[Square & Compasses]

MISREPRESENTATIONS OF FREEMASONRY

S. Brent Morris, 33*

Recent anonymous postings ("Masonry FAQ: Blasted to Bits," "Secrets and Secrecy," and others, all by Enchanter!) to several newsgroups attempted to portray the Masonic fraternity as an "evil force which is permeating every corner of our society." The documents are filled with misunderstandings, misstatements, and deceptive half-truths. I read the various BBS irregularly and cannot post directly to any of them. Thus my response is delayed, for which I apologize.

The Difficulty of Dialog

Enchanter! has established an interesting logical system in which he conducts his inquisition. It enables him to accept any "evidence" that suits him, and ignore what doesn't. Non-Masons who question him are dismissed for not being "real 33rd degree Masons."

May I ask you Mr. Billman, what degree Mason are you? If you are less than a 33rd degree Mason, does it not make sense that I should accept the opinions of a real 33rd Mason over yours on this subject?

Then any response from a Mason is similarly dismissed because the author defines them to be unreliable.

You obviously are a Mason, and therefore have taken vows to uphold certain secrets, even if it means telling lies.

I have neither the time for nor interest in changing the author's opinion of Freemasonry. It may be instructive, however, to catalog some of his inaccuracies as a caution to other, interested readers.

The Fundamental Misunderstanding

The first and most fundamental misunderstanding of the document is that the Scottish Rite Supreme Councils and "real 33rd Degree Masons" somehow control Freemasonry. The author seems fixated on 33rd Degree Masons and quotes their writings religiously. As an example of the confusion, the original posting said, "Masonry is a two-faced preditor [sic], just as the Masonic icon of the two-headed eagle indicates." The author later acknowledged that the eagle is a symbol of the Scottish Rite, and not of Freemasonry, but the basic confusion of control persists throughout.

Any discussion of Masonic government must start and end with one essential fact: all Masonic authority originates in a Grand Lodge. The Masonic Service Association of the United States (M.S.A.) has no authority over Grand Lodges. No Supreme council, no respected author, nor any other group or person speaks for or controls Masonry; that prerogative rests solely with the Grand lodges. Anyone doubting this need only check the cases when Grand Lodges have closed down the Scottish Rite, the Shrine, and other appendant Masonic bodies in their states or suspended or expelled their "high officials." It is a rare but powerful reminder of who is in charge.

(Art deHoyos and S. Brent Morris, "Is it True What They Say About Freemasonry?" (Silver Spring, Md.: M.S.A., 1994), pp. 1-2. Available via anonymous ftp to 'ftp.netcom.com' and CD to 'pub/rogeri/freemasonry')

A 33rd Degree Mason does not necessarily have more knowledge or speak more authoritatively than other Masons. One might as well assume that Eagle Scouts know more about Scouting policy and history than anyone else or that a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of a University is a more reliable source for university plans and policy than a dean. Scouting does not work this way; universities do not work this way; and Freemasonry does not work this way.

The author asks, "Is the author of the FAQ a 33rd degree Mason?" "If not, then it would seems to me that Pike stands as a better authority on issues such as the Occult Sciences and Lucifer." Following this logic, Bishop John Spong of the Episcopal Church should be a better authority on issues of Christian doctrine than most other Christians. He was ordained in direct apostolic succession from Jesus Christ. He questions the virgin birth and resurrection of Jesus, however, among other doctrines.

Does Bishop Spong speak for all Christians? Does he speak for all Episcopalians or even just those within his diocese? Anyone believing any of this does understands neither Protestant Christianity nor the politics of the Episcopal Church. The author similarly misunderstands Freemasonry.

Dr. Robert A. Morey, a Christian critic of Freemasonry, nicely summarized the efforts of many writers on Masonry.

Most anti-Masonic writers are far too gullible in believing the extravagant claims of overzealous, misinformed, or devious Masonic writers who have not done Freemasonry a favor by making outlandish statements which provided much fodder for the guns of anti-Masons.

Too many masonic writers have arrogantly claimed that they speak for the whole Craft when they give their personal interpretation of the origin and symbols of Freemasonry.

(Robert A. Morey, The Truth About Masons (Eugene, Oreg.: Harvest House Publishers, 1993), p. 21.)

The Source of Accurate Information

Every Grand Lodge in the United States publishes annual "Transactions" or "Proceedings" which detail the motions, debates, and business conducted at their meetings. Grand Lodges print and widely distribute hundreds of copies of their proceedings. These are not secret and can be read at the Grand Lodges or in the larger Masonic libraries. Annual transactions are the source for accurate, official actions of any Grand Lodge. A further source of information is the annual proceedings of the Conference of Grand Masters of North America. (For a listing of Masonic Libraries, write the Masonic Service Association, 8120 Fenton St., Silver Spring, MD 20910-4786, (301) 588-4010.)

There are scores of Lodges devoted to studying the history of Freemasonry. The oldest such "Research Lodge" is Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076 in London, founded in 1886. Its annual transactions, "Ars Quatuor Coronatorum," are an abundance of carefully researched historical papers on Freemasonry. American Masonic research organizations with extensive publications include the American Lodge of Research (New York), the Missouri Lodge of Research, Iowa Research Lodge No. 2, the Ohio Chapter of Research (Royal Arch Masons -- part of the "York Rite"), the Philalethes Society, and the Scottish Rite Research Society. (For a listing of Masonic research societies, write the M.S.A.)

In short, there is a wealth of readily available information on the activities of virtually every American Masonic organization. Much of it is boring (e.g., debates on how Lodge meeting notices should be mailed), but it is publicly available to anyone who wants to do genuine research on the actual, not imagined, activities of Freemasonry. Similarly there are thousands of papers (poorly- and well-written) on the history, philosophy, and origins of Freemasonry, all available to anyone willing to take the effort to read them.

Deficient Research

Albert Pike is the favorite "whipping boy" of modern anti-Masons, and Enchanter! is no exception. Pike is usually first portrayed as the central, guiding force behind Freemasonry, and then he is vilified. Pike was a circumloquacious Victorian writer whose style (to my taste at least) was better suited for a century ago. (Certainly he never read Strunk & White!)

In one place in Morals and Dogma, Pike refers to Jesus as "the mysterious founder of the Christian Church." Enchanter! quotes this passages and then uses it to launch an ad hominem attack on Pike.

Notice how Pike avoids even writing the name of Christ, and would rather substitute a cumbersome phrase in its place.

The statement is a non sequitur; Pike's writing style has nothing to do with Masonry. More than this, the accusation is wrong; it betrays tissue-thin research. Pike had a vast vocabulary, but did not hesitate to use "Jesus," "Jesus Christ," or "Christ."

On its face was inscribed the word [Ichthus], a fish, the initials of which represented the Greek words, [Iesous CHristos THeou HYios Soter]; Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Saviour. [M&D, p. 547]

The person of Jesus having disappeared, there was seen in His place a cross of Light over which a celestial voice pronounced these words: "The cross of Light is called The Word, Christ, The Gate, Joy, The Bread, The Sun, The Resurrection, Jesus, The Father, The Spirit, Life, Truth, and Grace." [M&D, p. 567]

Paul of Samosta taught that Jesus Christ was the Son of Joseph and Mary.... [M&D, p. 564]

According to the Church, Christ was of the same nature as God.... [M&D, p. 565]

None can deny that Christ taught a lofty morality. "Love one another: forgive those that despitefully use you and persecute you...." [M&D, p. 540.

Jesus of Nazareth, the "Son of man," is the expounder of the new Law of Love. He call to Him the humble, the poor the Pariahs of the world. [M&D, p. 309]

A Source Misunderstood

The author of these various posts readily accepts and repeats negative information about Masonry without understanding the source. For example, he says:

In 'Scottish Rite Masonry Illustrated' (Vol. II, p. 259) we find that the candidate, after a bizarre and somber ceremony involving coffins and skulls, hears these words voiced by the Grand Master:

A quotation then follows in which the candidate is told he will have "to obey, without reserve, all that you will be commanded to do." This sounds ominous, but it has no bearing on any legitimate Masonic body, because the author has not checked his sources. The book in question is an exposure of the rituals of "Cerneauism," a Masonic movement in the nineteenth century that violently opposed legitimate Scottish Rite Masonry in the United States. What superficial similarities there are between Cerneau and Scottish Rite rituals are objects of curiosity and a source of Masonic research papers. (For more information on Cerneauism, see S.H. Baynard, "History of the Supreme Council, 33*," 2 vols. [Boston: Supreme Council, 33*, N.M.J., 1938].)

The rituals in the Reverend Jonathan Blanchard's "Scotch Rite Masonry Illustrated" (1887-1888) are usually taken as gospel truth. ... Rev. Blanchard's outdated book was actually an exposure of Cerneauism, an illegitimate pseudo-Masonic organization founded by Joseph Cerneau and chiefly active during the 1800s. Oaths of fealty and other references to the Cerneau "Supreme Council" appear throughout Blanchard's exposure. [vol. 1, pp. 124, 145, 303, 358, 419, 436, vol. 2, pp. 137, 242, 287, 340, 388, 445, 462, 464, 470, 472, 475] These references would have raised red flags to competent researchers.

(deHoyos and Morris, "Is It True?" p. 5)

The references to the Cerneau Supreme Council occur throughout the book. Confusing Cerneauism with regular Scottish Rite Masonry is like confusing the Church of Christ with the Church of Christ, Scientist. Their names are alike and their orders of worship are superficially similar, but they are fundamentally different denominations. It is shallow research to accept Blanchard's book without question. It is incompetent to confuse the Cerneau Supreme Council with regular Scottish Rite Masonry. It is irresponsible to accuse Scottish Rite Masons on the basis of an irrelevant book.

Unsubstantiated Allegations

the sheer numbers of Masons involved in global reorganization....

the ranks of the many Christians and God-loving people who got out of Masonry because they did not like the secrets revealed at the higher levels.

A small percentage of the US population are involved in freemasonry, yet in the US government (especially the secretive intelligence agencies like the FBI, CIA, NSA, etc.) there is a very high number of freemasons.

this evil force which is permeating every corner of our society.

If true, these allegations can be supported objective research. There is no need to sit by idly when the public record can be checked to substantiate these claims. Any reader easily should be able to confirm Enchanter!'s statements, if only he will share his information. All we need to know is the name of the Mason, a reference to his membership, and his position.

A Secret Book

The author quotes extracts from the preface of Morals and Dogma, and then says, "Clearly this book is or was some sort of a secret." Again, the facts show otherwise. Below is the quote from Enchanter! with [brackets] marking words left out.

The following work has been prepared by authority of the Supreme Council of the Thirty-Third Degree, [for the Southern Jurisdiction of the United States,] by the Grand Commander.

[as the cost of the work consists entirely in the printing and binding, it will be furnished at a price as moderate as possible. No individual will receive pecuniary profit from it, except the agents for its sale.] It has been copyrighted, to prevent its republication elsewhere.... [Whatever profits may accrue from it will be devoted to purposes of charity.]

It not being intended for the world at large, [{the author, Pike} has felt at liberty to make, from all accessible sources, a Compendium of the Morals and Dogma of the Rite, to re-mould sentences, change and add to words and phrases, combine them with his own, and use them as if they were his own.... He claims, therefore, little of the merit of authorship, and has not cared to distinguish his own from that which he has taken from other sources, being quite willing that every portion of the book, in turn, may be regarded as borrowed from some old and better writer.]

In reading the full words of the preface, several points are clear.

  1. Morals and Dogma was never intended to serve all of Freemasonry -- just the Supreme Council, 33*, S.J. (It was, in fact, rejected and ignored by the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction.)

  2. The book was copyrighted because of Pike's concern that it be sold at the lowest possible cost and that all profits go to charity.

  3. Because he was not writing for a general public, Pike didn't worry about citing all of his sources as he normally did.

Far from proving that M&D is a "secret book," the full preface shows: 1) it was produced at cost for Scottish Rite Masons; 2) no individual was to profit from its sale or resale; 3) Pike used an informal reference style because the book was intended for his Brethren only.

No restrictions have ever been placed on storing, reading, or loaning the book. Consider these statistics from the 1992 Transactions of the Supreme Council. In 1907 (the first year membership figures are summarized in the Transactions ) there were 33,000 Scottish Rite Masons in the Southern Jurisdiction; in 1950 there were 374,000. In those 43 years, ignoring deaths and resignations, 341,000 Masons joined and received a copy of Morals and Dogma, with no restriction on who could read it. This seems like a singularly odd way to manage a "secret book."

Selective Quotations

Enchanter! makes several quotes from Morals and Dogma, after first falsely claiming it is among "the writings held sacred within the Lodges." M&D was published and distributed by the Southern Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite in the U.S. (A little over 20% of American Masons have chosen to join the Scottish Rite in the S.J., and slightly less are in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction -- 60% of American Masons are not in the Scottish Rite.) M&D has no role in Blue Lodges, it is not used in the N.M.J., it has not been distributed in the S.J. since ca. 1971, and it has never, ever been held "sacred" by any Masonic group.

The first quote from M&D is preceded by Enchanter's inflammatory introductory comment, "If you read this through, I'm sure you will agree with me: it's a perversion of the Christian teachings, riddled with magic(k) and occultism."

Ialdabaoth, to become independent of his mother .... communicated it to a small number of His apostles.... [MAD p. 563-564]
This passage is indeed found in M&D, but it is a description of the beliefs of the Ophites. The paragraph from which this quote is taken begins, "The Ophites commenced their system with a Supreme Being, long unknown to the Human race...." The chapter from which Enchanter! quotes is filled with brief descriptions of early religious beliefs. On page 564 are six brief summaries.

Tatian adopted the theory of Emanation, of Eons....
The Elxaites adopted the Seven Spirits of the Gnostics....
The opinion of the Doketes as to the human nature of Jesus....
Noetus termed the Son the first Utterance of the Father....
Paul of Samosta taught that Jesus Christ was the Son....
Arius called the Saviour the first of creatures....
All of this is descriptive with nothing prescriptive for Scottish Rite Masons. Enchanter! earlier quoted two sentences from Pike's introduction to M&D. Had he posted a little more of the introduction, Pike's intent would have been clear. First and foremost, neither Pike nor the Scottish Rite is requiring its members to believe anything. This is clear to all Masons and to anyone who reads the introduction.

Every one is entirely free to reject and dissent from whatsoever herein may seem to him to be untrue or unsound. It is only required of him that he shall weigh what is taught, and give it fair hearing and unprejudiced judgment.

Further, Pike's motives in describing early religious ideas are clear from his introduction. Anyone bothering to read the introduction knows this.

Of course, the ancient theosophic and philosophic speculations are not embodied as part of the doctrines of the Rite; but because it is of interest and profit to know what the Ancient Intellect thought upon these subjects, and because nothing so conclusively proves the radical difference between our human and the animal nature, as the capacity of the human mind to entertain such speculations in regard to itself the Deity.

This sort of selective quotation out of context is scattered throughout Enchanter!'s postings.

To prevent the light of escaping at once, the Demons forbade Adam to eat the fruit....

...Satan created and governs the visible world [MAD, pp. 566-567]

"One of the most twisted variations of Genesis I have ever heard."

The first quote is from a paragraph that begins, "Manes, founder of the Sect of the Manicheans...." The second quote follows, "With the Priscillianists there were two principles...." It's not surprising that they seem "twisted variations," as they were declared heresies centuries ago. Pike is describing "ancient theosophic and philosophic speculations," just as he explained in his introduction. Just after the last quote above, Pike says, "Such were some of the ancient notions concerning the Deity; and taken in connection with what has been detailed in the preceding Degrees, this Lecture affords you a true picture of the ancient speculations." [M&D, p. 568]

Conclusion

Enchanter! appears to have a vendetta against Freemasonry and is willing to go to great lengths to defame the organization and its members. He removed Pike's explanatory material to M&D, ignored his introduction, took his words out of context, and tried to pass them off as something from "writings held sacred within the Lodges." Enchanter! is not fair to Pike, he is not honest about Masonry, he ignores the organization and structure of the fraternity, and he insults the intelligence of his readers.

It is not clear to me whether he has done his own "research" or whether he merely is quoting from some other anti-Masonic text. Thus I cannot decide if he is a naively incompetent researcher or a maliciously deliberate liar. I leave that decision to more objective readers.


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