An Evangelical Christian Looks at Bush’s Skull and Bones Initiation

Skull and Bones is a worrisome and strange Yale secret society. On August 17, 2000 there was an interview with President George W. Bush that bestirred controversy regarding his initiation into Skull and Bones. Time Magazine asked if it troubled him that he had been initiated into the Society when he was a young man. President Bush responded, “No qualms at all. I was honored.” Inevitably some people, knowing the Skull and Bones reputation of blasphemy, were surprised that the President said he was “honored.” Others, particularly Christians defended him saying, in effect, “Let’s put this aside. He was forgiven of that when he accepted Christ.” The disturbing fact, however, is that President Bush’s statement came many years after he announced he had accepted Jesus as his Lord and Saviour.

In that light, the more one learns about Skull and Bones, the more distressing the President’s statement becomes. It raises vexing questions for those of us who live our life in Christ and do so as evangelicals.

I thought about this deeply because coming to Christ is very important to me and I know the depth of soul searching that is the essence of the Christian tradition when one chooses to give one’s life to ones life to God. After reading the President’s statement, I felt compelled to investigate the actual content of the Skull and Bones ritual that he believed so honored him, hoping by this to understand the man who is President of the United States. And so I write this as a friend of the President’s soul, but also disturbed by what he has called to himself.

The fruits of my investigations revealed some details that are truly frightening that are not included even in Alexandra Robbins’ very revealing book, Secrets of the Tomb: Skull and Bones, the Ivy League and the Hidden Path to Power (Little Brown and Company, 2002) , a book that provides us with the most reliable account of the secret rites When the President was interviewed by Time he could be fairly certain that the nature of the initiation would remain a secret. Subsequently, Mrs. Robbins was able to find and interview scores of “Bonesmen” as they are called, who were willing to describe the rituals.

After reading the book, I prayed on whether I should write about the actual meaning of this ritual, specifically the meaning of one word, well-known to students of New Testament Greek: “eulogia.” (“Bonesmen” are called Knights of Eulogia.) Ultimately, I felt the message to speak of it, particularly to those of us who safekeep the Christian tradition in these dark times, because we need this information to properly evaluate other matters of great concern about the President.

I do this with a heavy heart. I can only imagine the burdens of being a President. And I certainly admit, as many of us will, to participating in activities as a young man that as an adult I regret and of which I believe I have repented. That is the way young men are. However, when I looked more deeply, I found these Skull and Bones rites to be of another nature than youthful indiscretions, and to have serious implications. Therefore I humbly offer this information so that people can think about this in their hearts.

Let me say some general things first about President Bush as a young man and about the family and times he was born into. In my quest for the truth about the meaning of the President’s Skull and Bones comments, I found myself looking deeper into the nature of his background that would lead him to Skull and Bones. I learned much about the dynamic relationship between him, his father and his grandfather. I came from this inquiry believing they played an important part in his initiation–in the power he gave it, in what he made of it and in who he become since. The Lord I believe led me to see that the initiation was not just a “frat boy’s spoof” for young George W. Bush but a serious rite of initiation for him with real consequences, affecting his thinking and behavior afterwards.

As we know, President Bush is the first-born son of a formidable father. He was to be his father’s heir. Some of his history as a boy, as a teenager, and especially in his twenties, is familiar to all of us, and we can’t help feeling affection and concern. It was in his early twenties that he began his twenty-year descent into alcoholism.

“When I was young and irresponsible, I behaved young and irresponsible,” President Bush says of this time. In this remark he clearly was not including as “irresponsible” his initiation into Skull and Bones, as witness the statement of this 54-year-old Christian man who says he was honored to be initiated.

It was in 1968 that the 22-year-old was initiated into the cult–as his father and grandfather Prescott had been before him. As had been his uncles Jonathan Bush, John Walker and George Herbert Walker II, his great-uncle George Herbert Walker, Jr. and cousin Ray Walker and numerous friends. Young George was very much following in the footsteps of his kinsmen. Such a multi generational experience, one imagines, inevitably intensifies the emotion and affects of the ritual and gives it more legitimacy and power.

The initiation takes place in an environment called The Tomb where one encounters human and animal skeletons and skulls. “The death’s-head logo stamps everything from crockery to painted borders on the wall.” (Robbins, p. 87). In this setting “Bonesmen” return weekly after the initiation to talk about what most matters to them. While many of the 1968 initiates spoke of Vietnam, George W. Bush is witnessed to have spent most of his presentations in the tomb speaking about his father–reportedly in “at God-like terms.” One of the President’s 1968 classmates has said that being in Skull and Bones made young George feel even closer to the line of ancestors who had been in the secret group before him–“it just kind of crystallized his value system.” (Robbins, p.178.) Skull and Bones, in this view, became important because it was sealing in young George a sense of identity with family as mutual practitioners of the Skull and Bones rituals and as adaptors of its beliefs.

We are seeing the powerful feeling that would come from being a Bush-clan member meeting up against the fragility and bravado of a 22-year-old man–an unformed young man compared to his father and the men in his family. I can imagine that the inner pressures on young George were mounting. The reports say he was known as a “party animal” when he was accepted into Yale. Being an outsider with a Texas accent, a famous father and sparse scholarly interest, our future President showed himself as openly contemptuous of Yale snobbery and thriving on the boisterous warmth of male bonding. I can see that at the moment of initiation into Skull and Bones, there was a coming into manhood question that had to be faced. As a young man beginning to discover himself, he carried the essential dilemma of any “chosen son”–effectively saying “I am of my father’s line (and proud of it) but I am most certainly not my father.” The reports of his drinking at the time make it clear that young George was showing his independence, that he was not controlled by his father’s patrician and very Yale sensibility. It was his turn to step into the stream of history but only on his own terms–or so a witness might conclude from the young man’s behavior.

In this brew of father worship and simultaneous rebellion and perhaps even disdain for some aspects of his father’s world, our future President entered the Tomb.

With a hood placed on his head, the text of the Robbins book reports, the initiate is “marched throughout the Tomb on a pseudo-tour, during which the knights and patriarchs shriek in high-pitched voices jokes about the initiate’s girlfriend or dog, akin to benign ‘yo’ mama’ cracks.” (p.119.) Although resembling Carnival rites in many cultures, in fact the ritual soon begins to teeter dangerously toward other dark ceremonies from anti-Christian secret societies of the past.

The society has a story it claims gives historical and even religious credibility and sanction to these rites. The society’s adopted myth states that the Roman goddess Eulogia ascended into heaven in 322 BC. The society’s lore refers to the ‘First Miracle of the origin of our Goddess’ (Robbins, p.84) and to her “second coming” toYale in 1832 to found the society. “Eulogia! Eulogia! Eulogia!” the “Bonesmen” shriek as the initiate is escorted into the inner temple before he is compelled to sign his name to an oath of secrecy.

After this the initiate is brought before a picture of Judas Iscariot, whose name the group screams three times, and then he is led to the heart of the rite: the initiate is pushed to his knees before a human skull filled with blood placed at the foot of a human skeleton called Madame Pompadour.

The crowd “implores him to ‘Drink it! Drink it! Drink it!'” and he does. Then he is hurried to a man dressed as the Pope. “But not before the D whips him in the face with his tail. The initiate bends to kiss the Pope’s slippered toe on the skull.” (Robbins, p.120.) This is the core of the very un-Christian and blasphemous rite that enfolded so many members of the Bush clan into the secret society, mirroring similar rites from earlier blasphemous societies and indeed even some devil-worshipping sects.

Now we must pause and consider these rites. What might they mean today? What do the initiators intend by havng young men in the rigors of modern education submit to these un-Christian rites? Whom do they hope the young men will become as a result? And what actually happens to those who undergo these rites?

I was shocked to discover that the Goddess Eulogia is a fabrication. And not a simple fabrication but one that leads us to something very specific. There never was a Roman goddess by that name. However, students of New Testament Greek know that eulogia is one of the names given to the sacrament as in St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians: “The cup of blessing (‘eulogia’) which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?” Alarming to me and perhaps it will be to you, rather than honoring the sacrament, we see that the secret society initiation culminates in a parody of partaking of the blood of Christ. This parody is known in other contexts as the sinful Black Mass. We know Black Mass is not truly parody but blasphemy and sacrilege. Invoking Judas, dishonoring the Pope and violating the sacrament is terrible sacrilege.

I believe I am neither exaggerating nor distorting to suggest that whatever young George’s confusion as to his being father’s heir, the initiation provided them with a shared secret. That secret is that both partook of the devil’s sacrament, in which the chalice is a human skull, and did so within a secret order explicitly committed to the accumulation of wealth and power, as the Robbins book makes clear.

As strange and troubling as all of this is, none of it would make a difference to a man who has repented and received Christ. God is good and generous beyond measure. But, oddly enough, although the President is professed to have joined us as an Evangelical in 1985 and speaks of the wonder-working power of faith and is witnessed as a religious man with daily prayer sessions at the White House, there is nowhere in the public record any details that he repented . Nor is there any evidence that he ever reflected on the implications of his initiation nor renounced the heart- chilling credo of wealth and power that he committed his soul to as a youth, thereby joining his lineage in this bond. Indeed, quite the opposite seems to be the case. As author Robbins has stated, “As president Bush has appointed fellow Bonesmen to high-level positions, such as Edward McNalley, the general council of the Office of Homeland Security and senior associate counsel on national security. Yet,although one of his first social gatherings at the White House was a Skull and Bones reunion, Bush feigned ignorance when asked recently about Bones: ‘The thing is so secret that I’m not even sure it still exists,’ he replied.” (Robbins, USA Today 25 September 2002).

It is right that we pray for Mr. Bush and pray fervently, for his soul is profoundly endangered.

A detail about the founding of Skull and Bones might help us understand the devil’s place in this ritual. As it turns out, shortly before founding the secret society, William H. Russell had spent a year in Germany. “When William Russell took some time off from Yale to study in Germany, he could very well have been introduced to a German student club with the death’s head logo, and then returned to Yale and set up a branch of that club.” (Robbins, p.82.) As it happens Russell’s time in Germany coincided with the completion of Goethe’s play “Faust”–the essential text that examines what it means to sell one’s soul to the Devil. Goethe died within weeks of completing this play, and all of Germany was alive with the celebration of the great man’s work in 1832. The first section of “Faust” had been released and had played in German theaters for years. It would be unlikely that Russell was unfamiliar with Goethe’s most famous work, which mirrors somewhat the Skull and Bones ritual, most specifically the secret signing he oath and the use of blood to seal the rite:

Faust: If this will satisfy you, then I say let us agree and put this farce to odd use.

Mephistopheles: Blood is a quite peculiar juice.

Faust sold his soul to the devil for power in this temporal world. Let us now be witness to the issue of the desire for power at all costs, and the desire for money that makes for power outside God’s world, as it played its (Faustian?) hand through the men in the Bush family line who have been initiated into this rite. I could not help but note the glaring reality that President Bush, his father George and his grandfather Prescott span three generations of profiting from war and trading with the enemy.

In 1924 Prescott Bush became manager of the United Steel Works of the Union Banking Corporation that was seized in October, 1942, by the U.S. government. Prescott was charged with “running Nazi-funded groups in the United States.” He was involved in the use of slave-labor in Southern Poland, and Congressional investigators found that United Steel Works supplied 50.8 percent of the pig iron needed by the Nazi war machine.

Ten years later he was elected U.S. Senator from Connecticut.

George (Senior), in the 1980s, was involved in arming Iran in its bloody war against our then ally Iraq. (The United States, I have also painfully learned, armed Saddam Hussein against Iraq,including providing him ingredients for chemical warfare. Among other reasons there was a great deal of money to be made arming both sides of such a war by companies that were financially supporting the election campaigns of the Reagan and Bush administrations.)

Prescott Bush was involved with Union Banking, while George W. (Junior), I discovered in my researches, was involved with the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, partially owned by Osama bin Laden’s ber-in-law Khalid bin Malfouz . Bank of Credit was called by the U.S. Senate “one of the largest criminal enterprises in history.” Before September 11, 2001, Malfouz was identified as a major supporter of bin Laden’s Jihad. George W. Bush’s business relations with the bin Laden’s go back to the 1970s, when Mr. Malfouz arranged a sweetheart loan of $25 million to bail out of the troubles of his failing oil business.

It has been well-established that members of the bin Laden family other Saudi nationals were flown from America at a time after 9/11 when no airlines flew American skies. Former Presidential advisor Richard Clark has said he approved some Saudi departures after the general flying ban on aircraft was lifted, based on information from the FBI. But who made the decision to approve the flight that took place before the flying ban was lifted, remains a secret, as does the reasons why.

The question of who profits from war must be addressed in Iraq as it had been in World War II with President Bush’s grandfather. With grieved heart, when I looked to answer this, having been led to this journey by what I learned about Skull and Bones, I found that the companies that are profiting from huge contracts are those closest to and most generous with the President’s political party and closest to administration officials, including the Vice President.

And, of course, the lies and exaggerations that led to the war- the non-existent weapons of mass destruction, the non- existent ties between Hussein and Al Qaeda- are now the reality of the daily news. Over 2000 American dead and 30,000 Iraqi.

In this light, let us return then to President Bush having stated he had been “honored” to become a “Bonesman” and to his hosting the secret society members in the the House. Some have asked–is he in fact a true Christian? A few have suggested he sought to succeed as a politician after years of alcoholism and many failures in his career by drawing to himself a base of us evangelical voters. For myself, for a long time I deeply trusted the President because I believed he trusted God. I continued to trust him until some months ago . I am now sadly reminded of the words of Christ : “The devil is the father of lies.”

Soon after it became clear the President’s Iraq statements were gravely amiss, I came across the President’s remark about being “honored” as a member of Skull and Bones. Thus I began my quest to learn about Skull and Bones. I wondered if this could lie at the root of the contradiction between the President’s behavior and his professed faith. As scripture tells us: Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me–John 14:6.

When a man or woman truly accepts this, as we know, he or she must live in Christ and be true to His way and renounce the ways of the world that are built on falsehoods and the love of power. Finally, for me, there were the photos of torture in Iraqi prisons, and the news reports of unreleased videotape of children being tortured. This was soon followed by the Wall Street Journal’s revelations of the administrations legal efforts to avoid prosecution for torture. And more recently the White House efforts to veto John McCains efforts to outlaw torture. (McCain himself was tortured in Vietnam and claims that a policy of torture endangers Americans in Iraq.) More than ever I was alerted to the danger the President’s soul is in. Is it for a moment possible that a Christian could justify torture? Is he a Christian or have we been lied to?

The ancestral pattern is clear: Trading with the enemy and profiting from war. The Skull and Bones initiation, to the degree it sets young men on a path of ruthless worldly seeking and flaunting of Christian values, was successful. Prescott Bush’s legacy, it heart-renderingly appears, is alive and well and living in the White House–and if we are silent we are all implicated.

Prayer is the order of the day, for President Bush is before anything else a child of God.

“And the Devil, taking him up into a high mountain, showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the Devil said unto him, ‘All this power I give you and the glory of them; for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will give to if thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine.'” — The Gospel According to Luke