For America’s bicentennial in July, 1976, High Times published Glenn O’Brien’s feature about Masons and America. 44 years later, on the eve of this year’s Fourth of July, we’re republishing it below.
“there is no eye—there is only a series of mouths—long live the mouths—your rooftop—if you don’t already know—has been demolished…eye plasma & you are right about that too—you are lucky—you don’t have to think about such things as eyes & rooftops & Quasimodo.”
—Bob Dylan, liner notes, Highway 61 Revisited
On Sunset Boulevard, midway between Schwab’s Drugstore and Beverly Hills, there is a drive-in organic sidewalk café called The Source. The neon that makes this “The Strip” is invisible till the sun goes down, and nobody walks in L.A., so just about the only sign of life on Sunset, outside the hermetically sealed stream of cars tuned to various radio stations, is The Source. Tan blondes in halter tops lounge in the sun. Record-company types munch rabbit food. Tuesday, Dylan and other new-age celebrities favor the place because the juice is freshly squeezed and you can order a yoga milkshake.
The only drag is that you can’t smoke. If you do smoke, one of the hippie-haired waiters or waitresses will come over and tell you to put it out, very politely and with total eye contact. If contact is prolonged, you are bound to notice a certain aura, shall we say, of mission; an aura not hard to find in postacid California.
Out behind the restaurant, at the back of the parking lot, is The Source’s geodesic dome. Parked next to the dome is the Source Commune’s VW van. On the spare-tire cover mounted on the front end is a very brightly colored, but otherwise accurate, rendering of the reverse side of the Great Seal of the United States (the side with the eyeball pyramid depicted on each and every dollar bill). This design is also painted considerably larger on The Source’s sign, which pulls the cars in off the Strip. Above the incomplete pyramid floats an eye in a radiant Day-Glo triangle. Of course, the Source Commune added a few things to the standard buck design—like some planetary and elemental shorthand—but everything that’s on the bill is reproduced up there on the big sign, including the Latin inscriptions, Annuit Coeptis and Novus Ordo Seclorum.
If, when the hairy-eyeballed waiter comes over to ask you to put it out, you flash the pyramids on your Camels pack and ask him what the sign means, he may tell you to check your dollar bills. Or if you’re lucky, he may tell you about an amazing way to keep your razor blades sharp or about the secret initiation chamber of the Egyptian priesthood. If you put out your cigarette, you might even find out about the Life Force of the Universe. The Source’s help has answers to lots of questions. Sixties-anachronistic yet prospering, the place is a kind of vortex of apocalyptic huckstering. The food is healthy, the atmosphere is laid back; then again, Charles Manson ate here.
Best to put out your cigarette and ask for the check. The air of the Strip can make it a little close out there in traffic—the brown rice tastes like lead and your eyes start to sting. Besides, the trademark eye The Source shares with Uncle Sam, staring down and making contact, following you to the restroom, can start to give you enough food for thought to puke yogurt down the Strip from Dino’s to the La Brea tar pits.
If you have a buck handy, take it out. Just an ordinary one-dollar bill. Forget about the hidden penises on the portrait of George—on the flip side of the bill is engraved the Great Seal of the United States, its front and its back. The front is the familiar spread eagle as it appears on the president’s podium and shot glasses, arrows in one claw, olive branch in the other, a banner proclaiming E Pluribus Unum in its beak. The backside is a little odd, though—being an incomplete pyramid with an eye floating in a glowing triangle where the capstone should be. In the sky above the eye is the caption Annuit Coeptis, commonly translated as “He has favored our undertaking,” and in a banner below is the slogan Novus Ordo Seclorum, “A new order of the ages.”
A Great Seal of the United States was authorized by Congress in 1792, but no action was taken to design one, so it was authorized again in 1884. In 1892 funds were allocated in the hope that the seal would be completed in time for the Chicago World’s Fair. Both sides of the seal were finally executed, but at the last minute it was decided to hang the reverse side of the seal with its face to the wall because the pyramid crowned with the “all-seeing eye” was considered by those in charge of the fair to be “a dull Masonic emblem, prosaic, spiritless and most inappropriate.” So, in fact, the backside of the Great Seal, authorized in Congress in 1792, was first viewed by the public in 1935 when the Right Worshipful Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32°, put it on the back of the bill that became billions, putting a Masonic eyeball into everyone’s pocket.
Whatever the seal’s artistic merit, scholars agree that both sides are Masonic emblems of occult meaning. Such meanings can be derived by counting things, and the recurrence of such numbers as 13 and 72 will send them into orgies of numerological frenzy. But more portentous meanings are obvious in the choice of the symbols themselves—especially that weirdo staring pyramid.
Masonic commentators claim that this pyramid, which is legal tender for all debts, public and private, is none other than the Great Pyramid of Cheops at Giza—same one occultists now tell us will mummify ham sandwiches and turn Ripple into Château Lafitte. They say that the presence of this wonder of the world on the seal is emblematic of the continuity of the Craft of Freemasonry from the dawn of historical civilization, when this most perfect monument was constructed through the inspiration of the Great Architect of the Universe, right down to the present day when Master Mason Gerald Ford is the protector and guardian of the seal.
It is also, Masonic writers tell us, symbolic of the origin of the Egyptian civilization in Atlantis and of the concept of America as a New Atlantis, as foretold by Francis Bacon, Masonic superstar. It is the emblem of the unspoken intentions of our founding fathers to establish a nation that might reinstitute the lost mysteries of Atlantis and restore humanity to our happy origins in the Golden Age. The seal is the signature of the secrets of 1776.
Now, when you take a look at your local lodge boys, not to mention top initiates, from Jerry Ford to George Wallace, it’s hard to see the Masonic fraternity as a secret conspiracy to create “a new race of men.” But in The Reverse Side of the Seal of the U.S. and Its Symbolism, Celestia Root Lang explains: “The full significance of the Great Seal of the United States will never be fully understood until the secrets of the Great Pyramid are revealed.” Nor do we understand why our occultist president falls down stairs all the time.
Maybe if we squint at the Great Seal’s eyeball long enough, the secrets will start to come to us. Holy mackerel, Andy! Could dese be da true intentions of our foundin’ fathers? Were the Freemasons in possession of a secret game plan to reinstitute the magical state of Atlantis on American soil? Could this story be on the level?
The central mythology of Freemasonry is derived from the story of the building of the Temple of King Solomon. Solomon was aided in this work by the greatest architect in the world, Hiram Abiff, who designed the Temple according to the precepts of the Great Architect of the Universe. Hiram was the master of all the arts of building, including work in stone and metal.
Hiram is mentioned in the Biblical account of the building of the Temple at Jerusalem, but the ritual of Freemasonry goes beyond the Bible and creates a parallel myth, of which Hiram is the central figure. According to the Masons, the builders of the Temple were organized in the same manner as a modern lodge, with various degrees of initiation and their secret signs and grips. The sacred building was erected “without the sound of the hammer, or any tool of iron being heard,” according to the plans laid out by Hiram each day at noon.
According to Masonic scholar Manley P. Hall: “Hiram, as Master of the Builders, divided his workmen into three groups, which were termed Entered Apprentices, Fellow Craftsmen, and Master Masons. To each division he gave certain passwords, and signs by which their respective excellence could quickly be determined. While all were classified according to their merits, some were dissatisfied, for they desired a more exalted position than they were capable of filling. At last three Fellow Craftsmen, more daring than their companions, determined to force Hiram to reveal to them the password of the Master’s degree. Knowing that Hiram always went into the unfinished ‘holy of holies’ at high noon to pray, these ruffians—whose names were Jubela, Jubelo and Jubelum—lay in wait for him, one at each of the main gates of the Temple. Hiram, about to leave the Temple by the south gate, was suddenly confronted by Jubela armed with a 24-inch gauge. Upon Hiram’s refusal to reveal the password, the ruffian struck him on the throat with his rule, and the wounded master then hastened to the west gate, where Jubelo, armed with a square, awaited him and made a similar demand. Again Hiram was silent, and the second assassin struck him on the breast with the square. Hiram thereupon staggered to the east gate, only to be met there by Jubelum armed with a maul. When Hiram refused him the Master’s word, Jubelum struck the Master between the eyes with the mallet and Hiram fell dead.”
Following the apprehension and execution of the killers, the Entered Apprentices and Fellow Craftsmen tried but failed to resurrect their Master from the dead. Hiram was finally raised by a Master Mason with the “strong grip of a Lion’s paw.”
According to the actual ritual of initiation for the Master Mason, or Third Degree of Freemasonry, however, Hiram was not actually resurrected, but was merely raised from the ground for burial in the Holy of Holies of the Temple. This raising was accomplished by the Master’s grip and the pronunciation of the Master’s word. Yet the Grand Master’s word consisted of three syllables: one possessed by Hiram, one by Solomon and one by King Hiram of Tyre, who lent Hiram the builder to Solomon in the first place. Hence, only two parts of the secret word remain. A substitute word was used by King Solomon, and a substitute word is used today in the Master Mason’s initiation. That word is Mah-hah-bone, and it is said that King Solomon and King Hiram determined that that word should be used until future generations rediscovered the true word.
In the third-degree initiation, the highest degree received by most Masons, the initiate plays the part of Hiram and is symbolically murdered and raised by the use of the secret word and the Master’s grip. The subsequent degrees of Masonry represent the search for the true Master’s word—”that which has been lost.”
According to Malcolm C. Duncan’s Ritual of Freemasonry (circa 1875), “The missing word was found, after four hundred and seventy years, and was then, and still is, used in the Royal Arch Degree…Duncan says the word is “Jah-Buh-Lun…Je-Ho-Hah…G-O-D.”
The origin of the Hiram myth is uncertain. It has been suggested that its author was Elias Ashmole, Rosicrucian and first Speculative Mason of historical record, who intended to mythologize the death of the deposed King Charles I in 1649. It is also said to allude to the death of Jacques de Molay, the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, who was burned as a result of the Pope’s suppression of that Order on charges of neopaganism in 1315. But most scholars agree that the myth of Hiram is related to all death and resurrection myths, from Osiris, mythical Egyptian sun god, to Jesus Christ.
The Republican ideal fell, like most things, by suicide….At the start The Republic simply meant The Public Thing. At the finish, The Republic simply meant The Secret Society.
—G. K. Chesterton, Rome
I have just about every degree they give out and I’ll be damned if I know any secret.
—Harry Truman, 33°, Past Grand Master Missouri Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons
Everybody today knows a Mason, because there are more than 4 million of them in the United States, or about one out of every 12 adult males. Nobody knows anything about the Masons because, for one thing, they are a secret society. For another, to the average non-Mason (and even to the average Mason) the secrets of the order seem to be little more enviable knowledge than the secret high sign of the local beer-swilling college fraternity or the secret animal noises of the Elks or the Moose.
The Masons are Laurel and Hardy heading for the Shriners’ Conventions to escape their wives and booze it up…Fred Flintstone greeting Barney Rubble with the secret word of the Water Buffalo, “Ak-ak-a-dak.”
The American Lodge is the institutionalization of the Boys’ Night Out—with a little mystical or pseudoreligious mumbo jumbo thrown in, apparently to veil heavy partying with a veneer of socially redeeming, morally edifying dogma and ritual. All right, Brothers, to the tune of “Comin’ Through the Rye”:
“If a Shriner meet a Shriner
When that Shriner’s dry;
If a Shriner treat a Shriner
To some rock and rye,
And the fellow should get mellow
Then to fill him try;
For if you meet a thirsty Shriner,
Never pass him by”
“If a Shriner should be snoozing
On some cellar door,
And the zem zem should be oozing
Out of every pore.
Do not leave him to the mercy
Of some cop so fly,
But help the fellow find his keyhole,
Never pass him by.”
—from “Never Pass Him By,” by Nelson Williams
In the twentieth century, America went lodge crazy. Besides the Masonic millions and their affiliated lodges—the Shriners, Knights Templar de Molay (for boys), Eastern Star (for women) and Rainbow Girls—there were the imitators: Elks, Moose, Eagles, Knights of Pythias, Woodsmen of the World, Oddfellows and the Catholic Knights of Columbus.
Despite their claims of accepting members of all faiths, the Masons remain rather rigidly Protestant, if not WASP in membership. And notwithstanding hundreds of humble lodges with modest middle-class membership, Freemasonry is still a secret society close to the core of American aristocracy. Among its members can be found captains of industry, bankers, professional men, the cream of the military and, most visible of all, nearly a majority of America’s politicians, statesmen, judges and government officials: thousands of congressmen, at least 16 vice-presidents and 20 presidents of the United States, from the very first to the very latest.
But lodges today aren’t what they used to be. Young men don’t need that “night out” the way they used to. The Masons’ days may be numbered. Still, there’s the other side of things—the seal on the dollar, the hints of conspiracy that accumulate about anything labeled secret. So what’s behind this boys’ night out that makes it a secret society with mystical pretensions, whose secrets 4 million members, from America’s more advantaged neighborhoods, are sworn to protect at the risk of having their tongues cut out by the roots and their bodies buried in the rough sands of the sea at low water mark, where the tide ebbs and flows twice in 24 hours?
We know that the Masons build hospitals and the Shriners take care of children and put on circuses and ride minicars in parades. But then again, in their actual ritual one finds references arcane and occult enough to rival Helter Skelter. Weird questions occur to the uninitiated. What possible secrets could George McGovern, 33°, share with George Wallace, 33°? Who is the occult Gerald Ford?
Heavy Masonic theorists will tell you that the first lodge was established at Creation, and You Know Who was the first Grand Master. For practical purposes, however, things are more complicated.
Lodges of “operative masons,” that is, active stone masons and practitioners of the building trade, grew out of the medieval guild movement, so their organizations were steeped in the symbolic tradition of religious architecture. They possessed trade secrets; signs and grips were a part of their union organization.
It is claimed that the “operative” masons possessed scientific, philosophic and religious secrets passed down to them from the cathedral builders of the Renaissance—other theories suggest their secrets were derived during the Crusades from the Islamic Order of Builders.
During the early seventeenth century, numerous manifestos appeared announcing the secret doctrines of Rosicrucianism, (no relation to the San Jose, California, group that advertises Secrets of the Universe in the National Enquirer) or the Fraternity of the Rosy Cross, and relating the story of the order’s founder, the mythical Christian Rosencrutz, alchemical adept. The actual history of this movement is shrouded in legend, but it would seem that “speculative” masonry began when “operative” lodges admitted Rosicrucian philosophers such as Elias Ashmole, Sir Christopher Wren and possibly Sir Francis Bacon to their company in the early seventeenth century, culminating in the foundation of the first “speculative” lodge of modern Freemasonry in England in 1717.
Another principal ancestor of Freemasonry is the Order of Knights Templar, which has given its name to one of the branches of modern Masonry. The Knights Templar was founded by French knights in 1118 on a charter from the Pope, for the purposes of defending Jerusalem from the infidels and protecting poor Christian pilgrims on their journey to the Holy Land.
Although the Templars vowed poverty, chastity and obedience, their range and strength soon made them the first Brink’s drivers/money traders/bankers in Europe, and they accumulated enormous wealth. It has been said that the Templars’ chastity was a victim of both their sympathetic contact with sophisticated Moslems and their papal guarantee of freedom from excommunication. Their obedience was called into question in 1238 when Pope Gregory IX first accused the order of heresy.
In 1291 the Biblical city of Acre fell to the Moslems, and most of the Templars were killed. The survivors retired to their estates, but the order still possessed enormous wealth. In 1307, Phillip IV of France, who had already gone so far as to arrest a Pope (Boniface VIII), began to persecute wealthy Jews and the Templars in order to replenish his treasury. Phillip was able to successfully try the Templars on charges principally of heresy, but including such interesting particulars as buggery and the use of “the anal kiss” in initiation, spitting on the crucifix in initiation and worship of a panlike idol named Baphomet.
Whether or not the charges were true (there seems to be considerable evidence to suggest that they were), the punishment suffered by the Templars was horrible. All their property was confiscated, and most of the Knights were tortured into confession and then put to the stake.
The death of the order was complete in 1315 with the burning of its Grand Master, Jacques de Molay. According to legend, de Molay’s last words were a curse on the French king and on the Pope, both of whom died within a month of de Molay, one killed by a boar, the other screaming, “I’m burning up!”
It is a common belief that the Order of the Templars—which was headquartered next to the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, and which surely attempted to incorporate the “old religion,” or paganism, into Christianity—did not die in 1315, but went underground, eventually to emerge as the Freemasons.
Finally, there is the theory of Tom Paine, of Common Sense fame, who wrote an essay called Origin of Freemasonry in 1805. He explained Masonry as a survival of the religion of the Druids and went on to prove this thesis by pointing out the sunworshiping aspects of Freemasonic ritual. But of course, Druidism isn’t the only sun cult in town.
Whatever its actual origin, modern Freemasonry has certainly been influenced by all these sources. Masonry asserts that it is not a religion and, in theory, members of all religions are permitted to join. All that is required is that a brother express a belief in God. Masonry is not a religion, they say. What they mean is that Masonry is religion.
In fact, Masonry considers itself to be the secret doctrine behind all religions—the great movement to restore humanity to our original paradise, to our condition before the Fall, to erect order from chaos.
Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis, published incomplete after his death in 1627, outlined a mystical utopian state based on a ruling group of philosophers and scientists, similar to that postulated in the Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross and later Freemasonry: a secret society, devoted to the betterment of humanity. In the same work, Bacon suggests that the American continent was, in fact, the location of the Old Atlantis, which was wiped out by the Deluge. According to Bacon, this catastrophe accounted for the small Indian population found on the vast continent by European explorers.
From 1717, speculative Masonry incorporated much of the philosophy that culminated in the Enlightenment. Deism, which rejected a personal, miracle-working, meddling God who was supernaturally revealed, seemed to be the essential message of the Masons’ characterization of the Great Architect of the Universe. As such, God could be known by His designs, and therefore, through scientific examination of nature, God never suspended the laws of nature. So at first Freemasonry was an organization of freethinkers determined to create a new order through the use of enlightened reason—and the enemy of the personal God and His vicar in Rome. Eighteenth-century Masons were political liberals or radicals, and their political ideas are evident not only in the American Revolution, but throughout the works of the Enlightenment and Brothers Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot, etc.
The American Colonies, being to the eighteenth century what California is to the twentieth, were a natural for the leftish occultism of Freemasonry. The first American Grand Lodge was founded in Massachusetts in 1733, and there is evidence that an earlier lodge was founded in Philadelphia. By 1765 there were 13 Grand Lodges, one for each colony, and thousands of active brothers, including many of the wealthiest and most powerful men in America. The secret tradition, purpose and ritual these lodges shared became a central organizing factor in the Colonies because it was the only thing held in common by large numbers of colonials.
Union of the American Colonies was first proposed by Daniel Coxe, first Provincial Grand Master, as a means of common defense against the Indians. This idea was revived by Brother Benjamin Franklin at the Albany Conference in 1750 when the French and Indian War seemed imminent. It was none other than the St. Andrews Lodge, better known as The Green Dragon, after the tavern in which it met, that pulled off the Boston Tea Party in Indian drag. Brother James Otis, of the same lodge, had called for the first general congress of the Colonies in 1761 in order to resist the Stamp Act, and Green Dragons burned the British man-o’-war Gaspée. Master Mason Joseph Warren of the Green Dragon Lodge drafted the Suffolk Resolves, urging the Continental Congress to employ forcible resistance to Great Britain, and dispatched Master Mason Paul Revere (of both St. Andrews and Rising States Lodges) on his midnight ride. At Bunker Hill, it was Master Mason John Sullivan who said, “If they mean to have war, let it begin here.”
George Washington was an initiate of the best and worst type. Initiated into the Craft on November 4, 1752, Brother Washington was “healed” as an “Ancient Mason” in the Lodge of Social and Military Virtue No. 227 on the Register of the Grand Lodge of Ireland during his visit to Philadelphia in the winter of 1756. The Right Worshipful Benjamin Franklin was then Grand Master of the Pennsylvania Grand Lodge (he was also a Brother of the Rosy Cross), and he may have personally presided over the Masonic “healing” of Washington. A year later Washington was in France, where he is said to have received a higher initiation from Voltaire. It is also said that he received an initiation from Lafayette.
Washington’s devotion to the Craft is well known. The Continental Army he commanded was dominated by Masons, and according to Lafayette, Washington “never willingly gave independent command to officers who were not Freemasons.” This is borne out by documented proof that nearly all the instigators and war heroes of the Revolution were Masons—such men as Ethan Allan, David Wooster, Henry Knox, Alexander Hamilton, John Paul Jones, Aaron Burr, Thomas Paine, Benedict Arnold, Baron Steuben, Lafayette, Anthony Wayne and John Hancock. Frederick the Great, a Mason, refused Hessian mercenaries passage across his territories en route to America.
And there were incidents of lives spared when brothers recognized each other by secret signs at sword or musket point. Colonel John McKensty was captured by a troop of Mohawk Indians, fighting with the British under one Joseph Brant, a full-blooded Mohawk Six Nations War Chief who had been initiated into Masonry by his American comrades-in-arms during the French and Indian War. McKensty was tied to a tree and about to be bayonetted when he recognized Brother Brant and gave a Masonic sign. He was unbound and allowed to escape. What sign McKensty gave, if he was well bound, is the subject of speculation (the Master Mason’s Distress Sign is precisely the same as the National Football League’s for a touchdown or a field goal), but this story is an excellent illustration of why Washington believed in the military lodges.
The American Revolution is not the only evidence of Masonic conspiracy for revolution. The French Revolution, up to and including Napoleon, was Masonically inspired, as was the Italian Revolution of Giuseppe Garibaldi, 33°. As early as 1738, Masonry was condemned by the papacy as contemptuous of orthodoxy and dangerous to the state. The Bavarian Illuminati, a highly political Masonic sect founded on May 1,1776, openly preached “peace with the cottage, war with the palace” and were promptly dealt with by the authorities.
Besides our Great Seal, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are both profoundly Masonic documents, although the precise role played by Masonry in the organization of the United States government is vague. Masons Washington, Randolph, Hamilton, Rufus King, James Wilson, Franklin and Jefferson all influenced the Constitution. And the Constitution does express Masonic principles, particularly “meeting on the level,” a ritual expression that all men are created equal. There would seem to be no doubt that members of the Masonic Fraternity were the Architects of our Constitution and that they saw their building of this Republic as the construction of a temple to receive the Golden Age. On September 18,1793, the Most Worshipful George Washington laid the cornerstone of the Capitol Building of the United States in a full Masonic ceremony.
And Washington begat Madison, and Madison begat Monroe, and Monroe begat Stonewall Jackson, and Stonewall begat Tyler, and Tyler begat Polk (a Royal Arch Mason), and Polk begat Taylor, and Taylor begat Fillmore (who dropped out during the Anti-Masonic furor), and Fillmore begat Buchanan, and Buchanan begat Johnson (a Scottish Rite Mason), and Johnson begat U. S. Grant, and U. S. begat Garfield (Royal Arch, Knight Templar), and Garfield begat McKinley, and McKinley begat Teddy Roosevelt, and Old Bullmoose begat Taft, and Taft begat Warren Gamaliel Harding (33°, First Shriner President, Kallipolis Grotto Mystic Order Veiled Prophets of the Enchanted Realm), and Harding begat Coolidge, and Coolidge begat Franklin D. Roosevelt, and FDR begat Harry S Truman (33°, Past Grand Master of Missouri), and Truman begat Dwight David Eisenhower, 33°, and Ike begat Gerald Ford, 33°. All with a few gaps, you understand.
And so we find that our country was founded  years ago by a secret, paramystical, paramilitary society, whose goal is nothing less than establishing a new race in a new Atlantis, and the reinstitution of the Golden Age and the reawakening of the third eye. Yet it would seem that even the most farfetched theories of conspiracy would be precluded by such a broad sweep of the political spectrum within Masonry. It would seem that modern Masonry must be free of the sort of political intrigue that was as much a part of the early American Masonic secrets as were its philosophical and religious doctrines. In fact, it would seem that the only ideology shared by modern Masons is belief in the rule of law and avowed belief in the American Constitution.
Might our president, the Most Worshipful Gerald Ford, 33°, be in possession of some secret information that makes the architecture of suburbia fit into the plan of the Great Architect of the Universe? Or could it be that the noble, revolutionary order of Freemasons has lost a few things besides the secret word that would raise Hiram Abiff? You can’t stonewall the Great Architect of the Universe, after all, can you? What conspiracy could be alive in Masonry today?
The Anti-Masonic Party, the first third party in American history, gained its impetus from the crest of outrage that followed the murder of one Captain Morgan in 1826 and the subsequent cover-up of the crime.
Morgan, a disenchanted Mason who planned to publish the secrets of the Craft, was arrested in September 1826. After he was tortured according to the Master Mason’s oaths he had sworn, Captain Morgan came to rest on the bottom of the Niagara River wearing the early American equivalent of cement galoshes.
In 1832, former president and scourge of the Masons John Quincy Adams wrote: “The Master Mason’s penalty is to have his body severed in two in the midst and divided to the North and South, his bowels burnt to ashes in the center and the ashes scattered before the four winds of heaven, that there might not the least trace of remembrance remain among men or Masons of so vile and perjured a wretch as I should be!” Certainly a cruel and unusual punishment, and an oath that Adams felt was incompatible with the Bill of Rights, and especially abhorrent when sworn to by military or government officials, especially the president, sworn to faithfully execute the Constitution.
The Morgan case dragged on from 1827 to 1830 and alerted the public to the fact that most government officials in the state of New York were members of the same secret society as Andrew Jackson, elected president in 1829. Adams, Jackson’s predecessor, was elected to the House of Representatives on the Anti-Masonic Platform in 1830. In 1830 the Anti-Masonic Party met in Baltimore, with 116 delegates representing 13 states, for the purpose of nominating candidates for president and vice-president. The Anti-Masonic ticket garnered only seven electoral votes, but a considerable number of congressional seats were won by Anti-Masons, including J. Q. Adams.
Popular feeling against secret societies ran high for a number of years, and in the election of 1836, William Henry Harrison, running as an Anti-Masonic Whig, won 73 electoral votes, coming in second in a field of four candidates. However, the Anti-Masons realized that their appeal was rather narrow and so integrated themselves into the Whig party. The party is best remembered for adopting the three-quarters majority rule and for being the first party to adopt a platform.
The Morgan case proved the possibility of the Masonic cover-ups of crimes against the law and people of the United States. The “secrets” Captain Morgan planned to publish corroborate what Harry Truman said 120 years later: the great secrets of the Masons are nothing more than rituals, ciphers, signs and grips with no value other than the preservation of secrecy. As Adams said. “Judge this system a priori, without references to any of the consequences which it has produced, and say if human ingenuity could invent an engine better suited to conspiracy of any kind.”
A perfect engine of conspiracy?
In 1831, of a U.S. population of 13 million men, women, children and slaves, there were by Adams’s estimate 200,000 Masons, free, white and 21, all working and voting. They possessed a staggering proportion of the money, power and leadership of the country, with a common secret code and means of identification, dedicated to helping one another and, no doubt they felt, humanity. In effect. 200,000 secret agents, enough to wield controlling interest in the national corporate entity or temple. And so it grew.
By 1934 when Right Worshipful Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32°, took office, there was a body of Masons 3 million strong, and despite hard times, most of them were still working and paying dues. The treasury helped needy brothers out and Masonic agencies helped unemployed Masons to find fraternal employers. Everybody was a brother, from New Dealer FDR to America-Firster Charles Lindbergh, from J. Edgar Hoover to Will Rogers, Irving Berlin and the Seven Ringling Brothers.
But how could over 3 million Masons keep a secret? Albert Pike, recognized by modern Masonry as its greatest scholar, wrote: “How can any intelligent Mason fail to see that the Blue Degrees (the highest held by the millions of Masons) are but preparatory, intended to enlist and bind together the rank and file of the Masonic army for purposes undisclosed to them?”
Far, far from the agency of democracy one might associate with the plotting of revolutions in America, France and Italy, Freemasonry’s elite degrees have always been restricted to men of position, power and wealth, despite its philosophy of meeting on the level. Certain eighteenth- and nineteenth-century English grand lodges admitted only knights and peers of the realm to the higher degrees, and all English and American lodges were dominated by men of success in the worldly realms.
Freemasonry’s symbols come from the building trade, out of the traditions of the master architects of the sacred Wonders of the World. At the lowest level of modern American Craft, however, there is little more than craftiness—a Mason rises by being adept in the social graces. To rise to high degrees it is necessary to pay dues. And paying dues in Masonry is not as metaphoric as it is in rock ‘n’ roll. It means paying large sums of money. A man actively engaged in the trade of stone masonry today might have trouble meeting the payments on 32 degrees.
Twentieth-century Masons rise by degrees in a group that increases by degrees into the wisdom of politics and business, rather than metaphysics. The blackball comes down today according to color, creed, social status and city hall considerations. Black Masons were forced to go to England for a charter in 1775 and are still unrecognized by their white brothers. And women are admitted only to auxiliary orders.
Revolution is no longer a part of the Craft; law-abiding is. Today’s Masons may smoke dope only in Alaska.
Modern Masonry is a restricted men’s club with a room full of antiques inexplicable to their custodians. It is a system of 33 degrees, a vast pyramid of loyal souls, bodies and dollars tapering off to an incomplete apex of three Grand Masters, privileged, we are told, with the highest secrets known to humanity, but incomplete, or at least with its apex visible only to the eye of the spirit, an invisible architect-king.
In Morals and Dogma, a series of 32 initiatory lectures published in 1871, Albert Pike enumerated the summum hocum of the Masonic infrastructure. In the First Degree he explained the Twelve-Inch Rule and the Common Gavel, symbolic of the blind Force of the People, the Rule of Right, the Hammer, the Rule, the Mace of Force, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. By the Thirty-second Degree, Sublime Prince of the Royal Secret, we learn that Occult Science is concealed under the shadows of the Ancient Mysteries. In fact, for any of you making it to the last lecture, Mr. Pike has the news that Masonry is, after all is said and done, Magic—Abracadabra, poof: you’re gone.
Anybody who wants to rise in the organization, who might stand a chance of learning something somewhat secret, confidential or at least titillating, has to be subjected to a real “third degree” treatment. There is a considerable ritual, involving acting out a part, taking oaths, giving signs, reciting catechism and, last but not least, being tricked.
You don’t know what’s going to happen to you. Everybody else does. And you find out.
In the First Degree you are hoodwinked, bare breasted, one shoe on and one shoe off, with a noose around your neck. You blunder up against the point of a sword and swear your life away, on your word, against revealing you know not what.
In the Second Degree you learn that the big G doesn’t stand for goodness, but maybe Geometry.
In the Third Degree you are Hiram, smacked on the head with a mallet, knocked dead for not telling, and then raised up for a decent burial. But that’s just the beginning; the tricks get worse.
If Professor Pike was right and Masonry is magic, where did that magic go? Why has Freemasonry become conventions of aging drinkers in fezzes? What secrets could those turkeys have? Certainly no magic, huh?
When Harry Truman said he knew no secrets, he really said that the only secret is secrecy, see? Why, Harry knew well, being of the Thirty-third Degree, that the most secret word of Freemasonry is admitted by the Craft’s own doctrine to be a substitute for the original word, which was with God and was God and now is lost. No, the 33° Grand Master Mason from Missouri told us he didn’t know any secrets because he knew that he didn’t know what the priests of Egypt were doing inside the Great Pyramid. This is not to say that Harry Truman didn’t know substitute secrets, borrowed from the fields of politics, science, warfare or gossip to which he was privy, which served just as effectively on modern people as the secret high magic of the priests had on the land of Egypt. All part of the fine art of running the show of which “the world is a stage,” according to Shakespeare (an alias of Sir Francis Bacon, according to Masonic scuttlebutt).
Imagine Harry S. Truman, sitting at midnight on the Truman porch (an addition to the White House reviled by architects everywhere). Harry is wearing nothing but a blue bathrobe given to him by FDR and under it the Templar “death’s head” sheepskin apron given him by his Grand Lodge. Harry can’t sleep, so he’s looking out over the White House lawn toward the huge Egyptian obelisk that is the Washington Monument. On an oak table beside him rests a box of fine Havana cigars, a bottle of whiskey, a compass, a square, the trowel with which President Coolidge mortared the cornerstone of the George Washington Masonic Memorial in Arlington, Virginia—the very same trowel that Washington used when he laid the cornerstone of the Capitol—and a shot glass handed down to him by one of his fellow Grand Masters; handed down to him, or so they said, from a hand so legendary that no one would believe him, the president of the United States, if he revealed it.
It is a chilly night for July 1945, so Harry is wearing a fez to keep warm. He gave up on sleeping; his mind is troubled by a terrible dilemma. To nuke or not to nuke, that is the question. Then something comes to him. He realizes that what he’s been agonizing about all night has not been the moral question, the possible losses and the moral calculus of lives—no, not balancing it out at all, but just trying to figure out how the goddamned thing works. Teller must have explained it over a million times, but it still sounds like Greek.
And when he realizes that the moral question has evaded him completely, this funny feeling comes to him. This thing comes to him from some fuzzy place in his memory, something someone had said to him once at a Missouri lodge. A brother was giving a very dull lecture on alchemy and the Masonic tradition, explaining the concept that the transmutation of metals was really just a kind of fable or metaphor for the transmutation of the human soul or consciousness from base to fine material, when a Most Worshipful fellow sitting next to Harry, to whom this was also Greek, leaned over and poked him in the ribs with his elbow saying: “Hey, Harry, if this guy’s right I’m sure as hell gonna get the lead out of my pants all the way to the bank.”
Harry, usually a model of Masonic decorum, split a gut, causing the lecturer to look his way and breaking up the lodge. “Hell’s bells,” mused Harry, “wasn’t the transmutation of metals what Teller’s been saying this goddamned A-bomb is all about, anyway? Must be a goddamned gift of God, this here thing, and we might as well use it ‘fore somebody else does. It might work.”
But can we really ascribe such mystery to a plain speaker like Harry Truman? Couldn’t the man who nuked the Japs be a simple but bright man of the people, or was he a man privy to the dark mysteries and secrets of the magnitude of those spoken of in the Apocalypse of St. John, much admired by Masonic scholars of ages past?
What if Adams was right, and the struggle of modern Freemasonry is the ultimate engine of conspiracy? What is there to conspire about [today] that might bring the far left and the far right into the same secret temple? What conscious or unconscious conspiracy might George McGovern and George Wallace both agree upon?
The Secret is lost. Forget it. The substitute is almost as good. Substitute anything that’s a secret. Substitute who killed Kennedy, who’ll win the exacta at Aqueduct, what the Politburo likes in bed. Secrets are power levels. Substitute the files, any files. Substitute the CIA: secret, more secret, top secret, really top secret, eyes only.
Substitute all the secret files of the Warren Commission that were held by the Former Grand Master of the State of California. Substitute the still-classified files of memos and memorabilia that passed between J. Edgar Hoover, 33° guru of Masonry for Boys, and his lodge brother and FBI co-supremo, Clyde Tolson. Substitute tapes of the Dulles brothers’ phone calls.
Substitution is how Masonry got along without Hiram the Master Architect (who, says Rudolf Steiner, was a man Sheba would’ve traded Solomon for).
So what are the top secrets the Top Royal Viziers of the Enchanted Veils and Crannies think they possess? According to one Catholic critic and former Mason, the tippy-top secret of the Craft is that the Body of Jesus Christ was stolen from the sepulcher by Master Mason Joseph of Arimethea, who took it home and watched it return to the elements from which it came, dust to dust. Jesus smelled! And this might explain some of the papal antipathy and fit right in with deist notions. No Resurrection—God never suspended the laws of nature!
Do boss initiates like George the Wheelchair or Gerald of the Oval Office believe in resurrection? Reincarnation?
Jesus Christ rotting as 33° secret, the rub-out of Hiram by jealous louts, Jacques de Molay at the stake and Jack Kennedy (no Mason, he, and our only papist president at that) killed by killers still, perhaps, unknown… there’s a certain amount of violent repetition here that might tend to bear out the identification of the Freemasonic secrets with the Magic of Osiris, the Egyptian cult of the dying god and a guide to happy trails to you in the afterlife.
How does this usage of Freemasonry relate to the highest secrets of the operative Masons of the twentieth century, the men who hold the power of thermonuclear nirvana? That would spread the Resurrection around, all right, everybody meeting on the level in the hereafter. But would not such an act violate the Prime Directive of an Osirian Star Fleet Command whose 5,000-year mission was captained by the Great Architect of the Universe? This dilemma suggests the frightening possibility that the Masonic Mysteries have been captured by forces described by novelist Ishmael Reed, in his National Book Award-winning Mumbo-Jumbo, as Atonists, and by William Burroughs as the Nova Mob—forces of cataclysm that see the human form as expendable. This would be a secret worthy of a perfect Master.
According to Jeane Dixon, UFOs piloted by psychics from the stars will soon contact human beings to reveal many secrets of the universe and save us from nuclear Armageddon. Of course, Ms. Dixon’s record isn’t 100 percent; the scenario might not be fully worked out.
What would happen if one of those mothers landed on the White House lawn and out stepped this six-foot-seven, tanned, pointy-eared dude in a gold-foil jumpsuit? Ford has been briefed, and he’s read all of Hoover and Clyde Tolson’s 33° secret files, read over Earl Warren’s letter; so out he comes across the lawn, wearing a death’s-head apron and toting the Spear of Longinus, the Grail and a whole briefcase filled with old trowels, gavels, bones and other regalia. He kneels to the spaceman like a knight, realizing that Von Daniken was right. On the advice of Kissinger, he says nothing, but holds the spear and cup out as an offering. After a minute of silence, he begins to sweat blood. Finally he looks up into the glowing gold eyes of the spaceman, utters the most secret syllable known to him and reaches out his hand.
The spaceman slaps his knee and starts to chortle, “Hahahaha… Ah, ha’int yo mah boy, and hands off my bone!” He flips a switch on his breast place, and the sound of Aretha Franklin singing her hit “Angel” fills the air of the White House lawn as Osiris bops back to his fiery short and levitates.