Many of the Brethren are familiar with arcane rituals such as “Riding the Masonic Goat.” Following in this “goat” tradition we should also devote some of our analytical attention towards the esoteric pursuit of “Milking the Masonic Cow” as practiced by Stephen Freeman of Antigua and London: A Respectable Rosicrucian and Esoteric quasi-Freemason. Bro. Stephen self-constructed his un-chartered and illegitimate Royal Ark Lodge in late 18th Century London, England. Freeman also perpetrated other scams, however they all quickly amounted to nothing. Freeman and his crime partners all went nowhere fast because urban London was just too sophisticated for their rather obvious quackery.
Ever since the dawn of creation, scoundrels, scalawags and confidence artists around the world have endeavored to sell their privately held, so-called secret information, to a gullible and unsuspecting public. The real secret is that there are no more secrets left in the world today.
My usual and customary method of dealing with conferences purporting to offer “hidden meanings” and/or other various and sundry types of ancient and forbidden secret information, is to simply read the course outline instead of actually paying money to attending the event.
Being a day person with a need for lots of fresh air to breathe, I no longer enjoy staying up past my bedtime in crowded auditoriums, listening to long winded lectures about arcane subject matter. The warm stuffy air makes me go to sleep. I became a Freemason for mystical union with God and so all of this so-called secret information is just yesterday’s news to me, at my level of cosmic awareness.
Therefore, instead of planning to attend in person I merely studied the outline of, HIDDEN MEANINGS: Esotericism & Masonic Connections, at the International Conference on Freemasonry at UCLA. This led me to read Susan Sommers work of Masonic scholarship about urban confidence artists Stephen Freeman and Ebenezer Sibly, endeavoring unsuccessfully to sell their secret quasi-Masonic information by self-constructing, The College for Instruction in Elementary Philosophy.
Over the course of three blogs I have reviewed THE SIBLYS OF LONDON: A Family on the Fringes of Esoteric Georgian England, by Susan Sommers. Hopefully after you read my blogs, you will no longer feel the need to learn any more about huckster Stephen Freeman. Here is my first blog on Freeman. Here is the second. And this blog you are now reading is my third blog and perhaps mercifully my last blog on Freeman, Sibly and Bell.
Stephen Kingstone, alias Stephen Freeman of Antigua and London, (1739-90), a blacksmith and self-constructed quack doctor, was able to self-create his credentials in 1780s London, through the use of Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism and Mesmerism. Ultimately, Freeman was about using fraternal societies of his day for financial gain and social advancement. But above all Freeman was a self-promoter, a public relations man extraordinaire, and a master propaganda minister. Bro. Freeman knew how to write copy and advertise!
The Legend of The Three Quack Doctors
Master Mason Freeman, three-time bigamist and full-time plagiarist Ebenezer Sibly and Mesmerist John Bell were not confidence artists because they were Freemasons, they became Freemasons because they wanted to re-construct themselves, and they viewed membership in the fraternity as a useful component of the reinvention. Together the trio offered lectures at the “College for Instruction in Elementary Philosophy.” The College failed soon after opening and Freeman, Sibly and Bell were debunked as, among other fraud-inspired epithets, quackiorensibus. One advertisement for the CIEP reads in part:
ADVERTISEMENT: College for Instruction in Elementary Philosophy
“To the First Class are taught Animal Magnetism, or the Doctrines of Magnetical Attraction and Repulsion, as practiced by the profound Mesmer, to cause longevity. The Second Class are taught Primitive Astronomy or Uranology, containing the whole of he Astral Sciences of Doctrine of the Stars, founded on Newtonian principles, comprehending the efficient causes and their effects, the order of the spheres, the distinguishing characteristics or tendency of actives to passives, the nature and power of elementary influx . . . The Third Class are taught the Hermetic Sciences, wherein is shown the true method of transmutation of metals, the first matter of all things, the Alchaestic liquor of Paracelsus and the grand secrets of the adepts, &c, &c.”
Sample pages from Google Books: THE SIBLYS OF LONDON: A Family on the Esoteric Fringes of Georgian England, by Susan Sommers
Why Study Three Quack Doctors on the Lunatic Fringe of the Late 18th Century?
Fraudsters Freeman, Sibly and Bell found London too tough of a market to crack. Although the trio advertised profusely, 1780s urban London offered authentic institutions and lecturers that made it difficult for their shabby offerings.
THE SIBLYS OF LONDON contains detailed discussion of the three fakes and their detractors. So why is Stephen Freeman of any interest of us today? The only reason Freeman is being mentioned these days is simply because of the ample documentation left behind by this 18th Century flimflam man. His true story can be told at Masonic symposiums by Masonic scholars attended by Masons who seek 18th Century validation for the ancient Craft of Freemasonry. I can only imagine the chuckles Ms. Sommers will garner as she regales her Masonic audience with the well-documented history of Bro. Freeman’s interactions with legitimate late 18th Century Freemasonry.