Walter Hunt, Freemason’s Information Age Pioneer

Interesting people do interesting things and some of the most interesting to me are Masonic artisans or craftsmen. The cream of the crop are those who are multi talented having expertise across a number of fields. When I wrote about Patrick Craddock I noted:

Successful people are multi- talented and multi-faceted people. If you take a look at Brothers David Naughton-Shires and Ryan Flynn you will notice that they have interests and expertise in a wide range of different areas. What they do in one field is buttressed by what they know in another. When you combine a working knowledge of mathematics, science, history and religion with such sub headings of scholarship perhaps such as numerology, sacred geometry, historical preservation, symbology, ancient mystery schools, Gnosticism, computer science and other such studies, you become a well rounded person able to pull from other areas for your vision.

Here are some of these multi talented Freemason artisans and craftsmen who have graced the pages of Freemason Information and Phoenixmasonry.

Shot From The Cannon – David Naughton-Shires And The Masonic Art Exchange

Patrick Craddock And The Craftsman’s Apron

The Multi Talented Masonic Graphic Artist Brother Ryan J. Flynn

Brother Jim McBeth, Masonic Knife Craftsman

Walter Hunt 1Now it is time to add another multi talented Masonic artisan to the group, Right Worshipful Brother Walter Hunt, Grand Historian for the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts AF & AM.  Hunt is a most remarkable man who has been a writer all his life and a full time professional since 2001. He is the author of four science fiction novels by Tor Books – The Dark Wing series, which has been compared to the works of, Orson Scott Card, Frank Herbert, David Weber, and J.R.R. Tolkien. The series has been published in English and German and The Dark Wing has also appeared in Russian.

 

Since these works he has written “A Song In Stone,” which deals with the mystery of Rosslyn Chapel and the secrets of the Templars.

Hunt writes of his inspiration for A Song In Stone:

Walter Hunt 6“In the summer of 2005, I had the opportunity to visit Rosslyn Chapel, an extraordinary site just seven miles from Edinburgh. The final scenes in the best-selling novel The DaVinci Code take place there; it’s said to be the resting place of the Ark of the Covenant and the Grail, among other things. It also has Masonic and Knight Templar connections. My tour guide that day was a fellow Mason, who was very knowledgeable about the place – both the traditional lore and the somewhat more esoteric stories. While I was standing with him in the northeast corner of the chapel – highly significant, that, as my fellow Masons will attest – he and I had a conversation similar to the one below.”

 “Look up there,” he said, pointing to the ceilings. I could see the pendant bosses hanging down from the place where four arched supports met; each arch was decorated with hundreds of boxlike projections and an assortment of carvings and decorations – animal and human figures, angels and devils, nature emblems and Green men.

“Extraordinary,” I managed.

“Unlike anything else,” he said. “There are countless numbers of places of worship, holy places, all across Europe and the world. But this is different, Ian. This is not merely a work of art: it’s a text written in stone. More than that – it’s a song.”

“I don’t quite get your meaning. A song?”

“Take a look around the arches. There are seven slightly different shapes for those boxes. There are seven notes in the scale. In fact, if you’ve a good ear, you could strike each of them and hear a slightly different sound.

“Now imagine if all of them – there are more than fourteen hundred – were arranged as music . . . It’s the healing music of Rosslyn,” Madson said softly, looking away from me as if he were trying to remember something.

“I don’t think that was in my briefing.”

“No, it wouldn’t be,” he said. “But if it could be found . . .” “What happens then?”

“It heals the world.”

. . . And, as sometimes happens in my line of work, I had a moment of inspiration. A song, I thought. A whole plot dropped into my head; what if that song was truly the key to healing the world – what if it unlocked something of great importance? People have been trying to unlock the music for centuries; someone claims he’s actually done it, though my guide suggests that this falls short of the true “healing music”. But if the music was more complex, there might be an even more complex reason for it to have been encoded in the stones of the Chapel. From such small things are great things born. By the time I headed for home a week and a half later, I’d sketched out a plot for a new novel; by Labor Day there were five chapters. Within a year, there was an entire book. It was the first book I’ve written that isn’t part of the Dark Wing universe. The quoted portion above is from that book.

He goes on to describe Rosslyn Chapel:

The Apprentice Pillar

The Apprentice Pillar, which is said to be tied to Freemasonic legend. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Even the dimensions have meaning. As I began to plan out the plot of A Song In Stone, I became more and more aware of the strange field of sacred geometry – the way in which medieval builders created remarkable structures without resorting to advanced mathematics, computer-aided design, or any other modern convenience. There is a great confluence between the Gothic architectural style and the mathematics of music. It shows at Rosslyn, at the great cathedrals such as Chartres (explored later in the book, and to be described in a later post) . . . and at Rosslyn as well. Rosslyn is rightly called a “mystery chapel” – and it deserves better than to be an anticlimactic footnote. From the Lady Chapel to the decorated ceiling, from the pillars to the sacristy, Rosslyn is full of little mysteries waiting to be discovered.

Walter Hunt 7Lately Hunt has a few more irons in the fire. He is writing a sequel to A Song In Stone titled A Word In The Air. He is also working on another novel titled King & Country. “It’s an alternate-history timeline” he says, “an America with no United States; the American Revolution never happened. In fact, there is no hint of a revolution: the Atlantic colonies never consider the possibility of separation, because their relationship with the mother country is on a fundamentally different footing.”

Now so as you get the picture that is a very serious author who does not just dash off a bunch of words and slap them into a book, here is his reading list for research for this undertaking:

The Earlier Colonial Period

  • Andrews, Charles MThe Colonial Period of American History. This work is the definitive text on the colonial period. It is in four volumes, though Volume 1 and Volume 2 are the most important, as they provide the most complete descriptions on the origins of the British colonies (including offshore and Caribbean ones).
  • Bourne, RussellGods of War, Gods of Peace. An excellent insight into the religions of native societies as they came into contact with European ones.
  • Cordingly, DavidUnder the Black Flag. A real-life history of piracy, with considerable information on the lives of the most notorious pirates.
  • Fischer, David HackettAlbion’s Seed. An excellent study of the cultural origins of English-speaking colonies in America. While not as historically in-depth as the Andrews book for facts and details, it’s an easier and more fluid read. 0195069056
  • Jones, Daniel PThe Economic and Social Transformation of Rural Rhode Island. A dry discussion of early Rhode Island economics, particularly informative for the period just after King Philip’s War. 1555531210
  • Mandell, Daniel. Behind the Frontier. A study of the role of native peoples in Massachusetts Bay Colony during the eighteenth century. This is a good companion piece to the excellent Taylor book on New York natives (see below). 0803282494
  • McCormick, Richard PNew Jersey From Colony To State. A Rutgers University study of the transformation of the Jersey shore settlements up to the creation of the United States. (New Jersey’s development is less linear and more complex than other colonies, so this is a very useful book.) 081350662X
  • Mason, LauraSugar-Plums and Sherbet. Subtitled “The Prehistory of Sweets”, this book is an insightful discussion of the development of sugar and sugar products. 1903018285
  • Peckham, Howard HThe Colonial Wars: 1689-1762. Detailed discussion of the “forgotten wars” in America (not forgotten here, needless to say!) prior to the French and Indian War. 0226653145
  • Salinger, Sharon VTaverns and Drinking in Early America. A well-researched book about the culture of taverns and the social mores of drunkenness in colonial America. 0801878993
  • Singleton, Esther. Social New York Under the Georges. A wonderful source of information on New York life – furnishings, etc. – with pictures. Great stuff. 1406770493
  • Taylor, AlanAmerican Colonies. One of the best all-around books about colonial development in America. I had a conversation with a reenactor at Jamestown in the summer of 2007 who had some issues with Taylor’s conclusions, but the book is comprehensive and detailed. 0142002100
  • Vaughn, Alden PThe New England Frontier. A detailed discussion of relations with natives in New England during the seventeenth century (before King Philip’s War). 080612718X
  • Warden, G.BBoston 1689-1776. The 19th of April was famous in New England long before the Revolution – it was the day that Bostonians took Sir Edmund Andros prisoner in Fort William. This very informative book begins with that event and takes the reader all the way through the coming of the American Revolution. B000NOYL1M
  • Zemsky, RobertMerchants, Farmers and River Gods. Zemsky’s book is a study of leading citizens in Massachusetts Bay Colony prior to the Revolution. This B000KLXLY6

Eighteenth-Century Britain

  • Buchan. Crowded With Genius.
  • McLynn. Bonnie Prince Charlie.
  • Preble. Glencoe.
  • Preble. The Highland Clearances.
  • Schama, Simon. A History of Britain (3 vols, DVD)
  • Treasure. Who’s Who In Early Hanoverian Britain.
  • Treasure. Who’s Who In Late Hanoverian Britain.

French and Indian War

  • Anderson, Paul Crucible of War
  • Harvey A Few Bloody Noses
  • Jennings. Empire of Fortune
  • Parry Trade and Dominion

American Revolution Era

  • Allgor Parlor Politics
  • Middlekauff. The Glorious Cause
  • Middlekauff. Benjamin Franklin and His Enemies
  • Schecter. The Battle for New York

Early 19th Century

  • Key, Jane Holtz. Lost Boston. A photographic essay on the city of Boston, 1558495274

Middle 19th Century

Land and Sea Warfare

  • Black, Jeremy Warfare in the Eighteenth Century
  • Herman To Rule the Waves
  • Lavery, Ship of the Line (2 vols)

Hunt says this bibliography is a bit out of date as he has added to it. My goodness, that is a lot of reading to do for one book!                     Elements

But before he completes this epic work he is going to publish a 1632 novel with the help of Eric Flint. It is set in 1636, and takes place mostly in the New World.

Hunt has still another work in progress, this one almost complete. The Book is title “Elements of Mind,”  a novel that is set around 1860, and deals with mesmerism – a sort of pseudoscience that swept England in the middle 19th century. The principal characters are almost exclusively real people, though in many cases their histories have been altered or elaborated to fit the story.

Hunt doesn’t just limit himself to writing, however. He is also the designer of a board game called Rails of New England.

Rails of New England

 Rails of New England 3If this is all Hunt did it would be quite an accomplishment. Yet this man is also an active Freemason. Grand Historian,Right Worshipful Walter Hunt is a member of Norumbega Fraternity Lodge, Grand Lodge of Massachusetts AF & AM, which was originally  a merger of  Norumbega and Brookline Lodges, 03/12/1984, where Hunt was Master in 1993-1994 and then that merger merged with Fraternity & Fuller Lodge to form Norumbega Fraternity Lodge,10/05/2001. Hunt is also Past Master of Mount Hollis Lodge of the same jurisdiction where he served as Master in 1999 and 2006.

Hunt writes for the Trowel, the magazine of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts AF & AM. He has an ongoing series right now of in depth looks at Massachusetts Past Grand Masters you have never heard of. When the editorship of the Trowel became available recently Hunt was one of two semi finalists for the position.

Here is a list of articles that he has authored for the Trowel:

  • Summer 2009: “A Grand Historian For Our Grand Lodge.”
  • Winter 2009: “Masonic Team-Building.”
  • Spring 2010: “Our Grand Master Visits Our Brothers in Panama.”
  • Fall 2010: “Grand Masters of Massachusetts: John Cutler and Samuel Dunn.”
  • Winter 2010: “Grand Masters of Massachusetts: Isaiah Thomas, Benjamin Russell – Printers, Patriots, Freemasons.”
  • Spring 2011: “Grand Masters of Massachusetts: Joseph Jenkins, John Abbot – The Builder of the Temple and the Defender of the Craft.”
  • Summer 2011: “Grand Masters of Massachusetts: Joshua B. Flint.”
  • Winter 2011: “Grand Masters of Massachusetts: Paul Dean – Careful Steward.”
  • Spring 2012: “Grand Masters of Massachusetts: George Randall – Apostle in the Wilderness.”
  • Summer 2012: “Browsing the Proceedings of Grand Lodge.”
  • Fall 2012: “Grand Masters of Massachusetts: John T. Heard.”
  • Winter 2012: “Grand Masters of Massachusetts: Augustus Peabody – A Profound Thinker and Good Man”
  • Spring 2013: “Grand Marshal to Grand Master.”
  • Summer 2013: “Grand Masters of Massachusetts: Charles C. Dame – The Fraternity Rebuilds.”
  • Fall 2013: “Grand Masters of Massachusetts: William Sewall Gardner – Holding the Scales in Equipoise.”
  • Winter 2013: “Grand Masters of Massachusetts: Sereno Dwight Nickerson – ‘Si Monumentum Requiris, Circumspice.’ “
  • Spring 2014: (pending): “Grand Masters of Massachusetts: Claude LeRoy Allen – A Different Time.”

But his crowning Masonic achievement, the pièce de résistance , is his website  Masonic Genealogy.

MasonicGenealogy is intended for use as a research tool for Masonic historians. It is the synthesis of readily-available sources presented in the form of a wiki, a searchable database consisting of pages connected by links. The content is constantly evolving and enlarging, and all material on the site is subject to change as new material becomes available.

Here is how this project came about in Hunt’s own words:

“The primary author was at the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts at one of its Quarterly Communications in the fall of 2009, and met three Brothers from Rufus Putnam Lodge in Rutland, Massachusetts. These Brothers were interested in finding out information about their Lodge’s history.”

“Their initial inquiry ran up against one of the greatest problems with our otherwise-terrific Grand Lodge Library and its extensive records, the Proceedings which chronicle the doings of our Grand Lodge from 1733 to the present: there is no comprehensive index. There are indexes in some of the more than 140 volumes of the Proceedings (though not all), and there is a card catalog (incomplete) composed around 1951 that covers some (but not all) of the topics – people, places, lodges, events – from our long history. But there is no overall, up-to-date index.”

“And so began the quixotic notion of creating an index – by, as another of Masonic Genealogy’s principals says, “turning every page.” Thus, over a series of months, every page of the Proceedings from 1792 to the present has been turned (the work is ongoing). The site now contains pages for every lodge ever chartered, and virtually every lodge for which a dispensation was ever issued, in Massachusetts. Similar data sets exist for other states. There is a page for every year of the Grand Lodge’s history (the work is ongoing), listing all of the events of that year, in some cases illustrated by pictures from the Proceedings and elsewhere. Other topic pages are being developed; see the Current events page to see what exists and what’s new.”

It is real genius placing a cataloging system into a wiki. Hunt explains some of the benefits:

  • By referencing a Year page, the user can readily see the events of that year, including the Grand Master, the dates and events of Quarterly Communications, elections and decisions, and necrology information from that year. Each year also includes a summary of all lodges in existence during that year, both chartered and under dispensation.
  • By referencing a Location page, the user can see a list of all lodges that met in that place, along with the years they met there. It is intended eventually to list the building locations and information about those buildings, but that is not yet in place.
  • By referencing a Lodge page, the user can see information about the lodge of that name, along with a list of years the lodge was active; where the date appears in bold, there is a reference for that lodge in the corresponding year. Each lodge page also includes the charter and dispensation date, the Grand Master issuing the charter, the places it met, and the current disposition of its charter, if known.

From a layman’s point of view the wiki format has obvious advantages. It is on a database not web pages.  It doesn’t exist until you click on it. There is no realistic limit to how much data you can enter. It’s easy to set up and has the ability to rapidly locate things. It is very fast!

And the links, did I mention the links? You can put links on a page which link to another page which has numerous links to other pages which when you link onto them have still more links. And this goes on forever and can bring you back to where you started. It’s like one big circle. Hunt says, “Think of a wiki as a roll top desk with pigeon holes.”

Some of the other advantages are that a wiki has an edit link for every page. It writes the html for you. Most wikis store old copies of pages and often will show you what changes you have made on those pages.

Nathan Matias at Sitepoint – has some further wiki advantages to mention.

  • Creating New Pages Is Simple With Wikis: Wikis let you link to pages that don’t yet exist. Click on a link that points to a nonexistent page, and the wiki will ask you for initial content to put in the page. If you submit some initial content, the wiki will create the page. All links to that page (not just the one you clicked) will now point to the newly-created page.
  • Wikis Simplify Site Organization: As wikis work like hypertext databases, you can organize your page however you want. Many content management systems require you to plan classifications for your content before you actually create it. This can be helpful, but only if what you want to convey fits a rigid mould. With a wiki, you can organize your page into categories if you want, but you can also try other things. Instead of designing the site structure, many wiki site creators just let the structure grow with the content and the links inside their content. But you don’t have to have it either way. I do all three on my own site. Visitors can navigate the site by following a storyline, drilling down through a hierarchy, or they can just browse with the natural flow of the internal links. Without the wiki, such complexity would be a nightmare. Now that I use a wiki, I also find my site structure easier to manage than when I used a template system and a set of categories.
  • Wikis Keep Track of All Your Stuff: Because a wiki stores everything in an internal hypertext database, it knows about all your links and all your pages. So it’s easy for the wiki to show back links, a list of all the pages that linking to the current page. Since the wiki stores your document history, it can also list recent changes. Advanced wikis like the Wikipedia can even show a list of recent changes to pages that link to the current page.

Hunt tells us again, “A wiki grows organically. Take things in any order, in any time. Look at any page and see its history.”

Some come with me now to explore Masonic Genealogy. Under regional sections on the right click on Massachusetts. Click on Lodges and we will look up one of my former Lodges. Go to the P’s and click on Paul Revere.  Now under Anniversaries or Visits by Grand Master, take your pick, click on 2006- 150th anniversary. Now we find ourselves on the Jeffrey Hodgdon Grand Master page for 2006. Scroll down the page to Special Communications and find 10/14 2006 Brockton. Click on Brockton and then Paul Revere and we are back where we started.

Now this is a very simple route that we took. But you might have noticed along the way all the options you had to go elsewhere and make a bigger circle or a longer route. The cross referencing in this wiki presents you with the best cross referencing you have ever seen and you can use it without getting lost.

Lately Hunt is working on expanding and explaining all the annotations in the pages of the Grand Constitution.

The bottom line is that this is a tremendous tool for research and getting to know your Grand Lodge. It is the new Grand Lodge Search Engine!

Walter Hunt, a historian, writer, author, science fiction buff, board game aficionado and Freemason is making his mark on society and Freemasonry. His Masonic Genealogy will be a model for every Lodge in the United States if not the world and will bring Grand Lodges fully into the 21st century Information Age with both feet.

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About Fred Milliken

Fred is a Past Master of Plymouth Lodge, Plymouth Massachusetts, and Past Master of Paul Revere Lodge, Brockton, Massachusetts. Presently, he is a member of Pride of Mt. Pisgah No. 135, Prince Hall Texas, where is he is also a Prince Hall Knight Templar . Fred is a Fellow of the Phylaxis Society and former Executive Director of the Phoenix Masonry website and museum.

Comments

  1. Bob Garrell says:

    sounds like you accomplished and finished a task, of which even Sisyphus would be jealous

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