Shawn M. Gorley

Freemasonry and the Holocaust

                                                                                              Inverted Red Triangle Worn By Imprisoned Freemasons

                                                                                              Inverted Red Triangle Worn By Imprisoned Freemasons

By: Bro. Shawn M. Gorley

            We've all learned in history classes about World War II and how people of the Jewish faith were rounded up, imprisoned, and brutally tortured and killed by the Nazis, but what most people don't know is that the Freemasons were among those rounded up and systematically murdered by the Nazi war machine.

 During the Holocaust between ten and eleven million people were murdered by the Nazi’s, Jews accounted for approximately 5.7 million and the rest were non-Jews.  Among the non-Jews were certain types of people such as Gypsies, Soviets, Polish Citizens, Jehovah’s witnesses and other political and religious opponents which included Freemasons.  Nazi ideology believed that the “high degree” Masons were willing members of the Jewish conspiracy, and many of the Nazi’s believed Freemasonry was one of the causes of Germany losing the first World War.”[1]

          Hitler strongly believed that the Jews and Freemasons in tandem controlled the press, which is evident from his book Mein Kampf,

 The general pacifistic paralysis of the national instinct of self-preservation begun by Freemasonry is then transmitted to the masses of society by the Jewish Press”[2]

          To understand the hatred aimed at Freemasonry from the Nazi party, we have to begin by going back in time to World War One, at the time where the political and social consequences of Germany's humiliating defeat were beginning to take a toll on the German political landscape. “The responsibility for the war, the defeat, and the peace terms were blamed on the opponents of the war and on those politicians who favored the democratic process”,[3]and as we all are aware, a Masonic Lodge definitely operates on a democratic process.  Despite this, the Lodges in Germany grew quite well until the Nazi party began seizing control of power in 1925, at which point there were more than eighty two thousand Masons and six hundred thirty two Lodges in Germany.[4] 

         German Lodges at this time were considered, “places of coalition for like-minded people, beyond political disagreement and economic misery”[5]  and they did attract new members after 1925, yet they never had the social standing or clout that American or British Lodges had due to the growing atmosphere of anti-Semitic and anti-Masonic attitudes in Germany post 1925.  Also, at that time Freemasonry in Germany was divided, because there were the Old Prussian Grand Lodges and the Humanitarian Grand Lodges.  The Old Prussian Grand Lodges had deliberately excluded Jews from membership and the majority of their members were also part of the German Nationalist milieu. There was also a movement among the Old Prussian Lodges to drop the Jewish story-line for the degrees to make them more Aryan in nature. The Humanitarian Grand Lodges members were mostly members of political parties that were in the middle left of the political spectrum.  Three of the eight Grand Lodges were Old Prussian and five were Humanitarian and the Old Prussian Grand Lodges were the oldest in Germany because they had secured Royal Patronage from their beginning. 

Most members of the Old Prussian Lodges and even some members of the few dogmatic Humanitarian Lodges did not find the central elements of the Nazi Party’s ideology to be contradictory to their Masonic beliefs.  Instead, they found the ideology to be rather complimentary to their own understanding of Freemasonry.  Before the Nazis came to power, the president of the German Freemason Association, Diedrich Bischoff, even suggested an inspiration of the “Third Reich” based on or through Masonic idealism.”[6]

          At this time a man named Erich Ludendorff, the former chief of the German Army’s General Staff during World War One, became an outspoken critic of the fraternity, and openly attacked it, including his 1927 publication, “Exterminating Freemasonry by Uncovering its Secrets”.  In this work he completely distorted and falsified the rituals of Freemasonry under the Grand National Lodge of Freemasons of Germany, and in it he claimed that Freemasons had training to become artificial Jews. “This defamatory piece of writing made all of the nine regular Grand Lodges in Germany agree with each other.  On September 15, 1927, the Grand Masters published a declaration that rejected Ludendorff”s depiction of Freemasonry and described it as an “incitement to the German Nation” and “Misleading to the masses.”  This was the only time when all of the German Grand Lodges would unite to counter an accusation of their nationalist enemies.”[7] This would have been a most difficult time to be a Freemason, because we are told to obey the laws of our country; however, when a country like Germany was undergoing a radically negative transformation in the two decades leading up to World War Two, this would have been an extremely difficult thing to do for any true and honest member of the craft.

          On January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler, the leader of the Nazi party, was appointed German Chancellor.  At this point, the Grand Lodges of Germany were still very much estranged from each other, but they were well aware that they were facing an uncertain and dangerous future, because the Nazi’s had always been very hostile towards any kind of Freemasonry.  In Hitler’s book, Mein Kampf, he claimed that “the Jew” used Freemasonry as an “excellent instrument” as the Fraternity was “completely under the Jews spell.”[8]  By April 7, 1933, Herman Goring who was then the Nazi Minister of the Interior had met with the Grand Master of the National Lodge of Freemasons of Germany and a law was passed that would reorganize the Grand Lodge as follows:

1)    The Order will return to its original shape. From today on, the term National Lodge of Freemasons of Germany, which was taken on in the 18th century will no longer be valid. The order will henceforth have the name that corresponds with its nature: German Christian Order of the Grail of the Knights Templar.

2)    With this decision, the order has ceased to be a Masonic corporation.”[9]

          With the Creation of these new “German Christian Orders” the rituals of German Freemasonry had changed with it.  This was something that the more nationally oriented Old Prussian, and a few of the Humanitarian Lodges, had wanted in the first place. With this edict in place, the Old Prussian Lodges replaced some of the Old Testament legends with Germanic legends and the mythology of the Holy Grail, the saga of the Germanic God Baldur took place of Hiram Abiff, and the Pillars were now named Light and Folk and were no longer Jachin and Boaz.  The checkered floor no longer showed Solomon’s Temple but was now a representation of Germany’s Strasburg’s Cathedral. 

         It appears that the German Freemasons where desperately trying to hang on to Freemasonry as best they could, while at the same time trying to appease the laws of their country.  However, even with concessions and changes, the noose continued to be tightened around the neck of Freemasonry, because on September 6, 1933 the regulations enacted the previous April were not only being harshly enforced, but a new ordinance was enacted:

Brothers who are not of Aryan descent are to be honorably discharged from the order immediately, persons with Aryan descent are in this ordinance defined as persons whose parents and grandparents were Aryans, and for Brothers who are Jewish, point one will be enforced.”[10] 

                              SD Personnel

                              SD Personnel

These same guidelines would be used for new members as well.  One could say that at this time Freemasonry as it was intended to be was all but dead in Germany. Because of these new regulations, German Freemasons couldn’t see how they could possibly continue under the Nazi regime, and the German division of the Universal Masonic League as well as the Freemasons Union of the Rising Sun dissolved. Scottish Rite Masonry was over with as well, although they did not formally dissolve, they simply longer existed. Palestine.

 In June 1933, at a secret meeting in Frankfurt am Main, Grand Master Leo Muffelmann and some of his close companions decided to move the Symbolic Lodge to Palestine.  The Symbolic Grand Lodge of Germany in Exile was constituted on November 17, 1933, when British authorities gave the needed permission.”[11] 

           In the early part of 1934 the chief of the Nazi Party court system ruled that Masons who did not leave their Lodges prior to January 30, 1933 were not permitted to join the Nazi party. The Reichstag President Hermann Goering stated that, “in National Socialist Germany there is no place for Freemasonry”, and he issued a decree calling for the Lodges to voluntarily dissolve, yet required these to be submitted to him for approval so that the property of all Lodges could be confiscated under the "Enabling Act". The Enabling Act also stated that “those who had been members of Lodges when Hitler came to power in January 1933 were prohibited from holding office in the Nazi party or its paramilitary arms and were ineligible for appointment in public service.” In May 1934, German Freemasonry was once again dealt another blow when the Ministry of Defense banned membership in Lodges to all personnel, soldiers, and civilian employees. By 1935 every single Masonic Lodge and organization relating to Freemasonry had either been prohibited, dissolved or forcibly shut down.  Those that had voluntarily shut down were not declared hostile to the state, but their possessions were seized and controlled by the Gestapo. Those that were shut down by force were declared hostile to the state, and their possessions were confiscated, their records were destroyed, and their buildings were vandalized. The members of these hostile Lodges were dismissed from civil service and transferred from any positions of power that they held in the profane world.

          While many former Freemasons within Germany tried to keep in contact with one another despite a ban disallowing them to do so, many did regularly meet under the pretext of playing the game skat.  Although these gatherings were not actually Masonic meetings it did help preserve the bonds of Brotherhood even though on occasion these meetings took place under the watchful eyes of the Gestapo. 

                                                                        Anti-Masonic Propaganda Material

                                                                        Anti-Masonic Propaganda Material

          Even though German Freemasonry had effectively been eliminated, Nazi propaganda continued to link conspiracy theories and numerous printed cartoons and articles would portray and perpetuate this “Jewish-Masonic conspiracy.”  This became a particular obsession with the chief of Security Police, Reinhard Heydrich, who “counted the Masons, along with the Jews and the political clergy, as the most implacable enemies of the German race.”[12]  He even argued the need to eliminate any visible manifestations of these enemies, and to also root out from every German the “indirect influence of the Jewish Spirit”-a Jewish, liberal and Masonic infectious residue that remains in the unconscious of many, above all in the academic and intellectual world.”[13]  Heydrich also created a special section of the Security Service to specifically deal with Freemasonry, because they believed that Masons shaped public opinion through the press, exercised political power, and that they were in a position to provoke war, subversion, and revolution.

        Beginning with the annexation of Austria, in 1938, the persecution of Freemasons increased.  At the beginning of World War Two in 1939, almost five million copies of the “NSDAP (Nazi Party) letter of political instruction against Freemasonry” had been distributed.  While in Nazi Germany a former Freemason was usually not personally persecuted, unless he was also a Jew or did not act in conformity with the Nazi system, in countries occupied by Nazi Germany, being a member of a Masonic Lodge could mean a direct risk of losing property and even one's life.[14]  In 1942 Hitler appointed Alfred Rosenberg, to intellectually fight Jews and Freemasons, and Rosenberg ordered the personal property, real property, archives, records, libraries, and artworks of Freemasons and Jews to be confiscated or destroyed. [15]  Eventually, Freemasons were rounded up with the political dissidents, Jews, Gypsies, and others deemed unfit or dangerous, and taken to concentration camps. It has been estimated that anywhere between eighty thousand and two hundred thousand Freemasons were murdered under Nazi rule. 

          I will not highlight the tragedy and horror that occurred in the concentration camps, I will however describe the fortitude that some of our Brethren had, and how they continued to carry on the Light of Freemasonry in the concentration camps.

        The people in the concentration camps wore a mark to show the guards of the camps what kind of prisoner each individual was. The Freemasons were considered political prisoners and had to wear inverted red triangles on their shirts and pants to identify them as such.  it is rumored that Freemasons identified each other by these red triangles on their clothing, and there is also the speculation that Freemasons wore the edelweiss or blue forget me not on their lapel to identify each other; however, there is no hard evidence of either of these being true other than word to mouth passed down through the generations.

                      Esterwegen Masonic Memorial

                      Esterwegen Masonic Memorial

                      Esterwegen Masonic Memorial

                      Esterwegen Masonic Memorial

         There is however undisputed proof of Masonic Lodges operating within concentrations camps. Yes, even in the face of mechanized murder and genocide, Freemasonry was still able to carry on because of the strong will and desire of its Members to maintain the Order, and its cherished principles. The first known Lodge to exist within the walls of a concentrations camp was the Lodge Liberte Cherie or Beloved Liberty Lodge.  This Lodge was started by seven Belgian Freemasons on November 15, 1943 inside Hut 6 of Esterwegen Concentration Camp.  The original seven Freemasons that were members of this Lodge were Paul Hanson, Luc Somerhausen, Jean De Schrijver, Jean Sugg, Henri Story, Amedee Miclotte, Franz Rochat and Guy Hannecart.  These men also initiated, passed and raised Brother Fernand Erauw whom was also a Belgian. Paul Hanson was the Master of the Lodge.  The Brothers met around a table inside hut #6 which was otherwise used for cartridge sorting while a Catholic Priest stood watch over the hut so the Brethren could have their meetings in secrecy.  Some of the topics of these meetings included topics about the position of women in Freemasonry, the future of Belgium, and one dedicated to the symbol of the Great Architect of the Universe. Sadly only two members of this Lodge survived the detention in this concentration camp, Somerhausen and the newly initiated Erauw. The Lodge stopped working at the beginning of 1944.[16]  The other Masonic Lodge that we know of was Obstinate Lodge or L’Obstinee. This was another Masonic Lodge founded inside the walls of a Nazi prisoner of war camp called Oflag which was located near Hamburg, Germany.  It was founded by captured soldiers that were members of the Grand Orient of Belgium. We do not know much more about this Lodge other than that the Grand Orient of Belgium officially recognized this Lodge on July 14, 1946.[17] We sadly do not know just how many Freemasons and Lodges were in operation “under cover” in POW and concentration camps because of the basic fact that absolute secrecy literally meant the difference between life and death for their members.

                                              Inmates at Esterwegen

                                              Inmates at Esterwegen

          There is a reason why I chose to write about what is most likely the most horrible and disgusting example persecution against our Fraternity, and that is to show the reader, Mason or not, that no matter what you throw at the Masonic fraternity we always find a way to rise above, and not only survive, but thrive.  We are a strong brotherhood, bound by mystic ties that are stronger than earthly persecution. For my brethren, I hope this story of persecution and resolve hit you right in the gut, and is a call for to action for higher deeds and nobler purposes, especially to those Brethren who attend a Lodge that contains nothing more than boring business meetings.  If you are a member of a stale and boring lodge, let me ask you this; after what you just read are you content with your Lodge remaining stagnant and stale, or are you going to honor our Masonic brothers who have been persecuted and killed because of their devotion to our craft? We must honor our departed Brethren by creating the fraternity and world that they dreamed of, and died for. Freemasonry will always live on, but it is up to the Brethren of now to decide how.

 

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End Notes:

[1] Our red triangle, Freemasonry and the holocaust presentation Jan. 9, 2012 by Adam T. Osman www.squareofvirtue.wordpress.com

[2] Mein Kampf by Adolph Hitler 1925 pages 315-320

[3] In the Eye of a Hurricane: German Freemasonry in the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich by Ralf Melzer

[4] These numbers are from C. van Dalen’s Kalendar fur Friemaurer, 1926 Page 94

[5] In the Eye of a Hurricane: German Freemasonry in the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich by Ralf Melzer

[6] Ibid page 206

[7] In the Eye of a Hurricane: German Freemasonry in the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich by Ralf Melzer page 208.

[8] Mein Kampf, by Adolph Hitler 1929, 1933 page 345

[9] Archives of the Grand Lodge of Freemasons, Berlin

[10] Archives of the Grand Lodge of Freemasons, Berlin

[11] In the Eye of a Hurricane: German Freemasonry in the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich by Ralf Melzer page 211

[12] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Encyclopedia, updated June 10, 2013 ©US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C.

[13] Ibid

[14] A letter from Veljko Varicak, Grand Commander of the Supreme Council of Slovenia, stored in the Archive of the Supreme Council, 33°, S.J. Washington D.C.

[15] In the Eye of a Hurricane: German Freemasonry in the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich by Ralf Melzer page 217

[16] Our red triangle, Freemasonry and the Holocaust presentation Jan. 9, 2012 by Adam T. Osman www.squareofvirtue.wordpress.com

[17] Ibid

Five Fellocrafts and Old Fort Niagara

BY SHAWN M. GORLEY

Freemasons can be referred to as traveling men, and when we travel the common direction we travel as we all know is east. This time I decided rather than travel to the east as I have done on many occasions to speak, lecture, or in my studies to figuratively travel to the east, I received a kind invitation from a Brother to travel north. So, I and two other Brethren from my Masonic district decided to travel north to Youngstown, New York on May 31st to attend a rather unique and exciting event. I must say it was well worth the trip for multiple reasons such as meeting and making new friends, seeing a very historic location, witnessing a third degree in a different jurisdiction and most importantly forging new relationships with Brethren we may in any other circumstance than Masonry may have never met. It was a truly wonderful day!

Youngstown, New York is the home of the very historic Old Fort Niagara which sits at the mouth of the Niagara River and Lake Ontario and is the oldest operating Fort in North America with an active U.S. Coast Guard Station literally right outside the wall of the historic part of the fort. Today the historic part of the fort which is a registered National Historic Landmark and is a privately owned not for profit organization is open year round with the exception of a few national holidays. For more information on touring the Fort please see www.oldfortniagara.org.

The event I had the pleasure of attending was for a picnic followed by five Fellowcraft Masons being raised to the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason in colonial dress by all in attendance inside the main building on the third floor of Old Fort Niagara. These five lucky Fellowcrafts were from the Lodges of Niagara Orleans District of the Grand Lodge of the State of New York Free and Accepted Masons. As most of us have already experienced and will never forget our own third degree nights, these five lucky Brethren will most assuredly never forget theirs either. With around ninety Brethren in attendance, including several Grand Lodge Officers we sat down to witness what was for me a very interesting and unforgettable evening. This was the first time for me to witness a third degree in a jurisdiction other than my own, let alone to see it done in colonial dress which added very much to the so it was especially interesting, however if you are reading this in hopes of learning the differences between my jurisdiction and New York’s as far as the third degree is concerned you are going to be let down because like any good Mason I will not go into details. I will say this much, the difference in cast size as well as the added drama the New York third degrees contain for me was rather incredible, what a beautiful ceremony it was. Even though I have participated in many Master Mason degrees in my own respective jurisdiction, it was quite a welcome learning experience watching another jurisdiction put them on.

So, what the heck does all this have to do with Old Fort Niagara? Previous to this experience the only Masonic connection to the Fort I had ever heard of was during the Morgan Affair, and out of respect for the Grand Lodge of New York as I was enlightened by a Brother whom was a great deal of help in my writing this article, it is forbidden for any New York Mason to discuss the Morgan affair and for the record no New York Mason has to me, so that is as far as I will go on that topic. If you are interested in learning about the Morgan Affair and don’t know much about it feel free to scroll through my blog at www.drivenbylight.net where I have written about that particular incident, you can also see my source list for the post and take it from there on your own. Now, on to answer the first question at the top of this paragraph, what do the Masonic Third degrees being put on at the fort have to do with the fort and what is the Masonic significance of this? Coincidentally the Old Fort Niagara has a lot of Masonic history tied to it over its three hundred plus year history and what I have found with the great help of Brother is only a scratch on the surface as much of the Masonic history pertaining to the Fort itself is locked away from the general public, mainly because most of it is original documents that have a great deal of age and need to be handled carefully. One day in the near future I hope to make the trip up there again to have a look at some of these and perhaps write another article or more on this somewhat forgotten history for not only my own personal education but for others as well. The following is just a start to the ties that Old Fort Niagara had to the Craft of Freemasonry and I am deeply indebted to Brother Jason Buckley, the Interpretive Programs Manager at Old Fort Niagara, another Brother that I had the pleasure to meet and befriend, without his assistance I would not have had access to the following information.


British Military Lodges on the Niagara Frontier

The 5th Regiment, Northumberland Fusiliers Lodge. Very little is known about this lodge, except that they did have a Masonic Lodge when stationed at Fort Niagara. In 1784, this lodge’s charter was transferred to the 48th Regiment.

The King’s (8th) Regiment, The King’s Own Lodge

This was the first British Military lodge established by the Grand Lodge of England (modern), on February 15th, 1755, as lodge No. 255. It later became No. 195 in late 1755; No. 156 in 1770; No.124 in 1780; No. 124 in 1781and finally No. 112 in 1792. When this convened at Fort Niagara, it was the military lodge to meet in the province of Ontario (later Niagara County of New York State). There is documentation of it meeting at Fort Niagara in the years 1773-75, 1778 and 1782-85. It was the first military lodge to join the Provisional Lodge of Quebec in 1770.   An interesting side note, Joseph Brant the great Native American leader and orator was known to attend this lodge when he was at Fort Niagara on several occasions.

The 10th Regiment, Lincolnshire Lodge

The 10th Regiment had two military lodges; No. 299 by the Grand Lodge of Ireland warrant, August 3 1758, and No. 378 by the Grand Lodge of Ireland Warrant, November 5, 1761. Records indicate that several members of No. 299 transferred to No 378. By 1765, Lodge No. 378 listed 27 members on its register. The 10th regiment was stationed at Fort Niagara for the 6 years preceding 1774. They were slated to return to England but were instead sent to Boston. They stayed in North America until late 1778. In the meantime they served in several battles during the American Revolution. Including 1775 Lexington, Concord, Boston, Bunker Hill: 1776 Halifax, Staten Island, Long Island, New York, White Plains, Forts Washington and Lee, Rhode Island, Philadelphia, Brandywine, Germantown, and White Marsh; 1778, New York.

The 6oth Regiment, Royal American’s Lodge

We know that the 60th Regiment received its charter in 1764 and was the first military lodge to meet in Detroit. We also know that may of its members were stationed at Fort Niagara, we do not however have any record of this lodge meeting at Fort Niagara, it is likely that they attended as visiting brethren while at Fort Niagara.

This was just a bit of the Masonic connection to Fort Niagara, imagine being raised to Master Mason in such an important and historical place. I truly hope that the fortunate five Brethren raised on this occasion will come to learn and appreciate the significance of not only the history they participated in that day but also come to appreciate Masonic history as a whole. If we cannot learn and adapt from our history we are doing a great disservice to our fraternity. This was only the second year in a row that the Brethren of Niagara Orleans district have put on this event, plans for next year are already in place to hold the same type event at the end of May 2015 and I for one am definitely going to make the trip again. It was well worth it to not only see an important part of our countries military history but Masonic history as well.

As for military history the fort has undergone multiple transformations during its three hundred plus year history throughout many battles and wars while literally hundreds of other military forts across the continent outlived their usefulness. Over the long history of the fort is was occupied by three differing countries. France beginning in sixteen seventy eight used the fort as they were the most prominent in the area and by accident they controlled this area which was quite important because of the waterways it was connected to which was all of the Great Lakes to the St. Lawrence River all the way to the Atlantic ocean. To the French their main opposition came from the most politically powerful group of Native Americans, the Iroquois. The main building that the above mentioned degrees took place in was called the “House of Peace” and completed in seventeen twenty seven and also referred to as the “French House”. The fort was also controlled by Great Britain and now the United States. To say this fort has seen a few battles is an understatement of the largest variety, it has seen and been in use during every battle in the northeast part of our country, two of the most well-known being the war of eighteen twelve as well as the civil war. The fact that this incredible place is for one still standing but in such great shape speaks volumes of its caretakers over its long storied history and we are lucky to still have the ability to visit this national treasure. I highly recommend to any Masonic history buff or anyone interested in learning more about the history of our country to make this a stop and spend a day at this highly enlightening place. If you are a Freemason keep an eye out for the 2015 activities planned by the Brothers of Niagara Orleans district.

I would personally like to thank Brothers Jason Buckley, RWPDDGM Bill Green and Kevin Jester for not only the invitation to witness this incredible event but for also aiding me with bits of information to make this article possible. Brethren working together for a common goal is a beautiful thing and I am proud they decided to assist me as well as proud to not only call them Brothers but friends as well.


Thank you for reading The Laudable Pursuit! If you enjoyed this piece, please feel free to share it on social media sites, or with your Lodge.

For more information on Bro. Shawn M. Gorley, please CLICK HERE

Franklin's Little School and Masonic Education

by Shawn M. Gorley

The majority of the population in colonial America lived along the coastline’s  for simple reasons being that it was where the chances for employment, social gatherings, churches and you guessed it, it was where most of the early Masonic Lodges where located. In this period, and as the populations moved westward the only chance a man or child had at an education was limited to mainly three things, 1) they took apprenticeship in a trade, 2) They were educated in biblical teachings through the church and 3) the Masonic Lodge. Unless you were from a wealthy family, these were the main ways an everyday average person could achieve any education at all. The Brethren of the early Lodges were slowly realizing how their Masonic education was affecting the world around them for the better. “As early as 1732 the Masons became vocal promoters of free public schools in the colonies. Freemasonry was slowly laying down the foundations of our American system.”[1]

If the men were getting an education through their association with the Masonic Lodge or from the association with a Freemason why couldn’t their children get a better education? Why should a formal education be reserved for only the wealthy, why shouldn’t all children have the privilege to be educated, after all look what good and what a huge impact a Masonic education was doing for the communities during this time. “The Lodges sought to civilize, to teach manners and decorum, to augment the order and harmony of civil society. They taught men to speak in public, to keep records, to pay taxes to be tolerant, to debate freely, to vote, to moderate their feasting, and to give lifelong devotions to the other citizens of their order.”[2] “ To no order in society is the encouragement of schools and the advancement of knowledge more valuable than to the fraternity. The liberal arts and sciences were formally taught in Lodges and Brethren imparted instruction to their children and others than was found in any except Masonic families.”[3] Why wouldn’t this be a desire of those Freemasons? These Masons would not have been upholding their obligations by merely doing nothing, so as any good Mason should do they moved to assist in the movement for a free public education for all children based on what they were learning, all by spending in only mere hours in a Lodge room per month.

One of the earliest schools of the colonial days, that is now known as the University of Pennsylvania is a school that was a product of Brother Benjamin Franklin’s actions in aiding in the betterment of the education of the public. I think it is safe to say that Franklin had no idea his simple little school would develop into one of the most respected Ivy League Universities in the country from its humble beginnings. It started out as being different from all others even though its influence was confined to just the area of Philadelphia Pennsylvania. “It had no counterpart in

Europe and had no religious motive.”[4] Students in attendance of this school were of Latin Grammar school age; or in present terms, of high school age, however unlike its counterparts Franklins school had the intention of not only preparing its students for college but for normal life as well. This took place in 1749 and was known as the “Publick Academy of Philadelphia.” The interesting thing about Franklin’s new school was that its counterparts were Harvard, William and Mary, Yale and Princeton, which at the time were geared only for the educating of the clergy rather than educating their students for everyday life in subjects such as business, public service, and general education of the seven liberal arts and sciences. “The curriculum advanced by Franklin included navigation, surveying, agriculture, and the spoken languages of the day, natural history, chemistry, physics, government, and history.”[5] This initial curriculum over the mid eighteenth century was gradually forced to mold as the time progressed but, “his school is pointed to as the first American Academy, which was the transition institution from the Latin Grammar school and the English grammar school to the modern high school.”[6] Franklin’s school eventually became the College of Philadelphia, and is now known as the University of Pennsylvania once it was made a private school in 1791 after the revolutionary fervor had finally died down. “The eighteenth century was an incredible time for both the University and for the young American Republic. The University saw rise to the first medical school in the colonies in 1765 when John Morgan organized a medical faculty.”[7] To the school. Some of our new countries earliest law lectures under its brand new government were given in 1790 at the University. By the end of the first half century of the school it had been educating the leadership of not only its own school but for the new nation as well, nine signers of the declaration of Independence and eleven signers of the Constitution were associated with the University in one way or another. One of the most coveted Ivy-League Universities in the country, as well as Americas first High School and University came to be all because one Freemason saw the importance of an equal education for all, a man that knew that if our soon to become country was to succeed it needed to have educated, wise citizens for this to be possible. One of the most popular and recognized Freemasons of all time felt so strongly on this that he included in his farewell address, Brother George Washington states. “Promote then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.”[8] The Father of our new nation, a man that fought so hard for so long to see that we had a free country under our own rule knew that if the country was going to survive, education of its people was crucial to making this happen.

Brethren the above was just a small portion of a much longer research paper I wrote a while back. The reason I decided to shorten it and tweak it a bit for this month’s article is very simple. The Founding Fathers of our nation and in this case Brother Benjamin Franklin knew very well that in order for the dream of a new nation to succeed, its citizens must be educated for it to prosper. The early Lodges also knew that education was a necessity in order to become better men. Education is one of the main principles our Fraternity was founded upon.

If you are reading this magazine and article it is safe to say that you do have a desire for improving yourself and expanding upon your Masonic education, seriously why would you waste your hard earned money on a magazine like this if you didn’t? Now as I begin to close up this article I have to ask the million dollar questions……what happened? Are the majority of Lodges not realizing that in order to prosper, just as our young nation did we must be educated to make that possible? For the future of this Fraternity we must not only educate ourselves and live up to our obligations and as the saying goes, “let us practice outside, these lessons we have learned within.” Brethren I do not have all the answers and I never will but there is one thing I am absolutely certain about and extremely passionate about and it comes from not only my own personal experiences Masonically speaking but from some very close Brothers of mine as well, as we often chat and discuss Masonic issues. Masonic Education is the key to our Fraternity’s survival! Whether you’re a member of a Traditional Observance Lodge or a regular Lodge does not matter. Each man has his own tastes and preferences, but the main point no matter what type of Lodge you belong to that I will pass on to all of you is that if this Fraternity as a whole, no matter what Lodge you belong to does not do more to enlighten and teach a Masonic education our Fraternity will eventually become meaningless and die off. My example for this point…. look at the Lodges that are nothing more than business type meetings, I know we have all seen one somewhere. Have you ever noticed the difference in attendance between that type of Lodge and one that regularly has good educational and enlightening programs? The difference is astronomical and we also have to realize, and I can say this from experience being a Lodge mentor and from observing different Lodges when I travel to speak and give programs. The younger generation that is coming into the Fraternity desire the education and thrive on it! Let us be all be smart enough to take advantage of this and not only teach them but further our own Masonic educations for the betterment of this Fraternity that we all love.


[1] Solomon’s Builders by Christopher Hodapp ©2007 published by Ulysses Press, page 108

[2] Living the Enlightenment, Freemasonry and Politics in Eighteenth Century Europe by Margaret C. Jacob ©1991 by Oxford University Press, Inc. page 23

[3] Revolutionary Brotherhood, Freemasonry and the Transformation of the American Social Order, 1730-1840 by Stephen C. Bullock ©1996 The University of North Carolina Press page 148

[4] Our Public Schools by William E. Givens 32° KCCH and Belmont M. Farley published 1959 A.A.S.R.,S.M.J. page 14

[5] Our Public Schools by William E. Givens 32° KCCH and Belmont M. Farley published 1959 A.A.S.R.,S.M.J. page 14

[6] Ibid page 14

[7] A Brief History of the University of Pennsylvania, an essay by Steven Morgan Friedman 1998

[8] Farewell Address by George Washington 1796


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