A vintage postcard from the Wilhelmine Era of the figure Germania guarding the Hermannsdenkmal or Arminius Statue at the Teutoburg Forest, Nordrhein-Westphalen. Yet who exactly was Hermann or Arminius?
The story begins something like the Asterix comic book: The year is 9 A.D. Germania is entirely occupied by the Romans. Ganz Germania? Nein!One small band of Germanic tribes holds out against the invadors! Yet the story of Arminius, while later becoming the stuff of German national legend, is not a comic but founded utterly upon reality.
Arminius was a Germanic hero of the Middle Ages, for it was he who led the routing of a Roman army at the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in the year 9 A.D. His name in German was Hermann or Armin, so it is ironic that he is also well known by the Latin name Arminius. Latin was highly regarded in the nineteenth century as a language of culture and learning in both Germany and in the Anglo-Saxon world, so it is not surprising that Arminius Lodge carries forth this Latinized form of the name.
While Arminius did not single-handedly defeat the Roman empire, he was able to unite various Germanic tribes and to take advantage of knowledge of the terrain and Germanic notions of courage in order to secure an historic victory against the Romans. Indeed, Arminius’ victory marked the beginning of a series of setbacks and retreats from Northern Europe for the Romans and ultimately led to the rise of Northern Europe in terms of cultural and geopolitical power. Arminius became a larger-than-life figure in the highly romanticized history of the Germanic past in the nineteenth-century. He was used as a symbol of resistance to the Napoleonic occupation of Germany and later as an exhaltation towards German reunification in the 1870’s — the period of the founding of Arminius Lodge across the Atlantic Ocean in Washington, D.C.
It is superfluous to state that Arminius Lodge celebrates living Masonic ideals of tolerance in the present as opposed to a romanticizing the violent, militarist past. Perhaps the Grand Master of Free and Accepted Masons of the District of Columbia, in his 2012 visitation and address to Arminius Lodge # 25, put Armnius Lodge’s view best when he encouraged our members to follow the robust spirit of our namesake Arminius, but for the purpose of promoting Masonic ideals and German language and culture to the Masonic world as well as to the community at large!
Another Arminius / Ein zweiter Arminius
The following article appeared in the Arminius Bulletin of February 2013.
“Spiritus redeat ad Deum qui dedit illum . . .The spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” (Ecclesiastes, 12: 7) This expression must . . . be understood in reference to all the spirits of men of every description . . . – Jacobus Arminius*
Arminius Lodge is named after Arminius, the great Germanic warrior. However, there is another famous Arminius about who is of interest historically and, indiectly, for the cultural-historical background of Arminius Lodge.
Jacobus Arminius [1560-1609] was born Jakob Hermanszoon [Jacob, Her-man’s son] in Oudewater in the Province of Utrecht, Kingdom of the Netherlands. An orphan, he showed such promise that friends and local teachers and business-men sponsored his education at the University of Leiden, where he earned the first doctorate in divinity ever awarded at that university.
He rapidly earned a reputation for exceptional scholarship, outstanding character, broadness of spirit, and mildness of temper. At great personal cost he taught – during a period of extreme religious intolerance and prejudice– that a person should be judged on the merits of his words and actions, rather than on the basis of creed or political affiliation. Arminius was also condemned for opposing the then-popular view that the Supreme Being arbitrarily elects some men to go to heaven and others to hell. Instead, Arminius taught that the Creator had endowed all men with the ability to freely choose a consecrated life of virtue and celestial destiny, or a path of vice, discord, and destruction.
In the English-speaking world, the two most famous followers of Arminius were the brothers John and Charles Wesley, the founders of British and American Methodism. John Wesley published the first known popular account of the life and work of Arminius in 1778. Today Methodism is the second largest Protestant denomination in the United States, and the Arminian understanding of the Divine Will and the need for moral and intellectual self-cultivation remain central to the Methodist tradition to the present day. Jacobus Arminius’ independent inquiry into scripture and doctrine places him in a long tradition of those wishing to provide moral and spiritual tools to assist their fellow men in their personal and collective understanding of the divine, and on the vanguard of a tradition which would lead to an explosion of religious and philosophical movements in the eighteenth-century, including Free-Masonry. Thus, Jakob Hermanszoon is another Arminius in Germanic culture members of the lodge might wish to remember.
— John Bozeman, Undergraduate Program Chair of the Washington,
D.C., campus of Argosy University, contributed this piece to Arminius
Bulletin. He holds an M.A. in European and American Religious
History from the University of Virginia.
*Arminius, James. The Works of James Arminius. Trans. James Nichols. Vol. 1. Buffalo, NY: Derby, Miller, and Orton, 1853