15-11-2009, 01:49 AM
15-11-2009, 02:27 PM
Freemasonry and the Development of Greek-Letter Fraternities
Masonic symbolism and philosophy had a strong influence in the early development of many of the so-called “Greek-letter” organizations so commonly seen on college campuses throughout the United States. In some cases, the influence was little more than an association of ritual and secrecy, but in many cases the relationships between Freemasonry and college fraternities are much stronger and enduring.
During the half century before the American Revolution, college fraternities had a meager yet budding existence. Prior to 1776, Yale College, the College of New Jersey (Princeton University), and the College of William and Mary all had student fraternal organizations. The establishment and development of these fraternities closely mimicked the maturation of American Freemasonry.
Phi Beta Kappa. It was in the year 1776 that the age of college fraternities took a secretive turn. That year marked the founding of the first Greek-letter society, the college fraternity Phi Beta Kappa at the College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia. Although not sanctioned by or directly connected to Freemasonry, Phi Beta Kappa patterned its initiations, oaths and method of proliferation after those of Freemasonry. Two of the founding members and a total of ten early members of Phi Beta Kappa were Freemasons.
Similarities between Phi Beta Kappa and Freemasonry are easily seen. First, both organizations held their meetings in secrecy. Freemasonry and Phi Beta Kappa both required new initiates to take voluntary oaths of fidelity. In the Phi Beta Kappa ritual, the founders named “friendship, morality and literature as essential characteristics.” These are closely related to the three principal tenets of Freemasonry: Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. Phi Beta Kappa actually replicated the manner in which it established new chapters directly from the model used by Freemasonry. Soon, additional chapters were formed at Harvard, Yale and Dartmouth.
In 1825, forty-nine years after the organization of Phi Beta Kappa, the Kappa Alpha Society (not to be confused with Kappa Alpha Order) was organized at Union College, Schenectady, New York. Among its founders were several Phi Beta Kappa members. Like Phi Beta Kappa and the Kappa Alpha Society, college fraternities continued to be organized in the academic institutions of the United States. Most of these fraternities had oaths of secrecy and secret modes of recognition.
Ritual Exposure. 1826 was the year of the disappearance of Captain William Morgan in upstate New York, allegedly abducted and murdered for publishing and exposing Masonic ritual. The story of Morgan’s disappearance and the subsequent anti-Masonic period, lasting until about 1840, should be well known to all Freemasons, because this period marked the beginning of an explosion in published ritual exposures.
The Fraternal Movement. It would be several decades before the chaos subsided enough to hasten in the heyday of American fraternalism. However, the number of Greek-letter societies continued to grow throughout the mid- and late- 1800s. The new fraternities formed during this time patterned themselves after Phi Beta Kappa’s original model. Based upon this fact alone, it could be stated that all American college fraternities owe and least a little of their heritage to Freemasonry.
Kappa Alpha Order. Kappa Alpha Order was founded on 21 December 1865 at Washington College (now Washington and Lee University) at Lexington, Virginia, by James Ward Wood and three others. During their lives, all four were Master Masons. The ritual for Kappa Alpha was created by Samuel Z. Ammen, ultimately earning him the title “the practical founder of Kappa Alpha Order.” Ammen, who had already been inducted into Freemasonry in Friendship Lodge, Fincastle, Virginia, later stated: “I drew heavily upon my experience as a Master Mason in crafting the new ritual.” That ritual utilizes the symbolism of the Masonic Knights Templar as much as the symbolism of craft Masonry. The ritual transformed the fraternity into an order of Christian knighthood, which sought to preserve the masculine virtues of chivalry, respect for others, honor and reverence for God and womanhood.
Other examples of Greek-letter fraternities with Masonic influence granted by either founding members or early members include Alpha Tau Omega, Sigma Nu, Phi Delta Theta, Sigma Chi, Phi Gamma Delta, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Pi Kappa Alpha, Zeta Psi, Tau Kappa Epsilon, Psi Upsilon, and Delta Psi.