Charles Masson and Freemasons in Afghanistan 40

Edward Stirling was one of the most intrepid of Afghan explorers and certainly the most ignored by Great Game historians. The motive for his epic journey in disguise is unknown. On retirement, he built a great house named “Stirling Castle” on the Isle of Wight, and incorporate a major Freemasonic Temple inside it, replete with Masonic and oriental themes. Alexander Burnes claimed, in a speech to St Peter’s Lodge in Montrose, to have discovered relics of “ancient Freemasonry” in Afghanistan and is almost certainly the true model for Kipling’s Danny Dravot in The Man Who Would Be King. Could James Lewis/Charles Masson have been telling something in his adopted surname?

Desertion was an extremely serious offence, and to desert on active service, as Lewis did before Bharatpur, carried the death penalty. It was universally held that it was essential that desertion always bring speedy retribution, lest it become infectious in the ranks1. The actions of British officials in turning a blind eye to Lewis’ status as a deserter are almost unprecedented. Indeed, the only way to pardon a deserter was by a grant direct from the King of England himself, and extraordinarily Masson received this signed in person by William IV, the only pardon for desertion granted by that King2. The explanation usually given is that they wished to make use of Masson to gather information from Central Asia. But they already had native agents reporting regularly, and Masson added little of real value. Furthermore, in the exactly contemporary case of Edward Stirling, his career was destroyed for the infinitely lesser sin of returning from leave three weeks late – his explorations of Afghanistan were not thought to compensate for that misdemeanour. It is highly improbable that Masson’s would compensate for his capital offence.

The future treatment of Masson was even more puzzling. In addition to a substantial government salary arranged for him, Burnes, Pottinger, McNeill and Wade all frequently and repeatedly sent him major sums of money, amounting to thousands of pounds, both from government sources and from their own pockets, and the bulk of these payments related more to his antiquarian researches than to any intelligence work. They continued despite his repeated failure to account for any official monies received. When Masson finally was taken into custody in 1841 as a suspected Russian spy, a charge of which he was, as we shall see, almost certainly guilty, he yet again was let off by the British authorities on a second capital offence. The relevant papers had already disappeared from the Lahore archives by 1929. Plainly the British officials had some powerful motive for protecting Masson – were they supporting him and his work in Afghanistan as a fellow freemason? William IV, the King who received both Alex and James in audience and pardoned Masson, was a fervent mason. Was the motive behind Masson’s antiquarian researches displayed in his choice of pseudonym?

[Sikunder Burnes is being edited down fro 260,000 to 180,000 words. Snippets of material I am editing out which strike me as interesting are being posted here. James and ALexander Burnes played a major role in inventing the myths of ancient Freemasonry and both the Alexandrian and the Knights Templar connection. In investigating what they did, I am not endorsing these myths, quite the opposite.]

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40 thoughts on “Charles Masson and Freemasons in Afghanistan

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  • Mike Martin

    Hi Craig,
    I don’t quite know how I wound up on your Blog but as I’m here I thought I would expand your knowledge (rather than leaving you to keep guessing) a little of Freemasonry.

    There is no such thing (outside the mind of conspiracy theorists that is) as a “Head of worldwide Freemasonry”. Freemasonry is a catch-all title for hundreds of societies around the world who follow the same or similar traditional fraternal practises. Each one, known as a Grand Lodge, is a separate, distinct organisation, however, many Grand Lodges recognise each other (some do not) which allows their members to attend Lodge meetings in each other countries.

    On the assumption that the Earl of Dalhousie you’re referring to was the 9th, he was actually the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Scotland from 1804 to 1806. At this time he was the head of and in charge of the Freemasons under that Grand Lodge ONLY.

    While he would be respected by them he had no authority over a Freemason from a different Grand Lodge (for example England or Ireland or any of the American, European or Asian ones) and vice versa.

    Anyway I hope this helps you a bit.


  • giyane


    Of course if there was no Solomon, there is no Zionism, nothing lost to justify the creation of Israel as a spearhead of Western colonialism in the Muslim countries of the Middle-East.

    The Friends of Israel at Westminster can now go back to thinking about how to rule the country instead of how to weaken Israel’s enemies and enrich Israel. This would slowly bring the deficit back under control and restore the respect of politicians.

    The opposition can now oppose instead of being the same thing. you know, how it used to be in the days of Harold Wilson. we could openly and freely condemn illegal Regime Change by the West because Israel would no longer exist and we wouldn’t have to blame Russia for shooting down civilian planes because we wouldn’t be trying to convince Saudi Arabia that we were supporting regime change in Syria.

    Yes, of course the world looks rosier and safer without Zionist neo-colonialism. We are waiting for it to happen.

  • john

    ”the King of England himself”.

    Can you explain, Craig why your king stopped being the King of Britain? How did he lose Scotland, Ireland and Wales. When you were sworn in as Ambassador, did you make allegiance to the Queen of England or Britain?

    Shame on you Craig.

    I suspect your cultural imperialism is the answer.

  • Mary

    The Boxing Day Massacre.

    January 7, 2015

    At least that’s what it would have been called had the victims been white Europeans rather than nameless, faceless Afghan civilians.

    Allow Agence France-Presse to elaborate:

    Afghan officials said that a Nato air strike on Friday killed five civilians and wounded six others, just days before the US-led military coalition ends combat operations in the country.


  • Ba'al Zevul

    Thanks, Mike Martin, for your clarification, for the benefit of all we uninitiated. What really grabs the fertile imagination of a conspiracy theorist is the secrecy aspect. Everyone’s affairs (except his, typically – he really hates security cameras) are required to be open for scrutiny by all, and secret is a synonym for sinister, in all cases, by definition.

    As far as I can see the Masons enable networking between members, as do working-mens’ clubs, golf clubs, any large commercial or educational organisation, and especially the public-school-Oxbridge nexus which supplies most of our political leaders. For this last, networking is the name of the game, which is why public schools ask idiotic fees and why Oxford, at least as far as its arts side goes, is finely-tuned to recruit the offspring of influential parents.

    Networking – and beyond that, corruption – are not especially enhanced by being secret. They can be done equally well, and are, in the open, where conspiracy theorists tend not to notice because (theoretically) accessible networks are part of the mainstream culture. You don’t need robes, regalia and mystery plays to stitch up a contract. All you need is a quiet word in the right ear. The access point for your council chief exec is probably your local pub.

    In any case the definition of secrecy as regards an ancient craft guild whose members wear identifying tiepins, cufflinks, whatever, in daily life, and sometimes march en masse through their town (as in Oban, where policemen you have never seen on the street can be seen there with their brethren, annually), is IMO a rather shaky one.

    Please keep us informed.

  • Abe Rene

    Sir Richard Burton is quoted as saying that sufism was the Eastern parent of freemasonry. That could account for some of the things you mention. Such men may well have been helped by fellow freemasons (including acquaintances of His Majesty), and gone into Afghanistan because of a spiritual quest, perhaps after the manner of the character Larry Darrell (in India), in Somerset Maugham’s novel “The razor’s edge”.
    However I understand that sufis often have a liberal outlook, and in Afghanistan the fundamentalist Taliban gave them a hard time, causing many to leave the country.

  • Paul Barbara

    My understanding is that though the ‘Temple of Solomon’ is given to Masons, the hierarchy know that it is really the ‘Temple of Solomon’ that the Templar’s found their ‘secrets’ and treasures (or maps thereto) from.
    Just as 30* Scottish Rite and above learn that it is really Lucifer that is their real Master (though I’m sure many twig before then).
    Coincidentally (and I don’t believe in coincidences), just before I thought I would check out Craig’s site, I was sorting some old photos, and came across the ones I took of Rosslyn Chapel, and old Templar gravestones nearby. I also came across some I took in Auschwitz/Birkenau; not very pretty, no matter how many deaths there actually were.

  • Paul Barbara

    Correction: I meant the real Temple was ‘Herod’s Temple’, not ‘Solomon’s’. Rosslyn is built to the same ground plan, and the same directional orientation.
    Interestingly, Rosslyn is where ‘Dolly the Sheep’ was ‘created’, at Roslin Bio Centre (Roslin seems to be the modern spelling; the chapel is called ‘Rosslyn Chapel’. I strongly suspect a link to Masonry in Dolly’s ‘creation’ (but then I would, wouldn’t I?).

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