Once again we bring the yearly Allocution from Royal Grand Perfect Matron R. Lucille
R. Lucille Samuel The 1st Royal Grand Perfect Matron Margaret A. McDow Grand Court Ladies Of The Circle Of Perfection Texas PHA
Samuel as she continues to inspire and lead her troops. This Sister spreads love and joy wherever she goes while at the same time holding tightly the reins of leadership. She is a Master at organizing, deputizing and inspiring those whom she leads.
I truly believe in the 3 Cs to success Confidence, Curiosity and Courage.
WHAT DO YOU BRING!
Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud. Proverbs 16:19
Again it is my honor and privilege to stand before you as we celebrate our 2nd year as the Margaret A. McDow Grand Court. We are blessed beyond measures.
I truly thank the membership for all the time spent in making this great body successful.
We have accomplished so much but we are still on that road to Perfection. I truly believe in the 3 Cs to success Confidence, Curiosity and Courage. We are on a Journey that has no destination. Our compass is set in the direction of continuous labor and service. The road may be rocky at times but the ride will be smooth.
Revelations 2:19 – I know thy works and charity and service and faith and thy patience and thy works; and the last to be more than the first.
Innovation distinguishes between a Leader and a Follower.
Have you ever asked yourself What do I bring to the organization? How does the organization benefit from my presence?
Let’s start with communication. Are you the type that loves to share information or keep it to yourself? Do you feel well if I share then that gives them the upper hand on me. I can’t get to the top if I share my ideas of vision. Sometimes we have to set aside our opinions and selflessness in order for our organizations to thrive and flourish. In order for our mission to be complete support of each other is a must. We are here to serve not to be served. We made a pledge and promised to respect and assist when necessary. Those that came before us paved the way for our benefit. We must maintain the same enthusiasm and honor their memories.
Honesty is another attribute that is not popular in our Order. How can you expect members to respect you if they cannot trust your words? Honesty means being upright of character or action. Would you follow a person that constantly feeds you false information? Honesty is one of the most admired traits of a leader. Being truthful and honest shows respect and integrity. Remember you can pay for school but you can‘t buy class.
What about Flexibility? Are you willing to listen to ideas of others? Do you feel intimidated if someone has a greater idea or suggestion? Are you afraid that your position or title is in jeopardy?
Sometimes leaders become complacent and have a deaf ear to change. You may hear a comment such as you have not been a member long enough to have an opinion. You don’t have enough experience in the Order to have any new ideas. We are never too old to learn. Fresh ideas bring oxygen and motivation. Being able to work with others is a trait that we all must have in order to succeed. A positive attitude will take you further than negativity and animosity. Being the leader does not make you the expert and there is always someone else with more experience. We are an equal opportunist and there is no place in our organization for intimidation and old beliefs of exaggerated prejudice. Many times your attitude of superiority toward members can be the demise of your organization.
Sometimes you need to look in the mirror and ask yourself am I the problem or the solution? Is my work in order? Am I organized? Am I qualified to be in this position? We need to practice what we preach or change our speech. If you can’t lead the song you don’t sing.
You can’t lead anyone if you don’t know how to follow. Using large intelligent words only fool people for so long. Your friends will only cover for you for so long and that smoke screen does not last forever. You can’t use $30 words and have a Dollar Store’s worth of common sense. A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way. Don’t let these collars around your necks out weigh the efforts you put forth in serving the organization. Innovation distinguishes between a Leader and a Follower.
Royal Grand Perfect Matron Samuel can be reached for comment at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Beehive has published the annual Allocution of R. Lucille Samuel, Grand Princess Captain, Lone Star Grand Guild, Most Worshipful Prince Hall
Lone Star Grand Guild Emblem
Grand Lodge of Texas for the last two years. Here is the latest 2016 Allocution delivered by Grand Princess Captain Samuel at her Grand Session this year.
Many leaders would be content to address their organization with platitudes and encouragement overlooking any areas of contention and needed improvement. There are many who care more about retaining power and not rocking the boat so as to make as few enemies as possible. In the process they don’t really lead, they follow the crowd.
Princess Captain Samuel is not one of those weak-kneed Sisters. She lets it all hang out and lets the chips fall where they may. The true leader leads and that’s what Samuel does. She is not afraid to point out the shortcomings of her group nor does she fear any blowback that she will get.
Which is why we continue to offer these annual Allocutions for public purview? If you are a leader or ascending the ladder to leadership you could do yourself a big favor by emulating the example of Princess Captain Samuel.
Be honest, be straightforward, and tell it like it is. Don’t gloss over the shortcomings with a rosy picture that has no relation to reality. BE BOLD – BE A LEADER
What Type of Leader Are You?
R. Lucille Samuel Grand Princess Captain Lone Star Grand Guild
To be alive and amongst the living is definitely something to celebrate! My Testimony is Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6. Last year was the Sun City and now we have arrived in the Big “D”!
I am delighted to bring you greetings on behalf of the Lone Star Grand Guild, Heroines of the Templars Crusade of Texas, PHA!
It seems we were at this Session on yesterday. 2016 has rolled in with a vengeance. But we have so much to be Thankful for despite the evils of this world. There is definitely a VOID in the room today without HPREGC Sir Ivory Johnson aka “Road Dawg’! He is missed beyond Words. We have lost many soldiers along the way but thru it all the mighty Lone Star Ship has remained above the seas!
I always ask that you pray for my fellow veterans and each other! Death has no number nor does it use the Yellow Pages. When the bell tolls, we must answer ready or not.
But I say unto you Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.
I started my travels in this Great Masonic Organization 29 years ago. I remember being so excited when it was time for a meeting. I would study my Ritual and be anxious just to sit on a Star Point and tell the stories of those 5 Heroines. Never cared about being Worthy Matron because I always thought that was for the older members that knew everything. I was intimidated by their titles and knowledge of the Order. Well, one day guess what it was my turn. Every month I would prepare with a Lecture and provide copies for everyone followed by a Q and A. I held study Sessions and awarded those that took the time to research. I loved sharing information it was a feeling like no other. In Peter 4:10 it tells us As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. What ever happened to that?
We used to make church visits constantly and the black and white took over most of the churches. Now we have to beg members to attend church. They have every excuse in the world. Well, I have to sing in the choir, I have to attend church with my spouse. Most of you can’t sign and why can’t your wife come to church with you? Now when the Grand Master tells us to turn out for Prince Hall Day there is more bling in the church on those collars than in the Jewelry Store. The church is what we are about and when you took the oath and obligation you vowed to support the organization. What happened? You don’t even have to regale all the time just attend church as a Masonic group. We are too busy fussing and arguing about why she is wearing that Regalia that organization is not more important than mine. Yes, we hear the remarks you leaders are making.
When we become Leaders now, we have become lazy and selfish. We don’t share any knowledge IF WE HAVE ANY for fear of loss of power. Knowledge is power. Teaching is a tool that makes you that leader that others will respect. If you have members with better ideas than you be Thankful! Two or more are always better than one. A rope is woven of three strands and hard to break. When some of our leaders understand that the organization will prosper. Being in a leadership position does not always mean that you are the expert. Sometimes even the leaders need to know that without your body you are a failure. You need to respect each other and stop tearing each other down. Never be afraid to accept assistance or listening to your members. There was a time when brothers and sisters encouraged each other and wished them well. Now it seems to be we look for all the flaws in one another and try to exploit them in front of others. You show up at meetings with a chip on your shoulder and looking for a reason to argue. We need to respect one another no matter whom or what our titles or offices are. Putting down another person because his or her organization is prospering and yours is steadily dissipating is unacceptable. We should be working together for the good of the Order. Don’t look out for only your interests but take an interest in others as well. The Grand Lodge of Texas is our Tree and We are all the Masonic Family that makes the different branches of that Tree. Instead of acting like cactus we need to bear fruit! Let’s work for a Cause and not applause. Stop trying to make your presence felt and make your absence felt!
Now I know everyone will say well who is she talking about? If you have to ask then you have already answered.
Many have fear and afraid to let go. Defeat is not the worst of failures. Never trying is the true failure. Failure is what teaches you what doesn’t work and develops you into a better leader and professional. Some worry about what other people are saying. You are only accountable for you the rest does not matter. Never allow someone’s opinion of you to become your reality.
You have to allow members to develop their full potentials. Never allowing them to share their ideas or thoughts cripples your organization. Leaders also fear that their position is in jeopardy if they share information or knowledge with others. If you see that your membership is declining and you continue to go thru the same motions every year at your Session then, Houston WE have a problem. When your organization is on Life Support it is time for new oxygen. Our members attend Conferences to learn and enjoy their bonds with their Sisters and Brothers. They need to feel needed and not just meeting your quotas and paying your salaries or stipends.
Leaders also fear change. Well if it is not about me and I didn’t come up with the idea then we are not doing it. He or She just wants to make her organization look good. So instead of taking the time to listen and entertain a person’s thoughts you continue with your same old ways and everyone suffers. There comes a time when we have to realize it is time to move on and allow others to have a chance at leadership. You have served your time and you have nothing more to offer. Step aside and stop trying to block others from their potentials. That organization does not belong to you and you have stifled its growth. Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower. Being a leader does not require a title. Having a title does not make everyone a leader.
Respect each other because we all need each other. Envy and stubbornness will get you nowhere. How you treat others is a direct reflection of how you feel about yourself. Support each other and stop bashing each other. You are not meant to wear my armor because it will not fit you. None of us are perfect and no organization is any better than the other. Stop worrying about what others are doing and focus on your journey instead of the destination. It is not about the destination but how you traveled to get there. There are 3 things you can never hide from the sun, the moon, and the truth.
If you feel intimidated by someone be woman or man enough to discuss your concerns with that person and not about that person to someone else.
As I stated last year and I continue to say the only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.
Until we can stand together we will never accomplish anything. We have to do better or there will be no Prince Hall Family for our children or grandchildren to enjoy. We are supposed to have each other’s back not stab each other’s back. When all is said and done what will your obituary say?
R. Lucille Samuel Grand Princess Captain Lone Star Grand Guild
When Greg Stewart interviewed me for a piece on Freemason Information, I can remember him asking me where is Freemasonry headed, what’s working right now and what isn’t? That was the gist of what he was asking – what path does Freemasonry take for the future?
I have gotten to thinking of that question once more after watching Lodge Veritas’ Ryan Flynn Festive Board Promo video. While Freemasonry has shown a sharp decrease in Lodge attendance in the 21st century so far, it has also shown a huge increase in Internet Freemasonry.
So while the idea of Freemasonry, its philosophy, has shown a marked increase in activity on the Internet, especially within Social Media and You Tube Videos, the practice of Freemasonry in person has tailed off. Could that be because Lodge Meetings no longer discuss ideas but are continually bogged down by administrative issues? And great ritual performances have been replaced by the marketing of Freemasonry and its push for recognition in society with an over emphasis on charitable pursuits?
I recall that I, as a Texas Prince Hall Freemason, recently attended a Third Degree at a Dallas Grand Lodge of Texas Lodge. The degree was well done, the charge spot on and the gathering at a restaurant afterward a significant bonding and camaraderie addition to the evening. Why can’t we do this all the time, I asked myself?
And then there was the Grand Raising at Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas at its recent Winter Grand Session where Masonic talent from all over the state contributed to a majestic event that sent goose bumps down one’s spine. Why can’t we do this all the time, I asked myself?
Aye, there’s the rub!
Maybe we as Freemasons don’t “think great” enough. Maybe we have allowed our once great dominant fraternity to diminish itself by too many mundane and trivial pursuits. Maybe we don’t have the “fire in the belly” for our Craft anymore.
I have no crystal ball so I can’t tell you where Freemasonry is headed. I can tell you that Lodge Veritas in Oklahoma gets it. They understand what it will take, to borrow aTrump phrase, to make Freemasonry great again. After you watch the video, you will too. And…Brother Flynn is a great artist!
I recently had the pleasure to interview one of Phoenixmasonry’s own, Bro. Frederic Millken, Executive Director for the Phoenixmasonry Masonic Museum and Library. Frederic is a prominent and hard working Masonic author. The reason for the interview, however, was the recent intervisitation between the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas and the Grand Lodge of Texas. Frederic has a fascinating personal and Masonic history included here that I hope readers will find as interesting as I have.
Elena Llamas (EL): Frederic, first things first! Give us a bit of your personal background.
Frederic Milliken (Frederic): I was born and brought up in Lexington, Massachusetts the birthplace of the American Revolution. It was the battles of Lexington and Concord that started the Revolution. Lexington came first. Here Paul Revere rode into town hollering, “The British are coming,” the British are coming” (although he probably really said the Regulars or the Redcoats).
When I was 5 years old my father died. My mother worked three jobs to support me and my two sisters. She had a day job, part time night job and a weekend job. On the weekend she manned the Buckman tavern where the Minute Men gathered in the wee hours of the morning of April 19,1775. The Buckman tavern was on the northeast corner of the Lexington Green in 1775 and that same building is still there today. On the northwest corner today stands Simon W. Robinson Lodge where I went to DeMolay and on the southwest corner stands the First Parish Church where my Mom was secretary, her day job.
On weekends at the Buckman Tavern my Mom’s job was to be a tourist guide and she would go through the story of Paul Revere riding into town and the subsequent battle with the British that took place on the Lexington Green for any who wanted to hear. I can remember as a young boy sitting on the stone step just outside the screen door listening to her tell that tale over and over again. That’s why it was such an honor for me later on in life to become Master of Paul Revere Lodge and to participate in a Colonial Degree Team.
Every Patriot’s Day (April 19th) Lexington held a recreation of Paul Revere’s ride and a reenactment of the Battle of Lexington. In the afternoon there was a huge two hour parade. As a DeMolay I marched in that parade.
(EL): At what age did you join Freemasonry and where?
Frederic: I joined Freemasonry at the age of 45 in Plymouth, Massachusetts where the Pilgrims landed.
I worked in the next town over and my wife worked in Plymouth so we had many Plymouth acquaintances. Plymouth Lodge had just completed its brand new building a few years before my arrival. I was initiated in 1989 and immediately went into line as Junior Steward. The next year I jumped to Senior Deacon and three years later was Master. In 1992 I affiliated with Paul Revere Lodge in Brockton, Massachusetts where I lived. It was not long after that I entered Paul Revere’s two year line as Senior Deacon. I was Senior Deacon at Paul Revere the year I was Master in Plymouth. I can remember doing the Masters ritual for the First Degree on a Monday night in Plymouth and the next night, Tuesday, performing the Middle Chamber lecture in the Second Degree in Brockton. Immediately upon affiliating with Paul Revere Lodge I joined the Paul Revere Colonial Degree Team and as Master I brought that team to Plymouth Lodge for a historic night where over a hundred Masons gathered with five District Deputies in attendance, one from Rhode Island, to watch the degree team. I had to get permission for overflow parking from a business next door and hire a policeman to handle the traffic. That experience greatly influenced my philosophy on how, as Master, to put a yearly program together for a Lodge. My theme from then on became, “We Need To Celebrate Our Freemasonry.” And celebrate it we would!
Kilwinning Degree Team at Paul Revere Lodge with Bro. Frederic as Master
Both Plymouth Lodge and Paul Revere Lodge were high profile Lodges that had a lot going on. Paul Revere Lodge was looked upon as one of the five top Lodges in the state. I was honored to sit in the East in both these Lodges which were in two different Masonic Districts.
EL: Please elaborate on celebrating Freemasonry!
Frederic: What I am saying is THINK BIG! Many Lodges meet twice a month and they spend the majority of their time in boring business meetings where the topics of discussion are how much toilet paper should we buy and what do we do for the next fundraiser? How about inviting a guest speaker to enlighten the Brethren?
But even better than that how about planning and executing a big event where many Masons gather for some special brotherhood? When you do that you increase the pride Brothers feel for their fraternity and bolster their enthusiasm for the Craft. That all works for more camaraderie and perhaps more candidates.
After that first big bash with the Colonial Degree Team at Plymouth Lodge I continued to put on Masonic Events as large as I could come up with.
The Grand Daddy of them all was the Colonial Degree Team’s visit to Indiana. Bloomington, Indiana is my wife’s hometown and there you will find Monroe Lodge. Monroe (family name also spelled Munroe) was a natural, the name of the Revolutionary War Masonic patriot I had adopted for the Degree Team.
My correspondence with the Master of Monroe Lodge in Bloomington, Indiana, lasting for more than a year, proved fruitless in trying to put this undertaking together. After I stepped down from the East at Paul Revere Lodge and Monroe Lodge got a new Master talks picked up again and finally it was a go.
So on a Friday morning 18 Paul Revere Colonial Degree Team members boarded a plane for Indianapolis. There we were met by a small bus and a Past Grand Master of Indiana, MW Richard Hickham, and the Worshipful Master, Wor. Gary Denson, and some Brethren from Monroe Lodge. They transported us to Bloomington, about a 2 hour drive, where we stopped at the Bloomington Shrine Club for a steak dinner and welcoming speeches. Afterward we were taken to the state DeMoaly Chateau for billeting.
The next morning we were picked up by the bus and transported to the Lodge where we were served breakfast. After breakfast we visited the Lodge room and laid out what the degree would look like for the officers of Monroe Lodge. Then back in the bus we received a tour of Bloomington and Indiana University.
Saturday night we had dinner at the Lodge followed by the degree. The Lodge room was packed! After it was all over we went downtown to an Irish Pub and celebrated. Following that we were bused back to the DeMolay Chateau for some shuteye. The next morning, Sunday, the bus picked us up and transported us back to Indianapolis to the airport. By Sunday night we were back in Boston.
What a great time we all had and how rewarding it was to make new friends. That was really celebrating our Masonry!
EL: What attracted you to Freemasonry?
Frederic: My best friend in school introduced me to DeMolay. Battle Green DeMolay met at Simon W. Robinson Lodge AF & AM in Lexington, Massachusetts. Eventually I became Master Councilor. Our Dad Advisors were Freemasons and I became very acquainted with a Masonic Lodge and some of its workings by belonging to DeMolay. Joining DeMolay was the main reason for my later joining Freemasonry. But there is still another important reason. I reached a stage in my life where I really wanted to associate and become friendly with like minded men, that is those that value honesty, morality and uprightness. I found that every Mason I knew was a good man and that perhaps associating with many good men would keep me from straying into the less than noble world.
When I was elected to become Master for the first time at Plymouth Lodge I gathered an installation team of five Past Masters of Simon W. Robinson Lodge who were also Past Master Councilors of Battle Green DeMolay and all old friends of course. They installed me and my officers.
EL: Tell us more about The Paul Revere Colonial Degree Team
Frederic: The Paul Revere Colonial Degree Team was formed as a tribute to our nation’s Centennial in 1976. It was only supposed to be for that one year but was such a great hit that it continued on and is still active today. Each member of the team dresses in Colonial costume which always includes a tri-cornered hat and takes the name of a Revolutionary War Mason. The Team performs the second and third sections of the 3rd degree. At the end the Team’s Historian gives a lecture on our American Flag and the sacrifices that Colonial Mason’s made to make our country free. At the conclusion each Team member rises and gives a brief bio of the Revolutionary War Mason he represents.
While the Paul Revere Colonial Degree Team performs in its own Lodge its claim to fame is the travelling it does to put on this degree for other Lodges. I accompanied the Team to the 200th anniversary celebration of Provincetown Lodge on Cape Cod, to a Lodge in the state of Maine and to an outdoor degree held in the woods of the Grand Lodge’s retirement home with the Grand Master present, to name just a few. At the retirement home stone stations and altar had been carved out in a clearing in the woods at the bottom of a hill. As Master I took the Degree Team to Plymouth Lodge as we have already heard, to Simon W. Robinson Lodge in Lexington, MA and to Putnam, Connecticut, again to mention just the most memorable.
The visit to Simon W. Robinson Lodge was a really a big time affair. Along with our usual 3rd degree exemplification we also participated in a tri Table Lodge. Three Lodges came together with the District Deputy of that District so that we had three Masters in the East, three Senior Wardens in the West and three Junior Wardens in the south. We started at 4:00 PM on a Saturday and finally finished up at 11:00 PM.
The Putnam, CT performance was our second visit to this Lodge. The first visit was precipitated by a church member of mine who upon selling her house and cleaning out the basement found an old Masonic diploma. It was from the 1800s for a Mason completing his degrees at Putnam Lodge. So, after going through channels, I contacted the Lodge and arranged for us to bring a bus load of Paul Revere members to formerly return the diploma. That got us a return visit 6 months later with the Colonial Degree Team.
EL: What role did you have in the Team?
Frederic: My role was to do the Charge at the end of the degree before the Historian came on. I tried many different charges but eventually settled on one called “The Canadian Charge” in Massachusetts. This charge is known in many other states by a different name. For a historical sketch of this charge see the article penned by a friend here – http://phoenixmasonry.org/a_charge_by_any_other_name_is_still_a_charge.htm
As you remember each member of the Paul Revere Degree Team adopted the name of a Revolutionary War Mason. When I arrived onto the team all the famous names had been taken. With permission from the team leader I researched my own name. I wrote to the Grand Lodge Of Massachusetts Library and asked them if there were any Freemasons that fought in that battle against the British on April 19,1775. The reply stated that of some 70 Patriots that lined up to fight the British some where near 26 were Masons. That was remarkable because Lexington did not have a Masonic Lodge at that time. From that list I chose William Munroe.
William Munroe was a Sergeant in the Lexington Minute Man and he was stationed by the Lexington Green on an all night vigil the night of April 18,1775. He was to warn the Minute Men of any British activity in the area. When Paul Revere rode into town he woke up sleeping Masons in the area and had word sent to Captain Parker the leader of the Lexington Minutemen. Munroe was also the proprietor of the other tavern in town, the Munroe Tavern which still stands today just a stone’s throw down the street from the Scottish Rite National Heritage Museum.
In 1797 William Munroe went into Grand Lodge to receive a charter for Lexington’s first Masonic Lodge with himself as its first and founding Master. He was escorted to the East of Grand Lodge there to be received by Most Worshipful Paul Revere. Hiram Lodge met for some 40 years in the backrooms of Munroe Tavern in Lexington.
EL: Who were the other team members representing?
Frederic: I can’t remember all the names chosen by Colonial Degree Team members but some of them were Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, Israel Putnam, John Paul Jones, Paul Revere, George Washington, John Marshall, Henry Knox, Robert Livingston, General Hugh Mercer, Ethan Allen, Patrick Henry, Benedict Arnold, Joseph Warren and of course the honorary American Marquis de LaFayette, These are some of the Revolutionary War Freemasons represented by the Paul Revere Colonial Degree Team.
EL: How fun! What led you to join Prince Hall Masonry?
I was Master of Plymouth Lodge in 1994 when Prince Hall recognition was being worked out. Recognition was formerly signed in 1995. Thereafter I was active in receiving Prince Hall visitations into Paul Revere Lodge. I was very impressed with their Masonic knowledge and work.
A few years later I started to become very active with Masonry on the Internet. There I met and corresponded with such stalwarts as Jeff Naylor, Chris Hodapp, Errrol Hinton, Stephen Dafoe and Theron Dunn to name a few. We all seemed to be involved with the reform Freemasonry movement. And among those reforms was recognition of Prince Hall. These were the days when “Laudable Pursuit” was penned. And I added my 2 cents in, often with biting sarcasm.
When I moved to Texas I joined the Grand Lodge of Texas AF & AM and went to their Grand Lodge Session. I was not impressed with some of the leadership and disappointed with the racial divide that was part of the tradition. I had some unfortunate incidents which I do not wish to go over again.
It was then I figured out that the best way I could work for racial justice within Freemasonry was to join Prince Hall. After all I had been an advocate for many years for Prince Hall recognition across the board in every state. I decided to put my feet where my mouth was and walked on over into Prince Hall Texas. I have never regretted that decision. I love and am much loved.
EL: Any other special personal Masonic history you want to share with the readers?
Frederic: The Fellowship Players of Fellowship Lodge in Bridgewater , Massachusetts, a town close to Brockton, invited me to take the part of Squire Bentley in the Masonic play “A Rose Upon The Altar,” by Carl Claudy. This is a very moving play about a man who disowns his daughter for marrying a man he disapproved of and the discussion that goes on in the Lodge room about his plight and his subsequent change of heart. By removing all Masonic signs, tokens and grips from the play, the Fellowship Players was able to get permission from the Grand Master to perform this play to the public at large.
We played for Lodges, Ladies nights and to the public. I can remember one performance for the Bridgewater Knights of Columbus and their wives and another in New Bedford for Masons visiting from England and their wives and the public.
These performances gave the Craft another way to feel proud of themselves and enthusiastic for their membership in the fraternity. It also introduced non Masons to a little slice of Masonic life and opened the door for a dialogue about Freemasonry.
Lastly it was one of the biggest joys of my Masonic career to be able to do this.
EL: Wow! That is awesome! Now, let’s talk about the recent events in Texas. What are your thoughts on the historic intervisitation between the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas and the Grand Lodge of Texas?
Frederic: I think intervisitation was long overdue and that now that it is here those that have a difficulty with Prince Hall are going to recede into the background and not be heard from hardly at all. A new day has dawned on Texas Freemasonry and it will be one of shared brotherhood. As the two Grand Lodges cooperate in a wide range of efforts together, all the fears and the fairy tales will disappear and we will become one in Masonic purpose and practice.
There were many forces behind the scene on both sides working for recognition for years and then for intervisitation. I was one of them but also from the Grand Lodge of Texas was Blake Bowden and his website “My Freemasonry.” Many other unknown and unheralded Masons on both sides of the aisle worked behind the scenes, especially to see that we could visit each other’s Lodges. There was literally a ground swell of sentiment from the rank and file that this was something that needed to be done. And I don’t think anything could have come of it all if Prince Hall Texas did not have such a gentle, soft spoken, easy going Grand Master in Honorable Wilbert M. Curtis.
EL: Really? You think Grand Master Curtis’ personality had a lot to do with it?
Frederic: You would really have to get to know the man to see how much his personality has kept the peace. I know that I am nowhere near that personality type. Cross me and I will let you have it, both barrels. But in the face of false accusations, finger pointing, lies and deceit Grand Master Curtis has remained calm, cool and collected. He has not fought fire with fire but rather with brotherly love and affection. He can be firm and commanding but never mean or derogatory. In some tough negotiations he was solid as a rock.
EL: This marks the first time in history that both Grand Lodges sat in a regular session together. How does this feel to you on a personal level?
Frederic: It is exhilarating! To know I have played a small, miniscule part, but one nevertheless, that is rewarding. I think that Prince Hall Freemasonry has been vindicated. I think that some of the misconceptions of Prince Hall will now disappear.
EL: Which misconceptions are you referring to?
Frederic: That Prince Hall Freemasonry is not regular; that it is Clandestine; that it does not perform acceptable ritual; that it is disrespectful to the Craft; that it is rowdy and raucous; that it doesn’t take Freemasonry seriously enough, that its first Grand Lodge was not formed according to Masonic protocol. These are all false misconceptions.
Race relations in the state will improve. My only disappointment was that I was too ill to participate on this historic occasion. But I know that years of opening my big mouth and even at times inserting my foot into it have paid off. That when it came time to choose the fork in the road, I didn’t take what I thought was the easiest path but the one that was the right thing to do. It means my rebel rousing days are over for Texas. However we have nine US Grand Lodges left who still do not recognize Prince Hall. This battle is won but the war is not yet over.
EL: What would you like to see happen in the future?
Frederic: I would like to see the two Grand Lodges do more things together inside and outside the Lodge room. Intervisitation opens up a whole new world to many Masons. Both Grand Lodges can celebrate some Masonic historical remembrances together. They can have a joint Table Lodge. They can join together on some charitable events. They can study Freemasonry together and pull lecturers from each Grand Lodge to speak at the other.
As it stands now each side must apply to its Grand Secretary to visit the other’s Grand Lodges and permission must be granted by the other side. I think that in time this requirement should just disappear and a more free flow of cross visitation assume its place.
They say time heals all wounds. I’m not so sure that is true but I am willing to give it a shot. As each Grand Lodge does more together it will cement the bounds of peace and harmony and brotherly love will freely flow.
EL: Hopefully! Are there other Caucasian Brothers in your Lodge?
Frederic: There was one other Brother who was Caucasian who has since demited and moved away. My Lodge also has a Brother of Filipino heritage.
EL: Do you want to share any racial insights from your perspective?
Frederic: I think that to rehash old instances and war stories does more harm than good. Suffice it to say that there was some animosity between Caucasians and African Americans in the state of Texas that bled over into Freemasonry. Those feelings have not all gone away but we are on the road to peace and harmony in Freemasonry.
All it really took was for some association to take place. I have maintained for years that if you sit down and break bread with a stranger or an enemy or someone you don’t understand, that that act of having a meal together opens up the common humanity you have with each other and promotes a mutual respect. Upon that can be built real friendship.
There will always be people who can’t see beyond skin color. This is not Utopia. Evil exists. But when you greet another Freemason on the five points of fellowship it matters not what race he is.
We would be wise to remember our ritual, “By the exercise of Brotherly Love we are taught to regard the whole human species as one Family – the high and low, rich and poor, who as created by one almighty Parent and inhabitants of the same planet are to aid, support and protect each other.”
EL: Seems like you have a positive and hopeful view of the future.
Frederic: There is only one place to go and that is up. Every close association, every time of togetherness will meld Brothers from both Grand Lodges into fraternal love. We can learn a lot from each other and in so doing we can come closer and closer together. New traditions will soon be formed. Some joint fellowships will become part of those new traditions. As that unfolds disharmony will become a thing of the past. As I said before a new day has dawned on Texas Freemasonry. It will never be what it was again.
EL: Wonderful! Frederic, you are an avid blogger and Masonic author. Tell us about your work and where it can be found.
Frederic: I write in other areas besides Freemasonry but it is my wish that these areas remain separate and unknown to each other. In this manner I can remain more open to other ideas and interface better with people of all different views without others having a preconceived notion of what I am all about. There is nothing worse than an agenda driven person who will not get off your ear. My thing is to approach fields from a point of view that fosters knowledge, education and understanding.
My Masonic writing started on the early well known Masonic websites with forums of the 90s. Masonic Light started by Jeff Naylor and frequented by Hodapp, Dafoe and Dunn gave way to The Lodge Room.com. Here I was in constant discussion on Masonic issues especially with my nemesis Theron Dunn who after he suddenly passed was replaced by Grayson Mayfield. When that Forum died I went on to Master Mason.com and then got out of the forum talk back and forth show altogether.
I formed my own blog “The Beehive” which I merged with Freemason Information by invitation of Greg Stewart. Those forum discussions formed the basis of the articles I then wrote which can be found on either Freemason Information or Phoenixmasonry. It is in these two places that I continue to write but with less frequency.
I have evolved over time. Much of my early Masonic writing was about the abuses of Freemasonry and certain Grand Lodges and the reforms needed. I really took some Grand Lodges to task and I wasn’t afraid to be vocal about it. Some of the high profile cases I wrote about were PGM Frank Haas, Derek Gordon, Mike McCabe, Victor Marshall and Gate City Lodge No 2 and Corey Bryson & Duke Bass Fortesque.
I actually got to meet in person Derek Gordon who resigned from the GL of Arkansas and Victor Marshall who the GL of Georgia attempted to expel because he was an African-American. Mike McCabe was expelled unjustly from New Jersey and Bryson & Fortesque were forced to resign from Florida for not being Christians.
I have gradually steered myself into a more philosophical approach and find great joy in telling the stories of some super Masonic Craftsmen. I was able to meet Masonic artist Ryan Flynn last year and record a session with him about his work.
There are two other places I write for which may not be open to all Masons. I write and deliver articles to the Phylaxis Society and to my Grand Lodge publication “The Texas Prince Hall Freemason.”
EL: You are also Executive Director for the Phoenixmasonry Masonic Museum and Library. Tell us about your work and experience there.
Frederic: It was President and owner David Lettelier who approached me about the position of Executive Director of Phoenixmasonry. He had read some of my writings and liked what he read. One of the first things I did upon coming aboard was to convince David that we needed to get into Social Media. I felt this was where Freemasonry on the Internet was going. So Dave and I put our heads together and opened a Phoenixmasonry Facebook page. I then added Twitter followed by Rebel Mouse. David starting putting many of my articles into the Phoenixmasonry essay session.
Soon I was to open a special Prince Hall section of the main website inaugurating its inception with the William Upton videos which tell such a heart rendering story. We added a few more article writers such as Nelson King and Ian Donald and the poetry of Ezekiel Bey. The Essay section was rapidly increasing. Adding books was very time consuming and proceeded at a slower pace.
But we wanted to give our readers the widest possible choice of Masonic content. It wasn’t long before we started to invest heavily into You Tube videos. We added a You Tube section to our Facebook page. This became very popular.
I spent a lot of time as Executive Director in marketing Phoenixmasonry especially among the Prince Hall brethren. I got the Grand Master of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas to add a link to us on the Grand Lodge’s website. I worked with David on his project of a 10 year (2009) medallion minted as a thank you to all who had contributed to Phoenixmasonry’s success. That became a tremendous marketing tool as I carried a bunch of them with me wherever I went and gave to many influential Masons one as a gift.
My job concentrated on disseminating whatever we were doing to various Grand Lodges, Masonic websites and forums, Masonic Yahoo Groups and an extensive E-Mail list. It was my goal to always keep the name and content of Phoenixmasony on the lips of as many Masons as possible.
I took over the project of getting us a 501(c) 3 status with the IRS, filling out the laboriously long form and making sure all the information was correct. This designation will facilitate contributions to Phoenixmasonry from those who are looking for a good cause to contribute to.
What I started with David to increase our visibility has been continued with the addition of new blood to our team. We have added editorial assistants to our Facebook page who help us add the most interesting Masonic material we can find. We recently added
you, Public Relations Director Elena Llamas, and you have carried on right where we left off. You have spruced up our Facebook page, created a Phoenixmasonry You Tube channel adding many videos and put Phoenixmasonry on Pinterest, Instagram, Google +, Reddit and Tumblr. It’s a team effort and I am proud what all of us have been able to accomplish. Phoenixmasonry is the most complete and best Masonic website on the Internet.
EL: It is a pleasure to work with you at Phoenixmasonry! Thank you so much, Frederic, for sharing such a fascinating personal history and all you insights. I hope the readers have enjoyed this interview. For more information on Frederic’s work, you can find him at https://freemasoninformation.com.
This year I made a family vacation trip back to Nova Scotia where I summered every year as a child. We visited many historical sites while there, among them was Shelburne, Nova Scotia. When I drove down the main street of Shelburne there were British flags everywhere and the word “Loyalist” was prominently used on signs, businesses and all things written.
So I was to relearn that a large contingent of White Americans, who wanted to remain loyal to the British Crown after the American Patriots defeated the British in the Revolutionary War, sailed to Nova Scotia in 1783 and settled in what is now the town of Shelburne. All this I guess I knew as a child but it was 51 years since I last set foot on Nova Scotia soil.
The town of Shelburne reports:
“In the spring of 1783, 5,000 settlers arrived on the shores of Shelburne Harbour from New York and the middle colonies of America. Assurance of living under the British flag, and promises of free land, tools, and provisions lured many to the British Colonies at that time. Four hundred families associated to form a town at Port Roseway, which Governor Parr renamed Shelburne later that year. This group became known as the Port Roseway Associates. In the fall of 1783, a second wave of settlers arrived in Shelburne. By 1784, the population of this new community is estimated to have been at least 10,000; the fourth largest in North America, much larger than either Halifax or Montreal.” (1)
Certificate of Freedom signed by British Brigadier General Samuel Birch
What I didn’t know was that less than 10 miles down the road was a town settled by Black Loyalists in the same year. The town was named Birchtown in honor of British Brigadier General Samuel Birch who signed the majority of the Certificates of Freedom held by Black Loyalists most of whom had fought for the British during the Revolutionary War.
Here is how that came about:
“When Lord Dunmore, Royal Governor of Virginia, lost control of that colony to the rebels in the summer of 1775, the economy of Virginia was based on slave labor. Lord Dunmore issued a proclamation that any slave or indentured person would be given their freedom if they took up arms with the British against the rebels. As a result, 2,000 slaves and indentured persons joined his forces. Later, other British supporters in the colonies issued similar proclamations.
Then the British Commander-in-chief at New York, Sir Henry Clinton, issued the Philipsburg proclamation when the British realized they were losing the war. It stated that any Negro to desert the rebel cause would receive full protection, freedom, and land. It is estimated that many thousands of people of African descent joined the British and became British supporters.” (2)
“When the end came, the top British commanders kept their word to the King’s Black soldiers.
In November 1782, Britain and America signed a provisional treaty granting the former colonies their independence. As the British prepared for their final evacuation, the Americans demanded the return of American property, including runaway slaves, under the terms of the peace treaty. Sir Guy Carleton, the acting commander of British forces, refused to abandon black Loyalists to their fate as slaves. With thousands of apprehensive blacks seeking to document their service to the Crown, Brigadier General Samuel Birch, British commandant of the city of New York, created a list of claimants known as The Book of Negroes.” (3)
Some interesting behind the scenes bargaining led to this conclusion:
In April 1783 the first evacuation fleet left for Nova Scotia. A week later the British Commander, Sir Guy Carleton, sailed up the Hudson River to Orangetown for a conference with General Washington to discuss the evacuation. As the victorious commander, Washington opened the meeting by reiterating the resolution of Congress regarding “the delivery of all Negroes and other property.” In response, the defeated Carleton indicated that in his desire for a speedy evacuation he had already sent off some 6000 refugees, including “a number of Negroes.” Observers from both sides noted the general’s consternation as he remonstrated with Carleton that the action was against the express stipulation of the treaty. Calmly, Carleton offered an unapologetic explanation, saying that in his interpretation, the term property meant property owned by Americans at the time the treaty was signed, so did not include those who had responded to British proclamations years before. Never would the British government have agreed “to reduce themselves to the necessity of violating their faith to the Negroes,” he told Washington. Warming to his subject, he further insisted “delivering up Negroes to their former masters … would be a dishonourable violation of the public faith.” In the unlikely event that the British government put a different construction on the treaty, he promised compensation would be paid to the owners and to this end he had directed “a register be kept of all the Negroes who were sent off.” Protesting as he was bound to do, Washington understood the depth of feeling behind the words “dishonourable violation of the public faith.” By the time the meeting came to its inconclusive end, he had privately conceded defeat.
Carleton wrote in icy prose; “the Negroes in question, I have already said, I found free when I arrived at New York, I had therefore no right, as I thought, to prevent their going to any part of the world they thought proper.” Should Washington fail to comprehend his intransigence on this point, he added a thinly veiled warning: “I must confess the mere supposition that the King’s minister could deliberately stipulate in a treaty, an engagement to be guilty of the notorious breach of public faith towards people of any complexion, seems to denote a less friendly disposition than I would wish, and, I think, less friendly than we might expect.” (4)
Replica of the Book of Negroes at the Black Loyalist Heritage Museum, Birchtown, Nova Scotia
The “Book of Negroes” was a record of every Black that got on a ship bound for Nova Scotia and left New York. What was recorded was ship, Captain, name, where bound, person’s name, age, description and free or non-free (claimant). Some 114 ships were gathered for the deportation and 3000 Blacks headed for various parts of Nova Scotia with another 2000 electing to go elsewhere (Other Canadian ports, England, Jamaica, The Bahamas, Germany and Belgium). Here is how it is reported by The Nova Scotia Museum:
“The British-American Commission identified the Black people in New York who had joined the British before the surrender, and issued “certificates of freedom” signed by General Birch or General Musgrave. Those who chose to emigrate were evacuated by ship. To make sure no one attempted to leave who did not have a certificate of freedom, the name of any Black person on board a vessel, whether slave, indentured servant, or free, was recorded, along with the details of enslavement, escape, and military service, in a document called the Book of Negroes (2)
Unfortunately the Nova Scotia experience proved to be a tough go for emigrating Blacks. The winters were harsh, much of the land unarable and along with broken promises life became unbearable. While almost all Blacks in Birchtown received town lots only about one third of them received farmland. Of 649 Black men who applied for Beaver Dam land grants only 187 received them. The Whites had settled first and grabbed the best of what good farm land there was. Consequently many Blacks became indentured servants or share croppers. (5)
Into these struggles for existence came Reverend John Marrant in 1785 to minister to the Black Loyalists, poor Whites, and the Micmac Indians.
Marrant a free Black born in New York moved to the South at an early age upon the death of his father. His family moved from Florida to Georgia to Charleston, South Carolina. Instead of learning a trade, Marrant became an accomplished musician and it is this talent that took him to a church where George Whitefield was preaching. Converted on the spot to Christianity and still a teenager he headed for the forests when he had difficulty getting along with his family. There he lived with and preached to Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Catawars, and Howsaws Indians for a
Black Loyalist Heritage Museum, Birchtown, Nova Scotia
number of years before returning home. At home he started preaching to the slaves on the Jenkins Plantation. When the Revolutionary War broke out in 1775, Marrant served in the British Navy as a cannoneer. After the war he retired to London working for a cotton merchant. He also preached at the Spa-Fields Chapel where he attracted the attention of the Chapel’s benefactor, the Countess of Huntingdon. She arranged Marrant’s ordination and subsequent service to Birchtown, Nova Scotia.
Marrant along with George Whitefield were members of the Huntingdon Connection that held to a strict doctrine of predestination as distinguished from Charles and John Wesley who held to a salvation by faith alone.
I visited the Black Loyalist Heritage Museum in Nova Scotia and took the 11/2 hour guided tour. The tour consisted of three locations, the Museum itself, St. Paul Anglican Church and the Black burying grounds. All were grouped together in one big parcel of land. I viewed the Book of Negroes at the Museum, watched a film at the church and stood where unmarked graves were below my feet.
Because of hard times and a withdrawal of support from the Huntingdon Connection, Marrant left Birchtown, Nova Scotia in 1788 and headed for Boston.
“By 1789, all of North America was in the grip of a serious famine. The winters had been long and cold for the past several years, and the settlers’ dreams of establishing farms were dashed by poor land and a desperate scarcity of farming’s necessities. Land grants had taken far too long to arrive, and when they did, most had wasted their savings simply keeping themselves alive.”
“Famine struck everybody, white and black alike. Ships from Montreal arrived in Halifax and were desperately seeking rations to relieve them.” “Since Halifax was no better off, they were sent away. Nova Scotia’s population was tripled in a few short years by Loyalist refugees. When the British stopped supporting them, the entire province plunged into poverty. Nova Scotia had truly earned it’s nickname of Nova Scarcity.”
“However, most of the whites had a better option available to them. They could return to the United States, where tensions had cooled considerably and most of them had family. Most of them did exactly that. Shelburne was hardly the New York of the North, which was what they had hoped for. Even wealthy merchants had largely been reduced to poverty. Farming was nearly an impossibility. Merchants had nobody worth trading with due to restrictions on trade with the US and various mercantile laws. Even the whaling industry had collapsed. Only fishing offered a opportunity to earn a decent living.”
“Former slaves had no such options. For them the choice was a brutal one: misery or death. The people who had employed them, albeit under exploitative conditions, departed for the United States. A bad situation got much worse. Without farmland or anybody to employ them, most of the free blacks became dependent on charity.” (6)
After too many years of misery, in 1792 one third of the Black population of Birchtown along with Blacks from other Nova Scotia settlements boarded ships for Sierra Leone where they were promised supplies and land. They founded the city of Freetown and to this day relatives from the same family are divided. Some live in Nova Scotia still and others in Freetown, Africa.
Meanwhile Marrant landed in Boston and in March 1789 was introduced to Prince Hall. He ended staying with Hall a short time at Hall’s home. No one knows where Marrant was made a Freemason, whether he was initiated in London or by Prince Hall. But what we do know that Prince Hall became smitten with Marrant and quickly appointed him as chaplain of African Lodge #459.
Not only that but a scant few months later Prince Hall charged Marrant to give the address to African Lodge #459 on St. John the Baptist’s Day, June 24, 1789. And Joanna Brooks tells us that Hall even recruited two White Masons to print and distribute Marrant’s sermon address. (7) This was the first printed formal address before the first African Lodge and among the first printed works by an African American in Western Civilization in the latter part of the Eighteenth Century. (8)
“Marrant preached that day a message of the equality of all men and the African roots of Christianity and Freemasonry. However, Marrant was also advancing some new theological ideas dangerous to established authority in his Connection as well as generally. Marrant’s ideas were egalitarian in nature: They promoted the dismissal of scholastic pietism and established the importance of the individual’s reading of scripture. Marrant preached that the New Testament was the sole authority and arbiter between the individual and salvation, and that Christians should incorporate their own experiences in readings of the Bible. He also advanced extemporaneous or “inspired” preaching and prayer as indicators of genuine Christian development and of godly connection. Marrant is clearly disdainful of “learned,” scholastic Christianity, and he suggests individuals–independent of traditional hierarchical authorities–are capable of inspired readings of the Scriptures, and this practice is the center of Christian theology and worship. Most Congregational Christians, particularly the ministers of established churches in a cosmopolitan community like Boston, would have shunned such ideas because they undermined the authority that they had spent so much time and effort in school attaining. This direct attack rejects established doctrines. It implies that common folk could glean the meaning of Scripture, independent of established church authorities. (9)
Reverend John Marrant was on the best seller list of books of his day. His three publications were enormous hits in England as well as the United States.
His published works were:
A Narrative of the Lord’s Wonderful Dealings with John Marrant, A Black, 1785
A Sermon Preached on the 24th Day of June 1789…at the Request of the Right Worshipful the Grand Master Prince Hall, and the Rest of the Brethren of the African Lodge of the Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons in Boston, 1789
A Journal of the Rev. John Marrant, from August the 18th, 1785, to the 16th of March, 1790
The first was reprinted 17 times.
It is said that Marrant had a profound influence on Prince Hall and Hall’s theology. This is really only half the story. But the second half has already been written by our own Honorable Gregory S. Kearse in an article from the Phylaxis Magazine, Third Quarter 2014 titled “The Influence Of The Reverend John Marrant’s Sermon On Prince Hall’s Charges Of 1792 & 1797.” It is here you need to go to complete the story.
The Reverend John Marrant was a lot like Martin Luther King. He had an enormous influence in a short period of time and died too soon. Marrant was not assassinated but he did go back to England after only two short years in Boston in 1790. The following year, 1791, he died at the age of 35.
He left a legacy of profound influence on the Black community and throughout Christendom.
“Although his knowledge and use of orthodox Calvinism was the means by which he was able to secure initial funding for his ministry, it was a progressive Calvinism he taught to his congregations. The discourse of his ministry is rooted in the discourse of freedom and egalitarianism that the Black revolutionaries and Black Loyalists shared with one another. As a veteran Loyalist who fought in the Revolutionary War, who then returned to North American to preach to Loyalist immigrants and become chaplain of African Lodge 459 in Boston, Marrant reveals a faith that Christian community, particularly among Black people, far outweighed the nationalist and sectarian interests of his day. His Narrative illuminates the roots of Black theology that engaged in progressive social action in both principle and practice. With these progressive religious roots, the principles he promoted would flourish in African American culture and yield fruit in some part of virtually every major religious, and often secular, Black institution developed since.” (9)
Let us remember these words he delivered to African Lodge #459.
“Let all my brethren Masons consider what they are called to – May God grant you an humble heart to fear God and love his commandment; then and only then you will in sincerity love your brethren: And you will be enabled…to be kindly affectioned one to another, with brotherly love in honour preferring one another…This we profess to believe as Christians and as Masons.” (10)
(10) A Sermon Preached on the 24th Day of June 1789…at the Request of the Right Worshipful the Grand Master Prince Hall, and the Rest of the Brethren of the African Lodge of the Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons in Boston, 1789 – John Marrant.
With permission The Beehive is proud to reprint Brother Steven Adkins essay on Freemasonry and Black Nationalism. This essay comes from Brother Adkins thought provoking website – Laws of Silence.
Brother Adkins hails from Florida but now is residing in France. Adkins has opened my eyes to the realization of the effect of religion on Freemasonry and also the effect of Freemasonry on religion.
Actually to carry this thought a little further, when we choose a philosophy of life, that philosophy really has many different components. We choose a religious philosophy, a fraternal philosophy, and a way of life to be lived here on earth, a political philosophy, a medical and healing philosophy and so forth. So when we choose a political party to represent our thought, when we choose a religion and/or a denomination within a religion, when we choose a doctor, when we choose a civil society to associate with, we are making the choices that integrate themselves into what we are, our essence.
Many would segregate each choice into separate boxes existing wholly on their own. I am more inclined to believe that all our choices on living life tend to be intertwined and interrelated. And nothing has more strengthened this conviction in me than Adkins essay below.
Agree or disagree with what Adkins has put forth here, but in the process realize how one choice, one direction you choose may influence the next choice that you make.
Freemasonry and Black Nationalism
The United States is a dizzying kaleidoscope of religious belief and practice, a situation rooted in the country’s origins — in part, anyway — as a haven for religious dissidents. Many colonists had been harassed, imprisoned and put to death for their religious beliefs, yet instead of changing their ways, they chose to pack up everything and risk a long and perilous sea voyage, to set up home in a strange and vast land filled with a large aboriginal population, completely mysterious to them. They were true believers, ready to risk it all for their faith.
The circumstances that encouraged emigration to North America ensured that the colonists included a large percentage of devout, dedicated and spiritually innovative believers. While some of their theological nuances may seem a bit nit-picky to our minds, back then, innovation was a big deal and deadly serious.
But not all of these strangers arrived by choice. African slaves first arrived in Jamestown in 1607, the same year the colony was founded.
The U.S. continues to this day to be innovative and unusually fervent in matters of religion, compared to say, a lot of Europe. Something like 90% of Americans express some sort of belief in some sort of supreme being. 50% attend some kind of religious service on a regular basis. In terms of the sheer number of new sects and splinter groups sociologists refer to as New Religious Movements (NRMs), I can’t think of another country in the world, except maybe Brazil, with such diversity. Some of these American sects, such as the Mormons and the Jehovah’s Witnesses, have gone on to become accepted around the world. The US even had a Mormon presidential candidate in 2012. That would never happen in Europe, at least as things stand today. For one thing, countries such as Germany and France afford NRMs much less tolerance under the law than in the U.S. The nourishing effect of tax-free religion cannot be underestimated. NRMs can become mini-Empires: the Church of Jesus Christ (Mormons), the Unification Church (Moonies), Scientology, even the Nation of Islam.
The religious landscape has diversified even further up until the present time. It’s not a only a historical phenomenon, but an ongoing process. Take for example the Five Percenters (aka the Five-Percent Nation or the Nation of Gods and Earths). Founded in 1964, they trace their origin to dissidents from the Nation of Islam (founded 1930), in turn rooted in the Moorish Science Temple (1913). The Branch Davidians, led by David Koresh, are well known as a result of the standoff with Federal authorities at their compound in Waco that resulted in the fiery death of nearly 80 people; they broke away from Davidian Seventh-Day Adventists in 1955; these latter left the Seventh-Day Adventists circa 1930. And so on.
A long-standing interest
My interest in all this dates to my adolescence. In my last years of High School I got into a kind of comparative religions kick. I wasn’t a seeker, merely fascinated. Me and a guy named T— Chung (whose Chinese immigrant parents left oranges on their kitchen counter before a Buddha statuette topped with a red light bulb) used to go around every Sunday and check out a new denomination. We only got around to Catholic Mass and various mainline Protestant sects. There was a long Pentecostal service we went to, which was a somewhat frightening experience. Speaking in tongues (glossolalia) and being Slain in the Spirit (video) are impressive things to witness, especially from someone whose own religious background was a rather stodgy Anglicanism.
Somewhat earlier than this, I’d studied Wicca and read the Tarot; spent hours on the Ouija board and read all I could about mythology, religion, occult lore and practical magick. Those stark black paperback edition of The Satanic Bible and The Necronomicon were more than books to me, but totemic objects, radiating power on the bookshelf. Hell, I was only what, 13?
Later, I would attend Christian Science Lectures and visit a Mosque in Atlanta, much to the joy of the Muslims there, especially the young ones. I spent a week in a Sri Lankan monastery in rural West Virginia, doing Vipassana meditation and chanting four hours a day. I was blessed by a curandero in a corn field in northern Guatemala and witnessed fertility rituals on a hilltop outside of Chichicastenango and in an eerie incense-filled cave near Santa Cruz del Quiche. In 2000, I became a Freemason. I eventually took the Royal Arch and the 32 Scottish Rite Degrees. I am also a minister in the Universal Life Church, if you’re looking to get married….
Academically, I did a double major, studying History and the Humanities. One of my concentrations was in Religious Studies. I got a solid foundation in the Bible, the Gospels, Islam and Buddhism. I traveled to Israel, Jordan and Egypt. I would later audit a course in ancient mystery religions at Cornell University. When it came time to do my Senior research paper, my topic was once again religion: Religion and the Afro-American Identity. Slavery had torn people from their homes and thrust people of different languages and cultures together; white racism lumped all these different peoples together under degrading epithets: the brutal reality of “the peculiar institution” was made even harsher by the fact of having been effectively shorn of an identity as something other than as a slave or an inferior sub-species of human being. My starting point was that as African-Americans had been thoroughly deracinated by the African Diaspora, many came to feel that spiritual regeneration had to be based upon creating a new collective identity.
Africa became a mythical place, dreamed of but out of reach. Some African-Americans, from Virginia to Brazil, longed to return to what eventually became an idealized Promised Land, a Black Zion. To make a long story short, in my paper I proposed that several Afrocentric NRMs began with re-establishing an identity; in the cases I dealt with in my paper, these were “Asiatics”, “Moors”, “Original Men”, and Yorubans. I focused on the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities (Imperial) League (UNIA), Moorish Science, the Nation of Islam and Oyotunji, an African village in the South Carolina organized along traditional Yoruban lines. It is an interesting place: a polygamous King, traditional religion, the works. In 1992 I was able to visit and interview the King’s deputy at the time, driving up to the village from Florida in the company of my good friend and collaborator, The Gid, your co-host here on Laws of Silence.
I didn’t produce a very good paper; in hindsight, the B I received was generous.
The immediate impetus of this current post was an article I read about Jay-Z and the Five Percenters. Having some (but very limited) familiarity with the subject, I wasn’t satisfied with the one-dimensional reports I read, so I decided to read Michael Muhammad Knight’s excellent book on the topic. Other books followed and my interest was rekindled in my old paper. In that first paper, I think my instincts were sound, but the exposition was lacking; I decided to revisit the topic with the benefit of more research under my belt.
I will cover some of the same ground here but will take a slightly different approach. I propose that an under-recognized influence on African-American NRMs is Freemasonry (which wasn’t even mentioned in my original thesis). We find its influence in the organization and trappings of the UNIA, the Koran of Moorish Science, the parables of the Nation of Islam and the “science” of the Five Percent. We will also look at its surprising appearance in Rastafarianism.
Prince Hall and Freemasonry
My story begins with a man named Prince Hall. Prince Hall may have been born in Barbados or New England in 1735. We do know he was a slave at age eleven, but was a free man by 1770. Somewhere along the line he had the good fortune to have received an education, for he was literate; combined with his natural intelligence and energy, he was to become an effective community leader, organizer, educator and abolitionist. He was also the founder of what is now known as Prince Hall Masonry. In seeking to become a Freemason, Hall assumed that black Americans would benefit from the blessings of Liberty promised in Revolutionary rhetoric. Not so. In 1775 he and 14 other free black men petitioned a Boston Masonic Lodge for membership and were refused. They then successfully petitioned a military Lodge under the aegis of the Grand Lodge of Ireland. These men then founded African Lodge No. 1, which was later issued a charter by the Grand Lodge of England as African Lodge No. 459. Hall went on to organize Lodges in Boston, Philadelphia and Providence, RI.
In Becoming African in America: Race and Nation in the Early Black Atlantic, historian James Sidbury writes that Prince Hall Lodges “asserted emotional, mythical and genealogical links to the continent of Africa and its peoples.” (74) Hall himself was also vociferous supporter of the Back-to-Africa Movement (presenting a plan to the Massachusetts Senate in 1773), black unity and economic independence. Hall and his brother Masons issued another call for immigration in 1787, stressing the need for the movement to be led by black people. He stressed that black independence was beneficial for the moral and economic improvement of blacks and whites alike; he justified emigration and stressed an “African” identity, as opposed to any one particular African ethnicity — as the name of their Lodges indicate. Hall’s emigration efforts led nowhere, which led him to concentrate his later efforts on education, Freemasonry and abolition.
Emigrating to Africa to establish colonies continued to be a literal goal, but alongside the concrete planning for such a venture, a spiritual meaning of the phrase “Back-to-Africa” took root and began to flourish in the Masonic Lodge.
In Black Pilgrimage to Islam, sociologist Robert Dannin writes:
Evidence of the struggle between churched and unchurched ideologies is also reﬂected in the history of the Prince Hall Masonic lodges where Ethiopianist and Arabist proponents clashed repeatedly. Ethiopianism had roots in the missionary experience as a quasi-biblical justification for emigration. It originated in the work of Martin Delany and came to rest in Marcus Garvey’s familiar scenario of a pure African nation. Though radical in style, it belonged to and constituted a theology of redemption. Arabism, on the other hand, was a representation or Islam constructed out of fragmentary knowledge. Like other folk traditions and vestigial religious beliefs it was discordant to the ears of churchmen.
Dannin argues that “Freemasonry was…integral to the construction of black civil society in colonial America” and that “the red Fez [of Moors and Shriners, for example] survives as an artifact” of the colonial black merchant class, bound by Masonry and struggling for abolition. Simply put, the Lodge nurtured the two tendencies that will appear in this informal paper: the Ethiopianist trend (such as in Rastafarianism) and the Arabist trend (in the Nation of Islam, for example).
Freemasonry and other fraternal organizations were certainly an important feature of African-American civil life. A book entitled Social and mental traits of the Negro; research into the conditions of the Negro race in southern towns, a study in race traits, tendencies and prospects (1910) lists literally dozens of fraternal groups in the South alone.
Martin Delaney: The first Black Nationalist?
Prince Hall was a direct influence on Marcus Garvey, as was Martin R. Delany. Some have argued Delany was the first Black Nationalist. Abolitionist, writer, journalist, philosopher, inventor….he was also one of the first three blacks admitted to Harvard Medical School and the first black field officer in the U.S. Army, obtaining the rank of major. In 1853 he wrote a short book entitled The Origin and Objects of Ancient Freemasonry: Its Introductioninto the United States, And Legitimacy among Colored Men. The book posits an Ethiopian origin for Freemasonry and places several Biblical events there; it is truly an Afrocentric text. As for emigration, he had already written his first book proposing mass emigration, perhaps to the West Indies or South America, in 1852. In 1854 he led the National Emigration Convention and read his Political Destiny of the Colored Race on the American Continent; this work is considered to be one of the urtexts of Black Nationalism.
Delany traveled to Liberia in 1859 to look into the possibility of settlement; he stayed nine months and signed a treaty for settling “unused” land in exchange for bringing skilled workers to the region, but white missionaries undermined his plans and the outbreak of the American Civil War put an end to them. He later sought an appointment as Consul General to Liberia. As Reconstruction began to be curbed and whites successfully began limiting the voting rights of blacks in the South, a group of African-Americans in Charleston again took up plans for emigration; in 1877, they formed the Liberia Exodus Joint Stock Steamship Company, with Delany as chairman of the finance committee. A year later the company purchased a ship called the Azor for the voyage. Delany was president of the board that organized the voyage but he withdrew in 1880 to concentrate on supporting his family.
This was his last involvement with emigration before his death.
Marcus Garvey and the UNIA
Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) continued to develop plans to help African-Americans migrate to Liberia, sending a delegation there in 1923 to scope out the situation and make a survey of potential settlement areas, a project supported by the Liberian government. Apparently Liberia was going to lease land to the UNIA for one dollar per acre. The plan fell through, however, and the Liberian government cut a better deal with the Firestone Rubber Company.
When Garvey died in 1940, James R. Stewart was elected to head the UNIA. In 1949 he moved to Liberia, where he became a citizen. The Parent Body of the UNIA was located there until Stewart’s Death in 1964. Liberian President William Tubman became Potentate and Supreme Commissioner of the UNIA in 1954 and was a close friend of Stewart. Tubman was President of Liberia from 1944 to 1971 and became known as the “Father of Modern Liberia”. He was also a Prince Hall Mason. He was succeeded by his VP since 1952, William Tolbert, who was also Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Liberia.
From the beginning, Liberian society quickly developed into three classes: settlers with European-African lineage, who came to be known as Americo-Liberians; freed slaves from slave ships and the West Indies; and indigenous native people from the existing tribes already living in the territory. Liberia was dominated by a single political party for over 130 years, the True Whig Party, based in large part on the American Whigs, the precursor to the Republican Party in the years after the American Revolution and before the Civil War. The Liberian Whigs were almost entirely Americo-Liberians, and top government officials were uniformly Freemasons. By the 1970s, there were seventeen lodges at work in the country under the auspices of the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free & Accepted Masons of the Republic of Liberia, with approximately 1,000 members, and the longstanding sentiment of the tribal population was that decisions about the nation were all made secretly behind Masonic closed doors.
This clique of about a dozen Americo-Liberian families dominated the country’s politics and excluded indigenous Africans and descendants of slaves from points other than the U.S. This hegemony and the exclusion of indigenous Africans from the Lodge meant that when a coup d’état was staged by Samuel Doe in 1980, the Lodge was targeted alongside the existing political regime; the hand-in-glove relationship between Lodge and State is personified by William R. Tolbert, Jr. who was both President of Liberia and Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Liberia at the time of the coup. Naturally, the Lodge was outlawed by Doe in 1980.
During the turmoil and violence which has taken place since the coup in 1980, the Grand Lodge building was virtually destroyed and fell into ruin, eventually becoming the home of thousands of squatters. The squatters were evicted in 2005 and the Lodge is apparently currently rebuilding their Lodge building….and their influence.
Henry McNeil Turner
Liberia (and to some degree Sierra Leone) was the focus of the American Back-to-Africa movement. Garvey — and his inspiration, Delany — would both travel there. Henry McNeal Turner, the dynamic bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, traveled there four times in the 1890’s. He encouraged emigration and organized conferences in Africa for that purpose. He also taught that God was black, something Garvey’s later African Orthodox Church would teach and a fundamental tenet of Moorish Science, the NOI and the Five Percenters.
Turner was also a Prince Hall Mason, joining while living in Washington, D.C. between 1862 and 1863. His decision to join, however, was not universally approved of within the AME Church, which had a strong anti-Masonic Faction despite the fact that the Church’s founder, Richard Allen, was a Prince Hall Mason himself. Allen had previously established the Free Africa Society with Absalom Jones, circa 1792.
Jones went on to found the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, part of the Episcopal Church, in Philadelphia. He too, was a Mason. Prince Hall personally founded African Lodge No. 1 of Philadelphia; Jones was Master of this Lodge and Allen was its treasurer. This African Lodge was the first to be granted a charter by African Lodge No. 459 in Boston; in granting the Philadelphia Lodge a charter, Prince Hall began its evolution into a separate, “black” Freemasonry. Today, Prince Hall Masonry (PHM) enjoys mostly friendly relations with its “white” counterparts, which have overcome questions of “regularity” and now recognize Prince Hall Masonry, with various degrees of visiting rights. Only eight states have resisted recognition. All of these are located in the Deep South and follow the contours of the Confederacy, except for West Virginia.
According to The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers, Vol I:
In 1922….Hodge Kirnon stated that “there is no indication that Garvey meant [the UNIA] to be anything more than a fraternal order.” …. Amy Jacques Garvey later recalled that Garvey became a Mason “through the influence of John E. Bruce and Dr. [F. W.] Ellegor [but] he did not attend Masonic meetings, he was always too busy, so the connection dropped.” Moreover, she disclosed that UNIA chapters operated quite freely within the ranks of black fraternities.
During the final four years of his life, Garvey turned even more emphatically toward the Masonic ideal based on secret knowledge. With the defeat of Ethiopia in the Italo-Ethiopian War of 1935…. Garvey revised dramatically his previous estimates of what political movements alone could be expected to accomplish. Thus, he viewed as problematic the absence of “masonry in his [the Negro’s] political ideals,” noting that “there is nothing secret in what he is aiming at for his own hope of preservation.” Garvey was alluding to the evolution of the fraternal idea from its earlier craft stage into a potent political vehicle, one based on the organization of secret revolutionary brotherhoods.
From the start, the UNIA shared numerous features with fraternal benevolent orders. The UNIA’s governing Constitution and Book of Laws held the same status and function as Freemasonry’s Book of Constitutions and Book of the Law. The UNIA’s titular “potentate” was clearly analogous to the “imperial potentate” of the Ancient Egyptian Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, or black Shriners. The High Executive Council of the UNIA and ACL reflected the Imperial Council of the black Shriners and the Supreme Council of Freemasonry in general. The elaborate and resplendent public displays by the UNIA, particularly during its annual conventions, drew upon the example of the black Shriners and other fraternal groups …. Other features shared with fraternal orders included solemn oaths and binding pledges, special degrees of chivalry (such as the Cross of African Redemption, Knight of the Sublime Order of the Nile, and Knight of the Order of Ethiopia) …. (lxi-lxii)
Like any radical movement, the UNIA faced internal challenges from members who didn’t find the organization radical enough. A mere five years after its founding, a group of (primarily) Caribbean socialists within the UNIA founded the African Blood Brotherhood for African Liberation and Redemption (ABB). Just as the UNIA worked within Prince Hall Lodges, the ABB tried — and failed — to operate within the UNIA. The ABB became highly critical of Garvey but failed to oust him, so they left the UNIA, eventually dissolving in the 1920’s, its members merging into the Workers Party of America, the legal name of the Communist Party in the U.S. In a 1922 report to the Comintern, ABB co-founder Claude McKay, a Jamaican-American writer and poet, speaks positively of the UNIA, though criticizing its capitalist ventures. McKay suggested that a series of “masonic degrees” be utilized to create a vanguard from among the advanced members of the organization (It is unclear if McKay is speaking here of the ABB or not). He states that these degrees would act as a
….lure to draw membership for the organization and as an inspiration to studies and activities on the part of the membership. They may be seven in all, with the seventh degree reserved for those who become truly class-conscious, and the lower degrees forming a series of steps towards the seventh on the basis of development toward the class-conscious ideal. (7) A Report on the American “Negro Problem” for the Communist International, 1922
If I may be permitted a bit of whimsy, I find it a bit poetic that in October, 1919, one George Tyler attempted to assassinate Garvey with a .38 caliber revolver. A Tyler is an officer of a Masonic Lodge, charged with, among other things, guarding the door during communication in order to keep the uninitiated from entering. Coincidence….of course.
Noble Drew Ali
Noble Drew Ali and Moorish Science
The Canaanite Temple was founded in 1913, one year before the UNIA. It was based in Newark and after some internal conflict, moved to Chicago in 1926, where it was re-named the Moorish Science Temple of America (MSTA). It represented a political alternative to the UNIA, but it was a more overtly spiritual movement — its politics and spirituality wend hand in hand. While Garvey’s affirmation of a black Jesus may have seemed scandalous, it didn’t go as far as Moorish Science theology and that of its descendants. Garvey said God was black. The Five Percenters say that the Black Man is God!
Drew claimed to have received this “lost” section of the Holy Koran from an Egyptian high priest of magic, who he claimed had trained him in mystical practices and saw in him the reincarnation of the prophets Jesus, Buddha and Muhammad.
Moorish Science — Circle 7 Logo
The identity of the African-American was the foundation of Ali’s teachings; liberation was only possible for the “Negro” after understanding his true identity, which is what? Moorish. Specifically, Moroccan. Ali used the word “Asiatic” to designate African-Americans.
Although ostensibly Islamic, Ali drew from many sources, including Theosophy, Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, Gnosticism….and Freemasonry. The Masonic influences on the Koran are most evident in Chapter Five, in which working tools are discussed. Although they are presented as the tools of a carpenter and not a mason, many of the tools are the same and those that are not still have explanations which are perfectly coherent with Masonic teaching:
These tools remind me of the ones we handle in the workshop of the mind where things were made of thought and where we build up character.
We use the square to measure all our lines, to straighten out the crooked places of the way, and make the corners of our conduct square.
We use the compass to draw circles around our passions and desires to keep them in the bounds of righteousness.
We use the axe to cut away the knotty, useless and ungainly parts and make the character symmetrical.
We use the hammer to drive home the truth, and pound it in until it is a part of every part.
We use the plane to smooth the rough, uneven surfaces of joint, and block, and board that go to build the temple for the truth.
The chisel, line, the plummet and the saw all have their uses in the workshop of the mind.
And then this ladder with its trinity of steps, faith, hope and love; on it we climb up to the dome of purity in life.
And on the twelve step ladder, we ascend until we reach the pinnacle of that which life is spent to build the Temple of Perfected Man.
This is straight up Masonic language and doctrine, even using numbers with heavy Masonic symbolism: 3, 7 and 12. The Moors acknowledge this Masonic link. They claim, however, that it was Freemasonry who based their doctrine upon the beliefs and practices of the original Moors at some point in the foggy past. This is reminiscent Mormon teachings about their Temple Endowment Ceremonies.
The Mormons have a long and fractious relationship with Masonry. Joseph Smith became a Mason and during his group’s sojourn in Nauvoo, Illinois, urged his followers to join so that they might infiltrate the Lodges and use them to further their aims — much like the Bavarian Illuminati founded by Adam Weishaupt in 1776. Smith was later murdered by a mob while in jail following accusations (true, as it turns out) of polygamy and intended to set himself up as a theocratic king. Just before he was shot, Smith is said to have given the Masonic sign and call of distress. In any event, those Endowment ceremonies are clearly modeled on and adapted from Masonic ritual; one only needs to compare the texts — and the chronological order in which they appeared. The Masonic rituals are historically anterior to the Mormon ceremonies, but the Mormons use the same arguments as the Moor men to explain their similarities: the Masonic rituals are garbled versions of the Mormon rituals, learned sometime in the distant past. Masons preserve the Mormon truth, but in an incomplete and distorted form.
Some claim that Noble Drew Ali was a Freemason and a Shriner; others vehemently deny it. While it is quite possible, lack of evidence either way rules out any firm affirmation….or denial. The fact remains, however that Masonic language is in his version of the Koran. Question is, how did he come by it?
Peter Lamborn Wilson, aka Hakim Bey, writes a great essay on the history of MSTA which includes the following passage regarding Drew Ali’s debt to Freemasonry. I tried to pare it down to essentials, but it’s still a long citation. All apologies to Wilson:
The first deep source of Moorish Science is Masonry. Connections between Islam and Freemasonry may go back to the Crusades, to pacts between Templars and Ismailis (“Assassins”). Eighteenth-century Rosicrucians claimed sources in the Yemen for their alchemical wisdom. The freethinkers of the Enlightenment held favorable opinions of Islam, not because they understood it very well, but because it represented the antithesis of Christianity; “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Frederick II, Voltaire, Goethe, and Nietzsche all admired Islam; dandies as well as revolutionary Masons adopted the accountrements if the “wicked Turk.” If this Masonic reading of Islam can be called a misreading, nevertheless it contains a fortuitous element – an example of heresy acting as a means of cultural transfer. That is: an image of Islam (however distorted) had in fact moved from East to West and brought about cultural ferment. Much of its energy will be found within Masonry.
In 1876-7 some New York businessmen, all thirty-second degree or thirty-third degree Scottish Rite Masons, founded the Ancient Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine – the “Shriners.” They concocted a legend claiming initiations from a Grand Shaykh of Mecca, honors from the Ottoman Sultan Selim III, a charter from Adam Weishaupt of the Bavarian Illuminati, and links with the Bektashi Sufi Order. They bestowed the title “Noble” on themselves, wore fezzes, displayed a crescent moon and star with Egyptian ornaments (including the Great Pyramid), and founded lodges called “Mecca,” “Medina,” “Al Koran,” etc. Later Shriners found this esoteric mishmash embarrassing, repudiated the legend, devolved into a charitable fraternity, and saved their fezzes for parades and costume balls.
During the Great Columbian Exhibition in Chicago (1893), a world’s fair attended by numerous Eastern Religious figures (such as Swami Vivekananda), American blacks, claiming initiation from visiting Moslem dignitaries founded the Ancient Egyptian Arabic Order of Nobles of the Shrine (and its sister affiliate the Daughters of Isis) – black Shriners. Certain photographs exist of Noble Drew Ali in Egyptian Shriner gear; even his famous Napoleonic pose is Masonic, as are his title, headgear, and other favorite symbols. I have seen documents purporting to represent Moorish Masonry which may refer to the existence of an Adept Chamber within Moorish Science, mentioned in its Catechism.
According to my informant M. A. Ahari, Noble Drew Ali was “a Pythian Knight, a Shriner, a Prophet of the Veiled Realm, and, of course, a thirty-second degree Mason.” He suggests that Masonic “catechisms” may have been the model for the Moorish Catechism; one is reminded here of Joseph Smith and the Masonic influence on Mormonism, which has undergone a veiling and metamorphosis similar to that of the Masonic roots of Moorish Science.“Lost/Found Moorish Timelines in the Wilderness of North America”Suleiman and “Mohammedan Masonry”
The Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine (the “Shriners”) was founded in New York in 1870 (Not 1876-7 as Wilson states). In 1872 they established their first Temple in New York City: Mecca Temple. The chief officer of the Temple was known as a “Potentate” (a title the UNIA later adopted).
The words “temple” and/or “mosque” are no longer used; this seems part of a general “de-mystification” of the Shrine, which changed its ponderous name in 2010 to Shriners International. They have also dropped the requirement that a man need be a Master Mason to apply.
The Shriner’s rituals and emblem were created by Walter Fleming, apparently based on notes taken at a performance witnessed by William J. Florence at a party given by an “Arabian diplomat” in Marseilles; after this performance (which he later reported seeing again in Cairo and Algiers), the spectators were initiated into some kind of secret society. True or not, it’s interesting that like the later African-American groups, authority is said to have derived directly from the Middle East. Despite any real connection to Islam, Shriners are still distinguished by the red fezzes they wear. These white Shriners were soon followed by a black group drawn from Prince Hall Masonry:
The Ancient Egyptian Arabic Order Nobles Mystic Shrine of North and South and Its Jurisdictions, Inc…..was established as an Imperial Council of Prince Hall Shriners on June 3, 1893, in Chicago, Illinois, by 13 Prince Hall Masons under the leadership of John George Jones….
The first annual session of the newly organized Imperial Council was held on September 25, 1901, in Newark, New Jersey, [where the Canaanite Temple was founded a decade later] it was here that a Constitution was formally adopted, establishing the fraternity as it is today….
After completing this article, or after I thought it was complete, I came across an article from 2011 entitled “Abdul Hamid Suleiman and the Origins of the Moorish Science Temple” by Patrick D. Bowen. Bowen has uncovered some newspaper articles that suggest Noble Drew Ali might have been influenced by one Abdul Hamid Suleiman; although he gave no names, Drew Ali himself said he received his knowledge from an Egyptian. Here’s a summary of Bowen’s work.
Abdul Hamid Suleiman was first mentioned in the press in August, 1922 as a result of his appearance at the African-American Masonic convention held that month in Washington, D.C. He went before the leadership of the Ancient Egyptian Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine (A.E.A.O.N.M.S.) — the African-American Shriners — and demanded they come under the aegis of the “Mecca Medina temple of Ancient Free and Operative Masons from 1 to 96 degrees,” or “true Shrine.” He claimed to have incorporated this Lodge in N.Y.C. The Shriners turned him down. Suleiman may have been a member of the French Rite of Misraïm, which no longer exists as a separate Rite, but which at one point had 96 degrees and is one of the rites of so-called “Egyptian” Masonry (the other being the Rite of Memphis).
In 1923 an article in the press appeared describing Abdul Hamid Suleiman and his claim to have derived his authority from Mecca and that it was his mission to spread Islam among African-Americans. The article notes that a mosque had already been established in Newark, N.J. Suleiman had described his movement as “Mohammedan Masonry,” a movement equally Islamic and Masonic. Bowen believes that it is quite possible that Suleiman influenced Drew Ali; he speculates that Ali may even have been a member of Suleiman’s movement.
In later contact with the press Suleiman presented himself as a Muslim from Khartoum and “head of all Masonic degrees in Mecca”. Although Suleiman’s claims are dubious, Bowen did find a lodge with the name Mecca Medina Temple, established on Feb. 4, 1910, in N.Y.C. Among the incorporators were a Robert B. Mount and a Dr. Prince de Solomon.
Although it cannot be proven without a doubt, it would appear that Suleiman and de Solomon were the same person. A “Mecca Medina Temple of A.F. & A.M.” filed for incorporation on July 15, 1920 in Youngstown, Ohio. A January, 1920 census report lists a Dr. Prince de Solomon in Mercer, Pennsylvania — 30 miles from Youngstown. This is quite possibly the same Dr. Prince de Solomon who had helped found the N.Y.C. Mecca Medina Temple ten years earlier. In addition to their names and Suleiman’s claim to have founded a lodge in N.Y.C. with same name as one founded by de Solomon, de Solomon was described in the 1920 census as a black, Arabic-Speaking Egyptian, whose occupation was “minister”. Pretty much how Suleiman described himself. Both men used the title of “Dr.” While none of this is proof perfect, there are too many similarities to dismiss it out of hand. I believe they are one and the same person.
In 1927 a newspaper reports that one “Dr. Abdull Hamid Sulyman,” claimed that the only true Shrine came out of Mecca and required conversion to Islam. We also learn the same year, that he’d been working as a fortune teller and was accused of swindling a client; he claimed to have “qualified as a professor of mystic and occult sciences in a university under the auspices of the Mohammedan faith in Khartum [sic].” Recall that Ali claimed to have been instructed and recognized by an Egyptian “high priest of Magic”; was he referring to Suleiman? Khartoum is now in the Republic of Sudan but was at that time, and from its origin, considered to be a part of Egypt.
Oddly enough, there were at least eight other African-Americans advertising themselves in New York as Islam-connected spiritual advisers — with the title “Mohammedan Scientist” being most common appellation. The idea of spiritual knowledge as a kind of science is something reiterated in the Nation of Islam and its offshoot, the Five Percent Nation. In an age when America’s rapid scientific progress was whole-heartedly embraced by a great swath of the American people, “science” became something of a corollary to faith. Christian Science, Moorish Science, Scientology, Nation of Islam mythology, not to mention various UFO cults; all of them did not simply teach spiritual principles, they were “dropping science”.
In 1928 we again hear of Suleiman as someone who had “won notoriety as the founder of the Oriental Branch of the Masonic Order.” In 1929, one “Prince Abdul Hamid Sulyman of Khartum, Egypt, priest of Mecca” — note the use of the title “Prince” — appeared as a speaker at the banquet of “Grand Orient of Ancient, Free and Accepted Scottish Rite Masons of Union Faith.” In 1934, an “A.H. Sulyman” is listed as an officer and past master of the Atma Lodge A.F. & O.M., which was connected to a Mecca Chapter O.E.S.
After 1928, Suleiman disappears from the newspapers.
Concurrent with his Masonic activities, Suleiman was promoting Islam among African-Americans and for that purpose a mosque for his group had been started in….Newark. The name of Suleiman’s movement was the “Caananites Temple” [sic]. His followers included Muslim immigrants and he claimed several mosques existed.
The name “Canaanite Temple” is evocative because it was in fact the original name of Noble Drew Ali’s Moorish Science Temple….in Newark. Several of the Moors’ own founding legends mesh with what we know about Suleiman. One says that after founding the Canaanite Temple in 1913, in 1918 Drew Ali faced competition from an unnamed “Arab immigrant” who “appeared in Newark and professed orthodox Islam among African Americans. His efforts interfered with Noble Drew Ali’s work, and a conflict resulted in the breakup of his first temple.” As a result, Ali relocated to Chicago and established a temple there in 1919.
Another story is even more explicit, stating that the Canaanite Temple was established in Newark by Drew Ali in 1913 with the help of one “Dr. Suliman”. They fought over leadership and split in 1916. In 1925 Drew Ali and his followers went to Chicago.
Going further, given the suspicions that Wallace Fard and Elijah Muhammad were associated in some way with Drew Ali’s group, is it possible that there is a link between Suleiman and the two central figures of the early Nation of Islam?
Can we completely rule out the possibility that it was Suleiman who was influenced by Drew Ali, not the other way around?
Whatever its precise origins, Moorish science attracted a lot of Garveyites and ex-Garveyites. Chapter 48 of the Holy Koran even identifies Marcus Garvey as who? John the Baptist….with Noble Drew Ali as Jesus:
In these modern days there came a forerunner of Jesus, who was divinely prepared by the great God-Allah and his name is Marcus Garvey, who did teach and warn the nations of the earth to prepare to meet the coming Prophet; who was to bring the true and divine Creed of Islam, and his name is Noble Drew Ali who was prepared and sent to this earth by Allah….
The Moors were attracted to the nationalism of the UNIA and were inspired by its Back-to-Africa program. After the failure of the UNIA’s emigration plans, it appears that “Back-to-Africa” became more symbolic than literal; not a migration, but a mindset. No group after the UNIA proposed emigration on the scale that Garvey, Delany and Hall had proposed. The UNIA’s Black Star line was created both for transporting people back to Africa and for commercial ventures. The establishment of black-owned businesses and economic development were key features of the UNIA’s program. They saw it as a key to financial independence and thus, liberation of both body and mind. The Moors and the Nation of Islam would later put this into practice as well, but their nation wasn’t to be found in Africa, but North America.
The UNIA’s motto “One God, One Aim, One Destiny”, was derived from the influence of one Dusé Ali. Another Ali! Dusé Ali was an Egyptian-born British actor and journalist. He was also a Muslim, a Black Nationalist and Pan-Africanist. He was to exert considerable influence over Marcus Garvey, who wrote for Ali’s newspaper, the African Times and Orient Review. Ali later returned the favor, briefly writing for the UNIA’s Negro World (fear of a black planet?) after leaving Britain for good in 1921. He later lived, and died, in Nigeria.
Wallace Fard Muhammad
Wallace Fard Muhammad
In 1929 a mysterious fellow by the name of Wallace Fard Muhammad (presumed to have been born Wallace Dodd Ford) joined the Moorish Science Temple. After Drew Ali’s death, a struggle for control of the MSTA — and its considerable financial resources — erupted and Fard ended up fleeing Chicago for Detroit. On the 4th of July 1930, he founded his own group, the Nation of Islam. Like Noble Drew Ali, his ethnic background isn’t exactly clear, and he himself gave varying accounts. Was he a New Zealander of East Indian extraction? Were his parents Spanish? After he began to develop a following, he claimed to have come from Mecca, which is what his successor Elijah Muhammad taught. In any event, Fard again had to flee in 1933, this time as a result of an apparent ritual murder carried out by a member of the Nation. He returned but was re-arrested and again asked to leave. He left for good in 1934 and was never heard from again, though there is evidence he lived until the 1960’s and continued to maintain contact with Elijah Muhammad under the alias Muhammad Abdullah, an Ahmadi imam.
When asked about this rumor, Abdullah responded:
It is all right to say I am Fard Muhammad for Wallace [Warith] D. Muhammad. I taught him some lessons. But I am not the same person who taught Elijah Muhammad and I am not God.
Which could still be interpreted to mean he was indeed Fard….
Elijah Muhammad (né Poole)
The Nation of Islam
The NOI is based on Islam and a look at their basic tenets as set forth in the Five Pillars shows that the NOI is a lot closer to al-Islam than many Muslims would like to think. Many “regular” Muslims are bothered by the “extra-Quranic” teachings of the NOI — though it should be noted that there are numerous venerable commentaries and writings considered to contain prophetic traditions, known as hadith, and some are very controversial. There is also not an insignificant amount of animosity — in some countries at least — between the principal Muslim branches, schools and sects over doctrinal differences that are as significant as the “heresies” of the NOI.
What is most perhaps most offensive to “regular” Muslims are the NOI’s teachings about Fard. After he disappeared in 1934, his disciple Elijah Muhammad (né Poole) began teaching that Fard was the Mahdi, the redeemer of Islam who will rid the world of Evil, and that Elijah was his Messenger. He later began teaching that Fard was God, Allah incarnate. The NOI also began incorporating ideas from Theosophy into its teaching and there is clear evidence that Fard had encouraged his followers to study Jehovah’s Witnesses material. Some of this extra-Quranic material also demonstrates a familiarity with Masonic Lore.
Masonic legend centers on the story of Hiram Abiff, chief architect of Solomon’s Temple. One day, after a hard day’s work on the Temple, three ruffians, or “unworthy craftsmen”, confronted Abiff. They asked the architect to be shown the signs of recognition for Master Masons so that they might flash the signs and be able to work for higher wages. Thrice they demanded and thrice they were refused. So the three craftsman killed Hiram and hastily buried is body, marking the spot with a sprig of Acacia.
In the teachings of Elijah Muhammad, the three ruffians represent the white man, who asked for higher knowledge from the black man and were refused. Infuriated, they rose up against the “Original Man” (original because according to the NOI, whites were bred from blacks by a scientist named Yacub). The white rebels were defeated. The white man’s rebellion was akin to Lucifer’s rebellion against Allah; no coincidence that in the NOI, white men are referred to as “devils”. After this failed coup, the white man was led away in chains to exile in the caves of Europe. The Masons teachings, say the NOI, are corrupted history. A familiar pattern emerges: A group borrows from Masonry then tries to distance itself from the source by reversing the roles; their own ancient predecessors were the source of these legends and rituals and Masons are just repeating it wrong. The cable tow that binds Masons in brotherhood, says the NOI, recalls the chains as the devil was led away. The apron, they say, recalls the crude garment the devil was given to cover his shameless nakedness.
Lambert titled his essay “Lost/Found Moorish Timelines”; in one sense he is talking about what much of history has as its goal, that is to say the re-discovery the lost past and bringing it back into the realm of public knowledge. But it’s also a reference to the “lost” (some might say “stolen”) identity of African-Americans, which was “found” by Noble Drew Ali. This critical aspect of rediscovering the true identity of the African-American is why the NOI sometimes refers to itself as the “Lost-Found Nation of Islam.” It also brings to mind the concept of the “lost word” which is the central component of the Royal Arch Degrees.
Consulting my hefty copy of Mackey’s Encyclopedia, I looked for the entry on the Lost Word.
The Word, therefore, may be conceived to be the symbol of Divine Truth….the Word itself being then the symbol of Divine Truth, the narrative of its loss and the search for its recovery becomes a mythical symbol of the decay and loss of the true religion among the ancient nations….and of the attempts of the wise men, the philosophers, and priests, to find and retain it in their secret mysteries and initiations….(Boldface added)
Whether intentional or not, this concept of the Lost Word, which can arguably be said to represent one of the fundamental tenets of Freemasonry, is also a neat summation of exactly what Moorish Science and the Nation of Islam have attempted to do.
Jehovah’s Witnesses founder Charles Taze Russell also had a curious relationship with Freemasonry. Early versions of Witness literature carried a cross and crown motif exactly like the one used by a) Christian Science and b) Masonic Knights Templar. Some point to Russell’s grave as further proof of a connection — his tomb is a pyramid. It also features the cross and crown symbol. Russell wasn’t a Mason, though he once had this to say:
Do our Masonic friends understand something about the Temple, and being Knights Templars, and so on? We more.
I am very glad to have this particular opportunity of saying a word about some of the things in which we agree with our Masonic friends, because we are speaking in a building dedicated to Masonry, and we also are Masons. I am a Free Mason. I am a free and accepted Mason, if I may carry the matter to its full length, because that is what our Masonic brethren like to tell us, that they are free and accepted Masons. That is their style of putting it. Now I am a free and accepted Mason. I trust we all are. But not just after the style of our Masonic brethren. We have no quarrel with them. I am not going to say a word against Free Masons. In fact, some of my very dear friends are Masons, and I can appreciate that there are certain very precious truths that are held in part by our Masonic friends.
However, his sermon clarifies that he’s just using to Masonic lingo to riff on his own theology
Although I have never been a Mason…
It’s a curious bit of seemingly contradictory rhetoric, at times rambling, but as this 1913 sermon entitled “The Temple of God” demonstrates, at the very least, a fairly thorough knowledge of Freemasonry, if only to “deconstruct” its symbols and reapply them, redefined to fit his own spiritual system. Russell also seems to be playing the game that the Moors and the Mormons play, hinting that Freemasons are in possession of a corrupted truth gleaned from ancient Jehovah’s Witnesses. The statement that the Witnesses are Templars (in their Watchtowers?) is not just a whimsy. As I previously pointed out, the logo of a cross and crown features not only on early JW literature, but in the context of Masonic Templar degrees as well.
Garvey had been associated with the founding of the Independent Episcopal Church in 1921. Its first bishop, George Alexander McGuire, was from Antigua and was consecrated in Chicago under the aegis of the Syrian Orthodox Church by a remarkable figure named Réné Vilatte, in 1921. McGuire served as the chaplain for the UNIA for many years, leaving in 1924 when Garvey decided to move his group’s HQ to the West Indies. At this time he also changed the name of his church to the African Orthodox Church. The name reflects its Pan-African outlook, identifying with all Africans as opposed to one ethnicity, such as Ethiopians, Moors or Muslims, much like Hall’s “African” Lodge. The church paraded a black Madonna and Child though the streets of Harlem.
Part Byron, part Marquis de Sade, part Rasputin, McGuire’s mentor Vilatte led a life that would make for a great book, but it would hard to track; he changed churches like people change clothes. His religious affiliations were legion, so it’s no surprise he (like Fard) used Jehovah’s Witnesses literature for material. He once said of the Witnesses:
I do certainly believe that the ‘little flock’ [Jehovah’s Witnesses] will be an instrument by whom all the families of earth will be blessed; because all the churches are in a very poor situation and the world in great desolation.
Vilatte turned out to be a scandal on legs and he was a known associate of occultists, Rosicrucians and of course, Freemasons.
Enter the UFOs….
In a surprise to me, current NOI leader Louis Farrakhan relatively recently ordered that all higher level officers in the NOI must undergo auditing and study Dianetics until they have been certified “clear”. Surprising, perhaps, given that the founder of Scientology (1954) was prone to uttering some of the crudest racist commentary imaginable. Not surprising, perhaps, if you consider that NOI leaders will receive a ten percent cut of the fees for every Muslim they send to be audited. And ten percent of the fees involved would be a fairly handsome sum, seeing that becoming a “clear” can cost well over 100,000 dollars!
There is also an affinity between the NOI and Scientology in that they share a belief in UFO’s.
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad told us of a giant Mother Plane that is made like the universe, spheres within spheres. White people call them unidentified flying objects (UFOs). Ezekiel, in the Old Testament, saw a wheel that looked like a cloud by day but a pillar of fire by night. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad said that that wheel was built on the island of Nippon, which is now called Japan, by some of the Original scientists….It is made of the toughest steel. America does not yet know the composition of the steel used to make an instrument like it. It is a circular plane, and the Bible says that it never makes turns. Because of its circular nature it can stop and travel in all directions at speeds of thousands of miles per hour. He said there are 1,500 medium wheels in this Mother Wheel, which is a half mile by a half mile [800 m by 800 m]. This Mother Wheel is like a medium human-built planet. Each one of these medium planes carry three bombs.
“The Divine Destruction of America: Can She Avert It?” Louis Farrakhan, 1996
This Mother Plane will ultimately destroy America, but spare the black man — a kind of Space Age version of the Rapture. The faithful will be saved and the rest of the world destroyed.
This belief in being saved by a spaceship is not unique to the NOI. The Heaven’s Gate sect killed themselves en masse in order to free their souls to join a spaceship passing the earth, hidden in the tail of the Hale-Bopp comet. I’ve always assumed Parliament’s Mothership Connection was inspired, at least in part, by the Mother Plane story and the NOI’s teachings. In 2012, New Age-types headed towards Bugarach mountain in southwest France, expecting to be saved from the destruction attendant on the end of the Mayan calendar by a UFO either located within or coming to the mountain. They were disappointed, one supposes. Or perhaps not; the Jehovah’s Witnesses have had to revise their date for Armageddon on several occasions. Of course eschatological anticipation is not unique to the NOI or the Witnesses, but the centrality and intensity of the Witnesses’ belief that they would be spared from the impending apocalypse, not to mention their often confrontational proselytizing, would certainly have been an affinity between these two highly-disparaged, combative “cults”.
In most sects, such as Roman Catholicism or any number of TV evangelical groups, many followers live in poverty while their leaders live in opulence. The NOI, like the Moors before them — but on a much more successful level — have, or once had, substantial holdings: large companies, real estate, medium businesses and in the case of the NOI, even banks. I am not suggesting the NOI is a simply money scam; but it’s a fact that bears mentioning. Today the NOI has been greatly diminished since the son of Elijah Muhammad steered the NOI towards a reconciliation with Sunni Islam, prompting Farrakhan to take up the old name and ideology to form a schismatic group that continues to this day. The NOI, despite the historical record and the obvious similarities to Moorish Science, deny that they are an offshoot of the latter.
Another NRM to grow out of Marcus Garvey’s influence is Rastafarianism. Rastas teach that Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia is God and that Garvey was his prophet, his John the Baptist, much like the role the Moors claim for Garvey vis-à-vis Noble Drew Ali. Marcus was always the prophet, but for different Jesuses. Rastafarianism is not merely a derivation of Garveyism, though many Rastas, like many Moors, were Garveyites. Like the Moors, the Rastas drew from diverse sources: Caribbean folklore, western esotericism, AMORC and…Freemasonry.
In Dread Jesus, Wm. David Spencer argues that the Rasta use of the word “Jah” for God (or Yahweh) derives from Freemasonry. Spencer also reveals that Rastafarianism’s principle founder, Joseph Hibbert, was a member of the Great Ancient Brotherhood of Silence, or Ancient Mystic Order of Ethiopia, a Masonic Lodge. Author Gregory Stephens says Hibbert became a Mason in Costa Rica and returned to Jamaica preaching the divinity of Selassie. Hibbert’s roots were in the Ethiopian Baptist Church, which was founded by George Lisle in the 18th Century. Lisle was a Freed American slave who became a pastor and “America’s first missionary” — in Jamaica.
According to Doreen Morrison:
He developed a concern for his African brothers and sisters, determining that he would seek to enhance their lives by introducing a relevant contextual church able to speak holistically to their needs whether they were enslaved or free. To this end he and his followers co-opted the notion of ‘Ethiopianism’ and began to refer to themselves as Ethiopian Baptists.
This is certainly reflected in Hibbert’s Ethiopian outlook.
Spencer also writes that another key figure in the emergence of the Rasta movement, H. Archibald Dunkley, was also in the same Lodge. So it’s certainly possible his Masonic experiences had some influence on the movement’s beliefs; at the very least it shows that some Masonic beliefs held an attraction for these men at some point. That said, neither Holy Piby author Robert Athlyi Rogers (d. 1931) or “1st Rasta” Leonard Percival Howell (1898-1981) were Freemasons, as far as I can tell.
What is clear though is that the founders were nourished in the same esoteric traditions and milieu that fed the Moors and the Nation of Islam, reaching some similar conclusions along the way. As Bob Marley sang: “Mighty God is a living man.” Selassie in this case. For Elijah Muhammad, Fard. Then there was Clarence Smith.
Clarence 13X (“Allah”) and the Nation of Gods and Earths
The Allah Formerly Known As Clarence 13X
Just as Marcus Garvey begat Noble Drew Ali, who begat Wallace Fard Muhammad, who begat Elijah Muhammad, Elijah Muhammad begat Clarence 13X, né Clarence Smith, aka who? Allah.
The basic concept of Allah’s Five Percenters is that there is no “mystery God” in the sky, that God is in the here and now. Not just one man, but all men. All black men anyway.
From 1930 to 1934 W. Fard Muhammad gave a series of written lessons to Elijah Muhammad; these were collected into The Supreme Wisdom. The lessons taught that the world is divided into three categories: 85% of the population are the masses of the people who “are easily led in the wrong direction and hard to lead in the right direction”. The 85% are led by 10% of the people: rich “slave-makers” who manipulate the 85% with false religion, mass media and the control of information. The third group are the 5%, or “poor righteous teachers” of the people. The 5 Percenters, obviously, are this last group.
Their teachings are hard to summarize because Allah didn’t see his movement so much as a religion, but an ultra-democratic way of thinking, spiritual karate that could complete other religious practice. “Dropping science” is teaching 5 Percenter “doctrine”, working with an almost Kabbalistic “Supreme Alphabet” and “Supreme Numbers” — a kind of acrostic wisdom or urban gematria divided into 120 lessons, sometimes referred to as “degrees”. These are based on the Supreme Wisdom lessons of the NOI devised by Fard Muhammad and Elijah Muhammad — not indoctrination but a method for reaching one’s own conclusions. Like the Masonic practice of a “Questions and Answers” session as part of the preparation for receiving a degree, the system involves a lot of rote memorization of formulaic phrases designed to impart moral and metaphysical lessons. When the Gods get together to talk about what the lessons mean, for example, they refer to it as “building”, a natural metaphor which also has a strong association with Masonic metaphor: the trowel, square, compasses, plumb line, the ashlars….
Five Percenter Compass Symbol, MST and NOI Merge
Like Muslims, the “Gods” are prohibited from eating pork. They have a tolerant attitude towards cannabis and other drugs, but heroin is prohibited. One’s word is bond. Other than that, it’s up to the God to say what his doctrine is. He is God after all. White men are still the devil, or were, it’s hard to say; Allah’s stance was evolving and current Five Percenters disagree on what it actually means.
The Gods adopt new names based on the supreme alphabet, usually with Allah at the end, i.e. Strength Allah. Black Muslims, of course, dropped their slave name for an “X”. Moors affixed El or Bey to their names.
Hip-Hop has been influenced a great deal by the Five Percenters and it shows up in the slang: G, word, represent, dropping science, the “zig-zag-zig” of XClan. Pioneering DJ/MC Kool DJ Herc was also from Jamaica, he combined mixing records with rapping based on the toasting of Jamaican MCs over one-off reggae dub plates with the vocals removed.
Towards a conclusion….
Interesting that from Prince Hall to Marcus Garvey, down to today’s Hip-Hop, there has long been a Caribbean connection to these nationalist and esoteric movements. Prince Hall may have been born in Barbados. Delany had suggested the West Indies as a goal for emigration. Garvey was Jamaican, as were the circle of intellectuals who comprised the leadership of the UNIA. The Rastafarians were also born in Jamaica, with a pan-Caribbean parentage. Most of these men were Freemasons or were themselves formed by churches founded by Freemasons. Michael Muhammad Knight’s books indicate a strong Caribbean-American presence in the Five Percenters, and the Moors had a lot of ex-Garveyite members, presumably many of them Caribbean as well; though Masonic borrowings exist through the Moors, the NOI and the Five Percenters, the leadership doesn’t seem to be composed of Freemasons, as it seems almost all their Black Nationalist predecessors were. Perhaps this is a reflection of the decline in the influence of American Freemasonry in general. Hip-Hop overlaps with many of these already Boolean circles; many pioneers were Jamaican, and MC’ing is generally acknowledged to have derived from Jamaican dance-hall toasting over dub plates. Something worth exploring is the extent to which Prince Hall masonry exists in the Hip-Hop community; at first impression it would appear significant. The link between the development of Hip-Hop and the Five Percenters is revealed in its shared slang and just this year Jay Z scored some publicity by sporting the 5 Percenter’s logo. And of course, many MC’s and DJ’s identify themselves as Muslims and members (or supporters) of the Nation of Islam.
Although it has been proposed that the dominant trends in Black Nationalism found in the Lodges was towards “Ethiopianism” and “Arabism”, the only large-scale plans for literal emigration were to Liberia. As we’ve stated, Garvey and Delany would both eventually travel there. Henry McNeal Turner traveled there four times. He encouraged emigration and organized conferences in Africa for that purpose. He also taught that God was black, something Garvey’s later African Orthodox Church would teach and is fundamental to Moorish Science, the NOI and the Five Percenters. The leaders of the UNIA, the Grand Lodge of Liberia and even the government of Liberia itself were all basically one extended group of Freemasons. Small wonder the nation’s flag features a Lone Star representing the Five Points of Fellowship, like most of the mostly short-lived Masonic republics founded in the “Golden Circle” centered on Havana; republics which sought, ironically, not to promote liberation, but to expand slavery. The Moors also have a flag with a five-pointed star — the flag of Morocco — but I’d be hard-pressed to make a case for a Masonic influence there. Still, it does remind me that the flag of Morocco once featured a six-pointed star, which makes me think of Judaism; this in turn, makes me think of the equally complex genealogy of Black Jews, a corollary and overlapping phenomenon to what we’ve written here. It’s just a big a part as the groups we’ve discussed, but I’ve got a long way to go before I can even attempt to write anything coherent about it.
I hope that upon finishing this, you don’t feel the same way about what you’ve just read.
Works to Consult
I’ve read all of the following books, some rather recently, but others 20 + years ago — but they all came into play when writing this post. Not being an academic paper, I can play a little loose with how I cite my sources. Obviously, I’ve also read or perused the articles and books cited directly in the text.
The following is from a comment posted by Brother Charles M. Harper Sr. on the post Bar Sinister Clandestine Hazing. Upon receiving it, I thought it warranted its own post given the depth to which he explored his ideas. The context to the piece comes as an explanation for why the petition is necessary in this modern age.
Here is a little of the information, from my book, A Spurious State of Confusion, due out at the end of July that provides both extensive quantitative and qualitative research to substantiate my stance that spurious Freemasonry is a problem, what it exactly is in the scheme of the Masonic world, how the problem came to be and what are choices that can be explored to stem the tide.
I expect the Obama Administration, in accordance with the petition, to examine this issue. I think it is inevitable that many will thwart this petition because of political feelings, and somehow, will tie in their dislike of Obama with the intent of the petition. It is human nature and to be expected.
Just some other historical evidence of some legal grounds that can substantiate at least the filing of this petition.
The conviction in the Federal Court at Salt Lake City, Utah, on May 15, 1922, of Matthew A. McBlain Thomson, Thomas Perrot and Dominic Bergera, of using the mails to defraud, was the culmination of efforts of the United States Government, begun in 1915, to have a reckoning with the perpetrators of one of the most ingenious mail frauds, and the most daring and spectacular Masonic imposture in American history.
In 1929 there was filed in the office of the Secretary of State of New Jersey a Certificate of Incorporation of “The Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of New Jersey,” under which certificate the incorporators claimed the right to:
Practice and preserve Ancient Craft Masonry according to the Ancient Charges, Constitutions and Land Marks of Free Masonry; to create, organize and supervise subordinate Lodges of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, granting to them dispensations and charters, empowering them to confer the degrees of Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft and Master Mason; and to do all things necessary to carry into effect the objects and purposes of this incorporation.
The regular Grand Lodge instituted suit in the Court of Chancery against this spurious Grand Lodge with the result that in 1932 there was entered a decree restraining and enjoining this “Grand Lodge of ancient Free and accepted Masons of New Jersey,” its officers, agents, members and employees,
From using the name or designation “The Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of New Jersey.”
From using any name or designation containing the words “Free and Accepted Masons,” or word “Mason,” or “Masons,” in conjunction with either or both of the words “Free and Accepted.”
From practicing, or pretending to practice Ancient Craft Masonry, according to the ancient Charges, Constitutions and Land Marks of Free Masonry; from creating, organizing or supervising subordinate Lodges of Free and Accepted Masons in the State of New Jersey, or pretending to do so; from conferring or pretending to confer the three degrees of Free Masonry known as Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft and Master Mason, or any of them.
South Dakota once had an Italian spurious body, but it has disbanded. Texas has to contend with the clandestine Mexican bodies. Utah has had some experiences, but her most famous contribution to the history of clandestine Masonry was the trial of the notorious McBain and Thompson. That Masonic fraud was there exposed and the perpetrators sent to jail. M.W. Sam H. Goodwin, Grand Secretary, writes of this:
Grand Lodge has not entered the arena against clandestinism, but a great battle against clandestinism was brought to a successful conclusion in the Federal Court in Salt Lake City, and the chief promoters of the Thompson Masonic Fraud (three in number) heard a jury declare them guilty, on ten counts, of using the U.S. Mails to defraud.
In a majority of States, legislation has been passed making it an offense against the law to use the emblems of a fraternal organization without a right, or to adopt and use the name of a pre-existent fraternal, charitable, benevolent, humane or other nonprofit making organization. Some of these laws are very elaborate, others are less specific, but in States where such legislation has been invoked by regular Masonry against usurpation by clandestine bodies, the courts have upheld, or are now in the process of upholding the regular and recognized Grand Lodges of the nation against those who would profit at their expense. – Source: Clandestine – from a Short Talk Bulletin – Dec. 1935, Masonic Service Association of North America
There have been state rulings against spurious masonry, filed by Grand Lodges, since before the 1950’s by Prince Hall Grand Lodges. – Source – Masonic Court Cases
As to the former rulings against Prince Hall and its standing amongst the Masonic Community today, the United Grand Lodge of England established a committee that examined at great lengths the legitimate origins and determined in 1992 that Prince Hall Grand Lodges were indeed regular Grand Lodges, though formed irregularly but consistent with the forming of Grand Lodges during its time of organization. 40 U.S. Grand Lodges now in amity with the Prince Hall Grand Lodge substantiates that they would not be included in such categories as spurious Freemasonry, which is simply not Freemasonry, but the imitation of it.
The word clandestine today is an often misapplied word compared to prior to the Baltimore Convention of 1834. All Regular Grand Lodges are clandestine to some other regular Grand Lodge. Being clandestine in the proper context has nothing to do with proving a standard of regularity that has been substantiated over time by the courts, and is codified by laws in New York state, and other states.
The word ‘clandestine’ falls with unhappy significance upon modern Masonic ears, but it did not in those days mean quite the same thing as it does to Masons of this age, Prior to the ‘Lodge of Reconciliation’ and the formation of the United Grand Lodge of England in 1813, the two Grand Bodies of England, the ‘Moderns’ (who were the older) and the ‘Antients’ (who were the younger, schismatic body) each considered the other ‘clandestine.’ – Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania Proceedings February 3, 1783
The feminine disciplines though irregular, and are thus clandestine to traditional Freemasonry, do have origins found within the Masonic Fraternity definitively from the Grand Orient of France’s requirement their existence would be attached to a traditional all male Masonic lodge and one woman at least was made a Master Mason in a Masons Lodge, though it was against the rules of the Grand Orient, Maria Deraisme. The Grand Orient, at one time determined to be regular, has legitimate origins.
What is often not included in the mainstream discussion of the quantitative effects of spurious Freemasonry, which include more than 450 spurious grand lodges in the United States alone, which collectively boasts memberships close to 400,000 members, and grossing more than approximately $43 million dollars, all in the name of traditional freemasonry. These groups advertise for membership with famous Masons such as George Washington and Fredrick Douglass. What is also not often examined are the horrid perpetuation of racism used to emotionally inspire the continued separation between races within the Masonic institution by the feeding of negative stereotypes gathered through mass generalizations.
Please allow this petition to be supported if nothing else, to bring national attention to fraudulently practiced Freemasonry. Our Fraternity is on a cusp of a great resurgence with a massive return to focus on Masonic education as the center of bonds in the fraternity being created. We need not stand idly by while fraud undermines our progression.
We don’t get harmony when everybody sings the same note. Only notes that are different can harmonize. The same is true with people.
― Steve Goodier
Life’s like the piano and the violin, it’s about how smart you could play the melodies to make a good harmony.
― Lucy ‘Aisy
Grand Master Cleveland Wilson
The lessons of life often come hard. It takes years and a lot of hurt sometimes to “get it.” And it takes a giant of a human being to “let go.”
Such a man is Arkansas Prince Hall Grand Master Cleveland Wilson.
I know. I have talked with him face to face many times.
The easy way out is to wag your finger, to wall yourself up in your own little world, to bunker down and say the hell with everybody else. But that’s not the way of Freemasonry.
Freemasonry is universal and a light unto the world. Even when there is contention where no contention should exist, Freemasonry can heal the darker side of man if you will just listen to its message.
Grand Master Cleveland Wilson is listening. He knows the true meaning of Freemasonry. And so he is going to take the high road and to be out front as a healer and practitioner of peace.
That’s why Grand Master Wilson has issued a proclamation that the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Arkansas will recognize all and every legitimate Bodies of Free and Accepted Masons who recognize Prince Hall wheresoever dispersed across the face of the globe. Whether that Body recognizes the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Arkansas or not, it doesn’t matter.
42 states now recognize Prince Hall. Very few of them recognize Prince Hall Arkansas. Now Prince Hall Arkansas recognizes them all.
Here is the way I see the thinking of Grand Master Wilson.
We’re going to love you whether or not you love us back. It’s the 21st century. We are moving on. We are not going to be about conflict, contention or competition with anybody. We’re into what Freemasonry is all about – peace and harmony.
Now that’s a man who “gets it,” who has “let go.” That’s a great Mason who is taking the high road.
The text of note, at the end of the document, saying:
BE IT RESOLVED, that it shall be the policy of the M.W. Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Arkansas to recognize and offer to enter into fraternal relations with any all Grand Lodges which (1) hold a seat in the Conference of Grand Masters of Masons in North America, Inc. and (2) have entered into an agreement, treaty, or compact or recognition with the M.W. Prince Hall Grand Lodge who is a member of the Conference of Grand Masters of Prince Hall Masons, Inc. in their respective state, and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that policy shall be made effective 22, February 2014.
Some people attain the level of leadership just because they have been around a long time. Some people get to be “head honcho” because they are everybody’s friend and nobody’s enemy. Still others have risen to the top through wheeling and dealing and doing favors expecting favors in return.
Such leaders, after attaining power, rarely ruffle any feathers. They go along to get along. They do things the way they have always been done. They refuse to push people to greater heights or hold anybody accountable for anything. They revel in their honors but do little to further their organization.
None of this describes R. Lucille Samuel, Grand Princess Captain Lone Star Grand Guild of Texas PHA. Samuel is far from a “Do Nothing” leader. Rather she is the type that might say, “Let the chips fall where they may but we are moving forward embracing change.”
You will understand where she is coming from and what type of a leader that she is when you read her recent address to the Grand Guild, delivered at her Grand Session and in conjunction with the Grand Sessions of all the York Rite Bodies of The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge Of Texas.
Read the words of a true leader:
2013 has been an awesome year for the Grand Guild. We have had very successful Regional Trainings and our membership continues to excel.
So where do we go from HERE?
For wrath killeth the foolish man and envy slayeth the silly one.
We need to change our organizational outlook. We have no peripheral vision. Most of us can only see straight forward and any type of change is out of the question. You cannot be afraid of failure. Your success is not measured by the number of times you fall but upon the way you handle recovery. It is not how high you climb but how you got there. You must have the courage to take risks.
You cannot lead where you don’t go and you can’t teach what you don’t know. The key to being a successful leader is earning respect not because of your Title or position. People who work together will ALWAYS WIN!
You cannot lead an organization if you are afraid of change or what other people will think. You have to realize that people will always talk especially those that envy you. Unfortunately we don’t like to see others succeed. Instead of giving encouraging words of advice or wisdom we would rather watch others fail. You do realize that when the Leader fails so does the organization. A lot of times you will hear the phrase well THEY said. My interpretation of that is as follows.
The letters in THEY stand for: – T for Tongue which is a very sharp weapon used against others. H stands for Hateful things that people will do to see you Fail. E stands for ENVY of those that feel you are a threat to them. They aren’t happy so they feel that no one else should be happy. Y stands for YOU because THEY never said anything YOU did.
We cannot continue to use the same strategies that our Ancestors used. It may have worked great for them in their time but times have definitely changed, The phrase, “Well that is how we have always done it,” has to GO! If we wish to attract members into our organizations that are talented and well educated a Change must come. You cannot run a well oiled machine on tap water. There is no reason we should not have the largest membership Rolls in the world. What makes any other organization better than the Prince Hall Masonic Family?
I was told a successful person is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others have thrown at him. Well we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings because they have been in the Order since the Last Supper. Their wisdom is always welcome. But we cannot continue to tip toe around others feelings. The ship needs to sail and those who can’t swim need to stay on the shore.
We are also afraid to share knowledge with others in fear of them replacing us. Knowledge is power and should not be used as a weapon. A great leader surrounds themselves with people that have talents and ideas which make the organization shine. It is a very selfish person that allows their personal gain to deter progress. Remember that not all people in charge are leaders. Sometimes it is by virtue of them being in the right place at the right time or there was no one else at the time available.
So what do we do to change that? Stop nominating your friends instead of the qualified person. Stop trying to run the Organization alone. We know you want all the credit and glory. Share your knowledge and information to all. Tomorrow is promised to no one. There should never be a time when one person steps out of a position and someone else cannot step in. When your organization is losing more members than receiving new members that is a sign. When your Annual Conference Registration continues to decline Houston we have serious problem!
We need to make a change. This is a volunteer organization and people will not continue to spend money on Registration and travel to attend meetings that continue to hold the same old programs. When you have Officers that do absolutely nothing during the Year and you continue to keep them in office people will not support you. It is so petty of you to threaten people or hold grudges against them just because they run for office against you. You are not doing anything so get out of the way! There is no motivation. When your Annual Session minutes state the same business every year and the only thing that changes is the DATE you are in trouble.
If we do not make a change the Prince Hall Family will dissipate into thin air. All of the hard work our Trail Blazers accomplished will be in vain.
We have to take charge now and work TOGETHER. Working against each other we will not survive. We have to have the Wisdom to know that Music means nothing if the audience is DEAF! We cannot go back and change the past but we can start today by making a new beginning and become the WINNING TEAM!
Holding grudges against someone for something that happened years ago will not solve anything either. Most of you don’t even remember why you are angry anyway. We are not here to become a Social Club but to conduct the business of this Great Order.
People may forget what you said to them but they will never forget how you treated them.
Remember the pessimist sees the difficulty in every situation and the optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. Be an Optimist!
Proverbs 14:33 Wisdom resteth in the heart of him that hath understanding; but that which is in the midst of fools is made known.
We will never have peace if we never let go of wanting to change the past and controlling the future. You will never be successful if you have to always ask “What’s In It For Me”?
In closing I ask that we all remember “Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results and not attributes.
I will continue to lead BY THE CROSS,
R. Lucille Samuel
Grand Princess Captain
Lone Star Grand Guild of Texas PHA
Heroines of the Templars Crusade
International Grand Senior Shepherdess
International Grand Deputy of Texas
International Grand Court of Cyrene Crusaders
“BRING ONE TEACH TWO”
As the third writer on Freemason Information I’ll jump in with both feet and take a stab at this question. Both Tim & Greg have attempted to define Freemasonry as an intellectual enterprise of definition devoid of the feelings of individual Freemasons. And it is precisely those feelings that help define the Craft. Sometimes what counts is not reality but perception. One needs to get a sense of what motivates a person to join Freemasonry. Those reasons shed a lot of light on how Freemasonry is perceived, and how it is perceived is really what it is to flesh and bone human beings. The Craft then becomes not what one wants it to be but what it really is to its practitioners.
That is not to take to task my fellow writers for I do not disagree with their conclusions. I come not to bury Caesar but to praise him, which is a little twist on a famous quote. I just don’t think they take their cases far enough. Stewart tells us:
“As a fraternity, Tim’s conclusion is that while not a club, philanthropy, religion or political action committee, Freemasonry is a place where, and I’m paraphrasing here, moral men meet on common ground to act rightly to one another. He concludes saying that men gathered like this for no more reason than to associate so.”
“While I can’t find a disagreement on that conclusion, one has to ask gather to for what end?”
That’s a good question I will ask again and answer later. I don’t think Stewart ever really answered it. But first I would point out, as I have done many times before, that Freemasons are on different levels of Masonic development and practice. What one Freemason sees in the Craft another does not. What one man practices in Freemasonry another shuns. Some see Freemasonry as a philosophical society, some as a social organization, some as just a means to networking, some as a claim to prestige, some as a way of life and some as a bonding of like thinking human beings. I think what Stewart was saying is that they are all right.
What we perceive is shaped greatly by our personal experiences, our environment. I have had the pleasure to experience Prince Hall Freemasonry, unlike Bryce and Stewart who have not. And in that experience I have had the joy of some very tight bonding. Brothers in Prince Hall hug or embrace each other, always and often. There is a real concern for a Brother’s well being. We not only pray for a Brother in distress or mourning but we do the same for our sisters in OES and HOJ. We will not hesitate to provide direct aid. We tend to work together on projects outside of Freemasonry. There is one big word to describe this experience – FAMILY. In Prince Hall we are all family.
Now I am by no means putting down Mainstream Freemasonry in this regard. I am sure there is the same concern there. But to me and for me its “stiff upper lip” standoffness is a sharp contrast in demonstration of that concern.
I am at once reminded of the words of H.L. Haywood:
“Freemasonry does not exist in a world where brotherhood is a mere dream flying along the sky; it exists in a world of which brotherhood is the law of human life. Its function is not to bring brotherhood into existence just as a hot-house gardener may at last coax into bloom a frail flower, though the climate is most unfriendly, but to lead men to understand that brotherhood is already a reality, a law, and that it is not until we come to know it as such, and practice it, that we can ever find happiness, together. Freemasonry does not create something too fine and good for this rough world; it “reveals” something that is as much a part of the world as roughness itself. In other words, it removes the hoodwink of jealousy, hatred, unkindness, and all the other myriad forms of unbrotherliness in order that a man may see and thus come to know how good and pleasant a thing it is for brethren to dwell together in unity. The hoodwink of cloth or leather that is bound over a man’s eyes is not the real hoodwink at all, but only the symbol thereof; the real hoodwink, and it is that which Freemasonry undertakes to remove from a man’s eyes, is all that anti-social and unhuman spirit out of which grow the things that make life unkind and unhappy. “Brotherhood is heaven; the lack of brotherhood is hell.”
So Freemasonry is a brotherhood with camaraderie. OK, but what difference does it make what it is, isn’t it really all about what it does, especially for the individual Freemason? So what does Freemasonry provide to its members?
Inclusivity, commitment and consensus: Members accept and embrace each other, celebrating their individuality and transcending their differences. They commit themselves to the effort and the people involved. They make decisions and reconcile their differences through consensus.
Realism: Members bring together multiple perspectives to better understand the whole context of the situation. Decisions are more well-rounded and humble, rather than one-sided and arrogant.
Contemplation: Members examine themselves. They are individually and collectively self-aware of the world outside themselves, the world inside themselves, and the relationship between the two.
A safe place: Members allow others to share their vulnerability, heal themselves, and express who they truly are.
A laboratory for personal disarmament: Members experientially discover the rules for peacemaking and embrace its virtues. They feel and express compassion and respect for each other as fellow human beings.
A group that can fight gracefully: Members resolve conflicts with wisdom and grace. They listen and understand, respect each others’ gifts, accept each others’ limitations, celebrate their differences, bind each others’ wounds, and commit to a struggle together rather than against each other.
A group of all leaders: Members harness the “flow of leadership” to make decisions and set a course of action. It is the spirit of community itself that leads and not any single individual.
I think Bryce & Stewart are trying to make the symptoms the disease.
So if Freemasonry is Community we are back to Stewart’s question we promised to answer, for what purpose? First of all to be Community. That’s enough of an explanation in itself. But to personalize it more to Freemasonry, to be a very special Community of morality and purpose with a message, to practice all of the above – all that has been written in all 3 articles on this subject.
What do you think? Leave your thoughts on what Freemasonry is in the comments below.