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Albert Pike is a name that attracts a lot of attention from conspiracy theorists concerned with discrediting the benevolent nature of Freemasonry. As a well-regarded Masonic author, Albert Pike often finds himself at the center of controversies surrounding the craft.
But who was Albert Pike, and what contribution did he make to Freemasonry? What do conspiracy theorists say about him? He certainly lived an interesting life and features prominently in the history of Freemasonry.
Let’s dive in and take a look at the life of Albert Pike.
As always, this writing does not reflect the official views of Freemasons Community, but is merely the views of one Mason.
Albert’s early life, career, and political affiliation
Born in Boston MA in 1809, Albert Pike attended school in Newburyport and Framingham, before passing the entrance examinations for Harvard. He chose not to attend after deciding the tuition fees were too high, instead beginning a program of self-education which led him to begin a career as a schoolteacher.
He settled in Arkansas in 1833, where he taught and wrote a series of articles for the Little Rock Arkansas Advocate under the pen name Casca. He rose to prominence within the newspaper and eventually purchased it, which led him to heavily promote the views of the Whig Party in a politically divided society at the time.
He then joined the anti-Catholic Know Nothing Party and helped establish it in Arkansas. Notably, he walked out of their national convention in 1856 because they failed to adopt a pro-slavery platform, and in the years leading up to the outbreak of the Civil War, he authored a pamphlet which proposed expelling all free African Americans from Arkansas.
His role as a lawyer and involvement in the American Civil War
In 1837, Pike became a lawyer and specialized in tribal law with the intention of representing American Indians against the federal government. For instance, in 1852 he represented Creek Nation before the Supreme Court in a claim regarding ceded tribal land.
His role as a lawyer influenced the course of his civil war service. At the beginning of the war, Pike was appointed as Confederate envoy to Native American nations and was able to negotiate several treaties in this capacity.
Later, he was commissioned as a Brigadier General in the Confederate States Army and was given a command in the Indian Territory. Some of the forces of the Indian Brigades scalped Union soldiers, which of course was a war crime.
Since Pike was the person in charge of the Indian Brigade, he was forced to take responsibility for the scandal, and although no evidence could prove that Pike himself was involved, he resigned from service in the Confederate States Army and escaped into the hills of Arkansas.
He was later arrested on charges of insubordination and treason and briefly held in Texas, before being allowed to return to Arkansas.
Albert Pike as a Freemason
Albert’s relationship with Freemasonry began in 1840, when he first joined the fraternal Independent Order of Odd Fellows. Following this, he was initiated as an Entered Apprentice and passed to the degree of Fellowcraft in July 1850 in Western Star Lodge No. 2 in Little Rock Arkansas. He became a Master Mason of the same lodge later that year.
Pike was committed to the craft and was known to be extremely active in Masonic affairs and was actually initiated into several lodges. In 1852, he resigned as a member in good standing from the Western Star Lodge and became a charter member of Magnolia Lodge No. 60 in Little Rock, where he served as Worshipful Master in 1854.
He was also admitted to Kilwinning Lodge No. 341 in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was made an honorary member in 1871. What’s more, he also completed the ten degrees of the York Rite, in the years from 1850 – 1853.
In 1859, Pike was elected to the Sovereign Grand Commander of the Scottish Rite’s Southern Jurisdiction, and he received the 29 degrees from Dr. Albert Mackey. In a process that lasted five years from 1855 to 1861, Pike profoundly revised the degrees of the Scottish Rite, and his changes were approved by the Supreme Council.
As well as writing for his newspaper, and being a prolific poet, Albert Pike published a book entitled Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry in 1871, which was the first of several editions of the book.
This publication was an attempt to study world religions and looked at how some of the principals could be related to the principles of Freemasonry and the Scottish Rite in particular.
The book helped Freemasonry to grow throughout the middle of the nineteenth century and even to this day is an important reference on the degrees of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite.
Up until 1974, Morals and Dogma was given to those who reached the fourteenth degree of the Scottish Rite, which was replaced by Bridge to Light by Rex R Hutchens. He also researched and wrote the seminal treatise Indo-Aryan Deities and Worship Contained in the Rig-Veda, as well as Esoterika and Book of the Words.
His Death and Legacy
Albert Pike died in April 1891 at the age of 81. In 1944, his remains were moved to the House of the Temple, the headquarters of the Southern Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite.
In 1901, a memorial to Pike was erected in the Judiciary Square neighborhood of Washington D.C. Because of Pike’s association with the Confederacy, protestors tore down the statue and set it ablaze after the murder of George Floyd in 2020.
Controversies and Conspiracies
Much has been written and argued about Pike’s stance on slavery and later, black suffrage. Pike is quoted to have, on black suffrage, stated that:
“The white race, and the white race alone, shall govern this country. It is the only one that is fit to govern, and it is the only one that shall.”
Such a stance indicates Pike’s racist tendencies, and many historical sources accuse him of being a prominent member of the Ku Klux Klan, although there is little evidence available to suggest that he was.
But what does this tell us about Freemasonry in the middle of the nineteenth century? Some conspiracy theorists would have you believe that Pike was representative of the majority of Freemasons at the time, and the racial divisions that Pike supported were in fact a unifying thread throughout lodges across America.
The suggestion that Freemasonry throughout the nineteenth century was institutionally racist is baseless and should be discredited. It is fair to say, though, that American society was fractured, and racial issues were at the forefront of much political discourse.
Naturally at the time, an organization with the reach and scope of Freemasonry would have had its fair share of members that held views similar to those expressed by Pike, but it would be unfair and inaccurate to tarnish Freemasonry as a whole inherently racist.
Conclusion: Albert Pike the Freemason
Albert Pike lived a long and interesting life, one that was dominated by his writing and legal practice. As a Freemason, he was instrumental in promoting the fraternity throughout the nineteenth century, and significantly revised the structure of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite.
However, his controversial stance on black suffrage and slavery has led many, in his death, to suggest that he tarnished the name of Freemasonry and was in fact representative of the prevailing viewpoints within Masonry at the time.
While this is difficult to prove, Pike was undoubtedly a man who was incredibly passionate about Freemasonry and was extremely active within the craft. His book, Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry remains an important point of reference for Freemasonry today.