Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Alleged Michael Brea Sword Murder

Michael Brea (pictured) is a 31-year-old bit-part actor from New York City who has been seen on the television series Ugly Betty. Reports say that Mr. Brea early this morning murdered his mother, Ms. Yannick Brea, at her Brooklyn apartment with a sword. Mr. Brea lived with Ms. Brea, and has been apprehended and taken to Kings County Hospital for psychiatric evaluation.

Reports differ on a couple of issues. Some reports, such as that of Perez Hilton, state that Mr. Brea used a "Freemason ceremonial sword" to kill his mother, and that as he pursued her, he shouted out the names of religious figures, such as the "architect of the universe." Of course, Freemasons ceremonially refer to the Supreme Being as "the Grand Architect of the Universe."

Other reports, such as that of the New York Daily News, state that police found Mr. Brea wielding a samurai sword. The Daily News report quoted neighbors saying that Brea shouted "Repent, repent, sinner, sinner," and "You never accepted Jesus."

The New York Post reports that a samurai sword was used in the attack, and quoted a neighbor stating that Mr. Brea shouted about the "architect of the universe." The Post also reported that Mr. Brea's twin brother Marcel, a martial arts instructor, also lived with Ms. Brea.

I would point out a couple of things that might not be common knowledge among people who are not Freemasons:
  • To the best of my knowledge, neither Michael Brea nor Marcel Brea has ever been a Freemason. However, there are many, many Freemasons in New York City, and I certainly do not know more than a fraction of them. If I obtain information to the contrary, I shall post it here.
  • It is very common for martial arts instructors in certain disciplines to possess swords of various types. My belief is that Michael Brea appropriated a samurai-style sword belonging to his twin brother, Marcel Brea, who is reportedly a martial arts instructor. Samurai swords (lightly curved and square-ended) are easily distinguished from either the European-style swords (straight and triangular-ended) used in most Masonic ceremonies, or the scimitars (heavily curved and pointy-ended) used in some Shriner activities.
  • Yes, swords are commonly used in Freemasonry. They play a minor role in regular, or Blue Lodge, Freemasonry, where every lodge has an officer, the Tyler, who guards the door of a lodge in session, with a sword. Swords are used by every participant in Knights Templar commanderies. Other branches of Freemasonry make occasional use of ceremonial swords in their ceremonial dramas, called degree work. However, these swords are used only for ceremonial purposes--processions, dramatic enactments, and the like. Swords are never used within Freemasonry as actual instruments of aggression.
  • Masonic swords are easy to obtain from fraternal supply houses and dealers in martial arts regalia. Such suppliers do not require Masonic membership to obtain such a sword. Thus, even if the sword used in the attack was a "Masonic" sword, that does not mean that a Mason ever owned it.
  • The phrase "Great Architect of the Universe" is easy to find in many books about Freemasonry, including many well-selling books available in large chain bookstores such as Barnes and Noble and Borders Books and Music. These books include Brother Christopher Hodapp's Freemasons for Dummies and Brother Brent Morris's The Complete Idiot's Guide to Freemasonry, each of which sells very well. It is my belief that Michael Brea learned the phrase from some popular press book such as these.
  • The psychology staff at Kings County Hospital, when I knew them as a prospective intern in the 1990s, were top notch. They shall give Mr. Brea a thorough examination, and I will not second-guess them here. Certainly a psychotic or drug-related incident is at least plausible. The age of 31 is a bit old for a first psychotic break, but not so old as to be all that unlikely. It is also certainly the case that psychotic individuals often have prominent religious delusions and fixations.
In brief, this is not some kind of "Masonic murder." My sympathy, condolences, and prayers are with Marcel Brea and the other survivors of the late Ms. Yannick Brea.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Now Available for Pre-order from Amazon:
Freemasonry: An Introduction
(Tarcher/Penguin Books edition)

Some readers of this blog may recall that I published a book, Freemasonry: An Introduction, three years ago through LVX Publications. Now, Tarcher, an imprint of Penguin Books, is releasing their edition, with about 75% more content, and updated. Although the book will be released on January 20, 2011, it is available now for pre-order through Amazon; just use the link in the sidebar to the right. The Amazon price is $8.60 for over 200 pages, which I think is a great deal. This is a very economical way to introduce someone to Freemasonry, authoritative yet accessible. (Update, Dec. 20, 2010: I received my author's copy today, and the book looks terrific.)

The product description from Amazon follows:

An experienced Freemason and award-winning psychologist provides a precise and engaging exploration of the core meaning and practices of Freemasonry for the new generation of people interested in joining the order, and those who are simply curious in the wake of recent media coverage.

Entertaining books and movies often depict Freemasonry as a shadowy, mysterious, and possibly sinister organization, and the TV and magazine specials on Freemasonry that inevitably follow often leave us with more questions than answers.

Mark E. Koltko-Rivera, a practicing thirty-second-degree Mason, has created a simple, authoritative, and easy-to-understand introduction to the history, rites, and meaning of Freemasonry. It may be the single most reliable short guide to Masonry, written by a widely recognized psychologist and scholar of esoteric history.

Koltko-Rivera's trustworthy handbook explores all the basic issues around Masonry, like:

*What is Freemasonry, and what is its history?
*How does one become a Freemason?
*What are some of the most important Masonic symbols?
*What do Masons get from their involvement in Freemasonry? What changes does it make in their inner and outer lives?
*What is it like to participate in the initiatory rituals of Freemasonry?
*What are some of the great historical controversies and myths surrounding Freemasonry?
*How is Masonry relevant today?

About the Author

Mark E. Koltko-Rivera, Ph.D., is a thirty-second-degree Freemason as well as a doctor of psychology. He has written extensively on Freemasonry for publications that serve as Masonic audience, and has also written, and has also written award-winning scholarly works in the fields of clinical and counseling psychology.

If you plan to order this through your local bookstore, or if you ask them to stock the book, please note that the ISBN for this edition is ISBN-13: 978-1585428533.
It is a great pleasure to see this book reach a large public through a major publisher. Enjoy.