Tuesday, July 24, 2012

"The Swedish Masonic Presence in the Caribbean and the Importance of New Academic Research" or "How Real Masonic Historical Research bypassed the Twentieth Century."

Without solid contemporary scholarship, our knowledge of Masonic history is limited to myths, legends, and the fairytales representing what one Grand Lodge or another wants us to think. Without critical analysis and access to original sources, there is and can be no credible Masonic history. Gould, Pike, and McClennen may have served in the relatively benighted 19th Century, but they are woefully outdated and their flaws are all too obvious to anyone familiar with modern scholarly disciplines.

Fortunately, a new day is dawning. Indeed it has dawned, and there are studious and serious scholars looking under all the rough ashlars of what passed for Masonic history until recently.

One source of solid and absolutely fascinating information is REHMLAC - Revista de Estudios Históricos de la Masonería. REHMLAC casts a wide net, publishing articles in several languages, although with a focus on Latin America and the Caribbean, English, French, and Spanish predominate.  One fascinating article included in their inaugural issue (2009) was notable for several reasons. The first was that the topic is one most would not expect to find in relation to the Caribbean, that of Swedish Freemasonry. The other was the high standard it marked at the outset, the article being written by none other than Andreas Önnerfors.  The article is entited "Swedish Freemasonry in the Caribbean: How St. Barthélemy turned into an Island of the IXth Province." The article focuses on the establishment of freemasonry on St. Barthélemy, its connections to the Swedish Grand Lodge, its membership structure and activities mainly between 1797 and 1807. The author notes that there are plenty of documents which describe ritual work, organisation and ideology. These connections have hitherto never been analysed and the paper presented for the first time source material from the Archive of the Swedish Order of Freemasons on the lodge La Sudermanie in the capital of the island, Gustavia.

This periodical covers many other topics, some of which are perhaps less surprising, but all of which shed real light upon what really was happening in the Masonic world of the past two to three hundred years. It definitely sheds light on what Grandpa didn't say about Freemasonry. 

Articles include subjects such as "The Caribbean space: a key to power in the French Freemasonry," "Masonic Symbolism in the Cemetery of Colon" (in Cuba), as well as topics covering Mexico, Central and South America, and the influence of these forces on the Freemasonry of the United States, which wasn't in as much of a vacuum as it appears to be today.

REHMLAC is just one of a number of sources for new, solid academic research which is clearing the dust off of our conceptions of what Freemasonic history really comprises, of what the truths of the past were and how they sometimes look very different from what we were led to believe. Dare to explore!

An introduction to REHMLAC may be had through their website, http://rehmlac.com/  and they are sponsored by La Universidad de Costa Rica. 

Go have a look, Grandpa probably never had a clue...

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