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Albert Pike

Albert Pike (December 29, 1809–April 2, 1891) was an attorney, soldier, writer, and Freemason. Pike is the only Confederate military officer or figure to be honored with an outdoor statue in Washington, D.C. (in Judiciary Square).

Pike, Albert

Source: Mackey's Encyclopedia of Freemasonry

Born at Boston, Massachusetts, December 29, 1809, and died April 2, 1891. After a sojourn in early life in Mexico, he returned to the United States and settled in Little Rock, Arkansas, as an editor and lawyer. Subsequent to the War of the Rebellion, in which he had cast his fortunes with the South, he located in Washington, District of Columbia, uniting with a former Senator, Robert Johnson, in the profession of the law, making his home, however, in Alexandria. His library, in extent and selections, was a marvel, especially in all that pertains to the wonders in ancient literature. Brother Pike was the Sovereign Grand Commander of the Southern Supreme Council, Ancient and Aceepted Scottish Rite, having been elected in 1859. He was Provincial Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the Royal Order of Seotland in the United States, and an honorary member of almost every Supreme Couneil in the world. His standing as a Masonie author and historian, and withal as a poet, was most distinguished, and his untiring zeal was without a parallel.

The above account of Brother Pilie by Doctor Mackey might easily be elaborated because he attained fame in so many varied fields of aetivitv. From a Masonie point of view, however, perhaps his worth to the Craft is best shown by his writings and of these most prominent is Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, to which he devoted his abilities ungrudgingly. From this splendid world we take the following definition of Freemasonry: Freemasonrv is the subjugation of the Human that is in Man, by the Divine: the conquest of the Appetites and Passions by the Moral Sense and the Reason; a continual effort, struggle and warfare of the Spiritual against the Material and Sensual. That victory—when it has been achieved and secured, and the conqueror may rest upon his shield and wear the well-earned laurels —is the true Holy Empire.

He was also an able writer of verse and perhaps the specimen of his poetry by which he is most frequently recalled to mind is the one entitled, Every Year.

Life is a count of losses,
Every year;
For the weak are heavier crosses,
Every year;
Lost Springs with sobs replying
Unto Weary Autumns' sighing,
While those we love are dying,
Every year.
The days have less of gladness,
Every year;
The nights more weight of sadness;
Every year
Fair Springs no longer charm us,
The winds and weather harm us,
The threats of death alarm us,
Every year.
There come new cares and sorrows,
Every year;
Dark days and darker morrows,
Every year;
The ghosts of dead loves haunt us,
The ghosts of changed friends taunt us,
And disappointments daunt us,
Every year.
To the Past go more dead faces,
Every year;
As the Loved leave vacant places,
Every year;
Everywhere the sad eyes meet us,
In the evening's dusk they greet us,
And to come to them entreat us,
Every year.
"You are growing old," they tell us,
"Every year;
"You are more alone," they tell us,
"Every year;
"You can win no new affection,
"You have only recollection,
"Deeper sorrow and dejection,
"Every year."
Too true!—Life's shores are shifting,
Every year;
And we are seaward drifting,
Every year;
Old places, changing, fret us,
The living more forget us,
There are fewer to regret us,
Every year.
But the truer life draws nigher,
Every year
And its Morning-star climbs higher,
Every year;
Earth's hold on us grows slighter,
And the heavy burden lighter,
And the Dawn immortal brighter,
Every year.

The Tribune of Fort Smith, Arkansas, has published a letter from Brother Albert Pike to a dying friend. This was addressed to Doctor Thurston, of Van Buren, and was received by him the day before he died. This letter wag written when Brother Pike was seventy-six years old and is, therefore, all the more interesting as an assurance of his convictions in his later years.

Washington September 3, 1885.
My Dearest and Best and Truest Old Friend:
I have just received your loving message sent to me by Mr. Sandels. I had already two days ago learned from our old friend Cush, who had the information from James Stewart. that you were about to go away from US, In a little while I shall follow you; and it will be svell for me if I can look forward to the departure, inevitable for all, with the same patience and equanimity with which you are waiting for it.
I do not believe that our intellect and individuality cease to be when the vitality of the body ends. I have a profound conviction, the only real revelation, which to me makes absolute certainty that there is a Supreme Deity, the Intelligence and Soul of the Universe, to Whom it is not folly to pray- that our convictions come from Him, and in them He does not lie to, nor deceive us; and that there is to be for my very self another a continued life, in which this life will not be as if it had never been, but I shall see and know again those whom I have loved and lost here. you have led an upright, harmless, and blameless life, always doing good, and not wrong and evil. you have enjoyed the harmless pleasures of life, and have never wearied of it nor thought it had not been a life worth living. Therefore you need not fear to meet whatever lies beyond the veil.
Either there is no God or there is a just and merciful God, who will deal gently and tenderly with the human creatures whom He has made so weak and so imperfect. There is nothing in the future for you to fear, as there is nothing in the past to be ashamed of. Since I have been compelled by the lengthening of the evening shadows to look forward to my own near approaching departure, I do not feel that I lose the friends who go before me. It is as if they had set sail across the Atlantic Sea to land in an unknown country beyond, hither I soon shall follow to meet them again.
But, dear old friend, I shall feel very lonely after you are gone. We have been friends so long, without a moment's intermission, without even one little cloud or shadow of unkindness of suspicion coming between us that I shall miss you terribly. I shall never have the heart to visit Van Buren again. There are others whom I like there but none so dear to me as you—none there or anywhere else. As long as I live I shall remember with loving affection your ways and looks and words, our glad days passed together in the woods, your many acts of kindness, the old home and the shade of the mulberries, and our intimate communion and intercourse during more than forty-five years.
I hoped to be with you once more in the woods, but now I shall never be in camp in the woods again. The old friends are nearly all gone; you are going sooner than I to meet them. I shall live a little longer, with little left to live for, loving your memory, and loving the wife and daughter who have been so dear to you. Dear, dear old friend, good bye ! May our Father who is in heaven have you in His holy keeping and give you eternal rest.
Devotedly your friend,
ALBERT PIKE.

We are indebted to the courtesy of Brother Thomas Pitt, Past Grand High Priest of Ohio, for the opportunity to transcribe a letter in his possession written by Albert Pike, to Brenton D. Babcock of Cleveland, on what is taught by the symbols and ceremonies of Freemasonry. It is as follows:

O of Washington, 25 January, 1887.
Dear Brother Babcock:
Like you, I laid away the enclosed "Screed," and it has been only now got out from a mass of papers which I have had to look over. I have read it, but I don't think it would pay to investigate and criticize it. I think that no speculations are more barren than those in regard to the astronomical character of the symbols of Masonry, except those about the Numbers and their combinations of the Kabalah. All that is said about Numbers in the lecture, if not mere jugglery, amounts to nothing. That the object of Masonry is "to preserve weights and measures," is an entirely new notion; and I fail to see how it preserves them. If the Symbols and Ceremonies of Masonry don't teach great Seditious truths, not in the ancient ages made known to the Profane, they are worth less. The astronomical explanations of them, however plausible, would only show that they taught no truths, moral or religious. As to the tricks played with Numbers they only show in what freaks of absurdity, if not insanity, the human intellect can indulge. As you may want to keep the Leeture as a curiosity, I return it to you, with thanks for your kindness in sending it to me.
Always fraternally yours,
ALBERT PIKE.

Brother Alva Adams of Colorado, addressing the Supreme Council, Southern Jurisdiction, the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, at Washington, District of Columbia, October 26, 1919, said of General Albert Pike:

Expediency was an unknown word in his vocabulary. He hated nothing as much as a lie. Toward the enemas of truth he was the uncompromising foe—towards all others he was tolerant, gentle and kind. He took the noblest eoneeptions from the saered books of all creeds and faiths, stripped them of superstition and the trappings of idolatry and made them lessons for all men. He took the fear of the stake and hell-fire from the timid. The poetic soul of Pike enabled him to hear melodies our ears could not hear—to see visions hidden from ordinarv mortals. He was wise without arrogance—a Priest without bigotry or superstition—a man ratiler than a saint. So human that he could understand and svmpathize with his brother. His books and papers and their ineome were dedicated forever to charity. Pike's life and studies indicate that he w as cultured in the Sew Testament.

He was not a Cromwell, led by the heroics and slaughter of the Old Testament into the belief that the killing of unbelievers was a virtue. More than many liberators has Pike broken the chains of spiritual bondage and set free the mind and soul of men. Manhood not sainthood was the ultimate of his teachings Others as great may come, but he was the unerowned King of the Seottish Rite. The form the rituals and lectures now have, Pike gave them. Every poetic thought, every glowing sentence, every lofty sentiment speaks the name of Pike. As the Laws King Alfred wrote a thousand years ago are still a part of England's glory and liberty, so in another thousand years will the ideals, the poetry, the moral code and philosophv of Albert Pike be shaping the influence and destiny of Mnsonry. It is a patent of nobilitv to be a Brother to this god-like leader— this King among men—the greatest Freemason—this Prince in the House of Solomon and Hiram.

Pike had the brute force of primitive man coupled uith an unusual degree of culture, refinement and poetic genius. He could cut the rough ashlar from the quarry and he could form, finish and polish it with the skill of a Canova. In the capital of this great Nation he was its most striking personality As a youth in the wilderness he was the leader and champion of its noblest aspirations.

Wherever he went—in whatever field of activity he engaged—he was Captain "fit to stand by Caesar and give direction." In his last address Pike said, " Freemasonry is the apotheosis of labor." True it is that could the Masonic principles of justice, equity and fairness guide the transactions between employer and employee there would be neither strikes nor loek-outs in American industry. Employer w ould receive an honest profit and labor would be as contented as the toiler was under Hiram, of whom it is said that so fair and just was the treatment of the workmen that during the years of the Temple's building there alas neither diseord, discontent nor dissatisfaction. Let the labor code of Hiram prevail today and peace and harmonv would purple every horizon of human effort. Profiteering would fade into normality and there would be no place for that element to whom discontent is capital, trouble is profit, and turbulence fame and power.

A Colorado Masonic orator said that the three greatest literary works were the Bible, Shakespeare, and the writings of Albert Pike. While fev. are prepared to place Pike so near the fountain head of earthlr inspiration and genius, it is eertain that his fame will grov. as knowledge of his exalted sentiment and abilitv are spread. It is the hiding of God-given talent not to make known more widely his works, not onlv among Freernasons, but to all men. As we read the Rituals he adorned, and Morals and Dogma, we are often struck by the similarity in noble thought and phrase to some of the sublime passages in Seripture Had Pike lived and been known in the tilne of David he would have been credited with the unauthenticated Psalms.

In every field of activity he was at home, from the rifle of the frontiersman to the inspired pen of prophecy, he was Master. Integrity was a dominant trait in his char aeter. Toward misfortune and weakness he was tolerant Hypocrisy and falsehood he hated as Deity hated them His pen could be sharp as well as merciful. He wrote, " A lie has as many legs as a centipedvit is rarely overtaken by the truth, and will not die even when its brains are knocked out." Long before Sherman gave his definition of war General Pike had said, "In war hell legislates for humanity How Plutareh would have loved to have written his life. How Angelo would have gloried in sculpting this Olympian form, or Thorwaldsen in moulding it in enduring bronze.

With a wealth of material untouched there is a limit to a paper like this. That limit has been reached. Our hero has gone beyond the sky " but the afterglow of his life will remain in the hearts of his Brothers an abiding radiance of glory. In those far-away days when Odin and Thor ruled in the North it was the habit of the wild sea rovers to place their dead Chieftain on a throne built in his boat the rudder was tied to west—into the sunset, the sails spread and nlade fast, and before an Eiastern tempest the boat was launched and the dead Chieftain sailed alone as befitted a King. So twentyoeight years ago sailed our Grand Commander out upon God's sea of mystery and of hope but he still lives in our Order as its Priest and Prophet and King.

General Pike's personal Masonic record of Degrees received and offices held, as compiled by Brother W. L. Boyden, Librarian, Supreme Council, Southern Jurisdiction, Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite comprises over one hundred and thirty items. These are listed in the Neu) Age Magazine, January, 1920 (volume xxviiu, pages 3G7).

A biographical sketch was prepared by Brother Horace Van Deventer in 1909, Knoxville, Tennessee; a survey of the available materials for a Life of General Pike by "Mvsticus" is in the New Age Magazine, March, 1921 (volume xxix, paces 128-33); his daughter, Mrs. Lillian Pike Roome, has a brief biography of him in the preface to an edition of General Pike's poems, Little Rock, Arkansas, 1900; TheLife Story of Albert Pike, Brother Fred W. Allsopp of Little Rock, Arkansas, 1900, has treasured much of this very human personality; Brother Charles S. Lobingier, New Age Magazine, July, 1927 (volume xxxv, page 397), gives choice seleetions from his literary productions with interesting biographical notes, and Albert Ptke, a biography by Brother Fred W. Allsopp, published by the ParkeHarper Company of Little Rock, Arkansas, 192S, is ably written and well illustrated.

Of General Pike's labors in literature we may say he was a poet of outstanding versatility and charm, an authority upon the foundations of the art and seience of jurisprudence, and a commentator of high rank in the lore of the ancient east. A volume, Lyrics and Love Songs, edited by his daughter, Mrs. L. P. Roome, was published by Brother Fred W. Allsopp, Little Rock, Arkansas, 1899, and another, Hymns to the Gods and OLher Poerns, from the same editor and publisher, appeared in that year, followed in each case by second editions of both works in 1916. His legal attainments are discussed in J. hi'. Caldwell's "Influence of Bench and Bar," The South in the Building of the Nation (chapter xvu, volume 7). His oriental studies are edited by Brother Marshall W. Wood for publication by the Supreme Council, Southern Jurisdiction, Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, a volume, Irano-Aryan Faith and Doctrine, as contained in the Zenda-Avesta, appearing in 1924.

To Freemasons Brother Pike appeals intimately because of his work upon the grades of the Ancient and Accepted Seottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction, of which for years he was the beloved Grand Commander. He left to the Supreme Council many manuscripts, one upon the Symbolism of the Blue Degrees of Freemasonry His Morals and Dogma, Monitor of the Rite, 1871, is not dogmatic in the odious sense of that word, General Pike using it to mean doctrine or teaching, the book being one of methodical instruction in the philosophy of Freemasonry. Perhaps no quotation from the multitude available better illustrates the attitude of Brother Pike to the Masonic Institution than the following paragraph from an address by him (Life Story of Albert Pike, page 117):

Had mankind from the day of the Rood, steadily followed some of the lessons taught them by the industrious bees, had they associated themselves together in Lodges, and taught faithfully practiced Toleration, Charity and Friendship; had even those of the human race done so who have professed the Christian faith, to what imaginable degrees of happiness and prosperity would they not have attained, to what extreme and now invisible heights of knowledge and wisdom would not the human intellect have soared!

Pike, Albert, Supplement

The World of Washington Irvinq, by Van Wyok Brooks (E. P. Dutton & Co.; New York; 1944), is a brilliant and distinguished book in which the panorama of American writers of the period of Irving and Cooper is brought alive again, and at the same time is described against the background of European literature. To Masons it has the added interest of being one of the first critical literary histories to recognize Albert Pike's place in Ameriean literature. For, contrary to the impression Masons have had, Pike's time, thought, and writing were not absorbed by the Fraternity. (See index of the book.)

Brooks mentions Pike among the few American writers who admired the Indians, though he does not give him sufficient credit for his knowledge of Indian affairs, seeing that Pike learned a number of Indian languages, acted as attorney for them in State and Federal Courts, and had them under his command in the Confederate army. Brooks also describes Pike's famous journey to Taos and Santa Fe from Independence, Mo., and mentions his once-familiar poems on Taos and Noon and Santa Fe, but fails to describe Pike's visit to Albuquerque (a city built over the ruins of seven Pueblo Indian cities) or his journey on foot across the Staked Plains—an incredibly reckless achievement and the first time ever attempted by a white man—nor does he mention Pike's book, now very rare, about his walking trip in New Mexico, a copy of which is preserved in the vaults of the Grand Lodge of New Mexico.

In 1840 Pike built a mansion in Little Rock, "the Athens of the Southwest," a city which still bears his imprint. By one of those happy coincidences which can only occur in real life this mansion became the home of another American poet when in 1889 John Gould Fletcher moved into it with "its lofty rooms, its wide halls and great folding doors, its six white columns, " etc. Brooks said that Pike's poem Isadore "may have indeed have had its effect on Poe. " Pike's book of poems entitled Bymns to the Gods was published in Blackwood's Magazine in Britain and the poems " were greatly admired by Christopher North" (who was probably a Mason; at least, he was once a Lodge visitor).

A generally-overlooked Masonic treatise by Pike is a commentary on the Regius MS. which he wrote in the form of a letter to Robert Freke Gould on September 26, 1889, and which was afterwards published as a brochure. This essay proves beyond all peradventure of doubt that Pike studied very little or the history of Ancient Craft Masonry and did not keep abreast of its scholarship; there is at least one mistake in facts in almost every sentence.

(See Bibliography of the Writings of Albert Pike: Prose, Poetry, MS., by W. L. Boyden; Washington, D. C.; 1921.)

Holy house

We have a holy house to build,

A temple splendid and divine,

To be with glorious memories filled,

Of right and truth, to be the shrine.

How shall we build it, strong and fair,

This holy house of praise and prayer,

Firm set and solid, grandly great?

How shall we all its rooms prepare

For use, for ornament, for state?

Our God hath given the wood and stone,

And we must fashion them aright,

Like those who toiled on Lebanon,

Making the labor their delight;

This house, this place, this God's home,

This temple with a holy dome,

Must be in all proportions fit,

That heavenly messengers may come

To dwell with those who meet in it.

Build squarely up the stately walls,

The two symbolic columns raise;

But let the lofty courts and halls,

With all their golden glories blaze--

There in the Kadosh-Kadoshim,

Between the broad-winged cherubim,

Where the shekinah once abode,

The heart shall raise its daily hymn

Of gratitude and love to God.

Albert Pike.

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