Thursday, August 6, 2015

Freemasonries: David Henry X°, Clandestinity and Recognition

I began this post months ago -- when it was more relevant -- and have only just tidied it up and readied it for posting.  I'd like to thank Fred Milliken, who read an earlier draft and corrected some of my errors regarding recognition issues and my misuse of the words "irregular" and "clandestine".  Any mistakes that have persisted in this post are entirely my fault and should not reflect adversely on Bro. Milliken.  I'd like to thank him for his time and consideration for helping me out.  My appreciation and respect, always.

Update 11 Aug.:  My site stats show significant traffic from a reddit discussion about this post in which a couple of participants criticize what they see as its lack of clarity vis-a-vis Prince Hall Masonry.  I think understanding these "Masonic Police" requires providing as much context as possible, which to my mind means that an explanation of Prince Hall and it's relationship to other duly-chartered Grand Lodges is necessary.  That said, I'd like to point out that while David Henry, his cohorts, and his "Masonic" associates identify themselves as Prince Hall Masons, they are considered to be clandestine, or Masonically "illegal" (and thus not recognized) by the legitimate Grand Lodges of California and the United Grand Lodge of England.  Although I think a modicum of attention while reading this post makes that clear, I add this preface so that if you're skimming (as I often do) you won't think I'm identifying this "Police Dept." -- or the Lodges associated with it -- as legitimate Prince Hall Lodges.  Though costumed as Cops and Freemasons, they are, in the words of The Phylaxis Society, bogus.  But please, read on and judge for yourself.  I know it's a long post, but knowledge is bought with time.  Fair enough?

When news of the Masonic Fraternal Police Department broke a few months ago (see Grandmaster Flashy), Freemasons everywhere rolled their eyes and sighed "here we go again."

David Henry X°
Many people hear the word "Freemasonry" and think that one Lodge is the same as any other.  For the general public, Masonry is a monolithic structure, controlled from on-high by a single, secretive cabal of old dudes in top hats.  

But any Mason will tell you that this is simply not the case.  Freemasonry has its rivalries, factions, competing Grand Lodges and Orients, with disputes as noisy and fractious as any number of national parliaments one can witness jeering and hissing on C-SPAN.  The difference is that these disputes usually aren't carried out in public.

There are several different traditions within Masonry.  Christianity has its Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox adherents.  Islam, its Sunni, Shiite and Sufi varieties.  Buddhism is divided into Theravada, Mahayana, Zen....etc.  In Masonry we can speak of both "Anglo-Saxon" and "Continental" Masonry, as well as Lodges who are neither one nor the other (such as the Scandinavian Rites).  Very (very) simply put, Continental (aka Liberal, Dogmatic or "Red") Masonry is organized into Grand Orients and derives from a French model.  Anglo-Saxon, ("Blue") Masonry is organized into Grand Lodges and based on the English model.

There are significant ritual differences between the two traditions, and even many Masons may not be aware that relations between "Red" and "Blue" Masonry are sometimes strained; while they might recognize each other as legitimate forms of Masonry -- and even this is not always the case -- diplomatic relations are sporadic.  Their differences are also related to politics, but for the purposes of this article let it suffice to say that Lodges are not directed from on high by a single Masonic authority.

In Anglo-Saxon Masonry, each country is governed by an independent Grand Lodge with its own officers, rules, ritual particularities and diplomatic protocols.  In the U.S., each state has its own Grand Lodge and accordingly, there are variations within their practices.  More importantly, they are all independent, none of them beholden to or under the authority of another.  What holds all these Lodges together is that they are recognized by the United Grand Lodge of England.  If a Mason visits any (U.G.L.E.-recognized) Lodge and presents a dues card issued by a Lodge recognized by the U.G.L.E., he is considered a "non-clandestine" Mason and welcome to participate in the Lodge.

This patchwork of authorities is not without its problems.  Recognizing the "legitimacy" of  a Lodge is considered to be of critical importance.  If I cross state lines and want to attend a Lodge meeting, the host Lodge must be certain that my "Mother" Lodge is not clandestine.  This is quite easy, because there is a directory of recognized Grand Lodges and Lodges to which the Worshipful Master can refer.  For the public however, it's not so simple; anybody can buy Masonic regalia, find the rituals and present themselves as a duly recognized Mason.  As far as practice and ritual goes, they may in fact be genuine; given the sorry state of ritual I've witnessed in some mainstream Lodges, some of the "clandestine" Lodges may even be superior in the quality of their practice. 

For many years, a controversy has existed within Freemasonry -- tied up with the issues of regularity and recognition -- and it's still being worked out today.  I'm speaking about Prince Hall Masonry.

I'm no expert in Masonic jurisprudence and there are people far more informed about this topic than I, but indulge me for a few moments while I try to sum up the history and problems involved.

At some point prior to the onset of American War of Independence, an African-American educator and intellectual named Prince Hall led a group of African-American petitioners to Boston's St. John's Lodge, with the ultimate goal of creating a charter and forming their own Lodge.  St. John's refused their petition.

In 1775, the group tried again with a military Lodge under the aegis of the Grand Lodge of Ireland. This time they were successful; Hall and his fellows were initiated and went on to found African Lodge No. 1.  Unable to create a charter without the assent of a Grand Lodge, African Lodge No. 1 applied to the Mother Grand Lodge of England, who issued a charter as African Lodge no. 459 in 1784.  Prince Hall then helped to establish Lodges in Philadelphia and Rhode Island.  These Lodges were generally excluded from the (white) mainstream.  The Prince Hall Masons understood that integration with the mostly-white was unlikely so they focused instead on being recognized.  In 1808, still excluded from mainstream Masonic society, they formed African Grand Lodge to oversee the Lodges they had created. 

In 1813, the Mother Grand Lodge merged with another Grand Lodge to form the U.G.L.E., thus ending a schism in England that had arisen from ritual differences and that had led to the existence of what was called "Antient" and "Modern" Freemasonry.  As a result of the merger, the African Grand Lodge was stricken from the U.G.L.E.'s rolls due to a lack of contact between the African Grand Lodge and the Mother Grand Lodge for many years.  Newly independent, they petitioned for recognition from the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts but were refused.  So in 1827 they formally declared independence from the U.G.L.E. and all other American Grand Lodges, who had themselves already declared independence from the English Grand Lodges after the Revolution.  This formal separation led to a separate and independent tradition of African-American Masonry, which today we call Prince Hall Masonry.  Freemasonry, like the rest of American society, was segregated, and most Grand Lodges viewed the African Lodges as irregular and clandestine. 

In 1994 the U.G.L.E., recognizing that racism had in effect forced the African Grand Lodge into a separate tradition, ruled that the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts "should now be accepted as regular, and be recognised."

While many Masons in both mainstream and Prince Hall Lodges had been pushing for some sort of reconciliation for decades, the U.G.L.E.'s decision set the gears in motion for concrete action.  For if the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts was recognized, then the Lodges it chartered could also be considered as recognized; and if they were recognized by the U.G.L.E., one could no longer use the issue of clandestinity as a justification for not recognizing them.


At this point, one might ask why the Prince Hall Lodges and mainstream Grand Lodges didn't consider merging, thus eliminating the grotesque spectacle of a racially-segregated brotherhood.  This was indeed considered, but it quickly became apparent that this "solution" was anything but.

First of all, what would happen to the leadership of each Grand Lodge?  Each Lodge had its own officers and those administrations would either have to be dissolved and new elections held, or one administration would have to give up their offices and defer to the other.  Obviously, given human nature, this would be a thorny issue.  Not to mention succession.  What would happen to the Masonic veteran who'd worked his way through the Grand Line with the hopes of becoming Grand Master?  Both Grand Lodges would have Brothers who risked having the carpet yanked from under their feet.

There's also the question of identity and ritual differences  Prince Hall had a 250+ year history and over time has developed its own identity, customs and traditions.  Why risk losing all that in a merger?

Then there's the issue of property.  The Masons own buildings, sponsor charities, own retirement homes, hospitals etc.  How would this be handled?  Not impossible, companies merge all the time, but it's still a complex and expensive process.  Contrary to popular belief, most Grand Lodges are not rolling in piles of cash.  Would the Grand Lodges have the money to effectuate a merger?

Needless to say, no Grand Lodges and Prince Hall Grand Lodges have merged.

Mutual Recognition

For practical reasons, the best solution has been mutual recognition.  Each group maintains its leadership structure and preserves its individual identity, its ritual differences and traditions.

In some  ways, this has been easier for Prince Hall Lodges.  There is in each state a Grand Lodge that all Lodges in that State report to.  They are chartered by that Grand Lodge and must respect its decisions in matters of jurisprudence and ritual, suspensions, visiting rights, etc.  The criteria for determining the legitimate Grand Lodge is clear; one need only look to see which one is recognized by the U.G.L.E.  But on the Prince Hall side things are a bit less clear.  Prince Hall Masonry has historically seen more schisms and the creation of clandestine Lodges than non-Prince Hall Masonry.  In some jurisdictions, there is more than one Prince Hall Grand Lodge; some of these have equally large numbers of Brothers and can trace their origins back to the original African Grand Lodge.  So the issue facing the non-Prince Hall Grand Lodges is that it isn't always clear which one to recognize.

There is also a supposed legal question.  Some Masons in America have interpreted Masonic jurisprudence to mean that there can only be one Grand Lodge per jurisdiction (The Right of Exclusive Territorial Jurisdiction, a.k.a. the American Doctrine).  They would argue that recognizing another Grand Lodge is Masonically "illegal".  But clearly the U.G.L.E. disagrees, or they would not have recognized the Prince Hall Lodges.  In fact, without going into the technical details, the U.G.L.E. has stated that two Grand Lodges can in fact operate in the same jurisdiction.  The principal caveat being that a Lodge can only declare loyalty to one Grand Lodge and that a Grand Lodge has no authority over a Lodge that has declared loyalty to another.  It also is clear that raiding -- where one Grand Lodge sets itself up and tries to poach member-Lodges from another -- is strictly forbidden.

Personally, I'm one of those people who think mutual recognition with full visiting rights was something that needed to be done years ago and Lodges which haven't done it yet should make this their number one priority.  Lodges have long accepted black members and Prince Hall has long accepted white members.  The groups are not officially racially segregated.  The reality may have lagged behind due to racist attitudes, but these attitudes have changed and you'll find fewer and fewer Lodges that would refuse to admit a black man.  Thing is, a lot of black men prefer to join Prince Hall Lodges.  After all, the Prince Hall Lodges have a long history and are held in high regard in many black communities.  Black men are often simply more comfortable in a Prince Hall Lodge.  Still, when you look at this map from Paul Bessel's website about recognition issues, it's clear that all of the Grand Lodges which have not recognized their Prince Hall counterparts, except for West Virginia, are states which belonged to the Confederacy.

A cautionary tale

Let's get back to the Masonic Fraternal Police Force.  In addition to saying something to the general public about not looking at Masonry as one monolithic entity, it can also be instructive to Masons about the pitfalls of non-recognition.

The ringleader of the M.F.P.F. is a guy who goes by the name of Grandmaster David Henry X°.

A quick look at Henry's Google + profile immediately raises red flags.  Henry claims degrees and titles that don't even exist in Freemasonry or are presented in a very odd manner.  He calls himself a Illuminati Grandmaster and Absolute Most Illuminated Sovereign Grand Baphomet.  (He forgot "Grand Wazoo", but that's another story.)  Then there are his degrees: 32°, 33°, 90°, 96°, 98°, X°, 360°.

For the edification of the non-Mason out there, this is pure nonsense.  In the Scottish Rite a man can earn the 32°, and the 33° is awarded for outstanding contributions to the Craft.  But a 33° Mason will only identify himself as 33°, not 32° as well.  The Rite of Misraïm did have 90 degrees but this Rite no longer exists independently.  It merged with the Rite of Memphis, and as of 1980 the Rite of Memphis-Misraïm did indeed have 99 degrees.  So, it's possible Henry did the 98 degrees, but the same question remains, why list 90° and 96° as well?  As for 360°, the only place I've heard tell of something similar is among the 5 Percent Nation.  He may have been a 5 Percenter, I can't say otherwise, which is fine by me.  But it's not exactly Masonry.  As for an X degree, I suppose he's referring to the O.T.O., whose X° (tenth) degree is called Rex Summus Sanctissimus (Supreme and Most Holy King!)  Llewellyn states "It is the title held by the National Master General of the O.T.O. in a particular country."  I'm sure the O.T.O. would beg to differ.

Thing is, researching this guy I came across the following video:

In this video, made in the wake of the demonstrations following the Zimmerman verdict, a group of Masons stands with an L.A.P.D. spokesman to call for peace and calm.  Are all these Masons members of Henry's group?  In the preview image you see here (click to see video), Henry is the guy on the far left with the killer beard and the shades.  By what authority is Henry there?

On 19 June 2014 the L.A. Watts Times reports on the 10th annual St. John's Day ceremony in L.A.  In attendance were several Masonic leaders, including Brandon Kiel, the Justice Department staffer arrested along with Henry in connection with the the Police Department imbroglio.  Surprisingly, also present was one Van A. Hibbler (sic), who Henry thanks for "making [me?] a Grand Master years ago." 

Interesting.  While researching my first post on this subject, I came across an article in the L.A. Weekly written after Henry and Kiel were arrested, in which Hibler distanced himself from Henry.  He says "a while ago" Henry approached him about forming a new Lodge, and he'd insisted that he go through proper channels.  After the new Lodge didn't pan out, he came back and talked about his police department scheme.  Hibler said he wasn't interested.

I wonder if these meetings occurred before or after the St. John's Day ceremony in 2014, where Hibler was in attendance as Henry thanked him for making him a Grand Master....

Henry is on the far left, Hibler is second from right.  June 3, 2014
The LA Sentinel also ran an article on this event, mentioning that it was organized by the
The Southern California Conference, founded by Honorable Grand Master Willie G. Gauff, Sr., 33°; was designed to create unity among the Grand Lodges in Southern California.
Are all of those who participated in this conference clandestine Masons?  Outside of this article, I can't find a single online reference to the conference and references to Hibler are likewise sparse.  Outside of the  interview in the L.A. Weekly and various reprints of the L.A. Watts Time article, I can only find one other reference to him as a Masonic leader, also in the LA Watts times from 7 February 2013
The M.W. Illustrious Scottish Knights Grand Supreme Council under the leadership of M.W. Grandmaster Hon. David Henry 33rd (giving honor to his M.W. Grand Master Hon. Van A. Hibler 33rd) presented the Della Smith Queen Sheba Legacy Award to Wilma Smith Kiel. Grand High Priest Brandon Kiel 33rd, Deputy Grandmaster Kevin Briley 33rd, and Illustrious Assemblyman Mike Davis (ret.) 33rd, were also in attendance to present this award.
There is also reference to the VH Hibler Youth and Outreach Corporation, a non-profit organization incorporated in 2005 which appears to have been suspended by the California Secretary of State.  This may have resulted from not filing a Statement of Information listing officers and directors.

According to the Phylaxis Society, a Prince hall research organization
There are more African American Bogus Grand Lodges in the United States than there are Legitimate Grand Lodges around the World.
Not surprisingly there are quite a few in  California.  The specific Lodges the three people arrested claimed to have belonged to -- the Knights of Luxor Knights Templars Grand Lodge AASR (Henry, Kiel) and Lady Jewel of the Nile Grand Chapter (Hayes) -- are not on the list, but spokesmen for various recognized Prince Hall Grand Lodges contacted by the Guardian stated that the groups the individuals in question were unaffiliated with them.  Hayes also claimed to be a minister at L.A.'s Israel Missionary Baptist Church, but yet again, staffers there denied this when contacted.  Hibler was associated with the Prince of Peace Grand Lodge (here), and this site mentions him as a key figure in the Lodge and the president of the Youth and Outreach Corp.  Phylaxis specifically lists the Prince of Peace Lodge as clandestine, i.e., bogus.

So Henry appears to be a self-aggrandizing "Grand Master" of a clandestine Lodge, having been made a Mason in yet another clandestine Lodge, mentored by a man who despite appearing together in photographs as recent as last year, both as "Grand Masters", claims to have discouraged Henry from pursuing the creation of a new Lodge and Police Department.  But there's a lot more to this guy, if any of his claims are to be believed.  Judging from the articles we've read, he's certainly regarded as a community leader, at least in some communities and, unless it's all lies, seems to run in pretty diverse circles....

Given our recent post about our intention to write a piece about Freemasonry and the Illuminati in Hip-Hop, one video on his YouTube channel entitled ILLUMINATI GRANDMASTER HENRY X°, ICE T & SYNDICATE caught our eye.  I didn't see Henry but in a comment on that video he writes (it's always caps lock with this guy)
The photos page on his Google + profile do show him with a host of industry-looking types, so he may well have been involved in the game at one point.  This would be an interesting avenue to explore in my eventual post about Freemasonry and Hip-Hop.  It's actually not that far out an idea.  Masonry has always been popular among the police and the military (Prince Hall's entree into Freemasonry was via a military Lodge comprised of soldiers stationed in Boston), but it has also counted a number of entertainers among its ranks.  A large number of big stars have been members of the Craft since before the age of cinema.  Maybe this has something to do with why Masons are called "traveling men", either in the role of chicken or egg.

Henry does have bona fide entertainment creds, I think.  In 2002 he won a local Emmy for a story he produced entitled Info Thieves.  He was nominated again in 2005 for a segment called School Violence.  At least, a David Henry from L.A. was nominated.  Ya see, Henry?  Start spreading outlandish tales about who you are and people will even begin to question the true stuff.  If what he says is to be believed, he also designs some pretty badass Masonic bling.

Other photos on his profile are more relevant to this post, and shed some troubling light on Henry's purpose behind his police force.  Some have written him off as a deluded man with good intentions who did something incredibly stupid and naive.  Maybe all that is true.  He's clearly also a man with a need for power, recognition and obedience.

Here he is as Grandmaster with the text:  "Seek and Destroy all who broke their oath."  Other photos indicate he thinks he was at war with the hacker collective Anonymous, touting freedom, equality and justice.  But for whom, really?  Not oath-breakers.  One pictures wolves and says (caps lock always): "For Masons who forgot their obligation the Grandmaster the wolves are watching".  He's also pictured with Maxine Waters, Bill Clinton and Jerry Brown.

So who the hell is this guy?  He's (possibly) consorting with rappers and high-ranking politicians, collecting an Emmy, threatening apostates, recruiting an aide from the Attorney General's office, appearing with the L.A.P.D., at the inauguration of a street named after a local civil rights activist.  Is it all the same guy?  And if it is, does that make his Police Department, more, or less sinister?  A lot of Masonic imposters have been more or less ingenious and accomplished people, so it's not like this type of character is totally foreign to Masonic history.

There are some lessons to be learned from all this by Mason and non-Mason alike.  All this took me was a couple of hours of poking through the Internet, but most people aren't going to do that.  They'll just read the headline and assume that THE Masons are pulling some shenanigans yet again.  It also puts into sharp relief the reason why the mainstream Lodges have been cautious about recognition.  Years ago this was a convenient excuse, but the will just simply wasn't there to push very hard.  Now the Craft is changing; a few years ago the average age was 71.  That has since dropped to 65, which is still old, but it's expected to drop.  This article in the L.A. Times speaks about the resurgence in interest among younger people; one man interviewed will be the first black Worshipful Master in his Lodge's history.  As the average age of members decreases I think we'll see a more diverse group of men.  Prince Hall will still continue to attract its traditional membership but I also think we'll see more and more African-Americans in non-Prince Hall Lodges.

"Mainstream" Grand Lodges have been ignoring Prince Hall for over two centuries but that hasn't stopped the latter from flowering, working with an enviable ritual quality and serving their communities to the point that Masonry is held in higher esteem among African-American communities than among whites, where it has become seen by many as something of an atavistic joke, full of racist, doddering old men in goofy hats and tiny cars.  Perhaps it isn't a coincidence that since recognition has had some years under its belt, the Craft is starting to attract younger men as described in the L.A. Times article.  This may also be part of the resurgence in so-called Traditional Observance Lodges, which aspire to return to the contemplative and esoteric aspects of the craft, rejecting the "instant Mason" formula of one-day classes in favor of taking one's time, not foregoing the memory work and even requiring candidates to research and present aspects of the Craft before going on to the next degree.  There is also an emphasis on perfecting ritual and often Lodge is held as a black-tie affair, as in times past.  I wouldn't be surprised to learn that these last two items, ritual excellence and more formal attire, might be a reaction to visits to Prince Hall Lodges, where Mainstream masons learned a thing or two about how ritual should be done.  For the most part, we can at least say that now we're doing it together.

Working together fosters openness, which in the future can only benefit the Craft.  Think of Henry David on the podium behind an L.A.P.D. officer, representing Freemasonry.  Recognition will help the public distinguish between the legitimate and the clandestine, hopefully with the result that they will reject the spurious and self-appointed Grandmasters that for the moment, it seems, can easily delude the public.  If Henry and his crew hadn't gone the extra step of playing police officer, they might still be up there among the "community leaders" in pursuit of whatever goals they were trying to obtain.

1 comment:

  1. Episode 17 of The Masonic Roundtable -- Clandestine Masonry -- could be worth your while. I haven't seen it yet, but feel free to watch and leave your opinion here!

    From what I've seen so far, it seems on the level, relevant to this post and useful for Masons and non-Masons alike.


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