Tuesday, December 5, 2017

World War II Apron Container

My Dad joined Freemasonry shortly after returning from World War II. When the Lodge Gave him his apron, it came in the large paper envelope shown.


He was raised in Indiana and ordinarily the lodge would give the Entered Apprentice his apron in a more sturdy cellophane container. However cellophane and its ingredients were needed for the war effort, so they replaced that container with the one you see here. It's really flimsy and did not hold up well at all. For that reason I imagine there aren't many left in existence.

My father became a Mason under the Grand Lodge of Indiana. Prior to World War II, the Grand Lodge issued aprons in cellophane, which was more protective and durable than the paper envelope that covered my father's apron. At some point they switched over to the tubes, similar to those used today. But in-between, the Grand Lodge of Indiana, and other Grand Lodges, I suppose, handed out the aprons in the paper envelopes.

The reason, of course, was World War II. The apron containers had been made of cellophane. Cellophane looks to be a type of plastic but it isn't a petroleum-based product. Its use, therefore did not require petroleum for which the armed forces had a critical need. This made the demand for cellophane even greater, mainly for wrapping, sealing and protecting food supplies. Therefore the Grand Lodge of Indiana and probably others, had to stop wrapping aprons in cellophane.

Just to show how flimsy these things really are, here is the only other picture I could find of another one. As you can see, it's in much worse condition than my father's.

The main design, as you see here, is that of what I would assume to be a Senior Deacon, knocking at the Inner Door, dressed in the style of clothes worn in the Temple in King Solomon's day.

In the upper left is a small note explaining why the Brother is receiving what you might call an inferior container for his apron. It reads: .

MASONRY WILL UNDERSTAND

OUR FIGHTING MEN NEED CELLOPHANE AND ITS INGREDIENTS. FOR THAT REASON THE PROTECTION CELLOPHANE FORMERLY GAVE OUR MASONIC APRONS HAS TO BE ELIMINATED.

THIS WHITE PAPER STOCK WILL CARRY ON FOR THE DURATION.


You will notice the so-called white stock has yellowed considerably.

In the lower right hand corner, we can see the Ihling Bros. Everard Co. of Kalamazoo, Michigan made the apron. That company still exists under the name Kalamazoo Sportswear and Regalia.


So that's it. I don't think the piece is particularly valuable but to me, of course it's priceless. Exchanging a cellophane apron holder for a paper one isn't exactly a big sacrifice but it's a good reminder of the sacrifices everyone had to make back then for the war. Food items, gasoline, rubber for tires… all were in short supply. We don't have to make those sacrifices today, so perhaps the significance of this little item is to have us remember the challenges even the people here at home had to endure in order to win that war.

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Schaw Statutes

The First Schaw Statute of 1598

Edinburgh, the 28th day of December AD 1598.

[Edinburgh the xxiij day of December. The zeir of God ... four scoir awchtene zeiris.]

The Statutes and Ordinances to be observed by all the Master Masons within this realm. Set down by William Schaw, Master of Work to His Majesty and Warden General of the said Craft, with consent of the Masters specified hereafter.

[The statutis and ordinanceis to be obseruit be all the maister mdissounis within this redline, Sett down be Williame Schaw, Maister of Wark to his maiestie find generall Wardene of the said Craft, with the consent of the maisteris efter specifeit.]

(1) First, they shall observe and keep all the good ordinances established before, concerning the privileges of their craft, by their predecessors of good memory; and especially.  They shall be true to one another and live charitably together as becometh sworn brethren and companions of the Craft.

(2) They shall be obedient to their wardens, deacons, and masters in all things concerning their craft.

(3) They shall be honest, faithful, and diligent in their calling, and deal uprightly with their masters, or the employers, on the work which they shall take in hand, whether it be piece-work with meals and pay [task, melt, & fie], or for wages by the week.

(4) None shall undertake any work great or small, which he is not capable to perform adequately, under penalty of forty pounds lawful money or else the fourth part of the worth and value of the work, besides making satisfactory amends to the employers, according as the Warden General may direct or, in the absence of the latter, as may be ordered by the wardens, deacons, and masters of the sheriffdom in which the work is undertaken and carried on.

(5) No master shall take away another master's work after the latter has entered into an agreement with the employer by contract or otherwise, under penalty of forty pounds.

(6)  No master shall take over any work at which other masters have been engaged previously, until the latter shall have been paid in full for the work they did, under penalty of forty pounds.

(7) A warden shall be elected annually to have charge of every lodge in the district for which he is chosen by the votes of the masters of the lodges of such district and the consent of the Warden General if he happens to be present; otherwise the Warden General shall be notified of the election that he may send to the warden-elect necessary directions.

(8) No master shall take more than three 'prentices in his lifetime, without the special consent of all the wardens, deacons, and masters of the sheriffdom in which the to-be-received 'prentice resides.

(9) No master shall take on any 'prentice except by binding him to serve him as such for at least seven years, and it shall not be lawful to make such 'prentice a brother or fellow of the craft until he shall have served other seven years after the completion of his 'prenticeship, without a special license granted by the wardens, deacons, and masters, assembled for that purpose, after sufficient trial shall have been made by them of the worthiness, qualifications and skill of the person desiring to be made a fellowcraft. A fine of forty pounds shall be collected as a pecuniary penalty from the person who is made a fellow of the craft in violation of this order, besides the penalties to be levied against his person by order of the lodge of the place where he resides.

(10) It shall not be lawful for any master to sell his 'prentice to another master, nor to curtail the years of his 'prenticeship by selling these off to the 'prentice himself, under the penalty of forty pounds.

[Item, it sall be no lesum to an maister to sell his prenteiss to ony ether maister not zit to dispense wt the zeiris of his prenteischip be selling yrof to the prenteisses self, ynder th pane of fourtie pounds.]

(11) No master shall take on a 'Prentice without notice to the warden of the lodge where he resides, so that the 'Prentice and the day of his reception may be duly booked.

(12) No 'Prentice shall be entered except according to the aforesaid regulations in order that the day of entry may be duly booked.

(13) No master or fellow of craft shall be received or admitted without there being present six masters and two entered 'prentices, the warden of the lodge being one of the six, when the day of receiving the new fellow of craft or master shall be duly booked and his mark inserted in the same book, with the names of the six admitters and entered 'prentices, as also the names of the intenders [intendaris-instructors] which shall be chosen for every person so entered in the book of the lodge. Providing always that no man be admitted without an essay and sufficient trial of his skill and worthiness in his vocation and craft.

(14) No master shall engage in any mason work under the charge or command of any other craftsman who has undertaken the doing of any mason work.

(15) No master or fellow of craft shall accept any cowan to work in his society or company, nor send any of his servants to work with cowans, under the penalty of twenty pounds as often as any person offends in this matter.

(16) It shall not be lawful for any entered 'Prentice to undertake any greater task or work for an employer, which amounts to as much as ten pounds, under the penalty just mentioned, to wit twenty pounds, and that task being done he shall not undertake any other work without license of the masters or warden where he dwells.

(17) If any question, strife, or variance shall arise among any of the masters, servants, or entered 'prentices, the parties involved in such questions or debate shall make known the causes of their quarrel to the particular warden and deacon of their lodge, within the space of twenty-four hours, under penalty of ten pounds, to the end that they may be reconciled and agreed and their variances removed by their said warden, deacon, and masters; and if any of the said parties shall remain wilful or obstinate, they shall be deprived f the privilege of their lodge and not permitted to work thereat unto the time that they shall submit themselves to reason according to the view of the said wardens, deacons, and masters.

(18) All masters, undertakers of works, shall be very careful to see that the scaffolds and gangways are set and placed securely in order that by reason of their negligence and sloth no injury or damage [hurt or skaith] may come to any persons employed in the said work, under penalty of their being excluded thereafter from working as masters having charge of any work, and shall ever be subject all the rest of their days to work under or with an other principal master in charge of the work.

(19) No master shall receive or house [resset] a 'Prentice or servant of any other master, who shall have run away from his master's service, nor entertain him in his company after he has received knowledge thereof, under penalty of forty pounds.

(20) All persons of the mason craft shall convene at the time and place lawfully made known to them [being lawchfullie warnit], under penalty of ten pounds.

(21) All the masters who shall happen to be sent to any assembly or meeting, shall be sworn by their great oath that they will neither hide nor conceal any faults or wrongs done to the employers on the work they have in hand, so far as they know, and that under penalty of ten pounds to be collected from the concealers of the said faults.

(22) It is ordained that all the aforesaid penalties shall be lifted and taken up from the offenders and breakers of their ordinances by the wardens, deacons, and masters of the lodges where the offenders dwell, the moneys to be expended ad pios usus (for charitable purposes) according to good conscience and by the advice of such wardens, deacons, and masters.

For the fulfilling and observing of these ordinances, as set down above, the master convened on the aforesaid day bind and obligate themselves faithfully. Therefore they have requested their said Warden General to sign these ordinances by his own hand in order that an authentic copy hereof may be sent to every particular lodge within this realm.

(Signed) WILLIAM SCHAW,

Master of the Work

[Maistir o/ Wark.]



The Second Schaw Statute of 1599

As the document is rather long, the several items have been somewhat condensed and placed in an ordered sequence. The numbering of the paragraphs is done for purposes of convenient reference:

(1) Edinburgh shall be, in the future as in the past, the first and principal lodge in Scotland; Kilwinning, the second "as is established in our ancient writings;" and Stirling shall be the third lodge, "conformably to the old privileges thereof."

(2) The warden within the bounds of Kilwinning and other places subject to their lodge, shall be elected annually by a majority [be monyest] of the masters of the lodge, on the twentieth day of December, in the Kirk of Kilwinning. Immediately after election, the Warden General must be notified who was chosen warden.

(3) Agreeably to "former ancient liberties," the warden of Kilwinning shall be present at the election of wardens within the limits of the lower ward of Cliddisdale, Glasgow, Ayr, and the district of Carrik. Furthermore, the warden and deacon of Kilwinning shall have authority to convene the wardens within the indicated jurisdiction, when anything of importance is to be done, such meetings to be held at Kilwinning or any other place in the western part of Scotland included in the described bounds, as the warden and deacon of Kilwinning may appoint.

(4) The warden of each and every lodge shall he answerable to the presbyters of the sheriffdom for all offences committed by masons subject to these lodges. One third of all fines imposed for offences shall be applied to charitable [godlie] uses.

(5) The wardens together with the oldest masters, up to the number of six, of every lodge shall hold an annual investigation of offences committed and try all offenders to the end that proper punishment may be meted out conformably to equity and justice and good conscience, according to traditional procedure.

(6) The warden of Kilwinning shall appoint six worthy and perfect masons, well known to the craft as such, to inquire into the qualifications of all the masons within the district, as regards their skill and knowledge of the trade and their familiarity with the old traditions, to the end that the warden [and] deacon may be answerable thereafter for all such persons within his district and jurisdiction.

(7) Authority is given to the warden [and] deacon of Kilwinning to exclude from the lodges of the district all persons who wilfully fail to live up to "all the acts and ancient statutes set down from time immemorial," also all who are ."disobedient to their church, craft, council and other statutes and acts to be promulgated hereafter for good order."

(8) The warden and deacon, together with the masters of the district [quarter maisteries] shall elect a well known notary [constitut ane famous notar] as clerk and secretary [scryb] who shall make out and sign all indentures, discharges, and other writings whatsoever, pertaining to the craft, and no writ, title or other evidence shall be admitted by the warden and deacon, except it shall have been executed by this clerk and signed by him.

(9) All the acts and statutes made by the predecessors of the masons of Kilwinning shall be observed faithfully and kept by the craft in all time coming; 'prentices and craftsmen shall be admitted and entered hereafter only in the Kirk of Kilwinning, as their parish and second lodge, and all entry-banquets of 'prentices and fellows of craft shall be held in the lodge of Kilwinning.

(10) Every fellow of craft, at his entry, shall pay to his lodge ten pounds to go for the banquet, and ten shillings for gloves; before admission he shall be examined by the warden [and] deacon and the district masters in the lodge as to his knowledge [memorie] and skill, and he also shall perform an assigned task to demonstrate his mastery of the art.

(11) Every 'prentice, before he is admitted, shall pay six pounds to be applied to the common banquet.

(12) The warden and deacon of the second lodge of Scotland, to wit Kilwinning, shall obligate by oath all masters and fellows of craft within the district not to associate with cowans nor work with them, neither to permit this to be done by their servants or 'prentices.

(13) The warden of the lodge of Kilwinning, being the second lodge of Scotland, once in each year, shall examine every fellow craft and 'prentice, according to the vocation of each, as to his skill and knowledge; those who have forgotten any points they have been taught shall pay fines.





Monday, November 27, 2017

Anothe Day, Another Cliché


There is a common scenario that, in one form or another, seems to crop up in almost every initiation.  At the end of the degree, the Master gives the attendees a chance to introduce themselves and speak if they wish.  Congratulations abound and at some point one of the Brothers will tell the new initiate, "You will get out of Freemasonry what you put into it."  Another day, another cliché.

Then there's that other scenario.  You meet an old acquaintance whom you know to be a member and he tells you he dropped out saying, "All they wanted was my money."

Did you ever stop to think those two overworked remarks are related?

Take, for example, our two esteemed Brothers John Doe and Joe Doakes.  John and Joe are the same age and, like all of us, have family responsibilities and demanding jobs.  Raised on the same evening, their Masonic journeys take two distinct paths.

John dives right in, starts helping out around the Lodge, participates in the social functions and eventually fills in for officers in their absence.  He participates in degree work, becomes interested in the ritual and begins reading articles about its meaning.  The incoming Master asks him to step into the officers' line and his progression through the chairs begins.  He eventually becomes Master, serves on Grand Lodge committees, joins appendant bodies, his Lodge of Research and maybe writes a couple of articles himself. 

Joe, on the other hand, attends a few meetings after his raising but loses interest.  Every once in a while he comes to a meeting, but doesn't have much to say; he's not involved in any of the Lodge's projects and most of the planning just bores him.  He stops going to meetings altogether and loses touch with his Brothers.  They, in turn, don't bother to stay in touch with him since he's drifted away.  Joe's proud to be a member, thinks Freemasonry does good things but something seems to be missing. 

Each year John and Joe receive a couple pieces of mail from their Lodge and maybe a couple more from the Grand Lodge.  Face it, most of those letters contain an appeal for funds. 

Then one day, years after becoming members, John and Joe receive their annual dues notices.  John pays and doesn't think much about it, except maybe that it's a small price to pay for the value he gets from the fraternity.  Joe, however, looks at the statement and thinks back to his only contact with the fraternity this year — those appeals for funds; and now it's not an appeal… it's mandatory.  He decides it's not worth it and tosses the dues notice in the trash, "All they ever want is my money."
It is true that we as members have an obligation to stay in touch with Brothers who are no longer active and to encourage them to become involved.  However, another cliché comes to mind: "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink."

The ultimate responsibility for making this fraternity (or pretty much any other life experience) rewarding lies with each of us individually.  When things get boring, do something about it (dare I mention, "when the going gets tough the tough get going?").

In the end both Joe and John are right.  Joe was right when he said he only heard from the members if they wanted money.  He was also right that something was missing.  Unfortunately, what was missing was Joe himself. 

John, on the other hand, indeed got out of Freemasonry what he put into it.

Most clichés become clichés because they are, ahem… "tried and true."

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Was Jesus an Operative Mason?

 Coming to Nazareth during his ministry, Jesus preached just as he had been doing throughout the countryside. In other places he had drawn enthusiastic crowds. In this his hometown, however, people in the crowd became derisive. They recognized him to be one of their own, a "common" tradesman, and therefore not someone who should be taken seriously as a teacher or prophet. "Is not this," they asked, "the carpenter?"

This passage is where we learn Jesus, like his earthly father Joseph, was a carpenter, according to contemporary Bible translations. Both Mark 6:3 and Matthew 13:55 give an account of the incident using the Greek word "tektōn" to refer to Jesus' profession.

  • "Is not this the carpenter [ho tektōn], the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?" ~Mark 6:3 (KJV)
  • "Is not this the carpenter's son [ho tou tektōnos huios]? Is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?" ~Matthew 13:55 (KJV)

The word "tekton," however, does not directly translate as "carpenter." It more accurately means "builder" or "craftsman," a designation which, in fact, leaves Jesus' true profession in doubt.

A carpenter would fit in the category of builder or craftsman, and that may well have been what Jesus did. He would not have built homes in an area where trees were scarce, but would have made furniture, doors and tools, such as plows.

However, the most dominant profession around Nazareth, where Jesus grew up and would have practiced his trade, was stone masonry. The area was rich in stone with several quarries, including one in the heart of Nazareth. Virtually all buildings were made of stone, and the demand for stone masons would have been high.

During the time Jesus would have worked as a craftsman, the Romans expanded the small town of Sepphoris into a city for Jewish aristocrats who supported Rome. True, the venture would have required carpenters, but the greatest demand would have been for masons. Sepphoris (today Zippori) was less than four miles from Jesus' home and, regardless of his craft, it is likely he worked on the project.

We’ll never know for sure since the broad definition of "tekton" could refer to a number of professions; but taken in context and in light of the more likely profession of the tradesmen in Nazareth in that era, it could be that Jesus was not a carpenter, but an operative mason.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Unsung Heroes

Publishing is hard. Just ask Robert Johnson, the Managing Editor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. Every week you can go there and read three new articles on Freemasonry and then go about your business. Very simple. There is a lot, however, going on behind the scenes to bring those articles to you. He faces some of the same problems publishers have had since Gutenberg's brainstorm gave us movable type. That said, Right Worshipful Brother Robert has a "leg up" on some publishers when it comes to getting those articles to you. Once he has gone through the process of reading, editing, spell-checking and making sure an article is appropriate he heads for his computer and… presto-change-o! He hands it to you on the Internet, that land of science and technology with a bit of magic thrown in.

Given that, consider the life of a Brother… say… a quarter-century ago. The Internet was there but not for him and not for his Lodge. For that Brother to get a Masonic publication at home it was going to come to him through one portal… his mailbox.

This method of delivery presented a few extra steps and challenges for publishers back then. Still, it was kind of an easy process for the Brother receiving the publication. He brought in the mail, grabbed his pipe and slippers, sat back in his easy chair and spent some quiet time reading the latest Masonic magazine or newsletter. When you think about it, given the frenetic lives people live today and the fact they always seem to be staring at some kind of screen, getting publications that way can be a nice change of pace; and some of them still come that way, don't they? Many state magazines, The Royal Arch Mason, Knight Templar magazine, The Scottish Rite Journal — are hard-copy publications. They are also larger-scale operations with budgets, and in some cases a staff, that can get the job done.

It's also likely you receive other publications like newsletters and bulletins from smaller Masonic groups. Consider the work it takes to get those to your mailbox. The people who distribute these smaller publications face the same issues as bigger publishers, but have to rely on volunteer help, a bit of creativity and hard work to get those items to your door.

Judy VanVickle edits one such publication, the High Twelve Highlights, in St. Joseph Missouri. Her sixteen-page monthly newsletter has a circulation of 260 and what she does is typical of the work other small-publication editors have to do.

"I use Microsoft Publisher for most of the work," she says. "Some of the articles come in Microsoft Word format while some are in longhand. I have to type the handwritten articles myself. I have a standard layout and Publisher usually handles the formatting. I get clip-art from lots of places and use that and cartoons to fill any empty spaces."

Once the layout is complete she sends the file to a professional printer who prints and collates the pages. "Then," says Judy, "we have a 'stuffing party.' We fold, staple, crease and stuff the envelopes and get everything ready for bulk mailing." She says she serves donuts at the party, which seems to be as much fun as work. Judy always includes the names of her helpers in the newsletter.

The Highlights newsletter is ad-supported. This helps defray the cost of the printing and mailing but adds more work to the process. Individual members divide up the work of selling the ads then the group's Treasurer, Brother Al Patterson, sends the artwork to Judy, ready to insert in the newsletter.

Judy realizes the newsletter would be less work and expense online, "but," she says, "so many of our readers just don't make use of the Internet."

So the next time you go to your mailbox and find one of these small publications, remember the men and women getting the newsletters and bulletins out are some of the unsung heroes of our craft. Then, with or without pipe and slippers, enjoy the product from these small but important Masonic quarries.

Respect

Recently Brother Greg Knott wrote an article for the Midnight Freemasons blog about a Medal of Honor. He described the respect he had for the man who earned it and, in fact, for the medal itself. It brought to mind something I saw years ago which has stayed with me and been a reminder that such items should be handled with the care and respect they demand:

I was working on installing a system in a large metropolitan bank's safekeeping department. The executive offices there were glass-walled and I saw a group inside one standing around something a customer had brought in for storage. I went over for a closer look and saw they were inspecting a violin — a Stradivarius violin. To date myself, this was back when employees could smoke in offices; and there stood one of the execs leaning over the priceless instrument with a lit cigarette hanging out of his mouth. Not only that, the butt had a long trail of ashes on the front which, predictably, dropped onto the violin. He brushed the ashes off and the gang continued gawking. I was stunned they could treat such an incredible piece so carelessly.

Over the years I've had occasion to see some pretty significant Masonic memorabilia. Many times when I've had "hands-on" access I think of that little scenario in the bank and remind myself to take the utmost care with the item.

I've seen many such items at the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri. The staff there "bends over backwards" to dig out documents and artifacts for researchers. White gloves are the order of the day as researchers go through the precious treasure trove of Brother Truman's life.

On one occasion I was there researching the well-documented account of the President's visit to Beech Grove Lodge in Indiana. While on his Whistle-Stop tour in 1948, Truman evaded the press and much of his traveling party to attend a meeting at that Lodge and raise a Brother who worked for him. At the close of the meeting he asked if he could keep the apron he had worn as a souvenir.

As the staff at the Truman Library gathered items relating to that visit, one of the artifacts turned out to be that apron. I was mesmerized as I looked at it. I felt as if I was in the presence of the President himself. Unable to resist, I broke one of the Library's rules. I slipped off my glove and…

I touched it.

I probably shouldn't have done it, but something inside me just wanted that connection with the historic apron. I don't think I hurt it at all. It didn't seem the same as dumping a pile of cremated tobacco onto a Stradivarius. What's more, I'm not sorry. I would do it again — guilty as charged. I didn't do it maliciously.

I did it out of respect.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Occult Forces


When the Nazi's occupied France during World War II, their ferocious propaganda machine worked to indoctrinate citizens into their warped value system — including an intense disdain for Freemasonry.

One of their tools was the 1943 movie Occult Forces. Ignoring the fact the film is grainy with poor sound quality, factually inaccurate and uses sinister props that conjure up visions of Plan Nine From Outer Space, it provides some insight into what may be a contributing factor to any anti-Masonic sentiment in France — or elsewhere — today.

Maurice Rémy plays Pierre Avenel, the film's protagonist. Rémy was a "B-List" French actor who had even played in anti-Nazi films. However, he had a quick, if not predictable, change of heart once the Gestapo took charge. Regardless of whether his conversion to Nazi sympathies was genuine, his role in the movie earned him a hasty one-way ticket to Argentina after the war.

Director Jean Charles Mamy and screenwriter Jean Marquès-Rivière were Freemasons who "saw the light" and renounced their memberships. After the war, France sentenced both to death, specifically for the roles they played in producing the film. Marquès-Rivière fled to Argentina. Mamy faced a firing squad on March 29, 1949.

The film telegraphs its anti-Masonic theme from the opening credits where a shadowy blob descends before the viewer's eyes and comes into focus as an ugly spider with a square and compasses on its back. Subtle, eh?

Rémy's character, Pierre Avenel, is a high-ranking French official whom the Masons feel they need to control in order to accomplish their evil purposes. (I might add, the film's Freemasons are members of the Grand Orient of France, one of the groups considered clandestine in the US). Their solution is to initiate and indoctrinate him. His initiation is a combination of the familiar and bizarre, and once a member, he falls into the abyss of clandestine alliances and corrupt deals.

Over time, Avenel becomes disillusioned as the Masons plot to put their plan for world domination into practice. He attempts to demit, but the Grand Master encourages him to remain a member with a combination of threats and promises to promote him to "superior levels."

Finally, the Masons can no longer tolerate Avenel's insolence. The Grand Master expels him and sends men to attack him. As Avenel recuperates the Masons rise up against Germany and drag it and the rest of the world into the flames of war.

There is no telling what influence this film had on audiences at its release. It certainly had enough impact to have Rémy, Mamy and Marquès-Rivière convicted of collaborating with the enemy. Some of the accusations and myths about Freemasonry it brought into focus were the following:

Conspiracy theorists today claim there is a top tier of Masons, run behind the scenes by powerful individuals, who hold the real authority. Outside that elite tier, "average" Masons don't know what is going on. "In Masonry," the Grand Master tells Avenel, "we hide everything from the little people."

Claims abound that there are "higher degrees" in the craft, whose recipients learn the real secrets and gain the real benefits and power of the fraternity. The film reinforces this when the Grand Master dangles membership in the "superior levels" of Freemasonry in front of Avenel, in an attempt to get him to cooperate.

The film depicts Masonry's perceived anti-Catholic stance by the fact that Avenel is himself a member of the Catholic church. In the investigation scene, one member of the committee literally gasps upon learning Avenel is Catholic. It takes fancy footwork to convince the committee members Avenel is "spiritual, but non-practicing." Even at that, his election to receive the degrees is not unanimous.

The audience is made to see Brothers as social-climbers who seek and grant favors among themselves. Government officials hand out jobs and judges acquit the guilty because of the bond of fraternity.

In one telling scene the Grand Master reveals absolutely no one is in charge of Freemasonry; that it moves as a ubiquitous force. Even the Grand Master just receives and passes orders. He describes a nebulous structure that leaves the door open for conspiracy theorists to fill in the blanks and make of Freemasonry practically anything they want.

With these and other examples Occult Forces is a film full of stereotypes, myths and deceptions about Freemasonry. These misrepresentations so parallel some of the outrageous claims of anti-Masons today one wonders if this single piece of Nazi propaganda merely included existing fabrications or was, in fact, the origin of prevailing myths about the fraternity.