Friday, March 25, 2016

Are We the Last Generation of American Freemasons?

Is this the future of American Freemasonry?

The current issue (March 23, 2015) of the Masonic Edition of my newsletter, Markings, contains a single major essay, perhaps the most important of my Masonic career to date: “Are We the Last Generation of Freemasons?” The essay is too comprehensive for a blog post, but I thought I would post highlights here:
  • The decline of American Freemasonry dates to 1954, over a decade before the anti-establishment movements of the later 1960s gained the attention of young Americans.
  • Currently, the force driving the membership crisis is not so much the death of members, but the rise in voluntary attrition: demits and NPDs. But what is driving that?
  • The answer is simple, if chilling: In many lodges, Freemasonry just does not deliver what it promises. (Details are available in the essay.)
  • If current trends continue, by the time the Entered Apprentices we initiate in 2016 have passed on, the Fraternity will have shrunk almost 90% from current levels. As the Grand Orator in Florida declared in 2007: “We are one generation away from extinction.”
  •  I give extensive suggestions for how we might turn this situation around.
  •  I end with links to five online resources for recommended reading.
Quite frankly, in putting this essay together, I felt like I was on a mission. I also felt like I was putting together an outline for a book—but that could take months to get to, given my current list of projects. We really can’t wait that long to make more progress in turning this around. So, I urge you to read this essay, ponder it, and decide what part of it you would like to discuss for implementation in your lodge.

Freemasonry is too valuable to vanish from the American landscape. Let us nurture it, and build it.

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I invite you to subscribe to my mailing list, to receive my twice-monthly newsletter Markings—Masonic Edition. Fill in the box in the upper-right hand corner of this blog post, and we’ll set you right up!

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Visit the “The Freemason Mark” page on Facebook.

Visit Mark Koltko-Rivera’s personal website.

 [The image the broken column—a traditional symbol in Freemasonry, signifying the death of a Freemason—was obtained from a page of print-quality images on the website of the Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon. This image is in the public domain.]

(Copyright 2016 Mark E. Koltko-Rivera. All Rights Reserved.)

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Point of Freemasonry, Part 1:
Personal Transformation

It is easy to be so wrapped up in the minutiae of daily life—taking out the trash and the recyclables on the right days; making sure the kids have done their homework, and that there are no (longer any) potatoes growing behind their ears; keeping track of whether one’s Dear Spouse’s birthday is next week or the week after (or, quelle horreur, last week); getting All That Work done—it is so easy, I say, to get so wrapped up in this that we lose perspective, and forget about our ultimate objectives: Why do I do this work? Why are my Dear Spouse and I together? Why do we have these children? Why am I living this daily life?

As with our lives as a whole, so too with our Craft. It is easy to get so caught up in the minutiae—Who is driving whom to what Masonic event? Did we get enough food for the Festive Board? (and so on and so on)—that we can lose track of the more important questions, the questions that should be uppermost in our minds regarding our Fraternity: Why Masonry? What is Freemasonry really about? What are our objectives as Freemasons?

There is, of course, a well-worn answer to the question of the purpose of Freemasonry: “To make good men better”—an answer that has been slung around since at least the mid-twentieth century. It is a fair capsule description, as far as it goes.

But it does not go nearly far enough. To really understand the point of Freemasonry, to comprehend and even to fulfill our purpose as Masons, we need to understand the full scope of Masonry’s objectives.

We need to understand that Freemasonry is about transformation.

This is the first blog post of a series in which I explain my approach to the purpose of Freemasonry. In this post, I describe the objective of Masonry in terms of individual, personal transformation: self-transformation—even, I daresay, self-transmutation.

Symbols as Principles of Personal Transformation

Think of the visual symbols that are most characteristic of each of the three degrees of the Blue Lodge: the working tools, the tracing boards, the symbolic stairway. Ponder, as one great whole, the experience of the rituals of Masonic initiation. All of these things are intended to change the way that Freemasons think about themselves and their lives, and the way that they behave, both in their personal lives, and in their interactions with others.  Consider this:
  • The candidate enters the sacred space of the Lodge room in darkness—not because the room is unilluminated, but because the candidate is ‘blind.’ This is our position in the world, despite whatever position, rank, or wealth we may possess: without spiritual light, we are as good as blind.
  • Our blindness is not relieved until we kneel at the Altar of prayer, holding fast to the Volume of Sacred Law (and Insight).

To create a life of excellence, we learn, it is necessary to apply certain principles and practices. Among these are:
  1. A constant, unremitting effort to correct the defects of our characters, to chip off the characteristics we should not possess, and to fill in the areas we lack.
  2. A commitment to hold our behavior to the highest standards. There is to be no bending of the rules here, when it comes to our integrity.
  3. Determination to take a balanced approach to every day, and use our time wisely: to work industriously and diligently, but not to the point of exhaustion; to rest, but not to the point of sloth; to engage in recreation, but not to the point of indolence or intemperance. (I will consider service in another post in this series.)
  4. A lifelong, major effort to improve our minds and skills, in multiple areas of knowledge, the arts, the sciences, and the humanities.
  5. A firm commitment to keeping our word; to doing what we say we will do, when we say we will do this; to not doing what we say we won’t do, when we say we won’t do that.
  6. A determination to stick patiently with the Work and the Journey, not expecting results or progress that are not really earned.

A Contrast to the Ways of the World

One cannot overestimate how radical the transformation promoted by Freemasonry would have been in 17th and early 18th century Britain and continental Europe:
  • Spiritual discipline was largely a thing for monasteries, convents, and seminaries, not for laypeople in the world.
  • Aside from the Jewish community, most Europeans were either illiterate or barely literate by today’s standards. In contrast, Freemasonry promoted ongoing education in the Arts and Sciences.
  • Among the aristocracy, intemperance and indulgence were quite widespread. There is a reason why the English simile, “drunk as a lord,” has endured for centuries.

It is easy to tut-tut at life in the age when Freemasonry as we know it began. But our own age is not so very different, and is filled with more powerful distractions. Let us just focus on the situation in the United States.

The functional “illiteracy” of the American public in multiple areas is astonishing to the point of parody. The relatively mediocre ranking of the U.S. in terms of students’s mathematical and scientific knowledge is well documented (and, to my mind, is even a threat to national security). The geographic and historical ignorance of Americans is all too well documented, as well. Even in relation to their own religions (let alone anyone else’s!), Americans as a group are stunningly ignorant. To all of this, Freemasonry counters: educate yourselves!

Much of popular culture—particularly as seen in certain works of music and video—promotes a materialistic lifestyle focused on an alcohol- and drug-fueled binge of hedonistic self-indulgence, an attitude exposed in such films as The Wolf of Wall Street (trailers here and here)—a film which is, after all, a dramatization of a non-fiction book by a former Wall Street insider). To all of this, Freemasonry responds with a vision of a life of purpose, based on spiritual principles of one’s own choice—and with the tools to make that vision a reality.

Conclusion—and Two Take-Away Messages

Freemasonry is meant to “get into your head,” as well as your heart. It aims to transform the Mason’s worldview, and the Mason’s very motivational structure within the personality. That is personal transformation. It has been the focus of initiatic disciplines over the course of at least the last 4,000 years of human history. And it is the focus of Freemasonry today.

There are two take-away messages here:

First, for my fellow Freemasons: Understand what Freemasonry is really about. Masonry is meant to help you thoroughly change yourself—to help you transform yourself; even (in an alchemical sense) to help you transmute yourself—into a person different than the person you were when you first approached the Western Gate. I exhort you to engage that process, actively, not passively. (In future posts on this blog, I shall consider in more detail how to do that.)

Second, to my readers who are not Masons, who are intrigued by all this: Consider getting involved. There is, almost certainly, a Masonic body near your residence or workplace. (You can learn more about Freemasonry in my book, Freemasonry: An Introduction; Chapter 9 is titled, “How to Become a Freemason.” Ladies: I describe woman-oriented Masonic groups in Chapters 3 and 6.)

Next in the series: Freemasonry and Community Transformation.

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I invite you to subscribe to my mailing list, to receive my twice-monthly newsletter Markings—Masonic Edition. Fill in the box in the upper-right hand corner of this blog post, and we’ll set you right up!

I also invite you to become a “follower” of this blog through the box in the upper-right hand corner. I also invite you to subscribe to the RSS feed for this blog.

Visit the “The Freemason Mark” page on Facebook. 

Visit Mark Koltko-Rivera’s personal website.

[The image was created by the artist known as “silster,” and is titled “Hero Transformation.” It was found on the artist’s webpage.]

(Copyright 2016 Mark E. Koltko-Rivera. All Rights Reserved.)

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Speaking at Wappingers Lodge #671 (NY)--2/13/16

On Monday, February 15, 2016, I shall be speaking at Wappingers Lodge #671 F&AM in Dutchess County, New York. (All the details are on the poster, illustrated; click for a larger image. A map of the location and driving directions are available on the lodge website, here.)

All Master Masons from the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of New York, or from lodges of jurisdictions in amity with said Grand Lodge, are welcome to attend.

My topic will be precisely what the folks on the wild-and-wooly fringe of conspiracy theory would think that the Masons talk about: Freemasonry and Global Domination: Simple Steps to Ruling the World.

It only demonstrates the intellectual shallowness of the wild-and-wooly crowd when they assume that I am talking about dominating the external world. That would be so limiting! But that's not a mistake that my readers here would make, I am sure.

I look forward to seeing many of my Masonic brethren at this presentation.

(And none of the wild-and-wooly persuasion.)

(Copyright 2016 Mark E. Koltko-Rivera. All Rights Reserved.)

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A Discovery: The Ultimate Source of
Faux-Albert Pike’s ‘Luciferian Doctrine’ Instructions

Léo Taxil, ‘The Great Swindler’

Most people who’ve spent time on the Internet researching the Fraternity have run into the claim that Albert Pike, a 19th century leader in the Scottish Rite and other branches of Freemasonry, was a Satanist—and that all Masons are as well. This accusation often comes accompanied by an extended quote from instructions that Pike supposedly sent to Scottish Rite operatives in Europe, emphasizing that an alleged ‘Luciferian doctrine’ was the core of “Palladian Freemasonry,” the truly secret society that, it was claimed, was hidden within the Fraternity. This quote is usually given as follows:

That which we must say to the crowd is—We worship a God, but it is the God that one adores without superstition.
 To you, Sovereign Grand Inspectors General, we say this, that you may repeat it to the Brethren of the 32nd, 31st and 30th degrees—The Masonic religion should be, by all of us initiates of the high degrees, maintained in the purity of the Luciferian doctrine.
 If Lucifer were not God, would Adonay (The God of the Christians) whose deeds prove his cruelty, perfidy, and hatred of man, barbarism and repulsion for science, would Adonay and his priests, calumniate him?
 Yes, Lucifer is God, and unfortunately Adonay is also God. For the eternal law is that there is no light without shade, no beauty without ugliness, no white without black, for the absolute can only exist as two Gods: darkness being necessary to light to serve as its foil as the pedestal is necessary to the statue, and the brake to the locomotive.
 In analogical and universal dynamics one can only lean on that which will resist. Thus the universe is balanced by two forces which maintain its equilibrium: the force of attraction and that of repulsion. These two forces exist in physics, philosophy and religion. And the scientific reality of the divine dualism is demonstrated by the phenomena of polarity and by the universal law of sympathies and antipathies. That is why the intelligent disciples of Zoroaster, as well as, after them, the Gnostics, the Manicheans and the Templars have admitted, as the only logical metaphysical conception, the system of the two divine principles fighting eternally, and one cannot believe the one inferior in power to the other.
 Thus, the doctrine of Satanism is a heresy; and the true and pure philosophic religion is the belief in Lucifer, the equal of Adonay; but Lucifer, God of Light and God of Good, is struggling for humanity against Adonay, the God of Darkness and Evil.

Could it get any more damning (literally!) than this? Albert Pike, revered as the leader of the Scottish Rite, saying things like “Lucifer is God”? Saying that “the Masonic religion” is based on “Luciferian doctrine”? This passage is reproduced on hundreds of websites, as evidence that Freemasonry is Satanism, whether the poor Masons know it or not.

But it is all a forgery.

Although the passage is sometimes ignorantly cited on websites as if it were in Pike’s real-life masterpiece, Morals and Dogma, the quotation comes from another source entirely. The passage, as I quoted it above, is from pages 220-221 of the 1933 book Occult Theocrasy, by Edith Starr Miller, Lady Queenborough; the book is a classic example of the wild and wooly sector of conspiracy theories, full of anti-Masonry and anti-Semitism, to boot. Miller stated that this was her translation from a French book by noted anti-Mason, the journalist Abel Clarin de la Rive, La Femme et l’Enfant dans la Franc-Maçonnerie Universelle [in English: Woman and Child in Universal Freemasonry], published in 1894. I own a copy of de la Rive’s book, and I can testify that this passage occurs therein. But the question has long been asked, what exactly was de la Rive quoting?

I have just identified the ultimate source for the ‘Luciferian doctrine’ passage. It is the 1891 book, L'Existence des loges de femmes affirmée par Mgr Fava, évêque de Grenoble, et par Léo Taxil [trans.: The Existence of the Lodges of Women Affirmed by Monsignor Fava, Bishop of Grenoble, and by Léo Taxil]. The book is supposedly edited by ‘Adolphe Ricoux,’ just another pseudonym for Taxil. Below, I show the title page of the book, and the pages (pp. 93-95) on which the ‘Luciferian doctrine’ passage occurs. (Click on the images to see them larger.)

Title Page, The Existence of Lodges of Women Affirmed ... by Léo Taxil.

The fourth and fifth paragraphs start the quote given by Miller, "That which we must say to the crowd is ..."

The third and fourth paragraphs continue the quote by Miller: "If Lucifer were not God ..."

From the top of the page through "ALBERT PIKE, 33°" concludes the quote given by Miller.

 In 1897, Taxil publicly confessed to a roomful of journalists that he had pulled off an immense anti-Masonic and anti-Catholic hoax over the preceding two years, during which he published thousands of pages about the supposed orgies held under the auspices of the entirely fictitious Palladian Freemasonry. During his confession, he specifically stated that he himself had written Pike’s supposed instructions—although Taxil did not specify where he had published them, if indeed they had been published at all. This discovery of Taxil’s now quite rare book proves definitively that Taxil had indeed written the instructions about ‘Luciferian doctrine,’ and where he published them.

Why This Matters

Why does any of this matter? As it happens, some elements of the anti-Masonic community have disputed the idea that Taxil was the actual author of the instructions about the Luciferian doctrine. As the highly anti-Masonic website Freemasonry Watch (“Help us take a bit out of Freemasonry”) stated, in reference to the Luciferian doctrine passage quoted in Miller’s book:
NOWHERE in ANY of Freemason Taxil’s writings does the [Luciferian doctrine] quotation appear, in whole OR part. If it did believe us the Freemasons would have the Taxil writing which included it plastered from one end of the Net to the other. We challenge the Freemasons to produce ANY document written by the anti-clerical Freemason Gabriel Jogand (Leo Taxil) that includes the [Luciferian doctrine] quotation!
Well then: So much for that. With this discovery, we now have the Luciferian doctrine quotation firmly placed within the published writings of Léo Taxil. That should put this issue to rest permanently.

(Note to Freemasonry Watch: This Freemason has taken up your challenge—and met it. I now challenge you to retract your statement as I have quoted it above, and to state that the Luciferian doctrine instructions have been clearly tied to Taxil.)

Coda: Why So Long?

One might ask, why has it taken so long to pin this tail on Taxil’s donkey? Such are the vagaries of books and their audiences. de la Rive’s 735-page doorstop of a book, in all its sensationalistic detail, apparently made its way into the hands of more readers, such as Miller. Perhaps the book’s lurid cover had something to do with it.

Cover of de la Rive's Woman and Child in Universal Freemasonry.
How could a publisher beat that cover for sensationalism? Baphomet pushing the lovely “Eve” through the Masonic pillars, almost onto the tell-tale mosaic pavement of the Lodge, Eve dressed in a blasphemous parody of a Masonic apron displaying “L” for Lucifer. The triangle at the top of the cover proclaims Freemasons as “Forerunners of the Antichrist.” The scrolls on the pillars Jachin and Boaz promise stories of Lodges of Adoption (that is, Lodges for women) and “Luciferian Triangles,” and juxtapose stories implying conjugal relations with stories about Masonic funeral parlors. So: Religion, secret societies within secret societies, sex, and death. When it comes to selling books, it simply doesn’t get better than that combination. (Is that Dan Brown chuckling that I hear?) Whatever they paid the artist for the cover illustration, it wasn’t enough.

They must have sold so many copies that it’s no surprise it came to the attention of Miller in England, or that enough copies were floating around that, in our day, it’s been made available online.

In turn, Miller’s Occult Theocrasy brought de la Rive’s quote from Taxil to the English-speaking world, where it has been a staple of the fringe area of the conspiracy community for over 80 years.

Taxil’s original book, on the other hand, is just over 100 pages in length—called “a pamphlet” by A. E. Waite—and has the most boring cover possible.

Cover of The Existence of Lodges of Women ... by Léo Taxil.

My guess is that this book sold relatively poorly. This may account for its rarity; on WorldCat, an online catalog of the world’s libraries, I was only able to find two copies in the entire Western hemisphere. (Just to make it available to scholars, I plan to issue a reprint edition through my Masonic publishing company, Free-Masonic Media. “Like” us on Facebook to receive a notice of its publication.)


This discovery glues the origin of the Luciferian doctrine myth quite firmly to Léo Taxil himself. This myth—a libel on all Freemasons, actually—is very much alive today. I have some suggestions for what we as Masons might do about that, which I make in a manuscript currently under consideration at a major Masonic publication. (Watch this blog for an announcement of my article’s publication, wherever that might be.) In the meantime, please feel free to share this blog post with people who still labor under the burden of ignorance when it comes to the false claim that Masons are Satanists.

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[The image of Léo Taxil originally appeared on the front page of the French newspaper Le Frondeur, issue of April 25, 1897, which reported Taxil’s confession. The image was later reproduced in a German publication, whence it made its way into Wikipedia Commons. It is in the public domain.]

(Copyright 2015 Mark E. Koltko-Rivera. All Rights Reserved.)

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Illuminati

Adam Weishaupt, founder of the Bavarian Illuminati

As I write this blog post, it is Friday, May 1st. The first day of May is a date that means different things to different people: to some, it is just a calendar date; to others, a day for folk celebrations of spring and summer. But May the First is also the anniversary of the founding of an organization that has proved to be even more famous in its death than during its life, a group about which more falsehood has been published than perhaps any other. To some, the group is a historical footnote. To others, it is the hidden power behind every throne, even today—and supposedly the secret masters of the Masonic fraternity.

So it is that today’s blog post is, if not in honor, in acknowledgement of the establishment of that fascinating and sinister organization: The Bavarian Illuminati, founded on this date in the year 1776.

The group was revolutionary in origin, seeking to overthrow the power of aristocracy and monarchy in favor of a form of government resembling democracylargely through assassination, or so they planned. The group also sought to overthrow the political and social power of the Roman Catholic Church, in favor of instituting reason and logic as principles by which to govern the world and educate humankind. 

The Illuminati were originally known as Perfectabilists, reflecting their belief that people could achieve a sort of perfection through rigorous devotion to reason and logic, rather than through supernatural means (such as the atonement of Christ).

The Illuminati was a truly “secret society,” in that it tried to keep its very existence secret. The Illuminati infiltrated dozens of Masonic lodges in central Europe, where they sought to recruit members whom they hoped to lead, through a system of ritual degree ceremonies resembling Masonry, from a position of belief in God (a requirement for membership in regular Freemasonry) to a position of atheism, devoted to the overthrow of monarchy and church. The leadership of the group believed that, to further this endeavor, any means were justified, including political assassination.

To understand the Bavarian Illuminati, it is important to understand the political context of their times. American-style democracy had not been invented, and people throughout central Europe in particular were ruled by absolute monarchs who essentially held power of life and death over the people they governed. Dissent was crushed. In addition, the major church of the period held a significant degree of political power; in religious matters as well as political ones, dissent was not tolerated. The emphasis that the Illuminati placed on freedom of thought and expression was very appealing to some people, including even members of the aristocracy, and German literary figures such as Goethe and Herder; reportedly, the Illuminati reached a membership of about 2,000 during the decade or so of its existence.

The Illuminati were strong on rhetoric, but weak on action. They assassinated no one, despite their “ends justify the means” ethics. However, when their aims became known to the governing authorities, they were crushed by the rulers of several countries, beginning in 1784. By the early 1790s, for all practical purposes the Illuminati had ceased to exist.

And it was then, after the group known as the Illuminati died, that it really got to work.

The Strange Afterlife of the Illuminati

The late 18th and early 19th centuries were a time of monumental social change—which meant, not only positive changes like the rise of democracy, but also social disruption that was experienced very negatively by many thousands of people. In the mid-18th century, before the Revolutionary War, many American colonists considered themselves loyal to the British crown; after the war, thousands of these people left their homes and businesses and moved, to Canada, England, and elsewhere, leaving behind thousands of relatives and friends who were quite unhappy about losing their connections.

Loyalists and their relatives were not the only people who were less than happy with the American Revolution. A lot of clergy of “established” churches (that is, churches formerly supported by the government) were troubled by the withdrawal of financial support, which they took to be an attempt to undermine religion generally. Overall, many people in the new United States—echoing even greater numbers of people in Europe, still under the power of Crown and Church—were troubled by the direction that the new Republic was taking, in denying aristocrats and clergy their former privileged position in government.

Thus arose the rumor that the inspiration of the new Republic was actually the Illuminati. In the 1790s and thereafter, American clergy preached sermons from their pulpits against the supposed influence of the Illuminati in the United States. Books originally published in Europe alleging the ongoing Illuminist conspiracy, such as John Robison’s Proofs of a Conspiracy (1797), were widely read in the United States, and fanned the flames of what amounted to hysteria. The first novel by the first American to make his living as a novelist, Charles Brockden Brown’s Wieland (and his unfinished Memoirs of Carwin the Biloquist) involved the role of an Illuminati agent in America impersonating the voice of God to convince a man to murder his wife and children. In the real world, Thomas Jefferson himself had to answer charges that he was an Illuminatus.

It gets better. The 1970s-era Illuminatus! trilogy of novels, by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson (two editors at Playboy magazine), put forth the rumor that Adam Weishaupt left Europe, came to the United States, murdered George Washington and actually took Washington’s place as first President of the U.S. Incredibly enough, there are those who believe today that this actually happened!

No, it gets even better. Current proponents of way-out-on-the-fringe conspiracy theories—people like Jim Marrs, Texe Marrs, and David Icke—say that the modern world is under the secret control of the Illuminati even today. For Jim Marrs, the Illuminati are political powers; for Texe Marrs, they are Satanists; for David Icke, they are reptilian space aliens. (No, I am not making this up.) All of this is furthered by the appropriation of the name and supposed symbolism of the Illuminati by some current entertainers, who use it to give themselves the sheen of power that attaches to the paranoid version of the Illuminist legend.

The Illuminati have been the scapegoat of American politics (and, to some extent, European politics) for the last 200 years. The horrific excesses of the French Revolution were blamed on the Illuminati. The suppression of American Freemasonry in the first half of the 19th century was, in part, based on fear of the Illuminati. In our day, particularly since the middle of the 20th century, the Illuminati have been blamed for everything from AIDS and the Great Recession to the flouridation of public drinking water. (Google “Illuminati” and you'll see what I mean.)

And it’s all a pile of hooey. The Illuminati died out in the late 18th century. They are kept ‘alive’ in the minds of ignorant people today because we, as a society, have done such a poor job of teaching critical thinking skills.

There is a cost to all this wild-eyed attention given to the Version Two-Point-Paranoid of the Illuminati. By projecting all of society’s problems onto some supposed All-Powerful Others, people perpetuate the myth that they themselves are not responsible, either for creating society’s problems, maintaining them, or trying to solve them. Today, the myth of the Illuminati lets people off the hook for taking charge—of their lives, of the political process, of their own destinies.

I hope that my Masonic brothers will spread the truth about the Illuminati, and lead the way in following the Enlightenment-era maxim that should guide all Masons, and all people, “Follow Reason,” in evaluating conspiracy theories, and in approaching the very real problems that our society faces.

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[The image  of Adam Weishaupt was obtained through Wikipedia. The artist is unknown, but the image is in the public domain.]

(Copyright 2015 Mark E. Koltko-Rivera. All Rights Reserved.)

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Mark to present at the
American Lodge of Research, 4/1/13:
Mormon Temple Ritual and Masonic Initiation

This coming Monday, April 1st, I will be speaking in New York City on the topic, “Of Masons and Mormons: The Relationship Between the Masonic Rituals of Initiation and the Latter-day Saint Temple Ceremonies.” This topic has been the topic of extremely heated controversy—even violence—for much of the last two centuries; indeed, it figures into many contemporary anti-Masonic and anti-Mormon discussions, as a simple internet search will demonstrate. Very rarely has this matter been addressed by someone who thoroughly understands both Freemasonry and the Latter-day Saint (LDS) faith. However, I am both a Mason and a Mormon. I apply my fraternal and faith backgrounds, as well as my professional background in the psychology of religion and humanistic psychology, to this matter. I propose what I believe is the first explanation that fits all the facts of the case—and I will be presenting it live for the first time on April 1st. (A Facebook page for the event is here.)

Meeting Details

This presentation will be made under the auspices of TheAmerican Lodge of Research (ALR), the oldest continually operating Masonic Lodge of Research in the United States (founded 1931). It will take place at 8 p.m. within the beautiful French Doric Room, on the 10th Floor of Masonic Hall, 71 West 23rd Street (just yards east of Sixth Avenue/Avenue of the Americas) in Manhattan, New York City. The event will take place within a tiled meeting of the Lodge, and so it is closed to the general public; Freemasons of any jurisdiction in amity with the Grand Lodge of the State of New York, F&AM, are invited to attend. Such brethren are invited to attend in business suits. Admission is without charge.

(Please note: Attendees are welcome to join the officers of the Lodge, of whom I am honored to be one of the most junior, for an on-your-own dinner beforehand at 6 pm at Sagaponack, 5 West 22nd Street, just west of Fifth Avenue.)

Why This Matters

A little over 170 years ago, in March of 1842, the first Mormon prophet, Joseph Smith, Jr.,  was made a Mason on sight by the Grand Master of Freemasons in Illinois. Joseph Smith was aged 36 at the time, and the Church that he organized had only been in existence for 12 years.

It is entirely possible that, by the time of his Masonic initiation, Smith had already seen several Masonic initiation rituals acted out in public by either seceding Masons or non-Masons, in connection with the preceding fifteen years of the Morgan Affair and the Anti-Masonic Episode of American history. These rituals Smith might have witnessed include the rituals of the Blue Lodge, the York Rite, and the Scottish Rite, many of which had been exposed to the public in David Bernard’s 1829 anti-Masonic best-seller, Light on Masonry.(An excellent edition of this exposure, with an extensive introduction, is available through the Scottish Rite Research Society, here.)

About seven weeks after his Masonic initiation, Smith conferred upon a small group of close associates what he called the “endowment” ceremony—as in ‘endowment of power.’ This ceremony is one of the major rituals conducted in the Latter-day Saint (LDS) temples around the world even today. (I myself received the endowment for the first time in the LDS Washington DC Temple, shown in the lower half of the image above. Of course, the upper half of that image shows the House of the Temple, the headquarters of the Supreme Council, 33°, of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry in the Southern Jurisdiction of the U.S.A. Are there connections between the ceremonies recorded in the vaults of the House of the Temple, and those conducted in the LDS Washington, DC Temple? Good question.)

Since 1842, some people have alleged some sort of connection between the LDS temple ceremonies and the Masonic rituals of initiation. Did the Mormons steal from the Masons? On this question hinge all sorts of issues involving the spiritual integrity, not only of the LDS faith, but of Freemasonry itself (at least in the eyes of some people, as I shall explain). In brief, there is much at stake here for just about everyone in sight.

I hope to shed more light than heat on these important issues. Although I have previously addressed some of these matters in a video presentation sponsored by the Worldwide Exemplification of Freemasonry in August 2011 (now also available on Youtube), I have more material to present after a further year and a half of research, and of course the presentation at ALR will allow for questions and answers, which I expect to illuminating for all. I hope to see you on Monday evening.

Incidentally, I shall have with me at the presentation information about my forthcoming book, Of Masons and Mormons, which considers these matters at book length. (The book itself will be available directly from Amazon in the coming weeks.)

Finally, I am more than willing to entertain invitations to speak on this issue in other Masonic venues, and, for that matter, in Latter-day Saint venues as well. I am easy to contact through my profiles on Blogger, Linkedin, Twitter, through my Facebook writer's page, or through my website's Contact page.

[I must apologize for giving everyone such short notice about this event. This is a time of professional transition for me, and I apologize for letting those complications get in the way of my giving the readers of this blog due and timely notice.]

I invite you to become a “follower” of this blog through the box in the upper-right-hand corner of this page, to be informed of future posts.

I discuss the basics of Freemasonry in my book, Freemasonry: An Introduction, published by Tarcher/Penguin. (Described here, available here.)

Mark Koltko-Rivera on Twitter: @MarkKoltkoRiver .

Visit the “Mark Koltko-Rivera, Writer” page on Facebook.
Visit Mark Koltko-Rivera’s website.

(Copyright 2013 Mark E. Koltko-Rivera. All Rights Reserved.)

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Mercedes-Benz Super Bowl Commercial Links Freemasonry to Satan

Tomorrow, during the fourth quarter of the television broadcast of the Super Bowl, Mercedes-Benz will officially unveil its commercial for the all-new CLA-class automobile. It’s a terrific commercial. Unfortunately, it also is a monumental libel upon Freemasonry.

You can see the commercial for yourself here. The commercial features the talented Willem Dafoe (shown above) in a great turn as Satan.

No, Dafoe’s character is never actually named Satan, but the soundtrack features the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” (available here with lyrics in the notes). More to the point, Dafoe’s character presents the protagonist with a contract to sign, a contract which has already been executed under the seal of “the Master of Devils and Demons” (translating the Latin, seen below). No reasonable person could see the commercial and think that Dafoe’s character is anyone other than Satan or one of his minions.

Here’s the thing: Satan is depicted as wearing a Masonic ring—on his left ring finger, yet!—easily visible at several points in the commercial, some of which feature close-up shots of Satan’s hands (two shown below).


(The pointy fingernails, à la the Devil in the film Rosemary’s Baby, are an especially nice touch, don’t you think?)

The implication is clear: Mercedes-Benz links Freemasonry to Satan. (Yes, I know, this particular ring shows that the Devil hasn’t gotten very far in Masonry, but that’s not the point.)

There are, of course, those who would say we should just ignore this in the spirit of good fun. Except that it’s not good fun to have to answer to people who think that Freemasons are devil-worshipping Satanists.

Last Wednesday night, I attended the Special Communication of the American Lodge of Research, at Masonic Hall, in New York City. (Facebook page here.) Those in attendance heard a paper on the topic, “Freemasonry and the Holocaust,” by Brother C. Moran (which will appear later this year in the published Proceedings). During the presentation, I was struck by the parallels between the situation of the German Masons in the 1930’s, and our Masonic situation today.

To a surprisingly large extent, these Masons faced the same outrageous accusations that Masons today are faced with: that Masonry is an international conspiracy, and so forth. The Taxil hoax occurred only about forty years or so before the Nazis came to power, and many people throughout Europe believed that Masons worshipped Lucifer. Sound familiar? All of this helped to create a climate where thousands of thousands of German and other European Masons would be imprisoned in concentration camps—and many murdered—by the Nazis during the Holocaust.
There are three things you can do to make your displeasure known:

1. Tell Mercedes-Benz Your Thoughts

The Mercedes-Benz people, knowingly or not, are perpetuating a dangerous myth by linking Freemasonry with Satan. I think we should complain about this—in great numbers. The following is the text of the e-mail that I am sending to Mercedes-Benz through their online comment form and the Facebook pages for Mercedes-Benz and Mercedes-Benz USA. (The latter page, incidentally, allows you to comment specifically about the commercial.) Feel free to adapt it for your own comment, if you wish:

For the 2013 Super Bowl, Mercedes-Benz sponsored a television commercial, titled “Soul,” about the new CLA. It features a character portraying Satan, who clearly wears a Masonic ring in plain sight on his left ring finger.

This linking of Freemasonry to Satan is no joke. It was rumors like this that set the stage for the imprisonment and murders of thousands of Freemasons in Europe by Nazis during the Holocaust. The false rumor that Freemasons worship Satan is alive and well among millions of Americans today. Mercedes-Benz is adding fuel to the fire of that defamation with this television commercial.

Surely, to sell cars, Mercedes-Benz would not jokingly link Jews to Satanism (another popular rumor during the Nazi era). It would be good to not jokingly link Freemasons to Satanism either.

There are over a million Masons in the United States. Every single one of them is old enough to purchase and drive a car. None of them is pleased about this.


Mark Koltko-Rivera
Master Mason
Winter Park Lodge #239 Free and Accepted Masons (Florida)
The American Lodge of Research (New York)

Incidentally, the Mercedes-Benz Twitter handle is @MercedesBenz . I just tweeted them this: "@MercedesBenz: Why did you go out of your way to defame the #Freemasons in your #SuperBowl ad?" Why not drop Mercedes-Benz a tweet yourself?

2. Tell the Advertising Agency Your Thoughts

The people who produced the ad (and made the decisions about what rings Willem Dafoe would be wearing) and who placed the ad in the Super Bowl, and who rung up big billings doing all of this, are the advertising agency, Omnicom Groups' Merkley + Partners.
As of late Saturday night, Merkley+Partners is not sounding especially contrite. This is how they responded to one person (Ms. Jacquie Carson) who took issue with the ad on their Facebook page:
"We always strive to create advertising that’s consistent with both our agency and client values, and we believe the 2013 Mercedes Superbowl commercial delivers on that promise. It is our position that this commercial is simply a fun, exciting and innovative piece of advertising with the core objective of promoting a vehicle, and has no intention of insulting or offending anyone."

So, Merkley+Partners implies (however unintentionally) that misrepresenting Freemasonry as Satanic is consistent with their agency's and their client's values. Beyond that, it doesn't matter to them in the slightest that many Masons, their friends, and their families are insulted and offended by their ad: everything's fine, because they had "no intention of insulting or offending anyone."
What baloney. These guys deserve our greatest disdain, and they deserve to have that disdain made crystallinely clear. So let's do just that.
The advertising agency's Facebook page is here, and this is one way to reach them directly. Other ways include their postal address and telephone number: 
200 Varick Street, 12th Floor
New York, NY 10014
Tel. 212-805-7500

You can also contact specific individuals by e-mail:

Mr. Rob Moorman
Chief Marketing Officer

Julia Zak
Assistant Media Planner

3. Tell the Advertising Industry Media Your Thoughts

The advertising business loves to hear about how the public perceives advertising. No ads get more attention, of course, than those on the Super Bowl.

As it happens, the industry paper Adweek has proclaimed the Mercedes-Benz ad one of the top ten ads of the Super Bowl. Adweek's website for this ad has a comment space, too. Why don't you tell them how you feel about the Mercedes-Benz ad?

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(12:20 a.m. ET, Superbowl Sunday) There is now a petition on, asking Mercedes-Benz to remove the Masonic ring from the ad. You may sign that petition here.

(11:49 p.m. ET Sat. 1/2) This topic has surely struck a nerve--1600+ pageviews of this post in eight hours!--but the real news worth sharing is that, as I had feared, the wild and wooly sector of the conspiracy community has latched on to the Mercedes-Benz ad as a legitimate communication from the Dark-Powers-That-Be, revealing their evil ways. Here is one good example, at "The Vigilant Citizen" blog--quite looney, but apparently somewhat popular.

Brethren, we need to step up to the plate for our Fraternity. Let's each take these three steps to do so.

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I invite you to become a “follower” of this blog through the box in the upper-right-hand corner of this page, to be informed of future posts.

I discuss the basics of Freemasonry in my book, Freemasonry: An Introduction, published by Tarcher/Penguin. (Described here, available here.)

(Copyright 2013 Mark E. Koltko-Rivera. All Rights Reserved.)