Freemasonry, possibly the most exclusive club in the world. Membership is by special invitation only and is certainly not open to women.
Probably founded by a group of stonemasons hundreds of years ago, its true origins are shrouded in mystery and lost in the mists of time.
Today there are millions of Freemasons across the world, some happy to reveal their masonic membership, others not.
The purpose of this organisation?
To make better men from good men.
As men move through the different degrees of what they call ‘the craft’ they are educated in morality through the medium of allegory and by the use of masonic symbols.
So why do so many people appear to have an issue with what appears to be an admirable attempt to improve one’s ethics?
The problem for many lies in the exclusivity and covert nature of the Masonic movement.
Freemason secrets revealed over the centuries have uncovered an organisation steeped in ritual, symbolism, and mystery which some think hides a more sinister motive of controlling politics, the law, the economy, and ultimately society itself…
Belief in a Deity
The primary qualification for receiving an invitation into the Freemasons, other than being male, is the belief in a Deity.
There is no place for atheism in the Masons. The Freemasons display the Torah, the Koran, and the Bible on their altar.
For the Freemasons, each one of these texts is only one of a variety of sacred texts which all have equal value and status.
People of different faiths are asked to ignore the exclusivity of their God and to accept that all Gods are one and the same, that is The Grand Architect of the Universe.
All references to Jesus Christ, for example, are strictly forbidden.
The Freemasons believe that they will go to heaven as a result of their good works and not because they have been saved from sin.
There is then an obvious conflict for those with strong religious beliefs who join the Freemasons and the Christian Church, in particular, disapproves of the movement.
For others though there is a more disturbing aspect to the belief in the Grand Architect of the Universe. Knowledge is revealed to Freemasons as they progress through the degrees.
Most Freemasons progress through three degrees, but some suggest that there are 33 possible degrees.
As the Masons don’t specify or discriminate against the Deity that people believe in, you can theoretically become a Freemason if you worship any God or indeed the devil.
Could it be possible as some people believe, that as each degree of knowledge is revealed, The Grand Architect of the Universe is eventually revealed as Lucifer?
The Initiation Ceremony
Although each individual lodge has variations of its own initiation ceremonies particularly as people progress through the degrees, the content of the initial bizarre initiation into Freemasonry remains the same.
- After accepting an invitation to join the Freemasonry movement as an Apprentice a new member is asked to remove part of their clothing to reveal their breast and prove that they are male.
- They are also asked to roll up one of their trouser legs to emulate the poor and to demonstrate that they do not think that they are better than the more unfortunate.
- A hood is placed over the head and a noose symbolizing the umbilical cord is placed around the neck. The Apprentice is then escorted to a room where three candles are burning.
- Another Mason pricks the Apprentice with a compass and he is instructed to say that what he requires most in his life is light.
- The hood and the noose are then removed so that the candles are revealed.
- The new Freemason is told that the candles represent the sun, the moon, and the stars. He is then given an apron, a gauge, and a gavel.
- As soon as this ceremony is complete the Apprentice receives his first lesson in the morality of the Masonic movement.
Passwords and Funny Handshakes
‘I now present my right hand in token of friendship and brotherly love and will invest you with the grip and the word’.
So how does one Freemason recognize another outside the lodge?
The answer lies in the grip of a handshake or in a secret password. Each degree of Freemasonry has its own grip. The grip of the Apprentice known as the Boaz is made by pressing the thumb against the top of the first knuckle joint.
As the Mason progresses through the degrees, so does the grip.
Presumably, the Freemasons change their secret passwords as they are revealed to the wider public. In the past, one of their passwords was rumored to be Tubal Cain.
Descended from the biblical Cain who murdered his brother, Tubal Cain is credited as being one of the first metal workers, forging weapons in brass and iron.
Symbols are of the utmost importance to the Freemason movement as they are used on tracing boards, depicting the moral lessons that a Mason undertakes as he progress in the movement.
Each symbol is invested with a deeper meaning. To the skilled eye, Masonic symbols can be spotted on buildings, insignia, and even in the street plan of Washington DC.
To the lay person, the symbols are meaningless but to the Freemasons they often used to communicate secret meaning.
· The Square and Compass. The square represents morality to the Freemasons and the compasses the boundaries of behavior.
· The Letter G. The letter G is used to represent The Grand Architect and geometry.
· The Eye of Providence. The eye of providence or the all-seeing-eye depicts an eye surrounded by rays of light. Sometimes it is enclosed by a triangle.
The eye appears on an unfinished pyramid on the American dollar bill and on the great seal of the United States. The symbol is used as a reminder that God is watching over us wherever we are and whatever we do.
· The Blazing Star. The blazing star is used to represent divine providence and is taken from the biblical story of the birth of Jesus and the three wise men who followed a star to discover his birthplace.
· The Five Pointed Star. Often associated with the occult, in Freemasonry the star is depicted with a single point upwards, signifying benevolent spirits.
· The Apron. The apron which is white leather lined with fleece represents innocence.
· The Shoe. The shoe is a symbol of a contract or the physical confirmation of a deed done.
Perjury and Corruption
One of the most disturbing aspects of Freemasonry for many people is the oath to support fellow Masons at almost any cost.
‘You must conceal all the crimes of your brother Masons, except murder and treason’.
As many Freemasons are often police officers, lawyers or judges this gives rise to allegations of corruption and perjury.
In the UK politicians have called for the names of those Freemasons in positions where they can influence legal judgement to be placed on a register.
Their attempts, however, were legally blocked by a judge who just happened to be a Freemason.
The calls followed allegations that crimes against children in particular have been covered up or there has been a failure to prosecute when there is clearly enough evidence.
In 2013 UK police officers who were also Freemasons were banned from participating in the investigation of the Hillsborough footballing disaster at the same time Operation Tiberius discovered that Freemasons involved in organised crime had successfully recruited and corrupted a number of London police officers.
One of the most shocking stories though is perhaps that of a notorious English criminal who seemed to evade justice or receive over-lenient sentences for many years despite killing a policeman and participating a major bank heist.
It later transpired that he was a senior member of the Freemasons.
A Helping Hand For a Brother?
Despite taking an oath that they will not favor fellow Masons above others, Freemasons are constantly accused of nepotism.
Suspected of giving preferential treatment to fellow Masons in industry, government, banking and the military, they stand accused of constantly strengthening their own power base for political and economic advantage.
Although this would be almost impossible to prove, the numbers of Freemasons in the top jobs in society would suggest that there is an element of ‘it’s not what but who you know’.
Often also accused of being members of the Illuminati and the Bilderberg elite, senior Freemasons are charged with manipulating the recruitment and promotion of its own members in order to promote a secret world government.
Freemasons in Space
When historians look back on the twentieth and twenty first centuries, they will probably be defined by space travel more than any other aspect.
What is perhaps surprising is the number of Freemasons involved in key roles related to this area.
A number of astronauts including John Glenn and Buzz Aldrin have openly declared that they are Freemasons, whilst others including Neil Armstrong had Freemason fathers.
Count the number of declared Freemasons who openly worked for NASA during the infancy of space travel and the numbers are staggering.
Whether you believe the first moon landings were a hoax or not, what is certain is that the Freemason are inextricably linked to those events with Masonic imagery and symbolism prominent in the language and insignia used at the time.
Most intriguing are the events which took place at Tranquility Base, Buzz Aldrin unfurled and planted the flag which represented his Masonic Lodge.
His fellow astronaut, Neil Armstrong, in footage that has not been seen by the public, is rumored to have covered his spacesuit with his Masonic apron in a tribute to the Freemason movement.
The Famous and The Infamous
During their lifetime many men conceal their Masonic membership, preferring instead to maintain a level of secrecy. Of course after their death their names are made public.
What is clearly demonstrated from the lists of illustrious and sometimes notorious figures is that Freemasonry has had a massive impact on the history of the western world.
Included in this list are Kings of England, George Washington, Buffalo Bill, Davy Crockett, Winston Churchill and many more.
Of course the list also includes the ‘black sheep’ of the Freemason movement like Benedict Arnold and Kenneth Noye – bank robber and convicted murderer, Paedophile Robert Taylor, George Ryan racketeer and fraudster, embezzler Robert Libby and Paul Bernardo, a rapist and murderer and most recently Anders Breivik the right wing terrorist who went on a murder spree in Norway in 2011.
So who exactly are the Freemasons, a benign network of gentlemen who wish to improve their own knowledge and morality or a secret and manipulative organisation striving to control society?
The Freemasons would argue that they are an egalitarian and all-embracing group of men whose only aim is altruistic.
Others who oppose their existence suggest that their rituals and oaths are blasphemous. Some go as far as suggesting that Freemasonry is a religion itself leaning towards Paganism or the worship of Lucifer.
Freemasons secrets revealed in the past have certainly cost the lives of those that have betrayed the brethren. Today the Masons operate a more open policy and will answer questions that outsiders put to them.
Nevertheless one is ultimately left with the feeling that not quite everything is being revealed and there is definitely a lot more to this secretive and exclusive organisation than meets the all-seeing-eye.