Volume LIVAugust 2007Number 3

Secret Societies: Illuminati, Freemasons and the French Revolution
by Una Birch Book Review by: Bro. Charles S. Canning, Academy of Masonic Knowledge

In his introduction, editor James Wasserman provides an overview of the Illuminati, Allister Crowley and the Gnostic Catholic Church, the Comte de Saint Germain and their involvement in the French Revolution. He also implies that leaders of Freemasonry and their lodges were involved. He provides an overview of the history of the French Revolution, which gives a background understanding for author Una Birch's main text.

The title of the publication is taken from the four major essays written by Una Birch: "Secret Societies and the French Revolution," "The Comte de Saint Germain, Religious Liberty and the French Revolution," and "Madame de Stael and Napoleon: A Study in Ideals." Birch develops a political agenda for the lodges and secret societies. She includes spokesmen like Martinez de Pasqually and Saint-Martin. Their ideals of freedom, equality and brotherhood stir the masses to eliminate feudalism and the monarchy, with hope for a new future. The new future comes in an idealistic revolution that fosters the reign of terror, the directorate and finally the Napoleonic Empire, with its tyranny. The defeat of Napoleon finally brings on new freedom and hope for France.

The Una Birch text is itself not scholarly research, but a series of essays. Wasserman adds several appendices. The first is a cast of characters that covers 35 pages followed by several documents on human rights. The inclusion is to give a better understanding of the French Revolution, which lasted from 1789 to 1799, and the reign of Napoleon from 1799 to 1814. Wasserman implies the association of Masonic lodges with the Illuminati and notes that, "It is also indisputable that key members of Freemasonry had been 'illuminized'..."

While the book title does imply that secret societies, and particularly Freemasonry, were involved in the precipitation of the French Revolution, we find little real information to support this implication. The text gives little insight into Freemasonry, other than general statements of location of lodges and the ideals of brotherhood. Documentation is rather sketchy, obscure or downright absent. Abbe Barruel's work is cited as "a primary sourcebook" and I have found him to be an anti-Masonic critic with a definite bias.

While the text does not give much verifiable insight into Freemasonry's role in the French Revolution, it does provide many statements that should be questioned and subject to additional scholarly Masonic research.

Adopted Son: Washington, Lafayette, and the
Friendship That Saved the Revolution
by David A. Clary Book Review by: Cathy Giaimo,
Assistant Librarian, The Masonic Library & Museum of Pennsylvania

On Sept. 6, we will celebrate the 250th anniversary of the birth of another Revolutionary War hero, Bro. and General the Marquis de Lafayette. "Adopted Son" by historian David A. Clary is a fine tribute to the aristocratic Frenchman who made the cause of American freedom his own through his close relationship with Bro. George Washington.

Though their backgrounds could not have been more different, Bro. Lafayette, a wealthy orphan, and Bro. Washington, a genteel Virginia planter; it is Bro. Lafayette's search for a father figure and Bro. Washington's willingness to adopt a surrogate son that draws these two close together throughout their lives. Bro. Lafayette's money and connections to the French court made him attractive to the Continental Congress, and with his arrival as a 19-year-old Major General ready to fight the rebels' cause of freedom, he was placed under the guidance of Bro. Washington, who was charged to do what he could to prevent the young man from getting himself killed. Mr. Clary quotes numerous letters between these two, showing Bro. Lafayette's devotion and loyalty to Bro. Washington and in turn Bro. Washington's advice and encouragement to his young protégé. Throughout the war, Bro. Lafayette proved his loyalty to Bro. Washington while some around him betrayed him or were just plain self-serving. Bro. Washington appreciated his faithfulness and bravery in combat, saw in him an inspiring leader and rewarded him with opportunities to lead in battle. Bro. Lafayette was especially effective in harassing General Cornwallis in Virginia, which eventually led to the siege and surrender at Yorktown in October 1781. In December, Bro. Lafayette returned to France to champion the new American government in the court of King Louis XVI; then, once again, returned to an adoring public in the United States in 1784 to see Bro. Washington for what would be the last time.

Mr. Clary's liberal use of letters, diaries and other historical documents brings to life the many fascinating men and women of this period. Bro. Lafayette becomes a three-dimensional man shown by including his foibles as well as his virtues. Throughout the book, Mr. Clary mentions the natural charm and winning personality that won over even Bro. Lafayette's critics, as well the ladies for whom he had a roving eye. Mr. Clary also relates Bro. Lafayette's involvement in Freemasonry; his introduction to it by a commanding officer, Bro. and General Charles-François de Broglie, who was a "grand master" [author's title] of a French military lodge. It was here in these meetings that the discussions of men's equality and the rights of all took hold in Bro. Lafayette's mind and served to influence him not only while he served under Bro. Washington, but also as he fought for these same rights and freedoms during the French Revolution.

Upon his death on May 20, 1834, he was not as loved by the French government as he was by the French citizens. He was given a military burial, but the public was barred by the troops. The U.S. government, however, had no qualms about honoring one of its last heroes of the Revolution. Bro. and President Andrew Jackson ordered the flags to fly at half-staff, Congress passed resolutions of condolence to the Lafayette family and lawmakers asked citizens to wear mourning for 30 days as just a few of the tributes shown in his memory. Today we have streets, towns, counties and Masonic lodges named in his honor.

To borrow this book or find out what other biographies are available from the Library, call (800) 462-0430 ext. 1933, or go to the Circulating Library Web site at www.pagrandlodge.org to find more about our Founding Fathers.

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