Joseph James – Teller of Masonic Murder Mysteries on Freemasonry and the Cinema

filmmaker joseph james

Joseph James is an actor and filmmaker with a long list of projects with an eye towards the fraternity. Having already produced several films with overt Masonic tones including The Masonic Map and Templar Nation, James is on the cusp of his latest release with his film The Freemason, taking us again into the mysteries upon the silver screen. In this installment of Sojourners, James gives us an insider’s look at the making of his latest Masonic feature, The Freemason, replete with all the tinsel the fraternity can bring to it. Of all his skill and craft, James brings an earnestness to his filmmaking imbuing his work with his love for Freemasonry.

Greg Stewart (GS)Let’s start with the basics; who is Joseph James? How long have you been a Freemason and what bodies do you belong to?

Joseph James (JJ) – Several of my great grandfathers were Freemasons. When I was about 14, I became interested in Freemasonry and started reading about it. At that time, there was not a lot of information online about how a person could become a Mason, so I didn’t know how to proceed, but it was always something I wanted to do. After growing up in Utah, I moved to Portland about 2004 in order to expand my clothing company. I had a car that needed some repairs. I noticed the mechanic working on my car was wearing a bright blue Masonic ring. It was perfect opportunity for me to ask him if I could become a Mason. He introduced me to one of the oldest and most established lodges in Portland, and I’m now a life time member of that lodge. I joined the Scottish Rite and am now a 32nd Degree Mason. I also joined the Portland Al Kader Shriners and served as the Temple Outer Guard in the Divan before moving to Hollywood with my wife and newborn son. I am a member of multiple lodges in several states, and I am a member of the York Rite and a lifetime member of the Grotto.

GSIf you remember, what initially interested you in the fraternity?

JJ – Besides learning that I had ancestors and relatives who were Masons, I was impressed by the fact that so many great men and leaders were Masons. Men I truly admire, such as the Founding Fathers, great entertainers and philanthropists. I was interested in doing charity work. I also wanted to learn some of the secrets of Freemasonry going back to Solomon’s Temple and the Knights Templar.

Still from The Freemason movie with Joseph James as Jericho Beck (left) and Randy Wayne as Cyrus Rothwell (right) flanked by a line of lodge members.
Still from The Freemason movie with Joseph James as Jericho Beck (left) and Randy Wayne as Cyrus Rothwell (right) flanked by a line of lodge members.

GSDid your ideal of the fraternity prove to be the case upon joining or was it different? What was your initial impression with it?

JJ – Yes, becoming a Mason was just as enlightening and challenging as I thought it would be.

My initial impression was very positive. My mentors were a 33rd Degree Masons named Bill Larson, Clyde Brown and Webber Harrington (all of them have since passed away). Clyde and Webber were also members of the Grand Cross Court of Honor. Larson was one of the only members in Portland who knew all 3 Lectures given during initiation. He challenged me to learn them. I was able to memorize the EA and Master Mason degree. Bill and I did the lectures together for many candidates. Everything I learned from Bill and the other Masons fortified my positive feelings towards Freemasonry.

GSI’ve known you for some time (back to the MySpace days of social media I’m guessing), and back when you made a run on a reality TV program. Since then what have you had going on? Every now and then I’d see you pop up on line working on one project or another, so it’s obvious to me you’ve made it to some degree. How is it you came to make your new film, The Freemason?

JJ – I really enjoyed performing as an actor in the 32 degrees of the Scottish Rite. People I worked with told me that I was a good actor and that I should consider trying to pursue a career in that field. I auditioned for a film called Extraordinary Measures, which was being shot locally in the Portland area, and I booked a role as a background actor. I was in several scenes with Brendan Fraser. That’s when I decided to become an actor. My wife and I packed up everything we owned in a U-Haul and headed to Hollywood with our newborn son. In Hollywood, I landed small roles in everything from feature films to live television, short films, TV pilots and reality TV. Working on set for up to 15 hours a day convinced me that I wanted to produce feature films and be an actor as well. Utah has a great movie history, going back to the classic westerns of John Wayne up until today’s Sundance Film festival.

Since I grew up in Utah, I knew that every kind of landscape and terrain is available to film makers at a fraction of the cost of a Hollywood production. So my family and I moved back to Utah, and I started working on my first film, The Masonic Map. I wrote, directed and starred in that film. In my second film, called Templar Nation, I hired a professional screenwriter and two experienced actors, Erik Estrada (Chips) and local actor Richard Dutcher (God’s Army). I was able to hire Sean Astin to work on my latest film, The Freemason. I funded all of the films myself and I have employed hundreds of amazing, talented professional here in Utah.


GSSo what was your driving motivation behind making this film?

JJ – I wanted to create the most comprehensive, in depth film about Masonry ever made. I wanted to show as much of an actual initiation in a real Masonic lodge as possible. I wanted to share with the world some of what Freemasonry is really about. We were able to film much of the movie in the historic Salt Lake City Masonic Temple, in the actual initiation rooms. I want public and potential candidates to break through the barrier of uncertainty and join. Most of them do not know that we cannot solicit new members, therefore thousands of potential Masons never join simply because the don’t know how.

Some of the of the most influential Freemasons here in the U.S have seen the film and feel that every Mason should see this film as well as people who are considering joining.

GSI found it interesting, the elements you put into the movie. Do you think it went too deeply into the “secrets” of Masonry?

JJ – Bill Larson (a well-respected 33rd Degree who delivered the E.A, F.C. And M.M degree for many years ) taught me that the two most important things we must never reveal: the tokens and the passwords. The parts of the ritual we show in the film are compelling but incomplete–the entire ritual is not shown. I believe our non-mason audience is very curious about our initiation rituals as well as the 32 degrees in the Scottish Rite.

We were respectful but tantalizing, so that anyone with a true interest in Masonry would learn just enough to want to learn more.

I admit that we also dipped into some of the speculation we’ve all heard about Masons influence regarding politics, banking, the military, law enforcement as well as wealthy business owners etc, as a dramatic tool. I feel like we didn’t say anything that is not true or anything that would leave a bad or incorrect impression of Masonry. The feedback I’ve gotten from Masons all over the world that have heard about the film or seen the trailer gives me confidence that we found the right balance between showing too much and not enough.

GSI like the quick abstract in the film of the history of Masonry is when Cyrus and Detective Leon Weed (actors Randy Wayne and Sean Astin) are reconstructing the crime scene. Their exchange almost feels poetic when talking about the fraternity. Where did that come from?

Sean Astin as detective Leon Weed in the film The Freemason
Sean Astin as detective Leon Weed in the film The Freemason

JJ – Sean Astin gets the credit for that. We were at a warehouse shooting [the scene] from the original script. Sean said that he [had] a great scene in his mind and that we needed to write it out and film it before the end of the day. He wanted to know more about the initiation so that we could help the general public understand the initiation ritual more clearly. He told me to go buy a book about the initiation, so I drove to a local bookstore and bought a copy of a book that revealed some of the ritual but it did not cross the line. He and I then wrote out that scene in 2 hours, filmed it and added it to the film. I will never forget a quote from the director of photography, Thor Wixom, after the scene he said “that is now my favorite scene in the movie”.

In writing that scene, Sean wanted to help non-Masons understand the physical orientation of the rooms in the Masonic Temple and what that meant. He also wanted to express the strength of the Masonic vows when there is a reference to being killed if you reveal sacred information. And also, there is an element of Cyrus beginning to catch on to the real motive for the murder.

GSLater on in the film, Cyrus and the Grand Master have an exchange that really dramatized the power of the 2b1ask1 proposition. What was the thought behind it?

JJ – That came out of my experience becoming a Mason.

Most people think that the Masons recruit people or that you have to have a family member vouch for you. Some people also believe that you have to be a certain type of person (successful or wealthy) to become a mason. No one seems to believe how simple it can be, as simple as asking. I do believe that when people realize that, it may lead them to do as the film says: Ask One. And from there they may become Masons.

Actress Alex McKenna as Rana Burkhalter
Actress Alex McKenna as Rana Burkhalter

GSIt feels like you came at many of the issues of Masonry, even the notion of women Freemasons as Rana (playd by Alex McKenna), the daughter of a Mason, having resentment (almost an implied jealousy) over his activity in it. In a broader stroke, it feels in many ways that you encapsulated the process of the beginning, middle and end of becoming a Mason, even as it’s interjected into the plot lines. It really feels like a part of the story. Did that take a lot of time to construct? How did you go about weaving the two together (the story and the Masonic ritual elements)?

JJ – We wanted make sure people understand what critical role women have in Freemasonry. For instance, there are Women’s only branches of Freemasonry such as The White Shrine, Jobs Daughters, The Bethel etc. These organizations do a lot of charity work and they have their own initiation ceremonies as well. I have also talked to people who are involved in Co-Masonry which has both women and men as members. The famous statement, “behind every good man is a good woman” When I was in the Divan for the Portland Shriners, the women were just as organized and effective at raising money for the Shriners Hospital as well as coordinating events and running the day to day operations for Blue Lodges, The Scottish Rite and The Shrine.

GS Without giving anything away, the end takes a distinct and dark turn. I have to say it was almost disturbing given the sentiment it encapsulated. Was that the end you had in mind when you started shooting?

JJ – The ending in script and the ending we decided to go with were different.

There was a district difference but If I elaborate on it so much it might reveal to much about the plot. The final scene was also written by Sean and me the night before we shot it. Sean and I wrote it during an all-nighter after we had already completed a 12 hour workday. He called me to his hotel and we sat up all night talking about it, acting it out, working it over and over again…At 5 am we were both exhausted mentally and physically. However, the final scene was not finished yet. We needed to eat, so we went to a local Denny’s at 5 am, and there we were, Sean typing furiously on his laptop as customers walked past and looked him over, no doubt wondering, “Is that Sean Astin, and what the hell is he doing at Denny’s in Salt Lake City at 5 am?”

outside_of_the_salt_lake_masonic_temple_still_from the_freemason

After we finished eating the new ending was finished. The sun was up and went back to the set to work another 15 hours with out any sleep. But it was worth it. Most of the people who have seen the film think that ending is not only shocking but it also it ties everything together giving it a sense of closure. The feedback we have receive is that Sean’s performance is authentic and stunning. If I give any more details than that it might reveal the plot. We also shot the original ending which will be available on our “Extra Bonus Features” along with some special features and a 30 minute behind the scenes look at the making of the movie.

Richard Dutcher as Grand Master Sheldon Lombard
Richard Dutcher as Grand Master Sheldon Lombard

GS – I have to ask, did Astin (or anyone on the set) express any interest in the fraternity as the film wrapped?

JJ – Yes, there were many inquiries. By the end of the film, most of the cast and the crew were much more interested in Freemasonry and wanted to know more. Sean said that he wants to continue to learn more and more about who we are.

GS – When you made the film, did you start your own production company or did you fire them to produce and make the film?

JJ – Each time I make a new film I start a new production company.

GSWhere any of the other actors or production folks Freemasons?

JJ – Yes, my friend Howard drove all the way in from Montana to help with the production. He was there during my initiation in Portland, Oregon. There were also several other Masons on the cast and the crew that helped along the way but primarily the cast and crew were professionals who make movies for a living.

GSLet’s pull out to a wider shot, what do you see as the potential of Masonry in film?

The Freemason movie poster

JJ – I’m hoping that it emerges as a worldwide foundational film that can unite brothers from various countries. I will be dubbing it into different languages so that people who do not speak English can still watch it. I also see the potential for the people who want join to watch it and gain a deeper understanding if the principles and history that have kept Freemasons around the world connected for a greater cause such as charity work as well as preserving history that could possible go back as far as Solomon’s a Temple in Jerusalem. Freemasonry is a force for good in the world and I hope that people who see the film will recognize that the movie explains and defines what Masons stand for.

GSI’ve always had half dozen ideas on quasi-Masonic stories or scripts in my head. Do you think there is subgenre of movies waiting to be made about Freemasonry?

JJ – Yes, the history channel and the discovery channel etc. have put together some solid documentaries and re-enactments of Masonic history as well as the Knights Templar who were almost eliminated under false pretenses on Friday the 13th, 1307. Many of our founding fathers were 3 dimensional, intelligent people whose lives were greatly influenced, but not controlled by masonry.

GSDo they always need to be the protagonist, or is there space for them to be the antagonist too?

JJ – Nobody is perfect, we all make mistakes, and certainly not every man who is a mason has lived up to the highest standards we set for ourselves. Certainly, some have used their knowledge, prestige or influence improperly, or even in a bad way. Any organization with millions of members across the globe will always people who are not contributing positive actions and who are not helping their organization in any way.

Regarding a 90 page script for a feature film, the story is not going to be very interesting or complete without opposition to the protagonist, and certainly that opposition can come from a Mason. I don’t think we can all be painted with the same brush, either good or bad. Mason are all individuals, and we are all “rough ashlars” trying to become “perfect ashlars”. It is a lifelong journey. I am definitely a rough ashlar, however I am always attempting to become closer to a perfect ashlar even though it is not possible.

Joseph James and Sean Astin conferring on the set of The Freemason
Joseph James and Sean Astin conferring on the set of The Freemason

GSWhat are your thoughts about Freemasonry seeping into television programs such as Sleepy Hollow or Vanished (2006)? From your perspective, is this a good thing for Freemasonry?

JJ – One of reasons I decided to make movies about our Fraternity is because there have been false allegations, myths and outright lies about who we are and what we stand for. It has been that way for hundreds and possibly thousands of years. I think that Freemasonry has been portrayed in negative light in books, movies, and TV shows for a long time it will continue. The reason why is because to truly understand Freemasonry you have to experience it and meet the Masons who run our lodges and temples, [the people who] raise millions of dollars for charities and who are normal, average people who enjoy helping other and connecting with new friends, business associates and others with the same goals preserving our history and while moving forward into future.

One thing that does concern me a little is that movies always have elements to them that are not real and in most cases, the Freemason are a prime target for others to speculate without evidence and portray our organization in way that is simply inaccurate. There will always be some distortion regarding what we as masons are really about.

GSSo what’s next? Where can we find the Freemason when it’s released?

JJ – The film was just released as an “Exclusive Pre-Worldwide Release” so that the supporters and fans who have been waiting for months can be some of the first people in the world to own the DVD.

The film will also be released on iTunes, Hulu, Amazon, Vimeo on Demand, and possible Netfilx and Redbox. For now, the best way to order the DVD is to go to our website where we also have special deals on full size theatrical posters, a 30 min “Behind The Scenes” with bonus features including deleted scenes and trailers, sn interview with Sean Astin, Richard Dutcher (Grandmaster Sheldon Lombard) and myself.

GSWill it play in any theaters that we could come an see it?

JJ – The film was in theaters for a short time. Now we are having public and private screenings for any group or organization interested. Interested parties can contact me directly at

GSAny guesses for when we can expect it on the online providers?

We have just made the movie available on Vimeo OnDemand, iTunes, and the DVD can be purchased through or on Amazon. A link to the Vimeo OnDemand can be found on our homepage. We’ll be releasing a special edition in the coming weeks that features bonus materials and subtitles.

GSAnd lastly, a question I like to ask our sojourners is who or what influences you to do what you do?

JJ – My objective when I started making these films has remained the same the entire time. And that is to simply inform the public about the nobility of our ancient fraternity and to dispel false perceptions.

Big thanks to Joseph for taking the time out to sit down and talk with us about his new film. I watched and liked it and think other people will too. The Freemason is definitely not what you would expect from a Masonic murder mystery and it definitely kept me guessing up to the end. I, for sure, am looking forward to your next project.

Flyover Country

Ferris Thompson sat on the airplane, passively listening to Brother Dave’s chatter. They belonged to the same Masonic lodge and happened to be on the same connecting flight to Denver. Dave was not a very active member in the lodge. He had been the Senior Steward at one time, but had lost interest in attending meetings over the past two years. He had not seen Ferris in quite some time and was anxious to discuss all of the lodge’s problems with him.

“Boy, I tell you what Ferris! I am just disgusted by what has happened to that lodge. There seems to be some sort of dramatic argument at every meeting about the lodge’s finances or how our new members should have to prove up on the degrees. I just can’t stand it. And the bad part is if you get on the internet and have a look around, everybody seems to be in the same predicament. Lodges are falling apart, Masonic organizations are having feuds, and just about everyone seems to complain that nothing’s going on in their lodge!”

“Is that so?” Ferris responded without interest.

“Yup, there just doesn’t seem to be much that could get me back to lodge,” Dave continued as he looked out the window at the Kansas prairie far below the plane. “Would you look at that! The ground down there looks pretty boring, I guess that is what they call flyover country. Can you imagine living in such a depressing place?”

Ferris briefly leaned toward the window to contemplatively observe the scenery before settling back into his seat.

“From up here, the Great Plains do not seem very exciting. You may wonder was made the pioneers even consider stopping there.”

“You got that right!” exclaimed Dave.

“But you obviously haven’t spent much time in the region, because you would know that miles below us is some of the most beautiful scenery on the continent. It is spring time and the seasonal rains produce clear, glittering streams cutting through fields of green grass. Beautiful wildflowers of violet, yellow, and blue are blooming all over. The soil is fertile and the food for grazing cattle is plentiful. It must have seemed like paradise to those early settlers. And even though the summers could be insufferably hot and the winters were bitterly cold, every spring they were reminded of the beauty of the land that they inhabited.”

“Well, I guess I haven’t ever visited the prairie in the spring time,” Dave said apologetically.

“You know Dave, you may find that the concept of spring time on the prairie also applies to Masonry.”

“How so?”

“Well, much like the winter on the prairie, Masonic lodges can become dull and lead the Brethren into discontent. But just as the prairie experiences its own rebirth in the spring, you can experience a Masonic rebirth by attending a degree ceremony, a new lodge, a Scottish or York Rite reunion, a lodge dinner, or reading a book on Freemasonry. Make a connection with some new Brothers or learn something new about your fraternity. You will find that you can create your own Masonic spring time. Maybe you can spread a bit of it back to the lodge by providing refreshments for fellowship or presenting some Masonic education. I challenge you to find the beauty in what you described as a dreary Masonic landscape.”

“Boy Ferris, that is what I always liked about you. You always find a way to relate to something symbolically,” Dave responded with enthusiasm.

Ferris chuckled, “Well, my craft is veiled in allegory.”


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The Secret Lesson of Hiram and the Ruffians

Early hiramic legend
The Early Hiramic Legend

a Sojourner’s article by Tom Accuosti
author of The Tao of Masonry

One of the great things about the internet is how people with seemingly nothing in common can exchange ideas without ever actually meeting in person. Such is the case when I recently began exchanging emails with an amateur historian, an epidemiologist, and a professor of sociology. At first, it seemed that our only common bond was that we all share an interest in Freemasonry; however over time it developed that we all had some questions about our gentle Craft that have never been satisfactorily answered. As we began discussing the dilemma, we also found that we were able to integrate our various fields of knowledge in order to work through the problem. In doing so, we believe that we have managed to solve one of the most puzzling issues in the early history of the fraternity.

We now have some serious evidence pointing to the origins of what is commonly known as The Hiramic Legend in the Master Mason degree.

Some brief background: Early Freemasonry had only two degrees, the Entered Apprentice, and Fellowcraft (i.e., Fellow of the Craft). This situation was extant before the 1717 formation of the Grand Lodge of England, and continued for some years afterward. Yet, sometime in the mid-1700s, records show that various lodges seemed to have begun performing some variation of this legend. The origins of the drama are unknown, but is often attributed to being some kind of morality play. The drawback of this theory is that the legend draws on the Biblical story of Hiram Abiff; in the Old Testament, Hiram is a relatively minor character. More confusing is the rather obvious paradox in which the Masonic legend deviates so drastically from the actual Old Testament story: in the OT, Hiram Abiff comes to help King Solomon build his famed Temple, and when finished, goes home to his family with some considerable payment. In the Masonic drama, however, Hiram is shown to be struck down before the completion of the Temple by three Fellowcrafts, who then attempt to hide his body in a makeshift grave out in the dessert. This is the most extreme departure from Biblical scripture recorded in any of the dozens of Masonic ceremonies, and it stands to reason that there is a purpose for this. By taking what we know about Masonic history from that era, and placing it within the context of the social and cultural aspects of the time, we believe that we have discovered that purpose.

Momento Mori
Victorian Memento Mori

To understand the social context, we need to consider that the early 1700s was the beginning of the Industrial Revolution; prior to this period, most people lived an agrarian-based lifestyle. However, as more factories were built in and around the cities, larger populations were drawn into the urban areas, and by the mid-1700s, larger numbers of people left the farming communities to see work in the factories. Not surprisingly, the population explosion led to issues of public hygiene: the spread of disease, the disposal of wastes, and the proper internment of the growing number of the deceased.

Although we can trace Freemasonry back to the late 1400s and early 1500s, it wasn’t until the early to mid 1700s that we see the rise of organized networks of Masons, via the formation of Grand Lodges. There are no records as to why several London lodges decided to formalize their arrangement, but it wasn’t long before other lodges joined the network — and it was a network, as the lodges we more able to freely exchange information, including the variations of their rituals and ceremonies. It is significant to note that during this period, There were still only the two degrees in Masonry; “Master” Masons were those who were literally Masters of their lodges. Likewise, the degree ceremonies were relatively simple and the basic ceremonies were essentially the same in each lodge, although many lodges had their own particular set of “lectures” for the candidates.

At some point in the early to mid 1700s, we see records of lodges adding a type of morality play to the degree ceremonies. The main character varies in some of the earliest versions, but by the third quarter of the 1700s, that character was solidified as Hiram Abiff, and the stories became more consistent. Interestingly, they all contain similar elements: A character is beset by three assailants, and is then murdered; each assailant using a different weapon and attacking a different part of the character’s body. In many variations, the Hiramic legend specifies that Hiram is struck across the throat, in the chest, and in the head. The assailants (often referred to as the “Ruffians” in North America) strike with tools commonly associated with Masons: A square, a rule (sometimes called the 24 inch gauge), and a mallet or setting maul.

While Masons often assume that the assailants use those particular tools as a way to tie in to the traditional working tools in the various degrees, as we unearthed more information about the underlying social context, it became obvious that this line of reasoning has it backwards; that is, the legend itself is an instructional play that uses these tools as a way to reinforce knowledge to which only a few were at one time privy. And while we can not yet account for the reasoning behind using the character Hiram Abiff (except that he is a relatively minor character in the OT, and the change of storyline would be easily forgotten), we believe that the traditional lessons taught by this drama — about his integrity and bravery in the face of death — intentionally overshadow the real lessons that needed to be passed down to the new generations of Masons living in the crowded cities and urban areas. In this light, it is the Ruffians themselves who are the teachers and exemplars.

Consider: the three blows to Hiram are the neck, chest, and head. Why? Ignoring the symbolism behind this, those are the traditional and time-tested points of attack in order to dispatch revenants; those re-animated corpses that wander the countryside in search of living flesh.

It appears that the Three Ruffians are exemplifying the secret art of what the popular media now might call zombie hunting.

It’s easy to dismiss this as nonsense because in our modern era, revenants are portrayed as either sexy, sparkly, quasi-supernatural creatures, or as shambling, brain-devouring bogeymen. But before modern medicine and proper burial techniques, folks in the rural areas and countryside knew that periodically some unknown force would re-animate the newly buried, who then roamed the area terrorizing the denizens with their mindless taste for flesh until they were put down. In fact, until Bram Stoker’s fictional account in the late 1800s, there really were few distinctions between what we now call vampires and zombies; they were simply the re-animated, walking dead.

The question now presents itself: how do the Freemasons figure into this?

Wild Revenants Afield

Consider that before the late years of the Industrial Revolution, firearms were rare, and most people themselves could not afford metal tools and implements, let alone weaponry (and at some points in history, metal weapons were forbidden to those not of the noble class).This is one of the reasons that a wooden stake through the heart became part of vampire lore: no rural farmers had swords, but skewers, posts, and spindles were easy to come by. Although superstitions attached more importance to the idea of using wood, obviously the important part was destroying the heart.

As the need for Masons grew during the period from the 1300s on up, Masons became a well-traveled, and therefore, more educated, class of worker. Small groups of Masons were almost always carrying various tools and implements, often made of metal. Our research suggests that when traveling through sparsely populated areas, some Masons, being less superstitious than the local population, developed a means of eliminating these revenants in such a way as to expose themselves to as little harm as

Traveling Mason
Traveling Mason

possible. This information they eventually passed on to other traveling brothers, after making sure that those brothers would not reveal such secrets to the superstitious; the Catholic Church was still strong in Europe, and since most Masons were employed at cathedrals and monasteries, they would not want to be perceived to be trafficking with the undead.

This brings us to the methods that the early Masons used to eradicate the revenants. Since Masons often traveled in small groups, each would step in for a short, quick attack, then step aside to allow the next attack. While it is suggestive that this two or three pronged approach may have been passed along from the Knights Templar, this is mere conjecture on our part, as the evidence for the link between the early Freemasons and the Templars are unsubstantiated, and beyond the scope of our research. Perhaps at some future time we will be able to explore Templar history to determine how much exposure they would have had to revenants in the Middle East, but for now, we are only concerned with the suppression of the living dead within England and western Europe.

Ruffian Hunter
Ruffian Hunter

The Masonic method itself is ruthlessly simple. Upon being confronted with an approaching revenant, the first Mason steps in to strike a blow across the throat with an edged implement, such as a rule or stick. If the implement is an edged weapon, such as a sword (a Tyler’s sword?), full or partial decapitation would be the hoped-for outcome. However, even wooden measuring sticks will serve to damage the airway of the creature.

That Mason steps out of the way, and the second traveler will strike a blow across the chest or midsection. This serves to momentarily stun and confuse the creature for the (quite literally) coup d’etat, in which the last, and presumably strongest Mason smashes a hammer, mallet, setting maul, or some other heavy, blunt instrument into the head of the stunned revenant. Minimal risk, maximum damage.

It should be pointed out that blows to these three areas correspond to killing points in more conventional zombie and vampire lore: midsection (heart), neck, and head (brains). Again, understanding that folktales from the middle ages made little distinction between what we now think of as vampires or zombies, it’s easy to see why this method was adopted.

As notions about public health, medicine, disease, microbes, sewage, control, etc., became more widespread, the cases of revenants declined. Soon, entire lodges of Masons might form without any of the members ever having seen, or indeed, having heard of one. Freemasons became one more of the dozens, nay, hundreds of social clubs in metropolitan Europe. As this happened, the secrets of revenant killing were being lost. We believe that it is safe to assume that some inner group kept these secrets alive by codifying them into a ritual in which new generations of Masons could be taught, without making it obvious, and therefore, more more public. Thus, the legend of Hiram being killed by the Ruffians was developed.

When our researches led us to these conclusions, we spent some time in wondering if there were something that we were missing; given our assumptions, wouldn’t that make Hiram Abiff a zombie or vampire of sorts? Possible signs in the drama we noticed in context were the disagreeable effluvia and the mangled condition of his body (both zombie and vampire lore make references to the unbearable stench of death from the creatures), and certainly one could make conjectures about “raising” him from the grave. But eventually we decided this line of reasoning was inane, and stuck to the more reasonable explanations. In fact, this could well explain why the early dramas featuring other Biblical characters, notably Noah and his three (note the number!) sons eventually morphed into the lesser known Hiram: the lessons about how to defend against the revenants was a lesson hidden inside another lesson, i.e., the morality play about Hiram’s integrity and honor.

Indeed, when you look at the dramatic enactment of Hiram and the Ruffians in the Temple of Solomon, it becomes clear that the Masons actually have been passing down a secret; only, it’s not the esoteric knowledge that we tend to associate with Freemasons, but practical, operative knowledge. Indeed, in some areas Masonic ritual explains that “tools and implements are carefully chosen by our Fraternity to imprint upon the memory [certain] wise and serious truths.” In other words, to the true initiates, the ceremony was to reinforce the time-tested method of eradication. If it weren’t making light of so serious a situation, I’d suggest that this parallels the “wax on, wax off” education shown in the old “Karate Kid” movies.

Why teach in this manner? Because in sparsely populated agricultural regions, infestations of revenants were probably rare occurrences, and few Masons had to opportunity to experience such circumstances in person. However, as more people moved to the cities in the early 1700s, public hygiene and proper burial techniques did not keep up with the population boom. As the infection which causes “zombieism”, i.e., re-animation became more wide-spread, Masons, with their tools of the trade and penchant for secrecy, were particularly well-suited to deal with the threats. We believe that the Freemasons of London (and later, those in other cities and countries) entered into an agreement — a conspiracy of sorts — with the local and national governments: Masons would continue to practice their strange rituals without interference as long as they continued to watch for and exterminate the reanimated creatures — quietly, of course, so as not to cause a wide-scale panic. From this, it’s not hard to see how rumors of secret Masonic / government conspiracies could have grown into the outlandish idea that the anti-Masons now have.

Early Masons degrees in practice to eradicate the revenants.

Now that we have come close to establishing the origins of the Hiramic legend, where do we go from here?

We suspect that there is still a core group, an inner cadre of Freemasons who are knowledgeable about the existence of the revenants, and who still maintain the agreements with world governments so as not to cause wide-spread panic. While we still believe that such cases are rare because of modern technology and medicine, there is some evidence that whatever causes zombieism has not been eradicated. Occasional news reports of unusual animal maulings, unexplained violent attacks, or mysterious disappearances of people hiking in wilderness or areas of low population seem to indicate that the dangers of zombie infestation are still a small, but extant threat.

Having made these discoveries, we are trying to convince the Grand Lodges of various jurisdictions to open their archives on this matter in order that we might better educate the public — both to make them aware of the potential dangers, and to teach them how to cope if faced with such a situation. Unfortunately, the several Grand Lodges that we have contacted about this issue have either denied any knowledge, or have completely ignored our communications.

We further believe that Freemasons of every jurisdiction have a duty to be alert, aware, and educated in these lost arts, should the situation arise in which — Grand Architect forbid! — the number of revenants overwhelm that small inner cadre. Remember, brothers: it’s quite possible that you and your lodge may be the only source of protection in your community.

The Lost Symbol: The Road Best Not Traveled

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

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

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

Read: Freemasonry and the Hermetic Arts

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crown of Serpents on Masonic Central

Crown of Serpents

Crown of Serpents

Where does National Treasure meet The Lost Symbol?  Wound together into a Crown of Serpents.

Masonic fiction is an infrequent thing, especially when written by a brother. The Lost Symbol is a good example of the fraternity in a modern fiction, in the same way that National Treasure brought the fraternity to the cinema. This Sunday, we have the opportunity to talk about the latest edition of Masonic fiction from author Michael Karpovage, who has just released his new book Crown of Serpents.

From the books website the Crown of Serpents is a mystery thriller set in the former heartland of the Iroquois Empire and takes its hero, Jake Tununda, on a fast-paced hunt to find and protect the elusive crown. In the story he teams up with Rae Hart, who is an alluring state police investigator, and together they snake their way across a politically turbulent landscape marked with murder, lies, and deceit, deciphering codes, digging up war loot, and fending off a ruthless casino magnate. Their survival skills are put to the test when the clues to the crown ultimately lead them deep within sacred Indian caves hidden under the abandoned Seneca Army Depot where the magnitude of the crown’s power is revealed.

The Crown of Serpents is every bit as exciting as its synopsis suggests, and its weaving in of the fraternity of Freemasonry makes the mystery thriller all the more exciting.

Join us in this episode as we talk to author Michael Karpovage about his book, Masonic fiction in general and the real life history of Freemasonry that swirls around his new novel, in this hour long program on Masonic Central recorded Sunday, October 18th , 2009.

Missed the live program?  Listen now!

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The Lost Symbol – A Review


This review in two parts, one from a lay reader perspective, and one from a Masonic perspective.

The Masonic perspective can be found here.

Dan Brown’s new book, The Lost Symbol,  reminded me of a parable.  A parable is a story embellished with perhaps some grains of reality to convey a broader idea of truth.  Dan Brown in his new book, The Lost Symbol, has artfully woven an update of an ancient parable into a modern suspense novel that features prominently the one group that should be most apt to see the connection, the Freemasons.  Freemasonry, a fraternity “veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols”, is central to the plot under pinning’s, but by its end, merely the back drop by which the modern parable is played out.

Brown, at his finest, is a genius at writing parables.  The The Da Vinci Code is a prime example, the telling of the story of the Christ, but not as a divine emanation of God, but rather a mortal man who walked the earth like the rest of us.  Brown’s novel was a work of fiction then, just as it is now with his release of the The Lost Symbol.  But artfully, he weaves in elements of reality and fact, so as to set his stage onto which the story unfolds, perhaps to give it a greater link into reality, or to simply paint enough real figures into the work so the less (or not real) elements blend in to diffuse with the rest.  The more believable the story, the more real it feels for the reader.

Read Part 2: The Lost Symbol – The Symbol of the Symbolism

In his latest book, The Lost Symbol, Brown brings the story immediately to your feet, sweeping the reader into the air with anti-hero Robert Langdon.  These first steps, however are only after a mysterious initiation with libations from a skull.  Better to start the mysterious early.  With this rapid start, and dubious ceremony, Brown wastes no time in introducing the cast of players and introducing suspicions of who is and who isn’t to be trusted.  It works for Brown’s novels; they are after all suspense thrillers.  With our cast in place, the story then begins to unfold at whip shot pace.

I do wonder if the book was conceived on a walking tour of Washington, as in the unfolding pages, the actions and activities seem to be bullet points on a map of D.C. rather than more well thought out (or conceived) stages.  It seems most of Langdon’s ah-ha moments happen in the less important rooms of these Washington landmarks.  Sub sub basements, kitchens, and church offices hardly seem as sexy as the Vatican library, but their mundane setting is really the same places all of us have time to reflect and think in our day to day life.  This secondary settings may be a clever illusion to the importance of the idea of discover of the inner sanctum to which we each must travel for our own discoveries, but again, this is Dan brown, and he is writing about the allegorical and symbolic Masons, so you must treat the text with just as much symbolic verve.  And brown’s use of these locations give clues to the broader idea of the story too, the chamber of reflection in the U.S. Capitol (inner journey), the Library of Congress (learning, knowledge), and the National Cathedral (where church and state meet).

Science plays an interesting role in this book too, and with another Masonic twist.  The nascent field of Noetic Sciences features large here, but not in a first person the reason de etre way, but in a “this is similar to this” allegorical way.  Religious mysticism (of all religions) is really at the core of this new science, but besides being an early plot point and step stone to link Freemasonry, mysticism, and Noetic Sciences, the new science field really doesn’t come into play, in the same way it did in Angels and Demons.  It was, almost, another symbolic back drop to the whole story, interesting, and connective, but not vital, not the story itself.


As I mentioned, this review will be split in two, and the goal of the 2nd is to look more at the Masonic connections and connotations.  But as the book itself was about Freemasonry, it is important to note that Brown’s treatment of Masonry was very tender, almost to much so.  Early on, Brown goes to GREAT lengths to debunk and say what Freemasonry isn’t, covering the “is masonry a religion” issue, and even guffawing at the notion of secret geometric grids in the streets of Washington.  Even the infamous MASON on the great seal on the back of the 1 dollar bill gets a quick walk on, only to of been used as a dodge for something else.  Brown really did write this book with the fate of Freemasonry in mind, in parts almost writing as if he were creating one of our own brochures (perhaps off which he copied his passage) saying very strongly in his main character’s voice “In this age when different cultures are killing each other over whose definition of God is better, one could say the Masonic tradition of tolerance and open-mindedness is commendable.” Brown does go out of his way to weave in all manner of Hermetic, Gnostic, Rosicrucian, and Cabalistic ideas into the offering, but not in a way to dominate the reader into submission of belief, but to paint the picture that the ideas of Freemasonry, in their age and wisdom, are not wholly a Judeo-Christian construct, more on that in a bit in part 2.

Like past Brown novels, the story soon out paces the stage settings and takes over as a thriller and this book is no different.  Its pace reaching a fever pitch of intrigue, manipulation, and murder, while embroiled in the ancient mystery of a “Masonic pyramid”.  There are a few gasp moments for the reader, and plot spins that I didn’t see coming until hit square in the face by them.  And the story winds out with a tragic dilemma, which brings me back to the idea that the story itself was a modern retelling of an ancient parable.

:: spoiler alert::


Caravaggio (1573-1610) The Sacrifice of Isaac

The parable I mention is from the bible.  In that sacred text, very early in Genesis (chapter 22 to be exact) Abraham is commanded by God to sacrifice his son Isaac as a show of his allegiance to his faith in God.  In that past parable, the test of faith is tremendous as the eldest born of Abraham is the greatest sacrifice that he can give, and give he does, willing at the command of God.  In the very last seconds, Abraham is spared, his faith proven, and a ram is substituted for his son.  In the climax of The Lost Symbol, that same test of faith is presented, but for a different outcome.  As Abraham was to be the one giving sacrifice, the protagonist of the story, Peter Solomon is in that Abrahamic position, and knowing what the consequences were for the sacrifice he was forced to make, he still chose to not make that sacrifice, choosing to follow his heart.  Symbolically, in a book about allegory and symbol, it stuck me that the story was alluding to a transition from one of Abraham’s blind faith (as an external salvation, doctrinal, dogmatic, and absolute), to man believing in the faith within us, that by our acts and intentions we were communing with the divine, which is a Gnostic outlook that sacrifice, in totality, is not necessary and in the end destructive.

The reason for this conclusion seems to me to be based in the preceding pages as repeatedly the ideas of the Hermetic law were repeated and stressed (As Above, So Below) and the bomb of the protagonist was not one of physical destruction, but of ideological chaos.  To sacrifice the son would still bring chaos, absolute destruction, personally and publically.


The story wraps up and all the loose ends become tied in the neat bows that Brown manages to make following so many leads and loose ends.  But the way in which the book reached its crescendo, not in a fiery explosion or an earth shattering revelation of biblical purport, was lack luster.  The inclusion of the CIA, the cavalcade of 33rd degree masons and publicity of the who’s-who of Washington seemed to me an interesting plot point, but hardly reason to blow up historical property, and murder several innocent bystanders, but then, this is a suspense novel, and this YouTubian plot device was just as much a stage setting as the Masons themselves (twitter even got a mention to put the story in a contemporary but soon to be outdated setting).

Really, would the world be so traumatized to see people, who are already pretty open about being Masons, being Masons?

In the end, it was a good book, fun, flighty, suspenseful, with a few a-ha and gasp moments.  Was it worth the 5 year wait, I’ll let you be the judge, but it was a nice testament to Freemasonry, and very tasteful in its portrayal of the ancient and honorable fraternity, to which I say thank you to Dan Brown.  I give the book 7.5 out of 10 stars, and can say that I enjoyed reading it, and I think that you will too.

For those who read the book, but are wondering what Freemasonry is about, I recommend this Free E-book “What is Freemasonry?.”

Dan Brown’s New Book is Coming Out-So What?


lostsymbolOn Tuesday, September 15th, Dan Brown’s new book entitled The Lost Symbol will hit shelves at bookstores throughout the U.S. and probably most of the world. Because his previous book The DaVinci Code is one of the most widely read books in history, many people believe that The Lost Symbol has the potential to be a cultural phenomenon as well.

Freemasons have been among the most devout followers of the development of The Lost Symbol because Brown made it clear that the book would deal with the institution of Freemasonry.  Now that the release of the book is imminent, the excitement and angst among Freemasons about the book has reached a fever pitch and after reading several blog and website entries over the past few weeks, it appears that many Freemasons fear that they will have to defend the organization against any attack that Dan Brown may make on the world’s oldest fraternity.

However, I remain indifferent about this event. So The Lost Symbol deals with Freemasonry, so what?

For those worried about what dispersions the book may cast on Freemasonry, I must ask a simple question: Doesn’t Dan Brown write fiction? It is true that I have personally spoken to more than one person that read The DaVinci Code and remained firmly convinced that Jesus had a child and the Catholic church knows it.  However, these cases are rare and aren’t really worth worrying about.

Dan Brown’s book will more than likely spike Google searches on “Who are the Freemasons?” or “What is Freemasonry?” Some of those people will wind up on Freemasonry Watch and some of those will wind up on Freemason Information.  Some of those people will believe that Masonry is part of some conspiracy and some may just petition our lodges. I believe that we waste way too much time worrying about the former and not enough time worrying about the latter. Those that petition our lodges because they have read The Lost Symbol and performed subsequent research will require us to take a closer look at the fraternity and answer some questions. So let’s examine some of the inquiries to which we may have to give a response.

Petitioner’s Question: “So is any of the stuff about Freemasonry in The Lost Symbol true?”

This question is simple to answer because anything hinting at a conspiracy in the book is obviously false, unless you one of those Freemasons that is still trying to prove to yourself that you are not part of some heinous, New World Order planning organization.

Freemason’s Answer: “You must realize that Dan Brown’s book is a work of fiction, it’s solely meant for entertainment. Have you conducted any other research about the fraternity? If you haven’t, I’ll give you some real information and you can look through it and decide for yourself if Freemasonry is something that you want to pursue further.”

Petitioner’s Question: “So what do Freemasons really do?”

Now this is an interesting question. Will you be honest or will you paint a pretty picture of your lodge meetings. Many lodges would have to answer this question by saying, “Well, we pay the bills, sometimes we have cold baloney sandwiches afterward, and once in a while we’ll raise a little money for charity.” So if we want to answer this question honestly and give an attractive view of our fraternity to those that may want to join we are going to have to start changing the way we operate our lodges so that we can give the following answer.

Freemason’s Answer: “Freemasonry is a fraternity that believes in actively improving its members through a virtuous education, fellowship, and charity. In order to become a Freemason, you will have to take three degrees which provide a wonderful course of allegorical instruction designed to help you become a better man. After becoming a Mason you will help to confer these degrees and learn more about their symbolism through philosophical instruction and discussion. Freemasons also enjoy fellowship with each other through several activities which include fine dinners and other various lodge functions. Freemasonry is also a charitable organization that provides relief to its members and contributes to external charities such as the Child Identification Program.”

Petitioner’s Question: “So who can join Freemasonry?”

You should know this answer by now.

Freemason’s Answer: “If you are a man of legal age, of good moral character, who believes in a Supreme Being, and already has the Masonic principles firmly imprinted in his heart and mind, then you can become a Freemason.”

Ultimately, Dan Brown’s book can only be good for Freemasonry, because it will spike interest. Any publicity is good publicity after all. But if we want to make the most out of this opportunity, we will have to take the following actions: guard the West Gate and make sure that we give these new men what they expect from the order. We will have to use their skills, their ideas, and their fresh point of view to strengthen and enhance our beloved institution.

Or we can just keep doing what we’ve always done and see yet another crop of perfectly good Masons disappear because they were disappointed in what they found once they entered the Sanctum Sanctorum.

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Ol’ Leroy McKrank and the Council of the Knights of the Royal Arch


yorkA couple of decades back, Ol’ Leroy McKrank decided to join the York Rite. Now this was the only other body of Masonry that Ol’ Leroy had ever joined, mainly because he refused to fork over the cash required to join any additional bodies. But at the time, each York Rite body’s dues were only five bucks a piece, so Ol’ Leroy thought it was a pretty good deal. Fifteen smackers for three organizations? Who could pass that up?

Leroy sat through all nine degrees, held over the course of a few months, with an expression of awe on his face. The Brethren of the York Rite took his expression to mean that he was thoroughly impressed with the degrees. However, Ol’ Leroy was actually in a state of shock. Everywhere he looked he saw extravagant sets for the degrees, various aprons with different designs upon them, and the most dumbfounding thing that Leroy noticed was the impressive uniforms of the Knights Templar. Shiny swords? Custom made chapeaus? This was surely the most wasteful display that he had ever seen in Freemasonry. Besides, Ol’ Leroy figured that you didn’t need three bodies to tell the whole story of the York Rite.

So after Ol’ Leroy McKrank had received the Order of the Temple, he went home and started to do some thinking. He was determined to create a less wasteful order for those that were interested in the York Rite, but he would also need a chance to implement it. He got the chance when the York Rite came to the Blue Lodge a few years later in dire straights. They needed help with the rent and Ol’ Leroy jumped at the opportunity.

“Well I’ll tell ya what your problem is,” Leroy told the High Priest of the Royal Arch Chapter, “too much gol’ dang waste! I got a plan that will save you all kinds of money and you won’t have to ask the lodge for nothin’!”

That is when Ol’ Leroy told them about the Council of the Knights of the Royal Arch. It was a single degree that enveloped all the teachings of the York Rite. It was like a book made into a movie. Sure, you get the general story line, but where is the content? Ol’ Leroy McKrank explained the degree in detail to the members.

“You see, you get your candidate to start off over here and then he goes and gets his work inspected and then can’t get paid, so he talks to the boss man and gets paid and to apologize for his not gettin’ paid the boss man makes him the Master of the Lodge. Then its time to dedicate the temple and then we tear it down and throw the candidate into the rubble to find some stuff and he does find some purdy important things.” Leroy proceeded to fly around the lodge room, giving a demonstration of the floor work for the degree. It looked as though he was running sprints from the west to the east and back to the west again. “Then we remind him of his last conversation with good ol’ Hiram who shows him where he’ll leave some important tools and when he goes to find what Hiram was tellin’ him about…well…the guards stop him and just about put him to death. But luckily, some other fella’ was nappin’ on the job so we’ll kill him instead and take it easy on the candidate this time.” Leroy cackled about his little joke before continuing. “So then he has to go to Persia and talk to that fella’ Darius and ask to build the temple. He gets into an argument about whether a beer, a purdy lady, or some ol’ duffer is more powerful and says that truth is better than all of them. Then he goes to Malta for some reason to become a Knight and then he winds up here and we read him the book of Matthew and take a few shots. You don’t need no swords or nothin’, just a couple of aprons and a couple of guys that can tell a story.”

Ol’ Leroy had a smile of pure satisfaction with his creation on his face. The members of the York Rite stood with their mouths open in disbelief. It is unknown whether they were so confused and awestruck by what they had heard or whether they were in such a destitute situation that they had no other options, but they accepted Ol’ Leroy’s proposal.

Leroy slapped his knee and cackled, “Now this is a Masonic degree!”

To this day, Ol’ Leroy McKrank’s York Rite body operates the only Council of the Knights of the Royal Arch.

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square and compass, freemasonry, S&C, freemason information

The Non-Christian Mason

Ferris Thompson was sitting on a bench outside of the lodge building, enjoying a pipe full of Marlin Flake. One of the younger, more progressive members of the lodge, Sean, came out of the building and sat by him.

“I hear that Brian dimitted from the lodge,” he said, “he gave some reasons including the fact that he determined that since Masonry wasn’t solely Christian in nature, he didn’t feel he could belong.”

“Is that so?” asked Ferris. “Well, if that’s what he has decided then it is what is best for him.”

“Yup. I just don’t get guys like that. Christians—especially church goers—are just so ignorant. Don’t they know that the Jesus story has been told a million times before? Or that the origins of their religion are just as pagan as the origins of any other? I think that any Mason that still considers himself a devout Christian has no place in the organization.”

Ferris puffed on his pipe for a couple of moments, composing his thoughts.

“So who convinced you to come to that conclusion?”

“Well, I did. I studied Christianity and spirituality a lot and it didn’t take long for me to realize it was worthless.”

“Hmmm…that is interesting indeed. But did you ever consider the early Christians that closely examined their religion like Paul and John? What about Martin Luther or John Calvin? There certainly have been men that studied Christianity much more thoroughly than you have, so thoroughly that it consumed their entire lives and yet they still subscribed to the Christian religion. What do you do for a living?”

“I’m a computer programmer.”

“So would you say you have devoted the majority of your life to the study of Christianity?”


“So who are you to tell these men that they are wrong? Who are you to tell any man who has devoted the same amount of time that you have to such study that they have come to the wrong conclusion?”

Sean became defensive, “Well, do you believe that Christian stuff?”

“Some of it, yes. Some of it, no. But it is my decision and my faith. In a Masonic lodge, no dogma is greater than any other. Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, or even personal, independent worship are perfectly equal in the lodge. Our symbolism is applicable to every religion and no religion at the same time. No one can look at the faith of his Brother and say ‘Mine is better.’”

Sean thought for a second and then said, “You can if they have developed an incorrect image of God.” He had a smirk on his face, he thought he had fooled his senior Brother.

“Have you ever met God?”

The smirk left Sean’s face. Ferris emptied the contents of his pipe bowl.

“My Brother, you have taken great steps to find the destination of your personal spiritual journey and I commend you for that. But you cannot degrade those that have taken another path. Are they not still traveling toward the same destination? A Mason must be tolerant, he must accept that others may disagree with him. Do Christian Masons have the right to tell you that you are wrong and that Masonry is a Christian organization?”

Sean swallowed, as though he was digesting his pride. “No they don’t…I suppose I have been a little hard headed about this, huh?”

“Sure you have, but now you’ve learned. Now suppose you give me your interpretation of the symbolism of the Third Degree based on your religious views and later we can discuss it from my perspective.”