Masonic, Jewish and Catholic ‘Fake News’
FAKE NEWS – AND ITS USES
Conspiracy theories are weird and unbelievable – right? We know they’re either lies or the unfounded fantasies of a disturbed mind…right? Lying is what ‘normal people’ do, believing in fantastic worlds is what crazy people do, right? So, the people who believe that alien lizards have taken over the White House are crazy, but the people who say so but don’t believe it are lying, right?
How do we KNOW which is which? In the above example, ‘we’ think the idea that President Trump is a lizard must be a conspiracy theory because ‘we’ don’t believe it. So, a conspiracy theory is an idea which ‘we’ don’t believe, right. For believers, the idea is not a conspiracy theory but a fact.
The current situation is encouraging lies/fantasies. Since the Second World War, the industry selling ‘conspiracy theories’ – books, TV series, movies – has exploded. This, in turn, has spurred academics and produced theories about the theories, mainly about Trump’s motivations and the psychology of his supporters. Who is it that believes crazy stories? why do they believe? Are Trump’s supporter crazy or fantasists? There is now competition between conspiracy ‘schools’. Disputes between sociologists, historians, psychologists and political scientists doesn’t mean there is no common ground. Everyone knows a conspiracy theory when they see one, right? Byford’s ‘Critical Introduction’ (2011) illustrates the point. After comparing attempts in the recent literature to settle what is and is not a conspiracy theory he has concluded: ‘In providing a critical introduction to conspiracy theories, the present book (has) offered an argument in favour of preserving the narrower and more clear-cut definition…’ (p.151) ‘The question, therefore, is how to make conspiracist ideas less appealing as an interpretative framework…and how to prevent everyday reasoning from being contaminated…’ (p.155); ‘Conspiracism has been the staple ingredient of discriminatory, anti-democratic and populist politics and…(has been) a faithful companion to anti-semitism…The tried and tested alliance between conspiracy theory and totalitarian politics is unsurprising…‘(p.144); ‘Given the conspiracy tradition’s long legacy of harmful influence and its noted ‘affinity’ for bad causes it might be worthwhile concluding with a brief discussion about how one should go about undermining its presence in modern society.’ (p.152) In other words Byford has argued:
* Conspiracy theories are recognisable even if difficult to define – they are always negative, weird and peripheral, ie bad.
* Only people incapable of ‘everyday reasoning’ could believe them.
* ‘They’ are never found within a ‘democratic society’ but are always ‘outside’.
* ‘They’ therefore must be defeated before they infect us, the normal ones, who are never negative, weird or peripheral.
This is a circular and selective argument. Beliefs of the so-called normal mainstream are never considered since the opinion-influencing processes in ‘democratic societies’, by definition, never lead to weird, negative or peripheral opinions. Byford’s work, written before Trump was elected, is an example of partisan scholarship. There are many others. School children are invariably taught mythic history about their homeland, and it sticks with them longer if they have not been disadvantaged by the real-time history that the myths cover up. It was only in the 1950’s that Australian school children were provided with realistic information about anyone beyond the male, white explorers, governors and successful politicians. The situation hasn’t improved much. In 2015, a book called ‘Of No Personal Influence’ was published about Friendly Societies, a topic I’ve spent three decades exploring. Among numerous trumpet-blowing erroneous claims made by the author to fulfill his commissioning brief is: ‘Friendly societies in colonial Australia reflected a politically radical, democratically advanced, socially open, dynamic and porous society.’ (A McDermott, Of No Personal Influence, Australian Unity Limited, 2015, p.8.) I know how important to Australia’s evolution member-benefit societies have been but this is the worst kind of rhetorical generalisation. It serves only to diminish the occupation of historian.
Trump is not the first politician or the first US President to deride opinions he didn’t like. He has actually managed to focus attention on the many ways information has been manipulated for as far back in history as anyone wants to go. He has also focused attention on the media but he doesn’t read so he hasn’t mentioned the people who spread mis-information in schools, colleges and universities.
Conspiracy theories are not all the same and it’s a mistake to treat them as though they are. Motivations and the possible consequences of a lie/fantasy are as important as the content. One way to sort them into types would be to ask whether they can be tested, and just what test would be credible? Another way would be to sort them by their consequences – just how dangerous are they? A third way would be by motivation. The claim that those in charge of the US Government are really lizards from outer space is just someone’s opinion. But who started the idea? For what reason? Is there any evidence? Who benefits from the idea? What are the idea’s consequences? That Johanna Citizen believes the CIA is messing with her brain is less important than her response, especially if she chooses violence. Trump is not claiming his detractors are crazy, he’s claiming that they’re dishonest. Is that a simple matter of different opinions? There is a lot riding on the answer because of the power in the hands of the people involved. Some past ‘theories’ have been disproved – that non-white people can’t govern themselves, that the earth is flat, that ex-President Obama was born in Africa. Obama’s birth place was a constitutionally significant matter, so there ought to have been a well-established mechanism already in place to assess Trump’s claims about that immediately he made the claim. Alleged evidence that has been produced, for example to justify claims of UFOs at Rothwell, that Pope John 23 was murdered, that there haven’t been any US landings on the moon, could also be examined if there was an appropriate mechanism, acceptable to all sides.
At the same time as a multiplication of fake news claims there has been a resurgence of the far-right. Some say this is not a coincidence. The longest-running conspiracy theories have been sustained by people with power and with access to extensive publicity networks. Their agendas were clear and pursued with determination, even ruthlessness. Three groups of people have been directly involved. One, ‘the Jews’, suffered calamitous persecution in the 20th century but their demonization began well before that. Some scholars argue that: ‘For more than twenty centuries, the Jewish people, more than any other segment of humanity, have been persecuted, uprooted and annihilated.’ [i] Lists of the 21st century’s most popular conspiracy theories often show ‘the Jews’ bracketed with ‘the Freemasons’ but that organisation didn’t get established until the 18th century so any connections between them will only show up in the last three hundred years. The third group is the Roman Catholic Church. Like ‘the Jews’ and ‘the Freemasons’, ‘Catholics’ have been accused of seeking world domination. All three groups have had global reach and influence but, at times, all have been feared and hunted. All have claimed to have a unique connection with God and to be intent on achieving human perfection. Each has claimed to know ‘the truth’ and each has argued that anything bad done in its name has been part of a plot, or a result of a bad apple who wasn’t really ‘one of us’ or just wasn’t its fault.[ii] Lastly, each has been riven by factions and breakaways all of whom have pursued organisational, ie political, often secret, means to achieve its aims. All told, it seems no sensible, modern history of any of the three groups can omit either of the other two.
Defining one’s terms would seem a necessary first step to counter ‘misleading’ information but in the present case it is an early warning signal about difficulties ahead. Defining ‘a Pope’ or a ‘Masonic Grand Master’ is very easy; defining ‘a Jesuit’ is easy – he is/was a member of the Society of Jesus. A definition of ‘a Catholic’ is less easy since a baptised person can lapse or convert, so a useful definition would be ‘a current member of the Church’. A definition of a ‘Freemason’ should be equally straight forward – a current member of ‘the Masonic Order’ – but for reasons I explore below it has long been considered unnecessary to even attempt a definition, and very bad form to ask a researcher who or what is meant when the term is used.
In the ‘Jewish’ case, numerous misunderstandings have been created by applications of the word to a culture, a genetic pool, a polity, and/or a certain reading of the Torah. The ‘Chosen People’ is a phrase often associated with people of the Jewish faith, but can ‘a people’ be part of a useful definition?
The alleged 18th century shift to a more rational view of the world – the Enlightenment – occurred just as the youngest of my three groups, ‘the Society of Free-Masons’, was getting started. Around that time, major conflicts over ‘divine revelation’ and ‘the correct path to salvation’ supposedly became more about human rights, freeing natives from primitivism and the benefits of trade, ‘the rule of law’ and ‘modern’ education. ‘Freemasons’ have claimed to be both a major cause and a result of that shift. Initiated brethren have often posed the question, ‘what is a Freemason?’ but only so they can give the answer that every ‘brother’ has been ‘a truth seeker’ or was already a paragon of virtue. They never mention that the second half of the 18th century was also ‘the golden age of the charlatans.’ [iii]
Most if not all struggles are about power, wealth and vanity. The publicly-given reasons alter according to need but interestingly many contain the same dominant idea which applied before ‘the shift’ – that humans can be measured by some external standard, and can be improved, and indeed, should be perfect. This is very clear in the case of my three groups. In 2009, the then Pro-Grand Master of English Freemasonry, Lord Northampton, wrote of his fellow Masons: ‘We are all Brothers on this same journey, a journey leading to self-knowledge, and ultimately perfection.’ [iv] And elsewhere in the literature:
(Perfection) is a term that every Freemason can relate to as part of their understanding. The zeal to achieve perfection is a core value of the masonic practice. Many instances of the word turn up in masonic language…[v]
Perhaps the best-known 20th century Jesuit, Teilhard de Chardin worked on what a contemporary philosopher called a ‘profoundly eclectic’ vision of perfectibility. In Passmore’s words: ‘To an extraordinary degree…Teilhard built into a single system almost all the main forms of perfectibilism…He was a mystic: perfection consists in union with God. He was a Christian: perfection depends on Christ’s working in man through evolution. He was a metaphysician: perfection consists in the development to its final form of that consciousness which is present, according to Teilhard, even in elementary electrons. He believed in perfection through science…through social change…’ [vi]
Among people of the Jewish faith, the idea of perfection is endlessly debated. Even at its most transcendental, it is bound to geography and to politics and has no clear potential for resolution. God, in Exodus, apparently described ‘the Jews’ as ‘stiff-necked’ and said ‘he’ was perplexed about what to do with them. Viorst, a self-described ‘Jewish scholar and journalist’, argued in 2002 [vii] that ‘stiff necked’ remained appropriate for citizens of Israel – stubborn, strongly self-opinionated, unwilling to compromise and convinced ‘they’ had a unique connection to the divine – all of which, he said, has led to reaction and internal division: ‘‘When [PM Yitzac] Rabin signed the Oslo Accords, religious Jews seemed to lose all interest in bridging their differences with Jewish secularism.’ (Viorst, pp.214-215). In retrospect, it is clear the anger that produced (his) assassination [in 1995] had been simmering not just since 1967 but since the schism between religious and secular Jews during the Enlightenment…’ Further:
In (the modern State of) Israel, the issue that basically divides Mizrachi [moderate religious Jews] from Haredin [the ultra-orthodox] is not outward appearance: it is still the age-old messianic question… (Theologically, the Haredi) believe they are still in exile…(their) rabbis who make policy still maintain that without the Messiah, Israel is a Jewish heresy. (p.183)
The idea of ‘our’ perfectibility began life as an assertion that humans were unique among animals in that they were made ‘in the likeness of God’ and were ‘in conversation’ with ‘Him’. A personal choice for doing good here on earth would be rewarded with an after-life in a heavenly paradise. Initially a uniqueness available only to humans ‘of royal blood’, civilisation’s alleged ‘progress’ led to a variety of interpretations of who was to be saved and by what means. James Billington, well-credentialled US historian, was thinking of individual ‘brothers’ when he put ‘the Masonic quest for perfection’ at the centre of his 1980 study of 19th and 20th century revolutionaries: ‘Throughout the inventive revolutionary era, new symbols and societies seemed to be searching for le point parfait: “the perfect point” within a circle of friends. These were the strangely appropriate names of two leading Masonic lodges that flourished in Paris during the Reign of Terror.’ Leading participants in the French Revolution narrowed the focus of popular sovereignty – ‘the perfect point’ – from a National Assembly to an executive of twelve, five, three and finally one man, Napoleon Bonaparte.[viii]
During Billington’s research, a similarly well-credentialled US scholar, Margaret Jacob, was concluding that, despite being constantly accused of being seditious, the importance of ‘Freemasonry’ was as the incubator of cosmopolitanism and of a new collective sensibility which was new only to Continental observers some of whom were attracted while others felt threatened: ‘(An anonymous French writer in Brussells in 1744 asserted that it was seeking to establish) a universal and democratic republic which would also hold in common all that the earth and its inhabitants are capable of producing.’ She argued that Continental observers saw what was only a shift in attitude as seditious: ‘(The) lodges on the Continent were replicas of British lodges (which) brought with them forms of governance and social behaviour developed within the distinctive political culture of that island …Only in Britain (did men vote) within a constitutional structure and at a national legislative assembly, where voting was by individual and not by estate or locality. …Only in the lodges men also became legislators and constitution makers…’ [ix] A kind of pragmatic perfection, her view of ‘Freemasonry’ was the mythical Whig view of 18th century Britain. She assumed ‘Freemasonry’ became globally popular because of its intrinsic features. Just how the French and subsequent revolutions fit her thesis is unclear. In the 19th century, de Tocqueville looked at the USA and asserted that democracy could not be sustained by democratic institutions alone. They needed the support of supplementary associations and voluntary networks teaching the values of democratic practice. He saw religious institutions largely fulfilling this role but did not mention ‘Freemasonry.’ In the 21st century, Onnefors concluded that while ‘Freemasonry’ has had a long history of claiming that ‘moral improvement of the individual, and therefore of the community is possible… it remains difficult to establish whether Freemasonry determined individuals to undertake public actions, or whether it served as self-affirmation of intrinsic values already held by those individuals.’ (A Onnefors, ‘Freemasonry and Civil Society: Reform of Manners and the Journal fur Freymaurer (1784-1786), June 2011, p.114 – online ‘Research Gate’, 2018.)
In the last decade and a half enormous shifts towards more realistic Masonic history have exposed how little progress had been made previously. Robert Peter, a European scholar, in 2016 introduced five volumes covering the period 1717 to 1813. His diagnosis that ‘British Masonic research’ is yet ‘in its infancy’ acknowledged that the failings he goes on to point to relate to work done after his cut-off date. The previous three centuries and its hundreds of thousands of books, sermons, reviews and ‘re-interpretations’ had, in his view, produced:
* ‘Hermetically- sealed Masonic universes’, ‘one-dimensional hagiographies’ and the use by Masonic authors of other Masons as both ‘primary and secondary sources’ (p.xiv)
* ‘Many misconceptions about eighteenth-century adoption lodges’ [which allowed female participation] have been ‘frequently repeated in the scholarly literature’;
* a failure to integrate ‘the religious history of Freemasonry’ into eighteenth-century scholarship.’ (p.xviii)
He noted that
* ‘Many scholarly works still exaggerate the secular aspects of masonic ideology and practice at the expense of its mythic, ritualistic and religious dimensions’;
* ‘The lack of statistical data…has hardly changed in the last twenty years with regard… (to) Freemasonry in the British Isles’ (p.xix)
* English-language scholarship has been ‘largely Anglo-Centric’; (p.xx); with very little on Scottish, and nothing on Welsh Freemasonry (p.xxxi)
* ‘Historians of Freemasonry – many of whom are members of the Order – have paid less attention to the inconsistencies between masonic idealism and practice because their goal was to highlight how successful Freemasons were’. (p.xxiv-v)
* ‘The watchwords of masonic rhetoric and idealism…were frequently repeated in masonic sermons, lectures and official publications…’
He observed that ‘naturally, masonic practice is much more ambivalent and contradictory…’; (p.xxiv-v) and that in particular:
* ‘The fourth volume sheds new light on the intolerant attitudes of certain (Grand) lodges towards ‘the Other’, that is, discrimination against people of low social standing and differing political opinions.’ (p.xxv-vi), and
* ‘Freemasonry in the British Isles was fractured and polarised during the long eighteenth century’ (p.xxvii)
This is quite a list but is still incomplete. In real-time, ‘Masonry’ was never hermetically-sealed off from its context, and the motives for brethren writing as though it was are worth emphasising. ‘Freemasonry’s’ originating document, the ‘Constitution’ of 1723 set the trend. ‘The Society of Free-Masons’ which it announced was shaped by its context. The Constitution was written for its context. Both have claimed that it was not. Subsequent pronouncements issued in its name, and even many in opposition, have adopted that assertion. The context has changed enormously but the approach has persisted – that ‘Freemasonry’ was entitled to claim to be aloof from or immune to its real-time world. As Scottish scholar David Stevenson noted in 2000 the founders of the ‘Society of Free-Masons’ were players in local and in global politics. They were directly involved in life-and-death struggles, including with ‘the Jews’ and the Roman Catholic Church. Partisan statements have been the norm.
Neither the Society nor its founding publication have been assessed as needs-based productions for a specific context, with particular intent. Rarely has the document been assessed for its truthfulness, nor have its consequences been adequately examined.
[i] M Aarons & J Loftus, The Secret War Against the Jews, Reed, 1994, p.18.
[ii] L Zeldis, ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion – Anti-Masonry and Anti-Semitism’, on Pietre-Stones Review of Freemasonry, web-site, Sept 2017.
[iii] P Maciejko, The Mixed Multitude, U of Penn, 2011, p.219.
[iv] Pro-GM Lord Northampton, ‘Whither Directing Our Course?’, 2009, reprinted in Harashim, April, 2018, p.11.
[v] Website <Universal Freemasonry – To the Glory of God>, 11/2017.
[vi] J Passmore on Teilhard, quoted by J Brooke, ‘Visions of Perfectibility’, Jnl of Evolution and Technology, 14 (2) August, 2005, p.8.
[vii] M Viorst, What Shall I Do With This People? Free Press, 2002.
[viii] J Billington, The Fire in the Minds of Men, Basic Books, 1980, p.24.
[ix] M Jacob, Living the Enlightenment, OUP, 1991, p.21.
THE FOUNDING DOCUMENT
I use a capital ‘F’ for ‘Freemasonry’ to indicate that I’m referring to an organisation, originally named the ‘Society of Free-Masons’, for which grammatical rules insist on capitalisation. The founder members chose the capitalised form in 1723 when they endorsed the text of its author, the Reverend James Anderson. Benjamin Franklin’s 1734 reprint of this single work has recently been introduced on-line in the following way: ‘This is the seminal work of American Masonry, edited and published by one of the founding fathers, and of great importance to the development of colonial society and the formation of the Republic.’ [i] This sentence encapsulates all that has gone wrong with the historiography of this remarkable phenomenon. What was ‘a Society’ has become an infinitely elastic concept, ‘American Masonry’, and Franklin’s personal motivations have been buried under three centuries of subsequent hubris.
The 1723 document did not assert a new system of governance, nor did it have anything useful to say about secrecy, nor did it advocate a more open approach to knowledge. Its only references to secrets are to the geometry used by operative stone-masons from mediaeval times. The book’s title page describes the ‘Society of the Free-Masons’ as ‘that most Ancient and Right Worshipful FRATERNITY’, which is to say that it refers to a specific kind of organised society – a fraternity – not to a faith, or an ideal but specifically to a FRATERNITY.[ii] (His emphasis) The text, however, provided the basis for a completely different entity, one which was not a fraternity, nor even an organised society, but an ‘it’ which had been in existence for 5723 years, that is, for the assumed life of ‘the world’. It is not enough now for commentators like Stevenson to say that claiming Adam as the Society’s ancestor was just the way they thought (or spoke or wrote) back then.[iii] There is a lot built on this first, silly assertion:
p.1 ‘Adam, our first parent…must have had the Liberal Sciences written on his
One ‘Liberal Science’ in particular:
p.2 ‘…we find the principles of it … have been drawn … into a convenient Method of Propositions, by observing the LAWS of PROPORTION taken from MECHANISM. …No doubt, Adam taught his sons GEOMETRY…’
‘It’ is then entitled ‘the Royal Art’ for no apparent reason. As buildings became larger and more solid ‘it’ became ‘masonry’, then ‘Masonry’ in which notion is included all branches of building:
p.8 ‘So that the Israelites, at their leaving Egypt, were a whole kingdom of Masons, well instructed, under the conduct of their GRAND MASTER MOSES, who often marshalled them into a regular and general Lodge…’
pp.25-26 ‘The old records of Masons afford large hints of their lodges, from the beginning of the World, in the polite nations, especially in times of peace, and when the Civil Powers, abhorring Tyranny and Slavery, gave due scope to the bright and free genius of their happy subjects; for then always Masons, above all other Artists, were the favourites of the Eminent, and became necessary for their grand undertakings in any sort of Materials, not only in Stone, Brick, Timber, Plaster; but even in Cloth or Skins, or whatever was us’d for Tents, and for the various sorts of Architecture. Nor should it be forgot, that PAINTERS also, and STATUARIES, were always reckoned good Masons, as much as BUILDERS, STONE-CUTTERS, BRICKLAYERS, CARPENTERS, JOINERS, UPHOLDERS or TENT-MAKERS, and a vast many other Craftsmen that could be nam’d, who perform according to GEOMETRY, and the Rules of BUILDING…’
His assertions about more recent, and historically-known personages are no more reliable:
eg p.41 ‘…we have much reason to believe that King CHARLES II was an ACCEPTED FREE-MASON, as every one allows he was a great Encourager of the CRAFTSMEN.’ (All emphases in original)
This 1723 document was a political manifesto intended to establish parameters and to attract gentry support. The men involved were all seeking to enhance their connections with members of the very corrupt Hanoverian regime, and thus their status in London’s influential communities. For ‘the Society’ to be received favourably and not suppressed – an important consideration – the text had to meet specific political requirements in an environment where scrutiny of public documents was intense. Its hyperbolic language was deliberate and driven by the same political motivations:
To proclaim and encourage VIRTUE…has been the endeavour of FREEMASONRY from the earliest periods to the present day.
When the wild savage leaped from his den, in all the horror of barbarian ferocity; and men knew no rights but those of the strongest: FREEMASONRY, shackled but not destroyed, exerted itself in filial tenderness, parental regard, an adoration of some deity, and gratitude for benevolent actions…and we plainly perceive that MASONRY has in all ages been the great criterion of civilisation…
FREEMASONRY (or VIRTUE, its Christian name) ventured to correct the ferocious manners of men, to tame their savage cruelty, convoke their synod, frame their laws, and with a sort of magic power convert the lawless robber into the peaceful citizen…[iv]
Its ode to the English/British Empire, describing its people as the happiest, best governed and nicest anywhere, is an assertion of what was required of anyone wishing to join those self-describing as already the best and brightest of those people, ie, ‘Freemasons’:
p.47 ‘And now the FREEBORN BRITISH NATIONS, disentangled from foreign and civil Wars, and enjoying the good fruits of Peace and Liberty, having of late much indulg’d their happy Genius for Masonry of every sort, and reviv’d the DROOPING LODGES OF LONDON, this fair METROPOLIS flourisheth, as well as other parts, with several worthy PARTICULAR Lodges, that have a quarterly COMMUNICATION and an annual GRAND ASSEMBLY, wherein the FORMS and USAGES of the most ancient and worshipful Fraternity are widely propagated, and the ROYAL ART duly cultivated, and the CEMENT of the Brotherhood preserv’d…(etc)…’
This text was for Anderson and his group the definition of what ‘Freemasonry’ was and a wish projection of what ‘it’ was to be. The group hoped that though ‘Masonry of every sort’ might flourish, their ‘view’ would obscure and de-legitimise any other possible definition. It was perhaps a statement of their current practice, but it was also a weapon in a propaganda campaign. The stipulations of a ‘quarterly communication’ and an ‘annual Grand Assembly’ stand out as solid elements within a mass of vagueness. These were to be immediately enforceable. They were subsequently used to differentiate ‘true’ from ‘false’ Freemasonry. If they had applied pre-1717, these requirements alone would have disqualified the biblical groupings used to reach that conclusion. The 1723 ‘Charges’ and ‘Rules’ contained other defining characteristics intended to rule out women, atheists and ‘stupid libertines’ from membership and were intended to provide authority for the expulsion of non-complying members. These criteria would also have disqualified historical ‘Masons’ if retrospectively applied.
The strictures on intending members have been taken as self-fulfilling prophecies, as proof that lodges set up by this ‘London Grand Lodge’, contained only men who exemplified the intended characteristics and abhorred those condemned. By extension, ‘Freemasonry’ has been projected as an enlightened, rational materialist operation, always progressive and forward-looking, in all situations and times. Such conclusions are, of course, logically untenable, which subsequent real-time history has shown. The on-line editor of the Franklin reprint correctly noted the two faces of the founding document: ‘The document suggests that Masonry, in its modern Anglo-American form, was rooted in Old Testament exegesis…and contemporary Protestant ideals of morality, merit and political equality.’ A great deal of rhetorical weight has been placed on the connection between ‘the ancient’ and ‘the modern’ but it is a weight which confuses faith with logic and myth with science. A belief in the value of pre-Christian stories as sources of wisdom and moral lessons does not release ‘modern’ believers from superstition, or support claims that ‘Freemasons’ are engaged in reason-based learning. ‘Freemasonry’ cannot be both a product of an 18th century, allegedly rational thought and of persons and events from ‘the beginning of the world’. The idea that it can be remains unusually persistent. In 2018, Lodge Middle Harbour, Sydney, hosted a talk advertised, against a backdrop of a photo of Stonehenge, thus:
The Genuine Secrets of Freemasonry Rediscovered
Discover Lost Secrets of Freemasonry and the Universal Symbols concealed in Craft ritual. Learn Genuine Secrets of the Ancient Master Masons (that pre-date the establishment of the Grand Lodge by Millenia) and gain a true understanding of the ancient origins of Freemasonry.
Whatever its claims for universality the 1723 text has been taken up and used in politico-religious wars. Its contradictory format burnt itself into the works of later authors. Whenever this ‘history’ has come under sceptical attention – Stevenson called it ‘absurd’ – it was already too late. Repetition had turned the 1723 assertions from promotional propaganda into received wisdom, albeit a wisdom which could be manipulated. For three centuries ‘Freemasonry’s’ assertion of a ‘tradition more ancient than Christianity’ as ‘its’ source has been regarded by partisans as un-challengeable proof that ‘it’ was an early expression of ‘deism’ or ‘natural religion’ and therefore an enlightened break with a superstitious Christianity, mainly Catholic past. Any ‘ancient Jewish’ references are ignored or carefully managed.
Peter pointed to a crucial but so far ignored part of the 1723 document’s context and its subsequent dynamic: ‘(Masonic research) still has a lot to offer to research into the culture and practices of the ‘underground’ world…forms of communication and networks of …eighteenth century secret societies and spying circles.’ (Peter, p.xix).’ The Society of Free-masons’ was and is a secret society but ‘the culture and practices of the ‘underground world’ have had almost no attention from English-language scholars. It can be assumed that from the very first, London-based lodges attracted agents from other networks of influence, such as diplomats from other nations and the Society of Jesus, to gather intelligence, to attempt take-overs, or to gain traction for their own schemes. What is known of London politics makes it also safe to assume that certain lodges were better-placed than others to operate as ‘safe houses’ for the exchange of sensitive information between government emissaries, or for the planning of covert operations.
Interestingly, Frattini’s 2009 book on the secret activities of the Roman Church suggests that its operatives were mobilised in 1733 and again in 1738 to counter Masonic infiltration of the Holy See. An internal Masonic threat, he claims, led to Pope Clement XII in 1734 prohibiting ‘all citizens [of the Papal States] from taking part in Masonic rites under pain of death and confiscation of all worldly goods. The new law ordered all Catholics to report these rites to Church magistrates, along with the names of those participating.’ (Frattini, 2009, p.117) The Roman Catholic Church has had an espionage department and a counter-intelligence operation since at least 1566 when the then Pope, Pius V, set in train a secret mission to neutralise the Protestant threat represented by Elizabeth I of England,[v] and to avenge the murder of David Rizzio, a Vatican spy and agent of Philip II, King of Spain. No doubt, it was covert agents who provided the information used in the other prohibitions issued against ‘Freemasons’ in the 1730’s and ‘40’s.
Rumours about a politicised ‘Freemasonry’ were long-standing, it seems. Some Frenchmen apparently believed ‘Free-Masonry’ had been responsible for Oliver Cromwell’s regime of the 1640’s, a belief which perhaps helped them to see ‘it’ later as an anti-Hanoverian entity.[vi] German historian, JC Bode wrote at the time of the French Revolution that ‘Freemasonry’ had been invented by Jesuits while another German historian, Findel, later wrote that the Jesuits had first attempted infiltration of London’s ‘Free-Masonry’ in the guise of ‘the Gormogons’ shortly after the first meetings of the London Grand Lodge.[vii] One Spanish scholar, Ferrer-Benimeli has written recently: ‘(T)here are (many) books devoted to jointly (studying) Jesuits and Freemasons, in which the central vector is usually secret and plot…Freemasons and Jesuits (have been) involved in a kind of symbiosis in which they intertwine and confront each other at the same time…’ [viii] He might have made the same point regarding ‘the Jews’ and ‘the Jesuits’, or ‘the Jews’ and ‘the Freemasons’. Whether the rumours are true or not they achieve their full significance only when it is noted that none were originally made in English and that readers of English-language histories of ‘Freemasonry’ will search in vain for any discussion of secrecy or infiltration of London’s Grand Lodge by Jesuits or anyone else.
The Bible was not written with assemblies of stone masons in mind. If getting at their history was what Anderson had in mind, there were better ways. For example, the ‘Worshipful Society of Free Masons, Rough Masons, Wallers, Slaters, Paviors, Plaisterers, and Bricklayers’ had a seven-degree ritual and an annual ceremony, the Sanhedrim. [ix] If getting at the past history of fraternalism in general was his concern there was the fraternalism practised by numerous other trades and societies, including many in the Middle East which might have been appropriate.[x] If interested in contemporary secret societies with free-thinking inclinations there were a number such as the Knights of Jubilation made much of by Margaret Jacob in her thesis of a radical, early enlightenment based in the Hague. Incidentally, showing how doubts can become fact and how unhappy consequences can accumulate, in 2001 a blanket assertion swept aside numerous doubts raised about her approach in the previous two decades: ‘Crucial to her [Jacob] reconstruction of this particular phenomenon [the radical enlightenment] are the activities of the Knights of Jubilation, a masonic secret society first established by John Toland in 1710 in the Hague…’. [xi] As one doubting example only, a biographer of Toland had earlier observed with regard to the pantheistic Knights of Jubilation: ‘The abundance of non-Masonic clubs with characteristics very similar to the sodalities of the pantheists, including semi-secret groups that supported the work of the Royal Society [in London] presents a problem for any claim that the pantheists were Freemasons.’ [xii] She herself, it must be noted, had only claimed that: ‘The contents of the manuscript [found in Toland’s papers] reveal the existence of a secret group which was most probably some sort of masonic lodge.’ [xiii]
Also available, according to MK Schuchard, was a Jewish-derived, esoteric fraternal form which she has labelled ‘Jacobite Freemasonry’ because, she contends, the House of Stuart had adopted it before being exiled to France by the House of Orange in 1688. Her research has led her to conclude that London’s GL of the 1717-21 period and the Andersoniam claim of an eternal ‘Masonry’ were parts of a single ploy – to counteract the Stuarts by overwhelming that ancient Jewish tradition.[xiv] The evidence strongly supports the need for a definition, something which has not been an issue with any other fraternal society, before or after 1717-21, even for those also claiming an ancient ‘history’. If it were only paid-up ‘insiders’ who believed that Old Testament prophets could be included in a fact-based history of an actual society, the silliness would not have sustained itself for very long. But, sadly, non-Masons, including academically-trained professional historians have absorbed and repeated the idea. The most conclusive proof that the infection is still pervasive outside the lodge system is to quote academically-tested, female, ie non-initiated scholars of recent times. Sara Frahm, whose thesis on ‘Freemasonry and Religious Tolerance in Mexico’ had its second edition published in 2014, introduced her account by locating ‘it’ in England after 1688 when the population was ‘weary of religious quarrels and tedious debate about confessional differences’. Mathew Tindal’s publication, Christianity Older than Creation’ was not published until 1730 but it is his definition she uses to claim ‘deism and natural religion (as the) likely… basis for Freemasonry.’ [xv]
Anderson’s text is a package. It is evidence of a deliberate, political choice he and his faction made to boost the prospects of their new venture. It was a manifesto for a Society which intended to succeed by capturing an agenda, not one seeking to exemplify tolerance, rationality and/or progressive social values, the public advocacy of which would have had it closed down. Later infusions of more progressive social ideals into the ‘Masonic spectrum’ are signs of discontent with the original in spite of the label being retained. It can be reasonably asked whether later manifestations were true-to-label – whether they were actually ‘Masonic’?
[i] On-Line Electronic Version of ‘The Constitutions of Free-Masons’, orig 1734 in Philadelphia, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, date ?.
[ii] J Anderson, Constitutions of the Free-Masons, orig 1723, re-published many times, incl 1855, New York.
[iii] D Stevenson, James Anderson: Man and Mason, Heredom, Vol 10 (2002), pp.110-111.
[iv] Editorial, ‘The origin and Design of Masonry’, Freemasons Magazine, 1 June, 1793, p.9.
[v] E Frattini, The Entity: Five Centuries of Secret Vatican Espionage, JR Books, 2009, p.7.
[vi] M Jacob, Living the Enlightenment – Freemasonry and Politics in Eighteenth-Century Europe, OUP, 1991, p.23.
[vii] T Frost, Secret Societies in the European Revolution, 1776-1876, Vol 1, Lond, 1876, p.26.
[viii] J Ferrer-Benimeli, ‘Freemasons and Jesuits: Making up Myths, Revealing Secrets’, in Freemasonry: Invention and Tradition Studies, July, 2015, p.20
[ix] T Carr, The Ritual of the Operative Free Masons, Tyler, Michigan, 1911.
[x] M Wischnitzer, A History of Jewish Crafts and Guilds, Jonathon David, 1965.
[xi] W Van Bunge, From Stevin to Spinoza, Brill, 2001, p.150.
[xii] S Daniel, John Toland, His Methods, Manners and Mind, McGill UP, 1984, p.214.
[xiii] M Jacob, An Unpublished Record of a Masonic Lodge in England, 1710, in Zeitschrift fur Religions-und Geistesgeschichte, Vol 22, Issue 2, 1970, pp.168-171; Other relevant responses include: C Bervens-Stevelinck, Le Chevaliers de la Jubilation, Quarendo, Vol 13, 1983; a response by Jacob the following year in the same journal; and R Faggionato, A Rosicrucian Utopia in 18th Century Russia, Springer, 2006.
[xiv] M Schuchard, Restoring the Temple of Vision, Brill, 2002; M Schuchard, Masonic Esotericism and Politics, La Regle d’Abraham, June, 2017.
[xv] S Frahm, The Cross and the Compass, Palibrio, 2014, p.7.
LEAVING LONDON, LEAVING ENGLAND
The Andersonian contradiction was noticed and satirised immediately the Society came to public attention, including by Franklin in the US.[i] The sharpest questions concerned the personal motivations of individual ‘Masons’ and the purpose of the Society. Was it nothing but a men’s club with pretentious ceremonial? Was it seditious only because it insisted on secrecy or was it a hot-bed of political intrigue? London’s ‘Freemasonry’ was recognisably different from that which quickly evolved elsewhere yet the literature has been very slow to concede any difference. Jacob emphasised the diverse ways in which ‘freemasonry’ was experienced across Europe. Her whole case, however, depended on there being only one ‘Freemasonry’ which had magically evolved after 1717-21 into an example of ‘modern’, or ‘Enlightened’ civil society. No matter where they were, lodges remained ‘a replica of the British example’ for which she provided no definition, only assertions by engaged partisans, for example: ‘Freemasonry is justly called the School of Virtue…’ (p.6) Her conclusion included: ‘In short, these new men are self-disciplined, as well as charitable towards one another, and their new ethics come from their recently discovered idealism as embodied in their dedication to freemasonry.’ (p.7) Her only explanation for the apparent popularity of ‘Freemasonry’ is a circular argument: ‘It would seem that the constitutional and legislative environment was what attracted men on the Continent to the first lodges.’ (p.4) This is the thesis her opening claim required her to prove.
One who seemed not to share Jacob’s view was Nicolaevsky: ‘Freemasonry was never a unified movement, even within a particular country.’ [ii] He went on: ‘This is even truer if we speak of the political role of masonry, and particularly in France in the period that interests us – that is, the period in which the First International was formed.’ He declared he was not speaking of ‘official masonry’ but of another stream, often repudiated and spurned as ‘irregular’: ‘ Outwardly, these groups had the form of a masonic organization and bore a masonic name, the Lodge of the Philadelphians (Loge des Philadelphes). Some of the members may in fact have considered themselves masons. But veteran masons, those who headed the lodges, must have realized that their lodges had little in common with real masonry.’ This is still confused. He implies the inclusion of these spurned ‘lodges’ in ‘Freemasonry’ otherwise his assertion that ‘it’ was never unified makes no sense. Again, there is need for a definition of what’s in and what’s not. Later, in the same article he asserts that: ‘The role of these undercover, government-persecuted masons in the forming and developing of the First International was enormous.’ Billington, on the conservative side of politics, argued that 19th century political reformers also ‘grew out of occult Freemasonry’ and what he called ‘Pythagorean passion’: ‘Most importantly for our story, Masonry was deliberately used by revolutionaries in the early nineteenth century as a model and a recruiting ground for their first conspiratorial experiments in political organisation.’ [iii]
These attempts to clarify only add to the confusion. The Philadelphian Rites seem to have influenced 19th-century reformers but it was not their occult character, whatever was meant by that, which impressed the radicals – it was more likely to have been, as Billington observed, their ‘organisational’ aspects. Of the two meanings of ‘occult’ – secretive and ‘involving the supernatural’ – it may have been the first which governments feared but Masonry’s formal barriers to the outside world – oaths, guards at the lodge entrance and handsigns – were hardly impenetrable.
Very recent authors have continued to struggle with this problem of ‘Freemasonry’s’ politics. Despite supporting its supposedly a-political essence, Berman asserted in 2017 that ‘In the two decades that followed the establishment of the new Grand Lodge (in London), freemasonry’s (sic) leaders were driven by a desire to defend and protect the status-quo.’ He wrote:
Its [ie the original London Grand Lodge’s] political, financial and social connections were an advertisement that presaged opportunities for influence and patronage, and in conjunction with a two-decades long press campaign the organisation was propelled to a position of pre-eminence in Hanoverian society, and across Europe and into the Americas.[iv]
Neil Kamil, a little earlier, chose esotericism as the essence and used Hogarth’s etchings as evidence:
Hogarth’s pictorial history for (the) London of (John) Fludd’s theories of geomancy and memory, maps and inventories similar strategies of ‘invisible mixing’, alchemic ‘withdrawal from the multitude’ and astral rebirth…Ultimately the congregants (in Hogarth’s Hog Lane) return to the ‘art and mystery’ of their workshops and Masonic lodges through the ‘double door’ of Fludd’s fortress of memory.[v]
These are no more adequately comprehensive than earlier conflicted approaches though Jacob’s suggestion of a pantheistic, Hughenot thread could be usefully brought into contact with both Berman’s and Kamil’s interpretation as parts of a larger context. For example, the London GL may well have been a strategic alliance of anti-Jacobite and Hughenot leaders who used their international refugee networks to negotiate with a government anxious to cover its own clandestine efforts across the globe.
It seems unlikely that ‘Freemasonry’s’ popularity in 18th century Europe was due to any one thing, even less likely that ‘new’ forms of governance were responsible. Elections, record keeping, mass assemblies and negotiated decisions had all happened before in many cultures. Harland-Jacobs made a stir in 2012 when she argued that the British Empire was ‘a Masonic enterprise.’ [vi] For her there was still only one ‘Freemasonry’ but ‘it’ was not merely convivial. Central to her thesis were the lodges inside military units which moved as England’s imperial strategies changed. Estimates for the total number of regimental lodges have been around 500, with most chartered by Grand Lodges other than the one in London. Wikipedia, 2017, asserted that ‘up to 1815, the regimental lodge was the most important (factor)’ in the spread of both the Empire and ‘Freemasonry’. Irish Masonic historian Chetwode Crawley had been equally explicit but vague a century before: “These lodges permeated everywhere; everywhere they left behind the germs of Freemasonry.” These authors provide no context and continue to assume that the reality matched the Andersonian theory. Romantic images of life inside military lodges, such as those of Rudyard Kipling, do not jell with real life and line up too easily with the projected 1723 image of the Order and the Empire. There are no known accounts of how a lodge rebuilt itself after its ranks were depleted by fighting, disease or desertion, for example. The known accounts do not explain either how the supposed prohibitions on discussing religion or politics within the lodge survived in an atmosphere suffused with political and religious issues and when ‘even the meanest very seriously (discussed) laws, property rights, privileges, etc, etc’.[vii] No explanation is provided as to why the bulk of these charters was issued, not by the London Grand Lodge but by either the Grand Lodge in Dublin or the breakaway Ancient Grand Lodge in London. The Grand Lodge of Ireland issued its first traveling warrant in 1732 and between then and 1813 it warranted nearly 200 such lodges. The Ancients issued 108. The Royal Artillery had 28 Ancient lodges! Surviving evidence strongly suggests that if they operated at all once they left the English land mass, lodges were largely ad-hoc and were held together by a diversity of motivations. Those which maintained a sense of cohesion were probably strongly attached to ‘their’ regiment, perhaps ‘their’ commanding officer, rather than Andersonian theory.
Harland-Jacob’s work broke a long-standing mould but how the ritual of the Society of Free-Masonry’s, which was still being created at the time of its first meetings, fared in conflict zones would be worth knowing. It is known that it was not considered adequate across the Channel or the Atlantic or even in parts of Britain outside London’s immediate influence and was very quickly and dramatically altered. Remarkably little is known about how these variations came about. The ‘Ancient York Rite’, for example, appeared in Ireland in the 1740’s before it or something like it became influential in the ‘Antients Grand Lodge’ set up in London in the 1750’s. This ‘York’ system included the ‘Royal Arch Degree’, which became perhaps the most popular and most-practised Masonic degree ever invented. A re-union in 1812 of ‘the Ancients’ and their London-based opposition, appears a retreat by London to safer ground where defences could be strengthened against a raft of Continental changes which had happened in the interim. The ‘new’ combined EF claimed ownership of only the Apprentice, Workman and Master Mason Degrees, aka ‘Blue Freemasonry’, and the contested Royal Arch degree. An explosion of so-called ‘Higher’ or ‘Occult’ Degrees and which amounted, according to their inventors, to nothing more than extensions of ‘Freemasonry’, had added over ninety distinct ceremonies.
Non-regimental lodges in overseas ports were obvious means for merchants and trading company personnel to gain official cover for their short-term purposes, including the surveillance of locals. Profits, morale, socialising and discipline were all at risk if good local relations were not maintained or if internal threats were not countered. It is inconceivable that these lodges were not directly involved in port and garrison politics, or that they were not forced into adopting arrangements which purists would see as ‘compromising’. The first known Masonic lodge in the US was set up in New York around 1729 and almost immediately became a vehicle for political in-fighting. Lepore’s recent account has shown with a ‘lacerating attention to detail’, rival mercantile/politicians contending ‘in a colonial society that combined freedom and slavery, … stark cruelty and vaulting ambition.’ [viii] Finding his opponents in ‘the Court Party’ already dominant in established lodges, James Alexander and other gentlemen of the ‘Country Party’ in 1737 established a ‘Manhattan lodge of Freemasons’, (Lepore, 2005, p.139) thereby precipitating open conflict. Acting as campaign headquarters in that year’s election the lodges were centrally involved in a contest which quickly escalated from cold to hot. Lepore at one point in the proceedings provided the commentary that:
…Into this highly charged debate involving rival printers and playful, dangerous, even fatal pranks about politics and Masonry, stepped John Hughson. Just after the ad for the stolen Masons’ tools ran in Zenger’s Weekly Journal, just after William Bradford printed the Masons’ secret oath in the New York Gazette, just at the time of Evan Jones’ trial [on a charge of manslaughter arising from a supposedly mock-initiation], John Hughson shared the secret of a plot with black men he had only just met, (he had taken them) to his house, (where he had) initiated them. It can hardly have been a coincidence. (Lepore, 2005, p.143)
Lepore has interpreted these events as either a variety of ‘prank, that grew out of proportion’ (p.143) or as a typical example of Papal duplicity, or both. (pp.182-183) She has assumed that the official Masonic literature can be trusted. Greater understanding of the century’s Masonic history might have caused her to ask whether the slaves were deluded subjects of white conspiracies, or were self-aware agents furthering their own conspiracy. Not being a Freemason and unaware of the significance of the different Masonic ‘strands’, she did not track the Rite or Rites used by the factions to identify themselves.
From the first, ‘English’ Masonic lodges, ie lodges in England paying allegiance to the London GL, were diverse in membership and motivation. Some were clearly intended for ‘the quality’ and some for the hoi-polloi, while others were ‘custom-built’, for example, to accompany regiments overseas, or to support trading activities in foreign ports. Within each there were differences of opinions about the purpose for gathering. From the first there were partisans for a range of options not always or merely political – Hanoverian royalists, religious activists, entrepreneurs, anti-Hanoverians, and hermeticists.
The lack of a sensible definition also continues to impede attempts to untangle genuinely ‘Masonic’ activity, whatever that might turn out to be, from that of other fraternal/secret societies. The ‘Masonic idea’ appears to consist of elements which have elsewhere been used to define ‘fraternalism’ as a whole. Theoretical ‘Masonry’, therefore, sits as a sub-subset of the larger set already bifurcated into ‘secret (fraternal) societies’ and ‘non-secret (fraternal) societies.’ The three centuries since 1717 is the period during which these societies have proliferated. Groups of men and women met to discuss ideas – scientific, philosophic, agitational – to feast, to organise member benefits, and/or to attract and exploit the vulnerable. They were not all ‘Masonic.’ That the spectrum of fraternal/secret/benefit societies, from its beginning, included the heights of society and the lowest should have been sufficient indication that the idea carried different messages for different people, and that it was made use of for different reasons.
[i] L Lemay, The Life of Benjamin Franklin, Vol2, UPP, 2013, pp.83-4.
[ii] B Nicolaevsky, ‘Secret Societies and the First International’, on-line at <libcom.org> or the site of the Masonic Grand Lodge of British Columbia and the Yukon. (2018)
[iii] J Billington, Fire in the Minds of Men, Transaction Books, 2010 edn, p.93.
[iv] R Berman, Espionage, Diplomacy and the Lodge, The Old Stables Press, 2017, p.255.
[v] N Kamil, ‘Fortress of the Soul – Violence, Metaphysics and Material Life in the Hughenots’ New World, 1517-1751’, John Hopkins, 2005, p.674.
[vi] J Harland-Jacobs, Builders of Empire, 2012.
[vii] J Wardroper, Kings, Lords and Wicked Libellers: Satire and Protest 1760-1837, Murray, 1973, p.3.
[viii] J Lepore, New York Burning: Liberty, Slavery and Conspiracy in Eighteenth-Century Manhattan, Vintage, 2005, quote from a review in The New Republic, 2017.
WHY THE JEWS?
The common belief that ‘the Jews’ were ‘neither commercially nor intellectually productive’ but had always served ‘as middlemen’ nurtured the ‘rising tide of European anti-Semitism’ in the 20th century.[ii] The assumption that ‘Jews’ were all the same even crippled the work of scholarly commentators:
Whether the Jews are seen as ‘international bankers’ of the type of the Rothschild, or as miserable peddlars in the image of ‘the old cl’oes Jews’, whether they are described as a Pariavolk by Max Weber or as the epitome of a “marginal trading people” by Howard Becker, the near-unanimity in this respect of proverbial saying and fairy tale, of political pamphlet and scholarly treatise remains impressive.[i]
Why then have ‘they’ been singled out? The better answers to that question are nuanced: ‘(Whereas) the Russians, and Poles and Yugoslavs were decimated (by the Nazis) in the name of racist theories which were less than a century old, the drive to exterminate the Jews sprang from demonological superstitions inherited from the Middle Ages…’ [iii] Cohn also believed in a second, more mundane reason, namely that:
The idea that Jewry is a conspiratorial body, united in the service of evil, intent on thwarting God’s plan for the world, incessantly plotting the ruination of mankind …was born of the conflict between the [Catholic] Church and the Synagogue… (p.17)
He had a third – ‘that when the Jew is ‘demonised’ he is unconsciously seen as a cruel, tyrannical father-figure.’ (p.17 and pp.279-299) That is, Jew-haters were actually striking out at their own fathers whom they feared but couldn’t reach. Three explanations then for attacks on Jews – superstitions, power struggles, and sub-conscious familial baggage – all of them involving fears held by the attackers. In another of his books, ‘The Pursuit of the Millennium’, Cohn wondered whether ‘the Jews’ had contributed to their predicament:
What so sharply distinguished the Jews from the other peoples of the ancient world was their attitude towards history and … towards their own role in history…(The) Jews were alone in combining an uncompromising monotheism with an unshakeable conviction that they were themselves the Chosen People of the one God. (Cohn, 1970, p.19)
Other authors have theorised why ‘the Jews’ might have thought themselves superior: ‘What made (Jacob’s descendants) differ (from Abraham’s other son who became the progenitor of the Arabs) was literacy…The Hebrew nomads used writing to share survival skills among the tribes of kinsmen…Literacy also allowed the Jews to develop a unifying sense of their own history and destiny…(Early) religious commitment to literacy was the secret of continuing Jewish success and the source of consistent envy.’ [iv]
The first known mass actions against ‘the Israelites’ involved their dispersal by the Assyrians in 733bce, and their forced removal to Babylonia by the Romans 150 years later:
The Babylonian Exile, also called the Babylonian Captivity, was the forced detention of Jews in Babylonia following the conquest of the kingdom of Judah in 598/7 and 587/6 bce. The exile formally ended in 538 bce, when the Persian conqueror of Babylonia, Cyrus the Great, gave the Jews permission to return to Palestine. (Wikipedia, 2017)
This removal had nothing to do with revenge for mis-treatment of a messiah, demoniac superstition or a Christian insistence on conversion. It seems that it was aimed at reducing the likelihood of unrest among Jews and other fractious, subjugated peoples. Pre-Christian Rome had no anti-Jewish policy. Its armies crushed the independent Jewish slate of Judea, but Jews in Rome enjoyed equality under the law. They could execute wills, enter into valid marriages with Romans, exercise the rights of guardianship, and hold office.[v] Later, when Roman armies again invaded Jerusalem, in 630ce ‘Jews were supposedly baptized by force, as punishment for the role they were thought to have played in the fall of the city 16 years earlier; those who fled were banned from coming within three miles of the city.’ [vi]
Intense rivalries produced many flash points: ‘Christianity flowed along the trade routes but its progress did not go unchallenged…’ During the years of Christian evangelism Judaism was the status quo in parts of central Asia, and it was ‘the Jews’ who took umbrage and actively sought to maintain their dominant position, including by way of mass murder of Christians: (Frankopan, pp.57-58)
(There) was a systematic effort to assert that Jesus was a false prophet and that his crucifixion was justifiable – in other words, deflecting blame and responsibility away from the Jews…a botched Ethiopian military expedition across the Red Sea in the early 6th century to replace the Jewish ruler with a Christian puppet resulted in vicious reprisals as steps were taken to remove all traces of Christianity from the kingdom (Frankopan, pp.57-59).
As Christianity gained the upper hand in Europe, worshipers were recruited to convince Jews to convert. Individuals on the Papal throne had the power to go further. The forced wearing of a yellow star to signify ‘Jew’ was one initiative: ‘In 1458 the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III proclaimed that Jews were allowed to remain in Frankfurt only if they paid to live in a cramped, gated street on the north-eastern edge of town…’ ‘Jews Lane’, Judengasse, was only a few hundred feet long. In Bologna, the capital of the Roman Church, besieged in the north by Lutherans, Calvinists, etc, ‘Jews’ were living well before 1555. There were 11 synagogues in the city when suddenly their books were burnt on orders of Pope Paul IV and the Inquisition, and in 1558 they were told to confine themselves to a small area, a ghetto. The Papal Bull of 1555 – Cum nimis Absurdum – ordered that Jewish contacts with Christians were to be severely limited, and they were to be confined to the most menial occupations or occupations forbidden to Christians such as money-lending. The Pope justified his actions by arguing that ‘the Jews’ had been condemned by God to ‘eternal slavery for their sin of murdering Jesus and refusing his teachings. Only in 1870, with the Italian conquest of Rome, were Jews fully liberated from the city’s ghetto.’ Up until the Papal States were absorbed, public policy decreed that all Jews wear badges to display their ‘reviled status’ and had no social contact with Christians. They were barred from owning property, from practicing professions, from attending university and from travelling freely.[vii]
From the founding of the Kingdom of Poland in 1025 through to the early years of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth created in 1569, Poland was the most tolerant country in Europe, known as paradisus Iudaeorum (Latin for “Paradise of the Jews”) It became a shelter for persecuted and expelled communities from elsewhere in Europe, particularly from the Catholic countries Spain, Italy and France and, according to some sources, became home to about three-quarters of the world’s Jews by the middle of the 16th century. The Catholic hierarchy sought to treat ‘the Jews’ in Poland as it was doing elsewhere but the secular authorities recognised their value to the economy and protected them as best they could. Contradicting his own assertion that ‘Jewish strategy for survival’ during the Middle Ages ‘was a kind of tenacious passivity’, (pp.115-116) Viorst described the Jewish ‘golden age’ in Catholic Poland: (p.117)
(Nearly a million Jews) tilled the land or worked as village craftsmen or scrambled for wealth in urban commerce…(They) enjoyed a flourishing social, cultural and religious life (all in Yiddish)…Their kehillot [self-governing communities] linked in federations, extended Jewish autonomy to a regional level. Their famous yeshivot [synagogue academies] carried the influence of Polish rabbis to the remote corners of the Jewish world…
It’s hard to see this as passive. Then, he says, Poland’s nobility ‘recruited Jews to be its agents in the (recently conquered) Ukrainian countryside: Together, Catholics and Jews ran a feudal system that imposed on Eastern Orthodoxy a serfdom based on exorbitant rents and taxes.’ In 1648-49, the oppressed Ukrainian peasantry, whipped up by Cossack irregulars ‘into a frenzy against the Jews’, helped to butcher ‘some one hundred thousand’, after which the Cossacks invaded Poland and unleashed ‘a new wave of anti-Semite mayhem.’ Even in this interpretation, ‘the Jews’ were clearly not blameless. They had contributed to the suffering of Orthodox Christians, and the reaction was not aimed at ‘the Jews’ alone since it was the wealth of the oppressors and its accessibility which was the driving force. Nevertheless, the massacres of 1648-49 spurred further large-scale Jewish emigration, this time south and east into the Ottoman Empire where many awaited the coming of a new messiah. After the partition of Poland in 1795 and its destruction as a sovereign state, its Jews were subject to the laws of the partitioning powers, the increasingly anti-semitic Russian Empire, Austro-Hungary and Kingdom of Prussia.[viii] Jewish scholar Katz has recently written that in the period 1717-1750, ‘a new type of Jew was emerging, one who had acquired some western education and had adjusted his behaviour to conform to the standards accepted among gentiles, to the extent that he could now aspire to full membership in their society.’ [ix] He was highlighting the long-standing blanket ban on Jews entering Christian artisanal guilds, a ban carried over into a ‘Masonry’ marked out with Christian crosses and the Christian Bible. Neither could Jews become Illumines.[x] This approach implies solving the problem was entirely in the hands of the excluded – if they were prepared to make themselves suitable for inclusion their oppressors might stop the violence and discrimination.
People of Jewish faith had long been making their own way in the world, and by-passing formal barriers. Jutte’s The Age of Secrecy (2015) describes a European ‘economy of secrets’ which from the 15th century at least had provided opportunities for Jews to accumulate prestige and material wealth: ‘No other period in European history, neither before nor since, has shown so profound a fascination with secrecy and secret sciences’. [xi] Before the nineteenth century, he argues, secrecy was often viewed positively, and secrets were assets which could be traded. There was a widespread view that ‘the secret [was] absolutely the only means to improving mankind and leading it to the kingdom of virtue and enlightenment.’ This notion, Jutte observes, ‘led to the establishment of Enlightenment-minded secret societies’ such as the Freemasons, the Illuminati and the Rosicrucians.[xii] The Jutte account concentrates on ‘useful knowledge’, including hidden or protected knowledge which could be traded, as opposed to transcendental secrets which could not. The range however was from astrology to warfare, from medicine to banking and commerce, from magic to architecture. Knowledge boundaries were fluid and not yet subject to rule by academies. Practitioners of magic and palm reading might seek enlightenment in laboratories and the intestines of animals. An aptitude in mathematics which had both esoteric and mundane applications was crucial. Jews and Christians alike believed that ‘useful information’ was to be found in Solomonic magic literature – a corpus of traditions which held that the mythical king had been an early professori de secreti – a magus who had mastered magic, alchemy and the natural sciences: ‘For Jews, tracing their own scientific and magical activities back to King Solomon meant ennobling such activities and protecting them against Christian polemics.’ [xiii] Francis Bacon called the central institution of his island utopia, New Atlantis, ‘Salomon’s House’: ‘Bacon was not the only early modern Christian who regarded Solomon as a king whose empire and riches rested on his technological and scientific expertise.’ (Jutte, 2015, p.161) Identification with the Solomonic tradition enhanced a Jew’s status in his/her own community and in the wider world. Individual Jews might be valued for the benefits they brought to an evolving ‘New Science’ driven by a need for military advantage as much as by a thirst for abstract knowledge. One of the first Jews granted admission to the Royal Society was from the Iberian Peninsula, ie a Sephardic Jew. ‘who traded in scientific intelligence’. Emanuel Mendes da Costa was an expert on Chinese Jews ‘among whom not a few Christians hoped to find the untainted original version of the Bible.’ In addition, he had a reputation as a dealer in exotic fossils, a skill in high demand at many of the courts of Europe.
The other side of this is, of course, that a secret’s usefulness can only be assessed when it’s existence is known and tested. Claiming to know a secret which can only be accessed by believers is the basis of shamanism, of all religions and of all sleights-of-hand. Zweig, Casanova’s biographer has listed ‘the elements of the ideal type of eighteenth-century charlatans’:
(His) penchant for exotic oriental clothing, delight in fancy titles, multilingualism, bogus genealogies, his claim to have mysterious connections with ruling elites and secret societies, the ability to provide the most desired goods and services, the aura of mystery. [xiv]
Showmanship and a flair for publicity carried any number of ambitious huckster-scientists across Europe, at least for a time. It was a situation in which the label, ‘Freemasonry’ could wind up being attached to almost anything, and lodges being used for almost any purpose. MK Schuchard, almost alone among English-language scholars, has asserted complex networks connecting the likes of artist and Cabalist William Blake to mystic activist for the Stuarts, Emanuel Swedenborg, to the United Irishmen and to other radical enthusiasts throughout Europe. In other words, ‘Freemasonry’ was a means to ends which were not ‘Freemasonry’ but without a definition who can know. Schuchard’s narrative includes late-18th century lodges of Occult Masonry throughout Europe being used by George III’s sons to oppose his policies, by Count Cagliostro to recruit initiates into his Egyptian Masonry, by anti-slavery reformers and in support of other causes. The Jewish thread is vital to Schuchard’s assertions, as is apparent in this summary by another scholar:
Because Rosicrucian and ‘Cabalistic’ traditions were primarily cultivated in the Jacobite system of Freemasonry, Keith Schuchard claims that these concealed conventicles of ritualistic and political activity were the sources of Jewish involvement in radicalism. Focusing especially on the Jewish convert Lord George Gordon and the mysterious Jewish magician Samuel Falk (she) has vigorously argued for the critical role of Jews and Judaism in the radical politics of the eighteenth century both in England and in western and eastern Europe…and well into the nineteenth.[xv]
Magus, alchemist and Kabbalist Samuel Falk attracted aristocrats from all over Europe to London where he appeared in a flowing robe and with a long beard. According to Jutte: ‘In Freemasonic circles, Falk enjoyed a legendary reputation.’ Schuchard’s ‘imaginative description of the eighteenth century Jewish-Christian international Masonic network’ has been attacked as more like ‘a positive fantasy of modern enthusiasts of multiculturalism than a historical reconstruction’,[xvi] but this is not a refutation nor proof of an error.
Attraction to Jewish secrets did not necessarily translate into Christian acceptance of Jews, but there did develop what has been labelled a Christian Zionism, a belief that in order that Christians could be assured of redemption, ‘the Jews’ must return to the Holy Land and convert. For a very long time, there was a distinct lack of enthusiasm amongst Jewish people for returning to Palestine. Even making pilgrimage to Jerusalem was very rare up to the 18th century.[xvii] The shifts in attitude did result in Christians adopting the Bible as their own: ‘In the regions of the Reformation, the popular Bible replaced Papal authority as the source of divine truth…Both the Old and the New Testament became characteristically Protestant books. In just one kingdom, however, did the renewed scriptures praise not only the Promised Land but also ‘the treasured people’ chosen to inherit it. Late sixteenth-century England witnessed the appearance of elite educated circles that displayed the first signs of primal proto-nationalism …(The) England that was defending its unique church of truth and the England that had designated itself as conqueror of vast areas merged on the eve of the modern era in the shadow of the Hebrew Bible.’ (Sand, 2014, pp.142-156)
This development is of enormous significance to this review. England fought off spirited incursions by both ‘the Jews’ and ‘the Jesuits’ and adopted a Bible in which Hebrew heroes spoke in contemporary English rather than Latin and provided moral cover for Protestant-favouring legislation. One result of this ideological shift was the Society of Free-Masons. It, the Society, was not intended to be a major player in global politics by its founders but friends and foes made it so by elaborating a part or parts they arbitrarily selected from the whole and which, for a mix of reasons, called ‘Freemasonry.’ Most of these ‘improvements’ occurred outside England in contexts very different to the one into which the Society was launched.
[i] W Cahnman, ‘Introduction: Role and Significance of the Jewish Artisan Class’, in M Wischnitzer, A History of Jewish Crafts and Guilds, Jonathon David, New York, 1965, p.xiii.
[ii] S Baron, ‘Foreword’, in M Wischnitzer, ‘A History of Jewish Crafts and Guilds’, Jonathon David, New York, 1965, p.vii.
[iii] N Cohn, Warrant for Genocide, 1967, pp.11-12..
[iv] M Aarons and J Loftus, The Secret War Against the Jews, Reed, 1994, pp.18-21.
[v] O Slobbe, Die Juden in Deutschland Wahrend des Mittelalters, Leipzig, 1902, p. 2.
[vi] P Frankopan, The Silk Road: A New History of the World, Bloomsbury, 2015, p.71.
[vii] D Kertzer, The Popes Against the Jews, Knopf, 2001, p.11.
[viii] H Rothschild, The Baroness – The Search for Nica, the Rebellious Rothschild, Ch 5, Knopf, 2012.
[ix] J Katz, Jews and Freemasons in Europe 1723-1939, Harvard, 1970, Ch 1, quote at p.2.
[x] J Wages and R Markner (eds), ‘The Secret School of Wisdom’, Lewis Masonic, 2016, p.16.
[xi] D Jutte, The Age of Secrecy – Jews, Christians and the Economy of Secrets 1400-1800, Yale UP, 2015, p.viii.
[xii] D Jutte, The Age of Secrecy, Yale UP, 2015, p.18.
[xiii] B Jutte, The Age of Secrecy – Jews, Christian, and the Economy of Secrets 1400-1800, Yale UP, p.160.
[xiv] Quoted in Maciejko, 2011, p.219.
[xv] D Ruderman, The Jewish Enlightenment in an English Key, Princeton UP, 2018, p.156.
[xvi] Maciejko, 2011, p.229.
[xvii] S Sand, The Invention of the Land of Israel, Verso, 2014, p.126.
THE 18TH CENTURY – A COMMON CRISIS, A COMMON CONFLICT
Outside London, ‘Freemasonry’ was not so much welcomed and celebrated for itself, but rather absorbed, adjusted and re-arranged. Folger’s 1881 History of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite published in New York quoted an 1853 ‘Report to the Grand Orient of France’ which included a view of the early penetration of London’s ‘Freemasonry’ into that country:
In the year 1700…Masonry, in any of its rites or degrees, was neither known or practiced in France. The first Lodge known there was constituted in 1725, by the Grand Lodge of England, in the York Rite. There was subsequently a Grand Lodge formed there…(with) the title of the “ENGLISH GRAND LODGE OF FRANCE’ until the year 1756; (when) it took the title of ‘GRAND LODGE OR ROYAUME’ or Grand Lodge of the Kingdom. Up to this time, Masonry practiced but three degrees, viz, the Apprentice, the Companion, and the Master, and were called Symbolic.’ [i] [Emphases in original]
This account records rapid and multiple expressions of dissatisfaction with the importation. It was cannibalised, new degrees were invented, multiple ‘re-interpretations’ were announced. New ‘Masonic’ degrees were arranged by enthusiasts into rites such as the Martinist, the Swedenborgian, the Theosophe, and the Knights Templar. What was, for the period, an unruly scramble magnified concern for an appearance of legitimacy. Recruitment of ‘celebrities’ was vital to success as was a display of documents claiming ‘correctness of derivation’ from and formal registration by a ‘Masonic Head Centre’. Folger illustrates the change in emphasis, and the turmoil over what he called a ‘regular head’: ‘ In order to arrive at a proper understanding, and to form just conclusions upon the subjects which are intended to be set forth in this history, it is highly necessary to know from whence these degrees are derived, as well as the manner in which they have come to us.’ (Folger, 1881, p.21) ‘In 1744…disorders of every kind invaded Masonry; charters became merchandise; new degrees swarmed like flies; restaurateurs bought masterships for life, and every-body sold degrees…In 1761, Lacorne, the dancing master, special deputy of the Grand Master, and as such the real head of the Order, enraged because the Grand Lodge refused to recognise him, and its members to sit with him, established a new Grand Lodge…’ (Folger, 1881, p.23) [Emphasis in original]
The criterion for acceptability was not integrity, reason or even common sense but proof of ‘regularity’ of specific degrees, an early version of political correctness. If a rite or individual was judged to be ‘irregular’ it could be abused at will. Given certain ‘arrangements’, those previously adjudged to be alien ‘non-Masons’ could, at the stroke of a factional pen, suddenly resume acceptable human form: ‘The followers of Charles Edward Stuart, the son of the Pretender, opened lodges without authority, and he himself chartered a Chapter of Rose Croix at Arras in 1747…(This) was the first Chapter, or centre of administration of the high degrees in France, …the second was established by a travelling Scotsman, at Marseilles in 1751.’ Folger was a partisan for the ‘Ancient Scottish Rite’ which in the 19th century he wanted to show was the stabilising newcomer ending a period of chaos. In the 1870’s, Thomas Frost, an English ex-Chartist made a similar observation: ‘The latter half of the last century [the 18th] was a period of great activity and incessant agitation in the Masonic Order. Higher degrees and new rites and ceremonies were introduced, and those which were practised in one country were unknown in another. This was especially the case on the Continent, where the English brethren of the Order were surprised and perplexed by finding in the lodges they visited degrees, doctrines and ceremonies entirely novel and strange to them…and every schemer and charlatan…who professed to teach a mystery or doctrine till then unknown, was received with honour and listened to with avidity.’ [ii] An 1890 rendering by authorised chronicler for the [Ancient and Accepted] Scottish Rite in the US, Edward Sherman, is similar:
(There) were more than a hundred rites and orders of Freemasonry and the number of degrees was legion, in which the various authors and compilers made free use of each other’s inventions and productions in compiling their own – making alterations and changing the names of degrees…[iii]
Sherman was another partisan of the ‘Scottish Rite’ keen to establish the bona fides of ‘his’ ‘Freemasonry’ and to deny legitimacy to all the others, including any English form. He knew how important to ‘his’ Rite’s success was its capacity to generate positive publicity and he was sure that that resided in denigration of a chaotic and doubtful past:
(The 18th century) rituals were both written and printed without a copyright law for protection … they were unable to protect their productions from infringement and being purloined bodily by their rival authors and competitors … confusion being worse confounded by the Jesuits, who sowed tares [injurious weeds] among them all.
The Society of Jesus has been praised by its supporters for its role in mass education, in scientific advances and in raising living standards wherever it went. Its role as the ‘information-gathering agency’ for the Holy Alliance, the Vatican’s espionage and counter-intelligence department, is never acknowledged. Having a competitive presence where national governments were setting up trading companies resulted in complaints to the Pope whose policy priorities were, at best, fluid. After two checkered centuries, Benedict XIV chose to appease the Portuguese King and Prime Minister when the Holy Alliance and the Jesuits were charged in 1758 with assisting dissident nobles in undermining, even attempting to assassinate the monarch.[iv] Pope Benedict’s successors protested a number of expulsion orders against the Society over the next decade but military actions against its territories, and factional infighting brought a formal end to the Society’s existence in 1769: ‘The Conclave of 1769, which followed the death of Clement XIII, was, without doubt, the most politicised in papal history…(The) ambassadors from the Catholic courts of Europe, who were the true referees of the Holy See’s ecclesiastic politics…wanted a puppet pope.’ (Frattini, 2009, pp.120-121) On his election, Pope Clement XIV ordered the Holy See’s espionage service cleansed of Jesuits and the Society down-graded to the status of ‘a secular’ or parish priesthood. This left thousands of Jesuits free to act as they thought fit. Some soon managed to force their Portuguese opponents from office and into exile, but the Papal resolutions left the Holy Alliance weakened and uncertain.
One ‘Masonic extension’ known as ‘the Strict Observance’ began its evolution in Frankfurt, as a liberal mix of Catholicism and ‘Freemasonry.’ Its acknowledged founder, Baron von Hund, in Frankfurt for the 1741 coronation of Holy Roman Emperor, Charles VII, was there initiated. Later he converted to Catholicism but continued to be an active ‘Freemason’. He claimed that in Paris in 1743 he was initiated by Scottish knights into the Order of the Knights Templar and introduced to Prince Charles Edward Stuart, the Order’s apparent GM. He claimed he was appointed Provincial GM of the Order in Germany. ‘As proof, he presented an encoded “military chief patent”, which remains undeciphered.’ His relationship to the revived French Templar Order is unclear as he insisted he had been sworn to silence and his diaries provide little information. It is known that in 1751 he founded a ‘new Scottish Rite’ he called Rectified Masonry. It promoted a line of descent from the original Templars. After 1764, known as the ‘Rite of Strict Observance’ it remained little known because of Hund’s inability to make meaningful contact with other Jacobites. After the Seven Years War: ‘He was contacted by George Frederick Johnson, who had been accepted by the lodge at Jena as their masonic mentor, and now claimed superiority over all other lodges in Germany and Bohemia. Those who accepted his rule had their own charters and papers burned, and their leaders re-initiated (at some expense) into Johnson’s system of higher degrees. Hoping that Johnson was his desired link to his own missing superiors, Hund agreed to meet, and Johnson brought his entire entourage, with representatives of his subordinate lodges. However, Johnson’s bizarre behaviour, and his failure to produce promised material, convinced both Hund and his own people that he was a fraud. He was later found to be a German confidence trickster called Johann Samuel Lechte. When their discredited mentor left, his lodges turned to Hund as the unexpected hero of the hour, who now found himself at the head of a movement.’ The Rite suddenly attracted attention. Supposedly directed by ‘Unknown Superiors’ it claimed to be devoted to the reform of ‘Masonry’ ‘with special reference to the elimination of the occult sciences which at the time were widely practiced in many lodges, and the establishment of cohesion and homogeneity in Masonry through the enforcement of strict discipline, the regulation of functions, etc.’ Hund died in 1776 and dissatisfaction led to delegates at a Masonic Convention in Wilhelmsbad in 1782 denying that ‘Freemasonry’ was descended from the Templars and reconstituting ‘his’ Rite as the Rectified Scottish Rite.[v]
Conspiracy theorists, including the most recent generation, have made this gathering a focal point. It has been described as ‘the Illuminati Takeover’ of ‘Freemasonry’ and as the meeting which voted to kill European monarchs and to open all lodge doors to Jews. Serious Masonic scholars have tried but usually failed to make sense of it. Albert Mackey described it as ‘the most important Masonic Congress of the eighteenth century’ without offering context. It was only one in a series of gatherings and records are scarce. Without knowing the whole story it’s futile to comment but it seems clear that Europe’s ‘Masonic lodges’ were failing to keep their earliest joiners and that Jesuits, among others, were joining in increasing numbers. Inevitably, adaptations to the common crisis ranged from very scholarly to the bizarre. There were scholars who sought to fuse religions, others began seeking proof of a biological connection between Anglo-Saxon stock and the lands of Canaan by way of ‘the ten lost tribes of Israel’. (Jutte, 2015, pp.238, 247) Katz has described the Order of the Asiatic Brethren as ‘the earliest attempt to found a Masonic order with the avowed purpose of accepting both Jews and Christians.’ [vi] It first met in Vienna in 1780-81 as the idea of two Bavarian brothers, aristocrats who had seen better days and who, Katz says, were ‘not at all discriminating in their choice of occupation – so long as it allowed them to maintain their standard of living.’ They cultivated ‘those who wielded the real power…: the absolute princes and the rising capitalists who enjoyed their patronage’:
Members of Masonic societies were at times drawn from the upper and propertied classes, but because these organisations often had need of individuals ready to perform remunerative functions, they also served as a refuge for those searching for an easy, but not always honest, livelihood.
Hans Heinrich von Ecker was such a man:
He had been active among the Rosicrucians, in Bavaria and Austria, whose dabbling in alchemy served as confidence schemes to swindle money out of the naïve and reckless. As a result of some quarrel, he severed his connections with them and, in 1781, published a book denouncing them. At that very time he was busy forming a new order, later to become renowned as the Order of the Asiatic Brethren…
Baron Thomas von Schoenfeld, an apostate Jew, was important to the new order as copyist and translator of Jewish Cabalistic works:
(He) had much of the character of an adventurer, in both the intellectual and common connotations of the term. He turned up in Paris during the French Revolution and was executed during the Reign of Terror.
Von Ecker wanted to tie ‘his’ order to a tradition derived somehow from the Orient, as a ‘novel trait to set it off from the other lodges and orders.’ Though he sought to attract Jews eager to enter so-called respectable society, von Ecker didn’t make it easy for them to do so and though ‘his’ order’s ritual contained evidence of Cabalistic sources, he was under pressure from ‘Freemasons’ who believed he was attempting to water down ‘the purity of Christianity’ they believed was essential. For their part, people of the Jewish faith applying to join ‘Masonry’ were charged by fellow-Jews with insulting their heritage and abandoning Judaism:
In theory, the Order of the Asiatics had not been founded as a substitute for Freemasonry but to construct an upper level above the regular Masonic structure…Yet…Jews had not yet been permitted to become Freemasons; they should therefore have been ineligible for membership in the Order of Asiatics …A solution was found. Special Melchizidek lodges…were founded…(They) were an invention, a makeshift measure…to show some effort was being made to include Jews in the same order as gentiles.
The efforts of von Ecker and his colleagues may have been to induce Jews to finance their life-styles but interest in crossing racial/ethnic lines resulted in a network of ‘Asian’ lodges around Hamburg, Vienna and Berlin. Their relative success prompted a counter-attack, specifically on the notion of equality in ‘Freemasonry’. An exchange of pamphlets in Hamburg in 1786 was ‘the opening shot in a crushing barrage which rained down upon the heads of the Order of Asiatics a year later:’ A Protestant cleric, later to be well-known as an Oriental scholar and as the Bishop of Copenhagen, delivered a heavy, detailed critique on behalf of all ‘his’ Masonic brethren. His ‘Introduction’ associated the Order of the Asiatics with the occult current in Rosicrucianism ‘which had achieved notoriety for its extortion of money from the gullible and for its frauds and swindles.’ (Katz, 1970, p.22) More scathing was his denigration of any attempt, covert or overt, to admit Jews to ‘Masonry’. In Katz’s words: ‘Jews were never, according to him, admitted into legitimate lodges conducted in accordance with the laws of the Grand Lodge of England. The exceptions were a few lodges in Holland, and they had done so illegally… He asserted that it was an established rule among all Freemasons, regardless of their rite, that only Christians were eligible “and the entire constitution of the Order is predicated on this principle.’ (Katz’s emphasis – 1970, p.23) It was later acknowledged that the Melchizadek lodges had existed only in von Ecker’s mind. A revived Hassidism appeared among Jews in the late-18th century reflected a clear cleavages with proponents of a ‘Jewish Enlightenment’, the Haskalah Movement, which shook communities for a century before being displaced by Zionism in the 1880’s. The Asiatic Order fell into decline and advocates of inclusive ‘Masonry’ looked elsewhere. A successful ‘Jewish’ lodge was in place by 1811, near Frankfurt, and recorded members of rich Jewish families, including the Rothschilds as initiates. (Katz, 1970, p.33) It was not a sign, however, that ‘Freemasonry’ in Germany had relented. It was a one-off which didn’t last.
In his two-volume 1876 account, Secret Societies of the European Revolution, 1776-1876, Frost gave neither ‘the Freemasons’ or ‘the Jesuits’ their own chapter as he did for some other organisations, but these two deeply covert organisations run as threads through his whole text. He wrote that Weishaupt had ‘conceived the idea of founding a secret Order [to be] a counter-poise to the formidable organisation of Loyola’ (Frost, pp.23-4) As a student in a Jesuit seminary he had drawn up plans for a ‘Humanist’ fraternity which would have operated benefit schemes and encouraged mutual aid. His later plans emphasised personal introspection aided by peer group monitoring of members’ motivations and their efforts to improve themselves. [vii] As ‘Professor Weishaupt’ he occupied a teaching post previously held by Jesuits. Frost commented that ‘It is one of the most irrational ideas ever promulgated that Weishaupt or the social reformers by whom he was succeeded were actuated by the motive…of bringing about universal anarchy and demoralisation.’ (Frost, pp.29-30) Frost did not have access to essential material only very recently published but he did quote Weishaupt as saying:
I have contrived a system which possesses every advantage. It attracts Christians of every communion, gradually frees them from all religious prejudices, cultivates the social virtues, and animates them by a great, feasible, and speedy prospect of universal happiness in a state of liberty and moral equality, free from the obstacles which insubordination, and the inequalities of rank and wealth continually throw in our way. (Frost, 1876, V 1, pp.28-9)
Research released in 2016 argues that Weishaupt was organisationally and temperamentally incapable of building whatever it was that he had in mind.[viii] The newly-published material disclosed intense rivalries between the promoters of the Degrees and Orders battling for the fame and fortune each apparently believed was available. Weishaupt was convinced that European society had once been naturally harmonious. He was an atheist and anti-monarchist because of his belief in ‘all men’s’ need for independence of thought and action: ‘Men originally led a patriarchal life…but they suffered themselves to be oppressed – gave themselves up to civil societies and formed States…and this is the fall of man, by which they were thrust into unspeakable misery. To get out of this state, to be freed and born again, there is no other means than the use of pure Reason, by which a general morality may be established which will put man into a condition to govern himself, regain his original worth, and dispense with all political supports, and particularly with rulers. This can be done in no other way but by secret associations, which will by degrees, and in silence, possess themselves of the government…’ (Frost, p.37) He was thus a ‘natural anarchist’ who, unfortunately, also saw himself as a natural leader and the obvious person to be the leader. A Frenchman who lived the Revolution, Mounier, wrote in 1802: ‘Mr Weishaupt imitated the discipline of the Jesuits, who having, by solemn engagements, united their power in the hands of one man, were the passive instruments of his will. He communicated his project to some confidants, whom he made his first apostles…He agreed with them that he should be the chief …invisible to the majority of the members of the society.’ [ix]
In 1785 the Bavarian police sought to close ‘his’ lodges down and released captured records setting off a storm of protest. In addition to overt opponents of his ideas – believers in centralised governance, divine revelation and traditional society – covert operatives had infiltrated his organisation, reporting to state authorities while attempting internal destabilisation. In 1782 Weishaupt had been supplanted by a Baron Knigge as recruiter and spokesperson. Mounier later described Knigge as ‘a Hanoverian…, a famous intriguer, and long practiced in quackery in the Lodges of Free-masons.’ The smear campaign meant the whole of ‘Freemasonry could be easily dismissed by ‘the partisans of despotism and superstition’, royalists and the Catholic Church: ‘All the mystic quacks of the present century have been denominated Illuminati; and all those who employ themselves about alchemy, magic, cabalistic ceremonies, ghosts, and connexions with intermediate spirits, such as the St Germains [the allegedly pro-Stuart lodges], the Cagliostros, the Swedenborgs, the Rosicrucians, and the Martinists.’ (Mounier, p.173, p.174) The Higher or Occult degrees were, in his view, neither ‘real’ Masonry nor ‘real’ Illuminism.
In the 2014 volume, ‘Handbook of Masonry’, apparently serious Masonic scholars claimed that Mounier had ‘exonerated Freemasonry from all involvement in the preparation and then the bringing to fruition of the French Revolution.’ [x] Mounier certainly wrote that ‘I do not hesitate to maintain that the Free Masons have not had the slightest influence on the Revolution’ (p.149) and ‘Nothing would be more absurd than to attribute the excesses of the Revolution to Free Masons’. (p.170) But he also wrote that ‘It has often happened that… (lodge) orators have declaimed against religious principles’ (p.146) and ‘I acknowledge that the Lodges of Free Masons might easily become a centre of union for conspirators’ (p.148) In another place he has: ‘I do not believe that in the lodges Liberty was ever spoken of. If this word (was) ever pronounced, it was like that of equality, in the sense foreign to politics and entirely moral’, (p.149) all of which amounts to a very ambiguous ‘exoneration’. After the turmoil of the Revolution Mounier claimed he was never a Mason, while others claimed he was or had been.
Some lodges were destroyed and others were forced to make drastic changes. Ferrer-Benimeli has concluded: ‘Many of the lodges saw the need to cease their activities, to the point that from 1791 the Grand Lodge of France had to suspend working; the Grand Orient followed it in 1793, so that of the more than a thousand lodges existing in France in 1789, according to calculation made by André Combes, only a dozen Jacobin lodges survived, if, as Charles Porset asks, they even continued to be lodges and not rather clubs of Jacobins or “sans-culottes”:
The surviving lodges adopted republican vocabulary and usages, including the revolutionary calendar; their works were opened “in the name of the Republic, one and indivisible” and on the unbreakable foundations of freedom and equality; the East, seat of the Worshipful Master, became “the Mountain”, where the WM himself wore the Phrygian cap; the laces were tricolor; behind the WM’s throne hung the Declaration of the Rights of Man of 1793; in whose seals the square and the compass are replaced by the Phrygian cap; they are no longer brothers, but citizens …; the banquets were celebrated to coincide with revolutionary celebrations; revolutionary songs were sung (in Toulouse the famous “Masonic Marseillaise”) etc…
It is quite clear that in these masonic lodges, apart from the name “lodge” there is very little left that is masonic. Once again freemasonry is not an engine but a victim of the revolution. The freemasonry of the Enlightenment practically ceased to exist.’ [xi] (My emphasis)
In 1797-98, two books making allegations about the role of ‘Freemasonry’ in the upheaval became best sellers. Reviewers provided no definition but had no doubt that there was only one ‘Freemasonry’. A review by a ‘Dr Watkins’ of a Professor Robison’s Proofs of a Conspiracy, included: ‘Of the rise and progress of scepticism in France he affects to give an account, which agrees in the main with that of Abbe Barruel. That members of the order of Masonry might be of this unhappy description, and very zealous in propagating the wretched delusion [the Revolution], no-one is inclined to question. But it remains to be proved that even these men, with all their anti-religious notions, ever proceeded to the length of making Masonry the regular vehicle of infidelity.’ [xii] The second book, or series of books were by a Jesuit refugee from ‘the Terror’, the Abbe Barruel. His multi-volume sensation known generally as ‘Memoirs Illustrating the History of Jacobinism’ began to appear in London in 1797 where he was employed by the wife of a senior ‘Freemason’, the Prince of Conti, ‘ex-Grand Master of France’. His text a plea for donations to aid refugee clerics. His main assertion was that the revolutionary upheaval had been set in motion by French writers, including Voltaire, Diderot, Rousseau and Montesquieu, conspiring with the Illuminati and with ‘Occult [Secret] Freemasons’. On the day the French King was transported to the Tower of the Temple, so-called because it had previously belonged to the Knights Templar, Barruel claimed to have ‘witnessed the enthusiasm’, when ‘for the first time…the secret of Freemasonry was made public, that secret so dear to them, and which they preserved with all the solemnity of the most inviolable oath.’ At the reading of the decree impeaching the King, ‘the Freemasons’ allegedly exclaimed: ‘We have at length succeeded, and France is no other than an immense lodge. The whole French people are Free-masons, and the whole universe will soon follow their example.’ The English-language versions of his critique don’t provide detailed bibliographical notes and it is difficult to ascertain which Masonic sources he has used, even which ritual books. But tracking them is not necessary to isolate his basic points nor for my response to be made. Barruel quotes an un-named but ‘accurate observer on the insurrection of Transylvania’ to introduce his central assertion:
At the epoch we are now describing such indeed was the union between the Sophisters [Philosophes, or today’s ‘public intellectuals’] and the Craft [Freemasonry], and such was the mutual succour which they lent to each other, that it was impossible to develop the progress of the one without (seeing ?) the origin of the other, without exposing their common hatreds and common systems, and the combinations of their mutual plots into one and the same conspiracy against Christ and his altars, against Kings and their thrones.[xiii]
There is no closing parenthesis at the end of this quote in the English-version I’m using but it is followed immediately by Barruel saying:
Our object therefore in the remaining chapters will be, to reveal the mysteries of Free-masonry, to explain the means and succours it afforded to the modern Sophisters in the French Revolution, and to show how fatal that union has already been, and how much it threatens the social order of the whole world.
Barruel offers no explanation for ‘Freemasonry’s’ apparent popularity either when he wrote: ‘During the last twenty years it was difficult to meet persons who did not belong to the society of Masonry.’ (pp.152-4) His faith was viscerally outraged by Masonic claims to pre-date Christianity and that Christ and his disciples were therefore the ‘error and darkness’ which ‘Freemasonry’ was seeking to illuminate. His arguments depend entirely on the assumption that ‘Free-masonry’, was a single entity, ‘the Craft’. It’s Higher Degrees only served to flesh out ‘its’ solid commitment to ‘Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.’ As in: ‘The secret object of this ceremony [the Degree of the Elect or Elu] is to re-establish religious Equality, and to exhibit all men equally Priests and Pontiffs, and recall the brethren to natural religion, and to persuade them that that the religion of Moses and of Christ had violated religious Liberty and Equality by the distinction of Priests and Laity.’ [xiv] There are logical disconnects in his text, eg his reference to ‘the systems’ [rites ?] of the Sophisters and Free-masons ‘being common’. There are un-acknowledged switches between the Illumines, the Sophisters and the Free-masons as though they are the same thing, and he similarly switches his accusations from ‘the Occult Degrees’ to all of ‘Freemasonry’. (See his translator’s explanation, p.iv) In the Chapter in which he began his detailed critique – Of the General Secret, or Lesser Mysteries of Free-masonry – he asserted that all Masonic degrees expressed commitment to the revolutionary slogan: ‘(We) will begin by treating of the secret which is common to all degrees…’ (p.147) and ‘the essence and the basis of all their mysteries’ (p.150) He excused from his charge of revolutionary intent ‘upright Masons’ in Germany, France and England who were unaware of the radical meaning of the slogan or who protested in their lodges when the radical interpretation was made explicit. To support his contention that it was possible for Masons to be enthusiastic but politically unaware he quoted a letter from ‘Philo’ [Knigge], to Weishaupt which described ‘English adepts arriving in Germany from London bedaubed all over with the ribbands and the emblems of their degrees, but void of those plans and projects against the altar and the crown…’ (pp.147-8)
Margaret Jacob claimed to know the motivations of ‘Freemasonry’s’ opponents, such as Barruel – ‘paranoid’ was her term of choice – but the only motivation allowed to ‘her’ EF spokespeople was their claim to be seeking virtue and civility. As ‘Dr Watson’ alleged, Robison’s ‘Proofs etc’ told much the same basic story despite his seeming to be anti-Jesuit. In 1795 he had seen a German periodical which described ‘the various schisms in the Fraternity of Free Masons’. He had earlier been an enthusiastic member of continental lodges where he ‘learned many doctrines and seen many ceremonials which have no place in the simple system of Free Masonry which obtains in this country.’ (Robison, 1798, p.5) Where English Freemasonry was ‘a pretext for passing an hour or two in a sort of decent conviviality’ those on the Continent were ‘matters of serious concern and debate.’ In the German magazine he saw ‘quotations without number; systems and schisms of which I had never heard; but what particularly struck me was a zeal and a fanaticism about what I thought trifles.’ (p.8) As well as ‘(men) of rank and fortune’ prepared to travel from one end of France or Germany to the other ‘to visit new lodges, or to learn new secrets or new doctrines’, he saw ‘adventurers coming to a city, professing some new secret, and in a few days forming new Lodges, and instructing, in a troublesome and expensive manner, hundreds of brethren’:
German Masonry appeared a very serious concern, and to be implicated with other subjects with which I had never suspected it to have any connection. I saw it much connected with many occurrences and schisms in the Christian church; I saw that the Jesuits had several times interfered in it; and that most of the exceptionable innovations and dissensions had arisen about the time that the order of Loyola was suppressed; so that it should seem, that these intriguing brethren had attempted to maintain their influence by the help of Free Masonry. I saw it much disturbed by the mystical whims of J Behmen and Swedenborg – by the fanatical and knavish doctrines of the modern Rosicrucians – by Magicians – Magnetisers – Exorcists, etc. And I observed that these different sects reprobated each other, as not only maintaining erroneous opinions, but even inculcating opinions which were contrary to the established religions of Germany, and contrary to the principles of the civic establishments. At the same time, they charged each other with mistakes and corruptions, both in doctrine and in practice; and particularly with falsification of the first principles of Free Masonry, and with ignorance of its origin and history; and they supported these charges by authorities from many different books which were unknown to me.’ (p.9)
His political instincts aroused, Robison said, he began ordering books on continental Masonry. His research showed him that many ‘projectors and fanatics, both in science, in religion, and in politics,’ had taken advantage of the secrecy and the freedom of speech in lodges to ‘tag their peculiar nostrums to the mummery of Masonry, and were even allowed to twist the masonic emblems and ceremonies to their purpose; so that in their hands, Free Masonry became a thing totally unlike, and almost in direct opposition to the system (if it may get such a name) imported from England.’ (p.10) Despite all that he had said so far about influences on German Masonry he then asserted that ‘It has accordingly happened that the homely Free Masonry imported from England has been totally changed in every country of Europe either by the imposing ascendancy of French brethren, who are to be found everywhere, ready to instruct the world, or by the importation of the doctrines, and ceremonies, and ornaments of the Parisian lodges.’(p.11) This contradictory claim was crucial to his approach because French lodges had become places where licentiousness and insubordination were being deliberately taught: ‘I have been able to trace these attempts, made, through a course of fifty years, under the specious pretext of enlightening the world by the torch of philosophy, and of dispelling the clouds of civil and religious superstition which keep the nations of Europe in darkness and slavery.’ The end product of the process, he said, was an Association formed with the express purpose of ‘ROOTING OUT ALL THE RELIGIOUS ESTABLISHMENTS AND OVERTURNING ALL THE EXISTING GOVERNMENTS OF EUROPE.’ (p.12 – His emphasis)
Schuchard has observed that ‘Recent historians of revolutionary movements suggest that these books virtually created the counter-revolutionary right as an intellectual force.’ [xv]
Barruel and Robison’s ease of movement around Europe and their intimate knowledge of covert enterprises were quickly noted. Jesuits were already suspected of many things, but Robison was ostensibly an academic at Edinburgh University with no axe to grind. He, nevertheless, became the object of negative comment which, in turn, generated enthusiastic defences. A US citizen Seth Payson charged critics with having faked letters to the press with unsupported allegations, including that Robison had been rejected by Masonic lodges in Scotland and in Russia, and that the British government had rescued him financially by publishing his book and awarding him a pension.[xvi] Payson endorsed the incendiary but erroneous allegation that the intention of the Illuminati was ‘the subversion of every social, moral and religious obligation.’ (p.26) That State espionage was rampant was little reported at the time. (See my ‘Rise and Fall of English Freemasonry’) and Robison’s earlier career in naval intelligence was not exposed nor were his high social connections. Robison had entered the Royal Navy in 1759 when he was just twenty. A skilled mathematician he served in Canada and then was made Admiral Knowles’ Secretary in Russia where the Empress wanted her navy upgraded. This was a thinly disguised, intelligence position in which he was privy to guarded correspondence and ‘diplomatic traffic’. Out of the blue, it seems, in 1774 he ‘accepted an invitation from the Magistrates of Edinburgh to the Professorship of Natural Philosophy.’ (Payson, p.10) In 1786 he was elected a member of the Philosophical Society at Philadelphia, ‘of which Mr Jefferson is President’. In 1792 he became ill and ‘the King was pleased to give him a pension.’ His book’s 3rd edition, 1798, was dedicated to ‘William Wyndham, Secretary at War’ who is described as ‘a College Acquaintance’ and as someone who had provided ‘obliging and polite attention… in those early days of life.’ [xvii] In April 1800, ‘without solicitation of a single friend’, he was unanimously elected a Foreign Member ‘(there are but six) of the Imperial Academy of Sciences at St Petersburg.’ (Payson, p.11)
Clearly moving in similar circles, the translator of Abbe Barruel’s text was Robert Clifford, a Royal Navy specialist in maps and map-making who had undertaken covert government surveillance tasks, including travelling with John Wesley Wright, a well-known government agent, to obtain detailed maps of French forts, etc which they then smuggled into England.[xviii] Wright continued operating as a ‘covert English agent’ in the war with Napoleon until he was caught. He died in a French jail in 1805, three years after Barruel had returned to France. The Abbe is reported as being convinced that Jews had infiltrated ‘Masonic lodges’ intent on social subversion. Until his death he believed in a Europe-wide network of Masonic lodges controlled by a Supreme Council of 21 members, at least nine of which were Jews.[xix]
It’s appropriate to mention here Sir Robert Wilson (1777-1849), a military surveyor and diplomat/spy, who set down in his memoirs his use while in action of his Masonic membership. This soldier was with the Russian Army in Moscow when Napoleon was turned around and in Spain and Portugal when Wellington was engaged in the same enterprise. He was sidelined for a time for publishing warnings that Russia was intent on capturing India and the Indies. Hopkirk credits him with the creation of ‘the Russian bogey.’ He was Gibraltar’s Governor in the 1840s. In 1805, he recorded, he made a sketch while on patrol of the ‘Great Cairo’ and later submitted it with a report that the fortress was not defensible. On the same day, June 9, he referred to meeting a Mameluke Bey, just returned from Gizeh: ‘where he had been sent on an important secret mission, the purport of which was only known to the general and myself, therefore not to be mentioned or even hinted at, at home…’ [xx] The following November he was similarly engaged in San Salvador and wrote: (p.277, November 16, 1805)’…Here I have found the greatest advantage from masonry. No sooner had I declared myself than houses, horses, servants, all things, were put at my disposal, for the institution is held in the highest estimation, because the laws and bigotry persecute the professors with fire and sword. I dare not now mention the names of those who devoted themselves to my service but some of the chief members of government have in private made me their acknowledgements.’
[i] RB Folger, History of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite in Thirty Three Degrees, New York, 1881, p.22.
[ii] Frost, 1876, pp.26-7.
[iii] E Sherman, A New Edition Brief History of Scottish Rite Freemasonry, Washington, 1890, np.
[iv] E Frattini, The Entity, JR Books, 2009, p.119.
[v] ‘Baron Karl Gotthelf von Hund’, Wikipedia, viewed 3/2018.
[vi] J Katz, Jews and Freemasons in Europe 1723-1939, Harvard, 1970, pp.14-19.
[vii] See for connections of ‘secret societies’ with an incredibly convoluted and no doubt reconstructed ‘history’ – T Melanson, The Perfectibilists – The 18th Century Bavarian Order of the Illuminati, Trine Day, 2009; and J Wages, R Markner, J Singh Anand (eds), The School of Secret Wisdom – The Authentic Rituals and Doctrines of the Illuminati, Lewis Masonic, 2016.
[viii] ‘Introduction’, Wages and Markner, 2016.
[ix] JJ Mounier, On the Influence Attributed to Philosophers, Free-masons, and to the Illuminati on the Revolution of France, London, 1802, p.175 – Forgotten Books edn 2017.
[x] H Bogdan (ed), Handbook of Freemasonry, Brill, 2014, p.119.
[xi] J Benimeli, ‘Freemasonry and Revolution in the Age of Enlightenment’ paper translated and provided by S Sommers, 2017, pp.11-12.
[xii] ‘An Impartial Examination of Professor Robison’s Book Against Freemasonry, (etc) by Dr Watkins’, Freemason’s Repository, p., 1798, p.255.
[xiii] A Barruel, Memoires Illustrating the History of Jacobinism, Part II, Vol II, ‘The Anti-Monarchical Conspiracy’, NY 1799, pp.145-146.
[xiv] A Barruel, Memoires Illustrating the History of Jacobinism, Vol 2, ‘Conspiracy Against Monarchy’, translated, 1799, espec Ch X, quote from p.162.
[xv] MK Schuchard, ‘Blake, Barruel and Robison: The “Myth” of Masonic Conspiracy in 1798’, Paper to Conf, July, 1998, ‘1798 and Its Implications’, St Mary’s Uni College, Strawberry Hill, Eng.
[xvi] S Payson, Proofs of the Existence and Dangerous Tendency of Illuminism’, Charleston, 1802, p.7 – Forgotten Books reprint.
[xvii] J Robison, Proofs of a Conspiracy Against all the Religions and Government of Europe Carried on in the Secret Meetings of Free Masons, Illuminati and Reading Societies, Philadelphia, 1798, 3rd edn.
[xviii] C de la Huerta, The Great Conspiracy, Amberley, 2016, pp.158-162.
[xix] E. Howe, The Collapse of Freemasonry in Nazi Germany, 1933-35, orig in AQC, Vol 95 (1982) now on-line at Grand Lodge of British Columbia web site.
[xx] R Wilson, The Life of Sir Robert Wilson, Vol 1, London, 1862, p.193.
CONSPIRACY IN THE AMERICAS
The proliferating ‘Masonic’ rituals were still ‘(passing) informally from mouth to ear’ and making them susceptible to rumour, suspicion and mis-information. Even if George III had been able to retain the US colonies in the 1770’s, the ‘London Rite’ would still not have dominated anywhere across the Atlantic. Found politically inadequate in Europe, ‘it’ was then rejected by patriotic, ie nationalist colonials, along with their dependent status. After London, the other potential source for ‘American Freemasonry’ was Spain, given its long-standing influence on the American continent. An ex-Grand Master of the London rite, the Duke of Wharton has been credited with ‘its’ arrival in Spain from England in 1729, but he was a libertine and probable Jacobite sympathiser, so from the moment of ‘its’ introduction into Iberia, ‘it’ was both politicised and considered doubtful. Spanish ‘Masonry’ spread but divided along political lines, divisions which were intensified by the upheavals of 1789-1815. Strong connections between the Roman Church, the Inquisition and successive Spanish administrations meant ‘it’ was mostly conducted in secret. Citizen opposition to the regimes rose and fell in parallel waves in the Spanish heartland and in the colonies. Gould, prominent 19th century English ‘Masonic’ scholar, wrote of the heavily factionalised situation in Spain: ‘[In 1806 there were] four (Spanish) Grand Bodies: 1st, the Grand Lodge of 1767, converted in 1780 into a Grand Orient under Montoyo…2nd, the Supreme Council of 1806 under the younger Tilly… 3rd, the Grand Orient of 1808, and 4th the Supreme Council of 1811, both under Aganza.’ [i] When Spain came under Napoleonic control a less-hierarchical, national constitution was drawn up. Bonaparte was well aware of ‘Masonry’s’ political usefulness and though never initiated himself, massaged it assiduously throughout his short-lived empire. ‘Free Masons’ are reported to have taken an active part in the drafting of the legislation to reduce the power of the RC Church but in 1814, the restored monarch, King Ferdinand VII, invited French troops to come to his aid in rooting out what was called ‘clandestine Freemasonry’. He abolished the reformist Constitution allowing the Inquisition to return, but in 1819 militant reformers forced him to submit and to restore the 1812 constitution.
Only in the 20th century were the diaries of a Jewish merchant, Stephen Morin, translated into English. Morin claimed that in 1761 he had ‘obtained from the Grand Lodge and Sovereign Council of Masons at Paris (an) appointment for life as Grand Inspector in the Western Hemisphere for all degrees above the fourteenth.’ [ii] Given ‘its’ nature and ‘its’ practitioners’ belief that ownership and control were dependent on proof of ‘derived authority’, this one assertion contains seed for endless disputation. Rich has speculated that Morin, he was a Jew after all, sold lodge dispensations to finance his travel, in effect adding ‘Freemasonry’ to his inventory, and that he involved himself in slave revolts in the Caribbean. Could Morin have used ‘Freemasonry’ to precipitate unrest among the sugar workers? It is not impossible as we will see below and is suggested by the claims of Barruel and Robison. The strength of secret societies brought from Africa probably meant that any Masonic overtures Morin made to plantation workers were quickly repulsed. Perhaps he had more success with expatriated Europeans.
Rich again: ‘Morin… set up business in Santo Domingo in the Caribbean… There is growing evidence that Morin (had taken) whatever high degrees he had received in France and refashioned them into the Order of the Royal Secret, creating additional degrees as needed…Morin apparently acted to create a new Masonic body with himself as the only “Grand Inspector”. Morris, also a recent US scholar has noted: ‘…These French high degrees…were spread by traveling Inspectors who conferred them for a fee. It wasn’t necessary to wait for enough Masons in a town to receive the high degrees somewhere else and for them to apply for a charter; the itinerant Inspector could take care of everything as soon as he arrived. Eight bodies of the Royal Secret were formed in America before 1800, from New Orleans to Albany. The weakness of the Order proved to be the unchecked system of Inspectors General. Each Inspector General could confer the degrees on Master Masons, establish local bodies, and create new Inspectors—all for an appropriate fee. There were no guidelines on cost, no limitation on numbers, and no restriction on how many more Inspectors an Inspector could create. By 1800 there were over 80 Inspectors General, and the system was moving toward chaos.’ [iii]
Repudiated by his erstwhile employers Morin’s invention, the ‘Rite of the Royal Secret’ had become the ‘Rite of Perfection’ before it became the core of ‘the Scottish Rite’. Even so the majority of Morin’s Inspector-Generals were of the Jewish faith and of the eleven recorded ‘founders’ of this 1801 Council at least five were Jews, [iv] a remarkable figure given that in 1800 there were only around 100 ‘Jewish heads of families’ and around 500 ‘Jews’ in total in Charleston.[v] This prominence and its consequences often disappear from later accounts, along with Morin and any legitimacy his system might have once had. His ‘Deputy Inspector-Generals’ had travelled north: ‘(We know that Morin) met a Dutch merchant, Henry Andrew Francken, and made him a Deputy Inspector General sometime between 1763 and 1767. Francken in turn travelled to Albany, New York, and created there a Lodge of Perfection (4°–14°) in 1767…’ [vi] The assertion in the 1801 title, ‘Mother Supreme Council’ indicates the state of mind of the claimants. Yet its evolution meant there was need for improvement. In 1909 US brother, Vail wrote that: ‘In the early days of the Scottish Rite the system was full of grotesque and incongruous things, of contradictions and fantastic extravagances.’ [vii] This denigration of the past assisted a campaign to boost Albert Pike as the century’s heroic figure. Among other things, he had supposedly saved ‘the Scottish Rite’ from its notorious past. Morris, also a US initiated scholar, recently said he believed that very little was known of the Scottish Rite’s history and that what was accepted was political not spiritual: ‘By 1766 we know that an elaborate sequence of High Degree or “Scottish” Masonry (was) being worked in France (where) competition …seems to have been the driving force…. (as) part of jockeying for power within the Grand Lodge of France.’ [viii] He is, however, accepting of the bombast – at least he makes no comment while acknowledging the part played by individual motivation:
Then on May 31, 1801, the first Supreme Council of the Thirty-third Degree, the Mother Council of the World, declared its existence with a motto of “Ordo ab Chao” (Order from Chaos). It announced a new 33-degree system of high degrees that incorporated all 25 of the Order of the Royal Secret, and added eight more, including that of 33°, Sovereign Grand Inspector General. This new organization declared control of high-degree Masonry in America.… A second Supreme Council in the world was established in Santo Domingo in 1802…This Supreme Council died with the slave revolt on the island, but one of its members, Antoine Bideaud, fled to New York. While there he came across five Frenchmen who were interested in the high degrees. For a fee of $46 in 1806, Bideaud conferred the degrees upon his customers and formed them into a “Consistory” of the 32° — all without the knowledge of the Charleston Supreme Council.
The same year… Joseph Cerneau, a French jeweller, moved from Cuba to New York City. He had a patent from an Inspector of the Order of the Royal Secret that gave him limited powers in Cuba, but that didn’t stop him from setting up his own consistory in New York City…Emmanuel de la Motta, the Grand Treasurer from the Charleston Supreme Council, arrived in New York City in 1813, examined the two competing factions, and decided against Cerneau. De la Motta regularized Bideaud’s group and transformed them into the second Supreme Council for America, now known as the “Northern Masonic Jurisdiction.” [ix]
Morin is an easy target. His ‘Jewishness’ and his alleged perfidy provided brethren convinced of the Order’s virtues with ‘a problem’ which they could then claim had been solved by their fellow Anglo-Saxon Protestants, who, by definition, were non-perfidious and not motivated by money. Involvement of better known Jews, say the Rothschilds, with any relevant 18th activities has not yet been secured. Paul Johnson wrote in 2004:
[The] Rothschilds are elusive. There is no book about them that is both revealing and accurate. Libraries of nonsense have been written about them… A woman who planned to write a book entitled Lies about the Rothschilds abandoned it, saying: ‘It was relatively easy to spot the lies, but it proved impossible to find out the truth.[x]
Officially, the family only left the dank and fetid Judengrasse in Frankfurt in the 1790’s but the fact that they were able to leave supports a belief they were already at least comfortable. How could this be possible? Numerous biographers repeat descriptions that the family was already known among money lenders and that they traded in antiques with the Prince of Hesse and that they had become indispensable advisors to that noble’s court. This is the royal house centrally involved in the rise and fall of the Illuminati while the context from which the Rothschilds emerged is close to that detailed by Jutte. Secrecy, of course, had many faces. Smuggling of the gold which was increasingly essential for cross-border and inter-governmental transactions, appears to have been one means used by the Rothschild family to escape the pogrom. Their master stroke was to realise a chance was at hand to parlay long-standing skills into a more focused and more highly profitable sphere: ‘The period 1793-1815 was characterised by recurrent warfare, the fiscal side-effects of which were profound. Firstly, unprecedented expenditures precipitated inflation in all the combatant’s economies…(which) were thrown into turmoil…Secondly, the disruptions of war…created opportunities for making large profits on highly risky transactions, such as smuggling textiles and bullion and managing the investments of exiled rulers. Thirdly, the transfer of large subsidies from Britain to her continental allies necessitated innovations in the cross-border payments system…It was in this highly volatile context that the Rothschilds made the decisive leap…to running a multi-national financial partnership.’ [xi] Ferguson, in his monumental two volume account of the Rothschilds, has described how the London-based, eldest son, Nathan, financed the British war effort against Napoleon, organising the secret shipment of bullion to the Duke of Wellington’s armies on the mainland and arranging the payment of subsidies to their continental allies. The family’s network of agents, shippers and couriers transported the gold and the information vital to the Allies’ multi-pronged operations. It is likely that people of the Jewish faith were assisted by the family which continued to undertake clandestine activities. Research is needed to bring their financial efforts and the reform currents, particularly of the 18th and 19th centuries, together. With Boney’s defeat, the Papacy had looked to rebuild influence through a renewal of its weakened organisation. Its secretariat was however still seriously divided between evolutionists and traditionalists. Papal candidates were being backed on the basis of how welcoming or paranoid they were about social liberalism and on how they viewed ‘the Jesuits’ and Papal espionage. Italian threats to Catholicism included the Carbonari, the protectores, independientes, calderari, peregrinos blancos and the mafia, most of them off-shoots of Masonic lodges’, according to Frattini quoting local sources. They were attacked, physically, by ‘small, underground groups of clergy’, such as the Octogonus Circle, the Black Habits, the Black Order, Society of the Thirteen and the Followers of Jehu.
Colonists also looked at the ‘Masonic’ variations for political guidance. All of the ‘Founding Fathers’ in the US held views about ‘Freemasonry’s’ usefulness to ‘their’ Republic but details are scarce. George Washington was an early initiate, at the age of 20 in 1753, but then attended lodge very rarely. Thomas Jefferson, President 1801-1809 and principal author of the Declaration of Independence, was an admirer of Weishaupt. He had been Washington’s Secretary of State and Vice-President to the second President, John Adams. With James Madison he organised the Democratic-Republican Party to oppose the Federalists and maintain state’s rights. He wrote to a friend:
The means [Weishaupt] proposes to effect this improvement of human nature are ‘to enlighten men, to correct their morals & inspire them with benevolence. Secure of our success, says he, we abstain from violent commotions.
Jefferson went close to putting ‘The Illuminati’ and ‘Freemasons’ beyond the reach of law and order:
… As Weishaupt lived under the tyranny of a despot & priests, he knew that caution was necessary even in spreading information, & the principles of pure morality. He proposed therefore to lead the Free masons to adopt this object & to make the objects of their institution the diffusion of science & virtue. He proposed to initiate new members into his body by gradations proportioned to his fears of the thunderbolts of tyranny.
He argued that Weishaupt’s critics were firstly bothered by secrecy in politics, and secondly by the idea that ‘Freemasonry’ was being used in republican campaigns:
(Secrecy) has given an air of mystery to his views, was the foundation of his banishment, the subversion of the masonic order, & is the colour for the ravings against him of Robison, Barruel & Morse, whose real fears are that the craft would be endangered by the spreading of information, reason, & natural morality among men.
Jefferson’s third name here was Jedediah Morse, a preacher, who in 1798 made ‘a sensational announcement’ that the Illuminati had extended its secret operations to the US ‘with a view to the overthrow of their civil and religious institutions.’ [xii] The subsequent furore developed sufficient momentum to affect the careers of contending Presidential hopefuls, Aaron Burr and DeWitt Clinton, and eventually the legacy of George Washington. An 1802 pamphleteer and Burr supporter contended that the ‘Clintonian faction’ was using a New York off-shoot of the Illuminati to further an extreme program. Note the biblical language, a guide to the temper of the times:
(The) Theistical Society issued from the tomb of its fallen parent [the Democratic Society of NY] like a foul spectre, blotted with crimes, gaping with vengeance, and eager to drag the weak and unsuspecting mind into the abyss of eternal torment. [xiii]
The writer, Wood, wrote that initiates ‘were told that the only intention of the Society was to oppose political and religious prejudice, to cultivate moral duties, and to bring mankind into a perfect state of liberty, equality and fraternity.’ (Wood, 1802, p.29) He claimed to have proof that initiates had no idea that ‘there were different grades in the Society – they were ignorant of the diabolical plans duly forming by the directors’ [‘the ring leaders’] and that ‘they knew nothing of the proceedings of secret committees – they imagined there were none superior in rank or knowledge to themselves’. The author’s bottom line was a belief in the divine right of kings, slightly up-dated:
The constitution of the United States, we ought to thank providence, has been erected on the fundamental principles of Christianity; principles which will remain, when the names of their most violent opposers will be buried in oblivion, when neither Clinton or his party will be heard of, and when the standard of infidelity will only be regarded as the signal of vice, treason and rebellion. (Wood, 1802, p.56.)
George Clinton, Governor of New York and Grand Master in that jurisdiction, and DeWitt Clinton’s uncle, tried to standardise ritual but failed, whereupon he observed: ‘If a venerable and ancient tradition existed, no-one could determine what it was…American ritualists invented their own Masonic rituals or variants…American Freemasonry took many forms, the legitimacy of each determined by the persuasiveness of its innovator.’ [xiv]
A network of ‘Masonic’ activists against colonial exploitation of coloured peoples centred on the Caribbean has only recently been highlighted. [xv] Arroyo’s important 2013 findings are weakened by her assumptions, firstly, that there was only one ‘Freemasonry’, secondly, that ‘it’ could be defined as a manifestation of ‘the liberal secular ideals that came directly from Enlightenment philosophers and the French Revolution’ (p.15) and thirdly, that ‘its’ practice matched ‘its’ theory. Nevertheless, she has highlighted new research possibilities: ‘Such conspiracies as Aguila Negra (1823) and Rayos y Soles de Bolivar (1823) were planned by Simon Bolivar and his allies in Cuba, with the aid of the leadership of Masonic Great Worshipful Masters and their initiates in Mexico, Haiti and the United States. The most famous of these Masonic conspirators was the Romantic poet, Jose Maria Heredia…’ (Arroyo, 2013, p.15) Bolivar’s sworn Masonic oath in a Cadiz lodge in 1805 included an intention to end Spanish resistance to the freedom and independence of native and criollo people in south and central America.
It is possible that Rothschild money had already assisted movement of British, Spanish and French troops to Central and South America and thus that their money had helped to repress some versions of ‘Freemasonry’ while aiding other versions somewhere else. Unlike the court Jews of earlier centuries who had financed European nobility, Mayer Rothschild had directed his offspring to develop a new kind of financial instrument which was more flexible and impervious to local attacks. Their assets were held in what amounted to a floating, international bank circulating through the world as stocks, bonds and debts: ‘Henceforth their real wealth was beyond the reach of the mob, almost beyond the reach of greedy monarchs.’ Control of all assets was held in family hands, and with obscure codes based on Yiddish, what they knew and how they obtained information remained closely-guarded secrets. Collectively, the directors worried over the likelihood of getting the interest on bonds paid on time. Individually, who knows?
Notably, in 1818, Nathan arranged a then-£5 million loan to the Prussian government, and: ‘In the space of three years (1823-5), the brothers…provided the crucial financial assistance which enabled Austria to suppress revolution in Naples, and France to restore royal absolutism in Spain. [xvi] In 1825–6 Nathan supplied enough coin to the Bank of England to enable it to avert a market liquidity crisis: ‘By the summer of 1825…the Rothschilds had succeeded triumphantly in establishing themselves as the leading specialists in European public finance – and not only European’:
The Rothschilds kept a safe distance from the numerous bond issues by the former Spanish colonies which were generating such speculative enthusiasm in London at the time of the French intervention. The years 1822-4 were the time of the great South American ‘bubble’ as investors rushed to lend to new republics like Chile, Columbia, Buenos Aires and Guatemala…From all this the Rothschilds remained aloof, with one exception: Brazil.
Brazil gained its independence from Portugal in 1823-5 because the Rothschilds were prepared to assist both sides with financial support to come to a deal. By 1850 their influence, their closeness to the levers of power and the extensive media coverage they generated, aided the evolution of speculation about hidden controlling hands into plans to take over the world. Niles’ Weekly Register (Volume 49) in 1836 wrote:
The Rothschilds are the wonders of modern banking…Not a cabinet moves without their advice. They stretch their hand, with equal ease, from Petersburg to Vienna, from Vienna to Paris, from Paris to London, from London to Washington. Baron Rothschild, the head of the house, is the true king of Judah, the prince of the captivity, the Messiah so long looked for by this extraordinary people. He holds the keys of peace or war, blessing or cursing…They are the brokers and counsellors of the kings of Europe and of the republican chiefs of America. What more can they desire?
Initiated US brethren have for years attributed the origins of ‘Mexican Freemasonry’ to a Catholic priest, Don Miguel de Hidalgo, but in terms designed to establish that what was good in ‘Freemasonry’ came from the US rather than from England or any other European source. Being mostly Protestant and Republican, they have asserted that ‘its’ major achievement was that it freed the Mexican people from the clutches of the corrupt and repressive Roman Catholic Church. [xvii] In their view, espionage, questionable practices and an untenable religion were all on ‘the other side’, except perhaps for this single rebel padre who had sympathised with his peasant convertees. Unidentified ‘spies working for the Spanish Inquisition’ allegedly raided the rooms of ‘the first ever Masonic Lodge in Mexico’ in 1810 but Fr Don Hidalgo, who had travelled from his parish to the city to be initiated, had escaped. Back in the mountains, he raised a peasant army, was defeated by the Spanish troops and captured. He was tried with others ‘as devil worshippers and members of an accursed sect’ and executed. (McLeish, 1918, p.186) Initiated academics Paul Rich and Guillermo de Los Reyes were not thinking of ‘devil-worship’ when they acknowledged in the 1990’s that there were major problems with the popular accounts: ‘The eighteenth-century origins of Masonry in Mexico are shrouded in mystery, almost an inevitability given the nature of the organization … Early nineteenth-century Mexico was in revolutionary ferment, the atmosphere being one which encouraged the growth of different expressions of Freemasonry and a multifarious jumble of Masonic ideologies and philosophies.’ [xviii] They went further:
Masonic historiography is not exempt from motives that lead to the misuse of history in general. Indeed, it suffers from all the problems in extenso… In discussing Poinsett in Mexico the resemblance between general history’s difficulties with historians with axes to grind and the difficulties of Freemasonry at the hands of biased historians will become apparent.
Like Lepore, Frahm [xix] has attempted to go where few have gone before, but the fantastic tangle through which she has had to hack her way had been sewn with an intent to confuse and delay.[xx] She can only vaguely discern her major targets through the mass of conspiracy and hagiography in front of her: ‘There is some disagreement about the role of Joel Poinsett, the first US ambassador to Mexico, regarding the establishment of the York Rite in Mexico…’ She has quite rightly focused on this appointee of President Monroe in 1826 but she was keen to explain ‘Freemasonry’ and the internal divisions supposedly met by Poinsett when he arrived: ‘The York and the Scottish Rites were especially significant in Mexican history…The Scottish Rite was developed in France, and there is good evidence to show that Jesuits were involved, perhaps for political purposes.’ She went on:
Dr Tohotom Nagy, a Jesuit from Hungary…received papal permission to go undercover, investigating Freemasonry in Argentina. He concluded there was little difference between the two organisations!
The way this is written implies the Jesuit undercover work was done in the 18th century and that Nagy had something to do with the Scottish Rite. His biographer has written recently: ‘Töhötöm Nagy was a Hungarian Jesuit (1908-1979), who lived an extraordinary life that included several stages first in the Jesuit order, later as an emigrant free mason in South America, and finally in Hungary again as a secret agent of the communist political police.’ [xxi] Undercover Jesuits disappear from her text at this point and though she denied EF’s claim to be a-political she accepted the US variation of the same mythology by aligning US lodge activity with Enlightenment attitudes: ‘Freemasonry was an integral part of independence movements in the new world…clandestinely and effectively pursuing their ideals.’ Obviously, any ‘Freemasons’ active in independence movements were not following the Andersonian definition. ‘Byzantine complexity’ has been a phrase applied to the period’s ‘Masonic politics’ but they don’t appear to have changed for the rest of the century. Neither do they seem anymore difficult to follow than those in many other places. Frahm has engaged with many Spanish authors and has provided a detailed account, but she has not organised her material very well, and she appears to believe that quoting a range of opinions is the extent of her task. At the heart of her difficulties is the lack of an accepted history of the conflicting Rites.
In a 2013 article de los Reyes absolved Poinsett, and by extension US administrations and ‘Freemasonry’, of any subterfuge, in fact of any premeditation with regard to his Mexican policies. Although he was the accredited leader of the first US official delegation to the Republic of Mexico, Poinsett’s actions were, it seems, a personal whim: ‘Poinsett audaciously determined that he must change the attitudes of the Mexican government, challenging those in the leadership who were Spanish-born or sympathetic to Spain and who still looked towards Europe.’ [xxii]
The ‘multifarious jumble’ that he insists on accumulating as ‘Freemasonry’ was a thicket of contending sects precisely because of their inherently political nature and because the struggle/s in which they were embedded were not confined to one country as his account is. The United States of America, newly independent, was flexing its adolescent muscles. Its dominant politicians were the expected mix of readers and idealists, intriguers, liars and inveterate procrastinators, and many were ‘Free-Masons’. In Poinsett’s case, suspicions that he had hidden agendas were justified. He was a long time ‘intelligence operative.’ His early clandestine career had been in the guise of a gentleman explorer which had taken him through much of Europe and Asia. He became an accredited ‘confidential agent’ of successive US administrations, operating in South, Central and North America.[xxiii] As a Congressman from South Carolina, he ‘was a careful student and a polished gentleman. In 1810 he had gone to South America with a commission from President Madison to report on conditions in Argentine and Chile then just beginning their struggle for independence. In 1822 he went on a similar mission to Mexico.’ The US National Archives are not complete before 1850, but they record as a common-place that during the war of 1812 Secretary of State James Monroe sent special agents into Louisiana and Texas (which was then part of Spanish Mexico) on various unofficial missions: ‘Some of these agents became involved in filibustering expeditions [ie unsanctioned invasions of foreign-held territories by US citizens] to spread revolution and drive the Spanish out of northern Mexico.’ [My emphasis] [xxiv] Documents by Poinsett held in the Archives are listed under the heading ‘Despatches from Special Agents of the Department of State, 1794-1906.’ [My emphasis]
De los Reyes in 2013 was using ‘Freemasonry’ to urge scholars to focus on political culture – ‘the components of the informal government process ‘- as ‘a tool for understanding the state’. (p.197) He was keen to advance ‘Freemasonry’ as a potentially useful example of ‘volunteerism’. I have sympathy for the idea but this article does not do justice to his efforts or to the approach, which he precises as ‘a generous and expansive one that displaces the more ideologically-bound discussions that sometimes characterised scholarship during the Iron Curtain era… (In particular) there is something to the idea that democracy and voluntary associations are linked.’ (p.197) The question he set himself in 2013 was whether the internal practices of ‘Freemasonry’ had enhanced or retarded democratic possibilities: ‘(My) focus is on voluntary organisations in the United States and in particular on the Masons…This is to test whether these non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are contributing to democracy today.’ (p.198) He was especially concerned with myth: ‘The perception that the Masons are powerful has given them power. The Mason’s cultivation of the myth of their contributions to democracy has created the popular opinion that American founders and patriots were Masons and that the symbols of an early republic were Masonic.’ (p.198) He asserted that their use of secrecy and ritual is what has set ‘Freemasonry’ and other fraternal societies apart but that any influence they have had on public policy derived from perceptions of those features not from their use: ‘(Masonry) is an ultimate spinner of tales and creator of myths, and, as such, it has a long history of influencing the political process through what can be called ‘mythological power.’ (p.204) He has used Fukuyama’s partisan, working definition of ‘democracy’ for his preferred alternative to authoritarianism – that it is characterised as ‘moderation, trust, tolerance and willingness to compromise, and indeed to lose in political conflicts.’ (p..200) Similarly crucial but unfounded assumptions are scattered through his text, such as: ‘I have…included … anti-Masonic nonsense and unfounded criticism (of) the Masons, as well as fabrications of patriotic stories.’ (p.209)
Despite its relevance to his argument, he confined his reasoning about Poinsett’s time in Mexico to a footnote: ‘Slowly (his audacity) made him an interloper, but not because of covert machinations. His efforts to implement American policy were anything but secret and led to his being expelled the country.’ De los Reyes referenced a very partisan 1935 biography of Poinsett for support and made the further, inadequate argument that: ‘Since the [Mexican] Emperor Itubide was a Mason, there is no evidence to show that Poinsett had any reason to be predisposed to dislike [him]… or [to] have a secret commission to oppose him.’ (My emphasis) Poinsettt may have been there to implement US policy but according to this scholar the lack of publicly available documentation is a result of there not being any. The same footnote explained that Poinsett found that ‘many of (the) … opponents to his goals for Mexico were Scottish Rite Masons who, in his view, were monarchist and socially elitist.’ Poinsett for him was just ‘a Freemason’ with no motivation other than audacity, but his opponents could be categorised and their motives negatively analysed. The Mexican situation was an obvious test-bed for his theorisation and if de los Reyes had concentrated on that he may have significantly increased the strength of his broader argument and his conclusions.
After 1822, suspect Spaniards came under pressure to leave newly-independent Mexico or suffer expulsion. The first President, General Iturbide, thought he deserved to be treated as a monarch, a mis-judgement which only fuelled anti-Spanish protests. He was exiled, later returned and was shot for his vanity. The so-called ‘Escoceses’ or ‘Scottish Rite’, as followed by a percentage of the new administration, enabled some older Spanish aristos to remain in power and to ignore the aspirations of persons lower in the social scale. That we are dealing here with a phenomenon in need of further clarification is suggested by a Sims’ note: ‘(The) Escoceses made their religious ceremonies to the Virgin del Pilar de Zaragoza and to Santiago de Galicia, and the Yorkinos to the Virgin of Guadelupe.’ (Sims, p.150) Poinsett’s British counterpart, Ward, admitted to his Home Office employers he could not distinguish ‘the York Rite’ from ‘the Scottish’,[xxv] but still offered the opinion that the Yorkinos were ‘a set of needy and desperate adventurers’, while their opposition were men who ‘comprise a very large portion of the wealth and talent of the country.’ [xxvi] Where the known material reflects Ward’s naïve, class-bound elitism, that relating to Poinsett reflects his career of duplicity and his strong, political ambition.
On his arrival in Mexico City in 1826, Poinsett had immediately aligned himself with a group supposedly seeking more of a Jacobin kind of republic, ie a more decentralised, federal system. This group determined to pursue its political aims by way of Masonic lodges following ‘the Yorkist Rite.’ When this was announced, independence supporters flocked to join them, including some brothers previously with the ‘Scottish Rite’. Sims, again more realistically to my ear, has noted that outside Mexico City and Vera Cruz, ‘the Yorkino Party organised “under the protection of (State) governors and legislatures, just as the party had organised in Mexico City under the protection of President Victoria.’ (Sims, p.158) Poinsett provided different versions of his involvement with the Yorkinos, even in despatches to Washington. He insisted that he had left the Yorkino lodges when they became politically active. He wrote elsewhere that the York Rite had five lodges in Mexico before he arrived and that all he did with them was to arrange with ‘the Grand Lodge of New York’ to send them charters for a ‘grand lodge of Mexico.’ He also told Clay, then US Secretary of State, that he might have stayed aloof but ‘he had found it necessary to form a (political) party…or leave the English complete masters of the field.’ In other words, he hadn’t introduced the York Rite but had organised its members in order ‘to oppose British influence’. One can only imagine what that involved – on the street, in meetings, and in the local media. He told ‘the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania’ in April 1826 that he had established ‘a Grand Lodge of Ancient York Masons’ and since he’d had no response from New York he was asking Pennsylvanian brethren for the power to issue dispensations, which power was granted.[xxvii]
Amid violent disturbances, elections in late 1826 saw ‘federalistas’ largely replace ‘centralistas’ in the Mexican cabinet. Poinsett was ‘credited’ with the Escoceses loss and his house was targeted. This frontier image has rarely made it into scholars’ accounts. Putnam’s biography of Poinsett has: ‘In December, the Escoceses resorted to arms in order to purge the Government of Yorkino influence. Their chief demand was for the expulsion of the American Minister. Vice-President Bravo assumed the leadership of the revolt and Guerrero, the chief of the Yorkinos was sent to quell it. It appeared quite formidable at first but was very quickly suppressed and Bravo, the prospective Escoceses candidate for the presidency fled the country.’ (Putnam, p.98) The Vera Cruz State legislature formally charged Poinsett with having ‘conceived a project the most disorganising and terrible for the republic; which was nothing more nor less than the establishment of the lodge of York Free Masons.’ [xxviii] He was known to have entertained the Yorkino officials and to have written their electoral material but much was hidden in ciphered correspondence. US academics have excused his activism by saying it was all in a noble cause: ‘It was Poinsett’s over-enthusiastic belief in the absolute of maintaining the federal form of government, when he found that centralising tendencies threatened its overthrow, which led him to engage in the activities that gave rise to the charges against him of meddling in the internal affairs of Mexico.’ [xxix] Poinsett was ‘permitted to leave’ in 1829. His return north didn’t require that he change his methods. In Washington, he was installed as Deputy Grand High Priest of the Grand Chapter of the United States,[xxx] continuing his involvement with the so-called ‘Scottish Rite’ and with national politics. He led ‘the Union Party in South Carolina’ against the threat of secession, and acted as ‘confidential agent’, in other words as the local eyes and ears, for President Jackson, a committed ‘Freemason.’
The year Poinsett left for Mexico City was the year in which the ‘South American Investment Bubble’ came to an inglorious end, causing among other things, a run on the Bank of England which ended only because of an infusion of Rothschild funds. It was also the year when the disappearance and possible murder of a knockabout ‘Freemason’ threatening to publish ‘Masonic’ secrets began to spread from upper New York State and become a nation-wide scandal. In 1826, there were twenty-six state-based Grand Lodges, 3,000 subordinate lodges and over 100,000 members in the US. [xxxi] Recent ‘Masonic’ journals writing about the period either ignore the man, Morgan, altogether or refer to his disappearance only to argue that opponents of the Democratic Party opportunistically helped an ephemeral Anti-Masonic Party to contest presidential and other elections. The view from the oppositional, anti-Masonic side is genuinely enlightening, not because their charges of widespread and systemic ‘Masonic conspiracy’ must be true but because of the numbers and kinds of people prepared to believe that ‘Freemasons’ had attempted to burn down a printery with numerous persons asleep inside, had murdered oath-breaking brothers in Ireland and in the US, and had successfully intimidated almost all newspaper editors to stifle discussion of the case. Many believed that because of Masonic penetration, established ‘Grand Juries’ had proved reluctant to gather evidence or had refused outright when ordered to do their job; that potential evidence had been destroyed, hidden or neutralised; that probable participants in the complex arrangements whereby Morgan had been removed from public view had been spirited away; and that newspaper coverage of developments as they slowly moved towards criminal charges were so partisan or non-existent that dozens of new, anti-Masonic papers had to be created. Poinsett’s manipulation of lodges in Mexico can be seen as standard operating procedure rather than as a personal ‘whim’.
The following paginated quotes are from the published ‘Proceedings’ of an 1830 Anti-Masonic Convention in Philadelphia attended by 96 delegates where fourteen detailed reports were presented. By that date available transcripts of evidence from hearings, included ‘Freemasons’ pleading ‘guilty’, albeit to a range of relatively minor changes: [xxxii]
p.21 ‘…it has been judicially proven that measures which contemplated the use of violence to effect this object were matters of discussion among masons in the lodge room…’
p.21 ‘…It will strike anyone, on hearing a recital of the facts connected with the abduction of William Morgan, that the combination to effect that measure, must have been very extensive, embracing a large number of individuals…’
p.23 ‘…There seems to have been a determination on the part of the fraternity, not only to suppress all information in relation to the outrages, but even to repress inquiries and questionings, which might tend to elucidate it…’
p.23 ‘…The public press…was…with a single exception, awed into the most slavish silence, by the influence of freemasonry.’
p.24 ‘…At (a court in Niagara county) the sheriff again summoned the grand jurors. There were twenty-one members present, thirteen of them were freemasons, and six friendly to them.’
p.24 ‘…It is very certain that a series of questions, to be propounded to the witnesses, had been so framed, that the witnesses could answer without eliciting any dangerous information.’
p.25 ‘…When the different committees had by great diligence, succeeded in tracing Morgan to Lewiston, they appointed delegates from amongst their own number, to proceed to that place, and push their inquiries as to his final fate…The members of the fraternity in that place…were obviously alarmed and excited, and collected from …places in the vicinity to the number of forty or fifty, some of them armed, exhibiting, and expressing the utmost rage and vindictiveness towards the convention, on account of the purpose of the meeting…They came rudely into the room…and after insultingly taking the light…extinguished and left (the delegates) in darkness…’
p.25 ‘…It was soon afterwards ascertained that Smith and Whitney had both fled…and that money had been furnished to one of them from the funds of the grand chapter, to enable them to flee from their homes as fugitives from justice.’
p.27 ‘…(It) would appear that this Richard Howard came to (New York in 1827) and attended a masonic meeting at St John’s Hall…where he confessed in open lodge that he assisted in putting Morgan to death, and that he was furnished with funds by the knight’s companion, to escape to Europe…no information has been received of this Howard since he absconded, and that the officers of justice have not been able to penetrate the veil of secrecy which concealed his flight.’
p.27 ‘…Witnesses have been secreted and sent off without the jurisdiction of the court, and remained concealed for many months…These occurrences were so frequent, and of such a character (that they) evinced the belief that extended combination …of the secret and mystic agency of freemasonry, which alone from its peculiar organisation possesses the means of such extensive and secret concert.’
p.30 ‘…Orsamus Turner, who was confined in the jail of Niagara County for contumaciously refusing to answer proper and legal questions, was lauded in The Craftsman, and other kindred prints, as a miracle of constancy and firmness; and when the period of his imprisonment had expired, he was conducted from the jail to a public tavern in a coach and four, with enthusiastic demonstrations of respect by the fraternity.’
p.42… ‘(Out of 983 newspapers ‘published in all the states’, 124 have begun since 1826 exclusively to oppose masonry.)’
p.42 ‘…(The) public press is palsied by a power unseen, and controlled by an influence of unlimited operation…(The) public mind has been poisoned so that none, however elevated, can express a just indignation against the perpetrators of a horrid crime, or against the institution which justifies and protects the criminal, without the risk of being denounced as a fanatic, or a fool, or a designing man.’
p.47 ‘…Here (in the masonic oaths) then, a perfect system of machinery, for capital condemnations and executions. If the sign handed from a lodge is a regular sign to put a masonic offender to death, it must be obeyed under penalty of death.
In every case the lodge is sole judge. There is no appeal: he who is commanded to shed another’s blood, must do so, to save his own life.’
p.48 ‘…The oath of secrecy pervades every masonic obligation…In the master’s degree, an exception is made of murder and treason which are left at the discretion of the affirmant…It follows, therefore that if cities are burned, women violated, houses broken and merchants ruined through forgery, by a master mason, no other master mason knowing the facts as a secret may reveal them, under the penalty of death and of moral perjury. He may not reveal the secret as a witness on oath.’
pp.48-49 ‘…In the oath of the royal arch degree, it is written…at length, “TREASON AND MURDER NOT EXCEPTED”. So, it is understood by the masonic authorities; for in the violence on Morgan, royal arch masons alone, as the Committee understand and believe, were selected, and no one can doubt, but the selection was made with a reference to this obligation.
There remains yet a further enormity…(In) the obligation of the holy and thrice illustrious order of the cross [the Cross of Christ!] …is contained the following clause: “I do swear to keep sacred my brothers’ secrets, both when delivered to me as such, and when the nature of the information is such a to require secrecy, for his welfare.”
The scope and object of this obligation is that knights of this order should keep secret each other’s transactions, when intentionally or accidentally discovered. It may apply to the traitor, the murderer, the incendiary, the thief, the counterfeiter, etc, unexpectedly caught in the act.’
p.51 ‘…There is, yet, another masonic obligation, which…is, in a political point of view, of still more fearful import, than all that have preceded.
The knights of the east and west, and of many other degrees, take an oath “to pay due obedience and submission to all degrees beyond this, but particularly to the princes of the royal secret, and the supreme council of grand inspector general of the 33rd, and regulate myself by their determinations.” …
…Let the people of these United States, then, well understand the fact that 100,000 [the believed no of US ‘Freemasons’] of the most active, efficient, and intelligent men, embracing almost all in office, from the president downward; banded together with sanctions of blood, and oaths of perdition; with discipline, with concert, with signs of recognition, and cyphers of secret correspondence; armed with the public press, and bearing in their train, the artillery of slander, and of the ruin of men, are united to engross all power and influence, and to direct the resources of a great nation, to the separate profit of their order….’
The 1830 Convention delegates concluded: ‘(There) is not a fact in the whole course of this outrage, not a fact in the whole history of the transaction, so alarming as this forced silence of the press, muzzled, shackled and influenced by the fraternity’. (p.91)’The facts have never yet been published by the majority of papers in the state of New York. In more distant places not a word is said of the matter, or only something to mislead and betray…’ (p.89)
One other report to the 1830 Convention, compiled by ex-Masons, described the content of the then 43 degrees of ‘the Rite’ with brief histories, cyphers and passwords of each. It stated that the establishment of the Royal Arch Degree occurred in France in 1747, and ‘that Moses Michael Hayes, a Jew, introduced it with the still deeper mysteries into this country by a patent, dated 6th of December 1778.’ Severe consequences for ‘American Freemasonry’ followed. Hundreds of lodges closed, and membership numbers plummeted:
The Order’s detractors had only been waiting for a golden opportunity like this. While New York State had 400 lodges in 1826, the groundswell would leave behind only seventy five in 1835, and the three supreme councils of the Ancient and Accepted (Scottish) Rite that had been coexisting ceased all activity.[xxxiii]
Further exposes of rituals were published by clergy resentful of ‘Freemasonry’ for poaching adherents, and seemingly terrified that a bridge to the ineffable had been made known, nay, disturbed with who knows what consequences. Applying public process to punish blatant breaches of man-made law was one thing, dealing with determined agents of unknown, ‘other-worldly’ forces was quite another. If a door to that fearsome world had been opened it must be closed and triple barred. Solid pillars of this world must be reinforced, and even the nation’s creation myths must be shown to be sound. That of ‘the Founding Fathers’ was still being built, that of ‘the Father of the Republic’ must be shown to be beyond question. George Washington had been publicly claimed and celebrated by ‘Freemasonry’ at his death in 1789. The taint must be expunged. ‘Generations yet unborn’ must be warned ‘should hereafter an effort be made to revive the base, the murderous and detestable institution’, known as ‘Freemasonry’.[xxxiv] A letter Washington’s Chief Justice, John Marshal, wrote in 1833 but only published after his death showed that in his youth he had also been ‘made a Mason’:
In addition to the motives, which usually actuate young men, I was induced to become a candidate for admission into the society, by the assurance that the brotherly love which pervaded it and the duties imposed on its members, might be of great service to me in the vicissitudes of fortune to which a soldier was exposed. I followed the crowd for a time without attaching any importance to its object or giving myself the trouble to inquire why others did. It soon lost its attraction…I have not been in one of them [lodges] for more than forty years, except once, on an invitation to accompany General La Fayette, nor have I been a member of one of them for more than thirty. It was impossible not to perceive the useless pageantry of the whole exhibition …I thought it a mere plaything, which would live its hour and pass away, until the murder or abstraction of Morgan was brought before the public (pp.2-3) (My emphasis)
The Marshal letter was accompanied when published by a ‘Vindication of General Washington’ which consisted of extracts from the records of the US House of Representatives, for January and March 1837. These extracts documented references to Washington’s Final Address made in his 1836 Annual Address by Virginia’s State Governor to his legislature, and the Report of a House Committee set up to clarify the accuracy of those references. The Governor had said that Washington ‘had sent forth his last and most solemn warning against “that spirit of lawless combination unknown to our open and equal institutions and opposed to the genius of republicanism.”’ The Governor had gone on to name ‘the Society of Freemasonry’ as ‘the fruitful mother’ of at least some of the ‘regularly “organised, oath bound, secret working, wide spread and powerful societies” which had, in his day, become ‘the chief evil of the times.’ The committee’s Report contained the detailed response by the Governor which centred on fraudulent claims that Washington and other well-known men had been committed and enthusiastic Masons. He wrote: ‘No occurrence in my life ever afforded me greater pleasure than that of being called upon officially, to vindicate the memory of Washington from the stigma of adherence to secret combinations.’ (p.8)
One seceded brother and Anti-Masonic organiser, HD Ward, published the words of well-known Masonic writers to mock the Order’s pretensions to have an ancient history: for example, the claims that ‘From the commencement of the world, we may trace the formulation of Masonry’; that the [initiate’s] white apron is more ancient than the Golden Fleece or the Roman Eagle; or that Solomon built his Temple in order to re-discover the lost word, which was God’s true name.[xxxv] A highly decorated ‘white Mason’, Charles Mitchell described as ‘bogus’ claims made by Prince Hall and others to have been made Master Masons in 1775 by the officers of a white regimental lodge chartered by London’s GL. These men, ‘their minds inflamed to an extraordinary degree of madness, hatred and dislike’, established the African Grand Lodge of Modern Masons of Massachusetts, ‘now the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts’, thereby introducing ‘the blackest page in masonic history.’ These ‘ignoramuses and peddlers of Masonic falsehood’ deserved all the vitriol being heaped upon them by failing to observe Masonic law allegedly followed and strictly adhered to by every well-regulated and lawful Masonic Grand Lodge since 1717 ‘down to the present day and not otherwise.’ (Mitchell, p.3) There is much more of the same ill-tempered re-writing of Masonic history.
‘Freemasonry’ was under siege, and, some hoped, close to extinction, but while breath remained, there was chance of revival. But in what form, and who would determine the result? In the words of Stephen Bullock, recent US scholar, ‘The York Rite’, now known by some as the ‘American’, and ‘the Scottish Rite’, survived because they improved internal structures and became more sacred. The ‘Andersonian contradiction’ was continuing to survive despite everything that was being thrown at it.
The Church of Latter Day Saints, aka Mormonism, was founded by men supposedly attracted to ‘the Order’ by its mythical historiography, and by claims that ‘Freemasonry’ was the only moral system which had ‘withstood the wreck of time (all others having) sunk into oblivion’. It supposedly provided ‘eternal and invariable principles of natural religion.’ (Homer, 1994, pp.15-16) The Book of Mormon, first published in 1830, purported to be a history of inhabitants of the American continent from the time of the Tower of Babel to 400AD during which period two civilisations perished in large part because they did not prevent the growth of ‘secret societies’ or their use of secret signs and words. One of the Book’s last ‘prophets’ warned future generations against ‘secret combinations’ and their ‘works of destruction.’ (Homer, p.19) By 1840, Masonic membership in the USA was down to little more than 2,000, but there were not many more baptized Mormons. In Illinois, Masonic ‘Grand Master Jonas, perhaps to obtain Mormon votes in the next (municipal) election and further his own political ambitions’ issued on his own authority dispensations to establish a number of Masonic lodges whose membership was to be exclusively Mormon. (Homer, pp.27-28) The consequent hostilities produced numerous charges and counter-charges, including that Mormonism had stolen its ritual from ‘Freemasonry’. Illinois Mormons had a Masonic Temple built as part of an attempt to dominate that state’s ‘Masonry’ but their lodges had been dis-established and declared clandestine by the time of its celebrated opening. Hostilities became nasty. Two founders of the Mormonised lodges, the two Smith brothers, were assassinated by a mob ‘which included a number of Freemasons.’ (Homer, pp. 30-31) In Homers words, when tempers cooled, the autonomous Mormon hierarchy taught that: ‘Joseph Smith (one of those assassinated) had expanded, revised and restored the rituals of Freemasonry which …originated in Solomon’s Temple but had been corrupted during the Great Apostasy.’ (Homer, pp.38-40)
In-house ‘historians’ of the Latter Day Saints [‘the Mormons’ or the LDS] continued the sport of falsifying history. A genuine reform movement of apostates and others had to fight hard to even get a realistic account published. A pioneer in this effort, DM Quinn, was excommunicated for pointing out some of the events not covered by ‘faithful scholars’:
…In 1857 the US President sent federal troops to invade the Mormon capital of Salt Lake City. Congress passed its first anti-Mormon law in 1862. In 1879 Mormonism was the cause for the US Supreme Court’s first limitation on the free expression of religion. In 1887, Congress declared Mormonism an organised rebellion, disincorporated the LDS church and confiscated its assets. By 1890 Congress was prepared to deny civil rights to all members of the LDS church... [xxxvi]
Quinn and others have documented the ‘stunning turnabout’ over the hundred years since those events. The LDS has not given up its dream of rescuing the USA and even the whole world from chaos and internal dissension, but by changing its tactics the LDS church had by 1990 ‘become the darling of the Republican White House and of such middle class barometers as The Readers Digest.’
[i] RF Gould, ‘Freemasonry in Spain’, in A History of Freemasonry, Vol 3, 1886, p.266.
[ii] D Merchant and P Rich, ‘French Perspectives on Mexican Secret Societies’, Paper to Albuquerque-American Culture Association, March 2001 – copy on line, 2017.
[iii] S Morris, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Freemasonry, Penguin, 2013 (2nd edn), np.
[iv] Wikipedia ‘The Scottish Rite’ – seen 2018.
[v] B Elzas, Jews in South Carolina – from the Earliest Times to the Present Day‘, Philadelphia, 1905, p.132 – Copy from Forgotten Books.
[vi] D Merchant and P Rich Paper, ‘French Perspectives…’, 2001.
[vii] C Vail, The Ancient Mysteries and Modern Masonry, 1909, p.180 – published by Forgotten Books 2016.
[viii] S Morris, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Freemasonry, Penguin, 2006, Ch 9.
[ix] Web-site ‘The Scottish Rite of Freemasonry’, Supreme Council 33*, Southern Jurisdiction, USA (sighted 2018) – quoting S Morris, ‘The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Freemasonry’, Chapter 9, Penguin, 2009.
[x] P Johnson, A History of the Jews, Hachette, 2004, p.317.
[xi] N Ferguson, The Rothschilds, Vol 1, Penguin 1999, p.4.
[xii] V Stauffer, New England and the Bavarian Illuminati, PhD, Columbia U, 1918, p.11 – published by Forgotten Books 2016.
[xiii] J Wood, A Full Exposition of the Clintonian Faction and the Society of the Columbian Illuminati, 1802, p.27 – published by Forgotten Books, 2016. See also: V Stauffer, New England and the Bavarian Illuminati, PhD, Columbia, 1918 – FB’s 2016.
[xiv] M Homer, ‘“Similarity of Priesthood in Masonry”: The Relationship Between Freemasonry and Mormonism’, Dialogue, Vol 27, No 3, p.11. On-line, 2017.
[xv] J Arroyo, Writing Secrecy in Caribbean Freemasonry, Palgrave, 2013.
[xvi] N Ferguson, The Rothschilds, Vol 1, Penguin, 1999, pp.132-133.
[xvii] J McLeish, Highlights of the Mexican Revolution, orig 1918, reprinted 2017 by Forgotten Books.
[xviii] P Rich & G de Los Reyes, ’Freemasonry in Latin America – Problems in the Historiography of Mexican Freemasonry, Vol 1’, (nd given, prob 1996- available on line). The biographer of Poinsett’s opposite number, British diplomat Ward, commented: ‘The part played by freemasonry [sic] in Mexican internal politics at that time was very significant. The details, which are of Byzantine complexity, are covered in Professor Michael Costelloe’s excellent book…(which) is published only in Spanish.’ (Johnson, 1992, fn 6, p.284) Ward claimed to his HO employers that he was unable to distinguish the York from the Scottish Rite even when he was writing home that Poinsett, was furthering his country’s interests by playing one Masonic faction against another.[xviii]
[xix] S Frahm, The Cross and the Compass: Freemasonry and Religion, Palibrio, 2014, pp.3-4.
[xx] Other brief versions are: P Ingram, Early Mexican Freemasonry A Confused Chapter in Our History, The Skirrett-on-line, 2017; C Martinez, Benito Juarez His Masonic Formation, Heritage and Struggles, 2010, My Freemasonry-on-line, 2017.
[xxi] Eva Petras, ‘The Relationship between Tohotom Nagy and Cardinal Mindzenty’, in Betekinto (The On-line Journal of the Historical Archives of the Hungarian State Security) 2/2016 viewed 3/2018.
[xxii] G de los Reyes, ‘Freemasonry and Civil Society’, REHMLAC, Special Issue UCLA, 2013, p.196, fn 3.
[xxiii] S Knott, Secret and Sanctioned – Covert Operations and the American Presidency, OUP, 1996, pp.107-117.
[xxiv] Diplomatic Records – A Select Catalogue of National Archives microfilm publications, Washington, 1986, pp.17, 60.
[xxv] Papers of Sir Charles Vaughan, American Historical Review, Jan, 1902, – published by Forgotten Books, 2016.
[xxvi] Ward to Vaughan, 27 Oct, 1826, ‘Papers…’, 1902, p.326.
[xxvii] Rich, de los Reyes, Lara ‘Smuggling Masonic Books to Mexico’, in do los Hoyes and Morris, Freemasonry in Context, Lexington, 2004, p.251.
[xxviii] Editorial footnote to letter Ward to Vaughan, 27 Oct, 1826, ‘Papers of Sir Charles Vaughan’, 1902, p.326.
[xxix] W Manning, ‘Poinsett’s Mission to Mexico’, on-line reprinted from American Journal of International Law, pp.787-95.
[xxx] H Putnam, Joel Robert Poinsett A Political Biography, p.221.
[xxxi] M Homer, “Similarity of Priesthood in Masonry”: The Relationship Between Freemasonry and Mormonism, Dialogue, Vol 27, No 3, 1994. On-line, 2017.
[xxxii] Proceedings of the US Anti-Masonic Convention, Philadelphia, 1830– published by Forgotten Books, 2016.
[xxxiii] A de Keghel, American Freemasonry: Its Revolutionary History and Challenging Future, Simon & Schuster, 2017.
[xxxiv] J Ritner, Vindication of George Washington from the Stigma of Adherence to Secret Societies, nd, 1840 ?, Forgotten Books, 2016.
[xxxv] Anon, (HD Ward), Free Masonry, New York, 1830 – Forgotten Books edn, 2016.
[xxxvi] DM Quinn, ‘Introduction’, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1994, p.i.
ALBERT PIKE – ‘the Greatest Mason of All’
Through all the ‘Masonic’ chaos of the 18th century, ‘Masonic’ politics had continued at the highest levels of government, which is to say that ‘it’, whatever its form and whether it was entitled to the label, was a presence at most influential Cabinet discussions across Europe and the Americas. The 19th century watched that high-level significance slowly disappear but there was no shortage of lower level political chicanery in which ‘Masonry’ was involved as we have already seen. Albert Pike was only 17 years old in 1826. Son of a poor shoemaker he came to prominence making treaties with Indian tribes and having them fight for the Confederacy in the Civil War. Midway through that devastating conflict he returned to his work as a lawyer in South Carolina where he also wrote poetry and studied ancient religions. He was often described by acquaintances as head-strong and volatile, by others as manly and independent (Folger, p.67) After his death in 1891 supporters emphasised his importance, and that of Albert Mackey, to the Scottish Rite: ‘(After the ravages of war had swept everything away, and all was sadness, sorrow and ruin) …the Phoenix was again to rise from the ashes of the funeral pyre.’ Given that the ‘Northern Supreme Council was then divided in twain and imposters and frauds were like jackals gorging themselves…upon the bodies of the slain’, it was only ‘the South’ which could restore life to the Order:
(With) the indomitable energy and zeal of its Illustrious Sovereign Grand Commander, Albert Pike, 33*, who had during the last two and a half years of the war, been engaged in rewriting and restoring its rituals, whose matchless scholarship in ancient lore and profound knowledge of the Ancient Mysteries and philosophy, aided by that other most illustrious Mason, the Moses and Lawgiver of the Fraternity of Freemasons around the Globe, Albert Gallatin Mackey, 33*, the late Dean and Secretary General of the Southern Supreme Council, assembling like Zerubbabel and Haggai with a few others at the ruins of the Temple of Jerusalem, commenced the reconstruction of the Rite at Charleston, South Carolina, upon the old foundations which remained undisturbed. [i]
The bombast was, as with Anderson, deliberate. It was an essential part of what was a political package designed to establish once and for all where the Masonic decision-making power was, not just for the US but for the globe. Internecine squabbles since 1801 had been intense and their detail beyond the scope of this essay. They had added to the frustration of any fraternity members and observers who sought genuinely sound history. Rival claimants invariably insisted that their account had finally broken free from the myths and fables, only to be countered by another claimant who had ‘uncovered new evidence’. The process was slowly generating more light than heat. The Middle East was suddenly awash with sponsored groups of diggers determined to prove the Bible was literally true. Academia was suddenly interested in antiquarian collections and in categorising everything from frogs to Matabele washing rituals, from rubber trees to hairy mammoths. Religious and political wars which had raged for centuries were renewed – the detail in the ever-enlarging ‘exposes’ now required thousands of pages, prefiguring muck-raking journals and 20th century ‘Frontline’ documentaries. Pike was accused of having defrauded the US Treasury, having enlisted Cherokee and Choctaw Indians who ‘were said to have scalped and tomahawked Union soldiers’, and to have taken the doctrines of ‘his’ 28th degree from ‘Asiatic pagan religions‘. This was the degree which Mackey declared to be ‘perhaps the most important of all the high degrees’. For Presbyterian abolitionist Jonathon Blanchard, who revived the anti-Masonic Party and published thousands of pages attacking all secret societies, not only had Pike set aside the Bible as obsolete, he was a long-time traitor who had skilfully covered his tracks: ‘(The) records and papers (of the Charleston Supreme Council) for fifty-nine years before the war, were all burnt up, doubtless to conceal treason and crimes committed against the country, and the laws of war… (pp.229-30)
Pike’s most memorable book, Morals and Dogma, was published in 1872. His research had led him to the conclusion that ‘we know nothing whatever’ of the origins of many of the degrees then making up ‘The Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite’ and that the whole was not brought together before the 19th century. In 1858, he had ‘scourged’ the ‘swashbucklers and braggarts of the so-called “Cerneau” Supreme Councils in New York’ for asserting that ‘the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite’ had been practised in its entirety by several Masonic bodies in 1743.[ii] He accused the proponents of Cerneauism of ‘deliberately falsifying history’, in another place of having ‘committed a very grave offence against the proprieties of discussion.’ (Pike, 1858, p.10) His account prevailed, little has been heard since of Cerneau.
Pike’s continuation of the Andersonian contradiction – the dual modern and therefore political, and the ancient and therefore religious nature of ‘Freemasonry’ – is clear. Hoddap, initiated US brother, wrote in 2005: ‘One of Pike’s influences was the French author Eliphas Levi. Levi was a prolific writer on occult topics who, in Pike’s day, was considered an expert on pagan mysteries and Gnosticism … In his book Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie, (1855) Levi claimed that Freemasonry had its roots in ancient pagan rituals, and Pike accepted many of these claims.’ [iii] Pike backed the ‘pagan rituals’, eg in his First Degree ritual, that of the Apprentice, with legal rhetoric:
The FORCE of the people, or the popular will, in action and exerted, symbolised by the gavel, regulated and guided by and acting the within the limits of LAW AND ORDER, symbolized by the TWENTY-FOUR-INCH-RULE, has for its fruit LIBERTY, EQUALITY AND FRATERNITY – liberty regulated by law; equality of rights in the eye of the law; brotherhood with its duties and obligations as well as its benefits. (His emphases)[iv]
That this is totally at odds with the 1717-21 principle of obedience to one’s government, is clear, as is Pike’s continuing to use ‘Freemasonry’ to gain political advantage, particularly in the south. Spain was known to be seeking to reassert its control over its former colonies, and Mexican authorities were plotting the capture of Cuba in order to weaken foreign influence across the whole of the Caribbean. Arroyo’s later chapters are on the continued involvement in US politics of non-Anglo activists drawing on ‘Freemasonry’s’ public statements about universal tolerance to argue for their civil rights, and the often-negative responses to their efforts by Anglo ‘Freemasons’. She noted Pike’s ‘inconsistent agendas.’ He was ‘on the one hand, a Masonic imperialist figure and on the other a non-interventionist.’ He was not as bigoted as many of his colleagues but he could not accept the idea of ‘Black (African-derived) Masons.’ He opposed the expansion of US territory by military means but he ‘invested the prestige and the power of the US Masonic Scottish Rite in the fate of Cuban and Latin-American affairs by sending not one, but two Cubans to fight against each other and to organise Cuban and Mexican Masonic affairs.’ (Arroyo, p.67)
US administrations had begun to bring European migrants ashore to augment labour supply. In the 1830’s and 40’s this meant millions of German and Irish immigrants brought into the US what some residents saw as ‘an exotic and suspect religion – Roman Catholicism’. There were reactions:
In 1834 a Catholic convent near Boston was burned by a mob, followed by subsequent attacks on Catholic schools and churches. Violence against Catholics on the east coast was so common that insurance companies practically refused to insure them. [v]
This time the Catholic Orders did not leave and they remained politically suspect. Papal preference for a centralised and hierarchical system of governance contained an abhorrence for ‘a creedless, universal democracy’, a Jesuit definition of a republic. Greater Catholic numbers in the US were augmented by Creole refugees migrating to New York from the Caribbean and bringing vestiges of ‘Spanish Freemasonry’ with them. They set up media outlets and ‘clubs’ to plot independence and their return as ‘Masons’:
In several cases, Masonic insignia appeared on the front page (of Cuban exile newspapers in New York), pointing to the importance of Freemasonry for Cuban exiles…(Many) of the most prominent Cuban filibusteros were Freemasons …Connections among Freemasons accounted in part for the contacts that Cuban exiles developed with prominent figures in the United States and veterans of the US-Mexico War. The influence of Masonic doctrine, which described tyranny as the enemy of the human race and despots as outlaws, was evident…One of the tenets of the order was that a true Mason seeks to attain the truth, and to serve our fellows, our country and mankind. [vi](My emphasis)
A conspiracy, ‘patterned on the Texas model’, to annex Cuba to the United States had been hatched in New York’s ‘The Havana Club’. Using the code of secrecy ‘practised in clandestine Masonic lodges’ each member had adopted a covert code name.[vii] The filibustero invasion of Cuba from the north in 1848 was one result only of such efforts.[viii] Assertions of ‘Freemasonry’s’ alleged universality, racial tolerance and comprehensive freedoms in order to establish an independent nation militarily do not fall within the Andersonian definition. That these assertions were believed and acted upon makes them parts of ‘Masonic history’ but those facts do not establish that what Anderson labelled ‘Free-masonry’ was in play. They do illustrate just how insular even the most recent European scholars are. The opportunistic use of the label by political activists was apparent from the beginning but English-language scholars at least have chosen to discount any motivation other than that which fitted the Order’s rhetoric. Arroyo, like de los Reyes, has seen a need to widen the context of enquiry to include the socio-political voice provided to non-Anglos by lodge membership, and the consequent reactions by colonial powers, some of whom were also initiated brothers. One example only: ‘Threatened by the powerful nationalist movement [in the Philippines] led by Masonic intellectuals such as Jose Rizal and Emilio Aguinaldo, US treasury officials ended up financing the most expensive and bloodiest military campaign of the early twentieth century.’ [ix]
[i] E Sherman, New Edition of the Brief History of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, etc, Calif, 1890, p.37.
[ii] A Pike, Foulhouzeism and Cerneauism Scourged, Charleston, 1858. Published by Forgotten Books.
[iii] C Hoddap, Freemasonry for Dummies, Indianapolis, 2005.
[iv] A Pike (ed), Morals and Dogma, Charleston, 1871, pp.4-5 – published by Forgotten Books, 2016.
[v] R Joyce, ‘Fear of ‘the Other’: An Un-American Position’, 2010, ‘Berkeley Blog’ site, UC Berkley, 2017.
[vi] R Lazo, Writing to Cuba, U of Nth Carolina Press, 2005, pp.66-67.
[vii] A de la Cova, Cuban Confederate General: The Life of Ambrosio Jose Gonzales, Uni of Sth Carolina Press, 2009, p.x, p.6.
[viii] J Arroyo, Writing Secrecy in Caribbean Freemasonry, Palgrave, 2013, p.15.
[ix] J Arroyo, 2013, p.174.
BACK IN EUROPE
Britain’s the Earl of Shaftsbury argued in 1839-40 that physical return of the Jews to Palestine must occur before the Bible’s ‘Second Coming’ could happen and convinced Palmerston’s Foreign Office to open a Consulate in Jerusalem in 1840-41, the first European power to do so. The Consul was instructed to especially look out for the welfare of the 10,000 Jews then living in Palestine under Ottoman rule. In 1875, Prime Minister Disraeli approached ‘his close friend Baron Lionel Nathan de Rothschild to solicit his help in purchasing for Britain 44 per cent of the shares in the Suez Canal.’ In Sand’s words, ‘the region surrounding the maritime gateway – Egypt and Palestine – now emerged as strategic objects of utmost importance’. (Sand, p.159) Literary figures – George Eliot, Thackeray, Melville and others – joined influential community leaders – including Moses Montifiore – in mixing equal amounts of religious ideology and a fear of Jewish immigration into England. Geo-politics and a sense of mission justified a British invasion of Egypt and continually-strengthened anti-immigration legislation. Without this twisted logic, it is unlikely that Israel could have been established. The hundreds of thousands of Arabs in the area were not consulted and were not considered deserving of any attention until oil was discovered and changed the geo-political landscape.
Karl Marx’s father shared a hostility towards ‘loan-mongering Jews’ with anti-capitalist radicals in Germany despite many being Jewish themselves. The younger Marx wrote: ‘The great Freemason lodge of the Three Crowns in Berlin …has declared the Cologne Lodge Minerva inactive. The reason? Because it accepted Jews! A warning to the Jews!’ [i] He singled out a Rothschild family member as ‘a jewish usurer who was notoriously one of the accomplices of the Bonapartist coup d’etat [of 1848 in France]’. (Padover, p.215 – February 1853) but the young Marx’s rudimentary understanding of Freemasonry was on a level with his knowledge of Jewishness. Among his writings we find the F-word indiscriminately associated with Jewish financiers: ‘…Steiglitz, being one of the Freemasonry of Jews which has existed in all ages…’ (p.222, written January 1856), and ‘It is this business Freemasonry among Jewish bankers which has brought the barter trade in government securities to its present height.’ (p.220 – November 1855). The Rothschild brothers, in fact, were increasingly competing with one another and aligning themselves with the political strategies of the country in which they lived. Ferguson overstated the shift in focus:
By the middle of the 19th century, the Rothschilds had evolved from traders into fund managers, carefully tending to their own vast portfolio of government bonds… (Having) made their money [from war], they stood to lose more than they gained from conflict. The Rothschilds had decided the outcome of the Napoleonic Wars by putting their financial weight behind Britain. Now they would sit on the sidelines. (Wars) tended to hit the price of existing bonds by increasing the risk that a debtor state would fail to meet its interest payments in the event of defeat and losses of territory.[ii]
A new wave of persecutions resembling ethnic cleansing was soon to begin in Poland and Russia and to present the family with a difficult choice. Simultaneously, ‘London’s Freemasonry’, divided internally, was battling a major Masonic enemy, France, when its mythic history received a major blow. The ‘Introduction’ to German scholar, Findel’s ‘Universal History of the Freemason’s Fraternity’ of 1866, acknowledged previous attempts to ‘(elucidate) single sections of Masonic History’ but considered this the first ‘founded upon precise dates and precise facts’:
(The) literature of Freemasonry is so profuse, yet withal so defective in many respects, that for several divisions of the subject, reliable data are wanting altogether; the historical materials have been hitherto scattered about in so many different places, or mixed up with dubious and contradictory statements, and above all, the origin of the order has been…veiled in the darkness of mystery… [iii]
Findel, he says: ‘ has brought (the materials) to the test of a sound and sober criticism, and has reduced them to order, so that the reader has for the first time a complete and reliable Universal History of Freemasonry.’ Nevertheless, the ‘Andersonian contradiction’ survived, but in yet another different form: ‘(Freemasonry) is everlasting and unchangeable…’ even though ‘the Fraternity’ is now to be seen to have had its origins in the Operative Stone Masons, an idea first argued by the Jesuit Abbe Grandidier, in 1778. Findel bluntly asserts that non-German scholars hold ‘the most confused, ridiculous, and discordant opinions’. Besides Anderson, his list includes ‘the learned brother’ the Reverend George Oliver, ‘many English brethren and one American brother (and)…a Scotchman Ramsay.’ All the ‘Higher Degrees’ have done is encourage these peoples’ fables:
Up to the commencement of the present century, scarcely any but Germans expressed any very clear ideas concerning the nature of this Society…(Seydel) has shown how the present nature, form, and efficiency of the Fraternity logically follows out of the essential idea of Freemasonry itself…Seydel says that Freemasonry is that disposition of the mind, in which the good or spiritual instinct prevails over its antagonistic principle ie over egotism, and this mastery…in however slight a degree, is the only qualification insisted on, in order to be received into the Masonic Fraternity. (Findel, 1866, p.5)
Where once it was ‘purposely distorted by misrepresentations’ ‘it’ has, ‘through the profound and conscientious research of some few solitary and unprejudiced brethren, acquired of late years, a sure foundation upon scientific principles’.
The hyphen has disappeared but ‘the order’ remains a ‘Fraternity’ as well as ‘an idea’: ‘(the) purest and most perfect exemplification of religious impulse, of goodness, of piety, of holiness…’. (Findel, 1866 p.5) Its ‘History’ only began in 1717, but ‘it’ has somehow already become ‘the most important and powerful instrument of civilisation, which has materially improved social life and contributed to raise the moral tone and culture of the people’. (Preface, p.vi, and ‘Contents’ p.ix.) Opponents of the new theory are ‘(blinded) by absurd self-conceit, and an eccentric desire to prove the extreme antiquity of the Institution.’ The mediaeval stone-masons idea allows the ancient wisdoms to be re-introduced since the Roman building colleges provided the model for the guild: ‘These Roman Corporations were, at any rate, a medium, necessary for connecting the Lodges of the Middle ages with the mysteries of the Ancients…’ (Findel, 1866, p.21) It also allows the operatives to be recruited in the on-going fight against Papal tyranny:
Mankind were anticipating in advance the silent efforts of the Stone-Masons. The liberal religious opinions held by them concerning the dogmas and discipline of the church, the tyranny of the Papal See, and the immoral lives of the priests, which they had before only ventured to express in those biting caricatures, the so-called marks, introduced into their buildings, they could now openly and publicly avow… (Findel, 1866, p.119; see also pp.214, 356.)
The entry of ‘gentlemen’ into an otherwise artisanal society ‘explained’ how the 1717-21 ‘Society of Free-Masonry’ came to be composed as it was. (Findel, 1866, p.119) So much for religious tolerance, and the sober examination of facts. This is propaganda, for one Society, for one culture, and for one religion, while seeming to keep a hand of friendship stretched out for English scholars to get on board the German vessel of ‘Masonic authenticity.’ Self-appointed custodians of the English mythology were stung into action. In the next two decades, UGL sponsored a new periodical, declared the Grand Orient of France ‘irregular’, organised an administrative take-over of many of the Higher Degrees and ‘allowed’ the lodge of Research, Quatuor Coronati to be established. It immediately declared itself pre-eminent and denied German assertions that ‘Freemasonry’ had originated in that country.[iv]
No scholar, partisan or ostensibly neutral has yet studied the connections between these adjustments, events in Paris and the heightened attacks by the Roman Catholic Church on secret societies and the master manipulators, ‘the Jews’. Mass circulation prints had already markedly increased the pace and intensity of the religious struggle. Billington has noted the enthusiasm of papers like The Times, Le Figaro and their Russian and German counterparts for a passionate, chauvinist nationalism, whereby socialist reforms could be stridently opposed and governments chastised for not doing enough to stem the threats perceived to be abroad. An 1864 encyclical by Pope Pius IX, last of the Pope-Kings, set the Catholic rhetorical tone. The Vatican’s authority was being materially weakened by Italy’s passage to unification and its rule was being whittled down to, at best, a few square miles of Rome. In 1849, Pope Pius IX had reneged on a loan deal with the Rothschilds and declined to abolish ghetto legislation on Jews after getting the money. Suddenly, in Kertzer’s words, ‘the popes were no longer in a position to keep the Jews in the place that they believed was divinely ordained for them.’ But papal attitudes hardened not softened: ‘Along with rejecting modern ideas, the Pope embraced a conspiratorial view of the world. In an outlook that would shape Catholic attitudes for decades to come, he portrayed an embattled Church besieged by the forces of evil.’ [v] The Church’s ‘present misfortunes’ lay squarely with a conspiracy of secret sects: ‘It is from them that the synagogue of Satan…takes its strength.’ (Kertzer, 2001, p.13, p.127; Billington. pp.335-7)
[i] S Padover, Ed, Karl Marx On Religion, McGraw Hill, 1974, p.ix, p.214 – Nov, 1848.
[ii] N Ferguson, The Ascent of Money, Penguin, 2008, slightly re-arranged.
[iii] From the ‘Preface’ by C van Dalen, to J Findel, History of Freemasonry from its Rise down to the Present Day’, 2nd edn, London, 1866.
[iv] See my Rise and Fall of English Freemasonry, at <www.fraternalsecrets.org>.
[v] D Kertzer, The Pope Against the Jews, Knopf, 2001, p.126.
A MASONIC CIVIL WAR
When in March, 1869, RW Little, ‘second clerk and cashier’ in the office of his uncle John Hervey, UGLE’s Grand Secretary, began editing The Freemason, he saw a call to arms.[i] The publisher, ‘with the sanction of the Earl of Zetland, MWGM of England’ was George Kenning, an ambitious printer and regalia-maker. On the surface the magazine was a remarkable departure for UGLE, but it was one which cost that body no effort, financial or other. Within a year it had doubled in size and claimed a circulation of half a million readers a year, and though this claim is impossible to verify, its success was obvious and its influence as the apparently sanctioned voice of UGLE was great. Whether Little, Hervey or Kenning together had initiated the venture is unknown but it had been launched to meet a threat and each believed the auguries were good. They were all, however, looking in the wrong direction. None saw the ground beginning to tilt under their feet.
A seemingly innocuous Masonic event had occurred in 1868. The Grand Orient of France (GOF) had recognised the ‘Supreme Council of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of the State of Louisiana’, a body in competition with and therefore not recognised by the ‘Grand Lodge of (Northern) Louisiana’ [GLL] already in operation. The GOF action constituted a violation of Masonic conventions relating to territorial jurisdiction, but the GLL was most upset by the new body admitting men ‘regardless of race or colour’ something it was not prepared to do. In 1869, the GOF ruled that no colour, race or religion should be used to disqualify a candidate for initiation. The GLL withdrew recognition from the GOF and called on other American Grand lodges to do the same. Racial discrimination in the US remained hugely-divisive in the wake of the Civil War, 1861-65. Numerous fraternities were splitting along ‘colour lines’.
Adherence to Enlightenment values might have put EF on the side of the angels but a complacent UGLE chose to maintain its backward-looking stance, and to deny reason and common sense. Was not its international reach proof that it was vitally alive and secure from competitors? Did it not have the support and mutual respect of the greatest empire the world had ever seen? The incongruous mix of Bible and Empire provided their rhetorical justification but strategic considerations and personal interests which were delivering increased amounts of colour and movement were accompanied by diminishing amounts of usable power.
UGLE was beset by a pincer movement for which it was unprepared. Internally, it was being pressured to re-define ‘Freemasonry’. Externally, its claim to be ‘the Mother Lodge of Freemasonry’ and therefore to be the adjudicator and guiding hand in disputes between ‘sub-branches’ was being threatened. In the Middle East its involvement with imperial policy meant it was having to wrangle feisty, recalcitrant ‘Freemasonries’ which it really didn’t want even to acknowledge. Jurisdictions in the colonies were claiming Masonic independence to match their political revolutions, while other more radical movements were arguing ‘Freemasonry’ was the only ideology they needed. UGLE’s response was to bind itself more tightly in the flag of Nationalism. The orchestrated progress of the Prince of Wales up the Masonic ladder sped up. Three of the royal princes were Masons after the Queen Victoria’s eldest son ‘took’ the twelve degrees of the Swedish Rite in Stockholm over two days in 1868. Subsequently, he involved himself in seven English lodges, but just one year after initiation he was ‘elected’ a Past Grand Master making him second to the GM. When he attended the December 1869 UGLE meeting, his first, he was reportedly greeted with ‘rapturous cheers’ by the ‘muster’ of 660 brethren, many of whom were no doubt reacting to his brother’s escape from an assassination attempt in Sydney in March the previous year.
EF was like the British Army which was now in the hands of a man whose contribution has been retrospectively summarised: ‘Deeply devoted to the old Army, he worked with the Queen to defeat or minimise every reform proposal, such as setting up a general staff. His Army became a moribund and stagnant institution lagging far behind France and Germany. Its weaknesses were dramatically revealed by the poor organisation at the start of the Second Boer War’ (1899-1902)’ [ii] Prescott has noted that The Freemason ‘was closely linked to the more conservative wing of English Freemasonry’ and that: ‘The enthusiasms of the editors and publisher…are apparent from the long series of articles… (seeking) to demonstrate that the Anglo-Saxons were a lost tribe of Israel and that the British Empire was the fulfilment of the divine mission of the chosen people.[iii]
In 1871, the Prince and Carnarvon were made ‘honorary members’ of the Jerusalem Lodge. This provoked press commentary on anomalies in EF: ‘The Prince of Wales, for example, is a Past Grand Master and a Masonic Knight Templar; yet the degree of Knight Templar is not ‘recognised’; the Earl of Carnarvon is Deputy Grand Master, and Past Grand Master of the Mark Degree, yet the Mark Degree is not ‘recognised’, though no man can be a member of either Order who is not a Freemason first; what is called Mark Masonry furnishes perhaps the most curious anomaly of all, for while in Scotland and Ireland it is held to be an essential portion of Freemasonry, in England it has a separate jurisdiction and a separate Grand Lodge.’ [iv]
The 1813 Act of Union had set down a base definition of EF – ‘Freemasonry’ was to consist of three Craft degrees and the Royal Arch Degree [RA]. The RA was an inducement to ‘the Antients’ to agree to the settlement but it was also a favourite with many on the gentry-side of the EF negotiating panel. Even this compromise was impractical: the Act had a large loop-hole; and there were other degrees and Orders operating with highly influential members; and the demarcations between those defined ‘in’ and those defined ‘out’ were not clear. The Act did end over half a century of internal dis-union and it did seem to provide a clear-cut, enforceable situation, namely that UGLE was bound never to regularise any other Orders or degrees in the future. However, the loop-hole – that UGLE agreed it would not prohibit the continued working of chivalric degrees – meant the declaration was immediately undermined and was never stable. A half century on and it was clearly null and void. Brethren in the other Orders and Degrees were chafing under the euphemisms used to describe their ambiguous status – terms like ‘unrecognised’, ‘irregular’ and ‘fringe’.
In 1860, the editor of the FM&MM declared: ‘We are astonished that any Mason should recommend a new degree to the brethren, and we sincerely hope that no attempt will be made to introduce such humbug into England.’ [v] He had in mind one particular ‘humbug’, a rite recently ‘invented’ in New York by a Bro Dr Horwitz and applauded by the editor of The Masonic Chronicle: ‘The rite…hails from Egypt, once the nurse of art and science. It is Masonic in character, elucidating to its votaries, who must be Masons, the principles which Masonry inculcates. This ‘Oriental Rite’ commences the work at the 34th degree, thus interfering in no way with those already established.’ Little and a friend, WJ Hughan, had thrown themselves into learning about as many of these variations as possible and had enthusiastically joined the agitation for their ‘regularisation’. Initiated an EF in 1863 at age 22, Hughan collected Bibles and quickly established a reputation around the magazine as ‘the expert’ historian. ‘(Within) 4 years of his initiation (he) had been advanced in the Mark (Degree), Perfected in the Rose Croix, Exalted in the Holy Royal Arch, Installed as a Knight Templar, Admitted into the Rosicrucian Society, Advanced and Promoted in the Royal Order of Scotland, and Installed in the Red Cross of Constantine.’ [vi] He does not appear to have been interested in the Rite of Memphis and Mizraim which was also of interest to Little. Allegedly created by Samuel Honis in Cairo in 1814, this Rite had been promoted by a father and son, Marconis de Negre, in France and Belgium, where it was worked until suppressed by police in 1848, the year in which uprisings swept across Europe. Revived again, French refugee ‘Freemasons’ brought the rite to London and formed La Grande Loge des Philadelphes which had its constitution ratified by the Conseil Supreme l’Ordre Maconnique de Memphis in January, 1851. Its members originally worked 95 ‘Memphis’ degrees but, in response to political developments, determined to work only the three Craft degrees from April, 1857. Charles Bradlaugh, prominent English freethinker and agitator joined this lodge in March, 1859, whereupon the Grand Secretary of the UGLE, in October, 1859, sent a letter to every lodge WM within the UGLE jurisdiction: “I am directed to inform you … that there are at present existing in London and elsewhere in this country, spurious Lodges claiming to be Freemasons.” He specifically named ‘Memphis’ Masons. Pressure was building and the barrier was about to break but who was to be admitted?
Little’s first editorial provided his full address as presiding ‘Sir Knight’ and President of the re-established but still ‘irregular’ Palatine Preceptory of Instruction, Order of Knights of the Red Cross and Constantine, an Order he is credited with having revived in 1865. His publisher, Kenning was among the ‘Knight-Companions’ in his audience as he made his address, in the process provoking brethren from other chivalric Orders. In a tangle of distraught logic and fanciful assertions which, journalistically, ought to have resulted in his immediate sacking, Little claimed that he regarded ‘Freemasonry as a pure system of ethics which contains every element that can constitute real greatness and goodness in life…’ His major conclusion alluded to the crisis which had aroused him: ‘…I will not attempt to deny that designing men may have abused the privileges of Freemasonry by inventing pseudo Masonic degrees, which reflected disgrace upon Christianity by preaching a spirit of intolerance and fulminating anathemas on all who were outside the narrow boundaries of their belief. But that such an objection can be sustained against degrees originating in England amongst the founders of modern Freemasonry and now practiced by English Masons I cannot for a moment believe…’ [vii] [Emphases in original]
Hostility between purist ‘Craft’ brethren, who thought the 1813 agreement should be maintained, and advocates for a broader definition was intense. Greatest hostility was manifested by supporters of ‘the Scottish Rite’ who apparently believed that, at the very least, its significance would be diminished by acceptance of other rites into the circle. Hughan in response said: ‘…that no Supreme Council of the 33# [ie, the A&A Rite] would ever have been suffered in England during the life-time of the Duke [of Sussex, previous English GM], and accordingly, no such body was established – (until it came about)… under American authority (in) December 1845……The fact is, that the introduction of the fantastic degrees of the Ancient and Accepted Rite into England dislocated and destroyed the Ancient York working, which comprised everything that is really interesting in the pseudo-Scottish rite…’
To end the rising wave of unrest, Hughan and some others advocated amalgamation of all into a ‘Council’ but insisted that it was up to ‘the irregulars’ to come up with a resolution: ‘…There ought to be no antagonism between Orders which profess to have kindred objects, and which are supposed to be swayed by similar principles. We go further, we say there must not be – and if the degrees which are at present unrecognised in England cannot speedily arrive at a definite alliance between themselves, it will be the most remarkable proof of their inanity ever provided…’ [viii] [Emphases in original] No public guidance came from UGLE, but Hughan urged that ultimate power remain with that entity: ‘In order to prevent any subsequent institution or “revival” of other degrees, it would be well to secure from (Craft) Grand Lodge the power to prevent any other degrees being worked…than those sanctioned, on pain of certain penalties for disobedience…’ [ix]
Signed conventions rendering some of what previously had been ‘irregular’ into a new category of ‘not-irregular but not recognised Masonry’ were made public in July 1871. Under the arrangements, each of the constituent elements could claim to be standing alone while being actually dependent on UGLE in so far as the first three degrees were the mandatory requirement before enrolment in any of the others. There were immediate repercussions. John Yarker, Masonic scholar, was dismissed from the A&A ‘Scottish’ Rite for promoting un-named rites that had lost out in the scramble and were to remain ‘irregular’.[x] In a similar situation, Little used his more useful connections. In 1871, he conducted a rite, believed to have been the Rite of Misraim, in the GL building whereupon one of the purists charged him with having ‘a conflict of interest.’ UGLE’s political priorities included excluding rites which had a Gallic aroma, and this was one of those. UGLE’s own Board of General Purposes investigated and found only a minor charge proven against Little. Whether he was pushed or jumped is not clear but a loyalist, the Reverend Woodford then replaced him as editor of The Freemason.
In 1870 perhaps EF’s most controversial figure, George Robinson, became English GM. Born at 10 Downing Street in 1828 while his father was Prime Minister, in 1849 at age twenty-two, Robinson was initiated into the Christian Socialist movement. He was an MP from 1854 until 1859, when upon the death of his father, he was seated in the House of Lords as Lord Ripon. In 1859 he was Palmerston’s Under-Secretary of War and in 1863, was appointed Secretary of War. He succeeded Sir Charles Wood as head of the Indian Office in 1866 and under Prime Minister Gladstone in 1868 became President of the Privy Council. His relations with Grand Secretary, Lord Carnarvon, et al, and his role in the compromise deal are not yet researched. On the face of it, he was kept well away from the decision-making process which now involved war across the Channel.
An 1869 contributor to The Freemason reflected on a Charles Bradlaugh lecture on ‘Freemasonry’ in the New Hall of Science. Bradlaugh, a member of an ‘irregular’ French lodge, was the leading free thought lecturer of his time. The motto of his newspaper, The National Reformer, was seen by his critic, ‘Cryptonomous’, ie KRH Mackenzie, ‘sufficiently plain and straightforward’ to be quoted in full: ‘I conceive it to be the duty of students in every science to uphold nothing dogmatically, but simply to find out what is true, no matter what existing theory they may demolish. For so only can science be built upon a firm foundation, and truth be glorified.’ [xi] ‘Truth’, unfortunately, is relative and subjective, and there is warning enough in Bradlaugh’s suggestion that it can be ‘glorified’, but MacKenzie wanted to make a different point. First, he allowed: ‘It is true, by the researches of modern Masonic historians, that the history of the order or Fraternity may be fairly shorn of its mythical glories…’ He then immediately negatived this optimistic aspiration with yet another version of the assumed ancient, pre-historic heritage: ‘…still, it has been superimposed and founded upon a much older system. In its essence it is no new invention, any more than the saint-worship of Papal Rome is other than a revival of the polytheism of Classical Rome…’
Denying Bradlaugh’s assertion that ‘Freemasonry’ was of little importance in England, he embraced the greatest illusion of all, the one which mixes the myths of imperial and Masonic grandeurs with ancient wisdoms: ‘The position of Freemasonry at the present day has an exact analogy with those ancient (Eleusinian) rites. The statesmen, warriors and philosophers – the leaders of action and thought – the poets and orators – show everywhere that they were affiliated to some great and secret body which inspired them with patience, hope, mutual forbearance and charity…’ He used the claim that ‘Masonry’ was non-political to link two unlikely Masonic allies and affirm the right to rebel in others: ‘I have frequently said…that in nations politically free, as England and the United States…(are) said to be, any admixture of politics becomes unnecessary. Not so among nations who have still their Freedom to achieve. Such nations have a sacred right to employ secret associations for the attainment of similar benefits…The Freemasons certainly inculcate love of humanity, national freedom, and individual justice. They would be unfit to exist as a powerful and growing body were this not the case…’ [My emphases]
He was immediately challenged by a writer maintaining that lodges which allowed ‘religious and social questions’ to be debated, allowed ‘rash utterances in favour of democracy and scepticism’ to be made, or allowed ‘political discussions’ to proceed, must be ‘communistic’ and their brethren must be bloodthirsty ‘anarchists and atheists’. This was previously-jailed, Chartist agitator, self-taught writer and editor, William Carpenter. He identified his ‘British’ race with ‘the lost tribes of Israel’ and believed he could map the latter’s epic journeys across Europe. Masonic errors were, of course, only found on ‘the Continent’, ‘in French Lodges, Italian Lodges, aye, and even German Lodges.’ (My emphasis) In contrast, EF was true, divinely inspired and manifested ‘the harmony’ which naturally existed between ‘Masonic precepts and the broadest principles of free thought and action’. Those continentals, he insisted: ‘have lost the true essence of Freemasonry…they have wilfully severed themselves from that great family of brethren which, thanks to the vast increase of the Anglo-Saxon race, now encircles the earth, and…holds the future in its grasp.’ [xii]
In January, 1870, Hughan began a long series in The Freemason on ‘Masonic Historians’ with Brother Findel of Leipzig as ‘No 1’:‘(His) is the best, the fullest and most accurate History of Freemasonry extant.’ (Hughan’s emphasis)[xiii] Hughan lost a lot of friends when he agreed that ‘up to the commencement of the present century few but Germans’ wrote ‘intelligently’ on the origin of ‘the Fraternity’ and that ‘even to this very day, the most confused, ridiculous and discordant opinions prevail, utterly opposed to facts of history.’ [xiv] Hughan also agreed with Findel that ‘what is now being generally admitted’, that the Craft originated in the ‘Building Fraternities of the Middle Ages’, was an assertion first made in Germany, and he approvingly quoted Findel’s assertion that Masonic history ‘has acquired of late years a sure foundation upon scientific principles’.[xv]
On an upward swing which would see their numbers double from 1862 to 1889, French ‘Freemasons’ were debating which form of democratic government suited their purposes. Their GM, an Army general, resigned at their 1870 Assembly and endorsed his successor, a school teacher, as a loyal and trustworthy man with government authorities, as was required. Together they supported the fraternity being asked to vote on a resolution that, if passed, would ‘suppress the office of Grand Master’, ie, declare the position to have no further relevance. Babaud-Laribier, the in-coming GM, emphasised the need for the brethren to seriously consider their decision, while making clear that he was personally in favour of the suppression. He emphasised two essential conditions which in the future should be non-negotiable, namely, the independence of lodges, and the simplicity of Masonic administration: ‘Is it not evident, my brethren, that there still exists a considerable amount of error, prejudice, injustice and misery?…preserve your liberty, your independence of thought, I do not advocate we form a clique or a party – we should not fall into the error of an enervating and brutal centralisation. Each lodge should progress the learning most appropriate to it – be it agricultural, a library, or lectures, or professional instruction…’ [xvi] On July 19th, 1870, the government of France, in order to bolster its sagging electoral support in Paris and other major towns, declared war on the Prussian Empire, only to suffer a humiliating defeat, whereupon the German army advanced at will and quickly surrounded Paris.
Early in 1871, Lord Carnarvon threatened ‘the masonic press’ with loss of all GL information if it continued to express ‘political opinions’ concerning the fighting in France, by which he meant commentaries favouring the defiant citizens who had declared the Paris Commune into being in March, 1871.[xvii] The French government had ‘invited’ its conquerors into the city to help it put down the uprising. On 21 April, 1871, a number of French Freemasons made a last-ditch attempt at conciliation between their conservative government and the revolutionary socialists in the Commune who were pushing ahead with social reforms and lobbying for a republic to replace the monarchy. The brethren were received coldly by the President, Thiers, who assured them that, though Paris was already ‘given over to destruction and slaughter’, the law had to be enforced. Heavy fighting ensued but the poorly-armed citizens were no match for the disciplined soldiery and their cannon. Freemasons resolved to plant their ‘colours’ on the city’s ramparts in support of the Commune. On the 29th, 10,000 of the brethren representing 55 lodges, marched to the Hôtel de Ville, headed by Grand Masters in full insignia and with lodge banners. The procession then went, through the boulevards and the Champs Elysées, to the Arc de Triomphe, where the banners were raised. On the Porte Maillot the Versaillese [government] soldiers ceased firing, and the commander, himself a Freemason, received a deputation of brethren, and suggested a final appeal to Versailles. The Government, however, declined to further discuss the matter and ordered the fighting to continue which it did until the last communards were dead, imprisoned or had fled.
Grand Master Robinson, Lord Ripon, led a delegation of goodwill in 1870-71, not to France, or to Germany which might have been expected from the Anglo-Saxon and Royal connections, but to the USA where hand-picked delegates vigorously sought to cement friendship ‘on behalf of Queen Victoria…between the great branches of the Anglo-Saxon race’. [My emphasis] As the smoke cleared and the Parisian dead were carted away a banquet in the west of England celebrated with Carnarvon. He ‘took occasion to contrast the happy condition of England with the present lot of France. Alluding to the recent events in Paris, he characterised the proceedings of the insurgents as the most horrible and detestable conspiracy against law and order and everything that made human society good and noble and generous. (Cheers)...’ [xviii] This tickled the ego of his audience whose self-regarding glow increased as he continued: ‘…He thought these events had read us the melancholy lesson that however great our civilization, unless there were morals and religion, all that civilization failed. (Loud cheers) In conclusion, he advised them to cling to all our old institutions, and foremost among them all, the ancient and hereditary monarchy – the Queen and Crown. (Loud and enthusiastic cheers)’ In July 1871, the English Masonic press reported in full the address from the French GM, Bro L Babaud-Laribier to all lodges under his jurisdiction. In the midst of the dual crises, to his nation and his ‘Freemasonry’, he urged brethren to keep in mind that it was ‘Freemasonry’s strength and glory ‘to march in the advance guard of progress’ and to establish institutions which will be picked up later by ‘the outer world’, that the Order was ‘a refuge always open to free thought’ and ‘an ideal sociability’ for those with the welfare of human kind at heart. Following the example of ‘the Encyclopedia’ – ‘Didn’t the doctrines [of the Enlightenment] develop first in our Temples?’ – he reminded his audience that ‘universal suffrage’ was proclaimed in the Craft long before it was an issue ‘in the outer world’. Maintaining his righteous anger Carnarvon wrote in 1873: ‘…Thus it comes to pass within less than a century, almost every political buttress and institution in France has gone, and…Frenchmen stand on the naked howling plain of pure democracy.’ [xix]
GM Ripon had gone on to head an American/British commission to settle the claims resulting from the Civil War in the United States, the primary claims coming from attacks by United States and Confederate naval vessels upon British commercial ships. Upon completion of this work he was made Marquis of Ripon. When reciprocal delegations came to London, Hughan and Woodford advised US Templar Knights against publicly processing in England, not, they said, because their military look might be misconstrued at a time when Europe was again at war, but because EFs rarely if ever paraded in public.[xx] Woodford regarded US brethren more highly than local EFs and was euphoric: ‘We have frequently had occasion to refer to the splendid organisation of American Masonic bodies, and have even incurred the wrath of certain quidnuncs at home for the outspoken manner in which we have…Lord Ripon’s Masonic reception at Washington so strongly corroborated (our opinion) that thoughtful English Masons are beginning to enquire whether our English system is all perfection? Whether the want of cohesion – nay, the ill-disguised hostility unhappily existing – between some of the branches of English Freemasonry, is worthy of our ancient reputation and renown, or consistent with the progressive tendencies of the age?’ [xxi]
In September 1874, the Order and partisan journalists were convulsed with news that GM Ripon had resigned from EF after converting to Roman Catholicism. Rather than take the opportunity to prove its tolerance credentials, UGLE chose to publicly express regret that Lord Ripon had moved on and to thank him for his past services and, privately, to continue its fierce allegiance to the English/British political State. The brethren, at first shocked into silence, were confronted into a temper by organs of the RC Church exulting. One reaction from the brethren was to insist that his loss was of no account: ‘…Never has English freemasonry witnessed before such a spectacle of universal tranquility and contentment, of material prosperity and of universal development.’ [xxii] Leading articles exchanged abuse across the religious divide, some summarising Ripon’s allegedly undistinguished political career, his mental instability and predilection for ritual: ‘Lord Ripon’s religious views were of the Ritualistic school…and it is only logically following out that system for his Lordship to be landed in the Church of Rome.’ The Times shrieked to find that a man ‘in the full strength of his powers’ had renounced his ‘mental and moral freedom’: ‘To become a Roman Catholic and remain a thorough Englishman are – it cannot be disguised – almost incompatible conditions.’ [xxiii] The Catholic Westminster Review referred to the ‘cap, bells and motley’ of EF, otherwise known as ‘the Craft of the evil one’, while the Pall Mall Gazette joined in with: ‘(Englishmen) consider that a man who adopts such a creed [Roman Catholicism] cannot be a good Englishman, not because he has been disloyal to an English institution, but because he holds views which if carried out would injure the English nature.’ The Saturday Review described ‘Freemasonry’ as a ‘trifle’, contradicting a well-connected brother who hinted: ‘The political state of a country will always exercise a powerful influence on the form of its Masonic Government.’ [xxiv]
UGLE and Carnarvon moved quickly on a replacement after what he called a ‘most unfortunate and…most astonishing secession.’ The PoW was offered the post, and in true English/British military style agreed to ‘step up and fill the gap’.[xxv] GM of ‘the Craft’ from then until he became King Edward VII in 1901, the PoW was also ‘made’ the highest officer in the ‘extra’ Orders – of the ‘Knights Templar’ in 1873, the ‘Royal Arch, 1874, of the Ancient and Accepted Rite in 1874, and of ‘the Mark’ in 1886. The Reverend Woodford argued that notice of the State visit of the Czar to London in May 1874 in The Freemason was permissible because EF obedience to civil authority extended to giving due reverence to a foreign ruler: ‘We English Freemasons are not politicians, and it never can be repeated too often, or remembered too carefully, that with politics…we have no concern whatever. Indeed so careful are we to maintain the golden mean of neutrality…we should not allow…political addresses on one side or the other, even as paid advertisements… But…there are some events in the world’s history which seem to lift themselves above the domain of mere party politics, and which we may fairly deal with…Now, it appears to us that the visit of the Emperor Alexander II to this country is just one of those events…For in truth, the Emperor Alexander II comes to us invested not only with that Sovereign rank which as loyal Englishmen, we have been taught to value and revere…’ [xxvi] Another editorial in The Freemason, of June, 1876, concerning ‘Whit-Monday’s Holiday’ argued for the social value of this holiday and berated the British Museum for refusing entry of women with babies. The text included: ‘…As Freemasons we rejoice in all that affects the social happiness, and comfort and welfare of the People…(We) have a right, and we mean to exercise it…to express our humble opinion on all matters which relate to the social progress of our own ‘good folk’ or of humanity at large.’ From its inception in 1875, another Masonic periodical, the short-lived Freemasons’ Chronicle, dealt with parliamentary politics, sympathised with trade unions and with education reform. Its editor believed that ‘…the occasional discussion of social questions, in a free and impartial style in the pages of a journal devoted to the interests of the Craft, cannot but be beneficial.’ [xxvii] Sufficient sales did not eventuate and it closed after a short life.
In 1877, Carnarvon led a UGLE Special Committee to report on the reasons for the changes in the declaration instituted by the Grand Orient.[xxviii] The Report formalised what became known as ‘The Great Schism’, a declaration by UGLE that the GOF was ‘irregular’, on the grounds that it allowed religious freedom of choice. On September 14th, 1877, GOF voted to eliminate from its constitution the article reading: “Freemasonry has for its principles the existence of God, the immortality of the soul and the solidarity of mankind” and to substitute the following: ‘Whereas Freemasonry is not a religion and has therefore no doctrine or dogma to affirm in its constitution, this Assembly has decided and decreed that the second paragraph of Article 1, of the Constitution (above quoted) shall be erased, and that for the words of the said article the following shall be substituted: 1. Being an Institution essentially philanthropic, philosophic, and progressive, Freemasonry has for its object, search after truth, study of universal morality, science and arts, and the practice of benevolence. It has for its principles absolute liberty of conscience and human solidarity. It excludes no person on account of his belief, and its motto is ‘Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.[xxix] The A&AS Rite which was strong in France determined to retain the requirement that members swear belief in a supreme Deity.
At the next annual session of the GOF, in 1878 a move was made on the ritual. A committee was directed to report with recommendations for the following session. In September, 1879 a new ritual was adopted wherein all reference to the name and idea of God was eliminated, with liberty given to the Lodges to adopt the new or old rituals as they saw fit. In that year, Woodford responded to Findel’s published support for the GOF: ‘…Despite Bro Findel’s sneer at our “benevolence” [ie, charity, which had been threatened by a bank failure] we wish other Masonic bodies would do as much, for no one who studies the question can doubt for a moment that the last movement in France, despite its loud professions, is purely political and communistic…We are sorry to see an able brother like Bro Findel lose himself, as Sterne would put it, in the ‘sty’ of communistic and un-believing dirt. ‘ [xxx]
In 1884 a ‘Grand Council of Allied Masonic Degrees’ was set up by UGLE to take control of yet more, ‘irregular’ degrees and Orders. Its Rule 1 was: ‘In view of the rapid increase of Lodges of various Orders recognising no central authority and acknowledging no common form of government, a Ruling Body has been formed to take under its direction all Lodges of such various Orders in England and Wales and the Colonies and Dependencies of the British Crown as may be willing to join it.’ [xxxi] In 1902, UGLE extended its authority even further by claiming: ‘the superintendence of all such Degrees or Orders as may hereafter be established in England and Wales with, and by consent of, The Supreme Council 33^, Great Priory, Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons, Grand Council of Royal and Select Masters and Grand Imperial Conclave of the Red Cross of Constantine, but not under the superintendence of such governing bodies.’ Re-arrangement of the entities making up EF hardened its governance principles of hierarchy and centralisation, physically and symbolically. ‘The Mark’ established its head office in Great Queen Street and the A&A Rite did likewise, in Golden Square, neither far from UGLE’s temple.
Pius IX’s successor from 1878, Leo XIII was imperious, aloof and preferred diplomacy over espionage. (Frattini, 2009, Ch 10) His lack of inside information was apparent when Bismarck ordered the expulsion of all Catholic orders from Prussia, when the newly-formed Italian government muzzled his local influence and when crowned heads and leading politicians came under threat from radical nationalists. In his twenty-five years he personally authored and issued over a thousand anti-Masonic and anti-Jewish publications and encouraged numerous like-minded editors: (Kertzer, 2001, Ch 8, fn 3) ‘The identification of a Jewish conspiracy with Freemasonry became a common theme of the anti-Semitic campaign in France and elsewhere.’ (pp.173-4). The orchestrated abuse was especially vitriolic in clergy-run newspapers where the loss of local authority was severe. The twice-monthly Jesuit magazine, La Civilta Cattolica, which was overseen by the Vatican, ‘attacked the Jews mercilessly’: ‘The Jews, eternal insolent children, obstinate, dirty, thieves, liars, ignoramuses, pests and the scourge of those near and far…managed to lay their hands on…all public wealth…and virtually alone they took control not only of all the money…but of the law itself in those countries where they have been allowed to hold public offices’. (Kertzer, 2014, p.11) Allegations of Jewish ritual-murder were revived in especially graphic forms in France: ‘By 1890, the [Assumptionist Order’s] parent newspaper, La Croix, was proudly billing itself as ‘the most anti-Jewish newspaper in France.’ (p.175)
This was in response to the perceived threat posed by thousands of Jews who were again fleeing, this time south from Russia and Poland. While the USA maintained open borders, refugees often preferred to land in England, failing which they went on to Ellis Island, New York, and to South America. The first Zionist spokespeople had begun insisting ‘the land of Israel’ had been theirs for millennia and that there had been no break in their occupation, even though there was clearly little yearning apparent among the displaced faithful. Israel’s mythical history was still being constructed and was not yet taught in schools. Theodore Herzl was forced to shift the Zionist Conference of 1897 to Basle from Germany by a clutch of recalcitrant rabbis who rejected what he would have accepted – a British proposal to settle in Uganda – not because it wasn’t in ‘the Holy Land’ but because any ‘Jewish’ nation-state was regarded as reckless ‘adventurism’. In the US, Christian Zionists had perceived their ultimate cause – the relocation of a people they wished to see destroyed by conversion. Six years before Herzl’s ‘Zionist’ initiative was announced, President Harrison had been presented with a petition signed by ‘over 400 public figures’ citing Biblical prophecy and urging support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
Pope Leo became concerned with the aggressive anti-government stance taken by La Croix, but according to Kertzer made no attempt to reign in its anti-semitism. The ‘Scottish Rite’ was singled out as the embodiment of the Illuminati’s alleged Satanic malignancy. Fortuitously or not, a Jewish politician and activist, Adolphe Cremieux, had been elected GM of the French Scottish Rite in 1868.[xxxii] The Church now argued that ‘English Freemasonry’ had been safely convivial when imported into New York in 1729, but that it had adopted ‘sinister schemes and unjust plans’ when the Scottish Rite of Perfection had arrived from France: ‘Adopted in 1782 and put into operation during and after the French Revolution this system was perfected by the American Supreme Grand Master Albert Pike, acclaimed “the greatest name in Masonry” who built up an autocratic government like the French Grand Orient…’ (Kenny, 1926, pp.8-9).)
The charisma of ‘London’s Freemasonry’ continued to fade. Its power to either influence government at the highest levels or to attract activists was much diminished. The carry-over of 18th century feasting and entertaining to late 19th century formal banquets with long lists of designated speeches highlight its loss of importance to the world outside. The ‘dinner suit spectacle’ survived as the only benefit which these loyalist brethren could offer. Speciality research lodges were introduced in 1884-6 with limited success. Pragmatic power brokers still found ‘it’ useful but by the end of the 19th century the ‘Scottish Rite’ had claimed ascendancy. Known by then as the ‘Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite’ it had more-or-less settled on its ancestry being entirely French. The lodges which claimed continuity with the 1717-21 London Society had difficulty agreeing on a collective title and on what it included. Their rite was at times labelled ‘the York’, ‘the English’ and sometimes ‘the American’. The dominant ‘York Rite’ label embraced the three ‘Blue Degrees’ (A, W, MM) and a heritage going back to an alleged assembly of stonemasons in 10th century England; but also to a collection of Cryptic, Royal Arch and Templar ‘higher’ degrees/Orders which were themselves the objects of continuing disputation. An important US scholar, Kuhn, wrote in 1916: ‘The name “York Rite” is an inexcusable blunder; at least an unfortunate mistake. There never was a York Rite. …. The name “York Rite” is an inheritance from the forefathers of Freemasonry in the United States, who were more skilled in ritual tinkering than in the history of Freemasonry.’ He went on:
… The so-called York Rite is the result of an evolution in England from a One Degree Operative Craft of 1717, to a system of degrees of six or more as now practiced in the United States, Canada, England, Scotland and Ireland. The Scottish Rite was evolved from the Rite of Perfection of twenty-five Degrees, by the addition of eight more at Charleston, South Carolina, in 1801, where the Mother Supreme Council was formed. [xxxiii]
In the midst of the ‘Dreyfus Affair’, the papal nuncio, Archbishop Lorenzelli, told a French diplomat: ‘The Jewish danger is universal, it threatens all of Christianity…and all means necessary must be used to crush it.’ (Kertzer, 2001, p.177) Before this anti-Jewish scandal engulfed France, fraudsters ‘Leo Taxil’ and ‘Diana Vaughan’ profited from their published assertions that (Albert) Pike had been a Luciferian Pope and head of the very secretive Palladium Society through which he had claimed absolute control of ‘Freemasons’ everywhere – a big step towards a ‘New World Order.’ On April 19, 1897, ‘Leo Taxil’ called a press conference to supposedly introduce ‘Diana Vaughan’ to the press. Instead he announced that she was a fellow-hoaxer and that his ‘revelations’ about ‘the Freemasons’ were fictitious. He thanked the Catholic clergy for their assistance with publicity.
Power in the central circles of the Roman Church in the 20th century was increasingly in the hands of anti-modernists. In the decade after Pope Leo’s death in 1903 what Frattini has called ‘the black nobility’ of conservative intellectuals refurbished the Holy Alliance and established a new counter-espionage agency known as ‘SP’. Agents were employed specifically to locate and denounce Catholics in any part of the world suspected of reformist beliefs. (Frattini, 2009, pp.168-171) The Apostolic Delegate’s charge that ‘Freemasons’ were “the cause of our persecution and almost all our national misfortunes” was reiterated in countless bulletins, manifestos, and pastoral letters throughout third world countries: ‘During the 1920s and 1930s, devout Catholic peasants throughout Mexico repeatedly denounced the presumed link between government, school teachers, anticlericalism, and the masons.’ [xxxiv] The original manuscript of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, used to criticise Napoleon III in the mid-19th century, was carried north by a fleeing soldier to meetings of the German National Socialists who re-titled and re-focused it.[xxxv] It was then reported as news and taken up by individuals like Henry Ford as proof of ‘the Jewish Threat.’ It sold in the millions and although it had quickly been shown to be a forgery it became the bible of the anti-Semitic movement throughout Europe and the United States. It was re-published in the 1920’s by Umberto Benigni, a little-known cleric who had access to the Papal ear, and made available to parish priests across Spain and Italy. (Kertzer, 2001, p.266) Its transformation from local French satire to an allegedly authoritative record/account of a Jewish plot for global domination had been effected by Russian secret police in the period before and after 1917.
In 1868, Alphonse Rothschild had taken over the management of the family bank and had begun actively seeking a solution to ‘the Jewish Problem’. His siblings were not all as politically committed as he was and continued to seek opportunities wherever they might be. The 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia described the family as “the guardians of the papal treasure” and Cecil Rhodes gained backing only from the family’s London office in his creation of Rhodesia, which then became the site of the Rothschild-owned Rio Tinto Mining Company. Rothschild money was directly involved in Japan’s success in the Russo-Japanese War in 1903-4. A redoubling of efforts to get ‘Jewish refugees from northern Europe to by-pass neighbouring countries and head for ‘the Holy Land’ began to move beyond a trickle. The ‘Balfour Declaration’ of 1917, whereby ‘the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people’ was formally endorsed by Britain was addressed to Walter, 2nd Baron Rothschild. Aarons and Loftus insist these were the years when European Powers and the US began their secret war against ‘the Jews’ while publicly appearing to support their efforts.
Legislation introduced in the 1930’s by the Nazis and by the Fascists to strip ‘the Jews’ of their rights as citizens were modelled on measures ‘that the Church had enforced as long as it was in a position to do so.’ (Kertzer, 2001, p.9) The Papacy preferred a Mussolini dictatorship and pederast priests as advisors than an Italian democracy. On the 1929 jerrymandered election for the Italian Chamber of Deputies Kertzer wrote: ‘(One) of the first things Mussolini h ad done to please the Vatican after coming to power was to declare Freemasons ineligible for membership of the Fascist Party. Now, the Pope [Pius XI] demanded that Jews and Masons be purged from the candidates list, and that Fascists of sure Catholic faith be added. Only after Mussolini had made the changes did the Vatican organise a massive church mobilisation for a yes vote.’ [xxxvi] Kertzer believes that Pope Pius XI tried to keep Mussolini from joining an alliance with Hitler but the damage was already done and Papal efforts at political compromise were increasingly subverted by the clerics around him. Even protection of the Pope’s own brethren had lower priority – German Catholics were persecuted by Nazi authorities and many went to their deaths in Auschwitz.
Contention still surrounds many of the details of this war due to the heavy use of dis-information techniques by all sides and by the explosion of speculation subsequently as authors and publishing houses ‘cashed in.’ Wikipedia has an account of Bernard Fay who wrote ‘Revolution and Freemasonry’ in 1935, and worked for the French Vichy Government under the Nazis:
At the beginning of the Second World War Fay was a professor at the College de France. During the occupation he (was made) general administrator of the Bibliotheque National and director of the anti-Masonic service of the Vichy Government…Lists of names of Freemasons were released to the official gazette…and many Catholic papers copied these lists in order to induce public opprobrium… During Fay’s tenure…989 Freemasons were sent to concentration camps, where 549 were shot…[xxxvii]
Markner has observed in private conversation that holocaust victims identified as ‘Freemasons’ may well have been targeted for other reasons:
To the chagrin of numerous history hacks there’s simply no evidence linking Hitler to a blueprint for genocide of some sort. You have to be aware of the fact that focusing on the war effort, he neglected domestic government to a very large degree. His cabinet would never meet again after 1939! A lot of things were going on that he wasn’t aware of, and there’s evidence that Bormann in particular shielded him from vital information. Ultimately, Hitler was of course responsible for what his underlings did, but that doesn’t mean he knew about it or was going along with it. There were plenty of cases where he intervened when he found out about something that he didn’t agree with. Concerning the so-called Judeo-Masonic conspiracy, while Hitler wanted to get rid of the Jews (by expelling them from Germany and territories under German influence), he only wanted to get rid of freemasonry. Hence he wasn’t targeting the freemasons themselves, at least not in Germany — he just made sure that their organisations were dissolved, just like any other esoteric association he deemed to be detrimental to the interests of the nation, Steiner’s anthroposophic movement for example.
Defeat in the 1914-18 War had seemed inexplicable to many Germans. Traitors were sought, scapegoats found. The War became a ‘Masonic War’, the hated Treaty of Versailles became a ‘Masonic Peace’, I imagine because the United States was identified with ‘Freemasonry’. The idea of a Masonic-Jewish conspiracy was imported from Catholic France and embraced. German ‘Freemasonry’, especially in the 1930’s disintegrated. Markner has insisted that ‘any study of the German propaganda effort has to take into account the Goebbels diaries, only a fraction of which have been translated.’ A Jewish jurist-turned historian, Hadassa Ben-Itto, published an extensive account of the legal history of ‘the Protocols’ in 20005. A contributor to that book, US District Court Judge Korman, quoted the Goebbels diaries of date 18 May 1943 to assert that even when Hitler knew that Germany was facing defeat he held that the Protocols were ‘absolutely genuine’ and that they remained useful to the Nazi propaganda program: ‘There is…no other recourse left for modern nations except to exterminate the Jew.’ [xxxviii]
Debates on ‘the Jewish Problem’ have not ceased. Theologians have variously explained the ‘when’ and the ‘how’ of their punishment for not being Christians and observers of global geo-politics have pondered the apparent intractability of Arab-Israeli conflict. In contrast, Paxton’s definitive book on 20th century fascism[xxxix] (he was not a Jew, a Jesuit or a Mason as far as I know) argued that Fascists were not intrinsically anti-Semitic and were not at all dispassionate: ‘(The) enemy does not have to be Jewish…each culture specifies the national enemy.’ (p.37) He has noted that the actions of Fascist governments often differed from their stated policies and were rarely internally consistent: ‘Even though in Germany the foreign, the unclean, the contagious, and the subversive often mingled in a diabolized image of the Jew, Gypsies and Slavs were also targeted. American fascists diabolized blacks and sometimes Catholics as well as Jews. Italian fascists diabolized their South Slav neighbours, especially the Slovenes, as well as the socialists who refused the war of national revival. Later they easily added to their list the Ethiopians and the Libyans…’ (p.37)
Hitler’s vision of national unity meant there was no place ‘for either free-thinking persons or for independent, autonomous communities’ such as churches, Freemasons, trade unions, political parties, or ‘the Jews’. Franco in Spain was virulently hostile to ‘democracy, liberalism, secularism, Marxism and especially Freemasonry’ because, Paxton suggests, he wanted to seal off his society from ‘economic exchange and cultural contamination from the democratic world.’. (Paxton, p.144, p.149) Paxton observed that fascist actions were shaped by ‘subterranean passions and emotions’ in the battle between dualities, between ‘us’ and ‘them’: ‘At bottom is a passionate nationalism. Allied to it is a conspiratorial and Manichaean view of history as a struggle between the good and evil camps, between the pure and the corrupt, in which one’s own community has been the victim.’ (p.41, p.218)
Allegations began to appear in 1982, so extraordinary they surely had been dreamed up by the maddest of Mad Hatters. Over time they achieved shape as a real-life conspiracy involving the Vatican, the Propaganda Due [P2] Masonic Lodge, the Mafia, anti-reformist governments, and the supposedly independent Ambrosiano Bank. After the body of the Bank’s Roberto Calvi was found hanging under London’s Blackfriars’ Bridge, leaked reports of police investigations transfixed readers everywhere and arrest followed arrest. But still, today, no-one has been found responsible for Calvi’s death. Drawing a line connecting all of this with ‘the Papal Treasure’ (above), the death of reformist Pope John Paul I in 1978, and the appointment of Vatican outsider Cardinal George Pell in the 21st century ‘to sort out the Vatican books’, indicates that there is more to come. It may or may not be relevant to note that a lodge of the Grand National Order of Freemasonry in 1800 Paris was named ‘Propaganda’, presumably this was P1.[xl] Among the many published speculations, Frattini’s account of five centuries of Vatican espionage and counter-espionage programs makes ‘the Calvi Affair’ just one more example of the lengths human players will go to in order to maintain power and wealth. Masonic infiltration of Vatican networks was regarded as a major problem over many years by the Pontiff and his staff but could not be simply demonised away – the brethren were themselves Vatican staff, often at very senior levels. Frattini’s account asserts that Calvi’s was only one of a number of ‘mysterious’ deaths around the same time.
Defending the Church against charges of responsibility for the Holocaust, a 1998 ‘Report from the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews’ argued that the Church had no responsibility of any kind. It postulated that ‘new intellectual and political currents associated with extreme nationalism‘ had emerged in the 19th century that were quite different to earlier ‘discrimination’ which involved ‘certain misguided interpretations of Christian teachings’. Far from supporting the racism of ‘an anti-Judaism that was essentially more sociological and political than religious’ the Report labelled anti-Semitism a new ‘poisonous weed’ to emphasise the distinction. [xli] This is more mythic history:
(Its) argument, sadly, is not the product of a Church that wants to confront its history. If Jews acquired equal rights in Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries [as the Report asserts] it was only over the angry, loud and indeed indignant protests of the Vatican and the Church. And if Jews in the nineteenth century began to be accused of exerting a disproportionate and dangerous influence, and if a form of anti-Judaism ‘that was essentially more sociological and political than religious’ was taking shape, this was in no small part due to the efforts of the Roman Catholic Church itself.’ (Kertzer, 2001, p.6)
Sand dedicated his 2014 book, The Invention of the Land of Israel (Verso) to the villagers of the obliterated Arab village, al-Sheikh Muwannis that once occupied the land where Tel Aviv University now sits, and quoted a memoir about the tragic events of 1948: ‘How easy it had been to be seduced, to be knowingly led astray and join the great general mass of liars – that mass compounded of crass ignorance, utilitarian indifference, and shameless self-interest.’ (Sand, 2014, p.279) Sand, Israeli professor of history at Tel Aviv University and author of The Invention of the Jewish People (Verso, 2009) detailed the ruthless tactics employed by Israeli militants to subdue, destroy and to remove not only the Arab populations but also all signs of their culture: ‘Immediately following the UN General Assembly vote of November 29, 1947, on the partition [of Palestine] plan, tensions spiked throughout the region. According to the resolution, al-Sheikh Muwannis, like all other villages on the coastal plain, would lie within the boundaries of the Jewish State…Most of the quiet villagers were almost certainly unaware of Zionism’s claim of historic ownership to the ‘ancestral land’ of the Jews, although it is safe to assume they had noticed the tendency of their uninvited neighbours to expand their landholdings…Although the British Mandate was still in force…and His Majesty’s forces were still in the area, their presence did not prevent the thirty-third battalion of the Alexandrioni Brigade [of the Stern Gang] from encircling the village during the daylight hours of March 20 and occupying a number of village homes From that point on, all Arab passage and movement required the authorisation of their enemy….’ And so on to the present day. (Sand, 2014, pp.265-9) Sand regretted the unwillingness of his university colleagues to acknowledge what had been done to achieve Zionist goals. He spoke of his shame at ‘…the 60 historians at Tel Aviv Uni who have written nothing about the culture, the people, the architecture – nothing ‘of the history of the land lying beneath the asphalt and cement on which their capital of prestige continued to accumulate’. (Sand, 2014, p.278)
Returning to Trump and his argument that any criticism of him is fake news, there are many attempts to explain the blind faith in him which his supporters appear to have. Zaretsky in 2018 has urged a return to an older body of psychological thought which he believes ‘illuminates the kind of tight bond Trump has forged with a significant minority’:
Inspired by Freud this thought arose following the rise of fascism and Nazism in Europe when Americans, too, had become wary of authoritarian elements in their society. Southern politics had been rife with race-baiting demagogues like Mississippi’s Theodore Bilbo since the 1890’s and the popularity of the pro-Mussolini radio priest, Father Coughlin, demonstrated the appeal of an authoritarian message to the immigrant north… (E Zaretsky, The Mass Psychology of Trumpism, London Review of Books, 18 September, 2018.)
In brief, Trump’s supporters see themselves in Trump. It’s an idea well worth reading.
[i] D Clements, ‘A Masonic Emporium’, Freemasonry Today, 1 Sept, 2010.
[ii] Wikipedia, ‘Prince George, Duke of Cambridge, 1819-1904’, 4 August, 2015.
[iii] A Prescott, “‘The Cause of Humanity’: Charles Bradlaugh and Freemasonry”, AQC, Vol 116 (2003), p.25.
[iv] ‘Freemasons’, London Daily News, 5 July, 1871.
[v] ‘A New Order’, FM&MM, 17 March, 1860, p.210.
[vi] K Jackson, ‘William James Hughan’, AQC, Vol 114, 2001, p.99.
[vii] ‘Address by Sir Knight RW Little…etc’, The Freemason, Vol 1, No 1, pp.6-7.
[viii] Editorial, ‘The High Degrees’, The Freemason, 11 Dec, 1869, p.6.
[ix] WJ Hughan, ‘Knight Templar Jottings’, The Freemason, 4 June, 1870, p.1.
[x] The Freemason, March and May, 1871.
[xi] ‘A Lewis’, ‘Masonry and Secularism’, The Freemason, 2 Oct, 1869.
[xii] ‘At Home and Abroad’, The Freemason, Dec, 1869, p.6.
[xiii] W Hughan, ‘Masonic Historians No 1 Bro Findel’, The Freemason, 1, 8, 15 Jan, and 5 Feb, 1870.
[xiv] The Freemason, 8 Jan, 1870, p.1.
[xv] J Findel, History of Freemasonry from its Roots down to the Present Day, 2nd edn, translated into English and published in London, 1866, quote from p.6.
[xvi] ‘Freemasonry in France – Address of Bro L Babaud-Laribier’, FM&MM, 31 July, 1870, pp.84-88.
[xvii] FM&MM, Vol 24, March, 1871, pp.182-3.
[xviii] ‘Sanitorium at Weston-Super-Mare’, The Freemason, 3 June 1871.
[xix] (Carnarvon), ‘Lessons of the French Revolution’, Quarterly Review, Vol 135 No.269, July 1873.
[xx] ‘Knight Errant’, The Freemason, 11 Feb, 1871.
[xxi] ‘The Mark Degree and the Cryptic Rite’, 26 Aug, 1871, p.8, and ‘A Contrast’, 14 Oct, 1871, p.6, both leading articles in The Freemason.
[xxii] The Freemason, quoted widely, eg, the Isle of Man Times, 19 Sept, 1874.
[xxiii] The Times, 8 Sept, 1874, quoted in J Daniel, ‘Anglo-American Relations’, in T Pope (ed), Masonic Networks and Connections, ANZMRC, 2007, p.102.
[xxiv] Westminster Review quoted by Derby Mercury 16 Sept, 1874; ‘Religion and Politics’ in Pall Mall Gazette, 18 Sept, 1874, p.10; The Saturday Review, quoted widely including at Royal Cornwall Gazette, 19 Sept, 1874; J Daniel, ‘ Grand Lodges in British Colonies’, in J Daniel, Masonic Networks and Connections, ANZMRC, Melbourne, 2007, p.169, and Ch 5.
[xxv] For Carnarvon and the military metaphor see The Hampshire Advertiser, 10 Oct, 1874 – he was presiding at the Annual Meeting of the Highclerc Agricultural Association at Newbury; for Catholic commentary see The Westminster Review, which described EF as ‘the ‘craft” of the evil one’, and response at The Derby Mercury, quoting the WR, 16 Sept, 1874; for summary of Ripon’s career see Nottinghamshire Guardian, 18 Sept, 1874, which quotes The Liverpool Post, the London Post. See ‘Father Foy on Secret Societies’ for an EF response to a long RC article linking Disraeli’s unease with Ripon’s resignation – Masonic Magazine, 1 Dec, 1876, p.5
[xxvi] ‘The Visit of the Czar’, The Freemason, 23 May, 1874, p.4.
[xxvii] The Freemasons Chronicle, 2 Jan, 1875, p.1, quoted in A Prescott, ‘The Cause of Humanity’, AQC, Vol 116 (2003), p.25.
[xxviii] R Gould, ‘History of the United Grand Lodge of England, 1815-1885’, The History of Freemasonry, Vol III, Jack, Edinburgh, nd (1886?) fn.2, p.26.
[xxix] J Ramsey, “The Grand Orient of France and the Three Great Lights”, The Builder, Iowa : January 1918.
[xxx] ‘Die Bauhutte’, The Freemason, 25 May, 1878.
[xxxi] Howe, AQC, Vol 85, p.243, and fn.1.
[xxxii] Kertzer, 2001, p.174; Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol 7, 1911.
[xxxiii] FW Kuhn, ‘The York Rite vs the English Rite’, The Builder, 1916 in Masonic Dictionary on-line, viewed 3/2018.
[xxxiv] B Smith, ‘Anticlericalism, Politics, and Freemasonry in Mexico, 1920–1940’, The Americas, Vol 65, No 4, 2009. See also P Willan, The Last Supper – The Mafia, the Masons and the Killing of Roberto Calvi, Constable and Robinson, 2007 – quotes from ‘Interview on 3 Monkeys with Willan; J Dickie, Cosa Nostra, Hodder and Stoughton, 2004, p.37, p.364.
[xxxv] K Heiden, Der Fuhrer, Gollancz, 1944.
[xxxvi] D Kertzer, The Pope and Mussolini, Random House, 2014, p.118.
[xxxvii] ‘Bernard Fay’, Wikipedia, 2018.
[xxxviii] ‘Foreword’, H Ben-Itto, The Lie That Wouldn’t Die, Vallentine Mitchell, 2005, p.xi.
[xxxix] R Paxton, The Anatomy of Fascism, Vintage, 2005, pp.42-4, p.46.
[xl] Anti-Jacobin Review, 1800-01.
[xli] D Kertzer, Popes Against the Jews, Knopf, 2001, pp.4-5.
Conspiracy theories keep attracting audiences because conspiracies are part of the natural order. Politicians can’t be trusted to be honest and historians (reporters, scholars) can’t be trusted to be impartial. The concept of ‘objectivity’ has its own history, and its tussle with ‘revealed truth’ has been central to global affairs – take evolution as an example. With the primacy of the scientific method apparently established, intellectuals have assumed the struggle was over. But faith has been no less slippery than objectivity and, on occasion, well-trained professional historians have failed to recognise arguments based on faith, or they have chosen not to notice. Though natters of faith can be set aside as non-political because any faith, or opinion, is subjective, actions to further or diminish the effects of those beliefs, are always political. The understanding of any scholar is, in fact, plagued by too many prejudices and biases to name. It is simply the case that each author or commentator is either acting for a cause or is travelling with it on his or her lee side.
In practice, it is difficult to conceive how faith and politics could ever not overlap, but certainly in ‘our’ 2,000 years of history they have never been apart. It is not accidental either that the dualities of politics – ‘us’ vs ‘them’ – parallel those of morality – ‘good’ vs ‘evil’ – nor that they have found their way into propaganda. The failure of the Enlightenment to end superstition and irrationality means that competition between faiths has not ceased and that bragging rights are still on offer. Two thousand years of history cannot be reduced to a single narrative, but ‘our’ joint history would be very different had religion not dominated political decision-making processes and the recording of that past as it has.
The continued use of myths and unfounded suppositions highlight a clear need for definitions. In the case of ‘Freemasonry’ if ‘it’ could be identified, and shown to be an organised society, it would, of course, be spelt with a capitalised ‘F’. If ‘it’ could be shown to be something other than an organised society, its essential ‘freemason-ness’, could perhaps be defined, and used to assess the claims made in 1723, and since. That ‘it’ has not been identified and therefore not been shown to have had an existence before 1717-21 has meant partisans have denied any need to define ‘it’. Three centuries have witnessed a global phenomenon which can’t or refuses to be defined, and a multiplicity of conspiracy theories which have tangled fact with fiction so thoroughly as to make the task of non-partisan historians near to impossible. In lieu of a definition, the United Grand Lodge of England today asserts that ‘Freemasonry’ is ‘one of the world’s oldest and largest non-religious, non-political, fraternal and charitable organisations’.[i] Equally erroneous is the cry from the anti-Masonic swarm of Bible literalists that not only is ‘it’ ‘satanic’, but ‘Freemasonry is a false religion’, apparently because ‘it’ teaches ‘that men can approach God…through their own abilities’.[ii] The reality is altogether different to these two extremes.
Bob James, Newcastle, NSW. 2018.
[i] On-line website www.ugle.org.uk.
[ii] J Harris, Freemasonry – The Invisible Cult, Whitaker House, 1983.