The following is a non-Mason’s assessment and view on modern Freemasonry and its history. This is a well-written article by Margaret Kohut, written in August 2006, essentially examining ‘Fact vs. Fiction’ surrounding Freemasonry:
“Members of the order of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons are generally referred to as “Freemasons” or simply as “Masons.” Although this fraternal order has existed for centuries, interest in Freemasonry was sparked by Dan Brown’s novel ‘Angels and Demons’ which was written before The ‘Da Vinci Code’. Rumors about the Masons have always been controversial; some based in fact but misunderstood and taken out of context, and some that are strictly whimsical fantasy. The Masonic order is perhaps the most misunderstood organization in known history – except by its own members.
This article focuses on the facts of Freemasonry and dispels the myths of secret conspiracies and strange, sinister rituals. Drive through any town of decent size, and you will see a welcome sign that depicts the square and compass with the letter “G” prominently displayed in the middle. This sign informs a visitor that a Masonic Lodge exists in the area, and tells the visitor that he has Brothers available for aid of any type, or an opportunity to meet like-minded fellow Masons.
Most Masons wear some sort of identifying symbol; a ring, watch, necklace, or shirt displaying the square and compass. Masons recognize each other also by “passes, signs and grips;” certain spoken words, gestures and handshakes known only to Masons. A Master Mason takes a vow never to reveal to “outsiders” the nature of the passes, signs and grips. Yes, the Freemasons are a secret society. But “secret” does not equal”sinister” although many people assume this fact without evidence.
There are very specific reasons for the secret nature of Freemasonry; throughout the centuries, Masons have been persecuted by religious groups, political organizations and world leaders because of their opposition to tyranny and closed-mindedness. Adolf Hitler attempted to wipe out Masonry in Europe and the Masons were forced to hide their affiliation with the order. Masons have also been nearly exterminated by the Vatican and European monarchs. The reason for their secrecy was survival, and the practice continues today merely out of tradition. A Mason today will tell you anything you’d like to know about their fraternal organization except the signs, grips and passes, which are never written down in any form or repeated to non-Masons.
What does that square and compass mean? These are two working tools of actual masons; those who build structures, walls, brick and stone work, carpentry, etc. Their symbolic meaning is the “construction” of a society, a community, a nation, a religious faith of any nature, and a family. The requirements to become a Mason is that you are (1) male (2) of legal age (3) free-born, and (4) you believe in a Supreme Being, whom the Masons refer to as the Great Architect of the Universe. The square and compass symbolize structure, fairness, tolerance, “right-thinking” and tolerance of others’ beliefs. The “Gil stands for either God or Geometry. Freemasonry is not a religion, as some myths have it. The nature of your Supreme Being is entirely up to you; Masons welcome every religion and faith regardless of ethnic origin or nationality.
The legend of the beginning of Freemasonry lies deep in antiquity with the building of King Solomon’s temple in 1000 B.C.E. This legend has it that the architect and primary builder of the temple was Hiram Abif, an accomplished stonemason of the highest order. In that age, master craftsmen like Hiram Abif did not reveal the secrets of their craft to anyone who was undeserving of this knowledge. After the temple was completed, three men, called the “three rufians”, Jubela, Jubelo, and Jubelum demanded that Hiram reveal the secret of his talents as a master craftsman. Hiram Abif refused to reveal this information and was murdered by the “three J’S.” Upon Hiram Abif’s death, the real word (i.e. password) of master masons was lost.
Keep in mind that this was a time when few people were literate, and in some places a written alphabet did not exist. Therefore, signs, passes and grips weren’t written, but spoken or physically demonstrated. Hiram Abif is often referred to simply as “the widow’s son” among Masons; a promise requested from a Mason from the widow’s son is a very serious matter; it should never be asked for lightly, and, if made, must never be broken.
In the 1666, after the Great London Fire destroyed the city, master craftsmen were in great demand, especially to re-build St. Paul’s Cathedral. Craftsmen began to meet together for fellowship in pubs and coffeehouses to exchange ideas and methods and how they could assist in restoring London to its former glory. Recalling the legend of Hiram Abif, the first Grand Lodge was formed in 1717 and elected Anthony Sayer as the first Grand Master. Freemasonry was born! One article cannot possibly cover the entire history and practice of Freemasonry; only a general outline is presented here. Masons never call attention to themselves or actively recruit members. The slogan “2B1 , Ask1” (To Be One, Ask One) is literally how men become Masons; if they wish to know more about Masonry, all they need do is ask a Brother to have all their questions answered with the exception, of course, of the signs, passes and grips which are not taught to any man until he is “raised” as a Master Mason.
In brief, Masonry consists of three “degrees” of the Blue Lodge: the Entered Apprentice, the Fellowcraft, and the Master Mason. The Blue Lodge degrees are kind of like having an undergraduate college degree; you can stop there and enjoy full membership in the Craft, or you may choose to pursue additional knowledge through the three advanced Masonic degrees of the Mystic Shrine, the York Rite, and the Scottish Rite.
The Shrine is a branch of Masonry that has two objectives: having fun and fellowship with other Nobles, together with the very serious task of financially supporting the 23 Shrine Hospitals for Children throughout the nation. Shriners contribute to a yearly budget of over 6 billion dollars to provide free care to crippled or burned children. State of the art medical care, and absolutely no charge regardless of the complexity of the child’s care. No other fraternal organization in the world comes close to the Shrine Hospitals in philanthropy and medical excellence. The appendant organization for female relatives of Shriners,
the Daughters of the Nile, exist to support the Shrine’s work in caring for children by helping to raise funds, making toys, crafts of all kinds, holiday gifts etc. for the hospitalized children.
The Scottish Rite and its 32 degrees, focuses on “right living,” moral and ethical values, and service to others. It enhances teachings of the three degrees of the Blue Lodge. It enriches a Brother’s understanding of the lessons of Masonry so that he may put those values into action in his own life, his community, his family and the religious faith of his choice. In the Scottish Rite, Masons learn the “word that was lost” by the murder of Hiram Abif. A man who wears the symbol of the 32nd degree of the Scottish Rite, the double-headed eagle, has proven himself to be moral, ethical, and responsible, a Prince of the Royal Secret.
In the York Rite, the three highest degrees are devoted soley to Christianity. The ultimate degree in the York Rite is the designation as a Knight Templar; these Masons are referred to as “Sir Knight” and their ceremonial dress includes a
plumed hat, white gloves, and a silver sword engraved with the Knight’s name. The Templar legend is intertwined with Freemasonry; it is patterned after the nine original Knights that were dispatched by the Vatican to give safe passage to
Christian pilgrims visiting the Holy Lands. Since the ownership of Jerusalem was in dispute between Christians and Muslims, these pilgrims were often murdered on the roads as infidels by Muslim assassins. The Templar Knights grew in number, taking up residence at the site of King Solomon’s Temple; they were reputed to be the fiercest warriors of their time, and they also grew wealthy and powerful in their own right. On Friday, October 13th, 1307, King Phillip of Spain and Pope Clement the Fifth ordered the mass extermination of the Templar Knights all over Europe; this is tl1e origin of our superstition about Friday the 13th. Many Templars were killed, and their leader, Jacques DeMolay, was burned at the stake. The surviving Templars went underground in order to survive. Today, a Sir Knight takes an obligation to defend the faith of Christianity and to conduct themselves in a manner commensurate to the teachings of Jesus Christ. It is a serious, solemn obligation that is never taken lightly. No Mason is pressured to become a Knight Templar or adopt the Christian faith.
Several myths about Masonry persist despite proof that they are not based on facts. Freemasons have no interest in dominating others through a New World Order. In fact. Masons are forbidden to discuss politics of any kind while meeting in the Lodge to prevent discord among the Brothers. There is no such thing as a Masonic Illuminati, a sinister make-believe organization that also seeks world domination and the destruction of organized religion. Masons do not worship Satan. The controversial and misunderstood writings of Brother Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, refer to “Lucifer” only as an allegory of enlightenment; the name literally means” morning star” and has nothing to do with Satan worship. When confronted with this myth, Masons smile and remind their accuser that the very first self-striking matches were called “Lucifers.” Does that mean that the inventor of the match was a Satanist? Masons are not “a bunch of rich and powerful men” as is mistakenly thought. Men from all walks of life and all economic status are Masons; all Brothers are equal, and leave their money, their status, their religion and their politics at the door of the Lodge. All are “on the level” quite literally; a Masonic Lodge is built with that concept in mind.
The leader of a Lodge is voted into office by the Brothers and is referred to as the Worshipful Master. Contrary to the myth, this doesn’t mean that the Master himself is worshipped; it means that he, above all Brothers of the Lodge, must be the most worshipful of the Great Architect and Masonic tradition. Satanic “magician” Aleister Crowley was not a Mason, although he claimed to be. For over a century, the myth has persisted that Jack the Ripper was a Mason and was either imprisoned or killed by his Brothers to prevent him from killing prostitutes on the streets of London in 1888. There is no conclusive evidence that Jack was a Mason. Likewise, Freemasons did not found the Nazi party; this is certainly evident as Hitler either killed or imprisoned every Mason he could find because they opposed his “final solution” of genocide. In fact, many Masons were interred in concentration camps because of their outspoken defense of the Jews.
Finally, despite the myth that Masons are disemboweled and their tongues cut out if they reveal the secrets of the order, this is just plain silly. The obligation of secrecy. and the ritualistic penalty for violating it, is symbolic, not actual. Masonic obligations are spoken before the Lodge members, while the candidate is “hoodwinked” (blindfolded) with his right hand placed upon the open Bible and the square and compass. Only after taking his obligations is the hoodwink removed, ushering the Brother into the Light. Violation of obligations may result in very severe penalties, including expulsion from the order.
The truth about Freemasonry is that it is a benevolent fraternal organization that exists to personify role models of decency and honesty among their fellows, Masons or non-Masons. They are intensely patriotic, devoted to their families, and seek opportunities to provide service and aid to others. The truth is that women cannot be Masons; this is an organization of men who band together with other men of like-thinking. Some organizations that call themselves Masons do admit women as full members. A “real” Mason, however, takes a solemn obligation never to accept a woman as a Mason. Masonry, however, is very much a family endeavor.
The Order of the Eastern Star consists of Masons and their female relatives, who provide service and aid to their community, teach lessons of moral living such as fidelity, devotion to family, self-sacrifice for the good of others, faith in God, and loving charity towards others. Masons aren’t “women haters.” On the contrary, they treat their spouses with devotion, fidelity, honor and kindness. Masons refer to their wives as their “Lady,” and other Masons treat her with great respect. In a very big way, the wives and daughters of Masons receive the benefits of Masonry through the protection and love of their husbands and fathers.
The truth is that Masons are devoted parents; the Rainbow Girls, Job’s Daughters and DeMolays are organizations for the daughters and sons of Masons so that they might learn the ways of “right livingII as well as providing a supportive, positive peer group. Remember that “2B1, Ask1.” ”