Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Thomson Masonic Fraud a Study in Clandestine Masonry [reprint] by Issac Blair Evans:
Isaac Blair Evans was the Federal prosecutor in the court case against Matthew McBlain Thomson and his American Masonic Federation cum International Masonic Federation, in which the defendants were found guilty of mail fraud. Evans assigns Thomson the dubious honor of having “commercialized the Craft Degrees” more successfully than anyone else in history.
The book includes a fairly full history of Thomson’s Masonic activities, as the prosecutor came to understand them, together with genuinely damning court transcripts. From the account, it is apparent that Thomson was advertising, promoting, and selling spurious Masonic Degrees and subordinate charters.
He was working largely through franchises to “organizers” who were travelling salesmen for the diplomas and charters in question. The traditional perogative of Masonic Grand Masters to make Masons by sight in the A.M.F. was extended to Thomson’s organizers—in theory only for the first seven men in a prospective lodge, but in practice to as many as they could include in a preliminary batch of candidates. Once such a lodge was set in place, they would then proceed to sell as many high degrees as they could to the new “Masons,” using a similar procedure of induction. Once the local market was exhausted, they would move on.
Considering its authorship, one should not expect the Thomson Masonic Fraud to be at pains to point out some of the less malign motives that may have driven Thomson. Thomson had emigrated from Scotland to the U.S. as a convert to Mormonism. He had been a Masonic initiate in Scotland, but arrived in Idaho to find that Mormons were excluded from regular Masonic bodies there. In his long quest for legitimacy (or at least a credible facade of legitimacy) for his A.M.F. effort, he took part in various interstate and international transactions that involved other Masonic jurisdictions that were looking for ways to transcend the struggles among provincial institutions, according to the ideals of universal brotherhood.
As a “study in clandestine Masonry,” the book paints a clear picture of a patently fraudulent Masonic enterprise, which easily contrasts with other Masonic jurisdictions that—whatever disputes may exist regarding the propriety of their original constitutions or relationship with other Grand bodies—exist to warrant lodges of the Craft in good faith. [via]
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