Saturday, February 26, 2011

Planner of DC Street Layout,
Pierre L’Enfant,
Really Was a Mason!

For a number of years, the more hysterical Masonic-related conspiracy theorists have made the claim that the layout of the streets of Washington, DC, reveals Masonic symbols, including symbols that supposedly indicate devil worship. Also for many years, Masonic historians and authors have indicated that there was no evidence that the designer of this layout, Pierre L’Enfant, was even a Freemason. (I have made this claim myself.)

We were all wrong. L’Enfant was a Freemason, albeit in a very limited sense.

The Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction, publishes a bimonthly magazine, the Scottish Rite Journal. The March-April 2011 issue carries an article on pp. 10-12 by Right Worshipful Brother Pierre F. de Ravel d’Esclapon, who holds the 32° in the Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction. (I know Sublime Prince de Ravel d’Esclapon as a Past Master of the American Lodge of Research, the oldest currently functioning American research lodge, of which I have the honor to be a full member. Plug: corresponding members are always welcome.) This article is titled “The Masonic Career of Major Pierre Charles L’Enfant,” and it details the findings of the author while the author was researching the early history of New York City’s Holland Lodge No. 8 F&AM. (Holland Lodge, which was chartered in 1787, has had such distinguished members as General von Steuben and Commodore Perry; Franklin Delano Roosevelt was raised a Master Mason in Holland Lodge in 1911.)

In Holland Lodge records, the article’s author discovered that Major Pierre L’Enfant was initiated an Entered Apprentice in Holland Lodge on April 17th, 1789, during the same month in which brother George Washington took the oath of office as the first President of the United States, in New York City. As noted in the article, L’Enfant had been in New York City since the preceding year, as he supervised renovations to Federal Hall, where the inauguration was to take place.

There is much more fascinating information in this article, which I recommend for your perusal. Regretably, as of this writing, the website of the Scottish Rite Journal has not been updated to display the March-April issue (only fair, since, after all, we are still in February). However, I would guess that in just a few days it will be possible to see this fascinating article online. (Incidentally, individual copies of this issue are available for US$3 each, and subscriptions within the US are US$15 annually, domestic checks only, sent to Scottish Rite Journal, 1733 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20009-3103. And, no, I don’t make a dime off of that plug. It’s just a great magazine.) Brother de Ravel d’Esclapon is to be commended for his discovery, and his excellent report.

So where does that leave us with regard to the idea that L’Enfant embedded Masonic symbols, supposedly including satanic symbols, in the street layout of Washington, DC? This notion is entirely rubbish, every bit as much as before. Consider:

  • Any unbiased observer of L’Enfant’s plan (shown in the illustration above) will see that L’Enfant planned his layout as a right-angled grid, overlaid by a pattern of plazas, from each of which avenues radiated like spokes from a wheel’s hub. With such a pattern, it is inevitable that diagonal angles will be formed. Masonic symbolism (such as the square and compasses) are composed of diagonal angles, so one can see Masonic symbolism like this in the street layout of DC if one really wants to. However, this is much like seeing menacing shapes in cloud formations or Rorschach inkblots. (And I speak as one who first administered the Rorschach in 1987. People see what they want to see in neutral stimuli, folks.)

  • Again, five-pointed stars will inevitably be formed by a hubs-and-spokes pattern. Some of these stars will point downward. However, the downward-directed five-pointed star only took on a sinister connotation in the 19th century, well after L’Enfant’s time, in the writings of the French esotericist Eliphas Levi. Even if L’Enfant had deliberately been trying to create the shape of a downward-directed five-pointed star, that shape had no connection to evil during his lifetime.

  • The article in the Scottish Rite Journal suggests that L’Enfant never received the second or third degrees of Freemasonry. Thus, he did not have exposure as an initiate even to the majority of the symbols of the basic Blue Lodge of Freemasonry. One would expect that symbols of satanic worship, if they existed within Blue Lodge Freemasonry at all, would be reserved for the famous “third degree.” However, apparently, L’Enfant never received that degree.

The Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon has some excellent on-line articles on these subjects. One is an article on the pentagram as a symbol throughout history. Another is this article on the symbolism supposedly to be found in the street layouts of DC (an article which can only be faulted in its claim, now obsolete, that there was no evidence that L’Enfant was a Mason).

Memo to Masonic-related conspiracy theorists: Please. Enough with the idea of Masonic symbolism in the streets of Washington, DC, already. Come up with something new and original.
Copyright 2011 Mark E. Koltko-Rivera. All Rights Reserved.

[The image of Pierre L’Enfant’s layout of Washington, DC, was obtained through Wikipedia, and is in the public domain.]

{Technorati verification code: W6DT8VFSX9XS .}

No comments:

Post a Comment

Remember the rules: No profanity, and no personal attacks, especially on someone who has posted a Comment.