent into the coffers of a company they view for good reason as the enemy of everything that they stand for. As for me, I took another sip, savoring the beer's crispness, the floral hoppiness, the taste bittered by the fact it may be one of the last times I enjoyed that brew. As I held the beer up to the light and looked through it, one phrase jumped to the forefront in my mind: "Are we not worshipping at the altar of bigness?"

Dwight Smith asked that same question, decades before I was born, in a completely different context. Be that as it may, his passion for what he loved in the face of American Bigness seemed more appropriate than ever. Draining the last of the beer, it began to sink in that as with anything else, Freemasonry's currents are defined by many of the same factors that drive the other things that are a part of our everyday lives. As I finished the last of the beer, I cleaned the glass and returned to the fridge. After much deliberation a Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron was selected and poured, further fueling the thoughts that I could not seem to shake. I realized that at the end of the day, as Andrew Hammer states in Observing the Craft, there is a split in Masonry between those who understand what Masonry can be, and those who would not even give such ideas a second thought.

Apart from the obvious ties between fine beverages and a quality festive board, the actual similarities between these two worlds are striking, even to a sober mind. The most poignant comparison deals with matters of scale. When small software companies are bought by online giants, we simply congratulate them on making money, a job well done. With beer it is different. With beer there is a tie between the community and the brewery. True beer lovers loathe macro-breweries because they stand against everything beer should be about. From the earliest days, beer was about community, brewed and drank locally by people you knew. Following prohibition (although to be fair, some lodges are to this day dealing with that legacy), beer was consolidated into several large scale companies that saw beer not as an art that should be carefully cultivated, but as a commodity. The same can be said of masonry in those same years, peaking in power after the Second World War. This is a story familiar to all Masons, and is hardly worth repeating here. It is, however, worth noting that these were concurrent events. This speaks volumes towards the quality of the culture. Bigger was simply seen as better – a commodity, not a craft. Scale was more important than observing arts that reach back into time farther than we have records to prove. Thus were both Masonry and beer dumbed down for the masses, with profit, image, and most importantly growth, being the motivation that drove them forward. But how does one achieve this sort of scale? Magic – of the smoke and mirror variety. While big brewers were distracting people with clever ads, Freemasonry was distracting its membership with countless other organizations that leeched membership away from lodges. Oddly enough, in both cases neither the ads nor the organizations said anything about the product they depended upon at the end of the day.

The Palo Santo Marron went down far too easily, I felt almost guilty for not savoring it longer. And even though it may be nearly fifteen dollars for a four pack, it seems worth every penny. You get what you pay for. Here is a beer that uses only the best of ingredients, and is then aged in a specially constructed massive tank made of Paraguayan wood. When you drink it, you can appreciate the care and dedication that went into it. Price doesn't really matter at that point. And yet, dues have remained artificially low for decades. Why is that? No one bats an eye when a can of Natural Ice gets dumped. But I digress, this is about the ingredients. You only get out of something what you put into it. You only get a perfect building stone if you pick the right one from the quarry. And yet, large breweries insist on using adjuncts such as corn and rice. These ingredients only serve to dull the true character of a fine brew. And while this may have its place in certain recipes, the overuse of them on a regular basis is a bad habit. You increase you profitability, and by dulling the taste make it more accessible to the masses. I won't insult anyone's intelligence by dwelling too long on the obvious comparison of the folly of one day degrees and making the Craft open to any man that wants join.

As I switch gears and go for a Flying Dog Road Dog Porter, looking at Hunter S Thompson's quote, "Good people drink good beer" that graces every bottle, I'm reminded of a quote from Pete Brown, "There seems to be this unwritten rule in a lot of human behavior, the 80-20 rule: in the case of beer, I reckon about 80% of people are perfectly happy drinking the same old shit every day of their lives, and would be scared if a new, strange, different-tasting brand appeared in front of them. These people will always drink bland mainstream beers because they’re not drinking to appreciate the taste; they’re drinking purely for physical refreshment and to get a bit of a buzz going." It may seem obvious, but he's absolutely correct. Proportionately, the same number of people are joining the Craft as before. The disturbing thing is that you need to further break down the number, you have to break it down a second time inside the Craft to really get a good look at the state Masonry is in. A better number is five, five percent. That's the market share for craft breweries. The rest is domestic macro lagers and a few imports. But, as is always the case, it's that five percent that are truly the standouts among their peers. And while greatness is not exclusively limited to craft brews or Masons, it truly is the R&D lab for the world around it.

The good news is that while the tide of Bigness may be looking to sweep everything from its path, neither Freemasonry, nor craft brews are going anywhere. It truly is a Renaissance. Out of the ashes of decades of neglect a handful of breweries and lodges are starting to go back to the way things were intended to be. Craft beer has been steadily increasing while corporate lagers are on the decline. Some grand lodges issue edicts forcing their bland old brews on lodges, while A-B Inbev uses their checkbook to keep the competition down. But it doesn't matter. In the end, neither can drive everyone under who doesn't see things the same way they do. The ultimate sovereignty lies with the people making the choices, and as long as the truly devoted, the driven, the educated choose which beers they love and know that with both the mysteries of Masonry and Brewing, there is a bit of the true magic that can only be found in a select number of places, there will always be a home for the esoteric. Moreover, the Macros in both worlds have become their own worst enemies. By nearly eliminating tradition all together, they have forced a new generation to rediscover that which was nearly lost forever. This new generation has the ability, both in Masonry and in brewing, too not only look back to European origins, but to look forward with new interpretations and ingredients while staying true to the principles that have always guided both; community, craftsmanship, and the pursuit of perfection for the good of all. Sam Calagione of Dogfish head, while the aforementioned Goose Island was selling out, was actually scaling back his own production. Why? To focus on the quality, not the quantity.

So while my beers had been getting darker, my mood has been getting lighter. I'm ending the night with a Sam Adams Latitute 48 IPA. In true Janusian fashion, Jim Koch of Boston Beer looked back to the great men of the 18th Century, the age of Enlightenment, for his inspiration. Merging this tradition with a ceaseless quest for improvement and forward looking attitude, his beers are spoken of with the respect they deserve. This beer in my hand an English style nearly lost, but revived and then improved on using a new range of ingredients that were not even known to exist when the first batches were brewed in centuries past. And when someone worthy is looking for the experience they keenly know they desire, that has been missing from their life, I think we all know what they will reach for.

To all of you, a fraternal, "cheers."

Ryan Scott Bonnett
Brewer Freemason

Rise Up

Hear me my brothers both far and wide,
Let us gather together in fraternal pride.
As we measure our greatness through charity,
By truth, and tolerance, so mote it be.

Let your daily deeds lead to trust,
Though friendship loyalty and liberty.
We stand together as we must,
United as a fraternity.

Our greatness has direction,
For our rule it is straight.
With purpose, & preparedness,
We honor that which is great.

Shape your lives to what your virtues are,
For good deeds travel both wide and far.
And as we remember that oath we solemnly took,
We will break it never over the sacred book.

- Bro. Gabriel Krebs

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Return of the Festive Board

It seems the Festive Board fell a bit to the wayside in the 2010-2011 Masonic year here at Harmonie. This deeply saddend me, as J.W. this was an old tradition I loved and it was fast becoming iconic to Harmonie's identity as a Lodge. The warm feelings, fellowship and Brotherly love was there but not the wonderful throwback of Masonic Toasting. This pratice of formal toasting is a deep part of our Masonic heratage, ingrained around the beating heart of the Festive Board, truly the heart of the Lodge in all ages. I don't know why it was overlooked but I noticed and I can't let that happen again. Our officers worked hard last year and asked ourselves the important questions, "What could we do to make this easier?" and "What can we do so that we never lose this practice to history again?" from these questions was born the official Harmonie Lodge Festive Board Program. We went into the way back machine and looked over old Table Lodge Ritual. From that historical base designed a Festive Board program that we can all be proud of. A simple 11x15 inch 2 sided laminated program which covers all parts, from opening greetings, to toasting and the finial Tyler's Toast. We covered everything a Brother would want to know in order to enjoy this wonderful Masonic tradition. We kept it in a strong bearings of our German roots, building heavily from old German Table Lodge Ritual. In all I am very proud of the result and happy we were able to work on this project and have it for Brothers of Harmonie for many years to come. At left is the proof from the original draft of the program. You will have to come to the Festive Board to see the true finished product. Like all things in Masonry it is better to experience it than hear about it.

I will see you all around the quarry and I better see you around the Feastive Board,

Bro. D

The 2011-12 Officers of Harmonie Lodge No. 699