23.5 Degrees: The Secrets of Masonic Washington by James Wasserman - Mania.com



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  • Book: The Secret of Masonic Washington
  • Author: James Wasserman
  • Pages: 192
  • Publisher: Destiny Books
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23.5 Degrees: The Secrets of Masonic Washington by James Wasserman

Boning Up for Brown's Lost Symbol

By Stella Maris     August 22, 2009

 

The literary theme for 23.5 Degrees this summer has been based around books that tie in with the subject of Dan Brown's new book, The Lost Symbol, due to be released on September 15th by Random House. Consequently, I've been happily immersing myself in books on Freemasonry and Washington DC where, conveniently, I was born and later attended university.
 
This week's review is of The Secrets of Masonic Washington: A Guidebook to Signs, Symbols, and Ceremonies at the Origin of America's Capital by James Wasserman (Destiny Books). Intriguingly, this is the first book I've ever read that ties in the early development of Freemasonry in the American colonies with the American Revolutionary War in 1775.
 
Most histories of Freemasonry focus on how the new ways of thinking triggered by the Enlightenment were manifested in the taverns and coffeehouses in Europe along the lines of the ancient guild system. Therefore I found Wasserman's theory of how this pre-established concept was transplanted to the fertile soil of the colonies, consequently influencing the emerging American political philosophy, to be fascinating.
 
According to Wasserman, organized Masonic activity in the New World was officially established at St John's Lodge in Philadelphia in 1730. By 1765, all thirteen colonies had established Masonic lodges.
 
In 1764, St Andrew's Lodge in Boston purchased the Green Dragon Tavern and rented out the meeting space to pre-Revolutionary groups attended by Paul Revere, John Hancock, and Dr Joseph Warren, the Master of St Andrew's Lodge who later became a Revolutionary general and died at the Battle of Bunker Hill. The Boston Tea Party of 1773 was also organized at the Green Dragon and included members of the Lodge.
 
Wasserman calculates that "four of the fourteen presidents of the of the Continental Congress were Freemasons, as were nine of the fifty-six signers of the Declaration of Independence, thirteen of the thirty-nine signers of the Constitution, and thirty-three of the seventy-four generals of the Continental army".
 
Furthermore, to date, fourteen American presidents have been initiated Freemasons, including George Washington, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, James K Polk, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, James Garfield, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Warren Harding, Franklin D Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Gerald Ford.
 
Therefore, it's no surprize that Wasserman proposes that Washington DC was conceived as a physical embodiment of Masonic ideals, "envisaged as a newly planned virgin edifice, that could stand up to the world as the showpiece of the American experiment".
 
Named after George Washington, the Masonic first president of the newly independent United States of America, and dedicated to Columbia, the personification of the goddess of Liberty (who some regard as the female correspondence of Sol Invictus, the Roman god of the Sun), the District of Columbia had an advantage that the European capitals didn't have.
 
Instead of having to impose order upon the convoluted architectural chaos which marked the development over the centuries in Paris and London, the District of Columbia was a swampy clean slate - a tabula rasa--where a Masonic masterplan could be designed and executed without compromise.
 
To this end, the District of Columbia was marked out as a perfect ten-mile square, rendered as a diamond, with the points marking the four compass directions, which in turn correspond to the four elements of Fire, Air, Earth, and Water. There are forty markers placed at one-mile intervals, which took the surveying team nearly two years to lay. The first marker--the cornerstone--was laid on April 15, 1791, by Alexandria Lodge No. 22, of which George Washington was a member (and which becomes significant in other ways later on in another story).
 
The layout of the main building scheme is based on a cruciform geometry within the diamond, with the Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial marking the east/west axis and the White House and the Jefferson Memorial marking the north/south axis... with the Washington Monument marking the crosspoint in the center.
 
Wasserman comments that some people have noted that the Masonic Square and Compass emblem can be overlaid onto this construct, with the Washington Monument corresponding to the mystical "G" in the middle of the glyph, whereas others might note that the Washington Monument could also represent the Rose in the center of the Rosy Cross.
 
In fact, the Washington Monument marks a fascinating secret celestial correspondence, which I’ll be curious to see if it surfaces in Brown's book…
 
After outlining the above basics, James Wasserman then goes into a great deal of detail about how Masonic principles are embroidered into the political spirit of Liberty which manifests through the construction of the nation's capital.
 
The second half of the book is presented as a walking tour of Washington, DC, with an abundance of color photos and explanations, providing a useful guide for anyone who would be interested in making an actual walking tour of the city.
 
There are only two drawbacks that bugged me about the book, albeit in a minor way.
 
Firstly, I was disappointed that Wasserman didn't go into the history of how the government tried to get the worldwide Zero Meridian line moved to Washington DC before it was officially moved from Paris to Greenwich. It also didn't go very deeply into the celestial correspondences of the scheme, but this aspect is covered at length by The Secret Zodiacs of Washington DC, by David Ovason, which I am reading at the moment.
 
And, secondly, I found the red border across the top of each page to be distracting, which made reading the text a struggle at times. This small annoyance became a source of amusement when I discovered that Wasserman's own company coordinates the design and printing of Inner Traditions' books, of which Destiny Books is a subsidiary. Sorry, James, but the red thing just didn't work for me...
 
But I would definitely recommend this book, both as a companion guide to Brown's The Lost Symbol and as a tour guide for those either living in or planning to visit Washington, DC.
 
For anyone who might be interested in Wasserman's other works, you can visit his website here or read the text of his lecture to the Grand Lodge of New York here.

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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1 
RogerXXII 8/22/2009 12:45:34 PM

 Does the author discuss the Masonic influences in the prosecution of the War of Independence?

I seem to recall that Baigent had actually produced a creditable effort in presenting the thesis that the Howe brothers weren't at all eager to win the Colones back for ol' King George?

It is a fact that the military did have a considerable number of "feld lodges" at the time, and I'd like to see a serious study of the interactions between the military lodges and the Colonist masons, assuming that there was any significant interaction.

LittleNell1824 8/22/2009 1:43:09 PM

That is interesting, Roger. It would go far towards explaining some of the "miraculous" events that turned events in favor of the Colonies. "Sorry, King George, couldn't follow 'em. Too much fog. Just missed 'em, Sir.... then there was a storm. Yup. We would have drowned for sure, but they crossed the river just fine. *cough*"

StarlightGuard 8/22/2009 6:59:05 PM

Stella, have you read Andrew Sinclair's book "The Sword and the Grail: The Story of the grail, the Templars and the true discovery of America?"

If so...well, is it good? (I can't find it...but then I am in the middle of nowhere.)

I'm glad people can keep all this information sorted in their heads...because I sure as hell can't.

And it's amazing to realize how very little I know about my own country.

StellaMaris 8/23/2009 3:17:17 AM

Roger - interesting comment, will try to remember to ask Baigent next time we speak (am currently reading an advance copy of his next book, hopefully to review next week before it's released on the 1st). The Wasserman book doesn't really address the issue, although it has a short section on military lodges, ending with the comment, "More than one story exists of fraternal kindness, respect, and compassion extended between British and American brothers on opposite sides of the conflict".

Starlight - I not only have Sinclair's book, but I've met him... my personal opinion is that most of the material promoted by the Sinclairs in general is highly "romanticised" - particularly the bits about Rosslyn Chapel that were embroidered in the Da Vinci Code. 

Having said that, there were almost certainly visits to the New World before Columbus - possibly even as far back as the Phoenicians. It would be useful if someone would produce a serious academic study on this. 

As far as specifically Templars in the New World, I think Roger probably knows more about that than I do... Roger?

ProfessorW 8/23/2009 7:12:16 AM

 "Furthermore, to date, fourteen American presidents have been initiated Freemasons, including George Washington, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, James K Polk, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, James Garfield, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Warren Harding, Franklin D Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Gerald Ford."

Is there any evidence that the presidents cited specifically implemented their Masonic beliefs in their political decision-making?  In Ford's case one hopes not!

 

RogerXXII 8/23/2009 9:38:42 AM

 Ah Stella...  I see you're displaying world-class diplomatic skills in your evaluation of Sinclair's work...  I take it that we'll soon be reading of your appointment to a senior post within the Foreign Service?

On the topic of the Continental Army's possibly benefitting from probably treasonous indulgences on the par of their Masonic Brethren, I can't help but recall the historians invariably citing, as one of the reasons for the Continental Army's victory, the surprise and discomfiture of th British Army in facing the "guerilla tactics" of their adversary...  Which always made me chortle, since Howe himself had developed these "guerilla tactics" and trained the Colonists in the use of same, some time earlier...  And Howe, or his brother, had Washington at their mercy, not once - but 3 times, and inexplicably turned a blind eye while the future President made good his escape...

 

As far as visits to the New World are concerned, people from Continental Europe and the outlying islands have been fishing the Grand Banks for eons...  One need not exert tremendous amounts of imagination to think up a multitude of scenarii through which a short hop further would've set them ashore on the New World...  Understandably, the information regarding such rich and reliable fishing grounds would have been kept jealously within the trades, in each respective culture.

The Templars and their presence in North America, however, is another matter entirely and a subject demanding somewhat more space than available here, lest wrong impressions and misconceptions be spurred by a quick and partial answer. 

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