Freemasonry is operative.
A. Pike, The meaning of masonry
Albert Pike was a Masonic thinker and a reformer of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite. Pike is known not only for his work, but also as a target of several anti-Masonic attacks made on him posthumously. Due to the gravity of these attacks some Masonic authors have openly acknowledged his controversies and extravagance and sought to distance themselves from him. For most Masons, Pike remains a legendary and enigmatic figure with an aura of mysticism and scandal. Few people now read his books, which may be considered too complex for today’s readers. Nevertheless, within the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Southern Jurisdiction, U.S.A. he is still highly esteemed almost to the degree of veneration. His works on the Scottish Rite are now presented via the adaptation prepared by Illustrious Brother Rex Hutchens, whose works have helped me a lot, while I was trying to find my way through the complex world of Pike’s philosophy.
Albert Pike was a real seeker and had a multifaceted personality. He was a hunter, pioneer, school teacher, journalist, lawyer, politician, poet, Confederate general, and also a Masonic leader and visionary. We begin with the story of his life and later on we shall try to summarize his contributions to Masonic philosophy.
Life and career
Pike was born in 1809 in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of a shoemaker. Pike’s ancestry could be traced to the pioneers of the 17th century. Pike passed the Harvard University entrance exam at the age of 14, but was unable to enroll due to financial reasons and set out on a lifelong path of self-study. His lack of a formal qualification slowed down his career, but helped him to grow into an original and independent thinker.
Pike left Massachusetts in 1831, at the age of 22, in search of new places and adventure, “to seek in other climes a fairer fate”, as he would write later. He started off with a friend walking to St. Louis, then turned South in the direction of Mexico. He reached Santa Fe, at that time a Mexican city, and joined a hunting party. This hunting expedition turned out a failure, but it left a deep trace in his soul. He struggled with hunger and cold in the prairies, but also saw majestic views, “too sublime to be imagined”. They had to eat their horses to survive and sold their rifles for food, but romantic poems about prairies, buffalos and Comanche Indians were written. While traveling, Pike grew his beard and a lion’s mane of hair, which would become forever associated with his image.
Having covered more than 2000 km, he reached Little Rock, the future capital of Arkansas, and started a country school. The school was situated in a log cabin with a fireplace and holes for windows and doors. In this humble setting he taught Latin and Greek to the children of local farmers, one class for all ages. He was paid $3 a month, half in money, half in pigs. Ambitious Pike joined a local political campaign in support of the Whig Party, which was in opposition to the Democrats, the Arkansas’ ruling party. He wrote a series of articles for the Arkansas Advocate, the Whig newspaper. The articles were seen by the leaders of the Whigs, who offered him the post of editor.
He married Mary Ann Hamilton, a planter’s daughter, in 1834. Pike wrote her a number of love poems, something he would never do again. The marriage provided him with a good dowry, with which he was able to buy the Arkansas Advocate for $3000. But the newspaper had only about 1000 subscribers and was not a reliable source of income for his new family. He sold it the following year at a loss for only half the price he had paid and decided instead to become a lawyer, being admitted to the Bar after a year of self-study. Pike was just made for the legal profession: charismatic, with commanding presence and imposing appearance, armed with invincible logic and the power of conviction. Pike was proverbially industrious. According to certain memoirs, he slept no more than 5 hours a day and dedicated a lot of time to studying. At some point when he was asked which law books he had read, he listed about 30 volumes. He built a family a house in Little Rock in 1840, a stylish Southern mansion which is still lived in today.
When the Mexican-American War started in 1846, Pike joined the cavalry and was commissioned as a troop commander. He served in the Battle of Buena Vista, where he had several differences of opinion with his superior officer, John Selden Roane, also of Little Rock. Later on he commentated on this conflict in a newspaper. This resulted in a duel, which ended bloodlessly, although shots were fired. After the war, Pike returned to the practice of law. In particular, he led some famous lawsuits on behalf of Indian tribes against the Federal Government, where the amounts of claim and lawyer’s fees were both quite hefty.
The decade of the 1850s was quite eventful in Pike’s life. In 1850 Pike joined Masonry and quickly became very involved in Masonic affairs. Within 3 years he had received most of the available degrees in Capitular Masonry, Templary, and the Scottish Rite. Degrees 4° to 32° of the latter were conferred on him over a few days in 1853. Then he became active again in politics. In 1854 Pike joined the American Party, the nativist movement. This party called to “cultivate and develop American feeling”, to return to the values of the fathers and to oppose foreign influences – an odd political agenda from the standpoint of today’s Americans. Pike had a strange talent to bet on the wrong side in politics: this party would soon split on the issues of slavery and cease to exist shortly afterwards. Pike was probably too much of an idealist to succeed in politics. The failure of his political activities was quite a disappointment to him and was probably one of the reasons of his decisive turning towards greater involvement in Masonry. He returned to Arkansas in 1857 and in 1859 was elected Sovereign Grand Commander of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Southern Jurisdiction, U.S.A., a position he would retain for 32 years. Around 1860 he presented the first version of the new Scottish Rite ritual, his Magnum Opus.
The political drama of the short-lived American Party was but a prelude for the real tragedy, which was yet to come – the Civil War. Pike was against the abolition of slavery, which, as he and the vast majority of Southerners thought, would ruin the economy of the South, but he was also against secession. When the Civil War started, he took the side of the Confederation. He had little choice being already under suspicion as a born Northerner: would he show any hesitation, he could simply be lynched by his neighbours. Pike served the Confederate course with all his fervour: he even wrote lyrics for the military version of the song “Dixieland” which was to become the military anthem of the Confederation. Pike was commissioned Brigadier General and formed three regiments of Indian cavalry. Although initially successful, Pike’s units were defeated in the battle of Pea Ridge. As in the previous war, Pike came into conflict with his superior officers. Pike was apparently quite proud and could not bear subordination. He was accused of treason and had to resign from Confederate service. He met the end of hostilities as a private person living in the countryside and absorbed in his Masonic studies. For a few years he became a recluse.
Pike was persecuted after the war as an active combatant. He was barred from legal practice; his house and property were confiscated. His son Walter, a Confederate officer, was killed in action. For a few years, Pike and his Masonic supporters were tried to obtain amnesty for him, finally granted by the President in 1866. In 1868 Pike moved to Washington, D.C. For 23 years he lived there in the Headquarters of the Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Southern Jurisdiction. In 1871 he published the first edition of Morals and Dogma, one of the most known books on Masonic philosophy. He died at the age of 81 and was buried at Oak Hill Cemetery. In 1944, he was reinterred in the House of the Temple, the national headquarters of the Southern Jurisdiction, to be re-buried there in the impressive memorial. This ‘translation of the relics’ may remind us of the veneration of Christian saints. Pike is the only Confederate military officer to be honored with an outdoor statue in Washington, D.C. The full list of his Masonic degrees, titles, positions and honorary memberships consists of 144 items and occupies 7 pages in his biography. Pike had ten children, but only three survived him.
It was said about Pike that in his labors for Masonry he worked harder and wrote more than any other author. Searching for the roots of Masonic ideas and symbolism, he studied an enormous amount of literature including ancient texts in Latin, Greek, Hebrew and Sanskrit. The complete list of his writings takes up a book of 70 pages and includes 517 published items as well as an impressive array of unpublished manuscripts, including commented translations of Rig-Veda and Zend-Avesta on 15000 pages. The most complete collection of Pike’s poetry is 532 pages long; it was published posthumously. As a poet, Pike belongs to Romanticism. Pike is not regarded as a great poet, but his poetic talent helped him to write prose with a poetic dimension to it.
Pike’s thought was significantly influenced by Platonism and Romanticism, these two tendencies being remarkably contradictory. While Romanticism is centered on the value of the individual, Platonism focuses on the reality and importance of the absolute. The tension between the individual and the absolute is characteristic of Pike’s thought, of Masonry in general, and, in a sense, of Western civilization in general. This tension is resolved more through tradition and the flow of life than via logical arguments. Pike’s ideal Mason behaves as a romantic hero guided by platonic ideals.
Pike was essentially a Masonic thinker, and to him Masonry with all its attributes, rituals and tenets, had an axiomatic value. He was not developing a philosophical or dogmatic system of his own, but was contributing to the Masonic tradition and was trying to understand its meaning and origins.
“The meaning of Masonry”
A little booklet with this title, a first degree lecture, is one of his best known works. It is a short summary of Pike’s thoughts on the subject as well as a compilation of beautiful Masonic quotes. It begins with a general account of Masonic virtues, which Pike wants to see acted on. Freemasonry, he states, is not speculative but operative. It is work. Rather than being a theoretical philanthropist, a Mason occupies himself with what is near to hand. Right here he finds what to do. He lives up to the eternal charge of all great moral teachers of the past: to love one’s neighbor.
Masonry, says Pike, is not a religion, but it has its own creed, simple and sublime. To every Mason there is a God, one, supreme, infinite in goodness, in wisdom, foresight, justice and benevolence. Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty are God’s attributes. God is the eternal Soul of the Universe, distinct from it, as a man’s soul is distinct from his body. God’s Word and Thought make up His creative power, which made the world. The laws of Nature and Morality emanate from Him. The soul of a man is immortal. It is but a spark from His Light, of one existence with Him and is absorbed again unto Him.
Pike’s concept of religious life
Pike came up with this term to describe how a Mason should live. Religious life is a life inspired with the inward purpose, enlightened with higher meaning. The life of a good man, says Pike, is a religious act. Here Pike uses the word religion in a broad sense similar to the modern use of the word “spirituality”.
To Pike, an ordinary life is made sacred through its goodness. The virtues are holy. In any good company where hands are warmly pressed, there exists a sacred link between the hearts. In business there is a lot more than sale and payment: there is a sacred trust, a faith of man in man. There also exists a religion of work and home. Work is sacred, and the home is as sacred for a normal man as a golden shrine. Creation of the world is not finished. It continues now, and we are God’s co-workers in this process. Providence appoints us to a workplace, and we need no churches, nor sacraments to express our homage and gratitude. The whole world is our Temple.
The term unity concept was introduced by Rex Hutchens. It is, according to him, the kernel idea of Pike’s Masonic philosophy. Pike believed that there existed a fundamental unity between all early religions: they all originally subscribed to a basic belief in monotheism and saw nature as evidence of God’s plan, purpose and presence. With the historical development of society,they transformed into exoteric cults and lapsed into idolatry. But the true essence of the Faith was always preserved in the form of mysteries and initiatic societies, of which Masonry is only the most recent form. According to Pike, Masonry is this universal, eternal, immutable belief, and the roots of contemporary Freemasonry can be traced to the most ancient times.
Pike viewed the history of religion as the school of Divinity, each religion being a useful lesson in this school. He regarded belief in the Supreme Being, a source of all forms, ideas and absolute laws of nature and morality, to be a fundamental tenet of the human mind.
Freemasonry, religion and philosophy – Pike’s approach
The most popular question with regards to Freemasonry is its attitude to religion. Is it a religion, or, if not, how is it linked to religion? Pike thought that Freemasonry is essentially a religious philosophy. Not being itself a religion, Masonry teaches us how to look at religion. According to Pike, Freemasonry teaches us to merge aspects of religion and aspects of philosophy into a moral code and search for its ultimate meaning. The light of Reason, found in philosophy, is to be merged with the light of Faith, found in religion.
Pike was not a professional philosopher in the modern sense. He understood the term ‘philosophy’ in accordance with its direct etymology, as ‘love for wisdom’, where ‘wisdom’ stands for that practical knowledge which guides a person through life. Wisdom, Pike said, is a sacred communion between the contemplation of the Absolute sought by philosophy and the action demanded by morality. Pike wrote: “Philosophy is that intellectual and moral progress, which the religious sentiment inspires and ennobles”. Pike thought that religion and philosophy are not to become distinct departments, but that the pursuit of God and wisdom is a single quest.
Pike on the role of symbols
To Pike, symbols are the soul of Masonry. Much of his effort and writing was devoted to uncovering their deeper meaning and ancient origins. His view on symbolism is closely linked to his Unity Concept. He thought that the esoteric, monotheistic aspect of all religions was expressed, recorded and coded in the language of symbols, whose true meaning was open to the initiated but closed to profanes. His personal goal was to discover this true meaning and to find its historical roots. Pike saw Masonry as a link in the chain of secret initiatic societies all of which had strived to preserve the essential part of the esoteric monotheistic tradition expressed in the symbolic language. Pike was trying to trace the origins of the Masonic symbolism of his day to the sources from time immemorial, having more trust in ancient books that in the contemporary ritual, whose explanations of symbols he found to be misleading.
Pike thought that symbolic language is suitable to represent the Divine exactly because it eludes trivial verbal translation, much as the subject itself. The ineffable nature of God is partly reflected in the mysterious and multifaceted nature of symbols. The symbols, as well as God himself, are more open to intuitive perception than to logical analysis. Pike wrote: “The vagueness of symbolism, capable of many interpretations, reached what palpable and conventional creed could not”. Symbols illustrate what cannot be explained. They represent the non-dogmatic, non-verbalized spiritual knowledge thus avoiding the trap of all verbalized creeds: they become a prison for free thought.
Morals and dogma, the Lodge of Perfection
Morals and dogma was intended as a companion book for the Scottish Rite Masons and attained, at least in the Southern Jurisdiction, an almost scriptural status. The book is notoriously hard to read. It would not open up to a casual reader and should be studied with the help of additional material. Morals and dogma contains lectures for all the degrees of the Scottish Rite, from first to 32nd, hence one might expect that it would give a consistent view of all of them starting with the first three. The reality is, however, more complex. An unprepared reader trying to read a book from the first page will probably put it aside in frustration pretty quickly – so cryptic, complex and chaotic the first three chapters might seem. But once you understand Pike’s intentions, the key to this strange start is easy to find: the book was never meant to be an introduction to Masonry for the uninitiated, but was rather intended to be an introduction to the Scottish Rite for Master Masons of the York Rite, the dominant rite in American Craft Freemasonry. Hence the purpose of the first three chapters is not to explain the first three degrees, but to convince the reader that they are not sufficient, that the real thing begins in the Scottish Rite. Fairly or not, Pike is trying to make the point that although the symbolism of the first three degrees is fundamentally deep, its interpretation given in the Blue Lodge is superficial and insufficient.
A reader, who suffers through the first three chapters, will be rewarded with unexpectedly clear and serene style of Masonic preaching starting with degree 4° (Secret Master). Lectures pertaining to degrees 4° to 14° sound as a passionate hymn to Masonic virtues. These chapters stand out so clearly from the rest of the book, that they are even published separately under the title “The Lodge of Perfection”, the collective term for these degrees in the Scottish Rite.
Morals and dogma, philosophical basis
The rest of Morals and Dogma is devoted to the philosophical kernel of the Scottish Rite – its teaching about the Supreme Being and His relationship to the world and man. Pike uses the neoplatonic concept of emanation to interpret the esoteric aspects of ancient mythology and pagan religions and to present them as connected examples of the same spiritual quest.
Some explanation of terms is in order. According to Plato, ideas and forms exist independently from the material world and have their being in a special space (‘khora’). The source of all ideas and forms is the One, the Absolute, the Supreme Principle or the Supreme Being. The neoplatonic thinkers further developed these concepts. They explained the origin of the world via the hierarchy of emanations, which He (the One) issues. Emanations are flowing from Him in much the same way as our emotions, thoughts, and speech are flowing from us. In cosmogony, emanations are organized in the hierarchy which works similarly to a top-down design in modern programming. Let us take for example Pike’s favorite three-level scheme: Light, Thought and the Word-Logos. The Light emanates from God, but is still ideal and shapeless. The Thought contains what we would call ‘high-level ideas’. The Word is the Thought uttered, ideas formulated, the concrete plan for the world. The Logos (Word-incarnate) creates the world following this plan in a similar way to a programmer who implements a program based on its design. The concept of emanation helps to comprehend the creation of a non-ideal world by an ideal God and supports a rational vision of a Supreme Being who is remote from the world and present in it at the same time. The Kabbalah with its 10 levels of emanations-sefirot is a popular example of such a system.
The Platonic approach and its significance to Masonry is easier to understand when it is compared with the approach of Plato’s best student Aristotle. Aristotle used the binary logic, where statements are true or false. This logic works well in science, but, when applied to man, it may lead to intolerance. In Plato’s world, ideas are just objects, and their quality of being right or wrong is a reflection of our attitude to them rather than their intrinsic attribute. The neoplatonic hierarchy introduces a vertical vector in the world of ideas: they can be closer to the Source, hence purer and higher, or closer to the material world, hence more base and vulgar. The ideas tend to be high or low rather than correct or wrong. This is exactly the way of thinking, which Pike demonstrates when he writes: “Man is not responsible for the rightness of his faith, but only for the uprightness of it”.
The Scottish Rite
The Scottish Rite was imported to the US from France in 1783. It had become outdated in Pike’s time and was in decline. Pike wrote that the old rituals were “worthless trash”. This statement, whether it is correct or not, tells us how deep his reform was. Pike dramatized the rituals and introduced a unifying philosophical thread. Some degrees were completely rewritten. The book of IBro Rex Hutchens “The Bridge to Light”, which contains descriptions to the ceremonies as well as the symbolism for all the degrees, gives the digest of the Scottish Rite, as is it is worked today in the Southern Jurisdiction.
The degrees 4° to 10° form a direct sequel to the 3rd degree and tell us about the further construction of King Solomon’s Temple. During the ceremonies, candidates are typically involved in conflicting situations and have to make difficult choices. Although the Scottish Rite covers a broad spectrum of ethical themes, the two virtues are clearly dominant: justice and the sense of duty. The theme of justice was really the apple of Pike’s eye, probably owing to his being a lawyer. In some degrees, the candidate plays a judge (Provost and Judge), a member of the jury (Elu of the Twelve) or even an executioner (Elu of the Nine). The sense of duty is a moral instrument, which helps to materialize other virtues. The theme of duty is further addressed in higher degrees, where ‘chivalrous’ degrees (with emphasis on action) are interspersed with more contemplative ‘philosophical’ ones.
The Scottish Rite gives new meaning to the Lost Word: it is not just a password (as in the York Rite), but the Holy Name of God. We learn that this Word was engraved on a triangular plate of gold, which was placed by Enoch, a Biblical patriarch, in a secret subterranean vault. In the 13° (The Royal Arch of Solomon), the candidate must descend into the vault, recover the treasure and bring it to King Solomon. In the 14° (Perfect Elu) King Solomon decides to hide it again in a horizontally located crypt. The orientation of the crypts is important: the crypt of Enoch is vertical, which symbolizes the spiritual dimension of the Universe, while the crypt of Solomon is horizontal and signifies earthly things. Uniting the vertical and the horizontal reminds us of a cross. As a side remark, the same symbolism can be seen in the positions of columns on wardens’ plinths in the Craft Lodge.
Degrees 15° (Knight of the East) and 16° (Prince of Jerusalem) are dedicated to the building of the second Temple after the return from the Babylonian captivity. Degrees 17° (Knight of the East and West) and 18° (Knight of the Rose Croix) are based on the Book of Revelation and the New Testament. Further degrees make increasing use of Kabbalah, Gnosticism and other esoteric doctrines in the spirit of Pike’s philosophy. One important theme is the origin of evil. In Morals and Dogma Pike is desperately searching for a rational solution to this problem. He ends up postulating the Principle of Equilibrium, which is part of the 32° and in a way crowns the whole book. Having completed that degree and having learned so much, a new 32° Mason comes to realize that the he still has to look for the answers to his questions himself. The Scottish Rite is the school of Masonic thought, but the lessons received are not meant to be ready-made answers. They rather provide enlightening guidance for a Mason’s own search.
It has been said that the greatness of a prophet is not so much in his statements, but rather in the significance of the issues that he addresses. A prophet creates a paradigm, in which we are compelled to return again and again to the same fundamental questions which initially inspired a prophetic quest. This is particularly true of Pike’s legacy, which helps us to formulate and address eternal problems of life and Masonry.
Albert Pike was a prominent American Masonic thinker, a reformer of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite and its leader for 32 years. He authored Morals and Dogma, one of the most known books on Masonic philosophy. Pike believed that all early religions had the esoteric monotheistic aspect preserved in the chain of secret initiatic societies, of which contemporary Freemasonry is only the most recent form. This esoteric tradition was coded in the language of symbols, which, as Pike thought, is more suitable to represent the ineffable nature of the Divine than verbal creeds. Pike’s philosophy was significantly influenced by Neoplatonic emanationism, on which basis he built a consistent system of Masonic ethics: human virtues have their origin in God’s attributes which are passed on as His emanations to man’s moral universe. The Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Southern Jurisdiction, U.S.A, is up to this day significantly influenced by Pike’s ideas and the rituals which he wrote.
1809 (Dec 29) Born in Boston, Massachusetts, son of Ben and Sarah (Andrews) Pike
1822 Graduated from school in Newburyport, Massachusetts, at the age of 13.
1823 Passed the Harvard University entrance examination, but then started self-education.
1824-1831 Taught school at various places in Massachusetts
1831 Traveled out West, then down South to New Mexico and to the Indian Territories
1832 Arrived at Fort Smith, Arkansas, having traveled about 1300 miles; taught school
1833 Appointed editor of Arkansas Advocate, the local newspaper; moved to Little Rock
1834 Married Mary Ann Hamilton; purchased the Advocate the following year
1836 Sold the Advocate and started a law practice
1846 Joined the cavalry during the second Mexican-American War; served at the Battle of Buena Vista
1855 Moved to New Orleans to practise law
1854-1856 Member of the National Council of the Democratic American Party
1861-1862 Brigadier General in the Confederate States Army
1868 Moved to Washington, D.C.
1876 Death of wife
1891 Pike died in Washington, D.C.
1944 Reinterred in the House of the Temple, headquarters of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Southern Jurisdiction, in Washington D.C.
HIGHLIGHTS OF PIKE’S MASONIC CAREER
1849 Became a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, a para-masonic organization.
1850 July, Initiated in Western Star Lodge #2, Little Rock, Arkansas
1850 July, Passed to the Fellowcraft degree
1850 August, Raised to the Master Mason degree
1852 Demitted from the M.L., became a member of Magnolia Lodge #60, Little Rock
1853 Worshipful Master of Magnolia Lodge #60.
1864 Grand Orator of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas
1850 Received the degrees of Mark Master, Past Master, Most Excellent Master, Royal Arch Mason
1852 Received the degree of High Priest
1853 Grand High Priest of the Arkansas Grand Chapter
1877 Chairman of the Committee on Royal Arch Cipher of the General Grand Chapter of the US.
1853 (Feb 9) Received the degrees of Templar Masonry in the Washington Encampment
1853 – 1856 First Eminent Commander of Hugh de Payens Commandery #1, Little Rock.
Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite
1853 (March 20) Received degrees from 4° to 32° in Charleston, South Carolina from A. Mackey
1853 (March 31) Deputy Inspector General for Arkansas
1855 Started his work on the rituals of the Scottish Rite
1857 Completed his Magnum Opus, the first version of the revised Scottish Rite rituals
1857 Coroneted Inspector General (Scottish Rite 33°) in Washington, D.C.
1859 Elected Sovereign Grand Commander of the Southern Jurisdiction, USA, ad vitam
1871 Morals and Dogma first published
1874 Honorary Member of the Supreme Council of Belgium
1884 Completed his revision of the Scottish Rite rituals
This list contains only the main milestones of Pike’s Masonic career. The complete list of his degrees, titles, positions and honorary memberships consists of 144 items and occupies 7 pages in his biography.
Albert Pike. Morals and dogma of the Ancient and accepted Scottish Rite of freemasonry.
Albert Pike. The meaning of Masonry.
Albert Pike. The lodge of perfection.
Fred. W. Allsopp. Albert Pike. A biography.
Rex Hutchens. The bridge to light.
Rex Hutchens. Seven pillars of wisdom.
Pike’s burial place and memorial http://web.archive.org/web/20060223081418/http://www.srmason-sj.org/web/temple-files/pillars.html
To arms in Dixie: http://chnm.gmu.edu/loudountah/activities/pdf/DixieSongLyrics2.pdf
Appendix 1. Pike’s children, years of birth
1835 Son Ben Desha, died in 1836
1837 Son Albert, died same year
1838 Son Luther Hamilton, survived him
1840 Son Walter Lacy, died from wounds in 1864
1842 Daughter Isadore, died in 1869
1843 Daughter Lilian, survived him
1844 Son Albert Holden, drowned in 1858
1846 Son Clarence, died in 1848
1848 Daughter Eustice, died same year
1849 Daughter Yvon, survived him; she wrote memoirs about him and published his poetry
Appendix 2. Accusations against Albert Pike (from anti-Masonic sources)
1. He was one of the founders of the original Knights of the Ku Klux Klan society and a racist.
This statement is based on later sources and cannot be proven via documents or direct memoirs. The facts are that A. Pike was against the abolition of slavery and that he supported segregation in Masonry. After the abolition happened, he welcomed the organization of the Prince Hall Masonry (separate Masonry for Afro-Americans), considered it regular and helped to introduce there his version of the Scottish Rite.
2. He was a Satanist, and Satanism is the hidden agenda of Masonry in general and of the Scottish Rite in particular.
For any Mason these accusations seem absurd and not worthy of discussion. One popular ‘proof’, on which such accusations are based, is a passage from “Morals and dogmas”, which is taken out of context and misinterpreted. In my earlier essay on this topic it was proven that when this quote is read together with its context, it does not show any Satanism at all. See Albert Pike and Lucifer. Satanist accusations were also part of the infamous “Taxil hoax”, an anti-Masonic propaganda campaign based on a so-called ‘Luciferian quote’, which was written in Pike’s style, but is nowhere to be found in his work. For more details, see, for example.
3. He predicted World Wars I, II and III; this was part of a Masonic plan to control and destroy the world
This one is based on the so-called ‘letter of Pike to Mazzini’, which is clearly an absurd forgery, see for example .
Appendix 3. Political aspect in Morals and Dogma
The book contains multiple passages on political and social topics, the time of writing of which – the end of the Civil War – can easily be traced. At that time Pike, having escaped from the controversies surrounding his service in the Confederate Army, sought seclusion in the woods of Arkansas. Hence, it is understandable why the book is filled with lamentations on the vices of contemporary society. Pike, however, never refers explicitly to the current political situation. His book is intended to be a timeless text, so he never mentions any individuals or political parties. But his frustration with the contemporary political system, its inability to avert the tragedy of self-destruction, can be felt in every line.
Pike neither refers to any specific political issue, nor does he offer any political program. The key note of his political theme is in fact ethical. He tells us that democracy may turn out ugly when it is not coupled with high moral values. Pike’s thoughts are far from real politics: his attention is focused on moral ideals, and he regrets how far these ideals stand from reality. Some of his complaints sound naïve to modern readers. He complains, for example, that government jobs are not given to the best, but rather as a reward to members of the winning side. To us this sounds trivial – we are more cynical than people of Pike’s time. The evolution of society follows a strange route: our existence is in many respects happier and more humane than it was in the 19th century, but at the same time perfect honesty is, in Pike’s own words, “more rare than diamonds.”
Pike’s youth was a time of the industrial revolution and the commercialization of American society. Commercial banks had been allowed since 1838 bringing about not only ease of credit, but also pyramidal schemes, speculating and profiteering. America was changing from a nation of farmers and pioneers into the empire of the dollar ruled by the stock exchange. The more consistent reorganization of the banking system into what it has become today started only after the American Civil War, so Pike’s epoch was a time of little state control over economy. It is understandable, that not seeing any legal mechanism to control financial spheres, Pike turned to ethics – he just did not see another way to curb selfishness. The modern bureaucratic state was something he could not imagine. Our view of things is different: we have learned to rely on the state to control the selfishness of economic players, but we don’t believe that any ethical improvement in politics is possible. We impeach politicians for crimes, whereas Pike was scourging them for moral vices to which we have become accustomed: dishonesty, breach of election promises, rewarding of supporters with positions of favour, flattering of uneducated voters.
Pike represents an America that has long been forgotten. His heart is in the open prairies, his sympathies are with the pioneers, his nationalism is in his nostalgia for the values of the founding fathers.
Appendix 4. Weak points of Pike’s vision of Masonry.
Pike’s theory of Masonry is so deep, comprehensive and influential that upon studying it one is tempted to ask: is that all there is to it? Is Pike’s Masonry equal Masonry? The answer is NO. Despite the obvious significance of Pike’s legacy, it shows the same quality of incompleteness and one-sidedness as any other “verbal” interpretation of Masonry. Whether Pike’s interpretation of Masonry is correct or not – it still remains an interpretation.
First of all, despite the apparent significance of operative Masonry in the genesis of Freemasonry, Pike saw this link as rather coincidental and almost never mentioned it. Apparently it did not fit with his theories which linked Masonry to ancient esoteric societies. In his discussion of symbolism he rarely mentions working tools, which have contributed a good deal to the popularity of Masonry and are quite instrumental in conveying a creative, constructive aspect of its teaching. In fact, the same is also true of many other philosophical interpretations of Masonry: they rarely have a place for working tools.
Pike’s sermons are addressed to the individual relating to the world; a category of ‘another person’, a biblical ‘neighbor’, is absent from his teaching, hence the brotherhood of men remains an abstraction. The warmth of actual human contact is not to be found in his writings. Pike never mentions the Fraternal Chain. His ethical sermons are lofty but theoretical. He is missing the power of live example, which is so strong in the Bible. The parable of the Good Samaritan has had greater impact on humankind than a lot of his writings. The root of this weakness can be traced to the combination of both Romantic and Platonic influences in him: Pike’s ideal Mason is a romantic hero, who acts alone obsessed with absolute “Platonic” values. More generally, this is the logical ending point of every purely philosophical search: classical philosophy is not well equipped to handle the world of man-to-man relationships.
Pike’s vision of contemporary society is overly pessimistic. The fervor of his criticism of political and social vices of his day is comparable to that of Marxism. Pike calls his ideal Mason to plunge into the social life, as in cold water. His idealism will be rejected, and he is doomed to fail with honour much like Pike himself failed in his political activities.
God has such a significant place in Pike’s philosophy that one may ask whether he has created just another religion, more general and abstract than traditional ones. This is in fact one of the most popular and most well-grounded reproaches made of Pike, and there is no simple answer to this question. My own point of view is as follows: Pike wrote for the American Masons of his day, who were almost exclusively Protestant Christians. A person with definite religious convictions will not see the Scottish Rite teaching as religion because Pike’s creed would not contradict his own, but rather enrich his vision of God by adding to it a philosophical dimension. A deist or an agnostic, i.e., a person in search of God, but without definite convictions, is more likely to see Pike’s teaching as a real creed and even accept it as a kind of faith, although Pike never intended his teaching to have a dogmatic value or to be mandatory for the Scottish Rite Masons to believe in. There is also little doubt that an atheist will see Pike’s creed as a quasi-religion and reject it as such. But Pike did not write for atheists. He wrote for Masons having in mind that ‘no atheist can be made a Mason’.
Pike relied on the level of historical knowledge of his time, and his works are teeming with statements which are now considered erroneous. Many intercultural links stated in his works are not real, although the very idea of mutual influence and commonality of ancient cultures, which forms the backbone of his Unity Concept, is generally accepted as correct.