Thursday, October 1, 2009

Apology for "Revolutionary Spirits'" Last Post

You'll find a post from the pseudonym "Revolutionary Spirits" below this one, called "Freemasons: Fact & Fiction."

Unfortunately for this blog, that post itself is full of fictions, including

---misidentifying certain Founders [Thomas Paine and Alexander Hamilton] as Masons

---and asserting that Masonry was some new, non-Trinitarian religion [although orthodox Christians such as Roger Sherman and John Hancock were Masons]

---and making unverifiable claims about John Desaguliers' theology---unverifiable on the internet via Google, or by Magpie Mason, a contributor to this blog who's well-acquainted with Freemasonry, or by a Mason history website.

Rev. Gary Kowalski's [Revolutionary Spirits] post was the epitome of worthlessness, if not near-complete fabrication.

I personally apologize for his historical and analytical sloppiness. He is entitled to his own opinion, but he is not entitled to make up his own facts. But he went to Harvard, you might say, and he even wrote a book that was well-reviewed by USA Today.

Heh. Beware "authorities."

We frequently disagree on this blog about our analyses and interpretations, but we never disagree about the underlying facts. That's what's been the heart and soul of American Creation, that we speak the common language of honesty and fact.

I've always been proud of being a contributor to American Creation and its unblemished record for historical accuracy and painstaking research of religion and the Founding.

Until now.

This blog is first and foremost committed to presenting facts you can trust, hitting the books and the original Founding documents so our readers can analyze the facts for themselves and come up with their own opinions. Gary Kowalski has wronged that trust for his own reasons. Whatever those reasons may be, it's irrelevant. He does not respond to well-written comments and sincere questions about what he's written.

Dude's making stuff up to suit his own agenda. Sorry.


Jonathan Rowe said...

The record is not exactly unblemished. We did, if you remember, have a contributor who asserted GW's "The Daily Sacrifice" prayer journal as fact and was taken to task for it.

Brad Hart said...

Being that I am a novice when it comes to Freemasons, I hope Magpie Mason will chime in here and let us know if this really is "the epitome of worthlessness."

I'm going with Jon on this one. We've had people make mistakes in the past. Hell, I'm sure you can find some in every person's post on this blog.

By the way, weren't you and I the principle defenders of David Barton's integrity and character, Tom? Remember all the hits we got for doing that? I think I still have the lumps. I guess my point is that we should try to be a little understanding.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Well I have no problem with Tom doing a front page post that calls out others for errors that they may make.

However, I do think his tone goes a bit too far.

He's treating the Rev. Kowalski in the same way that Chris Rodda treats David Barton. Now, I appreciate Rodda's careful work examining Barton; but the tone she uses makes it impossible for the two of them to share a civil platform as part of the same team project.

Magpie Mason said...

Hi guys,

In my previous comment, I seconded Mark in Spokane's appreciation for the original post, and I don't think any differently now.

The error about Paine and Hamilton are, in Masonic circles, very common. Frankly, I'd say three out of five Freemasons in the United States actually believe that all the Founders and Framers were Masons. It is a sad state of affairs, but it's a fact that the overwhelming majority of American Masons do not pursue any form of formal Masonic education. Instead they allow themselves to be influenced by popular movies ('National Treasure'), best sellers ('The Lost Symbol'), and cable television documentaries, all of which are guilty of voicing superficial understandings and broad statements.

As regards Desaguliers, I'd only say again that the information provided could use citations. Desaguliers was a very important figure at the birth of modern Freemasonry, and I for one would like to read more about him.

Now, having read the original post a second time, I do add an objection to the choice of words in its second to last paragraph. Now it is a fact that the Freemasonry of Desaguliers' day recently had done away with its Trinitarian beliefs, but I cannot agree that Masonry was a "religion shorn of supernaturalism" or a "simple faith."

Freemasonry was not, and is not, a religion. (There are individual Masons who choose to make Freemasonry their personal religion thanks to its moral code and spiritual aspects, but that is a personal choice that cannot be attributed to the fraternity itself.) Months ago I jumped all over poor Pinky for having made a slightly similar comment, but I failed to catch these remarks on my first reading.

So, on the whole, I'm still giving Rev. Kowalski a "thumbs up," because, honestly, he expresses a better understanding of Freemasonry than most Masons I know. He merely could benefit from an editor.

Lindsey Shuman said...

Of course, most of you probably already know this, Tom Van Dyke never makes a mistake. He can walk on WATER!

Revolutionary Spirits said...

Hi and thanks for your spirited critiques.

Thomas Paine was deeply involved with Illuminism--a branch of masonry--during his stay in France. This information is available in any standard biography. Was Hamilton a mason? I'll do some more research. In some cases, it's actually difficult to know for certain, since this was a quasi-secret society.

As to the Trinity, a marked change took place with the Masonic Constitution that Desaguliers authored. While the manuals of the older masonic craft guilds all made some reference to the Trinity, Desagulier's Constitution was silent on this point and never mentioned Christ. This does not imply that masons from that point forward were all non-Trinitarian, but that belief in a Trinity ceased to be a requirement for participation in the brotherhood. In its paragraph on "God and Religion," the Constitution enjoined newly minted masons to overcome theological differences to join in common moral endeavour: "But though in ancient times Masons were charg'd in every Country to be of the Religion of that Country of nation, whatever it was, yet 'tis now thought more expedient only to oblige them to that Religion in which all Men agree, leaving their particular Opinions to themselves, that is to be good Men and true, or Men of Honour and Honesty, by whatever Denomination or Persuasion they may be distinguished." The emphasis was on moral conduct and character rather than theological correctness. Since Desaguliers wrote this passage, I feel confident it reflects his own spiritual orientation.

My sources on freemasonry include Bernard Fay's "Revolution and Freemasonry 1680-1800" (Little, Brown & Co., Boston, 1935), and Margaret Jacob, "The Radical Enlightenment: Pantheists, Freemasons and Republicans" (George Allen & Unwin, London, 1981.

I stand by the overall accuracy of my description of freemasonry, its principles and adherents.

Revolutionary Spirits said...

Thank you all for your polite and well-considered comments. Alexander Hamilton was "thought by some persons to be a mason," according to Bobby Demott in "Freemasonry in American Culture and Society" (U. Press of America: 1986, p. 26), but the author remarks Hamilton's membership is disputed by others. Alexander Piatigorsky, Professor of History at the University of London, in "Freemasonry: The Study of a Phenomenon" (Harvill Press: 1977, p. 172) states categorically that Hamilton belonged to the order. Thomas Paine's biographer Jack Fruchtman says Paine was "likely" involved. In the case of a quasi-secret society, there may always be some uncertain cases, it seems to me. No need to get our knickers in a twit!

I am glad to accept the correction that Desaguliers was probably only a consulting author or co-author to the masonic Constitution, rather than primary author. However, it still seems sensible to conclude that the Constitutions' non-dogmatic character reflected Desagulier's own spiritual approach as well as the overall tenor of freemasonry. Their hope was not to introduce a "new religion" as Mr. Van Dyke apparently thinks I said, but to quell sectarian strife and internecine bickering among established denominations by reducing faith to what they considered its most rational elements--belief in a Creator and a moral law.