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Benevolence and Freemasonry

Updated on July 21, 2011
Silver Thaler
Silver Thaler

Here's a little story that I've researched over the years that not only is continuation of the Kahana stories but also deals with Freemasonry. It's a story about my third great grandfather Jakob Goldenthal, a name you're becoming familiar with if you're reading my hubs,since only he was in a position that could make this act of benevolence significant enough that it would be recorded. I'm not certain how much some of you may or may not know about Freemasonry, but coincidentally being a freemason myself (see ) and a historian, it meant that I access books that most people don't usually spend time reading. Over a year ago at year-end I was asked to do a lodge speech on Benevolence. Benevolence, in Freemasonry, is more than charity and goodwill. It is about giving people the tools and opportunity to improve their own lot in life. And, when we look in Mackey's Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, we find that benevolence is applied not only to mankind but to the animal world as well. This is a unique concept, which makes the spirit of giving very different amongst Masons. So what does any of this have to do with my third great-grandfather, Jakob, well, I can honestly say that Jakob was a benevolent soul. Sure as long as we overlook his guilt for absconding with the town money from Brody, Galicia when he didn't enroll in rabbinical school but instead used the money to enroll at the University of Leipzig. And we also have to overlook the fact that he left his first family all alone (wife and children back in Romania), and may have had a legacy of possible daliances with women in Vienna but that's okay he married Rosa only after Joanna died. I just don't know when the first wife left in Romania died. Hopefully it was before he married Joanna or else I have to add something else to Jakob's long list of accomplishments. Perhaps guilt was the driving force behind his benevolent actions. Unfortunately the story of his benevolence became distorted but at least certain articles in Masonry have preserved some of it. One of these distorted stories talks about a wealthy businessman from Galicia that used to give out money to young boys to pursue their educational studies on the condition that they adopted his surname of Goldenthal. It was not too long ago that someone related this story to me because some relative of theirs remembered it from their days back in Romania. Before I actually tell you what was behind this story, I think I should explain that this was not possible, as one couldn't adopt the name Goldenthal in this simple manner, especially since it was an old reserved German aristocratic name. My third great grandfather only received the surname because Oswald von Goldenthal, the magister or burgermeister of the town of Goldenthal (Zoekke wrote a very intriguing story about the town) legally adopted my ancestor because he had no surviving heirs of his own. So as a German aristocratic name, it was not available for sale when people were adopting surnames after the Napoleonic wars. The actual story of his benevolence is as follows: you see, old Jakob was a man well ahead of his time being a linguist, a philosopher and also a scientist he was a founding member of the Austrian Fellowship of Sciences, and a fellow of what was referred to as "secret" societies. Freemasonry which he was introduced to by Oswald was still considered an illegal society in Austria, and even though so many high officials and university personnel belonged to it they had to pretend they didn't as it was Verboden! Since we tend to follow in the footsteps of our ancestors due to our Genetically Linked Memories it would explain my desire to be a freemason as well. Now as a freemason, Jakob wanted to demonstrate his benevolence which is an obligation of all members. But being Jakob he wanted to make certain everyone knew about it even though he couldn't publicly say that he was a freemason. If you were to look up in Mackey's encyclopedia of Freemasonry, you'll find the term Goldenthaler listed. But I'm afraid Mackey wasn't one big on asking the right questions, and when he came across this tidbit of information from the Germanic lodges, he simply incorporated it into his book exactly how he was told without any in depth research. So we can forgive him his errors when he didn't bother to investigate the discrepencies. You see, Mackey recorded the Goldenthaler as a German custom during the middle of the nineteenth century, when on each Saint John's day, the freemasons would go to their common houses (lodges) or temples and donate a golden Thaler coin to the collection plate to aid widows and orphans but particularly for the education of these children. On the surface it sounds like an amazing coincidence that orphaned children (hint: children with no last name so to speak) would be provided with an educatin. When you dig deeper, you realise there are very few coincidences in life. Mackey failed to appreciate that this donation only happened for a short period of time in regards to the overall scheme of masonic history. He also didn't question how it was possible for regular people to give up a gold coin each year considering that such a coin represented a lot of money at that time, most of them didn't even have one to give. He also didn't know that the gold coin was called a Ducat not a Thaler. The Thaler (see the picture of the Thaler above) was the silver coin of Austria, whereas the Mark was used in Germany as its silver coinage. So the term of thaler was not even common to the German world as he believed. What he was reporting accurately though was a Benevolence fund. A fund that was established to help young boys pursue educational venues that they normally wouldn't have had access to. This was a chance for Jakob to give back in a sense the money he took from the town of Brody to enrol himself in the University of Leipzig. Funds that he took in order to pursue an education that he would normally not have been made available to him. And even though a warrant had been taken out for his arrest should he ever return to Galicia he made certain that the children back in Galicia had the opportunity to be educated. But even more, he extended the same opportunity to children in Germany, Romania and Austria as well. It was gratitude to Germany where he obtained his education and appreciated to his adopted homeland of Austria where he lived from 1846 to 1867 before dying. This time period corresponds to the few decades in the middle of the nineteenth century when the benevolence donation was made. Unfortunately, nothing in the order of a trust fund was available and it could not continue after his death. And like so many bursaries, or funds, they're named after the person donating the generous gift. In this case "the Goldenthaler". So, it's easy to see and understand the confusion this caused for those that believed the orphaned children had to adopt his surname as the price of receiving their education, cause on a particular day back then being "a Goldenthaler" meant you were one of Jakob's special kids. It would be nice to think that we don't have to be Freemasons to keep up the tradition. But its also good to know that contrary to those stories that talk about Freemasons attempting to take over the world, this is what they actually do.


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    • Kahana profile image

      Kahana 6 years ago

      Pharmacy, the answer to that has to do with the Golden-Thaler, which was a coin that never existed but a reference to the philanthropic grants that many children received for education in a time when that was unheard of. Grants provided for by Jakob.

    • profile image

      pharmacy 6 years ago

      This is a unique concept, which makes the spirit of giving very different amongst Masons. So what does any of this have to do with my third great-grandfather, Jakob, well, I can honestly say that Jakob was a benevolent soul.

    • Darrell Roberts profile image

      Darrell Roberts 8 years ago

      Very nice. It is nice to see people helping others.

      I wish you the best.