Friday, October 25, 2019

‘Garibaldi Lodge’s EAº in November’

Bust of MW Giuseppe Garibaldi
by RW Anthony Cuonzo, presented
to MW Vincent Libone in 2010.
Garibaldi Lodge 542 in the Tenth Manhattan District will confer its famous Entered Apprentice Degree on Friday, November 1. This is the unforgettable ceremony of initiation that attracts busloads of Freemasons from throughout the Northeastern United States and beyond.

What draws hundreds of Masons eager to make an advancement in Masonic knowledge is the 18th century French Rite ritual that is delivered in the Italian language. Unless you are from a Red Lodge or other Craft lodge that works European rituals, this First Degree is very unlike anything your lodge does. It is worlds apart from the Preston-Webb-Cross rituals known in almost every jurisdiction in America, as it is heavily laden with Rosicrucian and Alchemical symbolism. To be clear, it is a wholly Masonic ritual. Furthermore, it is easy to follow the action even with the foreign tongue being spoken.

Arrive at Masonic Hall (71 West 23rd Street in Manhattan) by 6 p.m. Bring your apron and membership card, and be prepared to work your way into a tiled Masonic lodge at labor. Apprentices and Fellows are welcome—they need only be avouched by a Master Mason—and in fact are seated in the East with the dignitaries.

I’d say the evening should end by around ten o’clock.

The lodge needs a headcount. (The first time I visited for this degree, about ten years ago, hundreds of Pennsylvania Masons had to be turned away because the Fire Department would not permit them inside the room, which already was packed to capacity with about 1,200 Masons.) So contact the lodge secretary here to report how many are in your party.

It’s a must see, and is one of the most talked about events on the Masonic calendar in New York. See you there.

Monday, October 14, 2019

‘Masonic school named National Historic Place’

In a press release from last Monday, the New Hampshire Department of Natural and Cultural Resources announced the addition of a landmark Masonic site to America’s National Register of Historic Places. The press release:

Only school in the U.S.
founded by Masons
named to National Register
of Historic Places

The New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources has announced that the building first known as the New England Masonic Charitable Institute in Effingham has been honored by the United States Secretary of the Interior with placement on the National Register of Historic Places, for both its architecture and for its role in the history and development of the Town of Effingham.

Built in 1858, the two-and-a-half story New England Masonic Charitable Institute is the only large public building in Effingham. Its Italianate details include boxed eaves with paired scroll-sawn brackets, corner quoins and a heavy hood over the main entrance.

The building’s elaborate three-stage tower has a Masonic seal on the front and clock faces on the two adjacent sides. Its octagonal open belfry protects the 1863 bell, which was used during World War II for air-raid warnings.

Founded by the Charter Oak Lodge No. 58 of Free and Accepted Masons, the New England Masonic Charitable Institute is the only school in the United States known to have been run by the Masons. Opened as a coed institution in the fall of 1861, its ceased school operations in the early 1880s.

Charter Oak Lodge No. 58 sold the building to the Town of Effingham in 1891 for one dollar but retained rights to the second floor in perpetuity. The walls and ceilings of the Lodge’s temple space are covered with trompe l’oeil murals attributed to Boston painter Philip A. Butler. Images of classic sculptures, architectural details and Masonic symbols, including the All-Seeing Eye, are incorporated into the paintings. Heavily water-damaged in the late 1980s, they have since been restored.

The first floor, which was originally a single classroom for the Institute, served as Effingham’s town hall from 1891 to 2005. Established in 1893, the town library initially shared space with the town hall but has been the sole occupant of the first floor since 2005.

A Veterans Memorial, installed near the entrance in 1933 when town offices were in the building, includes a bronze plaque mounted on a rectangular piece of granite. It lists all Effingham men who served in the Revolutionary War, the Great Britain-United States War, Civil War, and the World Wars.

Administered by the National Park Service, which is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior, the National Register of Historic Places is the nation’s official list of historic resources worthy of preservation and is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate and protect our historic and archaeological resources.

Listing to the National Register does not impose any new or additional restrictions or limitations on the use of private or non-federal properties. Listings identify historically significant properties and can serve as educational tools and increase heritage tourism opportunities. The rehabilitation of National Register-listed commercial or industrial buildings may qualify for certain federal tax provisions.

In New Hampshire, listing to the National Register makes applicable property owners eligible for grants such as the Land and Community Heritage Investment Program or LCHIP and the Conservation License Plate Program.

For more information on the National Register program in New Hampshire, please visit or contact the Division of Historical Resources at 603-271-3583.

New Hampshire’s Division of Historical Resources, the State Historic Preservation Office, was established in 1974 and is part of the N.H. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. NHDHR’s mission is to preserve and celebrate New Hampshire’s irreplaceable historic resources through programs and services that provide education, stewardship, and protection. For more information, visit us online here or call 603-271-3483.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

‘Freemasonry in Latin American revolution’

Pelham Lodge 712 in the Bronx has an interesting lecture scheduled for Tuesday night. Please RSVP to the Junior Warden here. The lodge meets in the City Island Masonic Temple at 241 City Island Avenue.

Click to enlarge.

Friday, October 11, 2019

‘A Perspective of Craft Symbols’

RW Gary Heinmiller
It’s been almost exactly 18 years since I first “met” Bro. Gary Heinmiller on the day he was admitted to the Masonic Light group. That was the place to be for thinking Freemasons in the world of Yahoo! Groups during the early days of this century—a simpler world before Facebook and the rest of that stuff ruined humanity. So long ago, in fact, Gary’s email provider was something called Anyway, his regular participation in our discussions revealed his deep and wide knowledge of things Masonic, particularly in ritual and symbol, but also in history, philosophy, and other necessities. I think his internet labors on behalf of Masonic education actually predate the internet! Where would we be without this?

Today Bro. Gary is the Right Worshipful Grand Historian of the Grand Lodge of New York (my Grand Lodge), and he serves the Craft in this capacity with the written and spoken word. Rashied says there are no coincidences, but a few months ago, I posted a message to my lodge brothers in our—d’oh!—Facebook private group about the history of flaming swords. (I’m one of those Past Master-Tilers, and I wish I had one of those implements.) It must have been at about that same day when Gary wrote an article for The Empire State Mason magazine (page 16) on the subject of—the history of swords, including flaming swords! His version is better than mine.

If you are in or near Fayetteville and are available Thursday the 24th, go hear Gary present “A Perspective of Craft Symbols of the Lodge.” From the publicity:

The Worshipful Master of Nortrip Lodge 998 cordially invites you to the October 24 presentation of “A Perspective of Craft Symbols of the Lodge” by RW Gary Heinmiller, Grand Historian of the Grand Lodge of the State of New York.

Refreshments will be served at 6:30 p.m. Tiled meeting and the presentation at 7:30 p.m. at the Fayetteville Masonic Temple, 116 East Genesee Street in Fayetteville, New York.

RW Gary Heinmiller is the Grand Historian for the Grand Lodge of New York. He founded and serves as the Archivist for the Onondaga and Oswego Masonic Districts Historical Societies, which maintains an active website with more than 8,000 pages of Masonic history, philosophy, ritual, geometry, and links. He has been the Charter Area 11 Historian for the Grand Lodge from 1994 to the present. Among his works are a list of New York lodges from 1759 to the present, the book Freemasonry and a View of the Perennial World Philosophy, a compilation of more than 4,000 pages of New York Freemasons in the Civil War, and lodge histories for nearly every lodge in the Grand Lodge of New York, most of which, and more, may be viewed at the OMDHS website.

Please RSVP before October 18 to the Worshipful Master here or to the Secretary here.

We’ll have to get him to the Fourth Manhattan District soon!

Thursday, October 10, 2019

‘Ancient Freemasonry in the American Revolution’

Yes, yes, some clod tossed a molotov cocktail at Masonic Hall the other night. Welcome to New York City. Now walk faster.

You want explosive? Get thee to the Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library in two weeks for the next lecture. From the publicity:

Moses Sproule:
Witness to Mysteries
Ancient Freemasonry
in the American Revolution
Presented by Bro. Jack Willoughby
Thursday, October 24 at 6:30 p.m.
Masonic Hall, 14th floor
RSVP here

The Livingston Library is proud to announce the eighth lecture of our 2019 free monthly lecture series. This month’s lecture will feature journalist Jack Willoughby, who will discuss how the teachings of Ancient Freemasonry influenced George Washington’s development of a uniform symbol for the American Republic in the Union Army. Additionally, Willoughby’s discourse will explore the Ancient mysteries and their contribution to the development of Freemasonry and the difference between Ancient Freemasonry and our contemporary Grand Lodge structure.

Jack Willoughby
Jack Willoughby is an award-winning financial journalist whose articles and columns have appeared in Barron’s, Forbes, Institutional Investor, the Globe, and the Mail. From New York, he consults on media and investor relations through a private firm Open-Door Creations. In his spare time, he is one of a group of amateur historians delving into the colonial history of his beloved mother lodge, Independent Royal Arch 2, of which he is a trustee. Old Number 2 has been operating in Manhattan since 1760, and represents one of New York’s oldest institutions.

Photo ID is required to enter the building. Admission is free and is open to the public. White wine is served, as is water. RSVP here.


Wednesday, October 9, 2019

‘Weird Fact Wednesday: Goose and Gridiron Ale-House’

You know the first grand lodge was formed June 24, 1717 inside an ale house named the Goose and Gridiron, but do you know how that establishment’s name came to be?

Click to enlarge.
The Freemasons that day convened for the purpose of enjoying the Annual Assembly and Feast to establish, not the Grand Lodge of England, but the Grand Lodge of London and Westminster. (London and Westminster were distinct municipalities then.) The building stood several stories tall, with its largest dining room measuring approximately 15 by 22 feet, apparently large enough to accommodate the brethren representing four lodges that met in area taverns.

Writing in his The Four Old Lodges, Founders of Modern Freemasonry, and Their Descendants (1879), the eminent Masonic historian Robert Freke Gould explains the establishment’s name’s origins. Quoting the periodical Tatler, itself dating to 1709, he writes:

“The Mitre was a celebrated music-house, in London House Yard, at the N.W. end of St. Paul’s. When it ceased to be a music-house, the succeeding landlord, to ridicule its former destiny, chose for his sign a goose striking the bars of a gridiron with his foot, in ridicule of the Swan and Harp, a common sign for the early music-houses.”

Freke continues in his own words:

“…it may also be a vernacular of the coat of arms of the Company of Musicians, suspended probably at the door of the Mitre when it was a music-house. These arms are, a swan with his wings extended within a double tressure, counter, flory, argent. This double tressure might have suggested a gridiron to unsophisticated passers-by.”

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

‘NYPL obtains Joseph Campbell archives’

Courtesy Jeopardy!/Sony Pictures Television
Who is Professor Joseph Campbell?!?

In 2016 and 2017, the New York Public Library acquired the papers of Professor Joseph Campbell from two sources and spent this year organizing the 203 boxes of archives and cataloging the material so that it all may be available to you now. From the publicity:

Joseph Campbell was a mythologist, author, lecturer, and professor of literature at Sarah Lawrence College. His papers date from 1905 to 1995, and contain his writing, research, lectures, correspondence, photographs, and press clippings. The collection consists of files pertaining to Campbell’s career in academia, and his research and writings on comparative mythology and literature. Most of the collection was previously held and maintained by The OPUS Archives & Research Center at the Pacifica Graduate Institute, which acquired Campbell’s papers from Jean Erdman and the Joseph Campbell Foundation in 1991. The foundation continued to deposit materials at OPUS in subsequent years, while also utilizing the collection for book projects and research purposes. Therefore, the collection does include some materials added to the collection after Campbell’s death.

The Joseph Campbell papers date from 1905 to 1995 (bulk dates 1930s-1980s), and consist of materials related to Campbell’s career as a college professor, lecturer, researcher, and author. The collection is arranged into eight Series, and holds Campbell’s original writing; teaching materials; files from his appearances in film and television; his research files; correspondence; photographs; and press clippings. Campbell’s files detail his research and writing work on mythology and literature, and chronicle the many lectures he gave throughout his career. The papers were previously held and processed by The OPUS Archives & Research Center at the Pacifica Graduate Institute, and include some materials that were added posthumously, such as lecture transcripts and outgoing correspondence. Projects started by Campbell in his lifetime and completed after his death, such as The Historical Atlas of World Mythology, are also held in the collection.

The Joseph Campbell papers are arranged in eight series:

Series I: Diaries and Journals

Series I contains an assortment of handwritten notebooks and some typescripts composed by Campbell between 1917 and 1977. This includes the Grampus journals, in which Campbell discusses his time in California in the 1930s, and his trip to Alaska with Ed Ricketts. The Grampus materials also contain a typed copy of an Ed Ricketts manuscript, and some materials related to John Steinbeck. Of note are Campbell’s journals from his trip to Asia in the 1950s, which encompass an assortment of handwritten diaries, notes, outlines, an address book, and typed journals. Additionally, there are four bound books of original writings that were assembled posthumously. The writings are original, but the order is artificial. These bound writings contain project plans, notes, schedules, banking information, seminar outlines, lecture notes, and lists.

Courtesy NYPL

Series II: Writing

Series II dates from 1927 to 1995, and holds Campbell’s original writings, comprising a mixture of manuscripts, drafts, materials intended for publication, and unpublished items. This includes pieces Campbell edited or produced in collaboration with other scholars; typed manuscripts; proposals for writing projects; published articles; and materials related to Campbell’s published books.

Editing and Collaborations comprises writings in which Campbell served as an editor, as well as pieces he authored with other writers. Of special interest is a handwritten draft script and notes from an opera collaboration with John Cage that was never produced, and a folder of Maya Deren’s writings that Campbell edited.

Among Campbell’s writings is also a selection of manuscripts, most notably his 1927 Master’s thesis, A Study of Dolorous Stroke. Also included in the manuscript files are Campbell’s fiction and short stories and a number of unpublished works.

The Published Books files comprise notes, images, and manuscripts from Campbell’s books. Included are materials from A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Masks of God, The Mythic Image, Inner Reaches of Outer Space, Flight of the Wild Gander, and Historical Atlas of World Mythology. The most comprehensive materials are from the Historical Atlas of World Mythology files, some of which were compiled after Campbell’s death. There are handwritten and typed manuscripts, notes, research files, proofs, and many files of images intended for inclusion in the final text. The research materials are arranged alphabetically by topic, and also include some posthumously bound research notes.

Series III: Teaching

Series III contains files related to Campbell’s work as a college professor and lecturer.

The Sarah Lawrence files contain course lecture notes, outlines, and typed lecture texts and transcripts from Campbell’s tenure at the college. The Lectures files are all arranged chronologically, and include each lecture’s title, date, and the location, when this information was documented. The files comprise an assortment of notes, outlines, and transcripts that span over five decades. Materials from Campbell’s lectures further assist to provide a detailed record of his public speaking and travel itinerary throughout his career.

Series IV: Film and Television

Series IV holds files that relate to Campbell’s appearances and work in film and television. Files from Mask, Myth and Dream and The Power of Myth both contain transcripts of Campbell’s televised lectures and conversations. The Series also hold a television proposal for The Mythic Landscape, and filmmaker’s logs and notes for The Hero’s Journey.

Series V: Research Files

Campbell’s Research Files consist of handwritten notes and outlines, as well as some images, prints, and slides. The Authors and Philosophers files comprise Campbell’s notes on individuals such as William Blake, Franz Boas, Geoffrey Chaucer, James Joyce, Immanuel Kant, Marcel Proust, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Friedrich Nietzsche, and W.B. Yeats. The Series also holds files of reading notes, which includes materials removed from Campbell’s personal book collection.

Series VI: Correspondence

The majority of the files are incoming letters, and are generally professional in nature. While most correspondence is arranged alphabetically by correspondent or organization name, there is a selection of letters to Campbell commenting on his books and lectures, which are filed by title. Most folders in the Series contain a single letter, and include a label displaying a typed summary of the letter’s content.

Series VII: Photographs

Courtesy NYPL
Most of the images are personal photographs, and portray Campbell’s immediate family, friends, colleagues, his travels, and Campbell himself. The Series includes photographs of Campbell as a child, as a participant in college sports, and on vacation with his family. There are also professional portraits of Campbell, and photographs of such individuals as Christine Eliade, Simon Garrigues, Angela Gregory, C.G. Jung, Einar Palsson, Ed Ricketts, Dick Roberts, Carol Henning Steinbeck, Herbert K. Stone, and Heinrick Zimmer.

Series VIII: Press

These files have been subsequently arranged by topic, which includes Awards; Books; Film and Television; Interviews and Profiles; Lectures; Reviews; and a scrapbook of press clippings dating from 1924 to 1944.

The archives are found inside the New York Public Library’s Manuscripts and Archives Division in the Schwarzman Building on Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street. Advance notice is required for access.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Friday, October 4, 2019

‘Dipshits arrested in Queensbury Lodge vandalism’

Dipshit is my favorite word. I recommend it. It has a slightly Illinoisan-car-salesman feel to it, so part of the pleasure of saying it is the one-second role-play. The “sh” part of dipshit should come out soft and slightly prolonged, and each syllable of dipshit should have equal, firm emphasis. The word should come out slightly lower than your normal register. Never high pitched, never defensive, never whiney. For example, not “Oh my god, what a dipshit!” but, with a quick yet slow head-shake, “He’s a dipshit.” It’s dismissive. It’s absolute.

Halle Butler
The Paris Review
March 4, 2019

The cretins who spraypaint swastikas on peoples’ property are understood in two denominations. The ones who paint the symbol accurately, with its arms in the correct direction, as if showing a counter-clockwise spin, are the dangerous ones. Regard them seriously. If they have their way, we’ll be living under their boots before long. The other ones? That paint the swastika backward? They are subdivided into two camps: those under age 14, and those who need to be punched in the nuts 27 times (3x3x3) to impart a valuable lesson in charity.


The dipshits: Anthony Dean and Gaven Wasson.

That’s what was placed under arrest yesterday. Identified by police as Anthony Leon Dean, age 20, and Gaven M. Wasson, 18, they are alleged to have painted “Crip 58” and “58 Crip” on the building of Queensbury Lodge 121, and similar nonsense, plus the backward swastika, on the roadside sign of the Queensbury Masonic Historical Society.

Anthony Leon Dean, born December 16, 1998, a resident of 1 Fulton Street in Glens Falls, has an arrest record already. According to the Warren County Sheriff, he was arrested March 14, 2018 and charged with obstructing governmental administration, resisting arrest, and probation violation.

Gaven M. Wasson is homeless in Glens Falls, according to police.

They were located by police at the home of an acquaintance, on the same street as the lodge, and were taken into custody after admitting their involvement in the crime, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

For their other efforts that day, which involved allegedly stealing two cans of spray paint from the local Walmart and then painting graffiti on a gas station, they are charged with Criminal Mischief third degree (E felony), Making Graffiti (Class A misdemeanor), and Petit Larceny (Class A misdemeanor), according to New York State Police. The dipshit duo will appear in Queensbury Town Court on October 21 at 9 a.m.

I meant to publish something here about the vandalism a few days ago, after the lodge set up an online fundraising page to pay for repairing the damage, but their $1,500 goal was exceeded so quickly, thanks to the contributions from more than 50 donors, that publicity for the fundraising wasn’t necessary.

Courtesy WNYT/Channel 13, Albany, NY.

An impressive extent of news media coverage has been generated by the vandalism. Channel 13 up there quotes the lodge secretary explaining how his lodge is the victim of repeated attacks of this nature. They already have multiple surveillance cameras installed, and soon will have even more.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

‘Masonic Con at Cooperstown’

There’s another Masonic Con coming. This one will take place next year at Cooperstown, New York.

Not much information available yet, but mark your calendar for October 9 through 11, 2020. Events will be held at the local Masonic lodge and a few doors down at the Baseball Hall of Fame.


Tuesday, October 1, 2019

‘Take a course in Secret Societies’

While I cheerfully endorse The Great Courses for its many rigorous and enlightening academic offerings, I haven’t experienced this particular series titled “The Real History of Secret Societies,” but of course it does address Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism, and about two dozen other subjects.

It was produced in conjunction with the History Channel (but maybe that’s not a great selling point). One reviewer said last week:

“This was an interesting survey, but I would caution against using circumstantial evidence to identify links between secret societies. The professor does qualify many of the connections as potential, however the videos descend into exhausting superficial discussions about these societies. I would have expected better rigor in analysis, therefore these groups seemed like social clubs for lonely people. You may find it entertaining, but so is the current news media, and that doesn’t cost you any money.”

The course is available in two formats: Instant Video and DVD. The latter offering includes 26 lectures on four DVDs, a 192-page guidebook, a downloadable PDF of the course guidebook, and free video streaming of the course from the website and mobile apps.

From the publicity:

The first rule of this course is you don’t talk about this course. The second rule of this course is YOU DON’T TALK ABOUT THIS COURSE. Welcome to The Real History of Secret Societies, a historical look at the true-life groups which, if you believe the myths, are the unspoken power behind some of the world’s major turning points, from controlling the British crown to holding back the electric car, and keeping Martians and Atlantis under wraps.

Prepare yourself. In this course, brought to you in partnership with HISTORY®, you will be visiting some of history’s deepest rabbit-holes, across centuries and continents, in search of secret societies in all their varieties. You will journey to some very dark places and, frankly, some odd and sometimes silly ones as well. During 26 eye-opening lectures, Dr. Richard B. Spence, professor of history at the University of Idaho, guides you through the always fascinating, often mystifying—and sometimes disturbing—world of brotherhoods, sisterhoods, orders, cults, and cabals that have influenced human culture from ancient times to the present.

Not-So-Secret Societies

Despite the name, “secret” societies have permeated popular culture and become symbols of wonder, mystique, and rumor mongering. Thanks to phenomena like Dan Brown’s best-selling novels, hit movies such as Skull and Bones, or hit songs by Madonna, the idea of secret societies has become utterly mainstream, allowing the general population to think they know about the most important parts of this clandestine underworld.

However, the commonly known groups barely scratch the surface of the number of real-life secret societies that exist. In fact, if one didn’t know better, one might think the popularization of a few groups is a conspiracy, in of itself, to cover up for the many that are never acknowledge.

With help from the archives of HISTORY, Professor Spence leaves no society uncovered, and will open your eyes to the history and evolution of factions you think you know, introducing you to fascinating and illuminating stories and insights. Consider:

  • The Illuminati—A group so pervasive in popular culture that their name has become synonymous with any generic conspiratorial group—noted throughout literature in everything from Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein to Marvel comic books. There are a variety of global groups which considered themselves Illuminati—or at least affiliated with them—but the Illuminati initially took root with a young lawyer who was obsessed with secrecy, rank and order, and creating a New World Order that echoed the promises of communism.
  • The Shriners—Founded by a wealthy New York Freemason named William Florence, who enlisted a group of well-heeled masons to establish Mecca Temple, the first lodge of the Mystic Shrine. Exclusivity added to the mystique, growing the membership of The Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine to hundreds of thousands over time. They adopted a motto of “Fun and Fellowship,” and they are known for wearing red fezzes and seen riding small bikes or cars in parades, though they also founded a number of children’s hospitals.
  • The Freemasons—A group known for secret rings and handshakes, subtle symbology, dangerous initiation rituals, and a complicated hierarchy. You’d think with all this secrecy and protection of the group, the last place you’d find them is being parodied on The Simpsons. But the truth is that they are a hard organization to keep hushed up because there has never been just a single school of Freemasonry; many variations exist and they don’t play by the same rules.

Professor Spence also looks at groups who have become so ubiquitous in our history that it’s impossible to think of them as being secret, such as the Ku Klux Klan, the Mafia, the IRA, or the Nazi Party. But as Professor Spence explains, these were the groups which began to organize behind closed doors, and their original, secret—or at least exclusive—status was likely an impetus in the group’s successfulness and omnipresence. After all, half the power and draw of a secret society stems from the fact that everyone (secretly) wants to join one.

Myth and Reality

The time period from 1890 to 1930 is known as a “golden age of fraternalism,” when hundreds of lodges, mystical orders, and fraternal organizations came into existence in the United States. During this time, America accounted for more than half of the world’s Freemasons. And, millions of Americans were affiliated with lesser-known, oath-bound orders such as Odd Fellows, Red Men, Woodmen of the World, Knights of Columbus, B’nai B’rith, Elks, Owls, Eagles, and the Moose.

Some groups were organized to promote fellowship, mutual aid, or political and social causes during a trying time for the U.S. economy. Other groups took advantage of desperate times to turn groups of humans against each other, encouraging supremacy or separatism. Still, others simply came into existence for solely self-serving reasons and were not considered legitimate, yet their stories and reputations endure. Consider these groups:

  • U. S. Secret and Civil Service Society, Self-Supporting Branch—Founded by Arthur Rochford Manby to “combat nameless evils that regular authorities couldn’t or wouldn’t handle.” This society was a cover for Manby to receive money, deeds, and mortgages from his followers in order to partake in bootlegging, extortion, fraud, robbery, and murder for hire. It also solidified the secret society mantra of “join or die,” as Manby preyed on well-to-do citizens and then showed the new initiates how broken oaths of silence or obedience would result in a beheading.
  • The Learned Elders of Zion—A super-secret group of Jewish leaders purported to be bent on world domination through subverting the morals of non-Jews and by taking control of the press and the economy. Henry Ford fueled the fire of the Elders by paying for 500,000 copies of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion to be printed and distributed in the United States in a fit of anti-Semitism. This guide was also taught by German school teachers after the Nazis came to power. The real history? This group never existed and the Protocols was a hoax.
  • The Priory of Sion—An uber-secret society claiming to be the restoration of an order dating back to the First Crusade in the 11th century that was created to protect the bloodline of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. The society’s objective was supposedly to restore a descendant as the ruler of a unified Europe. However, it was nothing more than the concoction of a career con man, who had developed a complete pseudo-history that was picked up and repurposed by the likes of Leonardo da Vinci, Victor Hugo, Claude Debussy, and, most recently, Dan Brown.

Secret societies, real or not, were often a mirror of their times, in some cases, reflecting exclusionary practices with religious, racist, or classist overtones. In other cases, they could be considered America’s first social welfare system, as many groups established programs to bridge the very divides caused by others.

But as much as these societies echoed the consciousness of America, they were fundamentally un-American. As Professor Spence points out, John F. Kennedy said in 1961: “The very word ‘secrecy’ is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths, and to secret proceedings.”

A Personal Connection
to History

Professor Spence opens each lecture with a story—a specific glimpse at another time, another place, and a real person or group who is connected in some way to the secret society being examined. This approach introduces you to these societies from both the inside-out and on a personal level. You’ll also get unprecedented access to images, photographs, and more, provided by HISTORY, which give you a true picture of what these societies looked like and how they were organized.

As you uncover secret and often now-defunct societies from around the world—including Ancient Greece, Japan, Korea, Ireland, Russia, France, Germany, and more—you’ll feel like you are there with them, whispering in underground meeting rooms or conspiring around a table in Bavaria. You’ll get to know the founders, leaders, and famous and influential members associated with these groups. And you’ll follow many of the well-known clandestine conspiracies back to their roots, through their uprising, their unearthing, and into the new secret societies that almost always sprang up to take their place.

Secret societies have attracted some of history’s most brilliant, and some of its most evil, minds. Often demonized by their enemies, many secret societies have become the stuff of myths and conspiracy theories. Why do they exist? And when they are invented or imagined, why would someone pretend they exist? What do secret societies believe? Who do they recruit? Most important, what influence do they have? Buckle up and get ready to find out.

The 26 lectures, with an average duration of 29 minutes, include: Knights Templar, Freemasons (several times), Illuminati, Cathars, the Klan, Crowley, Bohemian Grove, and UFOs. Click here for the complete list, and click on each title for its synopsis.

The Great Courses currently offers a sale price of 70 percent off. Let me know how it goes.