More Light in Masonry: The Allied Masonic Degrees (AMD)

Last night, I was awarded a great honor prior to the filming of The Masonic Roundtable. I received an official invitation to become the newest member of the Perfect Ashlar Council No. 349 of the Allied Masonic Degrees (AMD) in Herndon, VA! For those unfamiliar with AMD, it is an invitational York Rite appendant body of Masonry that limits its membership to 27 members per council (with two exceptions). [1] In essence, in addition to being open only to Royal Arch Masons, a Mason cannot join unless he is invited to do so (a privilege, according to my understanding, often reserved for Past Masters and other Masons with long track records of service to the fraternity). 



The purpose of AMD is twofold: Preservation and research. Throughout the 19th century, the “Antients” issued Craft Warrants to lodges which gave those lodges carte blanche to work any Masonic-related degree they liked. By the end of the 1800’s, many of these degrees had been consolidated into new Masonic bodies such as the Knights Templar and Cryptic Council; however, a number of degrees fell by the wayside. The Grand Council of the Allied Masonic Degrees in England and Wales and the Colonies and Dependencies of the British Crown was therefore formed in the late 1870’s primarily (at least initially) as a means to preserve these degrees, thereby keeping them from being lost to antiquity. [2] The second purpose of AMD is to enable Masons to come together in small groups to enhance Masonry through scholarly research. [3] 

I’m overjoyed to have been invited to join an organization whose purpose comes so near and dear to my heart as a historian. The ability to conduct Masonic research (both empirical and philosophical) has been one of the high points of my involvement with this fraternity, and I’m very much looking forward to learning all I can about the degrees AMD works so hard to preserve. This opportunity will also give me the nudge I need to make time for AMD’s yearly conference entitled “AMD Masonic Week” in Northern Virginia, which takes place each February.


To all the brethren of Perfect Ashlar Council No. 349: Thank you very much for this honor. I am humbled by your invitation and very much look forward to continuing my search for more light in Masonry with you all to guide and support me, and to share in my journey. 


[1] The Council of the Nine Muses is limited to nine brethren, and the Grand Masters Council has no membership limit due to its formation under a “roving charter” which enables it to induct men in rural areas of the United States where no AMD Councils exist.







The Sexualization of Freemasonry: Cheapening the Fraternity?

Every now and then, one of these gems pops up in my eBay feed while I’m trolling for Masonic books, pins, and other assorted paraphernalia:

freemason_pinup1 freemason_pinup2

Whenever I see them, I tend to ask myself why on earth someone–ostensibly a brother Mason–would feel the need to design such a thing. As if it wasn’t enough that the women in these pins are each wearing (well, sort of) Masonic aprons and jewels (Yes, I’m assuming that the pins were not designed by a Co-Mason–even if they were, these ladies are seriously underdressed for lodge. But lodge dress code is a whole different blog post for a different day…), the sexuality of the pins juxtaposed with the Masonic emblems (especially the square of virtue in the first example) conveys to me a distinct cheapening of the values we pledge to uphold and the tools we use to represent those values as Masons.


Similar, albeit less graphic, instances of the sexualization of Freemasonry have occurred at various points over the past hundred years. My friend and brother Carl W., author of the Masonic blog The Rough Ashlar, has recently posted examples of this on his blog here and here. While those particular photographs are more humorous than scandalous, they still make me wonder why we need to bring sexuality into Masonry at all. Perhaps it’s an attempt, at some level, to pay homage to our spouses and significant others who put up with the late night degree work and perpetually long-running meetings. But I think we can accomplish that without creating designs that objectify women and cheapen the meaning behind Masonic regalia and working tools.

I’m all about showing my appreciation for all of the Masonic ladies out there especially because, let’s face it, they put up with a lot of late meetings and nights out with the boys. But we need to remember to always emulate the values we so frequently inculcate. Otherwise, we’re just a bunch of fools.




Religious Opposition to Freemasonry: Guest Contribution to The Midnight Freemasons!

I was given the distinct honor this weekend to be a Guest Contributor to The Midnight Freemasons blog. My faith, much like Masonry, is a very important part of my life. Anti-Masonry is also a primary research interest. This article, which outlines my assessment of Christianity and Freemasonry, attempts to distill the arguments I’ve heard from religious anti-Masons into three broad trends. Take a look, and let me know what you think!


Lodges Are as Varied as the Men Who Comprise Them: Choose the One That’s Right For You!

I talk about my mother lodge, Acacia Lodge No. 16, quite a bit on the show The Masonic Roundtable. This isn’t by accident. It’s simply due to the fact that I absolutely love my mother lodge and its brethren.

One of the most common questions I get from gentlemen who are looking to get involved in Freemasonry is “what lodge should I petition?” My answer has always been, and will likely always be, “the one at which you feel at home.” Of course, I have the luxury of residing in a densely populated area (Masonically) with at least five lodges situated within 15 minutes of my house. Men aspiring to be Masons in areas much less densely populated may have to weigh lodge atmosphere with their commute. In Masonry, a “lodge” is not actually the building. Instead, it’s a group of Masons who, by means of a charter from their specific governing body, are entitled to meet at a given location. So naturally, each lodge has a different atmosphere. In fact, lodges are as varied as the individual men who comprise them, and lodge atmospheres could (and do) change as old members pass on and new members enter into them. This puts the burden on the individual seeker to visit a number of lodges and make his own choice about which one fits him best.

In my case, however, I could say that my lodge actually chose for me. When I was doing my initial research into Freemasonry and deciding whether or not it was an organization of which I wanted to be a part (Spoiler: it was.), my mentor Bro. David Hill, an Acacia Past Master, gave me a petition with “Acacia 16” already filled in. Ultimately, I didn’t end up performing the due diligence I recommend to those seeking to enter the fraternity, but luckily, I couldn’t have ended up in a better place. I came into this fraternity looking for friendship and community, and Acacia’s “country lodge” atmosphere was perfect. The building itself is a historic landmark dating back to the 1870’s, and despite a natural disaster and subsequent renovation (lasting from approximately 2006-2010), the building has retained a great deal of that country charm. The brethren there are warm and overflowing with generosity, and the dress code for lodge is a bit more casual than I’ve seen in other lodges (khakis and a blazer, but no tie necessary). It’s been the perfect home for me for the past three years.

If you’re interested in joining the fraternity, I HIGHLY recommend you visit a bunch of different lodges and decide for yourself which one is right for you. Visiting a lodge is as easy as figuring out who the Secretary happens to be and sending him an e-mail. Most lodges appreciate a little bit of forewarning so that they can have someone available to introduce you to the brethren and show you around before dinner.

For those of you (brethren and non-brethren alike) who haven’t paid Acacia a visit in Clifton, VA, I HIGHLY recommend it. Let me know if you’re interested in showing up, and I’d be glad to give you a tour.


My EA Degree at Acacia Lodge No. 16

My EA Degree at Acacia Lodge No. 16

My MM Degree at Acacia Lodge No. 16

My MM Degree at Acacia Lodge No. 16

Jon, Jason, and Robert at Acacia Lodge No. 16

Jon, Jason, and Robert at Acacia Lodge No. 16

Brother Robert Johnson from the Masonic podcast "Whence Came You?" at Acacia Lodge No. 16.

Brother Robert Johnson from the Masonic podcast “Whence Came You?” at Acacia Lodge No. 16.