Robert L.D. Cooper  Author, Historian, Freemason.


January 14th, 2023 by Robert Cooper

The New Year is said to be the time to make resolutions for the coming 12 months. I do believe that and is something I have done since a I was a child – my mother and father were very keen as it laid out their plans for the years – savings, holidays and birthday parties etc.

I was placed, unwillingly, on furlough leave at the beginning of the Covid-19 epidemic in early February 2021. That meant that I had to cancel all arrangements to give presentations at home and overseas. These included:

Brazil, Canada, England (numerous), Greece, France, New Jersey, Texas and Turkey. I have managed to catch up on some of those commitments but not surprisingly some have fallen by the wayside given the lapse of time.

This year I shall be fulfilling some of these postponed events beginning with trip to Turkey next week. I have been to Istanbul before and it is one of those special places in the world. I am delighted to know many Freemasons in that country.

In February I shall be travelling to the US to attend the conference of the Grand Masters of North America.

Meantime I am also trying to catch up on my writing. Many papers and a couple of books ‘froze’ during Covid-19 but this year I started writing them. Lewis Masonic will publish at least one of these. More details will be posted here in due course.

Lewis Masonic online bookshop can be viewed at:

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December 23rd, 2022 by Robert Cooper

When I worked for the Grand Lodge of Scotland (for almost 30 years) it was always a delight to attend staff Christmas lunches, give and receive Christmas cards and receive and accept the invitation to the annual Christmas concert in Freemasons’ Hall.

This year I received no communications whatsoever. No Christmas cards, no invitation to Christmas lunch and no enquires as to my health and well being.

For me, being retired from the Grand Lodge of Scotland turned out to be rather isolating.

Ho hum… as they say.

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Do Grand Lodges have a monopoly? Part 3

December 22nd, 2022 by Robert Cooper

The previous post left off where we had described how stonemasons’ only lodges became ‘mixed’ stonemason/non-stonemason Lodges and, then so called ‘speculative’ Lodges with no stonemasons as members. In other words Lodges of all possible ‘types’ originated and developed in Scotland before 1717.

1717 was therefore another just another step in the long march of history – in this case Masonic history.

Here, I digress to make an important historical point. History is a flow, without start or end. Oh, we know that certain big events grab the headlines – the beginning and end of WWII, 9/11, the fall of Soviet Russia, but these events do not occur as a one off, unexpected, event. In the natural world, noticeable events do occur, seemingly at random, such earth quakes or volcanic eruptions, but even they are the consequence of an historical progression, albeit in a physical, rather than a human manner.

Those events that are part of human history from major events such as the outbreak of war or revolution do not happen at 09.00 on a Monday morning but are the culmination of a previous series of events. Thus, the formation of the Grand Lodge of England in 1717* is but one event in the chain of events leading to Freemasonry as we know it today.

Back then, to the question: ‘Do Grand Lodges have a Monopoly regarding Freemasonry?’ and the answer, you may have already guessed, is no.

In fact, this has already been confirmed in a court of law no less! This is another interesting historical fact albeit virtually unknown. The Lodge of Edinburgh (Mary’s Chapel), No.1 (whose minutes begin on 31 July 1599 and are continuous to this day) had, by the end of the 17th century, become a Lodge whose members were essentially managers of other stonemasons and their influence and changes in the Lodge disturbed the ordinary stonemasons to such an extent that they broke away and formed another Lodge. That Lodge, The Lodge of Journeymen Masons, No.8, was for working stonemasons only and they continued to confer the Masonic degrees. Their actions annoyed the remaining members of the Lodge of Edinburgh to such an extent that they sued the Lodge of Journeymen Masons in court for unlawfully conferring the degrees of Freemasonry on people who had no right to receive the Masonic ‘secrets.’

The court found that no one, no Lodge, had a monopoly of conferring the degrees of Freemasonry and dismissed the case brought by the Lodge of Edinburgh. This is all a matter of record. As far as I am aware this was the first and only time (in the UK at least) that the right to confer Masonic degrees has been the subject of a legal challenge.

That legal judgement was made before the existence of any Grand Lodge and confirms that no one and no entity had or has a monopoly over Freemasonry.

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Do Grand Lodges have a monopoly? Part 2.

December 10th, 2022 by Robert Cooper

We left off at a point where we were discussing the differences between Scotland and England regarding the origins of Freemasonry.

There are extant records of Lodges in Scotland from as early as 9th January 1599 which are those of Aitcheson’s Haven Lodge. These are the oldest Lodge records in the world. That said it must be made clear that this Lodge, and other early Lodges, had members that were stonemasons alone.

This raises some very interesting and important considerations. If these Lodges had members that were all stonemasons, could they be considered to be Freemasons as we known them today? The answer is yes and, and well, yes!

Before discussing this further a few more facts are needed. Although these early Lodges were exclusively for stonemasons that did not last too long. Although Aitcheson’s Haven Lodge is the oldest on record it became extinct in the mid-19th century. The oldest Lodge with extant records and which is still in existence is The Lodge of Edinburgh (Mary’s Chapel), No.1 (to give it its’ full modern name) and whose records commence on 31st July 1599. It is in this Lodge that we see the admission of non-stonemasons for the first time. In 1634 several members of the Scottish aristocracy were admitted and so the ‘cat was out of the bag’ as they say and the admission of non-stonemasons became a regular, if not frequent, occurrence during the remainder of that century.

This Lodge can therefore be described as a Lodge that remained a stonemasons’ Lodge but with a small number of non-stonemasons as members. In answer to the above question therefore, the answer must be that it was a Lodge of stonemasons.

However, when we consider The Lodge of Aberdeen the situation is different. This Lodge’s records commence in 1670 and the membership roll (contained in the famous Mark Book) reveals that stonemasons were in the minority. In fact, approximately only 20% of the membership were stonemasons the other 80% comprised the full range of society at the time – from aristocrats, professional people (lawyers, professors etc.) to those with more humble occupations such as porridge makers! This Lodge is therefore an almost mirror image of that in Edinburgh. Whether or not the Lodge began as a stonemasons’ Lodge before its’ records begin we shall probably never know but we can say that towards the end of the 17th century Lodges (if this Lodge is anything to go by) were attracting more non-stonemasons than stonemasons.

The next ‘stage’ in the development of these early Scottish Lodges is the appearance of Lodges with no connection whatsoever with the occupation of stonemasonry. The ‘purest’ example being that of the Haughfoot Lodge whose records commence in 1702 and all the members where drawn from the local gentry with not a single stonemason involved. We would recognize that today as being a modern ‘Speculative’ Lodge (although I don’t like the term speculative in the Scottish context).

More soon.

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Do Grand Lodges have a monopoly?

December 8th, 2022 by Robert Cooper

A monopoly on what you might well ask – as did I. Ritual? Charters (Warrants)? Initiations? Or, something else.

It was something else! The person who sent me the question asked something far simpler: ‘Do Grand Lodges have a monopoly over Freemasonry?’ – that is the communal practice of conferring degrees on suitable applicants.

My initial reaction was: ‘of course not’ and thought that this would be an easy question to answer especially as I am at an early stage of this idea of Questions and Answers about Freemasonry.

Back to the question: ‘Do Grand Lodges have a monopoly on Freemasonry?’ and although my simple reply – of course not, is correct at first glance the devil is, as always, in the detail.

The first problem is defining what Freemasonry is and if a satisfactory definition is agreed (something I am not sure is possible) we are then confronted with the problems of defining what a ‘Grand Lodge’ is and what a ‘monopoly’ means.

Let us attempt the first definition – what is Freemasonry? Before the arrival of Grand Lodges in the early 18th century, Masonic Lodges existed all over Scotland. This national network of Lodges did not have a central controlling body (a Grand Lodge if you will) and each Lodge when about its own affairs unaccountable to any superior body. In other words they were independent, local, entities but they had one major common aspect and that was the ritual.

From existing, written, Scottish records we know that the ritual used by these Lodges was almost identical regardless of where any particular Lodge was located. These rituals are well known to Masonic historians but because they are handwritten and dispersed across various archives and libraries are not so well known as the first printed ritual.

For the record, the earliest known ritual is the Edinburgh Register House manuscript (MS) and is dated 1696 with several more appearing during the course of the following decade. This is an important point as they were written many years prior to the existence of any Grand Lodge. If, therefore, Freemasonry is defined as an initiatory system with a common ceremonial (ritual) in use by all known Lodges then Freemasonry as we know it today certainly existed in Scotland as early as the late 16th century.

Alternatively, if a Grand Lodge is defined as a body which it issues Charters, or Warrants, that are required to create Lodges then the definition of Freemasonry is somewhat different. However, in my view, this is a weak argument simply because prior to Grand Lodges the common denominator of Freemasonry was the ritual and not pieces of paper issued by a central authority.

By the first definition therefore, Grand Lodges did not, and could not, have a monopoly over what Lodges were doing at a local level. By the second definition, what I shall call ‘Grand Lodge Freemasonry,’ overlaid what already existed and the intriguing question here is: how did a Grand Lodge (and later, other Grand Lodges) come to acquire the power to govern existing local Lodges?

Consider this as an introduction to a Masonic subject that although I initially thought to be quite simple, and therefore quite simple to answer, turns out to be quite the opposite.

The answer, I think, lies in the different histories of two countries – Scotland and England. The national network of independent local Lodges existed in Scotland, in writing, from 9th January 1599. Even these earliest written records show that Lodges were meeting before then as they refer to earlier events.

England, on the other hand had no national network of Lodges. There are no Lodge records of a similar age to those in Scotland. It is inconceivable that all written records from England, had they existed, have simply disappeared.

To be continued…

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Monthly Question

December 7th, 2022 by Robert Cooper

road-signs.jpgA friend has requested that I answer some questions on a monthly basis. I suspect that she is frustrated by the fact that she cannot always, well hardly ever, get hold of me to ask questions that are important (to her). Her idea is therefore that she sends me a question which I shall post here and then answer it so that she, and you, can see it without having to even try and contact me! Well good luck with that…

The idea is good so far as it goes but, I am going to build in an ‘escape hatch’ that will give me some ‘wriggle room.’ I shall post his/her questions here monthly but then answer them during the course following month. This ought to allow me time to research the more difficult and obscure questions that I know she intends to send! That said the first question is benign. And that means I can answer it almost right away!

Whilst I am in no way soliciting questions you are welcome to send any of your questions regarding Freemasonry, especially Scottish Freemasonry, to me (via the Contact page only please) but please do not expect a personal reply. If at all possible I shall post your query here together with an answer.

The first question from my friend (who is not a Freemason BTW) is: ‘The Freemasons seem to have lots of weird signs and symbols. What are they for and what purpose do they serve?’

Answer: First and foremost it is important to differentiate between signs and symbols. Signs are intended to impart some specific knowledge, present definite information or give instructions. Road signs are a good example of this – Road Works Ahead (see image) is a warning SIGN. It is not a symbol. Some road signs are instructions such as STOP. The meaning of the sign is obvious. It means something very specific. Signs are therefore clear and are intended only to impart a particular piece of information. Symbols are different from signs because they can also be signs. Signs cannot be symbols. For example a cross (†) is often placed outside a particular building to indicate that it is a place of worship and, more precisely, a place of Christian worship – usually a church. However, this sign is also a symbol because to Christians it means the Passion Cross – a symbol for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Symbols can therefore, have multiple meanings whereas a sign has only one purpose or meaning. Using the example of the Christian Passion Cross: it, like many symbols, has several meanings. Not only does it suggest Christ, a Christian, a Christian place of worship (a church) it also suggests more esoteric interpretations such as the mystery of the Son of God, his birth, life, mission, Passion and resurrection.

Freemasonry has very few signs but it has a huge number of symbols. Masonic symbols are used to explain certain aspects of the Craft and are therefore, the ‘private language’ of Freemasonry (the Craft). If one wishes to learn Spanish, although having no knowledge of that language, it is quite possible to do so without going to Spain or becoming a Spainish citizen. The private language of Freemasonry is different. In the first place, Masonic symbolism is, and can only be, interpreted in a Masonic setting. The exception is where a symbol might be used in public to let people know where there is a Masonic meeting place. This is fairly common in some countries such as the USA but is much less common in Scotland and other parts of Europe.

Please use the contact form at: to ask a question but please be aware that my time is limited and it will not be possible for every question to be answered.

The next question will follow soon and will try to answer it as quickly as this but no promises!

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Grand Lodge of California

July 3rd, 2020 by Robert Cooper

Masonic gifts from the Grand Lodge of California.

I recently received several lovely Masonic gifts from the Grand Lodge of California as a consequence of my Zoom presentation on 24 June 2020.

Although not necessary the gifts were very much appreciated especially as that Grand Lodge of is one of my ‘affiliate’ Grand Lodges. By that I mean that I am a member of a two Lodges there and have been invited to visit and have given several lectures. Most notably the prestigious Henry Wilson Coil – instituted to commemorate the work of the Freemason by that name. He is arguably best remembered for his encyclopedia of Freemasonry which remains in print today.

There is a library and museum dedicated to his memory. To see details online please visit:

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June 25th, 2020 by Robert Cooper

I have been asked many times over the last few weeks where a copy of the book: The Red Triangle can be obtained.

The Grand Lodge of Scotland online shop has hardback copies and although you can place an order it will not be processed until staff return from furlough leave.

Meantime I have just been informed that the book has just been republished in paperback form and can be ordered directly from the publisher.

The paperback can be ordered directly from Lewis Masonic at:

However, if you would prefer to have a hardback copy I suggest waiting until Freemasons’ Hall reopens – although I cannot say when that will be.

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Grand Lodge of California

June 23rd, 2020 by Robert Cooper

In these days of lock-down due to the Corona Virus I am presently surprised at how adaptable Freemasons are under these conditions. An example of that is this initiative by the Grand Lodge of California.

In these days of lock-down due to the Corona Virus I am presently surprised at how adaptable Freemasons are under these conditions. am proud to have been asked, as a Past Master of Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No.2076, to give a presentation tomorrow, hosted by the Grand Lodge of California.

I am doubly honoured as I am a member of the Southern Californian Lodge of Research and a past Henry Wilson Coil lecturer.

Pre-registration required. See:…

PS. Just a reminder that my main Facebook page is now t

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Grand Lodge Digitisation Project

May 16th, 2020 by Robert Cooper

The Grand Lodge of Scotland (GLoS) is the guardian of some precious documents but also innumerable most mundane texts. As we all know paper, whether in the form of books of as loose sheets, takes up a lot of space together with the associated problems of searching the the material. Digital copies of paper makes life a lot easier.

Although designated as ‘Curator’ I am also Librarian and Archivist but the title: Curator, Librarian and Archivist of the Grand Lodge of Scotland Museum and Library is far too much of a mouthful!

Some years ago I commenced the Grand Lodge Digitisation project. The aim? To digitally copy all paper in Freemasons’ Hall, Edinburgh! An ambitious target but a worthy one and although it is very unlikely to be completed in my lifetime it is hoped that my successors will continue the project especially as it is now so well developed.

The first problem was deciding where to start as there so much to choose from. The oldest Minutes in the world perhaps? Lodge Petitions? However, I decided to tackle something easier first – some printed material. This was as a learning process and equipment assessment.

When Grand Lodges issues a Charter to a new Lodge it retains a copy. These are large documents – approximately three feet by two feet (0.93 m by 0.61 m). Their size meant that they could not be scanned on an A4 flatbed scanner so a digital camera was used (Nikon D500 fitted with a 60mm macro lens. The next problem was that to capture the whole document in a single image meant that the camera had to be placed approximately six feet (1.83 m) above the document. That required a very large tripod!

That experience taught me that a range of techniques and equipment would be needed to complete the task.

  1. Camera and tripod for very large documents
  2. Flatbed scanner for ephemera
  3. Book scanner for, well, books.t

Even then it was clear that there were some items that could not be dealt with onsite and professional digitisation services would be required. But it is the onsite digitisation which is under my direct supervision.

The early part of the project revealed the extent to which Grand Lodge archives have been under-resourced – this is not a criticism simply a statement of fact. But it is not too late if resources are made available now.

More to follow…

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May 12th, 2020 by Robert Cooper

Saint Michael’s Kirkyard in Dumfries is a special place for Freemasons as it the last resting place of Brother Robert Burns.

Burns aficionados will be interested to learn of a new, limited edition, book on the kirkyard. Although Burns’ mausoleum is an important feature and is discussed in detail, there is much more to the kirkyard. This new book discusses, and illustrates, one of the most important and most overlooked, Scottish graveyards.

This handsome volume by the established authority on funerary monuments, Professor James Stevens Curl, can only be purchased by subscription. To order and pay go to the FaceBook page at or download and use the ‘flyer’ attached to this post.

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Online Lectures

May 4th, 2020 by Robert Cooper

My online lectures seem to have been well received and some have been posted on YouTube! There are a few more presentations arranged including one for the Grand Lodge of California in June. There is one catch – to participate one has to register. See:…

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Zoom presentations

May 1st, 2020 by Robert Cooper

I have been flattered by the number of requests I have received to give ‘virtual presentations’ on various Masonic subjects.

As a Zoom novice I am on a steep learning curve but have managed to master the basics. However, I cannot work out how to use images to illustrate my talks. If anyone can explain how to do that I would be most grateful.

Meantime I will try to post images on my Facebook page after each talk. I know that it is not ideal so please bear with me. My Facebook page is at:

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Web Site Security Update

April 27th, 2020 by Robert Cooper

Although I am furlough leave I have never been busier. But I have found the time to start to update this much neglected web site.

The latest change has been to add a security certificate (SSL) so that the site now shows that the site is secure. This means that the address is slightly different. http is now https and is illustrated by a graphic of a small padlock immediately before the web site address.

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I am not a morning person

July 16th, 2021 by Robert Cooper

WE adore an inspirational tale involving positivity and personal improvement. Jennifer Brown from Paisley supplies us with one such narrative when she tells us: “Before my morning coffee I hate everyone.”Proving that obstacles really can be overcome, she adds:“After my morning coffee I feel good about hating everyone!

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Box of Wine

June 30th, 2021 by Robert Cooper

A friend of mine recently discovered that you could buy wine in a box. This contains four normal sized bottles.

He took it back to the supermarket complaining that it said (on the box) ‘lasts up to eight weeks’ – ‘so what’s the problem’ asked the perplexed manager? Says my friend: ‘up to eight weeks, my a***, it only lasted me three days.’

Scots, don’t you just love em…?

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The Annihilation of Freemasonry

June 23rd, 2021 by Robert Cooper

This article was published in February 1941 – nine months before the attack on Pearl Harbour and the USA’s entry to World War Two. Published in a US magazine its prescience is remarkable. The free world had at that time some inkling of the treatment of ‘enemies of the state’ by the Nazi Party but one group has been almost entirely forgotten. This article, written long before the true extent of the Holocaust was known, is a chilling reminder of what can happen when a particular group is villified, ridculed and criminalised without cause.

“Nazis and Fascists are engaged in a ruthless campaign aiming at The Annihilation of Freemasonry”

The American Mercury Magazine, 1941

Sven G. Lunden

There is only one group of men whom the Nazis and the Fascists hate more than the Jews. They are the Freemasons. In Italy, indeed, the anti-Jewish feeling is of recent vintage and largely artificial, whereas the blackshirt hatred of Freemasonry is old and deep. In their own countries Hitler and Mussolini Inaugurated their respective reigns with outrages against Masons and Masonic institutions, and they have never relaxed the systematic persecution. Now Nazi conquests of other European nations — whether by invasion of forcible “persuasion” — are followed automatically by hostile measures against Freemasons. From Norway to the Balkans, the progress of the Swastika has brought outlawry, and often vandalism and death in its wake for all Masons. The anti-Semitic excesses have been widely reported, the anti-Catholic outrages have had considerable publicity, but the merciless totalitarian assaults on Freemasonry have not received a tithe of the world-wide attention they richly merit. They are practically an unknown chapter.

Nazi and Fascist publications leave no doubt of their belief that all evil in the world, from the high mortality rate among the dinner guests of the Borgias down to the Versailles Treaty, has been the work of Freemasons, alone or with the help of Israel. In “Mien Kampf”, Hitler merges his twin phobias:

“The general pacifistic paralyzation of the national instinct of self-preservation, introduced into the circles of the so-called ‘intelligentsia’ by Freemasonry, is transmitted to the great masses, but above all to the bourgeoisie, by the activity of the great press, which today is always Jewish.”

And one of the first official statements made by Hermann Goering in his capacity as Prime Minister of Prussia, when the Nazis took over power in 1933, was that “in National Socialist Germany there is no place for Freemasonry.: That view was not news. It had run through all the Nazi propaganda and had been an intrinsic part of the Fascist attitude in Mussolini’s realm.

After the German debacle of 1918, the frustrated man who had been the virtual master of Germany’s destinies, General Erich Ludendorff, south an outlet for his bitterness in diatribes against Freemasonry. Right up to his death, Ludendorff devoted himself wholly to propaganda intended to prove that the war, the ensuing German revolution, and most other world ills had been the doing of the Masons. He published a pamphlet entitled “Annihilation of Freemasonry Through the Revelation of Its Secrets” wherein the so-called secrets of Freemasonry were “revealed” for the hundredth time since the foundation of the Order in 1717, without, however, annihilating Masonry. The senile general’s main thesis was that Freemasonry is a Jewish device intended to make “artificial Jews.” On one page the hand that had led Germany to disaster in 1918 wrote: “It is cheating the people to fight the Jew while allowing his auxiliary troop, Freemasonry … to function.”

The Nazis continued where Ludendorff left off. But others had preceded them in Mason-baiting. In 1917, as one of their acts, the Bolsheviks dissolved all lodges in Russia. In 1919, when Bela Kun proclaimed the dictatorship of the proletariat in Hungary, one of his first decrees ordered the dissolution of Masonic lodges. In 1925, Spain’s first dictator of this generation, General Primo de Rivera, ordered the abolition of Freemasonry in his country.

Benito Mussolini went about the same business more methodically. Having established his regime, Il Duce proceeded step by step to exterminate the lodges and the influence of Italian Freemasonry. Even the Nazi apostle, Dr. Alfred Rosenberg, has admitted in his book “Masonic World Policies” that the Freemasons had been the creators of the united democratic Kingdom of Italy. But this did not win them any mitigation of horrors at the hands of ultra-patriotic Fascists. In 1924, Mussolini decreed that every member of his Fascist Party who was a Mason must abandon one or the other organization. Thereupon General Cappello, one of the most prominent Fascists, who had held the post of Deputy Grand Master of Grande Oriente, Italy’s leading Grand Lodge, gave up membership in Fascism rather than betray his Masonic ideals. He was to pay dearly for this loyalty. Less than a year later, he was charged with complicity in an attempt on Mussolini’s life. It was a palpable frame-up by an OVRA stoolpigeon name Quaglia, but General Cappello was sentenced to thirty years in prison, where he probably still lingers.

In the summer of 1925 Mussolini got around to dissolving Italian Freemasonry. In an open letter to Il Duce, the Grand Master of the Grande Oriente, Domizio Torrigiani, had the courage to stand up for democracy and freedom of thought. The price he paid was exile to the Lipari islands. After nearly going blind there, he died soon afterwards. Hundreds of other prominent Masons shared the harsh Lipari exile with him. At the peak of the anti-Mason agitation, in 1925-27, blackshirt strong-arm squads looted the homes of well-known Masons in Milan, Florence and other cities, and murdered at least 100 of them.

The Nazis acted more swiftly. Immediately on Hitler’s rise to power, the ten Grand Lodges of Germany were dissolved. Many among the prominent dignitaries and members of the Order were sent to concentration camps. The Gestapo seized the membership lists of the Grand Lodges and looted their libraries and collections of Masonic objects. Much of this loot was then exhibited in an “Anti-Masonic Exposition” inaugurated in 1937 by Herr Dr. Joseph Goebbels in Munich. The Exposition included completely furnished Masonic temples.

The persecution was carried over into Austria when the country was captured by the Nazis. The Masters of the various Vienna lodges were immediately confined in the most notorious concentration camps, including the horrible living hell at Dachau in Bavaria. The same procedure was repeated when Hitler took over Czechoslovakia, then Poland. Immediately after conquering Holland and Belgium, the Nazis ordered the dissolution of the lodges in those nations. It was also Point One on the agenda of Major Quisling in Norway. It may be taken as part of the same ugly picture that General Franco of Spain in 1940 sentenced all Freemasons in his realm automatically to ten years in prison. When France fell last June, the Vichy government caused the two Masonic bodies of France, the Grand Orient and the Grenade Loge to be dissolved, their property being seized and sold at auction.

The countries which are still ostensibly independent, but actually under the heel of Germany, must prove their conformity to the Nazi pattern by taking harsh measures against Masonry. In Hungary the dissolution of the lodges was unnecessary because they were never allowed to resume after Bela Kun was overthrown. Mason-baiting is one “principle” on which White Terrors and Red Terrors have always agreed. Rumania recently prohibited Freemasonry to prove its subservience to Germany. Bulgaria and Yugoslavia, inhabited by levelheaded and tolerant peasantry, were also obliged to enact the twin sets of laws — anti-Semitic and anti-Masonic — that demonstrate “friendship for Hitler”.

The summary does not begin to convey the full terror of the Calvary to which Freemasonry has been subjected wherever the totalitarians took power. Murder, imprisonment, economic looting, social outlawry have been the bitter lot of individual Masons. Rapine has been the fate of their organizations, their treasures, their institutions of charity.


Why does this implacable and fanatic hatred of the Order obsess the totalitarian mind? The answer is in the whole history and temper of Freemasonry. For more than two centuries its leaders have been consistently on the side of political freedom and human dignity, reaping a harvest of persecution at the hands of tyrants. Before going into that, however, we must distinguish clearly between two things: Freemasonry and Freemasons. The chief trick of mason-haters through the generations, a trick followed by the Nazis, is to direct their accusations not against Freemasons personally but against the whole Masonic Order.

Freemasonry is made up of Masonic bodies: lodges, Grand Lodges and other groupings. All of these scrupulously refrain from meddling in politics or any other subject not directly related to Masonic matters or charity. The Constitution of the Order stipulates that every member must be a loyal citizen of his country, and it professes adherence “to that religion in which all men agree” — that is, belief in a Divine power, in morality and in charity. In contrast to narrow nationalism, it believe in serving Humanity as a whole. That is all that the Masonic Order itself professes and is interested in. What individual Masons do as citizens of their respective countries to serve the ideals they personally believe, is their own business.

This attitude is no subterfuge. On the contrary, the enlightened Freemason not only admits but prides himself in the fact that modern democracy and human progress owe so much to the heroism and idealism of individual Freemasons. Unless he is a very naive person he will also admit that the lodge is a place where congenial people meet to gather that moral strength which they need to stand up for the ideals of liberty and equality outside the lodge. At the same time, however, to true Masons the lodge is hallowed ground, and inside its gates politics and the other concerns of the market-place are taboo.

Some of the less critically-minded Masons like to trace the origins of the Order back to ancient Egypt. But in its present form, Freemasonry originated in England, probably in the Seventeenth Century, while the first Grand Lodge was founded in London in 1717 and the regulations, by-laws and constitutions of Masonry were laid down in what is known as Anderson’s Constitutions in 1722-23. The spiritual elements underlying these precepts were decidedly “advanced” for their time, emphasizing as they did tolerance for other men’s religions and the brotherhood of all human beings.

The intellectual and spiritual foundations of modern democracy, including the American Revolution and the American Constitution, are to be found in large part in the teachings of Jean Jacques Rousseau and in the ideas cemented into the great first Encyclopedia. And it is a fact that most of the authors of that epoch-making Encyclopedia — Diderot, D’Alembert, Condorcet, the famous Swiss philosopher Helvetius, etc. — were Freemasons. The envoy to France from the rebellious American colonies, Benjamin Franklin, also was an ardent Freemason. So were George Washington, sixty among his generals, John Hancock and a great many of his co-signers of the Declaration of Independence. Both Washington and Franklin long held the post of Grand Master.

The most distinguished among the Masonic lodges of Paris in the Eighteenth Century was the “Lodge of the Nine Sisters” — that is, the nine Muses — and its membership included the intellectual cream of France. When Voltaire paid a visit to Paris in the year of his death, at the age of 79, he was initiated into Freemasonry in this lodge. The climax of the ceremony came when Brother Benjamin Franklin of Philadelphia handed to Voltaire the Masonic apron which the great Helvetius had worn before him. Voltaire raised the apron to his aged lips.

Six years before that memorable day, something even more memorable happened in Boston. It has come down in history as the Boston Tea Party. And it is no secret that the “Indians” who dumped the cargo on December 16, 1773, had emerged from the building which housed the St. Andrews Lodge, the leading Masonic body in Boston. Their job done, the “Indians” were seen to troop back to the lodge building — and no Indians ever again emerged from the lodge. Instead, a lot of prominent Bostonians, known to be Masons, did emerge. And in the book which used to contain the minutes of the lodge and which still exists, there is an almost blank page where the minutes of that memorable Thursday should be. Instead, the page bears but one letter — a large T. Can it have anything to do with Tea? It is perhaps the only instance in the History of Freemasonry were a lodge, as a body, has taken an active part in politics.


Practically everywhere, INDIVIDUAL Masons have thus been in the forefront in movements of liberation. Goethe, who considered himself a European more than a German and so often criticized his fellow-Germans, was a fervent Freemason, as was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Mozart’s opera “The Magic Flute” is full of allusions and symbolism relating to Freemasonry. In fact, its theme is the search for truth and the victory of tolerance over the fanaticism that springs from ignorance, a theme which Mozart shared with his brother Masons. But few Masons today, listening to the delightful tunes of Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro”, realize that they are enjoying a “revolutionary” play, set to music by a Mason who believed in the “revolutionary” principle of the equality of all men. Beaumarchais’ Figaro comedy was written and staged under Louis XV of France as an attack against the prevalent feudal social system. Mozart’s choice of this play, at a time when the success of the young American democracy was firing the imagination of the world, was not accidental.

Hebert, Andre Chenier, Camille Desmoulins and many other “Girondins” of the French Revolution were Freemasons. The Masonic ideal of freedom was strong in the heart of a Frenchman who became a Mason while in the youthful United States of America — the Marquis de Lafayette. He remained an enthusiastic Mason all his life, and was until his death in 1829 Grand Master of the Grand Orient de France.

And during the whole of the Nineteenth Century, to be a Freemason was tantamount to being a champion of democracy. Many of the leaders in the great year 1848, which saw so many uprising against feudal rule in Europe, were members of the Order; among them was the great Hungarian hero of democracy, Louis Kossuth, who found temporary refuge in America. Like Kossuth, another celebrated champion of democracy, Guiseppe Garibaldi, was a thirty-third degree Freemason and Grand Master of the Italian Freemasons. Most leaders of the Young Turkish Committee, which in 1908 forced Sultan Abdul Hamid “the Damned” to give his nation a parliamentary form of government, and who deposed the “Red Sultan” in the following year, were likewise Masons. In Latin America, too, the process of liberation from the Spanish yoke was the work of Freemasons, in large measure. Simon Bolivar was one of the most active of Masonry’s sons, and so were San martin, Mitre, Alvear, Sarmiento, Benito Juarez — all hallowed names to Latin Americans.

Thus, while the Order as such kept out of politics, it attracted to itself the most democratically minded, the champions of human decencies — and won for itself the undying hatred of those who feared progress. Yet Masonry has never been a subversive movement. In countries where democracy is a reality, even Royalty belongs to the Order. Both King George VI and the Duke of Kent are Freemasons; so is the Duke of Windsor. His grandfather, Edward VII, was the chief of British Masonry, and he was succeeded in the post by the aged Duke of Connaught. King Gustav V heads the Freemasons of Sweden.

It is clear, consequently, why the Nazis and Fascist and Bolsheviks must hate an organization so steeped in humanitarian traditions. They know that Masons, as individuals, have founded a great number of modern democratic states, have drafted the Declaration of Independence and created liberal Constitutions the world over. But the totalitarian hatred for the Order is not merely emotional. It is clearly defined in the fundamental divergence between their creed and the Masonic ideal. In his book to which we have already referred, the Nazi Dr. Rosenberg writes:

“Without doubt the Masonic dogma of Humanity is a relapse into worlds of the most primitive conceptions; everywhere where it is put into practice it is accompanied by decadence, because it conflicts with the aristocratic laws of Nature”.

Thus in his own dogmatic terms he indicts Freemasonry for what is its greatest pride, its ideal of equality.

In 1938 Hitler’s own publishing house, which puts out both “Main Kampf” and the official “Volkischer Beobachter”, issued a volume on “Freemasonry, Its World View (Weltanschauung), Organization and Policies”. The preface is written by Herr Heydrich, second in command of the Gestapo, and hence an expert on oppression and violence, and hints openly at the seizure of libraries and property of German Freemasonry. The book itself, by one Dieter Schwarz, discloses that every new Nazi member must “confirm by his word of honor that he does not belong to a Masonic lodge.” In outlining the official Nazi on the subject, it says in part:

“Nordic is the Nazi conception of the world, Jewish-Oriental that of the Freemasons; in contrast to the anti-racial attitude of the lodges, the Nazi attitude is race conscious….”

“Masonic lodges are… associations of men who, closely bound together in a union employing symbolical usages, represent a supra-national spiritual movement, the idea of Humanity… a general association of mankind, without distinction of races, peoples, religions, social and political convictions.”

I have read several hundred books about Freemasonry and scores of original Masonic documents. But never have I seen masonry’s basic ideals expressed more clearly than by its mortal enemies in the passage above. Herr Heydrich and Herr Schwarz are right — the gulf between their “Weltanschauung” and the Masonic Ideals can never be bridged.

The American Mercury , Volume LII, No. 206, published in February 1941.

[Text to accompany the above image: A German anti-Masonic, anti-Semitic, pamphlet entitled The Death Sentance for Freemasons in Germany. Note the combination of the Cross (for the Jesuits), Star (for the Jews) and Square and Compasses for the Freemasons. This combination of these three groups were claimed to be part of a conspiracy to create a New World Order. The swastika raises in a blaze of light which alludes to Ludendorff’s repeated claim that Freemasonry would be exposed for what it was by casting a light on the Order. Lundendorff believed that by publishing Masonic rituals the evils of Freemasonry would be exposed. By Friedrich Hasselbader.]

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Freemasonry Without Borders

June 22nd, 2021 by Robert Cooper

A presentation about Rosslyn Chapel and Freemasonry – that is Scottish Freemasonry.

My next Zoom presentation will be on Tuesday, 22 June 2021 for the online Masonic group – Freemasonry Without Borders. The Meeting room will open at 5.30 pm and the presentation shall commence at 6.00 pm.

Apologies for the very late notice! Busy days…

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