Friday, July 3, 2015

Michael Poll and the The Supreme Council of Louisiana

This post is about the original Scottish Rite Masonry of New Orleans. To give it its correct name, The Supreme Council of Louisiana. It was founded in the late 18th or early 19th century and the records of the Grand Commanders of this Council stretch from 1839 until today. Common wisdom suggested that it ceased to exist in the late 1800s, but recent work by Michael Poll has uncovered that it is still active.

This post is however, in another way, as much about, as I will present it, Brother Michael Poll's research as it is the fruit of that research. I hope he will forgive me for saying this, as I know he is a modest man. He is as stubborn and as dedicated a researcher into obscure history as I am, and extremely talented!

Over the last few years we have engaged in a friendly exchange. Apart from this enjoyable communication, without any doubt this gentleman deserves complements. He is a superb academic researcher. Far too many who call themselves Masonic historians are amateurs, and not all who have academic training are talented researchers. A good researcher requires both skill and talent. There is nothing amateur about the work of Michael Poll. In my view, he has thrown himself into what may be the most unique and important research on Masonic history in the United States. It certainly is, in my opinion, the most interesting research of recent years.  As you will discover when you watch this video he has recorded, he is also a great raconteur in the old tradition.

After becoming aware of this work and the video Bro. Poll created to present an account of his own discoveries, I sat down with a beer and a cigar to enjoy a fifty minute account of his research on the original Supreme Council of Louisiana.

What followed for me represents a fascinating account of the best sort of research. Allow me to make a preliminary observation of my own. Research by definition deals with persistent and hard work. It requires an attention to detail and the willingness to spend sometimes untold hours reading through often mind-numbingly dry material, looking for specific hints that may (or may not) lead to what one is seeking, and when we are very lucky, this can lead to information we had no idea even existed. When one is on the correct trail, in my opinion, spirit steps in. Synchronicity and serendipity play a role in good research. Listening to Bro. Poll's account of his research we see how unexpected connections occurred again and again! These seeming coincidental occurrences can lead someone who is in the flow of true connections, to the most amazing discoveries. What Michael Poll describes here, in a very personal and natural way, indeed a very engaging way, provides the viewer with a front row seat to a most fascinating voyage of discovery in the living history of New Orleans, Louisiana, and American Freemasonry.

Along the way, we are not only treated to a fascinating story of discovery, but for those who are attuned to and interested in such matters, insight into the techniques and nuances of a careful and thorough field researcher. I note that because for those not familiar with research, the distinction is an important one. There are researchers who spend all their days in rooms looking at old documents, and while that is both important and difficult work, there is another kind of research. Those who go beyond the library and seek information concerning living history and living culture require an additional set of skills. Those who are capable of excelling at both are rare. This video details exactly that rare form of research and Michael Poll makes it sound as if it was as simple as a drive on a Sunday afternoon. Don't allow his "natural" presentation fool you. There were years of hard work behind this video.

What Poll has discovered is nothing short of remarkable. This research has uncovered not a history of an ancient and now defunct obedience of Scottish Rite Masonry which played a role in the development of that Rite in the 18th and 19th centuries, but that this obedience has survived up to our own day, little noticed and largely ignored, hidden in plain view. Not only does he present the first information of this remarkable survival, but an invaluable record of the process of research and discovery, which will be of interest to academics almost as much as the discovery of the original Supreme Council of Louisiana itself.

Rather than repeat the content of the research Michael Poll discusses in this video, in part because I don't wish to give the reader any spoilers, but also because his own account is too fascinating to paraphrase, I urge you to watch this video and experience a unique window into how the best Masonic research should be done. He suggests that further videos will follow, and I for one hope they will, as this one simply whets the appetite!


 A personal look at the discovery of the continued existence of a long lost supreme council.

To communicate requesting further information on this subject, send  an email to:

A Production of
The New Orleans Scottish Rite College
Views expressed in this video are those of Michael R. Poll and not necessarily those of any Masonic Body.

Funded by
Cornerstone Book Publishers

Educational support by
The Louisiana Lodge of Research

Additional Readings:

"Outline of the Rise and Progress of Freemasonry in Louisiana" by James B. Scot,Introduction by Alain Bernheim, Afterword by Michael R. Poll (

"Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite in Thirty-three Degrees" by Robert B. Folger (

"Historical Inquiry into the Origins of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite" by James Foulhouze Foreword by Michael R. Poll

"In His Own (w)Rite" by Michael R. Poll

"The Schism Between the Scotch & York Rites" by Charles Laffon de Ladébat

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