James a. Allen, sr. Lecture series

Discussion in 'Prince Hall History and Research' started by Raymond Walters, Jan 18, 2013.

  1. Raymond Walters

    Raymond Walters Premium Member



    President, Phylaxis Society

    10 MARCH 2000


    In the September 1975 issue of the Phylaxis Magazine, I wrote: “My aim, is to preserve the memory of the things I love, to be truthful to them and therefore to write as well about them as I can,†this remains my goal as an historian and writer.

    As an author of a number of books on Prince Hall Freemasonry, I have received great joy in being able to discover the names, lives and times of Freemasons who I consider Masonic Heroes. My first book, Black Square & Compass was written with this in mind. To tell the history of individual Prince Hall Freemasons who made a difference.
    Before I began writing the eight books that I have written, for the most part many of these truly great Masonic leaders of the past, were lost to the present day Prince Hall Freemason. I guess I have written more books on Prince Hall Freemason than any one else, and I am proud of the fact that members of the fraternity continue to read my works. Black Square & Compass was published in 1979, 21 years ago and continues to sell rather well.

    Since 1979, I have continued to highlight the life and times of great leaders within Prince Hall Freemasonry. It is truly amazing, if not shocking to see the difference between the leaders of the past and the leaders of the present. The leaders of yesterday were much more Masonicaly astute. They had a better understanding what Freemasonry was all about. They knew its history, rituals and Masonic common law. Their writings, which they left for us, for the most part, in the proceedings of their Grand Lodges, reflects this fact.

    In my books, I have tried to highlight the words of many, as I tell their story. The purpose of my books is not only to present to the readers the Masonic history of Prince Hall Freemasonry, but to attempt to educate the reader as well. For instance in my history of The United Supreme Council, Northern Jurisdiction, which I will explore this evening, I spent considerable amount of pages exploring the power of Grand Masters among other issues, because this reflected directly on the issues at hand.

    The issues being the attacks leveled at the Supreme Council by many Grand Masters, as late as just a few years ago, and recorded in the Chapter I called of “Men And Mice.â€

    It was a warning not only to the Scottish Rite Supreme Council but The Imperial Council of the Shrine as well, that this type of attack would raise its ugly head again, as tenured Grand Masters come into office, ignorant of what had taken place before their arrival on the scene, and determined to make a name for themselves, often by feasting on Prince Hall Freemasonry itself.

    On all issues, I attempt to look at this from all angles. The why, the what, the how, the reasoning behind each issue. This has always been emphasized by me because of the present day misunderstanding of the power of Grand Masters and the limitations of those powers, which is to me quite interesting, therefore, I struggled with this concept throughout the entire book.

    I studied many books to better understand the issue; this is what writers do before putting pen to paper. The Masonic addresses and writings of Roscoe Pound comes to mind, because of his study of Masonic Common Law, which he explores in detail in his book. It is in this type of research that the author is able to learn much about Freemasonry, and for all those who want to write about Freemasonry, this is one book you should have in your library.

    Let me try to explain - in writing the History of the Supreme Council one of the first challenges I faced was to attempt to learn where did Blacks receive the Scottish Rite degrees, they always said they received it from authorized Masonic sources, and I was able to prove that without a shadow of a doubt. They received these degrees from the Supreme Council of France.

    And with that fact some interesting developments arises, because most American Freemasons know little of this body other than the fact that it is unrecognized because they took the Bible off of their Altar.

    On pages 146 and 147 of the history of the supreme council I bring forth and give a brief description of the French Masonic incident, which concerned Grand Master William O. Greene of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge Of Michigan and Members of a Lodge named Volney at Lavel France, of the Grand Orient of France.

    In reviewing my book, Brother Thomas W. Jackson, Grand Secretary of the R. W. Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania wrote: “I consider the book to be a valuable history as well as a valuable tool for reference. I did however, find several points which are open to debate. For example, \Walkes states that The Grand Orient Of France in 1869 suspended intercourse with The Grand Orient Of Brazil due to their adherence to slavery. This is correct. He goes on to say, however, that this action was so “contrary to the practice of the White Grand Lodges in the United States at that time, it destroyed all fraternal relationship with the French and the White American Grand Lodges. This may have been true of some of the Grand Lodges, but certainly not all. Many severed relations with the Grand Orient Of France in 1877 as a result of their diminishing the reference to the G.A.O.T.U.â€

    Things like this takes on its own life. I put over 40 pages on my web site www.freemasonry.org/jawalkes, the events that took place in Michigan, England and France with Grand Master William O. Greene Of Detroit, I further explored. I only spent two pages on this subject in the history, but collected hundreds of pages in research data. And this is what writing history is all about, as the worthwhile historian and author will collect mountain loads of data, to present his subject, though he may use only a line or two.

    There is an old adage in writing that before one attempts to discuss any important matter, he should first know his subject and all aspects related thereto. Any author, especially Joe Walkes, must attempt to cover all aspects, and ask all sorts of questions before putting anything down on paper, and therefore, I attempt to find all data reference that I can locate on any given subject, before I begin to write anything.

    Briefly let me bring you up to date on the events that took place. As mentioned you can pull this up on my web page. In the summer of 1951, William O. Greene, Grand Master of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge Of Michigan while in Europe was invited to attend the Annual Feast of the Lodge “Volney†at Lavel, France. He accepted the invitation and was received by the French Masons very warmly.

    In appreciation of the courtesies accorded him in France, he invited the master of the lodge to attend the 1952 Annual Session of the Michigan Jurisdiction, and it was agreed upon. In notifying his fellow Prince Hall Grand Masters of the up coming visit, all agreed it would be a great occasion, and planed to attend. Then all hell broke loose.
    The White masons found out about it and brought pressure on Amos T. Hall, then president of the conference of Prince Hall grand masters, and on behalf of the Whites, he forced Brother Greene to cancel the visit. The reason for the fuss was that the Whites did not recognize the Grand Orient of France, and demanded that the Prince Hall masons, who they also did not recognize, do likewise.

    The White English speaking Grand Lodges throughout the world claimed that the teachings of the Grand Orient of France were atheistic due to the fact that they did not require the presence of the Holy Bible upon the Altars of their Lodges.

    This left me as the author to try to figure out exactly what was going on. The first thing I had to learn was there such a requirement as an ancient and fundamental regulation in Freemasonry? I was to learn that the introduction of the holy bible as a part of the necessary furniture of a Lodge is a comparatively modern requirement among English-speaking Grand Lodges.

    So my next question was when was the bible made an indispensable part of the furniture of a lodge? It is alleged that William Preston introduced the idea about 1760, in the Grand Lodge of England (moderns). Prince Hall Freemasons should learn more about Preston since we use so much of his lectures in our ritual work.
    The next question I asked myself was upon what volume were candidates obligated prior to 1760. Most authorities say it was “the book of law.â€

    The next question of course was what was the book of law? This is an interesting expression “book of law†in old Masonic documents there were no mention of the bible, but rather to a copy of the old charges which was placed on a pedestal directly in front of the master and it is on this book or scroll initiates made their oath and this practice continued for over 40 years after the establishment of the Grand Lodge of England in 1717.

    The next question, about how many years after the formation of the 1717 Grand Lodge was the bible first used in lodges, the answer about 43 years after.

    Another question, when did the Grand Orient of France come into existence. It is claimed that in March 1773 the Grande Loge Nationale de France was erected with the Duc de Chartres as Grand Master and that on December 27th of that year, the title was changed to the Grand Orient of France.

    What was the character of the Grand Orient at that time? It was purely atheistic.

    Another question I had to ask my self, did it at any time use the bible on its lodge altars? In 1849, it directed the bible should be upon the lodge altars. Between 1779 to 1877 the Grand Lodge of England officially recognized the Grand Orient of France, a period of 70 years.

    The answer to my question was in what year did the Grand Orient remove the bible from lodge altars in 1877.

    As the author of the history of the United Supreme Council, the next question I had to concern myself with is why in the world did they remove the bible? I came up with the following reasons:

    (1) there was a problem between the Roman Catholic Church and General Garibaldi in Italy.

    (2) there was an assertion by the roman catholic church that Freemasonry was a religion in competition with it and

    (3) during its entire history, France has been a predominantly Roman Catholic country and even today the priests engage in continuous activity against the craft. Of course this is well known in America.

    In its convention in 1877 the Grand Orient of France decided to change the second paragraph of the first article of its constitution to read: “Freemasonry has for it’s basic principle, mutual tolerance, respect for others and for one’s self and liberty of conscience, thus suppressing reference to compulsory belief in a supreme being.

    This writer in studying this phase of Masonic history was to learn that shortly after Garibaldi’s victory over Pope Pius IX, a renegade mason who had in 1869 launched his third excommunication decree against Masonry, France, had sent troops to Italy to help Garibaldi, who was a 33rd degree Scottish Rite mason; Emperor Napoleon III of France was also a mason.

    Now, it must not be forgotten that the religious landmarks that had been introduced into Masonry by Preston were common to all Christianity, and as such reminded the Frenchmen of the religious beliefs of their enemy, the renegade mason, Pius IX. Who was allegedly made a Mason in Chile and was later defeated for election as grand master, thus his enmity against the craft. The Frenchmen in removing these so-called landmarks wished to rebuke their Ex-Brother who had violently and unjustly attacked them.

    What about Prince Hall Freemasonry? As I reported in my history of our supreme council, the Grand Orient severed relations with the Grand Orient of Brazil, because they not only recognized and supported human slavery but also would not confer the degrees of Masonry upon blacks.

    The Grand Orient made it quite clear they were outraged over the use of race or religion to bar people from being initiated into Freemasonry. Not only that they notified all Masonic powers of their actions, and that they would break off any alliances with any Grand Lodge who followed that practice.

    And there, perhaps was the real reason for the American Grand Lodges to break off intercourse with the Grand Orient of France. It was also known that the Grand Orient of France had always had a relationship with Prince Hall Freemasonry, and of course Prince Hall Freemasonry required the holy bible on its altars, but never faulted the Grand Orient of France for their decision to remove it from their Lodges Altars.

    The records of the Prince Hall Grand Lodges clearly show that between 1855 and 1869, that Prince Hall Freemasonry and the Grand Orient of France were in fraternal relations. As late as 1881, which was four years after the English-speaking Grand Lodges broke off relations with the grand orient, Bro Moses Dickson of my Grand Lodge, the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Missouri was named as a grand representative of the Grand Orient of France near Missouri.

    There is no records that I know of that indicate that the Prince Hall fraternity ever did, at any time, take action concerning the removal of the bible from the altars of the lodges working under the Grand Orient of France. As recent as 1920 the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of New York devoted two pages in its proceedings in memory of a prominent member of the Grand Orient who had years previously visited the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of New York.

    We must always remember that in 1869, the Grand Orient sent out a document to all Masonic powers that it would break off relations with any Masonic jurisdiction, which refused to permit the initiation of men on account of the color of their skins. And because of this the White American Grand Lodges broke off relationship with the Grand Orient of France, despite their claim that the teachings of the Grand Orient of France were atheistic in character. What difference does it make when many of the White American Grand Lodges were racist, and barred Blacks from membership?

    Have we forgotten that the White Grand Lodges of Kentucky and North Carolina made it clear that in order to receive the Masonic degrees the candidate must be a White-man? Do we remember that in 1924, the grand master of the Grand Lodge of Louisiana rendered a decision that “a mixture of White and Negro blood made a man ineligible for the degrees of Masonry?
    Or in 1851 and again in 1860 the White Grand Lodge of New York officially declared a gentleman of Color was “unfit material†for Freemasonry? In 1914 the White Grand Lodge of Kentucky declared that a man possessing one-eighth to one-sixteenth of Negro blood could not be made a mason.

    The recent events of 1999 in Alabama and Texas merely reflects the same attitude, so who is atheistic?

    Any author, worth his craft, must gather mountains of facts, and even though I only used two pages to account for the affairs of Grand Master Greene, you see how much work went into just that one incident.

    Other factors come into play as well, the fact that I am writing the book under contract for the supreme council, or for any other Masonic body, what could I put into the book, that would not cause our sovereign Grand Commander, or Grand Masters, to have a heart attack, in other words, what would be acceptable to the united supreme council, is a question that must be dealt with as well.

    This author is very opinionated, and my views often times gets me in trouble with the leadership of Prince Hall Freemasonry, yet in order to be true to my craft, I raise many issues and pass judgment on them.

    Where does the author draw a line? It is interesting to note that the Phylaxis Society has placed the visiting Frenchman from the Grand Orient of France who was to visit the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Michigan into its Masonic hall of fame. His name is Brother Marius LePage who wrote of his visit to America, during the time that the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Michigan was forced to cancel his Masonic visit:

    “There is another sad aspect to American Masonry. The American Masonry is very proud of its philanthropy and charity. It forgets the foundation (basis for) the order, the true fraternity (brotherhood). It affirms that god is the father of man, that as a result, men are all brothers. But this human fraternity of divine origin is not put into practice, no more among masons than among non-masons. Here we touch on the delicate racial problems, always acute, if not worse, in the United States. There is a Negro Masonry, Prince Hall from the name of its founder, powerful, organized like the White Masonry, with the same symbols, the bible, the invocation to the great architect and having a great (grand) lodge for each state.

    This Masonry, absolutely orthodox, is systematically ignored by the White Masonry. The near unanimity of White American masons rejects the Negroes, because of racial prejudice that hangs heavily over the United States.

    The good brother continued with: “in the course of several lectures I explained to my Negro listeners the various aspects of French thought. I felt that Negro Masonry in the United States is much nearer ours than White Masonry. These brothers who have been persecuted and oppressed for generations have acquired a mentality just like ours. I found among them spirituality akin to what we find in the French temples when I speak there.

    Also, it was with a heightened feeling that I listened to the grand master of one of the Negro Grand Lodges put the question orally and in a written report to his brothers concerning the question of the bible, its different interpretation, evaluations, by American Masonry as compared with those of the grand orient."

    There is room for questions that are most interesting. I wonder which is worth more and which is most in accord with the Christian conceptions of Freemasonry.

    Everywhere I went in Canada and in the United States, I ended my talk by translating the motion adopted by the convention of the Grand Orient of France in the September, 1951 session: “the Grand Orient of France opens its temple doors to all masons of known obedience even if those masons do not accord reciprocity.â€

    As an author, I have always tried to share with my readers a fullness of my research. The events that took place in Michigan with grand master William O. Greene, who also has been placed into the Phylaxis Society hall of fame, for the Masonic French incident, is merely a page of the great history of Prince Hall Freemasonry.

    And this is what it is all about. To seek light and to present light. I do hope that my many books have accomplished this.

    Thank you


  2. JamestheJust

    JamestheJust Registered User

    I have read that English Masonry has an altar and VSL because Anglicans love to kneel.

    Since Freemason's lodge extends from E to W and N to S and from the center of the Earth to the Heavens it seems big enough that kneeling is not necessary.

    I too find it strange that brethren should be segregated based on skin color. Equally, segregating on gender seems strange - and perhaps based on traditional Western male dominance: political, religious and economic.

    How strange it would be if the GAOTU turned out to be female.

    In my own view when the secret concealed within the Five Points of Fellowship is understood we will be quite embarrassed by our current position.
  3. Raymond Walters

    Raymond Walters Premium Member


    From my understanding, most English lodges (meaning UGLE) have a pedestal w/ VSL not an altar. Are you meaning American lodges?
  4. JamestheJust

    JamestheJust Registered User

    Technically a pedastal is a support for a column. By "altar" I am meaning a structure on which sacred objects may be placed and at which ritualists may kneel.
  5. Raymond Walters

    Raymond Walters Premium Member

    First, I posted this thread for information purposes. Additionally, I posted the article from The Phylaxis Society website.

    Second, I always get tickled when some random person wants to get "technical"... meaning that the comment I offered was based on the verbiage & terminology used by my home Grand Lodge, the United Grand Lodge of England and its Book of Constitutions regarding a pedestal and how it is used. There are several differences between how things are done in an American lodge as opposed to an English lodge.

    Since you appear to want to be so "technical", please feel free to write an article that provides a different perspective (with references & footnotes to support your view or understanding) to the editor of The Phylaxis Magazine.

    I have provided a link of the submission guidelines that The Phylaxis Society prefers for The Phylaxis Magazine.

    Your article submission can be submitted to editor@thephylaxis.org

    BroBook likes this.

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