While researching a story on Albert Pike, one of the most important figures in Arkansas history, I ran across a surprising number of mistakes, distortions, misinterpretations and outright falsehoods. For some reason there is a highly motivated contingent out there who wants to have Pike's statue in Washington taken down, and they've allowed themselves to present lots of false, misleading and distorted information in order to further their cause. Here I hope to correct some of the more hysterical assertions.

The source for these corrections is Walter Lee Brown, Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and his book "A Life of Albert Pike," published by the U. of A. press, 1997.

Distortion: Pike was a traitor.

The facts: Pike was convicted of treason by the U. S. Government. So was every confederate officer of the rank of Brigadier General and above. It was a blanket conviction, routinely overturned with the signing of a loyalty oath.

Distortion: Pike abandoned his family after the Civil War.

The facts: Pike's wife was mentally ill to the point where Pike could not live with her. They remained married for life, but lived apart as early as 1850. Later in life the Pikes obtained a legal separation, but Pike left her well provided in terms of money and property. Pike continued to support her and his children financially throughout his life. Some of his children lived with him in Memphis and in Washington after the war. One son was even a business partner in Memphis. He did not abandon his family. He and his children were very close.

Distortion: Pike "carried on" with Vinnie Ream.

Fact: Pike enjoyed the company of intelligent, talented young women. Vinnie Ream was the most prominent of them. Pike always claimed the relationship was platonic. We'll never know what really happened, but nobody ever held anything against Benjamin Franklin for his flirtations. The anti-Pike authors use the vague phrase "carried on" in hopes that the reader will assume the relationship was sexual.

Unsupported: Pike was a founder and high officer of the Klan.

The facts: We really don't have any facts on this one. From his postwar editorials, it certainly looks like he was sympathetic to the idea of a secret society as a way the disenfranchised former confederates could still wield power; but we just don't have any evidence other than hearsay.

Distortion: Pike was a war criminal.

The facts: According to the tribunal that tried Pike in absentia, at the Battle of Pea Ridge, Cherokee troops under his command killed a dozen or so wounded Union soldiers and took at most eight scalps from dead soldiers. There was no southern testimony in this finding.

Pike himself was horrified at the accusation and requested an investigation by his own side. He was able to confirm one scalping and one killing of a wounded Union soldier. A packet of confederate testimony was sent to the Union court, but the verdict was announced before the testimony arrived.

The Indian troops were untrained and undisciplined and their tradition of warfare allowed and even encouraged the mutilation of corpses. The Indians under his command were from what were then called the Civilized Tribes, and Pike assumed these traditions to be in the past.

Whether it was one scalp or eight is not the point. Pike was not in control of his troops. It's not a good excuse, but Pike did not order his troops to take scalps.

The newspaper accounts were more lurid and exaggerated the farther north and east the newspaper was. In St. Louis the paper reported Pike's 2000 Indians scalped 18 Union soldiers. By the time the story got to Chicago, the report claimed 3000 indians took 100 scalps, impossible since there were only 24 Union killed in the regiment attacked by the Indians troops. In reality there were 600 Indians taking at most 8 scalps. Don't believe everything you read in the newspapers.

Error: Pike hid out in Canada while he was tried in absentia for war crimes at Pea Ridge.

The facts: After Pea Ridge, the Confederate government had him stationed in Indian Territory. He was beyond the reach of the U. S. government, but he was in Oklahoma near the Texas border.

After the war he lived a few months in Canada while soliciting friends in New York for aid in obtaining a pardon. I think this is understandable. How dumb would it be for a Confederate General accused of war crimes to move to New York one year after the war? Especially considering the exaggerations of the newspapers as I mentioned above.

Outrageous Fabrication: Pike, as a member of the Illuminati, outlined a plan for three world wars which would result in the establishment of a single world government.

The facts: For fifty years, Pike was a staunch advocate of the principle of States' Rights. He didn't even favor a strong national government. It is therefore absurd to think that he would advocate a single world government, much less formulate a plan to bring about such a government.

If the excerpts I've read on the internet are part of this supposed master plan, then I can say with a high degree of confidence that it didn't come from Pike. It's not his rhetorical style. Further, I think it's not in the rhetorical style that was taught in the 19th century. I think this three-world-war letter is a 20th century hoax. I'm not saying there's no master plan for three world wars, I am saying that letter didn't come from Pike.

Quoted from the Mazzini letter, supposedly written by Pike in 1871: "The Second World War must be fomented by taking advantage of the differences between the Fascists and the political Zionists." The only trouble with that is that the Fascist Party was formed in 1919. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, there was no such word as "fascist" until almost thirty years after Pike's death.

Myth busted. The Pike/Mazzini correspondence is a lie, a fraud, a hoax. It was written in the 20th Century by a liar who tried to attatch Pike's name to his lies.

Fabrication: Pike was a Satanist.

The facts: Pike was Episcopalian.

Distortion: Pike was frequently accused of plagiarism.

Frequently accused? Anybody can accuse anybody at any time. Was there anything to the accusations? Were there any specific accusations? Who did the accusing. See my article Albert Pike: Man of Letters.

Fabrication: Pike's book, Morals and Dogma, is a satanic manual.

The facts: M&D is the devil to read, I'll grant you that; but if you actually do manage to read it you'll discover that it's a comparison of world religions, mythologies and mystical traditions. It's very much like the work of Joseph Campbell, just written in a florid style and unfortunately not footnoted. I've synopsized an excerpt below to illustrate the point.

Error: Pike attended Harvard.

The facts: He was admitted to Harvard twice, but never attended. Pike was accepted at Harvard as a freshman but didn't attend because they demanded advance payment for two years' tuition. He didn't have the cash, so he went to work for a time to earn tuition and took a test to enter Harvard as a junior. This time, in addition to junior and senior tuition paid in advance, they hit him up for freshman and sophmore tuition paid in arears. He didn't like the idea of paying for two years' worth of classes he hadn't attended, so once again he decided against going to Harvard.

Error: Pike was jailed for treason and/or war crimes

The facts: Pike was once taken into custody near Van Buren because a traveling companion had stolen some otter skins. Pike was released when the guilty party confessed. That's the only time he was ever arrested. He was never jailed for treason or war crimes.

Fabrication: Pike posessed a bracelet, through which he was in constant communication with Lucifer.

The facts: If you believe that, no amount of proof will convince you otherwise.

Misleading: Pike charges of treason were pardonned by fellow Freemason President Andrew Johnson.

The facts: All the pardons for all the former Confederate officers were issued by the President. Masonry was much more prevalent in the 19th Century than it is today, especially among the southern aristocracy that comprised the officer corps. In light of that it's not all that suspicious that Brother Mason Johnson would end up pardoning Brother Mason Pike. The people who point out the masonic connection between Pike and President Johnson try to make Pike's pardon seem sinister and conspiratorial by not mentioning the fact that lots of the Confederate officers were masons and so were lots of the Union officers.

The charges of atrocities at Pea Ridge held up Pike's pardon. Pike moved north (where the populace was openly hostile to him) for a year to lobby the authorities and compile and present evidence of his innocence. This was no rubber-stamp backroom pardon issued the day after the war. Everything was done in the open through normal political channels.

RTJ -- 2/26/2006


In order to demonstrate the actual nature of Morals and Dogma and prove that it's a discussion of world religious and philosophical systems rather than a satanic manual, I've simplified one whole chapter of Pike's prose as best I can. Below is my paragraph-by-paragraph synopsis of chapter 17 of Morals and Dogma.

If you want to read the original to convince yourself that I've done a proper job, you can download M&D free at www.phoenixmasonry.org. Here goes.


1) Don't despair at not having found Truth so far. Masonry hides truth under layers of metaphor and allegory.

2) Concerning the development of ancient religions:

3) Judaism is an assimilative religion, borrowing elements from Egypt and the Middle East during the wandering of the tribes and afterward.

4) During times of unification, like the times when large land masses were politically united by Alexander or the Romans, people moved around a lot more and religions borrowed from each other and tended gradually to resemble one another.

5) The same kind of philosophical assimilation occurred in Christian/Pagan Europe. Pike -- "The man of intellect, devotee of one system, rarely displaces it with another in all its purity."

6) A Christian sect, the Gnostics, mixed in with their own teachings, other lessons from Egyptian and Indian and Jewish mystical texts.

7) Refinement of the soul through reincarnation was one of the far eastern principles the Gnostics incorporated into their brand of Christianity.

8) Another imported principle was that all existence emanates from a central light we call God, as if things separate from God are made to exist by reflecting His light. This is an idea found in Plato.

9) John, Jesus and Paul used the allegorical language similar to the way the Gnostics used it.

10) Judging from the languages in which Gnostic texts were first written, Gnosticism is mostly based on Greek, Egyptian and Jewish beliefs.

11) Pythagoras and Plato had travelled to the east in order to increase their body of knowledge. Pythagoras went as far as India, and probably brought the Indian mystical ideas back with him, as evidenced by the frequent inclusion of Platonic ideas in Gnostic teaching. These ideas are also found "overlaid with fiction and absurdity" in Masonry.

12) The notion that some teaching is obvious (exoteric) and some teaching is obscured in metaphor (esoteric) comes to Masonry from the Greeks, whose esoteric teaching is preserved in Olympian mythology.

13) Jewish/Greek/North Egyptian scholars named Aristobulus and Philo tried to demonstrate that Palestine was the origin of stories that Greeks and Egyptians shared with the Jews. Philo also taught that the raw facts of the world around us were metaphors for more profound eternal truths, that nature was something like a code for reaching a greater understanding of God. (An example might be that a rose is red for the blood of Christ, green for everlasting life, thorny for the crown of thorns, maybe the suffering of Jesus and so on. Then you do the same trick with a spider web or a parakeet and gradually this leads you to a greater understanding of infinite truth. That's Philo's thinking.)

14) Masonic ritual transmits knowledge to initiates who are training themselves to understand things in terms of the deeper language rather than the superficial appearance.

15) Philo describes the Supreme Being as a light source.

16) If you can't see the Light directly, maybe you can see images made by the light, or if you prefer, shadows cast by the light. Philo calls this secondary version of God "The Word" or in Greek, Logos.

17) The third expression of the Supreme Being is matter. The physical world, including you and me and all of which was created by the Word of God, as in "Let there be this. Let there be that."

18) God created an ideal world with his pure thought. A blueprint that would yield a perfect world if we subcontractors would only follow the specs. The material world we live in is an imperfect copy of that divine abstract.

19) In the material world we come into direct contact with the Word, but not directly with the Light and not with the Supreme Being.

20) Man has within him true rationality which enables him to use the Word to understand God, and he also has within him irrational spirits which try to confuse the issue. Passions, disorder, inferior spirits posing as ministers of God. God permits the existence of evil as an educational tool of sorts, as a contrast to good, or as an ongoing test of souls so that in undergoing a series of good v. evil tests a soul is either advanced or reincarnates from body to body. Pike says these ideas are found in the epistles of Paul, who wrote after Philo.

21) These notions express themselves in Masonic symbology as pairs of opposites sun/moon, black/white of the checkerboard floor, two columns that the initiate walks between. Also in Masonry is the notion that the visible world is like a cheap and dumbed-down made-for-TV movie version of something else, a "real" world that none of us are allowed to see because it's too close to God. Similarly our own personalities are cheap photocopies of the real souls that God originally gave us. Through Masonry this inner character can be refined and improved to better approximate that ideal soul.

22) There was philosophical disagreeement between Jewish teaching in Alexandria and Jewish teaching in Palestine. The Alexandria school held some teachers and prophets to be superior to others. They placed high value on guys like Moses and Jeremiah and other Jews who were either born in Egypt or had been educated there. Moses, being adopted into the Egyptian upper crust, would have been initiated into "The Knowledge of the Word." Pike says here that we can deduce from actions in the bible taken by Moses, Aaron, the Council of 70 Elders, Solomon and a succession of prophets that the esoteric knowledge of Egypt had been transmitted to the Jews and they were using it.

23) Amun, the principal god of lower Egypt, where Moses grew up, fits the description of the Supreme Being as a light source and the duality principles discussed above generally apply here, too.

24-25-26) Hard to figure. This paragraph just seems to be a catalogue of symbols and concepts related related to Amun. The relation of this list to other parts of this degree are unclear beyond the fact that they are represented on the graphic emblem at the top of the chapter.

27) Pike outlines the symbology of Isis, Osiris and Thoth and shows that these symbols follow the same patterns of Supreme Being-Light-Word-World and good/evil duality as were discussed above.

28) The New Platonists picked up the idea from Egypt or Persia and the Gnostics got it from the New Platonists that our individual characters advance through seven increasingly purified stages signified by seven planets or seven seals.

29) Gnosticism came directly from the Jews of Syria and Judea (note that this contradicts text above stating that Gnosticism comes from Hellenistic Jews and another place where Pike connect teaching of Egyptian Jewish teaching to Gnosticism). Prominent Jewish figures Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther and Daniel brought ideas into Jewish teaching from Asia, Chaldea, Assyria and Persia. They were raised in these areas and as adults moved into the promised land where they got themselves incorporated into Jewish history and teaching. This is the other side of the philosophical divide mentioned in paragraph 22.

30) It was after the rescue of Jews from captivity in the eastern kingdoms that mystical elements like dream interpretation entered Jewish philosophy. The story of Daniel typifies this.

31) Freed Jews remaining in the eastern kingdoms incorporated into Judaism elements of Zoroastrianism that could be reconciled with their own traditions.

32) In the Zend-avesta (the text of Zoroastrianism) God is described not as light, but as time. God's first emanation was light, which in turn created the King of Light, Ormuzd, who created the pure, ideal world by using his words. So you can see this is pretty much the same philosophical blueprint we've found in Greece, Alexandria, India, all over. It's like the same story told in a hundred languages.

33) That Supreme Being of Zoroaster was actually more like one of us, a fourth generation imperfect copy of his own ideal soul, which was created by the Word, which was spoken by Light, which is the Word of Time. There. Clear as Mud?

34) This same Supreme Being created six genii, who were imperfect enough to interact with us in the material world, but near enough in etiology to the Supreme Being that by our standards they could serve as models of perfection. Jewish teaching translated these genii into Archangels. The Gnostics taught the existence of similar beings called Demiourgos.

35) List of the names of the six genii.

36) One of these genii created man and woman.

37) Ormuzd created a bunch more beings and when all was said and done there were 30 chief holy beings occupying the top level of heaven. This was thought to be a proper number. All offices occupied. Egyptians and Gnostics also taught ranks of mystical beings, the top echelon of which had thirty occupants.

38) Still with the Zoroastrian teaching, Ormuzd generated numerous other spirits called Feroeurs. They are his thoughts and his ideas. He thinks one up and boom, there it is. These spirits serve as guardian angels and spirit guides for human beings.

39) There was another spirit born of Light but second after Ormuzd. This jealous spirit, called Ahriman, is vanquished to the far corner of the universe.

40) The story is comparable to the fall of Lucifer and his banishment to Hell.

41) Ahriman was symbolized by the Dragon. Again we see a lot of Zoroastrian influence in our own Bible. Ormuzd calls the world into existence in six periods mirroring exactly the Biblical creation story. In the Zoroastrian story, the "days" of creation are each 3000 years long. When Ormuzd makes humans, Ahriman the serpent/dragon tempts the female and precipitates a fall from Ormuzd's favor.

42) After a reign of 9000 years by Ahriman and his rotten spirit buddies, three prophets will arise and deliver humanity from its suffering.

43) The Pharisaic Jews incorporated some of this stuff into their doctrine here and there, but the Gnostics copied lots of it into their teaching.

44) The doctrines of Zoroaster came from Bactria, which was an eastern province of Persia close to India and exposed to Buddhism and Hinduism.

45) After the Jewish captivity, their philosophy seems to have been largely taken from that of the Persians. The early Jews and the Persians both claimed a) esoteric knowledge b) conflict of good and evil c) rebellion and fall of a chief angel leading to sin in man d) protection of their adherents by agents of the Supreme Being.

46) The Pharisees claim to transmit through the generations the unaltered traditions given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai.

47) The Saducees arose in opposition to the Pharisees on the grounds that those traditions were not so pure and were too much adopted from eastern countries.

48) The Essenes and Therapeuts were sects that incorporated both the eastern (Persian/Indian) influences of the Pharisees and the western (Greek/Egyptian) influences of the Saducees.

49) These two sects preached meditation and moral practice rather than philosophical speculation on infinite matters.

50) Philo and Josephus described these practices as resembling those of Zoroastrian followers of Ormuzd.

51) It is interesting to note, that while the Therapeuts and Essenes were widely separated they arrived at such similar practices and philosophies.

52) Although the teachings of Jesus match well those of the Essenes, and he mentions the Pharisees and Saducees with whom the Essenes were in conflict, he never mentions the Essenes.

53) John the Baptist's teaching and practice were in line with the Essenes.

54) John denounced the Pharisees and Saducees and lived and ministered in the area where the Essenes were.

55) Based on the miracles of Jesus, John declared from his prison cell that Jesus was "Elias, who was to come."

56) When John was executed and his followers buried him, for a while the authorities could not account for the body and were afraid that rumors of a resurrection would ignite messianic fervor. Christ declared John to have come in the way of righteousness.

57) John taught some creed predating Christianity, of course, and he was often consulted by Herod. His chief following was among the commoners of the desert, so it is likely that he was Essene. And since Jesus went to him for validation, for baptism, it is likely that he, too, was Essene.

58) Pike brings up the story of Apollus of Alexandria as related in the Bible.

59) Apollus was a Jew from Alexandria who, having been taught nothing of Christianity and having no more credentials than baptism by John, began a teaching career that was essentially Essene. Pike concludes that since Apollus was from the west and taught as he did he must have been a Therapeut.

60) St. Augustine concludes that the religion we know as Christianity had existed since ancient times and that Jesus brought it to the fore.

61) Itenerant exorcists were probably Therapeuts or Essenes.

62) In Acts 19 Paul goes to Ephesus and talks to the people to whom Apollus has been preaching and discovers that Apollus has not been teaching the doctrine of the existence of the Holy Ghost.

63) This is more evidence that Apollus was teaching out of the Essene/Therapeut traditon conferred or taught by John.

64) In Corinth there were disagreements in doctrine taught by Paul, Apollus and Cephas.

65) Paul taught that the resurrected Jesus was going to return and set the world right. The other sects did not necessarily teach that. Some even denied the resurrection.

66) According to Philo's description, there were two types of Essenes, the Practici, who held regular occcupations, and the Therapeutici, who were monks and doctors. They were all financially humble, pious and obedient. They also had secret ceremonies.

67) They ate simple food, didn't swear, bore hardship as stoics, despised death, kept the Sabbath and held their own religious courts.

68) They lived in Engaddi and Hebron. Roman historians said they were an ancient sect and were among the first to embrace the teachings of Jesus.

69) Socially their towns were communes. They were Jews by birth. Their chief symbol was the tetractys, which Pike links to the Pythagorean school. They faced the sunrise during prayer, a practice which they might have picked up during captivity in Persia.

70) They believed in the resurrection of the soul, but not of the body. They believed in a future judgement with rewards and punishments. They believed in mankind's fall from a previous state of grace. They disregarded many of the ceremonies in the law of Moses, offering no public sacrifices and supporting no temple. Observances to them were private and individual matters not requiring priestly intermediaries.

71) Eusebius equates the Essene Theraputae with Christians.

72) They believed wisdom was scattered throughout the world, so true philosophy is collected here and there.

73) They established something like monasteries and observed solstice festivals.

74-75) They believed that the scripture had at least two levels of meaning, one literal (exoteric) and further symbolic (esoteric) meanings which only the initiated would understand. Their belief in this principle for the Old Testament to the Gnostics' similar belief for the new.

76-77) Paul, Origen, Eusebius and St. Gregory all said that the gospels are not to be taken literally.

78) Pike mentions books of Jezirah and Sohar, formative texts for Kabalah and compares their descriptions of God (King of Light, All That Is, The Ancient of Days), to descriptions in the teachings of Zoroaster.

79) Indian doctrine also mirrors descriptions found in Zoroaster.

80) Said diety emanates a ray of light initiating existence.

81) The ray of light creates a creative agent which creates an idealized protoperson, which in turn creates ten spirits (things like Will, Severity, Beauty, Glory, Benignity and so on) which Pike explains in the following paragraphs.

82) Wisdom is likened to "the Word." Intelligence is equated with the Holy Spirit and the oil anointing.

83) Beauty is green and yellow. Victory and Glory are the columns in the lodge.

84) In this paragraph Pike says we do not follow Kabala description of the etiology of the material world from the essential emanating light. Then he gives a description that sounds exactly like the one starting in paragraph 8.

85) To the Phoenicians, the Word was written in stars by gods for them to read. They revered fire and light.

86) Summarizing, nearly every religion explains the universe in terms of an emanation of an ineffable singularity.

87) The Chaldeans always said the Word of God created so-and-so rather than saying the Word created it.

88-91) Not sure about these paragraphs. He seems to be saying that in Genesis the Chaldean construction is used.

92) To Philo, God and the Word are interchangeable.

93) So, by the time John began to preach, the questions of creation, matter, the fall of man, the nature of God, everything in this chapter that is Essene, had been around for a long time. John's preaching was Essene, therefore eclectic.

94) Contrary to Essene philosophy, the prevailing Jewish doctrine was that God created everything personally himself without going through intermediary phases. (I'm not sure we could square this idea of Pike's. If God says "Let there be giraffes," then the Word is an intermediary.)

95) Cerenthus of Ephesus (and everybody else but the mainstream Jews) believed the material world was too imperfect to have been created directly by a perfect being.

96) Pike reviews previously discussed concepts of god-emanated intermediary forms. Supreme Being, God, Word, Light, Angels, Material and so on.

97) To some like Simon Magus, founder of the Gnostics, all these things were ad hoc manifestations of the Light of Lights. To others these were myriad separate beings inferior to the ultimate source.

98) The second notion is found in Talmud, Kabalah and in Persian teaching.

99) To the Essenes and Gnostics all these things from snails to angels to light are temporary exposures of a God that has a kind of revolving door where the ideas (manifestations) of God go in and out. So in a sense the universe, from puppy dogs to angels and planetoids, is made of bits of God's memos and invoices making the rounds.

100) Basilides says that from the Original Diety come two things, the First Born and the Mind. From the Mind comes the Word. From the Word comes Wisdom. From Wisdom comes Power and from Power comes Righteousness. (There might be some problems with translation of these principles.) In all, the Gnostics came up with 365 such emanations, which taken as a bundle comprised God and created the universe.

101) A sect of Gnostics (the Ophites) described seven spirits inferior to God described in the sky by seven planets and seven constellations.

102) All of these groups recognize the Word as an early emanation of God.

103) All these groups held the original God to be eternal and unchanging.

104-105) All these groups believed that dualism was universal, that things are divided into good and evil, hot and cold, light and dark, spirit and matter and so on.

106) Philo hypothesized a soul of the world which was in constant communication with the supreme being and carried out God's instructions.

107) The Book of Revelations belongs to extreme antiquity and Persian origin. Images in this book are borrowed from all religious traditions.

108) The returning Christ of Revelations resembles the Ormuzd and Sosiosch of Zoroastrianism, the Ainsoph of the Kabalah and the Carpistes of the Gnostics.

109) The machinations of Satan outlined in Revelation can also be found in the traditions listed in paragraph 108.

110) These traditions all believed in the ultimate triumph of good over evil.

111) Read this paragraph for yourself. I think it sums up a lot about this book.

112-113) The message in all these religions is that God is great, benevolent and caring. That evil and pain are temporary and will eventually be vanquished.

114) A redeemer which is expected to vanquish the evil is expected by all religions, and lots of people do lots of intellectualizing to try to spot the guy or claim one of their own culture as that annointed one.

115) In this degree we see that this expectation is found among the Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Jews, Indians, Essenes, Gnostics and the spread of this idea from one group to the other is described.

116) Most of these old groups have faded away, but their stories and teachings survive in masonry.

117) The study of these teachings by properly trained initiates leads to an understanding of the deeper meanings of the symbols. The East and West treated here are the eastern (Essene) and western (Therapeut) teachings.

RTJ -- 3/3/2006

Arkansas Travelogue home page | Matters Literary