Freemasonry is a centuries-old fraternal organization known for its rich symbolism, intricate rituals, and cryptic phrases. Among the many enigmatic expressions used by Freemasons, “So Mote It Be” stands out as one of the most intriguing. This phrase is often uttered during Masonic ceremonies and meetings, shrouded in mystery and symbolism. In this blog post, we will explore the origins and significance of “So Mote It Be” within Freemasonry.
The Origins of So Mote It Be
The phrase “So Mote It Be” has a long and complex history, with roots that extend beyond Freemasonry. Its origins can be traced back to medieval English and Scottish language, where “mote” means “may” or “might.” In the context of Freemasonry, the phrase essentially means, “So may it be.”
“So Mote It Be” is used in various Masonic rituals, including the initiation of new members and the closing of lodge meetings. Its presence in these ceremonies serves multiple purposes:
Freemasonry is rich in symbolism, and this phrase is no exception. It represents the idea of finality, a seal upon the work completed during the ritual. It’s akin to saying, “Let it be done” or “Let it be accomplished.”
Freemasons use “So Mote It Be” to reinforce the sense of unity and brotherhood among members. It signifies that all present agree on the actions taken or the words spoken during the ritual.
By using this phrase, Freemasons connect themselves to the traditions and rituals of their forebears, adding a sense of continuity and historical significance to their practices.
Beyond its surface-level interpretation, “So Mote It Be” holds a deeper, esoteric meaning within Freemasonry. Some Masonic scholars and practitioners believe it carries spiritual connotations, emphasizing the power of the spoken word and the manifestation of intentions.
Freemasonry teaches that words and thoughts have a profound effect on reality. Uttering “So Mote It Be” is a way of affirming one’s intention and invoking the universe’s assistance in making it a reality.
In some Masonic traditions, “So Mote It Be” is seen as a recognition of the divine will or providence. It acknowledges that the ultimate outcome of any endeavor is in the hands of a higher power.
“So Mote It Be” may sound like a quaint and archaic phrase, but within Freemasonry, it carries deep symbolism and significance. This mysterious utterance encapsulates the principles of unity, historical continuity, and the power of intention that are central to Masonic philosophy.
While its origins may be rooted in medieval language, its relevance in contemporary Freemasonry remains undiminished. To Freemasons, “So Mote It Be” serves as a reminder of the timeless wisdom and traditions that have guided their fraternity for centuries, and a testament to the enduring power of their shared rituals and values.
BRYCE ON FREEMASONRY – And what I remembered of them.
After being away a long time, I recently returned to my home lodge for a visit. Those of you who have followed my writings will remember why I left my lodge, primarily due to Freemasonry turning into a good old boys club as opposed to the fraternity it was intended to be.
I went back to my lodge to see a young man return his catechism in front of the Craft. This was a good man who I was pleased to sign his petition. I am somewhat old school in this regard. I believe if you sign a man’s petition, you should be there for him as he proceeds through the three degrees. Unfortunately, not everyone agrees with me and thinks nothing of deserting the Brother.
My friend was joined by three other Entered Apprentices who all returned their catechisms masterfully. I have obviously heard these words many times before and instructed several Brothers in this regard. Needless to say, listening to this was nice, but a wee bit boring. As I sat there, my mind started to drift away to years ago when I was in their shoes and returning my catechisms.
It was a slow night, and nobody was in the north. As I sat there staring at the empty seats, I began to imagine seeing the many lodge Brothers I had known over the years who made lodge meaningful to me, but had passed away in recent years.
There was my old mentor, Rome Scerbo, who I succeeded as Secretary; the three men on my Masonic investigation committee, Bill Brooks, Forrest McQuiston, and Herb Furman; the organist, Bob Haynes, who played “Happy Trails” as we closed the lodge; Bob Clarkson, the Treasurer who presented me my first Masonic pin; Bill McIntosh (senior and junior) who influenced my Masonic career; Dave Seidel, who was Treasurer when I was Secretary; Alex McColl, an old Scot with a wonderful singing voice; Charles Rongey, the lodge Historian who taught me a lot about the history of the lodge and the village; and many other side-liners who had served the lodge in a variety of capacities. They are all gone now, but in their day, they were the movers and shakers of the lodge.
Back then, when our lodge meeting was over, it was common for them to sit down, drink coffee, and talk about the lodge, their lives, and the world around them. It was here I discovered these were the people who truly tended to the business of the lodge, not the current sitting Master. If there was a problem that needed to be addressed, they took care of it. They leaned on one and other thereby creating an esprit de corps which I admired. Yes, they most definitely spoke “on the level.” These were men of honor, integrity, and teamwork. There was no interest in autocratic rule or accolades for personal glory.
Today though, when lodge is over, people bolt for the exit. The words spoken in the lodge room are the same today, but the spirit is different. I am still warmly greeted, but I get the unsettling feeling we are only going through the mechanics of Freemasonry as opposed to living Freemasonry.
I had the great honor of serving as Master for many of the ghosts during their Masonic funeral service. Maybe that’s why I am so sensitive to their spirit and see them sitting in lodge before me.
Now, I am one of the elders. As I looked around the lodge room, and heard the catechisms spoken, I noticed there were only three other men attending who served the lodge longer than myself. Everyone else was much younger.
As I sat in my chair, gathering my thoughts, I thought back to a time when the fraternity meant something more important than a good old boy’s club. People weren’t measured by a Masonic title or fancy apron, but simply by a plain white leather apron, a warm grip, and the word “Brother.”
The following is a remembrance sent in by Archibald A. H. Crawford. Arch was raised in New York in 1964 and spent several years around the lodge taking his passion for the fraternity on a deployment to East Asia. His remembrance serves to memorialize his time there and capture the memory of his labor for the craft abroad in 1969.
On the Formation of a Masonic Square Club in Vietnam, 1969
I was under Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) in a Mobile Advisory Team (MAT) in Four Corp (Southernmost) headquartered in/near Cần Thơ on the sacred Mekong river. Our team of four American soldiers were stationed at a mud outpost of Local Force South Vietnamese on a tributary East of the city and our HQ. We scrounged enough material from our HQ base camp to build a small house within the company-controlled patch of land. The local people were of a recent Buddhist subset called Hòa Hảo (pronounced Wa How).
We had become relatively good scroungers and lived well compared to everyone within a few miles (which is not saying much at all). Our pride and joy were having traded with a unit no longer needing their 50-caliber machine gun, which was the strongest piece of weaponry in our district.
As one of our best at finding ‘stuff’ that made our lives better, I ran into a substantial number of
Masonic brethren in our military and also civilian support staff in and around headquarters. Most important for this story was a Naval Lieutenant Silver from Pennsylvania. We discussed Masonic backgrounds and he also knew quite a few members from the area.
We thought about how we could get a few together, simply for fellowship and considered some sort of ‘square club’ might be the way to go. A handful of us got together to plan an introductory meeting at some point, perhaps a couple of weeks. I had heard about the only Masonic Lodge in Vietnam located in Saigon under the auspices of the Philippines, which were in turn under the U.S. Southern Jurisdiction, and had travelled to Saigon and met the Master there. I proposed that he might come down and give at least an atmosphere of respectability and semi-official sanction.
Lt. Silver had mentioned our goings-on to the Sargent-Major, (Highest level non-commissioned officer in the army), and personal assistant to the Four-Corp General in charge. The Sargent-Major offered to take a helicopter up to Saigon and bring down the Lodge Master to our humble get-together!
It all came together, and the meeting was accomplished in the Fall of 1969 with roughly 40-60 brothers in attendance. I was transferred out not long after and (sadly) did not keep in touch. That lapse caused lasting effect, whether if, or how long it lasted, remains deficient.
If you have a memory of this Square Club, or one like it, drop a note in the comments below. Do you have a remembrance of Freemasonry you’d like to share? Send us a note.
Submitted and written June 10, 2019, by Arch Crawford Past Master of Chancellor Walworth Lodge #271, New York City. First Lt. at the time, mustered out in 1969 as a Captain in the Inactive Reserve. Arch took the York Rite degrees in New York before Vietnam and the Scottish Rite degrees on R&R from Vietnam to Manila in 1969. He says that while he was in Los Angeles in late 1970 waiting tables at the huge Scottish Rite Temple he was introduced and shook hands with Bro. John Wayne.
To the unassuming public, the Freemasons are a society of likeminded men who come together to donate and raise money for good and charitable causes. But is this really true? Is the government a component of an underground Masonic society whose whole organization is a plot to form a new-world order?
Let’s look at the evidence.
A New World Order
The one world government, also referred to as the New World Order, is a theory that a select few elite people have a globalist agenda and aspire to rule the world as an authoritarian world government. This will replace sovereign nations and states and every country will become one under the same government. Culled in modern times out of Woodrow Wilson’s speech to Congress on January 8, 1918, in his Fourteen Points statement of principles for peace, he called for a League of Nations on the heels of World War I. In his list, point XIV calls for the formation of:
A general association of nations must be formed under specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike.
He closes that speech, saying:
An evident principle runs through the whole program I have outlined. It is the principle of justice to all peoples and nationalities, and their right to live on equal terms of liberty and safety with one another, whether they be strong or weak.
Unless this principle be made its foundation no part of the structure of international justice can stand.
George Bush, in 1991, took up the phrase in a speech to Congress, not ironically in reference to making the world safe. In the address, he said:
I come to this House of the people to speak to you and all Americans, certain that we stand at a defining hour. Halfway around the world, we are engaged in a great struggle in the skies and on the seas and sands. We know why we’re there: We are Americans, part of something larger than ourselves. For two centuries, we’ve done the hard work of freedom. And tonight, we lead the world in facing down a threat to decency and humanity.
What is at stake is more than one small country; it is a big idea: a new world order, where diverse nations are drawn together in common cause to achieve the universal aspirations of mankind — peace and security, freedom, and the rule of law. Such is a world worthy of our struggle and worthy of our children’s future. (minute 6:40 in the video below)
He says further on,
We will succeed in the Gulf. And when we do, the world community will have sent an enduring warning to any dictator or despot, present or future, who contemplates outlaw aggression.
The world can, therefore, seize this opportunity to fulfill the long-held promise of a new world order, where brutality will go unrewarded and aggression will meet collective resistance.
Seemingly, this had less to say about world domination and more to insinuate peace, security and prosperity.
So where do the Freemasons come in?
Freemasonry and the New World Order
As one the world’s oldest secular fraternal organizations, the Freemasons have been at the heart or involved in a number of the world’s most pivotal moments. Let’s take the United States for example. The most powerful country in the world and yet on of the newest. George Washington and Benjamin Franklin were both Freemasons, and the influences of this society are seen throughout American state craft and culture.
Take a closer look at the Great Seal of the United States or the one dollar bill, The Great Seal bears the Latin phrase ‘novus ordo seclorum’ on the reverse, as proposed by non-mason Charles Thomson, translating to ‘new order of the ages.’
Yes, Ben Franklin was on one of the early committees to craft the early seal, but in the end, it was not his seal that was selected. Franklin’s seal, chose the more modest motto of “Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God” Some believe that the final motto selected alludes to the phrase New World Order and is a preamble for “Freemasonry is the Church of Satan masquerading as a fraternal mystical philanthropic order.” and are “fronts for Illuminati (Masonic & Cabalist Jewish) central bankers who started the US as a vehicle to advance their New World Order” pinning the phrase to “Illuminati bankers [who] have been plotting the ‘new order of the ages’ (featured on the US dollar along with the uncapped Masonic pyramid) for thousands of years.”
Was the American government created with the purpose of one day becoming the one world government?
One of the main reasons that the Freemasons have been the subject of the New World Order theory is that they rejected the traditional and orthodox authority because it didn’t fall into line with their idea that all people were equal. Not just this, but Masonic societies around the globe been known to treat all people, regardless of religion, as equals. This belief is often seen as highly un-Christian and, therefore, made masons a focus for people who believe in the one world government.
Secret World Government
But why are the Masons so secretive? What do they have to hide?
In this day and age where men and women are equal, why aren’t women invited to the Lodges all over the globe where these meetings take place? Many people believe that they are hiding something. Because of this secrecy, no one knows what really goes on except those who are involved in them. The Freemasons claim to be a charitable group yet they make no claims on the charities they donate to, and they ask for no official recognition. Why be so secretive?
Perhaps it comes out of another organization that has been linked to the Freemasons, the Illuminati.
The Illuminati was founded in 1776, which coincidentally is the same year that America became independent. The main focus and beliefs of the Illuminati was a mixture of several different religions, mysticisms and even heavily borrowed the Freemasons ideologies. The main goal — that they spoke about — was to make people happy and people could become happy by becoming good. They want people to reject judgment and prejudices and believe that everyone should out for everyone. Sound familiar?
The Illuminati and the Freemasons are closely linked, and their beliefs are very similar, and its founder tried to infiltrate his organization into the contemporary Masonic lodge, but Weishaupt’s dream never say its full manifestation. Despite this fact, this is another reason why many believe that, together, they are one organization working together to bring about the New World Order. Because they want everyone to be treated as equals regardless of status, religion, gender, race or background, people believe that they are looking to create a world in which everyone is the same. What better way to do this other than create a one world government? If one government ruled the entire world then none of those things would matter and people would be truly equal.
American Founding Fathers
One of the other big reasons that people believe that Freemasons are looking create a one world government is because of what happened in the founding of the United States.
In the 1776, the United States of America didn’t exist. It was simply known as Mundus Novus (New World) from a pamphlet written in 1503 by Amerigo Vespucci. The term was in opposition to the notion of an “old world” from which the age of exploration sprang. As the “new world” grew it took shape to include the 13 British colonies — each isolated from the other with degrees of different beliefs, different ideologies and even different religious practice (again, to a degree). They were made up of different races and ethnicities and all held widely differing political and societal beliefs. It was the organization by the Founding Fathers that sought to unify these disperate colonies under one government into a country that, after much bloodshed and heartache, would become known today as the United States. And what do we know about the founding fathers? That they were Freemasons.
It was the work of these founders that many see as the Freemasons unifying America under one government to be spread to the rest of the world. They started out with the United States, which many people dub the “practice country” and now have their sights set on the rest of the world.
The Big Picture
Obviously, none of these plans for world domination are proven fact.
Yes, the founding fathers were Freemasons and yes they did work together to unite the 13 colonies to become the United States. And yes, the Illuminiaiti sought to infiltrate European Masonic lodges to spread their ideology across the globe, but there is no real evidence that they did so because they wanted to rule the world under a “one world-government” despite what Wilson and Bush said in front of Congress to the American people (neither of whom were Freemasons).
The Freemasons are not a secret society, they are simply very traditional — a fact that many people don’t understand. And in that tradition, world domination is the last thing on its mind, unless that domination is in the form of doing good works and promoting civil society.
Ultimately, masons do a lot of good in the world and they do it without expectation of anything in return. There could stand to be a few more people who aren’t in it for the glory and just in it for the good of mankind. And really, if it were to come to light that they were looking to establish a world free of judgement a prejudices, would that really be the worst thing in the world?
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.
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.
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!
Freemasonry bears the imprint of the society in which it exists, and Freemasonry in North America is no exception. While keeping close ties to French lodges until 1913, American Freemasonry was also deeply influenced by the experiences of many early American political leaders, leading to distinctive differences from European lodges.
Offering an unobstructed view of the American system and its strengths and failings, Alain de Keghel, an elder of the Grand Orient de France and, since 1999, a lifetime member of the Scottish Rite Research Society (Southern U.S. jurisdiction), examines the history of Freemasonry in the United States from the colonial era to the Revolutionary War to the rise of the Scottish branch onward. He reveals the special relationship between the French Masonic hero, the Marquis de Lafayette, and the Founding Fathers, especially George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, including French Freemasonry’s role in the American Revolution. He also explores Franklin’s Masonic membership, including how he was Elder of the lodge of the Nine Sisters in Paris.
The author investigates the racial split in American Freemasonry between black lodges and white and how, unlike French lodges, women are ineligible to become Masons in the U.S. He examines how American Freemasonry has remained deeply religious across the centuries and forbids discussion of religious or social issues in its lodges, unlike some branches of French Freemasonry, which removed belief in God as a prerequisite for membership in 1877 and whose lodges operate in some respects as philosophical debating societies. Revealing the factors that have resulted in shrinking Masonic enrollment in America, the author explores the revitalization work done by the Grand Lodge of California and sounds the call to make Freemasonry and its principles relevant to America once again.
Alain de Keghel served as chair of the Supreme Council of the Grand Orient of France from 2002 to 2008. In 1994 he became a lifetime member of the Scottish Rite Research Society (Southern U.S. jurisdiction). The chair of an independent European Masonic Research Society, he has worked with the Philalethes Society in North America and with the research lodge Quatuor Coronati no. 8 in Germany. He is the former Consul General of France in Tokyo and Washington, D.C., and lives in Paris.
The modern incarnation of Freemasonry dates to around 1717, but, was that truly the beginning of the “ancient” and honorable fraternity?
The history of modern Freemasonry is fairly understood, going back to roughly the 1700’s. Beyond that point in time, information starts to become less available. Their are some documents and notable figures prior to that point in time, such as the Regius/Halliwell poem, and notables like Elias Ashmole, but no certifiable records exist to demonstrate organized activity as we have today.
One of the virtues of Freemasonry is that its study and practice allow members to explore this topic, and at times travel outside the bounds of connections typically explored in mainstream history. Some Masonic historians have attempted to draw connections to the Knights Templar, the Rosicrucian’s, Jewish Kabbalah traditions, Hermetica, Alchemy, Christian Mysticism, and to much further back to the precursor Essenes at the time of Jesus. These explorations have been considered in both the past and present Masonic scholarship to varying degrees of acceptance, but many points of contention remain.
In present day, Freemasonry has little changed in the preced-ing 200 years since the founding of the United Grand Lodge of England, and is modeled in a system that was likely little changed for the 150 years prior to that. It is believed that the working aspects of Freemasonry, the form and function of the lodge, comes from the stone working guilds of the European Renaissance and middle ages which, over time as that trade profession became less specialized, attracted new members of non practicing “speculative masons.”
From that shift, the present day fraternity moved from an “operative” guild to a “speculative” one in that the function of the lodge turned to the allegorical and symbolic meanings of the stone masons and less about the physical operation. These changes have evolved to shape the look and feel of modern lodge operation today.
Some thoughts on how to promote citizenship in America.
In the Masonic world, we recently observed “Citizenship Month” here in Florida. Because of this, I was asked to give a talk on the subject for a local Lodge. Drawing upon a couple of my past columns, I assembled the following short talk:
My biggest concern regarding citizenship pertains to how we teach history and civics in this country. In some High Schools, “American History” runs from World War II to the present. This means students are not learning such things as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and Bill of Rights, the Civil War, the Louisiana Purchase, Lewis and Clark, Prohibition, the League of Nations, and much more. In other words, they only discuss the last 77 years, and not the events leading up to the founding of our country and the turmoils we had to endure. As an aside “World History” is now just World War I to the present. So much for the ancient Greeks, Egyptians, Romans, Marco Polo, the Magna Carta, Ferdinand Magellan, Alexander the Great, et al. I presume they had no bearing on our civilization.
Such ignorance of our history caused famed historian David McCullough to observe, “We are raising a generation that is historically illiterate and have a very sketchy, thin knowledge of the system on which our entire civilization is based on. It is regrettable and dangerous.”
We are also not educating youth properly in terms of “Civics”; understanding our responsibilities as citizens, such as voting, serving on a jury, how legislation is enacted, or what is included in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. No wonder young people do not grasp the significance of such things as the Electoral College, the structure of our government, or what their rights are.
Naivety and ignorance leads to apathy at the ballot box. In the 2016 elections, only 57.9% of the citizens voted (over 90 million didn’t vote at all). This is a pitiful figure when you compare it to other democracies like Australia, India, and the Scandinavian countries. Surprisingly, this was the highest voting percentage in the United States since 1968 (60.8%). The highest in recent history was in 1960 (63.1%) for the Kennedy/Nixon election. Even though Millennials (ages 18-35) are now the largest potential voting block, they continue to have the lowest voter turnout of any age group.
It is sad when legal immigrants understand the workings of the government and history more than native born Americans. Maybe all citizens should take the same oath naturalized citizens do. Since 1778, immigrants coming to this country have had to pass a test and take an oath swearing their allegiance to the United States. The current oath is as follows:
I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.
Not surprisingly, immigrants coming through this program tend to appreciate this country and are more loyal than native born Americans. Another cause for this could be because there is less emphasis on teaching American government and history in the schools than in years past. In other words, the importance of being a citizen has not been impressed upon our youth.
So, as a proposal, how about administering a modified version of the immigration oath to all native born Americans, perhaps on July 4th? All that is necessary is to simply modify the first sentence of the Immigration Oath; to wit:
“I hereby declare, on oath, that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic;”
Parents could give it to their children, thereby turning it into a family tradition; civic organizations and local governments could administer it in public group settings, or perhaps some other venue. Maybe even the media could get involved and administer it over the airwaves or Internet. It should be administered in some solemn way with a right hand raised and the left hand placed on either a copy of the U.S. Constitution or perhaps a holy book such as a Bible, Torah, or Koran.
The oath is certainly not the same as the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag, this is instead a reaffirmation of our commitment to our country and would help promote citizenship and voting. Maybe this is something that should be given routinely as opposed to just one time; to remind people of their allegiance to this country. I cannot help but believe this simple gesture would have nothing but beneficial effects.
One last observation, during this past year, the talking heads on television recommended avoiding any talk of politics at the dinner table, particularly during Thanksgiving, Christmas and other holidays. I disagree. We do not do enough talking at the table in a calm and reasonable manner. Instead of leaving citizenship to the school educators and MTV, parents should spend more time discussing it around the dinner table, not in a dictatorial manner, but in a frank and open discussion. I believe our youth would better understand the virtue of the Electoral College if it came from their parents as opposed to an entertainer or athlete.
Maybe then, youth will appreciate the need for “Citizenship.”
Brother John “Coach” Nagy recently sat down with Phoenixmasonry Live and talked about his Masonic mission of informing members of the Craft about its history, origins and how to learn more about the Society to which they belong. It was a session where even greater Light was transmitted to all the Brethren.
Each and every time I talk with Coach Nagy I never fail to learn something new. His research is thorough and far reaching into History, Religion, Masonry, Archaeology, Semantics and Etymology. He has a unique ability to bring all these fields of study together into one coherent whole, thus enabling him to relate to his readers the meaning of the symbolism, origin, sources, and meaning of our great Fraternity.
His book “The Craft Unmasked” is a seminal work that breaks new ground in the understanding of the origins of Freemasonry. That book has been reviewed on Freemason Information and can be viewed HERE.
The Beehive has always admired multi-talented Masons who are experts in many different fields. We can learn so much from such people. And if you follow Coach Nagy he will be your Socrates, asking you one question after another until you “learn how to learn.”
I hope you will enjoy the video above and that it will offer you new insight into Masonry.
Elena Llamas, Director of Public Relations for The Phoenixmasonry Masonic Museum and Library. Portrait by Travis Simpkins.
If you have a lot of Mason friends and follow various Masonic and related personalities, like I do, you for sure have noticed how profile photos have been shifting to the signature style portrait drawings of artist Travis Simpkins. Phoenixmasonry is pleased to have had the opportunity to interview this prolific artist so we can all learn more about him and his art.
EL (Elena Llamas): Hello, Bro. Travis, thank you for agreeing to this interview. I am honored to have the chance to talk to you about your work, which I have been admiring for quite some time now.
TS (Travis Simpkins): Thank you. It is my pleasure.
EL: Tell us about your training as an artist. When did you know you had an interest and talent for art? Did you study art formally?
TS: I’m sure I must have possessed some innate talent as a child, but I didn’t really pursue many artistic interests until my teen years.
Artist Travis Simpkins
My art education was two-fold:
I earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) Degree from Anna Maria College [in Massachusetts] in 2002. At Anna Maria, the curriculum focused on traditional forms of art rendered through a diverse range of mediums, from painting to sculpture, but an emphasis was placed on working from life. Working from life means that you are looking at actual 3D models in front of you, be it people or objects.
I also undertook additional studies in Arizona with Photorealist artist James Frederick Mueller. Jim had some success in the 1970’s and 80’s, including a portrait commission of a former U.S. President. Along with the detailed logistics of the method, I learned a very valuable skill from Jim… the ability to create convincing portraits while working from photographs.
EL: Well, your portraits are definitely convincing!
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Freemason and Composer of Masonic Music, by Travis Simpkins
TS: In my work, I still utilize both disciplines on a regular basis. I work from life while sketching objects in museums. With portraits, however, I work from photographs. Using photos offers greater freedom. I’m not limited by proximity and the internet has allowed the whole world to become an accessible market. I can accept commissions and create portraits of people I’ve never met, many of whom live thousands of miles away.
EL: That is wonderful, yes
TS: In the realm of art, portraiture has always been one of the most difficult subjects to master. It offers both a challenge and a sense of accomplishment. If you can render a human face, and do it well, then you can draw just about anything else. There will always be a demand for well-crafted, quality portraits.
EL: I believe you! You have to be true to what you see. It must be quite difficult.
Albert Pike, 33° Scottish Rite Freemason and Author of “Morals & Dogma” by Travis Simpkins
EL: Many portrait artists switch the background or medium of their work. You have a very unique and consistent signature style which involves a, and please excuse my lack of technical knowledge here, to the untrained eye it seems to involve a discreet pink background with black and white strokes in either pencil or charcoal. How did you develop this style and why have you remained consistent using it?
TS: It’s a classic sketching technique, utilized for hundreds of years, reminiscent of Old Master drawings. I just take that historic sense and extend it to contemporary subjects. The end result has a timeless quality, connecting the past and present in a relatable way.
EL: How interesting.
Benjamin Franklin. Statesman, Printer and Freemason, by Travis Simpkins
TS: I keep making portraits in that particular style for a few reasons. Firstly, I work on commission and create artwork to order. The charcoal drawings are popular and I keep getting requests for that particular aesthetic. As long as the business demand is there, I’ll keep producing them. Secondly, it’s important for an artist to have a unique style; to have their works be instantly recognizable as being created by their hand. For me, these portraits border on that signature element.
TS: Lastly, I simply enjoy creating them. I work quickly and lack the patience for slow and tedious mediums. Drawing offers a sense of spontaneity, immediacy and expressiveness that other art forms don’t.
Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States. Freemason, by Travis Simpkins
EL: I noticed some of the Freemasons you have drawn portraits for have Masonic pins on their clothes, that is a very nice signature detail of yours.
TS: Good portraits display some attribute, prop or element to convey the subject’s personal interests and passions. Small visual details can help to tell a person’s unique story. Over the course of their Masonic journey, many Masons are deservedly honored for their achievements, and I’ve found that Masonic jewels make great portrait accessories.
EL: Besides drawing a lot of esoteric, personal, and Masonic portraits, you also have a series of archeological drawings, is this another interest of yours?
TS: I work with several museums and cultural institutions, and those sketches are based on works of art displayed in museum collections. I am usually assigned to draw certain objects, but others are chosen for my own enjoyment. Those sketches are interesting in that they offer an interpretive connection with history, with ancient works of art being filtered through my viewpoint as an artist in the present.
Worcester Art Museum: Pre-Columbian Seated Male Figure, 900-1200 AD, by Travis Simpkins
TS: In my work with the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, I create artwork for an ongoing HR program. I am tasked with creating sketches of works in the museum’s collection, which the museum then frames and presents as gifts to noteworthy recipients.
EL: That is awesome!
TS: I greatly enjoy the job, but more than that, I’m truly honored that the Gardner Museum recognizes the quality of my work and has chosen my art to represent their world-renowned collection.
Worcester Art Museum: Ancient Greek Corinthian Helmets, 550-450 BC, by Travis Simpkins
TS: Earlier this year, I began working as an Art Advisor with the Massachusetts Senate. One of our State Senators wanted to have college student artwork from his constituency represented in his office at the State House in Boston, and I helped draft an initiative and offered logistical advice for the project. It is quite rewarding, personally, to see the proud expressions on the faces of the students and their parents as the artwork is put on display at the state capitol.
TS: Last year, I was hired by the Worcester Historical Museum to create portraits of three generations of the Salisbury Family (17th-18th Century benefactors of the city). My artwork was put on display in the circa 1772 Salisbury Mansion, placed alongside paintings by colonial-era portraitist Gilbert Stuart. Gilbert Stuart painted the famous portrait of George Washington (used on the dollar bill) and is one of my artistic heroes, so that was quite an honor.
EL: Wow! That is fantastic!
George Washington Masonic Memorial. Cornerstone. Alexandria, Virginia, by Travis Simpkins
TS: I also work at the Worcester Art Museum, having taken on various roles from assisting in art classes to monitoring the safety and security of the artwork on display. I have also referred collectors I know to the Worcester Art Museum, and my efforts and connections in that regard have culminated in the addition of more than 300 works of art to WAM’s permanent collection, including 97 woodblock prints by Japanese artist Yoshida Toshi.
Art Security is a major concern of mine as well, both personally and professionally. I hold a certification from the International Foundation for Cultural Property Protection. I am a contributor to various art security forums, conducting research into art theft, preservation and archaeological ethics.
EL: How interesting. Keeping art safe is a challenge! Your wife is also a talented artist.
TS: My wife, Janet, is an amazing artist. She has a wonderful eye for detail. Currently, she is working on a series of miniature paintings, which have been on display in three gallery shows so far this year. We share a mutual love and respect, and I credit all of my success (artistic and otherwise) to her encouragement and support.
EL: Wonderful! How sweet! She does have an eye for detail as can be seen in the miniature painting below.
Janet Simpkins, 2×3 inch mini-painting
EL: Can anyone contact you for a portrait? If so, how and where?
TS: Portrait commissions can be made through my website: http://www.artcrimeillustrated.com
I can be emailed directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Find my page on Facebook as “Travis Simpkins: Artist & Museum Professional”
Affordable prints of my portraits of historical Freemasons can be purchased through Cornerstone Book Publishers at: www.cornerstonepublishers.com
EL: Your work has rightfully earned a vibrant place in the hearts and minds of Freemasons. Is there anything I did not ask that you would like to talk about?
TS: I’m glad to hear others describe my Masonic portraits as a contribution to the fraternity, it’s meaningful to be able to play some part in my own way. It is a wonderful organization and being raised a Master Mason will always be a defining moment in my life. Since joining earlier this year, I feel that I’ve already made many lasting friendships and associations. I have experienced the start of an incredible journey and am open-minded to future opportunities in Freemasonry. All of the brethren at Morning Star Lodge in Worcester and the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts in Boston have been very welcoming and helpful. I am looking forward to joining the Scottish Rite Valley of Worcester and the Boston Consistory later this year. I hope to do a lot of traveling over the coming years and experience the Masonic art, architecture and fellowship in other areas as well.
Mark Twain, Author and Freemason. Mark Twain House & Museum. Hartford, CT, by Travis Simpkins
EL: Your work is an outstanding contribution to Freemasonry and the Fraternity is most fortunate to have had you join. Thank you again, for this interview. Bro. Travis’ portraits cost about $200 (for an 8×10 inch drawing) if you would like to get your own or get one as a gift. Phoenixmasonry will certainty keep an eye on your work to let our friends and fans know what you are up to in the future. Thank you everyone for reading!
David Lettelier. Founder of Phoenixmasonry Masonic Museum and Library, by Travis Simpkins
John Hancock, Freemason. St. Andrew’s Lodge. Boston, MA, by Travis Simpkins
Charles Lindbergh. Aviator, Author and Explorer. 1st Solo Flight Across Atlantic, by Travis Simpkins