The Mystery of Albert Pike: Satanist, Racist or Great Man?
April 23, 2016 By davidjones
By ROBERT GUFFEY
The enigma of Albert Pike is a persistent one. Certain facts are known about him, facts that detractors and supporters alike can both agree upon. He’s a little-known figure whose impact upon American history far exceeds his notoriety. He single-handedly created the higher degrees of Scottish Rite Freemasonry (degrees 4 through 33). He was Sovereign Grand Commander of the Southern Jurisdiction of Scottish Rite Freemasonry from 1859 to 1891, the year of his death. He was a Confederate General during the American Civil War. He was a powerful attorney in his day. He was also a prominent poet, whose literary works have been forgotten except by a small handful of devotees. He is the author of the most important work on Masonic ritual, philosophy and symbolism, i.e., Morals and Dogma.
On these facts, everyone can agree. It’s the interpretation of these facts that begin to grow a bit misty.
Pike is a polarising figure. There seems to be very little objective analysis of his impact on history. Mainstream historians rarely, if ever, refer to him. Therefore, we are left with volumes of questionable interpretations that often draw upon half-truths, rumours, innuendoes, misinterpretations, and outright forgeries. Pick up any book that contains even a minor reference to the man and you will find that the interpretation of the author either falls into one of two categories: 1) Pike was a genius and a Saint whose very touch turned men’s souls into alchemical gold, or 2) Pike was a Satan worshipper whose noxious acts still stain the very heart of the United States of America – indeed, the very world itself.
There is no middle ground among these ‘researchers’. Pike was either good or evil. Of course, the world would be much simpler if anyone was wholly good or wholly evil. Zen Buddhist Alan Watts once wrote a book entitled The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are in which he advises his readers to drop that dialectic way of thinking, what he calls “the game of Black-versus-White.”1 It only causes confusion because it is a model that does not reflect reality. Human beings are far more complicated than that, and this includes Pike.
With most historical figures, the latter statement could normally go unsaid, but strange as it is to say a very small minority of pundits have indeed implied Albert Pike was not human at all (he was really a shape-shifting reptilian in disguise). I’m going to immediately crawl out on a limb, right here in the fifth paragraph, and propose we eliminate that theory for lack of evidence.
But first, picture a scene for me, if you will. Picture an underground train depot, a twisted set of metal tracks sunk about ten feet into the concrete. On either side of the tracks people are yelling at each other: men, women, children… all races, all creeds. Strangely, some of the people who are shouting the loudest have no faces at all. A giant bronze bust of Pike is sitting in the middle of the tracks. In the distance, a train is barrelling down upon this immense monument. The train is so loud, nobody can hear what anyone else is saying.
Let’s slow this scene for a moment, turn the volume down on the train, and turn up the volume only on certain individuals… just one at a time. There’s no preferred order amidst this chaos. We’ll select our speakers at random….
Pike as Satanist
Ralph Epperson, a Fundamentalist Christian and author of the book The New World Order, concluded that Albert Pike was a Satanist whose secret goal was to stamp out all organised religions in the world. (But isn’t Satanism itself an organised religion? Oh, wait, sorry about that. Let’s leave aside editorial intrusions for a moment and just examine the claims.) Here’s Epperson in his own words:
…Pike considers Lucifer to be the God that is good, and the God of the Bible is the devil, the god of evil. That is what [Pike’s] statement about ‘that which is Below is as that which is Above’ means. That means that the God in the heavens is the god that is below, and the god who is below is the god in the heavens.
So the Masons do believe in a god: it is in the fallen lightbearer, Lucifer. There can be no other reasonable explanation of what Mr. Pike just wrote.2
No other reasonable explanation? This is a common belief among Christians, particularly the Fundamentalists, many of whom are very concerned about the ongoing “threat” of Freemasonry. Most people reading this magazine will no doubt already be aware of the fact that the hermetic dictum “As above, so below” is a common phrase among the ancient practitioners of alchemy and does not refer in any way to either God or Satan. In fact, the belief systems associated with alchemy no doubt existed long before the Christian religion even came into being. But when one is viewing the world through a limited framework, the amount of information one has to draw upon will be equally limited… and thus may lead to numerous misperceptions, like the one we’ve just heard.
Now let’s pan over to the other side of the tracks, shall we?
Pike as “Oracle of Freemasonry”
Manly P. Hall, a 33rd Degree Scottish Rite Freemason who wrote scores of books attempting to illuminate the esoteric meanings of Masonic symbolism (The Secret Teachings of All Ages being the most exhaustive) seems to have an endless supply of adoring adjectives to describe Albert Pike. He variously refers to Pike as “the Plato of Freemasonry,” “this Masonic Prometheus,” “the Homer of America,” “the Master Builder,” “the Real Master of the Veils,” “the Oracle of Freemasonry,” and (perhaps most confusing) “the Zoroaster of modern Asia.”3 And that’s just scraping the surface.
Hall chooses to introduce Pike in his illustrated review of occultism and philosophy, The Phoenix, with the following anonymous tribute:
Albert Pike was a king among men by the divine right of merit. A giant in body, in brain, in heart and in soul. So majestic in appearance that whenever he moved on highway or byway, the wide world over, every passer-by turned to gaze upon him and admire him. Six feet, two inches, with the proportions of a Hercules and the grace of an Apollo. A face and head massive and leonine, recalling in every feature some sculptor’s dream of a Grecian god…. 4
Hall does not mention who wrote the preceding tribute or where it was originally published. It’s hard to imagine what sort of prostrate position the writer was in when these words flowed from his (or her) pen. Perhaps Pike himself wrote it. Or maybe even Manly P. Hall. When it comes to attribution in Hall’s writing, everything’s in doubt. He had a bad habit of being rather too lackadaisical about citing his sources – a habit he shared with Pike himself. For this reason alone much of his writing is considered useless by mainstream historians, and I understand their dismissal of him on those grounds. But it could be that Hall didn’t want his work to be useful to historians. Like Pike himself, Hall was interested in history only on his own terms, and those terms involved the practice and explication of metaphysics. Every aspect of the mundane world somehow related back to the big Masonic “G” – whether that G stood for the initial letter of the Hebrew alphabet, “Geparaith,” “God,” “Geometry,” or “the generative principle” is entirely open to interpretation. Pike cites them all as possible candidates. (On pages 780, 640, 40, and 632 of Morals and Dogma, respectively.)
Hall saw himself reflected in Pike and came to admire him accordingly. They were both pre-eminent scholars of the arcanum, perhaps the most knowledgeable of their respective centuries who chose to compile their occult knowledge in encyclopedic works, and therefore it might be no surprise that Hall would place Pike on such a lofty pedestal. And here we come to an important point about the enigma of Albert Pike: because so much of Pike’s real life and career is shrouded in mystery, it’s easy for him to become a polymorphous Rorschach blot upon which people with an intense interest in the esoteric can project their own highest hopes or darkest fears.