Monday, September 1, 2008

Codifying Prejudice ~ Making Racism Legal

Attacks on The Philalethes Society
Michael R. Poll, FPS and Kenneth D. Roberts, FPS

Betrayal of Masonic Trust is the highest and gravest crime a Master Mason can commit. … It is the masonic duty of each and every Master Mason to rise up and to denounce any violation and breach of Masonic Trust …
- VW Billy Aportadera [1]

Part 2 of Series
The nature of our Masonic initiations is such that we deliberately place our candidates in an extraordinarily vulnerable environment. We do this to set the minds and hearts of the candidates in a state where they can best receive our teachings. One of the first and most important lessons we teach our candidates is to trust their soon-to-be brothers. It is necessary for them to accept, with no question, what they are told, as well as the motives and intentions of the officers and members of the lodge. If a candidate has no reason to trust the lodge membership, then how will he view the various and often peculiar aspects of his initiation?
“The trust of a Mason is in God. But before a man can trust in God, whom he cannot see, he must learn to trust in his fellowman, who is made in God’s image.” [2]

The lesson of trust is a vital part of the Masonic foundation we lay for the candidate. Without it, the walls of our structure crumble. Can you imagine any lodge allowing a candidate to be made the subject of a practical joke while receiving a degree? Can you imagine any Grand Lodge not seriously reprimanding or pulling the charter of any lodge that would allow unMasonic behavior with a candidate?

All Masons have the right to expect that the trust we were taught to have in our brothers will not be violated. Those who would knowingly and willingly violate the trust placed in them by their brothers must be reduced to order or driven from our lodges.

But what does it mean to violate a Mason’s trust? Can we do so with no ill intent or under the belief that our actions will result in ultimate good for Freemasonry? Is willfully lying to a brother the same as making a mistake? Is bending the truth the same as willfully lying? Where is the line that divides a willful intent from a mistake?

This paper will attempt to examine recent events in Masonry as well as some published statements with the hope of better understanding the question of Masonic trust.

What is the Truth?
The search for the Lost Word is symbolic of a Mason’s search for truth, but what is the truth? Is there a “Universal Truth” for all of Masonry? In many cases, no. “Masonic truth” must often be qualified. What is true in one Grand Lodge might be quite false in another. The truthful answer to the question, “Who is the Grand Master?” will change depending on the jurisdiction of the one being asked the question. Certain basic questions, however, will almost assuredly bring about like answers. “Are Masons taught to be honest?” Does anyone know of any jurisdiction that would answer “no” to this question? But what about questions of regularity? How do we answer the question, “Who is regular?” There are very few questions in Masonry that are as seemingly simple, yet, in fact, more complex. The opinion (law) concerning regularity in one jurisdiction might be quite different than the opinion (law) of another jurisdiction. The answers to questions concerning regularity will certainly change from one place to another. Concerning regularity, the United Grand Lodge of England states:

“There are some self-styled Masonic bodies that do not meet these standards, e.g. which do not require a belief in a Supreme Being, or which allow or encourage their members to participate as such in political matters. These bodies are recognised by the Grand Lodge of England as being Masonically irregular, and Masonic contact with them is forbidden.” [3]

That might give us an idea of what is irregular, but it is not clear as to who is irregular or why are they so or how we handle a situation when our Grand Lodge and a Grand Lodge that we recognize disagree about a third Grand Lodge.

For some 200 years, U.S. “mainstream” Grand Lodges taught their members that Prince Hall Masonry was irregular. Visitation between “mainstream” US lodges and Prince Hall lodges was not allowed as no Prince Hall Grand Lodge was recognized as regular. We were taught that there were legitimate reasons why Prince Hall Masonry was irregular. Now we are taught that there is nothing at all irregular about Prince Hall Masonry. Recognition between the majority of US “mainstream” Grand Lodges and their Prince Hall counterparts now exist. Even where fraternal relations do not exist, we are led to believe that some Grand Lodges have made official statements declaring Prince Hall Masonry to be regular, if not always recognized. Did Prince Hall change in its nature? No. Then what gives? How does any thinking Mason reconcile this apparent contradiction? If being irregular means that something is wrong with a Masonic body, then how can it be declared regular if nothing has changed in the body? If we wish to take the position that it was simply an honest error in regard to Prince Hall, then we must face the fact that it was a pretty big error that for roughly 200 years falsely labeled and denied recognition to true brothers. Is there another reason (or reasons) why Prince Hall Masonry was falsely labeled “irregular”? Is it unreasonable to seek an understanding of this question? Is it unreasonable to wonder if, even today, “mistakes” could be made with other Masonic bodies?

One of the major problems with understanding the issues of regularity is our use (or misuse) of the word “irregular.” Common use has made the words “irregular,” “clandestine” and “unrecognized” interchangeable. But are they always interchangeable? Logic dictates that since Prince Hall Masonry (having made no change in their nature or organization) has been confirmed by the majority of U.S. Grand Lodges to be perfectly regular, then they were factually “unrecognized,” but not “irregular.” If this is the case, then why were they almost always called “irregular” and “clandestine”?

Say it Again and Again
Joseph Goebbels, the propaganda minister for Adolph Hitler, is often credited with the phrase, "A lie repeated often enough becomes the truth." As despicable as the man was, there is certain logic to that statement. A basic rule of advertising is to offer your message again and again so that the chances of forgetting the message will be minimized. In addition, it is realized that value is often subjective and one may not be guilty of false advertising if they state their opinion of a product’s value or quality. The fine line between an error and a falsehood is often walked in the high stakes advertising game. But how does this relate to Masonry?

Prince Hall Masonry was not kept outside of the recognized Masonic family for some 200 years because of legitimate reasons, but because of an intentional desire to keep them out. In order to keep up the appearance of remaining true to the teachings of Freemasonry, Grand Lodges freely accepted the charges that Prince Hall Masonry was justifiably irregular. Since most Masons were not researchers, it was not that hard to write legitimate sounding charges against Prince Hall Masonry. In addition, because the vast majority of the Prince Hall Masons were black, there was no real desire to closely examine the charges made against them. When one spoke or wrote about Prince Hall Masonry, the words “irregular” or “clandestine” were used with no attempt to prove that the charges were factual. It was enough to just keep saying that Prince Hall Masonry was irregular. It was not true, but it was always there and accepted by most all. Even among those who held no bigotry in their hearts, the charges against Prince Hall Masonry were commonly accepted. Why? Because we trusted that our leaders would not tell us anything but the truth. We are Freemasons. We don’t speak evil of our brothers, right? How could such an organized effort of deception take place?
The Tactics

If there was an organized effort to keep Prince Hall Masonry out of the recognized Masonic family, then the individuals involved would have discussed their plans between themselves. That is what “organized” means. But how does one go about organizing an effort for anything that requires the agreement of more than a few independent Grand Lodges? What kind of plans could be made that would cross jurisdictional lines? How would one go about such an effort?

In a letter dated 6 February 2000, William R. Miller, a Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Washington State and Sovereign Grand Inspector General in Washington wrote to C. Fred Kleinknecht, then Sovereign Grand Commander of the Supreme Council, SJUSA [4] concerning suggestions for dealing with reports that the Imperial Potentate intended to initiate changes that would allow non-Masons to join the Shriners. Bro. Miller offers some astonishing suggestions. How should the AASR deal with the possible action of the Shriners? Bro. Miller writes:
“Plant the seed that it is a bad idea because it is no solution at all, then attack it as a fraternal bad idea.”

Miller also writes:
“We need to develop a collective strategy to plant and reinforce that value system in our members.”

How could they accomplish such an effort? Miller answers:
“In the time between now and then I propose we interview the probable candidates for Representative (in my Temple that is the Potentate, Chief Rabban, Assistant Rabban and Recorder) to see where they stand on the issue and make them commit to vote the way we want them to. If they won't, we elect an alternate slate of Representatives.”


“If he is not with us we make sure he is not elected Imperial Potentate. We go right down the line. If they commit to be with us they stay in line - if not we replace them with an alternate we have in the wings.”
And additionally,

“It will be a political campaign where you have to count the votes. We need a war room where we keep tabs on who the Representatives are and how well they are staying committed. It just would not happen with individual Grand Lodges trying to coordinate with sixty other Grand Lodges.”

By any reasonable examination, Bro. Miller is offering plans for the successful manipulation of an allied Masonic organization into doing what he and “others” want done. He even offers punishment for anyone not yielding to the demands. If those running for any local or national Shrine office would not agree with “the plan” they would be replaced or unable to be elected.

Bro. Miller’s letter was obtained by the Shriners and posted on their website. While it is understandable that this event may have caused some embarrassment for both the Southern Jurisdiction and Bro. Miller, it does not seem to have stopped Bro. Miller’s brazen letter writing. In a 19 February 2004 email to a fellow PGM and SJ SGIG, Bro. Miller writes:

“The Philalethes has its own, new, agenda - led by Nelson King (an embarrassment to Freemasonry) and Roberts. They want the rank and file to recognize the Grand Orients, co-Masonic bodies, Prince Hall carte blanc etc. They constantly denigrate the authority of Grand Lodges to control recognition and legitimate, regular Freemasonry. Wallace McCloud seems to be a bit of that tong as well. As Grand Abbot of the Blue Friars, he invited an expelled Texas mason, now a member of a Prince Hall lodge in Texas, as a new member - last year I think. Sort of poking Reese and company in the nose.”[5]

Let’s look at this amazing mail. What evidence does Bro. Miller offer in support of his serious charges? None at all. It is all stated “as fact.” It is uncertain what he means by “Grand Orients,” but if he means the Grand Orient of France, this is wholly false as is his charge that these brothers support the recognition of co-Masonic bodies in any manner. We must remember Bro. Miller’s message in the Shrine letter, “Plant the seed …” We must remember what was written in the Grand Lodge of New York’s report on The Philalethes Society, “…in light of the Grand Master’s concerns regarding this Society’s alleged attempts to interfere in Grand Lodge activities inappropriately.” Bro. Miller’s statement in this e-mail (“They constantly denigrate the authority of Grand Lodges”) is disturbingly similar. Was Bro. Miller the source of the GM of New York’s misinformation? Where else has Bro. Miller “plant[ed] the seed”?

If these events concerning Bro. Miller were not enough, there is a third event that should be examined. We learn from the July 2003 edition of the E-Alpha (on-line newsletter of Holland Lodge #1 in Houston, Texas) [6] that Bro. Miller gave a talk entitled “The Case for a United Grand Lodge of the United States of America.” The E-Alpha tells us that Bro. Miller is supportive of creating a single, supervising “Grand Lodge” of sorts in the US so that national action could be better implemented. The report tells us of Bro. Miller’s “disappointments” and “failed efforts” concerning getting his ideas into practice. The report notes that Bro. Miller is dissatisfied with the fact that each year the “annual Conferences of Grand Masters and Grand Secretaries” adopts rules “making it NOT a Legislative Assembly.” He is reported to suggest that issues of “regularity and recognition pose problems more easily solved by fewer bodies to promote the Universality of Freemasonry.” And “…should we just design our own UGL? One perhaps with [a] national spokesman within the framework of our present 51 Grand Lodges.”

Let’s try to look at the total picture being painted. Bro. Miller seems to want some sort of governing, controlling body that will be able to direct the actions of all U.S. Grand Lodges and Masonic organizations. He has offered a plan that spells out the steps that should be taken to obtain this control. Anyone who would not be supportive of this plan will be unable to be elected to any office of importance. He has a plan for advancing his message (planting the seed) and has already demonstrated a willingness to use falsehoods with the obvious dual goal of smearing the name of anyone who might present him with problems and of convincing others to join him in his position. Will it become necessary for a small group of centralized Masons to “approve” candidates before they can be elected to any Grand Lodge or appendant body office regardless of jurisdiction?

Obviously, U.S. Grand Lodges will become, if Bro. Miller achieves his professed goal, subservient to this little “super grand lodge.” The voice of individual lodges will be silenced. What is most ironic is that Bro. Miller’s professed plans for controlling U.S. Grand Lodges by means of this little band of allies is exactly what he falsely attributed to The Philalethes Society in his February 2004 e-mail. We have already seen that this same false notion was advanced, and wisely rejected, in New York. Reports even tell us that the absurdly false charge that The Philalethes Society is somehow attempting to “control” U.S. Grand Lodges is circulating in more than a few U.S. jurisdictions. The “seed” of falsehood has clearly been planted in more than a few areas.

What’s Going on?
For whatever it’s worth, the tactics, the plan and the execution for a centralized, national control of U.S. Masonry are laid out by Bro. Miller. The questions are: if this is more than one man’s design, how deep are the roots; how long has this been going on and how many Masons could be involved in such activity? The idea of a national U.S. Grand Lodge has been around since George Washington was nominated to be its “National Grand Master.” This idea was wisely squelched, as was the movement to crown him King George Washington when the nation was newly formed. But a national Grand Lodge is one matter; organized efforts to manipulate and control by means of spreading falsehoods or eliminating opposition is quite another matter.

There is no question that Prince Hall Masonry was kept out of the recognized U.S. Masonic family by the employment of tactics very similar to the ones laid out by Bro. Miller. The “seed” was planted that Prince Hall Masonry was irregular, there was very little effort made on the grand lodge or leadership level to seriously prove the charges factual and the unsubstantiated charges were repeated until they became an “understood fact.” At some point the actual issue regarding Prince Hall’s regularity becomes a secondary issue. The real issue becomes the tactics that were used to keep them on the outside looking in. The tactics of planting the seeds, offering minimal support for the charges, spreading falsehoods and punishing those who might consider any reevaluation of the situation fits like a glove with what Bro. Bill Miller offers. His “plan” is not unique.

Like Prince Hall, the actual regularity of the Grand Lodge of France becomes a secondary issue to the tactics that have been used to keep them unrecognized in the U.S. for the last 50 or so years. Since they are unrecognized, then just about anything can be said about them and how does one determine if what is being said is factual? By visiting their lodges? That’s not possible until recognition takes place. By listening to what those opposed to the Grand Lodge of France have to say? By reading what independent researchers have to say about the Grand Lodge of France in The Philalethes? Is it now clear why some might wish to silence The Philalethes Society?

And So it Goes
The paranoid, anti-communist hysteria of the 1950’s in the U.S. became known as McCarthyism. Just like the Salem Witch Hunt days of the late 1600’s, all that was necessary was to cry out, “He’s a Communist!” and the career and lives of totally innocent individuals would be ruined. The charge alone, even if wholly false, was enough to do the damage. Why? Because “important men” made the charges. Who could think that such “important men” would offer anything but the truth? What they said was accepted as fact, many times with precious little support for the charges. For a time, this activity was successful. Many of those who fell victim to these tactics never fully recovered from the damage done to them by outright lies.
In the next part of this series, we will examine the Masonic equivalent of McCarthyism taking place today in U.S. Masonry and further analyze how the same strategy of paranoia and falsehoods has been employed against the Grand Lodge of France, The Philalethes Society and any organization or individual who does not wish to subjugate itself or himself to a small band of individual Masons in positions of authority.

1) Billy Aportadera, Betrayal of Masonic Trust, The Grand Lodge of the Philippines website,
2) Louisiana Masonic Monitor (The Grand Lodge of Louisiana, 1974) 40.
3) United Grand Lodge of England website,
5) William R. Miller email, 19, February 2004. Message on File.
Copyright ©2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 The Philalethes Society. All Rights Reserved

Dear Brother Milliken:

We will gladly give you permission to reprint the copyright article from The Philalethes Magazine©, The Philalethes CD-Rom© or web sites providing the following:

A. That credit is given to the author.

B. It is noted that the article is reprinted from The Philalethes, with permission.

C. That a copy of your publication is forwarded to the Editor.

Sincerely and fraternally,

Nelson King, FPS


2 Knockbolt Crescent

Toronto ON Canada M1S 2P6


The Palmetto Bug said...

Squire: You have just provided inspiration for a new article on "The Line."

Wayfaring Man said...

If, by this headline, you mean "Making Institutional Racism Legal," then I don't quibble. It can certainly be seen that institutions have used race for the basis of wicked discriminatory practices, and clearly that is illegal in the public sector in this country under the Federal Code. But racism itself is not nor can it be illegal in a free society despite the best intentions of good people.

As racism is, by definition, a system of beliefs on the inferiority or superiority of a certain race, it is therefore a state of mind. As such it cannot be illegal or legal. It merely is. Most of us find it an ugly thing, but only the most bloody minded totalitarians adopt the Orwellian approach and dare to make it a thought crime.

Gingerman said...

On an ironic note: the reason the Phylaxis Society was formed is that Joseph Walkes wasn't allowed into the Philalethes Society because of his race and Prince Hall Affiliation. At least in the words of J. Walkes.