Mark Dawes, Staff Reporter
IT IS not uncommon for a person to quit a church, political party, business place or charity and then to denounce these organisations. But it is highly uncommon for someone to quit a lodge and then denounce it. B.K. Ashley has done both.
Beresford Keith Ashley, better known as B.K. Ashley, 60, was in his 30s when he joined the Rose of Trelawny No. 31 (Mechanics) Lodge. Today he is a well known Baptist evangelist, who worships at the Brown's Town Baptist Church in St. Ann, pastored by Rev. Everald Allen. B.K. has left no stone unturned in denouncing lodges and secret societies as satanic clubs.
He was recruited to the lodge by a supervisor at Kaiser Bauxite Company in St. Ann, because he was deemed to be a person with good leadership skills. His supervisor said to him: "I can't tell you what is involved in the lodge. It is a secret order, but it is the type of secret that is based on the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man." Lodge membership appealed to his ego, as it would give him a sense of prestige in the eyes of people he would want to impress. So he filled out an application form, complemented by a medical certificate.
On the day of the initiation, he was one of 10 persons who showed up at the lodge meeting place at 30 Market Street in Falmouth. "I, like the other candidates for membership, had to wear a black suit, black shoes, black socks, black tie, white shirt - to take a chair, knife and fork, and cup and saucer. I later learnt that the chair and the knife and fork were for the banquet which followed the initiation exercise," Ashley said.
"Every Mechanics lodge meeting place has an upstairs section and a downstairs. We were required to wait downstairs. Nobody was talking. Men were coming in and out with their black suit and they looked at you with a certain amount of disgust, because the whole lodge thing is built on fear. We were there for an hour or so, nobody saying anything and it was part of the suspense, until one man came and sat down with a sword and he kept tapping the sword on the ground. By this time I, and I am sure the other candidates for the lodge, were wondering what we are in for. The next thing you know, we are told 'come.' And we all got up and followed a man upstairs.
"You are then taken to an ante-room, and then you are told to take off your clothes except underpants and merino. Afterwards they give you a red pyjama pant with one leg and tell you to put it on. The room by this is in darkness. And a bit of black cloth is tied tightly over your eyes blocking vision. You hear sounds, but you don't know what is happening. Next thing, one by one you are taken to the worship room, the lodge itself or as it is sometimes called the inner chamber.
"Here the tiler, the keeper of the door, peeps through an aperture in the door and then opens it and shouts 'Enter, admit one'. Then he is taken in and is hit mildly over the head. A gavel is applied to knock off 'the rough edges' then I felt a sharp point of a compass against my breast. Then all ten came in. The next thing you know, you hear words purported to come from the Bible being spoken, "man was made in darkness and then God said 'Let there be light.' Once somebody says 'light' then the black cloth around the eyes is removed and the very first thing you see is a coffin with a full skeleton dressed in full black, with a skull looking up and swords pointing at the skeleton in the coffin as if pinning it down.
"The ones conducting the initiation say 'this is the state from which man came and we will have to return. This is just to show that we are all coming from the same source and will have to return and therefore we have a life that we must live and we must be our brothers keeper. A Bible is produced and we are given certain words on which we have to swear. This was being administered by people who included well-known headmasters and lay preachers.
"They took words from the Bible, and every time we repeated the particular oaths, they stomped their feet shouting 'sworn'. After going through this ritual we are given a pink regalia. When you are on your first degree, you are given a pink regalia and you are enrobed. You then put on your black clothes, then you promise some more, including if you share any part or parts of the secrets revealed to you that you should be killed, cut up in many pieces and pieces of your body be thrown upon the sea as it ebbs to and fro 24 hours per day. That could be an explanation for many missing persons. I later learnt that one of the chief reasons for the black suit is that it will not reveal or reflect blood. After the initiations a banquet was held.
The skeleton is to the lodge what the mace is to Parliament. Neither can be convened without such emblems. The skeleton, B.K. explained, had to be that of a former Mechanic lodge member of a certain degree, who had died for at least nine years. It was acquired through theft from a cemetery. The one used at his lodge was stolen from a cemetery in St. Thomas. It was kept hidden under the platform of the lodge's inner chamber.
Altogether, Ashley spent about eight years in the lodge, during which time he dabbled in astral projection and karate - two things which he swiftly declares today are intrinsically demonic. He was also at the time a heavy drinker, married but nevertheless a serious womaniser, and a regular pulpiteer as an Anglican lay minister in training.
Having committed himself to the Mechanics, B.K. was in it for the long haul. He rose rapidly within their ranks. He became an Illustrative Grand and as such was entitled to chair meetings of the brotherhood. The agenda of a typical meeting, he said, tended to explore ways to increase membership and the implementation of social projects. Great stress was also placed on taking care of fellow Mechanics i.e. being your brother's keeper.
Years passed and B.K. grew disillusioned with the fraternity. He was particularly concerned about the necessity of keeping a skeleton (the skull of which was placed on a lectern) in the midst of lodge proceedings. To move up the rank within the lodge it meant greater 'mastery' of the skeleton otherwise called the 'old man.' At one stage up, the Mechanics rung, he had to drink 'john crow b.... rum' (unprocessed rum) from the head of the skull to attain another degree. At another stage, the skeleton was removed from the coffin, and he was placed in the coffin and locked in it for about five minutes as part of the ritual to attain another degree.
One night when he was by then a Past Illustrative Grand, he said to those present: "Why do we need a skeleton to teach us about truth about the brotherhood of mankind." There were ripples of disbelief in the room, Ashley recounted, as they sensed that he was poised to abandon 'the faith'. He responded: "If nobody here can tell me why, then this is my last meeting. I will not be coming back to any more." Sure enough it was his last, and he walked out with his eyes facing the members for fear they might attempt to hurt him as he made his exit.
B.K. went home, and not many days later, fell to his knees and invited Christ into his heart to become his Saviour. He then confessed all his shameful lodge involvement and extra-marital affairs to his wife and the trust was impaired. It took about three years before his wife's trust was rebuilt.
The Mechanics brotherhood, he said, has not taken lightly his leaving. This has served to strengthen his vigilance. But he does not live in fear. He is secure in the knowledge that God is on his side. "That He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world," he explained.
A doctrinal difference with the Anglican church prompted B.K. to join the Baptist church where he is now a deacon and lay preacher.
Today, as he denounces the movement he was once a part of, B.K. stresses, "There is no compatibility whatsoever between Christianity and the lodge." He quotes regularly Ephesians 5 verse 11-12 which says: "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them for it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret."
Mark Dawes is a Staff Reporter. Send feedback firstname.lastname@example.org.