American Freemasonry, Inner Traditions, Alain Keghel,

American Freemasonry – The Noble Goal

An interview with author Alain de Keghel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I remain modest in my ambition.

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

The Hour Glass

The Hour Glass

African American Freemasonry In The State Of New York 1812-2012
By Ezekiel M.Bey

A Review by:  Wor.  Bro. Frederic L. Milliken

Talented Prince Hall Masonic authors and writers are not as plentiful as grapes on the vine. So when one comes along we need to take notice and pay close attention to his works. Such a man is Ezekiel M. Bey whose latest book is “The Hour Glass, African American Freemasonry In The State Of New York 1812-2012.” The Hour Glass records the sands of time in the life of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of New York, the great men therein who shaped the world to come and the part Bey has played and continues to play in the development of Prince Hall Freemasonry in New York and the nation.

Ezekiel Bey is a writer, a Historian and a poet all rolled into one. He combines that unusual dual talent of being a great researcher and historian and a great writer at the same time. Bey is no esoteric closet intellectual, however. He is a Past Master and has served on the Grand Lodge Committee on Works & Lecture, the Committee on Masonic Education where he spent some time as Secretary and the office of Grand Historian from 2006-20011. He is a Fellow of the Phylaxis Society and has spent 10 years on its Commission on Bogus Masonry much of that time as its Deputy Director. At the same time he has served as editor in chief of his Grand Lodge’s publication, The Sentinel until 2008.

One of Bey’s pride and joys is the nationwide E-Group Blue Lite which he founded. A Prince Hall discussion and educational undertaking it has blossomed into one of the most active gatherings of Masons on the Internet. Recently he has added the Prince Hall Research & Information site Blue-

Ezekiel M. Bey

Ezekiel Bey has paid his dues. Now all that blood, sweat and tears – that hard work and dedication and honing of skills – has culminated in a fascinating work of Masonic history, The Hour Glass.

The Hour Glass begins where every other Prince Hall Masonic book doesn’t, with the Haitian Revolution, the revolt of African American slaves from 1791-1804. The connection here is by way of Freemason Jean Pierre Boyer who was to become the second President of Haiti. Sometime during this conflict when the US and France were fighting the Franco-American War he, and all the others on his French vessel, was captured by the American war ship Trumball and brought back to Connecticut as a prisoner of war. Discovering him to be a Mason they gave him a modem of freedom and then sent him to Pennsylvania where he was ultimately set free. Boyer who attended some Lodges while he was in Pennsylvania seems to have had a profound effect on all he came in contact with as New York’s first African American Lodge, African Lodge #459 New York chartered by African Lodge #459 Boston in 1812 soon changed its name to Boyer Lodge #1. After assuming the Presidency of Haiti Boyer welcomed a migration of freed Black Americans to his country.

Bey then takes us through the Underground Railroad and the part that early New York African American Freemasons played in that historical time after which there is a detailed account of the false information that the first African American Grand Lodge in New York was Boyer Grand Lodge supposedly formed in 1845. Upon due research Bey confirms that the first African American Grand Lodge in New York was The United Grand Lodge of the State of New York formed in 1848 which later changed its name to The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of the State of New York.

Next comes the painful experience of the National Grand Lodge or Compact as it was called. It was extremely stressful for New York as the United Grand Lodge of the State of New York never joined the Compact and its failure to do so resulted in the Compact attempting to expel the United Grand Lodge. Within Prince Hall Freemasonry the whole National Grand Lodge episode is a sore that will not heal. Remnants of the National Compact remain today but they are clandestine as many would say they always have been. While Mainstream Masonry also flirted with a National Grand Lodge at the same time it never pulled the trigger. Bey has contended that the whole National venture was illegal and he takes the reader through the steps of how this all came about.  The documentation he provides on the history of New York African American Freemasonry at this time and New York’s involvement with the Compact is outstanding. Any historian who would like to have a better understanding of this issue should refer to The Hour Glass.

What follows is a wealth of information on clandestine African American Freemasonry in New York. Bey takes us through the Committee on Clandestine Masonry and The Legal Committee reports at Grand Lodge Sessions 1954-1969. We learn who the players are, the measures taken by the MWPHGLNY to combat bogus Freemasonry and even about a court case filed against two bogus New York Masonic Grand Lodges.

From the 1962 report of the Legal Committee to the Grand Lodge:

Litigation was commenced against two of these spurious organizations in New York State about three years ago. In November of 1961, there was a trial involving your Grand Lodge and one of these spurious organizations. In January of this year, injunctive relief was secured against this organization known as the Supreme Council of the United States of the Sovereign Grand Inspectors General of the 33rd and Last Degree A.A. Scottish Rite. This was the first case of its kind in the State of New York, in which injunctive relief was granted to a Masonic organization, giving it the right to put the spurious organization out of business. Moreover, the decision specifically stated that Prince Hall Masonry was legitimate and that it had a prior or better right to practice Masonry as against the organization which was enjoined. Your Legal Committee reports that this organization is now out of business.

Bey has continued in the footsteps of Harry A Williamson and Joseph Walkes in association with the Phylaxis Society in educating the Craft and those seeking membership about the evils of Bogus Freemasonry. This remains a continuing battle against ignorance. The Hour Glass exposes each and every one of these clandestine organizations, names names, dates and places, for all to see.

No story would be complete without heroes. Bey, in addition to his mentor Joseph Walkes, chronicles the lives and contributions to Prince Hall Freemasonry of RW Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, Harry A Williamson and S. David Bailey.

Schomburg, a native of Puerto Rico, was a promoter of Spanish speaking Lodges within Prince Hall New York. He was a researcher, historian, writer and accumulator of many Masonic books and manuscripts. In 1911 with John A. Bruce he formed the Negro Society for Research. Schomburg was elected Grand Secretary in 1918 and served in that position through 1926.

Bey tells us:

Schomburg saved every bit of information that he could get his hands on and built an archive in which he donated to public libraries. He is the reason that today Freemasonry and the black struggle in America have a huge section in the New York City Public Library in Harlem. This spirit of saving information for our future influenced his good friend and Brother, R.W. Harry A. Williamson, Grand Historian of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of New York. It was Arthur Schomburg who encouraged Williamson to place his collection of over 800 books, manuscripts, photographs, periodicals, pamphlets, and scrapbooks in the N.Y.C. Public Library’s Division of Negro Literature, History and Prints.

By the year 1925, Schomburg had acquired over 5,000 books, pamphlets, manuscripts, etchings and many other items. When the Division of Negro Literature opened in the New York City Public Library on 135th Street in Harlem, Schomburg sold his collection for $10,000 to the Carnegie Corporation to be placed in the new library. Schomburg later became curator for the library in 1932 in the Division of Negro Literature, History and Prints. In memory of Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, the New York City Public Library in Harlem was renamed in 1973, “The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture”.

Another giant of Prince Hall New York that Bey writes about was Harry A Williamson. Grand Historian from 1911 through 1924 Williamson held many Grand Lodge offices including Senior Grand Warden and Deputy Grand Master and chaired many Grand Lodge Committees. He was a prolific writer and was an early crusader against Bogus Freemasonry in the state of New York.

The third legend from Prince Hall New York was S. David Bailey an accomplished jazz percussionist. Bey tells us that he had:

collaborations with most of the Ellington Alumni, such as Mercer Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Ben Webster, “Shorty” Baker, and Al Sears. David Bailey also played with Billy Taylor, Clark Terry, Bob Brookmeyer, Miles Davis, Chris Conner, Billie Holiday, Marian McPartland, Lucky Thompson, Lena Horn, Harry Bellefonte and the Gerry Mulligan Band(s) for 13 years until 1968 when he left to join the newly formed “Jazztet” featuring Art Farmer, Benny Golson,

But Bailey had another love – flying. Again we learn from Bey:

From 1968 to 1973, David worked with famed criminal attorney F. Lee Bailey as Vice President of Marshfield Aviation in Marshfield Airport, Massachusetts, 20 miles south of Boston. As Chief Pilot and flight instructor, and the attorney’s personal pilot, David flew the business Learjet in and out of Logan International Airport in Boston. Dave was also a Designated Pilot Examiner for the FAA in Boston as he was in New York. David enjoyed a good professional relationship and warm friendship with F. Lee Bailey.

But in a strange twist of career paths Bailey returned to his first love when he became Executive Director of Jazzmobile.

In Prince Hall Freemasonry Bailey became a District Deputy and his efforts in Masonic Instruction and Masonic Education became renowned. He headed up the first Grand Lodge Committee on Education and now 86 years old he can look back upon an illustrious Masonic career of 60 years.

It is difficult to know where you are going unless you know where you have been. The Hour Glass will prove to be a most valuable work for Prince Hall New York Masons to remember where they have been and to honor and treasure the memories of those who have gone before them.

It is vitally imperative that within the Craft records and archives are kept to show a clear path of what Freemasonry has stood for and what it has withstood throughout its history. Ezekiel Bey has been meticulous and detailed in his research for this book. The Hour Glass is both interesting and informative.

Not shy in expressing himself, Bey writes with a passion that jumps out at you from the pages of his book. His love for the Craft comes through loud and clear.

Moreover, Bey blazes a trail that other Prince Hall Grand Lodges should take. A chronicling of the history of any Grand Lodge casts in stone what defines that Masonic community and it is by such a work as this that a Grand Lodge can tackle the future with a mission statement in hand.

This is a monumental work that will be on every library shelf and in many a Mason’s bookcase. It should be in yours also.

Fred Milliken,Freemason Information,The Beehive

Telling Our Own Story: Wilbert M. Curtis Texas Prince Hall Library Museum Unveiled

The Beehive is proud to present the second  article on the Wilbert M. Curtis Library Museum  of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas opened this June, 2011. This article was written by the Grand Editor of The Grand Lodge Publication, “The Texas Prince Hall Freemason” and will appear in the Fall 2011 issue of that publication. We get to read it now. My thanks to Brother Burrell Parmer, Grand Editor, for a much more detailed article than I penned.

Telling Our Own Story:  Wilbert M. Curtis Texas Prince Hall Library Museum Unveiled

Story By:
Grand Editor Burrell Parmer (1)
Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas

FORT WORTH, Texas – By the authority vested in the office of the Grand Master and in accordance with the constitution of The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of Texas, the Honorable Wilbert M. Curtis hereby called all Prince Hall Masons of Texas into the Grand Lodge’s 136th Annual Grand Communication held at the Grand Masonic Temple, June 24 – 25.

On June 25, the Wilbert M. Curtis Texas Prince Hall Library Museum was officially opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony and name unveiling at the Grand Masonic Temple.

The Library Museum adds another repository for the collection of Prince Hall Masonic History in the city.  It will possess collections and preservation of Prince Hall Masonic History and activities in Tarrant County and throughout the state in the form of photos, paintings, books, articles, original lodge charters, cornerstones, ledgers, uniforms, a Lodge Room, etc.  Many of the items date back to the late 1800’s.

Government officials from Tarrant County and the Texas House of Representatives, officials from the Tarrant County Black Historical & Genealogical Society and the Fort Worth Public Library were in attendance.  Special guests included Grand Masters of Prince Hall Grand Lodges:  G.M. John Miller of Arizona, G.M. Arvin Glass of Tennessee, G.M. Cleveland Wilson of Arkansas, G.M. Anthony Stafford of Florida, and G.M. Deary Vaughn of Oklahoma, who also serves as the Sovereign Grand Commander, United Supreme Council, Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Prince Hall Affiliation, Southern Jurisdiction.

Every Texas Prince Hall Masonic Organization was represented to include Grand Worthy Matron Martha Wolridge and Grand Worthy Patron Robert B. Calloway Jr. of the Norris Wright Cuney Grand Chapter; Grand Most Ancient Matron Jackie Levingston and Grand Joshua Isaac Cary Sr. of the Grand High Court, Heroines of Jericho; Grand Princess Caption R. Lucille Samuel of the Lone Star Grand Guild, Heroines of the Templars Crusade;  State Grand Loyal Lady Ruler Shirley Gideon of the Texas Council of Assemblies, Order of the Golden Circle; Most Excellent Grand High Priest Willie Tate of the Most Excellent Prince Hall Grand Chapter, Holy Royal Arch Masonry; and Right Eminent Grand Commander Ronald Gerac of the Lone Star Grand Commandery of Knights Templar Masons of Texas.

After the opening prayer by Deputy Grand Chaplain Rev. F.D. Sampson Jr. and the occasion delivered by Grand Junior Warden Frank Jackson.  Grand Marshal Ronald Gerac made the Proclamation and the Consecration was then performed by Deputy G.M. Michael Anderson, Grand Senior Warden Bryce Hardin I, and G.J.W. Jackson overseen by the Hon. Edwin B. Cash, the only living Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge.

With the Consecration of corn, wine, and oil complete, G.M. Curtis with tears in his eyes cut the ceremonial ribbon and provided comments.

“We will now be able to tell our own story,” said G.M. Curtis.  “I hope that the city of Fort Worth, Tarrant County, and the state of Texas will embraced this Library Museum and utilize it as a research resource.”

“The Library Museum has been on the Trestle Board of the Grand Lodge for many years.  Now it has come to fruition,” said G.M. Curtis.  “Getting to this point of the grand opening has been a rewarding experience not only for me but also for the team members that assisted me.”

After G.M. Curtis comments, he opened the door to the Library Museum and guests began to pour in to view its treasures.

The original design of the Library Museum was conceived by Nicole Hawthorne, daughter of Past Master Benny Tucker, the Chairman of the Archives Committee.

Hawthorne, a graduate of Baylor University with a Bachelors of Art in Interior Design, had been performing interior design since 2007.  She was asked in June 2010 by her father to produce some drawings.

According to Hawthorne, she wanted to create something that reflected what the space would be used for.

“I wanted the look and feel of the area to resemble a turn-of-the-century, new world library.  The antiquated, over-sized portraits displayed there were inspiration for the rest of the design and everything else branched from them,” said Hawthorne.  “The design of the Library Museum was intended to be like a time capsule with a rich historic atmosphere.”

G.J.W. Jackson, who also serves as the Grand Lodge Historian, provided background on the Library Museum’s conception.

“The Library Museum is a labor of love, it came from a vision by G.M. Curtis and we are thankful for him and his leadership.  One thing that alarmed us was that we were losing a lot of our history and archives at a very disturbing rate,” said G.J.W. Jackson.  “If we were to look forward from today, maybe 50 to 100 years, it will be highly likely that people will know our story and I truly believe that you cannot really tell the story of Texas without telling the story of The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas.”

“We are proud of our legacy, we are proud of our heritage.  If we don’t tell our story, no one is going to tell it for us,” said G.J.W. Jackson.  “We have numerous materials. We haven’t even been able to go through all the archives, and materials are still being donated.

Currently the Library Museum only shows you just a glimpse of our treasures.  So when people come here, we want them to see the vision that our Grand Master has shared with us and for researchers to see the culture and history that Prince Hall Masons have contributed to the great state of Texas.”

The mission of the Wilbert M. Curtis Texas Prince Hall Library Museum is as follows:

  • To collect, organize, describe, make available, and preserve primary and secondary resource materials emphasizing the historical documentation of the M.W.P.H.G.L. of Texas and its impact on the cultural milieu on the broader local communities, the state of Texas, the Jurisdictions under its authority and the larger expanse of human kind.
  • To provide adequate facilities for the retention and preservation of such records.
  • To serve as a resource and research center to stimulate and promote creative teaching and learning through the use of primary research materials; and provide instruction in the use of those materials.
  • To promote research and scholarship by providing access and encouraging the use of its collections by members of the Masonic Family and the public at large.
  • To implement records management by formulating policy and procedures that will ensure the collection and preservation of the Library Museum’s materials.

The Library Museum is available to the public by appointment Monday thru Thursday from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.  Information about the Library Museum can be obtained by contacting the Grand Lodge Office at 817-534-4612 or by visiting



The Wilbert M. Curtis Texas Prince Hall Library Museum, located in the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge Free and Accepted Masons of Texas & Jurisdiction’s (M.W.P.H.G.L.) Grand Temple,  at 3433 Martin Luther King Freeway, Fort Worth, Texas 76101 serves as the final repository for the historical records of the Grand Lodge, and as an archival repository for historical materials documenting the history of selective Texas Prince Hall Masons Masonic achievements related to:  (1) the cultural history (to include the political, social, economic, religious, histories etc.) of the state of Texas and the Jurisdictions under the authority of the M.W.P.H.G.L. of Texas, (2) the activities and services rendered by the local Lodges to their respective communities, (3) the general interests, activities and services rendered to numerous communities within the state of Texas under the authority of the M.W.P.H.G.L. of Texas by its Appendant & Concordant Bodies.

The Library Museum welcomes gifts of books, papers, manuscripts, photographs, artwork, records, audio tapes, video tapes, maps, pamphlets, scrapbooks, oral history, memorabilia, and other archival records of historical value which will enhance the teaching, learning, research and service of the members affiliated with M.W.P.H.G.L. of Texas and or is interested in the advancement of knowledge related to Free Masonry.

Mission Statement:

The mission of the Wilbert M. Curtis Texas Prince Hall Library Museum is as follows:

  • To collect, organize, describe, make available, and preserve primary and secondary resource materials emphasizing the historical documentation of the M.W.P.H.G.L. of Texas and its impact on the cultural milieu on the broader local communities, the state of Texas, the Jurisdictions under its authority and the larger expanse of human kind.
  • To provide adequate facilities for the retention and preservation of such records
  • To serve as a resource and research center to stimulate and promote creative teaching and learning through the use of primary research materials; and provide instruction in the use of those materials.
  • To promote research and scholarship by providing access and encouraging the use of its collections by members of the Masonic Family and the public at large.
  • To implement records management by formulating policy and procedures that will ensure the collection and preservation of the Library Museum’s materials.

Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge
Free & Accepted Masons of Texas Prince Hall Masonry in Texas:

Under the leadership of Captain W.D. Mathews, Most Worshipful Grand Master of Kansas, Lodges of Free and Accepted Masons were established in Texas in 1871 and 1873 to wit:

San Antonio Lodge No. 22 – Magnolia Lodge No. 24 – Mt. Bonnell Lodge No. 2
Galveston Lodge No. 25 – Mt. Lebanon Lodge No. 26

These were the first Negro Free and Accepted Masonic Lodges organized in Texas.

In the early part of June 1875, Norris Wright Cuney, Deputy Grand Master, and Richard Allen, District Deputy Grand Master, acting under the authority of the Kansas Jurisdiction, issued a call requesting the above named Lodges to send representatives on August 19, 1875, to meet with Mount Lebanon Lodge No. 26, located in Brenham, Texas.  The purpose was to organize then the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Texas.

Key Facts:

  • On August 20, 1875, the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge Free and Accepted Ancient York Masons of the state of Texas was organized in Brenham, Texas.
  • The first Grand Master of Prince Hall Masons in Texas was the Hon. Norris Wright Cuney.
  • The first 5 Prince Hall Lodges in Texas were charted by the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Kansas.
  • On June 28, 1950, the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge Free and Accepted Ancient York Masons of the state of Texas was renamed to The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge Free and Accepted Masons of Texas.
  • The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas is a descendant of the first Prince Hall Grand Lodge.
  • From 1875 to 1906, the Prince Hall Grand Lodge had no permanent meeting place.  Its annual meetings were held in various cities in Texas.  In 1906, Fort Worth became the Prince Hall Grand Lodge’s permanent home.
  • 20 Grand Masters have served the Prince Hall Grand Lodge; currently the Hon. Wilbert M. Curtis currently presides as Grand Master.
  • There are 160 Prince Hall Lodges in Texas with more than 3,000 members.
  • Concordant Bodies of the M.W.P.H.G.L. of Texas include:
    • Most Excellent Prince Hall Grand Chapter Holy Royal Arch Masons
    • Lone Star Grand Commandery Knights Templar Masons
    • Orient of Texas, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite Masons
    • Appendant Bodies of the M.W.P.H.G.L. of Texas include:
      • Norris Wright Cuney Grand Chapter
      • Prince Hall Grand High Court Heroines of Jericho
      • Lone Star Grand Guild Heroines of the Templar Crusade
      • Order of the Golden Circle Auxiliary to the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry


The Complete Lodge Secretary


The Complete Lodge Secretary

The Complete Lodge Secretary

Lewis Masonic is one of those publishing houses that seem to pull from a limitless well of ideas to produce work that is both timely and informative and their latest book, The Complete Lodge Secretary, is exactly that: timely and informative.

To say its a must have is a difficult for anyone not sitting to the Worshipful Masters left hand side, but this jewel of a resource, written by Gordon G. Hunt, goes miles to explain the minutia of the day to day work on the secretaries desk.

The Complete Lodge Secretary is written principally from a UK perspective, but the lessons and organization it suggests is a valuable resource for anyone who has ever thought about how to organize a lodges, the records management behind it, and the etiquette to be held while in the lodge (Ch 10.7 Misbehaviour in Lodge).  Something I liked is that it went into detail on the unexpected surprises to beware of with helpful suggestions on what to do in their event – the lesson: BE PREPARED!

A strength of the book is that it puts a terrific emphasis on the fact that the Lodge Secretary is manager of the lodge.  By saying that, what The Complete Lodge Secretary says is that no matter what the circumstance or issue, the Lodge Secretary is both knowledgeable and well prepared to resolve it, at the will and pleasure of the Worshipful Master of course.

You can find The Complete Lodge Secretary on Amazon, or from Lewis Masonic directly.

The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power

The Family – Jesus Plus Nothing equals P (J+0=P)

The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power

The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power

What would you say if I told you that a secret cabal of ultra fundamental extremists were secretly at the heart of the American government?  And what if I said to you that the very same secret cabal has held power and sway for near on the last century, with its present zenith starting in the  last 50 years, and now at its most powerful, its voice is a capable vehicle to the extermination of several hundred thousand people on the basis if helping those you consider family.  Such a cabal would be a frightening and dangerous monster, especially as each and every would be political player pays some homage to them and their power. And, to make it even more unfathomable, at its reigns is one man, an American Pope if you will, who wields this groups girth and influence with a few words of encouragement and an occasional memorandum in the right places and at the right time.

Before I read the book, I was skeptical myself, but having just finished Jeff Shartlet’s non-fiction, The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, I was immediately struck by the connections he draws, all based on a who’s who road map of American political power elite today. What made it more interesting was that this power structure didn’t meet in dark smoky alleys, or in secret liars with special knocks and hand gestures.  To the contrary, the members of this cabal meet at the local church down the street (when they attend church) or in your weekday prayer meeting. The Family, is the story of the real American right, whose actions and activities overshadow even the most elaborate fantastical connections of the Illuminati.

The argument that Sharlet presents is that the present day organization behind the


Jonathan Edwards

Fellowship Foundation (the subject of the book) has a traceable lineage to 1735, which started in a less than ubiquitous fashion under a pastor named Jonathan Edwards, socially and ideologically an early architect of “the Great Awakening,” which was an early colonial religious passion movement.  For its time it created a type of zealotry that some of his congregants, reportedly, began to hear voices that instructed them to “slit their own throats.”  For their zeal, Shartlet says that “Edwards staked out a political position as well as a spiritual one, a subtly elitist conception of knowledge as a property to be possessed in different portions according to a divine hierarchy. The wise man of Christ knows that only to some does God give a calling, the power to draw closer to Him and understand His grand plan.” What it seems to of created, however, was a ferocious case of “the emperors new cloths”, as most in the growing following wanted to be an awoken to hear the message. Following these events, Edwards was purged from his congregation in 1750 for the destruction he had wrought on the “Puritan order”, something they would never reclaim. It was Edwards, who’s ideas of an unrestrained Christ could be intimately contacted (and heard) and an unrelenting wild energy which made his religiosity the prime shaper of things to come, especially as his religion looked to rebuild a Jerusalem from the wilderness, the Great Awakening had begin.

Charles Grandison Finney

Charles Grandison Finney

From there, the book jumps forward in time to a spiritual descendant of Edwards, found in Charles Grandison Finney, whose populist revivals across the North East America and Britain led him to construct the first mega church seating 2,500 in 1832 (called the Broadway Tabernacle), and the hand behind the Second Great Awakening. Finney ‘s oratory and presence were such, Sharlet writes, that “‘under my preaching,…judges and lawyers and educated men were converted by the scores.”  Finney’s message found its way into the minds of the most receptive who were “the new little big men of the nation, the petit bourgeoisie, physicians, inventors, entrepreneurs, self-made men, and their wives” wealthier than the old Puritan aristocracy. Interesting to note that this is the period following the Morgan Affair (in 1825) where those self same followers of Finney were leaving in droves the temples of Freemasonry. Finney’s connection to Edwards style of Awakening began in 1821 upon his own decision to either believe or not believe (in a very Shakespearean fashion) and it was in his revelation in hearing the voice of the divine which immediately solidified his as an evangelist.  Finney’s conversion mirrored the conversions experience by Edwards, the intimate relationship with the divine, the aspect of communicating (hearing, feeling, exchanging) in a physical and tactile way with the spirit of the divine.  Essentially, he experienced the “before God, you are nothing” state of being.  The eventual message behind Finney was simple “‘knowing your duty, you have one thing to do, PERFORM IT.'”  Finney’s faith became “faith enacted” the “exerted influence to secure to secure a legislation that is in accordance with the law of God”  Finney’s was both an individual encounter with Jesus and the mass contagion of the anxious pew.

Finney also happened to be a Freemason before leveling his own charges against it, perhaps to pull from the growing discontent following the Morgan Affair.

The history of The Family next turns to Abraham Vereide, a immigrant Norwegian, who next takes the reins of this awakened idea of evangelism crafting it into his own Fellowship Foundation, through a  dubious power struggle, to the contrary, through the simple vision from a divine source to work to help those who are in the best position to help those in need.

Vereide emigrated to America in 1905 and eventually settled in Seattle in 1906/7 where he was given the vision, Sharlet says, that to the big man went strength, to the little man went need.  “‘Only the big man was capable of mending the world,'” said Vereide who realized that “to help such [wretched] creatures, the derelicts, the failures” he would help “those who could help them – the high and mighty – that they might distribute the Lord’s blessings to the little men, whose envy would be soothed, violence averted, and disorder controlled.”

It’s important to say that Vereide was very much pro business, and not a proponent of labor.  It was in his early wrangling of local prominent business men that his calling of a top down change was what was necessary, to make things right.  What he sought, (such that his supporters firmly believed), was the remedying of the economic ills afflicting the nation (this was the period of the Great Depression) which were caused “by disobedience to divine laws” with the ideal solution being a “revival of genuine religion…a return to prayer and the bible”, and if not “we are headed for chaos.”  The leaders of industry were more than ready to steer the entire nation back onto a godly (non union/pro capitalism) path.  It was in this period, and the spread of the movement, that a decided fear of Marxism and Socialism crept into this new conservative Christianity, omitting the ideals in the bible of community (communal-ism) and  social justice.  This was a top down theology, a wealthy mans ideal of Christ, rather than the view of a redeemer, capitalizing on the idea of conviction with out the efficacy of why.

From the the February 18, 1960 Presidential Prayer Breakfast. From left to right – Abraham Vereide, organizer of the prayer breakfast movement; President Dwight D. Eisenhower; William Jones, a California businessman and host of the breakfast. Image from Wheaton College

Vierde’s power grew and his connections expanded all the way to Washington D.C. as Vereide ‘s key business men expanded from the Seattle elite to the Washington State elite, carrying his name and work to those in Federal houses in the east. Vereide ‘s spiritual influence, Sharlet suggests, was such as to break union bosses to the will of the pious business men and focused to eradicate the New Deal of FDR. Sharlet goes into great detail about the close following Vereide gave to the busting of union strikes and his affectionate leanings  towards Hitler’s socialism (this was pre-World War II and the Nazi atrocities and many American business men found resonance with the Nazi socialism movement for its effectiveness in organization and production. Such was the case that entrepreneur Henry Ford, it’s said, had exchanged portraits with Adolf which he hung on his office wall).  Vereide ‘s outlook was very straight forward, that “‘Top Men’ had a responsibility to do for God what lesser men couldn’t. Their failure to take on this burden has led the nation to its terrible position.  ‘Obedience’, concluded Abram is ‘the way to power.'” And that, duty as “obedience,” was/is at the heart of this present tense fundamentalism, but not necessarily an envisioned obedience from Jesus, but from a less distinct organization of key men who are, in a sense, doing the work of Jesus, with the expectation of obedience to their instruction. It’s this formula that led to Vereide organizing the still functioning National Prayer Breakfast which, Sharlet reports, created a networking group of like minded individuals to congregate and network in the very heart of American political power.

In Vereide ‘s time, his organization grew and multiplied into several smaller units branching into “cells” which would grow and disseminate their ideals to those interested in a wide and diverse way some examples cited include prayer circles, outreach organizations, residential homes, and similar prayer meetings abroad. In this same period, Vereide ‘s sentiment and leadership dovetailed with the growing rise of anti-communism (but with a healthy dose of admiration for Nazi socialism) that eventually guided the creation of the red-scare film “The Blob” in 1958, all with the goal of striking the fear of communal work to that of individualism, an ideal that still pervades today.

Following Vereide, Sharlet’s work follows the transition of leadership to Doug Coe, who in taking a greater leadership role, began to grow it into an international fellowship, one that worked intimately with the U.S. State Department (if at times covertly) and did its best to make international connections with the “key men” from around the world, stimulating prayer meetings to discuss the idea of this corporate model of Jesus vs. the communal savior of antiquity. This was the new model Christian Soldier, not evangelizing to the downtrodden, but to the down-trotters, the policy makers and enforcers of the world.

Siad Barre

Their vision became less the body of Christ and more the corporate ideal of his word with the goal of shaping the international world into the Christian model that they want so desperately to shape the U.S.A.  Sharlet details the connections (with evidential reference) to the Somalia genocide under Siad Barre, who was an intimate “Family” member who happened to exterminate hundreds of thousands of people. The Vereide/Coe “Family” organization didn’t provide the means for the Aiad Barre regime, but it facilitated the connections with the U.S. government to facilitate his activities, which in itself is an example of the power behind this “New World Order” (remember, a term Sharlet says was coined by Vereide) organization (the author goes into detail in how the “Family” was tied to the murder of more than 500,000 Indonesians under Suharto in 1965).

Under Coe, Sharlet writes, The Family is of such influence that both conservatives and liberals take their lead citing instances where both Al Gore and Hilary Clinton refer to him in their decision making processes. Gore, Sharlet says, invokes Coe to end a challenge by Senator James Inhofe in 2007.  Its easy to see in the glimpses Sharlet provides of the power that the The Family wields but even easier to see the power in the spaces between the examples.  In 1966, Sharlet explains, Coe instructed the core of the organization to “submerge” erasing all outward appearance of an organization, taking it back to Vereide’s original vision of a “backroom brotherhood,” and today very little outward expression of it exists.

Ultimately, the way in which Sharlet defines the prevailing ideal principals, as evolved from Edwards, Finney, Vereide, and under Coe’s pastoral, a Czarist leadership was as a Jesus plus nothing ideal which is a formula to exclude a dogmatic understanding of the Christ, and stripping him out of the literal text to instead use the literal interpretation of him as an entrepreneurial force to build following under what the ideal of his being would be, if the textual version could be re-written and re-fashioned.  The religious context of The Family became the Jesus plus nothing equation, It was the idealized spirit of the Jesus figure as envisioned by the leadership and communicated down to the duty bound.  What the Jesus + 0 equaled was Power: J+0=P with the power being the loyalty of a duty bound following to the same singular vision.

I highly recommend reading The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power.  It is a rich and complex narrative that at times meanders, but only to make the details of the point that much more sound.  Sharlet leaves no stones unturned (at least of those he could find) and presents the evidence in a manner for the reader to make any judgments for themselves.  The depth to which that he has traced the Family will surprise even the most skeptical readers and give pause to reconsider the ramifications of just such a networked body, a contingent whose ideal of a Jesus plus nothing else, no history, no orthodoxy, no church, nor bible, is a powerful thing.  No matter where you land on this, agreeing or disagreeing with the ideals behind it, I think you will definitely take something away from this book.

You can find The Family – The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power on Amazon.

Freemasonry the Reality, a review.

Freemasonry - The Reality

Freemasonry – The Reality

Tobias Churton is a prolific Masonic author and one I’ve come to hold in high esteem.  For many, he may not be a regular household name as his work (and residence) come from abroad in the U.K. and in an dense American marketplace of books, his work is less well known here.  Nevertheless, its importance is megalithic which is very much evident in his re-released book Freemasonry – The Reality.

Churton is not just a Freemason writing on the fraternity, he also happens to be a scholar and professor at Exeter university, Lecturer in Freemasonry and Rosicrucian’s at the Center for the Study of Western Esotericism.  Churton’s published works span the breadth of western mystery traditions encompassing the early Gnostics, Rosicrucian’s, and Freemasons, which pull together many of the offshoots and ideas that went into the composition of the groups today.  Churton’s work however is less about dazzling aggrandizement of a mysterious past, focusing instead on the known and with a meticulous hand, reconstructing the holes of the fraternities formation.

In Freemasonry – The Reality, Churton leaves no stone unturned and with his meticulous hand reconstructs the modern day mystery tradition from its most extreme foundational stones buried in the footnotes of history, following each loose thread back into the whole garment of the present day craft.  But in this work he also refuses to hold back any punches in his analysis that our present manifestation of the craft is every bit a result of our manufactured past, from the clever arrangement of James Anderson and the constitutions of 1720 and the marrying of the “Speculative” with the “Operative” tracing back the foundation of Masonries earliest of ideas to the early Renaissance work of author Pico Mirandola and the Oration on the Dignity of Man.

One aspect that stood out to me in crisp detail was the way in which Churton pulls together in several seemingly unrelated bits of history and finds their common connection that brings them into a coherent theme.  From early meeting notes, names on a register, royal archives on the guilds, and diary mentions, each of these bread crumbs become the framework by which he assembles the whole work.  By digging deep into symbols that at one time held great significance, and in his work he re-illuminates them so as to demystify and put them back into a proper perspective.  Case in point, the pentagram, reminding the reader of the earlier Masonic appellation (under Robert Moray) to represent AGAPA (or the Greek word agapein), or love, a geometric perfection.

In the end, the work is extensive and covers thoroughly the origins of Freemasonry and delves specifically (as the name implies) into the reality of the its formation and pre-history.  It is not an easy read, or to be taken casually.  Rather Churton’s work is something to be savored and consumed slowly and with great thought, because every page is a sequential feast of Masonic history waiting to be consumed.

Freemasonry – The Reality is published by Lewis Masonic and is available on Amazon.

Publisher and Br. Michael Poll of Cornerstone Publishing on Masonic Central

studyEver stop to think for a few moments where some of your favorite Masonic books and imprints come from?  Or how certain books get published (or don’t end up in print)?  What about e-books, or that really rare hard to find text that you heard mentioned once, but can’t seem to find?

This week on Masonic Central we step out side of the electronic publishing world and into the traditional publishing one as we host a very special guest in publisher and author Michael Poll, who is the owner of Cornerstone Book Publishers and its retail site Lost Word.

Missed the live show?  Listen Now!

Br. Michael’s dedicated work to the Masonic community has included services such as: original content and reprint publisher, used book seller and search service, and gift item and ephemera supplier, all the while remaining a small family run store.  In addition to his work in publishing Masonic books, he has published two of his own including Masonic Words and Phrases, and The Freemasons Key – A Study of Masonic Symbolism.

In addition to several lodge memberships, Michael is also a Founding Fellow and 1st Vice-President of The Masonic Society, a Fellow of the Philalethes Society and a contributor to Heredom, the publication of the Scottish Rite Research Society.

Join us as we meet and talk to Br. Michael Poll this Sunday, December 6th, starting at 6pm PDT / 9pm EST. We encourage your questions and comments to the show by calling (347) 677-0936 during the program.

The show goes live promptly at the hour. On Blog Talk Radio at 6pm PST/9pm EST.

Download the program.

Listen to Masonic Central on Blog Talk Radio

The Occult Bookstore – Chicago


Few book stores really give you whatyou pay for, and even fewer don’t sport a big box name that you can recall on opposite ends of the continent.  In Los Angeles, its rare to find a unique book store that really delivers what its name implies.  In fact, I can only think of one here in LA, and that’s the Bodhi Tree in West LA.

What I stumbled onto today is the home site for a new store that opened (re-opened) in the Great Lakes region, and I only wish I were closer to drop in and check it out for myself.  If your anywhere near Chicago Illinois, I would highly recommend stopping in and spending some time at the Occult Bookstore in Chicago, Il., and if you do, drop me a line and give me the details.

But it really is a rare find these days, even in enlightened cities , to find a store that caters to the esoteric and occult at least in so many words.

From the site:

Occult Co. is a historic occult business based in and operated out of Chicago, IL. For years, we’ve made it our mission to immerse ourselves in the study and practical applications of metaphysics and occult practices. Our specialty lies in Rare / Antique Artifacts (inc. books, tribal fetishes, relics, occult art, ancient rites, and living stones).

…our business has experienced growth and expansion so that our rare magicio-sacred items are now available worldwide. Regardless of where you live – whether surrounded by urban sprawl or secluded in the depths of remote locales – you now have access to the supernatural potential of our high quality magickal items, some of which until now, have been unavailable anywhere in the United States.

Their webstore is do up any day now, and I can’t wait to see what they have in the mix.

What really strikes me is that the store is an oddity in a landscape made exotic by Starbucks Coffee houses housed inside of Barnes and Nobles book stores, or chairs and benches strewen about in Borders.  A store like this is something I’ve contemplated opening on more than one occasion myself, so I’m glad that I’m not the only one thinking about these things and that they still have a commercial presence.  There is just something about thumbing through a book on meditation and magick rather than “Looking Inside” through the virtual Amazon store.

So, iff your nearby, the Occult Booktore is located on Milwaukee Ave near Ashland and Division in Chicago IL and I encourage you to take a trip and check it out.

And, if your not close by, check out the Occult Bookstore Website.

In the mean time, what book stores do you recommend that cater to your esoteric proclivities?

Haunted Chambers, the lives of early women Freemasons.

Haunted Chambers by Karen Kidd

Haunted Chambers by Karen Kidd

Join Masonic Central this Sunday, June 28th at 6pm PDT / 9pm EDT as we meet and talk to Br. Karen Kidd, the author of the new book Haunted Chambers: The Lives of Early Women Freemasons.

The topic of the program is a haughtily debated one, and certain not to be decided in the time we spend in the program.  But we will discuss the book, some of the notable history of Feminine Freemasonry, and perhaps explore what that means today.

Missed the live program? Listen Now!

From the site:

These women aren’t supposed to have existed.

But they did.

Haunted Chambers“, for the first time ever, presents not only the most complete list of early women Freemasons but also as much detail about their lives as can still be found. Here are their stories, long suppressed, ignored and marginalized. They include medieval women stone cutters; so-called “adoptive” women Freemasons; an aristocrat; a countess; an early New Brunswick settler; a war hero; a writer of women’s rights; an immigrant Irish girl; the famed sculptress of Abraham Lincoln’s statue in the US Capitol Rotunda and many whose names are now lost.

Some will find this book a challenge. Some would rather it never had been written, let alone published. “Haunted Chambers” is highly recommended to anyone who wants the actual history of these early women Freemasons and aren’t afraid to read it.

This is a special hour and a half long program on Masonic Central on Sunday June 28th starting at 6pm PDT/9pm EDT to explore the dark and mysterious Haunted Halls of history and its impact on Freemasonry today.   In the last half hour we will open a segment for your questions and comments to the author live on the air.  To ask your questions call: (347) 677-0936 during the program.

You can listen to the program live from our home at Blog Talk Radio here and join in with our live program chat, or from our player widget on our website at


>>Download the Program

The Origins of Freemasonry & Revolutionary Brotherhood

I have never reviewed two books together before but there is a good reason for doing so. The Origins of Freemasonry: Facts and Fictions by Margaret C. Jacob and Revolutionary Brotherhood by Steven Bullock are both written by historians who are not Freemasons.  They both write from the same point of view, that is they look at the world through the same discipline that they were trained in.  Both books are a look at Freemasonry’s interaction with society, of the Craft’s effect on the political, religious and economic systems of a nation and the reverse, the effect of the systems on Freemasonry.  In fact in reading both books I felt as if I was back in college in SOC 101. The full title of Bullocks book is Revolutionary Brotherhood, Freemasonry and the Transformation of the American Social Order, 1730-1840.” The Origins of Freemasonry: Facts and Fictions and Bullock are looking at Freemasonry through the eyes of a Sociologist and they are dispassionate, objective observers because they are not members of the Craft. They have no agenda driving them nor do they care if Freemasonry doesn’t come out always smelling like roses. It’s about time we Freemasons got some scholarly work from knowledgeable academics who are not members of Freemasonry.

The Origins of Freemasonry: Facts and Fictions said it best when she penned these words:

“When entering the world of the eighteenth-century Masonic life the historian must assume a willing suspension of disbelief. How else are we to understand why women and men would devote many hours a month, spend lavishly in the process, and covet the opportunity to participate formally in quasi-religious, yet secular ceremonies that we can only dimly imagine as meaningful and satisfying.”

Jacob's Origin of Freemaosnry
Jacob’s Origin of Freemaosnry

Both books deal primarily with 18th century Freemasonry, although Bullock does stretch it out to the pre Civil War period.  Both discuss the origins of Freemasonry and then go on to trace the Craft’s development through the various changes in society and how that influenced Freemasonry.  But also there is the recognition that perhaps the development of Freemasonry influenced the changes in society.  There is the age old question of which comes first the chicken or the egg and both authors are more interested in cataloging the steps of development rather than making a referee’s ruling on who gets the most credit.

The Origins of Freemasonry: Facts and Fictions sticks pretty much to European Freemasonry and Bullock to American (U.S.A.) Freemasonry yet each must venture into the other’s sphere to make the story complete.

The Origins of Freemasonry: Facts and Fictions has five chapters, abbreviated as follows- Origins, Daily Lives, Schools of Government, Freemasons and the Marketplace, and Women in Freemasonry. The book makes a number of good points so let’s look at those.

As a historian The Origins of Freemasonry: Facts and Fictions firmly asserts that the origin of Freemasonry was a transition from Masonic guild to modern speculative Freemasonry. She tells us that early notable Freemasons such as Sir Robert Moray and Elias Ashmole, “may have believed that masonry put him (them) closer to the oldest tradition of ancient wisdom, associated with Hermes, out of which mathematics and the mechanical arts were said to have nourished.” Freemasonry claiming origins from the Knights Templars or Rosicrucians is just fantasy run amuck. As a side comment she addresses the modern demise of Freemasonry because, “Voluntary associations that radically crossed class lines have largely disappeared, replaced by advocacy groups or professional associations.”

She goes on to say that it was new market forces that caused an evolution of guild decline and disappearance.  Only the British stonemasons were able to survive, largely because they had a “richness of lore and traditions” and they were highly skilled.

As commerce and business were conducted in a new manner causing the old guilds to wane, surviving stonemasons guilds took on non laborers for needed monetary gain and thus as a means of survival. Gentlemen Freemasons soon overtook the membership of Lodges and were in charge of their operative Brethren.  “Suddenly, whole initiation ceremonies were created to install the master in his ‘chair’.”

These revamped guilds now half speculative Lodges instituted “degrees” by which its operative and non-practicing Brethren might be distinguished from each other.  There came about a marked gain in literacy and the Lodges performed a great amount of charitable work that society and the government had not yet equipped itself to do.

“In town and city the power of the old guilds to regulate wags and labor had now been broken.  But the collectivist definition of liberty and equality inherent in guild culture could be given new meaning.  It could now pertain to the aspirations of the political nation.  Voters and magistrates could meet within the egalitarian shell provided by the guild shorn of its economic authority and in most cases of its workers.  In the new Masonic lodges urban gentlemen, as well as small merchants and educated professionals, could practice fraternity, conviviality, and civility while giving expression to a commonly held social vision of their own liberty and equality.  They could be free-marketeers while hedging their debts.  By bonding together through the fraternal embrace, they sought refuge from harsh economic realities if bad fortune made poverty seem inevitable.”

Another theme in the book is that manner in which Lodges and Grand Lodges governed themselves not only paved the way for these methods to be adopted by civil society but it was good practice or training for those who would fill those civil roles. In England she says that government and society first started modern democratic reforms that spread to Freemasonry.

“Now seen to be enlightened, Masonic practices such as elections, majority rule, orations by elected officials, national governance under a Grand Lodge, and constitutions – all predicated on an ideology of equality and merit – owed their origin to the growth of parliamentary power, to the self-confidence of British urban merchants and landed gentry, and not least, to a literature of republican idealism. The English Revolution was the framework within which Masonic constitutionalism developed.”

But not so for the rest of Europe.

“The lodges brought onto the Continent distinctly British forms of governance: constitutions, voting by individual, and sometimes secret ballot, majority rule, elected officers, ‘taxes’ in the form of dues, public oratory, even courts for settling personal disputes; eventually the lodges even sent representatives to organized Grand Lodges.”

The last chapter traces women in Freemasonry from the beginnings in the 1740s as Adoptive Lodges started to form through the end of the 18th century. Jacob makes the point that if it was important for men to gain experience in democratic self government through participating in the workings of Lodges and Grand Lodges that it was doubly so for women.  Women in the public sphere at this time had no freedom or ability to influence anything.  It was only in a private venue that women could gain some measure of control over their lives and influence others.

And so Jacob credits the Adoptive Lodges with giving women the start on the road to feminism.  First the Lodge, followed by the Salons and then the Republican Clubs. Jacob takes us through the constant development and refinement of the Adoptive ritual each step along the way women having more control over the Lodge practices.

“Like the salons, then, the lodges of adoption may be presented as entry points to the organizing concepts of the Enlightenment.  The lodges become ‘secret’ places where women’s power and merit grew and were expressed through elaborate ceremonies (many of them published), and where large numbers of women first expressed what we may legitimately describe as early feminism.”

I found the Origins of Freemasonry to be less about the origins and more an 18th century development of European Masonry. The first thing the book could use is a better title. For such a lofty and inclusive work the book was quite short, 132 pages not counting appendixes.  I found Chapter 2 that dwelt on Masonic diaries to be unappealing and not very informative. Jacob says that she put the book together from expanding and revising some earlier essays.  I get the feeling that they might have been lectures or speeches or classroom professorial treatises that were added onto. The writing seemed choppy and the themes sometimes overlapping.  For instance in chapter one, Origins, much time and words were devoted to the thoughts of Chapter three, Schools of government and Chapter five, Women in Freemasonry.  This often happens when you are lecturing and continuing on from week to week in the same vein.  Of course that may not be the case but I just get that feeling.

Yet there were many good points made about Freemasonry and historical observations that were top notch. Margaret C. Jacob is an eminent historian and she knows what she is talking and writing about. This was a nice little scratching of the surface. What it could or should have been is a 500 page exhaustive study. Let’s just say I appreciated the author’s mind but I just didn’t like the presentation.

Revolutionary Brotherhood is a much more extensive work of 319 pages not counting appendixes.  Steven Bullock outlined in the Introduction exactly what the book was going to contain.  After reading the entire book cover to cover that outline is the best summation of what Revolutionary Brotherhood is all about.

“This work seeks to understand the appeal of Masonry for eighteenth – and early nineteenth century Americans and, from that perspective, to illuminate the society and culture that first nurtured and then rejected it.”

“Such an examination makes clear that Masonry, rather than being entirely separate from the world, changed dramatically in conjunction with it. Four major shifts in the fraternity and its context are examined, in chronological sections.  The story begins with the fraternity’s creation in England and its transit to colonial America, where it helped provincial elites separate themselves from the common people and build solidarity in a time of often bitter factional divisions (Part I). These leaders, however, would be overtaken in the Revolutionary period as lesser men appropriated the fraternity for their own purposes, spreading it to inland leaders as well as Continental army officers (Part II). These changes prepared the way for the period of Masonry’s greatest power and prestige, the years from 1790 to 1826, when Americans used Masonry to respond to a wide range of needs, including their hopes for an enlightened Republic, their attempts to adapt to a mobile and increasingly commercial society, and their desire to create a separate refuge from this confusing outside world (Part III). This multiplication of uses involved Masonry in conflicting and even contradictory activities and ideas, a situation that exploded in the midst of a widespread attempt to reform and purify American society based on the principles of democracy and evangelicalism.  The resulting Antimasonic movement virtually destroyed Masonry in the North and crippled it in the South.  The fraternity revived in the 1840s and 1850s but without the high pretensions to public honor and influence that had made it seem so overwhelming to men such as Salem Town (Part IV).”

Bullocks Revolutionary Brotherhood
Bullock’s Revolutionary Brotherhood

What is so eye opening and important about this book is the realization that American Freemasonry was not always this monolithic, never wavering, never changing institution.  Freemasons today sometimes try to paint the Craft as always being this or always being that when in reality Freemasonry was always changing.  And that says a lot about what the future might hold for American Freemasonry as it may very well be going through another period of significant reinvention of itself.

Bullock gets us briefly started in merry old England to lay the background for the exportation of Freemasonry to the American colonies.

“Speculative Masonry developed within the London intellectual and social circles that surrounded Newton, partaking of the same confusions, the same mixing of traditions that marked him and his Masonic friends such as Stukeley and Desaguliers.  The origins of the fraternity lay in the encounter between these cosmopolitan groups and operative Masons’ mysterious heritage and practices. To protect the antiquity they perceived there and the hope for a deeper knowledge of universal truth, early speculative brothers created a powerful organization and a regular series of degrees that reaffirmed the link between the new group and ancient wisdom.”

What Bullock is telling us here which is so fascinating is that while modern speculative Freemasonry grew out of the operative Guilds who had specialized, privileged and private knowledge it did not remain a labor movement but got co-opted by early 18th century English intellectuals who sought to bring back ancient mysteries bordering on the occult and the wisdom of ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome and also by the elites of society and the players at his majesty’s Court and Parliament who were feeling the spread of power among the upper crust.

And this is how Freemasonry came to American as Bullock titles the Chapter on this period, “The Appearance of So Many Gentlemen – Masonry and Colonial Elites 1730-1776.” The two central themes of Colonial Masonry were love and honor.  Bullock tells us, “Colonial leaders saw the fraternity as a means to build elite solidarity and to emphasize their elevation above common people.” Lodge members consisted of those of wealth, political, religious, and business leaders and the professional class, lawyers and physicians being heavily represented. Dues were set high, as much as two month’s wages for the average workman, to keep out the riffraff. In the late 1730s Boston’s First Lodge increased dues  so that it would not exclude “any man of merit” but would “discourage those of mean spirits, and narrow, or Incumber’d fortunes” so that none should enter who would be “Disparagement to, and prostitution of Our Honor.”

Bullock tells us that “for colonial brothers, consistent procedure was less important than keeping out the wrong people.  The key division was, not between Masonry and the outside world (as post Revolutionary brothers would come to argue), but between different social ranks. And “Colonial Masonry did not view fraternal fellowship as a withdrawal into a private world of freedom.  Rather, the honorable met within the lodge to learn the virtue and polite ways, necessary for public honor.”

Thus colonial America was set up as a carbon copy of the class society of the mother country, England and Freemasonry reflected the way society was set up and was practiced just as English Masonry was observed. But as England and America parted ways, each going off on its own, so did Freemasonry in the two countries radically depart from each other in practice.

That lead us into Revolutionary Masonry where we see the effects on society of the quarrel between the Antients (Patriots) and the Moderns (Loyalists).  Here the struggle for supremacy in society was also fought inside the Craft. The Moderns catering to the elites formed few Lodges, most of them in large cities along the coastline.  Pennsylvania chartered only 3 Lodges in its first 40 years of operation and the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts in sixty years of existence chartered only five Lodges outside Boston all along the coastline. In 1753 the Antients had 10 Lodges but by 1771 they had 140. As settlement spread westward off the coastline, it was Antient Lodges that formed in the new communities not the Moderns. By the time Washington was sworn in as our first President the Antients totally overwhelmed and dominated American Freemasonry. Although Antient Masons were not “common folk” but rather what you would call the forerunners of the American middle class, they did add a distinct different more plebian atmosphere to the practice of Freemasonry.

The Continental army contained a larger than usual percentage of Masons and military Lodges which were widely populated throughout the colonies were mostly Antient Lodges. Bullock credits American Freemasonry with providing the camaraderie that kept it from falling apart in rough times. He tells us that army officers through Freemasonry’s ability to combine exclusive honor with inclusive love were able to develop the spirit de corps that helped it survive to win the war.

The dominance of the Antients and victory over the British forever changed American society and American freemasonry.  Gone were the exclusivity of the elites, in was republican thinking.

The next period in Bullocks breakdown was post war Republican Masonry.

“First, the new vision of the fraternity fitted into the widely shared desire to reconceive the character of American society as it emerged from the Revolution. By celebrating morality and individual merit, Masonry seemed to exemplify the ideals necessary to build a society based on virtue and liberty. Fraternal membership and ideology helped bring high standing to a broad range of Americans, breaking down the artificial boundaries of birth and wealth.  Masonry offered participation in both the great classical tradition of civilization and the task of building a new nation.”

The byword of republican Freemasonry became virtue. Education and learning were encouraged and Freemasonry once again linked back to the wisdom of the ancients while at the same time pushing the advancement of science. Freemasonry became supporters of schools for all of society and advocates of increasing knowledge.  Just what a new republican nation needed. Freemasonry melded with the concept of liberty thereby giving it broad public appeal.

It is here that Bullock mentions the contributions of Prince Hall and Hannah Mather Crocker who, in a society becoming increasingly more open, were able to accomplish much for Blacks and women in Freemasonry as the concept of liberty permeated the Craft in a republican increasingly classless society.

At the same time Freemasonry became more closely identified with the Christian religion and some in the fraternity maintained that Freemasonry fulfilled a divine purpose while others went them one better by declaring Freemasonry a sacred institution. It was also during this period that American Freemasonry also increased its commitment of universal charity.

“Masonic brotherhood now included close, even emotionally charged bonds of obligations.  As Royall noted, Masonic fraternity created ‘claims of a sacred nature.’  Such claims, Clinton explained, formed ties of ‘artificial consanguinity’ that operated ‘with as much force and effect, as the natural relationship of blood.'”

But all was not rosy in Freemasonryland.  Masonic Brothers during this period developed a code of “Preference” meaning that Brothers would always choose to do business with each other in preference to a non Mason. Bullock writes, “Masonic ties did more than promote broad moral standards; they actually guided the paths of trade.” However this can be seen as presenting the Craft with conflicting allegiances trying to balance its declaration of operating for the common good while at the same time using Freemasonry for personal gain. By creating an exclusive tight little network Freemasonry started working against its ideals of rising in society by merit and morality.  These would later be seeds sown to Freemasonry’s own destruction.

And so would Freemasonry increasingly involvement with partisan politics. A very high percentage of Masons in this time period held public office. Freemasonry’s ability was in a time of poor methods of long range communication, to provide a network of men who could more easily communicate with each other and to encourage and reinforce republican values of government and intellectual prowess. More than half of Andrew Jackson’s cabinet members were Freemasons coming from many different states. What Lodge members could do in politics is what they were also able to do in business, show “Preference” to each other for their own personal gain.

This period saw the rise of what Bullock calls the “higher degrees” or concordant bodies. Freemasonry increasingly began to see itself as sacred in this period.

“The fraternity, brothers now argued, was not simply an exemplification of universal processes but a sanctified institution whose values and experiences transcended the ordinary world.”

The result was that Freemasons became obsessed with the standardization and memorization of rituals.  Ritual was no longer a means of initiation but rather a scared body of knowledge. Higher degree ritual carried religious overtones with often extreme emotion reminiscent of Evangelical Christianity. This new tact tended to pull Freemasonry inward away from the outside world and make it exclusive and privileged – in knowledge rather than in social class,however.

These factors of favoritism in business and in politics and this new ritualistic based exclusive, privileged, sacred fraternity were factors which increased its numbers and popularity but at the same time were exactly the factors that led to its downfall, to jealousy of the fraternity and eventually outright hatred.  The Morgan affair was just the spark that set it off.

And that is Bullocks last period from 1826-1840.  He calls it “Masonry and Democracy.” He takes us through all the Anti Masonic rhetoric, the newspapers and the Anti Masonic Party.  Not only was this America’s first third party but also the first time in politics that public opinion had been rallied to bear pressure upon an issue and support a political party. Generally Bullocks thesis is that the American people took back their governance and squashed all those who claimed special privilege. Anti Masonry thus became a massive movement to purify America.

“Opponents of Masonry first pioneered new means of agitation, printing, meeting, and politicking to change public opinion on a single issue.  At the same time, and just as important, Antimasons also explored and popularized new ways of thinking that opposed widely accepted beliefs.  By elevating conscience and public opinion as the test of religion and republicanism, Masonry’s opponents helped lay the foundation for the cultural dominance of democracy and evangelicalism.”

For those of you who thought I might have knocked the Jacob book, I recommend that you read both The Origins of Freemasonry and Revolutionary Brotherhood, and that you read them together starting with “Origins” first. That is the way I read them and I can’t think of a better way of getting a better picture of the development of Freemasonry in its early speculative stages.  Only a qualified, knowledgeable historian could give you this kind of insight and we are blessed with two. For to look at Freemasonry through the research and eyes of two eminent non- Masonic historians is really to see Masonry from the outside looking in.  So often we read Masonic authors who look at Masonry from the inside looking out.  There is always, in my humble opinion, much to be learned from an objective, impartial observer who has no vested interest in the enterprise being studied. Both books are well researched and footnoted.  And both will punch some holes in some Masonic myths.  One big observation to note is that Freemasonry is an ever changing society, pulling society this way and that and being pulled by society this way and that. It means that the Freemasonry of the future will probably look a bit different from now.  Everything evolves.  Life is change.  Ask a historian.

But there is a problem with putting all our observation eggs in one basket, the basket of the historian.  It tends to over ride or even negate the contributions and effects of the esoteric – spiritual side of the Craft, that part of Freemasonry which is that private personal journey building that spiritual temple.  Working on one’s soul is a whole different ball of wax and needs not to be left out of the equation.  Happy reading!