Vol. XXX No. 7 — July 1952

Those Terrible Exposés!

The “come on,” the gullible, in American slang the “sucker,” is everywhere to be found in all countries, in all walks of life. As long as humanity has had a history there have always been those who believed what they were told and especially what they saw in print, whether the teller had any credentials or not.

Hence there comes to some newly-made Master Masons the mortifying experience of being “taken in” by confidence men.

It is not unusual for a newly-raised Master Mason to be visited by a clever-talking individual who suggests that he can save newly-raised a lot of trouble by selling him a book. This book, according to the seller, contains “all the secrets of Freemasonry.” It will, so runs the tale, release the newly-made Mason from hours of instruction, provide him with an advance knowledge of all the “higher” degrees and generally make him looked up to, envied and admired because of his learning.

When the “come on” is sufficiently hypnotized, the seller produces a dog-earred and second hand copy of Allyn’s or Duncan’s Ritual, or Richardson’s Masonry, or Morgan’s Exposé, which he sells for whatever the traffic will bear. It is, of course, never hinted that this “valuable and secret book” can be bought for a few dollars in half-a-dozen second hand book stores in any large city!

If the newly-made Mason does not have this experience, many do, at some time in their lives, come across a Masonic exposé, and are usually horrified. For if here is all of Masonry in print, what will become of the Fraternity? He hastens with his find, to grand master or deputy or some older Mason and asks breathlessly for advice. Not infrequently he burns his terrible possession and is convinced for years afterwards that he has saved the Fraternity from a tragedy!

And it is all pitiful and redounds greatly to the credit of the brother who has not yet learned to distinguish the spirit from the letter. Mackey lists some thirty exposés of the Fraternity and omits from his compilation several which are well known to Masonic librarians. A partial list of the books written or published by foresworn Freemasons is as follows: “A Mason’s Examination,” which appeared in The Flying Post for April 1723; The Grand Mystery of Freemasons Discovered, London, 1724; The Secret History of Freemasonry, London, 1724; The Whole Institution of Free-Masons Opened, 1725; The Grand Mystery Laid Open, or the Free Masons Signs and Words Discovered, 1726; The Mystery of Freemasonry, a sheet reprinted in the Daily Journal of London, August 15, and again August 18, 1730, also in the Pennsylvania Gazette, December 5 to 8, 1730, by Benjamin Franklin; Masonry Dissected by Samuel Prichard, London, 1730; several editions, and a French translation in 1737, and a German one in 1736; The Secrets of Masonry Made Known to All Men by S. P. (Samuel Prichard.) London, 1737; The Mystery of Masonry, London, 1737; The Mysterious Receptions of the Celebrated Society of Free-masons, London, 1737; Masonry Further Dissected, London, 1738; Le Secret des Franc Maçons, by M. l’Abbé Perau, Geneva, 1742; Catechisme des Franc-Maçons, par Leonard Gaganon (or Louis Travenol), Paris, 1745; The Order of the Freemasons Betrayed and The Secret of the Mopses Revealed, Amsterdam, 1745; The Mason Unmasked, 1751; The Freemason examin'd, by Alex Slade, London, 1754; The Secrets of the Free Masons Revealed by a Disgusted Brother, London, 1759; A Master Key to Freemasonry, 1760; The Three Distinct Knocks, 1760; Jachin and Boaz, London, 1762; Hiram; or, The Grand Master Key, London, 1764; Shibboleth, or Every Man a Freemason, 1765; Solomon in all His Glory, 1766; Mahhabone, or the Grand Lodge Door Open'd, 1766; Tubal-Kain, 1767; The Freemason Stripped Naked, by Charles Warren, London, 1769; Choice Selection of Adonhiramite Masonry, by Louis Guillemain de Saint Victors, Paris, 1781; A Masonic Treatise, with an Elucidation on the Religious and Moral Beauties of Freemasonry, etc., by W. Finch, London, 1801; The Cat out of the Bag, London, 1824 and 1825; Manual of Freemasonry, by Richard Carlisle, 1825; Illustrations of Masonry, by William Morgan, 1829; Light on Masonry, by David Bernard, Utica, New York, 1829; A Ritual of Freemasonry, by Avery Allyn, New York, 1852.

The world of Masonic history owes a debt to some of the very early so-called exposés of Freemasonry, especially Prichard’s Masonry Dissected and Jachin and Boaz.

These works, now carefully preserved in every Masonic library of importance and with copies in many private libraries, give an insight into ritual of the early days of Freemasonry and thus provide a background by which ritualists and historians evaluate the changes and the additions which time, modern ideas and the westward spread of the Fraternity have worked in the words of our ancient ceremonies.

No modern exposé of the class and dates of Allyn, Richardson, Morgan, Duncan, etc., correctly sets forth the work of any American jurisdiction. Even if these books were letter perfect, no Freemason would admit it, at least in the hearing of anyone not of the Fraternity, but as a matter of sober fact, none of them are accurate today.

The reasons for believing that Jachin and Boaz, and Masonry Dissected are reasonably accurate is their simplicity and brevity and that they come from an age when the “traveling lecturer” had not been born, nor had the “teachers of Masonry” discovered that by traveling from state to state and lodge to lodge they could pick up a precarious but certain living by “teaching the only true Masonic work,” as did such stalwarts as Barney and Cross and Webb, who did so much to popularize and extend Freemasonry in this country.

Masonry Dissected and Jachin and Boaz are interesting - at times exciting - in the picture they put before our modern eyes of degrees in Masonry nearly two and a half centuries ago, when organized Freemasonry was young.

It is possible that the Ancients and Moderns were to some extent children of various exposés. H. L. Haywood, noted Masonic student, has written in his monumental third volume of Mackey’s Encyclopedia as follows:

Many exposés had been published in London, and clandestine ’Masons’ pestered regular lodges; and a certain amount of Anti-Masonry became active. To circumvent these clandestines the grand lodge shifted the Modes of Recognition from one Degree to another, and made other changes about which little is known in detail. It also discontinued the Ceremony of Installation of the master, thereby reducing him to the status of a mere presiding officer with no inherent powers. These alterations in things that ought not to be altered aroused resentment among a large number of lodges. As time progressed, and as lodge Histories make clear, an increasing number of lodges ceased to be lodges and became convivial clubs - some of them very expensive clubs. By 1750 the grand lodge had thus departed a long way from the original design. In the cant language of the time it had “modernized” itself; and it came to be for that reason dubbed “the Modern Grand Lodge.” The members of the new Grand Lodge of on the other hand insisted on retaining the work and customs of the beginning, and because they did so declared themselves a grand lodge according to “the Antient Institutions,” and hence were called “Antient Masons.”

Both Masonry Dissected and Jachin and Boaz are pamphlets, the first of thirty-two pages and a frontispiece, the second of fifty-eight pages. From these and similar pamphlets of Freemasonry’s early days in London we get some curious information; there was then a Masonic something called the “broached thurnel” - and no one now has any real idea whether it was a tool or a part of a building; the trestleboard was a tarsel board; there was an implement known as a setting-beetle; and the master’s word was Macbenah, which Mackey gives as significant in an old French Rite. He also gives the Gaelic translation of Macbenac which is “blessed son” which Stuart Freemasons called their idol; the Pretender, son of Charles I.

Some exposés were written out of revenge - Morgan’s, for instance. Others may have been composed from a real desire to serve Freemasons by making it easy to learn ritual. Duncan boasts that nothing in his compilation will aid the uninitiated to gain entrance to a lodge. All, however, have been too generally regarded as harmful by those Masons to whom the secrecy of the institution is the be-all and end-all, to whom ritual is sacrosanct and who believe any unobligated man who knows any of the ritualistic secrets is necessarily an enemy of the Fraternity and able to destroy it.

Far from the truth are such impressions. With dozens of exposés printed; with hundreds to be bought for a few cents; with this cancer existing for more than two hundred years, would not Freemasonry have long ago been destroyed if these books were actually as harmful as so many supposed? Actually Freemasonry has grown from a handful of men in 1717 to five million in the civilized world, neither because of nor in spite of exposés, with no more attention paid to them by either Masons or non-Masons than is given to any description, correct or not, of any human institution.

Those to whom the exposé is a terror might list the injuries which exposés may do the Fraternity as destroying the secrecy of Freemasonry, thus injuring the attractiveness of Freemasonry to candidates, providing a means by which the unscrupulous can victimize Freemasons, and enabling a non-Mason to enter a lodge of Freemasons at work.

How real are these injuries?

The real secrets of Freemasonry are not in the words of the ritual but in the meaning, the spirit behind. To the man and woman being married the words of the service are a thrill, an uplift, a spiritual blessing on the union to follow. None ever forget them when heard personally. But who reads the marriage service for a thrill?

To see and hear a great actor play Hamlet is to have chills and thrills, to sit open-mouthed on the edge of a seat, moved deeply by the emotions of the unhappy prince. But who reads the soliloquy to himself with tears in eyes or lump in throat? When the spirit is lacking, the words are but a skeleton on which might be hung something beautiful.

Well-done Masonic ritual can be a spine chilling performance. Many a man has considered his raising as his greatest spiritual experience. But no man could read even a perfect transcription of the ritual of the third degree with any great emotion, or from reading gather that so simple a ceremony could have so spiritually blinding an effect.

When the spirit is lacking the words mean little.

Secrecy is an attraction. Doubtless some men have applied for the degrees of Freemasonry from the unworthy motive of curiosity. But of these it is equally doubtless that many who came to scoff remained to pray. If the exposés to be bought in the market really interested enough of the general public to insure their being read by every male over twenty-one, it is yet doubtful if they would remove the belief in the “star behind the screen” - the real secret behind the word.

An unscrupulous man might learn enough ritual from an exposé to convince a committee that he was a Freemason. He would then have to steal a Masonic good-standing card. And having done all this and been received in a lodge, he might be able to persuade some brother that he was in great need and borrow a few dollars!

But the same thing can and does happen in other fields. Many a tramp has memorized a few verses of the Bible and persuaded some trusting minister that he, the tramp, was in dire need, received a few dollars and disappeared.

Has any one or any ten thousand such instances destroyed the church, made the minister less important to his congregation?

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All exposés of Freemasonry, whether partly or wholly inaccurate are inimical to the Fraternity but their power to harm is vastly over-rated.

Any brother who comes into possession of one can best serve the Fraternity he loves by not attaching too much importance to that which is relatively unimportant and, by shipping it promptly to his grand lodge Masonic Library, where it will find a safe place of burial!

The Masonic Service Association of North America