Thursday, October 1, 2009

Epitome of Worthlessness

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.

14 comments:

Magpie Mason said...

Greetings!

Authorship of the Book of Constitutions always has been attributed to Dr. James Anderson. I am very interested to learn how you come to assign the First Charge's authorship to Desaguliers. It is accepted that Desaguliers consulted, if not edited, Anderson, but the specificity of your comment deserves citation.

In addition, it is incorrect to define the Illuminati as a "branch" of Freemasonry. There was some interaction between the these two distinct organizations in Germany; the link was limited and short-lived, but the rumors persist to this day.

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Revolutionary Spirits said...

Dear Maggie,
I believe Bernard Fay attributes primary authorship of Constitution to Desaguliers. Do you have a copy of his book? I'd have to go retreive it from the library at the University of Vermont. But have a reputation as an expert in this field, so perhaps you have ready access to a copy.
Gary

Magpie Mason said...

Thank you, but I'm going to pass on the Bernard Fay recommendation. Fay was what is termed an anti-Mason, a designation earned by one who seeks notoriety, remuneration, and/or power by creating the illusion of Masonic malevolence, like conspiracy to commit crime.

Bernard Fay was an anti-Mason in France during the Occupation. He turned Freemasons over to the Nazis.

Not only is his opinion of the Masonic Book of Constitutions' authorship contradictory to everything that has been written on that subject, but his motives, as an anti-Mason, disqualify him from serious consideration, in my view.

Click on:
http://www.masonicinfo.com/fay.htm

Dr. James Anderson, DD, was contracted by the Grand Lodge of England in or about 1722 for the purpose of writing the Book of Constitutions. This was thought necessary because other, unofficial legal texts were being published (e.g. Roberts Constitutions of 1722). In 1723, Anderson's book was published, and Anderson's name thereafter would be linked to it. It established Masonic jurisprudence for the newly reorganized fraternity, and in fact was the text that appeared on each Worshipful Master's pedestal before the tradition of displaying the Bible instead was instituted later in that century.

Anderson's Constitutions would be reprinted in Philadelphia by Benjamin Franklin (before he was made a Mason), and was the standard legal text that informed other grand lodges in the British Isles and America alike.

To be sure, Anderson did not have "final edit" authority, and it is accepted that Desaguliers and the Duke of Montagu "helped" him, but primary authorship always has been attributed to Anderson, who in fact was called upon to revise his book, which was published in 1738.

Cordially,
Jay

Tom Van Dyke said...

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

Apparently it took a harsh front page post to get your attention, Mr. Kowalski, since it's been your custom to ignore all comments, questions and disagreements. Well, at least you stopped by to defend your thesis for a change, even if it's wrong.

Especially the part that depicts Masonry as some sort of non-Trinitarian "alternate" religion.

It's not a religion, and has had many trinitarians, like the orthodox Founders John Hancock and Roger Sherman.

Revolutionary Spirits said...

Regarding Tom Paine's association with the masons, Jack Fruchtman Jr. in his book "Thomas Paine: Apostle of Freedom" (Four Walls Eight Windows, London, New York: 1994) writes that Paine moved "toward Theopilanthropy and most likely Freemasonry" under the influence of Nicolas de Bonneville. [p. 377] Fruchtman is professor of political science at Maryland State University. He's also the author of "The Apocalyptic Politics of Richard Price and Joseph Priestly" and "Thomas Paine and the Religion of Nature." Contrary to Mr. Van Dyke's assertions, I'm not just making this stuff up. In general, those who launch ad hominem attacks do so because they lack more persuasive arguments. They resort to bluster if the facts aren't on their side.

When I was invited to join American Creation, I explained that I was blogging for a popular audience, not intending to footnote every statement. However, my book "Revolutionary Spirits: The Enlightened Faith of America's Founding Fathers" received critical reading and advance praise from both Jon Roberts, Professor of American History at Boston University, and Willard Randall of Champlain College, author of highly regarded biographies of Jefferson, Washington and Hamilton. I believe that my work is well-researched and will bear up to scholarly scrutiny.

Thanks for your comments.

Magpie Mason said...

Thomas Paine was not a Freemason.

This is one of those areas where those of us inside the fraternity and scholars outside looking in fail to communicate on the same wavelength. Personally, by way of explanation, I'll quickly point out that had Paine been a Mason, "we" would have taken credit for him all these years, as we have with other Founders.

Freemasonry has its records. There are minutes of lodge meetings, annual returns submitted to grand lodges, books of lodge histories, personal diaries, newspaper accounts, and all manner of ephemera. Paine's membership would appear somewhere if it existed.

While I'll be the first to admit that record-keeping in the Colonial era lacked the meticulous (tedious?) detail we take for granted today, and that furthermore precious records were lost or destroyed over the years, Thomas Paine would have been known and remembered as a brother if he'd been initiated in a regular lodge. Ditto Alexander Hamilton, Roger Sherman, Thomas Jefferson, and so many other Founders who some historians claim "probably" and "almost certainly" were Freemasons.

Nope. Men THAT notable would be documented in our records and histories. I promise. And what makes the case of Paine so unique is that he authored a book on the history of Freemasonry. Frankly, that may be the very reason why he was not admitted to the fraternity (assuming he had sought admission).

Cordially,
Jay

Magpie Mason said...

Now, as regards John Hancock, I want to cite this particular instance as a sterling example of why it is unwise to believe a causal relationship exists between a Founder's Masonic membership and his Revolutionary activities.

John Hancock was made a Mason at a lodge in Quebec in 1762. He presided over the Continental Congress and signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776. As we all know from our personal experiences, a lot can happen in 14 years.

The unglamorous truth about Hancock's Masonic membership is that he evidently left the fraternity in 1764.

With two years as a Mason sandwiched in the middle of his 56 years of life, it is senseless to look to Hancock as a Masonic revolutionary or as an example of a Trinitarian who found a home in the Masonic fraternity.

Cordially,
Jay

J said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J said...

There is no conclusive proof that Jefferson was a Freemason. Perhaps, but he did make a few slightly anti-masonic remarks, I believe.

Washington, however, did know the secret handshake, and wore the girdle, and indeed swore the oath of office on a masonic bible (as did George Bush II). Franklin was a FreeMason as well, at least when on the Continent. Let's not forget freemasons were sworn enemies of Rome--one reason they played a part in the French Rev.

Freemasonry should not be considered some benevolent force. At times masons may do good works, yet most of the time, the secret societies have been rightist, if not racist--the Klan was a spinoff from southern masons.

JQ Adams detested the freemasons.

Revolutionary Spirits said...

Thank you all for your polite and well-considered comments. I've never seen any reference to Jefferson being associated with freemasonry. On the other hand, 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 his 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. 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 Jay's 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 aim 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.

Tom Van Dyke said...

"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."

Emphasis mine.

They did not "reduce" faith to UU-type minimums anymore than, as one commenter put it, the Boy Scouts do. Their non-sectarianism was born of expediency, not theological principle, and therein lies the fundamental error of your thesis. Your thesis conflates an expedient theistic minimum with an actuality of prevailing belief, and Desaguliers' [even if your suppositions about him hold] beliefs as representative of that minimum as the prevailing belief.

Simply not so.

Such an expedient minimum applies to the Constitution as well. Since Virginia's Statute held to a theistic minimum---although its people weren't minimalists, they were simply of irreconcilable sects---the rest of the states could insist on no more than such a minimum, or else Virginia would have been unable to ratify the Constitution, as it would violate its own laws.

Further---as always---religion was left to the individual states; the First Amendment simply banned the central government from interfering with that prerogative.

Magpie Mason said...

"J" writes:

"Washington, however, did know the secret handshake, and wore the girdle, and indeed swore the oath of office on a masonic bible (as did George Bush II). Franklin was a FreeMason as well, at least when on the Continent. Let's not forget freemasons were sworn enemies of Rome--one reason they played a part in the French Rev.

Freemasonry should not be considered some benevolent force. At times masons may do good works, yet most of the time, the secret societies have been rightist, if not racist--the Klan was a spinoff from southern masons."



Sir, you watch too many sensational "documentaries" on cable television. Let's take your errors one at a time, without being distracted by your obnoxious tone:

1. Yes, George Washington was a Freemason, but there are no "girdles" in Masonic regalia. The garments are called aprons.

2. George W. Bush did not take either of his presidential oaths of office on a Masonic Bible. Click on:

http://www.stjohns1.org/portal/gwib

3. Benjamin Franklin joined a lodge in Paris, but as a younger man he was Grand Master of Pennsylvania.

4. Freemasonry is not and has not been a "sworn enemy of Rome," by which I assume you mean the Roman Catholic Church. Actually the opposite is true.

5. A Masonic role in the French Revolution is also romantic tripe. Individual Freemasons I'm sure were involved for whatever personal reasons, but the fraternity in France nearly evaporated during that period.

6. The KKK is not a Masonic spin-off.

7. And last, but not least: Freemasonry, as we know it in our open, free society, is not a secret society.

Freemasonry IS a secret society in countries that are dominated by political and/or religious tyrants who do not allow free thinking, free speech, free association, etc., but that is because secrecy protects Masons' lives and liberty.

Sir, that's a lot of misinformation in a single comment to one post on one blog. I'm not trying to convince you of anything because I can tell from your tone that you cannot be reached. I'm just correcting the record for other readers who otherwise might be misguided by your ignorance.

I won't take the conversation any further because you are not worth my time.

- Jay

J said...

You're mistaken, Sir.

1. JQ Adams did oppose masonry in all of its forms.

2. Masonry started as an anti-clerical force (ie opposed to catholicism).

3. Moreover, many chapters of the Klan did originate in southern masonic lodges. Google Albert Pike, super-mason (also an occultist), and involved in formation of the KKK. Andrew Jackson, mason.

4. The elder Bush did swear his oath on a masonic bible.

5. A Masonic role in the French Revolution is fact. Franklin and Voltaire were both masons. The French Encyclopedists (Diderot, etc) also were involved and had many masons in their ranks. Many of them were rabidly anti-catholic.

6. The oaths are secret, as are the various rituals, and traditionally, revealing those oaths (or any masonic activity) has been punishable by death.

7. Ergo, secret society and....secret Shriner Handshakes!