Carl H. Claudy

masonic author, 20th century, Carl Claudy
Carl Claudy

Raised to a Master Mason in 1908, at Harmony Lodge No. 17 in Washington, DC, Carl H. Claudy  served as the Master and eventually as Grand Master of Masons in 1943. He served as the executive secretary of the Masonic Service Association in 1929 holding the position until his death in 1957 claiming authorship of nearly 350 Short Talk Bulletins.

The MSANA says of the plays:

[They] are not merely a means by which a lodge may entertain, but attempt to satisfy a desire to understand the inner content of Freemasonry. They accomplish this purpose by drawing aside the veils of ritual, allegory and symbol that the truth behind may shine through.

Books by Carl Claudy:

And a number of Masonic plays:

  • The Greatest of These
  • He That Believeth
  • Greater Love Hath No Man
  • Judge Not!
  • The Hearts of the Fathers
  • …To Entertain Strangers
  • A Gift in Secret
  • Treasures of Darkness
  • He Which is Accused
  • If a Man Die…
  • And Not Forsake Them
  • He Which is Accused
  • A Rose Upon the Altar
American Freemasonry, Inner Traditions, Alain Keghel,

American Freemasonry – The Noble Goal

An interview with author Alain de Keghel.

author, Alain de Keghel, American Freemasonry
Keghel is the author of the new book American Freemasonry: Its Revolutionary History and Challenging Future from Inner Traditions.

American Freemasonry, in context, is challenging to understand as it relates to the rest of the world. In many ways American Freemasonry mirrors the form and function of the lodge but, because it grew-up in the crucible of democracy that was itself, at the time, unique and new to the world at large. American Freemasonry is so different, that it has its own unique designation as “American.” But why does this difference exist? To understand this question, it would take an outsider to examine American Freemasonry. And who better than a Frenchman.

To put American Freemasonry into context I spent some time talking to Alain de Keghel, who is the author of the new book American Freemasonry: Its Revolutionary History and Challenging Future (you can read the press release on the book here) and help shed some light on Freemasonry in North America.

Gregory Stewart (GS) Why write American Freemasonry? What inspired Alain de Keghel to be the one to write it?  

Alain de Keghel (AdK): American Freemasonry is an issue which keeps rather controversial in some countries abroad,  while people writing, reporting  or simply delivering messages about it, not always simply knowing what matters. Quite often they sincerely believe to be aware but they never, by themselves, experienced American Freemasonry which is very diverse. America, as a whole, is a wide country and the addition of people of different creeds, different ethnic origins, different languages and specific cultural areas of origin, making together what we call the “melting pot.” And because I had myself the privilege to live in the USA for a long period of time, benefiting  also from the Fraternity of American Masons before of that, for example in Germany and Japan, I felt that it may be useful to share this quite rare experience in writing a book without prejudice. Even though I keep of course a specific cultural French reference simply because my basic roots are there, I tried to do it without any partisan point of view. This requires being familiar with American history which includes also the political side.

Of course any one will agree that Freemasonry shouldn’t interfere in politics — but nobody can ignore the geopolitical dimension of the origins of the American Revolution and the French-British  competition of two major powers that included important Masonic Figures like Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, La Fayette and of course George Washington. But we have to consider also other Freemasons and political actors like the Admirals Cornwallis and Grasse-Tilly who both took a decisive part along with Rochambeau in the famous battle of Yorktown (October 19, 1781) paving the way to the American independence.

Anyone may conceive that as a former diplomat and a Freemason I have indeed an acute interest in those aspects of French-American relationships as well from an international point of view as from both Masonic and historical ones. All these elements inspired me to write a book to try also to share the analysis from outside America. But I never intended to deliver a message which would pretend to be the “unique truth” which simply does not exist. Objectivity is a noble goal but I frankly believe that it does simply not exists.

GS: The French-British competition?  Do you mean the anglo war or some other conflict?

AdK: I was referring more generally to the geopolitics at this period of time where the two then “super powers ” and kingdoms where competing all over the world. And for sure in America during the American Revolution.

GS: The press release for the book puts emphasis on the fact that American Freemasonry was “deeply influenced by the experiences of many early American political leaders, leading to distinctive differences from European lodges.” I’m curious if you could elaborate on this or, perhaps, give an example of one of those influences and what difference it’s manifested into.

book, Alain De Kegel
American Freemasonry
Its Revolutionary History and Challenging Future
By Alain De Keghel.

AdK: In answering your previous question, I was just referring to major figures and early American political leaders while explaining why I choose to report and analyze American Freemasonry “with French eyes.” America, meaning the United States of America, is a young Nation and it appears to me important to refer to the early roots of this First power in the world today if we try to better understand how it evolved in the run of centuries since the famous arrival of the Mayflower with European refugees looking for absolute freedom of religion. Since absolute freedom of thought belongs to the most fundamental aims of Freemasonry, I would say that many of the first American political leaders spontaneously felt very comfortable with the political philosophy of the Enlightenment which is important for Freemasons all around the world. If you read the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence from Philadelphia on July 4, 1776, you very easily will find references to basic principles and values which belong to the patrimony of the Masonic Order. And it is not by chance because many writers of these texts were Freemasons. By the way, we see here the long lasting influence of this way of thinking since the values they referred to,  are still accurate today. It is, to me, the most convincing demonstration that Freemasonry, while preventing of mixing in politics, is by definition a place where the civil society may find some references to ideals and principles of an ethical and political nature.

But, unlike in Europe, the same American segments of the society who emigrated to preserve their sacred right to practice their belief without fearing prosecution, these segments of society have also sometimes developed “protective reactions” which may seem contradictory to their aims. I refer here more specifically to the famous Morgan affair which I explain in my book. This was a major challenge to American Freemasons leading once to the candidacy of an “anti-Masonic party” running for federal elections. Since then, we can observe that the memberships of American Freemasonry kept totally away from its involvement in the political life of the American society.

European lodges never experienced this kind of extreme challenge and still keep outmost interested in debates over new issues like bioethics, control of birth, justice or death penalty just to list a few examples. In some countries, like France, lodges used to be a kind of “laboratory” or think tank where these kinds of issues belong to, of course beside and outside of the political partisan debate. This is one of the major distinctive differences with American Freemasonry which avoids playing any societal role and privileges the practice of ritual and of charity. It is not a critique but simply a matter of fact.

Another major difference remains, of course, and reflects specific social specificities on both sides of the Atlantic. In America white and black lodges work, mostly but not exclusively, seperately. In France, Masonic lodges are places where this kind of separation simply does not exist and could not be possible. But here again it is part of different histories.

GS: I’ve had the chance to speak with both Margaret Jacob and Arturo De Hoyos, so I’m familiar with their exemplar work on Freemasonry, but I’m curious why you chose them to pen the forwards for this book?

AdK: Because I am today mainly dedicated to research and academic activities, writing books and  sharing my knowledge as a scholar all over the world. I spend  a lot of my time working with Universities and Libraries which simply belong to the natural environment to collect and share accurate information and reliable sources. Having spent many years in the USA and still keeping the good habit to visit your country at least once a year, I have an ongoing good relationships with American academics.

Margaret C. Jacob, PhD, is best known as  a professor of history at the UCLA and is one of the world’s foremost Masonic scholars. She is considered a pioneer in the field of the history of civil society with emphasis on Masonic history. For that reason it was important to me to have her delivering, also to American readers, a point of view which matters.

For other reasons, my old friend Art de Hoyos appears to me as one of the American Masons best entitled to write comments on my research since he also is recognized worldwide for his sophisticated Masonic education and knowledge. A Grand Archivist and Grand Librarian of the Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction he allowed me, as a French life member of the Scottish Rite Research Society, to implement very important research activities in Washington, DC in order to put more light on the French-American Masonic ties throughout time.

But let me also refer here to my other friend, the past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of California, John Cooper, who also agreed to write an important afterword taking into account what we together did in the nineties and later on for the promotion of inter-Masonic exchanges in Sacramento, Edinburgh and in Paris.

As a matter of fact, these choices reflect a reciprocal confidence of people having different experiences but sharing the same values and one goal: building bridges among people of goodwill!

GS: The title of the book, its dust jacket and interior art leans heavily on the pantheon of American early American Freemasonry. In your work, how deeply did you delve into the other ‘American’ Freemasonry in say Mexico, Canada and further down into South America?

AdK: I am very grateful to you for this question which provides me the opportunity to embrace American Freemasonry in its diversity as I honestly did in my research. If you read my book you will learn that I was also for several years a French Diplomat in charge of representing my country at several inter-American bodies: Organization of American States, ECLAC (a specific body of the UN for economical affairs in Latin America and the Caribbean countries), the Inter-American Bank of Development and the American Regional Health Organization (OPS). My American overview includes, for this reason, a global analysis with a special focus on Latin America. But in my present book, I do not write about this specific and very important dimension. But I just have directed and published, early in July 2017, a new book totally dedicated to Latin America and the Caribbean region. It may be soon also translated in Spanish.

GS: What is this book? Is it out now or is it coming soon?

AdK: This book was meanwhile published — in French so far — in July 2017: L’ Amerique Latine et la Caraibe des Lumieres, Dervy, Paris. It is about to be translated into Spanish and edited in Buenos Aires, Argentine.

One word more about Canada: the Freemasonry in this country belongs to the Conference of American Grand Lodges and I have of course also included a chapter to present it to English speaking readers.

GS: Interesting in your follow up there, you say Canada belongs to the CoAGL (Conference of American Grand Lodges) Why do you think that is?

AdK: It is not an opinion but a matter of fact. Mexican Grand Lodges similarly also included into this masonic regional conference.

GS: In the press release, you establish that there’s a difference between American and European lodges. Could you illustrate a few of what your work defines as differences? 

AdK: The answer to this important issue is in fact easy: I have honestly tried to compare both sides and readers will discover in my book what I consider as fundamentally different. So if you allow me would prefer not to elaborate here and to keep the “surprise” for those who will read. But you may have already noticed that I was referring to one major difference. The “racial issue” simply does not exist in European lodges — unlike in America. It appears to me to be a very important difference but there are others which I address in my book. Maybe some reactions of American readers and a kind of dialog could arise from that.

I must confess that this would be of outmost interest for me and some way a privilege to establish such an exchange and dialog with American readers.

GS: Do you think these differences have affected membership levels on both sides of the pond? 

AdK: For sure these differences had and still have, in my opinion, an impact on the memberships — but mainly on the influence or input of the Masonic values in the civil society. If you simply look at American statistics — and I do it also quite extensively in my book — you will realize that the memberships is steadily declining in American Lodges since the late 40s of the last century, while it is increasing in France. It is clearly one of the results of differences in addressing Masonic education, societal topics and actual issues.

Masonic education and Masonic tradition are of course both important.  But young people connected with a very demanding society expect certainly more.

GS: Do you think the European version of lodge work could be implemented straight out of the box in America?  

AdK: I would never say: “Do like us,  and you will do better.” It would be, first, very arrogant — but also inaccurate because every society has its own rules resulting from history and culture.

But you raise a good question. Would it make sense to try to experiment with other practices? This is what some American Grand Lodges have already have begun to implement with some impressive success. It is the case in California, for example. No one has a miraculous recipe to offer. But “building the bridges,” a principle I was several times referring to in the run of this interview, may be part of the solution. It is my conviction that everyone has something to learn from encounters in a global world or a “world village” as someone once said. It is part of cross culture, a reality of modern times.

GS: Are there, or do you know of any examples of this implementation?

AdK: Of course yes. I know that specifically at least one Grand Lodge has recently engaged in this policy. It is the Grand Lodge of California.

GS:  What do you hope American’s take away from reading American Freemasonry? What do you hope European (or non-American) Masons to take away from it?

AdK: In writing American Freemasonry, first in French, I had mainly in mind to explain to my fellow European Masons what I have learned from my American Masonic experience because they too often have a poor knowledge of  America in general and quite often misunderstand it. I had claimed, in a previous answer, to build bridges, and my book is part of that. As an American Publisher, Inner Traditions (American Freemasonry’s publisher) accepted the idea to have my book also translated into English and edited in the USA. I was of course delighted to contribute this way to entertain a dialog with my American Fellow Brethren which is also part of building bridges and reciprocal confidence. At a period of time where the flow of information obeys the law of instantaneity and of superficiality, within the so called social networks with their “like” and “friends” who never encounter beside on the networks, I do hope that my writings may help to develop a better understanding founded on knowledge and not on prejudice.

Maybe, American Masons eventually could also be interested to discover how a French freemason sees them? But I may be mistaken and possibly nobody cares? Let us try!

I remain modest in my ambition.

You can find Alain de Keghel’s new book American Freemasonry: Its Revolutionary History and Challenging Future, published by Inner Traditions – Bear & Company, on its website American Freemasonry, and at American Freemasonry on Amazon.

art, Albert Gallatin Mackey, masonic author, historian

Albert Gallatin Mackey

masonic author, encyclopedia of freemasonry

In Masonic circles, few names carry the weight that comes with the eminent that of Albert Gallatin Mackey. Mostly known as a Masonic historian, author, and scholar, Mackey was also an educator and a medical doctor prior to his lifting the Masonic pen. Yet, this great accomplishments are eclipsed in the shadow of two of his biggest achievements in collecting and publishing Masonic wisdom and knowledge in his magnum opus, the Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, in 1873, and through his Masonic periodical works including The Southern and Western Masonic Miscellany — a project he maintained at his own expensein 1852. Although Mackey’s life work centered on Freemasonry, it didn’t start out that way — beginning with much simpler objective that would come to fuel his passion for chronicling the world of Freemasonry.

Born on March 12, 1807, in Charleston, South Carolina, a young Albert Mackey began his working career as an educator. Once through his studies, Mackey worked as a teacher to earn the resources necessary to attend medical school. Upon completion, Mackey returned to Charleston to begin his life. After twenty years of practicing medicine (1834-1854), he left the profession in order to become a full-time author writing about a variety of subjects but in particular about the Middle Ages, language, and Freemasonry.

An Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, 1916

Mackey was initiated into Saint Andrews Lodge No. 10 in Charleston, South Carolina in 1841 where he moved through the lodge chairs. Mackey went on to associate with Solomon’s Lodge, No. 1, in Charleston where, 1842, he was elected “Worshipful Master.” He then held the position of Grand Secretary from 1842 until 1867. Albert Mackey went on to hold numerous positions and to be affiliated with numerous other Masonic Lodges.

In the time that he was affiliated with Freemasonry, Mackey produced many different works about the fraternity. His first Masonic piece, A Lexicon of Freemasonry, was published in 1845. He then wrote The Mystic Tie in 1851, History of Freemasonry in South Carolina in 1861 and, in 1874, the opus he is most known for, the Encyclopedia of Freemasonry. At different intervals, Mackey edited the Western Masonic Miscellany (1849-54), the Masonic Quarterly Review (1857-58), the American Freemason (1859-60), Mackey’s National Freemason (1871-74) and the Voice of Freemasonry (1875-79). Said of Mackey and his work to encapsulate the Masonic landmarks:

…his reduction to writing of twenty-five principles of Masonic law, whether or no they are all true landmarks, was a feat of no mean proportions. His list gave other Masonic thinkers a solid foundation from which to take off on expeditions into what was then an unexplored Masonic field. (read more of variations of the landmarks under Masonic Symbols)

After a long and illustrious career, Albert Gallatin Mackey passed away in Fortress Monroe, Virginia, on June 21, 1881. Said before the Supreme Council for the Southern Jurisdiction by Past Georgia Grand Master Henry Buist at Mackey’s eulogy:

He was a fearless and gifted speaker; his language was courteous and manner dignified; and occasionally, in his earnestness to maintain what he conceived to be right, he became animated and eloquent. Positive in his convictions, he was bold in their advocacy. His course of action once determined on, supported by an approving conscience no fear or disfavor or discomfiture could swerve him from his fixed purpose. Whatever was the emergency, he was always equal to it. Where others doubted. he was confident; where others faltered, he was immovable; where others queried, he affirmed. He was faithful to every public and Masonic duty. Treachery found no place in his character. He never betrayed a trust. He was eminently sincere and loyal to his friends, and those who were most intimately associated with him learned to appreciate him the most. He was generous and frank in his impulses, and cherished malice toward none, and charity for all. His monument is in the hearts of those who knew him longest and best. He is no longer of this earth. His work among men is ended; his earthly record is complete.

In 2001, the Scottish Rite Research Society established the Albert Gallatin Mackey Award for Lifetime Achievement and Excellence in Masonic Scholarship. The lifetime achievement award is given to individuals whose works have received longstanding universal recognition by Masonic scholars and the excellence in Masonic scholarship is presented to individuals whose original works published by the society are distinguished by their superior achievement.

Today you can find the tomb of Albert Gallatin Mackey at Glenwood Cemetery in Washington D.C.

Works by (and with) Albert Gallatin Mackey:

mph, secret teachings author, Great Work

Manly P. Hall – Freemason and Philosopher

Manly P. Hall, 33º Scottish Rite Freemason, raised November 22, 1954, passed to the celestial lodge 1990.

The true Mason is not creed-bound. He realizes with the divine illumination of his lodge that as a Mason his religion must be universal: Christ, Buddha or Mohammed, the name means little, for he recognizes only the light and not the bearer. He worships at every shrine, bows before every altar, whether in temple, mosque or cathedral, realizing with his truer understanding the oneness of all spiritual truth.
-Manly P. Hall

Manly Palmer Hall

Manly Hall is an icon of sorts to Freemasonry. His name and memory today are falling into some obscurity to many newer Freemasons, but his works remain important to the Masons education.

Born on March 18, 1901 in Peterborough, Ontario. Studying early on the ancient mystery and wisdom schools, he began a public role as a speaker and writer on philosophy, religion, and science. Much of his work has transformed the Western Mystery teachings that we recognize today. His philosophy is summed into a note he signed into a student’s book that reads, “To learn is to live, to study is to grow, and growth is the measurement of life. The mind must be taught to think, the heart to feel, and the hands to labor. When these have been educated to their highest point, then is the time to offer them to the service of their fellowman, not before.” Self Unfoldment By Disciplines of Realization.”

Much of his work, specifically about Freemasonry, was done before he was initiated and raised. Using the materials available to him at the time in public institutions, his works delved the many writings from history to find the essence of their connections in word and meaning, collected specifically in his work The Secret Teachings of All Ages in 1928. This work collected and brought back to light wisdom from forgotten “sages” whose ideas, faiths and societies had been long forgotten and ignored by modern scholarship.

In 1934 Mr. Hall founded the Philosophical Research Society, dedicating it to the ensoulment of all arts, sciences, and crafts, and devoted to the one basic purpose of advancing the brotherhood of all that lives, to meet all lovers of wisdom on a common ground. The society still exists in a limited capacity today in its same location in Los Angeles now designated as a Historical Cultural Site. Around it has evolved the University of Philosophical Research, a distance learning graduate program nationally DEAC accredited program offering degrees in Consciousness Studies and Transformational Psychology.

Hall, writing several books on the subject of Freemasonry put himself in the vanguard of Albert Pike and W.L. Wilmshurst with his works The Lost Keys of Freemasonry, Masonic Orders of Fraternity, Freemasonry of the Ancient Egyptian and The Secret Destiny of America. This last focusing on his belief that our continent was set aside for a great experiment of enlightened self-government by ancient philosophers, and that the seeds of this plan for the founding of America were planted one thousand years before the Christian era and is partly revealed in the symbolism of the Great Seal of the United States. This same idea is tied to Francis Bacon’s book The New Atlantis from 1624, of whom Hall had a particular interest.

Hall passed onto the the celestial lodge on August 29, 1990. While his final years attracted a degree of turmoil and mystery, the legacy of his Great Work lives on in the Philosophical Research Society and in his writings. One of the great aspects of Hall is that his work transcended Freemasonry finding resonance in all of the ancient wisdom and thought including Rosicrucian’s, astrology, the Bible, Tarot, dreams, mysticism, Eastern and Western philosophy, religion, psychology, symbology and reincarnation.

Of all of the lessons that a Mason can take away from his work is to open our eyes and be aware of the depth and light that we have before us from ALL ages of the great mysteries. Freemasonry is but one channel to that light, and thanks to Brother Hall, we have a new lens from which to view more.

The Secret Teachings of All Ages – Reader’s Edition

The classic work since 1928, Hall’s masterful encyclopedia of ancient mythology, ritual, symbolism, and the arcane mysteries of the ages is available in a compact and easy to read edition.

Like no other book of the twentieth century, Manly P. Hall’s legendary The Secret Teachings of All Ages is a codex to the ancient occult and esoteric traditions of the world. Students of hidden wisdom, ancient symbols, and arcane practices treasure Hall’s magnum opus above all other works.

Probably one of the best primers into the Western Mystery Tradition, you can find Manly P. Halls opus on Amazon.

Master of the Mysteries: New Revelations on the Life of Manly Palmer Hall

To understand the depth of Hall’s life and work, Louis Sahagan has assembled one the best biographies on the Master of the Mysteries, breathing life into dark recesses of life that was both remarkable and tragic.

This new edition contains dozens of previously unknown love letters from his wife Marie Bauer. They are the closest we will come to an autobiographical portrait of these Los Angeles mystics in love.

Interview: Author Michael Schiavello

Phoenixmasonry Live! interviews world-renowned sports commentator and Masonic author, Michael Schiavello on his new book Know Thyself: Using the Symbols of Freemasonry to Improve Your Life.

There are some interviewees that make life difficult for you. Sometimes it is like pulling teeth to get them to open up and expound on a question.

Michael Schiavello, an experienced broadcaster, writer and author is not one of those. When you ask him a question he takes off and runs with.

Here is an author who has blended the esoteric thought of Freemasonry with the practical application of its philosophy. Schiavello reminds me a lot of Dr. John Nagy with his Life Application and his questions at the end of each chapter. Nagy, however, writes strictly for Freemasons while Schiavello writes for Masons and non-Masons alike. And that is what makes this book so universal. It deals with universal truths time proven from Masters of ancient times to the current age. Freemasonry is a way of life. And Schiavello writes a primer on how to live the noble life. He urges us and shows us how to pay equal attention to our spiritual side as well as our earthly side. He promotes a life of Balance.

Michael Schiavello
Michael Schiavello

Freemasonry makes good men better and this is one of the few books that will actually show you how that can be done using the symbolism of the Craft. This is not only a must book for Freemasons it is a handbook for anybody and everybody, Mason and non-Mason alike. There is no doubt in my mind that Know Thyself: Using the Symbols of Freemasonry to Improve Your Life will become a classic standing tall with the works of Wayne Dywer, Mitch Albom.  Scott Peck and Neale Donald Walsch.

You can find Know Thyself: Using the Symbols of Freemasonry to Improve Your Life, on Amazon.

Dating the Foundation of English Masonry

Here is the second in a series from writer/researcher Hank Kraychir from his website Gnosis Masonry.


I think some may have missed the most important point in the first article , namely that today’s Freemasonry did not grow out of ancient stone guild operative Lodges that gradually became speculative but rather from aristocratic speculative Lodges that were brought to Britain by the Romans and existed long before the Stone Mason Guilds.

Kraychir makes that point here in article number two.

Dating the Foundation of English Masonry to 557 AD

 Posted by Hank Kraychir

I recently stumbled upon a book called, Illustrations of Masonry (originally published in 1772– p. 8), which was written by William Preston, with copious notes and additions added by George Oliver. I used the 1867 version of the book for this research; although, the information contained within is the basically same.

In essence, Preston and Oliver gave a detailed background of Masonry in England, from Druid and Roman influences to its transformation into a popular fraternity without direct political influence. You see, for much of British history, Masonry fell under the direct influence of a King (or Queen), which will be explained further down in this blog.

On page 105 Preston wrote about the departure of the Romans. and confirmed Masonry’s presence during the period, “After the departure of the Romans from Britain, Masonry made but a slow progress, and was almost totally neglected, on account of the irruptions of the Picts and Scots, which obliged the southern inhabitants of the island to solicit the assistance of the Saxons, on order to repel these invaders.”

In short, Preston wrote the Roman Empire was forced out by the Picts, Scots and Saxons about 407 AD. Thus a war took place, which hurt, but did not destroy, Masonry in England. You see, Masonry was in Britain while Rome ruled it, which would lead me to believe they brought it with them. We also know that Masonry (Mithraism, Collegia) was very popular within the ranks of the Roman Military. And the Druids were early Masons as well; although they battled Rome for years and were eventually defeated by them before their departure in 407. Thus, it makes more sense that Roman Masonry was the primary form in England during the 4th and 5th centuries AD.

Preston continued, “Masonry got into repute, and Lodges were again formed” (p. 105). Therefore, there were Lodges before and after the 407 AD departure of the Romans. He continued, “but these, being under the direction of foreigners, were seldom convened, and never attained to any degree of consideration or importance” (p. 105). So again, Masonic Lodges existed, but they were under the rule of foreigners, perhaps the Saxons from Germany, so most native Britain’s did not want to participate.

Now this is where the story gets most interesting, Preston wrote in the following paragraph, “Masonry continued in a declining state till the year 557, when Austin, with forty more monks, among whom the sciences had been preserved, came into England… Masonry flourished under the patronage of Austin…” who was the “first Archbishop of Canterbury” (p. 105). Thus, St. Austin, a religious leader, became the patriarch or father of English Masonry. You see, although Masonry existed in England before 557, it was not fully accepted until Archbishop Austin took over its control. This, according to Preston, was the start of a long line of either religious or Royal control of the Craft in England; it would not be until the 18th century before Masonry in England became independent. This statement is also confirmation that religion played an important part of the formation and establishment of English Masonry; and dismisses the idea that early English Masons were simply a bunch of stone workers. This important point was made by Preston on page 7, “Masonry passes under two denominations,-operative and speculative,” which confirmed Masonry during the period was both operative and speculative in nature. Unlike today, which is speculative only.

On page 106, we also read about Bennet, Abbot of Wirral in 680 AD, who would eventually become inspector of Lodges and superintendent of all Masons in England; an appointed position by the King.  Masonry again stayed in a low state until about 924 AD when King Edward died, and Athelstane, his son, became King. Athelstane “appointed his brother Edwin patron of the Masons” in England (p. 107).

This resulted in the “first Grand Lodge of England” being established in 926 (p. 107); an issue I have discussed previously. These facts still support the previous statement that Masonry remained under the control of the King, this time through his brother Edwin. And yet still Royal control of the Craft remained through the 17th century, which led to its limited participation by the British population and the common man. But everything changed by the 18th century (1717).

I know there will be critics who will attack the authors as stating unsubstantiated facts; I would expect nothing less from deniers of ancient Masonic history. Nevertheless, authors William Preston and George Oliver’s credentials are of the highest Masonic order, and their written works reflect this important fact. Also, Preston was a member of the Grand Lodge of England during the period of publication, which helped his research greatly. I would also remind Masonry that much of what we teach in our Lodges cannot be substantiated, and has been passed down through Masonic traditions; like the building of King Solomon’s Temple and even the Holy Bible that sits in the middle of our Lodge rooms – where are the references for these one might ask as well (*Smile*)!  You see, it is far easier to be a denier of Masonic history than it is to prove it; that is why we have so many Masonic deniers of our own history.  These deniers throw their denials around with no other proof than claiming something is false – I must ask, where is their proof when they make their claims of denial? Get my point.     

In conclusion, it becomes even clearer that English Masonry can be dated to 557 AD, and even before under Roman control through Mithraism or Collegia  It also looked like English Masonry was controlled by political authorities for much of its history, which hindered its growth and acceptance; but once it become an independent body (after 1717), it truly thrived and followed the British Empire around the globe, as its power and influence also grew. I know this conclusion is a simplistic interpretation of the book, but I don’t see any other way to get my points across in such short order. If you don’t believe me, read the book, Illustrations of Masonry, yourself, which will prove my points conclusively.

So Mote It Be!!!

Hank Kraychir

The Durhams Of Fairfield

Dr., Rev., Bro. Robert L. Uzzel and Bro. Frederic L. Milliken
Dr., Rev., Bro. Robert L. Uzzel and Bro. Frederic L. Milliken

Past Grand Historian of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas, Dr. Rev. Bro. Robert L. Uzzel,  has a new book out, “The Durhams of Fairfield.” This is Uzzel’s Roots story, tracing his wife’s family genealogy.

The Durhams, Black and White, originated in Fairfield County, South Carolina. Those that were slaves later moved with their Masters to DeSoto Parish, Louisiana.  From the early 1850s to 1930 DeSoto Parish was the home of Mansfield Female College, the oldest female college west of the Mississippi river. Uzzel tells us of the famous Civil War Battle of Mansfield in this County on April 8, 1864. Here the Confederates defeated the Union Army and stopped their advance into Texas. The Battle of Pleasant Hill close by the following day again resulted in a Union defeat and forever kept the Civil War out of Texas. One of the prizes the Rebels seized in these victories was the Val Verde Cannon.

From the Parish of DeSoto, Louisiana, after the Emancipation, we follow the African American Durhams to Freestone, County Texas whose County Seat was Fairfield, Texas. There the Val Verde Cannon also found its final resting place. Just down the road apiece from Fairfield was the small town of Butler, Texas where most of the Durhams called home.

Durham 2

It seems almost prophetic, the hand of fate, that the Durhams of Fairfield County, South Carolina should end up in Fairfield, Texas, from Fairfield to Fairfield half way across the nation.

This book was 38 years in the making! Uzzel conducted an exhaustive research of the Durhams over the years. He researched birth certificates, death certificates and funeral programs, marriage licenses and baptismal and church records. He visited numerous libraries and courthouses for information. He mailed out questionnaires, conducted personal interviews, talked to many people via telephone, sent out and received correspondences and conducted long research on the Internet. It can be very difficult to trace the genealogy in the African American community.

In the author’s own words we will post below his journey in the writing of this “Roots” story.

How I Wrote The Durhams of Fairfield

by Dr. R. L. Uzzel

When my fourth book The Durhams of Fairfield:  An African American Genealogy was published in 2015, a dream going back nearly four decades came true.  The Durhams of Fairfield are truly a great family—a family with a very interesting history.  How did I become so interested in this family?  I married into it.  On 19 February 1977,

I married Debra Bass of Fairfield, Texas.  Debra is the daughter of Aldessa Henry Bass, the granddaughter of Gladys Durham Henry, the great granddaughter of Willie Anderson Durham, the great-great granddaughter of Rance Durham, the great-great-great granddaughter of Allen Durham, and the great-great-great-great granddaughter of the African Gobi.

I was born and raised in Waco, Texas and have had a passion for history since childhood.  On 14 May 1976, I received my Master of Arts degree in Church-State Studies (an interdisciplinary program involving courses in Religion, History, and Political Science) from Baylor University.  My thesis was entitled “The Nation of Islam:  Belief and Practice in Light of the American Constitutional Principle of Religious Liberty.”  One of my major sources for this work was The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley.  Later that year, Haley’s most famous book Roots:  The Saga of an American Family, was published.  I read this book and later watched the television miniseries.  Roots is about Haley’s maternal side.  At the time of his death in 1992, he was putting together a book on his paternal side.  Co-author David Stevens completed the editing of this work and Alex Haley’s Queen:  The Story of an American Family was published in 1993.  As was the case with Roots, I read Queen and watched the television miniseries.  I was inspired to do what Alex Haley did!

On 2 December 1974, I went to work for the Texas Department of Public Welfare (now Health and Human Services) in Teague, Texas.  Teague is ten miles from Fairfield, the county seat of Freestone County.  I worked as a social worker for the aged, blind, and disabled.  My duties included visiting nursing homes, where I assessed the social service needs of clients receiving Texas vendor payments.  I also arranged homemaker and chore services that enabled clients to remain in their own homes as an alternative to nursing home placement.   I served clients in Teague, Fairfield, Butler,  Streetman, Kirvin, and Wortham.  The latter community is the hometown of the Texas blues singer Blind Lemon Jefferson (1893-1929).  During my first trip to Wortham, I visited the Wortham Black Cemetery (now the Blind Lemon Jefferson Cemetery) and visited this great singer’s grave, which is now regarded as a blues shrine.  I resolved to one day write a biography of Lemon.  In 2002, my first book Blind Lemon Jefferson:  His Life, His Death, and His Legacy was published.  One of the nursing homes I served was the Fairview Manor Nursing Center in Fairfield.  There I met a nurse named Debra Bass.  Debra and I had our first date on 21 October 1976, became engaged on 25 December 1976, and got married on 19 February 1977.  We lived for a few weeks in Fairfield, moving from Fairfield to Dallas, from Dallas to Kaufman, from Kaufman to Waco, from Waco to Dallas, and from Dallas to Ennis.  We now look forward to returning to the Fairfield area as we approach retirement.

Durham 1

Roots appeared about the time of our marriage.  I immediately began asking questions.  I found little information on the Bass and Henry families.  When I inquired about the lineage of Gladys Durham Henry, however, more information was available.  Initially, I assumed that they had come from North Carolina in view of the city of Durham, which was named for Dr. Bartlett Durham, who donated land for a railroad in 1850.   Durham is famous as the site of Duke University and the place where Bull Durham tobacco was first manufactured.  I did much research on the history of this North Carolina city.  However, it soon became evident that the Durham family to which my wife was related did not come from there.

While no member of the Durham family was adept at genealogy, it was commonly reported that the family had come to the Butler community of Freestone County (between Fairfield and Palestine) from Louisiana after the Civil War; and that there were six Durham brothers—Belton, Allen, Minor, Chris, Anderson, and Isaac.  Some of the descendants of these brothers still farm land in Butler, where Durham is a common surname.  My wife is a sixth-generation descendant of Allen Durham.

Mary Durham, the widow of Belton’s grandson Rev. General Bev Durham, told me that her husband’s great grandfather was an African named Gobi.  Johnnie Johnson, Jr., another grandson of Belton, told me that Gobi was a slave in South Carolina and conveyed to me the following legend:  “Once, there was a rain spell and they could not work.  The straw boss (overseer) and Gobi went hunting for bears.  In a bear cave, they uncovered some gold.  The straw boss died first.  Gobi had sworn never to reveal the whereabouts of the gold.  Some men tied Gobi to a tree in a bottom and wrapped a rope around him.  Gobi refused to reveal where the gold was hidden, even when surrounded by mosquitoes.  As a result, his tongue was torn out by its roots and he was left there to die.”  These early interviews pointed to South Carolina and Louisiana as places where the Durhams were slaves.  When I asked about a specific county in South Carolina and a specific parish in Louisiana, no one had a clue.

In September 1976, I received my first pastoral appointment in the African Methodist Episcopal Church to Emmanuel AME Church in Dallas.  Shortly after our marriage, Debra and I moved to Dallas.  During the next four years, I held jobs with the same agency in Fort Worth and Dallas.  While employed in Fort Worth, I had a client who was a member of Durham Memorial Church of God in Christ, named for founding pastor General Bev Durham, who died in 1966.  Through this client, I met both Mary Durham and Mary Edwards, the sister of Johnnie Johnson, Jr.  Mary Edwards, who died in 2012 at the age of 96, was a big help in my research.

During the next few years, I conducted many interviews with older family members and visited both Lone Star Cemetery and Pine Top Cemetery at Butler, obtaining names and dates from tombstones.  I went to the Freestone County Courthouse, where I examined birth certificates, death certificates, and marriage licenses.  This information was very helpful.  However, the fact that none contained the exact county or parish of birth was frustrating.  I spent many hours in libraries, researching census records and slave schedules on microfilm.  I was able to verify some of the oral history I had obtained.  According to the 1870 Freestone County Census, Allen Durham was born in South Carolina around 1836 and his son Rance was born in Louisiana in 1859.  This, however, did not answer my question about the specific places of birth.  Numerous letters to libraries, genealogical societies, and other resources brought  limited results.  With the examination of numerous 1850 and 1860 records of these two important southern states, I finally hit pay dirt.  I found the majority of Durhams concentrated in Fairfield County, South Carolina and DeSoto Parish, Louisiana.

In 1983, I received a telephone call from Maj. (later Lt. Col.) Donald Smith Durham of Manassas, Virginia.  Don was calling in response to a letter I had sent to his brother Thomas in Shreveport that had been forwarded to him.  Don (who died in 2006) did much research on his genealogy and was confident that my wife was descended from slaves owned by his ancestors.  He confirmed what I had found in my research.  Don’s great-great grandfather was Robert Winfield Durham, who died in Fairfield County, South Carolina in 1852.  His widow, Mosley Eliza Durham, and three of their sons—Osman Lawrence Durham, Charlton Hightower Durham, and John Franklin Durham– relocated to DeSoto Parish, Louisiana, bringing their slaves with them.  Osman had lived for about ten years in Lowndes County, Alabama.  Molsey and her three sons are all listed in the DeSoto Parish Census of 1850 and 1860.  Don and I exchanged much genealogical information by mail and phone.

I found the fact that the Durhams started their journey in Fairfield County, South Carolina and ended up near Fairfield, Texas to be more than coincidental.  In her book Mama, “Babe” and Me, Eddie Marie Jones Durham, the wife of Bobbie Jean Durham, a fifth-generation descendant of Allen Durham, described the residents in two places called Fairfield as “either ironic or intentional.”  I first met Eddie when I interviewed Allen’s son Luke Durham, whom her mother had married.  She was also a big help with my research.

In 1979, I was appointed to the pastorate of Macedonia AME Church in

Kaufman.  As a result, Debra and I relocated from Dallas to Kaufman.  In 1981,

I went to work as a social worker at Terrell State Hospital (a psychiatric facility).

During this time, I learned that there was a Durham family living in the community of Avalon, which is located in Ellis County, which borders Kaufman County.  I went to visit them in 1983 and interviewed Isiah Durham, the son of Julious Durham and grandson of Chris Durham.  I had interviewed Julious in 1980 in a nursing home in Dallas a few months before his death.  Isiah confirmed the story I had heard about Chris having a peg leg, stating that he had lost his leg in a boiler accident at Lake Port Cotton Gin in Butler.  It was also in 1983 that I conducted an interview with Mitcheola Durham, brother of Julious, at a nursing home in Teague.

Over the years, I have attended a number of Durham Family Reunions, each time giving a lecture about my research and interviewing family members about their personal stories.  During the 1980s, the family of Archie Durham, grandson of Allen Durham, held some wonderful gatherings.  Archie was a very good friend with much enthusiasm for my research.  When he died in 2001 at age 95, I participated in his funeral.  However, most of the Durham Family Reunions have been sponsored by the descendants of Isaac Durham, the youngest of the six brothers.  In 1999, while teaching at Navarro College in Corsicana, I taught Richard Durham, Jr., the great-great grandson of Isaac.  Richard was born on 15 August 1980 and was amazed to learn that his great-great grandfather was born on 15 August 1860.  Richard’s genealogical paper revealed that Gobi’s wife Mary was pregnant at the time of his death and gave birth to Isaac shortly after her arrival in Freestone County. Isaac was the only brother born in Texas.  The five older brothers were born in South Carolina.

I do not wish to give the impression that I worked on this project non-stop for nearly 40 years.  There were years when I did little or nothing on it.  I was involved in other research leading up to my 1995 Ph.D. in World Religions from Baylor University and my 2008 M.A. in Political Science from the University of Texas at Arlington.  After many difficulties and delays, I was blessed to have the following books published:  Blind Lemon Jefferson: His Life, His Death, and His Legacy (2002); Prince Hall Freemasonry in the Lone Star State: From Cuney to Curtis, 1875-2003 (2004); and Éliphas Lévi and the Kabbalah: The Masonic and French Connection of the American Mystery Tradition (2006).  I repeatedly put the Durham project aside but always came back to it.

With the advent of the Internet, including such sources as, my research accelerated. I found much interesting information.  In 1870 and 1880, there African American Durhams in both DeSoto Parish, Louisiana and Freestone County, Texas.   Some were born in South Carolina and some in Louisiana.  There were even a few born in Alabama.  The latter were more than likely the slaves of Osman Lawrence Durham.

On 23 August 2003, I made my first trip to DeSoto Parish, Louisiana.  On 22-24 August 2012, I made a long-awaited trip to Fairfield County, South Carolina.  I returned to DeSoto Parish on 11 March 2013 and participated in the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Mansfield in DeSoto Parish on 26 April 2014.  As a result, I was able to obtain valuable pictures and important interviews.  I find it interesting that the Fairfield Memorial Hospital operated in Fairfield, Texas for many years before the building was leased by East Texas Medical Center, while the Fairfield Memorial Hospital continues to operate in Winnsboro, Fairfield County, South Carolina.  My book contains pictures of both hospitals.  The Val Verde Cannon which was used at the Battle of Mansfield found its permanent home in front of the Freestone County Courthouse in Fairfield but was on display at the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Mansfield.  My book contains pictures of the cannon at both locations.

On 5 March 2014, Eakin Press (the publisher of my Blind Lemon and Prince Hall books) accepted The Durhams of Fairfield for publication.  Much of 2014 was devoted to writing, editing, and proofreading.  After a number of delays, my first shipment of books arrived on 5 January 2015 and my first book singing was held for the Ellis County Genealogical Society in Waxahachie on 2 February 2015.

The Durhams of Fairfield continue to make their mark.  They are now scattered throughout the United States, involved in many businesses and professions and contributing much to their communities and to the world as a whole.  There can be no doubt that members of this outstanding family to whom I am related by marriage will always make their mark.  I thank God that my dream has come true and pray that this book will inspire the present generation and generations to come to do all they can to preserve the Durham legacy!

Durham 3

“The Durhams of Fairfield” book can be purchased at, Barnes and Noble, and Books A Million

Re-Building the Temple

In the legend of Freemasonry, the building of King Solomon’s Temple serves as the allegorical centerpiece for the symbolism of our order. The completion of the temple was a grand accomplishment and has captured the awe and admiration of many generations. But despite its beauty and perfection, the temple was destroyed and necessarily rebuilt under the Persian King Darius.

Sometimes, I like to think of my Masonic journey as building my own spiritual temple. A couple of years ago, The Banks of the Euphrates was running articles every week. I was personally very involved in my Blue Lodge, the York Rite, and Scottish Rite. I had built my First Temple, it was well constructed and I was proud of my work. However, the ebb and flow of the tide of life brought some changes and starting eroding the foundation of my temple. I stopped attending lodge, I started lacking the desire and motivation to write, and soon I had set my Masonic studies to the side.

I found that without Freemasonry, there was a huge void in my life.

So I would like to announce that my column–The Banks of the Euphrates–is back. However, like the second temple it will not be an exact replicate of its predecessor. I am going to attempt to remove the superfluities of its previous version and focus solely on Masonic philosophy and history, spirituality, and symbolism. Freemasonry is not the organization or its outward appearance, it is its philosophy and the undeniable truths which it unveils to the industrious inquirer.

If you previously read The Euphrates, I hope you enjoy its rebirth. If you are a new reader I hope that you find the articles contemplative and refreshing. I personally am looking forward to our journey together.

Like what you are reading at The Euphrates? Email me at

William Shakespeare – the Freemason

William Shakespeare Freemason

Its been debated in a sea of endless questions, was William Shakespeare a Freemason?

Well, this week (April 23rd -30th) is a celebration of all things William Shakespeare as Stratford’s Greatest son’s celebrates his 447th birthday.

For the non mason, its hard to really pick up on the clever word play that is so intricately woven into Shakespeare’s sonnets and plays, and one is often left wondering “was it Shakespeare who applied Masonic ideas into his works, or the Freemasons who appropriated the ideas from the bard of Avon?” Most scholars suggest the latter, but Masons familiar with the wordplay might see otherwise.

Its been in debate for a long while, at least in Masonic circles, appearing in the Builder Magazine in 1919 with a score of quotes and lines to illustrate the point.

Some of my favorites include:

“What is he that builds stronger than either Mason?”
Henry V., I, 47.

“Here, Robin, an I die, I give thee my apron.”
2 Henry VI., II, 3:75.

“The nobility think scorn to go in leather aprons.”
2 Henry VI., II, 2:14.

“Hold up, you sluts, your aprons mountant.”
Timothy of Athens, IV, 3:135.

“To hold opinion with Pythagoras
That souls of animals infuse themselves
Into the trunks of men.”
Merchant of Venice, IV, 1.

“What is the opinion of Pythagoras concerning wild fowl?
That the soul of our grandam might haply inhabit a bird.”
Twelfth Night – IV, 2

Pythagoras is a bit of a Masonic patriarch, and aprons are in abundant supply throughout the fraternity.

And I found a few more from the Grand Lodge of British Coloumbia’s page on Shakespeare:

What! My old Worshipful Master!
Taming of the Shrew, Act V, s.1.

I have not kept my square,but that to come shall all be done by Rule.
Antony and Cleopatra, Act II, s.1.

I particularly like this one, which has so much in common with the Hermetic ideas of Know Thyself.

If circumstances lead me, I will find
Where truth is hid, though it were hid indeed
Within the centre.
Hamlet, Prince of Denmark Act II, s.2

Much of this comes out of the work of Peter Dawkins “Shakespeare and Freemasonry” to which he suggests:

Moments of jest in Shakespeare…often carry the deeper and more veiled allusions to the Mysteries, but this is not always so. The Tempest, for instance, gives many Masonic allusions quite openly, and indeed might be said to be a most complete Masonic play. For a start the play is based upon Virgil’s Æneid, Books III and VI. Book VI in particular deals with the ancient Mysteries, whose degrees of initiation are echoed, howbeit with different allegories, by those of Freemasonry.

How much of this is want to see the work of Masonry in Shakespeare’s plays or the real deeper mysteries artfully woven into them – this is the question!

Some suggest that Shakespeare’s work is a clever use of Gematria, the letter numerical interplay seen in the esoteric applications associated with the Kabbalah, which Shakespeare skillfully worked into illustrating his Mason Mark, the right-angle triangle. Its in this same discovery that some suggest that Kit Marlowe wrote the Sonnets because of the discovery of the Masons Mark.

Peter Bull, on his website Marlowe wrote Shakespeare, suggests:

Shakespeare seems to have been fully conversant with the Masonic symbolism of the Square – and thus the symbolism of Euclid’s 47th Proposition. We have seen in Anthony and Cleopatra (II, iii) reference to the lines:

Read not my blemishes in the world’s report;
I have not kept my square, but that to come
Shall all be done by the rule.

The Bard also makes a number of pointed references to a ‘mark’ in his Sonnets. An analysis of these, in my book reveals that their placement is not a casual matter but clearly predicated by Masonic considerations of a very exact and specific nature. They all refer to his own Masonic mark.

Marke how one string sweet husband to an other, (s8)
For slanders marke was euer yet the faire, (s70)
Marke how with my neglect I doe dispence. (s112)
O no, it is an euer fixed marke (s116)

Shakespeare’s mark turns out to be no different from that of Alexander Hamilton – the right-angle triangle. He uses it consistently throughout the Sonnets to encode his name.

The context of the first Marke actually has a clear association with a right-angled triangle. In this sonnet the discussion concerns the three-way play between ‘sweet husband’, ‘happy mother’ and the ‘child’ they bring forth; there is also, in the following sonnet, the strongest indication that the mother is a widow. This scenario brings to mind the legend of Osiris, Isis – the widow and child Horus. The most common representation of this relationship in Masonic symbolism (following Plato) is the 3-4-5 right-angled triangle: the upright represents Osiris, the horizontal Isis and the hypotenuse Horus . Therefore it’s interesting to note that the word Marke is the 828th word in the Sonnets – and 828 is the gematria value of the Hebrew words BN ALMNH – The Widow’s Son.

I’ve always been keen to the idea that William Shakespeare was really the statesman Francis Bacon, the writer of the almost eerily Masonic tale – The New Atlantis. You can spend a lot of time following the threads about their connection on Sir Francis Bacon’s New Advancement of Learning.

Shakespeare and Freemasonry by William Norman M’Daniel, from 1912 suggests something similar:

Hence, to read these plays as mere stories in dramatic form, filled in with many wise reflections, is to miss their real character. The Tempest may be read simply as such a story, and even as having a moral purpose. Sir Edward Strachey says quite aptly that it is “a mimic, magic tempest which we are to see, a tempest raised by art, to work moral ends with actual men and women,” But he fails to show how it is to bring about such a state in the actual affairs of men, say of our day or of any time. The play contains hints suggesting that it is meant to be of universal application. It will yet be clear that this play can be fairly interpreted as an allegorical drama, summing up the whole method of Francis Bacon’s philosophy, and especially his moral philosophy, as it is to affect in actual life the individual, and all the relations which men and women sustain toward each other, from the primary relations of the family to the highest, which is that of government. And when so interpreted it will be found that it is also the philosophy of Freemasonry.


I do find it to be very interesting to think about and consider Shakespeare’s involvement with the early invention of Freemasonry (I’ve had conversations that he was at the same time Grand Master of both the Rosicrucians and the Freemasons) – well before it coalesced in its 1717 founding. And, it seems that the brothers of the United Grand Lodge of England felt of like mind in 1929 when pro Grand Master Lord Ampthill, accompanied by 600 masons in full regalia, laid the foundation stone of Stratford’s Shakespeare Memorial Theatre. The UK fraternal magazine Freemasonry Today [now archived] suggests that the connection can be found in the meaning from a quote found in Love’s Labour’s Lost as it being the essence of a Freemason’s purpose: to be a builder of love.

“For charity itself fulfills the law, and who can sever love from charity?”
Love’s Labour’s Lost, IV.iii

Perhaps the mystery is the greatest clue to the bard’s mystic tie to the fraternity. Alfred Dodd, writing his examination of the plays and poems, says it unequivocally:

The story is told in the Great Shakespeare Folio of 1623 . . . the greatest Masonic Book in the world. The System was buried in secret and left to grow and root itself, like a bulb, in the dark for a hundred years. The emergence of the Masons in 1723 was a PLANNED emergence . . . …….the Centenary of the 1623 Folio. William Shakespeare was not only a Freemason, he was the FATHER and FOUNDER of the FRATERNITY, the Writer of the Rituals.

Was he or was he not to be…a Freemason?  That is the question!  Asking the questions is likely more fun than knowing for sure, but so long as conspiracy theories abound, this is one of the fun ones.  Are the greatest works of the English language and drama really manifestos of esoteric ritual word play?  We may never know.

But asking gives us more reason to celebrate the worlds greatest writer and dramatist – Happy Birthday Shakespeare.

This post was in contribution to, a tribute to Shakespeare by bloggers from all over the world to post on how Shakespeare has impacted their lives.  This celebration is sponsored by The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust which owns and cares for the five Shakespeare Houses.

The Journal For Research Into Freemasonry and Fraternalism

In case you haven’t noticed there is a new guy on the block, The Journal For Research Into Freemasonry & Fraternalism

This new venture emanates from Sheffield, England and bills itself as “A Bridge between different traditions of scholarship“. In essence this undertaking will publish scholarly contributions in regards to fraternalism in its many forms blending in culture, art, history, music and other disciplines while maintaining a Masonic focus. Its high level of scholarship is evident as the Journal sees itself as “a scholarly journal following strict rules of assessment, peer-review and rigid quality control.”

The JRFF will not be tied to any Grand Lodge as it joins the growing number of scholarly undertakings who do not want to be encumbered by the restrictive definitions and rules of individual Grand Lodges nor Apologists for them. Rather it will be an independent voice employing freedom of inquiry and broadening the scope of research into currents of social, political and cultural crossovers.

Editor Andreas Onnerfors explains why JRFF is needed at this time.

“The historiography of one of the oldest and most fascinating fraternal organizations – freemasonry – has for a long time been dominated and guided by internal needs.  Academia has only relatively recently discovered that a better understanding of freemasonry and related  fraternal organizations offers a fascinating insight into the many neglected fields of social, cultural and political history. And Masonic scholars have realized that broadening the scope and rigour of research will reveal new insights about their own organizations, alongside a deeper understanding of its proper place in the history of events and ideas.”


I found in its just published first edition a most interesting article which I could access without becoming a member.  Nationalism, National Identity and Freemasonry by Timothy Baycroft was a work which I found extremely well written and one that rang my bell.

First there must be an understanding of the concept of “nation.” Baycroft lets us know that this is no easy task.

“One can measure the area, population, Gross National Product (GNP), and identify the institutions of a state, but nations are conceptual, emotional, abstract entities which may be associated with a state, but can only be grasped through their representations, symbols, and the understanding of those who consider themselves to belong to the nation.”

So look here!  Freemasons are not the only ones who employ symbolism.  And words are not the only or even best way to allow the human brain to conceptualize an abstract concept.  But Baycroft doesn’t stop there.  Every cake has to have its icing.

“Like nations, freemasonry can also clearly be understood and conceived as an ‘imagined community.’ This is true both in the sense that the number of masons has always been far too great to be known personally, and that members project into the wider community their own individual understanding of the meaning, values and culture of the association as a whole” (bold added by The Beehive).

So we can’t know everybody, yet to have a mass identity something must bind us together.  Thus it is the mere fact of abstract imagining using symbols, artistic expressions (statues, music etc.) and shared beliefs that nations and Freemasonry bind themselves together. For just one example, with nations it may be the flag and with Freemasonry it may be the square and compasses which bonds complete strangers into a common community.

For years I have seen the American Masonic scene as one of separatism and parochialism.  While some see much merit in that method of organization I have always felt distanced and a lack of bonding, of closeness and community with other American Masons. It even goes so far as to see so much difference between American Grand Lodges that some even seem un-Masonic.

Nobody in the world has as many regular, recognized Grand Lodges in one nation as the United States of America.  Fifty Grand Lodges in Mainstream Masonry and around 40 recognized Prince Hall Grand Lodges with more to come pushes the number of separate Grand Lodges in the U.S.A. to bordering on 100.  Nobody else in the world even comes close, not even Canada and Australia. And that fracturing of power leads to differences and differences lead to separate ways and separate ways lead to jealousies and animosity. American Freemasonry is like a football team with no coaches.  Each player does his own thing and the concept of “team” is ignored.

That has led me to advocate a greater sense of cohesiveness through political means such as a National Grand Lodge or an American Masonic Constitution and Bill of Rights. The fracturing of power in American Masonry has led to a fracturing of fraternalism. In this time of high mobility and “The Information Age” the world is supposed to be getting smaller, everywhere I guess but American Freemasonry.

But I no longer call for a political coup d’état of American Freemasonry but rather a sense of American identity whereby we think of ourselves as American Masons first and Masons of our individual states secondarily.

And nobody reinforces that change of thought on my part better than Timothy Baycroft. We can create symbolism that will allow an “imagined community” to develop from sea to sea. The effect would be to enlarge the Masonic community and bring it into the 21st century where high mobility and the use of the tools of the Information Age will send ripples of wider and wider interconnectiveness, like rocks skipped on a pond.

The pride in which we hold America and the traditions of our hard fought heritage of liberty and freedom need to spill over into our Masonic culture to reinforce the Brethren with a sense of cultural-political-fraternal community.

Marching forward with an American identity, American Freemasonry can forge elements of common purpose and practice, uniting all American Masons in a cooperative effort without diminishing the authority or the hegemony of individual state Grand Lodges.