Moses Dickson and The Knights of Liberty

moses_dickson_web-232x300The original Moses Dickson piece originally published at the National Heritage Museum’s blog. The National Heritage Museum is an American history museum founded and supported by 32° Scottish Rite Freemasons in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the United States of America.

Pictured here is Moses Dickson, from the frontispiece illustration of the 1879 book A Manual of the Knights of Tabor and Daughters of the Tabernacle. In 1872, the Rev. Moses Dickson founded the International Order of Twelve of Knights and Daughters of Tabor, an African-American fraternal order focused on benevolence and financial programs. Dickson was born a free man in Cincinnati in 1824, was a Union soldier during the Civil War, and afterwards became a prominent clergyman in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Dickson showed an interest in progressive fraternal organizations early on – in 1846 Dickson, with others, founded a society known as the Knights of Liberty, whose objective was to overthrow slavery; the group did not get beyond the organizing stages. Dickson was also involved in Freemasonry – he was the second Grand Master of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Missouri.

Dickson’s International Order of Twelve of Knights and Daughters of Tabor – or Order of Twelve, as it’s more commonly know – accepted men and women on equal terms. Men and women met together in higher level groups and in the governance of the organization, although at the local level they met separately – the men in “temples” and the women in “tabernacles” (akin to “lodges” in Freemasonry). The Order of Twelve was most prominent in the South and the lower Midwest. The major benefits to members – similar to many fraternal orders of the time – was a burial policy and weekly cash payments for the sick.

What many people today remember about the Order of Twelve is an institution founded in Mound Bayou, Misssissippi in 1942 – the Taborian Hospital. Michael Premo, a Story Corps facilitator, posted his appreciation for the impact that the Taborian Hospital had on the lives of African-Americans living in the Mississippi Delta from the 1940s-1960s. The Taborian Hospital was on the Mississippi Heritage Trust’s 10 Most Endangered List of 2000, and an update to that list indicates that the hospital still stands vacant and seeks funding for renovation. Here are some photos of the Taborian Hospital today.

Want to learn more about the Order of Twelve? Here are a few primary and secondary sources that we have here in our collection (with primary sources listed first):

Dickson, Moses. A Manual of the Knights of Tabor and Daughters of the Tabernacle, including the Ceremonies of the Order, Constitutions, Installations, Dedications, and Funerals, with Forms, and the Taborian Drill and Tactics. St. Louis, Mo. : G. I. Jones [printer], 1879.
Call number: RARE HS 2259 .T3 D5 1879

—-. Ritual of Taborian Knighthood, including : the Uniform Rank. St. Louis, Mo. : A. R. Fleming & Co., printers, 1889.
Call number: RARE HS 2230 .T3 D5 1889

Beito, David. From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State: Fraternal Societies and Social services, 1890-1967. Chapel Hill, N.C. : University of North Carolina Press, 2000.
Call number: 44 .B423 2000

Skocpol, Theda, Ariane Liazos, Marshall Ganz. What a Mighty Power We Can Be : African American Fraternal Groups and the Struggle for Racial Equality. Princeton : Princeton University Press, 2006.
Call number: 90 .S616 2006 (1)

(1)  From The National Heritage Museum –


Moses Dickson, prior to the Civil War was a traveling barber.  Later he became an AME minister and was known as Father Dickson.

He was one of the Founders of the Lincoln Institute, now Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri.

In 1879 along with others such as James Milton turner, John Wheeler and John Turner he helped create the Committee of Twenty Five, organized to set up temporary housing for the more than 10,000 travelers who passed through St. Louis each year.

He was President of the Refugee Relief Board in St. Louis which helped to shelter and feed 16,000 former slaves who relocated to Kansas.

Moses Dickson was the first Grand Lecturer of the Most Worhipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Missouri upon its foundation in 1865.  He was the second Grand Master of this Grand Lodge and the Grand Secretary in 1869.

In 1876 Companion Moses Dickson was elected Deputy Grand High Priest of the Grand Chapter of Holy Royal Arch Masons of Missouri and Jurisdiction.

Moses Dickson wrote the Ritual of Heroines of Jericho penning the “Master Mason’s Daughter,” the “True Kinsman,” and “Heroines of Jericho” degrees. It was sold and distributed by the Moses Dickson Regalia and Supply Co., Kansas City, Missouri and entered into the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. in the year 1895.

dickson-grave-300x214The Knights of Liberty was organized by 12 Black Men in secret in August, 1846 in St. Louis, Missouri.  They were also known as the Knights of Tabor or the International Order of Twelve. Tabor is a Biblical mountain in Israel where the Israelites won a big victory over the Canaanites.

Moses Dickson was a leader of the Underground Railroad.  He and 47,000 other Knights enlisted in the Union Army as soon as Linclon authorized Black men to sign up.

Disbanded by the Civil War many of the Knights of Liberty reformed after the War was over into a benevolent fraternal society named the International Order of the Twelve Knights and Daughters of Tabor. Moses Dickson authored “International Order of Twelve 333 of Knights and Daughters of Tabor,” a book outlining the Constitution, Rules and Regulations of the Temples of the Uniform Rank of Tabor and Taborian Division.

Moses Dickson died on November 28, 1901. A truly remarkable man!

emblem of industry

Landmarks And Liabilities

Scottish rite, freemasonry, education, brent morris

Mackey’s notorious list and its impact on Maryland Masonry. Originally published in The Philalethes Magazine, vol. 44, no. 3, June 1991 authored by S. Brent Morris

A mushroom may grow ever so tall, on a boundary line or at a corner, but it will never be mistaken for a landmark
Albert Pike on Mackey’s “Landmarks”[1]

Freemasonry in Maryland, as in the rest of the world, is changing. This is a continuing process that began in 1717 at the Goose and Gridiron Tavern in London when four lodges made a radical innovation on the body of Masonry and created the office of Grand Master, an office that prior to that date had been only legendary. The additions, corrections, and elaborations to our Craft have come in fits and spurts since then, and we should not be so naïve to think that our Grand Lodge is immune. What is needed to face the challenges of change is an openness of mind and a flexibility of procedures.

Maryland Masonry is fortunate that its leaders have had minds open to the evolving needs of the Craft. They have laid a solid foundation on which the Grand Lodge has set goals, established programs, and disseminated the tenets of our profession. However, there is a grave danger that we are losing our flexibility of procedures which will be so essentially necessary for our survival in the twenty-first century.

At the 1989 Semiannual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Maryland, we witnessed the elimination of informed debate on several potentially vital pieces of legislation and the disenfranchisement of the representatives of the subordinate Lodges. This disregard for democratic principles was not part of a conspiracy nor planned with malice, but rather it sadly followed from a strict application of Mackey’s so-called “Landmarks of Freemasonry.” These twenty-five platitudes never have been adopted formally by the Grand Lodge of Maryland, but they threaten to become liabilities through a rigid interpretation.

Albert Galatin Mackey is one of the best-known American authors on Freemasonry. What is less well-known is that his creative genius often overshadowed his quest for historical accuracy and truth. In 1858, Mackey invented his list and foisted it upon an unsuspecting American Craft. Soon after there was a headlong rush by “scholars” to create lists of Landmarks and thus fill in what they perceived as a nagging gap in Masonic tradition. Right behind these creative writers came the Grand Lodges, each trying to outdo the other in adopting the “true” list of fundamental Landmarks of Freemasonry.

These enterprises resulted in nothing less than confusion in the temple. Of the American Grand Lodges, thirteen have adopted no formal list, five rely upon the Old Charges, ten have produced their own lists (ranging from seven to thirty-nine Landmarks), eight use Mackey by custom, and only thirteen have formally adopted his tabulation.[2] The United Grand Lodge of England, the source and origin of all Freemasonry, has never seen fit to adopt any formal enumeration and in particular has never endorsed Mackey’s list, and our English Brethren seem none the worse for it.

Where in all of this does the Grand Lodge of Maryland stand?—somewhere between using Mackey by custom and by formal adoption. In November, 1939, R.W. Harry C. Mueller, Grand Secretary wrote that “Maryland has included in its Code Mackey’s twenty-five Landmarks. By the adoption of this Code we feel that the twenty-five Landmarks in their entirety were adopted also, although there was no specific mention made of this, nor has there been at any time.”[3]

Thus the foundation of Masonic Jurisprudence in Maryland has never been formally adopted!

Isn’t the simplest solution to formally adopt Mackey’s product and to be done with it? That would easily solve the problem F the status of Mackey’s landmarks in Maryland, but like most simple-minded solutions, it’s more wrong than right. There is a naïve satisfaction in having an absolute list of guiding principles, and a childlike comfort in being able to assert, “These constitute the Landmarks … in which it is not in the power of any man, or body men, to make the least innovation.”[4] However, naïve satisfaction and childlike comfort should not be the guiding forces of Maryland Freemasonry as it prepares to face the rigors of the twenty-first century.

To begin with, Mackey was simply wrong. Some of his so-called “Landmarks” are universally agreed upon, but most are just creatures of his fertile imagination. Albert Pike’s scathing denunciation of Mackey’s concoction stands as the damning opinion of contemporary scholar, and Pike was not alone in his condemnation. No serious student of Freemasonry has accepted Mackey’s 1858 list in its entirety, nor have more than thirteen Grand Lodges. “So far as known, no Grand Lodge outside the United States has ever adopted any list of landmarks.…”[5] Even a partial list of those disagreeing with Mackey provides a Who’s Who of Masonic scholarship.

Some Masonic Scholars Disagreeing With Mackey’s Landmarks:

  • 1856, Rob Moms, Past Grand Master, Kentucky
  • 1858, J. W. S. Mitchell, Past Grand Master, Missouri
  • 1885, Robert Freke Gould, Past Master Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076
  • 1888, Albert Pike, Sovereign Grand Commander. Southern Jurisdiction
  • 1910, George Fleming Moore, Sovereign Grand Commander, Southern Jurisdiction
  • 1919, Roscoe Pound, Dean, Faculty of Law in Harvard University
  • 1923, Joseph D. Evans, Past Grand Master, New York
  • 1924, Melvin M. Johnson. Past Grand Master, Massachusetts
  • 1931, E. W. Timberlake, Jr., Past Grand Mater, North Carolina
  • 1961, Henry Wilson Coil, Fellow of the Philalethes Society
  • 1973, Dwight L. Smith, Past Grand Master, Indiana

A Landmark should be something so fundamental, so basic to the fabric of Freemasonry, that any deviation merits immediate condemnation. Mackey’s creation fails this test rather miserably. There is no reason to analyze each of his landmarks; a few particulars should suffice. For example, the Grand Lodge of North Carolina not only does not recognize the prerogative of a Grand Master to make Masons at sight (Mackey’s Landmark 8), but also does not recognize any Mason made by this method, regardless of whether he may belong to a regularly chartered Lodge. Yet we still maintain fraternal relations with the Grand Lodge of North Carolina. Several of the regular European Grand Lodges we recognize use a Grand Masonic Word different from Maryland, thus effectively negating the Mackey’s first landmark, the modes of recognition.

Freemasonry recently has come under increasingly vicious attacks from narrow-minded religionists. One of the frequent accusations made against our gentle Craft is that we are a “secret society” with all of the vague connotations of unknown evil that charge carries. Maryland has wrestled with this problem and has tried to solve it with our rather awkwardly worded Standing Resolution No. 8, which says in part “that our Order is not a secret one in the sense that everything that goes on in the Lodge room may never be revealed; rather it is an Order which has certain secrets which we do not share with the world outside these doors.”[6]

This is all fine and good, but Mackey’s Twenty-third Landmark states in simple, plain language, “Freemasonry is a secret society.” If we adopt Mackey’s invention, then we are declaring to the world that we are indeed a secret society (despite our waffling resolutions to the contrary). If we are not a secret society, then Landmark 23 of Mackey is not a Landmark of Maryland.

The Grand Lodge of Maryland presents another paradox on the one hand we acknowledge by custom Mackey’s Landmark 14, “the right of every Mason to visit and sit in every regular Lodge.” On the other hand we ignore this clear, absolute right and allow only the privilege of visitation. A Brother visiting a Maryland Lodge may be denied admission if any member of that Lodge personally demands it. In fact, Maryland’s deviation from this “landmark” has earned us special condemnation in Mackey’s Masonic Jurisprudence, as an offensive example of a “very contracted view of the universality of Freemasonry.…”[7]

At the 1989 Semiannual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Maryland, an amendment to the Constitution was proposed that would have allowed subordinate lodges to conduct normal business in the first degree. The Committee on Masonic Jurisprudence carefully considered the matter, adhered faithfully to Mackey’s landmarks, and made the straightforward decision that “the proposed Amendment … would violate the Landmarks of Freemasonry and Masonic history and tradition.”[8] This inescapable conclusion that the committee reached by following Mackey’s authority is logically precise and historically wrong. On May 18, 1842, the Grand Lodge of Maryland “Resolved, That all the business of a Lodge, except that of conferring the inferior degrees, and the instruction therein, should be transacted in a Master Mason’s Lodge.”[9]

In other words, from 1749 to 1842, every Lodge in Maryland conducted its business on the first degree—in violation of Mackey’s landmarks and Masonic history and tradition! How is it possible that our first ninety-three years of Masonic activity violated the Landmarks of Freemasonry and Masonic history and tradition? For that matter, what does this say about the United Grand Lodge of England, whose Lodges have never stopped meeting on the first degree? These contradictions are possible only if Mackey’s inventive list is given official status in Maryland, and we abandon our original history and customs.

Finally, there is the example of the recently aborted attempt to provide checks and balances upon the powers of the Grand Master of Maryland. The argument which prevented the amendments from even being discussed was that Mackey’s so- called landmarks do not allow the Grand Lodge to limit the authority of the Grand Master. Mackey states with his usual authoritative tone that Grand Masters and Grand Lodges are “coeval” (a highfalutin word that means “of equal antiquity”). However, there is no foundation in fact—only in modern Masonic ritual—that Grand Lodges or Grand Masters existed before that historic 1717 meeting in London.

These lofty, theoretical arguments overlook a fundamental problem: if the Grand Lodge cannot limit the powers of the Grand Master, how did we get the limitations we now have? Perhaps the Grand Architect Himself ordained the requirement that the Grand Lodge has to approve edicts of the Grand Master for them to remain in force? The powers of the Grand Master spring from the consent of the lodges he governs, and they can modify his powers whenever or however they see fit.

The fact is, Mackey’s fabrication never has been adopted formally by the Grand Lodge of Maryland nor has it made any particular contribution to our jurisprudence. What is true is that Mackey has been regularly ignored by the Grand Lodge of Maryland when convenient, though his invention most recently prevented a democratic discussion of important issues facing the Grand Lodge of Maryland. The solution to the confusion is straight forward: drop Mackey’s lame “landmarks” (either by agreement or by formal edict or by resolution) and give the Grand Lodge of Maryland the flexibility and authority it needs to face the problems of the future.

Quotations from Some Masonic Scholars Disagreeing with Mackey’s “Landmarks”

Robert Freke Gould

We shall vainly search in the records of those early times for a full specification of the twenty-five “Landmarks” which modem research pronounces to be both ancient and unalterable … Of the Ancient Landmarks it has been observed, with more or less foundation in truth: “Nobody knows what they comprise or omit; they are of no earthly authority, because everything is a landmark when an opponent desires to silence you, but nothing is a landmark that stands in his own way.”

The History of Freemasonry, New York: John C. Yorston & Co., 1885, vol. 2, p. 59.

Albert Pike, Scottish Rite, Morals and Dogma, Magnum Opus, AASR, albert pike quotesAlbert Pike

There is no common agreement in regard to what are and what are not landmarks. That has never been definitely settled. Each writer makes out for himself the list or catalogue of them, according to his own fancy, some counting more of them and others less.

Most of these so-called landmarks were not known either to Ancient Craft Masonry in England or Scotland before the revolution of 1723, or to the new Masonry, as landmarks, for years afterwards. It is a pity that Masonry has not a Pope, or cannot make one of some Grand Master, Editor, or Chairman of a Committee on Foreign Correspondence, endowed with infallibility, to determine the age which a landmark must have to entitle it to call itself a landmark; what is the essential nature of a landmark; how many of the supposed twenty-five are landmarks, and what others the oracular wisdom of the author [Mackey] of this catalogue has overlooked.

Proceedings of the Masonic Veterans’s Association of Iowa, 1888 (reprinted in Coil’s Masonic Encyclopedia, New York: Macoy Publishing & Masonic Supply Co., 1961, pp. 367–59).

E. W. Timberlake, Jr.

A number of Grand Lodges have undertaken, by express enactment, to fix what the landmarks shall be within their respective jurisdictions, and these differ very widely. For example, nine American Grand Lodges declare that the ancient charges contain the landmarks, while several Grand Lodges have adopted statements of their own, varying all the way from seven in West Virginia and ten in New Jersey to thirty-nine in Nevada and fifty- four in Kentucky. It would seem obvious, therefore, that, since even a Grand Lodge can neither create nor abolish a landmark, such declaratory enactments cannot be viewed in any other light than as Masonic legislation.… It is generally conceded that Dr. Mackey’s list includes all of the landmarks, but it is not conceded that all those which he enumerates as landmarks, are in reality such.

“The Landmarks of Masonry,” Nocalore, vol. 1, part 1. pp. 4­16,1931.

universal freemasonryRoscoe Pound

The skeptic says, first, that down to the appearance of Mackey’s Masonic Jurisprudence “landmark” was a term floating about in Masonic writing without any definite meaning. It had come down from the operative Craft where it had meant trade secrets, and had been used loosely for “traditions” or for “authorized ritual” or for “significant historical occurrences,” and Oliver had even talked of “obsolete landmarks.” Second, he says. the definition of a landmark, the criteria of a landmark, and the fixed landmarks generally received in England and American from 1860 on, come from Mackey. Bro. Hextall says: “It was more because Mackey’s list purported to fill an obvious gap than from any signal claims it possessed that it obtained a rapid circulation and found a ready acceptance.” Perhaps this is too strong. But it must be admitted that dogmatism with respect to the landmarks cannot be found anywhere in Masonic writings prior to Mackey and that our present views have very largely been formed—even if not wholly formed—by the influence of his writings.…

In reading [Mackey’s definition of a landmark] we must bear in mind that it was written in 1856, before the rise of modem Masonic history and before the rise of modem ideas in legal science in the United States. Hence it is influenced by certain uncritical ideas of Masonic history and by some ideas as to the making of customary law reminiscent of Hale’s History of the Common Law, to which some lawyer may have directly or indirectly referred him. But we may reject these incidental points and the essential theory will remain unaffected—the theory of a body of immemorial recognized fundamentals which give to the Ma¬ sonic order, if one may say so, its Masonic character, and may not be altered without taking away that character. It is true Mackey’s list of landmarks goes beyond this. But it goes beyond his definition as he puts it; and the reason is to be found in his failure to distinguish between the landmarks and the common law.

Lectures on Masonic Jurisprudence, New York: Board of General Activities [Grand Lodge, F. & A.M.], 1941, pp. 32–34.

Henry Wilson Coil

The way to define a thing or a principle is to examine it closely, list its peculiarities, state how it looks and acts, what it does and does not do, and what it is not as well as what it is. Again, the landmarkers reversed the process by attempting to define the unknown thing arbitrarily and, then armed with that prejudicial formula, search through the rituals, the regulations, and even unofficial literature in search of items which would satisfy the definitions. They did not know that the definition is the conclusion, not the beginning of such enquiry. But, worse yet, they commonly included some items which did not conform to their definitions. Of this class, one of the leaders, Mackey, was a striking example. What he called ancient and unwritten principles were in several of his proposals no more than legislation of the premier Grand Lodge set forth in the Constitutions and General Regulations published in 1723. Some that he called universal were not followed in all, possibly not even in a majority of Masonic jurisdiction. Those called unalterable had already been altered in some instances, and Mackey, himself, gave out several additions which altered his unalterable list of twenty-five.

Coil’s Masonic Encyclopedia, New York: Macoy Publishing & Masonic Supply Company, 1961, p. 364.

Dwight L. Smith

The Grand Lodge of England, which should know a thing or two about the ancient landmarks, never has “adopted” landmarks or in any way attempted to define them other than to make casual references to certain practices. To my knowledge, no Grand Lodge of Freemasons outside the United States has ever become concerned about what the landmarks are, or how many there may be.

Not so in the U.S.A. Beginning about the middle of the Nineteenth Century, Grand Lodges started trying to define the landmarks and enumerating them. They literally ran races to see how many ancient landmarks they could “adopt” officially. Some lists became so long and so all-inclusive that it was hardly safe to take aim at the brass cuspidor for fear an ancient landmark would be removed. And the hilarious feature about the various lists of “official” and “unalterable” landmarks is that so many are in total disagreement with their neighbors’ lists!

“Of Landmarks and Cuspidors,” The Philalethes, vol. 26, no. 1 (February 1973), pp. 6 & 22.


Coil, Henry W., et al. Coil’s Masonic Encyclopedia. New York: Macoy Publishing aid Masonic Supply Co., Inc., 1961.

Gould, Robert Freke, et al. The History of Freemasonry. New York: John C. Yorston & Co., 1885.

Mackey, Albert G. Mackey’s Masonic Jurisprudence. Revised by R. I. Clegg. Chicago; The Masonic History Company, 1927.

Maryland, Grand Lodge of. Maryland Manual of Ancient Craft Masonry. Baltimore: Grand Lodge, A.F. & A.M. of Md., 1935.

Reports to the Annual Communication. Baltimore: Grand Lodge, A.F. & A.M, of Maryland, November 17, 1986.

Reports to the Semiannual Communication. Baltimore: Grand Lodge, A.F. & AM of Maryland, May 15, 1989.

Masonic Service Association. “The Ancient Landmarks of Freemasonry.” The little Masonic Library. 5 vols. Richmond: Macoy Publishing aid Masonic Supply Co., Inc., 1946.

Pike, Albert. “The Landmarks of Freemasonry.” The Little Masonic Library. 5 vols. Richmond: Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Co., Inc., 1946.

Pound, Roscoe. Lectures on Masonic Jurisprudence. New York: Board of General Purposes, [Grand Lodge, F. & A.M.], 1941.

Schultz, Edward T. History of Freemasonry in Maryland. 4 vols. Baltimore: J. H. Medairy & Co., 1887.

Smith, Dwight L. “Of Landmarks and Cuspidors.” The Philalethes, vol. 26, no. 1 (Feb. 1973.)

Timberlake, E. W. Jr. “The Landmarks of Masonry.” Nocalore, vol.1, part 1 (1931).


[1] Albert Pike, “The Landmarks of Freemasonry,” The Little Masonic Library, 5 vols. Richmond: Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Co., Inc., 1946, vol. 1, p. 66.

[2] Masonic Service Association, “The Ancient Landmarks of Freemasonry,” The Little Masonic Library, Richmond: Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Co., Inc., 1946. vol. 1, p. 95.

[3] Masonic Service Association, “The Ancient Landmarks of Freemasonry,” pp. 76–77.

[4] Grand Lodge of Maryland, Maryland Manual of Ancient Craft Masonry, Baltimore: Grand Lodge, A.F.&A.M. of Md., 1935, p. C.

[5] Henry W. Coil, et al., Coil’s Masonic Encyclopedia, N.Y.: Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Co., 1961, p. 360.

[6] Grand Lodge of Maryland. Reports to the Annual Communication. Baltimore: Grand Lodge, A.F. & A.M. of Maryland, November 17, 1986, p. 29.

[7] Albert G. Mackey, Mackey’s Masonic Jurisprudence, rev. R. I. Clegg, Chicago: The Masonic History Co., 1927, p. 141.

[8] Grand Lodge of Maryland, Reports to the Semi-Annual Communication, Baltimore: Grand Lodge, A.F. & A.M. of Maryland, May 15, 1989, p. 29.

[9] Edward T. Schultz, History of Freemasonry in Maryland, 4 vols., Baltimore: J. H. Medairy & Co., 1887, vol. 3, p. 67.

Prince Hall, PHA, black freemasonry

Prince Hall, Myths, Legends And Facts

Complied by
Aubrey Brown, MPS, Kevin Gembarosky MPS, David Gray, MPS, Nelson King, FPS.

ph2The late Allen E. Roberts wrote “For more than two centuries Prince Hall Freemasonry has been the most lied about organization in the world. Caucasian Freemasonry has misstated the facts about it; Black Freemasons and their supporters have exaggerated its history and its hierarchy.” We will dispel those myths, legends and lies.

MYTH:  Prince Hall was born in Bridgetown, Barbados, B.W.I. His father Thomas Prince Hall, was an English leather worker, and his mother, a free colored woman of French extraction.

FACT: To date there has never been any proof of the birth place, or who the parents of Prince Hall where. To date there has only been speculation.

MYTH: The Initiation of Prince Hall and fourteen other men of color was illegal.

:  What constituted a legal Mason prior to the formation of the Grand Lodge system in USA? There were none before 1778 when the Grand Lodge of Virginia was instituted. Before then there were Provincial Grand Lodges–several of them. In Massachusetts there were two such bodies. One held allegiance to the “Modern” Grand Lodge of England; the other, the Grand Lodge of Scotland. Studying the works of Henry Wilson Coil, Melvin Maynard Johnson, J. Hugo Tatsch, Harry Carr and many others we find there were hundreds of “illegal” Masons in the early days of Freemasonry in America.

For example, where were the members of the lodge that met in Philadelphia in 1731 (and perhaps earlier) made Masons? Was Benjamin Franklin, who was made a Mason in this lodge, illegal? No of course not.

MYTH: African Lodge which the men of color formed was illegal.

FACT: Freemason’s proudly proclaim the supremacy of the Grand Lodge of England. It was the Grand Lodge of England that granted a warrant on September 29, 1784 for African Lodge No. 459, and this warrant is still in

MYTH:  African Lodge had no right to warrant other lodges and form a Grand Lodge.

Let us look at the Lodge at Fredericksburgh VA. It warranted two lodges: Falmouth and Botetourt. Those Lodges helped form the Grand Lodge of Virginia, and both are still in existence. What did the only lodge in
Massachusetts do after 1733? Did it not form a Provincial Grand Lodge and then warrant other lodges, and not only in Massachusetts? Why should African Lodge be refused the same privilege?

:  African Lodge’s Warrant did not give them the right to Make Masons.

FACT: Africa Lodge No. 459’s Warrant was no different from any other Warrant issued by the Grand Lodge of England.

Below is a copy of that Warrant.

Our Right Worshipful & loving Brethren, we Thomas Howard, Earl of Effingham, Lord Howard, etc. etc. etc., Acting Grand Master under the authority of His Royal Highness, Henry Frederick Duke of Cumberland etc.etc. etc., Grand Master of the Most Ancient and Honourable Society of Free and Accepted Masons, sends greeting:

KNOW YE, that we, at the humble petition of our right trusty and well-beloved, Brethren, Prince Hall, Boston Smith, Thomas Sanderson and several other Brethren residing in Boston, New England in North America do
hereby constitute the said Brethren into a regular Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons, under the title or denomination of the African Lodge, to be opened in Boston aforesaid, and do further at their said petition, hereby appoint the said Prince Hall to be Master, Boston Smith, Senior Warden, and Thomas Sanderson, Junior Warden, for opening the said Lodge, and for such further time only as shall be thought proper by the Brethren thereof, it being our will that this our appointment of the officers shall in now wise affect any future election of officers of the Lodge, but that such election shall be regulated agreeable to such by-laws of said Lodge as shall be consistent with the general laws of the society, contained in the Book of Constitution: and we hereby will and require you, the said Prince Hall, to take special care that all and every the said Brethren are or have been regularly made Masons, and that they do observe, perform and keep all the rules and orders contained in the Book of Constitutions; and further, that you do, from time to time, cause to be entered in a book kept for that purpose, an account of your proceedings in the Lodge, together with all such rules, orders and regulations, as shall be made for the good government of the same, that in no wise you omit once in every year to send to us, or our successors, Grand Masters, or to Rowland Holt, Esq,. Our Deputy Grand Master, for the time being an account in writing of your said proceedings and copies of such rules, orders and regulations as shall be made as aforesaid, together with a list of the members of the Lodge, and such a sum of money as may suit the circumstances of the Lodge and reasonably be expected, toward the Grand Charity. Moreover, we hereby will and require you, the said Prince Hall, as soon as conveniently may be, to send an account in writing of what may be done by virtue of these presents.

Given at London, under our hand and seal of Masonry, this 29th day of September, A .L. 5784, A. D. 1784.

“By the Grand Master’s Command,
R. Holt, D. G. M.”

Wm. White, G. S.”

Read: Prince Hall And Mainstream Masonic Rapprochement And The Expression Of Brotherly Love

MYTH: African Lodge was erased by the United Grand Lodge of England.

FACT:  So was every lodge in America still on the roles of either of the rival Grand Lodges. This included about half of the lodges in Massachusetts!

Has any critic dared claim all other American lodges erased from the roster of the United Grand Lodge of England are clandestine?

MYTH: African Lodge was dormant for a number of years and therefore is illegal.

FACT: So were numerous other lodges. Research the anti-Masonic craze beginning in 1826. Check out the vast number of lodges giving up their charters. Hundreds of them came back into the fold with no condemnation. Why
should they be privileged and African Lodge not?

MYTH: Prince Hall Grand Lodges are not Regular:.

FACT: Prince Hall Freemasons as do all Regular Freemasons adhere to the “landmarks”.

l. its Brethren must believe in a Supreme Being [the GAOTU];

II. Obligations must be taken on or in full view of the VSL.;

III. it must display the three Great Lights of Freemasonry when it or its Lodges are open;

IV. discussion of religion and politics in its Lodges must be prohibited, and

its membership must be male, and it must have nothing to do with mixed or women’s Lodges.

MYTH: Prince Hall Grand Lodges only accept men of color, and “Mainstream” Grand Lodges only accept Caucasian men.

I. John Pine, a black Freemason, who in 1769 designed the frontispiece for Anderson’s Constitutions.

Canadian Grand Master by the name of Charles Lightfoot Roman, Grand Lodge of Quebec, was a black Freemason.

III. The proceedings of The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of New York, 1871 provide us a record of a Lodge of German Jews working under the authority of this Prince Hall Grand Lodge.

Alpha Lodge No. 116, F. & A. M. Grand Lodge of New Jersey [Mainstream] is comprised of Black Masons.

V. The United Grand Lodge of England, The Grand Lodge of Scotland, and The Grand Lodge of Ireland have had Provincial Grand Lodges through out the world, and their membership is not restricted by color.

Prince Hall Grand Lodges only accept men who are Christians.

FACT: This is a question of Regularity. Since it has already been determined that Prince Hall Lodges are Regular, for us to practice or teach this would be against the Ancient Landmarks of our order. [see Landmarks above] In 1787, Prince Hall forwarded a copy of “The General Regulations of the African Lodge to D.G.M. Roland Holt in London, with the very first item declaring, “. yet at the same time allow every man to join his own religion so that they be men of Honour and Freeborn.”

MYTH: Prince Hall Grand Lodges have women members.

FACT: That would be a violation of the Landmarks and Prince Hall Affiliated Freemasons adhere to the Ancient Landmarks [see Landmarks above]

MYTH: Prince Hall Lodges have sexual orgies in the Lodge Room

FACT: Again this would be a violation of the Landmarks. [see Landmarks above] It is unfortunate that there exist in this world spurious and even out right clandestine organizations who dare travel under the name of Freemasonry and use the most immoral and un-Masonic acts in her name and in the name of Prince Hall.

MYTH: William Harry Grimshaw’s, “Negro Freemasonry… ” and books that quote this book are a reliable source for information about Prince Hall Freemasonry.

FACT: Grimshaw’s purpose was sound when he wrote this book. Grimshaw theorized and wrote what had been handed down to him from years of word of mouth teaching. Unfortunately, his theories and teaching were corrupted. An
accurate comparison would be the ritual, which has developed in North America. There is no question that word of mouth rituals are not the same ritual dictated to Ben Franklin.

MYTH: Prince Hall Grand Lodges have chartered Lodges in other Grand Lodges’ Jurisdictions.

FACT: Prince Hall Grand Lodges have chartered military Lodges in Germany, Italy, Turkey, and Korea to name a few. The traditional act of chartering  a Lodge to service members traveling abroad is well recorded in Masonic history. This has been a practice in Freemasonry since the very beginning of the rebirth in 1717. United Grand Lodge of England, The Grand Lodge of Scotland, The Grand Lodge of Ireland, and many other “mainstream” Grand
Lodges have Charted Lodges though out the world in other Grand Lodges’ Jurisdictions.

:  Prince Hall Masons intermingle politics and Masonry.

FACT: Again this would be a violation of the Landmarks [see Landmarks above] However, it is only natural that many prominent black politicians are or have been Prince Hall Masons. Prince Hall Masons by nature are inclined to be involved in their communities, and this extends to the political working.

This is done as individuals and not as masons. Prince Hall Masonry has had within it’s membership some of the preeminent Blacks in politics. The lists includes such notables as Harold Washington, Chicago; Thomas Bradley, Los Angeles; Andrew Young and Maynard Jackson, Atlanta; all former mayors.

Douglass Wilder, the first black elected governor, Thurgood Marshal, and Jesse Jackson, to name a few.

Prince Hall Grand Lodges do not enjoy full recognition from their Caucasian counterparts.

Most Prince Hall Grand Lodges and their neighboring Regular counterparts do in fact enjoy full recognition. Most of the misunderstanding perhaps is due to the fact that Prince Hall Grand Lodges do not allow dual
or plural memberships. This means that members of recognized Grand Lodges can’t join as full members. Some Prince Hall Grand Lodges allow honorary memberships. These have a number of their “Mainstream” counterparts as
honorary members. Most Prince Hall Grand Lodges do allow their members to belong to Research Lodges. Many Prince Hall Masons belong to national and state Research Lodges.

MYTH: Prince Hall Masonry does not contribute to charitable activities.

All branches of Prince Hall Freemasonry support charitable activities. From individual lodges to the Prince Hall Conference of Grand Masters, The Supreme Councils [ SJ & NJ], To the Shrine. Prince Hall Masonry has
contributed millions of dollars in such charitable activities as scholarships and medical aid and research.

MYTH: All Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodges are Regular.

Not all Regular Prince Hall Affiliated Grand Lodges are titled as such. The Regular Prince Hall Grand Lodge in the state of Mississippi is, The Most Worshipful Stringer Grand Lodge, F.& A.M. [Prince Hall Affiliated].

The Regular Prince Hall Grand Lodge in the state of Florida is, The Most Worshipful Union Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons, PHA. There are irregular Black Grand Lodges in both these states using the title of Prince
Hall Grand Lodge. There are also other such outfits operating around the country. They will usually delineate somewhere in there title Prince Hall Origin.

MYTH: Prince Hall Masonry has never bothered to take Irregular Black Grand Lodges to court.

FACT: There is a long history of Prince Hall Grand Lodges taking irregular Black Masonic bodies to court. In many of these cases, their Caucasian counterparts, have filed “Friend of the Court” briefs supporting the Prince Hall Grand Lodge’s stance. In fact, Prince Hall Masonry has taken every major black Masonic body to court in one state or another and has won injunctive relief in all such cases. These suits span back as far as the 20’s and include such bodies as, The Internationals or Banks Organization, The Most Worshipful Universal Grand Lodge; also known as the John G. Jones
Grand Lodges, and the John A. Bell Grand Lodges. Virtually all major irregular bodies are the offspring to one of the afore mentioned bodies.

There are of course numerous smaller bodies that spring up virtually over night without any governing body. Today Prince Hall Masonry for the most part, has chosen to use it’s funds for the betterment of the community as
opposed to costly legal battles.

MYTH: The Prince Hall Conference of Grand Masters has never or only recently embraced its Caucasian counterparts.

FACT: Even before recognition, Prince Hall Grand Masters have met, worked with, and received their Caucasian counterparts in informal as well as formal and public Masonic events. There is documentation going back to 1970
stating the Prince Hall Conference of Grand Masters received such prominent members as the Grand Master of Mass. AF&AM, and the Sovereign Grand Commander of the Supreme Council, N.J. at it’s meeting.

Prince Hall and its Caucasian counterparts have only recently began to meet formally.

There is much documentation showing that the two bodies have often met formally as far back as 1923 when the two Supreme Councils [N.J.] met. This meeting resulted in the Prince Hall body deciding to change its name to
United Supreme Council and add the suffix, Prince Hall Affiliated to it’s name to distinguish the two. After the meeting, the Supreme Council [N.J.]

Caucasian, issued the following press release.

Offer of “Informal Co-operation”
Boston, Mass. Sept. 22, 1923

An offer of “informal co-operation” was extended last Wednesday by the Supreme Council A. A. S. R. Masons Northern Masonic Jurisdiction in session in this city to the United Supreme Council [Prince Hall Affiliated] representing Negroes in the United States. Although no official recognition was adopted by the convention, the Supreme Council voted it’s policy of co-operation after hearing a report of the legal aspects of the situation arising from the similarity in the names of the two organizations which existed until recently. The United Supreme Council changed its name in order to distinguish it from the organization meeting here. In appreciation of this action and to put itself on record of racial toleration the Council decided to adopt an attitude of co-operation that was generally felt would be advantageous both for the Negroes and the community at large.

The work of the two organizations is said to be approximately the same and the colored fraternity which is chartered in Pennsylvania is the Grand East for this organization.

These two bodies met again on May 19, 1944 in New York City where a similar resolution was made. The key addition made at this time was the Supreme Council acknowledging that the Prince Hall bodies were legally descended from the Grand Lodge of England and Regular in all Masonic aspects.

Published by Nelson King

What’s left to comment on is the The Right Of Exclusive Territorial Jurisdiction or the American Doctrine.  It is called the American Doctrine because only in America is it practiced.  It’s not a subject we haven’t been over before.

It’s always been against Masonic etiquette for a new Grand Lodge to enter an established Masonic territory as a Masonic Raider.  But that is not the case in the early development of American Mainstream and Prince Hall Freemasonry.

Some scholars say that they can trace back into the mid to late 1700s where the ROETJ was already a standard practice  even in England.  Some of these same scholars say that Prince Hall uses the same doctrine against its own – battling rogue Black Masonic Grand Lodges and declaring them clandestine.  The two assertions are interconnected and wrong.

There is a big difference in refusing to recognize and to take action against irregular Freemasonry which does not follow the Landmarks and refusing to subsist with a peaceful, regular Grand Lodge in the same territory.  The actions our early Mainstream forefathers took in battling other Grand Lodges was, for the most part, a fight against irregularity.  So is the battle Prince Hall wages against its knock offs.

But this whole separation and question of the ROETJ need not have happened.  It could have been avoided by Mainstream Masonry accepting Prince Hall into the family when the Antients and the Moderns reconciled.  The fact that this was not done leads to conjecture that the ROETJ was created specifically for the purpose of disenfranchising Black Masonry and to have a legal basis to declare it clandestine and illegal.  For it is precisely in this period in the first quarter of the 19th century that the American Doctrine came to be widely used. So you still have Southern Mainstream Freemasons saying that  – well if they weren’t a separate Grand Lodge in the same territory we would recognize Black Freemasonry.  Yet they and their ancestors are the very people that refused to embrace Blacks in Freemasonry, forced them to go their separate way and then created a Doctrine which made their continued separate existence illegal.   So if you set up roadblocks and codify separation so that you won’t accept Black Freemasonry inside Mainstream Grand Lodges nor  allow them to exist separately legally without declaring them clandestine then which way did those setting up these rules expect Black Freemasonry to go?  The answer is they expected it to go away.

For those of you who might be tempted to say – well Blacks can just join Mainstream Grand Lodges where Prince Hall is not recognized today, you could be accused of having your head buried in the sand. You would not have remembered the battle of Frank Haas in West Virginia, the scandal of the Grand Lodge of Georgia against Gate City Lodge No. 2 and the recent shenanigans now coming to light in Arkansas.

Southern white Freemasonry and that’s what Southern Mainstream Freemasonry is – white, a WASP society, cannot have it both ways.  It cannot refuse to recognize Prince Hall because of some legal mumbo jumbo in the ROETJ while at the same time black balling every non white applicant.  But that is precisely what it is doing.

How much longer are the states who now do recognize Prince Hall going to sit back and do nothing while a minority of the Craft in one region of the country smears the reputation and good name of the Craft?  How long are the good guys going to hide behind the good old boys understanding that one does not interfere in another jurisdiction’s business?  How many members of the next generation do you think will want to join an organization which can truthfully be labeled racist?

The Iowa Masonic Library

The building is 245 feet long and 50 feet wide.  The wing housing the library is 113 feet deep at its west end.  The building was built in 1955 at a cost of slightly over a million dollars replacing the one on the same site that was built in 1884. The exterior is Vermont Marble with gray marble from Carthage, Missouri on its inside walls.  All the metal work used in the construction of window frames, door frames and stair rails is composed of bronze. The building is adorned by many stained glass windows.

It is not a church, a city or college library nor any part of a university.  Neither is it an exposition hall, a function hall nor a restaurant.  It is the Grand Lodge of Iowa building with its Masonic Library taking up a good portion of the building. Over its front door are human figures etched in the marble with these words:

Behold The Lord Stood Upon A Wall Made By a Plumbline

With A Plumbline In His Hand.


And on another of its exterior walls is inscribed:

The Spirit Of Masonry

“Gentle Gracious And Wise, Its Mission Is To Form Mankind

Into A Great Redemptive Brotherhood, A League Of Noble

And free Men Enlisted In The Radiant Enterprise Of Working

Out In Time The Love And will Of the Eternal”

Joseph Fort Newton

It is here in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on one afternoon, taking a few moments out of a business trip, that Past Master Kazar LaGrone of Pride of Mt. Pisgah #135, PHA Texas passes through the portals of this beautiful building to discover some of the treasures inside. And what brings him here specifically is the little known fact that this Mainstream Masonic Library houses Grand Lodge proceedings from many different Prince Hall jurisdictions across the USA that date back into the 1800s and a good sized collection of Prince Hall Books and periodicals.

Grand Master Wilbert M. Curtis of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas informed us that Iowa has Texas Prince Hall proceedings from 1876, 77 & 78.

I had the opportunity to talk to Iowa Grand Lodge librarian Bill Krueger on the telephone recently and I asked him how what lead to the Grand Lodge of Iowa’s long association with Prince Hall Masonry and the storing of Prince Hall proceedings from many different PHA Grand Lodges as well as a large Prince Hall esoteric collection.  He could only go back so far in his reply but it was his strong belief that the previous librarian, William R. Crawford’s close personal friendship with Joseph A Walkes, Jr. certainly cemented the development of a long term Prince Hall relationship.  Walkes, you will remember, was the founder of the Phylaxis Society and a prolific Masonic author in his own right.

Brother Alton Roundtree, editor of the Prince Hall Masonic Digest and a Fellow of the Phylaxis Society himself had this to say about the resources of the Iowa Masonic Library which he calls a research Mecca.

“The Iowa Masonic Library played a major role in writing “Out of the Shadows.” Seemingly, all needed materials (proceedings, books, periodicals, and collections) are in the Iowa Masonic Library.  The Library collection of proceedings pertaining to Negro or Colored Grand Lodges (today’s PH Grand Lodges) and information concerning allied and appendant bodies were imperative in the research effort.  I could not have written Chapter Four (National Grand Lodge) without visiting the Iowa Masonic Library. Five trips were made to the Library over a period of three years.  Two of the trips were for one week. One cannot talk about visiting the Iowa Masonic Library primarily to review Prince Hall Grand Lodge proceedings without telling the truth about the lack of a central repository of proceedings and other documents pertaining to Prince Hall Freemasonry.”

But the Iowa Masonic Library is not all about Prince Hall.  It has extensive works of Mainstream Lodge material and a large section of religious writings.  It is reputed to be one of, if not the largest, Masonic Library in the world with over 100,000 volumes. The Library website tells us:

“There are books upon every conceivable phase of Masonry, from the time of the organization of the premier Grand Lodge of England (1717) down through the years to the present. Its history, traditions, symbolism, moral teachings, ritual, jurisprudence, Masonic conditions abroad, anti-Masonic propaganda, histories and proceedings of grand lodges, both foreign and American, including those of many individual lodges which have attained age and prominence.  In addition to these may be found many volumes dealing with the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, Royal Arch, Council, Knights Templar, and other rites in Masonry, some of them little known to history.”

The Iowa Masonic Library has bound annual proceedings from all Mainstream USA Grand Lodges and most of them are full and complete from each Grand Lodge’s very first Communication.  In addition it has the same for all York Rite and Scottish Rite Bodies. It carries almost every Masonic journal from every English speaking country plus a goodly number of foreign language publications. And it has a large collection of rare books, such as a copy of Franklin’s reprint of Anderson’s Constitutions (1723).

Over the years The Iowa Masonic Library has been gifted or purchased prized private collections.  The first was the Bower Collection which was the largest private Masonic collection of its time. The Grand Lodge of Iowa bought this collection for the paltry sum of $4,000, well below its true value, in 1882.  Later was added The Arthur F. Waite Collection formerly owned by Masonic scholar H.V.B. Voorhies. Waite was a well known English Mason and mystic whose original works are highly prized. Some of these rare books and collections are housed in a temperature controlled “vault room”.

And it isn’t all Library.  The building also contains two museums and a number of special collections.

Past Master LaGrone spent only a few short hours at the Iowa Masonic Library but he was duly impressed and was greeted and received with a very warm reception.  He recounts his visit:

“This past Wednesday while traveling for work in Cedar Rapids I had the opportunity to visit the Iowa Masonic Museum.  It was truly an enjoyable experience as I had the chance to look through an 1958 issue of Ebony Magazine that had a 8 page spread on Prince Hall Masonry.  I looked through an original pamphlet by GM Upton on Negro Masonry dating back to June 15th 1898 as well as Grand lodge proceedings from the state of Mississippi dating back to the early 1900’s.  While there I also had some fairly enlightening conversations with one of the Grand Lodge officers that works at the library (his name escapes me) and the collection of Masonic material and the subject of mutual recognition. “

Upon returning home he brought with him the lovely pictures you see here and a report that has many of us interested in forming a group trip back to this wonderful Library.  He also communicated with Grand Master Curtis about sending copies of some recent Texas Prince Hall proceedings to the Iowa Masonic Library and with his blessing has mailed the same to them.

If you have some serious Masonic research to do, The Iowa Masonic Library should be at the top of your list of research sources.  Make a vacation trip of it and spend the time to take it all in. And if you can’t go at least visit the Grand Lodge of Iowa Masonic Library.

The Lost Symbol: The Road Best Not Traveled

There’s nothing I like better than a good murder mystery. I cut my teeth on Sherlock Holmes, Lord Peter Wimsey, Perry Mason, and Ellery Queen. Nowadays I turn to such luminaries as John Grisham, Scott Turow, Richard North Patterson, and William Bernhardt. And that is what Dan Brown’s Lost Symbol is a good murder mystery, at least superficially.

Actually, the storyline is a good carrier for philosophy—Masonic philosophy and Dan Brown’s philosophy which somehow become intertwined. Brown has more hidden meanings attributed to Masonry than all the members of any American Grand Lodge would have in a lifetime. But, without all the puzzels, Brown wouldn’t have had a good carrier for his philosophy which he tries to convince you is part of Masonry. The philosophy of Noetics is not part of Masonic thought, nor is a Gnostic religion endorsed by Masonry although you can find many Gnostic Masonic practitioners.

This is the first criticism of The Lost Symbol and the most telling. Millions of people unfamiliar with Masonry will pick up the book (or film) and go away believing that the gospel of Dan Brown is the real deal of what Freemasonry is all about. That the United States was founded by Masons who were predominately Deists is not a fact but a hotly debated hypothesis. The idea that Washington DC was modeled on ancient Rome has some merit but giving the impression that it was the totality of the city is just plain wrong. Not to provide any room for Christian/Jewish thought, Christian /Jewish philosophy and Christian/Jewish symbolism is to steer the discussion and the minds of readers into a mode of Masonic/Deists/Gnostic “God is within you and you are God” philosophy which is not generally representative of where most Masons were two hundred years ago nor where they are now.

Read: Freemasonry and the Hermetic Arts

The second criticism of The Lost Symbol is the constant mentioning of a special knowledge that 33rd degree Masons possess and a certain special inner circle within the secret society. Believe me when I tell you that many Evangelical Christians and “New World Order” conspiracy freaks have made these charges for years. Just ask Pat Robertson. I’ve had these people tell me personally, “Well, if you don’t see it, you just aren’t privy to the inner circle.” So we have the profane telling a Mason that they know more about the Freemasonry than a mason does. The Internet is full of these conspiracy theorists who will tell you how satanic and evil Masonry is. We need another supposedly intelligent and celebrated testimonial affirming this loony vision like we need another hole in our head.

And because Masons like things in threes, let me add a third criticism of the book. Why are we, as Masons, so quick to jump on the bandwagon of sensationalism? Why do we believe that this book will be our Savior; that it will bring us all kinds of new membership? Are we that desperate? Is sensationalizing Masonry not corrupting it? Has the message of Masonry and the true philosophy of who and what we are been somehow compromised for the sake of personal profit? And are we just a tad too willing to sacrifice our doctrine for the sake of popularity? If so why don’t we promote a few books with the hidden Masonic meaning of the phallic symbol? After all, sex sells everything from cars to soap.

Lest you think I have been too hard on the book, there is much to be said in its favor.

The science of Noetics that Brown talks about is a serious scientific investigation today. There is a whole school of Quantum Physics that brings science and religion together. There are tests being performed that show that the speed of light has been far surpassed and that the power of thought is energy, an energy that can be created by human beings. This line of inquiry is not far fetched. And it is a development which I feel is the next human frontier. That being said connecting it into Masonry is a stretch, but one that if you don’t take seriously and see Brown smiling all the way to the bank makes a good story.

The way The Lost Symbol is written is a very effective way to get a message across if that is your intent. That is if you have an agenda or a definite message which you want to put forth, wrapping it within a powerful fictional story is always more effective than a dry recitation of philosophical thought written in the manner of a documentary or nonfiction work. Those who have read Atlas Shrugged will recognize this same technique employed by Ayn Rand. John Galt’s long soliloquy at the end of Atlas Shrugged matches the same dissertations of Peter & Katherine Solomon in chapters 131 AND 133 of The Lost Symbol.

The Lost Symbol is a great read and a book that will bring many newcomers to Masonry. I enjoyed reading it. But I have to ask if going down this road and becoming dependent on the growth of the Craft welded to sensationalism is not a corrupting influence, the road best not traveled.

emblem of industry

More Lessons The Church Can Teach Masonry

Here reprinted with permission is a piece by PGM Terry Tilton of Minnesota.  It is an article with which I am not totally in agreement.  Some of it I heartily endorse while other parts I do not.

But that is precisely what gives Freemasonry its strength, Brothers of different backgrounds, different experiences, different lifestyles and different views coming together in peace and harmony to learn from one another and bless each other in shared endeavors.

Brother Tilton’s article is powerful, thought provoking and inspirational and needs to be heard.  And so here’s to you Brother Tilton.  Long may the Craft rejoice in your presence!


I want to begin by expressing my gratitude for being invited to address this bi-annual meeting of the  Iowa Research Lodge No. 2.  Every couple years my family makes a pilgrimage down to Gowerie and Jefferson Iowa for family reunions and like tonight the hospitality and warm reception is outstanding. As many of you know, I hail from the state of Minnesota – the state with the largest per capita Scandinavian population in America. I was delighted  to learn that when some of my native Minnesotans come to live in Iowa they are addressed as Iowegians. (Iowa Norwegians).

Though very politically incorrect I thought I might begin with a short story about some of my northern Scandinavian neighbors.

LARS WAS STAGGERING HOME AFTER A NIGHT IN THE TAVERN. But this night a Lutheran minister saw him and offered to help him get home safely. As they approached the house, Lars asked the minister to step inside for a moment. He explained, “I vant Lena to see who I have been out vith tonight.”

For over 32 years I have been proud to be [associated] with my friends in the Masonic fraternity. For 35 years I have served under appointment in the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church as a pastor to the local church.  I have often commented that the church and the lodge share many similarities.  For example, both are volunteer not-for-profit associations and both acknowledge faith as foundational to their teachings. Both have long histories as significant institutions which have helped shape our society and values. Both are person-centered in their services and outreach.  Both have enjoyed a peculiar place of honor but occasionally disrepute and indignation  in their histories. I think it is equally accepted that the lodge and church no longer shape the character of our nation as in former years. Both are also struggling to find relevance in a post 9-11 world.  And both have found issues of membership and renewed vitality as the most vexing problems to their continued existence.

Here’s a little story that rings all too true in some churches and will serve as an introduction to my talk.

THERE WAS A FEUD BETWEEN THE PASTOR AND CHOIR DIRECTOR of the Hicksville Southern Baptist Church.  It seems the first hint of trouble came when the Pastor preached on “Dedicating Yourselves to Service” and the Choir Director chose to sing: “I Shall Not Be Moved”.

Trying to believe that it was a coincidence, the Pastor put the incident behind him. The next Sunday he preached on “Giving.” Afterwards, the choir squirmed as the director led them in a hymn: “Jesus Paid it All.”

By this time, the Pastor was losing his temper. Sunday morning attendance swelled as the tension between the two built.

A large crowd showed up the next week to hear the sermon on “The Sin of Gossiping”. Would you believe the Choir Director selected the song: “I Love to Tell the Story”?

There was no turning back. The following Sunday the Pastor told the congregation that unless something changed, he was considering a resignation. The entire church gasped when the Choir Director led them in: “Why Not Tonight”?

Truthfully, no one was surprised when the Pastor resigned a week later, explaining that Jesus had led him there and Jesus was leading him away.  The Choir Director could not resist: “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”.


Tonight I want to share a talk titled  “More Lessons the Church Can Teach Masonry.” The genesis for this title came from a presentation I made at the 59th Annual Midwest Masonic Education Conference held this past March in [Omaha.] But there is so much more which can be said about the Church and the Lodge and that is the subject this evening.

Perhaps of all the institutions in America none have been more studied and evaluated as to their effectiveness and program design than the church.  And some truths have emerged which I think can be directly applied to lodge.

For example, it has been known for many years that on average it is seven times more difficult to revitalize a dying church than it is to start a new one. Seven times more effort will be used to find the way forward than to begin over again new.  That seems like a startling statistic but it shows just how difficult institutional revitalization can be.

Or perhaps have you ever wondered why it seems so difficult to find a successful lodge program? The answer comes directly out of studies from the church.  If you put up a  new program each year for four years, statistically there will be only one that is deemed successful – successful being that it will be repeated a second year.  If you know that you realize you have to try more and different ideas before you will find the one that works for you.  And of course the kicker is that it is not possible to predict which one of the four will be successful.

Resistance to change is fundamentally a part of all tradition-bound institutions but I would argue more especially the church and the lodge. Each is struggling with issues of outreach to a younger generation. Each finds the vast majority of its buildings in small cities and rural settings.  Each has an aging population base (at least from a main-line church perspective) and is having extreme difficulty in reaching out to the new population centers in our increasingly more urban society.

I hope that I might point out to you some of the significant findings from the institutional studies of the church in our society and ask the question, “Does this not also help us to understand and demand the attention of the lodge as well?”


I want to being by introducing you to some C-letter words which are necessary to help us understand where we are at today.  The words are: change, conflict, and competition.

“….the natural side effect of change is conflict,” reflected Dr. Robert Sloan as he announced his resignation from the office of president of Baylor University. “We moved quickly and boldly to implement the vision (of a new era for the university) and found that Baylor is not immune to the discomfort and insecurity generated by change.” (January 21, 2005)

The central theme of Dr. Sloan’s reflections could be used by dozens of parish pastors every month as they explain their decision to choose early retirement or resign from the ministry. In my own Annual Conference with over 320 ministers under appointment,  it is one of the reasons that I (at age 58) have only less than one dozen colleagues who have been in ministry longer than myself.[1] Church, 2007, 321-366. Change resulting in conflict could be cited  by any public school superintendent or the chief executive officer of any profit-driven corporation or the chief of police in any large American city or a church denomination executive or a city manager or the spouse who is explaining to his or her parents the shock of an impending divorce. A common consequence of change is conflict!

None of us in the lodge have been immune to the tensions which are caused when change takes place.  The resistence of Lodge Secretaries and Past Masters to change is proverbial. From a macro perspective of change, I am reminded of the gut-wrenching story of the guest speaker at the Annual Philalethes Feast and Forum in Washington D.C. this past February.  Most Worshipful Brother Frank J. Haas, Past Grand Master of West Virginia (2005-2006) was summarily expelled from all the rights and privileges of masonry this last November without trial by the current sitting Grand Master.

What were the changes Most Worshipful Brother Haas brought to the Masons of West Virginia? Essentially they were all clarifications or enlargements to the existing Grand Lodge Constitution to bring it more in line with mainstream masonry. All were overwhelmingly voted into law at the 2006 Annual Communication.  West Virginia masonic law did not allow masonic youth organizations to meet in lodge rooms or lodges to give financial support to these organizations. The Brothers voted to change this. Language was voted in declaring it to be unmasonic conduct to refuse to seat a visitor in lodge if race was a reason.  The brothers voted the option of saying the Pledge of Allegiance at lodge meetings and also allowing handicapped candidates to petition for degrees.  Being the only Grand Lodge in the United States not to recognize the DeMolay, Rainbow Girls or Job’s Daughters;  the only grand lodge which are not members of the Masonic Service Association;  the only grand lodge not belonging  to a regional conference of grand masters; and the only grand lodge to order the Scottish Rite not to perform the Washington/Arnold 20th degree; the brothers voted to accept all these changes, none of which were precedent-setting among Grand Lodge jurisdictions in the United States. The consequence of change – conflict.  In this case a concerted effort by a few determined Past Grand Masters to go back to the future.[2] Glass© The Philalethes Society, 2008.

DR. LYLE E. SCHALLER, pastor, sociologist and author of more than 60 books on religious life in America, has summarized the theme of what he sees going on in American religious life today in the title of a new book, “From Cooperation to Competition” (Abingdon Press, Nashville, 2006).  He puts into context the changing dynamics of the institution of the church (and I would argue the lodge) in ways which help us to understand what is happening and what responses are most helpful for us to act creatively.  He writes, “A common consequence of change is conflict! But rather than focus on whether that conflict can and should be avoided, a more useful discussion can begin by expanding the subject from these two C-words to four. One common consequence of change is conflict. A second common consequence is change frequently alters the range of choices available to people. When change reduces the range of attractive choices, that may generate feelings of resistance, hostility, alienation, and anger. That is one reason, whenever feasible, to introduce change by adding to the range of attractive choices rather than proposing changes that will reduce the number and variety of choices. Make change by addition, not subtraction.”[3]

In the church, this change by addition, has seen the rapid rise of more non-denominational or independent churches, often tailored to reach out to a younger generation.  The concept of mega-churches did not exist before the 1960’s.  Today there are more than 7,000 churches in the United States which have average worship attendance of over 2,000 and many with over 3,000.  Fully twenty percent of all church members in the United States belong to these churches. Perhaps, no greater conflict over the  number of choices has been brought to the church than that of worship styles – coffeehouse, contemporary, traditional, or blended to name only a few.  And speaking from my own main-line denomination, this range of choices (which my own denomination has found difficult to embrace) has been the reason why the average age of our membership continues to climb, the average worship attendance continues to fall and total membership has continued to decline at a rate of one to two percent each year for the past forty years.  Does that sound a little bit like North American Freemasonry?

And still, overall the average worship attendance in American churches  has been growing each year. Weekend worship attendance in American Protestant congregations sets new records year after year. ….part of the answer is in the 50% increase of population in the US from 1965 to 2005.  And another part has been described as the fourth great religious revival in American history.

This is the trend of larger non-denominational  mega-churches, thousands of new churches reaching out to serve immigrant communities, and the even larger total impact of American religious bodies including the Southern Baptist Convention, the Assemblies of God, the Baptist General Conference, the Evangelical Free Church in America, the Seventh-Day Adventist, the Church of Christ, and scores of other movements, associations, conferences, conventions, and denominations that have opened new churches and multiplied worship opportunities.  “Come and help us pioneer the new” often has more appeal than “Come and help us perpetuate the old.” As Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Congregationalists and others cut back sharply on organizing new congregations, the resulting vacuum in the ecclesiastical free market was filled by others. Sam Walton and his colleagues invented a new way to do retail trade with younger generations. These non-traditional religious bodies have been inventing new ways to do church in an exceedingly competitive ecclesiastical marketplace. The fourth C-word then is competition and this competition has brought conflict, conflict has brought change, change has increased the number of choices available today.[4]

Though it is my observation that Freemasonry in America is much slower to react to change than the local church, the reality is that we are seeing the nascent pangs of a revival as there has come this increased competition in our Fraternity.  Right Worshipful Brother Tom Jackson, Past Grand Secretary of Pennsylvania and Secretary of the World Conference of Grand Lodges, has stated that the greatest threat he sees to regular mainstream Freemasonry today is the dramatic rise of irregular or clandestine grand lodges. He obviously sees these irregular and clandestine grand lodges as being in direct competition to  historic mainstream masonry.  In the United States today there are more than 200 grand lodges operating outside the regular mainstream and Prince Hall grand lodge system.  Many of these, of course, have been breakaway groups of Prince Hall Freemasonry but increasingly we are seeing attempts to form new grand lodges or groupings of breakaway constituent lodges into new organizations.[5]

Being the Vice-president of the Philalethes Society, America’s oldest premier research and education group, it was with some concern that their came the announcement last May of a new education and research group called The Masonic Society. Their first publication of The Masonic Society magazine just came out last week.   This is a new movement which says it is “interested in education, research, and fostering the intellectual, spiritual and social growth of the modern Masonic fraternity.”[6] I personally know many of the founding members and many already have membership or are Fellows in the Philalethes Society.  Quite frankly many are unhappy with the direction of the Philalethes Society and have decided that they cannot wait for changes to be made.

How are we to react to these developments?  As an officer of The Philalethes Society, a knee-jerk reaction would be to say that they are in competition with mainstream masonry and the historic and venerated  traditional venues of communication.   Is this competition? Does it give more choices?  I think there can be no doubt!  Whether they will be in conflict depends on how we see them.  If we believe they are simply taking resources from an ever shrinking pie then these new groups and programs represent a direct threat to our existence.  On the other hand, if they spur us to be more pro-active, tailor our message to a well-defined audience and encourage us to improve our methods of outreach and communication, they may just be the impetus for change that will bring about renewed vitality.

There is no doubt that changes in the ways our Grand Lodges have responded to the pressures of a different economic and work environments for men in North America have brought dramatic conflict to Masonry.  Even twenty years after of the first mid-west Grand Lodge allowed one-day classes we have not reached a consensus on their value to masonry. It is evident that they are not the panacea to remedying overall membership losses.  But on the on the other hand, survey after survey has shown that these masons are no more likely to demit from the lodge than those brought in by the conventional ritual degree system and some studies have even indicated these “one-day” masons have taken a more active role in leadership.  No doubt, this is because they represent an untapped segment of men in our society who share the values of masonry but were unable to join through our traditional degree programs.

We live in a world of increasing competition.  Just think back to when the discount stores arrived in the 1960’s, they created new competition for the five-and-dime variety stores on Main Street. But when Wal-Mart began to sell clothing, shoes, auto supplies, jewelry, prescription drugs, and groceries, that created a another level of new competition for many other retailers on Main Street as well!

Last year’s Midwest Masonic Education Conference focused on some of the new North American recreations of masonry in the traditional practices or European-style lodge model. Though my initial reaction was to write off this “philosophical” model of masonry as be too narrowly exclusive with its pre-requisite high level of commitment, membership standards and defined size, I am becoming increasingly convinced that it serves an important niche in American Freemasonry. Quite frankly it offers another choice which we can either view as competition to our historic low-commitment membership model of declining  North American Freemasonry or as a catalyst for needed changes, perhaps, being the leavening which will help to leaven the whole North American system.

As the church has learned ever so dramatically the level of competition for the time, attention, energy, money, allegiance, and participation of Americans stands at an all-time high. The level of the quality of our programs must be competitive with the secular world.


In the church one of those areas of competition has increasingly been in the useof technology.  To reach out to a new generation who has grown-up in a mediasaturated environment we must use every means of making a connection.  In many of our churches this has meant massive investments in audio-visual projection equipment, computer-generated graphics and sophisticated sound and light systems.  It has also meant the use of the web in advertising and giving access to a generation who would never consider buying a newspaper or reading a printed book.  Historically, I suppose we could liken this development to the popularity of the Scottish Rite in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries whose degrees which were staged in some of the most expensive venues and theatrical trappings –  the media of their day.

I mention this because just the other day I was reminded of the significance of mass communication through the internet in helping us to draw the attention of new members.  Some estimates are that easily half of all new candidates for masonry come to our lodges today through interest and research of our fraternity over their computers.   Here is a typical note from a prospective candidate picked up on the masonic-ed blog.

Thank you so much for getting back to me.  I want to just learn more about the history of the masons. I first got interested in the masons after seeing a show on the History channel. Very interesting, and after seeing that I knew I wanted to be part of something very historical. Then after talking to some masons and after reading the Freemasons for Dummies book  I was even more shocked on the history and the brotherly love and fellowship of the masons. I am so excited about starting my journey.   John[7]

In John’s case it was a two-hour History channel program produced with the cooperation of the Grand Lodge of Washington D.C. that peeked his interest.  When “National Treasure” was released in 2004 the Masonic Information Center and many grand lodges reported a 30% rise in hits by persons seeking more information about Freemasonry.[8] at a meeting in February 2005  I have personally talked to many new brothers who joined Masonry because of this communication tool.

I want to quote an article published in the May 18th issue of Los Angeles Times titled “Freemasons in midst of popularity, membership boom”

IN LOS FELIZ, across from a 7-Eleven on North Vermont Avenue, a few dozen men in their early 20s to late 80s share a dinner behind closed doors. Some wear full tuxedos with bow ties and jeweled cuff links, some have shoulder-length hair, and others wear open-collared shirts that reveal the slightest filigree of tattoo arching across their chests.

Meet the millennial Masons. As secret societies go, it is one of the oldest and most famous. Its enrollment roster includes Louis Armstrong and Gerald Ford, and it has been depicted in movies such as “The Da Vinci Code” and “National Treasure.”  Once more than 4 million strong (back in the 1950s), it has been in something of a popularity free-fall ever since. Viewed with suspicion as a bastion of antiquated values and forced camaraderie, the Masons have seen membership rolls plummet more than 60% to just 1.5 million in 2006

For a time it looked as if Masonry was going into sharp decline, if not the death throes,”said UCLA history professor Margaret C. Jacob, who has written extensively about the fraternal order. “But it looks like it may be making a comeback.”

That’s because the Freemasons, whose tenets forbid soliciting or recruiting members, have enthusiastically embraced the Internet as a way to leverage curiosity about an organization with its roots in Europe’s medieval stonemasons guilds. Freemasonry today sees itself as a thinking man’s salon, a learned society with a philosophical bent.

“We had a record number of new members last year,” said Allan Casalou, Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of California. “We added 2,000 men, which is the most since 1998 and our seventh straight year of membership increases.”

The article goes on to speak about Santa Monica-Palisades Lodge No. 307, one of the youngest and most diverse lodges in the state (the average age of active brothers is just 33). The lodge’s senior deacon, Jim Warren, calls it ” ‘Star Trek’ without the chicks.”  He goes on to say, “We have every possible national origin, ethnicity and religious denomination you could imagine.”

Warren credits the Internet. “We were one of the first lodges in the state to have a website up,” he said. “That led to a huge spike in membership.”

Other lodges followed suit, putting up their own sites and drawing a crowd. That’s how prospective Mason Johnny Royal ended up at the door of Elysian Lodge No. 418 last month.  “My generation wants to be part of something beyond itself,” Royal said. “I want to learn; I want to participate.”

THE INTERNET hasn’t only made it easier to learn about the Freemasons, Casalou says, it’s changed the type of men coming forward.  “There is so much information on the Internet that by the time someone comes to a lodge to seek membership, they already know a lot about Masonry.  Which is a big departure from previous generations. And it means they are more likely to be active participants.”

The article concludes by saying that California’s contingent of Freemasons is expected to grow, as the average age of its members, once 71 is now 65, and is expected to drop.  The Grand Secretary predicts that in ten years the state will be  awash in 55-year-old pre-retirement Masons.[9]

At a recent meeting of the Masonic Information Center in Washington D.C. we discussed the proposed third film by Disney’s Dreamworks Films in the National Treasure series.  Although National Treasure Two: Book of Secrets did not nearly have as much masonic history as the first film interestingly it grossed more income and was seen by more people than the first film.  The Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction assisted in some publicity for this second film by opening up the Scottish Rite Temples in six  locations across America for a geocache scavenger hunt promoting the film.  It is anticipated that they will be requesting this help from all the Valleys in the United States this coming year hoping to piggy-back on the geocaching craze among young men and giving them an opportunity to learn  more about Freemasonry by visiting their buildings and talking to the Masons who are sharing the story of our Craft, through its symbols and meanings.

Being more welcoming. Being intentional in your outreach efforts to attract new members. The mainline church, like the lodge, is learned that it is not enough to open the door and expect new members to come in.  Internet, and new media venues, can attract and piggyback on the interests of today’s generation. Programs of education and outreach into the community intentionally seeking persons of color, differing ethnicity,  creed or life-style are basic to any successful program today.


Here is another set of statistics from the church that I believe have a direct bearing on our lodges. In the 1950’s life in America was still organized around functions and respect for authority. Today far greater value is placed on relationships.  For example, in the church we have known that longer pastorates tend to show the greatest growth and stability – longer pastorates being at least ten to twenty years in length verses those of only 2-7 years.

But the pastor cannot do it alone.  The church has had to learn and relearn the importance of personal invitations to build the bridges to get new members.  The most effective inviting-bridges happen between people who already know one another, not between church members and strangers.

If you were to ask the last ten or twenty people who joined your church this question: “Through whom, or by what means, did you first visit our church? What got you on the property for the first time?”  You will discover that in the average church 75 to 90 percent of all new members say they came because someone invited them.

Yet, research indicates that, on the average, only 46 percent of church members say they have invited at least one person to a worship service during the last twelve months.[10]

What would be the average if Masons were asked, “When was the last time you  discussed with someone or invited someone to learn more about Masonry?”  I would propose that this is the single greatest reason we have seen a nearly 50-year decline  in our membership rolls. Every lodge and every Master of his lodge must at least once or twice a year challenge his members to invite and reach out to prospective new members. I do not know any growing lodge who does not utilize this formula.

As a corollary how do we foster those relationships when lodge leadership changes each year?

Here is another interesting statistic. After a quarter century (some will argue no more than 40 years) of meeting in the same address the natural tendency of churches is on taking better care of the current constituency and their children, than on evangelism. In other words if more than one-half of a denomination’s congregations have been meeting in the same building at the same address since before the mid-1960’s, you probably are a numerically shrinking religious body.  Is it feasible for churches to move locations every 25-40 years. Probably not!  So what is the solution?

In Christianity the solution is plant more churches. As difficult as that may be inviting younger generations to help pioneer the new is the only real solution. We have learned that you cannot expect them to be eager to come and help perpetuate the past.

The obvious implication for the masonic lodge is that particularly in those urban and suburban growth communities we need to plant new lodges.  We have forgotten that the  greatest eras of growth in the history of  Freemasonry were also times  when lodges replicated themselves by helping to charter sister lodges.  I predict that when Freemasonry gets back to this model we will then truly see a national resurgence and renewal.

FINALLY I WANT TO ASK, HOW DO YOU MEASURE THE VITALITY OF FREEMASONRY? In masonry as well as the church we measure membership to talk about growth but in the church we have discovered that probably a more useful statistic is average worship attendance.   I find it interesting that in the lodge our annual reports measure number of members, deaths, demits and those stricken from the rolls, the current assets and annual per capita dues, but no where do we measure the average attendance at our lodge meetings. I would like to humbly suggest that the church learned long ago that who is on the rolls is not nearly as important as counting how many show up for worship and participate in the activities during our principle time of gathering which is usually for Sunday worship.   The measure of real growth and vitality in every institution is found in those who act on their commitments, share their time, talent and treasure and experience a sense of worth and well being that helps them make positive contributions to others.  Is this also not one of the foundational principles of our Fraternity?

And so tonight I have suggested to you that in many ways the church and the lodge are really not much different.  As faith-based, volunteer associations dedicated to self-improvement and service they historically have stood side by side in the building of our nation and society.  Today both suffer as whole generations have turned away from the historic values of virtue, integrity, service and commitment. Both have suffered drastic membership and participation declines in this past half-century and both face the daunting task of reaching out to a new generation in ways which attract their loyalty and participation to help these institutions survive.  I believe as Freemasons we do not have to go it alone.  We do not need to invent the wheel. There is much that we can learn from our sister the church.

I have suggested that change, conflict, choice and competition are the operative words in our society today. And I would like to believe that as Freemasons we are approaching the nadir of our membership decline and lodge closings and mergers.  Time will tell if society swings back to us again. But in the meantime we cannot afford to wait for the future to happen to us, we must shape our own future.

As Lyle Shaller so bluntly states in his analysis of the church landscape: “…. the historical record is clear, given the choice between making the changes required to become competitive or gradually fading into obsolescence, the majority of individuals, voluntary associations, religious congregations, profit-driven corporations, and nonprofit institutions find it easier to adjust to obsolescence rather than initiate and implement the required changes.”[11]

Thank you, my brothers and friends, for allowing me be with you tonight.  I think you might agree, surely there are important lessons the church can teach masonry.

Paper Presented By:  The Rev. Terry L. Tilton, PGM-MN 2002-2003, FPS

[1]Official Journal and Yearbook, Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist

[2]Paper by M.W.B. Frank J. Haas, MPS, “Masonry Through the (Rearview) Looking

[3] Lyle Shaller, From Cooperation to Competition, (Abingdon Press, Nashville, 2006) 1.

[4]Lyle Shaller, From Cooperation to Competition, (Abingdon Press, Nashville, 2006) 7.

[5]Paul Bessel, retrieved 04/15/2008  from (All Masonic Grand  Lodges with website links)

[6]Chris Hodapp, an email invitation recovered April 24, 2008.

[7] Recovered from  org on April 21, 2008

[8]Reported by M.W.B. Richard Fletcher, Executive Director, Masonic Information Center,

[9]“Freemasons in midst of popularity, membership boom,” Los Angeles Times, May 18, 2008 story in Lifestyle features.

[10] Herb Miller and Lyle Schaller, Co-editors, THE PARISH PAPER -Ideas and Insights for Active Congregations, “Attracting New People: Are We Building the Bridges?”  July, 2007.

[11]Lyle Shaller, From Cooperation to Competition, (Abingdon Press, Nashville, 2006) 16.

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The Meaning of Masonry For One Long Time Aging Brother

I hear frequently asked the question, “Why did you want to become a Mason?”  But I hardly ever hear anyone ask why you are still a Mason.  What are you getting out of it now that you have been in it awhile and explored its philosophy?  What have you found out to be the “big thing” for you in Masonry now that you are a veteran?

These are questions that have been going around and around in my head lately. You see I am a very divided person, a Dr.Jekyll and Mr. Hyde so to speak. One part of me is very introverted, quiet and studious and another part of me is outgoing, gregarious and into community. And by community I allude to what M. Scott Peck wrote about in his book “The Road Less Traveled.” In case you have forgotten here is what Peck said:

Peck describes what he considers to be the most salient characteristics of a true community[7]:

  • Inclusivity, commitment and consensus: Members accept and embrace each other, celebrating their individuality and transcending their differences. They commit themselves to the effort and the people involved. They make decisions and reconcile their differences through consensus.
  • Realism: Members bring together multiple perspectives to better understand the whole context of the situation. Decisions are more well-rounded and humble, rather than one-sided and arrogant.
  • Contemplation: Members examine themselves. They are individually and collectively self-aware of the world outside themselves, the world inside themselves, and the relationship between the two.
  • A safe place: Members allow others to share their vulnerability, heal themselves, and express who they truly are.
  • A laboratory for personal disarmament: Members experientially discover the rules for peacemaking and embrace its virtues. They feel and express compassion and respect for each other as fellow human beings.
  • A group that can fight gracefully: Members resolve conflicts with wisdom and grace. They listen and understand, respect each others’ gifts, accept each others’ limitations, celebrate their differences, bind each others’ wounds, and commit to a struggle together rather than against each other.
  • A group of all leaders: Members harness the “flow of leadership” to make decisions and set a course of action. It is the spirit of community itself that leads and not any single individual.

So , as a split personality, part of me is into esoteric stuff, spirituality, the connection between science & religion and the symbolism and hidden meanings of Freemasonry.  This part of me reads books, studies other Mason’s thoughts on attaining the “higher self” and contemplates and mediates on the meaning of it all.

The other part of me attends Lodge, partakes of Lodge social functions and gathers with Brothers individually to cement the ties of brotherly love and affection.

This dichotomy is reinforced by the two distinct styles I observe in Brothers.  Type A is a Brother who reads and studies and is into all the esoteric philosophy that is a kin to Freemasonry such as the Kybalion and Hermetic philosophies and the Rosicrucians. This Brother attends Lodge now and then but rarely becomes an officer.

Type B is a Brother who doesn’t read much, especially all that way out fancy stuff.  But he is a regular Lodge attendee, is or has gone through the chairs and participates in his Lodge’s activities and social functions all the time.  He also tends to be an excellent ritualist.  In addition he also has joined the York Rite and Scottish Rite and the Shrine and attends all those meetings regularly.

Type A does not have the time to attend all these functions and meetings on a regular basis, memorize ritual to a T and also be active in the Concordant Bodies AND have time to do all his research and study too.  Type B is so busy going to functions and meetings and taking a management position within multiple Bodies that even if he liked to read, research and study he wouldn’t have the time for it.

MY PROBLEM IS I AM BOTH – type AB.  In addition I take a very active part in reading, researching and writing about politics, so I have divided loyalties.  For me there is life after Freemasonry.

But while you are thinking I am patting myself on the back here what I am really doing is bemoaning the fact that I am a Jack of all trades but a Master of none.  Rather than seeing this as a plus I view it as a minus. Right now I am reading two Masonic books at once – “Nobly Born” and “The Lost Symbol.”  And they, like me, are works of opposite contrasts.  One is a historical documentary that sets the record straight and another is fanciful fiction from the dream world of an author with an overgrown imagination.  It is much like the difference between Operative & Speculative Masonry. One might tend to regard the other as good but secondary.

So that leaves the question still hanging and one which the reader knows that I want to answer – what’s the “big thing” for me now in Masonry? Considering all my drawbacks and all that I am missing because I refuse to be totally a Type A or a Type B what do I have to say as regards what has true meaning and benefit for me in the Craft right now in the year 2009. Which side am I going to throw more weight to – the A or B side?

Before I give you my answer I must tell you I was very influenced by reading a piece from H.L. Haywood.

“Freemasonry does not exist in a world where brotherhood is a mere dream flying along the sky; it exists in a world of which brotherhood is the law of human life. Its function is not to bring brotherhood into existence just as a hot-house gardener may at last coax into bloom a frail flower, though the climate is most unfriendly, but to lead men to understand that brotherhood is already a reality, a law, and that it is not until we come to know it as such, and practise it, that we can ever find happiness, together. Freemasonry does not create something too fine and good for this rough world; it “reveals” something that is as much a part of the world as roughness itself. In other words, it removes the hoodwink of jealousy, hatred, unkindness, and all the other myriad forms of unbrotherliness in order that a man may see and thus come to know how good and pleasant a thing it is for brethren to dwell together in unity. The hoodwink of cloth or leather that is bound over a man’s eyes is not the real hoodwink at all, but only the symbol thereof; the real hoodwink, and it is that which Freemasonry undertakes to remove from a man’s eyes, is all that anti-social and unhuman spirit out of which grow the things that make life unkind and unhappy. “Brotherhood is heaven; the lack of brotherhood is hell.”

So then for me as I approach the years of retirement, as to distinguish myself from a much younger Freemason, it is precisely COMMUNITY and RELATIONSHIPS that hold the greatest meaning for me. It is making friends so deeply, so closely and tightly bonded that the meaning of friendship itself has been changed. It is knowing not just one but dozens of human beings that you would be willing to die for without question. It is a joy one usually finds just with one’s spouse.  But I have been fortunate enough to forge many, many soul mates and I don’t think very many people outside the Craft could claim that. And it is what many soul mates collectively can experience in Community that blows my mind away.

And it is also very much about something that I wrote about in “World Peace Through Brotherhood.” The ability for men of different faiths, different cultures, different races, different political persuasions and different economic status to come together leaving their differences outside the Lodge door is what makes every Masonic Lodge a sanctuary of Peace in the world and what holds true promise for mankind as a model to be emulated by the rest of the world. It all comes down to something we all learn very early in the first degree – “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for Brethren to dwell together in unity!”

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Man Who Burns Bible On Masonic Altar Arrested For Arson To A Place Of Worship

St.Petersburg Times, Tampa edition, reports this arson attempt at Temple Terrace, Florida.

The original story Temple Terrace police find burned Bible on altar in Masonic lodge, arrest man inside for arson reads:

TEMPLE TERRACE — An alarm sounded just before midnight Monday at the Masonic Lodge, 11807 N 56th St. A police officer arrived soon after.

This is what Officer C. Morris wrote in the report:

The window was broken, fingerprints fresh.

Inside, a burned Masonic Bible lay atop a damaged altar.

Nearby was Tod Redman Stewart, a 34-year-old homeless man. He was arrested at 12:27 a.m. and booked into a Hillsborough County jail.

This was the same man who set fire to a flag outside the U.S. District Courthouse in downtown Tampa three times — once in 2007 and twice in 2006.

On Sept. 14, 2007, a Times reporter watched as three officers and a couple of federal marshals surrounded him on the same spot of sidewalk he’d chosen twice before. Stewart ranted about a government conspiracy.

He waved paperwork showing that prosecutors ended up dropping previous flag burning cases, because doing so isn’t illegal.

…His charges: burglary of an unoccupied structure, first-degree arson and criminal mischief to a place of worship.

It’s a sad and tragic story when demented individuals see conspiracies everywhere.  But the point in mentioning this story at all is the individual got arrested for arson to A PLACE OF WORSHIP.

We work so hard to convince people that Freemasonry is not a religion and come to find out that the authorities classify us as a house of worship.  Would they say the same thing about the Elks?

If legally we are considered a church then we are one no matter how much we protest to the contrary.

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To Be Or Not To Be, That Is The Question

Those of us who have been in the trenches, involved with the daily operation of a Lodge and interaction with other Lodges and Brethren and with Grand Lodge have our eyes and ears open and we know what is going on. We see who is black balled and who is not. We notice the cultural and racial makeup of our Lodges, the Lodges around us and our Grand Lodge. WE KNOW WHAT IS GOING ON.

For years now I have said that the KKK receded and disappeared into Freemasonry. They went underground with an organization from which they copied the style and manner of their ritual and the private manner of their organization. The KKK and Freemasonry have nothing in common philosophically but  organizationally they are similar. So it was easy to just let Freemasonry absorb them.

Now my hypothesis has been challenged by many Northern and Canadian Brethren who also have their eyes and ears open and don’t see it – because it isn’t there in their Lodges. Not experiencing it they just couldn’t believe that it happens. They think that I am missing a few marbles, out to lunch, three french fries short of a Happy Meal. But if so why would the Grand Master of Virginia make this statement?

Most Worshipful Jeffery E. Hodges wrote a letter with the following statement:

“With regard to organizations that are anti-semitic, racist or antisocial in their doctrine and avocation, such as but not limited to, the Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nations, etc., the following will be the policy of the Grand Lodge of Virginia: it is not acceptable to present information on, display association with, or solicit involvement in such organizations in a Masonic Lodge holden under the Grand Lodge of Virginia. At no time, should such organizations be linked to our gentle Craft.”

There is a wonderful post by Brother Shelby L. Chandler on the blog for Gate City Lodge No. 2 which I have reprinted here below.  It is worth noting and repeating one important point he made:

“As for that maligned Lodge mentioned above, all Masonic charges have been dropped. However, there is still a grassroots movement by other Lodges in their Grand Jurisdiction to petition to have the Charter of that Lodge removed as punishment for raising a Brother of “non-white” descent.”

Here is the entire letter:

  • Do Good unto All
    Bro. Shelby L. Chandler
    JW, Fredericksburg Lodge No. 4
    Members of Fredericksburg No. 4 and Prince Hall No. 61“Freemasonry is that universal Brotherhood which has endured the test of time for over 400 years and yet it is still, and will continue to be, on trial for the Ages. Understand that there will always be those out there who will believe us to be the blanket that threatens to envelop the world. They are studying us to find that one strand to pull that will eventually unravel the Masonic tapestry that they fear or despise. With that being said, what are we as Freemasons doing to set the record straight about this Craft of ours? How many members of this great Fraternity are actually taking the time to raise up their working tools in order to “build that temple within themselves”?

    “Outside of Virginia, there is a Masonic Lodge that is in the middle of a heated battle against what I consider “Indirect Racism”, for not only is bigotry subtly being practiced, it is also inappropriately being justified as one of the Ancient Landmarks of Freemasonry. Generally, the actions within the Jurisdiction of every Grand Lodge are their own. However, when charges are preferred upon a Worshipful Master and his Lodge because they raised a “non-white” man to the degree of Master Mason, using as justification for the charges the…”usurpation of the constitution, laws, ancient landmarks, customs and traditions of…Masons”—this challenges the very foundation and core of our “Ancient Landmarks & Customs of Freemasonry”. At that point, this spills beyond their Grand Jurisdiction and right onto the lap of every Brother who has ever been raised and is in good standing. “

    “The Constitution of Masonry reports, “Whence it follows that all Masons are to be good men and true—men of honor and honesty, by whatever religious names or persuasions distinguished; always following that golden precept, of “doing unto all men as (upon a change of conditions) they would that all men should do unto them. “ Understanding this, we recognize the importance of both true virtues and a clear respect for our fellow man in as much as we would wish this reciprocated. Worldwide, we as Freemasons suffer hatreds and prejudices by those who from their uninformed and closed-minded disposition would destroy the character of our beloved Craft; that being said, why would we wish to direct this fate upon any other of the human race?”

    “As Masons, we must keep a constant check of ourselves to be sure that we are living our lives in the manner that brings honor to the Craft. We are not Brothers so that we can save one another from minor infractions of the law, or to broker a better deal for ourselves in business, or even to save one another from our own foolishness or stupidity. We are Brothers because we hold each other to the highest of standards and we understand that the life we live in this world is a difficult but rewarding one. Bigotry and Freemasonry are polar opposites of each other and ardent adversaries when faced with one another and never should one be practiced with the other. “

    “We are the Brotherhood of Man under the Fatherhood of God. In a time when morality is declining within our society, there are so few good and honorable men in this world that one can rely upon; it is a shameful thing that there are those who would deny themselves and others the opportunity to know the experience and soul of another human being just because of the shell that we are destined to wear in this imperfect world. But I guarantee you that when we lay down our working tools, my Brother’s ashlar will fit as perfectly as mine when placed in that house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”

    “As for that maligned Lodge mentioned above, all Masonic charges have been dropped. However, there is still a grassroots movement by other Lodges in their Grand Jurisdiction to petition to have the Charter of that Lodge removed as punishment for raising a Brother of “non-white” descent. But this is not only their burden; every Grand Jurisdiction faces this issue. Even in Virginia, Most Worshipful Jeffery E. Hodges wrote a letter with the following statement:

    “With regard to organizations that are anti-semantic, racist or antisocial in their doctrine and avocation, such as but not limited to, the Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nations, etc., the following will be the policy of the Grand Lodge of Virginia: it is not acceptable to present information on, display association with, or solicit involvement in such organizations in a Masonic Lodge holden under the Grand Lodge of Virginia. At no time, should such organizations be linked to our gentle Craft.”

    “I personally believe this to mean that, in addition to the ban on organization linkages, Virginia Masonry should regard the qualities and virtues of a Freemason as incompatible with the immoral behavior affirmed by such groups. Brethren, we all have our own problems and challenges of life, but we need to keep working to chip away at our own rough ashlars to make them perfect. The imperfections of our individuality are acceptable only because we are still utilizing our working tools to that end to accomplish and overcome. To act in denial or to refuse to change or improve ourselves and accept a life of hate is truly against the Ancient Landmarks and Customs of Freemasonry, and we should always check ourselves and take a good look at the edifice that we are building within.”

    “Brethren, there will always be someone willing to unravel this beautiful tapestry that we know as Freemasonry. Let us not help them find that strand, but more especially let us not allow one of our own to unravel that tapestry from the seams within. Let us remember to do good unto all; recommend it more especially to the household of the faithful.”

    “I promise you Brethren, the Great Architect of the Universe will remember.”

We can let ourselves be torn apart by refusing to admit we have a problem.  We can bury our heads in the sand, block our eyes, close our ears and just let life go on as it is.  Or we can take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them.

emblem of industry

My Lodge Has Fellowship, Family & Fun Also

Pride of Mt Pisgah #135 takes its Masonry seriously.  We spend considerable time on Masonic education. We provide excellent mentoring and first class intensive instruction of candidates.  We give back to the community personally, we don’t just send a check.

And we have some good times with family, some fun and fellowship.  Take a look!