Two Examples of Clandestine Masonry…
Clandestine Masonic Lodges is a concept discussed during dinners and fireplace chats in many lodges I have visited. They represent a curio more often spoken of or retold as mentioned as a sister’s friend’s teacher’s veterinarian’s shop keeper’s lodge. This short paper will present in short order and by no means definitive two famous cases of what are known as Clandestine Masonic Lodges. For the purposes of this paper, Clandestine is defined as root ‘secret’ or ‘hidden.’ Clandestine is derived from the French translation ‘done in a hiding place, against the laws…” (https://encyclopediaoffreemasonry.com/c/clandestine/) The more approximate Masonic phrase is usually ‘Irregular,’ or ‘making small departures from Grand Lodge official Masonic customs.’
The first example is in regards to the American Masonic Federation. This organization was brought to trial in the United States Federal Court in Utah. It was subsequently written up in book format with the assistance of Brother M.G. Price. It was ensured that neither the judge nor jury members were masons, and the course of legal action resides within the ‘general Ignorance of the Masonic Craft on Masonic History and Law, and the Inability of the general public to disprove American Masonic Lodge claims and statements.’ (https://encyclopediaoffreemasonry.com/c/clandestine/)
The conviction was arrived at in Salt Lake City Federal Court, Utah, on May 15th 1922. The men convicted of operating a clandestine lodge, and more importantly, of committing mail fraud and general business mismanagement were Matthew A. McBlain Thomson (main perpetrator), Thomas Perrot, and Dominic Bergera (posing as organization’s Treasurer General).
An investigation into the activities of ‘The American Masonic Federation’ began in 1915. It describes a 15 year scam headed by Matthew McBlain Thomson who claimed to be the former member of Two Scotland Lodges, and the Past Master of one. Matthew McBlain Thomson first affiliated in the United States with Montpelier, Idaho King Solomon Lodge No. 27. Mr. Thomson removed himself from Grand Lodge Radar swiftly, taking a good demit. He then proceeded to start the American Masonic Federation, which would claim to have 10,000 internationally recognized members- known to ‘practically every country in the world.’ (https://encyclopediaoffreemasonry.com/c/clandestine/) He would also later be recognized as falsely selling his credentials, which he packaged as legitimate ability to confer Masonic Degrees. Mr. Thomson had a very good story to sell, and because of the innate writing of obligations masons take, was very difficult to testify against in U.S. Court.
Matthew McBlain Thomson formulated the claim that, except Louisiana, the United States was ‘unoccupied territory Masonically (1)… and not one of the Grand Lodges in the US had a Charter authorizing it to do Masonic work.(2) Historically, the Thirteen Colonies organized a Grand Lodge of its own manifestation, without ever obtaining consent of any Grand Lodge from which their Charters were originally obtained.(3) He described that the United States Masonic Jurisdictions, by breaking away from their home Grand Lodges of Great Britain without prior consent, made them immediate irregular and clandestine operations. This oversight made the United States open to any regular organization that chose to occupy it. (4) Moving forward, historical recognition by the Grand Lodges of Britain did not make these ‘self-created’ Grand Lodges of the United States legitimate,(5) making all US Grand Lodges immediately Clandestine. Most especially, because US Grand Lodges are not all universal and refuse to recognize the Freemasons in other countries because of free selection of religion, race, and other local variances, the entire concept of limiting choice runs contrary to the principles of Natural Universality. (6) (https://encyclopediaoffreemasonry.com/c/clandestine/) Matthew McBlain Thomson then claimed lawful descent from the Lawful Charters of Mother Kilwining Lodge No. 0 of Scotland, and St. Johns Mother Lodge at Marseille, France. Continuing with his logic, St. John later chartered Polar Star Lodge, Louisiana, in 1794. (7) This lodge became part of the Supreme Council of Louisiana, and on September 14th, 1906, Matthew McBlain Thomson stated he was granted a Charter of Authority to form Craft or Symbolic Grand and Subordinate Lodges of Masons. It was through this authority that Mr. Thomson granted a Charter to the Grand Lodge of Inter- Montana. (8)
Thomson continued his logic by stating because of the above conditions, that HE had single sole and TRUE authority, since he / it came from Scotland. Naturally, because all other US Scottish Rite so-called lodges Originated from the United States OR came from France, his authority was correct because it came from Scotland. With his Masonic basis in place, Matthew McBlain Thomson went on to claim full authority to authorized learning’s of Higher Degrees in Masonry by Virtue of Charter from the Rites of Scotland AND, this body was ‘the Oldest High Degree Body in the World.’ It should now be quite apparent, as delineated by Thomson, that ‘all High Degree Diplomas came directly from Grand Council in Scotland.’ Just to refresh the argument, Mr. Thomson claimed the Grand Council of Rites derived originally from Mother Kilwinning Lodge. This was Matthew McBlain Thomson’s ‘Chain of Title’ and the evidence he presented in his defense.
Chain of Title and Rite to Work established, Mr. Thomson was described to have sent out organizers whose duty it was to ‘organize’ Lodges, and confer Masonic Degrees. These Craft degrees were recorded in court records to cost between $535 to $550, with the average cost being reported as $550. Also, for a few dollars more, Scottish Rite Degrees from Fourth to the Thirty-third could be obtained. The price schedule for advanced degrees were $135 to $200. Shrine and / or Templar Degrees were sometimes conferred as ‘bonus’ options. (https://encyclopediaoffreemasonry.com/c/clandestine/)
The US prosecution stated there wasn’t a sound link in the American Masonic Organization’s chain. They presented the start of investigation began when a Mr. Ranson was arrested in St. Louis, 1915. A Post Office Inspector in charge of St. Louis opted to pass the case to U.S. Government in charge of using the USPS Mail with intent to defraud. Inspector M.G. Price was assigned to instigate the reported behavior. He entered official and formal proceedings in 1919, and over the next five years chased down facts and witnesses in the United States, Scotland, France in order to determine the veracity of all tangential claims.
A Federal Indictment was pursued for this Clandestine Lodge, naming Matthew McBlain Thomson, Thomas Perrot, Dominic Bergera and Robert Jamieson, in Federal Suit at United States District Court, Salt Lake City, Utah. The regular judge of this circuit was a Freemason, and every attempt to show fairness in fact-finding was taken. One Judge Wade, know to all to be very fair and honest was given charge of the case. Witnesses of Thomson’s organization, three officers of various Masonic Grand Bodies of Scotland, and several brethren of Masonic Bodies of the United States, were all subpoenaed. It was the intent of the court to determine the legality of Mr. Thomson’s Organization, the Methods used, and the representations made. (https://encyclopediaoffreemasonry.com/c/clandestine/) The Scottish Brethren testified as to Masonic History, and Law in Scotland. They told the court that Mother Kilwinning Lodge has a copy of every Charter ever issued, and it Never issued a charter as Lodge in Marseille, France. Statements were given that the Grand Council of Rites of Scotland were considered to be Clandestine, AND members of legitimate Scottish Lodges were forbidden to be members of it, or have any Masonic Dealings with said organization. Two Officers of the Supreme Council Louisiana testified their Council Never granted Charter to Thomson for the purpose of working Craft Degrees. The U.S. government also highlighted contradictory statements contained within Thomson Publication’s materials.
Judge Wade read in a Guilty verdict in preponderance of the evidence, and ordered each to serve 2 years in federal penitentiary and to each pay a fine of $5000. All traveling stories and foreign lodge dealings were rule ‘false representations,’ with no real authority of foreign charters, no evidence of correct and proper use and storage of business monies, or regular ‘business-like manner for the benefit of the organization.’ (https://encyclopediaoffreemasonry.com/c/clandestine/) Judge Wade estimated the amount of fees, mail order degree or otherwise, to be in the amount in excess of $1,000,000; all of which was unaccountable at time of trial. The court found no business account ever mentioned in testimony. No storage location or Secretary’s transaction ledgers could be recalled or confiscated. The prosecution asked the court for five-year prison terms, but because of Mr. Thomson’s age, Judge Wade surmised two years at Leavenworth Prison, and the accompanying Five thousand dollar penalty, to be fair and equitable for each man involved in this Clandestine Scam.
The second Clandestine lodge of this paper will describe the Propaganda Due, or P2 Lodge of Italy. This Masonic Lodge operated under the Jurisdiction of the Grand Orient Lodge of Italy, from 1945 to 1976. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propaganda_Due The lodge was eventually determined to be operating as a covert or Clandestine lodge, also known to refer to a ‘Black’ or illegally operating in contravention of Article 18 of the authority’s Constitution of Italy banning such Lodge from activities in the period of 1976 to 1981. The Lodge was determined to be in disregard for Grand Orient Lodge Authority, as it continued operations after the following information was heard and actually ruled upon.
A man named Licio Gelli was the known and installed head of P2. This organization was accused of many crimes and mysteries, including the collapse of Vatican Affiliated Banco Ambrosiano, the murders of Mino Pecorelli, a banker named Roberto Calvi, the Targentoploli Bribe Scandal, and the collapse of Michele Sindona’s financial empire. Propaganda Due is sometimes considered a ‘state’ within a State, or a Shadow Government. Seized documents from Licio’s stash were later made public. Many names of recognizable people from Italian Parliament, industrialists, and military leaders were written down. During the same search of Licio Gelli’s villa, police found a document called ‘Plan for a Democratic Rebirth’ which outlined concepts of consolidation of the media, suppression of trade unions, and the notion of necessity of rewriting the Italian Constitution. P2 was also known to have activities in Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propaganda_Due
Propaganda Due was originally founded in 1877 in Turin. It was titled ‘Propaganda Massonica.’ The lodge was popularized and frequented by officials and politicians unable to attend their own mother lodge while away on business. Members of P2 were also individuals of the Piedmont nobility. After World War II, the Grand Orient Lodge of Italy decided to renumber its lodges. The original name was changed to ‘Propaganda Due,’ but by the 1960’s, attendance declined and fewer communications were held. Freemasonry in general was ‘reborn’ after WWII with American encouragement. The Fascist Regime of Benito Mussolini outlawed Freemasonry, and the full tide of free thought had yet to wash upon Italy’s shores. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propaganda_Due
Free-thinking as we understand it to be in the United States today was curtailed in favor of anti-communistic thought. The Italian Grandmaster LIno Salvini of Grand Orient Lodge found this repression to again threaten the fundamentals of obligations. In 1971, Salvini assigned Licio Gelli to ‘reorganize’ P2 and ‘calm the fears of the brethren.’ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propaganda_Due Under the Grandmaster’s authority, Gelli obtained lists of ‘sleeping members’ and regenerated lodge membership from a mixed composite creation. These men were often determined to be men not invited to take part in Masonic Rituals anymore because Italian Freemasonry was, at that time, under the scrutiny of the Christian Democrats. An example of what a ‘sleeping member’ might look like would be a current man of The Order of Former Freemasons. This is an evangelical discipleship of Christian men once members of formal Masonic Lodges. The Christian Democrats of that time represented Catholic School Teachings, previously tainted by illegal trade import quotas [banana] and an illegal and misprinted postage stamp scandal.
The confusing political climate was further shaded by the Italian Grand Orient’s verdict to first be interpreted as ‘Suspending’ P2 activities. In 1978, Gelli was documented in ‘financing’ a particular mason’s campaign for Grandmaster. By 1981, the strength and independence of Propaganda Due was determined to be anti-nationalistic. Another Masonic Tribunal decided the previous 1974 trial and vote verdict actually to have determined that the P2 Lodge Factually ceased to exist. This ruling extended to Gelli’s and P2’s activities to be viewed as Clandestine, and therefore, illegal. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propaganda_Due It was later postulated that P2 might have represented (1) A standby government in case the Italian Communist Party obtained electoral victory, or that (2) P2 was specifically raised to affect and improve the political careers of members with the end result of making powerful connections. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propaganda_Due
Activities of Propaganda Due were discovered by prosecutors while investigating Michele Sindona, the collapse of his bank, and any suspected ties to the Mafia. Police found several critical documents in Gelli’s house. The Prime Minister Amaldo Forlani proceeded to appoint a Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry, to be headed by Christian Democrat Tina Anselmi. Forlani’s chief of cabinet was a known P2 member, but no circumstance prevented Forlani’s demise and subsequent resignation. The results of the investigation and their scandalous nature caused the fall of his administration. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propaganda_Due July 1982 produced further documentation when papers found in a suitcase belonging to Gelli’s daughter were found at Fumicino Airport, Rome. [entitled Memorandum sulla situazione italiana- Memorandum on Italian Situation / Piano di rinascita democratic- plan of democratic rebirth…] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propaganda_Due Inquisition also determined a formal program existed funded in the amount of 30 to 40 billion lire to be used to get people and actions moving. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propaganda_Due
The following events and incidents are attributable to the Propaganda Due Clandestine Masonic Lodge, its members and programs. The !977 Corriere Sera Takeover or P2’s buyout of the Corriere della Sera newspaper with Vatican Funding to shift its editorial line to the right. A 1980 interview has Gelli describing his career goals of being a puppet master, and the notion of a general Italian Constitutional rewrite in a Gaullist Presidential System structure. Specifically, a French phenomena sympathetic to neither a left or right bias, neither free from contradictions nor momentary concessions of necessity. In theory a Gaullist Presidential system leans Right but committed to Montesquieu’s and Rousseau’s concepts of social contract and positive law, or rights for individuals or groups authorized by government or judiciary. It provides for mixed government, freedom from absolute monarchy, necessity of civic virtue and common good, but borrowing economics and individualism from ‘liberalism.’ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propaganda_Due
Propaganda Due was found to be involved in the Bologna Massacre, where Gelli and secret service boss Pietro Musumeci were caught trying to mislead police during an investigation where 85 people were killed and over 200 wounded. P2 was also implicated in the Banco Ambrosiano Scandal, the death of its president Roberto Calvi in London, England. An initial coroner’s report of a suicide was later refilled as ‘murder.’ Investigative journalists found bank funds went to P2 or some of its members. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propaganda_Due There was also a Protezione Account Affair whereby documents were found in 1981 detailing a numbered account at Union Bank Switzerland, Lugano, Switzerland. Payment of US$7 million by Florio Fiorini through Roberto Calvi to the then Italian Socialist Party Leader Claudio Martelli, on behalf of Bettino Carxi, a socialist prime minister from 1983 to 1987. The full extent of this event became evident in 1993 during the mani-pulite or ‘Clean Hands’ kickback on a loan organized by socialist leaders to bail out Banco Ambrosiano. P2 has been also linked to the recovery of Argentine’s Juan Peron’s ‘severed hands.’ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propaganda_Due
Secret and Clandestine Lodges were outlawed by Benito Mussolini in 1925, but a just as quiet toleration always existed. Special new laws were enacted to clarify Italian relationships, but a recent case involving a British Navel Officer being prohibited from joining a Masonic Lodge was questioned by E.U. Court of Human Rights as a possible breach of right of expression and choice. Not all members on Gelli’s list were ever made public as determined by the numbering schema beginning with 1600 on the public documents. And in a strange but true reality, Gelli was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for Literature in 1996, supported by Mother Teresa and Naguib Mafouz. In 2003, Gelli told La Repubbica it seemed to him that Sivio Burlusconi was implementing a refreshing and soothing P2 plan for ‘Democratic Rebirth.’ In May of 2009, all charges were dropped or ruled ‘unsustainable’ against Gelli. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propaganda_Due
P2 has also been considered as a ‘strategy of tension’ [stragia della tensione], or Cold War Device to divide, manipulate, control public opinion using fear, propaganda, disinformation, psychological warfare, agent provocateurs, and false terrorist activities, to achieve strategic aims. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propaganda_Due In both cases, what is Clandestine can be viewed as secret in the notion that their historical mutations upon society have been hidden by the sideshow of their outing. In these cases, the evidence suggests that the label of Clandestine has been given to the American Masonic Federation and to Propaganda Due because of their unwillingness to conform to agreed upon and known standards of work. It can be said that this need to stand outside of accepted standards, and the lengths taken to protect their actions is testimony to the types and scale of activities that were undertaken. Not solely promoting anarchy, but a need to step out of existing systems and remain hidden while enough opinion, ink or actual change can occur before the ‘show’ is over.