(1923/03/23 - 1993/05/09)
Masters of the Maze by Avram Davidson
In Masters of the Maze Avram Davidson envisioned a maze that connected Earth to an unimaginable number of other worlds, one of which is inhabited by an insect-like hive world whose inhabitants intend to overrun Earth. To protect earth, he created a secret order of freemasons who dedicate their lives to keeping the entrances to the maze sealed.
Davidson starts early by introducing two characters who discuss without explanation their secret society in psuodo-masonic terms:
"KLEL was registered with the Grand Consistory of Rites in Paris in 1788. Naturally, during the tragic events which followed, it dropped from sight...." [p. 12.]
"... I didn't take advantage of my privilage as the GC of KLEL to make you a member on sight just because you're rich...." [p. 20.]
Faintly echoing masonic history, Mrs. Elizabeth Aldworth is alluded to:
It was an old woman named Nettie Wishert. Yes, she'd been initiated. Yes that was probably irregular. But there were other occasions in the eighteenth century. Lady Aldsworth, for example [p. 21.]
The name of the order is first used:
...the thought that the Esquires of the Sword might die off, unreplaced, sent a chill into Bellamy.... [p. 37.]
Our protagonist, Joe Bellamy, is slowly introduced to members of the order who then lead him to his initiation:
Scholtz took Joes hand, giving it a distinct and peculiar pressure, and holding a moment. Then he released it.
"Mmpf. You haf no mother," he said.
"Why... yes... I do. Mother is very much alive. Why?"
"I mean you haf not travelt."
"On the contrary, I've travelled considerably."
Scholtz ceased to speak in mysteries. "I mean," he said, slowly and distinctly, "You are nodt, mmph, a vreemazon."
"Your ungle iss a vreemazon." [p. 41-42.]
The subject (not phonography) came up again. And it came up again. Finally, more than a bit bemused by this whole enforced caravan, and determined to seize hold of the one bit of tangible evidencesomething which could be measured and scrutinizedhe paused to purchase a number of books, most of them embossed on the cover with the design of a compass and a square. He read them as his train sped across the plains, alternately impressed . . . amused . . . and, once again, confused. The aims of fraternity, philanthropy, benevolence, seemed certainly unobjectionable. The oaths, or, as they seemed to be called, obligations, with their frightful penalties of physical mutilation, appeared more in keeping with a gang of boys playing cowboys and Indians than with an organization supposedly dating back to Hiram, the Master Craftsman of Tyre (according to one view); or to the cult of the dying god (according to another).
"You are not a freemason, I take it," said Major Jack Gans, by and by, when the year was half over.
"I have begun to think about becoming one. People have asked me if I were one, but no one has actually asked me to become one."
"The craft does not solicit. It is solicited."
And so Joseph Bellamy solicited. And was sent, with a letter, to a man not on his uncles list. A man not at all like those who werethus destroying Joes theory that perhaps another thing they had in common was an awareness of belonging to the same societya warm, hearty, outdoor sort of man.
"Well, hey! Captain Jack asks me to make you a mason on sight! Yes, I can do it, thats a Grand Masters privilege. President Taft, you know, he was made a Mason on sight. Moving around, are you?and will join a regular lodge when you settle down. Not a good enough reason, in my opinion generally speaking. ButMajor Jack asks it, thats a good enough reason. Known him, oh, for years. Don't know anyone who knows more about the Brethren and their history than he does more than I'd care to know, impression I used to get."
And so it was done. No great illumination followed immediately therefrom. But it was as if a door, a great, sealed door, of whose existence in a shadowed wall he had gradually become aware of, had opened ... just a crack. Yet, the crack continued to widen. And Elias Ashmole proved the key.
There then follows an extended description of Freemasonry, accurate in its facts and reasoned in its opinions. Although he misrepresents the Ancients and Moderns, and the meaning of "mysterie", his explanation of the many degrees of Freemasonry makes as much sense as a more detailed one might and his version of the "transition theory" is as valid as any.
From the very later Middle Ages whenall persiflage to the contrarythe first mention of a "mysterie" (or a ceremony conveying secrets) among stonemasons appeared, down to the early Eighteenth Century, the freemasons or workers in freestone had been just that: a sort of guild or union of workers with stone. From the Eighteenth Century onward the associations of "operative" masons had been no different from any other associations of craftsmen; and the "mysterie" had passed over into the masonic lodges known today, where the members did not actually work with stone, but employed an elaborate language of allegory drawn from that work and intended to teach a variety of moral truths.
The link, the bridge, was Elias Ashmole.
Before him, the ancients. After him, the moderns. But in him, both. Before him, too, the world so little changed from the days of Justinian; after him, the world which would never cease changing. He was born into the realm ruled by the mystical priest-king by divine right; he died in the world ruled by Newtonian law and logic. All of this his quick, keen, and supple mind had clearly grasped: and it was not likely that it had failed to grasp the implications contained in the primitive and disorganized freemasonry of his day. It was not till a generation after his death that the first grand lodge of freemasons was organized; after that, the old ways were gone forever.
It seemed though that somehow the ground had been prepared: for scarcely had the form of organized, official freemasonry with its established ritual and its three degrees, come formally into existence, when a host of other forms sprang, so it seemed, from nowhere . . . from the air . . . from the ground . . . Masonry in all forms proliferated like yeasts. Popes proscribed it. Kings suppressed it. In the clamor and the controversy little distinction was made between genuine and fraudulent, "regular" and "irregular," and "fraudulent" and "clandestine" forms; by the time some of the smoke had cleared away (it hadn't happened, even yet, that the scene was completely clear)by that time some of the "clandestine" and "irregular" forms had become "regular" and "official." Others never had. Some vanished forever; some went underground.
An example of masonry unrecognized, even at first attacked, by official freemasonry, which later made good and found a place for itself alongside the older form, was the so-called Scottish Rite. Its well-organized pyramid of thirty-three degrees had developed out of a much larger number of independent degrees: but the first three degrees of Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason were not "worked" in the Scottish Rite. One first had to go up through these in the so-called York Rite of the Grand Lodges. Equally independent was the Royal Arch, and the entire system of the nights [sic p. 44] Templars, as well as such groups as the Shriners: not part of the basic system of freemasonry; one had still to have gone through the basic system before being able to go through the others.
And what others! Multitudes of them, with ornate titles, and a variety of purposes. Some were almost Byzantinely Christian, others were vehemently supradenominational; some were militantly antimonarchial, others were themselves headed by monarchs . . . So it went
"Prior to the formation of the first grand lodge, certain trusted friends of Elias Ashmole had been making masons and passing on not only the mason word but a certain tradition which he, Elias, had told and taught them. After the formation of the first grand lodge, between 1717 and 1719, these same decided that henceforth they would make no more masons, but would take in only such as had been made masons according to the rules of the grand lodge," said a certain Mr. Eric Wiedemyer to Joseph Bellamy.
"And . . . this 'certain tradition'?"
"Thatin modern termsthey continued to work as a sort of side degree. And, during the period not long after, when a lot of French . . . old French . . . pseudo-French . . . crept in all over masonry, this group adopted the name of Esquires Eslu, or, Elu, or Elected, do you see? of Esquires Eslu of the Sword. It cannot be said that this degree is either irregular or clandestine, as those two words are known in masonry; but it is not worked publicly. As a matter of fact," said Mr. Edward Wiedemyer, carefully, looking closely at Joseph Bellamy, "it is not known publicly that it still exists. ... Do you understand?"
Having been given the history, Bellamy now joins the order:
"And my uncle belonged to it? And all the others on his list, the ones I've been visiting, they all belong to it? And you as well?"
"To all your questions: Yes."
The young man gave a melancholy smile. "There is something almost ritualistic in the way that I am gradually being led into membership myself. Well, well. Very well. If my uncle and his friends and you are all members and sharers in the secret tradition of Elias Ashmole, then I am content . . . indeed: flattered . . . to become a member myself. At any time and in any place named."
And then he learned that more than mere membership was involved. That he would, if he joined, spend his whole life until replaced and released, in a Vigil comparable in some ways to the vigils of certain religious orders. On watch, forever on watch. On guard, perpetually on guard. Accepting a duty on behalf of and because of the whole human race. One which could not yet and perhaps never could, and certainly not in his lifetime, be revealed to the whole human race.
Bellamy slowly nodded. More and more, more and more, the figures of the pattern continued to fall into place.
"My post of duty . . . It would be, I suppose, at Darkglen? So I thought. Very well. I accept. II am not being presumptuous? I am to be accepted?"
"You have already been accepted, right worshipful compeer. An initiation will follow. But it will be no mere form. Come." '
And he was taken and given the Obligation and shown the Gate into the Maze, and the ward which was the key to the Maze and the object called the Sword which was the guard of the Maze.
Concerning this last, he was told, "It isn't ornamental or vestigeal, like the tilers sword at a Blue Lodge meeting. Its functional. It disseminates . . . 'broadcasts' is a useful new word which might apply . . . it broadcasts what is known as anger of a Sire."
Bellamy repeated the phrase. Then, "What does that mean?" he asked. But Mr. Wiedemyer had already begun to speak of something else. "Wethe Esquires, I meanwe've already had our inevitable schism. It occurred shortly after the Revolutionary War, when a General Frederick Flint broke away . . . was expelled, too: locking the barn door and all that. He set up his own organization, working their own degree and ritual. They adopted, as so many similar groups have done, a spurious title and a spurious history to go with it. Knights Lancers Elu of Livonia. Dropped from sight, more or less, but not from our sight, completely. However, membership seems largely confined to the Flint family. KLEL. Yes. Its original aims were not good.
"The Maze is not ours to use, do you see, compeer? We do not use it. We merely watch it. We were taught how. We serve . . . We serve." [pp. 42-46.]
The order, and the schismatic order, are only referred to again briefly:
One did not sayone could not sayI belong to a secret society, membership in wich is limited to freemasons but which does not have any other connection with official or so-called "clandestine" freemasonry. [p. 70.]
....General Flint ... had broken with the Elected Esquires and founded his own degrees and order. [p. 71.]
Later, a member of the Knights Lancers uses the passphrase: "I guard, I serve, I seek" [p. 75.] when he meets Bellamy. Whether it is a Knights Lancers' password or an attempt was being made to deceive Bellamy with the Elected Esquires' password, is not explained. The last mention of Freemasonry is made a few pages later and then the subject is dropped.
Keziah made the phone calls to attorney, bank, undertaker, minister, and masonic lodge. [p. 80.]
Given the opportunity to create fictional accounts of historical figures who have disappeared mysteriously, Davidson only introduces one, Ambrose Bierce, whose dictionary description of Freemasony was less than flattering.
While not masonic, some mention should be made of Avram Davidsons well turned phrases: "humanitarian dispensaries on the seacoasts of Bohemia" [p. 47.], "things slowed down to a semicolon" [p. 48.]; "The final train was, as a baggage-smasher at the transfer point predicted, some late.'" [p. 52.]. And description:
It was one of the examples of giganticism which so often herald the coming extinction of a species, a great prostrate dinosaur of a house, sprawled in the glade which had given it its name, neo-Tudor out of mock-Gothic, with outbuildings wallowing about it like whale calves. [p. 54.]
Masters of the Maze, Avram Davidson (1923/03/23 - 1993/05/09). London and New York : White Lion Publishers, 1974 (Pyramid Books, 1965) SBN: 856172464. 156p. 14cm x 20cm.