Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Scabs and heretics

This volume contains back issues of the Masonic magazine "The New Age" from 1920. The magazine was published by the Southern Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite, which despite its name covers most of the United States. It had been a tumultuous decade: the Progressive Movement, the First World War, the rise of the IWW and labour militancy, the Red Scare. Abroad, the Bolsheviks had taken power in Russia, and Ireland had declared independence from Britain, creating commotion in the United States, with its large Irish community. These political developments are heavily covered in the pages of "The New Age", hardly a non-partisan publication!

The number of articles against "Bolshevists" and "IWW-ists" is striking. The coal miners' strike of 1919 was "irresponsible", the workers were lazy, and the scabs are extolled as virtuous heroes! Both capital and labour are said to be equally responsible for the class conflicts, which hurt the common good. That's what they always say, isn't it? In one issue, the editors reprint an angry letter from a member of the IWW. I admit a certain sympathy for his position: "I think Freemasonry is a Fraud and deceit, pure and Simple. You know yourself, most of your members know nothing of any kind of Masonry, Brick or Stone, consequently it is a fraud. We Industrial Workers of the World declare war on all Gods, and especially Bogus Masonry-God. The Free or Bogus Masons are our tormentors and Massacriers. Death to the Scottish Rite Masons, they are our enslavers."

But even the brave pro-capitalist Masons realized that *something* had to be done. They therefore come out in support of public schools, financed and supervised by the federal government. Only in this way, they believe, can the mass of recent immigrants be assimilated and become good American citizens. They even propose to make the federal schools strictly secular. Some kind of regulations of industry are also necessary, although we aren't told how they should concretely look like.

The anti-Catholic tendency is strongly marked. "The New Age" is absolutely opposed to Irish independence. Ireland belongs to Britain by right of conquest (sic), just as North America belongs to "us" rather than the Dutch or the Indians by the same right. One article also expresses strong doubts concerning Polish independence. Poland, too, is Catholic. Quebec is another no-no, with its parish schools supported by public money. Armenians are another matter, for some reason. The magazine calls on its readers to aid the starving Armenians in the Near East, victims of the Ottoman Turks. So that's alright, but American miners can't strike and Irish Catholics can't form their own nation-state? The Southern Jurisdiction seem to fear Catholicism even more than Bolshevism, when it declares: "If we can agree to confine Bolshevism to the territory wherein it has gained so strong a foothold and force it to feed upon itself, its demise is merely a matter of time, and a short time at that. Whereas, if you set up the Pope again he will feed upon you, and it may take another thousand years for the world to regain the ground it will have lost. Put them both out and keep them out."

We also learn about the latest anti-Masonic conspiracy theory, apparently preached and peddled by Papist priests in Dublin: French Jews and Masons produce indecent clothes for women, and export them to Ireland in order to undermine Catholic society!

Apart from politics, "The New Age" also deals with...religion and spirituality. Well, thank you. I was surprised by the explicit reinterpretations of traditional Christianity, since Anglo-American Masons are supposed to be Christians. One article calls on spiritual seekers to expand their consciousness until they merge with "the Cosmic Consciousness", identified with Nirvana. This is said to be the true meaning of Jesus' statement "I and the Father are one". Nirvana and Heaven is the same thing. The so-called Disciplina Arcana of the early Church is mentioned, presumably to prove that ancient Christians were organized like Freemasons, with various degrees of initiation. Another article claims that Christianity is fundamentally the same as the pagan mystery religions, and that all religions around the world are manifestations of the same God and stem from a common source. Karma ("the law of compensation"), reincarnation and the cyclical view of time are discussed in a positive light. Other articles, by contrast, sound Deist and "Unitarian" rather than "Theosophical". Jews are eligible for membership in Scottish Rite lodges, and in countries where non-Christians predominate, their holy scriptures might be placed on the Masonic altar: the Koran, the Torah, the Zend-Avesta, even the Vedic scriptures! The Bible is said to be "the greatest book of evolution ever written".

In contrast to an older volume of "New Age" back issues I've reviewed elsewhere on this site, the 1920 issues contain no general-interest articles. They seem to be exclusively directed at fellow Masons or outsiders extremely interested in the Craft. Thus, a large portion of the magazine consist of rather tedious reports from various Masonic "reunions", announcements of lodge meetings, conflicts with Masonic groups deemed irregular, etc.

A few articles border the bizarre, including one florid "essay" on venereal disease, sex education and karma. I think. These were not matters usually discussed in the open, so it's really difficult to say... Another absurd piece extols the patriotism of the American Legion, only to reveal that the Shriners have established a special branch for Legion members, and that their meetings at the Mosque of Kismet (sic) "are very interesting". Hardly surprising, since the Shriners are a burlesque order devoted to pranks and heavy drinking bouts! So that's alright, but coal miners can' get my point.

The most curious article deals with numerology, and claims that all leaders of warring nations during World War I had a mysterious connection to the number 3834. Thus, Woodrow Wilson was born in 1856, took office in 1913, had been in office for 4 years (in 1917) and had lived for 61 years (also in 1917). If added, 1856 + 1913 + 4 + 61 makes 3834. If divided by two, 3834 makes 1917! Nicolas II, Czar of Russia, was born in 1868, ascended the throne in 1894, had reigned for 23 years and had lived for 49 years. This too adds up to 3834. The king of Serbia, Peter, was born in 1844, ascended the throne in 1903, had reigned 14 years and had lived 73 years. Again, this becomes 3834 when added. And so on!

OK, I admit I haven't bothered checking. Besides, given an infinite number of holographic multiverses, this is bound to happen somewhere purely by chance... Right? :-0

Not sure how to rate "The New Age", but since it does contain interesting revelations about Masonry, for good or for worse, I give it three stars.

No comments:

Post a Comment