Saturday, April 15, 2006

Freemasonry in Sigma Phi Epsilon

One of our vast network of correspondents sent in this bit of history. He prefers to remain out of the spotlight for now and we are glad to accomodate him, as we have others. Nonetheless, these are interesting links between Sig Ep and Freemasonry.

"Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth" = "Virtue, Diligence and Brotherly Love?"

The Influence of Freemasonry in Sigma Phi Epsilon

Previous posts to this webblog have noted some of the major similarities between Freemasonry and the Greek fraternity movement in general. Given the interest in this subject, we thought it would be pertinent to discuss the possible Masonic influences in the development of the great fraternity of Sigma Phi Epsilon. First, a possible connection might exist given the Masonic affiliation of several founders of Sigma Phi Epsilon. The Masonic memberships of 4 SigEp founders are listed as follows:

  • William Hugh Carter (23 years old in 1901)
    -Member of all three branches of York Rite Masonry
    -Served as Worshipful Master of the Blue Lodge
    -District Deputy Grand High Priest of Royal Arch Masons
    -District Commander of Knights Templar
    -Grand Prelate of the Grand Commandery of Knights Templar of Virginia
  • Thomas Temple Wright (18 years old in 1901)
    -Member of the Warsaw-Bauman Masonic Lodge #332 in Warsaw, VA
  • William Lazell Phillips (28 years old in 1901)
    -Freemason in 1897 at Newark, NJ at the age of 24
    -Member of the Royal Arch Chapter, Knights Templar and Shrine in 1911 at age of 38. In 1911, he was the Editor of SigEp Journal.
  • Thomas Vaden McCaul (23 years old in 1901)
    -Master Mason
    -A Royal Arch Mason
    -Knights Templar

— 1960 ed. of Sigma Phi Epsilon Pledge Manual

If the affiliation of these founders were not enough to establish a connection, the Masonic influence on Sigma Phi Epsilon's development is apparent in other arenas. An example of this was seen at the 1907 Grand Chapter Conclave in which a formal ritual was adopted. Despite numerous revisions through the years, the Fraternity has vehemently stayed true to the core of this 1907 ritual.

"The most significant event at the conclave was the adoption of a ritual that ironically came from the floor. The proposed ritual, grounded in the classic Book of Common Prayer and Freemasonry, was prepared by Adna A. Jones and W.H. Hinkel of Delta Beta at Jefferson Medical College. It was chosen over the one submitted by the official Ritual committee, composed of Phillips and James R. Webster."

—Our Journey of Brotherhood: Sigma Phi Epsilon?s First Hundred Years P.20

While this reference makes it easy to deduce that Brothers Jones and Hinkel were probably Freemasons, we have not been able to confirm this information. However, Uncle Billy's Masonic affiliation is well-documented. Seems like another case of "no matter where you go, there you are." This begs the question of whether or not there are similarities between the Masonic and SigEp rituals and if so, what are they?

What are they, indeed? As they say, I could tell you, but then well, I'd have to, you know...

Thanks to Brother "Hiram" for this introduction. We hope to hear more on the subject from you soon.