Vol. LXXV No. 1 — January 1997
THE PHILALETHES SOCIETY: SEEKERS OF TRUTH
A]len E. Roberts, FPS
Allen Roberts is a member and Past Master of Babcock Lodge #322 of Highland Springs, VA. He is a noted Masonic writer and historian. Bro. Roberts has many books to his credit including House Undivided, Brother Truman and Free- masonry In American History.
His writings have earned him the title "fellow" in five research lodges.
Allen Roberts, FPS, also serves the Philalethes Society as its Executive Secretary. In this STB Allen gives a brief history of the Philalethes, its reason for existence, and some of the society's accomplishments.
Throughout the known history of Freemasonry myths, falsehoods, and exaggerations have been prevalent. The quest for Truth is a divine attribute that all Master Masons are urged to pursue, but not all members of the Craft follow.
From the founding of Speculative Freemasonry there have been those within the Craft who haven't been satisfied with extolling Masonry's legitimate accomplishments. Some have believed, and some still do, that its achievements must be exaggerated. And there are those who become extremely agitated when they are told the truth.
Large organizations, including governments, no matter how well intentioned, tend to become bureaucracies. Freemasonry is no exception. Within the United States alone there are 51 Grand Lodges, plus an uncountable number of appendant bodies. The same is true in other countries. Each has its own rules, regulations and leaders.
What has this to do with this International Masonic Research Society? Everything! It's the foregoing that brought it into existence.
"Petty tyranny gave birth to The Philalethes Society," I wrote in 1988. "Some Masonic leaders," I continued, 'dressed in a little brief authority,' had attempted to inhibit the spread of truth. They had attacked, in many cases successfully, the publishing of the written word. They had endeavored to warp the minds of the greatest intellects in Freemasonry."
This brought together several Master Masons who were interested in researching and preserving the history of the Craft. They believed that in strength they could withstand and defeat the attacks of leaders who knew little or nothing about Freemasonry. It was easy to whip one man into defeat, but dificult when several were banded together. The Philalethes Society would become their bulwark.
On October 1, 1928 a handful of writers, authors and editors organized this Research Society that has stood the test of time. The founders read like a "Who Is (Was) Who In Freemasonry." They include: Robert I. Clegg of Chicago, Illinois, revisor of Mackey's Encyclopedia of Freemasonry; George H. Imbrie of Kansas City, Missouri, a foremost Masonic researcher; Cyrus Field Willard of San Diego, California, another excellent Masonic researcher whose work is still read today; Alfred H. Moorhouse of Boston, Massachusetts, editor of The New England Masonic Craftsman; Henry F. Evans of Denver, Colorado, editor of the Square and Compass; and William C. Rapp of Chicago, Illinois, editor of the Chicago Masonic Chronicler.
The name selected was "Philalethes" (pronounced fill-a-lay-thees), a Greek word meaning "love of truth." It was certainly a meaningful title, but because of its foreign relationship, difficult to "sell."
In the early years of the Society there were few members and even fewer dollars. Even so, members wrote excellent articles for the Craft. These were published under the name of the Society in several Masonic periodicals. Many of them appeared in Colorado's Square and Compass. Just before the United States entered World War II, the Society was ready to unveil its own periodical. But the war intervened. Paper, along with many other commodities, was scarce.
With the end of the war normalcy gradually returned. The Philalethes Society had survived, and grown slightly. It had whipped the "Great Depression" and World War II. The more enlightened members of the Craft, and others who desired to learn about Freemasonry, other than the ritual, found membership in the Society invaluable.
When the country returned to something resembling normalcy, the Society took the step it had wanted to in 1928 — the publishing of its own periodical. In March 1946 Volume 1, No. 1 of The Philalethes was issued. From that day to the present it has published articles written by many of the foremost Freemasons throughout the world.
For the first time what had happened to Freemasonry in Europe was universally covered. The Society's members and Fellows had followed the subjugation of Masons and others since its formation. Their observations were often published in regional periodicals, but these had limited circulations. There had been no national or international publication. Now there was.
Through the pages of The Philalethes, the world was informed that with the end of the war, Brotherhood was put into action. President Harry S. Truman, a Past Grand Master of Masons in Missouri, followed a suggestion by Carl H. Claudy, FPS. Claudy, Executive Secretary of The Masonic Service Association, proposed that Americans learn about the conditions in Europe. Truman appointed a commission headed by Ray V. Denslow, FPS, to discover what had occurred during the Hitler years. The President provided a plane and funds for the investigation. The report was widely distributed.
In the first anniversary issue of The Philalethes, the Editor/President, Walter A. Quincke, wrote: "It is the purpose of The Philalethes Society to raise Freemasonry to a higher plane of service, and Editor-members of Masonic magazines, here and abroad, are privileged to reprint either in part or in full, any articles first published in The Philalethes, provided due credit is given as to their source." This same authorization holds true today.
From the first, many Masonic "scoops" were found in The Philalethes. For instance, a member of the Society in Paris, France, reported on the celebration of a change of the name of a lodge. It became Franklin D. Roosevelt Lodge on June 15, 1945. Thousands were present.
On the anniversary of Roosevelt's death, April 12, 1947, more Freemasons and citizens were present for the memorial services. The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Hall in Paris was inaugurated on December 9, 1948. His widow, Eleanor, was the guest of honor. She was led into the hall under an "arch of steel." When she finished speaking, she received a standing ovation, then the Grand Master ordered a "triple battery in her honor." She said she would never forget this Masonic experience.
In Europe Roosevelt was considered a hero. It would be 1975 before Americans learned how he had flirted with impeachment to help Great Britain from the beginning of the Nazi attempt to conquer the world. Even today there are many who do not know of his courage.
From the beginning, The Philalethes Society has endeavored to turn Freemasons into readers. (Its success has been dubious!) In an early issue it published this poem by an unknown poet:
Too Busy To Read
An hour with a book would have brought to his mind The secret it took him a whole year to find The facts that he learned at enormous expense Were all on a library shelf to commence. Alas! for our hero; to busy to read, He was also too busy, it proved, to succeed. We may win without energy, skill, or a smile We may win without credit, or backing, or style Without patience or aptitude, purpose or wit — We may even succeed if we're lacking in grit But take it from me as a mighty safe hint, A civilized man cannot win without print.
A few Masonic leaders were disturbed by what they considered "ultra-conservative" Masons in power in 1948, who demanded European Grand Lodges prove their "regularity." Melvin Maynard Johnson, FPS, Grand Commander of the Scottish Rite, NMJ, and Past Grand Master of Masons in Massachusetts, was concerned. In his outspoken manner, he said as much in an article published in The Philalethes.
Regarding regularity, he said: "It seems to me to be self-evident that the time to help with treatment and nursing is while one is sick and needs help, instead of waiting until he is either cured or dead."
"No American is a real Freemason," Johnson continued, "no matter what jewels he may wear, if he idly watches the destruction of Freemasonry and its ideals in other lands when he, with his brethren, has the opportunity of being a good Samaritan."
Johnson's views, and others of similar vein, published in The Philalethes, for a time brought about much unity in Freemasonry throughout the free world. For varying reasons this unity disappeared a few years later. Today there are many attempting to bring back true universality among the Craft.
The Philalethes Society has always been international. Because of this it has been able to keep American Freemasonry informed about world-wide Masonic activities. The horrors of dictatorships have been recorded. The Philalethes covered the persecution of Freemasons, Jews, and others under the Hitler regime.
It followed the betrayal of Bernard Fay, a French traitor, who had duped many Masonic leaders in the United States. He had convinced them he would write the truth about the history of Freemasonry. Actually, while he was writing his Revolution and Freemasonry he was a Nazi collaborator and anti-Mason.
Through Fay's efforts, some 60,000 Freemasons were murdered or imprisoned by the Vichy puppets. In 1946 Fay was sentenced by a French court to life in prison at hard labor. About seven years later, Fay escaped from the French penitentiary where he was incarcerated. How he managed this "impossible" deed has never been determined. Ironically, he continued residing and writing in France until his death on December 31, 1978! So well had Fay tricked Freemasons, his works are still quoted as legitimate!
No society or Masonic organization in the world has attracted so many of the world's foremost Freemasons as has The Philalethes Society. To list all of them would take up this whole Short Talk Bulletin. They are among "the cream of the crop" of Masonic writers, authors and educators. All were willing to freely give of their time and talent for the benefit of their fellow Freemasons.
The Society has always been proud to claim its acts as a clearing house for Masonic knowledge. In 1995 it went further — it sponsored a Masonic Leadership Center to compile and distribute Masonic educational material. Its web site offers a course for Masonic leaders and other students of the Craft.
Other advantages the members receive include the receipt of six excellent magazines each year. Each issue contains a variety of articles to enrich the readers' knowledge. These articles are written by and for its members, Fellows, and other Freemasons.
The Philalethes Society is for those who seek more light in Freemasonry, and for those who have light to impart.