Friday, June 8, 2012

The Illustrious Role of Haiti in the Freemasonry of the Western Hemisphere

In many ways, the geographical cradle of our history of initiation, the foundations of some of the most important aspects of Freemasonry in the New World is Haiti. 

Without question, some of the most important moments in the development of American Freemasonry, (US citizens please note: America is a continent and not a nation) began in Haiti. With that in mind, it is shameful that there has not been a greater response among US Freemasons to the recent natural disasters that have befallen our island neighbors. Masons should be more active in forming a chain of union for Haiti and its people.

Haiti, the Caribbean country so recently devastated by a terrible earthquake has a long history of unattained possibilities and all too material misfortune. It was the scene of important historical events and developments decisive in the evolution of Masonic initiation including  being the original site for the introduction of Ecossaisme, the Elus Cohen and Primitive Martinism to the Western Hemisphere.
On December 5, 1492, Christopher Columbus landed on a Caribbean island which he named Hispaniola. The western portion of this island was in 1697, ceded to the French who named the island with the name of Saint Domingue.

In the eighteenth century, Saint Domingue was the most successful French colony due to the export of sugar, cocoa and coffee. The region seemed to evolve with the impetus of new ideas and swiftly took the intellectual and Freemasonic movements further than did those of France.

The desire for freedom flourished in the hearts of the enslaved, and in 1794, Haiti was declared a nation and became the first country to abolish slavery. The Haitians had to struggle until 1804 to assure independence. The Haitian Declaration of Independence was a far more radical and true attempt at freedom than was that of the United States, as it guaranteed freedom to all men and women regardless of color or ethnicity and it totally abolished slavery. The US granted voting rights regardless of race, color or previous condition of servitude to its citizens 66 years after Haiti did and suffrage to women 116 years after Haiti. Without exception, all people on Haitian soil were free. For that, Haiti was a made a pariah state and has suffered until today, to all of our shame.

The Masonic Personalities of the 18th Century in Saint Domingue

Estienne Morin

A French trader, by the name of Estienne Morin, had been involved in high degree Masonry in Bordeaux since 1744 and, in 1747, founded an "Ecossais" lodge (Scots Masters Lodge) in the city of Le Cap Francais, on the north coast of the French colony of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti). Over the next decade, high degree Freemasonry continued to spread to the Western hemisphere as the high degree lodge at Bordeaux warranted or recognized seven Ecossais lodges there. In Paris in the year 1761, a Patent was issued to Estienne Morin, dated 27 August, creating him "Grand Inspector for all parts of the New World." This Patent was signed by officials of the Grand Lodge at Paris and appears to have originally granted him power over the craft lodges only, and not over the high, or "Ecossais", degree lodges. Later attempts to disparage the validity of this Patent calimed, without material evidence that it appeared to have been embellished by Morin, to improve his position over the high degree lodges in the West Indies.  The political equivocations of the Bordeaux Lodge provide little to support such claims.

Early writers long believed that a "Rite of Perfection" consisting of 25 degrees, the highest being the "Sublime Prince of the Royal Secret", and being the predecessor of the Scottish Rite, had been formed in Paris by a high degree council calling itself "The Council of Emperors of the East and West". The title "Rite of Perfection" first appeared in the Preface to the "Grand Constitutions of 1786. It is often argued that this Rite of twenty-five degrees was compiled by Estienne Morin and is therefore more properly titled "The Rite of the Royal Secret", or "Morin's Rite". Whether that is to bolster the claims of legitimacy for Charlston is unclear. Regardless, in the person of Morin, Haiti's central role in the advancement of Higher Degree Masonry in the Americas is unquestionable.

Morin again returned to the West Indies in 1762 or 1763, to Saint-Domingue, where, armed with a new Patent, he assumed powers to constitute lodges of all degrees, spreading the high degrees throughout the West Indies and North America. Morin stayed in Saint-Domingue until 1766 when he moved to Jamaica. At Kingston, Jamaica, in 1770, Morin created a "Grand Chapter" of his new Rite (the Grand Council of Jamaica). Morin died in 1771 and was buried in Kingston.  On July 21, 1802 the Supreme Council of the French West Indies in Haiti was formed out of the older 1836 Supreme Council of Saint Domingue.

The Caribbean History of Martinez Pasqually

More or less the same time, Jacques de Livron Joachim de la Tour de la Casa Martinez de Pasqually also a Mason from the French city of Grenoble, inherited a property in Saint Domingue and traveled to the place which was within the modern territory of Haiti. He had plans to establish the Chevaliers de l'Ordre de Masons Elus Coens (Order of the Knights Elect Priests of the Universe) which he had previously founded in France. There are still echoes of this Order in the Americas, but despite romantic claims to the contrary, they all appear to derive from the late 19th and early 20th Century based upon the romantic reinventions of Gérard Encausse (Papus) and Robert Ambelain.

Martinez's father Pasqually,  was said to have been issued a patent by King Charles Stuart granting him the title of Grand Master and authorizing him to transmit his powers to his firstborn son. This rank and power was transferred to Martinez when he was 28 years old. Martinez subsequently wrote a treatise on the Reintegration of Beings and a commentary on the Pentateuch from the point of view of the philosophy of the High Masonic Degrees.

On September 20, 1774, a little less than two years after his arrival Martinez died in Port-au-Prince.  It is said that he named Armand Cagnet Lestère as his successor. However, Armand had little time to devote to the Order and Martinism was silenced. Current claimants to the Martinist banner all derive their origins from the aforementioned 19th and early 20th Century French reinventions.

Martinez Pasqually left students and followers in Europe including the Masons Willermoz and Jean-Baptiste Louis Claude de Saint-Martin. At first they intended to adopt the principles of the Lodge of Saint-Germian-en-Laye and practice the Seven High Degrees. However, internal disputes led Saint-Martin and Willermoz to create independent institutions. Abandoning Enlightenment ideals they sought inspiration from the controversial "speech of the Knight Templar of Ramsay," creating a Senior Corps in Europe. Jean-Baptiste Willermoz founded his own Masonic Lodge, "La Parfait Amitie", which began to conduct studies of alchemy. While the Elus Cohen and Martinism may have ultimately been silenced, Willermoz' efforts, which more truly may be said to have retained the seed of Martinist thought survived through its evolution into what is today called the Rectified Scottish Rite and Swedish Freemasonry.

Out of these origins, according to some authors, the structure of the Scottish Rite has established itself in seven traditional categories:

1) Symbolic Degrees of Apprentice, Fellow and Master;
2)  Degree of development of the Universal Symbolic Degrees
3) Degrees based on Enlightenment
4) Jewish and biblical Degrees
5) Templar Degrees
6) Alchemical and Rosicrucian Degrees
7) Administrative and Higher Degrees.

Joseph Cerneau

One more significant player in the History of Freemasonry in the Western Hemisphere emerged from the cradle of Haiti. Although much controversy and a great deal of unjustified slander was leveled at him by that autodidact and self appointed revisionist of Scottish Rite Masonry, Albert Pike, Joseph Cerneau, an unassuming, and apparently quite sincere Freemason and Jeweler from Villeblevin in Central France, became involved in Freemasonry while living in Pre Revolutionary Saint Domingue. At the time of the Haitian Revolution he, like quite a few Frenchmen living in Haiti escaped and went to Cuba. He is remembered for having founded the first Masonic Lodge in Cuba in about 1804 or 1805 before having been deported, as far as can factually be discerned, for the triple crimes of having been French, formerly living in Haiti, and being also a Freemason.

The Spanish authorities at the time lived in terror of the French contagion and Cerneau appeared dangerous to them for these reasons. It seems that their suspicion, if misplaced was not totally unwarranted, as a few years after the innocent Cerneau left for New York, an Afro-Cuban freemason, named Aponte, was caught and executed for attempting to lead a rebellion modeled upon that of Haiti.
Although Cerneau himself did nothing that the "Gentlemen" of Charleston did not themselves do, his form of Scottish Rite, although having much if not more to recommend it, fell victim to the savage attacks of Albert Pike and his southern "Gentlemen" after Cerneau himself had already returned to France, disgusted by the corruption and petty politics of North American Freemasonry in the early 19th Century.

Cerneau did not leave however, until after he has successfully spread his vision of the Higher Degrees to much of the Caribbean and Latin America, having personally granted the 33rd degree to none other than Simón José Antonio de la Santísima Trinidad Bolívar y Palacios Ponte y Blanco, known to those devoted to short and unimaginative names as Simón Bolívar, the liberator of much of Latin America.
Today, Joseph Cerneau is recognized in most of the Americas as the father not only of Cuban Freemasonry, but of the Scottish Rite, and Freemasonry in general in their part of the globe.

This is but a brief introduction to the interaction of Haiti and Freemasonry, a subject to which we will return again.


Unknown said...


My name is Chris G and i would like to thank you for the uplifting words and information regarding the importance of Haiti, not only to freemasonry, but to the West. Most of my uncles are free Masons and they always told me that Haiti is the foundation og Freemason in the west. Most of Haiti's revolutionary leaders were freemasons. One of the most important leaders of the revolution "Toussaint Louverture"was a free mason and was initiated in the Grand Lodge ProvincLale of Santo Domingo. I am not a mason, yet , but i have always been intrigue by the great roles free masons have played throughout history. My uncles are part of the higher degree masons.

E C Ballard ஃ said...

Dear Chris,

Many thanks for your kind words. Please feel free to contact me through my gmail account if you wish to discuss the subject more. I always welcome communications.

Yon sanbrase fratènèl,


Sheihan said...

Saint Johns Day Mid Summer bonfire healing ritual in Haiti

Unknown said...

Dear Mr. Ballard

thank you for the information, My name is Lynda, and I'm interested in learning more about Voodooism in Haiti. I am writing a paper on the subject, unfortunately I'am lack the basic constructive knowledge on the occult/religion of Voodoo. I believe the practice of voodooism was a beautiful culture among the people of Haiti at one point in history. My grandfather was a high priest voodoosaint(hoogan) but unfortunately, he is no longer available to share the history with me. However, My priestess(munbo) grandmother who is 100 years old, still alive today, she became a christian and refused to share anything with me. please feel free to guide me to the appropriate reading materials if available on the web or otherwise. Is there a connection between voodooism and freemasonry? if such connection exist, are there any concrete evidence of such? we can chat via email if you wish, I noticed a lot of common interest on your profile. thanks

Jens Rusch said...

Dear Bro Ballard, querido hermano Eoghan;
puede, que seria muy interessante de adaptar unos de tus articulos formidables en nuestra encyclopedia masonica en europa. Se llama
Me llamo Jens Rusch y spy el fundador de este encyclopedia.

Abrazos fraternales desde alemania
Herm Jens Rusch

Jens Rusch said...

Dear Bro Ballard, querido hermano Eoghan;
puede, que seria muy interessante de adaptar unos de tus articulos formidables en nuestra encyclopedia masonica en europa. Se llama
Me llamo Jens Rusch y spy el fundador de este encyclopedia.

Abrazos fraternales desde alemania
Herm Jens Rusch

E C Ballard ஃ said...

Estimado hermano Jens Rusch,

Mil gracias por el honor a esta petición. Yo estaría encantado de tener de hacerlo, y pedir sólo la cortesía de una cita como fuente.

Sinceremente, con un TAF,


E C Ballard ஃ said...

Es ist eine Ehre, mein Bruder.

Jens Rusch said...

Muchissimas gracias, querido Hermano Eoghan.

Thanks a lot my dear Brother Eoghan. Please have a look at our site.

Un triple abrazo
Herm Jens Rusch

E C Ballard ஃ said...

Bruder Jens,

Es ist eine gut gemachte Seite. Vielen Dank und ein dreifacher brüderlichen umarmung.


Unknown said...


Unknown said...

fFraternal greetings from Arizona Brother Ballard, I am curious to know if there are any similarities between the Palo religion that you belong to and Freemasonry.

Josue Cuevas

E C Ballard ஃ said...

Bro. Josue,

Send me an email at

Frat. Eoghan

I Rule said...

Dear Brother Ballard,

This is a particularly interesting post. I am both a mason and a doctoral student conducting research on freemasonry in the Atlantic world. I am wondering if you could direct me to some academic and / or primary sources on Haitian freemasonry. Have you written any formal academic papers on the subject which I could cite?
Hans Schwartz

E C Ballard ஃ said...

I'd recommend the following:

Doszedardski, Jean; Oussavef, Kamel; Newell, Aimee E.. Book of wisdom : Freemasonry through the veil of an ancient French manuscript. Lexington. Supreme Council, 33ʻ NMJ. 2013.

Mento, Gaéto. Histoire de la franc-maçonnerie en Haïti : les fils noirs de la veuve. Pétionville. 2003.

Redd, Marques Jerard. Ancient Egypt, Sacred Science, and Transatlantic Romanticism. Dissertation.UCLA: Berkeley, CA, 2011.

Also, if you'd like, reply to this message with your email address (which I won't post through to be seen publically, and I will be happy to communicate with you at greater length.

Unknown said...

My great great great grandfather Julien Sicard was a French settler in saint Domingue and Brigadier General Marseille French Navy. He owned Coffee and sugar plantations. He fought and died during the revolution but his sons and wife fled to the Spanish side. He was a Freemason in France. Later on my great grandfather Gregorio Sicard became Grand Master in Dominican Republic. I am a Freemason myself in Boston MA
Just wanted to share that , thanks guys!

Jacob Sicard

Unknown said...

Thank you for the brief history, could you tell what role the colored masons
From Haiti played in masonry in the U.S., thank you, Brother Devon Gregory

Florival Family said...

My husband is Haitian and travel frequently back and forth. He is interested in become a freemason. How does he go about it since he would like to do it in his native language and in his country.

E C Ballard ஃ said...

Florival family, please email me at