WILLIAM MORGAN HOME PAGE
The Writings of
ILLUSTRATIONS OF MASONRY (Batavia, NY, 1826)
1st edition (under construction)
expanded edition (off-site link)
(WRITTEN FOR THE ORIGINAL EDITION.
By the Publisher, Col. David C. Miller, Batavia, N. Y.)
In the absence of the author, or rather compiler of the following work, who was kidnapped and carried away from the village of Batavia, on the 11th day of September, 1826, by a number of Freemasons, it devolves upon the publisher to attempt to set forth some of the leading views that governed those who embarked in the undertaking.
To contend with prejudice, and to struggle against customs and opinions, which superstition, time, and ignorance have hallowed, requires time, patience, and magnanimity. When we begin to pull down the strongholds of error, the batteries we level against them, though strong, and powerful; and victorious at last, are at first received with violence; and when in our conquering career we meet with scoffs and revilings from the beseiged partisans of untenable positions, it the more forcibly impresses us we are but men; and that in every work of reformation and renovation we must encounter various difficulties. For a full confirmation of our statement we might refer to the history of the world. It is not our intention, however, to give a full detail of the whims and caprices of man to bring forth the historic records of other years as proof of the windings and shiftings of the various characters who have "Strutted their brief hour on life's stage" in order to convince that customs, associations, and institutions are like the lives of the authors and abettors, fleeting and fragile. Many of them rise up as bubbles on the ocean, and die away. Circumstances give them existence, and when these causes cease to exist, they go into the same gulf of oblivion as countless exploded opinions and tenets have gone before them. The mind that formed and planned them, goes on in its dazzling flight, bounding over barrier after barrier, till it has arrived at the ultimate goal of consummation.
The daily occurrences before us bring forth the full conviction that the emanation from the God of light is gradually ascending to regions of greater intellectual brilliancy. When we view man, in the infancy of society, as in the childhood of his existence, he is weak, powerless and defenceless; but in his manhood and riper years, he has grown to his full stature, and stands forth in commanding attitude, the favored and acknowledged lord of the world. For his comfort and well-being as a member of society, rules and regulations are necessary. In the various stages of his progress, these systematic improvements undergo various changes, according to circumstances and situations. What is proper and necessary in one grade of society, is wholly useless, and may be alarming in another. Opinions and usages that go down in tradition, and interfere not with our improvements in social concerns, adhere to us more closely and become entwined in all our feelings. It is to this we owe our bigoted attachment to antiquity -- it is this that demands from us a superstitious reverence for the opinions and practices of men of former times, and closes the ear against truth, and blinds the eyes to the glare of new lights and new accessions of knowledge through which medium only can they break in upon the mind.
We have within ourselves the knowledge; and everywhere around us the proofs that we are beings destined not to stand still. In our present state of advancement, we look with pity on the small progress of our fathers in arts and sciences, and social institutions; and when compared with our elevated rank, we have just cause of pride and of grateful feelings. They did well for the times in which they lived, but to the ultimatum of perfectability we are nearer, and in the monuments we have before us of the skill and genius of our times and age, we have only fulfilled these destinies for which we were created; and we object to every obstacle that opposes or attempts to oppose the will of heaven.
In the present enlightened state to which society has advanced, we contend that the opinions and tenets and pretended secrecies of "olden times," handed down to us, should be fully, fairly and freely canvassed; that from the mist and darkness which have hung over them, they should come out before the open light of day, and be subject to the rigid test of candid investigation. These, preliminary remarks lead as to the main object of our introduction.
We come to lay before the world the claims of an institution which has been sanctioned by ages, venerated for wisdom, exalted for "light;" but, an institution whose benefits have always been overrated, and whose continuance is not in the slightest degree, necessary. We meet it with its high requirements, its "time honored customs," its swelling titles, and shall show it in its nakedness and simplicity. Strip it of its "borrowed trappings" and it is a mere nothing, a toy not now worthy the notice of a child to sport with. We look back to it as, at one period, a "cement of society and bond of union" -- we view it as, at one time, a venerable fort -- but now in ruins -- which contained within its walls many things that dignified and adorned human nature. We give it due credit for the services it has done; but at present when light has gone abroad into the utmost recesses and corners of the world--when information is scattered wide around us, and knowledge is not closeted in cloisters and cells but "stalks abroad with her beams of light, and her honors and rewards," we may now, when our minority has expired, act up to our character and look no longer to Masonry as our guide and conductor; it has nothing in it now valuable that is not known to every inquiring mind. It contains, wrapped up in its supposed mysteries, no useful truth, no necessary knowledge that has not gone forth to the world through other channels and by other means. If we would have a knowledge of sacred history—of the religion and practices of the Jews, and the terms and technicalities of the Mosaic institutions, we can have recourse to the Bible. If we wish further communications from heaven, we have open to our view the pages of the New Testament. If we would "climb the high ascent of human science, and trace the mighty progress of human genius in every gigantic effort of mind in logic, geometry, mathematics, chemistry, and every other branch of knowledge," we ridicule the idea that Masonry, in her retirements, contains the arts and sciences. The sturdiest Mason in the whole fraternity is not bold enough to uphold or maintain the opinion for one moment in sober reality. The origin of the institution is easily traced to the rude ages of the world—to a body of mechanics, or a corporation of operative workmen, who formed signs and regulations, the more easily to carry on their work, and to protect their order.
The very obligations solemnly tendered to every member, carry the strongest internal evidence of the semi-barbarity that prevailed at the time of the institution of the order,] In the course of time, as society increased, and knowledge became more general, it spread, and embracing in its grasp other objects than at first, it enrolled in its ranks men of the first respectability in wealth, talents and worth. But that there is anything intrinsically valuable in the signs, symbols, or words of Masonry, no man of sense will contend. That there is not any hidden secret which operates as a talismanic charm on its possessors, every man of intelligence, Mason or no Mason, must candidly acknowledge. It is worse than idleness for the defenders of the order, at the present day to entrench themselves behind their outward show -- the semblance before the world -- and to say they are in possession of superior knowledge.
We pretend not to act under a cover. We shall "tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth." Masonry, it is true, has long been eulogized in song -- it has formed the burthen of the poet's theme, and been the subject of the orator's best performances. Fancy has been almost exhausted in bringing out "new flowers to deck the fairy queen;" but when we come behind the scenes, what is the picture we behold? Are we to rest satisfied with the ipse dixit of others, or to examine the truth for ourselves? The touchstone is before our readers in the present publication.
Masonry is of itself naked and worthless. It consists of gleanings from the Holy Scriptures, and from the arts and sciences, which have shone in the world. Linking itself with philosophy and science and religion, on this it rests all its claims to veneration and respect. Take away this borrowed aid, and it falls into ruins.
Much weight is still attached to the argument, that as a tie uniting men -- that, as a significant speech, symbolically speaking every language, and at the same time embodying in its constitution everything that is valuable, it should command respect. We meet this argument with facts that cannot be controverted. We put it on a basis that will fling into the back ground every quibble and artifice on the subject; and, in the language of a polemic writer, we challenge opposition to our positon.
The religion inculcated by the Son of Man does all this; and in no possible situation can man be placed, that the benign influence of Christianity does not completely supersede the use of a mere human institution. Place a brother in a desert, unfriended and unkown, -- leave him in a wilderness where human footsteps never printed the ground, the Divine Benefactor is at his side, and watches over him with parental guidance. Let him be driven on a barbarous coast, in the midst of savage men, and there it is that the breathings of the divine influence spreads around him its shield, brings him into civilized society -- in the busy walks of men and are we to be told, as members of community, sojourners on earth, and candidates for heaven, we must be taught our duty at a Mason's lodge? Wherever Masonry exercises its influence with success, there Christianity can have, or should have a more powerful effect. Whenever Masonry claims "kindred with the skies," and exalts herself above every living sublunary thing, then, with an unhallowed step, it obtrudes on the sacred borders of religion, and decks itself in borrowed garments.
Entrenched within these strong walls -- decked with all the glitter of high sounding professions, claiming what does not belong to it, -- it dazzles "but to bewilder and destroy." In its train, in these United States, are enrolled many periodical works devoted to Masonry; and under the guise of patronizing mechanics—the arts and sciences -- lend their aid to carry on the imposing delusion. They take up the specious title of throwing a little illumination on this benighted country, from their secret depositories. Arrogating to itself what should deck other's brows -- assuming to be the parton, the life and soul of all that is great and valuable -- it deceives many of its votaries, and from its gaudy premises the most untenable and onerous conclusions are drawn.
Are we astonished at the wild and heedless manner in which many of the votaries of Masonry rush into every excess, putting at defiance the laws of our civil institutions, which suffer no one to put in jeopardy, but by due forms, and disregarding the command of the Most High, which says, "Thou shalt not kill?" --- we can readily trace the cause to the impressions and practices obtained from its false tenets and descriptive arrogance. Masonry is to the modern world what the whore of Babylon was to the ancient; and is the beast with seven heads and ten horns, ready to tear out our bowels, and scatter them to the four winds of heaven.
Masonry gives rogues and evil-minded characters an opportunity of visiting upon their devoted victim, all the ills attending combined power, when exerted to accomplish destruction. It works unseen, at all silent hours, and secret times and places; and, like death when summoning his diseases, pounces upon its devoted subject, and lays him prostrate in the dust. Like the great enemy of man, it has shown its cloven foot, and put the public upon its guard against its secret machinations.
This part of the subject requires no further discussion either by way of ridicule or downright sincerity, but the remark which cannot be too often reiterated, that the world, in its present advanced state, requires no such order for our social intercourse; and when the Masonic mania prevails as it now does in this country, we are exalting a mere human ordinance, with its useless trumpery and laughable accompaniments, for the sublime and unadorned lessons of Heaven.
To some men it is galling and mortifying in the extreme to give up their darling systems. With the increase of years their fondness becomes so great that they cling to them with wild and bewildered attachment. But we would ask them, where now are the Knights of Malta and Jerusalem, and the objects that called forth their perils and journeyings? Where are the crusades and excursions on which our Grand Commanders, Generalissimos and Sir Knights are to be engaged. . . . . . . . . In no other excursions than Cervantes describes of his redoubtable hero Don Quixote. The days and occasions that called forth these deeds of chivalry and valor have passed like those before the flood; and the mock dignitaries and puppet show actions of Masons in their imitation call forth pity and indignation. When we now see the gaudy show in a lodge-room, and a train of nominal officers with their distinction and badges, it may give us some faint idea of scenes that are past, and may gratify an idle curiosity, but produces no substantial good under heaven. When monasteries and cloisters, and inquisitor's cells and prisons have been broken up before the sweeping march of the moral mind, why this unnecessary mummery should be so much countenanced in this country, above all other countries in the world, is a matter of astonishment.
The day we trust will never arrive here, when ranks in Masonry will be stepping-stones to places of dignity and power -- when this institution will be a machine to press down the free born spirit of men. We have now no tyrant to rule over us -- no kingly potentate to move over our heads the rod of authority; but high in our elevation, and invincible in our strongholds, we put at defiance secret cabals and associations. The public opinion is like a mighty river, and gigantic in its course it will sweep every interposing obstacle before it.
In the work which we submit to the public we have given false coloring to nothing; nor in these remarks have we set down aught in malice. In the firm discharge of our undertaking we have been stern and unbending as the rugged mountain oak; and persecutions, pains and perils have not deterred us from our purpose. We have triumphed over tumult, and clamor, and evil speaking.
When our book goes out to the world, it will meet with attacks of a violent nature from one source, and men of mock titles and order will endeavor to heap upon it every calumny. Men more tenacious of absolute forms and practice than they are attentive to truth and honor, will deny our expositions, and call us liars and impostors.
Such is the treatment, however ungenerous and unjust, which we expect to meet, and for which we are prepared. Truth, we know, is majestic and will finally prevail. The little petty effusions of malice that will be thrown out, will die with their authors, whom this work will survive.
We now aver, in defiance of whatever may be said to the contrary -- no matter by whom, how exalted his rank -- that this book is what it pretends to be; that it is a master key to the secrets of Masonry; that in the pages before him, the man of candor and inquiry can judge for himself, and then a proper judgment will be formed of our intention.