Considerable evidence demonstrates that Charles Taze Russell (CTR hereafter) was not a member of the Freemasons.
- Examining the Pastor’s own words about Freemasonry;
- Considering a requirement for membership as published in the Encyclopedia Britannica, proving Freemason membership for CTR was impossible;
- Examining contradictory statements made by a one-time supporter regarding Freemason membership of CTR;
- Disproving accusations that popular Egyptian occult symbols used by CTR in his publications is a testimony of an alliance with Freemasonry philosophy, and finally,
- Investigating Freemason historical records to see if CTR was a member of the organization.
Examining the Pastor’s words
In a special 1913 Convention Report of the International Bible Students, CTR, the founder of a corporate entity used by Jehovah’s Witnesses, now known as the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, PA, said he was “…a free Mason.” However, later in the Report, he said, “I have never been a Mason.” Why the contradiction? In his own words, CTR explains.
“I am very glad to have this particular opportunity of saying a word about some of the things in which we agree with our Masonic friends, because we are speaking in a building dedicated to Masonry and we also are Masons. I am a Free Mason. I am a free and accepted Mason, if I may carry the matter to its full length, because that is what our Masonic brethren like to tell us, that they are free and accepted Masons. That is their style of putting it. Now I am a free and accepted Mason.
I am not going to say a word against Masons, and I can appreciate that there are certain very precious truths that are held in part by our Masonic friends.”
“I have secret information through the Holy Spirit and guidance in respect to what the Bible says, and that contains all the truth, I believe on every subject. And so if we talk to our Masonic friends about the Temple and its meaning, and about being good Masons, and about the Great Pyramid, which is the very emblem they use, and what the Great Pyramid signifies, our Masonic friends are astonished. We are going to discuss free and accepted Masonry, the Bible Masonry.”
“If you feel that you want to become a member of the Free and Accepted Order of Masonry, and do not feel free and Masonic enough as a follower of Christ, God bless you, use your own judgment; that is yours to decide not mine. But now I am talking about this great order of masonry of which Jesus is the Grand Master. … “Although I have never been a Mason, I have heard that in Masonry they have something which very closely illustrates all of this.” The Temple of Gods, Pgs.120-127
The New Creation, pgs. 580-8, authored by CTR disproves Masonic accusations.
“As we understand the matter, for instance, the Free Masons, Odd Fellows, Knights of Pythias, etc., perform certain rites and ceremonies of a religious kind. Let it be understood that we are not waging any warfare upon those who hold membership in these various orders, even as we are not waging warfare against the various sectarian religious systems. We place upon one level all of those which have any religious ceremonies, teachings, etc., and consider them all as parts of Babylon, some quarters or wards of which are cleaner, and others less clean, but all, nevertheless, full of confusion, error–contrary to the divine intention, as displayed in the organization of the primitive Church and the instructions, by word and example, given to it by the inspired Founder, and his twelve apostles.
“We admonish the New Creation to have nothing whatever to do with any of these semi-religious societies, clubs, orders, churches; but to “Come out from amongst them, and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean thing.” (2 Cor. 6:17) Their things, their worship, their teachings, their doctrines, are unclean to us, though they may not be unclean to themselves. The eyes of our understanding have been opened, and now to us all things appear in a new light.”
ZION’S WATCH TOWER magazines negatively discuss Freemasonry.
The Sept. 1879 ZION’S WATCH TOWER, “THE DAY OF THE LORD” pg. 26, par. 6
“The kings and chief ones as well as bondmen will recognize in this trouble that “The great day of His wrath is come,” and will seek to make alliances and to hide themselves from the sure coming storm. They will seek to be covered and protected by the great mountains (kingdoms,) of earth and to be hid in the great rocks of this world’s societies, (MASONIC, ODD FELLOWS, &c.,) but they shall not be able to deliver them in the day of the Lord’s anger, for “all the kingdoms of the world shall be thrown down, and instead of three mountains (kingdoms) “the kingdom of the Lord becomes a great mountain, and fills the whole earth.” Daniel 2:35, 45.”
The June 15, 1895, ZION’S WATCH TOWER, “SECRET AND BENEFICIAL SOCIETIES” pg. 1827
“We note also that the ORDER OF FREE MASONS, if judged by its past history, has some secret object or scheme, more than fraternity and financial aid in time of sickness or death. And, so far as we can judge, there is a certain amount of profane worship or mummery connected with the rites of this order and some others, which the members do not comprehend, but which, in many cases, serves to satisfy the cravings of the natural mind for worship, and thus hinders it from seeking the worship of god in spirit and in truth–through Christ, the only appointed Mediator and Grand Master.
“In proportion as such SOCIETIES CONSUME VALUABLE TIME IN FOOLISH, SENSELESS RITES AND CEREMONIES, AND IN SUBSTITUTING THE WORSHIP OF THEIR OFFICERS, AND THE USE OF WORDS AND SYMBOLS WHICH HAVE NO MEANING TO THEM, for the worship of God, in his appointed way–through Christ, and according to knowledge and the spirit of a sound mind—IN THAT PROPORTION THESE SOCIETIES ARE GRIEVOUS EVILS, regardless of the financial gains or losses connected with membership in them.”
The August 1, 1895 ZION’S WATCH TOWER “CONSECRATION VS. THE WORLD AND ITS AFFAIRS.”
“A brother, once very deep in Secretism, and who knows that THE EDITOR HAS HAD NO SUCH EXPERIENCE, writes as follows:
“As to the secret societies, they use a ritual applicable to each different degree, which is fully as reasonable as that of many of the churches, and like those of the churches, it is usually of heathen origin. The worship of the Sun appears prominently in Masonry, and so it does in the service of the Catholic and Episcopal churches.
The Encyclopedia Britannica
CTR was adamantly against the belief in the immortality of the human soul. Opposing it was one of his core doctrines from the outset of his movement. The Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th Edition, Micropaedic, Vol. 4, pg. 966, under the topic Freemasonry notes:
“For admission, the applicant is required to be an adult male believing in the existence of a Supreme Being and in the immortality of the soul.”
Former CTR Supporter contradicts himself
In his book, SEPARATE IDENTITY, Bruce Schulz, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and a Watchtower historian, discusses Fritz Springmeier, a one-time associate of the Witnesses saying,
“The claim is made in the controversialist e-book by Fritz Springmeier entitled The Watchtower & The Masons, page 208 that Russell was a Freemason. Though extensively footnoted, the research quality of this book is very poor. It is much more the expression of a wild-imagination rather than of serious research.”
In the case of Fritz Springmeier (not his real name), in his 1990 book, Watchtower & The Masons, Springmeier stated categorically on the second page, in the sixth line of the second paragraph of the AUTHOR’S PREFACE:
“The Author has confirmed Russell’s Masonic membership.”
Yet he admitted in Chapter 10, pg. 153, paragraph 1:
“The author hasn’t had access to the full range of documents that would help confirm Russell’s membership in a Masonic order. Rather than presenting conclusive evidence about a membership, the author will present a series of cases that will show the reader the importance of not just giving attention to what a man writes, but also what he does.”
And why doesn’t he discuss in his book the 1913 Convention Report (see pg. 1 of this essay in par. 4 of the Report) where CTR said, “I have never been a Mason”? The best Springmeier can do in this matter of Masonic membership is to claim earlier in Chapter 8 on pg. 135, par. 2 that Masonic knowledge is proof of Masonic association.
“Likewise, when one reads Charles Taze Russell’s books and sermons, and sees repeated hundreds of times the words mystery and secret, and one sees Masonic buzz words such as Grand Master, Great Architect of the Universe, the Order, Jehovah, light, priesthood, and initiated, one has to conclude there has been some association somewhere with the Masons.”
From cover to cover Springmeier’s book is filled with extensive distinctive Freemason terminology of ancient dogma which he compares to nineteenth-century popular apocalyptic Christian ideas and beliefs of CTR. This idiosyncratic similarity quoted by Springmeier is responsible for readers of the book assuming his assertion CTR was a Freemason to be factual when what CTR was doing was using comparisons to make a case for a better Masonry – “the Bible Masonry.”
Without a doubt, Springmeier tarnished the name of CTR by the way he connected him with ancient Egyptian occult expressions and symbols used by Freemasons. It should be noted the use of Egyptian symbols was commonplace and part of an Egyptian Revival movement having consequences throughout the 19th century. So much so the post-Russell Bible Students, whose actions, including the erection of a Pyramid next to the CTR gravestone, were not due to his convictions. Neither is the coincidental location of an important Masonic facility constructed many years after the death of CTR in 1916 near the cemetery where he is buried relevant to whether he either joined or believed in the principles of Freemasonry.
Freemason symbols used by CTR
Was CTR a Freemason because he used the popular Masonic Egyptian Winged Sun Disk symbol in a publication? What does the winged sun disk stand for?
“Winged Sun of Thebes” from Egyptian Mythology and Egyptian Christianity by Samuel Sharpe (1863). The winged sun is a symbol (sometimes known as Behedeti, a name of Horus) associated with divinity, royalty and power in the Ancient Near East (Egypt, Mesopotamia, Anatolia, and Persia). The symbol has also been found in the records of ancient cultures residing in various regions of South America as well as Australia.
“Various groups such as Freemasonry, Theosophy, Rosicrucian and Unity Church have used the Egyptian winged sun disk symbol. Variations of the symbol are used as a trademark logo on vehicles produced by the Chrysler Corporation, and Harley Davidson.”
Note the later use of the Ancient Hebrew (not Egyptian) Winged Sun Disk Symbol
From around the 8th century BCE, the winged sun symbol appeared on Hebrew seals, by then as a generic symbol for “power.” One example is a seal where the winged sun is flanked by two Ankh symbols and a Hebrew inscription translating to “possession of Hezekiah, son of Ahaz, king of Juda.” Numerous pottery finds dating to the same time bear the symbol together with the inscription lemelekh “king’s [property].”
After his trip to Egypt in 1910, Charles Taze Russell used the symbol on the cover of some of his books starting with the 1911 editions because of Malachi 4:2 referring to a winged “Sun of righteousness.” But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings… (KJV)
Although the use of such symbols is now frowned upon and disavowed in the more modern Masonic organizations today as well as by Watchtower customs, its history can’t be erased. Neither can the use of similar symbols by CTR be denied. However, this symbol does not prove Mason membership but rather a religious exploration of a feature of Egyptian revivalism in that age.
CTR was raised a Protestant and an involved one until he was 17 years old during a period of intense interest in the teachings of Freemasonry going so far as churches publicly taking a stand pro or anti-Mason. Then, for a few years, CTR was an atheist, but soon certain events reignited his religious fervor. When he married Maria Frances Ackley in 1879 three months prior to the first issue of Zion’s Watch Tower, she was attending the Methodist Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh where she taught Sunday school.
The Methodist Church used the cross and crown symbol (a cross passing through a crown) in the church and in its reading material. This was known as a Christian symbol used by various Christian denominations such as Congregationalist, a religion CTR joined when he left Presbyterianism before briefly becoming an atheist.
The emblem is often interpreted as symbolizing the reward in heaven (the crown) coming after the trials in this life (the cross) and it was very similar, but not an exact replica of the one the Freemasons used. This so-called Christian cross and crown symbol was the one CTR and his wife emblazoned on the front cover of Zion’s Watch Tower magazine, probably influenced by her background in the Methodist Church.
Freemason historical records
Back in 2001, I requested historical information from the ANCIENT ACCEPTED SCOTTISH RITE OF FREEMASONRY, VALLEY OF PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA, asking if CTR, his father, Joseph Lytel Russell, and his uncle, Charles Tays Russell, were Freemasons. This is the answer I received in a letter:
“AFTER A SEARCH OF OUR RECORDS, WE DETERMINED THAT THE THREE RUSSELLS WERE NOT MEMBERS OF OUR ORGANIZATION.”
In their letter, the Pittsburgh Chapter recommended I send an inquiry asking for further research on this question to the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania located in Philadelphia, which I did. On April 27, 2001, I received this reply:
“THE RECORD BOOKS IN THE GRAND SECRETARY’S OFFICE ARE UNAVAILABLE AT THIS TIME AS THEY ARE BEING CONSERVED AND SHOULD BE BACK SOME TIME IN THE FALL.”
Inasmuch as I was very involved with other, more pressing things then, I did not follow up on this matter, and eventually, my desire for resolution of this question faded out of my mind. Later on, I sent a follow-up email to the Masonic Temple, Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and I received this reply:
“DEAR MS. ANDERSON,
“CHARLES TAZE RUSSELL WAS NOT A PENNSYLVANIA FREEMASON. NOR DOES HE APPEAR IN THE RECORDS OF ENGLAND OR IRELAND.
“GLENYS A. WALDMAN, LIBRARIAN”
There are enough features thoughtful people find fault with regarding Jehovah’s Witnesses the religion affiliated with the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, without supposing its founder’s membership in a popular, secretive men’s fraternity, purportedly connects with ancient Egyptian occult symbols and practices!
My research has shown CTR was arrogant, not particularly truthful, and a disloyal, selfish husband, but he was not a Pennsylvania Freemason. This fact-based inquiry puts to rest the many deceptive claims about Charles Taze Russell’s membership in the Pennsylvania Freemason fraternity as that’s what this essay is all about.