From esoteric secrets to ceremonial top hats, magic and Masonry have more in common than meets the eye.

Brill official

I was in the first grade. It was lunchtime recess in the schoolyard. A third grader named Danny asked me if I wanted to see a magic trick. How could I resist? He took out a small brass cylinder with a fitted cap. Removing the cap, Danny turned the cylinder over and revealed a small stack of nickels. He once again covered the stack of coins with the cylinder, then quickly lifted it up again. This time, instead of a stack of nickels, there sat a genuine stack of dimes. I was hooked!

For the rest of my life, I’ve treated the art of magic as an avocation, earning some tuition money in college and eventually learning how I could drink for free in just about any bar in town. I once came in third behind two professionals in a close-up magic competition, and I still occasionally entertain family and friends with a few tricks at a party. During the ’80s, I was active in Assembly No. 3 of the Society of American Magicians in Chicago, where there are probably more magic enthusiasts per capita than in any other city in the world. Hanging out at Magic Inc., a magic shop of long tradition, and the New York Lounge across the street, where some of the world’s best close-up magicians tended bar, I had the opportunity to meet and learn from such greats as Doug Henning, David Copperfield, Eugene Burger, Jim Ryan, and Harry Blackstone, Jr.

It has frequently occurred to me that magic and Masonry have much in common. They are both ageless institutions whose precise origins are undetermined. They are both associated with secrets that members promise to keep within the circle. They both espouse philosophies premised on a basic set of principles that, when combined with some knowledge and creativity, can produce amazing results. And, of course, they share some famous figures. Ever heard of Harry Houdini?

This month, we’re casting a light on some of those connections, and inviting our readers to consider all that binds these crafts together. And if you see me at Annual Communication this fall, I may be persuaded to show you a trick or two.

Sincerely and fraternally,

Randall L. Brill
Grand Master of Masons of California

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