Stars, from the dawn of time, have always been a fascinating phenomenon to man. Many believe that stars represent a supreme being, as it is the case with the Order of the Eastern Star (OES). With over half a million members globally and 10,000 chapters in 20 countries, The OES is one of the largest fraternal organizations in the world whose stated goals are of science and education, fraternity, and charity.
Although the organization accepts members of both genders, membership is — sort of — restricted to men with Masonic ties. For a woman to be accepted as a member of the OES, she must have a specific relationship with a master mason. However, women from certain masonic organizations are welcome to become members. The OES is based mainly on teachings from the bible but it accepts members from all religious beliefs.
The OES is a secret society akin to the Freemasons. In fact, most of the members of these organizations identify with both groups. Also, both organizations seem to work in concert. However, the OES claims that it's not a secret society. With over 500,000 men and women members in different parts of the world, OES maintains that it's the largest global fraternal organization. For the most part, everything about this society is shrouded in mystery.
The organization's stated goals are of science and education, fraternity, and charity — according to their official website. Supposedly, the Order promotes personal goodness and moral values. That's all in an effort to build an order that's truly committed to truth, charity, and loving kindness.
The cause seems noble, even biblical, but the organization has been highly criticised for a number of reasons e.g. its secrecy and the fact that all are obviously not welcome to the society. And, while the society maintains they are not a secret society, the secret code words and handshakes show otherwise.
There are many stories regarding the history and origin of this fraternal organization. Some believe that the OES was the first inception of "Androgynous Degrees" — or degrees for both men and women — and "Female Masonry." According to researchers, the organization dates back to the beginning of the 16th century in France but there's not enough evidence to back these claims.
Using the data that's currently available, researchers have divided the history of this society into three eras. First, is the one that extends from 1850-1866, which was led by, a Poet Laureate of Masonry, Dr. Rob Morris. The second era, which was led by Robert Macoy of New York, extends from 1866-1876.
The General Grand Chapter of the OES was founded in 1876. The period from the founding of the General Grand Chapter in 1876 to this day represents the third era. The real origin of the Order of the Eastern Start comes in the first era, under Dr. Rob Morris, there's no doubt about that. Dr. Morris had penned many resources on Masonry, including many publications that you will find in libraries today.
Dr. Morris believed that Masonry should be for the whole family, not just a preserve of men. But women were not eligible for Masonry degrees, and Dr. Morris knew that. He also knew that he couldn't change the ancient landmarks of Masonry. That's why he came up with a method that allowed women to share the same inspiration with the Masonic Brother.
Dr. Morris's idea was to create a doctrine that would 'prompt a man to noble deeds.' The present initiatory form of the Order of the Eastern Star was developed in 1850. It was during this period that Dr. Rob Morris came up with symbolism and the significance of the corps of officers as well as the floor plan. He then conferred the degrees upon his daughters and wife, neighbours, and other women in his life.
As a way of making themselves known to the master masons, he clothed the ladies with certain signs and names. The so-called mysteries and signs of the Order were conveyed freely to master masons and their kin. Prominent masons — including Dr. Rob Morris himself — started giving lectures and conferring degrees to other women across the country.
Despite the fact that the Order of the Eastern Star, as a fraternity organization, is cloaked in mystery and mysticism, some believe that it's a Christian-based organization that simply observes rituals and traditions that support historic and fraternal bonds. But one of the requirements for one to be adopted into the OES family is a belief in a supreme being, which spreads the idea that OES is a Christian-based organization.
There is no evidence to link the organization with any demonic activities. So, is this organization a force of good or evil? Well, the Order of the Eastern Star does seem to be an organization that has nothing but good intentions for its members and society in general. The teachings are almost biblical, not to forget the organization's stated goals of science and education, fraternity, and charity.
However, there also seems to be a lot of secrecy and ambiguity with regard to its theology and other important matters. Anyone considering a membership to OES or any society or organization whose origin and entire existence is shrouded in mystery should do their due diligence and make sure the organization represents their beliefs and makes them a better person.