Famous Freemason J.C. Penny

Founder of JCPenney, J.C. Penny, was a Master Mason.
Initiated: April 18, 1911, P. May 19, 1911, R. June 2, 1911
Lodge: Wasatch Lodge No. 1 F&AM Utah



Ely S. Parker, a full-blooded Indian chief, was the grandson of Red Jacket, a close friend of George Washington. He was a Union Brigadier General in the Civil War, and served as General Grant’s secretary. He was raised in Batavia Lodge No. 88, Batavia, New York, and later affiliated with Valley Lodge No. 109. He demitted and became a founder and first Worshipful Master of Akron Lodge No. 527 of New York. Ely Parker Lodge No. 1002 of Buffalo, New York. is named after him.

Freemasonry as an organzation

“Freemasonry is an organisation of men who strive to live by the fundamental principles of truth, morality and brotherly love. It is a non-profit organisation and supports charity and community service. It unifies men of high ideals regardless of their colour, creed or worldly status.

There are several million Freemasons worldwide. The oldest Lodge under the Grand Lodge of South Africa was established in 1772 and the Order locally has withstood the tests of time as it has evolved to it’s present status of several thousand members. They are ordinary men, 21 years and over, of all religions and backgrounds, who share a concern for human values and moral standards and a respect for the laws of society and the rights of individuals.

There are many reasons why men choose to be Freemasons. It promotes brotherly love, self-development, family and community values. Freemasonry provides members with an opportunity for public service and hands-on involvement in charitable and community issues, as well as a chance for them to socialise with men from all walks of life without religious, political or social barriers.”
Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of South Africa,
Most Worshipful Brother Armiston Watson

Moral Leadership

Moral Leadership

By Charles M. Harper
Illinois Master Mason

“Do you demonstrate moral leadership?” This was the title of an article written by Edward Platt in the June 6, 2012 business commentary section of The Daily Journal newspaper. The paper states that Dr. Piatt, Ed. D, is a manager with the State of Illinois with 27 years experience and is an adjunct professor of business in the MBA andMOL programs at Olivet Nazarene University. It also states he lectures frequently on emotional intelligence, organizational culture and leadership.

In the article, he references a statement from a leadership author, Mike King. Mr. King states, “As you know, leadership is about leading others and influencing them to behave a particular way. Moral leadership requires you to always look at what is right and lead others to the purpose. Moral choices come from a person’s character as well; they do not always come from rational thinking.”

Let us look at this statement in particular “Moral choices come from a person’s character as well.” At this point in the article, I have to wonder, how do you develop the character in the person to derive good moral to effectively lead? Is a person’s character taught? Can it be developed from its current state to a more evolved state?

The answer to these particular questions is yes and can be found within the wealth of knowledge contained in the teachings of our Masonic Institution. “We take good men and make them better” is the motto most heard to explain the purpose of our institution. More specifically, through the use of allegories, or codes, symbols and memorization of material in a specific manner, contained within our rituals, based on a belief in Deity, and a desire to understand the philosophic, social, spiritual and psychological way we reflect on our state of being, we can create a plan of growth that betters our character.

This better character is exhibited by our actions, which is illuminated from us, to our society. “Better men do make a better world.”

A Master Mason and Lodge Brother of mine was recently placed in a position of trainer of a new co-worker, for the instruction of the work procedures at his place of employment. The new co-worker was still on his probationary period. The behavior of this gentleman was off-putting to many of his co-workers and those in management that he could very easy be laid-off once the probation period passed.

My good Brother, also bothered by the gentleman’s behavior, sat him down, and in a friendly manner explained how his negative attitude and comments have been noticed by those around him and the negative effect it was having on future employment. Though only being a Master Mason for a year, he had put in a lot of time studying our lectures and discussing the philosophies with many other Brethren. This reflection of our studies paid off in how he related to the new co-worker. The co-worker did a 180° with his behavior. And, through the consistency of his newly adopted attitude, and by understanding the effect it was having on those around him, he has been able to sustain his employment.

The Brother called me while on his lunch break that day with a question. He asked, “When we are taught to circumscribe our actions and keep us within due bounds, that doesn’t just include Masons, does it?” “No” I said. “We must reflect on our character in relation to all mankind.” He then asked, “If we discover a person who in need of assistance, we must extend our hand, if we think we can be of assistance to them, right?” “Yes” I said. “Our ability to extend our hand is not limited to Masons alone, it is to all mankind.”

“I got it!” he exclaimed. “I really am starting to understand what it is to first be a Mason, then apply the teachings of “How” to become better by subduing my passions and carving away my superfluities and vices, and applying this knowledge in various situations in my everyday life!” Charity is not limited to financial giving, but the giving of assistance in the proper manner that enables another to become a better person as well. This Masonic Brother demonstrated Moral Leadership and it was made possible by the consistent display of good character.

But, exactly HOW is this feat of bettering a man’s character accomplished in the Fraternity of Freemasons? The answer is simple. The application of the answer takes each individual man a lifetime to accomplish.

If a man can identify where he stands in relation to his book of moral law, the Volume of the Sacred Law of his particular Faith, he can locate a point to begin the task of rectifying his behavior. One only needs to ask themselves, are they in accordance with the divine moral laws of his Faith? Once this task has been accomplished, the true work of improving character can begin. As my friend Dr. John S. Nagy, Master Mason and Masonic Author often says, “Now that you have crossed the bourn between knowing where your behavior was and where it needs to be improved, it is now time to put in the work. At this point, you can no longer behave as if you don’t know where your self-improvement begins.”

A man must then study the Masonic Rituals and Lectures. I mean, really study them. Dissect them, if you will. He must ask what they are saying, and more importantly, what they mean to him. The lectures are filled with timeless philosophy from the ancient Greek philosophers. It encompasses in its teachings historic lessons from various faiths. The symbolism is derived from various sources, in particular, ancient Egypt and Mayan civilizations. A man must consistently ask the question, “Why” and then seek the answers, using the road map located in Masonic symbolism and allegories.

Now that we have looked at the character, let us look at leadership. Let’s return to the aforementioned article. Piatt introduces power as it relates to leadership. He states, “All forms of leadership utilize the components of power; however, power does not need to be coercive, dictatorial or punitive to be effective within the organization. Power in the moral leadership model should be used in non-coercive manner to choreograph, mobilize, direct and guide your members to pursue the goals and objectives of the organization in an ethical manner.”

Piatt also goes on to state, “Power always acts within and is responsible to a field of responsibilities and tasks.” He notes a quote from leadership expert James MacGregor Burns, “Leadership must engage its followers, and not just merely direct them. Leaders must serve as models, not martinets.”

I recently attended the Grand Master’s Town Hall meeting of the Grand Lodge of Illinois in Champaign, Illinois. Along with many matters concerning the direction of our Grand Lodge, a focus presented that I feel is important is leadership training. The success of a Lodge is dependent strongly on the ability of the leader to motivate the Craft in a positive and fruitful direction.

Albert Pike, in the first chapter and first page of his book “Morals and Dogma” stated, “The blind force of the people is a force that must be economized, and also managed, as the blind force of steam, lifting the ponderous iron arms and turning the large wheels, is made to bore and rifle the cannon and to weave the most delicate lace. It must be regulated by Intellect. Intellect is to the people and the people’s force, what the slender needle of the compass is to the ship-its soul, always counseling the huge mass of wood and iron, and always pointing north.”

What this means is that leadership is power. However, that power must be controlled by intellect. This intellect, in relation to Freemasonry, is an understanding of our tenets, obligations and rules and an effective demonstration of them in practice, and not just lip service. The leadership of a lodge, is highly dependent on the understanding of the will of the Craft, the abilities of the Craft and the insight of the Worshipful Master to assemble his plans within due bounds of its Lodge members.

Our Masonic Lodges are composed of many brilliant men, both blue collar and white collar individuals. Each man brings a certain ability and talent to the Lodge. They also bring different opinions and levels of dedication. The leadership of the Lodge must effectively employ each Mason in relation to his talent for his best chance of success. It is like a puzzle. Each member is a piece that will fit together with the others. If the pieces are assembled in the right order, the picture, or goal of the Lodge for example, will show its true beauty when displayed in its entirety.

Deputy Grand Master Barry Weer stated at the Town Hall Meeting that we must practice leadership by succession if we are to have longevity in the positive forward direction of our Craft. In the same article from the Daily Journal I have earlier referenced there is a statement that supports Brother Weer’s statement. Leadership author Abraham Zaleznik states, “Leadership is based on a compact that binds those who lead with those who follow into the same moral, intellectual and emotional commitment.” Meaning, if I am the Junior Warden, it is not only my duty to support and learn from the Senior Warden and Worshipful Master, but I must also instruct the Senior Deacon on the performance and expectation of my office, which he is to next occupy.

One Brother should constantly be helping another Brother. Freemasonry is an unselfish institution. The partnership we enter into when we are advancing through the chairs is to support the officer in front of us and assist the officer following us. This partnership is not limited to the officers, but it must exemplified by the officers to the entire membership of the Craft. One cannot expect to lead with the respect of his Brethren if he has not exhibited the same humbleness of supporting the officer he has followed in his line of advancement to the Oriental Chair.

Piatt provides sound suggestions for effective leadership. He states:
· The leader must create and communicate a clear vision of what they and the organization stand for.

· The leader must try to make their fellow constituents aware that they are all stake-holders in a communal partnership that cannot succeed without their involvement and commitment.

· Leaders must advocate and demonstrate trust, which allows those relevant stakeholders in the organization to be treated and respond like adults.

· Leaders must allow those with whom they lead to make mistakes. This gives the followers the hope that they dare to succeed by learning from those mistakes, and therefore, not be afraid to take risks.

· And finally, as Burns stated, “leadership is grounded in conscious choices among real alternatives.”

Piatt closes his article with this statement, “The ultimate outcome is to lead with a moral compass and inspire others to follow that compass.”

We, as a Fraternity, are taught how to be good moral men. We are charged with exhibiting this as an example to society of how men should conduct themselves. We derive our moral compass by the Volume of Sacred Law. We enact the restraint of our passions through Masonic education and understanding through discussions, therefore increasing the goodness of the quality of our character. With this ever evolving good character, we are employed in our lodges with tasks that promote leadership qualities, such as serving on committee’s as chairmen, and/or working our way through the chairs as a Lodge Officer to one day being elected as a Worshipful Master of a Lodge.

In the book by J.G. Clawson entitled, “Level three leadership: Getting below the surface” Clawson wrote that the industrial Revolution shifted America’s economy from an agriculture base to an industrial one and, thereby, ushered in a change in how leaders would treat their followers. The Industrial Revolution created a paradigm shift to a new theory of leadership in which “common” people gained power by virtue of their skills.

Moral leadership is a steady evolving trait that is learned. The process of this learning is made available to every Mason starting from the Entered Apprentice Degree, through that of a Master Mason and beyond in his career in the Masonic Institution. The information for this learning is not new for Masons. It has been taught and practiced since time immemorial in every regular Masonic Lodge. As it seems society has just starting to see the benefit of moral leadership in business at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. All one needed to do was look at the Masonic Institution for guidance. We have been here teaching it the whole time.

I close with one of my favorite quotes about Freemasonry.

“Freemasonry embraces the highest moral laws and will bear the test of any system of ethics of philosophy ever promulgated for the uplift of man”
Douglas MacArthur
General US Army

Brother Charles M. Harper Sr
Illinois Master Mason

Famous Masons Harry Houdini


On March 25, 1874, Ehrich Weiss was born in Budapest. The man who became famous as Harry Houdini joined St. Cecile Lodge #568 in New York in 1923, shortly before his death in 1296.


A couple of items I found interesting was while in Cologne, Germany he sued a police officer, Werner Graff, who claimed he made his escapes via bribery. Houdini won the case when he opened the judge’s safe (he would later say the judge had forgotten to lock it). He also copyrighted some of his acts such as “Houdini’s Upside Down” for which he would sue imitators if they used his trick.

One of Houdini’s most notable non-escape stage illusions was performed at New York’s Hippodrome Theater when he vanished a full-grown elephant (with its trainer) from a stage, beneath which was a swimming pool.

Now for some Masonic information. Harry Houdini was initiated in St. Cecile Lodge No. 568, N.Y., July 17, 1923, Passed July 31, and Raised August 21. In 1924 he entered the Consistory. Houdini gave back to the Masonic fraternity of which he was so proud, including giving a benefit performance for the Valley of New York which filled the 4,000 seat Scottish Rite Cathedral and raised thousands of dollars. In October 1926, just weeks prior to his untimely death on that Halloween, he became a Shriner in Mecca Temple. In truth, there were two Houdinis, Harry Houdini, the performer as the world saw him, and Bro. Ehrich (Eric) Weiss, the man and Freemason, a personality obscured from view by the public persona. His success allowed him to be amazingly generous and thoughtful of retired or destitute magicians or their families, often paying their rent or otherwise extending aid. He also gave benefit performances at charity hospitals and orphanages. His generosity, while often kept in the shadows, was legion. Possibly he felt he, too, would someday be in need, possibly he was simply implementing the Masonic tenets of Brotherly Love and Charity, or perhaps it was a bit of both.

On October 22, 1926, during an engagement at the Princess Theater in Montreal, a first-year college student asked permission to test the entertainer’s abdominal muscle control and strike the magician. This was often a part of his act, so Houdini, accepted the challenge and mumbled his assent, but the student struck before Houdini could tense the necessary muscles, obviously a critical requirement. Houdini ignored later stomach pains in the tradition of “the show must go on.”

Arriving in Detroit the next day, he was diagnosed with acute appendicitis but again insisted on performing. Finally, with a temperature of 104, he was taken to Grace Hospital where a ruptured gangrenous appendix was removed, but peritonitis had unfortunately set in. Despite medical predictions of imminent death, his strong will to live was such that he held on almost a week. On the afternoon of October 31, 1926, Halloween Day, at the age of 52, he finally succumbed. Halloween was perhaps a symbolically magical date for his final curtain.

Last rites for Bro. Houdini were held November 4, 1926 at the Elks Clubhouse in New York with some 2000 people in attendance. Services were conducted by Rabbi Tintner who joined in the Elks “Hour of Remembrance,” a tribute was delivered by Rabbi Bernard Drachman and eulogies by Loney Haskell of the Jewish Theatrical Guild and Henry Chesterfield of the National Vaudeville Artists, a Broken Wand Ceremony by the Society of American Magicians, and concluded with rites by the Mt. Zion Congregation and the Elks, and Masonic Rites by St. Cecile Lodge No. 568. Burial was then in Machpelah Cemetery, Brooklyn, a site Houdini had personally selected.

By researching this man, I found that even before he was a brother, he practiced the Masonic life which is emphasized by this quote I found which reads: A Mason is not necessarily a member of a lodge. In a broad sense, he is any person who daily tries to live the Masonic life, and to serve intelligently the needs of the Great Architect.


Volume of Sacred Law


The Holy Book must be opened upon the altar before a Masonic Lodge may be opened. Freemasonry is not concerned with doctrine or dogma or sect or denomination, but only with “that natural religion in which all men agree.” Therefore, the Holy Book is called the V.S.L. or Volume of Sacred Law or the Book of the Law. If the members of a Lodge are Christian, Moslem, Jewish or Buddhist, the V.S.L. of their particular belief is opened upon their altar. The V.S.L. is, therefore, a symbol of the revealed will and teachings of the Great Architect of the Universe – a name under which any Freemason can worship that Deity in Whom he puts his faith and trust.


Is Masonry a secret society?


Is Masonry a secret society?

No. It is sometimes said that Freemasonry is a “Society with secrets, not a secret society.” In point of fact, however, any purported Masonic “secrets” were made public several centuries ago in London newspapers, and today can be found in the Library of Congress, on the Internet, and in many books on the subject. Benjamin Franklin once said, “The great secret of Freemasonry is that there is no secret at all.” But some say the one great secret of Freemasonry… is finding out who YOU really are.

Masonic symbolism


Zoeterwoude’s Heineken Brewery and the Masonic symbolism

Zoeterwoude, Netherlands. Located in the province of South Holland, the small town of Zoeterwoude has a population of about 9000 inhabitants. What gives the special character of this area is the Heineken Brewery (the main factory of the Dutch beer company).

Apparently, nothing can get us thinking about Freemasonry. But a closer look from space will indicate a different symbolism of this brewery.

A few miles from Zoeterwoude we find the town of Lieden where there are working three Masonic Lodges of which Vertu Lodge #7 (Grand Orient of the Netherlands) is the largest and oldest. This Lodge was founded in 1757 and is one of the oldest Masonic Lodges in the Netherlands.

What about secret handshakes, ritual, and passwords?


What about secret handshakes, ritual, and passwords?

Freemasonry, often called the “Craft” by its members, employs metaphors of architecture. Following the practice of the ancient stonemason guilds, Freemasons use special handshakes, words, and symbols to not only to identify each other, but to help, as William Preston said in 1772, “imprint upon the memory wise and serious truths.”

Although every Freemason takes an obligation — and vows to keep the secrets of Masonry — it doesn’t matter to him that you can find the secrets in print; what matters is that he keeps his promise. And the secrets he is protecting are only used to help Masons become better men; and there’s certainly no secret surrounding what it takes to be good and true.
Grand Lodge of Massachusetts

Famous Masons Voltaire

Yesterday on April 4 in 1778, Voltaire was initiated in “Les Neuf Soeurs” Lodge in Paris. His conductors were Benjamin Franklin and Count Gebelin


Voltaire was initiated into Freemasonry the month before his death. On 4 April 1778 Voltaire accompanied his close friend Benjamin Franklin into Loge des Neuf Soeurs in Paris, France and became an Entered Apprentice Freemason.[51][52][53]


François-Marie Arouet (French: [fʁɑ̃.swa ma.ʁi aʁ.wɛ]; 21 November 1694 – 30 May 1778), known by his nom de plume Voltaire(pronounced: [vɔl.tɛːʁ]), was a French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher famous for his wit, his attacks on the established Catholic Church, and his advocacy of freedom of religionfreedom of expression, and separation of church and state. Voltaire was a versatile writer, producing works in almost every literary form, including plays, poems, novels, essays, and historical and scientific works. He wrote more than 20,000 letters and more than 2,000 books and pamphlets. He was an outspoken advocate, despite strict censorship laws with harsh penalties for those who broke them.[clarification needed] As a satirical polemicist, he frequently made use of his works to criticize intolerance, religious dogma, and the French institutions of his day.


Voltaire perceived the French bourgeoisie to be too small and ineffective, the aristocracy to be parasitic and corrupt, the commoners as ignorant and superstitious, and the Church as a static and oppressive force useful only on occasion as a counterbalance to the rapacity of kings, although all too often, even more rapacious itself. Voltaire distrusted democracy, which he saw as propagating the idiocy of the masses.[54] Voltaire long thought only an enlightened monarch could bring about change, given the social structures of the time and the extremely high rates of illiteracy, and that it was in the king’s rational interest to improve the education and welfare of his subjects. But his disappointments and disillusions with Frederick the Great changed his philosophy somewhat, and soon gave birth to one of his most enduring works, his novella, Candide, ou l’Optimisme (Candide, or Optimism, 1759), which ends with a new conclusion: “It is up to us to cultivate our garden”. His most polemical and ferocious attacks on intolerance and religious persecutions indeed began to appear a few years later. Candide was also burned and Voltaire jokingly claimed the actual author was a certain “Demad” in a letter, where he reaffirmed the main polemical stances of the text.[55]

Voltaire is also known for many memorable aphorisms, such as: “Si Dieu n’existait pas, il faudrait l’inventer” (“If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him”), contained in a verse epistle from 1768, addressed to the anonymous author of a controversial work, “The Three Impostors“. But far from being the cynical remark it is often taken for, it was meant as a retort to the atheistic clique of d’Holbach, Grimm, and others.[56] Voltaire is remembered and honored in France as a courageous polemicist who indefatigably fought for civil rights—the right to a fair trial and freedom of religion—and who denounced the hypocrisies and injustices of the Ancien Régime. The Ancien Régime involved an unfair balance of power and taxes between the First Estate (the clergy), the Second Estate (the nobles), and the Third Estate (the commoners and middle class, who were burdened with most of the taxes).

Voltaire has had his detractors among his later colleagues. The Scottish Victorian writer Thomas Carlyle argued that, while Voltaire was unsurpassed in literary form, not even the most elaborate of his works were of much value for matter and that he never uttered an original idea of his own.[citation needed] Nietzsche, however, called Carlyle a muddlehead who had not even understood the Enlightenment values he thought he was promoting.

He often used China, Siam and Japan as examples of brilliant non-European civilizations and harshly criticized slavery.[57] He particularly had admiration for the ethics and government as exemplified by Confucius.[58]

The town of Ferney, where Voltaire lived out the last 20 years of his life, is now named Ferney-Voltaire in honor of its most famous resident. His château is a museum.

Voltaire’s library is preserved intact in the National Library of Russia at Saint Petersburg, Russia.

In Zurich 1916, the theater and performance group who would become the early avant-garde movement Dada named their theater TheCabaret Voltaire. A late-20th-century industrial music group then named themselves after the theater.

Astronomers have bestowed his name to the Voltaire crater on Deimos and the asteroid 5676 Voltaire.[59]

Voltaire was also known to have been an advocate for coffee, as he was purported to have drunk it at least 30 times per day. It has been suggested that high amounts of caffeine acted as a mental stimulant to his creativity.[60]

His great grand-niece was the mother of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a famous philosopher and Jesuit priest.[61][62]