As a Freemason I have often been asked some strange questions such as Do you have to ride a goat when you join the Lodge? Or That’s the same as the Orange Order isn’t it? Which really highlights the number of myths or misconceptions surrounding the Ancient and Accepted Rite of Freemasonry.
If you search for information on the Internet about Freemasonry, many of the top sites are anti-Masonic in nature, Masons are accused of dominating world governments or arranging the assassination of non-Masonic leaders, Freemasonry traditionally advises its members to keep silent when faced with those who, through ignorance, know nothing about it. The trouble is, when you don’t answer them, the unbalanced minds never get a proper view of the truth and the multitude of conflicting information leaves the bystander confused.
In my blog I will explore some of the more common myths, misconceptions and conspiracy theories told about the Craft over the years.
Why is the Craft so Misunderstood?
The answer to that is for hundred of years the members of Freemason lodges themselves misunderstood what was meant by Masonic Secrecy. Technically the ‘Secrets’ that Mason’s are forbidden to discuss with people outside the craft are the Signs, Tokens and Words of the order traditionally these are the methods the Masons use to identify one another.
Unfortunately generations of Masons have taken their obligation of secrecy to mean that they couldn’t discuss the fraternity outside the Masonic Hall at all.
This leads to the problem that with no information coming from Masons, it’s all too easy for people to fill the holes with incorrect information or just plain lies, particularly if they are eager to sell book’s, DVD’s or gather subscribers to their paranoid web sites. Like a game of Chinese Whispers these lies get compounded as they are repeated.
From the time of the Middle Ages, the goat has been the symbol of the Devil and stories were told of witches who came riding into town on a goat to take part in their blasphemous activities, later as Freemasonry gained in popularity its detractors took the opportunity to accuse them of witchcraft and associate them with the riding of the goat.
It did not help that some of the early Masonic ritual books referred to God as ‘God of All Things’ and abbreviated it as G.O.A.T. That was quickly changed, and God is now referred to by the acronym G.A.O.T.U. which means Great Architect of the Universe.
And of course many Masons seized the opportunity to tease non members and new initiates, with humourous tales of Goats at Lodge Meetings.
Masons have been accused of using their own Satanic bible in their ceremonies, this stems from a custom of many lodges to present a Master Mason with a commemorative Bible upon completing the 3rd Degree Ceremony. This bible is usually the 1611 translation of the King James version and has additional pages to record the Master Mason’s raising date and has spaces for the Lodge Officers to sign. Copies of the bibles sometimes find their way on to eBay and other auction sites.
Freemasonry is open to all men with a belief in a Supreme Beings so it is perfectly natural for more than one holy book to be open depending on the beliefs on the members of the lodge. The combined name for these books is the Volume of the Sacred Law or VSL.
Another myth is that the ‘All Seeing Eye on top of the unfinished pyramid’ design on the $1 bill is related to Freemasonry. In reality the bill was initially designed by a committee of four men, only one of whom was a Freemason, Benjamin Franklin. The eye was suggested by the artist Pierre du Simitiere.
The design was modified by two other committees before being approved the unfinished pyramid was added at the time and none of these final designers were Freemasons.
Through the Renaissance period the eye within the triangle was used as a non denominational representation of God. There is nothing sinister or occult about it.
Another area which is ripe for misconception and myth is Freemasonry relationship with organised religion, a lodge meeting is not an act of worship, a Lodge is not a church and Freemasonry is not a religion. Mason’s use prayers to open and close their meetings but so do many Parliaments and Congress’ throughout the world. Freemasons take oaths on the Volume of Sacred Law but so do Judges, and military personnel even police officers and boy scouts.
The misconception is that Masonic Meetings are some sort of bizarre, secret worship service, offered up to a Pagan god, a goat or to Satan himself. This ridiculous notion is alleged to stem from the trials of the Knights Templar in the early 1300’s ce when they were tortured and force to confess to the worship of Baphomet and these false confessions have been trotted out every since by those that want to believe the salacious and unbelievable.
The Freemasons and World Takeover
There are a huge amount of Conspiracy theories linked to the Ancient and Accepted Rites of Freemasonry. Most of these theories claim that Freemasonry exerts control over politics at all levels. Perhaps the best-known example is the New World Order theory, but there are others. These mainly involve aspects and agencies of the United States government, but actual events are used to lend credence to claims.
Freemasons are forbidden to discuss politics in the Lodge, which makes it particularly hard to plot a world takeover plan and with over a million men in nearly every country in the world in the Craft, how would it be kept a secret?. So all in all if the Freemasons were planning to take over the world we are really not very good at it.
Regular Freemasonry does not now, nor has it ever aspired to be a world-dominating empire. Freemasonry is a fraternal organization that simply seeks to improve men so that they may, in turn, improve society around them. It makes good men better. But it does not tell them how to do it, nor does it give them political, commercial or religious instructions.
Some of the conspiracy theories involving Freemasonry are:
- That Freemasonry is a Zionist front for world domination. An example of this is the notorious and fraudulent document The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
- That Freemasonry is controlled by the Illuminati, which refers to a purported conspiratorial organization which acts as a shadowy power controlling world affairs through present day governments and corporations.
- That the Victorian Serial Killer Jack the Ripper was a Freemason whose murders resembled Masonic initiation rituals.
- That the September 11 attacks were part of a hidden war between Masonry (as descendants of the Crusader Knights Templar) and Islam.
- That Freemasons intertwine various symbols and numerology into modern culture, such as corporate logos.
- That the KKK, Skull and Bones, Orange Order and other organizations are intimately tied to Freemasonry.
- That Freemasons were behind faked Apollo moon landings
- That Freemasons were behind the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, JFK, Diana, Princess of Wales and even ex-Beatle John Lennon.
- The sinking of the Titanic was planned and carried out by Freemasons.
- The Freemasons were behind The French, American and Russian Revolutions.
In the past European Kings and Religious leaders distrusted Freemasonry because it encouraged freedom of thought, of religion and expression exactly the kind of thing they did not want their subjects to have.
Robert Cooper, the Curator of the library of the Grand Lodge of Scotland has this to say on the subject of conspiracies surround Freemasonry
I strongly suspect it’s our fault. People asked us questions and we didn’t answer because it wasn’t their business. That is no longer sustainable but you can see the problems it’s caused. Because we didn’t respond 100 years ago to these allegations there has been 100 years of belief that we’re hiding something, no matter how open we are now.