Built in a Classical revival style in 1926, the temple on Lindell Boulevard has played host to, then, Grand Master Harry Truman, and initiated the Spirit of St. Louis pilot, Charles Lindbergh. For the Gen-Xer’s who might be reading, the temple steps were the back drop for parts of the film Escape from New York.
Perhaps the most notable element of the building is the 38 foot long mural, The Origins of Freemasonry, created by Jessie Housley Holliman and dedicated by, then senator, Harry S. Truman in 1941. Holliman, you see, was an African American woman commissioned for the work.
This would appear to be the mural:
The temple celebrated its 80 year anniversary in 2006.
Little ground exists between Halloween and Freemasonry. Here and there a costume ball or an orange crepe paper centerpiece marks the passing of the season, but that is probably the extent of any connectivity. For me, the holiday has always been an important one even as my own little goblins have forsaken the quest for candy for more adult like pursuits.
This is the first year of a house devoid of pint sized celebrants leaving me to reorient myself to the signs of the season. Few could argue that the air itself reminds us that it is autumn – it comes from the harvest; the slow subjugation of the sun; the withering leaves. Today, I’ve come to see the holiday in a different perspective, a Hermetic point of view that, in a sense, encapsulates some importance of the season.
For me, Halloween is the point upon which my spiritual year turns. It is the window between the bountiful summer that comes from the victorious sun and its falls closer to the horizon. Autumn is the stretching shadow that foretells of things to come. This is when the cold seeps in, the dead begin to walk and ghosts skulk out from shadows.
As an adult, I’ve found a greater love of the holiday with a deeper sense of what it represents. My childhood memories of the season have paved the road of time with recollections of cheap drugstore costumes imbued with magical powers – powers that allowed me to wantonly go door-to-door in search of candy. These magical powers were not remarkable themselves but the costumes that they came from were. They gave me the power to pretend for a time to be someone else. Besides being a day of candy corn and mummy dogs, the celebration of Halloween is a way of celebrating the opposite ideation of ourselves – to be something more than what we are. In doing so, it allows us to assume that things power, if even if for an instance.
Understandably, this ignores the traditions of Samhain or dia de los muertos as they each in kind have their own specific practices. Rather than celebrating the dead or forestalling their return, I see the fundamental aspect of Halloween as the celebration of becoming something we wish we were. The season reminds us of this with the change in the air that it brings. It taunts us with the slowly enveloping cocoon of winter looming before us.
The lessons I glean from All Hallows Eve are the forces of change at work in both our physical and mental universe as we reminiscence and contemplate the imaginary roles of our past and future selves. It is the polarity that the Kyablion speaks of and the duality that such polarity embodies. From those thoughts go our fears on the flickering lights of the jack-o-lantern and upon the whispers of invisible ghosts.
The celebration of the harvest and of Halloween gives us command over the power of our past and shows us the potential of our future. It puts us in charge of who we are at this moment of being in a way similar to the action of becoming HIram Abiff. Fundamentally, it represents our own juxtaposition of static change giving us, perhaps, a glimpse of some dimensional otherness.
That’s what Halloween reminds me of – melancholy and spice; damp eyes wet with the glimmer of the future; it’s imagining what we want to be.
It’s Halloween, time for us to assume an imaginary mantle of some otherness of who we want to be… even if for just a few fleeting hours.
Just recently, I decided to bring to life a little project of mine that began somewhere back in 2007. The “project” evolved as a series of short works, or treatises, on the degrees of Scottish Rite Freemasonry.
The project had an purpose, one that I followed through its course. Slowly, the pile of works grew to encompass 12 near complete works, many at written at great pains of research and time. But what was I to do with them?
I wanted to do something more with them than to publish them onto the web. I felt like they deserved better than that, they needed something to encapsulate their content.
Then it came to me.
Earlier this year, I finished Richard Kaczynski ‘s biography on Aleister Crowley, Perdurabo, and something struck me. One of the driving forces behind Crowley’s work, despite all the hype and hyperbole, was that he wanted to communicate it to the world. More so, that he was driven by the idea of having to let the world know what he had discovered in the pursuit of his passions. I was feeling the need to do the same; I needed to get these ideas out of my head and out of the drawer that the sat quietly in and into a medium where they could live beyond the pixilated computer screen and sink into the zeitgeist of modern Masonic esoterica.
So began the “little project.”
I’m sure I will be talking more about the project in the weeks and months to come, but for now, if you’re interested in seeing what this little project is about, you can read more on it here, at Kickstarter.
I haven’t said much about the project because I don’t want to give too much away just yet, I want the work to do that. What I will say is that the work thus far is an exploration of Freemasonry and it connection to the Kabbalah and how that is reflected in the working of the Scottish Rite degrees. I’ve let a few people read it and each has said that it offers a lot of food for thought with one saying that it bridged the “…disconnect between my expectation and the reality of [the first degree] initiation.”
Personally, I didn’t think I would be writing this so soon but stunningly, my project has reached its campaign goal in just under six days. But that doesn’t mean it’s over. If you would like to still be a part of my little project, you can still contribute. Every bit will go towards making this book that much better. My stretch goal, with anything left over from the campaign, is to get the text translated into Spanish and French and then look at publishing it into those markets as well. Your further help and support can help make that happen.
Aquila, better known in Masonic parlance as the Roman Eagle, was considered in ancient times to be a symbol of strength, courage, and immortality. The signa militaria[i] of the Roman military under Gaius Marius (104 BC), the war standard was made of silver or bronze and served more as a holy war relic than mere militaristic emblem of the Roman Legions.
Wells, in his Masonic short talk of 1915, says of the eagle that as it was adopted by the Romans upon their banners it
…signified magnanimity and fortitude, or as in the ancient Sacred Writings, swiftness and courage.
In antiquity, the Romans were not the first to make use of the eagle as an emblem of war, as, Wells cites, the Persians, under Cyrus the Younger[ii], had borne the Eagle upon their spears as a standard.[iii]
In a more modern parlance France, Russia, Prussia, Germany, and the United States have each in turn adopted the Eagle, variously, as a National symbol of identity adorning the U.S. dollar, today, in a style reminiscent of its depiction on similar Roman coinage from when it was adopted into western material culture.
Albert Mackey in his Encyclopedia of Freemasonry says of the eagle that it is a symbol of great antiquity calling into reference Egyptian, Greek, and Persia symbolism where the bird was sacred to the sun.
Among the Pagans it was an emblem of Jupiter, and with the Druids it was a symbol of their supreme god. In the Scriptures, a distinguished reference is in many instances made to the eagle; especially do we find Moses (Exodus xix, 4) representing Jehovah as saying, in allusion to the belief that this bird assists its feeble young in their flight by bearing them upon its own pinions, “Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself.” Not less elevated was the symbolism of the eagle among the Pagans. Thus, Cicero, speaking of the myth of Ganymede carried up to Jove on an eagle’s back, says that it teaches us that the truly wise, irradiated by the shining light of virtue, become more and more like God, until by wisdom they are borne aloft and soar to Him.
While Mackey goes deep into the meanings behind the eagle, the suggestion that the Masonic Apron is more noble than the Roman Eagle implies that its receipt is an honor, greater than being a member of the famed Roman Legion which may lend itself to some pull to particular military association with Masonry today. An interesting consideration of the Roman Legion was their early and then later composition.
In the early period of the empire, the legion was composed of levied soldiers who supplied their own equipment that would form as needed disbanding when not. Essentially, to serve meant you were a citizen of the empire. When the Rome army began to experience inadequate staffing because of income or property qualifications of its citizenry, Consul Gaius Marius removed the prequalifications of service (wealth and social class) allowing all free people of the empire eligible for the army. This change created the first volunteer professional standing army. That openness to everyone regardless of class of social standing is a parallel we find amongst the ranks of Freemasonry today.
Some suggest that the Roman Eagle was a European Trade Symbol coming from the Hanseatic League. A confederation of merchant guilds that stretched from the Baltic to the North Sea and inland during the Late Middle Ages and early modern period (c. 13th to 17th centuries), the Hanseatic league evolved to protect economic interests and diplomatic privileges along trade routes, cities and countries where its members did business. . One Masonic source says of the Hanseatic League that,
…its members had their Headquarters at Lubeck, and adopted the Arms of Lubeck which at this time was the Roman Eagle and appears on the Seal of the Hanse. They also called themselves Knights of the Holy Roman Empire.[iv]
The Leagues coat of arms is of a double headed eagle, rather than an Aquila eagle, so this connection to the Apron seems less legitimate other than its being a pre-enlightenment trade guild, similar to the guild of the Golden Fleece.[v][vi]
An interesting parallel in the Hanseatic League connection is the guilds factory rules which one could find Masonic parallels including:
No man older than fifty years or younger than eighteen winters could be received.
Anyone who committed what had been forbidden was to be cast out, and driven from the community.
No one should have a woman within the burgh
be absent from it for three nights
These rules helped the league work in foreign countries as they “… formed among the alien populations in which they were placed semi-monastic establishments”[vii]
Yet, in this double headed eagle, we can still find some parallels to draw with the Roman Eagle.
Mackey says of the emblem,
The Eagle Displayed, that is, with extended wings, as if in the act of dying, has always, from the majestic character of the bird, been deemed an emblem of imperial power. Marius, the consul, first consecrated the eagle, about eight years before the Christian era, to be the sole Roman standard at the head of every legion, and hence it became the standard of the Roman Empire ever afterward.
As the single-headed Eagle was thus adopted as the symbol of imperial power, the double-headed Eagle naturally became the representative of a double empire; and on the division of the Roman dominions into the eastern and western empire, which were afterward consolidated by the Carlovingian race into what was ever after called the Holy Roman Empire, the double-headed Eagle was assumed as the emblem of this double empire; one head looking, as it were, to the West, or Rome, and the other to the East, or Byzantium.
He goes on to enumerate the orders of knighthoods that adopted the double headed eagle including, The Prussian Order of the Black Eagle and the Order of the Red Eagle, both, Mackey says, are “outgrowths of the original symbol of the Roman Eagle.”
Of the double headed eagle, Mackey goes on to say that its adoption was probably first introduced as a symbol into Freemasonry in 1758. He says,
In that year the Body calling itself the Council of Emperors of the East and West was established in Paris. The double-headed eagle as likely to have been assumed by this Council in reference to the double Jurisdiction which it claimed, and which is represented so distinctly in its title.
The most ornamental, not to say the most ostentatious feature of the insignia of the Supreme Council, 33 , of the Ancient and Accepted (Scottish) Rite, is the double-headed eagle, surmounted by an imperial crown. This device seems to have been adopted some time after 1755 by the grade known as the Emperors of the East and West; a sufficiently pretentious title. This seems to have been its first appearance in connection with Freemasonry, but history of the high grades has been subjected to such distortion that it is difficult to accept unreservedly any assertion put forward regarding them. From this imperial grade, the double-headed eagle came to the “Sovereign Prince Masons” of the Rite of Perfection. The Rite of Perfection with its twenty-five Degrees was amplified in 1801, at Charleston, United States of America, into the Ancient and Accepted Rite of 33, with the double-headed eagle for its most distinctive emblem. When this emblem was first adopted by the high grades it had been in use as a symbol of power for 5000 years, or so. No heraldic bearing, no emblematic device anywhere today can boast such antiquity. It was in use a thousand years before the Exodus from Egypt, and more than 2000 years before the building of King Solomon’s Temple.
The quote, which is quite extensive, gives a sort of psudo-parrallel to antiquity linking the Scottish-Rite double headed eagle to the Babylonian era through a pair of terra cotta cylinders[viii] that depicts a proto-eagle in the form of a lion headed bird.
The long quote reads:
The story of our Eagle has been told by the eminent Assyriologist, M. Thureau Dangin, in the volume of Zeitschrift fur Assyriologie (1904). Among the most important discoveries for which we are indebted to the late M. de Sarzec, were two large terra cotta cylinders covered with many hundred lines of archaic cuneiform characters These cylinders were found in the brick mounds of Tello, which has been identified with certainty as the City of Lagash, the dominant center of Southern Babylonian ere Babylon had imposed its name and rule on the country.
The cylinders are now in the Louvre (see below) and have been deciphered by M. Thureau Dangin, who displays to our wondering eyes the emblem of power that was already centuries old when Babylon gave its name to Babylonia. The cylinder in question is a foundation record deposited by one Gudea, Ruler of the City of Lagash, to mark the building of the temple, about the year 3000 B.C., as nearly as the date could be fixed. The foundation record was deposited just as our medals, coins and metallic plates are deposited today, when the corner stone is laid with Masonic honors. It must be born in mind that in this ease, the word cornerstone may be employed only in a conventional sense, for in Babylonia all edifices, temples, palaces, and towers alike, were built of brick. But the custom of laying foundation deposits was general, whatever the building material might be, and we shall presently see what functions are attributed, by another eminent scholar, to the foundation chamber of King Solomon’s Temple.
The contents of this inscription are of the utmost value to the oriental scholar, but may be briefly dismissed for our present purpose. Suffice it to say, that the King begins by reciting that a great drought had fallen upon the land. ” The waters of the Tigris,” he says, ” fell low and the store of provender ran short in this my city,” saying that he feared it was 3 visitation from the gods, to whom he determined to submit his evil ease and that of his people. The reader familiar with Babylonian methods that pervade the Books of the Captivity will not be surprised to learn that the King dreamed a dream, in which the will of the gods was revealed by direct personal intervention and interlocution. In the dream there came unto the King “a Divine Man, whose stature reached from earth to heaven, and whose head was crowned with the crown of a god, surmounted by the Storm Bird that extended its wings over Lagash, the land thereof.” This Storm Bird, no other than our double-headed eagle, was the totem as ethnologists and anthropologists are fain to call it, of the mighty Sumerian City of Lagash, and stood proudly forth the visible emblem of its power and domination. This double-headed eagle of Lagash is the oldest Royal Crest in the world.
As time rolled on, it passed from the Sumerians to the men of Akhad. From the men of Akhad to the Hittites, from the denizens of Asia Minor to the Seliukian Sultans, from whom it was brought by Crusaders to the Emperors of the East and West, whose successors today are the Hapsburgs and Romanoffs, as well as to the Masonic Emperors of the East and West, whose successors today are the Supreme Council, 33, that have inherited the insignia of the Site of Perfection.
Interesting in its attempt at drawing a parallel to antiquity, in a modern context, it is challenging to find the same level of depth to so abstract an emblem, especially one that is superior to the other. But, a final consideration to include would be a symbolic one, for which we turn to Cirlot, from his Dictionary of Symbols[ix].
In his work, he suggests the symbol of the eagle as a symbol of height “… of the Spirit, as the sun, and of the spiritual principals in general” suggesting it linked to the symbolism found in Egyptian hieroglyphics, where “the Eagle represents the letter A–the first—pertaining to the warmth of life, the origin, the day.”
Cirlot writes “…the eagle is also identified with the father figure” representing heroic nobility. And, in religious terms, In the Vedic tradition, the eagle as the Messenger or in other art forms as “the emblem of the Thunderbolt.”
According to St. Jerome the Eagle is the emblem of the Ascension and of prayer. Since it can fly higher than any other bird, it is regarded as an expression of Divine Majesty. It is said to dominate and destroy baser forces. Thus making it the symbol of Imperial power.
Truly, the Lambskin Apron is greater and more noble emblem of strength, courage and power than the imperial symbol of powers, Aquilla, the Roman Eagle.
The following comes from a piece I wrote in 2007 on the Masonic Traveler blog. It addressed, at that time, question of Freemasonry being a religion. While the ideas may have evolved some over the years, the message in it seems to still bear resonance in light of the question rearing its head once again.
Is Freemasonry a Religion?
What perplexes me is why does it matter? Why does answering the question even matter any more to the cackling hens of the I’m right your wrong neener neener neener bunch. They have their opinion, and to them, were just wrong and ALL going to hell. So, here is my hat, I’m coming into the ring….
The quick observational answer is no, Freemasonry is not a religion, in that it does not teach FAITH. It does, however, strive to bring a philosophical and allegorical set of ideas forward and, in that sense could be construed as one which requires the observer to separate the two from one another. Faith is separate from Religion.
1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
2. a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.
3. the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices: a world council of religions.
4. the life or state of a monk, nun, etc.: to enter religion.
5. the practice of religious beliefs; ritual observance of faith.
6. something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience: to make a religion of fighting prejudice.
7. religions, Archaic. religious rites.
8. Archaic. strict faithfulness; devotion: a religion to one’s vow.
9. get religion, Informal.
a. to acquire a deep conviction of the validity of religious beliefs and practices.
b. to resolve to mend one’s errant ways: The company got religion and stopped making dangerous products.
[Origin: 1150–1200; ME religioun (<>This is NOT faith, though the two share some defining terms.
1. confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another’s ability.
2. belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.
3. belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion: the firm faith of the Pilgrims.
4. belief in anything, as a code of ethics, standards of merit, etc.: to be of the same faith with someone concerning honesty.
5. a system of religious belief: the Christian faith; the Jewish faith.
6. the obligation of loyalty or fidelity to a person, promise, engagement, etc.: Failure to appear would be breaking faith.
7. the observance of this obligation; fidelity to one’s promise, oath, allegiance, etc.: He was the only one who proved his faith during our recent troubles.
8. Christian Theology. the trust in God and in His promises as made through Christ and the Scriptures by which humans are justified or saved.
9. in faith, in truth; indeed: In faith, he is a fine lad.
[Origin: 1200–50; ME feith]
Freemasonry does not proclaim a belief not based on proof. It is a system of ethics, but then so are the Boy Scouts. It does proclaim a confidence in a person, the candidate who is forming his ashlar. But it does not suggest a belief not based on proof.
Note the difference in word origins, religion comes from the latin root meaning to tie, fasten, bind. Faith’s origin is to trust.
The Masonic Religion
The difference here is that in all of the writings in the past refer to Freemasonry in some way as a “religion” NOT as a faith. The problem today is that the fundamental argument that Freemasonry is a religion confuses the two and presumes that any religion must also be a faith. The difference here being that that assumption is false and the two are not dependent on one another.
Pike does say that Freemasonry is perhaps a representation of all religion in a passage from the 10th degree p161/162 saying:
Masonry is not a religion. He who makes of it a religious belief, falsifies and denaturalizes it. The Brahmin, the Jew, the Mahometan, the Catholic, the Protestant, each professing his peculiar religion, sanctioned by the laws, by time, and by climate, must needs retain it, and cannot have two religions; for the social and sacred laws adapted to the usages, manners, and prejudices of particular countries, are the work of men.
But Masonry teaches, and has preserved in their purity, the cardinal tenets of the old primitive faith, which underlie and are the foundation of all religions. All that ever existed have had a basis of truth; and all have overlaid that truth with errors. The primitive truths taught by the Redeemer were sooner corrupted, and intermingled and alloyed with fictions than when taught to the first of our race. Masonry is the universal morality which is suitable to the inhabitants of every clime, to the man of every creed. It has taught no doctrines, except those truths that tend directly to the well-being of man; and those who have attempted to direct it toward useless vengeance, political ends, and Jesuitism, have merely perverted it to purposes foreign to its pure spirit and real nature.
I suggest that Pike backs this up by saying on p.160, that the key is toleration, and without it, it becomes a pissing match for my faith is bigger than yours.
Toleration, holding that every other man has the same right to his opinion and faith that we have to ours; and liberality, holding that as no human being can with certainty say, in the clash and conflict of hostile faiths and creeds, what is truth, or that he is surely in possession of it, so every one should feel that it is quite possible that another equally honest and sincere with himself, and yet holding the contrary opinion, may himself be in possession of the truth, and that whatever one firmly and conscientiously believes, is truth, to him–these are the mortal enemies of that fanaticism which persecutes for opinion’s sake, and initiates crusades against whatever it, in its imaginary holiness, deems to be contrary to the law of God or verity of dogma. And education, instruction, and enlightenment are the most certain means by which fanaticism and intolerance can be rendered powerless.
Perhaps in its practice, but not as a dogmatic belief system with specifics to salvation.
Is Freemasonry tolerant of all faiths? Yes. Does that frighten, distance, and otherwise disenfranchise all fundamentalist ideologues? You bet your ass it does, which is why every organized dogmatically proscribed faith HATES and denounces Freemasonry.
Freemasonry is the religion of not being a religion. The faith of all faiths. It says no one faith is right, and no one faith is wrong, which is diametrically opposed to what any fundamentalist body wants to tell you is right.
With the recent decision by the Grand Master of Florida on the exclusion of Pagan, Wiccan, or men of other “non traditional faiths” based on the Charges of a Free-Mason, I thought it a good time to look at these mysterious Masonic charges and try to put them into a historical context.
Anderson’s Charges, originally written and published in 1722 (with a revision in 1738), have their origins in a series of General Regulations, drafted in 1720 as a method of conduct in lodge. Interestingly, nowhere in the General Regulations is there mention of God, Moral Laws, or any other pre-qualification of divinely inspired per-requisite to membership.
The original Charges of a Free-Mason from The Constitutions of the Free-Masons (1734), was originally published by James Anderson A.M., and became the first Masonic text published in America by Benjamin Franklin in 1734. As a text, the Charges have a long history of precedence in Masonic policy, being an unspoken yet de facto baseline of how Freemasons operate. No two U.S. Grand Lodges have officially adopted the same set of Masonic Landmarks as part of their rule and guide, yet all use them, in part, as a source in their historical constitutions. So too is this true of the original Anderson Charges. The Charges themselves have a contentious history in American Masonry being argued and redrawn several times since their original publication by Albert Mackey and Roscoe Pound, to name a few.
Concerning GOD and RELIGION. A Mason is obliged by his Tenure, to obey the moral Law; and if he rightly understands the Art, he will never be a stupid Atheist, nor an irreligious Libertine. But though in ancient Times Masons were charged in every Country to be of the Religion of that Country or Nation, whatever it was, yet ’tis now thought more expedient only to oblige them to that Religion in which all Men agree, leaving their particular Opinions to themselves ; that is, to be good Men and true, or Men of Honor and Honesty, by whatever Denominations or Persuasions they may be distinguished ; whereby Masonry becomes the Center of Union, and the Means of conciliating true Friendship among Persons that must else have remained at a perpetual Distance.
Our interest here is in the phrase “…obey the moral law” which suggests that, if followed, the individual will “rightly understand the art” being neither an Atheist nor irreligious Libertine. But, one has to question how one rightly understands it, given that the notion of a moral law is vague as it changes with the social changes of the times within which it is interpreted.
To look at it from a modern perspective the Free Legal Dictionary defines a moral law as
The rules of behavior an individual or a group may follow out of personal conscience and that are not necessarily part of legislated law in the United States.
Moral law is a system of guidelines for behavior. These guidelines may or may not be part of a religion, codified in written form, or legally enforceable. For some people moral law is synonymous with the commands of a divine being. For others, moral law is a set of universal rules that should apply to everyone.
But the idea of a moral law has an older source, namely in the philosophical works of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. Certainly there are others whose contributions of thought led to these two, but Hobbes and Locke’s philosophy were the most influential at the times of Anderson’s writing and likely the source of the Ancient idea of a Moral Law.
Thomas Hobbes notion of a Moral Law evolved out of his idea of a Natural Law. He suggested that a law of nature is natural and inherently known by everyone as it can easily be deduced by innate mental faculties such as reason and philosophy. His moral philosophy was based upon an iteration of the Golden Rule, in Hobbes terms, “Do not that to another, which thou wouldst not have done to thy selfe.”
What makes this statement different from the Golden Rule is that Hobbes version suggests an action (or inaction) so as to avoid being on the receiving end of someone else’s retribution.
But, it seems doubtful that this was the singular philosophical driving force to Anderson’s writing. Originally published in 1651, Hobbes’ philosophy appeared in his work Leviathan which went on to become a part of the foundation of Western Political Philosophy, especially on the formation of social contracts. This is interesting given that belonging to a membership based organization is based precisely on this kind of social contract. It should be said that Hobbes, in considering his social contract, was a proponent of absolutism for the sovereign, or in more modern parlance, in favor of an absolute ruler over society such as a king. Seeing individuals outside of said society, Hobbes believe those poor unfortunates were in, what he called, a state of nature which made them “…solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short” In this state of Nature, Hobbes believed that man was in a continual struggle, living in fear, ignorance, and in intense discomfort and it was this social contract that man could overcome the effects of the natural law and live in a higher state.
In Leviathan, Hobbes writes:
Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of war, where every man is enemy to every man, the same consequent to the time wherein men live without other security than what their own strength and their own invention shall furnish them withal. In such condition there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.
So with Hobbes the idea of overcoming the natural law though social contracts would lead to better society building and community building. But English social philosophy didn’t stop with Hobbes, especially as we grow closer to the time of Anderson’s Charges.
Following Hobbes, John Locke laid out his ideas in his work Two Treatises of Government, published in 1689. In these Two Treates, Locke lays out the idea of a civil society based upon Hobbes suggestion that every man begins in a state of nature and in need of a social contract. Where Locke differs is in saying that all men created equal in that state of nature by God. In the second Treatus, Locke makes the case for the only form of legitimate government as one with the consent of the people. Locke felt that any government not governed this way was worthy of being overthrown.
While it is interesting to imagine how Locke’s work on establishing a democratic civil society may be at the heart of the original general Regulations and Anderson’s Constitution (both, remember, call for the election of leadership within a democratic framework) to find a link to his philosophical ideas on a Moral Law comes from a lesser known work by Locke, written in 1689, titled An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. In it, we can read on a multitude of aspects concerning moral rectitude, moral actions, the law of nature, and the foundation of being a Moral Being. Of note, Locke was writing as a Christian and saw the basis of a Moral Laws in the fashion of a carrot and stick means of motivation. What that means is that, as Locke saw it, God punishes those who fail to follow a religiously motivated moral law while rewarding those who do.
Locke’s view of the Moral Law stands out in the greatest relief when we look at his work The Reasonableness of Christianity, written in 1695,where Locke finally defines the basis of his idea of the Moral Law saying,
Thus then, as to the law, in short: the civil and ritual part of the law, delivered by Moses, obliges not christians, though, to the jews, it were a part of the law of works; it being a part of the law of nature, that man ought to obey every positive law of God, whenever he shall please to make any such addition to the law of his nature. But the moral part of Moses’s law, or the moral law, (which is every-where the same, the eternal rule of right,) obliges christians, and all men, every-where, and is to all men the standing law of works. But christian believers have the privilege to be under the law of faith too; which is that law, whereby God justifies a man for believing, though by his works he be not just or righteous, i. e. though he come short of perfect obedience to the law of works. God alone does or can justify, or make just, those who by their works are not so: which he doth, by counting their faith for righteousness…
This passage both defines the Moral Law, at the time of Locke’s writing, and sets a framework by which men of all faiths could be recognized as capable (obliged) to reflect the moral law through works.
This brings back Anderson’s Charge when he writes
But though in ancient Times Masons were charged in every Country to be of the Religion of that Country or Nation, whatever it was, yet ’tis now thought more expedient only to oblige them to that Religion in which all Men agree, leaving their particular Opinions to themselves
This seems to parallel part of Locke’s idea of a Moral Law as a biblical foundation for this general degree of worship. In Reasonableness, Locke points to the Gospel of John, in verse 4:21-23, as Jesus speaks to the woman from Samaria, the passage reads,
Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
It seems that a reader could take this idea of common worship in one of two ways. First, in the overt Judeo Christian context as Locke proposed citing the woman of Samaria parable. Or, as Anderson saw fit to broaden the context of the parable so as to be inclusive of a more general Moral Law creating what he describes as a “Center of Union, and the the Means of conciliating true Friendship among Persons that must else have remained at a perpetual Distance.”
It would be doubtful that Anderson’s view of the moral law deviated significantly from Locke’s philosophy given the degree to which Locke’s other ideas of a civil society have permeated into Freemasonry, at least in principals, but Locke’s ideals were limited to social societies within which there may not be men otherwise “…at perpetual distance,” especially in a landscape of various religious denominations and potentially divergent faith traditions. In a broad sense, these various denominations and faith groups would be a part of the composite of his civil society and outside of the test of adherence to his idea of a Moral Law. Rather, Locke’s writing on the Moral Law seems to suggest that anyone who adheres to its ideal of works is following the prescribed practice and that it is his opinion as a Christian that those who do so under a Christian pretense will receive additional rewards.
This may create some present day discomfort at between moralizing memberships for any faith other than Christian. But it certainly does not preclude differing faiths, at least not upon any philosophical argument, from the Fraternity accepting members from faiths other than Christianity. Perhaps that was the basis for the Florida decision, to finally take a stance and push out those not of common faith, and put specific definition to the meaning behind the Moral Law, a decision that would insist an all or nothing stance for other like bodies to step in line or dissolve relationships. Either way, it creates a situation of absolutism that seems fundamentally contrary to Anderson’s Constitutions.
Perhaps Pike got it right when he writes in his first degree observation in Morals and Dogma when he says,
The Wisdom and Power of the Deity are in equilibrium. The laws of nature and the moral laws are not the mere despotic mandates of His Omnipotent will; for, then they might be changed by Him, and order become disorder, and good and right become evil and wrong; honesty and loyalty, vices; and fraud, ingratitude, and vice, virtues. Omnipotent power, infinite, and existing alone, would necessarily not be constrained to consistency. Its decrees and laws could not be immutable. The laws of God are not obligatory on us because they are the enactments of His POWER, or the expression of His WILL; but because they express His infinite WISDOM. They are not right because they are His laws, but His laws because they are right. From the equilibrium of infinite wisdom and infinite force, results perfect harmony, in physics and in the moral universe. Wisdom, Power, and Harmony constitute one Masonic triad. They have other and profounder meanings, that may at some time be unveiled to you…
To reconcile the moral law, human responsibility, freewill, with the absolute power of God; and the existence of evil with His absolute wisdom, and goodness, and mercy, – these are the great enigmas of the Sphinx.
Joseph James is an actor and filmmaker with a long list of projects with an eye towards the fraternity. Having already produced several films with overt Masonic tones including The Masonic Map and Templar Nation, James is on the cusp of his latest release with his film The Freemason, taking us again into the mysteries upon the silver screen. In this installment of Sojourners, James gives us an insider’s look at the making of his latest Masonic feature, The Freemason, replete with all the tinsel the fraternity can bring to it. Of all his skill and craft, James brings an earnestness to his filmmaking imbuing his work with his love for Freemasonry.
Greg Stewart (GS) – Let’s start with the basics; who is Joseph James? How long have you been a Freemason and what bodies do you belong to?
Joseph James (JJ) – Several of my great grandfathers were Freemasons. When I was about 14, I became interested in Freemasonry and started reading about it. At that time, there was not a lot of information online about how a person could become a Mason, so I didn’t know how to proceed, but it was always something I wanted to do. After growing up in Utah, I moved to Portland about 2004 in order to expand my clothing company. I had a car that needed some repairs. I noticed the mechanic working on my car was wearing a bright blue Masonic ring. It was perfect opportunity for me to ask him if I could become a Mason. He introduced me to one of the oldest and most established lodges in Portland, and I’m now a life time member of that lodge. I joined the Scottish Rite and am now a 32nd Degree Mason. I also joined the Portland Al Kader Shriners and served as the Temple Outer Guard in the Divan before moving to Hollywood with my wife and newborn son. I am a member of multiple lodges in several states, and I am a member of the York Rite and a lifetime member of the Grotto.
GS – If you remember, what initially interested you in the fraternity?
JJ – Besides learning that I had ancestors and relatives who were Masons, I was impressed by the fact that so many great men and leaders were Masons. Men I truly admire, such as the Founding Fathers, great entertainers and philanthropists. I was interested in doing charity work. I also wanted to learn some of the secrets of Freemasonry going back to Solomon’s Temple and the Knights Templar.
GS – Did your ideal of the fraternity prove to be the case upon joining or was it different? What was your initial impression with it?
JJ – Yes, becoming a Mason was just as enlightening and challenging as I thought it would be.
My initial impression was very positive. My mentors were a 33rd Degree Masons named Bill Larson, Clyde Brown and Webber Harrington (all of them have since passed away). Clyde and Webber were also members of the Grand Cross Court of Honor. Larson was one of the only members in Portland who knew all 3 Lectures given during initiation. He challenged me to learn them. I was able to memorize the EA and Master Mason degree. Bill and I did the lectures together for many candidates. Everything I learned from Bill and the other Masons fortified my positive feelings towards Freemasonry.
GS – I’ve known you for some time (back to the MySpace days of social media I’m guessing), and back when you made a run on a reality TV program. Since then what have you had going on? Every now and then I’d see you pop up on line working on one project or another, so it’s obvious to me you’ve made it to some degree. How is it you came to make your new film, The Freemason?
JJ – I really enjoyed performing as an actor in the 32 degrees of the Scottish Rite. People I worked with told me that I was a good actor and that I should consider trying to pursue a career in that field. I auditioned for a film called Extraordinary Measures, which was being shot locally in the Portland area, and I booked a role as a background actor. I was in several scenes with Brendan Fraser. That’s when I decided to become an actor. My wife and I packed up everything we owned in a U-Haul and headed to Hollywood with our newborn son. In Hollywood, I landed small roles in everything from feature films to live television, short films, TV pilots and reality TV. Working on set for up to 15 hours a day convinced me that I wanted to produce feature films and be an actor as well. Utah has a great movie history, going back to the classic westerns of John Wayne up until today’s Sundance Film festival.
Since I grew up in Utah, I knew that every kind of landscape and terrain is available to film makers at a fraction of the cost of a Hollywood production. So my family and I moved back to Utah, and I started working on my first film, The Masonic Map. I wrote, directed and starred in that film. In my second film, called Templar Nation, I hired a professional screenwriter and two experienced actors, Erik Estrada (Chips) and local actor Richard Dutcher (God’s Army). I was able to hire Sean Astin to work on my latest film, The Freemason. I funded all of the films myself and I have employed hundreds of amazing, talented professional here in Utah.
GS – So what was your driving motivation behind making this film?
JJ – I wanted to create the most comprehensive, in depth film about Masonry ever made. I wanted to show as much of an actual initiation in a real Masonic lodge as possible. I wanted to share with the world some of what Freemasonry is really about. We were able to film much of the movie in the historic Salt Lake City Masonic Temple, in the actual initiation rooms. I want public and potential candidates to break through the barrier of uncertainty and join. Most of them do not know that we cannot solicit new members, therefore thousands of potential Masons never join simply because the don’t know how.
Some of the of the most influential Freemasons here in the U.S have seen the film and feel that every Mason should see this film as well as people who are considering joining.
GS – I found it interesting, the elements you put into the movie. Do you think it went too deeply into the “secrets” of Masonry?
JJ – Bill Larson (a well-respected 33rd Degree who delivered the E.A, F.C. And M.M degree for many years ) taught me that the two most important things we must never reveal: the tokens and the passwords. The parts of the ritual we show in the film are compelling but incomplete–the entire ritual is not shown. I believe our non-mason audience is very curious about our initiation rituals as well as the 32 degrees in the Scottish Rite.
We were respectful but tantalizing, so that anyone with a true interest in Masonry would learn just enough to want to learn more.
I admit that we also dipped into some of the speculation we’ve all heard about Masons influence regarding politics, banking, the military, law enforcement as well as wealthy business owners etc, as a dramatic tool. I feel like we didn’t say anything that is not true or anything that would leave a bad or incorrect impression of Masonry. The feedback I’ve gotten from Masons all over the world that have heard about the film or seen the trailer gives me confidence that we found the right balance between showing too much and not enough.
GS – I like the quick abstract in the film of the history of Masonry is when Cyrus and Detective Leon Weed (actors Randy Wayne and Sean Astin) are reconstructing the crime scene. Their exchange almost feels poetic when talking about the fraternity. Where did that come from?
JJ – Sean Astin gets the credit for that. We were at a warehouse shooting [the scene] from the original script. Sean said that he [had] a great scene in his mind and that we needed to write it out and film it before the end of the day. He wanted to know more about the initiation so that we could help the general public understand the initiation ritual more clearly. He told me to go buy a book about the initiation, so I drove to a local bookstore and bought a copy of a book that revealed some of the ritual but it did not cross the line. He and I then wrote out that scene in 2 hours, filmed it and added it to the film. I will never forget a quote from the director of photography, Thor Wixom, after the scene he said “that is now my favorite scene in the movie”.
In writing that scene, Sean wanted to help non-Masons understand the physical orientation of the rooms in the Masonic Temple and what that meant. He also wanted to express the strength of the Masonic vows when there is a reference to being killed if you reveal sacred information. And also, there is an element of Cyrus beginning to catch on to the real motive for the murder.
GS – Later on in the film, Cyrus and the Grand Master have an exchange that really dramatized the power of the 2b1ask1 proposition. What was the thought behind it?
JJ – That came out of my experience becoming a Mason.
Most people think that the Masons recruit people or that you have to have a family member vouch for you. Some people also believe that you have to be a certain type of person (successful or wealthy) to become a mason. No one seems to believe how simple it can be, as simple as asking. I do believe that when people realize that, it may lead them to do as the film says: Ask One. And from there they may become Masons.
GS – It feels like you came at many of the issues of Masonry, even the notion of women Freemasons as Rana (playd by Alex McKenna), the daughter of a Mason, having resentment (almost an implied jealousy) over his activity in it. In a broader stroke, it feels in many ways that you encapsulated the process of the beginning, middle and end of becoming a Mason, even as it’s interjected into the plot lines. It really feels like a part of the story. Did that take a lot of time to construct? How did you go about weaving the two together (the story and the Masonic ritual elements)?
JJ – We wanted make sure people understand what critical role women have in Freemasonry. For instance, there are Women’s only branches of Freemasonry such as The White Shrine, Jobs Daughters, The Bethel etc. These organizations do a lot of charity work and they have their own initiation ceremonies as well. I have also talked to people who are involved in Co-Masonry which has both women and men as members. The famous statement, “behind every good man is a good woman” When I was in the Divan for the Portland Shriners, the women were just as organized and effective at raising money for the Shriners Hospital as well as coordinating events and running the day to day operations for Blue Lodges, The Scottish Rite and The Shrine.
GS – Without giving anything away, the end takes a distinct and dark turn. I have to say it was almost disturbing given the sentiment it encapsulated. Was that the end you had in mind when you started shooting?
JJ – The ending in script and the ending we decided to go with were different.
There was a district difference but If I elaborate on it so much it might reveal to much about the plot. The final scene was also written by Sean and me the night before we shot it. Sean and I wrote it during an all-nighter after we had already completed a 12 hour workday. He called me to his hotel and we sat up all night talking about it, acting it out, working it over and over again…At 5 am we were both exhausted mentally and physically. However, the final scene was not finished yet. We needed to eat, so we went to a local Denny’s at 5 am, and there we were, Sean typing furiously on his laptop as customers walked past and looked him over, no doubt wondering, “Is that Sean Astin, and what the hell is he doing at Denny’s in Salt Lake City at 5 am?”
After we finished eating the new ending was finished. The sun was up and went back to the set to work another 15 hours with out any sleep. But it was worth it. Most of the people who have seen the film think that ending is not only shocking but it also it ties everything together giving it a sense of closure. The feedback we have receive is that Sean’s performance is authentic and stunning. If I give any more details than that it might reveal the plot. We also shot the original ending which will be available on our “Extra Bonus Features” along with some special features and a 30 minute behind the scenes look at the making of the movie.
GS – I have to ask, did Astin (or anyone on the set) express any interest in the fraternity as the film wrapped?
JJ – Yes, there were many inquiries. By the end of the film, most of the cast and the crew were much more interested in Freemasonry and wanted to know more. Sean said that he wants to continue to learn more and more about who we are.
GS – When you made the film, did you start your own production company or did you fire them to produce and make the film?
JJ – Each time I make a new film I start a new production company.
GS – Where any of the other actors or production folks Freemasons?
JJ – Yes, my friend Howard drove all the way in from Montana to help with the production. He was there during my initiation in Portland, Oregon. There were also several other Masons on the cast and the crew that helped along the way but primarily the cast and crew were professionals who make movies for a living.
GS – Let’s pull out to a wider shot, what do you see as the potential of Masonry in film?
JJ – I’m hoping that it emerges as a worldwide foundational film that can unite brothers from various countries. I will be dubbing it into different languages so that people who do not speak English can still watch it. I also see the potential for the people who want join to watch it and gain a deeper understanding if the principles and history that have kept Freemasons around the world connected for a greater cause such as charity work as well as preserving history that could possible go back as far as Solomon’s a Temple in Jerusalem. Freemasonry is a force for good in the world and I hope that people who see the film will recognize that the movie explains and defines what Masons stand for.
GS – I’ve always had half dozen ideas on quasi-Masonic stories or scripts in my head. Do you think there is subgenre of movies waiting to be made about Freemasonry?
JJ – Yes, the history channel and the discovery channel etc. have put together some solid documentaries and re-enactments of Masonic history as well as the Knights Templar who were almost eliminated under false pretenses on Friday the 13th, 1307. Many of our founding fathers were 3 dimensional, intelligent people whose lives were greatly influenced, but not controlled by masonry.
GS – Do they always need to be the protagonist, or is there space for them to be the antagonist too?
JJ – Nobody is perfect, we all make mistakes, and certainly not every man who is a mason has lived up to the highest standards we set for ourselves. Certainly, some have used their knowledge, prestige or influence improperly, or even in a bad way. Any organization with millions of members across the globe will always people who are not contributing positive actions and who are not helping their organization in any way.
Regarding a 90 page script for a feature film, the story is not going to be very interesting or complete without opposition to the protagonist, and certainly that opposition can come from a Mason. I don’t think we can all be painted with the same brush, either good or bad. Mason are all individuals, and we are all “rough ashlars” trying to become “perfect ashlars”. It is a lifelong journey. I am definitely a rough ashlar, however I am always attempting to become closer to a perfect ashlar even though it is not possible.
GS – What are your thoughts about Freemasonry seeping into television programs such as Sleepy Hollow or Vanished (2006)? From your perspective, is this a good thing for Freemasonry?
JJ – One of reasons I decided to make movies about our Fraternity is because there have been false allegations, myths and outright lies about who we are and what we stand for. It has been that way for hundreds and possibly thousands of years. I think that Freemasonry has been portrayed in negative light in books, movies, and TV shows for a long time it will continue. The reason why is because to truly understand Freemasonry you have to experience it and meet the Masons who run our lodges and temples, [the people who] raise millions of dollars for charities and who are normal, average people who enjoy helping other and connecting with new friends, business associates and others with the same goals preserving our history and while moving forward into future.
One thing that does concern me a little is that movies always have elements to them that are not real and in most cases, the Freemason are a prime target for others to speculate without evidence and portray our organization in way that is simply inaccurate. There will always be some distortion regarding what we as masons are really about.
GS – So what’s next? Where can we find the Freemason when it’s released?
JJ – The film was just released as an “Exclusive Pre-Worldwide Release” so that the supporters and fans who have been waiting for months can be some of the first people in the world to own the DVD.
The film will also be released on iTunes, Hulu, Amazon, Vimeo on Demand, and possible Netfilx and Redbox. For now, the best way to order the DVD is to go to our website www.thefreemasonmovie.com where we also have special deals on full size theatrical posters, a 30 min “Behind The Scenes” with bonus features including deleted scenes and trailers, sn interview with Sean Astin, Richard Dutcher (Grandmaster Sheldon Lombard) and myself.
GS – Will it play in any theaters that we could come an see it?
JJ – The film was in theaters for a short time. Now we are having public and private screenings for any group or organization interested. Interested parties can contact me directly at email@example.com
GS – Any guesses for when we can expect it on the online providers?
We have just made the movie available on Vimeo OnDemand, iTunes, and the DVD can be purchased through thefreemasonmovie.com or on Amazon. A link to the Vimeo OnDemand can be found on our homepage. We’ll be releasing a special edition in the coming weeks that features bonus materials and subtitles.
GS – And lastly, a question I like to ask our sojourners is who or what influences you to do what you do?
JJ – My objective when I started making these films has remained the same the entire time. And that is to simply inform the public about the nobility of our ancient fraternity and to dispel false perceptions.
Big thanks to Joseph for taking the time out to sit down and talk with us about his new film. I watched and liked it and think other people will too. The Freemason is definitely not what you would expect from a Masonic murder mystery and it definitely kept me guessing up to the end. I, for sure, am looking forward to your next project.
Chris Hodapp posted today about a petition to prevent (prohibit, bar, ban, make illegal by presidential power?) clandestine Grand Lodges. Note – the post is now archived.
The text of the petition, which you can read at petitions.whitehouse.gov, says:
Grand Lodges of Freemasons began in 1717, in London, England. All Grand Lodges in the world must have a direct lineage to this Grand Lodge to be Masonically legal. This process in proving legitimate origins has been upheld in the case of Supreme Grand Lodge Modern Free Accepted Masons of the World vs. Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Georgia Docket no. 14374, United States Court of Appeals Fifth Circuit. Other courts have established this precedent as well. There are only 94 legal Grand Lodges in the United States, the Prince Hall Grand Lodges, and the State Grand Lodges, all having legitimate origins from the Grand Lodge of England, but more than 450 fraudulent Grand Lodges exist, unregulated, committing extreme hazing and fraud on unsuspecting men. Stop the fraud.
Hodapp closes his post with an appeal to “Sign the White House petition…by August 4th. to be considered by President Obama, the petition requires 100,000 signatures (with roughly 400 at the time of my writing).
Your decision to sign is your own. But, before you put finger to keyboard to commit your pixelated signature I thought it would be good form to consider some of the aspects included in the petition itself.
All Grand Lodges in the world must have a direct lineage to [the Grand Lodge of England] to be Masonically legal. I suppose, in a broad context, which would be the case assuming that the UGLE is the chief franchiser of the Masonic Brand. But, since when is the President the arbiter of brand recognition? I’m sure the Supreme Court could weigh in on the matter, but ownership aside, it seems like a Masonic disagreement would be outside the scope of their jurisdiction. Lineage is only important to those who believe it to be so. Would saying all protestant churches are breaking Christian law by not following the lead of Rome?
Historically speaking, it sets the 1717 foundation of the Grand Lodge system as the chronological benchmark for legitimacy. Given that the foundation of a “grand lodge” out of severally existing lodges suggests that the incorporation of the fraternity is where our lineage begins.
The petition mentions a civil case from 1954, Supreme Grand Lodge Modern Free Accepted Masons of the World vs. Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Georgia. That proceeding as essentially about:
This action was instituted by appellee, a Georgia corporation, to enjoin appellant, an Alabama corporation, from engaging in conduct alleged to constitute unfair competition against appellee, and from holding itself out as a Lodge of Freemasons or as a member of the Masonic Fraternity. It was further prayed that appellant be enjoined from using the name ‘Supreme Grand Lodge, Modern Free and Accepted Colored Masons of the World.’
History and jurisprudence was the outcome. I’ll leave it to you to decipher the legalese. My take, neither site had a writ or warrant, instead “…both plaintiff and defendant trace their legal origin to a charter issued by a state court [in 1890].
Two actions involving conflicting claims of rival colored Masonic organizations were consolidated for trial. The first was an action for conversion in which a cross-complaint was filed asking damages for fraud. The second action was one brought by the Hiram of Tyre Grand Lodge against the Sons of Light Grand Lodge to enjoin the latter from conducting a grand lodge of colored Freemasonry in California. fn. 1 The trial court found against Light in both actions. Thereupon Light attempted to appeal from both judgments. However, this court heretofore granted a motion to dismiss the appeal in the conversion case on the ground that the judgment [94 Cal. App. 2d 28] was not final, an accounting being required. (Most Worshipful Sons etc. Lodge v. Sons etc. Lodge, 91 Cal. App. 2d 582 [205 P.2d 722].) The present appeal deals only with the injunction action and the first action will be disregarded.
While not delving into the legalese, the outcome, in so far as I can discern from that legal action was:
The position of the courts as regards rival fraternal organizations is well stated in Cuney Grand Lodge v. State (1926), 142 Miss. 894 [108 So. 298, 302]: “The court cannot judicially know what the principles and degrees of free Masonry are, or of any particular brand of doctrine known as free Masonry, if there be differences of organization and principles. That is a matter with which the state is not concerned so long as [94 Cal. App. 2d 35] no fraud is used to deceive a person solicited to join or be received into these orders.”
 The injunction in this case went too far. It should have been limited to prohibiting defendant, its officers, agents, servants and employees from representing that its grand lodge and its subordinate lodges were or are the only bona fide grand lodge and subordinate lodges of Freemasonry in California, or making any representation or performing any act which would tend to confuse, in the minds of the public, or prospective members, its organization with plaintiff and its subordinate lodges, or by misrepresentation to attempt to lure away plaintiff’s members…
The findings of Cuney Grand Lodge v. State State said:
State may forfeit charter of fraternal corporation soliciting members by falsely representing that they will be received into regular Masonic lodges throughout the United States, and may restrain re- ceiving members by such means pending trial of forfeiture proceedings. Cuney v. State, 142 Miss. 894, 108 So. 298 (1926) page 31.
So, where does that leave us. I suppose it means if an organization solicits members “by falsely representing that they will be received into regular Masonic lodges” the state can withdraw their incorporation. But, what if no claim is made? And who has the time, or money, to enforce these kinds of actions when it would be an uphill battle to prove who owns the Masonic trademark. But, at the same time, it seems a petition like this deliberately hurts other organizations that may share the name Freemasonry, which takes us into a whole ‘nother debate on what it means to be clandestine. Why lose the trees for the forest when the real issue is violence and hazing.
What the petition comes down to is a plea to stop malicious and dangerous hazing. So, in light of that, I’ve created a petition to make hazing of any kind illegal. Perhaps you’ll consider adding your signature to this petition instead.
Prince Hall Freemasonry, traditionally called “Black” Freemasonry by some, is of direct lineage from the Grand Lodge of England (1717).
The Lodge that Prince Hall and the 14 others were made a Mason in was Lodge No. 441under the Irish Constitution. 1784 is the year that Bro. Hall requested and received a charter from the Grand Lodge of England, making African Lodge No. 459 a subordinate lodge to the Grand Lodge of England.
African Grand Lodge existed until 1847-48, at which time it’s name was changed to the MWPHGL of MA. This is the first recorded instance of his name being used in the GL title. (Thanks to Br. Lilly from the MWPHGL of NC for the keen eye and correction) More on Prince Hall Freemasonry on Wikipedia.
Prince Hall Freemasonry is nearly as widespread as “regular” Freemasonry in the United States. It has grown within many communities as a social institution with a very large following in many cities. The separation of Prince Hall and Regular Freemasonry in America is likely an out-cropping of early ideas of slavery in America, which carried into the Jim Crow laws of the early 20th Century. The backward ideas of separation and unequally, like many institutions, pervaded Freemasonry too, and continued the ideas of separate but equal. With the passage of time, and the implementation of the Plessy vs. Ferguson ruling, the ideas of mixed race meetings and membership has been slow in coming, but it is changing. In-roads were made to visit one another and relations were established.
Today, as the barriers continue to be torn down, the further integration of Prince Hall and regular Freemasonry continues. Granting a full charter in 1996, the Grand Lodge of England finally resolved all the roadblocks for full recognition. All regular state Grand Lodges have eradicated all prohibitions to membership from men of all races, making them open to men of all colors, creeds, and outlook. The only requirement being a proclaimed faith in God. There may be still some apprehension (from both sides) to openly admit that there has been some willing separation, but the invisible walls that have kept many apart are beginning to evaporate.
One of the biggest roadblocks to recognition is ritual differences and practices within a lodge. Freemasonry, being very firm on it’s ritual and it’s conduct, varies from state to state and jurisdiction to jurisdiction, so recognition is spotty across the board, but firm locally. Here is a great link to recognition between states.
So what does that mean. Looking at Freemasonry as a whole, it is not a racially biased institution. In my state California, there is full recognition of Prince Hall Freemasonry as being “regular” as decided though Grand Lodge legislation in 1995. Mutual recognition was agreed upon that year “completing the circle that Prince Hall started in 1784.”
There are states that have not reached that same conclusion for their own reasons, none of which I can proclaim knowledge of here. However both Freemasonry and Prince Hall Freemasonry are open to men of all races and welcomes them to share their light. Racism is not tolerated within the body of Freemasonry.
I use this as a preamble to a video published by Masonic Awareness at the Speed of Light. In the video, Charles M. Harper, Sr. introduces and talks about his book, Freemasonry in Black and White which explores the difference between recognition and amity within the confines of Freemasonry – essentially separate but equal bodies coexisting at common cause.
Masonic tradition informs us that the lamb skin apron is more ancient than the Golden Fleece. Ancient being the operative word, just what exactly does that implication imply and how is the Golden Fleece remembered in more contemporary times as it may relate to the apron given to the newly raised entered apprentice?
In Greek tradition, the fleece of the Ram Chrysomallus, was the object of Jason and the Argonauts expedition.
The mythological story of the Golden Fleece begins in the telling of the story about Phrixus and Helle who were the children of the goddess Nephele (a cloud nymph) and Athamus. The two part ways allowing Athamas to remarry Ino, who, in turn, becomes jealous of her step children, Phrixus and Helle, hatching a plot to do them in. Ino destroys a seed crop and then sends messengers to consult with the oracle at Delphi on what to do. To put her plan into motion, Ino persuading the messengers to return from the Oracles with prophecy that to restore the fertility of the fields Phrixus would need to be sacrificed.
Nephele, seeing the ruse, sends a golden ram to rescue her children, losing daughter Helle in the process as she falls into the Hellespont (known today as Dardanelles, which is a narrow strait in northwestern Turkey connecting the Aegean Sea to the Sea of Marmara). Phrixus, makes the trip safely arriving at Colchis where he marries the daughter of King Aeetes. In celebration of the rescue and the marriage, Phrixus sacrificed the winged golden fleeced ram to Poseidon returning its soul to the deity in turn creating the constellation Aries.
In his appreciation, Phricus gives the pelt (the Golden Fleece) to Aeetes, the king of Colchis, who placed the in an oak tree defended by bulls with hoofs of brass and breath of fire. It was also guarded by a dragon with teeth which could become warriors when planted in the ground. Here it remained until Jason and his band of Argonauts arrived to claim it.
So goes the story of the Ancient Golden Fleece. Thought to be the oldest of Greek poems, Argonautica Orphica, and the telling of Jason’s quest to capture the Fleece appears to originate somewhere in the 5th or 6th century CE. The Hellenistic epic Argonautica dates to a period of the 3rd century BCE.
Wells, in his Builder article on the subject, mentions a knightly order called the Order of the Golden Fleece which was a celebrated Order of Knighthood in Austria and Spain, founded by Philip III, Duke of Burgundy and the Netherlands, at Bruges, on the tenth of January, 1429, on the occasion of his marriage with Isabella, daughter of King John I. of Portugal.
This Order was instituted for the protection of the Roman Catholic Church, and the fleece was assumed for its emblem, from being a staple commodity of the Low Countries. The founder made himself Grand Master of the Order, a dignity appointed to descend to his successors; and the number of knights, at first limited to twenty-four, was subsequently increased.
Contests arose between Spain and Austria as to the possession of this Order of Knighthood, which were finally adjusted by introducing the Order into both countries. In Austria the Emperor may now create any number of Knights of the Golden Fleece from the nobility. If Protestants, the consent of the Pope is required. In Spain, Princes, Grandees, and personages of peculiar merit are alone eligible to membership in this Order.
It’s said that the Duke’s stated reason for founding the Order was:
for the reverence of God and the maintenance of our Christian Faith, and to honor and exalt the noble order of knighthood, and also …to do honor to old knights; …so that those who are at present still capable and strong of body and do each day the deeds pertaining to chivalry shall have cause to continue from good to better; and .. so that those knights and gentlemen who shall see worn the order … should honor those who wear it, and be encouraged to employ themselves in noble deeds…
An interesting biography exists on the Order through an association, La Confrérie Amicale de la Toison d’Or, dedicated to preserve its history. It says of the Order that the the meaning behind the use of the Fleece goes deeper than merely being a Hero’s Quest, saying,
It is clear from the icon of Jason on the early Golden Fleece insignia that the daring voyage of the Argo to bring back the sacred Golden Fleece from the edge of man’s known world touched Philipp deeply and helped inspire his dreams. The Argonauts were few in number, carefully selected for their nobility and talents and dedicated to the most noble of causes that also held religious and humanitarian importance. It is these values that we see in the statutes of the Order of the Golden Fleece.
Given the use in the degree as an ancient symbol, it seems unlikely that the knightly order is the point of reference within the Masonic degree. More likely is the mention of the fleece in the aspect of the Hero’s Quest, including allegories to jealousy, selfishness and sacrifice.
Wells goes on, saying,
The legend of the Golden Fleece, for which the Argonauts searched, is like the story of Masonry, a search for that which was lost. It is familiar to most readers of poetry and myths, and is interesting as being among the first known voyages of discovery.
Interestingly, Jason went on the quest for the Fleece in order to reclaim his kingdom from Pelias, an almost Biblical parallel to the story of Moses suggesting a deeper borrowing of Greek tradition in the writing of the Old Testament narrative.
Albert Mackey, in his Encyclopedia of Freemasonry and its Kindred Sciences (1914), says of the Fleece that it is “…evidently not to the Argonautic expedition in search of the golden fleece, nor to the deluge…but to certain decorations of honor with which the apron is compared” suggesting instead that the “…Order of the Golden Fleece was of high repute as an Order of Knighthood. It was established in Flanders, in 1429, by the Duke of Burgundy, who selected the fleece for its badge because wool was the staple production of the country. It has ever been considered…one of the most illustrious Orders in Europe” making it the “the highest decoration that can be bestowed upon a subject by a sovereign of Great Britain. But the Masons may have been also influenced in their selection of a reference to the Golden Fleece, by the fact that in the Middle Ages it was one of the most important symbols of the Hermetic philosophers.”
Interesting here that Mackey traces the distinction of the Fleece to the chivalric order and not the more widespread mythology of the ancient world. One line of thought that deserves greater exploration is the importance of the Golden Fleece to the Hermetic philosophers and what, if any connections that bears to Freemasonry.
As an aside, there is some (Masonic) suggestion that the Golden Fleece story suggests the bringing of sheep husbandry, grain, or wisdom to Greece from the east or the panning for gold with sheep’s wool in the ancient world.
The Golden Fleece has made its way into the material culture such that it exists in several iterations in film and in video games. In the World of Warcraft MMORPG universe as a unique drop trinket that “May cause extra gold to drop whenever you kill a target that yields experience or honor and is a sign of wealth and status amongst the Saurok.” which perhaps supports the notion of it being a symbol of authority and kingship. It also made an appearance in the game God of War II where it can be seen hanging from the mouth of a cursed Cerberus that had devoured Jason.
The quest for the fleece was also the subject in the 2013 film Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters. In the film, the teen Argonauts quest to find the Golden Fleece (with the power to heal anything) to rescue their diefic haven from oblivion.
In a more modern parlance for those wanting to undertake the quest for the ancient wool, artists Piotr Khrisanov and Jakov Matusovski have recreated the mythical Golden Fleece in Sochi, Russia. The monument aims to bring back the symbol of prosperity to the Black Sea town near where Jason and his crew went searching for the fleece in Caucasus. Made of bronze and covered in a layer of gold, it’s suggested that it weighs roughly 5 tons. A sister monument will be erected in the Greek city of Volos, which is believed to be where the Argonauts had set out for their campaign.
However you look at the Golden Fleece, in past or present telling, it still remains an emblem younger than the apron of a Mason.
 THE ORPHIC ARGONAUTICA – Pseudo-Orpheus 4th c. CE or laterm translated by Jason Colavito (2011)  Argonautica Orphica – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argonautica_Orphica  The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Argonautica, by Apollonius Rhodius  Excerpts of The Presentation of the Apron by Br. John W. Wells, from the Builder Magazine October, 1915