"To preserve the reputation of the Fraternity unsullied must be your constant care."


Monday, December 03, 2018

'Death-Metal' Band GHOST Members Allege Masonic Conspiracy in Legal Fight

Former members of the Swedish 'death-metal' band Ghost are suing their lead singer and frontman, business manager, primary studio musician, and principal songwriter, Tobias Forge in a Swedish court over a dispute about royalties and unpaid salaries. The original lawsuit was filed in April 2017. 

Until the filing of the original suit, all of the band's members had spent the previous eleven years hiding their identities from the public, appearing in masks, and using character names only. 

For many years, Forge himself appeared onstage as a series of demonic anti-popes called 'Papa Emeritus.' In 2012, he retired his papal character, and replaced it with a less theatrically dramatic but equally Catholic-esque one called 'Cardinal Copia.'

I'm getting to the Freemasonry part.

Since Ghost always appeared in masks or makeup onstage and in public and hid their identities, anyone could have been performing under them. They were referred to only as Nameless Ghouls. Forge himself reportedly did the bulk of the creative work behind the scenes and in recording sessions, but the band members apparently decided that he had essentially become a solo act and had crowded them out, taking advantage of their anonymity, and just paying them a fixed salary for their services. Hence the lawsuit over US$22,000 they claim to have been entitled. It's more complicated than that, I'm not a lawyer, and I don't speak Swedish, but that's the gist. In fact, the public wouldn't have known any of the band members' names – including Forge's – had the lawsuit never been filed by the former Nameless Ghouls. The plaintiffs in the case were Martin Hjertstedt, Henrik Palm, Mauro Rubino and Simon Söderberg.
Well, Forge won the lawsuit over a year ago in October, sticking the plaintiffs with his US$145,000 legal fees. The band members stewed over their loss for a year (along with spending their own legal fees of over US$300,000), and then pulled a hoary old trick out of their attorney's briefcase last week: file an appeal, and blame 'the Freemasons.'

According to an article on the Revolver website:
The former band members began the appeal process after the ruling last month, and now their attorney claims judge Henrik Ibold was "being disloyal" to his judicial duties and showing favoritism to Forge as the two both reportedly belong to the Freemasons, a centuries-old fraternal organization that describes itself as "beautiful system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols." Ibold denies the claims, but admitted to a Swedish newspaper that he had heard rumors of Forge's potential membership in the same order as him: The Swedish Freemasonry Order. When the same paper contacted Forge's lawyer, she refused to comment. As of now, judge Göta Hovrätt has not made a decision on whether to try the case in appeals court.
The Swedish news site NE.SE mentioned above does provide a bit more information. I include it below with the usual disclaimer that it has been run through the Bing translator, since my sole knowledge of Swedish vocabulary consists of the word smörgåsbord:
The dispute has now taken an unexpected turn. Lawyer Michael Berg, who represents the former members, in a submission to the Court of appeal asked that the entire trial in the District Court shall be repeated. The lawyer accuses Alderman Henry Ibold, who was the presiding judge in the District Court, to have been disqualified. The reason is that Henrik Ibold is a member of the Swedish Freemasons. Also the band leader Tobias Forge is a member of the same [order] and both he and Alderman Ibold belong, according to the lawyer, the section within the [organization] which go under the name "Fourth Division", which includes, inter alia, the order's lodges in [the city of] Linköping. The lawyer believes that this relationship will [affect] impartiality in the case [and] could be questioned.
We spoke on Thursday with Alderman Henry Ibold. He did not know at that time that the lawyer had turned to the Court of Appeal. He says it is up to the Court to determine if he was disqualified or not when he ruled in the case.
"It goes to the appellate court judge. I don't have any opinion about it in my role as singled out as being disqualified. It may be handed over to someone else to decide.
Did you know that the Forge was a member of the Freemasons?
"I did not know that he was a member of the Masonic order. However, I had heard some rumor that it could be so.
It feels unpleasant to be accused of conflict of interest?
– No, it does not. I do not think that the Court will consider that there is conflict of interest," says Henrik Ibold.
We have also been in contact with Tobias Forges lawyer, Ann-Charlotte S Birch. Nor did she felt on Thursday that other party is accusing the judge of bias.
"I have no idea. I am not speaking about this," she said.
In his submission to the Court of appeal Attorney Berg invokes an excerpt from the Swedish Masonic Order's general laws that, among other things, provides that a member of the order must always tell the truth. The lawyer writes: "For Henry Ibold, it must have been impossible to objectively and impartially assess the probative value of the evidence that Tobias Forge has given".
The submission to the Court of appeal shows that the former members of Ghost first found out on November 14 that Henry Ibold was a member of the Masonic Order. It is apparent that they have investigated Ibold's and Forge's membership by taking advantage of the Order's roll.
Göta Court of appeal had not yet taken a position on Thursday to the claim that the trial should be in the District Court.
Now, all of this is very curious. Claiming that Masonic judges give preference to other Masons at trial is inane nonsense, and always has been. Masonic obligations are to help a Brother in need if possible, but not to violate the law or the ethics of our professions. Plus, if both Forge and Judge Ibold really are members of the fraternity in Sweden, them winding up in the same courtroom together was a sheer coincidence. Sweden today has about 15,400 members of the regular, recognized Swedish Order of Freemasons. But in the conspiracy lovers' world — especially when Freemasonry is bandied about — there's no such thing as coincidence. Of course, what an appeals judge will or will not permit to go forward is anybody's guess these days. 

But there's another niggling question that lingers about Tobias Forge's alleged membership in Swedish Freemasonry.

Many fans have pointed out that a couple of their songs contain Masonic-tinged lyrics – notably, 'Square Hammer' ("Are you on the square? Are you on the level?")

Unlike the vast majority of Freemasonry in the world, regular, recognized Freemasonry in Sweden is a Christian organization. The Swedish Order of Freemasons (Svenska Frimurare Orden) is officially under the royal patronage of the King of Sweden, Carl XVI Gustaf, and it is closely associated with the Lutheran Church of Sweden, the country's official state religion. Consequently, it is an unusual Masonic jurisdiction that admits Christian men only as members, which has caused some discomfort and more than a little heartburn with many other Masons around the world who stick purely to the religious requirement outlined in Anderson's Constitutions ("to oblige them to that Religion in which all Men agree"). In fact, over the years some Masons have suggested withdrawing amity with the Swedish Order because of this conflicting membership requirement that denies membership to Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and others. 

It should be noted here that Swedish lodges don't demand visitors from other jurisdictions be Christians only, just their own members. 

(There is one notable and regular alternative in Sweden for non-Christans to join. Since the early 2010's, the Grand Lodge of Finland, which was founded in the 1920s with a charter from the Grand Lodge of New York, has operated a District Grand Lodge of Sweden with the permission of the Swedish Rite. The lodges chartered by the Grand Lodge of Finland work using a Swedish-language version of the Finnish ritual, which is essentially the American Craft ritual used by the Grand Lodge of State of New York. Their lodges merely require that candidates are men who profess faith in a Supreme Being and the immortality of soul, and do not require a profession of specifically Christian faith.)

The Swedish Rite is a very different system of integrated degrees than Americans and most other English-derived Masons are used to, and it is worked in the Nordic countries of Finland, Denmark, Iceland, and Norway as well. Unlike our systems of lodge degrees with optional appendant bodies which may be variously joined according to the desires of candidates and members, there are a total of eleven degrees in the Swedish Rite, divided into four divisions, and which must be conferred in strict order. It has a distinct hierarchy which is unusual to us. 

What we know as the three Craft Lodge degrees are called the First Division (1-3), which are conferred in St. John's Lodges. The Second Division consists of three degrees (4-6) of what are Scottish or St. Andrew's Lodges. The Third Division comprises four degrees (7-10), and these are conferred in Provincial Grand Lodges, or Chapters. 

The Fourth Division (to which Judge Ibold and Tobias Forge are both alleged to belong in the story above) consists of just one degree, the 11th, known as Most Enlightened Brother, Knight Commander of the Red Cross. It is extremely limited, and there were only about 60 Knight Commanders in Sweden in 2015. There is also a Civil Order of Knight Commander that is controlled and conferred by the King. It is called the Royal Order of King Karl XIII, and is limited to just 33 Knight Commanders. It is not a Masonic degree. Because of the extremely limited number of such honors, there is an even greater spookiness assigned to this small group by detractors than what we put up with in the U.S. over our 33rd degree Scottish Rite Masons. So naturally, it becomes an easy shorthand to accuse someone of being part of this "inner sanctum" and rarified air of the Fourth Division. Which brings us back to the allegations made in the appeals case over Ghost.

The question that arises over Tobias Forge's alleged membership in Swedish Masonry comes back to its Christian requirement, versus his public persona as Ghost's frontman. As Ghost's vocalist, songwriter and all-around mastermind, Forge cooked up a string of 'Satanic popes' — Papa Emeritus I, II and III — for each of the band's first three albums. The characters appeared onstage in skull makeup and a papal mitre, occasionally singing odes to Lucifer and the other usual staples of 'death metal' music like zombies, ghouls, vampires and the like. What many now have branded as Occult Rock. In interviews, Forge wore skull makeup and was simply another Nameless Ghoul, like his other band members. The band quickly became notorious as Europe and Metal's oddest music act, and the mystery was a huge part of the performance on and off the stage. Audiences ate it up, and even the press gladly refrained from exposing their real names, faces and private lives online. 

Tobias Forge

Their act is its own brand of campiness in much the same way that Alice Cooper presented himself in the 1970s. In reality, Forge looks like a clean-cut guy in his early 30s. He's got a wife and kids, and a pretty typical middle class social life. But interviews present a different character, and he has said he became a Satanist as a young boy.

From Revolver:
Tobias Forge is standing in a church. He's six or seven years old. He's with his mom. She works in a gallery. She appreciates art. She wants her son to appreciate art, too. "She was always very keen on taking me to churches," he explains. "She might say now in older age that she's sort of borderline religious, but back then it was just treating churches like museums."
One particular church in Linköping stood out. It was built in the 1500s. It was Catholic. It was creepy. "It had that evil feel, with a lot of old, scary paintings and big stained-glass windows and all that stuff I've sort of carried forth with me," Forge says. "It felt like a magical place. On the other hand, I think it triggered a lot of the opposition that made me, in my adolescence, so unquestionably throw my hands into the hands of Satan."
Satanic-panic movies and imagery have been a staple of teenaged entertainment ever since the 1950s (and even earlier), and Forge has been playing a carefully crafted public character for nearly a decade now that depends heavily on an anti-religious and Satanic image in public. He seems uneasy with trying to balance that with his loss of anonymity now that has exposed him as just this regular guy. 

Which brings us full circle to the lawsuit's allegation that he's a Swedish Freemason, which predicates membership on a profession of Christianity. Freemasonry is not in any way, shape or form related to, or welcoming of, any sort of association with 'Satanism' of any kind. Regular Freemasonry requires a belief in a Supreme Being by its members, and leaves a man's private faith to his own conscience. But if a Masonic lodge were to discover that a petitioner's private faith was any variation of actual Satanism, it would undoubtedly be deemed incompatible with the values of the fraternity by investigating committees and the voting members of the lodges. But especially in a grand jurisdiction requiring Christianity as a requirement of membership, as Sweden does, membership would be impossible under any circumstances.

All of this long winded tale is really an examination of how anti-Masonic smears and allegations take on a life of their own. The Swedish Order hasn't said publicly whether Forge is a Mason or not, and probably has no intention or desire to reveal if he is. Judge Ibold has acknowledged his membership, and there's certainly no reason for him to hide from it, since the Swedish Order is so deeply connected with the Swedish royalty. But the former band members and their lawyers have obviously decided it's worthwhile to try to make something out of it all by making the allegations of impropriety a part of their most recent legal actions, along with the prerequisite yakking to the press just to make sure that Freemasonry gets branded as something suspicious.

And there's the question that sits at the top of the whole tale. If Forge is a Freemason in the Swedish Rite, how does he explain his purported adherence to Satanism? Or was it always an act all along? And how did the brethren who investigated him manage to reconcile that to admit him into a Christian-only Masonic lodge? Is he really a Mason at all, or is it just a desperate anti-Masonic accusation made by a desperate attorney with desperate clients who are desperate to claim a conspiracy instead of paying their legal bills? 

Or is it all just an elaborate circular hoax on everybody's part?

Just remember that Alice Cooper, the godfather of heavy metal shock rock who is credited with introducing horror and occult imagery into rock music theatrics, is a Born-Again Christian.

NEW FOR 2018


  1. What iS refered to as division is not degree related but rather its has to do with how we are structured in provinces. Sweden (and finland where we have lodges due to historical reasons) is split up into 8 diffrent provinces based on geographical area.

    The XI° (or R&K) is handeld by our GL directly.

    I dont think one should hold his breath and wait for the GL to say anything.

  2. Fascinating and entertaining post. The video is definitely full of carnality.

    Knight Commanders (11th Degree) of the Red Cross are present or past Grand Officers and Grand Council members of the Swedish Rite. There were approximately 60 Knight Commanders in 2015. There is also a Civil Order controlled and conferred by the King. It is called the Royal Order of King Karl XIII and is limited to 33 Knight Commanders,and is not a Masonic degree.

    The Judge may indeed be a Knight Commander, but the little we know of Forge leaves me some doubt that he is a knight Commander or Mason at all. It would be interesting to see how the Grand Lodge of Sweden responds if Forge is a member.

    One final thought, I think it has been said by some Masonic researchers that at one time Freemasonry in England (or the rituals) was Christian in character. Now there may have been many reasons for this, if true. And I am not suggesting that the character of the past (a play on words here) determines the essence of the present which we have determined to be "Universal". But the idea put forth by these researchers; that Freemasonry had a Christian character until the Constitutions of Dr. Anderson, is interesting. Also interesting is that Swedish Freemasonry derived from French Christian lodges. Great post!

    1. Thanks for the clarifications. I will edit the passage accordingly.

  3. We would do well to bring the Swedish Rite to the US. It offers what Freemasonry is supposed to be, and not what it has devolved into. The degree system is the most beautiful in the world, and the rituals are the most powerful, and best of all based on the Original Moderns rituals for the St. John's degrees, the Original Elus and Scots Master degrees for the St. Andrews degrees, and the Strict Observance for the Chapter degrees. My contention is that his Satanism is a marketing ruse.

    1. Fifty-precent of my reason for this post was an excuse to write about the Swedish Rite for the vast majority of US Masons who know nothing about it.

      And yes, obviously Forge is doing the Alice Cooper act.

    2. Well said Brother. I am working to bring it here to DC. The question is are the Brethren ready for something this awesome?

    3. As a non-christian mason, thanks, but no thanks.

  4. Ghost fan here - No argument on the Freemason ties, but I will grouse about calling them death metal. Lol

    1. I nosed around a lot to see the consensus before I settled on it. Nomenclature wars over music classification is as old as music critics. Someone smarter than myself once said that writing about music is like dancing about architecture.

    2. Fair enough. :)

      Btw, I shared this to a Ghost fanpage that's been discussing the issue and talking about Freemasonry. My apologies if your comment queue fills up with... stuff.

  5. If we introduce the Swedish Rite then if the Grand Orient of France solution was embraced, letting lodges have distinctiveness -- coed, single sex, different rituals even such as Emulation as in the English grand lodge jurisdiction - then we would be on the road finally to universality and keeping these ritual treasures. As long as we have wars over recognition and regularity and exclude people for outdated and nonsensical and offensive reasons, we will only add to the devastating loss of members. Either we should rationalize the systems so that its the same ice cream store but with different flavors to choose from, or we should demand that all jurisdictions have the same standards regarding race, gender, religion. Either diversity within or homogeneity and boredom. Right now we have painted ourselves into a corner,damned by perceived prejudice in a society increasingly diverse. We need a bigger tent and to include not only Prince Hall but Hiram grand lodges, co-ed lodges, women's lodges: and it is up to the grand masters when they meet to do something rather than fiddle. Who will step forward?

  6. Great article, and thanks for spreading knowledge about our Swedish Rite.

    As mentioned above the 4th Division (4e Fördelningen in Swedish) is not about the degree system. The different degree stages are not numbered but only refererefered to as Lodges of S:t John, Lodges of S:t Andrew and Chapter Lodges. A division is the geographical area, and more important, all lodges within that area controlled by a Provincial Lodge. The Provincial Lodge is both governing the Lodges of S:t John and S:t Andrew in its area and acting as chapter conferring degrees VII to X. Wether the claimed memberships of Ibold and Forge in the 4th division are to be understood as membership in the Provincial Lodge in Linköping or Lodges under that Provincial Lodge's control is unknown to me.

    Fraternal greetings
    Per Börjel
    Degree XIII Swedish Order om Freemasons

  7. If I wrote something else my degree should be VIII.

  8. Forge has commented in a swedish newspaper article that he is pretty inactive as a freemason.

    1. His words - through his lawyer- is that he's been "particularly inactive" as a freemason and that he's never met the judge before the trial. In their objection they also point out that freemasons (as per the public bylaws) may not break Swedish law or favor other freemasons.
      Swedish newspaper reports at e.g. https://www.affarsliv.com/nyheter/linkoping/ghost-ledaren-har-aldrig-traffat-domaren-om5614011.aspx

  9. I find it interesting how folks always want to say we masons are corrupt people. Tobias knows things. But think about it. There’s tons of stuff on masonry all over the internet. I made my obligations through all the degrees and will not reveal anything to anyone not qualified. I love our wonderful fraternity.


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