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A Pilgrim's Path
By John J. Robinson
Preface i x
1. Getting to Know You 1
2. What Is a Mason? 13
3. The Fountainhead of Freedom 23
4.1s Freemasonry a Religion? 33
5. Albert Pike and the Morning Star 41
6. The Forger 51
7. The Media Mogul 61
8. Fundamentalist Fury 73
9. The Southern Baptist Convention 85
11. MasonicOrigins 113
13. "Don't Talk to Me about Change!" 128
14. A Masonic Idea File 138
15. The Roots of All Masonry 148
16. "God Loveth a Cheerful Giver" 156
17. "Let Your Light So Shine . . ." 165
18. Decision 173
IN TALKING WITH Masonic groups across the
country, I have repeatedly been asked when I was going to write another book
about Masonry, something I had no plans to do. I have thought of myself as a
writer of history, not of Freemasonry.
More recently, I began asking Masons what
they'd like to see in such a book. The replies were numerous and varied.
Many wanted to know about fundamentalist anti‑Masons: Why do they hate
Freemasonry? What are their allegations against Masonry, and how should a
Mason respond? Others wanted to know about Masonry and the public. What do
non‑Masons ask when they call in to radio and TV shows about the fraternity?
Had I formed any opinions regarding the decline in Masonic membership? Does
the public really care about Masonry?
As I reflected on these and many other
questions, I realized that during my travels to talk about my books and
about Masonry, I had gained a great deal of experience, and some insight,
into the questions, the problems, and the misunderstandings about
Freemasonry that do exist, both within the fraternity and outside it. Good
sense dictates that al1 that experience will be wasted if I don't find a way
to share it. I can only hope that this little book will provide some of the
answers, offer some solutions to problems
as I understand them, and perhaps provide a few things for Masons to think
For non‑Masons who choose to read it,
this book may provide new perspectives on the world's oldest and largest
I am often asked a question along the
lines of, "Exactly what is your area of expertise?" My usual answer is, "I
am generally regarded as the world's foremost authority on my own personal
opinions ‑ and on nothing else."
I can't add anything to that answer, so
please bear in mind that if in this book I reach a conclusion, make a
judgment, or even go so far as to offer a suggestion, it doesn't come from a
deep well of infallible wisdom. Everything that follows is just one man's
personal opinion, based on one man's personal experiences in the world of
Getting to Know You
I'VE BEEN ENGAGED in Masonic research for
ten years now, but I still think of myself as a student. And I have learned
what every student learns: Every time we open a door, we find a dozen more
It has been stated that Freemasonry has
been the subject of over fifty thousand written works since it revealed its
existence to the people of London in 1717. A dedicated researcher might
devote himself to learning all that there is to know about Freemasonry by
reading a Masonic book every single day. The problem is that such a program
would require 137 years to complete, with a few thousand more Masonic works
turned out in the meantime. It can't be done.
It should always be borne in mind that
precious little was actually recorded about ancient, traditional Masonry
before 1717, which is hardly surprising for a group sworn to put nothing in
writing. That has left a clear field for speculation and imagination, which
have often been applied to elaborate on and convolute some simple, beautiful
teachings of brotherhood and charity. That's not new.
Books of theology far outnumber books
about Masonry, as for almost two thousand years some men have felt compelled
to explain to the rest of us what Jesus Christ really meant in the Sermon on
the Mount, or the hidden meanings in the golden rule. It is difficult to
imagine Christ talking to a crowd and then walking off down the road,
leaving behind four disciples to reveal to the audience the esoteric message
concealed in the parable of the Good Samaritan.
To me, the message of Freemasonry seems
bright and clear, and I like what I see. It is always possible, and even
probable, that my understanding is constricted by limited knowledge, and
especially by the absence of the emotional involvement I would have were I a
Freemason. What I do have is some observations, opinions, and experiences I
would like to share, in order to pass on what I have learned from the unique
experience of talking with non‑Masons all across the country. I've talked
with sons, daughters, and wives of Freemasons, with grateful beneficiaries
of Masonic charities, and with inquisitive minds who have no Masonic
connections whatever, but would like to know more. I've also talked with
rabid fundamentalist anti‑Masons who see Masonry as a separate, satanic
cult. I've even been publicly branded a messenger of Satan for speaking
favorably of the Masonic order. Some of the light I have acquired certainly
has its dark side, but it has been an extraordinary experience.
I have also had the opportunity to
discuss Freemasonry with Masons representing a wide variety of Masonic
bodies, including Grand Lodges, Scottish Rite, York Rite, the Allied Masonic
degrees, the Shrine, and others across this country and in Europe.
The research that resulted in my writing
the book B0771 in Blood began with no thought of Freemasonry. I was looking
at events in the history of fourteenth‑century Britain, but kept bumping
into things that seemed to relate to the little I knew about this ancient
society. I decided to take a break from classic medieval history to learn
more about Masonry.
I was overwhelmed by the amount of
written material available. The local public library had hundreds of volumes
on Masonry. My first book on Masonic ritual, a little volume called Duncarl
s Ritual, was purchased at my local supermarket. Others were available at a
fraternal supply house run by a father and son who were both active
Freemasons. Perhaps that's why I was surprised when I was later attacked for
writing an "expose" of Masonic secrets, since I mostly used works that I had
purchased from Freemasons.
Nor could all of the available books of
Masonic ritual be called clandestine. I found several `'offficial" works
written in simple, easy to decipher codes of abbreviations, or with graphic
symbols such as a sword for the Tyler and a chair for the Worshipful Master
of the lodge.
One little book in cryptic symbols bore
the title Rambling Aff uent Mouton~ and Meny Midshipmen. The initial letters
of those words meant that it was intended for Royal Arch Masons and Mark
Masters. It was offficially sanctioned by the "GC RAM of the Dark and Bloody
Ground," which meant that it had the approval of the Grand Chapter of Royal
Arch Masons of Kentucky.
The decision to spend years researching
and writing a book is not an easy one. Many of us want to, but we know that
it requires more than just a tremendous amount of work. Even if the book is
completed, there is only a slim chance of finding a publisher. About half a
million books are submitted to publishers each year in this country, and
only about fifty thousand of them find their way into print. So as you
write, week after week, you know that chances are ten to one that what
you're struggling over will never be published. There's also the knowledge
that the average book sells fewer than five thousand copies, a meager return
for what may represent years of effort.
In my case, I was writing in the hope of
finding something constructive to do in retirement. I had watched my father,
from sixtyfive to eighty‑four, filling his hours making model ships, until
his eyesight was not up to the fine detail and he ran out of family and
friends to give them to. My writing experience had consisted of millions of
words appearing in the form of advertising copy, direct mail, press
releases, and corporate business reports. Most important, perhaps, I was
eager to write a book because I felt that during my research into Masonic
origins I had discovered something exciting, even exhilarating, that I
wanted to share. It appeared that Freemasonry may well have pioneered the
very concept of religious freedom, the individual right to worship God
according to one's own conscience. That was a purpose far more important
than the original purposes which Freemasons usually ascribed to themselves.
That concept of Masonic purpose was new, and different, and important.
The excitement of being published was
soon submerged in the depression of a poor reception. The introduction of
Born in Blood was dismal. Not even one newspaper in the United States saw
fit to review a book that had the word Freemason7y on the front cover, not
even in my hometown. The publisher was incredulous. "Even if a book is a
tedious volume about how to prune Armenian begonias," he told me, "it gets a
mention in the author's own local paper." But not in my case. The publisher
sent a local book editor a press release, and then a copy of the book. He
finally called the editor person‑to‑person, to be told, "I just don't think
our readership would be interested in this subject."
Libraries disagreed. They apparently get
a lot of calls for books about Masonry, and they became the first major
purchasers. The book was reviewed in trade journals such as Publishers
Weekly and Kirkus Reviews, and their positive reviews did result in a few
bookstores stocking Born in Blood. As the publisher and I tried to comfort
each other with that, neither of us could even fantasize that within two
years over fifty thousand copies would be sold here and abroad.
It started with the idea of sending
copies of the book to Masonic publications. One helpful soul tried to save
us the expense, advising against the effort with the comment, "You'll have
to learn that Masons don't read books." (What I learned is that some advice
is best ignored.) I was gratified that many of the Grand Lodge publications
recommended Bom in Blood to their readers, but some took the opposite stand.
I had not expected the book to arouse the controversy among Masons that it
did in the beginning. Since respected Masonic scholars had stated in print
that the true origins of Freemasonry were completely unknown, and that
theories such as the birth of the Craft in medieval stonemasons' guilds were
impossible to prove, I had thought that a new theory of Masonic origins
would be welcome Instead, I was attacked by many for "shallow research" and
poor writing. ("It will put you to sleep," said one furious letter to a
One angry man went so far as to demand of
his research lodge that Born in Blood be banned by the lodge and declared
forbidden reading for Freemasons. I was gratified at what happened next, as
the Master of the lodge refused to allow the motion, on the grounds that no
Masonic body tells its members what they may or may not read.
Nor would any Masonic body participate in
the suppression of any book. Now that was more in keeping with the opinion I
had already formed about the Craft.
Then a letter came to my publisher from
Richard Fletcher, executive secretary of the Masonic Service Association,
who had been sent an advance copy. He graciously pointed out several factual
errors (which were corrected in the second printing), such as President
Reagan's membership being only honorary, and the settlement in 1984 of
differences between the Grand Lodge of Utah and the Mormon Church. He made
it clear that he did not agree with every point of my hypothesis, but he did
say one thing that warmed my heart: "Mr. Robinson shows an understanding of
us that we find rare indeed." That was a comforting thought while being
tossed on the sea of controversy through which I found myself moving.
I shall never forget the first favorable
Masonic review, which appeared in The Philalethes magazine under the byline
of Allen Roberts. I had already come to identify Mr. Roberts as the most
prolific Masonic author, perhaps in all of Masonic history, and his magazine
commentaries gave substantial evidence that he was a man who would express
his opinion, whether or not it was popular. I was greatly relieved to read
his appraisal of Born ~n Blood, and could not resist calling him that same
evening to express my thanks. What I thought would be a short call led to a
half‑hour conversation that sparked a friendship that is still very
important to me. Allen Roberts gave a great boost to my prior conclusion
that Freemasons would be fair‑minded.
How far they would go to be fair was
driven home to me by two events that still linger warmly in the forefront of
One day I received a phone call from a
man who introduced himself as the managing editor of the Scott~sh Rite
Joumal, the of ficial publication of the Southern Jurisdiction. His name was
Dr. John Boettjer. He said that he was faced with a problem for which he had
a solution, but he felt that the solution should have my approval. That
alone surprised me, but he went on to explain that the magazine's book
reviewer had submitted a negative review of Bom ~n Blood. On the other hand,
he had received letters praising the book from a number of Scottish Rite
Masons. In fairness, he felt that he should run not one but two reviews,
presenting both points of view. Dr. S. Brent Morris who had written the
negative review had already wholeheartedly approved the idea of letting both
sides have their say. hat did I think of that plan?
What did I think? I thought that only a
Masonic pub]ication could come up with an approach so dedicated to
fair‑mindedness. A11 editors know that a movie or book review simply
reflects the opinion of one person, but that doesn't bother them. Here was
an editor who caredt I approved his plan, with gratitude.
The double review appeared in the
Scottish Rite Joumal under the heading "Thumbs Up‑Thumbs Down," to my
knowledge a journalistic first.
The other event involved the staff of the
Northem Light, the monthly magazine of the Scottish Rite Northern
Jurisdiction. The magazine's book reviewer had been harshly critical of Bom
irl Blood, but by then I was learning to live with the fact that I can't
please everyone. I only regretted that his opinion had gone out to almost
half a million men.
Some months later, that book reviewer
retired and was replaced by a younger man, Tom Jackson, who was also the
Grand Secretary of Pennsylvania. The new reviewer approached the editor with
the information that he regretted the original review, with which he
disagreed. He wanted to write his own review of Bom irl Blood. It was an
extraordinary suggestion, since it is rare that a publication would ever
review the same book twice. Nevertheless, permission was granted and the new
review appeared in Northem Light.
What was happening was that I was
learning an important aspect of Freemasonry, the heart and soul of the
fraternity that can't be found in bookish research in libraries, or recorded
in dusty archives. I was meeting men to whom open‑mindedness, fairmindedness,
and freedom of expression were a necessity of life. I was soon to learn
much, much more from two avenues of education. One would give me the chance
to talk with thousands of Freemasons; the other provided ample opportunity
to discuss Masonry with the general public all across the country. I
followed the two paths almost simultaneously, and sometimes they
intertwined, but talking to Freemasons came first.
It started when I dropped by the Masonic
Temple in Cincinnati to leave an autographed book, to express my gratitude
to the man who had permitted me to use their extensive library for my
research. As we renewed acquaintance, he introduced me to his boss, H. Ray
Evans, the secretary of the Scottish Rite Valley of Cincinnati (and later
Grand Master of the Masons of Ohio). The three of us had a great discussion
for about half an hour, and then Mr. Evans asked me a question that was to
launch me into a totally new experience: "Can you come here Thursday evening
to talk to the Valley of Cincinnati?" I accepted readily, without telling
him how flattered I was, nor how nervous I felt at the prospect.
That meeting set the stage for a format
that has worked very well from the outset. I talked for just about twenty
minutes, then invited comments, criticisms, and questions from the floor.
That may be when my real Masonic education began. (I remembered an old piece
of sound wisdom: "You never learn anything when your mouth is open.") And
soon after becoming a first‑time published author I found myself a
first‑time public speaker.
Alfred Rice, the Scottish Rite deputy for
Ohio, was there at that first meeting, and at the end of the evening he
invited me to speak at the Ohio Council of Deliberation, their state
convention, a few weeks later at Youngstown. Men I met there invited me to
come to Cleveland, Canton, and Steubenville.
How the word got around I don't know, but
I found myself addressing Masonic bodies ranging from small lodges with
seven or eight men present to Telr.plar Commanderies, Scottish Rite Valleys,
and Grand Lodges. The most memorable invitation came from the Grand Master
of New Jersey. I met him at a reception, and at one point he asked me
sternly: "What's the deal to get you to come to the Grand Lodge of New
Jersey?" "Well, first, " I replied, "I never charge a fee. Second . . ."
"That's enough!" the Grand Master interrupted. "You've already met all of
our criteria." We both laughed, and another friendship was launched.
Another first for me was the invitation
to participate in a church service. It was in Washington, D.C., during the
Triennial Conclave of the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar. Then, a few
weeks after returning to Washington to speak to the Grand Lodge of the
District of Columbia, I was overwhelmed by an invitation to act as the
chairman of a workshop at the annual conference of Grand Masters. As though
that wasn't honor enough, I was also asked to participate in the Scottish
Rite, Southern Jurisdiction leadership conferences in Atlanta, Kansas City,
Not all of the value to me lay in the
question‑and‑comment sessions in the meetings. Every bit as enriching were
the conversations with individuals and groups of Freemasons who gathered in
the lobbies, restaurants, and lounges before and after those meetings.
They shared their concerns and their
ideas. They explained why they disagreed with points I had made and listened
patiently while I explained how I had reached certain conclusions. We talked
about problems of individual lodges, and I was surprised to learn that many
men in leadership positions had not crossed the thresholds of their own
neighborhood lodges for ten or fifteen years. They told me about their local
charitable projects. I learned more than I had ever expected to know about
Masonry. (I have also learned to carry less and less luggage down those long
The experience of talking to the general
public about Freemasonry came about through the medium of call‑in radio and
TV shows, and it started within my own family. My brother‑in‑law, knowing of
my disappointment at being ignored by newspapers, took it upon himself to
call a local radio station to suggest that I appear as a guest. The host of
the show later told me that he had agreed because he had always been curious
about Masonry because of the bad things he had been told about it as a
youngster in a Catholic school. On the air, the calls poured in.
I had been assured by several Masons that
the public had no interest in Freemasonry, and that there was no point in
trying to spread the word because no one wanted to hear it. I don't know
where that notion came from, but over the months ahead I would learn that
the concept of public indifference to Masonry is totally, completely wrong.
As the word spread, invitations to appear on radio and TV shows came in from
all across the nation. People everywhere were curious about Freemasonry, and
many were eager to call in to express their own opinions.
Non‑Masons frequently have wrong
impressions of Masonry, of course, but that is hardly surprising. The only
voices many of them hear are those of anti‑Masonic evangelical pundits
pitching the sale of their books, pamphlets, audiotapes and even videotapes.
Bigotry is big business for evangelists, although their usual source of
income is limited to their own followers. Fortunately, the thinking public
stil1 outnumbers those who elect to have someone else do their thinking for
Sometimes the activities of speaking
inside and outside the fraternity came together. On a trip to speak to the
Grand Lodge of Florida, the committee arranged for me to appear on both a
radio and TV station in the Tampa market. I went to Denver a full day before
the opening of the Scottish Rite leadership conference at which I was to
speak in order to be on a one‑hour morning call‑in radio show, then went to
Colorado Springs to appear on a TV news broadcast, then had a fifteen‑minute
interview on a business radio network show syndicated to eighty cities. At
the end of the broadcast day, I was interviewed by the Rocky Mour~tair'
News. A busy day, but one full of opportunities to talk about the
language‑disorder clinics supported by Scottish Rite Masons, a wonderful
children's program that had been born right there in Denver. I have no idea
what the total nationwide audience was but I do know that I no longer listen
to anyone who says that there is no point in trying to carry the Masonic
story to the general public because they just don't care. The truth is that
most people don't know enough to care one way or the other. But they are
curious, and very willing to listen.
As to what they have to say, and the
opinions that some have formed about the Craft, and what Freemasons
themselves have to say‑that's what the rest of this book is all about.
The first part of the book primarily
discusses radio and television contact with the general public and with the
anti‑Mason evangelists who currently seek to destroy Freemasonry totally.
The second part is the result of my contacts with Masons, mostly drawn from
appearances before Masonic bodies that involved over seventy‑five thousand
miles of air travel in 1992 alone.
The final chapter sums up my findings and
feelings after all of those years of investigation into Freemasonry in
What Is a Mason?
IT'S A VERY simple question, but one
commonly asked on radio call‑in shows. The station carries advance
announcements that there will be a program "about the Masons." At the
opening of the show the host will announce, "Today, we're going to talk
about the Masons." Then when calls start coming in, almost always someone
will ask, "Just what is a Mason?"
And then cluestions will flow that
indicate a high level of public interest or curiosity, backed by pitifully
"What's the difference between the Masons
and the Freemasons?"
"I usually hear someone referred to as
a'32nd degree Mason,' but are there other kinds?"
"Is there any truth to what I've heard
that the Shriners are somehow tied in with the Masons?"
"I think my grandfather was a Mason. I
know that he had a uniform with a sword and a big plume on his hat. What was
"I've heard that they swear to kill any
Mason who breaks his oath. Isn't that against the law?"
"My pastor says that the Masons have
their own religion. What is it?"
"Why do Masons call their buildings
"The Masons have an orphanage here. Do
they just take in the orphaned children of other Masons?"
"Why do the Masons have seeret meetings?
Are they afraid people will find out what they're really doing?"
"What is a Prince Hall Mason?"
"If I wanted to become a Mason, how would
I go about it? How much does it cost?"
"Someone at work told me that the Masons
worship Satan. Is that true?"
And the questions could go on page after
page. Most people lack even rudimentary knowledge of the Masonic fraternity,
which makes them prime targets for those eager to hand out misinformation.
Most organizations feel the need for public information of ficesCas do even
religions and governmentsCbut Freemasonry has traditionally regarded itself
as a private fraternity that does not need or desire to disseminate
information or increase public awareness.
That situation appears to be changing,
but a centralized information service will be difficult to implement, since
there is no national governing body. To understand why, since not every
reader of this book can be expected to be a Mason, it may be helpful to look
at the structure of Freemasonry in the United States.
No matter where a man fits in the complex
system of Freemasonry, he can only have entered Masonry in the basic local
Masonic lodge, of which there are over thirteen thousand in the United
States. The local lodge is sometimes called a "blue lodge," for reasons long
lost, while others refer to it as a "symbolic lodge" (the term I will use in
this book). The symbolic lodge confers just three degrees: the entrant, or
Entered Apprentice, the Fellow Craft, and the Master Mason. Not until he is
a Master Mason can a member join any of the other aspects of the fraternity.
There are about five million Master Masons throughout the world, of whom
about half are in this country.
In the rest of the world the Masonic
fraternity is often governed by a single Grand Lodge for the whole country,
such as the United Grand Lodge of England. American Masonry grew during the
American Revolution, which was fought collectively by thirteen colonies,
each of which thought of itself not as a province, but as a separate
country, a sovereign state. When the colonies put together a common meeting
ground for what would be called the United States of America, most of them
used the term "state" in that sense of a sovereign power. Skictly speaking,
they didn't have a unu~nv, but rather a cooperative agreement to deal with
matters of common interest. That agreement was called the Articles of
Confederation, which bestowed litHe authority on the cenka1 body. The
Freemasons in each of the states felt similarly inclined to govern
As the weaknesses of the confederation
manifested themselves, a growing party opted for stronger central control.
The final result of their efforts, years later, was the Constitution of the
United States, ratified only after months of angry debate and compromise,
most of which stemmed from the problem of giving up authority to a central
The Freemasons did not make that change
in their own administration, choosing rather to have a Grand Lodge for each
state, with no central governing body. In the Masonic tradition the Grand
Lodge is supreme. There is no control above it, and no Grand Lodge can tell
any other Grand Lodge what to do.
There was just one time when the United
States came close to having a central Grand Lodge. Back in 1779, while his
army was in winter quarters, Freemason George Washington was approached by
the American Union (Military) Lodge, saying that they wanted to propose him
as the General Grand Master of Masons for the whole country. The nearby
Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania agreed. Had Washington expressed any enthusiasm
for the position, it would undoubtedly have been his, and today there would
be a Grand Lodge of the United States. As it is now, it is highly unlikely
that this country will ever have a Master Grand Lodge, especially since
several Grand Lodges are now in serious disagreement about the wisdom of
changing any aspect of ancient ceremonies.
By no means are all the Grand Lodges in
the rest of the world free of material disagreements with each other. In
most cases, the Grand Lodges may "agree to disagree," as on a point of
ceremony or on meeting rules. The only disciplinary action available in the
event of a serious dispute is for one Grand Lodge to simply decline to
"recognize" the other. This usually means cutting off visitation rights (the
right of a M[ason to attend a meeting of a lodge other than his own),
between the lodges involved and rejecting any common effort of any kind.
In the case of the Grand Orient (Grand
Lodge) of France in the late nineteenth century, a dispute arose when the
Grand Orient declared that it would accept atheists as members, in direct
violation of what is probably the most fundamental membership requirement: a
professed belief in God. In response, the Grand Orient was disavowed and
declared clandestine by all the Grand Lodges of Great Britain, Canada, and
the United States. So was the Prussian Grand Lodge rejected when it decided
to stop admitting Jews. That decision against Jewish membership was quickly
withdrawn by the Berliners, who preferred to abandon their prejudices in
favor of re‑establishing their worldwide fraternal recognition.
That recognition is exactly what is being
sought by separate Masonic lodges maintained by about a quarter of a million
black Americans. The organization is called Prince Hall Masonry, after its
Prince Hall was a free black living in
Boston, where he and fourteen of his black friends were made Freemasons in
1775 by a traveling military lodge, No. 441, of the British 38th Regiment of
Foot. The Revolutionary War broke out soon after their initiation, and
Prince Hall is said to have fought with the army of the rebelling colonists.
The war pulled the British regiment out of the Boston area, leaving its
black brothers behind.
The regiment and its Masonic lodge never
did come back to Boston, and the local American Masonic lodges showed no
desire to take in the black Masons, so Prince Hall finally made application
to the Grand Lodge in England for a charter to a new lodge. After much
delay, it was issued on September 29, 1784, authorizing the formation of
African Lodge No. 459.
African Lodge was not welcomed by the
other American lodges, and its efforts to stay in communication with the
English Grand Lodge were unavailing. Ultimately, it declared itself an
independent Grand Lodge (much as the American lodges had done during the
Revolutionary War) and began warranting other lodges for African‑Americans.
It even warranted military lodges, which existed within black military units
in the Civil War (although they are never even mentioned in the
much‑acclaimed movie and television shows about those units). It even
expanded into appendant degrees, in much the same manner as white Masonry,
which had condemned the black Prince Hall Masonic system as "clandestine,"
When I began looking into Masonry, not
one single Grand Lodge had given its recognition to the Prince Hall Masons,
a status which would grant visitation rights and permit both systems to
clasp hands in brotherhood. That's what the Prince Hall Masons wantCnot a
merger, which they do not favor, but the recognition that removes that
denigrating "clandestine" status.
Times are changing, and as I write this,
eight state Grand Lodges in the United States have extended that recognition
to Prince Hall, as have two Grand Lodges in Canada. The subject is still
controversial, but everyone, including the Masons, is learning to live with
change. And "universal brotherhood" is a strong teaching of the Master
Mason's initiation lectures.
In Masonic tradition, a man can get no
"higher" than his status as a Master Mason. Therefore, the other Masonic
systems are never called "higher" orders, but are designated "appendant."
All of these appendant orders were created after Freemasonry revealed itself
in London in 1717, and many of them function in just one country. Although
there are numerous orders, the two best known which are open to a Master
Mason in America are the York Rite and the Scottish Rite.
The York Rite order has a system of
advancement that culminates in the York Rite Mason being made a Knight
Templar. There are about two hundred and fifty thousand York Rite Templars
in the United States. Even more popular is the system known as Scottish
Rite, which has two separate sovereign territories. The Northern
Jurisdiction covers fifteen states in the northeastern United States. The
Southern Jurisdiction covers the other thirty‑five states.
These Masonic bodies are totally
separate, and neither the Northern nor the Southern Jurisdiction has any
authority or control over the other. Each Jurisdiction determines
independently the ritual dramas it performs in connection with each degree
awarded, although both award degrees from the 4th through the 32nd ‑ the
latter being the degree most familiar to non‑Masons. Both Jurisdictions
award a 33rd degree, which is not earned for having completed a given body
of work and learning but is bestowed for meritorious service. There are
approximately one million Scottish Rite Masons in North Armerica.
Once a man has achieved the status of
York Rite Knight Templar, or Scottish Rite 32nd degree Mason, he may apply
for membership in the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic
Shrine and become a Shriner. The Shrine, which numbers about three quarters
of a million members, also accepts eligible Masons in Canada and Mexico. (If
we rearrange the initials A. A. O. N. M. S., they turn into "A Mason.")
The Shrine was founded as an organization
dedicated to having fun, which led to local Shrine groups forming brass
bands, oriental bands, bagpipe bands, motor patrols, motorcycle patrols,
horse patrols, and the famous Shrine clown unitsCand that list doesn't cover
them all. Over time, the dedication to personal enjoyment took a more
serious turn, and the outcome was the twenty‑two free Shrine hospitals for
burned and crippled children, a great charity that earns praise everywhere.
These unique medical centers, combined with Shrine parades and circuses, and
Shriners wearing their red fezzes in public, have made the Shrine far and
away the most visible aspect of American Masonry. Not so visible is the
Shrine's Masonic roots. In talking to non‑Masons across the country, I have
rarely come across one who knows that every Shriner is also a Master Mason.
Another aspect of Freemasonry that is
frequently misunderstood is the popular Order of the Eastern Star. This is
not a "Masonic" order in the sense that it is part of Freemasonry, but it is
made up of men and women with a Masonic connection. Men who join must be
Master Masons. A woman who joins must be the wife, mother, sister, daughter,
or granddaughter of a Master Mason. About eight hundred thousand men belong,
and well over a million women. With that total membership of over two
million, Eastern Star is easily the largest "coed" fraternal society in the
world. To the best of my knowledge, Eastern Star has the approval of every
Grand Lodge in the United States both for its aims and its charitable
There are other related bodies, and among
them are the Order of Demolay, for young men ages thirteen to twenty‑one,
Job's Daughters, and Rainbow for Girls. Members of those groups do not have
to have a family connection to Freemasonry, but they do enjoy Masonic
sponsorship and assistance.
Most important of al1 to an understanding
of Freemasonry, perhaps, is an understanding of what its members believe and
of their avowed purposes. It is, apparently, very confusing for non‑Masons
to learn that Freemasonry doesn't tell men what they are supposed to
believe. Rather, the fraternity attracts men who already adhere to a set of
beliefs about the nature of God, their relationship with Him, and the moral
conduct their God requires.
The most important common ground of
Freemasons is asserted before they ever become members of the fraternity,
before they take part in any ceremony, before they take any oath. That
common ground is established when a man applies for membership. The
application, or "petition," signed by the candidate affirms that he believes
in God and in the immortality of the soul.So when anyone meets a Mason, he
can be certain that he is talking to a God‑fearing man. Among the first
words a new Freemason hears are that how he worships God is his own
business, that how his Masonic brothers choose to worship God is their
business, and that there will be no discussion of religion in his Masonic
lodge. No Mason is to criticize any brother's religious convictions or try
to persuade him to change them. Clearly then, every Freemason believes in
freedom of religion.
That belief has allowed Freemasonry to
become a system that permits men of all religious faiths to come together,
to meet, to mix, to work together on projects that will benefit the whole
community. Each Mason shares the belief that charity and love are in keeping
with the wishes of his God, whether he calls his God Jehovah, Yahwoh, or
It is important to Freemasons that the
great coming together of men of all creeds must take place in an atmosphere
of dedication to common standards of moral behavior. Each applicant is
investigated by a lodge committee before the first degree is granted. How
does this man treat his family? What is his pattern of behavior in his
neighborhood and workplace? Has he ever had problems with the law? Will he
fit into a fraternal society based on a strong sense of right and wrong?
Once a man is inside the lodge as a Freemason, the importance of moral
conduct as a condition of ongoing membership is repeatedly emphasized.
The fundamental ritual of Masonry centers
on the building of the Temple of Solomon and on the fate of its master
builder, so the lodge has become infused with the tools and symbols of the
medieval stonemason. The traditional masons' toolsCthe square, compasses,
setting maul, plumb line, and so onCare used to illustrate points of moral
behavior. Some of those lessons have entered the language with such Masonic
terminology as "on the level" and "on the square."
With over five million members,
unsuitable men undoubtedly slip through the screening process. Some members
will fail to live up to the standards they followed at the time they joined
the fraternity and become guilty of conduct that would have barred them from
membership in the first place. Masonic teaching advises that a man who seems
to be straying from decent behavior be approached privately, to be
questioned or admonished.
For those who stray too far there is
provision for indictment, investigation, and a hearing. Minor offenders may
be suspended for periods of time based on the gravity of the offense.
Serious offenders may be ejected from Freemasonry. Some men meet that fate
and become embittered. Masons know that such a man may become an
aggressively vocal anti‑Mason, sometimes willing to help other antiMasons by
twisting the truth of his own Masonic experience, or engaging in outright
lies to "get even" with the brotherhood that would not tolerate his
behavior. Others who follow that path were not ejected but resigned in anger
because they had not prevailed in some issue, or were not elected by their
brothers to a coveted post. Their numbers are very few, but their voices can
be very loud.
It is important to understand that
Freemasonry does not teach a man to believe in God, or in religious freedom,
or in moral conduct, or in acts of charity. He must bring those beliefs with
him into the brotherhood, where he will find them encouraged and reinforced.
George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Paul Revere were not taught to
love liberty in their Masonic lodges. They joined because the beliefs they
already cherished were shared by other Masons and encouraged by the
brotherhood. They became Masons in order to be with like‑minded men.
Any man who joins a Masonic lodge
expecting to learn the true pathway to God will be disappointed. He will
hear no description of heaven, no description of hell, nor will he be handed
a prescription for salvation. He must learn about such things from his
minister, priest, or rabbi: They are not taught in the lodge.
The reason is simple: Religious
differences drive men apart. They always have and always will, and so they
work against the concept of a fratern ty where men of common moral
convictions, but disparate religious convictions, can meet to live and work
together for the good of all.
Some will say, "If that's all they are
doing, why do they have to do it in secret meetings? That makes me
The difference between secrecy and
privacy is in the eyes of the third party. Rumors came from a church in our
city about the conflict between a minister and his congregation. There was
obviously excitement in the air, but the general public didn't know why.
Finally, an announcement was issued, saying that the minister had been asked
to resign. A few weeks later, at a table with a local minister from a
different church of that same denomination, curiosity made me ask just what
the problem was that got the other minister fired. The answer came after a
momentary pause, in the form of a question. "Are you a contributing member
of our church?" When I answered that I was not, the minister replied, "Then
you have no right to know. It is a private matter."
He was right, of course, and I changed
the subject, but there are countless people who respect no privacy but their
own. When they learn that something which has piqued their interest is none
of their business, it only serves to intensify their curiosity and
frequently arouses their suspicions as well.
Yes, the Freemasons do hold private
meetings to conduct their own lodge business, but so do churches, government
agencies, boards of education, and individual families. Privacy is a basic
right in a free society (although we must admit that it is constantly being
One might look at all this and say,
"What's so unique about Freemasonry? Everyone believes in those things,
don't they?" Does everyone believe in freedom of religion? No. In religious
and ethnic tolerance? No. In every man's right to privacy? No. Individual
freedom is a recent condition in human history and by no means universal,
not even within the borders of our own country, where the greatest thrust to
establish personal freedom in all of history was achieved.
So what does that have to do with
Masonry? It takes a little knowledge of American history, and of the role of
Freemasons in that history, to find the complete answer to that question.
Without the answer, one cannot grasp the full importance, purpose, and
contributions of Freemasonry in America.
It took me a while to see it, because
originally I didn't know anything about Masons in American history. My
motivation came from questions put to me that I felt I couldn't fully
answer, and from debates with anti‑Masonic evangelists that taught me that I
should dig a bit deeper and think a little harder.
What I found was exciting. It enhanced my
feelings about the fraternity and its value to society. Most Masons already
know what I had "discovered," but for those who do not I'd like to pass on
what I learned, an important step to understanding just what Masons are and
what they believe.
The Fountainhead of
WHEN I FIRST began to take questions from
the public about Freemasonry, I usually gave quick and superficial answers
to the questions, "What is Masonry all about?" and "What do Masons stand
for?" I would simply repeat what I had frequently been told: "It's a
fraternal society dedicated to selfimprovement and charitable works."
With more research and a little
reasoning, I realized that I had been giving a totally inadequate
definition. Freemasonry is much more than self‑improvement and charitable
acts. It has made a great impact on all our lives, and upon the world, by
drawing upon a statement of purpose that I had previously not fully
comprehended, because I had not clearly seen the Masonic impact on the
formation of this country.
That purpose rests in the admonitions
given to the new Entered Apprentice. He has fulfilled the major Masonic
requirement of attesting to his belief in God and immortality, and now he is
told that no Mason is permitted to violate any brother's right to total
religious privacy. Within the lodge, he is not to criticize, proselytize, or
mock the faith of any other person.
That seems straightforward enough:
Freemasons believe in freedom of religion. The unusual aspect is that
Freemasonry had practiced that principle long before there was a United
States of America, or a Bill of Rights. The events that unfolded to make the
thirteen British colonies a separate nation, and the men who led those
events, point to a very strong contribution by Freemasons, an historic fact
that is not even whispered to students of American history.
As children, we were taught that many
beleaguered religious groups came to the colonies in search of freedom of
worship. What we were not taught was that those groups usually came here in
search of religious freedom for themselves alone, but not for anyone else.
There was little freedom of religion across the thirteen colonies. When
Roger Williams fled religious persecution to found the colony of Rhode
Island, he was not fleeing persecution in Europe, but in Massachusetts. He
built a Baptist church there that functioned in an atmosphere of religious
tolerance. Rhode Island, and perhaps Quaker‑dominated Pennsylvania, were to
be the only colonies to come even close to our twentieth‑century concept of
Each other colony had its own state
religion, with the right to tax its citizens for the support of that
denomination. Connecticut, for example, was Congregationalist, while the
colony of Virginia, mother of presidents and a birthplace of freedom, was
militantly Church of England. Laws on the books of Virginia called for the
public flogging of ministers of other denominations who dared to preach
"nonconformist" sermons to their congregations. Those persecutions drove
many Baptist and Methodist congregations to pack their wagons and leave
Virginia for the wilderness of the Southeast.
In such an atmosphere, how did the
Founding Fathers come up with the idea of a new country that would have no
state religion, leaving all men to worship God as they saw fit? There was no
role model in any nation on the face of the earth. Rulers were convinced
that a state religion was absolutely necessary for the orderly
administration of the people. Did the champions of the Bill of Rights create
their ideas out of thin air, with no source of inspiration? Not likely.
Actually, there was one source, a source
well known to influential men in all thirteen colonies, a teaching that
crossed all boundaries. That lesson was taught in all their Masonic lodges,
an organization that alone had pioneered a way for all God‑fearing men to
meet in brotherhood. Can that source of this nation's religious freedom be
Of course not, but it gains strength
from the fact that there is no alternate source available. In all the world,
only Freemasons espoused that doctrine.
Consider the diverse nature of the men
who had embraced the Masonic philosophy. Today, we lump them together as
"patriots," but they differed in their education, occupation, and social
background. Paul Revere was a silver craftsman. John Hancock was a merchant.
George Washington was a wealthy planter. John Warren, who died leading his
men at Bunker Hill, was a medical doctor. John Paul Jones was a Scottish
seaman. Benjamin Franklin was a printer, the Marquis de Lafayette a French
nobleman. What did these, and hundreds of other patriots, have in common?
Nothing, except that they were all Freemasons. They were attracted to
Freemasonry because its philosophy of individual freedom matched their own
convictions. It gave them a common bond and a gathering place for the
meeting of minds that they otherwise would not have. Perhaps it was no
coincidence that in Philadelphia in 1775, while the local Masonic lodge
conducted its business on the upper floor of Tun Tavern, their Masonic
brother Samuel Nicholas was seated at a table on the ground floor,
encouraging men to sign up for a totally new colonial military force, to be
called the Corps of Marines. Appointed to the rank of captain, Brother
Nicholas became the first commandant of the Marine Corps.
No one should be surprised that the
Freemasons feel a special involvement with the American Revolution. On the
military side Freemasons Washington, Jones, and Nicholas commanded the army,
navy, and marines. Off at the distant frontier, their Masonic brother George
Rogers Clark led a force of Kentucky pioneers and woodsmen hundreds of miles
across rivers, through deep woods, and across a treacherous swamp to take
the British forts of Kaskaskia, Cahokia, and Vincennes.
The senior statesman of the Revolution,
Benjamin Franklin, drew on the help of his Masonic brothers in France to
gain audiences at the French court to seek assistance against a common
enemy. The legend persists that a meeting of St. Andrew's Lodge in Boston
was cut short to give the members ample time to join the Boston Tea Party;
disguised as Indians, they hurried to the harbor to throw the
A Pil~`rim's Path
tea overboard. Some say it is more than
mere legend: The original minutes of that evening's business indicate a very
short meeting. Masons like to remember the Junior Deacon of that lodge, Paul
Revere, waiting in the darkness beside his horse. He was watching anxiously
for one of his Masonic brothers to hang one lantern or two in the tower of
the Old North Church, so that he could ride offto warn the neighboring
rebels of the approach route of the British troops.
As exhilarating as the military
achievements may have been, they were events of the moment. The true value
of victory in war can only be measured by how it is used. Rebellion was not
new to the world, but its usual purpose was to replace one ruler with
another. This was the first major attempt to wrest control from one ruler
and place it in the hands of the people.
The Bill of Rights amendment saying that
the national government would not embrace a state religion had a double
purpose. One was to make certain that democratic government by the people
could not be stripped away by any autocratic religious hierarchy, as had
happened so often around the world. The other was to provide the greatest
latitude for the worship of God. There can be no true democracy without
freedom of religion.
There is no way to estimate precisely the
influence of Freemasonry on this entire process, but it would be foolish not
to acknowledge that it was significant. Throughout the Western world,
revolutionary leaders who determined to throw off the oppressive control of
church and state turned to Freemasonry as a way to join with others who
shared their beliefs. Benito Juarez, the full‑blooded Oaxaca Indian who had
determined to throw off the yoke that enslaved the people of Mexico, became
Simon Bolivar became a Mason in London,
where he appealed for help from his new Masonic brothers for his revolution
in South America. The Knights Templar of England, a Masonic body commanded
by the duke of Sussex‑who was also Grand Master of the newly‑formed United
Grand Lodge of England‑arranged to send training officers and supplies.
Colonel Beresford, a Freemason sent to serve as Bolivar's chief training
officer, later became a general and second‑in‑command to another Freemason,
the duke of Wellington, in the Peninsular Campaign against the forces of the
She Fo~mtainhead of Freedom
Napoleon Bonaparte. The other great South
American revolutionary, General Jose de San Martin, also joined the Masonic
fraternity. All the Hispanic revolutionary leaders earned the enmity of the
Vatican for stripping the Roman Church of lands and political power, and
especially for drying up the steady stream of income that had previously
flowed into the Vatican treasury.
The revolutionary leader who angered the
Church leaders most of all was the Sicilian Giuseppe Garibaldi. While living
in the selfimposed exile necessary for his personal safety, Garibaldi became
a Freemason at a lodge in Staten Island, New York. He returned to his
homeland, and this time led a successful campaign to unify Italy under King
Victor Emmanuel II.
Now the church had lost not only property
and income, but also the pope's status as a secular ruler, complete with tax
gatherers, courts, prisons, and a standing army. Clearly, it was this
crushing blow that compelled Pope Leo XIII to issue the most scathing
condemnation ever of Freemasonry, the 1884 encyclical entitled Humanum
Genus. Taking the stand that has become the party line of Christian
fundamentalists everywhere, Leo declared that the followers of the One True
Religion made up the Kingdom of God, while all non‑Catholics belonged to the
Kingdom of Satan. The Freemasons were condemned as leaders of these
non‑Catholic Satanists, not on theological grounds, but for their support of
the basic tenets of democracy. The tenet Leo hated most was that of the
separation of church and state:
They ithe Masonsl work, indeed
obstinately, to the end that neither the teaching nor the authority of the
Church may have any influence; and therefore they preach and maintain the
full separation of the Church from the State. So law and government are
wrested from the divine virtue of the Catholic Church, and they want,
therefore, by all means to rule States mdependent of the institutions and
doctrines of the Church.
Freedom of speech is not overlooked for
condemnation, because it permits people to criticize the Church without
A Pilgrim's Path
Full license is given to attack with
impunity, both by words and print and teaching, the very foundations of the
Catholic religion; the rights of the Church are violated; her divine
privileges are not respected.
Despite the pope's protest, the truth is
that the Masons do not preach, teach, or insist on the doctrine that church
and state should be separate, although it appears to follow logically from
their teaching of the right to freedom of worship. It certainly seems to be
necessary if government is truly intended to be in the hands of all the
Not even dictatorships have their own way
when they recognize a state religion. In 1929, when Mussolini desperately
wanted the support of the Catholic Church for his new regime, he negotiated
the Lateran Treaty, familiarly know to Italians as the Concordat. In that
treaty Mussolini agreed that Italy would have no laws that did not adhere to
church teachings. He gave the Church veto power over much of the government,
which agreed to forbid divorce. The Church also controlled the schools, the
libraries, and the publishing business, and even had the authority to
exercise control over which books, magazines, and newspapers could be
imported into the country.
I had my first brush with that type of
control when I discovered the writings of Tom Paine during World War II. I
had known of his general influence on events leading to the American
Revolution, but had never experienced for myself the clarity and fervor of
his writing. Eager to discuss the work with someone else, I handed my
paperback copy of lhe Rights of Man to a good friend. I asked that he read
it so that we could talk about it. He handed the book back to me saying,
"You know I'm a Catholic. We're not permitted to read anything written by
Thomas Paine." Until that moment, I had not known that any organization
tried to control what people read.
More recently, in 1992, a fundamentalist
Protestant church a few miles from my home announced a public book‑burning
of printed material offensive to God. It was to be open to the public
because the minister of the church said that God had specifically instructed
him to burn the books in view of all, and to alert the local media. He was
to burn material that taught moral lessons without Jesus (including such
The Foun ‑ Ahead of Freedom
stories as "The Ant and the Grasshopper"
and "The Tortoise and the Hare"), because such non‑Christian moral
teachings, usually identified as "secular humanism," are offensive to God.
The fire received anything the church could find published by "condemned"
groups, such as Christian Scientists, Mormons, Unitarians, and Seventh‑day
Adventists. (As I read the newspaper accounts, I could not resist asking
myself, "Can Kristalluacht be far behind?")
We must understand that such stands by
certain religious leaders ‑ preposterous as they may appear‑ are often the
result of a sincere desire to do God's will. If a man is totally convinced
that his faith alone has been given the divine seal of approval, then he
considers that it is his duty to reveal the truth of God's words according
to his own faith and to point to the path of salvation that only he can make
plain. And it is obvious to him that if his faith is the One True Religion,
all other religious faiths must be false, and offensive to God. He not only
preaches the moral standards of his faith to his own followers, but feels
compelled to inform the county, state, and federal governments as to which
laws are and are not in conformity with God's will, which books God want us
to read, what music He approves, which movies should be produced.
I listened to this thesis one day and
said to the evangelist espousing it, "Aren't you really saying that you do
not believe in the separation of church and state, freedom of religion, and
freedom of speech?" He replied that the separation of church and state was
an abomination. God cannot be separated from control of any human endeavor,
especially the making and enforcing of laws. As for those individual
freedoms, his faith taught total freedom for all people to act and speak in
accordance with God's will. To want to act or speak otherwise was not an
appeal for freedom, but an appeal for satanic license to thwart and corrupt
the word of God.
This is the position taken by
fundamentalists worldwide, not just fundamentalist Protestants. There are
fundamentalist Catholics, fundamentalist Jews, fundamentalist Muslims. When
operating in frustration as a minority, they labor incessantly to gain
control. When they do gain control, the results can be devastating. Look at
the Shitite fundamentalists who took control of every aspect of Iranian life
and government under their fanatical leader, the Ayatollah Khomeini.
A Pilgrim's Path
Following the path of all such dogmatic
fundamentalist leaders, Khomeini promptly declared that his enemies (the
people of the United States) worship Satan. Then he outlawed Freemasonry.
It was fundamentalist control of the
Catholic Church that gave birth to the Inquisition, created to "purify" the
One True Religion. In that period the Catholic leaders felt so confident
that one pontiffcould declare that, since every human being needed to be
saved, then every human being on the face of the earth must be subject to
the pope, who controlled the only pathway to salvation. It is the
fundamentalists in the Middle East who gave birth to the terroristic
brotherhoods and suicide squads. Historically, more blood has been spilled
in the world for this narrow‑visioned love of God than for the love of war.
Some political theorists of the past
century decided that since control by men of God was so often tyrannical,
the key to happiness must be the absence of God and religion from the
community. The result was militant communism, which encouraged atheism,
teaching it in the schools and requiring it of every party member.
(Freemasons obviously do not agree, since no atheist can become a Mason.)
In spite of the brutal enforcement of an
atheistic society, it just didn't work. Despite tight control over
education, the press, and the legislature, millions of people would not
abandon their love of God and their need for a spiritual faith. Children
were taught in secret and the elderly were permitted to continue their
religious observances on a limited basis, probably on the theory that they
would soon die off. At a Muslim shrine in Central Asia, I saw a sign posted
inside the shrine by the communist government that told the worshipers,
"Praying to God is like asking that two plus two please not equal four." On
a nearby school building another poster proclaimed, "Science is light,
religion is darkness." Both were quotations from Lenin.
I prefer the democratic method of
permitting all people to worship God as they see fit, so that all people can
live together in freedom, including freedom from fear. That is one reason I
have come to admire the principles of Freemasonry. It is trying hard to
provide a way for all men to come together, limited only by the prohibition
against atheists and the insistence on moral conduct.
Most of us grew up believing that
religious tolerance is a good thing, but a recent book by a Southern Baptist
zealot used the
The Fount Head of Freedom
Masons' attitude toward tolerance as a
reason to condemn them as anti‑Christian. God, according to the author,
insists upon intolerance, so that any man or group of men "tolerating" men
of diverse religions is the Antichrist.
A strange aspect of all this is that the
histories of their own faiths, often written by fundamentalists, love to
dwell on the abominable persecutions of their early predecessors, inflicted
by the established universal church of the day. They don't see themselves as
fighting hard to get into that same position, not to avoid persecution, but
have the power to inflict it on anyone who refuses to toe the line they lay
The infamous Inquisition finds its way
into so much religious history that some mention should be made of the
changes that have taken place since then. The Catholic Church no longer
brands every non‑Catholic a follower of Satan, as Pope Leo XIII did in
Humanum Genus a century ago. Nor does it still concur with that pontiff's
condemnation of democracy. Great changes have taken place in attitudes, if
not in specific teaching, under the influence of leaders such as Pope John
XXIII. American Catholics, too, have exerted a great influence on church
thinking, having lived for generations in a system that espouses individual
rights and freedoms.
It would be foolish to say that America
is now a land totally free of prejudices. The system tries to move people in
that direction, but unfortunately a stream of leaders have found a path to
wealth and power by fanning the flames of those prejudices. They miss no
opportunity to pounce upon any item they can use to convince their followers
to fear, to hate, and to fight. They are making certain that the conflicts
will stay with us for a long time.
That's why it's easy to see Freemasonry
as a haven of sanity and brotherhood. But that in turn makes it a frequent
target of those leaders who wish to drive men apart, the better to control
them and amass great wealth, not caring that they themselves are major
deterrents to any hope of achieving universal brotherhood.
Sometimes trying to track the gains and
losses of the battle for brotherhood is difficult. I sat in a meeting of the
Grand Lodge of Vermont as a visiting officer of the Catholic Knights of
Columbus expressed a desire to enhance the brotherhood of the two
A Pilgrim's Path
It was good to hear. But after the
meeting one of the Vermont Masons told me that he had received a letter from
his K.C. council telling him that he must resign from Masonry or he would be
expelled from the Knights of Columbus. Still, I believe that there has been
substantial progress. I frequently read of charitable projects sponsored
jointly by Masons and K.C. members and, in one instance, of their pooling
resources to build a common center for meetings of both orders.
This information, of course, will make
some Protestant fundamentalists angrier than ever with Freemasonry,
convinced as they are that Catholicism is also guilty of perverting God's
One thing is very clear in all this. The
fundamentalist leaders, who are so fond of reciting earlier persecutions of
their church, absolutely refuse to acknowledge that Freemasonry had a major
role in ending that persecution and in shaping a system of government that
gives them complete freedom of expression. Rather than being grateful, they
want Masonry destroyed. The tolerance that they so desperately needed to
survive and to grow is now condemned as countering the will of God. Having
been rescued and protected by others, they now feel strong enough to attack
those who were their best friends at a time when they needed friends.
The anti‑Masonic efforts have become such
a threat that it will behoove every Mason to become familiar with their
accusations, and to be prepared to respond. The allegations will get more
complex, and specific, as they unfold. Many of them relate to one ancient
and pervading charge, that Freemasonry is a separate religion. This charge
has been answered a hundred times and more, but will not go away, as
anti‑Masons borrow twisted information from each other. It is that criticism
of Masonry that should be addressed first.
Is Freemasonry a Religion?
've lost count of how many times I have
been asked, "Isn't
I Freemasonry a separate religion?" It's
a question that creates a question: "How in the world did anyone come to
believe that Masonry is a religion?" When I ask that, I am usually told by
the callers that they heard the charge on an evangelist's broadcast, or read
it in an anti‑Masonic tract or book. No one who has asked me the question
has claimed to have come up with the notion from personal knowledge or
The basic question has been addressed
over and over again: "No, Masonry is not a religion. It has no intention of
being a religion. It doesn't want to be a religion." But those replies
rarely have any impact on non‑Masons for the simple reason that the defense
of Masonry is usually directed at other Masons, not at the masses who are
the targets of the anti‑Masonic evangelists. What is obviously needed is a
broader audience for the defense.
One point that is confusing to many is
the frequent statement by Masonic writers that Freemasons are "religious."
They are, but being religious in no way carries with it the concept of being
part of a separate religion. My own parents were very religious, but I
really don't believe that they were a separate religion. Any minister of the
A Pilgrim's Path
gospel will agree that he is religious,
but every one will deny that he considers his teachings to be those of a
Usually, the allegation that Masonry is a
separate religion is helped along by one or more blatant falsehoods‑for
example, the charge that Masonry has its own path to salvation, through the
performance of good works. I never met a Mason who believed that, or who
would be able to understand how anyone could ever draw such a conclusion. In
practice, it is a handy point for anti‑Masons, who are frequently confronted
with, "But if the Masons are such evil people, how do you explain their free
hospitals, their languagedisorder clinics for children, their eye‑care
program, their homes for the elderly, and all those other Masonic
The anti‑Masonic answer comes back as,
"The Masonic charities are not beloved of God because the Masons teach that
good works are the way to salvation. That makes those charities against the
will of God." That's sick, but it's what some of them say.
Masonry leaves it up to the individual
Mason to choose his pathway to God, and that policy naturally includes no
rules, advice, or admonitions as to the means of salvation. The Mason is
expected, quite properly, to get that spiritual guidance from his own
denomination, which he is encouraged to support with both his energy and his
Time after time in various lectures, the
Freemason is told never to put his duties and responsibilities to the
Masonic fraternity ahead of his duties and responsibilities to his church,
to his country, and to his family. As for Masonic charities, whether they
are organized major efforts or individual acts of kindness (such as aid to a
destitute brother, or to his widow and their children), the Mason is told to
make no gift that will affect his duty to care for his own family.
In the ceremonies and lectures that lead
to a man being raised to the status of Master Mason, he hears no description
of heaven or hell. He hears no religious dogma. He hears no mention of
Satan. He is told of no Masonic pathway to salvation for the simple reason
that there is none.
The only religious item in the Masonic
lodge is the holy book of the initiate's own faith. Since most Masons are
Protestant Christians, that book is usually the King James version of the
IS Freemasonry a Religion?
initiate may be given a Masonic Bible by
his lodge, his friends, or his family, but it varies from other editions of
actual Scripture by not one single word. It is only a "Masonic" Bible
because it also contains a brief history of Masonry, or a concordance to
relate certain Masonic ritual to scriptural passages. Masons who are not
Protestants bring their own holy books for their initiations.
Let's start at the beginning: When a man
decides to become a Mason, based on what he has seen, heard, or experienced,
he files an application, or "petition," with a local Masonic lodge. In
signing that petition he asserts that he believes in God, the Supreme Being,
and in the immortality of the soul. In the lecture accompanying the
initiation rites of the first degree, called Entered Apprentice, he is told
that how he chooses to worship God is up to his own conscience.
The religious experience in the lodge is
prayer. Every meeting of Masons opens and closes with prayer. Every meal
begins with prayer. As is done so often by the federal government (as, for
example, with "In God we trust"), all prayer is addressed (or should be) to
God the Father, so that a mixed audience of Christians, Jews, Muslims, and
Buddhists, for instance, can relate that prayer to their own worship. Masons
also offer prayers for charitable endeavors, for bereaved Masons and their
families, or for a departed brother.
Clearly, one can easily assert that
Freemasonry is not a separate religion. It promotes no heaven, no hell, and
no means of salvation. There's no "witnessing" or arguing over religious
beliefs in the lodge. There is no religious dogma. It can't be a religion.
Nevertheless, it is frequently charged
that the Masonic lodge has its own God, whose name is "The Great Architect
of the Universe." That Masonic term is not a name; it is a designation or
reference, as are all terms beginning with the word "The": The Almighty, The
Creator, The Most High. If it starts with "The," it is not a name. So why do
the Masons use that designation?
Masonry, as its name implies, centers
symbolically around the ancient builders of temples and cathedrals. It is
natural for groups to fashion a designation for God that relates to their
interests. In the military, I attended an outdoor church service conducted
by a visiting chaplain, an ordained minister. He referred to God as "Our
Supreme Commander‑in‑Chief in heaven." The Masons often do refer to God as
A Pilgrim's Path
The Great Architect of the Universe, but
what's wrong with that? The architect is one who plans and brings a
structure into being. Historians refer to the Founding Fathers as the
"architects of the Constitution." As a designation for God, The Great
Architect of the Universe makes sense, and it means precisely the same thing
as the universally popular "The Creator." The slight difference is that the
Masonic designation implies that God created the world according to a plan,
although there is no Masonic description of what that plan may be.
Then there is the charge that the third
degree, that of Master Mason, teaches a Masonic resurrection. That is simply
not true, and I have to believe that those who make that allegation are
fully aware that it is not true. When, in debates, I have told people who
trot out that charge that they are either ignorant of the truth, or
deliberately lying, they tend to back off. They change the subject, rather
than attempting to prove their point, which they know cannot be done. (Their
own followers never demand that they prove anything.)
The act referred to in the allegation of
resurrection is easily identified. In the initiation drama of the third
degree, the master builder of Solomon's temple is murdered by three
assassins, who hide the body in an obscure grave in the wilderness. By the
time the grave is discovered, the body is decomposing. It is dug up and
brought back to Jerusalem for a proper burial. Taking a body from one grave
to put it in another is called "re‑interment," or reburial. It meets no
one's definition of resurrection.
A favorite charge is that Freemasonry
must be a religion because it has a funeral service. The critics never
mention that the Masonic service is in addition to the religious service,
not in place of it. I have attended several Marine Corps funeral services
that took place after the graveside religious service, and they offer a good
comparison. The marines are usually in full dress uniform, and there is
often a squad of men with rifles who fire a volley into the air above the
open grave. The coffin is covered with an American flag. An officer or
friend may deliver a prayer and eulogy for the deceased brother and commit
his soul to a loving God. After the military tribute, the flag is removed
from the coffin, folded in the traditional triangular shape, and formally
presented to the nearest relative of the departed marine before the coffin
is lowered and covered.
Is Freemasonry a Religion?
Does this mean that the Marine Corps is a
separate religion? Of course not. It simply means that a departed brother is
acknowledged and honored by a group of brothers‑in‑arms. Ask your local
sheriff or policeman if he has ever attended a graveside service for a
fallen lawenforcement officer. The police service is often conducted by a
chaplain who may not be of the same faith as the deceased. Sometimes
hundreds and even thousands of law‑enforcement of firers' who may never have
met their fallen brother, will attend the ceremony, which is carried out in
addition to the regular religious service. That is exactly the spirit of a
Masonic funeral service, and I know from personal experience that wives,
parents, and children appreciate the tribute paid to the loved one whom they
One anti‑Masonic charge that really
distorts the spirit of the fraternity arises from the fact that when a Mason
takes the oath of loyalty to the Masonic brotherhood, the Masonic symbols of
the square and compasses rest on top of the Holy Bible. To the Masonhater,
that clearly means that Freemasons put their order above God. If you go into
a courtroom tomorrow and place your hand on top of the bible to take the
oath to tell the truth, or to take an oath of office, does the higher
position of your hand mean that you are putting yourself above God?
A reverse allegation is that the Masons
must be the Antichrist because there are no symbols of Jesus in the lodge
room. No, there are not. Nor are there symbols there of any other religion.
They would not be appropriate to a fraternal society, especially one
specifically espousing freedom of religion to the extent of admitting men of
A more recent anti‑Masonic allegation is
based on the fact that the Masons teach lessons of morality which they
illustrate with the tools of the medieval mason: for example, the square,
the compasses, the setting maul, the level, and the plumb line. These
lessons, relating to principles such as self‑improvement, fair dealing,
truthfulness, and charity, are objectionable to some religious leaders
because morality is being taught without specific reference to Jesus. They
call it "secular humanism." There is no way to answer that charge, because
it is based on the concept that without Jesus there is no such thing as
moral teaching. Since most of the world's population is not
A Pilgrim's Path
Christian, we can only hope that position
is wrong. All manner of secular societies encourage their members to live by
moral codes, including the Campfire Girls, the Boy Scouts of America, 4‑H
clubs, the American Bar Association, and the American Medical Association
(whose codes of ethics could easily be labeled "secular humanism"). As we
look at the state of the society we live in today, it seems wise to endorse
the teaching of moral behavior by any means whatsoever.
It may well be pointed out that I am not
fully qualified to discuss this whole matter, since I am not a Freemason who
has personally experienced Masonic ritual, nor am I a seminarian who has
received specific training in Christian theology and bible studies. I could
offer no rebuttal to such a charge. I can only suggest that we take a look
at extracts from the written statements of several respected religious
leaders who have had formal training in their subject. They are all
Freemasons and have all passed through the three degrees of the symbolic
lodge, and through the highest degrees of Scottish Rite. (All of these
statements have appeared in the monthly journal of the Southern Jurisdiction
of Scottish Rite):
Freemasonry is not a religion, though in
my experience, Masons have predominantly been religious men, and, for the
most part, of the Christian faith.
Freemasonry has no dogma or theology. It
offers no sacraments. It teaches that it is important for every man to have
a religion of his own choice and to be faithful to it in thought and action.
As a result, men of different religions meet in fellowship and brotherhood
under the fatherhood of God. I think that a good Mason is made even more
faithful to the tenets of his faith by membership in the Lodge.
REV. DR. NORMAN VINCENT PEALE, 33rd
degree 1025 Fifth Avenue New York, New York
Let me quickly and emphatically say that
Freemasonry is not and never has been a religion; however,
Is Freemasonry a Religion?
Freemasonry has always been a friend and
ally of religion. In 50 years as a mason and as a minister, I have found no
conflict between my Masonic beliefs and my Christian faith. I have not found
and do not now find that Freemasonry is "incompatible with Christian faith
BISHOP CARL J. SANDERS, 33rd degree,
Grand Cross United Methodist Church
Masonry is not a substitute for religion,
nor is it a
I am proud to be a Mason who believes in
the freedom of mankind and the sanctity of human life.
I am proud to be a Mason who believes in
the dignity of God's children and opposes hatred and bigotry, and stands for
truth, justice, kindness, integrity and righteousness for all.
RABBI SEYMOUR ATLAS, 32nd degree
Beth Judah Synagogue
Wildwood, New Jersey
It is no secret that the Bible holds the
central position as the great light of Masonry. It is no secret that Masons
love and revere the Bible, nor is it a secret that Masonry helped to
preserve it in the darkest age of the church when infidelity sought to
It is no secret that high above Masonry's
steeple is the ever‑watchful and all‑seeing eye of Almighty God.
Masonry respects every man's right to the
religion of his choice and never claims or desires to be any man's religion
nor a substitute for it.
DR. JAMES P. WESBERRY, Exec. Director and
Editor, SUNDA Y Georgia Baptist Center Atlanta, Georgia
A Pilgrim's Path
It should be understood
that my discussion in this chapter has concerned itself with the basic three
degrees of the local lodge: Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master
Mason. That is the experience shared by every Mason, so the references will
be readily understood by all of them. In recent times, more scathing attacks
have been launched against the appendant Masonic systems, such as York Rite
and Scottish Rite, each of which is followed by a minority of Masons in this
country. For that reason, it seems proper to address them separately, along
with a look at some of the major anti‑Masons of our own time─who
usually quote the writings of Masons who have been dead for over a hundred
The long‑dead Masonic writer who is most
often cited is Albert Pike. Any attempt to understand the anti‑Masonic
movement currently being encouraged by fundamentalist evangelists requires a
background knowledge of Pike and his work. He was an interesting man.
Albert Pike and the Morning Star
ALBERT PIKE (1809‑91) was a lawyer, a
poet, a prolific writer, a general in the army of the Confederate States of
America, and a Freemason. He was a voracious reader, especially interested
in the religions and philosophical systems of ancient cultures, which he saw
as having shaped the thinking and codes of morality of people around the
world. As a general, he commanded neither white nor black troops, but
American Indians. He studied and respected their religious beliefs. But no
matter how deeply he probed into other religions, nothing Pike learned ever
shook his own faith as a devout Trinitarian Christian. Politically, he did
not favor stronger central control, as is evidenced by his willingness to
risk his life and fortune in a war that started not over the issue of
slavery, but over the political concept of states' rights. In hindsight Pike
may be judged to have been wrong politically, but at least he was willing to
die for what he believed.
Fundamentalist anti‑Masons love to
condemn all Freemasonry based on the writings and philosophy of Albert Pike.
They never say that Pike's works were written only for the Southern
Jurisdiction of Scottish Rite Masonry, which was the limit of Pike's Masonic
A Pilgrim's Path
ity. He was the Sovereign Grand Commander
of that Masonic body from 1859 until his death in 1891.
The Southern Jurisdiction of Scottish
Rite in America covers thirty‑five southern and western states. It has about
half a million members, or about 20 percent of the total Masonic membership
in the United States. That means that about 80 percent of American Masons
have little or no knowledge of the work of General Pike. I have found that
most Masons have not even heard of him. These men are mystified by attacks
on Masonry that cite Pike's writings, since they have no idea what the
antagonist is talking about.
that all men should seek knowledge, or "light." From that light came
information and understanding. Some fundamentalists, however, assert that
all "light" comes from Jesus, and that any other source of light is
anti‑Christian, even though the rest of the world continues to use
expressions like, "We've got to bring this to light," or, "Can anyone here
shed some light on this matter?" That's what the Scripps‑Howard newspaper
chain had in mind when it adopted a lighthouse as its trademark, with the
slogan, "Give the people light and they will find their way."
"Light," in the sense that is used by
Pike, means education. Education is one of those things that most of us
think is universally approved, but the anti‑Masons take Masonry to task for
such emphasis on it, taking the stand that too much secular education can be
damaging to a good Christian. They often fall back on the belief of their
predecessor fundamentalists of generations ago, who believed that education
requires no written work other than Holy Scripture.
Yet that scripture itself admonishes
Christians to seek knowledge, and totally supports the Masonic dedication to
charity. Christian Masons can take comfort from the second epistle of Peter
1:5‑7: "And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and
to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance
patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness;
and to brotherly kindness charity." A good summary of Masonic belief.
Very few people are aware that in the
lecture accompanying the second degree in the symbolic lodge all Masons are
encouraged to continue their own education and to gain knowledge in the
Albert Pike and the Morning
arts, defined in the older context of
that term as grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, music, astronomy, and
geometry. The Masons emphasize the benefits of continuing education, even to
the extent that many Masonic charities provide scholarships for deserving
students on a nondenominational basis. Pike was in complete harmony with
that approach, but he was somewhat different in that his own fascination was
heavily weighted toward the history of religion, the subject of most of his
Pike was convinced that he had benefited
greatly from his lifelong studies of other religions and philosophies,
because what he had learned gave him a broader understanding of all
humankind. Many of the ancient religions he had studied were gone from the
earth, but he was convinced that they had made contributions to later
thought and moral systems. He had a good point: There are those who would
deny that Muhammad learned anything from the Jews and Christians he met on
his trading missions, or that Moses learned anything while growing up at the
Egyptian court, but reason indicates the opposite.
Not everyone believes that familiarity
with other religions and cultures is beneficial, however; exposure to alien
ideas and customs may be thought to contaminate the student's religious and
political beliefs. That's why the Catholic Church created the Index of books
not to be read by Catholics, and why fundamentalists have sought the legal
exclusion from classrooms and libraries of books that teach morality on a
nonreligious basis, or even scientific knowledge that seems at odds with
In his conviction that wisdom would be
gained by learning what others believed, and why they behaved as they did,
Albert Pike poured his prodigious knowledge into written works, so that he
could share that information. Today, universities offer master's and
doctoral degrees in the comparative study of world religions and in the
history of religion. Pike would have approved. His plan was to educate all
Scottish Rite Masons in his Southern Jurisdiction by imparting that
comparative knowledge as an essential aspect of Scottish Rite training.
The course of education Pike laid out was
in twenty‑nine parts, to fit the Scottish Rite system of the 4th through the
A Pilgrim's Path
Rather than being taught in pedantic
lectures, the information is imparted primarily in ceremonial dramas, which
are usually more effective in helping the student to retain what he has
learned. The major difference between the Pike‑inspired course of
instruction and that employed in some theological seminaries is that
Scottish Rite does not identify any religion as the One True Faith. It
teaches to inform, not to prove the error of all faiths except that of the
lecturer. Some of the work does arrive at conclusions, such as those
condemning tyranny (from either a religious or secular source), and a charge
to seek the light of knowledge, rather than yield to the ignorance that
permits some men to dominate the unknowing. So Pike's primary lesson calls
to mind the old IBM slogan that used to appear in every workplace: the
simple advice, "THINK!" That very concept is offensive to many a
fundamentalist evangelist, who will happily do all the thinking his
followers will ever need.
Some of the critics of Masonry cite the
degree work, but more find their raw material for Masonic condemnation in
Pike's writings, especially his ponderous Morals and Dogma, an 861‑page
volume that many Masons own, but few have read. It is not only tedious
reading, but is full of Pike's own perceptions of Masonry. Many Masons will
agree with some statements, but there are others that no Mason will ever
believe. Pike was so wrapped up in his knowledge of ancient faiths and
philosphic systems that he tended to make the background of Masonry far more
complex and esoteric than it was ever meant to be. In some of his chapters,
if the words "Mason" and "Masonry" were removed, it is reasonable to believe
that many a Mason reading it would not recognize his own fraternity.
Pike was a man with an extraordinary
breadth of knowledge, and it is only natural that he wanted to share it all.
Unfortunately, he had just one outlet that he could count on, and he appears
to have wanted to find a place for everything he knew in the Southern
Jurisdiction of Scottish Rite. The teachings of Masonry are simple and
clear. Pike preferred them to be festooned with mystic interpretations and
deep, arcane meanings.
Make no mistake: Pike was a dynamic force
in establishing a strong membership in his own jurisdiction, and a strong
force in establishing degree work that has lasted for a hundred years. He
Albert Pike and the Morning
a towering figure in the history of
American Masonry. What he was not was a Grand Master of any Grand Lodge, who
alone is the final authority in basic Masonic practices and jurisprudence.
He was never a spokesman for all of Freemasonry and never tried to assert
himself as such. He was a strong man who never shrank from expressing his
personal opinions, and it is important to remember that his pronouncements
as they relate to Masonry are just that: his own opinions.
That's why the most important part of
Morals and Dogma may be its preface. Not written by Pike himself, the
preface was, and is, the official statement of The Supreme Council, the
governing body of Scottish Rite Masonry that published his work. It has been
ratified by every succeeding Supreme Council, up to this very day. In part,
it says (italics mine):
In preparing this work, the Grand
Commander [Pike1 has been about equally Author and Compiler; since he has
extracted quite half its contents from the works of the best writers and
most philosophic or eloquent thinkers. Perhaps it would have been better and
more acceptable if he had extracted more and written less.
To remove any thought that the work
contains religious dogma for Scottish Rite Masons, the preface says:
The teachings of these readings are not
sacramental, so far as they go beyond the realm of Morality into those other
domains of Thought and Truth. The ancient and accepted Scottish Rite uses
the word "Dogma" in its true sense, of doctrine, or teaching;, and is not
dogmatic in the odious sense of that term.
And now the most important sentence in
the preface (and, once again, the italics are mine):
A Pilgrim's Path
Everyone is entirely free to reject and
dissent from whatsoever herein may seem to him to be untrue or unsound.
I was very relieved to find that
statement at the beginning of Morals and Dogma, because there is much in it
that I "reject and dissent from." Such a statement requires at least one
example, and I offer the following quote from page 819:
"The Blue Degrees [first, second and
third] are but the outer court or portico of the Temple. Part of the symbols
are displayed there to the Initiate, but he is intentionally misled by false
interpretations. It is not intended that he shall understand them; but it is
intended that he shall imagine that he understands them. Their true
explication is reserved for the Adepts, the Princes of Masonry (the 28th
degree and beyond)." I have asked enough Masons to convince myself that
there is no Mason anywhere who agrees with that statement.
His historical facts are usually correct,
but that cannot always be said of his opinions. As an historian who has
spent years researching the history of the crusading order of the Knights
Templar, I was appalled to read Pike's words, "The Templars were
unintelligent and therefore unsuccessful Jesuits," and "Their watchword was
to become wealthy, in order to buy the world."
On the other hand, most Christians will
agree with much of what Albert Pike has to say about his own faith in
Christianity. His discussion of baptism calls the Christian rite "a baptism
of repentance, for the remission of sins: that is, the necessity of
repentance proven by reformation." That "reformation" of the repentant
baptized Christian is now being referred to as being "born again," which
puts Pike's definition of the sacrament right in line with the beliefs of
those who condemn him most angrily. His critics, of course, never quote
those points: Their aim is to extract comments about the many religions,
sects, and cults described in Morals and Dogma, so that they can be cited,
regardless of their original content, as "documentation" that Masons believe
the teachings of those ancient cults, and must believe them. They know they
are lying, but quoting out of context is too wonderful a tool to be
Albert Pike and the Morning
Nothing thrills the anti‑Mason as much as
Pike's references to Lucifer. Most Christians reading this will immediately
recognize Lucifer as the fallen angel, as Satan, the ruler of hell. Why
then, does Pike express his surprise in the words "Lucifer, the
light‑bearer! Strange and mysterious name to give to the Spirit of Darkness!
Lucifer, the Son of the Morning! Is it he who bears the Light, and with its
intolerable light blinds feeble, sensual or selfish souls?" He is upset,
referring at one point to "the false Lucifer of the legend." What false
I set out to learn for myself, and what I
learned may upset many Christians, who have to be told that the King James
version of the Bible, which they revere as the literal, precise, correct
work of God, is not always so. Some of the error in it was quite deliberate,
including the biblical designation of Lucifer as Satan, along with the
concordant story of a fallen angel. It is difficult to anticipate the
reactions of some believers on being told that there are gross mistakes in
the King James version, but, please, do not throw this book across the room
in disgust until you have read a bit more.
Lucifer makes his appearance in the
fourteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of Isaiah, at the twelfth
verse, and nowhere else: "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of
the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the
The first problem is that Lucifer is a
Latin name. So how did it find its way into a Hebrew manuscript, written
before there was a Roman language? To find the answer, I consulted a scholar
at the library of the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati. What Hebrew name,
I asked, was Satan given in this chapter of Isaiah, which describes the
angel who fell to become the ruler of hell?
The answer was a surprise. In the
original Hebrew text, the fourteenth chapter of Isaiah is not about a fallen
angel, but about a fallen Babylonian king, who during his lifetime had
persecuted the children of Israel. It contains no mention of Satan, either
by name or reference. The Hebrew scholar could only speculate that some
early Christian scribes, writing in the Latin tongue used by the Church, had
decided for themselves that they wanted the story to be about a fallen
angel, a creature not even mentioned in the original Hebrew text, and to
whom they gave the name "Lucifer."
A Pilgrun's Path
Why Lucifer? In Roman astronomy, Lucifer
was the name given to the morning star (the star we now know by another
Roman name, Venus). The morning star appears in the heavens just before
dawn, heralding the rising sun. The name derives from the Latin term lucem
ferre, "bringer, or bearer, of light." In the Hebrew text the expression
used to describe the Babylonian king before his death is Helal, son of
Shahar, which can best be translated as "Day star, son of the Dawn." The
name evokes the golden glitter of a proud king's dress and court (much as
his personal splendor earned for King Louis XIV of France the appellation,
"The Sun King").
The scholars authorized by
the militancy Catholic King James I to translate the Bible into current
English did not use the original Hebrew texts, but used versions translated
from the Catholic Vulgate Bible produced largely by St. Jerome in the fourth
century. Jerome had mistranslated the Hebraic metaphor, "Day star, son of
the Dawn," as "Lucifer," and over the centuries a metamorphosis took place.
Lucifer the morning star became a disobedient angel, cast out of heaven to
rule eternally in hell. Theologians, writers, and poets interwove the myth
with the doctrine of the Fall, and in Christian tradition Lucifer is now the
same as Satan, the Devil, andironically─the
Prince of Darkness.
So "Lucifer" is nothing more than an
ancient Latin name for the morning star, the bringer of light. That can be
confusing for Christians who identify Christ himself as the morning star, a
term used as a central theme in many Christian sermons. Jesus refers to
himself as the morning star in Revelation 22:16: "I Jesus have sent mine
angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and
the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star."
And so there are those who do not ready
beyond the King James version of the Bible, who say "Lucifer is Satan: so
says the Word of God," while others with knowledge of the Latin and Hebrew
texts say, "No, Lucifer is the classical Roman name for the morning star,
and now Jesus is the morning star." This discussion can only anger certain
fundamentalists. (I have at hand an evangelical tract from a Baptist church
that says, "I believe in the Infallibility and Preservation of God's Word,
of which the King James 1611 authorized version is the God‑guided faithful
Albert Pike and the Morning
Fortunately, this issue of errors in
biblical translations is not one that we have to struggle with ourselves.
Generations of biblical scholars of all faiths have been aware of the
mistranslations and of the misunderstandings that arise from the use of
archaic terms whose meanings have been lost, or have evolved into different
usages. To address these problems a conference was held in October 1946,
attended by delegates of the Church of England, the Church of Scotland, and
the Baptists, Methodists, and Congregationalist churches. At another meeting
four months later, delegates from the Presbyterians and Quakers joined the
original group, along with representatives of various Bible societies. Still
later, observers were sent as representatives of the Roman Catholic Church.
The work on a new translation of the
Bible, direct from the sources, stretched out over several years. The most
distinguished biblical scholars and specialists in the world were invited to
contribute, and every delegate was given the opportunity to review and
express his own views on every verse, every word, as presented by the
The result of this prodigious joint
effort was The New English Bible, of which the New Testament was published
in 1969 and the Old Testament one year later.
That does not mean that I have cast aside
my King James version: I have them both. But I must recognize that while God
may be the inspirational source of all the Old and New Testament scriptures,
He is certainly not responsible for the imperfect translations from the
language of the earliest surviving texts. To err is human, and men can
become overzealous because of the emotional aspects of the subject.
To the point, the verse in the King James
version (Isaiah 14:12) that begins "How art thou fallen from heaven, O
Lucifer..." has now been translated directly from the Hebrew in the New
English Bible as "How you have fallen from heaven, bright morning star . .
." There is no mention of Lucifer, no reference to any disobedient angel
plunging to hell, nor should there be.
The emphasis here should be on irlter~t.
When Albert Pike and other Masonic scholars spoke over a century ago about
the "Luciferian path," or the "energies of Lucifer," they were referring to
A Piltsrim's Path
morning star, the light bearer, the
search for light; the very antithesis of dark, satanic evil.
Still, I believe that Pike was wrong to
use Lucifer in the scholarly sense. I remember an old man saying to me years
ago, on a different subject, "It may be correct, but it just ain't right!"
He had an excellent point. To be "correct" may be good for scholars writing
for the enlightenment of other scholars: but for those with a real desire to
communicate, recognition must be given to the common usage of words and
terms. To this day some learned writers, as did Pike, have difficulty
concentrating on communication, which may require explaining their terms of
reference and curbing their vocabularial excess. To engage in the arrant
pedantry of egregious sesquipedalianism (as in this sentence) is not
communication. It's showing off. Pike must have known that virtually every
Christian of this time firmly believed that Lucifer was Satan. He should
have explained his use of the name, or he should have avoided it. And he
should have held his scholarly vocabulary in check. However impressive the
command of a language a writer may possess, if it cannot be understood as
intended and baffles the reader, it is failing in its primary purpose, which
should be clear, understandable communication.
Unfortunately, even if Albert Pike had
refined his cumbersome style, or reduced the overwhelming variety of
information he offered in his works, he would still be the target of
vitriolic abuse. The reason is a proved and blatant forgery that is
brandished to the great joy and delight of almost every anti‑Masonic writer
It all began in the late nineteenth
century with a man who would do anything, say anything, or write anything to
further his own career, untroubled by conscience or morality. His pen name
was Leo Taxil. To fully understand the source of much of today's most bitter
antiMasonry, it is necessary to drop back about a hundred years and examine
the career of this strange man who, to serve his own ends, maliciously
draped the mantle of Lucifer as Satan on the memory of Albert Pike.
HIS REAL NAME was Gabriel Jogang Pages,
born in the south of France in 1854. His parents arranged for his schooling
by the Jesuits, and could only have been proud of his outstanding academic
Although well Rained, Gabriel chose not
to follow a religious career after finishing his education, for that would
have entailed abandoning the worldly goods he craved so much. Nor was he
inclined to achieve wealth through the time‑consuming method of hard work
and thrift. He Died the shortcut of financial fraud, and when he was
discovered he fled from France to Switzerland. There, Gabriel Pages adopted
the name of Leo Taxil.
He could change his name but not his
character, and his involvement in yet another fraudulent financial scheme
led to his ejection from Switzerland. Ever resourceful, Taxil connived to
return to his native France under an amnesty arrangement in 1879, and, once
settled, he decided to enter the publishing trade. He was a prolific writer,
and a good one. He was willing to put pen to paper on any subject and even
Died his hand at pornography, abandoning it only when it failed to show a
A Pilgrim'n Path
As he considered possible markets for his
talents, Leo Taxil decided to fan the flames of the anti‑Catholic fever
sweeping Europe in those years of turbulent political unrest. In an attempt
to bolster the Church's spiritual authority in the face of a mounting
assault on its secular power, Pope Pius IX had called a Vatican council in
1870. Many Catholics were shocked and disconcerted by the council's
proclamation of papal infallibility: When the pope spoke ex cathedra, "from
the throne" of St. Peter, on matters of faith or morals, he was now
incapable of error. This went beyond any claim made by even the most
power‑driven popes who had preceded Pius IX, and led many of the faithful to
leave the Church. Others had disagreed with the same pope's 1854 revelation
of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, claiming that
Jesus' mother had been conceived without original sin, through the special
grace of God. The dissenters felt that the dogma elevated Mary to a
spiritual position equal to Christ himself, which had no basis in New
Aside from the religious turmoil, Pius IX
had to struggle with grave secular problems. The biggest of these were the
revolutions mounted against the corruption within the church government in
the Papal States. The ambassadors of France, Austria, Russia, and Prussia
joined together to deliver a memorandum urging Pius IX to institute
democratic reforms and establish nonecclesiastical financial controls. The
Holy See was adamant; it would surrender none of its autocratic authority.
Revolts erupted in Sicily and in Italy, causing France to send troops to
Rome to support the papacy, against strong opposition from a large body of
the French people. The Sicilians, led by Giuseppe Garibaldi, rallied in
support of a unified kingdom of Italy under King Victor Emmanuel II. When
the papal army was defeated the Papal States were occupied, except for the
city of Rome.
France sent troops to keep the
revolutionaries out of Rome itself, but at the outbreak of the
Franco‑Prussian war, the French forces were withdrawn to fight in their own
war, and the revolutionaries marched into Rome. A plebiscite was held for
the Roman citizens who had been prevented by the French occupation from
voting for or against Italian unification. As it had in the Papal States,
the vote in Rome revealed overwhelming opposition to papal control.
In 1870, for the first time in centuries,
the Vicar of Christ held only the title of Supreme Pontiff of the Roman
Catholic Church, and would never again rule as a worldly king.
In the strongly anti‑Church climate
existing throughout France, Leo Taxil believed that he would find a ready
market for anticlerical publications. He wrote anti‑Catholic satires, poked
fun at church leaders, and even revived the ancient myth of "Pope Joan." The
story, with no documentation to back it, was that a woman in the church
hierarchy had concealed her sex so cleverly that she had succeeded in being
elected pope. She was allegedly discovered only when she fell to the street
in a swoon during the course of a papal parade to the Lateran palace, and
proceeded to give birth to a child.
In hopes of gathering anti‑Church
material, Taxil joined a lodge of Freemasons in Paris in 1881. His true
character quickly surfaced, and he was expelled from the lodge before going
beyond the first degree.
Over the succeeding years, his
anti‑Catholic writing brought him very little income but earned him a great
deal of criticism and condemnation from the clergy. He needed another target
for his literary talents. That new direction came through what appeared to
Taxil to be divine intervention, in the form of an 1884 encyclical,
promulgated by the successor of Pius IX, who had taken the papal name of Leo
XIII. In all the history of the conflict between the Roman Church and the
Masonic order, the encyclical Humanum Genus was the most bitter and detailed
condemnation of Freemasonry ever written.
This document expressed Pope Leo's
frustration, as described earlier. This had been a century of devastating
material losses for the Holy See. Plantations, mines, real estate, and
millions of acres of rich land in Mexico and South America from which
streams of silver and gold had flowed to Rome had been lost to revolutions.
And now even the Papal States were gone, and the pope was no more than the
bishop of Rome in a state that his predecessors had ruled as autocratic
What was most frustrating was that papal
rule had been rejected by a vote. The people had forgotten, or ignored, the
fact that rulers were not selected by an election, but by the will of God.
A Pilgrim's Path
in Europe took power until crowned and
anointed by an official of the Church. Fox populi, the voice of the people,
had nothing to do with the process. Who were these revolutionaries who could
so blatantly defy the will of God and the Vicar of Christ on earth? What
As we have seen, the pope's advisors were
able to answer that question: They were all Freemasons. Freemasonry
therefore must be the source of the revolutionaries' warped sense of
government, and the Catholic world must be warned to abhor and avoid this
evil organization. The result was Humanum Germs.
In the encyclical, Leo XIII did not
specifically cite devil worship among Masons, but he branded every
non‑Catholic in the world a member of the kingdom of Satan and wrote that
they "seem to conspire and strive all together under the guidance and with
the help of that society of men spread all over, and solidly established,
which they call Free‑Masons."
And of what crimes were these Masons
guilty? Belief in freedom of religion, for one thing‑ but let the pope tell
us in his own words:
By opening their gates to every creed
they promote, in fact, the great modern error of religious indifference and
the parity of all worships, the best way to annihilate every religion,
especially the Catholic Church, which, being the only true one cannot be
joined with others without enormous injustice.
Leo XIII was especially offended that
Masons were teaching democratic ideals:
. . . that men all have the same rights,
and are perfectly equal in condition; that every man is naturally
independent . . . that it is tyranny to keep men subject to any other
authority than that which emanates from themselves. Hence, the people are
sovereign; those who rule have no authority but by the commission and
concession of the people; so that they can be deposed, willing or unwilling,
according to the wishes
of the people. The origin of all rights
and civil duties is in the people or in the State, which is ruled according
to the new principles of liberty.
(It is perplexing to realize that the
pope in 1884 was condemning all of the foregoing as satanic.)
The key point that spelled opportunity
for Leo Taxil appeared at the end of Humanum Genus. The pope called upon all
Catholic bishops to teach all the people, and especially the children, the
evils of Freemasonry, and its democratic leanings:
Insist that parents and spiritual
directors, in teaching the catechism, may never cease to admonish
appropriately children and pupils of the wicked nature of these sects, that
they may also learn in time the various fraudulent arts which their
propagators use to entice. Those who prepare children for first communion
will do well if they will persuade them to promise not to give their names
to any society without asking their parents' or their pastor's or their
Pope Leo had a plan for the bishops:
We entreat and pray you, venerable
brethren, who cooperate with us, to root out this poison, which spreads
widely throughout the Nations . . . the first thing to do is to strip from
the Masonic sect its mask and show it as it is, teaching orally and by
pastoral letters the people about the frauds used by these societies to
flatter and entice, the perversity of its doctrines, and the dishonesty of
Here was Taxil's market, the chance to
make some real money! The pope had exhorted the bishops to preach and teach
against Freemasonry, but he hadn't given them much to go on, other than the
Masonic dedication to the principles of democracy. He had said that the
Masons were part of the Kingdom of Satan, but he had said that
A P;lgrim'F. Path
about all non‑Catholics. What Leo Taxil
could produce was a wealth of anti‑Masonic material to use in following the
pope's orders. He didn't know much more about Masonry than did the pope
himself, but Taxil had never let ignorance of the facts stand in his way; he
simple made up whatever would suit his needs. He now set out to provide
"facts" that would specifically identify Freemasons as worshippers of Satan.
To capture the right spirit before
launching into his new campaign, Leo Taxil confessed to the sins he had
committed in writing and publishing anti‑Catholic pamphlets. He then
undertook the prescribed penance and further emphasized his desire to become
a good Catholic again by going off on a meditational retreat. Having thus
demonstrated his restoration to a state of grace, Taxil returned home fired
up with his newly adopted anti‑Masonic zeal and exploded into a frenzy of
writing. One book after another appeared, each condemning the Freemasons.
The titles are revealing: The Anti‑Christ and the Origin of Masonry; The
Cult of the Great Architect; and The Masonic Assassins, to name just a few.
What Taxil lacked was any specific
documentation: He needed a shocking revelation to back his allegations, so
that the world would recognize his self‑appointed role as the most
knowledgeable antiMason in the world. To be the author of that counterfeit
document, he chose Albert Pike. Pike had been dead for several years, so
Taxil could expect that his fraud would be safe from exposure and rebuttal.
The Southern Jurisdiction of Scottish Rite, which Albert Pike had headed,
called its governing board "The Supreme Mother Council of the World." Taxil
was fully aware that the title referred only to the Southern Scottish Rite,
but the grandiose terminology was easy to twist so that Taxil could present
it to his Catholic audience as the Supreme Council of worldwide Freemasonry,
with Albert Pike as the ruler of the entire fraternity.
Leo Taxil needed a clear,
incontrovertible statement to be used in his forged document so that its
significance would be easily and universally recognized. That statement was
finally honed to the simple declaration "Lucifer is God," which Taxil would
attribute to Albert Pike. The complete forged document follows ‑ but first,
a brief explanation of the term "Adonay," which appears in the text.
The ancient Hebrews were reluctant to
even whisper the ineffable name of God, expressed in the told texts as JHVH,
since written Hebrew has no vowels. Although there can be no certainty about
the pronunciation of these letters, known to scholars as the tetragrammation,
they are usually converted to Yahweh. Rather than say out loud that sacred
name, Jews refer to God by a designation of supreme reverence, roughly
equivalent to "The Lord," which is Adonai. In the course of time, Christians
converted Yakwsh to Jehovah, while the Catholic liturgy used Adonai to refer
to the second member of the Holy Trinity, who is Jesus Christ. Since Taxil
was writing as a Catholic author for a Catholic readership, he uses "Adonay"
in this document as a reference to Jesus. What follows was falsely
identified as part of a speech and written order which Albert Pike was
supposed to have delivered to Freemasons in Paris on Bastille Day, July
That which we must say to the world is
that we worship a god, but it is the god that one adores without
superstition. To you, Sovereign Grand Inspectors General, we say this, that
you may repeat it to the brethren of the 32nd, 31st and 30th degrees: The
Masonic Religion should be, by all of us initiates of the higher degrees,
maintained in the Purity of the Luciferian doctrine. If Lucifer were not
God, would Adonay and his priests calumniate him?"
Yes, Lucifer is God, and unfortunately
Adonay is also god. For the eternal law is that there is no light without
shade, no beauty without ugliness, no white without black, for the absolute
can only exist as two gods; darkness being necessary for light to serve as
its foil as the pedestal is necessary to the statue, and the brake to the
Thus, the doctrine of Satanism is a
heresy, and the true and pure philosophical religion is the belief in
Lucifer, the equal of Adonay; but Lucifer, God of Light and God of Good, is
struggling for humanity against Adonay, the God of Darkness and Evil.
A PUgrim'F. Path
Pike had been dead for three years, so
Taxil back‑dated the order. It was signed by Taxil as the work of "Albert
Pike, Sovereign Pontiff of Universal Freemasonry, Instructions to the
twenty‑three Supreme Councils of the World, July 14, 1889."
No one in Freemasonry ever held the title
of "Sovereign Pontiff." The word pontiff comes from the Latin pontifex, and
pontifex derives from two Latin words, pons, meaning "bridge" and facere,
meaning "to make." The pontifex of ancient Rome was a high priest considered
to be a "bridge" between the people and the gods. Up to fifteenpontif~ces
ruled on all religious matters in the city of Rome, and their leader was
called the Pontifex Maximus, the Supreme High Priest. Much later, it pleased
the popes in Rome to claim for themselves this Latin title from the
pre‑Christian era, which translates as Supreme Pontiff in English. In
tacking the title "Sovereign Pontiff" to Albert Pike's name, Taxil knew full
well that his Christian readers in France would presume that Pike must be
the satanic rival to the Holy Father in Rome.
AISO7 the phrase "Universal Freemasonry"
has never been used, since there is no such thing. Of the hundreds of
Masonic bodies in the world at that time, Pike was the leader of just one,
the Southern Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite.
In spite of its blatant fraudulence,
Taxil's forgery was a huge success. The Church was so gratified by his
anti‑Masonic endeavors that he was honored with a private audience with the
pope, who encouraged Taxil to continue in his good work, completely unaware
of the cynical hoax being foisted on the whole Catholic world by this man he
The money poured in, as Leo Taxil learned
what many hatemongers today have learned and benefited from: He did not have
to live only on the sale of his books and pamphlets. He could part the
faithful from their money for contributions to his "ministry," which they
were assured would earn them God's favor.
Once in possession of all the wealth he
needed, the bogus evangelist was so overwhelmingly proud of his fraudulent
achievements that he reached the point where he could no longer keep his
triumph to himself. On April 19, 189 `', Taxil used his celebrity status to
attract a large audience to a meeting in Paris. Journalists came,
along with members of the Catholic hierarchy. As Taxil rose
to speak, his audience waited in eager anticipation, expecting to hear the
latest "revelations" about the satanic Freemasons. Instead, an exuberant Leo
Taxil stunned them as he gleefully bragged that for the past twelve years he
had fooled them all. He laughed at them for swallowing like innocent babes
the drivel that he had created to amass a tidy fortune for himself. Every
word written about Masonic devil worship was the product of his own fertile
imagination, and they had bought it─literally.
The uproar caused by his boastful
confession to his furious and indignant listeners forced Taxil to seek
police protection, which became even more necessary when a Paris newspaper
published the thirty‑three page text of his speech the following week.
Having achieved his financial goal, Leo
Taxil had apparently timed his confession to coincide with his plans for
retirement. The incorrigible opportunist moved away from Paris to a stately
home in the country, where he enjoyed a comfortable life until his death at
the age of fifty‑three, in 1907.
Taxil's hoax lived on, in spite of the
truth being made known, because he had become the richest source of
anti‑Masonic "documentation" for the hate‑mongers. Much of his slanderous
output, including the Albert Pike forgery, had been picked up by other
secular and religious authors before his confession, and was printed as
absolute truth. The work of those authors is quoted by subsequent
anti‑Masonic writers, perfectly willing to keep the lies alive.
Even today, writers determined to prove
the existence of devil worship in the Masonic lodge triumphantly present the
Pike forgery, even when they know the truth of its history. The statement
"Lucifer is God" is just too wonderfully damning to cast aside, false as it
The problem is, of course, that whether
false statements are published through a vitriolic dedication to destroying
Freemasonry, or through simple ignorance of the truth, there are those who
read those statements and believe them. An example of this is the use of
this same Pike forgery in a recent book by Pat Robertson. Mr. Robertson's
book had been out only a few weeks when an angry Christian took the
quotation from the book and sent it to the Tennessee
A PUgrim", Path
Baptist and Rejector, where it was
published, to be read by even more innocent people, as a letter to the
Robertson is one writer who should have
the resources to get at the truth. As the best known of all the current
Mason‑bashing evangelists, we should take a look at what he is up to in his
latest antiMar,onic book, The New World Order.
The Media Mogul
PAT ROBERTSON IS a genuine millionaire
media mogul. He is constantly in pursuit of more power and influence, which
manifested itself when he made an unsuccessful pass at becoming president of
the United States in 1988.
In 1991 Mr. Robertson published an
anti‑Masonic book titled The New World Order. It may be considered
potentially more damaging than most of its kind because the author is
something of a celebrity, with his "700 Club" on TV here and abroad, his
"Family Channel" on cable television, his Christian Broadcasting Network,
Untied States Media Corporation, and "Operation Blessing." Pat Robertson's
ambitions are kept alive by his newspaper, the ChristianArnerican, coupled
with his political organization, The Christian Coalition.
Robertson claims for himself all the
Christian virtues except, apparently, humility. In his anti‑Masonic book he
write, ". . . some readers might wish to say to me: Pat, you are an
Anglo‑Saxon and an Ivy League law graduate. Your father was a Senior United
States Senator and you have a distinguished heritage that goes from colonial
days back to the nobility of England. You qualify to play a leadership role
in the Establishment and its plans for a new world order." His
A Pilgrim", Path
ancestors in the great Clan Robertson
might be proud of the financial success of one of their progeny, but
probably would not be too happy to find themselves labeled "Anglo‑Saxon" and
part of the English nobility. And the many Freemasons might wonder why he
failed to mention that his father, the senior senator, was also a dedicated
Robertson's book "exposes" a great
international plot to take over the world, destroy government, and wipe out
Christianity. There are several villains involved, including the United
Nations and the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank. Robertson, however, seems to take
particular delight in revealing that the great conspiracy operates within
the higher degrees of the Southern Jurisdiction of Scottish Rite Masonry,
his major villains in this evil scheme. The make‑believe plot, of course,
was not hatched in the upper reaches of Freemasonry, but in the nether
regions of Mr. Robertson's own devious mind.
His celebrity status did earn for Pat
Robertson a review of his book in the Wall Street Journal, a piece headlined
"A New World Order Nut." At first I thought that the reviewer was being a
bit harsh, but after reading the book, I could see that he had actually been
In the forward to The New World Order,
Mr. Robertson expresses his gratitude to "all the people who have helped
with the research, analysis and information gathering." He thanks two of
them by name; a Ph.D. and his network news director. As a writer, I could
envy him his access to a team of research professionals, but I was less
envious when the quality of their professional efforts became apparent.
One small example of Mr. Robertson's
history lessons might help to set the stage for the level of credibility in
his Masonic conclusions, even when assisted by a research staff. Anyone with
even a superficial knowledge of the history of medieval Europe knows that
the Black Death was carried there from Central Asia by Jlear, living on the
bodies of ships' rats. Once ashore the fleas quickly spread to household
rats, to farm animals (who were often part of the household), and to human
beings. ];teas. Robertson found it convenient to change history to make a
point of his own.
He is describing the failures of world
governments to deal with environmental problems. Commenting on the spread of
The Media Mogul
pollution in South America, he writes
(italics mine): "In most of these places, people are pouring raw, untreated
sewage into the streams and into the oceans, and diseases spread there. That
is precisely how the Black Death started in Europe in the fourteenth
Some of his followers might say in
Robertson's defense, "Well, he may get his history mixed up sometimes, but
his sense of morality is always right on target." Perhaps. He certainly
appears to be morally on target with this: "The eighth commandment, 'You
shall not steal,' means that the God of Jacob forbids a citizen to take what
belongs to another citizen. He did not permit Robin Hood to take from the
rich and give to the poor, or the greedy rich to steal the possessions of
the poor." That appears to be a crystal‑clear moral position, especially
when we find one of the "Principal Beliefs" of his Christian Coalition to
be, ". . . in honesty and frugality in the distribution of public funds as a
matter of stewardship before God."
But read what Mr. Robertson has to say
about the Third World country of Zaire. Commenting on the theft of funds
provided to Zaire by other countries, principally the United States, he
forgives the stealing (which actually ran to many millions of dollars) with
the following astonishing statement: "Who could blame an of ficial with a
wretched salary and little business sophistication for occasionally dipping
into the torrent of money passing before him?" Does that comment about
"little business sophistication" imply that this Ivy League lawyer believes
that poverty and ignorance absolve thieves from blame, while morality and
God's laws apply only to graduates of business schools? In any case, Mr.
Robertson just won't blame the leaders of the brutal African governments for
anything. He blames all of their sins on their former masters, for granting
those countries freedom "too soon," before they were ready for it. Are we
allowed to remember countless religious leaders loudly condemning any
European leaders who dared to make that assertion during those tumultuous
years when colonial Africa was clamoring for independence and the expulsion
of the imperial masters?
Of primary interest to us, of course, is
the impact of this twisted mental process in Pat Robertson's attacks on
Freemasonry, where truth takes an especially brutal beating.
A Pilgrin'~'s Path
From the hundreds of thousands of words
that poured from Albert Pike's pen to describe hundreds of ancient deities,
it is not at all difficult to select a passage here and there; present it
out of context with either a distorted explanation or none at all; and
declare, "See! This is what Freemasons believe!" A single example should do
to illustrate the point.
Mr. Robertson presents a seven‑word quote
from Pike's Morals and Dogma, "Everything good in nature comes from Osiris,"
followed by his own parenthetic explanation, "(the Egyptian sun God; the
all‑seeing eye is a Masonic representation of Osiris)." That quotation is in
fact a tiny part of Pike's lengthy explanation of religious beliefs in
ancient Egypt. Pike begins this section with (italics mine), "We have
heretofore, in the 24th degree, recited the principal incidents in the
Legend of Osiris and Isis, and it remains to point out the astronomical
phenomena (sun, moon and stars) which it has converted into mythological
facts." Understandably, Mr. Robertson chooses to leave out the point that
the worship of Osiris is presented by Pike to his readers as legend and
mythological, because his intention is to mislead. If he had quoted in full
context, his readers would have seen at once that "Every good thing in
nature comes from Osiris" was a statement, and a true statement, about what
ancient Egyptians believed, not what Freemasons believe. To twist the truth
like this for the express purpose of blackening other men's reputations is
vicious and, in my personal opinion, criminal.
Early in his book, Mr.
Robertson finds an ominous warning of the dark conspiracy in the Great Seal
of the United States, as reproduced on our one‑dollar bill. Mr. Robertson's
interpretations of our Great Seal are weird. It's not the weirdness of a
babbling idiot, however, but the deliberate word and thought manipulation of
a skilled propagandist. And since he has now convinced at least some of his
readers that Freemasons worship Osiris, he finds it easy to say that the eye
in the Great Seal is not the eye of Divine Providence, the eye of God─which
is what it really represents ‑ but is instead the eye of Osiris, the ancient
Below that eye on the seal is a truncated
pyramid that bears the Roman numerals for 1776, the year of the Declaration
of Independence. Next, Robertson calls attention to the Latin motto that
The Media Mogul
encircles the pyramid. It reads Annuit
Coeptis above, and Novus Ordo Seclorum below. Latin scholars translate
Annuit Coeptis as "A time of beginning," a sensible reference to 1776.
Robertson translates it as "He looks favorably on our endeavor," with "He
looks" apparently referring to the eye of Osiris. Novas Ordo Seclorum means
"A new order for (coming) generations." Robertson chooses to translate it as
"New order of the ages," or "New world order," the title of his book.
The word seclorum may be confusing. At
the time of the preChristian Roman poet Virgil, from whom the second part of
the Latin motto is taken, seculum meant "generation," and was sometimes used
to mean an "age," or a fixed period of time. Much later, the Roman Church
decided that the Church alone would exist forever in an unbroken stream.
Therefore, it could not be measured in units of genera or time (tempos), or
in generations (secula). Therefore, the Church referred to the nonspiritual
world as "secular" or "temporal." Nothing in the motto means "world," for
which the Latin word in mundus. Robertson's assertion that the motto on the
Great Seal of the United States means that Osiris looks with favor on a New
World Order is ridiculous, but necessary for him to set the stage for the
great Masonic conspiracy.
Having asserted his own creative Latin
translation and interpretation, Pat Robertson is troubled by it. "Is it
possible," he writes, "that a select few had a plan, revealed in the Great
Seal adopted at the founding of the United States, to bring forth, not the
nation that our founders and champions of liberty desired, but a totally
different world order under a mystery religion designed to replace the old
Christian world order of Europe and America?"
If the Masonic leaders at the time of
this country's founding were indeed the perpetrators of this abominable
scheme, as Mr. Robertson wants us to believe, they should be revealed by
name, so that historians can be wary of them. The evil men he is referring
to, the Masonic leaders, included George Washington, Benjamin Franklin,
James Monroe, Paul Revere, Robert Livingston, John Hancock, Peyton Randolph,
Israel Putnam, George Rogers Clark, John Paul Jones, and Nathaniel Greene.
Were these the men bent on thwarting the plans of the "founders and
champions of liberty"? (Perhaps Robertson's research team had that month
A Pilgrim's Path
Before putting the subject of the Great
Seal to rest, one more item deserves attention. Mr. Robertson exhibits a
compulsion to involve Southern Jurisdiction Scottish Rite Masonry in his
allegations of conspiracy, because he is then able to draw upon the prolific
writings of Albert Pike and his references to the history of world
religions. But Scottish Rite Masonry cannot possible be tied in with his
theory about a mysterious message concealed within the newly created Great
Seal of the United States. Scottish Rite Masonry didn't even exist at that
time: The first council of Scottish Rite was not formed until 1801, after
the turn of the century. Furthermore, Albert Pike and his literary efforts
cannot be cited in connection with any allegations of a Great Seal
conspiracy, because he, too, had not yet been born.
Such details cannot be permitted to
divert the dedicated antiMasonic author, a status Robertson earns by playing
follow‑theleader and including the famous Taxil forgery of an order from
Albert Pike. He doesn't allude to its status as a proven counterfeit, but
says that he presents it "without comment."
Not satisfied to merely repeat
accusations leveled against Masonry by other anti‑Masonic fundamentalists,
Mr. Robertson creates a new piece of "evidence" that is his own invention,
as unique as it is false. No doubt remembering his lessons at Yale Law
School, he doesn't present his revelation as absolute truth, but begins with
the careful words, "It is my understanding that . . . ," and continues with
the message: "As part of the initiation for the 32nd degree, the candidate
is told that Hiram, the builder of Solomon's Temple, was killed by three
assassins. The candidate therefore must strike back at those assassins,
which are, courtesy of the Illuminati, the government, organized religion
and private property."
What motivation is there that would cause
an author to present a description of a Masonic degree that is untrue from
beginning to end? Not one phrase of it is true. Nowhere in all of
Freemasonry, in any of its various systems, is there any condemnation of
government, organized religion, or private property. Nowhere!
Then, after creating a Masonic degree
that no Freemason would ever accept, he goes on to draw further from his
limitless knowledge: "This particular ritual is not Egyptian but from the
Hung Society of China, based on the cult of Amitabha Buddha. The ceremony,
The Media Mogul
clearly resembles those of the Egyptian
Book of the Dead, was apparently copied as well the Freemasons. It involves
not a builder named Hiram, but a group of Buddhist monks, all of whom were
slain by three villains, one of whom was the Manchu emperor Khang Hsi."
This allegation is also very creative.
The secret Hung Society, known of ficially in Chinese as T'in Tei Hut, or
the Society of Heaven and Earth, existed for centuries before the emperor
K'ang‑hsi, who reigned from 1662 to 1723. It was a militant political
society whose battle cry was "Restore the Ming," the dynasty that had been
ousted by the Manchu. It was outlawed as criminal by the Manchu emperors,
who also fought for an exclusive position for Confucianism, the state
religion, by cruel persecution of the Taoists and Buddhists. The Hung
Society was originally of the Taoist faith, but began to include Buddhists
after the Amida (Amitabha) Buddha revealed a Buddhist heaven, which he
called "The Pure Land," a place of peace and plenty.
His doctrine was useful to the Hung, who
could now promise their "soldiers" a reward of immortality, a big
improvement over the Taoist creed that the rewards and punishments for good
and evil were dispensed during a man's lifetime. Always militant, the Hung
spread to wherever Chinese migrated; to America, to Singapore, and to Hong
Kong. In the latter crown colony they gradually managed to gain control of
gambling, prostitution, and smuggling, and are still identified today by one
of their triangular symbols, which caused them to become known as the
The problem with Pat Robertson's
confident conclusion that K'ang‑hsi's persecution of Buddhists was turned
into ritual by the Hung, and then copied by the Freemasons, is one of time.
The Masonic degree that describes the
assassination of Hiram, master builder of Solomon's temple, is the ancient
third degree, not the 32nd. Its legend of the death of Hiram Abiff was
firmly in place before K'ang‑hsi became emperor of China. Chronologically,
it just cannot have been copied from some secret Chinese ritual based on the
emperor's religious persecutions. Mr. Robertson really ought to check his
facts before he uses them to fabricate a conspiracy to rule the world.
A PU'srim'o Path
He is not the first to allege such a
plot. A conspiracy‑revealing book tided Secret Societies and Subversive
Movements is listed in the bibliography for Robertson's The New World Order.
Written by the British historian Nesta Webster and published in 1924, Secret
Societies has been more recently published in a book club edition by the
Christian Book Club of America. Robertson asserts that Nesta Webster's
writings support his theory of a world takeover conspiracy. What he fails to
mention is that Nesta Webster was the most bitter and aggressive
anti‑Semitic writer of her time. Her conspiracy to take over the world was
blamed on the Jews, in cooperation with German bankers, not on the Masons,
in cooperation with the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank.
In Secret Societies, Mrs. Webster writes,
"England . . . banished the Jews in 1290, and it was during the three and
half centuries they remained in exile that she was known as 'Merrie
England.' The fact that their return in force in 1664 was followed by the
Great Plague (1665) and the Great Fire of London a year later would not
appear to indicate that the Jews necessarily bring good fortune to the land
that protects them." Commenting on the Jewish character she writes, ". . .
the spirit of fair play which is the essence of the British character is not
the characteristic of the Jewish race in general;" and "The increasing
number of Jews in positions of authority in England is cause for alarm."
Equally forthright about political
systems that she admired, Mrs. Webster expressed her attitude toward the
Fascist government that Mussolini had established in Italy in 1922. She
stated her opinion very clearly: "Fascismo (Fascism) triumphed in Italy,
because it was not, as it has been absurdly represented, a reactionary
movement, but it was essentially democratic and progressive, because by
appealing to the noblest instincts in human nature, to patriotism and
self‑sacrifice, it rallied all elements in a disorganized and disunited
nation around the standard of a common cause."
That declaration, coupled with Mrs.
Webster's conclusion that the great conspiracy to rule the world was
initiated by a partnership of Jewish and German leaders, causes one to
wonder if the English climate in which she worked fogged up her crystal ball
from time to time. And how in the world did a work containing so much
The Media Mogul
and racism become a selection of a
Christian book club and serve as a reference work to a man who declares
himself to be a great worldwide Christian evangelist?
The one appeal that Secret Societies
would have held for Pat Robertson was that Mrs. Webster included in her
world conspiracy theory what she termed "Continental Masonry," alternately
referenced as the "Grand Orient of France," and an organization known as the
"Bavarian Illuminati." Robertson eagerly pounced on those names to link
American Freemasonry to his own theories.
The term "Illuminati" (enlightened ones)
has been claimed by numerous intellectuals and religious sects from time to
time, but the Bavarian Illuminati cited by Nesta Webster referred to the
Order of the Illuminati, a secret society born in the mind of a man named
Adam Weishaupt and launched on May 1, 1776, in Bavaria. Weishaupt hated the
Catholic Church and especially the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits. His aims,
shared in correspondence with his cohorts, were the abolition of organized
religion, the downfall of established rules, and the destruction of national
boundaries, so that each man would rule himself. A father would not be only
the ruler of his own family, subject to no external laws, but would also be
its priest. Weishaupt recognized no deity as such, but appeared to hold that
nature is God, 50 there is no need for an organized church. Weishaupt
embraced a communistic view of common ownership, and therefore opposed the
concepts of capitalism and private property.
Shortly after forming the Illuminati,
Weishaupt joined a Masonic lodge in Munich, with the avowed intention of
discovering the "secrets" of Freemasonry. He did not advance very far in the
fraternity, but he did formulate a plan to spread his philosophies inside
Freemasonry. He urged his followers to become Masons, but he advised them to
conceal their antireligious feelings and act like devout Christians. They
were to spread their views gradually and to try to persuade their lodge
brothers to realize that governments were tyrannical and to join them in
lamenting the corruption within the Catholic Church.
Weishaupt's plan worked best in France,
where anti‑Catholic feeling ran deep, and resentment toward the tyrannical
Bourbon monarchy simmered and bubbled, soon to boil over into the French
A Pilgrim'o Path
Revolution. The Grand Lodge of France,
called the "Grand Orient," was in the forefront of what writers would
subsequently refer to as Continental Masonry, and sometimes as Illuminated
Freemasonry, to indicate the Illuminati influence.
The essence of that history of the
Illuminati and the Grand Orient of France appear in Pat Robertson's book,
but nothing of the vital events which took place later. In 1785 an
Illuminati emissary on a mission from Bavaria to Silesia was struck dead by
lightning. When the body was searched for effects that would yield the name
of the dead man, dispatches were found indicating beyond doubt the
treasonous nature of the order. A government investigation followed and the
Order of the Illuminati was outlawed. Membership in it became a serious
The twisted aims of the Illuminati lived
on inside the Grand Orient of France, and it is said that these Illuminated
Freemasons played leading roles in the French Revolution of 1789. At that
time the Grand Orient had about two thousand lodges and one hundred thousand
Since each Grand Lodge is completely
autonomous and not subject to control by any other Masonic body, other
Masons were unaware of what was going on within the leadership circles of
the Grand Orient. In 1887, almost a century after the storming of the
Bastille, the Grand Orient had been so thoroughly infused with antireligious
zealots that it felt emboldened to make a public declaration. The
announcement declared that from that day forward the Grand Orient would set
aside some of the most basic principles of Freemasonry. Atheists would be
welcome in its lodges: No man had to assert his belief in God or
immortality. God would no longer be the object of prayers in the lodge. Its
new requirement would be "absolute liberty of conscience, including the
acceptability of any man's assertion that there is no God."
British Masonry reacted by severing all
ties with the Grand Orient of France; the American Grand Lodges followed
soon after. Today, no legitimate Masonic body recognizes the Grand Orient,
and no visitations are permitted either way. Even the Catholic Church
recognized the schism. It condemned Continental Masons and their political
and antireligious goals, while specifically excluding other
The Media Mogul
Masonic Grand Lodges around the world
from that condemnation. Nesta Webster, too, acknowledged the need to clarify
the issue, referring to ". . . England, Germany and America . . . where
Freemasonry is not subversive . . ." However, Pat Robertson, who apparently
gleaned his facts on the Illuminati and Illuminated Freemasonry from Secret
Societies, fails to mention the true facts about the fate of the Illuminati
and the Grand Orient and deliberately encourages his readers to believe that
the Illuminated Freemasonry to which he refers is, in fact, American
The tragedy arising from these
distortions and omissions is that, in many quarters, Pat Robertson will be
believed. His publishers told me that they have already printed fifty
thousand hard‑bound copies of The New World Order. That means that tens of
thousands of men and women will be misled by a man whom they believe is
dedicated to speaking the truth and obeying the will of God.
When a writer depends upon a research
staff, it is impossible to tell whether or not he has actually read for
himself all the books in his bibliography. If he did read Nesta Webster's
Secret Societies for himself, Pat Robertson would certainly have been struck
by one line, a quotation from the German historian von Hammer, who said, "It
is nothing to the ambitious man what people believe, but it is everything to
know how he may turn them for the execution of his projects."
In the middle of his vicious attacks on
Masonry, Mr. Robertson cannot keep from preaching his own conscience‑free
"To my mind," he writes, "there is no
more monstrous evil than to bring public‑spirited, often churchgoing, men
into an organization that looks like a fraternal lodge, then deliberately
mislead them until they are solid members. Then move them up thirty degrees
to the place where they are ready to learn that Satan is the good god
waiting to liberate mankind . . ."
I can think of an evil more monstrous
than that: To besmirch the character and reputations of "public‑spirited,
often churchgoing, men" for no other purpose than to achieve the usual
Robertson goals of profits and power.
One special aspect of Robertson's The New
World Order seems to have gone unnoticed. A couple of years before
Robertson's book, a
A Pilgrim'o Path
book was published by an Arizona author
named A. Ralph Epperson. It was based on the same central thesis: a Masonic
conspiracy to rule the world. As its "evidence," it cited some of the same
writings that Robertson used later. It even discussed the same alleged
Masonic symbolism in the design of the Great Seal on the U.S. dollar bill,
although Robertson appears to present it as his own original thinking. I'm
quite certain that Mr. Robertson, if questioned on these points, would claim
that they are simply innocent coincidences, although he might take a deep
breath before asserting that stand on Epperson's title, which was The New
World Order‑precisely the same title Robertson used.
If it is any comfort, the Masons are not
the only targets of this man's maniacal mind. In 1992, just a few weeks
before the voters of Iowa were to consider an amendment for equal rights for
women (primarily the same pay as men for doing the same job), Robertson sent
a fund‑raising letter (does he write any other kind?) to inform his
followers in that state of the real truth. He told them that the real agenda
of the feminist movement is not equal rights for women, but rather is to
convince good women "to leave their husbands, kill their children, destroy
capitalism, practice witchcraft and become lesbians."
If Pat Robertson knows that what he
writes is flagrant fabrication, he is a decidedly dangerous man. If, on the
other hand, he actually believes what he writes, then this poor man is in
dire need of therapy.
THE VICTIMS OF attacks like those made by
Mr. Robertson are not just those he tears down, but also the people he
purports to be serving. Among the Protestant fundamentalists are to be found
some of the most devout Christians in the world. Unfortunately, their
devotion and dedication make many of them ready targets for those among them
whose cravings for power compel them to put their greed before God.
I had an older sister who died from
advanced diabetes, and as her executor I had the task of sorting out her
personal papers. They revealed a sadness that had come from the healing
promises of a television evangelist. She had a leather box of letters which
were obviously precious to her, letters that addressed her in such terms as
"Dear Beloved of God" and "Dear Beautiful Person." They were easily
recognizable as form letters, with a different typewriter used to fill in
her name and address and the amount of her latest contribution.
Each letter was in three basic parts. The
first short paragraph expressed gratitude for my sister's gift. The next
part explained how much God loved her and would help her for sending the
money. The third part, of course, was a plea for more, with several
A Pilgrim'o Path
that she should, in effect, strain her
resources to send as large a gift as possible.
A dozen or so letters evidenced amounts
she had sent totaling $2,200. The sadness was not in the fact that she had
spent the money ‑ it was hers to do with as she wished. It lay in the fact
that she had for years attended a little neighborhood church a few blocks
away. The minister of that church had visited her and prayed with her, but
the television preacher had apparently convinced her that he was in much
closer communication with God. She didn't suspect that her money had
probably gone to provide a luxurious life‑style for the evangelist and to
help buy more TV time to enable him to raise even more money. The sadness
was that her $2,200 would have meant so much more to her own neighborhood
church, where it would have been put to a more direct and effective
Christian use and would have earned genuine gratitude, along with real
prayers, from her friends in her own church.
Some of those evangelistic leaders have
discovered an avenue to wealth and power that has been employed by many
leaders for centuries: Implant in a group of people a blend of fear and
anger, then assure them that you have both the message and the answers;
define the enemy and point to the path of success and security. It is
effective in‑leadership by nationality, by race, and by religious
denomination. To Hitler, the enemy was the Jews; to the Serbian Eastern
Orthodox leaders it is the Muslim Bosnians; to conservatives it is liberals
(and vice versa). And so it goes, as races are stirred up against each
other, as nations split apart along ethnic lines, and as competition gets
fierce among men who claim to be leading their followers to the one true
pathway to the throne of God. That competition grew fierce in recent years
as Jimmy Swaggart brought down a competitive evangelist, whose son got his
revenge by producing photographs that proved the sexual aberrations of
Brother Swaggart, who by then had blown the whistle on Jim Bakker. They all
forgave themselves and attributed their actions to the influence of Satan,
who hates the godly.
That to many fundamentalists the great
enemy is Satan is totally understandable in concept, but what gets weird are
the satanic manifestations that professional evangelists sometimes assert in
to stay ahead of their competition. In
the city where I live, a giant consumer‑products company has for generations
used as its trademark a stylized drawing of the man in the moon. Then one
day a radical fundamentalist decided that three of the curly hairs in the
man's beard were really sixes. He triumphantly announced that hidden in the
trademark was 666, the Mark of the Beast, as revealed in the Book of
Revelation. And it was hidden in the moor', itself a symbol with satanic
overtones, since it rules over darkness. The campaign began with the
condemnation of the trademark and went so far as to call for boycott of the
company's products. The insanity was stopped only in the courts.
In Britain, the government stopped using
666 on license plates, since it was credited with so much evil. One
fundamentalist defended himself from a charge of murder on the basis that he
had been controlled by the satanic demon in his license plate.
There have been many other fundamentalist
revelations of satanic influence ‑ for example, the allegation that the
popular music style known as "heavy metal" is satanic in origin, and the
ridiculous assertion that when recordings of rock‑and‑roll music are played
backward, they reveal direct messages from Satan to the young people
listening to those records.
In such an atmosphere, with fanatics
looking for satanic influences everywhere, it is not at all surprising that
Freemasonry has been included in the witch hunt. Unfortunately, in their
fierce determination to "discover" satanic influences and worship and report
them to their followers, the hunters don't mind at all if they must avoid
the truth, twist the truth, and even yield to blatant lies in order to
support their claims. Freemasonry offers a fertile ground for their
malicious teachings, because Masons traditionally do not reply to critics.
That absence of response is sometimes cited as "proof" that the Masons are
guilty as charged.
I have had occasion to debate
anti‑Masonic fundamentalists and have taken part in call‑in shows on
self‑styled "Christian" radio stations, operated by and for fundamentalists.
I have tried to answer the anti‑Masonic allegations of fundamentalist
ministries and have borne abuse for defending Masonry, which callers have
identified as "pagan," "anti‑Christian," and "an instrument of the devil."
A Pilgrim's Path
caller demanded that I be taken off the
air, asking the show host, "Don't you know that anyone who speaks favorably
of Freemasonry is an agent of Satan?"
The anti‑Masonic material
generated by these leaders provides, not surprisingly, a steady source of
income for them. Pamphlets, books, audiotapes, and even videotapes (in one
case a reenactment of the Masonic ceremony of the third degree) are all
available at a price. Such publications drive anti‑Masonic propaganda into
the minds of devout followers, who believe that what they are told by
ordained evangelists nudist be so─to
the extent that they become upset, and even angry, when they hear the truth.
In the past year or so, anti‑Masonic
accusations have turned strongly toward the ritual of the Southern
Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite and the writings of Albert Pike, which we
have already addressed. Now let's look at allegations brought against the
general concept of Freemasonry and against the teachings of the three
degrees of the symbolic lodge that make a man a Master Mason‑a status
enjoyed by every Freemason in this country. These are the condemnations most
frequently heard or read:
ALLEGATION: YOU CAN'T HAVE ONE GOD FOR
Freemasonry isn't trying to have one God
for everyone, but rather is seeking a means by which all men who believe in
a monotheistic God can join together. "God" in the Masonic sense refers to
God as perceived and worshipped by the individual Mason. No man is asked to
alter his beliefs to meet some Masonic standard, and that is entirely
appropriate for a fraternal body that has no desire to be a separate
The Masonic approach is much the same as
the approach of the U.S. government and the Founding Fathers. The
Declaration of Independence justifies the actions of the revolutionaries,
who want "the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of
Nature's God entitle them." A century and a half after the new country was
established, the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag called for a belief in
"one nation under God." This was clearly a reference to God as perceived by
each individual citizen, since there was no state
religion and no legal definition of one
perception of God to the exclusion of all others.
Perhaps "clearly" is too strong a term.
In a debate with a fundamentalist, I proposed a hypothetical federal
courtroom in which the plaintiff is Christian, the defendant is Muslim, and
the presiding judge is Jewish. Every federal court is opened with the words
"May God bless the United States of America and this honorable court." Each
of the parties in the room is satisfied that his God has been asked to bless
the proceedings and the attempt to discover the truth. My question to the
evangelist was, "Tell me, which God is the court official asking to bless
the court?" His reply was, "The God of Jesus Christ, of course. No other God
has a right to be in the United States." So much for freedom of religion.
ALLEGATION: FREEMASONS CALL ALL MEMBERS
"BROTHER," BUT SCRTT'TURE TEACHES us THAT THERE IS No BROTHERHOOD EXCEPT TN
CHRIST. THAT s WHY MASONRY IS ANTT‑CHRTSTTAN.
There is no winning (or losing) this
argument, because it depends solely upon the interpretations of the speaker.
My own reactions to Jesus Christ speaking of "my brethren" is that he was
speaking of all mankind. It had never occurred to me that there were strong
restrictions on the message "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the
least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me," especially considering
that when the words were said, there were just a handful of men who might be
called Christians. Men have argued, written, and pontificated for almost two
thousand years on the meanings of each sentence in the New Testament, and it
is clear that the argument still goes on. I can only hope that most people
will agree that we must find a way for all men around the world to live in
brotherhood, or we can never have peace and security. Masonry has made a
strong contribution to that goal, but in doing so has had to bear the brunt
of fiery‑eyed attacks that say, "A true Christian cannot ever be in
brotherhood with a Muslim, a Jew, a Mormon, a Unitarian, a Christian
Scientist, or a Roman Catholic. Jesus forbids it!"
A Pilgrim's Path
AT:IECATION: FREEMASONRY PROMISES THAT
GOOD WORKS WILL EARN SALVATTON, WHICH TS A LIE. SALVATTON TS AVAILABLE ONLY
TO THE MAN WHO ACCEPTS JESUS CHRIST AS HIS PERSONAL SAVIOR, AND GOOD WORKS
HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH IT.
This strongest and most frequent
assertion is wrong on two counts. First, Freemasonry does not offer
salvation on any basis. Each man must find that within his own faith, for
salvation is the highest personal goal of any religion, and Freemasonry is
certainly no religion. What Freemasonry does convey in lodge lectures is
that Masonry offers a man the opportunity to engage in the good works which
are required from every believer in every moral religion.
"But good works play absolutely no role
in salvation," cries the radical fundamentalist. To which I answer that most
of the Masons I have met, almost all of whom are Christians, accept a moral
code repeatedly defined in the Scripture, a code that requires sympathy,
kindness, and charitable good works. They believe that faith in Jesus Christ
as the Son of God is all‑consuming and that it lives in the mind and heart,
not just in the mouth, and so in the deeds as well as words. To live
otherwise is to make mockeries of the Sermon on the Mount and the parable of
the Good Samaritan and renders the teachings of the Ten Commandments
meaningless and unnecessary.
All that is not going to convince a
radical fundamentalist of anything, but rather will cause him to search his
Bible for quotations, usually taken out of context, to support his position.
Since any argument seems to require scriptural citation, I offer these from
the Epistle of James (italics mine):
"What cloth it profit, my brethren,
though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him?"
"Even so faith, if it hath not works, is
"But wilt thou know, O vain man, that
faith without works is dead?" (2:30)
"Ye see then how that by works a man is
justified, and not by faith only." (2:24)
"For as the body without the spirit is
dead, so faith without works is dead also." (2:26)
And finally, from The First Epistle of
"But whoso hath this world's good, and
seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from
him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not
love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth." (3:17‑18)
"He that saith, I know him, and keepeth
not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him." (2 :4)
In essence, what Freemasonry tells a new
member is that he should attend and support his own house of worship. When
the time comes that his faith and his compassionate humanity prompt him to
seek the most effective ways to help those in need, he can join in
charitable work with his Masonic brothers who are similarly dedicated.
Thus Masonry does not compete with the
Mason's own faith, but complements those aspects of his own faith that cab
for charitable conduct. As to the beneficiaries of those charities, since
Masonry is not a religion, it imposes no requirement of religious
affiliation upon them. The Shrine hospitals for crippled and burned
children, the Knight Templar subsidies for cataract surgery, the Scottish
Rite Language Disorders Centers for children, and the Grand Lodge drug abuse
programs are open to those of any nationality, race, or religious belief
That being true, and it is true, many
Masons must wonder how they can be the victims of such unreasonable attacks.
To put the matter in perspective, Masons should realize that they are not
the sole targets of those scathing condemnations.
The Roman Catholic Church bears the brunt
of some especially vicious attacks. I have m front of me a six‑page folder
identified as the work of Tony Alamo, "World Pastor, Evangelist, Author and
renowned expert on Catholic cults." Mr. Alamo identifies Pope John Paul II
as a former salesman for the I. G. Farben Chemical Company, in which
capacity he reportedly sold cyanide gas to the Nazis for use at Auschwitz.
The Vatican is called "Satan's Church," and the author claims that it
controls the United Nations, which he tells us is also satanic.
In one paragraph the author presents
himself as an "intelligent mind," then goes on to prove that he doesn't even
come close to meriting that status:
A Pilgrim's Path
"It taxes the intelligent mind to
understand how depraved popes, like John Paul II, have brainwashed so many
people throughout the centuries into a zembie‑like cult worship of these
incredibly false prophets and their gruesome Nazi religion. It is almost
impossible to break a thoroughly brainwashed Catholic out of his or her
zombie‑like stupor of belief that the imbecile pope is God."
The current thrust of anti‑Masonic
fundamentalists is that the average Mason does not know that hidden in the
"upper hierarchy" of Masonry is a secret conclave of leaders who plot to
rule the lives not just of Masons, but of all human society. That is an
accusation leveled at others, too; Alamo addresses ". . . you Catholics,
one‑world and united church people who have no knowledge of the hierarchy
wherein you worship." And it should not be overlooked that the source always
cited to back up the bigotry and to legitimize the lies is the loving,
forgiving, peace‑seeking teachings of Jesus Christ, reinforced by
out‑of‑context interpretations of quotations from both the Old and New
These are people to worry about, because
they don't keep their doctrines of divisiveness and hatred to themselves but
feel called upon to shout out their messages on radio, on TV, and in
published material, raising money and raising hell to such a high degree
that we must reach the depressing conclusion that many people believe that
the garbage thrown at them holds some great truth. Freedom of religion and
freedom of speech must be preserved at any cost, but the right of free
speech does not include the right to lie and to distort the truth.
Some may feel that I have overreacted,
but in this situation I'm not certain that it is possible to overreact. It
would be tedious to address every piece of anti‑Masonic drivel that hits the
streets, but taking a detailed look at one of them may help to make the
point. It is so trashy that describing it is almost an embarrassment.
It is a little three‑by‑five‑inch cartoon
booklet titled The Curse of Baphomet. Copies were being handed out on the
street in front of the headquarters hotel of the 1991 Conference of Masonic
Grand Masters, and I've been shown copies picked up in many other parts of
the country. Since any Freemason, his family, or his friends may be taken to
task based on this booklet, it appears necessary to examine it in some
The story begins as a policeman appears
at the door of the home of a middle‑aged couple, to tell them that their son
has attempted suicide: His life is hanging in the balance in a hospital
intensive‑care unit. The doctor observes that the boy could make it, but he
has no will to live.
A few days later a friend calls to find
the parents still despondent, unable to understand what has happened in
their family. The father says to the visiting friend, "We're good people,
Ed. I'm a church deacon and a good lodge member."
The visitor is horrified. "A lodge
member? Alex, are you a Mason? . . . I had no idea you were into
witchcraft." After a brief argument the friend says, "I was a Mason until I
found out about BAPHOMET. . . This Great Architect of the Universe you pray
to is NOT the God of the Bible . . . it's really Baphomet! And he's ugly,
frightening and completely satanic."
Masons, who have never heard of Baphomet,
will say, "I don't know what the author is talking about," but that's all
right: The author doesn't know what he's talking about, either.
When the Knights Templar were arrested
back in 1307, they were tortured by the Inquisition to force them into
confessions of heresy. Tortured men usually confess what they are told to
confess. Of all those men tortured, just two confessed that the Templars had
an idol, a bearded head called Baphomet. There were no details, so some
historians speculated that the bearded head was Jesus (remember the Shroud
of Turin?). The authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail decided that Baphomet was
a corruption of an Arabic term meaning "father of wisdom." English historian
Edith Simon wrote that Baphomet was clearly a distortion of the name
Muhammed. That's it. That's all there is: Baphomet is mentioned in their
confessions by two tortured Knights Templar almost seven hundred years ago.
There is no other use of Baphomet in all of history or anywhere in Scripture
and certainly no place for it in Freemasonry.
Back to the comic book: When the friend
produces a picture of Baphomet, it turns out to be a winged creature with
the body of a man, the breasts of a woman, and the head of a horned goat. On
the forehead is a pentagram (the outline of a five‑pointed star). In
reference to the star, the ex‑Mason friend says to the mother, "Sally,
A PilgFim's Path
the Eastern Star symbol is an upside‑down
star, right? Well, it's a satanic symbol." He points out a goat head in the
Fundamentalist writers (and even a
Masonic writer in the nineteenth century) frequently assert that if the
single point of a fivepointed star is directed upward, it points to heaven
and is a divine symbol. If the single point is downward, it is a satanic
symbol, pointing to hell. What they miss is that the Eastern Star is the
Star of Bethlehem that guided the three wise men from the east to the
birthplace of Jesus. It is pointing down not to hell, but to a stable. (The
five‑pointed stars on the foreheads of the devil‑figure in the booklet, and
on its front cover, are pointing up, which by the author's definition is
godly, not satanic. I'm not going to try to figure out that one.)
Now the ex‑Mason visitor points out that
Baphomet is also the triple‑barred cross used in the 33rd degree of Scottish
Rite (an angled form of the Jerusalem Cross). There is a photograph of Henry
C. Clausen, Past Sovereign Grand Commander of the Southern Jurisdiction of
Scottish Rite, with that cross on his 33rd degree cap. (The fact that a
triple‑barred cross is also the personal symbol of the pope wouldn't bother
most fundamentalist evangelists. They'd happily conclude that he is a devil
Then there is a photo of Albert Pike with
that cross on a chain. The visiting friend explains in the booklet that
Albert Pike is the "Grand Commander Sovereign Pontiff of Universal
Freemasonry." Just reading that title tells us what is coming next: the
proven forgery of Leo Taxil, which is used over and over again to assert
Masonic devil worship.
Next the reader of this tragic comic book
is treated to an "explanation" of symbols. A drawing of the Washington
Monument is used to illustrate the message, "The obelisk is a Masonic symbol
of a male sex organ right out of Baal worship." The all‑seeing eye, used as
a symbol to remind Masons that God sees all of us and all of our actions, is
common to Christianity (as in "His eye is on the sparrow"), but is
identified here as being from the Egyptian god Osiris. And Freemasons are
bashed for seeking "light," which to almost all the world is synonymous with
"knowledge." To the rabid fundamentalist author of the comic book, a Mason
seeking light is calling Jesus a
liar. (I cannot explain this conclusion,
because I fail to understand the reasoning or the religious purpose in
rejecting the search for knowledge.)
Now we come to the Shrine, which does not
escape condemnation. The dear friend explains that the Shriner's fez in a
shrine to Allah. He explains:
"In the 8th century, Muslim hords [sic]
overran the Moroccan city of Fez and butchered fifty thousand Christians.
The streets ran red with blood. The Muslim murderers dipped their caps in
the blood in honor of Allah. These blood‑stained caps were called fezzes,
idols dedicated to a false god iSatan]."
To begin with, there was
no city of Fez until the very end of the eighth century, when it was founded
by an invader, Sultan Idris I. Idris took the territory by winning a war
against resident pagans, including Berber tribesmen, all of whom were
converted to Islam. If any Christians were in the area, history doesn't
remember them. As far as the cap is concerned, its manufacture was begun
after the second sultan, Idris II, expanded the town to the other side of
the river and encouraged local craft industries. The Moroccans had several
good dyes, whose formulations were kept secret. One of the dyes was a
brilliant red, and until well into the eighteenth century no other place
turned out that brilliant red cap. It was in great demand and was named
after Fez, the city of its manufacture. It's not a "shrine" to anything─it's
(The author and publishers of this little
booklet could be in deep trouble in other parts of the world, where
asserting that Allah is Satan could be life‑threatening.) The book sums up
Shrinedom with the information that every Shriner swears a "Muslim" oath on
the Koran. On the contrary, the altar at the Shrine temple holds the holy
books of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. The Shriner uses the book
applicable to his own faith.
Finally, the visiting friend advises the
parents, "Renounce Masonry, burn those objects and repent before God . . .
so he can remove this curse you have brought on your family." Next, the
couple kneel in their backyard by a fire consuming his Masonic regalia,
while the father says, "Dear Father, we never knew that Masonry was
witchcraft." And then, of course, they get a phone call telling them
A Pilgrim's Path
their son is awake and his depression is
gone, because the curse of Masonic witchcraft has been purged from their
The booklet is obviously aimed at
Freemasons, to induce them to leave the Craft, but it also carries a message
to the children and grandchildren of Freemasons, a message I have seen
nowhere else. They are told of a way to rid themselves of life's problems.
The following is a direct quotation, but the italics are mine:
"Masonry is idolatry! If you or your
ancestors have been in it, your problems may be caused by the generational
curse (Exodus 20:15), so Jesus should be asked to lift it." (Exodus 20:15 is
"Thou shalt not steal," so the author probably means Exodus 20:5: "Thou
shalt not bow down thyself to them [graven images], nor serve them: for I
the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon
the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.")
In the corporate world, such a
publication would lead to a fast lawsuit for libelous damage. It is
deliberately malicious and uses viciously concocted lies without hesitation.
Its purposes are to damage reputations, forestall membership, and encourage
present members to resign. All of this is materially damaging, even without
regard to the obvious impairment of fund drives for Masonic charities.
Unfortunately, as mentioned earlier, Freemasonry makes a wonderful target
because it has a long history of never answering critics. One can only dream
of what a million‑dollar judgment against these fanatics would do to curb
In the meantime, by 1992 a fundamentalist
faction had managed, after years of struggle, to take control of the largest
Protestant denomination in the United States. It has launched what is
potentially the most damaging assault on Masonry in the past century.
The Southern Baptist
FRIEND AGAINST FRIEND,
brother against brother . . ." is frequently quoted to characterize the
conflict of the American Civil War, the War Between the States. It could
just as well be used to describe the current situation among the Southern
No conflict has brought more turmoil, anger, and confusion to more Masons
than events surrounding the Southern Baptist Convention in Indianapolis,
Indiana, in June 1992. That convention considered allegations that
Freemasonry is not compatible with Christianity. The convention ordered an
investigation of those charges, the results to be brought before the
convention for action in Houston, Texas, in June 1993.
Current events are usually avoided by authors and publishers as "dated"
material. There is no question that by the time some people read this book,
the 1993 convention will have taken place, a vote taken on the allegations
against Masonry, and an official position announced. That decision may
demand that the Southern Baptist Masons choose between their church and
their Masonic affiliation.*
Upon reflection, I realized this was the most serious threat to Freemasonry
in this century. It will live as part of Masonic history, *See footnote on
A Pilgrim's Path
regardless of the outcome,
and should be set down. As one pursuing Masonic research, I have often
wished that some chronicler had written down events as they were happening.
It is history unfolding, and worth recording for those who come after.
What makes the problem so serious is the number of Masons involved. Polls
taken by Southern Baptist bodies have found that within the thirty‑eight
thousand Southern Baptist churches, 14 percent of the pastors, 13 percent of
the directors of missions, and 18 percent of the church deacon chairmen are,
or have been, Freemasons. If Masons are correct that approximately half a
million Masons are Southern Baptists, that would involve about 20 percent of
all the Freemasons in the United States. The five thousand ministers who are
Masons would be most seriously affected, since their professional ministry
provides the means by which they support their families.
From a financial standpoint, both sides of this controversy stand to lose.
If the Masons resign from Masonry, the fraternity will lose up to 20 percent
of its income base, as well as millions of dollars the Baptist Masons
contribute to Masonic charities.
On the other hand, if those half million Masons (and their families) leave
the Southern Baptist churches for Baptist churches with a more moderate
attitude, the Southern Baptists will take serious losses. Using a figure of
$10 per week (which I am assured is quite low) as the church contribution of
the average Baptist Mason family, the loss to the Southern Baptist churches
would be in excess of $250 million per year. That could very well happen,
because many Baptist Masons have told me that if the convention in 1993
takes the recommended actions against Masonry, that will be ample proof for
them that the current Southern Baptist Convention does not represent the
churches and the doctrines they grew up with and in which they found
salvation. Does that mean that the Southern Baptist Convention has changed
recently? Yes, it most definitely has, and that claim requires some
For a dozen years a hard‑core fundamentalist faction struggled to gain
control of the Southern Baptist Convention, and a couple of years ago it
finally succeeded. As an example of the swift exercise of power, the new
leaders fired the entire Southern Baptist press and public relations staff,
replacing them with people who met the new
The Southern Baptist Convention 87
rigid standards of
political and religious correctness imposed by the leadership. The new
dogmatic attitude led to substantial changes, which did not go unnoticed by
the popular public television host Bill Moyers, who devoted an entire
sixty‑minute program to observing distressing changes in the faith in which
he himself is an ordained minister.
One major change is a movement away from independence of individual
conscience, which previously had given the individual Southern Baptist a
wide latitude in interpreting the scriptures, in doctrine that declared ". .
. every man a priest." What in the past was called leadership is now being
characterized as control. This is not my own imagination at work. The
September 2, 1992, edition of the Tennessee Baptist arid Refector reported
on a meeting of "conservative" (fundamentalist) leaders held in Memphis,
Tennessee, on August 20, 1992. The story began: "MEMPHIS‑ Baptist leaders
from about 15 states met here August 20 to learn how to
extend'conservative'control to the state convention level."
In other words, having achieved control of the national Southern Baptist
Convention, they were now seeking control of each of the state conventions.
How? "Among the how‑to strategies shared by the state leaders were: electing
sympathetic state convention officers, influencing denominational
appointments on the national and state levels, picking and instructing
messengers (delegates) from local churches, and influencing Baptist business
on the association level."
No fundamentalist power‑seekers have ever been known to say, "We have enough
power, so we're going to stop now." That worries many non‑Mason Southern
Baptists, who know that control of individual churches cannot be far behind.
Mindful, perhaps, of Lord Acton's observation that "All power corrupts, and
absolute power corrupts absolutely," many moderate Baptists have left the
Southern Baptists for less dictatorial Baptist churches. More have elected
to stay put and fight. What they will be fighting for is to preserve the
traditional autonomy of the individual church, a doctrine which had made the
Southern Baptists perhaps the most democratic of all the Protestant
denominations. Historically, Southern Baptists have embraced freedom of
religion and religious tolerance, but now the Freemasons have been attacked
and condemned for espousing precisely those beliefs.
A Pilgrun's Path
The purpose of the annual Southern Baptist Convention is to bring together
"messengers," or delegates, from those autonomous churches to discuss
matters of common interest. In theory, each church is represented. In
practice, fewer than half of them have messengers present at the convention.
Small churches simply cannot afford to pay the plane fare, hotel bills, and
other expenses incurred during the three‑day convention. Recent changes
permit the largest churches to qualify to send more than one messenger.
Unfortunately, what was intended to be totally democratic has turned into a
convention controlled by the larger, wealthier congregations.
In theory, the actions of the convention are intended to be "executive, not
legislative." The convention is never to interfere in the autonomous
government of the individual church. That, however, appears to be precisely
the goal of a leading faction in the faith. It began on relatively safe
ground, by barring churches from accepting homosexuals. It was safe because
almost all Southern Baptists are opposed to homosexual behavior. The action
taken was prompted by the decisions of two North Carolina churches. One
church decided to bless the union of two homosexual members; the other
endorsed a homosexual seminarian for the ministry.
The prohibition against homosexuals will be voted upon as a constitutional
change in the 1993 Southern Baptist Convention assembly. The Indianapolis
Star reported that "the move to change the SBC constitution was historic . .
." as indeed it was, since that constitution has not been changed for over a
hundred years. The resolution was so popular that most missed the point that
a restriction had been placed on church autonomy.
Changes were also made in the administration of the Foreign Missions Board.
During the convention, the Reverend Keith R. Parks, director of the Southern
Baptist Foreign Missions Board for twelve years, announced that he was
leaving the post. In the face of what he and others felt was an
extraordinary need for missionary work in Eastern Europe, fundamentalist
trustees of the board had moved to cut off financial support for some of
their own missionaries and foreign church leaders who did not rigidly
conform to fundamentalist theology. Along with the Reverend Mr. Parks, the
Foreign Missions Board vice presidents for Europe, Africa, and the Middle
East also resigned. In explaining the reasons for his resignation, Rev.
The Southern Baptist Convention 89
Keith Parks told the press
that a past "atmosphere of trust and respect for differences of viewpoints
has been replaced by suspicion, distrust, criticism and intimidation."
It was in that atmosphere that a number of anti‑Masonic fundamentalist
Baptists decided that the time was probably right for a Southern Baptist
condemnation of Freemasonry.
In 1991, a sworn enemy of Freemasonry introduced a resolution to the
Southern Baptist Convention asking that Freemasonry be condemned as
anti‑Christian. He was Dr. James L. Holly, a physician from Beaumont, Texas,
and president of Mission and Ministry to Men, Inc., which he had apparently
founded. As with that same resolution which he had previously brought before
the convention in 1985, Dr. Holly's proposal was referred to the Interfaith
Witness Department of the Home Missions Board in Atlanta. That department
was created to examine other religious beliefs and doctrines, to compare
them to the Christian teachings of the Southern Baptists.
On each occasion, the Home Missions Board declined to make such an
investigation into Freemasonry, properly stating that Masonry is a fraternal
society, not a religion, making an investigation by them inappropriate. The
head of the Interfaith Witness Department commented that it was his
department's function to examine religions, not fraternities. No Freemason
in the Southern Baptist Church could disagree with that conclusion, and the
matter appeared to have been laid to rest. And it probably would have been,
had it not been for the fanatical dedication of Dr. Holly and his
When control of the Southern Baptist Convention was taken over by the
fundamentalist faction, an atmosphere had been created which was much more
likely to entertain Dr. Holly's resolution. And Holly did try again in 1992,
but this time with extensive preparation.
He wrote a sixty‑page anti‑Masonic booklet, which he called Southern Baptist
Convention and Masons. It was published by his Mission and Ministry to Men,
Inc., and sent to about five thousand Baptist leaders who were expected to
attend the June 1992 convention in Indianapolis. The drum‑beating began with
the announcement that the question of Freemasonry's compatibility with
Christianity would be included on the convention's agenda. Three weeks
before the convention, Dr. Holly was quoted by the Associated Press as
saying that Masonry was a pagan ‑belief that rivaled Christianity. He
A Pilgrim's Path
told one reporter,
"Ninety‑nine percent of Masons have no concept about what they're involved
in . . . They see it as a good ole boy way of doing charitable works and
getting away from the wife for a while, but they don't see how
anti‑Christian it is."
Before the convention, letters to the editor appeared in state publications
(the Southern Baptists have no national publication). One letter in defense
of Masonry, pointing out the errors in Dr. Holly's book, was written by Fred
W. McPeake and sent to the Tennessee Baptist paper. Mr. McPeake is a 33rd
degree Mason who had been elected a messenger to the 1992 convention. In
response, he received a letter directly from a Baptist minister in his
state. It is worth quoting (with no changes):
". . . I am apposed to Freemasonary . . . I have done an indepth study of
Masonary along with other pagan religions." (We can only regret that the
writer did not probe Masonry deeply enough to learn how to spell it, but
this mastery of the language is not an issue here.) He continues, "Masonary
is a religion and opposed to Christianity. It violates the scriptures in
several points. It uses fear and deception to control its members. It is
also racially bigoted. It makes its members to swear oaths that are contrary
to the Bible (James 5:12). It produced Joseph Smith the founder of
Mormonism, which uses many of the same 'secret' signs and symbols of the
There's more in the same vein, but I will finish with the final point of the
letter: "Please do yourself a favor, renounce Masonary, (baalism), or get
out of the Church."
When Fred McPeake arrived at the convention, he learned that in addition to
the five thousand anti‑Masonic books sent by mail to Baptist leaders, Dr.
Holly's followers had distributed five thousand more at the convention hall.
He had a new experience when a stranger walked up to him, pointing at the
little Shrine emblem on his lapel. "Take off that symbol of Satan," was the
exhortation, "or leave this convention."
Outside the convention center, a member of the Church of God was picketing
with a sign that read, "Baptist preachers are AntiChrist." Early in the
session a Southern Baptist from Texas bought a full‑page advertisement in
the Indianapolis News that accused the about‑to‑be‑elected president of the
convention of serious sinning, because he had saddled his church with
mortgage debt incurred in
The Southern Baptist Convention 91
construction of a new,
larger building. Christian brotherly love was taking something of a beating.
Brotherhood certainly was not restored as Dr. James L. Holly rose to
introduce his much‑trumpeted resolution against Freemasonry. So that there
will not be any misquotes or misunderstandings, here is the complete text of
Dr. Holly's motion:
That the Southern Baptist
convention in annual session June 9‑11, 1992 at Indianapolis, Indiana,
directs the president elected at this convention to appoint an ad hoc
committee for the study of the compatibility with Christianity and Southern
Baptist doctrine of the organization known variously as the Masonic Lodge,
Masonry, Freemasonry and/or Ancient and Accepted Rite of Freemasonry. The
study is to encompass any and all branches and/or lodges thereof.
Furthermore, the Convention directs the president to appoint this committee
within thirty days of the conclusion of this Convention and to charge this
committee with the responsibility of bringing a report with recommendation
to the convention which is to meet in Houston, Texas [in] June 1993.
Dr. Holly, of course, volunteered to serve on the ad hoc investigating
committee, as did the well‑known TV evangelist Rev. John Ankerberg, the
messenger from the Brainerd Baptist church in Chattanooga, Tennessee. For
many years John Ankerberg has been a professional anti‑Mason ("professional"
in the sense that he produces and peddles tracts, books, audiotapes, and
even a videotape about the Master Mason degree, all of which combine to
produce a steady flow of income for his strange ministry). Dr. Holly
demanded that no Freemason Baptist be allowed on the committee, which was
rather like asking that the entire jury be selected from among the friends
and relatives of the prosecuting attorney.
The president of the SBC allowed just fifteen minutes for discussion of Dr.
Holly's motion. The only person called on to speak in favor of Masonry was
Fred McPeake, who was given all of two minutes to address eighteen thousand
messengers about an issue affecting up to
A Pilgran's Path
half a million Freemason
Baptists. The rest of the quarter hour was given to Dr. Holly and a
colleague of his from his home state of Texas.
One man left standing silent before the microphone was Marion Reed, a 33rd
degree Mason and editor of Kentucky's Masonic Home Journal. Other messengers
from his state included three Past Grand Masters of Kentucky Masons, but
none of them had a chance to speak.
An ad hoc committee made up of anti‑Masons would, of course, have been the
kiss of death for any hope of a scholarly and fair investigation, but on
that point Dr. Holly was disappointed. Before his motion could be put to a
vote, an amendment to the motion was introduced by messenger Alvin Rowe of
Florida and was approved. It read:
That the Southern Baptist
Convention in annual session June 9‑11 at Indianapolis, Indiana, directs the
Interfaith Witness Department of the Home Missions Board to study the
compatibility with Christianity and Southern Baptist Doctrine of the
organization known variously as the Masonic Lodge, Masonry, Freemasonry,
and/or Ancient and Accepted Rite of Freemasonry. The study is to encompass
any and all branches and/or lodges thereof. Furthermore, the Convention
charges the Home Missions Board with the responsibility of bringing a report
with recommendation to the Convention which is to meet in Houston, Texas,
June 15‑17, 1993.*
So the Interfaith Witness Department, which had twice taken the stand that
Freemasonry is a fraternity, not a religion, was ordered to conduct the
investigation which it had rejected in 1985 and 1991. After the vote, a
spokesman repeated the board's stand on the inappropriateness of such an
investigation by the Home Missions
*On June 16, 1993, at their
Houston meeting, the convention delegates voted overwhelmingly to accept the
report of Interfaith Witness Department of the Home Mission Board, SBC,
which concluded that membership in Freemasonry by a Southern Baptist is a
matter of individual conscience.
While this chapter was written before the 6/16/93 decision was taken, it has
been left virtually unchanged. The author believes that the very fact that
the issue was raised is significant. There is no guarantee that it won't
The Southern Baptist Convention 93
Board, but he was curtly
silenced by the president, who pronounced, "The convention has spoken!"
Dr. Holly has spoken, too, making it clear that if the findings of the
Interfaith Witness Department are not in keeping with his accusations
against Masonry, he will have a motion ready at the 1993 convention. He will
ask that the report be set aside and that Freemasonry be condemned by a vote
of the convention.
There have been indications that Holly is concerned that the study will
produce findings favorable to Masonry, and his misgivings are not unfounded.
There was always a chance that the investigators, in their desire to be
scholarly and fair, might be swayed by the history of Southern Baptist
leaders who were Freemasons, from Rev. Lansing Burrows, a Mason who was a
Civil War hero and secretary of the SBC, up to men like Abner McCall, a
Mason who served as president of Baylor University, the pride of Southern
Baptist educators. In September 1992 Holly demanded that the Home Missions
Board remove Dr. Gary Leazer, head Of the Interfaith Witness Department, who
was in charge of the investigation. The Home Missions Board rejected that
Undeterred, Dr. Holly then appeared before members of that board with over
six hundred pages of additional anti‑Masonic material. He also expressed his
resentment at being called an "antiMason." He protested that he is the
Masons' best friend. He loves them, which is why he is trying so hard to
save their souls, while at the same time achieving the purification of his
church. Purification. That is precisely the word used by the papal council
as the motivation for creating the Inquisition.
Nor does the comparison stop there. Reading of Dr. Holly's soul‑saving
ambitions, it is easy to compare his attitude with that of a Dominican
torturer, who bends over his burned, broken, and bloody victim on the rack
to say (with a gentle smile), "My son, your soul is much more important than
your body. We're doing this to you because we love you!" Sure.
To get a better grasp of this whole situation, it is necessary to take a
good hard look at the book that Dr. Holly wrote for the express purpose of
triggering this turmoil.
T IS NOT disparaging to
identify Dr. James L. Holly as a fanatic,
I since that is how he
proudly labels himself.
He proclaims, as all Christian fundamentalists do, that he believes in the
inerrancy of Holy Scripture. I will not argue that point, but I must take
issue with his equally fervent belief in the inerrancy of his own
interpretation of those Scriptures. As we shall see, Dr. Holly can wander
far from the truth with his tedious speculations as to what the Scriptures
To one looking from the outside, his most distinguishing trait is his total
confidence in his own intelligence and knowledge, which he believes are
infinitely superior to those of the thousands of Southern Baptist ministers
who have sought the fraternal bonds of Masonic membership. There is no
question in his mind that he is a lot smarter than they are. He, not they,
knows what God wants, and he so frequently presents specific directives from
the Almighty that one might imagine that the two of them have regular weekly
Far more remarkable is the fact that the fundamentalist faction in the
Southern Baptist leadership apparently accepts what Dr. Holly says as
gospel, while giving little credence to the voices of their own
ministers who have been
through the Masonic degrees that Holly denigrates and who know that he is
not reporting the truth.
Let's deal with some specific examples from Dr. Holly's sixtypage
condemnation of Freemasonry:
In the preface to his book, Dr. Holly uses─or
Scripture to identify the Masonic threat to the Christian faith. He quotes
from James 4:1: "From whence come wars and lightings among you? come they
not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?" He gives this
translation of a Greek word for "war" as "a word that means 'soldiering,'
the passions that disquiet the soul which are like a military encampment
which is formed to make a military expedition."
Then, based solely on his unique interpretation of one word, ,,~ gives a
very creative and completely erroneous interpretation of that entire verse.
"James 4:1," he writes, "really states that Christians have allowed a
military force to bivouac in their lives and homes. But, unlike the
temporary bivouac, this encampment has become a permanent installation. The
'camp' has become a fort." That's where Masonry comes in:
"The church has also allowed 'an alien military force' into her membership.
This 'military force'─the
membership of the Masonic Lodge‑is pledged to another general and works for
the glory and honor of a foreign god. Until they are dislodged from the
church, the Lodge will continue to disrupt God's plan and desire to revive
With this corruption of Holy Scripture Holly has implanted a fear, and he
suggests the solution that will rid his church of the enemy. It is from this
"scriptural" base that he bestows on himself the duty and authority to
condemn Freemasonry as anti‑Christian.
Before we move on to those more detailed condemnations, let us take a look
at his scriptural authority:
James 4:1 has absolutely nothing to do with a foreign military encampment.
The word "member" as used in the King James Version means "body parts," as
in James 3:5, which says, "Even so the tongue is a little member...." James
4:1 refers to lusts of the body, sensual lust. Dr. Holly takes "members" to
mean members of a congregation, or "membership." That is a complete (and
A Pilgrim's Path
deliberate) distortion. Nor
am I pitting my personal interpretation against his. For bible study I use
Cruden's Complete Concordance. At the beginning of the section headed
"member" it says, "Generally used in the archaic sense of limb, or otherpart
of the body. "
Had Dr. Holly taken us a little further into this same scriptural letter, he
might have cited James 4:4, which begins, "Ye adulterers and adulteresses .
am not going to call attention here to every malicious twist of the true
meaning of the Scripture that Holly uses in his attempts to denounce
Masonry; but the general issue is so important that it is worth reinforcing
this statement as to his distortion of the Epistle of James 4:1.
The updated translation of James 4:1 in the New English Bible (and the
Oxford Study Bible) is, "What causes conflicts and quarrels among you? Do
they not spring from the aggressiveness of your bodily desires?" Not a
single enemy military encampment in sight.
It is interesting, by the way, to read the biblical scholars' update of
James 3:1. It might have been written for Dr. James Holly: "My brothers, not
many of you should become teachers, for you may be certain that we who teach
shall ourselves be judged with greater strictness." I agree. I have spent
all my life with the King James version, and I have no intention of
switching to the Doctor James version.
Take his description of the third degree, the degree that makes a man a
Master Mason. In the drama of his ceremony, Hiram, the master builder of
Solomon's temple, is struck down by three assassins who bury him in a
nondescript grave in the wilderness. When the grave is discovered, King
Solomon orders that Hiram's body be dug up and moved to a more respectable
grave at Jerusalem. In this degree, technically the highest in all of
Freemasonry, there is no mention of resurrection, simply the re‑burying of a
dead body. This is not a religious ceremony in any way and, like the other
Masonic degrees, offers no means of salvation. These facts are easily proven
by referring to any of the numerous exposes of Masonic ritual available at
any well‑stocked public library.
But not according to Dr. Holly. He says, "Masons go through a death and
resurrection ritual in the Master Mason degree. Member
ship is dated from the time
they were 'raised,' resurrected or saved, by membership in the Lodge.
Salvation is maintained through faithful membership in the lodge."
Thousands of Southern Baptist ministers are Freemasons, and they have all
been through the third degree. Ask them their opinion of Dr. Holly's version
of the Master Mason's degree, and every one of them will say that his
description is one big blatant lie.
To set the stage for his ongoing diatribe on the evils of Masonry, Dr. Holly
asserts that he will quote Masonic authorities. "Albert Pike, Albert G.
Mackey and W. L. Wilmshurst," he asserts, "are embraced by Masons as
authorities on Freemasonry. They can speak of the real intent of the secret
society of Freemasonry." No, they can't. Let's look at each of those authors
Much has already been said in this book about Albert Pike, of whom Dr. Holly
also says, "The acceptance of Albert Pike twho has been dead for over a
hundred years] . . . as an authority on Freemasonry is universally
have already quoted the Scottish Rite Supreme Council's preface to Pike's
Morals and Dogma, which states that "Everyone is entirely free to reject and
dissent from whatsoever herein may seem to him to be untrue or unsound."
Confirming Pike's limited audience, the preface also clearly establishes
that Morals and Dogma was written "for the Southern Jurisdiction [of the
Scottish Ritel of the United States." A targeted readership of fewer than 10
percent of Freemasons is a far cry from being "universally affirmed." Dr.
Holly would have been on firmer ground had he said, "Pike used to be an
authority to some Masons over a century ago."
Albert G. Mackey was born in 1807, qualified as a doctor of medicine, and
began his writing career in 1834. He, too, does not merit Dr. Holly's label
as one of those who are "embraced by Masons as an authority of Freemasonry."
Two modern Masonic authorities are historians Fred L. Pick and G. Norman
Knight. In writing about Albert G. Mackey in their reference book for
Freemasons, they write, ". . . his writings, taken as 'gospel' in his
lifetime, have come to be recognized as unreliable in very many respects."
Walter L. Wilmshurst, an English Mason, was born in 1867. His book, The
Meaning of Masonry, is‑like many Masonic books
A Pilgrim's Path
largely an expression of
his own personal opinions. By no means is Wilmshurst "embraced by Masons" as
an authority. In the course of writing this book, I asked about twenty
American Masons, many of whom I consider to be knowledgeable, their opinion
of the writings of W. L. Wilmshurst. Without exception, they responded that
they had never heard of him.
One must wonder why Dr. Holly dwells so much on Masonic writers of
generations ago and does not seek information from current Masonic writers
who are universally recognized as authorities: the prolific Masonic author,
Allen Roberts; the Masonic scholar, Professor Wallace McLeod; or the
librarian of the United Grand Lodge of England, John Hamill, for example.
Why doesn't Dr. Holly contact such men, or quote their writings? Because
they won't provide what he wants to hear. It is easier for him to go back a
century and more, perhaps taking the view that "authorities" then must be
authorities now. If that were true, I could trace the faith of the Southern
Baptist Convention back to early "authorities" and present profuse
quotations of Holy Scripture to prove conclusively that Jesus Christ
wholeheartedly approved of the institution of slavery. Wasn't the reason for
the founding of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1845 that Baptists in the
South disagreed with the antislavery attitudes and actions of Baptists in
Do Southern Baptists today believe that Jesus Christ favors slavery? Of
course not. The point is that if one is determined to condemn a group of men
of today, credibility requires that one quote the authorities of today.
As a well‑qualified anti‑Mason, James Holly happily cites the forged
document by Leo Taxil, in which Albert Pike purportedly affirmed that
"Lucifer is God." This is almost a requirement for any Mason‑hater, as is
disclaiming any knowledge that Taxil openly confessed to forging the
Dr. Holly also follows the accepted line of condemning Masonry for having
secrets, then triumphantly reveals to the reader just what those secrets
are. His cohort, the Reverend John Ankerberg, the Southern Baptist
fundamentalist evangelist, employs the same technique. Ankerberg published a
book called The Secrets of the Masonic Lodge. When are these men, and others
like them, going to admit that
if they can know all the
Masonic "secrets" and publish them for all to see, then there obviously
aren't any Masonic secrets?
Holly actually goes further than others. He shares his wisdom that "there is
nothing done in secret which is honorable and noble. All that is done in
secret is selfish, sinful or Satanic." Does that mean that I should stop
drinking Coca‑Cola because its secret formula makes it satanic?
Perhaps the most important "secret" of Masonry that Dr. Holly wants to share
with his readers is one degree of the Southern Jurisdiction of Scottish
Rite. He writes, "This presentation focuses upon the thirtieth degree of
Scottish Rite because it is clearly the most occultic."
Before we discuss Dr. Holly's creative twistings of the true meanings of
that degree, we should take an unbiased look at what the degree really is,
to form a basis for comparison. A bit of historical background will be
necessary for a full understanding.
The Knights Templar were members of a religious order of military monks
formed in 1118, in the aftermath of the First Crusade. All men of the
knightly class, the Templars took lifetime vows of poverty, chastity, and
obedience. Upon entering the order, they gave all their worldly goods,
including lands and buildings, to the order. Their purpose was to devote
their entire lives to fighting for the True Cross in the Holy Land. During
their two hundred years of existence, over twenty thousand Knights Templar
died on the holy battlefield, fighting the Muslim enemy. When not in armor,
the Templar wore the simple white robe of a monk, with a red cross sewn over
the left breast.
good example of the Templars' devotion to Christ occurred at the loss of
their castle at Safed to the Egyptian sultan Baibars. Breaking his promise
of freedom in exchange for surrender, the sultan gave the two‑hundred‑man
Templar garrison a choice. Each knight could choose to convert to Islam and
live, or cling to his Christian faith and have his head struck off. Every
one of the Templar knights chose to kneel before his Muslim executioner and
lose his head, rather than lose his faith in Jesus Christ.
The downfall of the order came about from its wealth. Throughout its
existence it had accumulated great assets. There were all the
"dowries" willingly handed
over by the thousands of men who took their Templar vows, as well as
generous gifts from kings and nobles to support their endeavors. And in
addition the Templar share of the loot taken after each successful battle
all went into the Templar treasury.
One who lusted after that treasure was King Philip IV of France, who was
constantly short of funds because of his incessant wars with Edward I of
England. Philip had borrowed huge sums from the Templar order, and he
resented being indebted to monks who exercised so much influence. He wanted
the Templar treasury, and he wanted those debts wiped out.
Philip's chance presented itself after he had managed to maneuver his own
man onto the Throne of Peter as Pope Clement V, who moved the seat of the
Church from Rome to France, where it remained for the next seventy‑five
years. The king's carefully organized plan to have every Templar in France
arrested on the same day gave rise to a new superstition that lives today.
The ill‑fated Templars in France were arrested on Friday the thirteenth, in
October of 1307. They were immediately turned over to the Inquisition, and
their torture for confessions of heresy began on that same day. All of the
hideous skills of the medieval torturer were turned loose on the Christian
Templars. Hot irons were applied to all parts of their bodies. Teeth were
wrenched out and sockets probed to increase the pain. Many had their feet
burned off over pans of glowing charcoal.
In those days, a confession extracted under torture was valid in the eyes of
the Church. Any attempt by a prisoner to retract his confession after the
torture stopped was sufficient to brand him a "relapsed heretic." The
punishment for that crime was to be burned at the stake. Many Templars were.
The most memorable Templar to meet that agonizing end was the aging Grand
Master of the order, Jacques de Molay. Watching stronger, younger knights
caving in to the torture, and in many cases dying from its excesses, the
grand master became convinced that he would not be able to survive such
treatment. To save himself from the inquisitors, de Molay confessed to
several counts of heresy. Instead of leading his order and setting an
example, he had betrayed it, thus violating his own vows.
In 1312, five years after the torture
began, Pope Clement V dissolved the order of Knights Templar by papal
decree, admitting that the inquisitors had not provided sufficient "proof"
of heresy within the ranks of the military monks to find them guilty of that
charge. He ordered that all of their property be given to their rivals, the
military order of the Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem (The Knights of
Malta). Jacques de Molay, with several other Templar officers, was held in
prison for another two years, then sentenced to life imprisonment.
Both church and state were disturbed by
rumors spreading throughout France, rumors claiming that the suppression of
the Templars was not in accordance with God's will, but was simply a bloody
example of a joint royal and papal plot for self‑enrichment. To put those
rumors to rest, a high platform was erected in front of Notre Dame Cathedral
in Paris. Jacques de Molay was ordered to mount the platform to make public
the sins of which his order was guilty. The whole world was invited to hear
the old man confess that the Knights Templar had rejected Christianity.
De Molay knew that if he retracted his
false confession, he was condemning himself to be burned alive at the stake,
but from some hidden source he summoned the courage to obey his conscience
and speak the truth. His speech is part of Masonic education:
I think it only right that at so solemn a
moment, when my life has so little time to run, I should reveal the
deception which has been practiced and speak up for the truth. Before heaven
and earth and all of you here as my witnesses, I admit that I am guilty of
the grossest iniquity. But the iniquity is that I lied in admitting the
disgusting charges laid against the Order. I declare, and I must declare,
that the Order is innocent. Its purity and saintliness are beyond question.
I have indeed confessed that the Order is guilty, but I have done so only to
save myself from terrible tortures by saying what my enemies wished me to
say. Other knights who have retracted their confessions have been led to the
stake, yet the thought of
A Pilgrim's Path
dying is not so awful that I shall
confess to four crimes which have never been committed. Life is offered to
me, but at the price of infamy. At such a price, life is not worth having. I
do not grieve that I must die if life can be bought only by piling one lie
After this shocking outburst, Jacques de
Molay was hustled off the platform and taken to a little island in the River
Seine for his execution. Legend has it that as the flames were roasting the
flesh from his bones, he cried out a curse on King Philip and Pope Clement
V, calling for each of them to meet him for judgment before the throne of
God before the year was out. Within the year, both were dead.
In the Southern Jurisdiction 30th degree,
the ceremony that recounts this historical drama, the candidate is led into
a tomb with three skulls on display. The skull on the left wears a crown;
the one in the center bears a laurel wreath; and the third wears a papal
tiara. The skull bearing the wreath of the hero is Jacques de Molay. The
skull with the crown represents Philip IV, a secular tyrant, while the third
represents Clement V, a religious tyrant. The candidate is told that he
should always oppose tyranny in whatever form, whether it emanates from a
government or from a religion. He is told that this will be "for the good of
In spite of this very clear‑cut message,
Dr. Holly doesn't hesitate to present his own contrived interpretation of
the Masonic drama of the thirtieth degree. The setting, he writes, does not
have "the ornaments of a Christian service." Of course not: It is not a
religious service, Christian or otherwise. It is an attempt to portray in
dramatic form a landmark event in history, and to learn from it. The lesson
learned is that rampant tyranny is a danger to all mankind. And since that
event represented a joint persecution by monarchy and papacy, it speaks to
the wisdom of separating church and state, then opposing tyranny from either
I can see nothing in the lessons of this
degree that Southern Baptists could object to, since they repeatedly have
affirmed their belief in the separation of church and state. Every history
of the Baptist Church that I have seen devotes substantial space to the
persecution of Baptists by church‑partnered governments, and even
by the Inquisition. It is easy to imagine
a devout Baptist nodding his head in total agreement with the lessons
extracted from a brutal history of Christian torture and death.
Dr. Holly, on the other hand, feels he is
smart enough to detect different truths behind the dramatic symbols. He sees
the skull and tiara representing Pope Clement V as "the vicarious
representation of the Church of Jesus Christ...." Instead of condemning
religious tyranny, as the candidates for the 30th degree are admonished to
do, Holly asserts, on no grounds whatsoever, that they are really devoted to
condemning the Church of Jesus Christ. He claims that the deepest secrets of
Freemasonry are not revealed until the man "vows upon his death loyalty to
the Lodge above all else, including the church and Jesus Christ." That goes
beyond perverting the truth; it is simply an outrageous lie. Every Mason is
told repeatedly throughout his Masonic career that, no matter how high the
level he achieves within the fraternity, he is riever to put his duties and
responsibilities to the lodge higher than his responsibilities and
obligations to his own church. I know of no instance in which that
admonition has been violated.
Since Dr. Holly's book states that it
focuses on the 30th degree of Scottish Rite, we should probably discuss the
other parts of that degree. Having established a position against tyranny
and in favor of the separation of church and state, the degree suggests that
one contributor to tyranny is ignorance (the lack of education) for all too
often ignorance makes men easier to deceive and control. To dramatize this
point, the candidate is encouraged to continue with his own search for
knowledge (secular knowledge) by being shown a decorative ladder with the
steps named for the ancient and classical components of the liberal arts. As
mentioned earlier, these are Grammar, Rhetoric, Logic, Arithmetic, Geometry,
Astronomy, and Music (riot Theology). This presentation of past quests for
knowledge is simply symbolic of the need for every Mason constantly to
expand his own knowledge and to help others to do the same. That charge is
the inspiration for thousands of scholarships which have been funded by
Masons across the country, and which are awarded on the basis of need and
merit, without regard to race, national origin, or religious creed.
A Pilgrim's Path
In the chambers prepared for the drama of
the 30th degree there is a knight in a coffin. He represents all the knights
who were killed in this historical act of persecution, although there are
those who feel that he symbolizes all of the Christians who died at the
hands of their persecutors. (If so, he also represents a great number of
victims who were Baptists.)
Dr. Holly asks, "Who does that knight in
the coffin represent? Albert Pike says that the answer lies in the mysteries
of the Kaballa." No, he doesn't, but Holly presents this conclusion without
citation or explanation. Instead, he immediately and deliberately misquotes
Albert Mackey, from Mackey's Revised Encyclopedia of Freemasonry.
Mackey was citing the origins of the
ancient Judaic system of Kabbalah as represented by scholars, especially Dr.
Christian David Ginsburg, who had written a book on the subject in 1863.
Mackey quotes Dr. Ginsburg, introducing that quote with these words, which
Holly chose to omit:
"In what estimation the Kabbala is held
by Jewish scholars, we may learn from the tradition which they teach, and
which Dr. Ginsburg has given in his exhaustive work (Kaballah, 84) in the
following words . . ." (Now follows the quote used by Holly, who presents it
erroneously as the writings of a Freemason, instead of citing it as a
passage from the work of a non‑Masonic scholar, which in fact it is.):
"The Kaballah was first taught by God to
a select company of angels, who formed a theosophic school in Paradise.
After the fall, the angels most graciously communicated this heavenly
doctrine to the disobedient children of the earth."
If Dr. Holly had delved a bit deeper into
Kabbalistic lore, he would know that these angels who taught the
"disobedient children of the earth" were not among the angels who fell, but
were among those who stayed loyal to God in Heaven. They taught after the
fall, not their fall. Perhaps Holly did know it and just didn't want to mess
up his tedious thesis, which requires that these angels be numbered with the
"The only angels to be cast out of
heaven," he declares, "were those who joined Lucifer in his rebellion
against God. This select group of angels had to be those who rebelled with
Lucifer and were
cast out of heaven." (Had to be? Only to
fit the hateful compulsions of James L. Holly.)
Dr. Holly goes on to quote five more
paragraphs from Dr. Ginsburg's discourse on what traditional Jewish
Kabbalists (not Freemasons) believed. He correctly quotes Dr. Ginsburg's
history of the development of the Kabbalah with "No one, however, dared to
write it down until Simon teen Jochai." Simon teen Jochai was a rabbi who
lived at the time of the destruction of the second Temple in A.D. 70. Upon
being condemned to death by the Roman emperor Titus, he sought refuge, along
with his sons and disciples, by hiding in a cavern.
When the rabbi died, Kabbalists believe
that a "dazzling light" filled the cavern, with a burning fire outside,
guarding the entrance. "As they were preparing for his obsequies, a voice
was heard from heaven...." Note that the voice was "from heaven."
"Who was this man?" wonders Holly. To
find the answer, he writes, "The truth? Mackey states . . ." (and, once
again, he goes on to quote Ginsburg, not Mackey):
"And when the remains were deposited in
the tomb, another voice was heard from heaven, saying, 'This is he who
caused the earth to quake and the kingdoms to shake."' To the Kabbalist,
these words from heaven are identifying the speaker, not Rabbi Simon teen
Jochai. The voice is the voice of God, referring to Himself as "he who
caused the earth to quake and the kingdoms to shake." Simon teen Jochai is
presented as a man who has found favor with God.
Now, we finally get to the
point: the conclusions that Dr. Holly draws from this twisted, irrelevant
pseudo‑research. He invents a totally irrational and unfounded discovery to
share with his Southern Baptist readers: "Who was Simon teen Jochai? He was
one and the same as in Isaiah 14:12. He was Lucifer or one of his demons
disguised in the form of a man." Nothing Holly has discussed is even
remotely related to the drama of the Knights Templar or the murder of
Jacques de Molay, or the lessons learned in the 30th degree─
except in the mind of James L. Holly. Now he reveals the rare jewel, the
fantastic product of his imaginary findings: "Who does the man in the coffin
in the thirtieth degree represent? He is the Simon teen Jochai of the
Kabballa. He is Lucifer himself, or one of his demons."
A Pilgrim's Path
This is a superb example of the lowest
level of propagandist deception. Dr. Holly knows precisely where he wants to
end up. He knows what he wants to "prove," but he can't see a clear path to
get there because there are no facts to support him. The only solution is to
lie, to indulge in unfounded speculation, to misquote in order to establish,
at whatever the cost, that somewhere in the Scottish Rite 30th degree is
Satan himself. Why not? He's not likely to get caught. Holly's followers
never question that he is telling the truth, and he is even quite likely to
earn praise for the depth and complexity of his research. Let's review it:
First, he has involved the Kabbalah, a
theosophic system developed by Orthodox rabbinical scholars, beginning in
the seventh century. Then he misquotes Albert Pike to contrive a connection.
Next, Holly pretends that he is quoting the beliefs and teachings of Masonic
encyclopaedist Albert Mackey, although every quotation cited was actually
written by Dr. Ginsburg, who in turn was not stating his own beliefs, but
rather was explaining the beliefs of ancient traditional Kabbalists. Those
beliefs are extended to the legendary life and death of Simon teen Jochai, a
In the Kabbalistic tradition, a voice
"from heaven" speaks at the tomb bearing the remains of Rabbi Simon teen
Jochai. Out of this event Holly fabricates the notion, totally unsupported
by written evidence or reference, that Rabbi Simon teen Jochai must be
"Lucifer or one of his demons." Reason is sent reeling.
But after bludgeoning the facts so as to
make Satan replace the rabbi, what proof does Holly offer to link any of
that with the 30th degree in Scottish Rite Masonry? Clearly none at all; but
he has come this far and is now desperate to show that Rabbi Simon teen
Jochai was Lucifer, or Lucifer himself, or one of Lucifer's demons, is in
that coffin! Lacking the tiniest shred of evidence to back such a theory, no
historian or scholar, or any honest man, could find his way out of the
dilemma, but there is always a way out for the fanatic: Just say it. Forget
about logic, proof, reason, circumstantial evidence, or even a vague
suggestion of a connection. Just go ahead and say it confidently enough
times to establish the erroneous fact that Satan is in a Masonic degree.
Ignore the facts and trumpet the triumphant lie that Freemasons worship
At another point in the 30th degree the
candidate recites an oath that includes the vow ". . . to strive unceasingly
for the happiness of fellow beings, for the propagation of light [knowledge]
and for the overthrow of superstition, fanaticism, imposture and
intolerance." Dr. Holly declares that this oath is ". . . in reality an oath
to work for the destruction of Christianity." In the 30th degree this lesson
warns Masons of the evils of superstition, fanaticism, imposture, and
intolerance. Dr. Holly declares that "each of these is a synonym of
revealed, God‑centered religion."
The Mason understands superstition to be
an irrational belief, like not stepping on cracks in the sidewalk, or
walking under a ladder, or knocking on wood. Dr. Holly (alone) claims that
the Masons use the word superstition to mean the true word of God. He argues
that religious tolerance is offensive to God, who demands intolerance of all
Christians. He states that Jesus wants every Christian to be a fanatic, thus
renderingianaticism a Christian virtue. He doesn't attempt to explain how
imposture, a word meaning "fraud" or "deceit," could possibly be linked
synonymously with any revealed God‑centered religion (unless, perhaps,
knowing that he himself is guilty of gross imposture, he forgives it on the
basis that everything he says or does is automatically devoutly Christian).
The archbishop of Canterbury made a
lecture tour in the United States during August and September of 1992.
Speaking to a largely Episcopalian audience, of course, the archbishop
stated: "Christianity can maintain its commitment to the uniqueness of
Christ in a pluralist world, and yet still be genuinely tolerant." What a
shock it will be to the Church of England to learn that the primate of the
Anglican Church throughout the world is the Antichrist, for ". . .
toleration is the antithesis of the Christian message." Those are the words
of the bellicose Dr. Holly, who espouses a doctrine that is neither
Christian nor American.
Holly also equates Freemasonry with
communism, never explaining that every Communist party member must be an
atheist, while no atheist may become a Freemason. He says that Freemasons
have their own wording to indicate that they are in accord with Lenin's
condemnation of religion as "the opiate of the people." Masons and
Communists, he insists, are "opposed to revealed reli
A Pilgrim's Path
"ion." That's a lie, of course, but at
least the doctor quotes only Lenin, not the Masons, as saying that religion
is the opiate of the people. (As a matter of fact, Lenin didn't say it,
either. Karl Marx did.)
There is much more in his writings that
can easily be exposed as vicious lies. Nevertheless, as one examines the
work of James L. Holly one may experience a strange blend of anger,
depression, frustration, and a genuine apprehension for the future of our
sacred individual freedoms. This man has tasted power and influence, and
they are dangerous, heady drugs. Prove him wrong, and he'll come back with
other information. Vote him down and he'll get up and counterattack. The
only forces that can defeat his kind are knowledge, logic, and a deep
appreciation of the love, sympathy, charity, and brotherhood that were the
central themes of Christ's teaching. Dr. Holly cannot possibly understand
those things. His self‑centered "Christianity" is aggressive, militaristic,
divisive, and mean.
I may be questioned on the word
"divisive," but it applies to James L. Holly. It means promoting dissension
or discord, which is exactly what Holly appears to have done in two churches
in his own hometown. Southern Baptists in Beaumont, Texas, have told me that
he joined a local Southern Baptist church and immediately began antagonizing
the pastor and criticizing other members of the church. He caused so much
trouble that he was finally asked to leave.
He joined another Southern Baptist church
and promptly began his program of bullying, threatening, and generally
shaking up the congregation. That church, too, asked him to get out.
Holly then went back to the first church
and reapplied for membership. They remembered him all too well and wanted no
more of James L. Holly. His application was rejected.
Now it would seem that what he did to
those two churches he wants to do so the entire Southern Baptist Convention.
His twisted "findings" provide ample
evidence that Holly considers himself to be the smartest Southern Baptist of
them all. Smarter than the hundreds of thousands of Masons who have
experienced all the Masonic degrees, without seeing or hearing any threat to
their Christian beliefs. Smarter than the thousands of Southern Baptist
ministers who find no conflict between their faith and their Masonic
Holly lies, and he knows it. He quotes
out of context, and he knows it. He distorts the truth to suit his own ends,
and he knows it. How does this man qualify to be a religious leader?
Of course, even if he succeeds in driving
the Freemasons out of the Southern Baptist churches and arranges for the
"purification" of churches imbued with "satanic" influence because of
Masonic cornerstone layings, Holly's job will be far from finished; that is,
if he truly wants to rid the Southern Baptist Church entirely of all Masonic
influence. Here are a few points he should consider:
Perhaps church members should refuse to
recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag, since it was written by a
Freemason (who was also a Baptist minister).
He may want to forbid any use of the flag
whatsoever, since it came into the world when Freemason George Washington
approached Betsy, wife of Freemason John Ross, to help design and to sew the
first American flag.
He may want to forbid all Southern
Baptists to sing Onward Christian Soldiers, since it was composed by a
Freemason. And, perhaps, he may want to ban God Bless America. For it, too,
was written by a Freemason.
I AST YEAR I was the guest on a one‑hour
radio program that
Lstretched into three hours because the
calls kept coming. For two weeks before the program, the station made brief
announcements that a show about Freemasonry would be airing, and apparently
the word spread in the local Masonic lodges. Fully half the calls that came
in that evening were from Masons.
To start things off, the show host asked
me about my book, Born in Blood. I responded by explaining the theory of
Masonic origins which I felt had been extensively developed through my
research into British medieval history.
One of the first calls came from a Mason
who said, "Your guest is way off base. I've been a Mason for fifteen years,
and I can tell you that Masonry began in the building of the Egyptian
Soon another Masonic caller said, "I've
been a Mason a lot longer than the man who called a few minutes ago, and I
can assure you that Masonry began in the building of Solomon's temple, under
a master builder that we still honor today."
A third Mason called some time later, to
put the matter to rest with, "I've been a Mason for half my life, and if you
really want the truth I can tell you that Masonry was born in the medieval
A Pilgrim's Path
stonemasons who built the great Gothic
cathedrals, the first of which was the Temple of Solomon."
Since the first Gothic cathedral had not
been built until 1,500 years after the construction of Solomon's temple, the
show host looked at me with a puzzled frown. I responded by drawing the edge
of my hand across my throat, a suggestion to cut short that discussion. No
one was learning anything about Masonry, except perhaps that there is no
general agreement on the origins of the fraternity.
Of all the theories of Masonic
beginnings, clearly the most popular is that it all started with "operative"
guilds of working stonemasons. Later, nonworkers were accepted into those
guilds, to become known as "speculative" Masons. They shared the "secrets"
held by the master masons, which apparently included the secrets of how to
build in the Gothic style. Later still, the speculative masons broke away in
their own organizations, preserving the secrets of the master builders
(which have now been lost and cannot be identified).
This theory apparently began with
Freemasons who took the legend of Hiram Abiffto be history, and not
allegory. Masonic writers of that time marveled that such a wonderful story
had eluded the authors of the Old Testament. Initiates into the third degree
were taught that the Hiram story was literal truth. With that base, the
existence of Freemasonry at the time of the building of Solomon's temple
made sense to them, as did the role of Hiram, described as the master
builder of the temple, as the first Grand Master of Masonry.
Dr. James Anderson, in the
first Grand Lodge constitution, adopted in 1723, stated that Masonry had
started with King Athelstan in ninth‑century York, in England. Later Masonic
scholars could find no historical support for that theory and decided that
Masonry had really begun in medieval guilds of stonemasons─ignoring
the fact that there was no historic support for that theory, either.
Although devoid of documentary evidence,
the medieval‑builder theory took hold. At the time Freemasons revealed
themselves in London in 1717, there was no documentary record of Masonic
symbols: The square and compasses do not appear in Masonic writings until a
generation later. The use of masons' fools to teach moral lessons appears to
be also a later addition, if one requires written evidence for proof of
existence. If that's true, then the day came when the
theory that had produced the symbols was
said to be proven by the symbols it had created!
That "proof" was not strong enough,
however, to stem the flow of inventive ideas put forward on the subject of
Masonic origins. Some asserted that the fraternity had been born in the
ancient British Druid religion. Others claimed origins in the steinmetzen
(stonemasons) of Germany, the Roman Collegia, and the Compagnage. Some even
held out for the Culdees, an ancient order of monks which existed in Ireland
and Scotland in the eighth century. The order did not find favor with the
Church and died out during the tenth century, before the era of Gothic
Most recently, after all manner of
investigations by Masonic researchers, Masonic scholars such as Allen
Roberts in the United States and John Hamil1 in England have flatly stated
that the simple truth is that no one knows how, where, when, or why
Freemasonry was founded.
For me, that last question "Why?" was by
far the most important. To find the answer to that question would be to
discover the original purposes of Masonry and the reason for its survival
for centuries as a secret society in Britain.
I must admit that I began my own research
with the conviction that Freemasonry's original purposes had to be more
serious than a social club attached to a guild of stonecutters. That did not
seem a likely reason for starting a secret organization that was to survive
and spread for hundreds of years.
I had only one fixed
point, the Regius Manuscript dating from about 1390. The manuscript seems to
establish that there was Freemasonry─or
fourteenth‑century Britain. The implausibility of the theory of origins in
medieval stonemasons' guilds became apparent after my research in England
clearly established that there were no guilds of stonemasons in
fourteenth‑century Britain. The first stonemasons' guild was not documented
until two hundred years later, in the sixteenth century.
To counter that point, some Masonic
historians claim that there is indeed documentary evidence of a stonemasons'
guild in the fourteenth century. They cite a set of regulations establishing
rules for the conduct of the masons' trade, set by the municipal authorities
A Pilgrim's Path
in London in 1356. That, to them, is
clear evidence that a guild of stonemasons was in existence at that time.
However, all non‑Masonic historians feel that those regulations are clear
proof of the opposite, that there was no such guild. The reasoning is that
if a stonemasons' guild had existed, it would have had the right by charter
to set its own rules governing the craft. That such regulations were passed
directly by the municipal authorities means that there was no guild
organization through which the authorities could negotiate.
The arguments go back and forth and may
never be settled because of the absence of documented proof. My own theory
is that Masonry was born in a secret society formed for self‑protection by
fugitive Knights Templar, along with their employees and their associates,
in England and Scotland, who had been found guild of heresy and
excommunicated by Pope Clement V. With their order destroyed by papal decree
and themselves branded as excommunicated outlaws, the Templars who managed
to escape were in extreme peril. If found, their fate would undoubtedly
include torture and burning at the stake. They had a vital need for
passwords, recognition signals, and secret meetings. (All of the
circumstantial evidence I found to support that theory is presented in
detail in Born in Blood.) Some Masons agreed with my findings, and some
disagreed, so that my theory simply took its place alongside a dozen others,
and new theories continue to be brought forward.
Early in 1991, I was honored by an
invitation to the annual banquet of the Philalethes Society, a Masonic
research and education organization. The principal speaker was Cyril Batham,
long a member of the prestigious Quatuor Coronati Lodge of Research in
England, the premier Masonic research lodge of the world. Mr. Batham
surprised us all by explaining his own theory of Masonic origins, a totally
Mr. Batham believes that Masonry began in
a secret society formed by dispossessed monks after the dissolution of the
monasteries in England. As a major part of his break with the church
hierarchy in Rome, Henry VIII of England dissolved the smaller monasteries
in his realm in 1536 and dismantled the larger ones in 1538. The crown
seized all their properties, and those acts, Mr. Batham believes, drove the
monks and friars of the monastic orders
to band together in a secret society of
mutual help and protection. His talk was later published in two parts in The
I'm delighted to know that true Masonic
scholars are still digging to find the truth, hampered as they are by the
almost total lack of written evidence.
The principal purpose of this discourse
is to call attention to a field of research so far untouched by Masonic
scholars; the evidence to be found in the works of artists of the Middle
Ages. Given that a secret society did exist in medieval Britain, it would be
much simpler for an artist to conceal its symbolism and allegory in his
paintings than for a chronicler to attempt to conceal them in his writings.
The painting reproduced on page 112 is an
outstanding example of the possibilities. It is The Wagerer, by the Flemish
artist Hieronymus Bosch. Those familiar with Bosch's work have come to
expect graphic portrayals of a wide range of hideous, distorted demons. The
Seafarer is different in that it depicts no demons or monsters, although it
is packed with symbolism, much of it Masonic in nature.
Take a good look at the painting. The
wayfarer has his left trouser leg pushed up to the knee. It might be pointed
out that the trouser leg is up to accommodate a bandage, but no minor calf
wound requires a slipper on one foot, with a shoe on the other.
The straps of the wayfarer's backpack are
not over his shoulders, where they belong. Instead, Bosch has put a strap
around his upper arms, binding him like a Masonic cable‑tow. The feather we
might expect to find in his hat is not there. Bosch has replaced it with a
plumb bob, another Masonic symbol.
Why is the man carrying his hat in his
hand, rather than conveniently wearing it on his head? Bosch may have wanted
his hood ready to pull down over his face to "hoodwink" him, a word that
suggests that this is the way a man was blindfolded in ancient Masonic
initiation. It was a common practice at that time and was incorporated into
the language for future ages in the expression "to pull the wool over his
Ahead of the traveler is a gate with a
strange brace. Everyone who knows anything about wooden farm gates knows
that the brace goes from one corner to the diagonally opposite corner,
creating immovable triangles. The brace on Bosch's gate rises above the top
A Pilgrim's Path
rail, then comes back down to the corner.
This produces a craftsman's square on top of the gate.
Now consider the painting as a whole. The
traveling man is moving from left to right, or from west to east, leaving
behind him a rude, crude world. A serving maid lounges in the doorway of a
decrepit tavern, holding a pitcher, while a customer kisses her, holding his
hand on her breast. Around the corner, a man is urinating against the wall.
In the courtyard, pigs feed at a trough, while an angry dog with a spiked
collar crouches, deciding whether or not to attack.
With a few more steps the wayfarer will
pass through the gate of the square and enter a land of peace and plenty, as
symbolized by the placid milk cow. In the tree above his head is perched an
owl, the medieval symbol for wisdom.
The final question is one of motivation.
To have known the Masonic symbols before 1717 (if indeed they existed in his
time), Bosch would have to have been a Masonic initiate. Is it likely that
the artist would have been attracted to, and invited into, a secret society
dedicated to protecting religious dissidents from the wrath of the Church?
It is very probable. Bosch is known to have been a member of a religious
fraternity frowned upon by the Church. His cynical portrayals of drunken,
carousing monks and nuns indicate a man angry at the Church, especially in
view of several condemnations of his work as heretical.
It is possible, of course, that the
Masonic symbols in this painting are all merely coincidences. If so, this is
the most incredible collection of Masonic coincidences that we may ever
expect to see assembled in a single work. If, however, the symbols are not
there coincidentally, then this painting provides the very first graphic
evidence of the existence of Masonic symbolism about five hundred years ago,
in the late fifteenth century. Hieronymus Bosch was born in 1450 and died in
1516. Within twelve months of his death, the great protestant religious
movement in Europe was launched when the Augustinian monk, Martin Luther,
nailed his Theses to the great door of the Schlosskirche in Wittenberg.
I have pointed out
elsewhere the Masonic symbolism in the mural on the ceiling of the Royal
Navy Hospital in Greenwich─the
building project of Sir Christopher Wren.
My hope is to arouse the interest of Masons associated with the field of
fine art, to the extent that they will keep one mental channel tuned to the
Masonic connection whenever they examine medieval paintings, engravings,
carvings, and sketches. There may well be other hidden visual evidence of
Masonic existence just waiting to be spotted.
Masonic research is in many ways an
unfinished temple of its own. We can only be encouraging to those Masons who
approach the historical mysteries of Masonry with the conviction that the
answers must be there somewhere, and wish them success. We all await that
incontrovertible, documented proof that will solve the great mystery of how
it all began, and why.
It's a Secret
OVER FIFTY YEARS ago, at about age
twelve, I noticed that my Sunday school teacher was wearing a strange ring.
It was a wide gold band similar to a wedding ring. What made it different
was the device of an equilateral triangle with a little squiggle inside the
borders. (Masons will recognize that he was wearing the ring of the 14th
degree of Scottish Rite.)
Finally one Sunday, my curiosity got the
better of me. I pointed to his ring and asked, "What's that?" His answer was
a quick "That's a secret." "Well, what does it mean?" I asked, and with a
kindly smile he cut me off: "If I told you, it wouldn't be a secret anymore,
So a group of about a dozen boys missed
being told that there was such a thing as Freemasonry, and perhaps a few
positive things about it. Based on what I learned years later, my Sunday
school teacher could have named a dozen other men in that congregation who
were also Masons. Some of us might have waited impatiently for our
twenty‑first birthdays, so that we might be Masons, too. And even more years
later, as I learned more about Masonry, it became clear that the existence
of Freemasonry and any man's membership in it were in no way "secrets." Half
a century ago, some Masons apparently misunderstood the "secrets" of the
lodge. Many still do.
It's a Secret
That misunderstanding is never more
destructive than in the attitudes of many Masons who fully believe that they
are permitted to say nothing about Masonry to their families. I have seen
letters to Masonic publications in which fathers have lamented not being
allowed to tell their sons anything about the fraternity, sons whom they
would very much like to join them in their lodges.
It is difficult to accept that there are
many Masons who don't really understand what is secret and what is not. It
is even more difficult to accept that there are men who relish having
secrets in order to feel special, hoping that they will be the envy of those
The latter type was brought to my
attention during an autographing session at a shopping mall bookstore. A
young woman asked me to sign a book for her and then said, "I hope this book
will help to save my marriage!" I had to tell her that there was nothing
about Born ir' Blood designed to aid marital relationships, but curlosity
led me to ask her why she had made that remark.
She was twenq‑three years old, her
husband was twenty‑five, and they had been married for seven months. He had
become a Freemason soon after they returned from their honeymoon. "He says
words that I don't understand," she explained, "and when I ask what they
mean, he says, 'It's a secret. I can't tell you."' There was more.
"Sometimes, he stands in front of me and makes funny motions with his hands.
Then when I ask him what he's doing, he says, 'It's a secret!' So I say,
'Well, if it's a secret, don't do it in front of me!"'
Having embarked on recounting her plight,
her resentment poured out. "This goes on all the time. His Mason thing is
driving me crazy. I wish he'd drop out of it, or stop beating on me with
it." (I couldn't resist suggesting to her that she ask her husband whether
his secrets meant that they were allowed to have secrets from each other. If
he answered "Yes," as he must, she should say to him, "Oh, thank God! That
makes me feel a lot better." Then, I suggested, she should let him stew for
a while, wondering what her secrets might be, and that should serve as the
basis for a truce.)
Quite apart from the fact that the young
man had not matured enough to realize that teasing is not an acceptable form
of humor, he was simply asserting his sense of his own importance, if not
A Pilgrim's Path
ority. I formed a secret society with a
friend when we were eight or nine years old. The society had a secret
password, a secret grip, and a secret buried treasure. It also had a secret
purpose, which was to annoy my kid sister. The battle cry was "I know
something you don't know, nyah, nyah, nyah!"
There are men who have never shaken that
desire to know something that others don't know. The urge can be so great
that they present to themselves, and others, that they are possessed of very
important hidden information or knowledge. I have even had Masonic dropouts
tell me that they were disappointed because their Masonic membership had not
led to their being made privy to dark secrets, which had been their sole
reason for joining. That love of secrecy, even when it is totally
inappropriate, can last a lifetime. I found that out one evening when I
talked to an eighty‑two‑year‑old Masonic widow.
Her husband had been a Freemason for
forty‑seven years when he died. From correspondence found in his desk she
had learned that he was a "thirty‑third degree, whatever that is," and a
Knight Templar. She was annoyed because although most of their expenditures
were joint efforts, "all kinds of dues" and the occasional charitable
donation were completely unilateral. She was never consulted, and never got
an explanation. Worst of all, he had a closet for his Masonic paraphernalia
on the second floor of their home, with a lock that had just one key. She
was told that if he ever failed to lock the door, she must not look inside.
"I called it 'Bluebeard's l: loset,"' she said.
The result, of course, was resentment.
She got her revenge for his Masonic secrecy when their son, who was engaged
to be married, told her that he planned to join his father's lodge. She sat
him down in the kitchen for a long talk, during which she recited the
feelings that his father's Masonry had engendered in her. She said,
"Sweetheart, Nancy is such a lovely girl, and her happiness should be as
important to you as your own. Don't do this to her, and to your marriage."
Her son did not join a Masonic lodge, which she took as a personal victory.
"I talked him out of it!" she said proudly.
While she was visiting our home, I asked
if she would like to see a video about the Freemasons. She said she would,
so I played for her The Unseen Journey, the sixty‑minute video produced for
It's a Secret
Lodge of Illinois. At the end she said,
"I've learned more about the Masons in one hour than I did in almost fifty
years of living with one. I didn't know that George Washington and all those
famous men were Freemasons. And I knew nothing about all those charity
projects. That's wonderful. Why didn't my husband tell me those things?"
The Mason who feels that he cannot
discuss his Masonry with his wife, son, grandson, or neighbor is doing the
fraternity a great disservice. The rule that no man is ever asked to become
a Mason, but rather must ask to join, absolutely requires that someone must
tell him something in order to establish that desire to become a Mason.
This doesn't mean that there are no
secrets in Freemasonry, because there are. I, for one, would hate to see
them abandoned. They are reminders of the days when men had to meet and
identify each other in total secrecy, not as an innocent game, but as a
rigid practice to protect their lives.
There is an Old Charge of Freemasonry
that says that no Mason should tell the secrets of a brother Mason that can
cost that brother his life and property. What secret could a medieval Mason
have had that could cause such a total catastrophe? There was just one.
When Gregory IX ascended the papal throne
in 1227, the Albigensian Crusade in southern France had been burning and
butchering for eighteen years, without ever succeeding in wiping out the
Cathar heresy. The pope decided to remove the responsibility of stamping out
heresy from the secular arm and authorize the Church to undertake the
purification of the faith. In 1229, he established the Inquisition, and in
that same year, at the Council of Toulouse, the Church set the universal
punishment for the crime of heresy. Anyone found to be a heretic, or anyone
giving aid to a heretic, or anyone even giving advice to a heretic, merited
death. In addition, the sinner's house was to be torn down, or burned down,
and his land taken by the Church.
During the ensuing years, the one secret
that a man could have had that would cost him his life and property was that
he had material disagreement with the Church of Rome, and so could be
convicted of heresy. Even treason against his king, which was punishable by
death, did not incur the automatic loss of his property. The application of
torture, now officially approved, meant that just to be accused of
A Pilgrim's Path
heresy could be a hideous experience,
even if he was eventually judged to be innocent.
Countless men, no doubt, went into
permanent hiding. Others banded together to help each other, as did the
Lollards in England and various groups on the Continent. Examination of the
Old Charges of Masonry that define the assistance to be given a brother away
from home indicate very clearly that Freemasonry was one of these groups.
And the only way any such group could survive and function effectively was
as a secret society.
When revealing oneself could bring such
physical and economic tragedy, any man can be expected to demand all the
protection from betrayal that he can get. That is why candidates for
membership in the society were blindfolded until they had taken their oaths
to keep their brothers' secrete. Only then were they permitted to see the
faces of the other men in the room.
Since even to be spotted attending a
clandestine meeting might mean betrayal and death, a lookout or sentry was
always posted when members gathered. Freemasons remember that function with
the lodge officer called the Tyler, who stands guard outside the meeting
room in a purely symbolic role. At one time the Tyler stood at his post with
a drawn sword in his hand. Now he is more likely to be sitting, and his
sword of office is often a three‑inch replica hanging as a pendant on a
chain around his neck. The Tyler's services as a guard are no longer
critical for the safety of the men attending the meeting. But his of lice
does serve to remind his Masonic brothers of the time when such security was
a vital necessity, and to remind them to remember and honor their
predecessors who risked their lives in the struggle for religious freedom.
The risks encountered by those medieval
Masons in their daily lives were as great as those in the lodge meetings. To
help a brother on the run from the threat of torture and death, it was
essential to have a system of words and signs of recognition that could be
used wherever the Mason might find himself. There were terms, phrases, and
questions that could be worked into ordinary conversation so that a fellow
Mason would recognize a brother in need. A seemingly innocent response would
tell the man needing help that he had made the right contact. There were
signs of recognition and handgrips that
It's a Secret
could be used without any words spoken,
for mutual recognition and the promise of shelter, food, or guidance.
These are the catechisms, hand signals,
and handgrips that are preserved today, even though they are no longer
needed. Today, Freemasons can be recognized as such by means of decals,
bumper stickers, and baseball caps, not to mention dues cards in their
wallets. So why do they cling to those "secrets"? For the same reason that
we celebrate Veterans' Day, Memorial Day, and Presidents' Day; for the same
reason we reenact Civil War battles and teach our children the dying words
of Nathan Hale and battle cries like "Remember the Alamo!" There are
traditions worth preserving and men worth remembering. The Masonic "secrets"
help a fraternity to remember men who took terrible risks to help gain those
personal freedoms which we believe all men are entitled to enjoy.
Yes, some will say, but why do the
Freemasons have to maintain their traditions in total secrecy? The answer is
that they don't. NonMasons have known the "secret" words and signals for
over two and a half centuries and still enjoy "revealing" them. What the
anti‑Masons miss is the overridingly important point that Masons never
change their "secrets," however many times they are revealed. Think about
If a battlefield commander even suspects
that his password has leaked to the enemy, he immediately changes the
password. In a truly secret organization, the revelation of a secret term, a
recognition or distress signal, necessitates a prompt change because the
secret signs are protecting secret information. They are not symbolic, as
they are in Freemasonry, but tools of subversion. The "secrets" in
Freemasonry appear in articles, pamphlets, radio shows, books, and
videotapes; yet they are never changed by so much as a syllable or gesture.
The Masons do not change those well‑known
secret signs, passwords, and recognition signals because their uses, in
their traditional forms, are "rites of remembrance." They well know that all
of their traditional secrets are no longer secret.
A comparable situation may be found in
some tours of the "stately homes" of England, in which tourists are shown
secret "priest‑holes." These were secret rooms or compartments where loyal
Catholics hid their priests from the "Pursuivants," the royal
priest‑catchers eager to escort them to the headsman's block. They
A Pilgrim's Path
are no longer secret, and they are no
longer needed. Yet they are carefully preserved as a reminder of how
dangerous life and religious faith used to be.
In addition to their condemnations of
Masonic recognition signals, anti‑Masons also find evil in the fact that
only a Mason in good standing can attend a lodge meeting. They ask, "Why do
Masons need secret meetings?" In fact, notices of those meetings, giving the
place, date, and time, frequency appear in highly visible places, like local
newspapers, hardly appropriate for a truly clandestine gathering. Masonic
meetings are not secret, they are simply for paid‑up members only, hardly an
Sometimes private lodge meetings deal
with matters that should be confidential. They may consider giving
assistance to a brother's widow, handle criticism of a member from within or
from outside the lodge, consider chastisement of a member who appears to
have behaved in a manner chat falls short of the moral standards expected of
a Mason. It is proper that this sort of membership business should not be
carried out in public.
The vibrant Masonic world isn't secret at
all. Masonic history is freely available to all. Masonic beliefs and
principles are never secret and can be easily discovered by anyone
interested. Ten‑dollar books, sold by television evangelists and purporting
to contain dark Masonic secrets, actually reveal nothing that isn't
available at no charge whatsoever at any good public library (naturally,
they keep that fact a Cal secret). When they lie, as they frequency do, that
information is, of course, available only in their sensational books.
The best protection against allegations
of secret worship, secret plots, and subversion of religion is to make known
to the world just what Freemasonry is all about. The fraternity must stop
hiding its light under a bushel. Lack of knowledge creates a void that is
amply filled by anti‑Masons with half‑truths, perverted truths, and outright
falsehoods that appeal to a natural human weakness, a taste for scandal.
Ignorance is the real enemy.
Many Masons are poorly informed right at
the beginning. Some are so exhilarated by learning "secrets" that they don't
know where chose secrets stop. More than once I have observed two Masons
loading their conversation with Masonic terms, clearly to impress a
It's a Secret
non‑Mason present. The truth is that a
non‑Mason is much more likely to be irritated than impressed by such a
If I seem to be going overboard with my
criticism of the handling and misunderstanding of Masonic secrets, consider
this example of misdirected secrecy and its counterproductive result:
While waiting for a show to begin, I was
sitting in the lounge, talking to the talk‑show host. He related an
experience he had had earlier that day, while picking up his car from the
service department of an import car dealer. The owner approached him and
said, "I heard the announcement that you'll be talking about the Masons
tonight. I'll be listening." "Why?" the host asked, "Are you a Freemason?"
"No," the dealer replied, "but my best friend is. We talked about it on a
fishing trip a couple of weeks ago."
It seemed the dealer's friend had
suggested that he was the kind of man the Masons want and that it would be
fun for them to be Masons together in the same lodge. In the ensuing
conversation, the dealer tried to find out something‑ anything‑ about
Masonry, to help him decide whether or not he wanted to become one. The
Masonic friend would tell him nothing and finally said, "Look, once you take
the oath and you're in, we'll tell you everything you want to know." "What
is the oath about?" the dealer asked. His friend said that as he took part
in the initiation, the oath would be revealed to him. "You mean that I'm
supposed to swear an oath, but I won't know what I'm swearing to until
later?" His friend replied, "Something like that." "Forget it!" said the
dealer. "Let's just fish."
He did not become a Mason, and the reason
is no secret.
"Don't Talk to Me
BY NO MEANS do all Masons agree with all
the actions of their brothers or their leaders.
One of the strongest disagreements among
Masons today is the matter of change. Some feel a definite need to change
aspects of Masonic custom, to conform better to current society. Others feel
that any variation in tradition, custom, or ritual would be almost
sacrilegious. Some of those in favor of change want to take steps more
drastic than do others.
So there are two problems here: whether
or not there should be any changes whatsoever, and how serious those changes
should be. Then, of course, there is the disagreement as to just what it is
that should change, and what should remain inviolate. In a sense, the latter
point is the heart of dhe matter. All want to do what is right, and doing
the right thing is easy. On the other hand, deciding what the right thing is
can be difficult, stressful, and controversial.
Contemplating the whole matter is
difficult, too, because in the Masonic fraternity in America the final
authority is distributed geographically among fifty‑one Grand Lodges. What
one Grand Lodge accepts can be totally rejected by the others.
"Don't Talk to Me about
Generally, each Grand
Lodge recognizes the others' jurisdictional authority, and in spite of
differences they can go forward in the spirit of brotherhood, which is the
essence of the Masonic philosophy. Yet if one Grand Lodge is angry with
another, in the belief that some action taken violates inviolable tradition,
that angry Grand Lodge can abandon all recognition of and fellowship with
as has happened on several occasions.
One point at issue is the rule that no
man is ever invited to become a Mason but must make that decision on his
own, then petition a lodge for admission. That position, say some, coupled
with many Masons' belief that they may not discuss Masonry with any
outsider, puts a definite brake on new memberships. One solution suggested
would make it possible for Masons to extend an invitation to members of
their immediate families, such as sons, grandsons, and brothers. (Some Grand
Lodges around the world, however, have the exact opposite practice, in that
no man can ask to be a Freemason, but each must wait to be invited.) Another
course would be to correct by education the misimpression that there is
nothing meaningful about Masonry that a Freemason can impart to a
For those who feel that no change
whatsoever can be tolerated, consideration might be given to this: In 1717,
only four lodges in London came out into the light of public view. A year
earlier, in 1716, all the lodges in England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales
were part of a secret society whose very existence was virtually unknown.
How did those lodges gain new members over the centuries? How did men work
up a strong desire to join an organization of whose existence they were
totally unaware? Reason says that the only way that a man could have become
a Mason in those days was by being asked to be one. I am not speaking in
favor of changing the present regulation. Rather, I am merely suggesting
that it cannot possibly have its roots in ancient Masonic tradition. When
the present rule was made, it was a change from ancient tradition.
So it is with many aspects of Freemasonry
today. When Masonry became public, there were only two degrees, the Entrant
and the Fellow. A fellow is a peer, an equal, a full member. The only
masters were the masters of the lodges. Then, somewhere along the line, a
group of leaders decided that it would be well if every Mason
A Pilgrim's Path
could be a Master. Besides, that title
suited the growing preoccupation with tracing the ancestry of Freemasonry to
guilds of stonemasons. A full member of a guild was called a master, so they
changed the degree work and designation to accommodate the guild concept and
instituted the degree of Master Mason. That was a change.
Originally, in 1717, there were no moral
lessons taught with masons' fools. Those, too, were incorporated later, and
as part of the dedication to the medieval guild origin theory. Each one of
those things constituted a change.
Much better known is the regulation
banning alcoholic beverages from the symbolic lodge. It is probably a good
rule, but there can hardly be any doubt that it is in direct opposition to
the customs of the ancient lodges, which usually met in the upper rooms of
taverns. At first, they drank the products of the tavern during the course
of the meetings, smoking their pipes as well. Only later were smoking and
drinking removed from the lodge meeting and confined to the later period of
refreshment. And only much, much later did the American lodges vote to keep
alcohol out of the lodge completely. That regulation, strictly enforced
today, was a very dramatic charge.
The point of all this is that Freemasonry
has always adapted, adjusted, and changed, a fact which is at least
partially responsible for its longevity. The genius of the U.S. Constitution
was that it carefully spelled out the means by which it could be altered,
added to, or subtracted from, according to the needs of succeeding
generations. Had it been unalterably, unchangeably rigid, it probably would
have cracked apart years ago.
Given that, it becomes important to
emphasize that significant changes should not be lightly adopted. Sometimes
change appears to be the only answer to fear, or to criticism. Any change
requires cool consideration and careful examination. (Not, however, as cool
and careful as the Vatican, which upon finally receiving the report of a
special committee at work for thirteen years decided, in 1992, that Galileo
had not been guilty of heresy 359 years earlier. That's a bit slow.)
For example, take the problem of men who
become Masonic Entered Apprentices, then drop out of the fraternity without
ever taking the next step. I know of no available figures, but based on the
"Don't Talk to Me about
numbers given to me by several Grand
Lodges, I will venture a guess that at least two hundred thousand men in the
United States completed just the first degree, then dropped out. Obviously,
some adjustment is called for, but what?
I am not aware of any survey that has
been taken to ascertain the precise reasons for the withdrawals, but there
is no shortage of theories. One is that some men were offended by the
penalty of the obligation. Another is that the men had expected to learn
some truly esoteric secrets but weren't taught any. By far the most
prevalent cause suggested is the requirement for extensive memorizing, not
just because some lack talent for memorizing, but because the subsequent
examination takes place before the entire lodge, which can be embarrassing
to the point of humiliation.
One Grand Lodge has already done away
with the memorization, on the basis that the simple act of recitation does
not mean that the candidate truly understands what he is reciting. Instead,
that Grand Lodge has instituted a program of four seminars which the new man
must attend. The groups are small and private, with the emphasis on
understanding. The most unusual feature of this innovation is that the man
being instructed has the option of bringing his wife to the fourth seminar,
which covers Masonic history and current activities. It is believed,
sensibly, to be beneficial that a man's wife, right at the beginning of her
husband's Masonic career, be given the opportunity to learn what Masonry is
all about and to ask her own questions.
Another Grand Lodge is considering
changing the examination from a formal function, with the man standing
before the whole lodge, to a private, informal examination by a committee of
three. This would help the initiate to relax, especially by removing the
stress created through having every tiny error put on public display.
As to the penalties of the obligations,
some jurisdictions have simply eliminated them from the initiation. I cannot
fully favor that course, because I feel that this part of the ritual acts as
a reminder of those earlier Masons who risked their lives and property to
belong to the fraternity. The penalties are mild punishment compared to the
legal agonies that could be inflicted on any Mason in the fourteenth,
fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries who was betrayed by having his
A PUgran's Path
dedication to religious freedom exposed.
Some Masons feel that the penalties should be removed from the oath but
recited separately, to preserve an ancient tradition ‑ a sort of "lest we
Whatever is or isn't done, it seems clear
that the initiate should have emphasized to him that no Mason is ever called
upon to inflict those penalties: They are symbolic of a bygone age. Since no
one is designated to inflict the penalties, it seems that God is being
called upon to perform them, much as we might say "Cross my heart and hope
to die" or "May God strike me down with a bolt of lightning if I am not
telling the truth" to affirm our sincerity.
Another change being discussed as a
result of declining membership and a decline in attendance at lodge meetings
is the nature of those meetings. Some feel that their lodges meet too
frequently, making unnecessary time demands on their members. Certainly,
American lodges meet more frequently than those in England and other
countries, perhaps in response to social conditions that prevailed a few
generations ago, before television and movies, when there was precious
little to do in the evenings in many towns across the country. Now a wide
variety of events, entertainments, and family obligations tend to make any
function a demand on a busy time schedule. Most Grand Lodges have taken no
action at all, but one Grand Master ruled that the lodges in his state
should meet no more than six times a year. One of the justifications for
such a move was that it would be a lot easier to arrange interesting
programs for six meetings than for twelve or twenty.
As a carry‑over from the days of a
farming economy, when most farm families only came to town on market day,
there are still some lodges that meet on Saturday evening. That certainly
does not meet with the enthusiastic approval of wives, who do not enjoy
sitting home alone on Saturday nights in their marital state any more than
they did when they were single.
Dress code has become an issue in some
areas, where certain members feel that a lodge meeting merits a level of
respect that should be reflected in the way the members dress. Many favor a
dress code of jacket and tie, believing that the atmosphere and formality of
the lodge room is violated when a member ties his Masonic apron around blue
jeans and a Hawaiian sport shirt.
"Don't Talk to Me about
Whatever changes may be proposed and
argued over concerning the conduct of the meetings of individual lodges,
those arguments certainly indicate the concern of the membership. Most
Masons seem to be aware that meetings need to be more vibrant and
interesting to increase the present level of attendance, which is running at
less than 10 percent of paid‑up members.
In my opinion, one of the barriers to
constructive action lies in the structure of Grand Lodge administration. For
a period of years a man works his way up through the line of Grand Lodge
offices, until the time arrives when he becomes the Grand Master‑the supreme
authority for his Masonic jurisdiction. In most Grand Lodges the Grand
Master has just twelve months to implement the plans he has spent several
years thinking about, while he waited for his turn at supreme authority.
Unfortunately, the system that has
evolved lays booby traps that will materially impede his ability to get
everything done in that one short year. On arriving at the topmost position,
he becomes the figurehead of his jurisdiction, called upon frequently to
represent his Grand Lodge at a wide variety of functions, to bestow and
receive honors, and to attend Masonic funeral services, along with a host of
other time‑consuming activities that have little to do with the
administration of his Grand Lodge.
In Ohio, where I live, there are
twenty‑six Masonic districts, so the Grand Master is expected to drive back
and forth across the state to attend, and address, twenty‑six Grand Officer
receptions. His wife is expected to accompany him to those formal banquets,
so a good part of her weekends that year are taken up by packing and
unpacking and checking in and out of motels.
The newly installed Grand Master is also
expected to attend major Scottish Rite, York Rite, and Shrine functions in
his jurisdiction, and to be present at functions of the Grand Lodges in
nearby states. (For one Grand Master I talked to recently, every single
weekend of his year, except for Christmas, will be taken up by a Masonic
Such a grueling schedule inevitably
impairs any Grand Master's ability to administer his jurisdiction and to
implement the programs that he feels will benefit the Craft. And whatever he
A PUgriln's Path
is with the full knowledge that in a few
months his successor may well set aside everything he has done, in order to
implement projects of his own.
To an outsider, one of the most
distressing aspects of this administrative system is what happens to a Grand
Master after his one year is up. He spends years in a succession of posts,
gaining knowledge and experience, until his efforts culminate in his being
installed as Grand Master‑the pinnacle of his success and power. As soon as
his term expires, he drops from any real position of authority. Thus the
Grand Lodge system might be likened to a man making a slow climb up a
mountainside. When he reaches the top, he does not climb back down, but is
pushed offthe cliff. Most of us could agree that with experience comes
knowledge, and that the two together produce judgment, the greatest
attribute of true leadership. Thus the role of the Past Grand Master may
represent a great waste of talent.
One way around that waste might be to
create a five‑man board of governors made up of the five most recent Past
Grand Masters, with the immediate Past Grand Master as its chairman. Now
five men of recent experience and sound judgment would have a role in Grand
Lodge direction and supervision. The Grand Master would still be the chief
executive officer, much as a corporation president runs a company with
direct authority, but within guidelines and budgets set by a board of
This plan, of course, requires the
current Grand Master to give up a little authority. On the other hand, if he
feels somewhat cramped by the board as Grand Master, he can always look
forward to being chairman of that board for a year after his term of office
ends, when he will be in a position to influence the continuance of the
programs he put in place. His overriding satisfaction should come from the
fact that he is not going to be summarily dumped a few months from now, but
will have an influence on the affairs of his Grand Lodge for the next five
years. That would be a major change!
In summary, scientists studying the
development of species and trying to discover why so many have become
extinct have concluded that intelligence can be defined as adaptability.
Those groups that have adapted have survived and grown. That applies to
governments, religions, and primitive tribes (which we all once were). At a
"Don't Talk to Me about
point in its life, the Catholic Church
lost tens of millions of members because it delayed too long in adaptation
and adjustment. Governments and religious denominations today are struggling
to adapt all over the world, agonizing over what should change and what must
remain the same.
Many Freemasons are distressed by the
decline in membership, although the current base of two and a half million
men in this country alone is strong enough to weather some storms, as it has
done before. It would be easier to address the decline if it was for a
specific reason, such as the Morgan affair and the anti‑Masonic political
party of the past century, when the Masons were accused (but not found
guilty) of the murder of a defected member. Those problems were clearly
understood. Today's problems are more difficult to pinpoint.
No one claims a comprehensive knowledge
and understanding of the forces at work now, because they are not confined
to Masonry. All secular fraternal societies are in a state of decline. Of
all the religious groups in the United States, only the fundamentalists'
numbers are increasing, perhaps because they offer their adherents total
freedom from the stress of having to think things through for themselves.
The Catholic Church appears to be holding its own only because of the great
waves of Catholic Hispanic immigrants. The shortage of priests is critical.
Catholic schools, academies, monasteries, and convents have closed in
Pessimists see all this as a sign of a
decline in public morality, a decline that makes any organization that
insists on high standards of moral conduct unpopular. Others feel that the
abundance of entertainment and leisure‑time activities‑especially
television‑have become more attractive than active participation in any
church or fraternal society.
On a personal front, I recall the time
when the preparation of the evening meal was the biggest family event of my
mother's day. She started at two or three o'clock in the afternoon. There
were roasts, pies, cakes, even the occasional homemade bread. I would have
rather eaten at home than in any restaurant. But then we acquired a
television set. My aging mother got hooked on soap operas. Now preparing
dinner became a last‑minute, scurrying, slam‑bang affair. Prepackaged foods
and canned vegetables became the order of the
A Pil~ri~n's Path
day, with dessert served quickly after
removing the plastic wrapper from supermarket pastries.
After dinner, the family no longer sat
around and talked, read books, or took long walks. Instead, the living‑room
furniture was rearranged so that everyone could get a good head‑on look at
the box, which we all stared at through the eleven o'clock news. Later, with
the advent of color cartoons, the TV became the electronic baby‑sitter. The
kids could be kept quiet if they were entertained. My family's experience
was multiplied millions of times over wherever television sets were sold.
What began as a luxury item became an absolute necessity, even for the
Who can measure how it changed our lives?
We became the most entertained society in the world. And as standards of
living rose, most families managed to have two cars, and children who used
to walk or ride their bikes now had to be chauffeured everywhere. An economy
that had produced a greater array of labor‑saving devices than at any other
time in history suddenly found that society saying, "We just don't have the
Clearly, Freemasonry must present a
purpose. It must offer activities that will give it a status that warrants
taking a little time away from other pursuits. Some might point out,
correctly, that everything that's needed is already there, but no one knows
anything about it. How can the unknown be appealing? A good part of the
answer may lie in an organized effort to get the word out.
The men of today that Freemasonry is
looking for appear to be concerned about their families, their professional
careers, and their physical fitness. If true, no one can fault them for
those concerns. How can Masonry relate to them?
Any number of young men
have told me of their decision not to become Masons, based on a complete
misunderstanding of the fraternity. "They try to tell you how to run your
life." "It's all just ritual." "They don't do anything." "It looks to me
like it's a goody‑twoshoes group of old men." "It's not macho─you
know, manly." It is time for some of that Masonic education activity that
exists in every Grand Lodge to be directed toward the general public.
In all this discussion of
change‑or‑no‑change, Freemasonry has one great advantage. With over thirteen
thousand lodges, a new idea
"Don't Talk to Me about
can be tried with just a few of them, to
be tested before it is introduced on a broad scale. The problem now is this:
If a small group does discover a successful new idea for increasing lodge
meeting attendance, for more fruitful Masonic friendship programs and so on,
how can that good idea be spread throughout the fraternity nationwide so
that others can use it? With fifty‑one separate jurisdictions, it's entirely
possible for one Grand Lodge to come up with a brilliant plan that really
works but have it remain virtually unknown to the other fifty.
The fastest answer I see to that problem
can be found in the Masonic Service Association. The staff is eager to
distribute helpful information, and I'm certain that they would welcome
contributions to a program that might be called the Masonic Idea File. They
would print up successful ideas and distribute a letter or pamphlet, always
giving full credit to the sources.
There are two things of which we can be
certain. First, changes will come. They are already appearing in individual
Grand Lodges. Second, there will be Masons who will be angered and will
denounce those changes vehemently as violations of ancient tradition. As
that happens, we can only ask those proposing or making such changes to
respect the dissidents' devotion to custom and tradition. For those
defending the history and traditions of Freemasonry, we can point to the
fact that a good part of that history gives evidence of a great number of
changes throughout the centuries.
A Masonic Idea File
N THE WORLD of sales promotion, sales
Irising, and public relations in which I
spent my early years in business, there was a constant call for creativity,
for fresh ideas and concepts. One of the means devised to stimulate that
creative thinking was called "brainstorming."
The big difference between Brainstorming
and Think Tank was chat in a brainstorming session all Thoughts were
positive. Any negative reaction to an idea or proposal was stopped by the
chairman with a bell or whistle. There were a couple of sound reasons for
this approach. One was chat not all creative people are strongly assertive
by nature, and too often an argument can be won by forceful oratory, or the
exercise of authority, rather than by logic. The victim of such a put‑down
often retreats within himself and his thoughts are lost to the group. The
other reason was that in any group there are people whose immediate response
to every idea is negative. They compensate for their own fear of appearing
uncreative by finding fault with dhe contributions of otherseven though they
may come around later, and dhen indignandy deny having tried earlier to
discredit their colleagues' efforts.
There were, of course, frequentdy very
valid and logical reasons for objecting to a proposal, but these were
squelched, too, to ensure
A Masonic Idea File
the free flow of ideas. The big point
here is that an idea might be too expensive to implement, too wild, or
unsuitable for other reasons, but there was always the possibility that it
would serve as a stimulant for imaginative thinking within the group that
could, eventually, give rise to a concept both original and practical.
That is dhe spirit in which I am
presenting here a few ideas of my own. They may not be suitable for dhe
Masonic bodies dhey are designed to help, but they will, I hope, stimulate
creative Blinking in odhers closer to the situation. If they accomplish no
more than that I shall be happy.
To begin, my experience tells me that
Freemasonry is virtually unknown on most college campuses, even though
Masonic bodies fund many scholarships every year. Why not shed a lithe local
light on this activity? Advertising is generally offered at a low rate in
co'0ege and university newspapers. My thought is that for each scholarship
awarded an announcement ad should be purchased, perhaps four or five times
the size of a business card. Its function would include honoring the
recipient. Recognition must be given to the fact that the public does not
quickly associate every Masonic body with Freemasonry, so the ad should do
that for them. For example, the wording might be:
THE FREEMASONS OF PENNSYLVANIA
Kathleen M. Winslow
WHOSE ACHIEVEMENTS HAVE EARNED FOR HER A
SCHOLARSHIP AWARDED BY
THE SCOTTISH RITE VALLEY OF PITTSBURGH
Freemasonry in general and the
contributing body in particular are both recognized. If a graphic square and
compasses could be in the ad, so much the better, just to start building a
Ms. Winslow will have been honored, and
every student on that campus will be made aware of the fact that there are
such people as Freemasons and that they support higher education. In all
likelihood the Valley will receive some calls from students asking for
information about scholarship applications.
Obviously, it is very desirable to make
contact with young people
A Pilgrim's Path
years before they reach college age; and
something can be done about that. It must start inside the lodge, with the
In response to my questions to Masons as
to why they had not told their sons and grandsons about Masonry, I was
frequently told, "They're just not interested," and, "I don't know how to
introduce the subject." This suggestion is an attempt to relieve those
problems. Age eighteen is a bit late, since a young man of that age has a
variety of other things on his mind. Even the middle teens may be a bit
late, since it is the time of initial discovery that there is an opposite
sex and of the all‑important countdown to the birthday that permits the
youngster to apply for a driver's license. I suggest that age twelve is the
time to reveal Masonry to him, and in a most dramatic manner.
The lodge would designate one annual
stated meeting after which the lodge would receive and honor any sons and
grandsons of members who had reached age twelve that year. For simplicity,
let's assume that one father brings one son, timing his arrival to coincide
with the regular closing. It is extremely important to try to envision the
following scene from the viewpoint of a twelve‑year‑old boy, to whom the
ceremony will be new and mysterious.
The father introduces the Tyler, who
immediately informs someone inside of their arrival. When ready, the Tyler
raps on the door and the father and son are met and led (don't grip the boy
by the upper arm!) to the Worshipful Master.
W.M.: Welcome, brother Miller. Who is
this young man whom you have brought with you this evening into dhe ancient
precincts of the Masonic lodge?
Father: W.M., this is my son, David. He
is good at school and loves soccer and swimming. He is very helpful to his
mother in the house and to me outside. We are very proud of him, and I
wanted him to meet some of my Masonic brothers.
W.M.: David, you are very welcome here.
We are all your father's Masonic brothers. Please sit here.
David, this must seem a strange room to
you. Everything in it has a meaning, even including the
A Masonic Idea File
arrangement of the chairs, all of which
will be explained to you if, after you have reached the age of twenty‑one,
you decide to follow your father into Freemasonry.
In the meantime, there are two things in
this room that are very familiar to you: The Holy Bible is here, because
every Freemason believes in God. Our country's flag is here, because every
Freemason loves his country. Many Masons have fought and died for it.
In their devotion to God, Freemasons
believe that every important event should begin by asking the blessing of
our Creator, which we shall do now.
Dear heavenly father, we are meeting here
tonight to honor David Miller, son of our respected brother, Charles Miller.
A long full life is ahead of David, and we ask that you bless him with good
health and assist him in his endeavors, as he works to gain an education and
goes out into the world to seek his fortune. He is soon to be a man. Help
him to be a good man, and a happy man. Amen.
All: So mote it be.
W.M.: And now, David, it is our custom to
honor our nation's flag.
David, we in this room are just a tiny
part of your father's Masonic brothers around the world. There are five
million of us in all, in a fraternity that goes back before the founding of
our country, and before Columbus discovered America. You hear about many
A PD'`rim's Pad1
of those Masons in your history lessons
at school. Let us give a few examples. Brother , please read for David a
list of his father's Masonic brothers who have served as presidents of the
Br : David, here are your father's
Masonic brothers who served as presidents of the United States: [Reads listl
W.M.: Thank you, Brother . David, we know
that you have studied the history of our country in school and know of the
many heroes who took part in it. You may not know that many of those heroes
in our nation's history were your father's Masonic brothers. Brother ,
please read for David a list of just a few of his father's Masonic brothers
who helped to found and preserve this nation.
Br : David, these are just a very few of
the heroes in American history who were proud to be Freemasons, starting
with the American Revolution right up to the space programs: [Reads brief
list, starling with Washington, Franklin, and PaulRevere, ending with Buzz
W.M.: Thank you, Brother . There is a
great deal more that can be learned about Freemasonry, David: about
hospitals for young children, homes for the elderly, and all manner of
Masonic charities. We won't take your time to talk about them this evening,
but if you want to know more, just talk to your father. He'll be happy to
tell you about them.
As you look around at the men in this
room, bear in mind that every man here is with your father in Masonic
brotherhood. Just as any one of them would help your father, so any of them
will help you, if ever you need it.
That ends the serious part of our evening
together. We thank you for coming, because your
A Masonic Idea File
father talks about you, and we were eager
to meet you. After the meeting we will have some refreshments, and we have a
gift for you.
Just as we opened this meeting with a
prayer, we close every meeting with a benediction.
[Callsfor benediction] So mote it be.
At refreshments, present the boy with a
gift. My suggestion is a baseball cap with square and compasses, because
that won't get tacked to the wall of his room. The whole evening's events
should not take more than thirty to forty‑five minutes: quite long enough
for a twelve‑year‑old.
That boy will go home and tell his
mother, brothers, and sisters what he experienced that night. And what will
he talk about to all his friends at school the next day? In terms of
membership, he won't even be eligible to apply for membership for nine more
years, but there should be more immediate benefits. He will no longer be
puzzled by or feel left out of a part of his father's life. As to the
fatherly complaint about the subject of Masonry expressed in "I don't know
how to bring it up," that problem is gone. Chances are rather good that his
son will bring it up. And when the boy hears that Dad is going to a lodge
meeting tonight, he knows very well where his father is going. He'll feel
There's another way to broaden that
family awareness of Masonry, which I first mentioned in a 1992 Grand
Masters' workshop. Several men have since told me that they have tried it
and it works, so I'll pass it along here.
Considering the wide variety of Masonic
charities, and their success, it seems reasonable to assume that many
Freemasons make charitable contributions from time to time. When they do, it
is probably a personal matter. They simply write their checks and send them
in. What I'm suggesting is that to do it that way is to waste a wonderful
opportunity to involve the whole family, by making them all part of the act
It's a simple plan. At some family
gathering, such as Sunday dinner, bring up the problem to everyone, kids and
all: "There are badly crippled little children who need help. There are
A Pilgrim's Path
need help to learn how to read and write.
There are elderly people who cannot afford the surgery they need to keep
from going blind." Say to the family, "I think we should help. What do you
think?" It's difficult to imagine a negative response.
When the check is sent, accompany it with
a letter that says something like this (without the italics):
The McCormick family believes that you
are doing wonderful work in helping those in need, and we would like to
help. Enclosed is our check for fifty dollars. We wish you the best of
success in your endeavors.
The letter should be followed by lines
for the signatures of every member of the family old enough to write. The
extra cost is nothing, and now your entire family is involved in a Masonic
activity. As a side benefit, children learn about caring and giving at a
very early age. (And if your children are all grown, include your
One Mason who tried the idea told me that
he was startled at the reaction, especially from his nine‑year‑old daughter.
He said, "She told the woman next door, her school teacher, her Sunday
school teacher . . . just anyone who would listen!" She thought more of
herself, and more of her father. What a great reward for such a small
The reason for these suggestions about
greater family involvement is the surprising number of conversations I have
had indicating the lack of information, or the misinformation, which
confuses family members. Some are just curious, but others are resentful.
One young woman said, "My father was a Mason for all of his life, but he
never told Mama or me anything. What is it?" A young man said, "I asked [my
father] about it, and he told me that he couldn't tell me anything. So what?
I don't tell him everything about my life, either." (And what are the
chances that that young man will ever become a Mason?) One woman complained,
"Every time one of us does something alone, we tell each other about it,
except when he goes to a Masonic meeting. Then suddenly it's none of my
Does every married Mason's wife feel that
way? Of course not. In any group of two and a half million men there is
bound to be an endless
A Masonic Idea File
variety of personalities and family
behavior. Many Masons include their wives whenever they can, and well over a
minion wives, daughters, mothers, and sisters of Master Masons have joined
the related Order of the Eastern Star. But it is an area that hundreds of
conversations have made clear leaves substantial room for improvement.
First of all, when a Mason first enters
the lodge he should tell his wife and older children what Freemasonry is,
and what it stands for. I am not alone in believing this, and some plans
have been launched to solve the problem. One Grand Lodge sends a letter to
the wife of every new married Entered Apprentice. Another gives a program on
the history of Masonry, to which a new Mason is invited to bring his wife.
Those efforts, although praiseworthy, are scattered, and affect only a small
percentage of Masonic families across the country.
The seminar, or meeting, seems to be the
most effective way to tell wives about Masonry, especially when the program
is arranged to encourage the wives to ask questions. Since new men seldom
enter more than one or two at a time, perhaps that meeting should be an
annual event. In the meantime, there is something that can be done on the
very night he becomes an Entered Apprentice.
My suggestion is an inexpensive card,
setting forth the basic principles of Masonry, to be taken home to show to
the new member's family, his minister, and any friends who express interest.
I envision a folding card like a standard
horizontal greeting card. (It should be available for pennies, if bought in
quantity.) On the outside would appear the Square and Compasses, with a line
for the man's name, and followed by a message, such as:
WHo HAS JOINED THE ANCIENT ORDER OF
AND HAS ACCEPTED THE PRINCIPLES SET FORTH
(The suggested language inside is no more
than just that. It will need to be revised and edited to meet the needs of
the individual Grand Lodge. It might run something like this:)
A Pilgrim's Path
BASIC MASONIC PRINCIPLES
Every Freemason asserts his belief in
God, and in the immortality of the soul.
A Freemason believes that how he worships
God is his own business, and how every other Mason worships God is his own
business. Accordingly, Masons believe fervently in freedom of
Freemasonry offers no pathway to salvation. That must be sought and found in
a Mason's own place of worship, which he is encouraged to attend and to
Because religion and politics are so often used to drive men apart, they may
not be discussed in any Masonic lodge.
Freemasonry seeks to give men of an
creeds a way to meet in brotherhood and mutual respect, to join together in
common causes to benefit those in need.
If a Mason's own religious beliefs
require of him a voluntary life of caring and sharing, of attention to the
needs of the less fortunate, Freemasonry offers a variety of charitable
outlets to satisfy his compassion. To that extent, Masonry strives to be the
ideal partner of any moral religion.
A Mason must never put his duties and
responsibilities to Masonry ahead of his duties and responsibilities to his
family, to his God, or to his country.
Extra copies should be readily available,
in the event that the new Freemason would like to give a separate one to his
family, or minister, or any non‑Masonic friend who has expressed curiosity
and interest. The card contains no point that he cannot discuss in more
detail, should anyone wish to know more.
Best of all, everything required by this
program can be handled
A Masonic Idea File
by the lodge secretary. The lodge needs
to become more involved in every way in the problem‑solving process, because
it is the root of all Masonic activity.
I have more thoughts about Masonry at the
symbolic lodge level which, because of the importance of the symbolic lodge,
deserve a separate discussion.
The Roots of All Masonry
A NUMBER OF SHRINERS have complained to
me about the decline in York Rite and Scottish Rite membership. The Shrine
must draw all of its new members from the ranks of 32nd degree Scottish Rite
Masons and York Rite Knights Templar. When the membership in York Rite and
Scottish Rite declines, the number of Shriners must also decline, through
what the critics see as no fault of their own.
On the other hand, York Rite and Scottish
Rite must draw all of their new members from the Master Masons of the
symbolic lodges. When lodge membership declines, it follows that York Rite
and Scottish Rite membership must also decline.
It would seem, then, to be in the
interest of all Masonic bodies to look to the health and the fate of the
neighborhood symbolic lodges. There certainly is a movement in that
direction, but as yet no really effective form of assistance has been found.
There are a number of elements to be
considered, and the first is attitude. The of ficial attitude is that a
member can achieve no status higher than the ancient third degree, that of
Master Mason, which he reaches in his local lodge. He is told emphatically
that there are no higher degrees. It is difficult to imagine anyone fully
The Roots of All Masonry
the basis on which the fourth degree is
not higher than the third, and the 32nd degree not stratospherically higher
than that. The basis for the contention is that symbolic lodge Masonry was
born in forgotten antiquity, while all other Masonic systems are relatively
modern, with their origins well known.
There is an attempt to keep the old
tradition alive by never, ever referring to any newer Masonic system as
constituting a "higher" degree; the other systems are referred to as "appendant"
Masonic bodies. The idea is that after a man becomes a Master Mason he can
go no higher in Masonry, although he can certainly move a considerable
distance sideways. In practice, however, I have heard many Masons refer to
their "higher degrees," with the conviction that that is exactly what they
One evening, a very bright young man who
had achieved a high office in York Rite explained to me the problems he
encountered with local lodges. "Some of those men," he told me, "get hung up
on the importance of their symbolic lodges and are happy to stay Master
Masons. I try to explain to them that the local lodge is like boot camp.
It's like elementary school. You should get that behind you as soon as
possible and move on to the 'university level' of York Rite or Scottish
Rite." He certainly does not believe that the degree of Master Mason is as
high as a man can get.
One great advantage of the appendant
degrees is a concentration of funds and authority. There is just one
Scottish Rite Valley or Shrine Temple in each city. They have a central
treasury and paid full‑time administrators. Generally, they have much
loftier buildings and stage more elaborate events than can any one of what
may be several dozen local lodges in the same cities. When a Master Mason
enters an appendant body he meets other Masons from all parts of his
community. There is a great appeal to devote his time and attention to that
body, often to the total neglect of his own lodge, whose meetings are
neither as large nor as ceremonial.
That certainly must be one contributing
factor to the severe decline in attendance at local lodge meetings. Grand
Lodge officers I have talked with recently indicate that only 8 or 9 percent
of the total membership of a lodge attend its regular meetings. Many would
probably drop out altogether, if the appendant systems did not have a
A Pilgrim's Path
rule that their members must maintain an
"active member" status in their lodges as a condition of membership in the
appendant systems. An "active member" is defined as one who mails his dues
to his lodge every year. He need take no part in the activities of that
This situation calls to mind a
conversation with a minister about "Christmas Christians," those who attend
just one church service during the whole year. The minister had concluded
that while he would much prefer regular attendance, he would rather see a
member once a year than never see him in church at all. Perhaps that could
do as a starting goal for Masons. Attend just one lodge meeting each year.
I don't believe that there is any hope of
ever enforcing annual attendance as a rule, but perhaps the matter could be
approached as an appeal that the members attend a meeting set up for just
that purpose. For discussion, let's consider an arrangement between a Grand
Lodge and all the Scottish Rite Valleys within its jurisdiction.
The Grand Lodge would designate one month
as Scottish Rite Month for all of its lodges. The Scottish Rite Valleys
would encourage every Scottish Rite Mason to attend the stated meeting of
his own lodge for that month. Since rough~statistics show that 30 percent of
Scottish Rite Masons live away from their own home lodges, men would be
encouraged to attend a local lodge as a guest.
During the first year, this would at
least give many older lodge members a chance to mix with lodge brothers they
had never met before. Extra effort should be put into encouraging
attendance, perhaps even to the extent of telephoned invitations. At the
meeting, the "long‑lost" brothers should be brought up to date on lodge
affairs and activities. Special events and efforts of the past ten years
should be reviewed and discussed, and all current lodge officers introduced.
Undoubtedly, some of those Scottish Rite
Masons will be able to talk about lodge events from earlier days, for there
will be some present who have been members of that lodge for forty or fifty
years. They can also talk about Scottish Rite: why they joined, what they
feel they have gained, what the local Valley is doing. They can also answer
practical questions that may well arise about what membership in Scottish
Rite involves. (If Scottish Rite Valleys are seeking new
The Roots of All Masonry
members from the ranks of Master Masons,
this is how it must be done, face‑to‑face.)
Both Scottish Rite and the Grand Lodge
would have the same objective‑new members‑and there's nothing wrong with
that. If each Scottish Rite Mason would be responsible for producing just
one lodge petition everylve years, Freemasonry would grow. The lodges would
grow, and the appendant bodies would grow. (If you want the numbers, one
minion Scottish Rite Masons would then generate an average of two hundred
thousand petitions per year.)
The same concept of a special lodge
meeting would work with York Rite and the Shrine as well. They could be
colorful meetings if the Knights Templar would wear their uniforms or
mantles and the Shriners would wear their fezzes. Is once a year too much to
I pose that question because I don't
believe that lodges in general are given any real assistance when that
assistance is largely limited to statements of support and encouragement
from afar. I think that the real support win have to come from practical,
working assistance and personal contact. Supporting appendant bodies must
strive to give the lodges what they need. (That statement may prompt some to
say, "Okay, wise guy, what do the lodges need?" And I win have to hang my
head in embarrassment and answer, "I really don't know." I'm still searching
for the answers, as are many grand officers and leaders of appendant bodies.
All I can do here is to share what I have heard and observed.)
One point that must be made before
discussing lodge meetings is that it is virtually impossible to generalize
about any aspect of Masonic administration. There are fifty‑one Grand Lodges
with over thirteen thousand local lodges. It is entirely possible that every
lodge problem I have heard about has been solved by one or more of those
thousands of Masonic lodges. If so, I hope those successful lodges win speak
up loud and clear, that all may learn.
By far the most common complaint I have
heard, when trying to learn why lodge attendance is so low, is "Boring.
Boring, boring, boring."
One point of view being espoused is that
the fewer the meetings, the easier it is to assure that each one win be
interesting. As mentioned earlier, one Grand Lodge is trying a program of
just six lodge
A Pilgrim's Path
meetings a year. Others are considering a
three‑ or four‑month summer hiatus. (It should be remembered that in the
earliest days of Masonry, the lodge met only for degree work or for very
special purposes, so tradition dictates no set number of meetings in the
A good speaker certainly makes a more
interesting meeting, but most men I've talked to think that outside speakers
are hard to get. They overlook all the groups in the local community who
like the chance to tell their stories. Many of those groups have formal
I believe that lodge members would enjoy
listening to a representative from the local police department, sheriff's
office, or state highway patrol (SWAT team speakers provide a fascinating
evening). Speakers are usually available from the fire department or
ambulance squad. A school principal might be invited to talk about problems
with drugs and discipline. A minister or priest might discuss the basic
beliefs of his faith and invite discussion. A group might be surprised at
how interesting it can be to listen to someone from the fish and game
service, the highway department, or even the sewer department. There's
nothing wrong with a group of Masons learning more about the infrastructure
of the community in which they live.
I was very impressed to see a directory
of speakers published for its lodges by the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania.
That's a giant step in the right direction.
The only problem that presents itself in
booking outside speakers is that they do not expect to talk to just seven or
eight people. Twenty or thirty, or even more, are ready required to justify
a request for a speaker. One way to address that problem is to invite wives
and older children. Non‑Masonic friends could also be invited to attend.
If wives are invited, it is good to tie
in dinner, but with a caution. Frequently (but not always), the lodge
concept of "involving" their ladies is to have a dinner at which the wives
prepare the food, set the tables, serve the food, clear the tables, and wash
the dishes. That can't possibly meet anyone's definition of pleasurable
involvement. I recall once asking my wife if she would like to go out to
eat. When she replied in the affirmative, I asked where she would like to
go. Her answer was educational. She said, "Any place where they do the
cooking and wash the dishes!" The solution is to hire outside caterers.
The Roots of All Masonry
The business portion of the meeting
should be as brief as possible, to avoid keeping invited guests waiting too
long. Their time could be occupied by a short talk, a brief Masonic video,
or perhaps a drawing for door prizes.
As to the program itself, I am speaking
as one who has appeared in many lodge rooms, both smaD and grand. Regardless
of the room's size, the seating should be rearranged so that the speaker and
audience can see each other easily. If the audience does not fill the
available seats, ask them to close ranks and sit as closely together as
possible, or to occupy the space along one was, with the podium in front of
them. (If you were reading your family a Christmas story, would you like
them to move their chairs back against the four wads of the room?) The
closer the speaker is to the people in the lodge room, the happier he or she
will be with the arrangements.
For very large rooms, I would urge a
portable public address system, so that speakers do not have to concern
themselves with how loudly they must talk in order to be heard by everyone
in the room, or how long they can last before getting hoarse. My suggestion,
of course, is that every room be made speaker‑friendly. Word does get around
about such things.
Another approach to achieving interesting
meetings is being tried in some areas. It is the "Masonic forum," or "town
meeting," approach. It is good because the lodge members are involved, not
just entertained. It consists of a ten‑minute talk on a Masonic topic,
followed by a round‑table discussion. It is much more effective if chaired
by a caring man who makes an effort to get everyone present to express an
opinion. There are always those in any group who need no coaxing to
volunteer their opinions about everything. The trick is to extract an
opinion or comment from those members who usually don't speak up. Regardless
of how quiet they may be, they wig often surprise their brothers by offering
a balanced, objective opinion, or some valuable insight into the topic under
consideration. And they in turn are usually pleased that their views are
sought and appreciated. (Even a misunderstanding is food for thought . . .
An open forum meeting with women included
may be a revelation to an, if the ladies can be persuaded to open up. Many
A Pilgrim's Path
hold strong opinions─I
have been surprised by some that have been expressed to me‑and they would
probably feel good about having an opportunity to air matters that
particularly interest and concern them.
Increased attendance is worthy of extra
effort. Try calling attention to what promises to be a special meeting.
Conduct a phone campaign and extend personal invitations. Tell absentee
members that they are missed, that their brothers have heard about them and
want to meet them. And above an, make every man feel welcome!
Set goals for the year. Freemasonry will
grow rapidly and keep growing if each lodge win produce just six petitions
each year for each one hundred lodge members. That's almost impossible to
achieve year after year, of course, if the entire burden fans on the eight
or nine of those hundred men who regularly attend meetings. The non‑attenders
have got to be involved as wed, if only by phone or letter.
Make a survey of Al lodge members to
identify the names and ages of ad male children or grandchildren. That's the
membership gold mine, if watched and worked. Send birthday cards. Plan
events for boys, or events for the whole family.
Masonic friendship events
deserve very special consideration in planning and presentation to prevent
them from degenerating into tedious discourses. Videos can often help. There
are many good ones available now; just ask around. One of the best short
ones I've seen─
about fifteen minutes‑was produced by the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts. The
best feature‑length video, lasting about one hour, is Unseen Journey,
produced by the Grand Lodge of Illinois. It's long enough to include a
symphony orchestra, costume drama, film clips of Sean Connery and Michael
Caine from The Man Who Would Be King, and photographs of the lodge in
Bannack, Montana, whose members turned into vigilantes to drive the outlaws
and murderers out of nearby gold camps. Another is On the Wings of Words,
hosted by Ernest Borgnine, produced by the Southern Jurisdiction of Scottish
The plain truth is that it is difficult
to help lodges unless they identify and admit the help they need. Think
about it, talk, analyze,
The Roots of All Masonry
offer suggestions, be specific. Share
your feelings (and your successes!) with your district officers and your
There is a great deal being said these
days about helping the symbolic lodges with attendance and new members.
Several programs have been launched. Clearly, however, there is no faster or
more effective help to the local lodge than that provided by the lodge
itself. Besides, the help you give yourself is the most reliable, and by far
the most rewarding.
"God Loveth a Cheerful Giver"
ONE AFTERNOON I was on a program out of
San Antonio, Texas. The usual calls were coming in, for and against
Freemasonry. After a couple of negative calls, a woman got on the air and
opened with: "You just can't imagine the anger that is growing in me at
those nasty things being said against the Masons!" Then she told her own
As a little girl in Idaho during World
War II, she was always weak and in pain. Finally, her condition was
diagnosed as a rare heart problem. She needed surgery to save her life, but
with most surgeons away on active duty, the only two hospitals her doctor
could locate that were qualified to undertake that surgery were in Southern
California and in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
The Michigan hospital agreed to take her,
but advised her doctor that because of military needs they had no backup
blood supply. The girl's family would have to arrange privately for eighteen
pints of blood of her type. Local inquiries to hospitals and blood banks
produced no results and her parents were despondent.
When her grandfather joined the family
for Sunday dinner, he noticed the subdued atmosphere and after dinner asked
the reason for all the gloom in the house. The parents told him of the
"God Loveth a Cheerful Giver" 157
with the blood supply, and she said, "My
grandfather hugged me and said, 'Don't you worry, sweetheart, I'll take care
of it!"' Her father, she continued, was very upset and loudly expressed his
anger with her grandfather. He reprimanded him for making a promise to a
sick child that he knew he couldn't keep. Her grandfather didn't even reply,
but put on his coat and left the house.
A couple of weeks later her grandfather
came to her home again, this time with the news that he had the blood all
lined up, "and a couple of pints to spare." Her father was stunned, and
asked his father how he had managed to do what the hospitals couldn't do. He
answered that he had contacted his Masonic lodge brothers. Some of them had
volunteered to call men they knew in other lodges and at the Grand Lodge.
The pledges were made and kept and the little girl went to Ann Arbor for
successful surgery. Before long, she could run and play with her friends.
She ended her call with: "That was almost fifty years ago, and every night
since then I have thanked God in my prayers for the Freemasons. If those men
hadn't cared so much about a child they had never met, I wouldn't be here
Who could express the spirit of Masonic
giving better than that? The whole atmosphere of the show changed, and so
did the ensuing calls. There is little doubt that the general public will
react very favorably to Masonic giving, but unfortunately they hear very
little about it.
First, there is the concept instilled
into many of us as children that good deeds should be done quietly and in
private. Somehow they lost their value if they were discovered or‑worse
still‑became the subject of bragging. Today that attitude has changed
considerably, as welfare agencies, health‑care groups, and even religious
bodies have established extensive public relations departments. They want
the world to know the good they are doing, because that publicity helps to
boost memberships and contributions. Perhaps it is time that the Masons
joined in with the mainstream thinking of contemporary caregiving. They have
a lot to report.
Recently the Grand Secretary of the
Masons of Pennsylvania decided to relax for a couple of hours on a Saturday
afternoon by listening to the Penn State football game. His weekend
relaxation was interrupted by a long‑distance call from Texas. The caller
A Pilgran'e, Path
that she was with the Women's Aid
Society. A young woman had approached them for assistance in getting to her
sister in a small town in New Jersey. Her sister had been injured and had to
be brought home to Texas. The only thing she knew about the town's location
was that Philadelphia was the nearest municipal airport. Women's Aid had put
the woman on a plane that would land in Philadelphia in about an hour, but
when she arrived she would be totally lost.
The Women's Aid counselor was eager to
help the distraught young woman but had very little to go on. She was
grasping at a straw that had surfaced during their interview, when the young
woman had mentioned that her "daddy had been a Mason." The counselor had
called the Grand Lodge of Texas, where someone had given her the phone
number of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. Fortunately, one of the staff who
had come in to do some Saturday catch‑up work took the call and gave her the
home phone number of the Grand Secretary of Pennsylvania. Could he please
help the Mason's daughter?
The Grand Secretary, whose home was in
Philadelphia, did not delegate the assignment or try to find some other
Mason to handle it. He drove to the Philadelphia airport himself and spent
hours trying to locate the young stranger from Texas. From a brother Mason
in the airport security department he learned the location of the New Jersey
town where the injured sister lived. With almost no public transportation
available, he decided to drive her there himself. On the way, the Texas
visitor told him that she needed to rent a truck so that she could transport
her sister home to Texas with her furniture and clothing. She was hoping to
leave the next day.
Arriving at the home of the injured
sister, the Grand Secretary cast around for others to help out. He had the
good fortune to find his Delaware counterpart at home. After explaining the
dilemma, he was promptly assured that four Masons would arrive the next
morning to help the ladies rent a truck and load up for their trip to Texas.
That taken care of, the Grand Secretary
scrounged for empty corrugated cartons at local stores. Then he helped the
women to pack their linens, kitchenware, china, and clothing. By the time
the job was finished it was three o'clock in the morning, and he took off
for his home in Philadelphia, tired but happy.
"God Loveth a Cheerful Giver" 159
As promised, four Masons from a lodge in
Delaware showed up at the door the next morning. They arranged for a truck
rental, then loaded the boxes and the furniture. When the task was completed
they stood by the road, smiling and waving good‑bye to the two young women
who had had their prayers answered and were now safely headed for Texas.
Three Masonic Grand Lodges across the
country had been involved; five individual Masons had not hesitated to
forego their planned weekend activities in order to provide speedy help in
the emergency. They gave of their time and their money in a spirit of
cheerful goodwill. The beneficiaries of that kindness were two daughters of
a Texas Mason, whom they had never seen before and would in all likelihood
never see again. Their compassion could not have been extended in hope of
enjoying any kind of reward. There may be someone who will read this story
with a puzzled frown and wonder why those men acted as they did. I can
guarantee that that puzzled person will never understand Freemasonry.
There might be someone who saw those four
men loading a truck with furniture and boxes on a Sunday morning and
criticized them for not being at church. As far as I'm concerned, they were
indeed engaged in religious worship. ("Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one
of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.")
Such tales of individual Masonic charity
Sometimes the entire lodge
participates‑for example, to help the widow and children of a departed
brother, or to conduct a Christmas fund drive. One lodge noticed the rather
bare grounds of a nearby home for the elderly and spent a weekend planting
trees for their future enjoyment. A lodge in California bought building
materials, provided their own tools, and spent their spare time repairing,
painting, and installing safety features in the home of an elderly couple
struggling to get by on a very limited income. Another lodge provided the
food, the games, and the prizes for a picnic held for a local school for the
Operating on a statewide basis, the
fifty‑one Grand Lodges, of course, have much larger memberships and far
greater resources than the individual lodges. More than two‑thirds of the
Grand Lodges maintain Masonic homes for elderly Masons and their wives or
A Pilgrim'e, Path
widows, while a number of them have
children's homes for orphaned and abandoned youngsters, who need have no
Masonic connection. Drug‑ and alcohol‑abuse programs also receive widespread
Grand Lodge support. Many Grand Lodges run special charitable programs of
their own, such as support for the Special Olympics, highway litter patrol,
and free Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners for the needy.
All of the appendant Masonic systems
sponsor meaningful charitable efforts, often helping those who would
otherwise have nowhere to turn. The York Rite Knights Templar support the
Templar Eye Foundation, which takes care of vision problems for young and
old, especially for those with limited income and no applicable insurance
coverage. Children receive corrective eye surgery not only to improve
vision, but also to correct defects such as cross‑eye that an too often make
children the tearful butt of cruel remarks from unthinking classmates. The
elderly benefit from free cataract surgery and treatment from degenerative
eye diseases that could cause blindness if left untreated. All are eligible
for help if eyeglasses or contact lenses are needed.
The smaDer appendant Masonic systems have
found their own worthwhile projects through which to help the less
fortunate. The Grottoes of North America fill an important need with their
program to provide dentistry for handicapped children, whose dental problems
are often beyond the scope of the family dentist. The first problem presents
itself when the dentist says, "Open wide." The normal child responds
instantly: The handicapped child may be quite unable to do so, for a variety
of reasons. Sometimes the structure of the child's jaw may be distorted.
Effective treatment for the disabled requires special training
and‑often‑special equipment. Those services are available through Grotto
support in Illinois, Ohio, and many other jurisdictions.
The most significant charity of the Tan
Cedars of Lebanon rises from the members' dedication to the unique problems
of children suffering from muscular dystrophy. In the last decade they have
contributed over half a minion dollars to the National Muscular Dystrophy
Telethon. They fund supportive grants to physicians working in the field and
have instituted a program of related scholarships. Their concern is
evidenced by far more personal acts than simple check
"God Loveth a Cheerful Giver"
writing. Through a program of hospital
visitations, Christmas and holiday parties, and individual attention, they
reach out to brighten the lives of children trapped in their mysterious
Scottish Rite Masonry has been embraced
by about one million Master Masons in the United States. The system is
divided into two jurisdictions, each headed by a Supreme Council of 33rd
degree Masons. The Northern Jurisdiction, based in Lexington, Massachusetts,
covers fifteen northeastern states and has about four hundred thousand
members. The Southern Jurisdiction, headquartered in Washington, D.C.,
covers the other thirty‑five states, with over half a million members.
Outstanding among the many good works
carried out within the Southern Jurisdiction Scottish Rite are two beautiful
and superbly equipped hospitals for children: The Texas Scottish Rite
Hospital for Children at Dallas, and the Scottish Rite Children's Medical
Center at Atlanta. The latter is an awesome facility that is said to have
provided the inspiration for the Shrine hospitals program. Scottish Rite
Valleys in Alabama and Tennessee fund programs to ensure that every needy
schoolchild has new shoes and socks to wear. The Valley of Knoxville alone
has given out approximately one hundred and forty thousand pairs of new
Almost everyone knows of a child who just
cannot master reading and writing skills. They are frequently regarded by
their teachers, and even their parents, as retarded, or "slow learners."
Even worse is life for the child who cannot master simple speech, often to
the point of not being able to express a single coherent sentence. Children
shackled by that handicap often suffer from mounting frustration because
they cannot make their thoughts and needs understood. That frustration can
build into violent explosions of anger that involve hurling anything they
can lift, and striking anyone within reach. The outbursts are accompanied by
crying and screaming, causing violent disruptions to all around them.
Historically, such children have been branded "emotionally disturbed," or as
victims of mental illness.
About twenty years ago some Scottish Rite
Masons in Colorado hit upon the inspired concept of establishing and funding
a clinic to help these victims of learning disorders. The clinic filled a
A Pilgrim's Path
need, and the idea was embraced by
Southern Jurisdiction Scottish Rite Masons across the country. Now there are
about a hundred of them, from coast to coast and from the Mexican border to
the Canadian. There is even one in Alaska.
Some clinics are staffed and operated by
the local Scottish Rite Valley, while others operate within local children's
medical centers, with the Scottish Rite Masons providing the funding. Each
clinic operates with trained specialists, including professional
pathologists and therapists. The treatment rooms are equipped with one‑way
mirrors, so that parents can watch and learn how to continue the therapy at
home. Scottish Rite Masons, their wives, and their older children volunteer
to provide transportation, do clerical work, or take care of any other tasks
that may be needed.
Not surprisingly, Northern Jurisdiction
Masons have watched the operation and growth of the centers and are
impressed. Some of them have decided to establish Childood Language
Disorders Centers in their own areas, with the full blessings of the
Southern Jurisdiction, so we may soon see these centers for aphasia and
dyslexia in every state of the union.
For almost sixty years, the major
charitable effort of the Northern Jurisdiction has been to promote research
into the causes and treatment of schizophrenia. This destructive psychosis
is the most prevalent and debilitating of all mental illnesses. The ongoing
support has involved channeling many millions of dollars into research
fellowships and recurring grants to researchers associated with major
universities and medical centers.
Best known by far of all the
Masonic‑related charities are the Shrine hospitals: nineteen hospitals for
crippled children and three Shrine Burns Institutes for badly burned
children. The most extraordinary aspect of those hospitals, especially in
today's world of shattering medical costs, is that they have no billing
departments. The expert medical and nursing care is provided entirely free
of charge. No attempts are made to collect from medical insurance plans, and
there are no government subsidies. The cost of maintaining the hospitals is
covered by the Shriners' fund‑raising projects, by an assessment on annual
dues, and through successful efforts to build an impressive endowment fund.
"God Loveth a Cheerful Giver" 163
The nineteen orthopedic hospitals for
crippled children are located from coast to coast, as well as in Honolulu,
Mexico City, and Montreal. These hospitals specialize in the treatment of
children suffering from birth defects and deformities, as well as those
handicapped by diseases or injuries affecting the spine, bones, and joints.
Artificial limbs, wheelchairs, and other necessary equipment are provided as
required, also free of charge.
The three Shrine Burns Institutes are
located at Boston, Galveston, and Cincinnati. Many regard them as the
preeminent world centers for the treatment of severely burned children, and
small patients are brought to the centers regardless of the distance
Most burned children are delivered to the
Shrine Burns Institutes as soon as possible after their accidents; but many
patients are victims who have already received treatment elsewhere. Although
declared "cured," they are frequently left unable to use limbs and are
therefore in need of corrective surgery. Others may have been left horribly
disfigured; they come to the Shrine unit for restorative and plastic
At the Burns Institutes, a program of
research has led to increasingly effective forms of treatment, and lives are
now being saved that would have been lost just a few years ago.
The free services extend well beyond the
hands‑on medical care to such considerations as transportation to and from
the hospitals for both patients and parents. If they cannot afford hotel
accommodations on their own, living accommodations near the hospital are
provided for parents for the duration of the treatment. Braces, wheelchairs,
and artificial limbs are also provided where needed, as is training in their
use. Nor are physical and psychological therapy overlooked.
Over three hundred thousand children of
all nationalities, races, and religions have benefited from this
extraordinary program, nor does any injured child need any Masonic
connection to qualify for treatment. Countless more will benefit from the
intense ongoing research programs at each center, which have already
achieved impressive improvements in methods of diagnosis and treatment.
I expect that any Freemason I meet could
add a list of Masonic charities that have not been mentioned here. I could
do that myself,
A Pilgrim's Path
but the examples given should be
sufficient to demonstrate that every community benefits from the presence of
Freemasonry in its midst.
Some may wonder how much these extensive
Masonic charities cost. The answer is about $1.5 million per day, or well
over $500 million each year.
One would imagine that these outstanding,
humane programs would be universally admired, but, unfortunately, certain
antiMasonic bigots disapprove. Some fundamentalists charge that these
charitable works are so prolific that Masonry must teach a religious
doctrine of salvation through good works. Such an accusation contradicts the
most basic tenet of Freemasonry, which says that each Mason must find the
pathway to salvation through his own religious faith. Anyone who tries to
twist the spirit of selfless giving that motivates, energizes, and nourishes
these charitable institutions by alleging a plot to preach a false religion
is either willfully ignorant, morbidly envious, or perhaps some of each.
Every Mason, be he Christian, Jew, or
Muslim, fully believes that in helping those less fortunate than himself he
is living God's word.
And just one small point to wrap up this
discussion: A young man planning to become a Mason may read all this and
think that he is about to join a fraternity that will constantly beat on him
for charitable contributions. That's simply not true. Every Mason is told
repeatedly that he is not to support any Masonic endeavor to the point that
it will jeopardize the life‑style of his own family, or affect his
contributions to his own church.
Every Mason's help is appreciated, but
only to the extent that it is freely given from funds that are available for
that purpose, and with the full knowledge and support of his wife. When a
man casts his bread upon the waters, it usually comes from his purse. When
it returns many‑fold, it is firmly lodged in his heart. And don't let anyone
tell you that God is not pleased.
"Let Your Light So Shine . "
IN THE EARLY days of my business career I
held positions in both sales management and public relations. The objectives
of a sales department are very easy to define. They are to get purchase
orders. The goals of a public relations department are much more elusive.
They relate to sales, of course, but reach beyond that to bear on every
facet of corporate operations, including top management. My experience led
me to identify the goal of the PR department as building an "atmosphere of
acceptance" for the company: for its products, its services, its employment
practices, and its treatment of shareholders. In other words, to create an
image of being "good guys."
Freemasonry is in urgent need of an
"atmosphere of acceptance" with the general public, a totally justifiable
image of Godfearing, dedicated, generous, and compassionate men with a high
regard for family values, for their roles in their churches, and for the
plights of the less fortunate. The high regard of the general public would
provide the incentive for men to join the ranks of Freemasonry and would act
as a shield against the fanatical attacks of men who have discovered the
pathway to power by finding Satan under every rock.
Organizations, like individuals, have
both a reputation, which is what you are thought to be, and a character,
which is what you really
A Pilgrim's Path
are. If your reputation is better than
your character, you will be found out sooner or later; so you shouldn't
spend time and money trying to convince people that you are good men. On the
other hand, if, as I think is true of Freemasonry, your true character is
much better than your reputation, you have a golden opportunity.
Consider what the public hears today.
When a Southern Baptist pastor in Tennessee was arrested for sexual abusing
young boys in his congregation, and a Catholic priest in Ohio was convicted
on similar charges, the press was sympathetic toward the church leaders who
had to bear this terrible burden. When a Demolay advisor in Kansas was
arrested on the very same allegations, the Order of Demolay was instantly
condemned as a "cult" by local media.
During the past year there was a
full‑page article about Freemasonry in the Washington Times (part of
Reverend Moon's media empire). It dwelt at length on the strange, seemingly
demonic symbols of the Craft. The writer did admit that many important
figures throughout American history, and in American industry, had been
Freemasons, but said that they are all dead now. He told his readers that
today no important people are Masons. Of course, it would do no good to
provide that reporter with a list of important American Freemasons who are
very much alive today. Even if he recognizes his error, he will shrug it
off. He is not going to correct the false information that he published for
tens of thousands of readers, so his opinions will stand as truth. No one
will take him to task for his deliberate distortions.
The same thing is true of the
anti‑Masonic evangelists. It serves no purpose to make direct appeals to Pat
Robertson, James L. Holly, or John Ankerberg. It is a waste of time trying
to find an opening into closed minds. They are broadcasting their Masonic
condemnations to a wide public audience, and it is to that broad audience
that Freemasonry must take its message.
When Masonry leaves a great void in the
world of public information, it cannot surprise anyone that negative
publicity is believed. If a man standing in a crowded room is approached by
an angry accuser who brands him a disgusting criminal, and he stands there
with his jaw clamped shut and his lips pressed together, offering not a
single word in his own defense, no one can blame the onlookers
"Let Your Light So Shine . . .
for concluding that since the man didn't
defend himself, he must be guilty.
We can hardly blame others for that
reaction. What are our own feelings when we read of a man or an organization
accused of wrongdoing, then read that the accused "could not be reached for
comment," "refused to take our calls," or simply responded, "No comment"?
Doesn't that refusal to respond arouse our suspicions? So why do Masons
remain tight‑lipped in the face of scurrilous attacks on the fraternity?
While many regard that stoic silence as
an inviolable Masonic tradition, I see it as a great disservice to Masons
and their families, and one of the greatest deterrents to recruitment. One
must bear in mind that there is no Masonic tradition that speaks against a
Masonic body asserting itself, what it does, what it believes, what it
The one Masonic body that has learned
that lesson is the Shrine, which also has the tremendous advantage of a
national office and a central hierarchy that can easily speak with one
voice. It has done so on occasion, and it hasn't hesitated to speak up to
defend itself when attacked, as it did in the allegations of the misuse of
hospital funds. Most important, that defense was successful. Perhaps that's
the reason that the fundamentalist attacks on Masonry tend more and more to
avoid accusations against the Shrine and its charities.
The Shrine is the only Masonic system
with a director of public relations and a PR department. They have made the
Shrine hospital program known across the country, and I have never heard one
word of criticism of the PR function in that Masonic body.
When suggestions have been made in favor
of a national Masonic PR program, the standard objection has been that such
a program is virtually impossible because of the structure of fifty‑one
separate Grand Lodge jurisdictions. I'll admit that the system may make the
concept of a central Masonic voice more difficult, but it does not by any
means render the task impossible. There are hundreds of examples in this
country of separate companies with separate ownership, separate management,
and variations in product lines, who nevertheless join together in trade
associations. Their principal purpose is PR programs that represent all the
entities, but don't compete with the PR programs of the individual members.
A Pilgrim's Path
trade associations because they recognize
that there are occasions when a combined voice speaks with more power than
that of any one associate.
Another argument in favor of a central
voice is that the major media usually speak to a national audience and are
therefore most attracted to issues and events that will be of interest to
the entire sweep of their readers, listeners, or viewers, rather than those
of primarily local interest.
One day during the past year I traveled
to Massachusetts to be interviewed about Masonry for a full hour on a radio
program beamed to sixty‑two cities. That afternoon I drove into Boston for a
fifteen‑minute Masonic interview on a national cable TV network show. If I
can accept the audience figures provided by the two networks, about four and
a half million people heard some positive observations about Masonry on that
one day. That kind of impact needs to be repeated many times over.
The most immediate benefit is the
reaction of Masons and their families. They appreciate hearing good things
about the fraternity. It makes them proud and helps to overcome the
incipient frustration and depression caused by all the fundamentalist
Mason‑bashing, which is generally all that radio listeners and TV viewers
experience in the way of Masonic comment and appraisal.
One important point in favor of a
national Masonic PR program is the incredible rate at which network radio
and TV gobble up material. They are constantly hungry for more news, more
information, more entertainment; anything that will help to fill those
thousands of hours of broadcast time every week. Programming ideas that are
well thoughtout and professionally presented should find ready acceptance.
Nor will those ideas be limited to
responses to Masonic critics. Answering anti‑Masons, especially in
circumstances such as the present Southern Baptist Convention crisis, will
always be part of any well‑managed public relations program, but by no means
would it be the entire effort. As important as crisis management may be, it
is not more important than a well thought‑out, long‑range agenda.
Masonic activities have much to
contribute to what promises to be a long‑range concern for social issues.
Health care is one area. Care for children, both physical and mental, is a
primary concern. So
"Let Your Light So Shine . .
are the threats to individual freedoms
that appear to be growing. Freemasonry could provide rich material to r ~
reports on all of those issues, including
data, anecdotes and photo opportunities. The important point is that the
agencies putting such TV programs or written stories together must be made
aware of the information and support that Masonry can give them. (Such
enhanced media awareness of Masonry is a job best done by PR professionals.)
Special events provide opportunities for
Masonic PR. It was a great pleasure to see the reenactment of the Masonic
laying of the White House cornerstone on CNN. Another might be a ceremonious
delivery of the Masonic Bible so often used for the inauguration of U.S.
presidents since it was used first at the swearing‑in of George Washington.
There are such events all the time, and they must be dramatized and made
known to national media.
That doesn't mean that local and regional
media should be ignored. If there is an exciting story to be told about the
involvement of Freemasons in Texas (and there is), it will obviously be more
interesting to Texans than to anyone else. The growing popularity of radio
call‑in shows is a gold mine of opportunity for local and regional programs.
If there are half a dozen radio talk shows in a given market, each of which
would like to have a different guest every day, five days a week, that means
opportunities for over fifteen hundred guests a year in that one market.
A convenient factor is that most call‑in
shows can be participated in by phone from home or office. It's not as human
as being in the studio with the host, but it works. The participation is
usually planned no more than two or three weeks in advance. Sometimes guest
appearances can be arranged by a direct call to the station, or one can
purchase an ad in a directory of available guests which is used by show
hosts and producers to line up programming.
Obviously, any local Masonic body can use
this form of public education. All that's required is a good explanation of
what the Masonic guest is prepared to talk about, such as a local charitable
event or an ongoing program, like the local Children's Language Disorders
Center. The speaker selected should have a thorough knowledge of his subject
and be ready to answer questions as they come in.
A Pilgrim's Path
The matter of selecting a spokesman is
difficult, and sometimes delicate. There are plenty of good men who talk too
fast, or don't speak clearly, or are given to atrocious grammar. They may be
good men, but they don't make good spokesmen on radio or TV.
Much more difficult to appraise is a
man's ability to think on his feet, to answer clearly (and correctly), and
to stay calm, however great the provocation. (There will be those who will
now remind me of times I lost my temper with some bombastic bigot on radio
call‑in shows. I can only plead guilty.)
The delicate part enters in when someone
clearly unsuitable as a question‑answering spokesman volunteers for the job,
convinced of his own communication skills. Political parties have to deal
with that problem all the time. It calls for great tact, well laced with
consideration for the good attitude of the man who wants to help.
A radio‑show guest should bear in mind
that talk shows thrive on controversy. The producer usually judges the
success of the program by the number of phone calls that come in. The host
may stir up a little controversy himself, and thereby rattle the Masonic
guest. One host told me, "Look, I'm sympathetic to the Masons. My father is
a 32nd, and loves it. But don't be surprised if I play devil's advocate and
ask questions that may annoy you. I want to stimulate my listeners to get
into the act."
By far the majority of radio talk‑show
hosts are polite and considerate and try to make their guests comfortable.
Notable exceptions are the so‑called "Christian" stations. For them, the
purpose of inviting a speaker to talk favorably about Freemasonry is usually
to make the guest the embarrassed target of public accusations of Satan
worship and acts against God. They welcome callers who ask questions, or
make comments, in the same anti‑Masonic vein.
I had a call from a radio producer in
North Carolina inviting me to take part in a one‑hour program about
Freemasonry, and I accepted. On the scheduled day I was called and told to
stand by for two minutes as the show was introduced. Then I heard an
announcer saying, "Welcome to your Christian Radio Forum. Today, our topic
will be the Freemasons, the last in our series on the Strange Cults of the
World." For the next hour I was called a "friend of the devil‑cult," a
"Unitarian in spirit," and a "personal agent of Satan" for speaking
"Let Your Light So Shine . . .
favorably of Freemasonry. I would agree
with anyone who stated that such a show has no place in a Masonic PR
program, although such programming is becoming more and more common.
One day I was called with, "We understand
that you are available to talk about Masons. Do you have evidence that they
worship Satan or any of his demons?" When I replied that I didn't believe
that such evidence existed, the caller said, "Too bad. That would have made
an interesting program." I'm not certain which one of us hung up first.
If it is determined that a national
Masonic public relations office should be set up, the first priority would
be to make its existence known to the media. Historically, the press is
accustomed to the idea that it's almost impossible to find a Masonic
spokesman to address any issue, so they must be told that things have
To be most effective a PR department
would need not just financial support, but a constant supply of newsworthy
information from all Masonic bodies. Grand Lodges, in particular, would need
to supply news of their activities that are worthy of public attention. The
wonderful work, for example, of resident Masons and their wives in Saudi
Arabia during the Gulf War, when they spared no effort to be of service to
the American forces, was a story worth telling, but it was never told. And
all significant anecdotes related to major charitable activities should be
sent to the public relations office.
A central public relations office could
also produce PR manuals to help local and regional Masonic bodies get
publicity in their own areas, with tips on the types of stories and
photographs most likely to end up in print, or on broadcast media.
The logistics of setting up an effective
PR program would have to be carefully addressed. The simplest method would
appear to be to expand the Masonic Service Association, already the arm of
the Grand Lodges. In addition to its work in disseminating information to
Masons, it could have a department‑perhaps called the Masonic Public
Information Service‑to disseminate information to the general public.
Such a program, run by dedicated,
experienced professionals and supported with a flow of information from
Masonic bodies, would inject a constant stream of positive impressions about
A Pilgrim's Path
into the public consciousness. The
long‑term benefits of those positive views should not be difficult to
imagine. What is there that would not be easier, more satisfying, or more
rewarding about Masonic endeavors if much of the world would hold Masonry in
high regard? And even more important, an enlightened public could
effectively disarm the anti‑Masonic zealots.
I realize that there will be Masons who
will object to the very thought of Masons "striking back," and some
Christian Masons may feel that the Craft should continue to heed Jesus'
admonition to turn the other cheek. For them, I would offer another
admonition by Jesus from the same sermon, when he said (Matthew 5:16), "Let
your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and
glorify your Father which is in heaven."
So mote it be.
~ i . . ~
THIS WILL BE the last book I write as a
I have decided to become a Freemason,
which is why I dedicated this book to all those who will make that same
Certainly no one can say that this is a
decision into which I dashed blindly, without thinking it through. I spent
years delving into the origins and history of the Craft, from the Middle
Ages through the founding of our country, and more years mixing with
Freemasons in every aspect of the Masonic structure. I have had long
conversations with those who love it and with those who would like to see
Masonry totally wiped out. I have carefully weighed the arguments for and
against Freemasonry and have spent many hours tracking down quotations and
scriptural references presented as "evidence" by rabid anti‑Masons.
I took their accusations seriously,
having no reason not to. As a non‑Mason I was not committed emotionally to
any position. On the other hand, I had some knowledge of the historical
arguments, mandated by prejudice rather than logic, by which religious
groups attack others. I know that some religions are structured to
promulgate hatred and bigotry, but I will never believe that Christianity is
one of them.
A Pi4`rim's Path
It is understandable that
when a man has decided on the religion that merits his total belief and
allegiance, he will stand convinced that his religion alone is nght. So it
follows that he will believe that all other religions are in error to
degree determined by how far their beliefs diverge from his own
understanding of God's truth. On that basis, he can thunder and storm
against every other man's faith, convinced that in so doing he is following
God's will. He thinks that this reaction is righteous indignation, but I
think that it is better defined as sel/‑righteous indignation.
In a nation─and
indeed a world‑such as ours, there are peoples of widely diverse religions,
and there always will be. The big question then, is whether it is more
constructive to constantly berate, harangue, and condemn all those whose
beliefs are held to be in error, in the expectation of pleasing God, or
rather to find ways for all men to live together, promoting one's own
religious beliefs only with love and by example, instead of through militant
Freemasons obviously feel that it is
possible for all men who subscribe to a moral religious faith to meet and
act together for the good of all. I favor their approach. I have studied too
many centuries of destructive wars, religious persecution, and physical
torture to feel otherwise.
Many anti‑Masons condemn Masonry because
they say that it recognizes all religions as equal, and so the one true
religion‑their own‑is denigrated by being classified as being no better or
worse than any other, instead of being properly acknowledged as the one
supreme revelation of God's will. This was one of the chief complaints Pope
Leo XIII had against Freemasonry in his famous condemnation in 1884. That
misunderstanding still stands as a barrier between Masonry and official
Catholic church doctrine, over one hundred years later.
The simple truth is that Masonry does
riot recognize all religions as equal. To do so would require making a
careful investigation, evaluation, and judgment of all faiths, which Masons
have never done. Instead, Masonry recognizes the equal right of all men to
worship God as they see fit. Religious zealots abhor the concept of the free
and equal right to worship according to one's conscience. They instead often
eliminate it by law, if they succeed in getting political
control in areas where there are no
constitutional safeguards for individual rights. We have seen it happen in
Franco's Spain, in Iran under Khomeini, and even today in the Sudan. (And
those who say that no one wants such a thing to happen here should read some
of the fundamentalist works I've been studying.)
Perhaps some of them do not see their
drive for religious supremacy as a movement to control the political rights
and personal lives of others, but the power‑driven leaders among them
certainly do. And if, as they apparently believe, Freemasonry is a major
barrier to their ambitions, I want to be a part of that barrier.
Masons are condemned because they are
against intolerance, imposture, superstition, and fanaticism, each of which
words the Southern Baptist evangelist Dr. James L. Holly says "is a synonym
of revealed, God‑centered religion." It seems that his God hates religious
tolerance. He defines "superstition" as the true Christian faith, and
"fanaticism" as the only proper mode of conduct for a Christian. Dr. Holly
certainly tries his best to live up to his own conclusions, but I simply do
not agree with him. The first Bible verse I ever learned, in a Sunday school
kindergarten, was "God is Love." Whatever happened to that concept? Nothing,
as far as I am concerned. It is as true for me today as it was then.
I have now mixed with Masons who are at
the top of giant corporations and Masons who hold down factory jobs. I have
talked to Christian Masons, Jewish Masons, and Muslim Masons. None of them
perceives any conflict between the teachings of his faith and the Masonic
principles he experiences in the lodge.
I do not write about Masonic charities
which I have only read about. I have visited Scottish Rite Language
Disorders Centers for children held back in life by problems with written or
spoken language. I have visited Masonic "shoe stores" with full inventories
and customer conveniences. The only thing missing was a cash register, for
these shops distribute free shoes to needy schoolchildren. I've listened to
expressions of gratitude from bright young people who have received Masonic
scholarships for higher education. I've talked to elderly people whose sight
had been saved by surgery they could not have afforded on their own, surgery
that was paid for by the Masonic Knights Templar.
A Pilgriin's Path
I've watched Masons pay thousands of
entry fees for children in the Special Olympics, with the beautiful
explanation that parents of a handicapped child already have too many
It was more than just informative to
visit a Shrine Burns Institute; it was traumatic. The start of my visit was
peaceful: an impressive building, a beautiful lobby and waiting area. I sat
with my hosts in a paneled conference room and discussed the treatment from
diagnosis through medication and therapy. We talked about prosthetic devices
for the patients who had lost limbs, or the use of them. I learned about
plastic surgery and the efforts to overcome disfigurement to the greatest
possible extent, to help the child grow up to assume as near normal a role
in society as possible. We talked about the outpatient services that provide
continuing care, often for years. We discussed the burns treatment research
program, which may be the best in the world. We even talked about the
transportation and accommodation for parents, some of whom travel to the
centers from outside the country.
And it's all free! Is there another
hospital system in America with no billing department? All very gratifying
and praiseworthy. All impressive‑but none of it helps to prepare one for
being with the children themselves.
Most of them were hurt because of
accidents. They don't, and can't, understand what has happened to them. The
agony of burns is without equal, and these children are the most severe
cases. They are often mutilated and monstrously disfigured, sometimes
suffering the loss of ears, noses, and lips. The indescribable scarring is
the challenge facing the surgeons who carry out restorative and
The children show remarkable courage and
resilience in heartbreaking circumstances. In their presence, the only
bright eyes in the room are theirs. My stomach writhed and tangled in knots.
I stand in awe of the Shrine volunteers who get the children to the
hospitals and give their services there. I know that I would be of no help
to them: I would spend most of the time mopping my eyes.
To support these twenty‑two free
hospitals the Shriners pay out over a million dollars a day, and it's worth
every penny of it. Such great expenditures and widespread operations require
geting and cost controls, but I learned
one day that the budgets are only guides; they do not determine or limit the
I was sitting in an informal session with
some of the Shriners who were directors of the Shrine Burns Institute in
Cincinnati. They were discussing a very difficult and unexpected case of
severe burns that was to arrive at the hospital the following day. The
complexity and anticipated length of the treatments needed was a subject of
concern to the directors. Finally, one man said, "I guess it comes down to
whether it will fit into our budget." Another Shriner responded, "No, what
it comes down to is that whatever this little girl needs, that's our
budget." They all agreed.
That's what Masonry really is. It's the
men in it. And they are the primary reason for my decision. No one has to
tell me that these men believe that God is Love. I have seen that for
myself, over and over again.
Those who know me have learned that I am
fascinated by the rich tapestry of medieval history. Probing the origins of
Freemasonry was a totally absorbing project for me, but I do not insist that
others agree with my findings. Origins can be important, but they are not
paramount. Nor are the ceremonies, titles, and symbols the reasons for my
decision. They could be other ceremonies, other titles, and other symbols,
and I would still have the same interest in becoming a Freemason. I will
support those that exist because of a deep feeling for tradition, but to me
they are not the heart of Masonry.
The heart of Masonry is in the hearts of
its members. There was a time in my life when I would have considered that
there was nothing extraordinary about a dedication to moral conduct,
individual freedoms, charitable good works, and a meeting of men of all
creeds in brotherhood. I thought that those were values and beliefs held by
everyone. Now I have learned that this is not so. There was a time in my
innocent, younger days when I imagined that just being an American was to be
a member of a select brotherhood. Now, I see some men wrap the flag around
themselves, declare that they are superpatriots, and preach doctrines that
are in effect clarion calls to tear up the Bill of Rights.
Do I find myself caught in a dilemma,
trying to choose between Christian bigotry and Christian bounty? I don't.
Nor, I think, will my
A Pilgrim's Path
decision meet with the disapproval of Him
who told the parable of the Good Samaritan and preached the Sermon on the
Strangely enough, Masonry may be the only
organization on the face of the earth that practices, to its detriment, the
scriptural admonition to turn the other cheek. Masons have suffered
generations of abuse stemming from false allegations and rarely have
Masons all over the country have shared
with me their feelings that it is time for change, time for Freemasonry to
speak out, and I fully agree. But if I am going to exhort Masons to stand up
for what they believe, it seems only proper that I follow my own advice and
take the ultimate stand to verify the sincerity of my beliefs.
I have delayed the decision for a long
time, since I discovered that many radio and television stations, even
networks, would welcome a guest who could speak about Freemasonry
objectively, a guest not himself a Mason. I have been doing that for the
past two years.
At the same time, I have carried out a
busy schedule, speaking to Masonic bodies, and have met more good men and
made more new friends in those two years than in the prior twenty. I have a
duq to them, too.
During a break at a Masonic conference in
Indianapolis, I sat over a cup of coffee with a Christian minister who is also
a 33rd degree Mason. I was expressing my growing guilt for all the time I was
spending away from my wife, because of Masonic travel. I cited months when I
have not been with her for a single weekend. He said, "There's an easy way to
stop all that. Just become a Freemason, and you may find that no one inside or
outside the fraternity will care what you have to say."
Perhaps. But my mind is made up. By the
time this book goes on sale, I expect to be a Master Mason. The one person I
know that will please is me.
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