Disinformation and Its Effect on Freemasonry

Allen E. Roberts

Fear. That's the name of the game. That's the target.

Much of this is aimed at Freemasonry. I've tried to point this out for many years. I'll come back to this shortly. But Freemasonry isn't the only victim of the fear that's the champion of disinformation. Among other victims is our income.

Don't kiss your wife (or anyone else) in the morning, say the ads. You've got to gargle with our stuff—wash your teeth with our compound—rinse with our mouth wash—and on and on. If you don't, the divorce court is around the corner.

A certain chemical is deadly, said a prominent interrogator on an award-winning telecast. Don't eat apples, and for goodness sake, take them away from your children! And the public did—by the millions. The apple industry was almost destroyed. The industry is now suing the disinformationalists.

Using products manufactured by a particular company promotes satanism, claims a hate group. Look at its logo. It has satanic symbols written all over it.

Asbestos is deadly! It's a leading cause of cancer (but so is just about everything else). Strange isn't it to find studies have proven the cure is far worse than disease.

Nuclear power is extremely dangerous. The smoke from tobacco products is a proven killer. Snail darters are more important than people. So are caribou, owls, some "rare" types of fish, various insects, and many exotic plants. Forget the need for heat, food, shelter and water for human beings. Save the environment!

Freemasons are linked with unbelievers, claim the hate mongers. They are devil worshipers. They worship pagan gods. They belong to a secret organization. They hide their actions behind closed doors. They are evil.

Hogwash! Let me hasten to keep anyone from thinking I agree with the foregoing. It's all, or mostly, classic disinformation.

War, naturally, always brings about disinformation and outright propaganda. We all can relate with recent events in the Persian Gulf. And personally I couldn't help roar with laughter as I heard General H. Arnold Schwartzkopf put the media in their place. He chuckled as he told the "reporters" how he had let them deliberately furnish the enemy disinformation.

Who will be able to forget the disinformation Saddam Hussein and his minions had Peter "Baghdad Pete" Arnett give us? Through the kind offices of CNN the world was constantly chilled, and misinformed, for weeks. Now he's asking for $20,000 for making speeches. Even more shocking (put perhaps not) CNN received a journalistic award for kowtowing to Saddam. It would appear that spreading disinformation pays.

How about this for characteristic disinformation? With the Iraqi forces completely disseminated, quitting and running away, President Bush orders a suspension of firing. From Baghdad comes this news release: "Due to faith in our capability that is able to teach the enemy forces lessons that will make them worried militarily and politically if the war continued, Bush announced his decision [to quit] early this morning."

Hitler may not have been the first to note, or say, the big lie told often enough becomes the truth in the minds of the public. And this is being practiced every day by those self-anointed moralists who tell us how we must live. Remember how Carrie Nation hacked away at the contents in saloons? She and her ilk gave us Prohibition and its years of murder, mayhem and lawlessness.

The self-anointed readily let us know exactly how you and I must live, what we should do, and how we should do it. They'll use any disinformation to prove they're right. If they're opposed to killing they'll kill to prove it.

We can go on for hours citing the disinformation we've encountered since the beginning of recorded history. Here let's concentrate for a few moments on one segment—Freemasonry.

For some time I've been writing a column for The Northern Light on Masonic myths. For more years than I care to recall many of these myths have disturbed me. Some are harmless, but far too many of them cause Freemasonry to lose its credibility. Many of these distortions were started by those considered leaders of the Craft. Other leaders have continued and even expanded on them. Perhaps they had the mistaken impression they were enhancing the image of Freemasonry.

Here's a beauty! In my myths column I've been questioning the validity of the so-called "Lafayette apron." Among thousands of others I fell into this trap. We claimed Lafayette presented this apron, stitched by Madam Lafayette, to George Washington. Now I'm asking: Is it a fact or is it disinformation? Nowhere can I find any evidence that it is true.

This apron is proudly displayed in the museum of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. From an assistant librarian came this admonition: "I would respectfully take issue with your statement in the latest Northern Light concerning the Washington Apron here at the Grand Lodge. Why would the legatees not have had it whether the inventory mentions it or not?[!] Even if it were a total myth, it's a harmless one; makes lots of people happy .... Think how full our museums are of wonderful samplers made by (little) girls, some as young as eight years."

Evidently many of us believe it's all right to deliberately fib if it "makes lots of people happy."

A fellow in California tried—and he may be still trying—to have me expelled from Freemasonry. Why? Because in a Short Talk Bulletin for The Masonic Service Association I took exception to several "Masonic Misconceptions." I later found this destroyed many of the statements he had been making in high-priced publications. He claimed I was destroying Freemasonry.

The image of Freemasonry doesn't have to depend on disinformation. It is still the oldest, largest, most respected fraternal association the world has ever known. Disinformation by its members doesn't help, it causes irreparable harm. It destroys Freemasonry's credibility.

When our credibility is destroyed we pave the way for our enemies to spread more and more disinformation.

We must separate legend from truth. We must inform the Craft of the difference. Example: The story of Hiram Abif, a vital part of the Master Mason degree, is a legend. The story as it's told never happened. I tried to make this abundantly clear in The Craft and Its Symbols. I wrote: "What transpires is, however, a legend, a drama, an allegory. It depicts man's search for truth, for courage, for prudence, for his immortal soul."

Let me emphasize this legend is a search for truth. Along with it comes a search for many other virtues. When we recognize this, and let the world know what we're doing, we have no problem. It's when we declare legends, allegory and myths are facts that we spread disinformation.

Another example: Several years ago the Grand Master of Masons in Kansas, an eminent Christian minister, removed a Christian symbol from the ritual. He was strongly condemned by many of his members. One emphatically stated that King Solomon himself had written the ritual, and no mere Grand Master had the right to change it! Many claim Freemasonry is a Christian organization. It isn't.

It is not a church of any description. It has no theology; no dogma. It doesn't save souls, even though it does teach immortality.

Here's what one of my Masonic heroes, Joseph Fort Newton, D.D., had to say in his autobiography about the absence of theology in Freemasonry: "... I joined the Fraternity as soon as I was old enough to be received, in Friendship Lodge No. 7, Dixon, Illinois. There, to my amazement, I saw men of all churches—except one, and there was no reason in Masonry why that one church should not be represented—gathered about an open Bible. In their churches they could not agree about the teaching of the Bible; in the Lodge they could not disagree, because each one was allowed to interpret it in the way his heart loved best, and asked to allow others the same right; a secret almost too simple to be found out."

We have another area for the growth of disinformation. We use the building of Solomon's Temple, the symbolic beginning of Freemasonry, to teach those valuable lessons without which the Fraternity would be merely another service club. Unfortunately this symbolism is greeted as fact by far too many Freemasons.

Taking quotations out of context is a favorite practice of the self- appointed moralists. This is a favorite form of promoting disinformation. We now have a half-truth.

The "anti-everything except me," John Ankerberg, in his anti-Masonic TV series, did quote the opening of my The Craft and Its Symbols accurately: "You have entered a new world. Symbolically and spiritually you have been reborn. This started the moment you were prepared to become a Freemason."

Sarcastically he attempted to prove this constituted us a religion based on "works" rather than on his theory. He didn't quote the next paragraph: "As you progress in Masonic knowledge your vision will broaden; you will become more vitally alive than ever before; you will become more aware of your fellowman, your family, your church and your country. Your whole philosophy of life will become richer." Ankerberg put into practice an excellent method of disinformation.

A favorite fear tactic of the disinformationalists is to emphasize that Freemasonry is a secret organization. Anything that's secret must be feared. Perhaps. But here's what Newton had to say in 1946 on the subject: "Masonry is not a secret order, else the names of its members and the places and times of its meetings would not be known." Now that's so true one must wonder why the self-anointed continue to use it.

Newton continued: "It is a private fraternity, seeking to select and train men, making them brothers and builders in the service of the best life. Its only secrets are certain signs, grips and passwords whereby its members make themselves known to their fellows...."

Many are aware that disinformation came close to destroying Freemasonry during the decade beginning in 1826. That's when one William Morgan disappeared from Batavia, New York. Immediately unscrupulous politicians, many members of the clergy, and others of varying species claimed Freemasonry had murdered that character. Why?

They claimed it's because he was going to reveal the secrets of Freemasonry. Even then there were no secrets. The ritual and everything else had been known for years. All Morgan was going to do was plagiarize a best-selling English publication.

At any rate, to this day no one knows what happened to the "hero" of the anti-Masons. But for a decade these liars were able to convince thousands that Freemasonry was evil. Eventually, though, through the Masonic virtues of Time, Patience and Perseverance truth did and does prevail.

But something good did come from this Morgan affair. I won't dwell on the courage of those who would not renounce their Masonic connections. But let me discuss something good that happened. A new religion was born, one that would be extremely successful. Realizing I'm treading on thin ice, let me tell you what I firmly believe.

The degrees and rituals of Freemasonry were mimicked in bar rooms, public squares, and other places, particularly during the early days of that anti-Masonic craze. During this period a young fellow named Joseph Smith said he had discovered golden tablets at Palmyra, New York. Although church officials tell me I'm wrong, I still claim no creditable person ever saw, or has ever seen, these tablets. The official explanation falls into our Masonic legend category.

Actually, it doesn't really matter. Smith evidently saw beyond the farce of the sarcastic presentations of the Masonic rituals. And the beautiful lessons taught in Freemasonry were adopted by Smith and his followers. From them they built the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints. To this day, whether the officials will admit it or not, the unselfishness and other wonderful lessons we're supposed to exercise in Freemasonry are practiced by the Mormons.

Another well-circulated Masonic myth concerns the "Boston Tea Party." We've been told over and over again that the "Party" was conceived and planned in St. Andrew's Lodge in Boston. Proof. The Lodge didn't meet the night "Mohawk Indians" turned Boston Harbor into a giant tea pot; there weren't enough members present; and the minutes ended with a large "T".

The facts refute this disinformation. To this day no one can identify a single participant among the tea-throwers. The so-called "T" is actually a large scroll which in no way resembles a letter of the alphabet.

Let me leave you with this piece of truth that appears in The Craft and Its Symbols:

"There are many honors that can come to you as a Master Mason, if you are worthy of them. Actually, serving your fellowman should be reward enough for all of us. Nothing can really bring greater satisfaction. You have promised, as have all who preceded you and those who will follow, to serve God and man. And there is no joy greater than seeing one you have helped along the way become a success. For you to be truly helpful, you need all the 'Light' you can obtain."

Light is truth. Truth can, and will, defeat disinformation.

W.B. Jack Ball Lecture - Albert Pike Lodge, Houston, Texas - April 16, 1991