“Never give a sword to a man who can’t dance.” I’ve heard this proverb many times over the years. Nobody seems to know who wrote it or what it actually means. Most contrast the joy and beauty of dancing to the brutality and violence of the sword. But why are swords always getting such a bad rap?
Being an important ritual implement in Freemasonry, I pondered what the phrase would mean to a Freemason. The sword is a familiar tool, not only preserved in the blue lodge rituals, but in some of the higher degrees and degrees of chivalry.
Could it be that the link between dancing and sword bearing has to do with skill? I am not so sure. This mysterious little phrase got me to wonder what the sword might represent as a symbol?
We are taught, objects of ritual usually symbolize a truth. What would that truth be?
The sword has been known to symbolize strength, authority, protection, and courage. It is also a symbol of knighthood and chivalry. There are numerous biblical accounts of angels with swords; swords that were used in spiritual warfare, and swords drawn as military weapons.
The history of the sword is full of contradictions. It has a classic duality to it. On the one hand, a sword was used to destroy and kill and represented battle and destruction. On the other hand, a sword was used to protect and was seen a sacred symbol of chivalry.
In many Deity art images, the sword represents wisdom cutting through ignorance. Simply, the word sword means to cut at a foe. Just like a physical sword can kill or maim your opponents, wise words can act like a sword to slay ignorance.
This made me think, is there anything significant that can be learned from warriors who wielded their swords truly, as weapons?
The Unfettered Mind of the Samurai Warrior
I started reading a book called The Unfettered Mind by Takuan Sōhō (1573-1645). Soho was a great philosopher, artist, and teacher of the famous samurai warriors. He had several samurai students who he was teaching the craft of swordsmanship to, but through the means of mindful meditation. His mind was so still that he could bring a swordsman into an entirely different mental state, where time was slowed down so much that the student could respond with absolute precision.
It was perplexing to me what a Buddhist monk, who has vowed to bring about enlightenment and salvation to all sentient beings, was doing writing about sword fighting. The answer lies in Japanese culture. In their history, the sword is a symbol of life and death, of purity and honor, of authority and divinity. All these in some respect relate to enlightenment.
Soho says to his students:
Completely forget about the mind and you will do all things well. The unfettered mind is like cutting through the breeze that blows across the spring day.
To achieve an enlightened state, Soho suggests that the mind must remain forever free. The thing that detains the mind most of all is the ego or self-importance. As soon as we get caught and fixated on any type of emotional charge — we’re lost. When the ego is subdued, there is nothing to bind the pure awareness of our creative potential.
The Virtuous Mind of the Freemason
The training of the mind is also important in making progress in the masonic science. For masons, the cultivation of virtue is said to give that steady purpose of the mind, or courage in the face of pain or adversity. We are all driven in life. I wonder what drives us? Is it greed? Anger? Desire? Beauty? Love? Peace?
W.L. Wilmshurst writes in his book Meaning of Masonry:
Advancement to Light and Wisdom is gradual, orderly, progressive. The sense-nature must be brought into subjection and the practice of virtue be acquired before the mind can be educated; the mind, in turn, must be disciplined and controlled before truths that transcend the mind can be perceived.
What Wilmshurst is revealing is that the real measure of power is not about savage force, not about Olympic weight lifting, but rather the ability to restrain one’s own mind and thought impulses. Perhaps “restrain” is not the right word. Restrain implies too much repression, containment, and pushing down. The idea is more like skillfully transforming one’s vices.
Some say the worst enemy we fight is the darkness in our own nature — the ego or selfish self. The ego is real. The ego claims all, clings to all, wants all, and demands all. It is the Gollum character in the fictional movie Lord of the Rings. There can be no peace, no unity, no justice, no virtue until the selfishness is purged, burned away.
The darkness in us is why there is always a Tyler (or tiler) outside the door of the Lodge with a drawn sword to defend his post. None may pass the Tyler who have big egos or selfish motivations.
Carl Claudy in his Introduction to Freemasonry remarks that we are all Tyler’s of our own life.
Let us all wear a Tiler’s sword in our hearts; let us set the seal of silence and circumspection upon our tongues; let us guard the West Gate from the cowan as loyally as the Tiler guards his door.
Only by such use of the sword do we carry out its symbolism.
How excellent a thought to wear the Tyler’s sword in our heart. Possibly the greatest symbolic message the sword offers is about death. Facing death teaches us important lessons. A knight in battle knows, perhaps as well as anyone, the immediacy and preciousness of life. And, after he is gone, did he live well?
As masons, we learn to treat each day as if it is our last. If we do. When we do. We will be fully perfected. And then, just maybe, we can truly dance.
What if perfection isn’t what you think it is? It 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.
In the Scottish Rite, the combined degrees of 4 to 14 are called the “Lodge of Perfection.” In the Egyptian Rite, we find the “Rite of Perfect Initiates.” When we think of perfection, the idea has positive connotations. Achievement, completeness, evolution, excellence, fulfillment, integrity, and so on. People sometimes wear the title of perfection as a badge of honor.
What does perfection mean, really?
When I was younger and taking piano lessons, my music teacher’s studio wall was framed with a picture that said: “Practice doesn’t make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect.” That was a tall order! Later, I discovered the view is very different. The merit of perfectionism is called seriously into question outside the music studio. For example, in the book Gestalt Therapy Verbatim, Fritz Perls writes that if you are “cursed with perfectionism, you are absolutely sunk.”
This contrast of views can be quite perplexing, since there appears to be truth on both sides of the equation. Perfectionism can apparently be a destructive trait or a good trait. The danger with using the word perfect is that it seems to imply completeness. One of the meanings of the word perfect is “absolute and unequivocal.” There’s a certain arrogance built into the word.
Trying to be perfect assumes that you know what perfect would be.
What if perfection is more like a verb? Is perfection a means to an end or the end itself? How is the idea of perfection portrayed in Freemasonry?
The Seed of Perfection
Man has always been fascinated by the mysterious perception of life and its purpose. As the hunt for the truth advances, more individuals are starting to focus on perfection of mind, body, and soul.
Manly Hall writes:
All humans have within them the seed of their own perfection. It is not bestowed; it is revealed. Man is a god in the making, and as in the mystic myths of Egypt, on the potter’s wheel he is being molded.
Manly Hall suggests that the perfection of potential is within us. We, of ourselves, are not that perfect, but there’s something within us that is. The true seeker on his journey ever strives for that hidden secret lost within — that seed of perfection.
The Buddha named Six Perfections to work on before illumination will manifest through us: 1) magnanimity, 2) selflessness, 3) patience, 4) fiery striving, 5) meditative quiescence, and 6) wisdom. The perfection of wisdom arises when the first five perfections have been attained. The masonic teaching focuses on the development of character and virtue as part of the training. Attention is given to “building in” certain patterns of right living, thinking and conduct. The Greeks, Persians, and Indians all had narratives of how to perfect the individual. These are ancient paths — tried, tested and proven.
Therefore, it appears that the divine plan for man can be both perfect and imperfect. The divine impulse that moves us all on the great Way through life, might be considered a perfect process. However, the product of this perfect system is yet to be fully manifested. It is truly a “work in progress.” It is a piece of labor that we must work on continually.
Annie Besant in her book Outer Court calls the process “spiritual alchemy.” She says:
Imagine the spiritual alchemist as taking all these forces of his nature, recognizing them as forces, and therefore as useful and necessary, but deliberately changing, purifying, and refining them.
It is so interesting to reflect on what it might mean to purify each of our faculties. What would it mean to guide others through this process of spiritual alchemy; to educate, to nurture, to listen and not always get the last word in? I walk with you, my friend, on this path of love and light back to the divine.
When the service for the divine spills over into assisting the perfection of humanity, it could be so uniquely lovely.
Service: The Highest Ideal
What is service? The word service is somehow elusive to me because it evokes different personal ideas in each of us. But anyone involved in a true service activity knows it is far from personal. It is about others and the grand design. It is not about “what’s in it for me” or the separate self. When we see everything in relation to ourselves, so will our spiritual vision be limited, isolated, and narrow.
Service is when our heart begins to beat in unison with the heartbeat of the divine plan, the divine tracing board, not our separatist mind.
I ponder these obligations every time I think about the allegory of King Solomon’s Temple. I recently read a wonderful article about the legend here. The symbolism suggests that true perfection can never end with physical perfection. It is only the means to the end which is spiritual perfection.
The Temple must not only be built, but it must also be spiritualized, often described as “a Temple not made with hands.”
Albert Mackey tells us:
The speculative mason is engaged in the construction of a spiritual temple in his heart, pure and spotless, fit for the dwelling-place of Him who is the author of purity.
When we look at each other through this glance, we hear an echo of a heavenly realm. All here and now. I wonder about what it would be like to build and live in such a sacred community.
Too often the outer court, with its distractions and fleeting pleasures, demands our attention in ways that leave us enthralled within the walls of ourselves, and the veils of the mundane, forgetting our true perfect master. A call, if not responded to, a knock if ignored, causes the doors of inner perception to close, at least for a time.
What would it be like to see the deepest jewel in one another’s soul? What would it mean for divine faculties to come and take over, replacing all that is egotistic with all that is eternal? Will the perfection of humanity always be a work in progress?
A pile of rocks ceases to be a rock when somebody contemplates it with an idea of a cathedral in mind.
— Antoine De Saint-Exupery
A few years ago, I spent a great deal of time researching Mozart’s life and especially his affiliations with Freemasonry. We know much about Mozart because there are many letters that have been preserved in the archives. As I poured over these amazing documents, I learned a lot about history. But it especially got me thinking about how the themes of freemasonry affected his musical style. After he became a Freemason, his tools of making music evolved into something completely different.
Do the ideals of Freemasonry inspire an artist?
We know the craft attracts many men and women from all walks of life. They not only change and shape their Lodge but the world around them. Mozart, a prolific musician and a Freemason was a mover and shaker of his time. He left his mark on the world with more than 600 works in a great range of genres. There are so many timeless lessons from his character, his creative process and his music that we can learn from.
At around five years old, he wrote his first composition, a Minuet and Trio in G major, listed as K 1. He eventually made it all the way up to K 626, his Requiem. Mozart possessed the outstanding ability for “photographing” everything that he heard. He could attend a concert and later write down the full composition of the concert. In one of Mozart’s letters to his father about Prelude and Fugue in C (K 394), Mozart writes:
I composed the fugue first and wrote it down while I was thinking out the prelude.
His genius was unquestionable. However, we don’t really know what inspired him. Where did his inspiration come from? What is inspiration, anyway? When we break apart the word “inspired,” we find it comes from two words “in” and “spirit.” The word literally means “in spirit.” In other words, when you are inspired by something, it means that you are living in spirit or in more masonic terms, “on the plumb.”
Just how important was the tie to freemasonry with his inspiration?
Mozart knocked on the door of Freemasonry in 1784. Being twenty-eight years old, the enlightenment was a glorious time for this young lad. The setting was revolutionary. Humanity stood on the threshold of a new era. Composers and musicians would no longer be viewed as mere servants, but as craftsmen in their own right.
In an excellent book by Paul Nettl called Mozart and Masonry, he remarks:
What led him to Masonry was the reflection and self- contemplation which followed his extensive wandering, and this also brought about the creation of his unique style.
Membership in the Royal Art for Mozart was not an impulsive act. He attended his Lodge regularly, advanced in the degrees and had many friends through his connections with the Lodge.
There is something very crucial to understand that relates to all this. Years and years of hard labor gave him a solid foundation to take his music to the next level. He labored incredibly hard, up at 5 am in the morning and often burned the midnight oil. He always pushed for something unique as a true gift to humanity, introducing his own shade of meaning into whatever he touched.
It would seem that the disciplines of Freemasonry inspired him greatly. No?
Mozart wrote a staggering amount of music considering his short years. It must be acknowledged that being controversial didn’t stop him. His music wasn’t appreciated by everyone – not even close. He was willing to put himself out there, especially with his masonic music. What exactly constitutes Mozart’s masonic music?
Music scholars say that Mozart’s “masonic” music generally falls into three categories.
For example, the famous Clarinet Concerto in A Major (K 622) falls into the third category. Although not written for a Lodge occasion, he composed it for Anton Stadler, a member of his Lodge, who he shared the utmost of fidelity. Whenever he wrote as a token of friendship, he would add a different nuance depending on what the music was for. It was his gift. His wide circle of Lodge brothers inspired him greatly.
Most artists have admitted that they require the aid of inspiration to accomplish their work. Etienne Gibson, French philosopher, in Choir of Muses tells how music composer Sibelius describes an inspired experience:
When the final shape of our work depends on forces more powerful than ourselves, we can later give reasons for this passage or that, but taking it as a whole one is merely an instrument. The power driving us is that marvelous logic which governs a work of art. Let us call it God.
I believe that Sibelius is speaking of a different kind of inspiration, one that comes from still Higher Sources, the Great Architect of the Universe. Music is so abstract at times it gives you infinite ways to contact the Divine.
After his death, the Freemasons held a Lodge of Sorrows in Mozart’s memory, and the oration there delivered was printed by Ignez Alberti, a member of Mozart’s own Lodge.
An excerpt follows:
Though it is proper to recall his achievements as an artist, let us not forget to honor his noble heart. He was a zealous member of our order. His love for his brothers, his cooperative and affirmative nature, his charity, his deep joy whenever he could serve one of his brethren with special talents, these were his great qualities. He was a husband and father, a friend to his friends and a brother to his brothers…
Every so often when I’m lazing about, it makes me incredibly motivated to think about these histories from classical composers like Mozart. Sadly, we may never know what inspired Mozart. The composer’s intentions remain unknowable. I have to say the sheer intensity of his life does suggest something exceptional. Something inspired by the craft.
When I was a very new Freemason, I unintentionally allowed the language barrier to create errors in two of my early papers.
In one paper, I referred to the “broached thurnel” as “Freemasonry’s lost immovable jewel.” In the other paper, I referred to the “fulminate,” used to create a bright flash during a crucial point in an initiation, as “an old Freemasonic tradition,” strongly implying – because I believed it was – that it was no longer used in Freemasonry anywhere.
I was wrong on both counts. I’ve seen the broached thurnel is almost every French Lodge I’ve visited. While I’ve never seen a fulminate used in a French Lodge, I did see one in a store room there and was assured that some Lodges in Paris do still include it in their work.
It really doesn’t matter that other largely-English language scholars have made the same mistake about both of these items, that I could cite their works and still turn out quite a thorough paper. That I was wrong because I didn’t know I was wrong doesn’t explain it away.
Ignorance not only is no excuse; it’s dangerous. Freemasons are the shock troops in the war against ignorance. It is not a good thing for a Freemason to spread ignorance rather than fight it.
Neither paper ever was published. I doubt they ever will be, and with these errors born of ignorance, that’s a good thing.
I’m not aware of any Masonic tradition that does not direct Freemasons to make a daily progress in Masonry, which generally is reckoned as spending part of each day learning something about the Craft that the Freemason didn’t know before. In addition to the seven liberal arts, early 20th Century Masonic scholar Roscoe Pound, in the April 1915 edition of The Builder, identified five areas appropriate for Masonic Study: Ritual, History, Philosophy, Symbolism, and Jurisprudence.
Certainly, for Freemasons in Anglo-centric countries, it’s no real problem to find Masonic works in English. However, making that daily progress only in one’s mother tongue, cuts a Freemason off from progress to be gained in other parts of the world, and necessarily, renders their efforts in isolation to become isolated, provincial even. That leaves the Freemason open to the sorts of errors that I made and, worse, stunts that progress.
I believe it is incumbent upon Freemasons to open their daily progress enough to include works from other languages.
My observation is that English-only Masonic readers seem to be OK with pictures sourced from other language cultures. Images based on engravings by Louis Travenol, better known as “Léonard Gabanon,” of French Blue Lodge Masonry long have been popular illustrations in English-language Masonic books and papers, particularly in general works about the first three degrees. Daniel Beresniak’s very popular Masonic picture book “Symbols of Freemasonry” was first published in 2000 but clearly uses delightful images sourced from French Freemasonry.
Images, it seems, don’t become trapped behind the language barriers but words do.
And yet, there’s plenty in French Masonic scholarship in particular to motivate an otherwise English-only reader to blow the dust off a French-to-English dictionary or keep a browser window open to Google Translator. When I realized my errors in those two papers were caused by my ignorance of French Masonry, it didn’t take me long to find the works of Swiss occultist Joseph Paul Oswald Wirth, who wrote extensively about the Blue Lodge. More recently, I’ve been studying Philippe Langlet’s 2009 “Les sources chrétiennes de la légende d’Hiram” (comes with a very cool CD) and Joseph Castelli’s 2006 “Le Nouveau Regulateur du Macon – Rite Français 1801.”
One of my personal favorite works in French Masonic scholarship is Maurice Bouchard and Philippe Michel’s “Le Rit Français d’origine 1785,” published this past July. That was a follow up to Michel’s “Genèse du Rite Écossais Ancien et Accepté,” the most recent edition of which was published in February and also resides on one of my shelves.
Michel’s most recent work details what also is known as the “Primordial of France” (Rit Primordial de France) or even “canonical” (canonique) French Rite so widely worked in France today. It isn’t often a Masonic reader can read which paragraphs of a rite are connected to what passage or receive an explanation of how any rite was reconstituted, complete with columns, tables, symbols. And if the English reader allows the French language of the work to be a barrier, then the reader won’t get any of that at all.
I’m not suggesting that no efforts have been made at cross-cultural/language research in Freemasonry, because there has been a limited – though notable – amount of that. Lilith Mahmud’s “The Brotherhood of Freemason Sisters,” about gender history in Italian Freemasonry, was published by University of Chicago Press in 2014.
A very good sequel to Margaret Jacob’s 1991 “Living the Enlightenment: Freemasonry and Politics in Eighteenth-Century Europe” and the UCLA History Department Professor’s 2006 “The Radical Enlightenment – Pantheists, Freemasons and Republicans” is her 2011 “Les Premières franc-maçonnes au siècle des Lumières.” That book, co-authored in French with Arizona State University’s Janet Burke, was published in French by the Presses Universitaires de Bordeaux, prefaced by noted French Masonic scholars Cécile Révauger, Jean-Pierre Bacot, and Laure Caille.
Masonic works in languages other than English certainly are readily available, especially online. Detrad offers the very best in French language Masonic work, I’ve had delightfully opportunities to drool over books in their brick-and-mortar location next door to the Grand Orient de France in Rue Cadet, Paris. An entire paper was written in 2008 about Spanish-language Masonic books printed in the U.S. The Spanish language Masonic research journal “Revista de Estudios Históricos de la Masonería” actively produces Masonic works in that language.
The tools are there to do this work, the individual Freemason just needs to do it.
Yes, overcoming the language barrier as part of one’s daily progress in Freemasonry is work, and it’s far from easy. However, no one who is work shy should become a Freemasonry – no more than anyone who becomes a Freemason should become lazy. The results are worth it but actually doing that work is its own reward. The work is, after all, the thing.
Neil Wynes Morse has been looking for a missing paper written by a giant in Masonic scholarship during the first half of the 20th Century but that was, nonetheless, rejected for publication shortly before the author’s death.
He’s not the only one looking. However, Morse is one of the world’s leading experts in Masonic ritual development, President of the Australia and New Zealand Masonic Research Council and is scarily good at finding things others likely give up for lost. If he can’t find it, the paper likely won’t turn up in any obvious place.
The paper’s title is known, “Dr. Anderson and the Charges of a Freemason,” and it was written by noted economist and Masonic scholar Douglas Knoop. It was rejected for publication after receiving a thumbs down by a high ranking officer of the United Grand Lodge of England shortly before Knoop died in the fall of 1948.
Among the last people, then, to know where the paper was were members of the Manchester Association for Masonic Research (MAMR). “It sounds as if the chaps in Manchester know about the document,” Morse told me during an online interview. “And with the number of people who’ve looked at the Knoop papers over the years, I’m surprised it hasn’t seen the light of day, assuming that it exists.”
Like any wise Masonic scholar, Knoop had a good day job. He was an economist by profession, being appointed an assistant lecturer at Manchester University shortly after he graduated there and in 1910 he was put in charge of the Economics department at the at The University of Sheffield, where he became a professor in 1920 and worked until shortly before he died in 1948. He also served on various trade boards and, during World War II, he worked at the Ministry of Munitions. He wrote extensively about his field in economics. The annual “Knoop Lecture,” “Knoop Prize” and the “Knoop Centre” in the Economics Department at The University of Sheffield are named after him.
He became a Freemason in December 1921 when he joined University Lodge No. 3911 at Sheffield and for almost three decades pursued an impressive Masonic career, during one period simultaneously occupying the chair in five different Masonic bodies. As a scholar, he was a regular contributor to Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076’s annual Ars Quatuor Coronaturum (AQC), the world’s longest continuously running and arguably most prestigious Masonic research journal.
He was a Prestonian Lecturer who at times teamed up with fellow scholar G.P. Jones to produce a fairly vast number of papers and books. The best known of his books in Masonic scholars include “The Genesis of Freemasonry,” “Early Masonic Pamphlets,” “Early Masonic Catechisms” and “The Medieval Mason: An Economic History of English Stone Building in the Later Middle Ages and Early Modern Times.” One would be very hard pressed to find a good modern work on Masonic scholarship that doesn’t include Knoop’s work in its bibliography.
He certainly was influential in Masonic research circles during his time, so it’s a bit surprising to turn up the story about his final paper, as Morse did earlier this year when he came upon a mention of it in the MAMR Transactions for 1948. Further information came to light about the paper when a later published history of MAMR was consulted and there Morse came upon what little is definitively known about Knoop’s final paper:
“An unusual fate befell one paper this year. WBro Professor Douglas Knoop PAGDC paid what proved to be his farewell visit to Manchester, when he read a paper entitled ‘Dr. Anderson and the Charges of a Freemason’. His paper was controversial and he submitted a copy to the Grand Secretary [of the UGLE], who requested that it not be published.”
That’s all, no explanation of why it was controversial and why the Grand Secretary of the UGLE, Sir Sidney White, asked for it not to be published. The paper’s name doesn’t sound especially controversial, so the idea that it was is quite intriguing, no less so considering Knoop died at age 65 on 21 October 1948, shortly after his last paper was rejected.
Morse went on a search to find the paper, searching for clues in such places as Knoop’s obituary in the AQC and in Colin Dyer’s “History of the First 100 years of Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076,” as well as online searches and queries to other scholars.
Morse soon discovered that R.A. Gilbert, co-author with John Hamill of “World Freemasonry: And Illustrated History” and other significant works, had made an attempt to find the paper but had not succeeded. Gilbert did, however, turn up the additional tidbit that “only his death shortly afterwards prevented a first class row”.
Morse also contacted the UGLE’s Museum and Library in London as the Grand Secretary in 1948 did have a copy and the library still holds some correspondence about the paper. Unfortunately, the staff reported there was no copy of the paper there, though they wish there was; that searches have been made in the past but those searches were not successful.
The library does have Knoop’s letter to the Grand Secretary, dated 21 June 1948, with a penciled note by QC member John Dashwood stapled to the back, and White’s reply dated the following 26 July.
Knoop’s letter indicates the MAMR had a copy of the paper but that he, Knoop, wanted it back if it could not be published. It was, after all, the era before word processors and printers, when full manuscripts were very precious things, so Knoop’s paper might have been returned to him. There also is the very real possibility that, because the paper was controversial, it was destroyed.
The trail of the paper goes cold from there and Morse presently knows of nowhere else to look. “That’s not to say that a copy exist doesn’t somewhere,” Morse said. “It seems to me possible that a copy may be included in a file of various bits and bobs called ‘Knoop papers NES’ or similar – and not necessarily in either London or Manchester.”
“I remain optimistic that the paper will surface at some stage. But I won’t be holding my breath.”
 MAMR Transactions, Vol XXXVIII, state on page 161 ‘Unfortunately, this is unavailable for publication in the Transaction’.
 Specifically, “More Masonry Into Men: the Story of Manchester Lodge and Association for Masonic Research With Suggestion for a Course of Masonic Reading and An Index to the First Forty Volumes of the Transactions (1909-1950)” by Fred L Pick, printed for the MAMR in 1951 (page 56).
 (AQC 107, 1995, p.4)
 AQC v107, p4 and fn 28 on p7. The material is not catalogued online.
 All of which is under copyright, so anyone who wants to see it has to visit the library and inquire.
Robert Kennedy once stated, “Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence, but it is the one essential quality to change the world.” We, as Freemasons, know something about changing the world, but how serious are we about completing the work we are called to do? Do we possess that “moral courage” necessary to stand up to ignorance and change the world?
Universal Co-Masonry is taking the steps to create a better world through the implementation of an innovative Five-Year Plan. The plan was released during the Honorable Order of Universal Co-Masonry’s Annual Summer Workshop at its headquarters in Larkspur, Colorado held from August 5th through August 12th of this year. Brothers arrived from Lodges throughout the Americas to attend the workshop, a semi-regular tradition in the Order for more than a century.
Universal Co-Masonry’s Most Sovereign Grand Commander, Brother Magdalena I. Cumsille announced an ambitious and detailed Five-Year Plan to accomplish the task at hand. Speaking to those assembled, she stated, “It is our duty as Masons to make a better world for, not only ourselves, but for those that come after us.” In his address which followed, President Matias Cumsille issued this call to action: “Let it be a united endeavor: a place where Freemasons toil together in the great work.”
The work of the Five Year Plan is separated into seven divisions of labor, including: 1) Expand the Masonic Philosophical Society, 2) Establish the Masonic Publishing Company, 3) Institute the Masonic College of Arts and Sciences, 4) Found the Masonic Order of Service, 5) Implement the Order’s Energy Initiative, 6) Finalize the Order’s Technology Initiative, and 7) Commence the Order’s Historical Document Preservation Program.
The Masonic Philosophical Society
The first step in the Five-Year Plan is to expand the reach of the existing Masonic Philosophical Society (M.P.S.) to include additional online platforms. The mission of the M.P.S. is to destroy ignorance through the advancement of research and understanding of the sciences, arts, and humanities. Utilizing online video conferencing technology, the M.P.S. will be better equipped to fulfill its mission across the globe. Since the commencement of the first online study center, individuals from around the world have been able to participate in the educational opportunities, including men and women from India, Madagascar, Germany, Spain, England, and Canada. “We are planning on establishing a European online M.P.S. study center, as well as a new physically-located M.P.S. Study Center in Asia,” explained President Matias Cumsille.
The Masonic Philosophical Society was founded in January of 2009 to provide interactive educational opportunities for adults beyond the nationally required post-secondary schooling. Since 2009, the M.P.S. has expanded its operation to include 25 centers in North and South America. With more than 60,000 members, the M.P.S. has created a worldwide movement and community. To learn more about the Society, follow the online M.P.S. Journal, interact with the global community, or inquire about membership, visit the M.P.S. website or the M.P.S. Facebook page.
The Masonic Publishing Company
Another ongoing project expected to get an evolutionary boost in the next five years is The Masonic Publishing Company: an innovative and independent publisher of books. “Its objective is to publish rare, esoteric, occult and philosophical books,” President Matias Cumsille added.
Created to bring new light to the great enigmatic works of the past, M.P.C. books include new material added by Freemasons to inspire modern inquiry. The M.P.C. is the proud publisher of a selection of books which have been handpicked to inspire our readers to reach their fullest potential. One might call it a Must-Read List for Seekers of Wisdom, including members of the Brotherhood of Freemasonry, which encircles the globe.
The Masonic College of Arts and Sciences
Another step in the Five Year Plan is the formation of a Masonic College to provide education for seekers throughout the world. The Masonic College of Arts and Sciences (M.C.A.S.) is a private liberal arts college which will offer educational courses based on the synthesis of Ancient Wisdom and Modern Science.
The College is oriented specifically for those individuals in search of higher understanding beyond that found in traditional universities and dogmatic institutions. M.C.A.S. endorses the Integrated Approach to its studies and discourages Reductionism – the approach used in an overwhelming majority of higher educational institutions.
“Initially, courses will be online, and we will offer two undergraduate degrees, both founded on the Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences,” President Matias Cumsille stated. “We will be working to ensure the accreditation of the college through the Colorado Department of Higher Education in the next five years.”
Further Steps in the Five-Year Plan
Other initiatives in the Five-Year Plan include the formation of the Masonic Order of Service, detailed in an earlier blog, an Energy Initiative to make the Order’s headquarters more self-sustaining through the installation of solar and wind power, and a Technology Initiative to update the structure of the Order for dissemination of Masonic studies. The final step of the Order’s plan is to preserve historical documents as part of the Order’s Historical Document Preservation Program.
“Let us begin the Work. We cannot wait, for time is a gift rarely used wisely.”
— Most Sovereign Grand Commander, Magdalena I. Cumsille
The woman to whom Co-Freemasonry in North America arguably owes a great debt of thanks, Marie Bourgeois Goaziou, died 100 years ago this year.
It’s doubtful that North American Co-Freemasonry would have survived if not for her. And, yet, there is not one comment, letter, paper, or quotation of hers that is known. She had to have been an interesting lady. For now, we have to take that on faith.
Like many women in history, what we think we know about Marie Goaziou is based on the men in her life, though we don’t know that much about even them. Her father’s name was John Bourgeois, but we know little more about him than his name. The same can be said for her mother, Marie Lepis. She was born 24 July 1866 in Namur, the capital city of Wallonia in Belgium, where the Meuse and Sambre rivers meet.
Nothing is know about her childhood, even if she had siblings, though we do know she could read and write as she later helped in her husband’s newspaper business. Literacy alone would have set her apart from a lot of contemporary working class girls in her time.
We also don’t know what her parents did for a living but we do know that the family arrive to Pennsylvania, via Canada, when she was six years old. By 1883, they were living in the mining town of Houtzdale. Shortly after her 17th birthday, Marie Bourgeois saved Co-Freemasonry in North American almost two decades before it was founded by convincing a young Louis Goaziou, future Grand Commander of the Order, not to return to his home in France.
Goaziou had arrived in Houtzdale from a fairly comfortable life in Brittany and spent the next two years mining coal and hating it. He was the best educated coal miner in the region, but it didn’t help. In midsummer of 1883, 19-year-old Goaziou sold his mining tools and announced to his friends that he was going home on a Monday.
“On Saturday, we had a farewell party at the boarding house with music and dancing,” Louis Goaziou later recalled.
Louis Goaziou also recalled meeting Marie at that party, but that seems unlikely. Houtzdale was a small community, and it seems impossible this could have been their first meeting. What seems more likely is that he noticed her for the first time. In the more than two years he’d lived there, Marie had blossomed into an attractive young woman. He was badly smitten.
He walked her home from the party and, that same night, discussed marriage with her and her parents. Marie Bourgeois was firm. She was willing to marry him, but she didn’t want to leave her parents. Louis Goaziou had to choose between going home or remaining in the United States to marry Marie Bourgeois and return to the coal mines he hated. He chose to remain.
They were married in Houtzdale on the 28th of August in 1883.
She could not have known that by convincing Goaziou to remain, Marie Bourgeois also insured that he was around during the chaotic period in 1908 when Goaziou effectively saved Co-Freemasonry in North America. She likely did know that she was entering the hard working world of a late 19th Century coal miner’s wife. The couple had eight children together – half of whom died in infancy and only three of whom made it to adulthood. Of those three, one, their oldest daughter Clemence, died only days shy of her 18th birthday.
Life as a western Pennsylvania coal miner’s wife had a certain predictability to it, but Louis Goaziou was no ordinary coal miner, so Marie Goaziou could have been no ordinary miner’s wife. Goaziou became embroiled in union activism, as well as Anarchist and then Socialist politics, as together the two embarked upon a peripatetic life. By 1885, they were in MacDonald, where he worked loading coal machine and whispered “union” to his co-workers.
He did that too much and lost his job in MacDonald the following spring, sending the Goazious back to Houtzdale. Two years later, they were in Hastings in neighboring Cambria County before returning again to Houtzdale two years after that. Louis Goaziou also joined the Knights of Labor and became active in other radical workers groups.
Louis Goaziou’s health began to fail. He suffered at least one bout of measles and developed lung ailments that would plague him much of the rest of his life. Marie Goaziou presumable nursed him through much of that. It didn’t stop him from fighting for union representation among the miners of western Pennsylvania, despite the efforts of mine owners to starve the family out.
While the family was in Hastings, Louis Goaziou obtained a small Kelso printing press and started the first of a series of newspaper. The earliest were small, little more than leaflets, but they culminated in Union des Travailleurs, published in Charleroi. Goaziou family tradition states that Marie Goaziou kept the books for the newspapers and that the remaining ledgers are in her hand.
In 1902, Union des Travailleurs came to the attention of Antoine Muzzarelli, a French Freemason who was trying to found Co-Freemasonry in North America and was looking for the first Master of the new Order’s first Lodge. After corresponding with Louis Goaziou for about a year, Muzzarelli arrive in Charleroi on the 17th of October in 1903. There he met with more than a dozen men who crowded into the living room of the Goaziou home at 730 Washington Avenue.
That same evening, Louis Goaziou asked his wife if she’d like to become a Freemason. She said, “Yes.”
Two days later, Marie Goaziou became one of the first women Co-Masons in North America when she was Initiated, Passed, and Raised into Alpha Lodge No. 301 in Charleroi, becoming a Charter member of the Lodge. Louis Goaziou probably was in the East that day, only one day after his own Initiation, Passing and Raising. Alpha Lodge’s record is not complete, but Marie Goaziou appears to have remained active in Alpha Lodge, as well as, acting as hostess to a number of Co-Masonic leaders. These leaders included Muzzarelli and later members of the National Council, who often stayed at the Goaziou home when they were in town. In this way, she likely exercised influence, though she lacked authority, so long as her health remained good.
Unfortunately, in about 1906, Marie Goaziou’s health began to fail. She had developed what her death certificate later described as “biliary cirrhosis of [the] liver,” which may have been caused by a severe case of hepatitis: an illness that was at epidemic proportions in the early 20th Century Western Pennsylvania coal fields. In late 1906 into the following spring, Marie Goaziou spent months in hospital and ever underwent surgery, which seems to have brought only little relief. Over the next decade, she was ill more often than she was well and her husband, whom she’d nursed through years of his own illnesses and whose own health remained precarious, now nursed her.
Marie Goaziou died on April 5, 1917 in the family’s apartment over their print shop in Charleroi. She was 50 years old. Her death was reported on the front page of the local newspaper.
It can be difficult at times to nail down one Brother’s contribution to any Masonic Order, but the debt Co-Freemasonry owes to Marie Bourgeois Goaziou is clear enough, even if her own words and ideas haven’t survived. Thanks to her, North American Co-Freemasonry did survive.
 Her parents’ names are listed on Marie Goaziou’s death certificate, preserved by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. I have found those names nowhere else, so additional research is needed.
 Ibid and her Memory Card, preserved in the Archives of the Honorable Order of American Co-Masonry, the American Federation of Human Rights.
 From Louis Goaziou’s dictated brief autobiography, “Written enroute to and at El Paso for Initiation Ceremonies”, also preserved in the Order’s archives.
 See page 3 of eulogy delivered at Louis Goaziou’s funeral in 1937, preserved in the Order’s archives.
 See Andrée Prat’s “Louis Goaziou (1864-1937)”, published in Cahiers de la Commission d’Histoire, Fédération française du Droit Humain, n°9 /février 2004.
A paradox in Freemasonry, where Brothers are supposed to have a high regard for truth, is that the same Brothers have been known to downplay, ignore, and suppress truth that is found to be inconvenient.
The so-called “clandestine” roots of Prince Hall Freemasonry is one inconvenient truth that author and researcher E. Oscar Alleyne, a member of Wappingers No. 671, which labors under the Grand Lodge of New York, wasn’t afraid to talk about during a recent conference. Specifically (*SPOILERS*), that the first Prince Hall lodge, African Lodge No. 1, wasn’t founded on March 6, 1775 with assistance from a so-called “regular” military lodge. Instead, the date likely was in 1778 and assistance came from a degree peddler (*END SPOILERS*).
It was not unusual in the 18th Century for lodges to independently form on their own and then go looking for a Grand Lodge to provide them with a charter or warrant. In that context, African Lodge’s true origins are nothing to be concerned about. Brothers have been anyway, Alleyne said during an all-too-brief presentation of his paper at the International Conference of Masonic Research Lodges, the ICOM, this past May in Toulon, France.
“Some people don’t like the truth of this story because they think it means that Prince Hall was clandestine or was irregularly made,” Alleyne said.
Getting stuck on that notion misses the greater point: that African Lodge overcame racism, the then current enslavement of most peoples of color in North American, and the war-encroaching international politics to come into being, Alleyne said. “They were able to accomplish something that didn’t seen accomplishable,” he said.
I strongly recommend reading the online version of Alleyne’s paper, including maps and documents I’ve never seen before, because a brief summary is all I can offer here. Alleyne cites as his text John L. Hairston’s “Landmarks of our Fathers: A Critical Analysis of the Start and Origin of African Lodge No. 1,” edited by Alleyne. Hairston, a publisher, author, and researcher, is a demitted member of Harmony Lodge No. 2, which labors under the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Washington, and a member of University Lodge 141, which labors under the Grand Lodge of Washington.
Alleyne started where most Masonic scholars and casual readers start, with the legend that Bostonian caterer and leather dresser Prince Hall. Hall, a free man of color, along with other free men of color in the same city, decided to form their own lodge after being turned away from existing lodges. According to that legend, Hall and 14 others were initiated into Freemasonry by Irish Military Lodge No. 441, under the direction of WM Sergeant John Batt, on March 6, 1775. By July of the following year, African Lodge was organized under a limited permit from Batt, and by 1779, thirty-three Brothers were listed on the rolls of the Lodge. Prince Hall later petitioned the Grand Lodge of England for a warrant or charter, which was granted June 30th, 1784.
That story, told and retold for generations and included on a number of Prince Hall websites, was written in the early 20th Century – not Freemasonry’s shiny era of accurately written histories – by William H. Grimshaw, most noted for his “Official History of Freemasonry Among the Colored People” published in 1903.
“Grimshaw probably was the person who caused the most problems with this story,” Alleyne said. “Grimshaw made up stories about things that didn’t happen.”
Scholars then repeated those stories, which then took on other inaccuracies, others believed it all and, in that “Who Shot Liberty Valance” (When the legend becomes fact, print the legend) way, became perpetuated. Documentation that suggested otherwise was downplayed, ignored and suppressed, all in service to the legend.
Hairston’s extensive research makes a convincing case that the truth isn’t so simple as Grimshaw would have anyone believe and piecing all that together is made difficult because records are lacking, Alleyne said. The true story appears to be that neither Hall nor any of the other 14 Brothers of what would be African Lodge were made Master Masons in 1775 and Irish Military Lodge No. 441 had nothing to do with their initiations or the foundation of African Lodge No. 1.
The Lodge certainly sought assistance more locally. My ears perked up when I heard Alleyne mention Hall’s connection to the Revolutionary War hero Gen. Joseph Warren, who then was Provincial Grand Master of Freemasons in Massachusetts. After all, I’ve long been convinced that Warren was behind the consecration of St. Anne’s Lodge, a female-only Lodge of Adoption in Boston, and the making of Masons in that Lodge. But that’s another paper, expected next year.
Hall approached Warren for a warrant in March of 1775, at the same time Grimshaw alleged the Lodge was founded with help from the Irish military lodge. Warren’s death June 17 of that year during the battle of Bunker Hill shut Hall off from that opportunity, Alleyne said. Hall also sought out several other options, including connections in France.
African Lodge finally made some headway toward organization through Batt, who provided a “permit” to bury their dead and march in processions as Freemasons. However, contrary to what Grimshaw wrote, Batt had no known associations with Military Lodge No. 441 and appears to have been something of a degree seller, a common thing over the centuries. Hall likely understood the truth about Batt at the time but he continued to seek out a way for African Lodge to be “regularized”, which happened with its recognition by the Grand Lodge of England in 1784.
“This is the correct story,” Alleyne said.
Most Freemasons, even those with little interest in the Craft’s back story, likely have noticed there’s a whole lot of revision going on, and that it’s causing no small amount of discomfort.
There’s a reason for it, says one of the revisionists, John L. Hairston, whose book “Landmarks of our Fathers: A Critical Analysis of the Start and Origin of African Lodge No. 1” questions the long-accepted back story of the foundation of Prince Hall Freemasonry.
“All of this work, all of this new history, everything being carried out right now,” Hairston told me during a recent telephone interview. “All of this tells me that there’s a purge of the lodge going on, that there is a purging of Freemasonry going on.”
Purges are never comfortable.
For generations, Freemasonic scholars had a colorful reputation for devising comforting histories about the Craft, which taken up by later scholars and uncritically told and retold. It seems everyone, including non-Masons, came to be all cozy with them.
I tend to date the change to the 1980s and the release of noted historian David Stephenson’s “The Origins of Freemasonry: Scotland’s Century (1590 -1710)” and the work of his doctoral student, Lisa Kahler. These early Masonic revisionists, including Margaret Jacob, Andrew Prescott, and Susan Sommers, all have one thing in common: they are not Freemasons.
Those Brothers who have since produced their own works of revisionist history have encountered subtle pressures to which their more academic colleagues are not subject. After all, the old stories are so comfortable to so many some who’d rather all of these historians not bother. I well recall some of the ripples caused by journalist and then Freemason Stephen Dafoe’s 2014 “Morgan: The Scandal That Shook Freemasonry,” one of the best and most accurate examinations of the murder of William Morgan. The incident touched off the anti-Masonic period in the early 19th Century and came closing to eliminating Freemasonry from the U.S.
Dafoe rubbed some Masons the wrong way by making the case that Morgan was killed by Freemasons, not deported by them to Canada, a story his detractors preferred. The problem was not that Dafoe had written something untrue; it was that he’d written something true that went against the accepted, preferred, and comfortable narrative.
I’ve run into similar sentiments in my works about early women Freemasons and the history of worldwide Co-Freemasonry. It’s not that what I wrote isn’t true – it is. The problem, as I understand it, is that this truth runs counter to the long-time accepted narratives about both topics and disturbs the comfort of gender-based and Co-masons alike. And, that, the discomfort should be respected.
Hairston said he encountered much the same in the lead up to his book, which was released last year. The Seattle publisher and researcher is a demitted member of Harmony Lodge No. 2, which labors under the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Washington and also a member of University Lodge No. 141, which labors under the Grand Lodge of Washington.
Hairston also is the Editor of the “The Quill and The Sword” Masonic blog and his work has been published in a number of Masonic publications, including Living Stones, Washington Masonic Community Monitor, and the Prince Hall Masonic Journal.
Hairston said that when he was initiated into traditionally African American Prince Hall Freemasonry, he was fed the usual and comfortable stories about the origins of that branch of the Craft. That legend tells about Bostonian caterer and leather dresser Prince Hall, a free man of color, along with other 14 free men of color in the same city – “The Immortal 15” – who formed their own lodge after being turned away from existing lodges.
According to the legend, Hall and the other 14 were initiated into Freemasonry by Irish Military Lodge No. 441, under the direction of WM Sergeant John Batt, on March 6, 1775. By July of the following year, African Lodge was organized under a limited permit from Batt and by 1779 thirty-three Brothers were listed on the rolls of the Lodge. Prince Hall later petitioned the Grand Lodge of England for a warrant or charter, which was granted June 30th, 1784.
That story, told and retold for generations and included on a number of Prince Hall websites, has been uncritically passed on by scholars.
I won’t spoil all of the richness in Hairston’s book, but I will say that much of the discomfort about his work is related to the date of formation and the assistance received in formation.
It was not unusual in the 18th Century for Lodges to independently form on their own and then go looking for a Grand Lodge to provide them with a charter or warrant. In that context, African Lodge’s true origins are nothing to be concerned about.
“Does this truthful narrative make the immortal 15 illegitimate, no it does not,” Hairston said. “It does mean that we have a mess to clean up but that’s all.”
The mess is the untruths that have been allowed to accrete around what really happened in Masonic history. Hairston first noticed problems with the date when he examined the primary documentation, much of it preserved by the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts and not especially difficult to get at. He soon discovered that the authors of the legend had access to the actual records but had chosen to write the comfortable legend instead.
That was frustrating, Hairston stated. “I should never had to have written this book,” he said. “This should have been written at least in the 1950s. I had been in Freemasonry only five years when I started down this path. This should have been written by earlier and better scholars than me.”
He did discover that prior scholars, particularly Henry Coil and John Sherman in their jointly written 1982 “A Documentary Account of Prince Hall and other Black Fraternal Orders,” had written about these documents before. However, that work had been largely ignored, which basically made it go away. Hairston could reasonably expect his own effort would be similarly received.
Hairston decided to share his research with scholars at The Phylaxis Society and he found them encouraging. “And they said, ‘You’ve got something here’,” he recalled.
Even with that nod, Hairston had respect for the discomfort. He knew that there were Brothers who wouldn’t like it, and had his doubts, which he shared with his editor and fellow researcher Oscar Alleyne. “And I said, ‘Oscar, why am I doing this?'” Hairston recalled.
“And he said, ‘Because you have to’.”
Naturally, the work gained early support from other scholars and news reporters in the Craft. He was featured in the 7 September 2016 edition of “The Masonic Rountable” shortly after the book was published. He also was appeared in an interview by the Masonic College of the Walter F. Meier Research Lodge No. 281 in Washington and lectured at the Seattle Scottish Rite Masonic Center.
Tony Pope, a Masonic author and researcher of no little reputation and at least equally unafraid to address sensitive topics in the Craft, in this past January’s Harashim, published by the Australian New Zealand Masonic Research Council, called Hairston’s book “a good read for history buffs, a fine example for potential researchers, and a must for anyone interested in the controversy likely to arise from it. I can hardly wait for the next volume in the series.”
However, Pope also nodded to the paradox Hairston’s work inevitably produced. “It must have taken considerable courage for Brother Hairston to pursue this line of inquiry, and to publicise the result,” Pope wrote.
Pope wasn’t the only Masonic scholar to recognize Hairston’s odd position in writing this truth. “Brother Hairston fully understands the delicate ground he treads, but he is a tireless and extraordinarily detailed and dedicated researcher,” Masonic author Chris Hodapp wrote in his review of Hairston’s book.
All that courage was required because “Landmarks of our Fathers” did discomfort many Freemasons, Prince Hall and otherwise, including grand lodge officers across the country. Their response, including their initial lack of one, was understandable, Hairston said. Grand lodges are not too concerned about history and concentrate more on maintain good relationships with other grand lodges, running the front office and keeping the greatest number of members comfortable and happy with their membership, he said.
“Then, all of a sudden, there’s this guy who hasn’t been a Freemason five years,” Hairston said. “He comes along and writes about what really happened, and it’s not the story they know, that they’ve got investment in. Then it gets published and it upsets the comfortable narrative.”
First, they ignored him, a strategy that has worked in the past. “They chose to turn a blind eye to the findings,” Hairston said, “which is surprising, because it wasn’t like the book was going to go away.”
When it didn’t go away, there next came that subtle pressure, grappling for a saving way to respond to the book and even talk of a special meeting of Prince Hall grand lodges officers to deal with Hairston’s troublesome findings.
Then, as suddenly, the pressure eased up. “I heard about it back channel,” Hairston said. “They decided that the book was great and they really didn’t want to refute the contents, they have so much other stuff to deal with and that, really, this wasn’t all that important.”
It seems cooler heads prevailed, as often happens in Freemasonry. After all, Hairston’s research in no way detracts from the story of the founding of Prince Hall Freemasonry. Instead, it simply tells that story more accurately and places it in its proper historical context, warts and all. “African Lodge is talking to us today in their own voice,” Hairston said. “And that voice will not be denied.”
His work is part of that larger trend in Freemasonry, to rewrite the legends to reflect more accurately what really happened, Hairston said. It’s necessary because something is on the horizon, Freemasonry will need to be prepared and that requires making its crooked paths straight and leveling its rough places, he said.
“How can you know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been?” Hairston asked. “You can’t.”
The discomforted Brothers who still want their old narratives shouldn’t take their arguments to the revisionist historians, Hairston said. “There’s really no fighting me in all of this,” he said. “They are fighting the Universe; they are fighting something greater than themselves that feels this needs to be done. The Universe has committed itself to this revolution and anything that gets in its way will be ground to dust. It has nothing to do with me, I’m only the messenger.”
Hairston said he doesn’t know what is coming but feels certain that the work he is doing now, a book that questions the present segregation in Freemasonry, has its part to play. “There are things that can no longer go unquestioned,” he said. “In order for Freemasonry to address the coming paradigms, the old paradigms need to be addressed.”