Freemasonry used as Pseudoscience

by Midnight Freemasons Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners 
A first degree tracing board not unlike the one used by Dr. Travis Taylor

It saddens me when I watch a television program and Freemasonry is painted in a negative light, especially in cases where our gentle craft is linked to false theories or concepts. Recently I have seen two instances on two programs which deal with subjects where pseudoscience was used and the theories were linked to Freemasonry.  Pseudoscience consists of statements, beliefs, or practices that are claimed to be both scientific and factual but are incompatible with the scientific method.  It doesn’t help our craft, but because we’re a “secret” society it’s easy to sensationalize our “secrets”. What saddens me more is that on both programs, there are well known brothers who should have known better, or at the very least done their research.

The first instance of this was observed on the program: “The Curse of Oak Island” on the History Channel. In this episode, Marty Lagina brought in Astrophysicist, Dr. Travis Taylor to provide insight into some “megalithic” stones on Oak Island. Dr. Taylor theorized that because many of the individuals involved in the Oak Island Mystery over the years were Freemasons, there’s obviously a connection between the “megalithic” stones and the Freemasons. He points a “3rd” Degree tracing board which has the symbols of Jacob’s Ladder, the Holy Grail and the Pleiades. This led him to conclude that the constellation Taurus (since the Pleiades are part of the constellation of Taurus) was overlaid on the island as a star map, using the Hermetic principle of “As Above, so Below.” Lo and behold, when they do this, they seem to find massive boulders which seem out of place on the island by following the map.

There are more than a few issues with this theory. First and foremost, the chart that Dr. Taylor references is a 1st degree tracing board, not a 3rd degree. Secondly, while I will concede that all 1st degree tracing boards have a representation of Jacob’s Ladder, only some 1st degree tracing boards have seven stars and also show a cup, but they do not represent the Pleiades nor the Holy Grail. The board shown on the program and referenced by Dr. Taylor is used in emulation ritual which is commonly used in England among other places. In emulation ritual Jacob’s ladder is explained as: “The covering of a Masonic Lodge is a celestial canopy of divers colours, even as the heavens. The way by which we as Masons hope to arrive at it, is with the assistance of a ladder, in scriptures called Jacob’s ladder. It is composed of many staves and rounds, which points out as many moral virtues, but there are three principle ones. Faith, Hope and Charity. Faith in the Great Architect of the Universe, Hope in our salvation and to be in Charity with all men.”

Furthermore both the seven stars and the cup are representative of the Masonic virtue of Charity. The seven stars are explained as such in Emulation ritual: “But the third and last being Charity, comprehends the whole and the Mason who is possessed of this virtue in its most ample sense, may justly be deemed to have attained the summit of his profession: figuratively speaking an ethereal mansion, veiled from human eyes by a starry firmament, emblematically depicted here by seven stars, which is an illusion to as many regularly made masons without which number no Lodge is perfect, neither can any candidate be legally initiated into the Order.” The cup which represents Charity because charity is associated with a cup in the Holy Bible. The cup is usually shown as having no handles to imply that while you can drink from any side, you can also fill it up from any side. This is because Charity blesses him who gives as well as receives.

Let’s not fail to mention that every 71.6 years the position of the stars change roughly one degree in the sky due to the procession of the equinox. So if the Freemasons really did create a map using the constellation of Taurus overhead to match below, it would have been based upon the location of the stars when the map was made (assuming such a theory is correct), so the map would be good only for the brief period of time while the stars were aligned properly. After that, it wouldn’t be correct again for another 25700 years.

However, the most frustrating thing surrounding the whole idea is that the show’s resident Freemason, Charles Barkhouse, didn’t stand up to tell Marty what a load of manure the whole theory was. Of course, maybe he did, and/or Charles decided that promoting the narrative on the show (and receiving a paycheck) was more important than blowing holes in Dr. Taylor’s theory. I can’t speak to what happened behind closed doors. I don’t know his Masonic resume (or if he’s even a Freemason). I make the assumption based upon him wearing a square and compass on his hats and shirts. Unfortunately by keeping silent, he gave credence to the theory. For the casual observer, the idea that we have a “Masonic” star map conspiracy laid out and the resident Freemason didn’t object must mean that the whole thing is true right? I had to explain to my younger brother who is a fan of the show that the whole thing was absurd. 

The second program to frustrate me was a recent episode of “America Unearthed.” Bro. Scott Wolter, who is a Freemason, investigated a sensational new theory about the identity of Jack the Ripper, and a connection between the ritualistic patterns of the murders and the Freemasons. In a rehash of the Freemason was obviously Jack the Ripper theory put forward in the book: Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution by Stephen Knight. However, instead of Dr. William Gull being the Ripper, the Ripper is purported to be Arthur Conan Doyle.

Of course, this isn’t the first time Arthur Conan Doyle has been named as a suspect. He ticks a few boxes, since he was a MD, he knew how to commit and more importantly get away with a crime due to his authorship of the Sherlock Holmes character. Several anecdotal pieces of evidence are presented. According to Bro. Wolter, the way in which the victims were killed alluded to various Masonic symbols. For example, the V carved into the victim Katherine Eddows is a Masonic Symbol referring to the ancient feminine. While he’s correct that it’s a symbol used to represent that idea, the symbol isn’t a masonic one, and in most cases, it’s a triangle pointing down. I wrote a whole article about the idea here: He also reiterates the idea that the Ruffians, Jubelo, Jubela and Jubelum are known as the Juwes. Wolter goes on to remind us that he’s a Freemason and that’s what we call the ruffians, even though the idea is a pure fabrication and invention of Stephen Knight. Thankfully, both a test for blood on Conan Doyle’s Masonic apron housed at the Newberry Library in Chicago, as well as a handwriting analysis seemed to prove Doyle’s innocence. It’s still within the realm of possibility that he could have been the Ripper, as much as it’s possible for any citizen of London to be the Ripper at that time. Quite frankly, we will never really know who the murderer was.

My broader point here is that a brother is using his association with Freemasonry to give credence to theories that are or have been proven to be false, such as the three ruffians being called the Juwes.  However, with these "facts" being said on television, it lends credence to them being true for the average individual, even if they are not.  For the record, I don't know Bro. Wolter nor Bro. Barkhouse. This isn't a personal attack upon them, but rather I am using them as examples. They have a powerful platform which could be used to promote Freemasonry in a positive light, not spread disinformation to the general public in order to gain television ratings.  So allow me to whisper wise counsel to them, and anyone else that would use their relationship with the craft to propagate false information. 
I am reminded of one of the secretaries interrogatories from the First Degree.  It goes: "Do you seriously declare upon your honor, in the presence of these gentlemen, that unbiased by friends or and uninfluenced by mercenary motives, you freely and voluntarily offer yourself as a candidate for the mysteries of Masonry?"  If they answered this affirmatively before their 1st Degree, then they should remember that Freemasonry should never be used for personal gain. 
I would also remind them of our Masonic tenet of Truth, which leads me to a final point. "Truth is a divine attribute, and the foundation of every virtue. To be good and true is the first lesson we are taught in Masonry. On this theme we contemplate, and by its dictates endeavor to regulate our conduct. Hence, while influenced by this principle, hypocrisy and deceit are unknown amongst us, sincerity and plain dealing distinguish us, and the heart and tongue join in promoting each other's welfare and rejoicing in each other's prosperity."  So while I will be happy for both Bro. Wolter's and Bro. Barkhouse's success, I feel that I should also be able to question it as the price of that success is balanced against potential damage to the Fraternity due to the false information that it spreads.  


WB Darin A. Lahners is a Past Master of and Worshipful Master of St. Joseph Lodge No.970 in St. Joseph. He is also a plural member of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and of Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL), where he is also a Past Master. He’s a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, a charter member of Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282 and is the current Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club No. 768 in Champaign – Urbana (IL). You can reach him by email at

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