King Solomon of Israel is referred to in Masonic tradition as being the fraternity’s first Most Excellent Grand Master. He is championed as the man who constructed the magnificent temple for Jehovah and is heralded as the personification of wisdom. However, a closer look at the life of King Solomon shows that he wasn’t always worthy of emulation.
It is true that Solomon had multitudes of wives and concubines, but that will not be the source of any criticism in this article. Many Biblical kings had large harems, including Solomon’s father David. No, Solomon would be condemned for the very sin which had plagued his people for centuries: putting other gods before Jehovah.
As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been. He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites. So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord; he did not follow the Lord completely, as David his father had done.
On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh, the detestable god of Moab, and for Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites.
1 Kings 11:4-7
The Hebrews could be a strange people. God parted the Red Sea and freed the Israelites from slavery. Then he gave them a pillar of clouds by day and a pillar of fire by night to guide them. Then he provided them with manna to nourish them. Yet, the Hebrews worshiped other Gods. In Solomon’s case, he was allowed to complete the Lord’s temple and was blessed by the presence of the Ark of the Covenant. Still, he decided to disobey the First Commandment.
Like many main characters in the Old Testament, Solomon’s place of prominence came only through special circumstances. When David was old and frail, Bathsheba convinced him to place Solomon on the throne of Israel (indeed, the influence of women can be great). Solomon was certainly not David’s first choice for his heir. Joseph Heller’s God Knows gives a fictional account of the events surrounding the elderly King David. Heller portrays Solomon in a less than flattering manner in this humorous work. In the story, King David says of his son:
And I was smart enough to appreciate that for Solomon you had to spell everything out. I’ll let you in on a secret about my son Solomon: he was dead serious when he proposed cutting the baby in half, that putz. I swear to God.
While this portrayal may have no real historical basis, this much is true: Solomon was made king only through the unfortunate deaths of David’s older sons, he built his temple only through a blessing secured by his father, and he managed to nearly destroy the promising future which God had given David’s offspring. Nevertheless, 1 Kings 4:29 says that “God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore.”
Through this knowledge he was able to secure his place in history as the builder of the Lord’s temple and has been given the honor of being a prominent figure in Masonic tradition. Like all men, Solomon may have had faults, but some of his actions have earned him respect. This is a lesson that can benefit all Masons. Masons must recognize that all men have their redeeming qualities as well as their imperfections. The Mason should never hesitate to clearly identify these qualities in the men that they have identified as being worthy of emulation.
By Timothy W. Hogan PM, KT, 32* KCCH, S.I.I., District Lecturer for the GL of Colorado
Freemasonry is a system of initiation that draws its Masonic symbolism from a variety of sources and traditions.
Masonic historians are quick point out some of the connections between Freemasonry and the cathedral builders, the Knights Templar, the Royal Society, Hermetic tradition, alchemists and Qabalaists, however the connection between Freemasonry and the Gnostic schools is often overlooked- even though it is perhaps the most prevalent.
Gnosticism is a school of thought originally developed in the ancient pagan world and championed by philosophers like Pythagoras, and later instrumental in the development of early Christianity, in which an initiate can attain a Gnosis – or direct knowledge of the divine. In fact, the word “Gnosis” means “knowledge” in Greek, and it was a divine knowledge that could be achieved through the study of nature, personal initiation, and divine revelation. As a result, schools of initiation were set up by the Gnostics in order to engage in study and initiation, and to attain connection with the path of Sophia- the Greek word for “wisdom”. In fact, this is where the word “philosophy” comes from- as it is from the Greek words “Philo”- meaning “to love”, and “Sophia”, being the goddess of wisdom. The term philosophy is believed to have been coined by Pythagoras, and some have associated Pythagoras’ school with a form of Pagan Gnosticism. Gnosticism therefore showed the connection between God and Nature, and contributed to the esoteric sciences of alchemy and sacred geometry. The “G” emphasized in Freemasonry may therefore have other implications! It has also been argued by many researchers that Gnosticism was a new label for the pagan philosophies and doctrines found in Hermeticism, which had just been rewrapped in new packaging. Indeed, Hermeticism and Gnosticism share many fundamental details, and the influence of Hermetic thought and Hermes in particular could be a whole separate article. Therefore we will just explore Gnostic connections in this article.
Gnosticism and Gnostic thought are mentioned several times in the Scottish Rite degrees, and we can see it as a general theme in Freemasonry, though it is rarely mentioned specifically by name outside of the Scottish Rite. This is partially due to the fact that the Gnostics generally considered themselves their own form of religion, and as Freemasonry accepts brothers of all faiths, it is important not to make the mistake of portraying Freemasonry itself as a Gnostic religion. That being said, the idea associated with Gnosticism can be found in almost all religions, and as such, it can be viewed as more of an esoteric philosophy that unites people across various religions- though some people today claim to be Gnostics as a religion. For example, the ideas associated with a Gnostic Christian are fundamentally almost identical to a Buddha or Boddisatva in the Buddhist religion, Gnanis in Hinduism, an Arif in the Islamic tradition, and a “knower” in the Taoist tradition, and it is for this reason that it is believed that Gnosticsm had an influence on all of these religious philosophies as it spread between Egypt and Tibet, and likewise these other schools contributed to Gnostic doctrine. Though Gnostic philosophies vary somewhat depending on the school, in their essential details and philosophy they are mostly the same. The Gnostic philosopher Mani alluded to this universality when he said, “But my hope will go to the West and to the East. And they will hear the voice of its teaching in all languages and they will teach it in all cities. Gnosticism surpasses in this first point all earlier religions, for the earlier religions were founded in individual places and in individual cities. Gnosticism goes out to all cities and its message reaches every land.”1 Therefore it is important to explore some of these ideas and see how they relate to Freemasonry.
To begin with, there is a lot of confusion when it comes to ancient Gnostic thought, with most scholars explaining Gnosticism as a form dualism in which there is a god of darkness and a god of light who are battling for the souls of humanity. In my opinion, this is kind of a way over simplified version of Gnosticism, and one that is potentially more tied with modern Christian ideas, though there certainly were different types of Gnostic schools and some likely had a more dualistic way of interpreting Gnostic philosophy, and we particularly find this in some later Gnostic movements like the Cathars of southern France. We must remember that much of what had been written about the Gnostics prior to the wide spread translation of Gnostic texts, consisted of harsh critiques by the Roman Catholic Church, which view Gnostcism as a rival movement. Therefore we would also expect a harsh and biased interpretation of Gnostic doctrine. A more correct and widespread view of general Gnosticism, in my mind, would be to suggest that there is a single God, which manifests itself into two forces. These forces have been labeled as Spirit and matter, light and darkness, yin and yang. Gnostics believed that the world of spirit is always subtly directing the world of matter, in order that we, as conscious beings, may grow and become more in line with our spiritual potential. Understanding God’s laws of spirit in matter could enable one to come to a better comprehension of God. This moment of “ah-ha”, or awareness of God’s work, is the Gnosis. It was believed by Gnostic schools that this divine knowledge was necessary for humanities salvation- as it was a personal knowledge of God, and to the Gnostics it was represented by Light. “Gnosis” then, in many ways is similar to ideas associated with “revelation”, “enlightenment” and “nirvana” from different traditions.
From a Gnostic standpoint, then, it was ridiculous to worship anything matter based, as it is just a shadow of a very real spiritual phenomenon from the realm of light. The quest for salvation was believed by most Gnostics to take place over several incarnations on the earth plane, and therefore the battle between two gods over the soul of man was a symbolic metaphor of the battle within oneself over the focus and perceptions in life. Mastering the Gnostic process was considered to be true living, as opposed to being asleep and non-living, which was usually associated with “evil”. Ultimately, the Gnostic must free himself from the illusions of attachment to matter and, leaving the darkness of the mundane world, unite with the Divine Light of God, the first Principle Creator. Metaphors associated with raising the dead, or giving the blind sight were said to be symbolically associated with this awakening. Biblical scholars, for example, usually translate the early Greek word “anastasis” as “resurrection”, but the word more correctly means “awakening”. Therefore most Christian Gnostics considered Jesus’ resurrection as a metaphor for an awakening to Gnosis. The Gnostics did not require the intervention of a Priest to know God, as they became their own conduit for God’s revelation. They did set up a series of initiations to help in the development of consciousness and to lead to Gnosis. These initiations were also sometimes associated with stages of consciousness development after the transition from this life at death, and prior to new incarnation.
The initiations of the Gnostics were primarily centered around the classical elements and the seven planets recognized in antiquity, and they usually involved various baptismal rites and the conferral of passwords at each stage of initiation. It was believed that the four classical elements of antiquity, earth, water, air, and fire represented stages of consciousness illumination, with earth representing the consciousness obsessed with the passions and enslaved by matter on one extreme, and fire representing the consciousness free to shine with the light of God on the other extreme. The initiate therefore learned to master their emotions with the initiation associated with baptism by water, the intellect with the initiation associated with air, and the spiritual understanding with the baptism associated with fire. There was usually also a symbolic death of the old lower self and a resurrection of the new spiritual self that was illustrated in these later degree initiations. The lower false self, called the Eidelon or the Twin, symbolically died, and the higher self- called the Daemon, was free to express itself in Mastery as a reflection of God. God was therefore represented as the supreme light, and in fact, the Gnostics were often called the “Sons of Light”, or sometimes the “Religion of Light”- especially in the case of the Manichean Gnostics. They were also referred to as the “Sons of the Widow”, as found in the Manichean, Valentinian and Mandean traditions. There is even some speculation that the Ming Dynasty got its name from the abundance of Manichean Gnostics at the Chinese court, as “Ming” means “light”. The Chinese believed the Gnostic teacher Manni to be the reincarnation of the Taoist sage Lao Tzu, and even referred to him as the “Buddha of Light”2. Obviously this terminology is something we are very familiar with in Freemasonry.
With each Gnostic degree, the aspirant attained new metaphors for how consciousness was connected in the world, and they attained new passwords which were deemed to be a valuable aid when either their transition came, or they went through the symbolic death, so that they could ascend the higher spheres of consciousness. Along these lines, it was believed that souls incarnated down to earth from the highest heavens, passing through all the planetary spheres with their influences, and cloaking the soul with the tools of consciousness needed for incarnation. After death or during certain breakthroughs of consciousness the souls went back by the same path to the higher realms of consciousness, abandoning at each stage of their ascent what they had taken while incarnating, and this purified them for pure Gnosis. To pass out of the sphere of one planet and into the next above it, they had to go through gateways guarded by Archons, who were like Tilers or Inner Guards, and would give way only to those who had the passwords conferred in the Gnostic initiation ceremonies3. Some schools even taught that the soul could not ascend after death until it was “drawn up by the rays of the sun and, after passing the moon, where it was purified, it went on to lose itself in the shining star of the day” 4. In some Gnostic traditions, like the Mandeans, they even attained secret hand grips and were given special signs of the hands and feet associated with each stage of the initiation process. Ultimately the realization of spiritual awakening and Mastery overcoming the slavery of material senses is hoped to be achieved in these initiations.
In Freemasonry, we may recognize this similar symbolism emphasized with the compasses and the square- as the square represented things material and the compasses represented things spiritual and eternal. We can also recognize the same order of initiation from water to air to fire, as emphasized in the penalties associated with each degree, and the planetary influence may be recognized by the emphasis of the seven liberal arts and sciences- each of which was ruled by one of the classical planets. In Freemasonry, we are likewise given hand grips and signs associated with the hands and the feet in each degree. Ultimately each brother must likewise go through a symbolic death and raising into a new life- just like the Gnostics illustrated in their initiation rites and writings.
The Christian Gnostics were principally concerned with the Christian drama however, and the symbolism associated with it, and as Freemasons we can see how it also relates to the symbolism found in the Masonic degrees themselves, and to the meanings behind the experiences associated with Hiram. Therefore we will examine the path to Gnosis from this early Gnostic Christian vantage point. Keep in mind that this same general myth can be found in different forms all over the ancient world- including with Mithras, Krishna, Odin, Buddha, Jupiter, Apollo, Dionysus, Indra, Pythagoras, Semiramis, Prometheus, and even Quetzalcoatl- mainly because most of these traditions had a root in some Gnostic thought. This being the case, even though we are looking at the Christian myth, keep in mind that the initiation aspects of this myth are actually universal and were incorporated into the Gnostic initiations.
As mentioned, within the Gnostic tradition, there were four states of consciousness with three initiatory steps between them in most schools- particularly the Valentinian. The first type of personality was represented by earth and involved people whose consciousness were totally obsessed with the physical world, the physical senses and by extension their own ego. These personalities were referred to as “Hylics”, and the early Gnostics taught that they identified with a false physical body- called the “eidolon”- or double. Biblical terminology referred to these people as “blind” or “dead” or “asleep”, since they couldn’t perceive the spiritual root of things and didn’t understand that their true body was spiritual and not physical. In Freemasonry we would refer to them as a profane- or uninitiated. Since these people were consumed with their ego, this ego was sometimes represented symbolically by a donkey- since the animal can be so stubborn. Overcoming this stage was usually represented by the person riding the donkey- symbolizing control over the lower nature- and represented by Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, or other Avatars like Mithras and Osiris also riding the donkey in their traditions. In the story of Pinocchio (written by Freemason Carlo Collodi), he almost turns into a donkey when he is obsessed with his own ego, but later turns into a real boy when he overcomes this stage of development. Restoring Hylics to the spiritual path was therefore alluded to as “giving the blind sight” and later “raising the dead”. Throughout the Bible, places of slavery or bondage usually represented this hylic state- for example the earth before the flood, the slavery of Egypt, the Babylonian captivity, or the control of Rome being a few examples. In some Masonic degrees we may clearly see it represented by the Babylonian captivity. Again, this stage was associated with the “earth bound” personality of the elements.
Once a person had an experience of the divine nature of the world however, they underwent a change of heart, so to speak, and had achieved the witnessing of some light. Most English translations of the Bible refer to this change of heart as “repentance”- though the Greek word associated with it is “metanoia.” “Metanoia” didn’t mean that you need to confess to a Priest or join a church, or apologize to God for “missing the mark”- as it is so often interpreted, but rather that you simply changed your heart and your focus towards attempting to understand your connection with God, and you were therefore free in the truest sense. It is the first step in spiritual awakening, and in Freemasonry it is symbolized by the sharp implement being pressed against the heart at the EA degree. This stage of initial awakening symbolically was represented as the realization that you live in a prison of your mind or in a tomb and the first initiation in the Gnostic rites involved baptism by water- sometimes referred to as a “catharmos” or purification in early texts. Some Masonic traditions to this day still begin the first degree with the candidate starting out in a small dark room (a Chamber of Reflection) which has bread and water- like a prison, as well as symbols pointing to the way out of that prison. The initiation then proceeds with the candidate’s first initiation out of the symbolic prison- which makes the brother a free-Mason, and thereby freeborn, and of their own free will and accord. The first stage of Gnostic initiation was generally concerned with subduing the passions and ethics. It was called the “psychic” stage by early Gnostics, and it was a stage in which the initiate discovered they were not merely a physical body. The emphasis on water in the Bible and the overcoming of this stage can be found in such metaphors as the flood of Noah and Jesus walking on water. In our EA degree today in Freemasonry, we likewise find a system which is primarily concerned with ethics, and this is where the first light is received, after having been introduced to a penalty associated with water. The candidate becomes a brother, and in so doing, is no longer blind. The essential details are identical to the Gnostic rites.
The next Gnostic initiation was usually done with air or breath and was called “pneumatic”. A pneumatic initiate came to understand their nature in impersonal terms and God not as a person on a cloud somewhere, but rather as the One. Duality begins to become understood and then transcended and all relationships with God begin to be brought into Oneness. God and the initiate become the mystery of God in love with itself. All is perfectly One. In the ancient Gnostic mystery theatres of Egypt, the various parts of the body of the slain Osiris represented different aspects of reality that all had their roots in this One source. The parts of Osiris are recollected and put back together through the love of Isis. If God was One with creation, then the Pneumatic initiate in the Gnostic schools began the study of the arts and sciences in order to understand God and glorify Him. In fact, it was during the Pneumatic stage that most Gnostic schools had represented steps associated with the seven planets, which by extension ruled the seven noble metals, the seven days of the week, and the seven liberal arts and sciences. The Pythagoreans extended it further and suggested that the notes of the octave and the seven Greek vowels were also under this influence. Therefore we should likewise not be surprised to find this emphasis in the second degree of Freemasonry, in which the penalty is related to air- just like the second initiation in the Gnostic schools. In this degree the world of duality is likewise brought into focus with the pillars.
The pneumatic initiate also came to understand that if God was a point within a circle, and the outer circumference of the circle represented the physical form, then lines of radius emanating from the point in the center of the circle represented various stages of consciousness and various personas of the One. In the outer circumference of the circle each radius appeared as unique and distinct, but at the source of all was God- the mystery of mysteries5. The point within the circle therefore not only represents the brother kept in due bounds, but in ancient symbolism it symbolized gold and the sun, and it was a symbol found in part of the Gnostic initiation process. Getting to the center of the circle was the path of Gnosis, which is why Christ said that those who came before him were baptized with water and air, but he came to baptize with fire. Fire represented the initiation into Gnosis, and in Freemasonry it is related to our third degree.
At some point in the Gnostic pneumatic process, attachment to the false self- or eidolon had to symbolically die so that the new higher spiritual body- sometimes called the “daemon” could awaken. (Notice that I wrote daemon and not demon!!!) The word usually translated as “resurrection” in the Bible is the Greek word “anastasis”, which as discussed actually means “awakening”. This awakening was the Gnosis and to the Christian Gnostics it was represented by Christ. The Christ was the point within the circle that Gnostics were trying to reach, and it is symbolically why that point lies between the two Saint John’s in Masonic EA instruction. This is why “doubting Thomas” questions Christ’s awakening. “Thomas” means “twin” in Greek- and represented the eidolon- or false physical self. This is also how it came to be in Islam that the Koran suggests that someone other than Jesus died on the cross for Jesus. The Koran says, “They did not kill him. They did not crucify him. They were taken in by an appearance.” Islamic Gnostics, such as Ishmaili Shiites and Sufi Sunnis teach that they represent the true Islamic tradition of which Mohammed and the original Muslims were initiated into6. It was these same initiation groups that the Knights Templar had come in contact with and learned alchemy and other ideas from. This tradition came from the Gnostic teachings and Apocryphal texts which suggested that the false twin- or eidolon symbolically died on the cross and Jesus (in the Gnostic Christian traditions) awakened to the Christos of Gnosis (representative of the daemon), and therefore united with God (the Universal Daemon). Mystery school tradition maintains that the tying of an initiate to a cross at this stage, or a symbolic death of some kind, goes all the way back to ancient Egypt. Like the original Christians, Islamic Gnostics treat Christ as an image of the consciousness of God, our shared essential identity. This was all symbolic, of course, to the initiatory and psychological path that we all take, and to the early Gnostic Christians it was irrelevant if a man named Jesus actually went through this crucifixion or if he actually had a twin brother named Thomas. What mattered is that each Christian symbolically went through the symbolic death in order to realize Christ, and by extension a reintegration with God and an understanding of the spiritual Kingdom all around them. Initiation provided the symbolic roadmap to achieve this realization in the Gnostic schools.
This same symbolic death obviously occurs in the Master Mason degree, as the brother represents Hiram Abiff. Even more so, there are two Hirams (or twins) in the degree – Hiram Abiff and Hiram King of Tyre. Some have seen the symbolic death of Hiram Abiff as representing the death of the Gnostic Twin- or Eidolon, who is then attempted to be raised by the Kingly Daemon self (represented by Hiram King of Tyre), but he can’t be raised without the help of King Solomon (representing the Universal Daemon). Some have seen this same twin motif as suggested in the seal of the Knights Templar, which had two knights riding on one horse. It has been debated a great deal if the Templars had any type of secret Gnostic doctrine reserved for the few of the inner circle, however in support of the idea, it is known that they also used a seal of the Gnostic figure of Abraxas7. Abraxas was a rooster headed figure that represented time, among other things, and it was a rooster because a rooster heralds in the new light of the new day with its cry. This was a perfect Gnostic metaphor, and some have suggested that this is the origin of the rooster image found in the Chamber of Reflection in some Masonic traditions, particularly the Traditional Observance. Going back to the twin idea, this same symbol was reflected in the astrological symbol of Gemini (the twins)- whose symbol is two pillars together. We have seen this same two pillar symbol in Freemasonry.
The symbolic death for a “third degree” can be found going all the way back to ancient Egypt. In fact, some researchers suggest that the raising of Lazarus from the dead by Jesus was just such a reenactment of this ancient mystery school drama. The name “Lazarus” in Hebrew is “El Ausor”. “El” was a Hebrew name for God, and “Ausor” was the Egyptian name for the God Osiris- who symbolically dies and was raised from the dead. In fact, in the Mandean Gnostic tradition of the Middle East, one of the names for God continues to be “Aursor”. The story of Lazarus takes place in Bethany, which in Hebrew is “Bethanu”. “Beth” in Hebrew means “house” and “anu” in ancient Egyptian was the abode of the dead. Therefore “Bethany” or “Bethanu” means “house of the dead”. Interestingly, if we change the Hebrew name for Lazarus around so that “El” is last and “ausor” is first, we get the name “Ausorel” or “Azrael”- which is the angel of death. In any event, it is widely believed by researchers that the raising of Lazarus was illustrating an initiatory rite, which is why Jesus took so long to go get him out of the cave he was symbolically buried in.
The Gnostic likewise revered John the Baptist as a supreme Gnostic, and some Gnostic traditions even went so far as to name each of their leaders “John”- as a title, and they believed that John the Evangelist was a Gnostic of the same lineage. They thereby became “holy Saints John”, and the Gnostic leaders likewise named John fell into this same category. Other Gnostic schools, like the Mandeans in Iraq, have even been referred to as “John Christians” throughout most their history, due to their revearing of John the Baptist and emphasis on baptismal rites. The same emphasis is found in the Grail legends, like Parzival by Wolfram von Eschenbach, and it may be related to the Prester John myths. Some have speculated that the emphasis on John in Gnostic traditions is tied to the earlier Babylonian myths of Oannis, whose feast day was June 24th– like John the Baptist, and who was known in myth to anoint Priest Kings, have them don aprons, and teach them the arts and sciences needed for building civilization. According to this theory, Oannis became the Greek Ionanis, which became the Latin Johannis, which finally got abbreviated to John. For the Gnostics this name of John was important however because of the vowels in the name- composed of IOA. Many Gnostics referred to the name of God as IOA or IAO. These vowels were also emphasized in Hebrew words like Adonai- meaning “lord”. The Latin letters IOA were significant from a Gnostic and sacred geometry standpoint, as “I” represented a point extending itself, and therefore the “word” of creation. “O” represented the word extended through space to the point that it comes back in contact with itself, and it therefore represented the extension of the word in creation, or the Christos. “A” represented a triangle that forms as two dualities come in contact with themselves and therefore form a third point of manifestation, and it symbolized the Sophia, or reflection of the word in matter. In the Gnostic text known as the Pistis Sophia, Jesus explains the mystery of the vowels IAO to his disciples thus: “This is its interpretation: Iota, the Universe came out; Alpha, they will turn them; Omega, will become the completion of all completions.”8
As late as the 1803 there was a Gnostic Church started for French Templars called the Johannite Church of Primitive Christians, by Bernard-Raymond Fabre-Palaprat. This church later had close ties with Martinist movements, and developed into l’Englise Catholique Gnostique under the influence of Gerard Encause. This Gnostic lineage has continued to exist in various strains to today, some of which only allow Master Masons or Martinists to become members of the church. The Gnostic Johannite Church tradition itself was often mentioned by Eliphas Levi in his writings of the 1800’s, and it is from here that we likewise find mention of it a number of times in Albert Pike’s Morals and Dogma9. The early Knights Templar likewise revered John the Baptist, as along with the Abraxas seal mentioned before, there have been numerous other seals found of theirs which depicted the head of John the Baptist, and some have even suggested that they venerated it as a talisman. Obviously the emphasis on both John the Baptist and John the Evangelist features predominantly in most forms of Freemasonry around the world today.
Another interesting similarity that we find in both early Manichean Gnostic rituals and in some degrees in Freemasonry consisted of the placing of an empty chair on a platform in the east which symbolized the “unseen Master” or “unknown Master” of their sect. The Manichean members who had purified themselves for the special annual ritual were permitted to kneel before this empty chair10. The empty chair is reminiscent of the vacant throne of Osiris in Egyptian initiation rituals, though a similar chair is found reflected in the York Rite degrees of Freemasonry in many jurisdictions, and in the Royal Order of Scotland.
We certainly see the ideas found in both Gnosticism and Freemasonry in other traditions as well, which has led some to believe these ideas in Freemasonry came from other sources. For example, the same progression in initiations from earth to water, water to air, and air to fire, is found in other traditions than just the Gnostics, as it is also emphasized in alchemy and in qabbalah11. However it has been argued that the mystics of these different traditions shared similar doctrines, and some have even gone so far as to suggest the Knights Templar secured the doctrines of Gnosticism of the early Christians, Qabbalah of the Jews, and alchemy of the Islamic societies while in the Holy Land- all of whom had been sharing doctrines and similar initiations as the Templars themselves. By extension, the myth is that Templarism grew into early Freemasonry. Such ideas can also be found in many of the early Rosicrucian manifestos. Ultimately the goal of both the Gnostic tradition and Freemasonry was a level of Mastery- which both systems represent by Light. Gnosticism, on the one hand, teaches that Mastery comes from understanding the spiritual forces behind creation and matter. Freemasonry, on the other hand, emphasizes the same idea- particularly in relation to the compasses that have overtaken the square. Compasses are an instrument used to draw the arcs which define the points behind geometric forms, whereas squares can be used to define those physical forms. The Master Mason is therefore likewise one who understands and utilizes the knowledge of the hidden spiritual and eternal forces behind creation. This is not to get rid of the square, but rather to use it is a tool for the expression of the compasses. Though Gnosticism is a philosophy to some, a religion to others, and a heresy to a few, I hope I have shown that in the essential details we cannot ignore that it shares much in common with the rituals of Freemasonry. This is not written to suggest that Freemasonry itself is a Gnostic religion, but rather to show that much of the symbolism within Freemasonry can best be understood by also understanding some of the symbolism found in the Gnostic philosophy, schools, and initiations.
Rudolph, Kurt, Gnosis: The Nature & History of Gnosticism, Harper & Row, San Fransisco, 1987, pg. 332.
Doresse, Jean, The Secret Books of the Egyptian Gnostics, MJF Books, New York, 1986, pg 267.
Abid, pg 267.
Freke, Timothy & Peter Gandy, Jesus and the Lost Goddess, Three Rivers Press, New York, 2001, pg 60-64.
Freke, Timothy & Peter Gandy, Jesus and the Lost Goddess, Three Rivers Press, New York, 2001, pg 205.
Olsen, Oddvar (editor), The Templar Papers, New Page Books, Franklin Lakes, NJ, 2006, pg 122.
Horner, G. (translation), Pistis Sophia, Macmillan, London, 1924, pg. 180.
Pike, Albert, Morals and Dogma, The Supreme Temple of the AASR SJ, Charleston, 1950, pg 817
Hall, Manly P, Orders of the Quest: The Holy Grail, The Philosophical Research Society, Los Angeles, CA, 1949, pg. 14. Also on this page is a reference to Manicheans calling themselves “sons of the widow”.
For more on these associations see my books The Alchemical Keys to Masonic Ritual and The 32 Secret Paths of Solomon: A New Examination of the Qabbalah in Freemasonry.
Sources of general reference:
Barry, Kieren, The Greek Qabalah, Samuel Weiser, Maine, 1999.
Fatherhood can change your perspective in a hurry.
I realize that’s probably the biggest understatement in history, but our six-year-old son has got me thinking about a lot of things.
Mainly, I wonder what Freemasonry will look like as he grows up, and if it will offer anything to him and his truly 21st century generation.
Will our local lodges finally be permitted to undertake the actions that other organizations do to recruit and retain members, or will our leaders continue to restrict and stifle us with their antiquated philosophies of membership?
Will our few young members and officers continue to think outside the suffocating boundaries of tradition and develop new outlets of community involvement? Or, when they see so few brothers of an already sparse roster of members support them, will they succumb to an overwhelming sense of frustration and discouragement?
Will we at last choose forward, progressive-thinking Grand Lodge officers, or will this line of dedicated and selfless Masonic devotees continue adhering to cobwebbed philosophies of the past that would crack and fracture into dust if shown the light of modern day?
Will we ever welcome men of color into our lodge rooms, or will we hold true to ancient prejudices, bigotries and intolerance that have no room in the Masonic conscience whatsoever?
My son is now in school. When he’s old enough, will he be able to join a DeMolay chapter – as his father did – and be exposed to the Biblical principles of brotherhood, honesty, charity and courtesy, or are those Rockwellian notions merely romantic shadows of a vanished society? Of all the organizations that Freemasonry sponsors, the young men of DeMolay face the changing world more than any, and yet we still frown upon the admission of other cultures.
Will the many organizations of which I’m involved, with their declining rosters and seemingly apathetic constituencies, survive long enough for him to enjoy their benefits? Finally, will he even have a desire to do so, or merely regard them as musty relics of a long-past civic existence in which his father once found satisfaction and fulfillment?
I am different from many members of my generation. Unlike many others, I joined my lodge as soon as I became of age, following in my family’s Masonic footsteps. My father, both my grandfathers, and two uncles were Masons (one uncle was Worshipful Master of Chamblee Lodge, and presided over my Entered Apprentice degree). My mother and grandmother were standard fixtures at lodge events. At 29, I was the youngest Master in my lodge’s then-100-plus-year history.
And yet, the issues facing our fraternity do not center themselves around age or generation gaps. During my year in the East, the brother with whom I shared more common beliefs and observations was 40 years older than me.
By Karen Kidd
Author of “Haunted Chambers: the Lives of Early Women Freemasons”
Controversial American author Robert Temple observed “Technology is forbidden when it is not allowed to exist.”
“It is easy to forbid technology to exist in the past because all you have to do is to deny it. Enforcing the ban then becomes a simple matter of remaining deaf, dumb and blind. And most of us have no trouble in doing that when necessary. . . I call it consensus blindness. People agree not to see what they are convinced cannot exist.”
Temple made these comments in his paper “Forbidden Technology”, which is about optical technology, long denied by “experts”, that none-the-less existed for millennia.
“Consensus blindness” long has been the unwritten/unspoken rule among Malecraft Masons, likewise accepted by many non Masons including women, about the existence of early women Freemasons. However, just as there are lenses in Ancient Egyptian archaeological finds dating to the 4th and 5th dynasties at Abydos, so also have women Masons existed throughout all of the modern Freemasonic period.
Denying their existence, for centuries, was the expected norm and any Masonic historian who wrote about them had to adopt a sort of double-speak. For instance, 20th Century Masonic scholar Carl Claudy, when he wrote about women Freemasons in his “Masonic Harvest”, spent the first page of that chapter stating that women could not be Freemasons; then ten pages describing – with continual double-speak – the lives of those women Freemasons.
Claudy, whatever his personal opinions, had no choice but to write about early Women Freemasons in this way. Had he attempted to be more straight-forward, it likely would never have been published. In this way, Claudy and other Masonic writers kept from complete obscurity the lives of these women Freemasons.
Their existence is a fact, despite determined effort to ignore, marginalize and deny it. That effort, however, ongoing for centuries, has done its worst. The very vast majority of early women Freemasons are unknown to us. Finding them can take as much effort as it did to obscure them.
Gunnilda the Mason: a female operative mason mentioned by name as living in Norwich in the Calendar of Close Rolls for the year 1256.
Elizabeth St. Leger Aldworth: initiated into her father’s lodge in County Cork in Ireland before the founding of the modern Freemasonry Grand Lodges.
Hannah Mather Crocker: Grand Mistress of the Femalecraft St. Ann’s Lodge in Boston during the 1770s.
Henriette Heiniken: better known as “Madame de Xaintrailles”, a hero of the Napoleonic wars initiated into an otherwise Malecraft Lodge in Paris the early 19th Century.
Mary Ann Belding Sproul: an early New Brunswick settler initiated into her husband’s Lodge in the early 19th Century.
Catherine Sweet Babington: a teen-ager when she snuck into her uncles’ lodge in East Kentucky, initiated into that Lodge at the height of the anti-Masonic era spawned by the disappearance of William Morgan.
Salome Anderson: late 19th Century wealthy matron of Oakland, CA, outed as a Freemason by a respected Masonic publication six years before her death in 1898.
And many more. Late 19th Century Masonic history W. Fred Vernon, writing when Malecraft Masons were a bit more laid back about the subject, commented, “I have no doubt other ancient Lodges have their lady members just as ancient buildings have their haunted chambers.”
I’ve heard my book is a threat to all Freemasonry, Malecraft Masonry in particular. This is no more true than admitting to the existence of their contemporary male brethren is a threat to any part of Freemasonry. All our Brethren who have passed to the Grand Lodge above, be they male or female, are to be remembered and emulated.
While none of these women were Co-Masons, they did pave the way for that part of Freemasonry. And, today, women can become Freemasons without eavesdropping, sneaking into lodges or hiding in furniture.
For more than a century, Freemasonry has operated in three parts. There is Malecraft Masonry, there is Femalecraft Masonry and there is Co- or Mixed Masonry. And we know this system can work, largely before it does.
And so it will continue with the past duly recalled. I wrote about these women to follow in the tradition of Claudy and other Masonic historians who kept their stories alive. I wrote the truth that this generation, and the next, may find worthy of remembrance.
Listen to the Masonic Central Podcast with Br. Kidd.
 Temple’s paper was published in the Summer 2001 edition (Issue 17) of Freemasonry Today and is available online here: http://www.freemasonrytoday.com/17/p11.php
 See “Calendar of Close Rolls 1254-1256”, page 366
On one bright, clear day, Diogenes was walking up and down the market place, holding a lighted lantern high in front of him and peering around as if searching for something. When people gaped and asked him what he was doing, he replied, “I am looking for an honest man.”
In our Masonic Lodges we use several symbols to guide us in our endeavors. These are all referred to as rays of light.
The Great Lights; the Volume of the Sacred Law, the Square & Compasses;
The Lesser Lights; the sun, the moon and the master of the lodge;
These all represent the knowledge to be gained from following the designs of the GAOTU’s teachings laid out not only in the Volume of the Sacred Law, but surrounding us in Nature and Science.
We ultimately stand before our brothers in the degree’s and receive many lectures on what a Mason should be, how he should act and how to prepare for his final degree. We are told that
The distinguishing characteristics of every Free and Accepted Mason are Virtue, Honor and Mercy, and the tenets or fundamental principles of Ancient Freemasonry are Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth.
It is a lot to absorb in such a short time and we can only hope we will figure it out as fast as possible. Most catch on fairly quickly but some are a little slower. So to help out, here are the “Principals for Good Guys” I found on Wiki. These don’t look like the Ancient Charges of Masonry but if you study them closely they make Masonic Sense.
Principles for Good Guys
Ethical standards apply uniformly to all
Assist those in need
Defend those in trouble
Pursue human rights for all
Protect the environment
Use force prudently
Respect and honor diversity
Listen to your heart
Listen to people carefully before giving your opinion
Fear not evil
Improve global quality of life
Be courteous to other souls
Fear not to harm another in a just cause this is one of those risk things
We have a duty to our ourselves, our lodges and all our Brethren throughout world to understand and act honestly for the betterment of Masonry. We are our brothers keeper, and we must be vigilant for those who haven’t gotten the message. Most Worshipful Brother Herman M. Forrester, Grand Master of The Grand Lodge of Kentucky in his May message brings this point sharply into focus.
One of the privileges of being Grand Master of Masons is the opportunity to travel and meet the most outstanding men in our great Commonwealth. These dedicated brethren live their daily lives living up to the lofty ideas and standards that Freemasonry teaches. I am so very proud to serve these men who devote their lives trying to be good Masons, husbands, Fathers, churchmen and citizens. How blessed I am to serve with the Grand Lodge Officers, elected and appointed who are so dedicated not only to Freemasonry but to the Craft of Kentucky. I treasure and revere the great Freemasons of Kentucky.
I cannot thank these brothers enough for being what they profess to be, men of Honor and integrity.
We as Grand Lodge Officers should be shouting their praises from the highest mountain tops. Unfortunately there is always a small segment of any membership who will not conform to the principles of our beloved brotherhood. They disrupt their lodges with picks and quarrels, they will not conform to the Constitution, their conduct outside the lodge is un-Masonic, such behavior includes Spouse/Child Abuse, Alcoholism, Drug/Substance Abuse, just to name a few of these offenses that have come to our attention.
These so-called Masons must be removed from the Craft and should have NEVER been permitted to be a part of our Great Fraternity. The World is watching us and will judge a tree by the fruit that it bears! It is time for each Lodge to do their duty to the utmost, investigate the men who knock at their doors, with the most thorough scrutiny, and vote for the good of the order, and confer impressive meaningful ritual that will touch the hearts of good men. Brothers, we can’t change yesterday but together we can have an impact on tomorrow. Remember a journey of a thousand miles begins with just one step.
DO YOUR DUTY FOR THE BETTERMENT OF FREEMASONRY.
HERMAN M. FORRESTER Grand Master, Grand Lodge of Kentucky
It’s a pretty tall order but we must try and excel in all things good and great. So the next time you find a man in cynic’s robes holding a lantern up to you and says “I am looking for an honest man”, how will you answer, better yet can you don those robes and hold up that lantern yourself?
But by how often he bends to help, comfort and teach!
Diogenes (c. 412- c. 323 B.C ) was a very playful philosopher who liked to use great wit when challenging the values and beliefs of his fellow citizens in ancient Athens. He lived in great poverty, probably begging and stealing his food, and steadfastly disdained all forms of luxury. It was because of his determination to follow his own dictates and not adhere to the conventions of society that he was given the epithet “dog,” from which the name cynic” is derived. i
This is investigative reporter Donald P. Stoddard for Secret Society Watch.
Over the past year, I have infiltrated a Masonic Lodge in order to find out the truth about the Illuminati-Freemasonry connection. Freemasons have been denying any association with the Illuminati for years, but this reporter remained suspicious about the information surrounding the two orders.
The primary reason that I believed such a connection must exist was the fact that Freemasons had opposed such an assertion vehemently. When I met with a local Mason on the street to ask him about the Illuminati’s presence in the fraternity, he replied “I don’t even know what the Illuminati is.” A suspicious statement for a man that is suppose to keep such a connection secret. When I later petitioned a Masonic Lodge so that I might gain admittance and thus become privy to their well-kept secret, I was asked why I wanted to become a Mason. I replied, “I’m interested to see what sort of affect that the fraternity has on society, if you catch my drift.” The investigating Masons laughed and I was accepted into the lodge shortly thereafter, a clear sign that I was on the right track to discovering the presence of the Illuminati in one of America’s largest and most secret organizations.
After receiving the degrees, it was quite clear to me that the Masonic fraternity was interested in presenting allegorical lessons that required further learning in order to understand their meaning, or more correctly, become a functioning member of the Illuminati. The members of the lodge informed me that most of the United States’ presidents had been Masons. I was only aware of fourteen that had belonged to the fraternity, but several Brothers assured me that other presidents had indeed belonged. This reporter will refer to those presidents and other public officials that are not publicly known to be Freemasons, but are claimed as Brothers in the organization as “Secret Masons.” I discovered that such Secret Masons included Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Dick Cheney, and even Simon Cowell. So the Masons, or the Illuminati, weren’t only concerned about controlling the country or the world, but they were also eager to fill the airwaves with terrible pop music in order to dull the senses of the masses. Ingenious!
When I finally got around to asking the Worshipful Master of the lodge—and yes I said worshipful as in to be worshiped–if I could attend one of the Illuminati’s meetings, he informed me that I was asking the wrong person. Of course, he was correct. I had made the error of thinking that a simple Master Mason belonged to the Illuminati. It was obvious that only 32nd Degree members were allowed to attend these meetings. I quickly became a member of the Scottish Rite to earn that degree and was once again disappointed to find that I would not be admitted to the meetings of the Illuminati as a 32nd Degree Mason. It was evident that I would have to receive the 33rd Degree, which I would have to wait nearly eight years to obtain. Indeed, these Masons were no novices at running the world. It is quite smart to make sure that only the most devoted members are allowed to have their voices heard at a meeting of the Illuminati.
However, when I asked one of the 33rd Degree members if I would be able to finally find out more about the Illuminati when I reached that degree, he replied, “Well, you might find just what your looking for by becoming a Shrine Clown” and whipped out a petition. I eagerly signed it and donned my red nose and floppy shoes so that I could finally become a member of the Illuminati. So I have been tirelessly performing at the Shrine Circus in order to gain a reputation among the other clowns and be invested with membership in the Illuminati. It appears that the Masons realize that the key to global domination is to influence the inexperienced minds of America’s youth. This is certainly a conspiracy that even Dan Brown couldn’t develop.
Yes, you heard it here first folks, the Shrine Clowns are the modern day version of the Illuminati and they are aided by the help of their many fellow Secret Masons in the entertainment industry. The truth is that the vast majority of people featured on programs such as CNN’s Showbiz Tonight are fellow clowns, helping to spread the Freemasons’ gospel of a New World Order. Now, this reporter is off to what he hopes is his first Illuminati meeting where about twenty of us will be gathering to discuss our master plan in a 1990 Ford Festiva disguised inconspicuously as a circus vehicle.
Until next time, this is Investigative Reporter Donald P. Stoddard for Secret Society Watch.
In September of 1882, the Chicago-based National Christian Association unveiled a 35-foot tall monument to William Morgan in a cemetery in Batavia, New York, unveiling a new round of anti-Masonic feelings in the process. It had been more than a half century since William Morgan had vanished from the village, kidnapped and murdered, it was said, by members of the Masonic fraternity who were outraged that a man they had welcomed as a brother had betrayed them by exposing their mysteries to profane eyes.
And yet the murder of William Morgan was never proven; the discovery of a body on the shores of Oak Orchard Creek a year after his disappearance, at first supposed to be that of William Morgan was just as quickly supposed to be that of Timothy Monro, a Canadian who had allegedly drowned a few weeks before the discovery. And so the matter was brought to a close. No corpse, no crime. In 1831, Victor Birdseye, who served as the last special council in the Morgan investigations concluded on his report to the New York State legislature that:
The information thus elicited, is sufficient, I trust to satisfy the public mind as to the ultimate fate of Morgan: that he was taken into the Niagara, at night, about the 19th of September and there sunk. Yet the evidence, although apparently sufficient for all purposes of human belief, is not sufficient to establish, with legal certainty, and according to adjudged cases, the murder of Morgan. (1)
Birdseye could not help but be frustrated as he saw his efforts as well as those of his predecessors, John C. Spencer and Daniel Mosley, thwarted as key Masonic witnesses and accused either dodged questions in the witness box, refused to testify altogether or fled the scene to avoid prosecution. Five years of legal investigation and prosecution on the matter of Morgan’s disappearance resulted in 20 grand juries and 15 trials. Of the 54 Freemasons indicted by the grand jury, only 39 were brought to trial and only 10 of those were convicted. (2) Although the 10 Masons convicted of abducting Morgan served light sentences ranging from one month to 28 months, the Craft as a whole served a nearly two-decade-long period of Masonic caliginosity, a backlash against the Craft that punished all Freemasonry for the actions of a few of its misguided members.
And yet, Freemasonry survived and grew to strength in the years after the American Civil War, her opponents less vocal than they had been when anti-Masonry had passed through the churches on its journey from the honest indignation of the citizens of Western New York to the political machinations of the Anti-Masonic Party, a party led by men like Thurlow Weed.
Weed was a Rochester newspaperman and editor of the Rochester Daily Telegraph when Morgan was abducted and soon took an active interest in the investigations. Although publicly humiliated and ridiculed for his alleged desecration of Timothy Monro’s corpse in October of 1827 to make it look like Morgan, Weed continued to attack Freemasonry throughout the remainder of his life, launching his final Parthian arrow at the unveiling of the Morgan monument in 1882, just weeks before his death. Although he was unable to attend in person, Weed sent a letter to the organizers that told of the confession of John Whitney, one of the men convicted of abducting Morgan, and a man who not only fled to New Orleans to avoid prosecution, (3) but who also refused to testify in one of the later trials. (4) In Weed’s account of things, in 1831, while visiting in his home, John Whitney confessed to murdering Morgan:
Whitney then related in detail the history of Morgan’s abduction and fate. The idea of suppressing Morgan’s intended exposure of the secrets of Masonry was first suggested by a man by the name of Johns. It was discussed in lodges at Batavia, Le Roy and Rochester. Johns suggested that Morgan should be separated from Miller and placed on a farm in Canada West. For this purpose he was taken to Niagara and placed in the magazine of the Fort until arrangements for settling him in Canada were completed, but the Canadian Masons disappointed them. After several meetings of the lodge in Canada, opposite Fort Niagara, a refusal to have anything to do with Morgan left his “kidnappers” greatly perplexed. Opportunely a Royal Arch chapter was installed at Lewiston. The occasion brought a large number of enthusiastic Masons together. “After labor,” in Masonic language, they “retired to refreshment.” Under the exhilaration of champagne and other viands the Chaplain (the Rev. F. H. Cummings, of Rochester) was called on for a toast. He responded with peculiar emphasis and in the language of their ritual: “The enemies of our order may they find a grave six feet deep, six feet long, and six feet due east and west.” Immediately after that toast, which was received with great enthusiasm, Col. William King, an officer in our war of 1812, and then a Member of Assembly from Niagara county, called Whitney of Rochester, Howard of Buffalo, Chubbuck of Lewiston, and Garside of Canada, out of the room and into a carriage furnished by Major Barton. They were driven to Fort Niagara, repaired to the magazine and informed Morgan that the arrangements for sending him to Canada were completed and that his family would soon follow him. Morgan received the information cheerfully and walked with supposed friends to the boat, which was rowed to the mouth of the river, where a rope was wound around his body, to each end of which a sinker was attached. Morgan was then thrown overboard. He grasped the gunwale of the boat convulsively. Garside, in forcing Morgan to relinquish his hold was severely bitten. (5)
Weed’s version of Whitney’s story was pretty strong evidence against the Masonic fraternity at a time when Freemasonry was once again feeling the pressure of anti-Masonic inquiry. The letter, which was published by the National Christian Association in pamphlet form in 1882 also found its way into many New York newspapers including the December 7, 1882 edition of The Malone Palladium, which ran the letter below the headline, The Death of Morgan: Thurlow Weed’s Dying Revelation.(6) It is doubtless that few readers, particularly those predisposed to a mistrust of Freemasonry, gave any critical thought to Weed’s claims, accepting the account as a true and accurate depiction of what really happened.
But the same can be said of the Freemasons who accepted, without question, another version of the Whitney confession, the one offered by the Masonic author Rob Morris. In 1883, the year after the raising of Morgan’s monument in the Batavia cemetery, Morris, a well-known and well-loved Masonic poet and author, wrote a book called William Morgan: Or Political Anti-Masonry, Its Rise, Growth, And Decadence (1883). The book presented the argument that Morgan was not abducted and murdered by Freemasons, but deported to Canada at his own request. It is little surprise that the story, as told by Morris, was joyfully received by the Masonic fraternity and became the foundation stone upon which other Masonic writers would build their version of the tale, a tale that is accepted and repeated by North American Freemasons to this day.
Morris’ re-imagining of the series of events from Morgan’s arrest in Batavia until his disappearance at Fort Niagara is largely based on the alleged oral testimony of his key witness in his defense of the Craft, John Whitney; the same man Thurlow Weed claimed confessed to assisting with Morgan’s murder.
Whitney’s account of things is told in Chapter VII of William Morgan and is claimed to be information Whitney gave to Morris in 1859. (7) The Morris / Whitney story tells us that it was John Whitney and Nicholas Chesebro who engineered Morgan’s “deportation” to Canada, assisted by a handful of other dedicated members of the Masonic fraternity, viz. Col. William King, Burrage Smith, Loton Lawson and Sheriff Eli Bruce, (8) the entire plan organized with the full understanding, acceptance and financial support of Governor De Witt Clinton. (9) Morris claimed that John Whitney told him he went to visit Clinton at Albany in August of 1826, returning to Rochester with a detailed plan and a signed letter from the Governor making it clear that “no steps must be taken that would conflict with a citizen’s duty to the law.” (10) Clinton’s plan, according to the Morris / Whitney story was to attempt to buy Morgan’s manuscript and get him to agree to a deportation to some foreign country where he might be separated from his publishing partner David Miller. (11) The governor also assured Whitney of $1,000 if required, and the assurance that those involved would be sustained by Masonic authorities within New York State, so long as things were kept legal. (12)
Whitney allegedly went to Batavia on September 5th, 1826, where he offered Morgan $50 cash and the payment of his debts if he would destroy his exposé and leave the country. (13)
With Morgan’s willingness to leave taken care of, Whitney then went to Canandaigua the next day to involve Nicholas Chesebro in the plan, both men being known to each other through their membership in the Knights Templar at Rochester. (14) The two men agreed that the easiest way to get Morgan quietly out of Batavia was to have him arrested, (15) Ebenezer Kingsley being persuaded to press charges against Morgan for the shirt and cravat Morgan had borrowed from him the previous May, but had yet to return.
Morgan’s journey from the jail at Canandaigua to Fort Niagara is covered by Morris in the course of a few pages that make a hero of Whitney for staying with Morgan the whole journey as they changed horses and carriages, all donated by Masons willing to help separate Morgan from his publisher David Miller. (16) In Whitney’s account of the story, he was joined by Eli Bruce and Col. William King at Lockport and the three men traveled with Morgan from Youngstown to the soldier’s burial ground, a half mile from Fort Niagara in the early hours of September 14, 1826. (17) When Whitney, King and Bruce arrived at the river’s edge, Edward Giddins and Elisha Adams transported the three men and Morgan across the river to a deserted bank on the Canadian side, a mile from the Village of Niagara. (18) Morgan remained in the boat with Giddins and Adams, while Bruce, King and Whitney went to the village and met with two Canadian Masons, men Whitney was unprepared to reveal to Morris 33 years after the event. (19)
After a while, the Canadian Masons returned to the boat with their American counterparts and Bruce summoned Morgan to join the five men on the shore. With nothing but the moon and a couple of lanterns to light the night, Morris would have his reader believe that Colonel King made notes on several points Morgan swore to before the party of Masons:
First. That he had contracted with Miller and others, to write an exposition of Masonry, for which he was to receive one half-million dollars compensation.
Second. That he had never been made a Mason in any Lodge, but had received the Royal Arch Degree in a regular manner. Furthermore, that he felt bound by his Royal Arch obligation and never intended to reveal the secrets of that degree.
Third. That Miller and the other partners had utterly failed to fulfill the terms of contract with him.
Fourth. That Whitney had paid him $50 at Danolds’ Tavern (Batavia), and he had agreed to destroy the written and printed work so far as possible and furnish no more, and that before leaving Batavia he had done what he promised in that way.
Fifth. That it was impossible now for Miller to continue the “Illustrations,” as he [Morgan] had written them. If he published any book, it would have to be made from some other person’s materials.
Sixth. That Miller was only an Entered Apprentice, and ‘rusty as hell’ at that.
Seventh. That he had been treated by Chesebro, Whitney, Bruce and all of them, with perfect kindness in his journey, and he had nothing but the best of feelings for them.
Eighth. That he was willing and anxious to be separated from Miller and from all idea of a Masonic Exposé; wished to live in habits of industry and respectability before all men; wished to go to the interior of Canada and settle down as a British citizen; wished to have his family sent him soon as possible; might want to go to Quebec some time and have his eyes operated on; expected five hundred dollars when he reached the place as agreed upon; expected more money from year to year to help him out if necessary and if he should show himself worthy of it.
Ninth. Finally he was sorry for the uproar his proceedings had made; was sorry for the expense he had put the Masons to; sorry for the disgrace he and his family had suffered; sorry for the shame and mortification of his friends, and he ‘had no idea that David Cade Miller was such a damned scoundrel as he turned out to be.’ (20)
Whitney claimed that the Canadian Masons, although prepared to take Morgan as agreed, couldn’t do so for a week and were unprepared to keep him during the interim. Morgan consented to being locked up in the powder magazine at Fort Niagara until that time and Edward Giddins prepared the room with a mattress, chair and other items for Morgan’s personal comfort. (21) Morgan finally left the magazine on September 17, 1826 when the two Canadians came over to the American side, gave Whitney a receipt for the $500 they were to give Morgan and returned to the western side of the river. Whitney claimed that the two Canadian Masons rode on horseback with Morgan from the Village of Niagara to a spot near present day Hamilton, Ontario where they had him sign a receipt for the $500 and a document outlining the circumstances of his deportation, as well as a promise not to return to the United States without the permission of Colonel William King, Sheriff Eli Bruce or John Whitney. (22) Conveniently, all of the documents vanished when they could have been used to prove the innocence of the abductors.
Morris was a master at telling his audience what they wanted to hear. It is important to remember that Freemasonry had only recently returned from a period of Masonic darkness that ran for nearly two decades and was only now beginning to grow to strength after the conclusion of the American Civil War. But it was also a time when The National Christian Association, assisted by Thurlow Weed, were rekindling anti-Masonic feelings with the former’s erection of the Morgan monument in 1882 and the latter’s death bed support of the same. One can hardly blame Morris for wanting to defend Freemasonry, an institution he loved, and his book William Morgan was released within months of the erection of the Morgan monument.
But is it a true account of what happened? As much as we would like to believe every word of Morris’ account, it is a lie.
William Morgan was not Morris’ first book on the subject. In 1861, two years after his alleged interview with John Whitney, he published 1,000 copies of the book The Masonic Martyr: The Biography of Eli Bruce, Sheriff of Niagara county N.Y., who for his attachment to the principles of Masonry, and his fidelity to his trust, was imprisoned twenty-eight months in the Canandaigua jail. (23) This book, as the lengthy title implies, was designed to remove the shadow that had been cast over the name of Eli Bruce, who had received the harshest sentence of any of the Morgan conspirators. Although the bulk of the book recounts the 28 months Bruce spent in the Canandaigua jail (the same jail from which Morgan was taken in the middle of the night) Morris offers a chapter on the abduction of Morgan and one on the anti-Masonic party. It is these two chapters that are most telling in light of Morris’ later treatment of the subject. Although frequently softening the blow against Freemasonry, Morris presents his reader with a fairly straightforward account of the Morgan story up to his placement in the powder magazine at Fort Niagara, even leveling criticism at Freemasons for being imprudent in their actions and murderous threats against Morgan. (24) It is only in his closing paragraphs that Morris provides us with the embryo of an idea that he would carry to full term two decades later:
Our own surmise, which, after a careful perusal of all the testimony, and much questioning of the remaining actors in the abduction who still survive, may perhaps be as good as any other, is that Morgan was abundantly supplied with money by those who had expended so much, and run such risks to separate him from Miller and his confederates, and that he was assisted to pass into Canada, the scene of his former adventures, where among a rough and lawless border population, he met the end likely to befall a drunken, boasting fellow, whose pockets were sufficiently well lined to render him a desirable prey.
Certainly, there is no evidence that he was murdered by Freemasons. The facts that they took him openly from the jail at Canandaigua, that they left a broad trail behind them, for more than one hundred and fifteen miles through a thickly settled country, and, that so many were admitted into the secret of the abduction, forbid such a supposition; the character of all the actors from Mr. N. G. Chesebro, the earliest, to Col. William King, the latest, forbid it even more strongly. That the abduction was a consummate piece of folly, from first to last, it is easy at this period to affirm; but, those who affirm it the most loudly, had they felt the provocations the brethren in Western New York experienced, might have committed the same error. In our private notes of Masonic History since 1846, we find more than one “Morgan case,” which was only prevented from coming to a head by the prudence of a few, who remembered the dark days of Eli Bruce and Col. King, and taught discretion to the more rash and indignant. (25)
In the foregoing excerpt we see a Rob Morris who was willing to accept that Morgan was likely murdered, albeit by a lawless band of Canadians waiting at the border for wealthy American drunkards, but perhaps more importantly, we see an acceptance that Freemasons could and did act rashly and improperly in the abduction of William Morgan in the fall of 1826. Morris accepts that the abduction of Morgan was “a consummate piece of folly,” but defends the abductors against the pointing fingers of their detractors by stating that “had they felt the provocations the brethren in Western New York experienced, might have committed the same error.” In other words, their actions were faulty, but justified.
If, as Morris claimed, John Whitney told him the full story in 1859, why did he not include it in his 1861 biography of Eli Bruce? It is certainly possible that Morris promised to keep the information confidential until Whitney’s death, but the man died in 1869. And yet, Morris waited until 1883, more than a decade later to finally put the story in print. The timing of his book to coincide with renewed anti-Masonic attacks makes it likely that Morris needed a version of the Whitney story of his own? Given the closing words of his book William Morgan, it is almost certain that Rob Morris, one of the most respected Masonic authors of his day, created the Morgan deportation story to defend his beloved Freemasonry:
But I protest that I never would have published this work—though I had long been collecting materials for it—if that old man’s drivelings had been suppressed.
The Masonic Order had so completely outlived Weed and his party and his hatreds, we were doing so well, that I should have buried the subject in oblivion and destroyed the material so laboriously accumulated rather than open a quarrel of which [Millard] Fillmore, [William H.] Seward, John Quincy Adams, Thaddeus Stevens and all the more respectable members of the Anti-Masonic party had become heartily ashamed before they died. Only one man was left, and he imbecile in body and mentally feeble, who could reopen the subject. Of all men living he was most interested in keeping the matter still. What evil spirit was it, then, that drew Thurlow Weed from his retirement to poison the community with Anti-Masonic slanders even with his dying breath. (26)
With no conviction in the murder of William Morgan, all we are left with today is a 183-year-old cold case; a case which the Masonic fraternity closed long ago, long after it had rebuilt itself from the ashes of anti-Masonic fires and long after one of its most sainted apologists had written the version of the story Freemasons wanted to hear, the one they needed to believe, the one that has been repeated time and again until it can be quoted as if it were a part of the Masonic ritual. Although we may not know the ultimate fate of William Morgan, it is my hope that at least one myth has finally been put to rest.
American history is intricately tied to the history of Freemasonry.
One such crossroad was the Anti-Masonic Party that dominated early American politics between 1827 and 1838. But where did the Anti-Masonic party find its inspiration? When you dig into the shadows and rumors of the past, the answers start to take shape in a jig-saw puzzle of post colonial American life, politics, and scandal. And in those hidden recesses, the real story begins to emerge.
Important to say is this early political party did not form out of a passing distrust of Freemasonry, but rather from a tragedy that is today known as The Morgan Affair. At the center, William Morgan, was a man of many trades with a reputation that preceded him, and it is from that reputation that the door of Masonry was darkened. What led up to the Morgan Affair necessitates us to answer the question:
William Morgan and the rise of the Anti Masonic Party
Was William Morgan Murdered by Masons?
This question is an important one, as in the years following his death American Masonry plummeted nearly to extinction because of his mysterious disappearance. To be a Mason, then, was to be a pariah in society and whose disappearance still ripples in present day conspiracy circles around the world.
In this episode of Masonic Central, we talk with Stephen Dafoe, the author of the new book Morgan: The Scandal That Shook Freemasonry as we explore the Masonic cold case murder of William Morgan and explore the “who, what, and why” of this tragic (and momentous) event that became a fire brand to the fraternity and the rally cry to the Anti Masonic Party.
This is a special hour and a half long program aired on Masonic Central on Sunday June 14, 2009.
By Carlos Antonio Martinez, Jr., J.D., PH.D., M.A., 33º
The Chamber of Reflection… After being told a few words of warning calling for the reconsideration on the steps he is about to take, mysterious words bearing a contrasting and intimidating message of discouragement, the young candidate, compelled by either Conviction or Curiosity, decides to ignore such “warnings”, and valiantly enters that “cavern-like” room on the day of his initiation into the Craft. He immediately finds himself in the middle of a gloomy and obscure scenario – a small table with a skull and crossed tibia, a lit candle, a sand clock about to stop, and a few suggestive wall inscriptions complementary of everything he was forewarned prior to stepping into such a perturbing enclosure. Truly, this is a chamber of reflection.
He cannot help feeling like an unfortunate detainee of ancient times, locked in a dungeon awaiting his sentence. On the small table there are also a cup of water, a small piece of bread, and some salt, which seem to be the only food that he is entitled to ingest for being imprisoned. He instinctively asks himself “Am I a Prisoner?”; “I have not done anything wrong”; “I came here of my own free will and they throw me in here”; “How long will they keep me?”; “I have no idea, but, I want to get out, I want to throw down the towel and surrender in the second round”; “I give up”; I can’t stand it any longer”; “What is this about?”; “Why did they lock me up?”; “Is this how they make Good Men better?”; “Is this what they mean by Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth?”; “They are probably just having fun with me!”; “They have me in such a ridiculous and hopeless state!”; “One of my hands is tied, I’m barefooted, almost naked, without my belongings, and partially blind-folded!”; “My God, what’s next?”; “A ransom?”; “Am I being kidnapped?”; “Are all those sinister rumors about the Masons true?”…
… The young neophyte then recovers his briefly lost sanity, and focus his attention on some of the fluorescent phrases posted on the dark walls: “IF YOU ARE AFRAID, LEAVE”; “IF YOU ARE NOT CERTAIN, WITHDRAW”; “IF YOU CANNOT COPE, RENOUNCE”; All of the sudden, however, these intimidating and daring clauses give him the encouragement to continue on, to test himself, to confront and overcome his own fears, to subdue his vices, and to begin to truly know himself.
Suddenly, a man wearing a black robe hands him a paper with four (4) questions that he must answer in sixty (60) seconds. At that moment, the novice thinks – “Who, in my present state and condition, is going to answer this questionnaire correctly in one (1) minute?” – While reading the questions, he feels like a bucket of cold water has fallen upon him, slightly refreshing his already warm and confused mind. There are four (4) questions he must reflect upon: What is Man’s duty to God? Again, he thinks – “What, didn’t they say that, here, Religion is never discussed?” – He thinks for a moment and answers what he thinks is right. What is Man’s duty to Himself? “Dignity”, he replies. But, again, he cannot help to think – “What type of Dignity can I have or talk about, after being treated like a dirty rag?”. What is Man’s duty to his Fellow Beings? Without hesitation he replies – “Respect”. If your last hour arrived, what would be your Testament? This time, the young man’s face frowns and he thinks aloud – “A last will? “What are they going to do to me now?”; “I’m locked away in a room, I know nobody in this place, and I’m in the presence of human remains”; “Now, I truly feel uncomfortable!” – He stops, thinks again for a few seconds, and replies – “I’d give half of my holdings to my loved-ones, and the other half to people in need”.
He was given sixty (60) seconds, but, he feels as twenty (20) minutes have gone by; his anxiety begins to feel like asphyxia with an unmistakable sensation of claustrophobia. Suddenly, there is a distinct knock at the door, two or three different voices from without order him not to turn around, and, once more, he is completely blind-folded.
As he is taken away, he remembers reading a particular word with three points between each letter: V:.I:.T:.R:.I:.O:.L:. At that time, our young Initiate did not know its meaning, he probably even assumed that it was an unknown reference to God; But, in due time, he will encounter the latin phrase: “VISITA INTERIORA TERRAE RECTIFICANDO INVENIES OCCULTUM LAPIDEM”, which, semi-translated into English means: “VISIT THE INTERIOR OF THE EARTH, THROUGH RECTIFICATION YOU SHALL FIND THE HIDDEN STONE”, and, then, he will realize that such word went hand in hand with everything he saw and read in that “cavern-like” chamber. Studying and analyzing further, he will find its significance, that of visiting and knowing his Inner Side/Nature, and submitting to a Self-Examination of Conscience with which he must reflect over his actions and deeds, and, thus, discover his Internal Self or Hidden Stone, the Philosophers Stone of the Alchemists, the Rough Ashlar of the Free-Mason.
The ancient Egyptian, Persian and Greek Sages adopted the custom of surrounding their teachings with enigmas that could only be contemplated in silence, and which expressed invariable and uniform principles that formed a perfect and harmonious ensemble that, at the same time, defined a ceremony of religious and secret nature needed for the Initiation and Training of all Priests and Priestesses who desired to unravel these enigmas. These enigmas comprise all that relates to the developing possibilities of the human state that culminate with that which has been called “Restoration of Primeval State”, and these are nothing more than a preparation for The Great Mysteries which appertain to the realization of the super-human states, and conduct the Initiate toward states of spiritual order until reaching the Supreme Identity. Thus, the new adept is brought closer to the hidden truths of the divine.
All the Philosophers of antiquity were disciples of an Initiation, being Progress and the Foundation of the Mysteries what enabled them to liberate themselves from the chaos of superstition. In those times, only the Mysteries could liberate Men from barbarousness. From these mysteries were derived the doctrines of Confucius, Zoroaster and Hermes Trismegistus. Such were the timeless characteristics of the Ancient Mysteries, that fragments of these teachings have reached Modern Freemasonry. These influences are found in the various different Rites of the Order. In all these mysteries we find a common factor indicating a same origin, the ceremonies of initiation were all funereal in character featuring a mystical death and resurrection, and the trials were conducted in the darkness of the night – the aspirant had to be examined, tried and purified in order to attain Wisdom and Light.
In the Mithraic-Zoroastrian mysteries, the neophyte was subject to a rigorous fasting and to a series of tests and trials, where the methods of exciting awe and fear varied ingeniously; all types of sounds and noises were simulated, the roaring of ferocious animals, the explosion of thunder, lightning, lashings with sticks, lamentations, screams of horror or pain, and the sensations of heat or cold were also implemented, by having him/her swim in rivers of strong current and walk through blazing areas. All these tests and trials lasted between twenty-four and eighty days, at the end of which the candidate was introduced in an real cavern. These initiation caverns were small in size, their walls and ceilings were painted with astral signs, and represented the world, the dual movement of the planets, and the passage of the souls through the celestial spheres. Once inside, the candidate was caused to walk through a ladder or bridge along which there were seven doors, each made of a different metal symbolizing the respective attributes of every planet. This Ladder was posteriorly adopted by the Jews and featured in the mythical dream of Jacob, and, presently, it is an indispensable symbol in a number of our Masonic Degrees. As the climax of the ceremony was nearing, the new adept was conducted to a larger room where he/she underwent some type of Baptism, and was finally prepared to receive the Seven Lessons that would constitute the completion of his/her Initiation. In due time, this particular ceremony began to be implemented by almost every Mystery School, until it made its way into Masonic Rituals in the form of “The Ante-Room” or “Chamber of Reflections”.
In the Higher Mysteries, celebrated in Elleusis during the month of September, these ceremonies lasted nine days, and were held in honor of the Goddesses Demeter and Persephone. The Temple was divided in three parts: the “Megaron” or Sanctuary (corresponding to the Sanctum Sanctorum of the Temple of Solomon), the “Anactoron” or Main Hall (equivalent to the place of collective prayer), and the Underground Chamber located right below the temple. The Infernal Regions and/or Punishment for the uninitiated impious one was symbolically represented by this Underground Chamber, and it was reminiscent of an episode in the drama of Demeter, Persephone and Pluto. Within the walls of this temple, the beliefs and teachings of a celestial life after death were earnestly imparted to their “Adoptae” or Accepted, and thus expanded to the more profound studies of Cosmogony and Anthropogenesis.
In the Druid Mysteries, almost entirely native to the regions of Britain and Gaul, their rituals, brought from Greece by Scandinavian route, required the Initiate to undergo much physical purification and mental preparation; their First Degree was conferred by inflicting a symbolical death on the aspirant, which, culminated in his/her attainment of the Third Degree or regeneration, at which point he/she was placed on a boat symbolizing his/her readiness to sail-off on life’s journey.
The formidable Egyptians, Mayans and Incas used to leave the Initiate alone, locked inside the actual funereal chamber of a pyramid, lying inside a coffin and surrounded by mummies and other lugubrious emblems, so that he/she could reflect on the steps about to be taken – that unless emerging triumphant, such failure could cost him/her the permanent loss of his/her freedom.
Following these ancient initiatic customs and traditions, divesting the candidate of all personal clothing and removing all minerals and metals from him, the Profane is caused to find himself alone with his own values before a first symbolical approximation that invites him to meditate over the vanities of existence, and warns him of mere curiosity as he seeks membership in our Order.
In modern Free-Masonry, the chamber of reflections is equivalent to the alchemical siphon, where the Recipient shall experience transmutation by means of the conjugation and regulating of his/her recondite energies. The Profane “descends to the Infernos”, he must die first, in order to “resuscitate” and attain the light of Initiation. There he shall leave the dealings of the exterior world, there will be an interior abstraction, like the original matrix, so that he can emerge from the depths of the earth (the chaotic dense matter) to the subtleness of the spirit.
This place is also representative of both Macrocosm and Microcosm, in other words, of the Universe and Man. In it, there are manifested four levels or superposed planes where the basic elements of Alchemy are found – earth, fire, water and air. The first level belongs to that of Fire, the primordial element for the work of transmutation; the second and third levels belong to those of Water and Earth – the transforming substances, and the fourth level belongs to the element of Air, the subtlety of gases related with transcendence.
It is particularly important to underline the use of certain phrases inscribed upon this chamber’s walls; these phrases bore messages such as: “IF MERE CURIOSITY HAS BROUGHT YOU HERE, LEAVE!”; “KNOW THYSELF!”; “DUST YOU ARE AND, AGAIN, DUST YOU SHALL BECOME!”; “TO DIE, YOU WERE BORN!”; “TO BETTER EMPLOY YOUR LIFE, THINK OF DEATH!”; “IF AVARICE GUIDES YOU, GO AWAY!”; IF YOU PAY HOMAGE TO HUMAN DISTINCTIONS, LEAVE, FOR HERE WE KNOW THEM NOT!”; “IF YOU FEAR TO BE REPRIMENDED OVER YOUR DEFECTS, DO NOT PROCEED!”; “IF YOU LIE, YOU SHALL BE EXPOSED!”; “IF YOU ARE AFRAID, WITHDRAW!”. These inscriptions are precisely inviting us to “visit the entrails of the earth”, in other words, to effectuate an introspection of our personalities, by being capable to “rectify”, to separate the dense from the subtle, and, thus, to find the “hidden stone” of the Philosophers, the True Philosophers Stone where the Profane’s real capacity for transmutation resides. For the Free-Mason, the transformation of Led or Rough Ashlar into Gold or Cubical Stone; the manner by which Man and Woman become the object of “The Great Work”.
The disorder and obscurity that prevail in the Chamber of Reflections, giving the appearance of a sepulchral cave, furnished with symbols of death and destruction – a skull and bones, is equivalent to being submerged in the center of the earth, from whence we came and ultimately shall return. Of all four elements that reign in Nature (Earth, Water, Air and Fire), Earth is the first that we must “overcome” during our Masonic Initiation. Our momentary stay in the Chamber of Reflections makes us remember the State of Ignorance in which we humans find ourselves, before knowing one fundamental principle of the Masonic Order: “YOU MUST DIE IN VICES, TO BE BORN IN VIRTUES!”; Or, like Joshua Ben Joseph, alias: “The Christ”, allegedly stated: “HE/SHE WHO IS NOT REBORN, WILL NOT ENTER THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN!”.
Just before stepping into the Ante-Room, we deposit our material valuables with our Bro:. Exp:. , in order to symbolically enter in a State of Original Purity, making effectual solely our True Values – Moral and Spiritual, glimpsing a new path-way, and disappearing our exterior bonds and considerations to be indefectibly open for a New State of Conscience. This, is the place where two worlds separate, the Profane and the Sacred; This is the critical point where Palingeness (Rebirth and/or Transformation) begins; The return to Life, by finding ourselves and self-divesting of our old personalities (egos and masks), recuperating our authentic being, which, in turn, shall conduct us to the True Initiation, to the Progressive Realization of our being, subjecting to examination our Will and Purpose of Advancement.
Being within that confinement, isolated between those dark walls, the Free-Mason-To-Be completes the strengthening and maturity of his soul, aided by the reflection upon that which surrounds him – the first symbols open to a Candidate’s view.
The ability to “reflect” is most necessary in a Free-Mason’s life! Reflection, per Philosophical Tenets, is the faculty of the human spirit through which the individual retreats and concentrates on him/herself to examine the phenomena subjected to his/her observation. Reflection is so important, that everyone who lacks the capacity of it, is totally incapable of comprehending the mission entrusted to him/her; he/she becomes toy and/or victim of his/her errors and/or passions – giving, instead, to the one who has developed it, an extraordinary superiority in intellectual and moral concepts. Reflection is a complex faculty, by which the active conscience illustrates and completes the Knowledge that the state of spontaneity had left in darkness and confusion.
The Man or Woman who reflects, bothers him/herself solely with matters that take place in the interior of his thoughts, finding him/herself forced to self-isolate from all exterior occurrences that besiege him/her, and to impede their access by suspending the function of the organs which perceive them. The Free-Mason who reflects, needs the retreat, the quietude, the darkness and the silence – to comprehend the phenomena of the spirit, and to clearly distinguish those invisible and impalpable objects concealed by light, and, which, only the silence of the night can reveal.
By proper use of Reflection, the Free-Mason is capable of perfectly distinguishing his thoughts, his ideas of Liberty, of Merit or Demerit. By aide of Reflection, the Free-Mason examines and judges his own actions, weights the consequences of the same, appreciates his moral character, and rejoices in discovering those noble qualities of the soul which, place him above all other creatures. Reflection teaches the Free-Mason the objective for which his glorious attributes call for, and lifts up the veil that concealed his destiny.
While in the Chamber of Reflections, the neophyte symbolically descends to the utmost dense and inferior; he finds himself in the darkness; he is in conflict with the duality of personalities – on one side, the material, composed of a physical body, and, on the other, the ethereal body, mind and emotions that he has constructed with his birth and with his particular circumstances; and, at a higher level, he faces the Elevated Personality, the Superior Individuality where he finds his true being, and shining right above it, is The Great Architect Of The Universe – so that before leaving the Ante Room, on his way to the Lodge Room, he can finally attain the Perfect Expression of the Spirit in the Physical Body.
Through the Ages, the Chamber of Reflection has represented the Initiate’s descend to the Infernos, the apparent death which precedes reincarnation, the re-encounter with a new life, and the Sun defeating the Autumnal Equinox, and rising victorious from its battle against darkness in the Equinox of Spring.
Brothers, a revision and additional embellishment of our Over-Simplified ritual, is most necessary, and way over-due. Our new Brethren must experience what some of us, unfortunately, did not. Our more philosophically and esoterically-inclined “New Breed” of members will cherish the experience of reflecting before seeing the Light. They will treasure the instant when called upon to reflect on their duties to God, to their fellow beings, and to themselves, just like our fore-brothers did, ages before there was even any grouping of four “Non-Operative Masonic Lodges” and their controversial merger into another “Grand Lodge” in England.
The ritualistic lessons of our Craft must be as vivid as possible. Our neophytes must go through the experience of being locked in that room, so that they may confront their own fears and demons. Fears and Demons that, perhaps, they are not aware of. The appreciation, skill, and habit of Reflection must be inculcated in the New Free-Mason beginning on the day of his Initiation. He must be taught to know himself better, to pay more attention to his vices and virtues, and to know the “true secret” on how to successfully polish his “rough ashlar”.
Now is the time for us to pause and “reflect”! … Many times, man fails to use the virtue of Reflection, and even goes through life without ever using it, until his final moment arrives; and, finally, he remembers that he has conscience, and meditates on what has been of his life up to that instant. We, as Free-Masons, should not make that mistake with the same frequency. Unlike the uncultivated, the Profane and Indiffferent Mason alike, we must look into ourselves, see through our Third Eyes, and think before acting.
Thanks to this “catacomb”, feeblemindedly omitted from our present rituals, we, Free-Masons, are what we are, and will be what we will be. In the Chamber of Reflection we are all reborn, and thus we learn to apply to our lives that wise adage that exhorts: “NEVER SAY WHAT YOU THINK, ALWAYS THINK WHAT YOU SAY!”
Note: The following article originally ran in the pages of Masonic Magazine as an editorial. I am posting it for those not familiar with it, as it is referred to in the previous article, There’s a hole in our bucket.
So there is this restaurant chain with locations throughout North America. Its slogan is a pretty catchy one and the chain’s management uses it on a daily basis to motivate staff and to recruit new patrons to the chain’s thousands of locations.
The slogan is “we take good food and make it better” – eight simple words, which have struck an emotional chord with millions of people who like to eat.
There is no marketing genius behind the slogan or the success of the same in attracting people to the restaurant chain. Everyone likes good food, so it is unlikely that there is a person alive who would not like good food made better. Who could resist such a slogan?
Sadly, the restaurant chain seldom lives up to its own slogan. The restaurants are often poorly decorated – their tables and chairs wobbly and in need of repair. Staff often quarrel with one another and the management, too often, seem only to be concerned with climbing the corporate ladder to the head office. The food, so much talked about is bland at best and dreadful at worst.
Yet as each new patron comes in for the first time to sample this “good food made better” he sees a group of smiling faces, all lapping up the meal as if it was the greatest food on the planet – just like the advertising people said it was.
The new patron does his best to eat his meal even though the food offered does not appeal to the palate as sweetly as the words used to describe it. Not wishing to show his displeasure to his two friends who sponsored him – for it is, after all, an exclusive restaurant – he sits in silence eating his meal with each mouth full being as forced as the smile on his face.
Sometimes the patron simply pays his tab, leaves the restaurant and vows never to return to the establishment. However, sometimes the patron decides that maybe he just went on a bad night – perhaps the staff was having a bad day because the regular cook was away. Perhaps those people enjoying the meal were just being kind and did not want to offend the new cook.
He decides to give the “good food made better” joint one more try.
Returning on another night he sees the same dozen patrons who were there the month previous – they are still arguing with one another about which fork you should use for the salad and the proper way to hold a wine glass. The manager is still ignoring the new customers in favor of the company higher-ups seated at a back table who he is trying to convince of his suitability for a more prominent position in the firm.
What’s worse – the food is still bland, boring and not what the sign on the door proclaims – yet the regulars are still lapping it up like it’s their last meal.
This time the patron decides that the marketing slogan is nothing more than eight simple words cleverly arranged to deprive him of his hard earned money.
The thought occurs to him that maybe he could pull the manager away from the corporate wheels long enough to suggest a few small things that could truly make the good food better. However, he has a sinking feeling that he would be told, “but we’ve always cooked it this way before” or “we tried that once and the patrons didn’t like it.” He feels he might even be told that “the head office would never allow it.”
So instead of voicing his concerns, exercising the old business axiom that the customer is always right, he says nothing. Instead he leaves the restaurant and vows never to return – either canceling his pre-booked reservations on the way out the door or never returning and having his membership cancelled by the chain via a nasty letter.
He wonders how it is that the restaurant survives and why the same dozen diners seem to enjoy the food so much.
His conclusion is a simple one – they like things the way they are and the establishment will never change so long as the chain is run by people who like to make bland food and patronized by people who like to eat the same.
And so we come to a problem that is rife within Freemasonry today.
We advertise ourselves as an organization that makes good men better, and while that is precisely what we have done for millions of men over the centuries, it cannot be argued that we are letting down the many young men who enter our doors who feel cheated and deceived.
“I really feel that I have been sold a pack of lies,” wrote one such young mason recently on an Internet discussion forum.
How sad it is that a young man, who has been a Mason for one year would feel that he has been lied to by an organization that has Truth as one of its three greatest attributes.
“This is not the Masonry I signed up for,” he continued in his posting and in so stating arrives at the crux of our problem.
Freemasonry in large parts of the United States and Canada is not offering what it is advertising, but if it advertised what it offered – would it receive many new candidates.
“Freemasonry – we take good men and let them sit in a room and listen to the reading of minutes and 45-minute debates on spending $50 on why we should or should not buy a plaque to show what great guys we are.”
It just does not have the same marketing strength as “Freemasonry – we take good men and make them better”.
Unfortunately our young brethren, past and present have tried to improve what Freemasonry offers within the tiled recesses of our lodges, but are met with resistance at each step of the way.
We say we are about making good men better through self improvement – yet few are the lodges who apply the working tools within the body of a lodge to educate our young members as to how to do this.
The Masonic Information Center (MIC) recently released a publication entitled, It’s About Time. The publication identifies the problems currently confronting Masonic identity and offers sound solutions for the same.
One of the most powerful statements in the 17 page document follows:
“The Square and Compasses, the best known symbol of a Mason, cannot replace the identity of living the life of a Mason, which is itself perpetually in a state of improving ourselves in body, mind, and spirit. Masonic imagery is a valuable resource when it inspires us to take new action consistent with our personal growth and enlightened thought. We must discover our own Masonic calling, our own place in the history of Masonry, by making authentic Masonic performance our top priority.”
However, we have allowed, as the MIC points out in the publication, Masonry to be shaped by the 20th century’s emphasis on the Masonic ritual being the completion of the Mason’s education about his fraternity.
Like the analogy of the restaurant chain, little changes in how lodges deliver Masonic lessons because the same dozen patrons sit in her seats and run the show.
Those men, like the restaurant patrons in our analogy, come back month after month and year after year because they enjoy the bland food – a meal that is largely comprised of recitation of minutes, tedious debates over how funds are dispersed and arguments over when and how to salute the Worshipful Master.
And when a young man, initiated, passed and raised leaves because he finds the meal unappetizing, he is viewed as a disgruntled customer, which the restaurant is better off without.
The recipe of Freemasonry is as sound today as it was three hundred years ago – it is the present kitchen of stubborn cooks who need to be tossed out.
Closing Note: Before anyone starts yammering about joining a good lodge, let me assure you I have done precisely that. This article is meant to convey the message of why things seldom change. It is not a commentary on my own present situation in lodge.