The Cerneau Rite Yahoo Group: Masonic Education for the Rest of Us!
For those of you who might not be familiar with the name of Joseph Cerneau, he was the victim of the nastiest smear campaign probably ever launched in the United States. To read what the illustrious but sometimes problematic Albert Pike had to say about him, one might be forgiven for thinking he was the demon seed. Unfortunately, Pike was as wrong and as biased about Cerneau as was humanly possible. This is particularly unfortunate as he has become practically the only viewpoint permitted in polite company on the subject here in the U.S.A.
But don't take Pike's word on the subject, and don't take mine, either. I may be right, but in the service of healthy discussion, and because while to pit myself against Albert Pike as the source of masonic truth may in this case be justifiable, it is far and away too immodest. I certainly wouldn't compare myself to Albert Pike, even after several single malts and the best Cuban Maduro.
In all honesty, while I think that to say that Pike was factually challenged about Cerneau is an understatement, I am not writing this blog entry to blast Pike, whom I find a fascinating figure in his own right. Rather, my intent is to raise a little attention for two subjects of which I am fond. They are interrelated. That is to say, they are both part of my fascination with Joseph Cerneau, the Freemason who is almost more despised in North America than Morgan.
Masons really ought to think twice about Cerneau and his role in the Development of Freemasonry in the Americas, because he was every bit as important as Pike, and perhaps even a little more so. At any rate, his influence during his own lifetime extended geographically much further than did Pike's. And, Pike's spleen not withstanding, he was a pretty good Mason. One who died, by the way, penniless and disenchanted by the ugliness of Masonic politics, back in his native France.
That brings me to the main focus of this entry, the work of another good Mason. Pat King is a thoughtful and studious mason. He founded a Yahoo group 9 years ago, back in May of 2003 to discuss research and other information concerning Cerneauism and the history and memorabilia of the Cerneau Rite. His approach was to let the actual history speak for itself, rather than to further promote the vindictive chatter of the Goliath who slew David, or in this case, Joseph. Bro. Pat actually is much more even handed in discussing the subject than I am being in this post, and he welcomes any and all opposing viewpoints. My approach here, is of course, intended to bait my readers and maybe get them curious enough to check out Bro. Pat's quiet and more objective little group. The serious scholarship that this group hosts, thanks in large part to Pat King, deserves a lot more attention.
Bro. Pat has taken the rational view that since all of the principles in the original debate are moldering together in the clay, perhaps it is time to take an honest look at some old masonic history.
He notes, in one of the earliest posts in the group, what the original fight was all about.
"The crux of the battle between the NMJ and the Cerneaus was a "control issue". The NMJ (and all other current SR Supreme Councils)functions on an autocratic or hirerarchical system. The Actives select the new Actives and no one has a say but Actives. Its a "closed shop". The Cerneau Supreme Grand Council (1880's) was a representative body composed of delegates from every chartered body. It met in the 32' so all could attend. It was representational like our Grand Lodge. The Supreme Council 33' was an appendant body which only controlled thatdegree and had no say in governing the Rite in general.
Bringing it closer to home, ET Carson wanted to keep the AASR in Ohio "under his thumb". There were Lodges of Perfection, Councils P of J and Chapters Rose Croix around Ohio.....but only one Consistory 32' - in Cincinnati (his home). This accounts for the disparity in charter dates around Ohio between the bodies 4-18 and those 19-32. In fact, there was not another AASR NMJ Consistory chartered in Ohio until after the "Cerneau wars" broke out. (Which was in Cleveland, btw).
To put it simply....you could not be a 32nd unless you travelled to Cincinnati and got Carson's approval. That's the way he wanted it. (Talk about "anal-retentive" !!)
The Active 33rds (NMJ) of that era styled themselves "Sovereigns of Masonry" and God Forbid someone introduce democracy into their little kingdom. It was, indeed, "a tempest in a teapot" for the percentage of SR members to blue Lodge membership was quite small (smaller than that ratio today).
The Cerneau Supreme Grand Council, on the other hand, regularly chartered all four bodies in one location at a time. They also got closer to the people in that places like Newark, Felicity, Bucyrus and Upper Sandusky had bodies as well as Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati & Toledo.
It is interesting to note that at one time the Cerneau SR outnumbered the NMJ SR in Ohio. Carson was desperate and resorted to desperate (and dishonorable) methods. Had he not succeeded in his perfidy, we would all be Cerneau SR Masons today.
Now there's an interesting thought.......
It should further be noted that in the rest of the Americas, Joseph Cerneau is viewed as a father figure for Freemasonry in general. He founded the first Lodge in 19th Century Cuba, and in spite of the absurd suggestions of Pike and his masonic offspring, he was exiled from Cuba for no other reason than that he was French and had been active in Haitian Freemasonry. At that time, no more was needed for the Spanish authorities to banish you, a fate he shared with many other innocent fellow nationals. Today he is viewed with respect as the father of not only Cuban Freemasonry, but of masonry in much of South America. He actually initiated Simon Bolívar and made him a 33° Mason.
Pat King typifies what is best about any variety of Freemasonry. He is thoughtful, fair, and unafraid to speak the truth, which he does with gentleness and usually with more diplomacy than the subject deserves. If this has whetted your appetite, go visit Pat King's quiet Kingdom in Yahoo Groups. You have to be a Master Mason to join, but I don't think it matters whether you are a member of the Southern Jurisdiction, the Northern Jurisdiction, or a Cerneauite or only a local blue lodge. He's a good man and a better mason. Go on, support him! The group is simply called "Cerneau - Cerneau Masonic Research."