Magic, Mysticism, and Ritual at the 2023 Masonic Symposium

The Grand Lodge of California’s annual symposium, held online and free to all, will discuss the life of master magician Harry Houdini and the role of magic in Freemasonry.

There is nothing more captivating than the illusion of magic. From daring disappearing acts to death-defying escapes, magic has always been a profound spectacle that entertains and enthralls.

No one mastered that art better than Harry Houdini (1891–1926). An American-Hungarian immigrant, his humble beginnings and captivation with escapism inspired him to become the most famous and influential magician of all time.

On June 28, in observance of the the 100th anniversary of Houdini’s being raised as a Master Mason with St. Cecile Lodge No. 568 in New York, the California Masonic Symposium turns its attention to the renowned magician, mystic, and Mason. The discussion will be led by Grand Master of California Randall L. Brill.

In addition to exploring the life and Masonic career of Bro. Houdini, the symposium will include a panel discussion of experts diving into a litany of ties between magic and Masonry. What is magic’s relevance to Freemasonry today? How important is showmanship in our ritual What is the magical connection between Freemasonry and the ritual? Certainly the connections are more than just passing: The Grand Lodge of California recently formed a new lodge made up entirely of magicians, in Ye Olde Cup & Ball No. 880. Additionally, the Invisible Lodge is an international group of magician-Masons. But how are the practices of magic and Masonry related—and what philosophical ideas underpin them both?

Join us June 28 for this special Masonic education event, held online and entirely free and open to all. Hear from expert speakers including:

Grand Master Randall Brill

Randall Brill is the Grand Master of Masons in California. He is also a past master of San Diego No. 35, and has served in several Grand Lodge Office roles, including as grand chaplain in 2012. He has also served on the Fraternal Support Services Committee, with the Institute for Masonic Studies, the Masonic Education Committee, and the Public Schools Advisory Council, for which he was the San Diego chairman. For six years, Brill served as a trustee for the California Masonic Foundation, and has also sat on the boards of the Nob Hill Masonic Center, the California Masonic Foundation, Acacia Creek, and the Masonic Homes of California. Away from Masonry, he is also an accomplished magician.

Maynard Edwards

Maynard Edwards, 32°KCCH, is the manager of member engagement for the Scottish Rite’s Southern Jurisdiction. He’s also the host and producer of the Tyler’s Place podcast, one of the most widely listened-to Masonic podcasts, and host of the Scottish Rite YouTube channel and a frequent contributor to the Scottish Rite Journal. Maynard spent 20 years as an on-air radio and TV host in Baltimore and Washington, and has been a professional musician since age 16. Maynard is past master of Mount Ararat No. 44 in Maryland, a founding member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Susquehanna, and a proud DeMolay dad and advisor. Edwards is also a member of the Society of American Magicians, the International Brotherhood of Magicians, and the Invisible Lodge.

S. Brent Morris

S. Brent Morris is an American author who writes extensively on Freemasonry. He is a Master Mason, a 33° Scottish Rite Mason, and currently the editor of The Scottish Rite Journal, a publication of the Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction. Morris has served as executive of the Cryptologic Mathematician Program at the National Security Agency and as U.S. representative to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in the area of computer security. He has taught mathematics, computer science, and cryptanalysis at Duke University, Johns Hopkins University, and the National Cryptologic School. His interests include computer interconnection networks, the mathematics of card shuffling, and recreational mathematics. He was the first American to be elected as worshipful master of Quatuor Coronati Lodge, the oldest Masonic research lodge in the world, and is a recipient of the Grand Cross. 

Ralph C. Shelton II

A lifelong magician, Shelton is a member of the legendary Long Beach Mystics magic club, as well as the International Brotherhood of Magicians, the Society of American Magicians, and the Invisible Lodge International. He retired from a successful career as a professional magician in the corporate and resort markets to study law. He is also a member of and regular performer at the Magic Castle in Hollywood, where he has also served on the board of directors. A past master of Orange Grove No. 293, he has founded two lodges, including California’s first affinity lodge, Ye Olde Cup & Ball No. 880, a lodge of magician Masons. He is currently the grand chaplain for the Grand Lodge of California, and also a trustee of the California Masonic Foundation. Additionally, Shelton is president and general counsel of the California Scottish Rite Foundation.