The fact that a fraternal order played a role of some prominence in history may seem strange to today’s readers, but for many years in the 18th and 19th centuries Freemasonry was a force of contention not only in the United States, but also in Europe and Latin America.The Free and Accepted Masons claim to have their origins in the Middle Ages when Scottish and English associations were formed for the protection of various crafts, in this instance the stonemasons. This was the age in which many great cathedrals were constructed.The organization has been democratic and liberal in outlook. This has been viewed by critics as anticlerical and has caused much friction with The Roman Catholic Church. In more modern times, fundamentalist Christian churches have been critical of Freemasonry.Benjamin Franklin was a founding member of the first lodge to be established in the United States. In later years, 13 presidents were Masons and other notables included such disparate figures as Winston Churchill, Mozart and Gene Autry.Noted Anti-Masons in American history included John Quincy Adams and Edgar Allan Poe.Why did such a seemingly innocuous organization provoke opposition, let alone a full-fledged political organization (the Anti-Masonic Party)? The answer is to be found in the boisterous democratic enthusiasms of the 1820s and 1830s. Many outsiders of that time concluded that the Masons were up to no good.Fear about the intentions of Freemasonry was strong in monarchical and Roman Catholic circles in both Latin America and Europe. This friction has continued into modern times.Today most Americans would associate the Masons with children’s hospitals and subsidiary organizations – Job’s Daughters, DeMolay and the Order of the Eastern Star. Nevertheless, critics exist and associate Freemasonry with the “new world order” and a host of other conspiracies.



In a biography dealing with the leadership of Freemasonry, it is useful to look not only at the nature and purpose of that institution, but also at its history. Clearly, historical reflection is necessary in order to anchor and enhance the understanding of what a Grand Master is, what he does and where he comes from. A discourse on Masonic history, in the context of this book, must be brief, even though the subject itself is vast, as testified by the huge number of books and publications which have been dedicated to its study. That which follows here, therefore, can only be a Spartan and unelaborated attempt on the subject.

Freemasonry originated from the guilds of operative stonemasons (known as lodges) which flourished in Europe, and Britain in particular, during the Middle Ages. Stonemasonry was then a most important craft, the manifestation of which can still be seen today in the many cathedrals, churches, castles and manors which survive from those times.

However, operative lodges were somewhat different from the guilds associated with other medieval trades. Stonemasons were itinerant workers who were forced to travel to renew their employment as each building project was completed. The fluid nature of the operative craft, therefore, posed many problems in the determination and recognition of qualifications and skills. In the largely illiterate society that then prevailed, lodges acted as trade regulatory bodies, not only in the area of professional skills and the recognition of practical qualifications, but also in the moral and religious standards of their members. In response to these needs the operative craft,through its lodges, evolved a system of instruction that combined practical knowledge and morality. The medieval lodge system also, of necessity, involved a degree of privacy and secrecy, so that the supposed skills of a newly- arriving stranger could be readily checked. 1

The march of technology in building saw the decline of stone construction in the late Middle Ages, and with it the steady demise of the stonemason's craft and the operative lodges. As a reaction to this decline, the passage of time saw increasing numbers of men who were not stonemasons being received into lodges. By the eighteenth century lodges had largely ceased to be composed of stonemasons. These non-operative members became known as 'speculative' or 'symbolic' Masons.'

The decline of operative Masonry and the rise of the 'speculative' kind also heralded the end of the itinerant nature of some lodges. All lodges could now find permanent homes in urban locations. The premier Grand Lodge of England was formed on 24 June 1717 by four London lodges. No records remain of the event. Our knowledge of this foundation meeting comes largely from Anderson's 1738 edition of the 'Constitutions' of the Grand Lodge. According to Anderson, representatives of the four lodges met in 1716 and determined upon a meeting in the following year to revive the Annual Assembly and Feast, at which they would 'chuse a Grand Master from among themselves till they should have the Honour of a Noble Brother at their Head'. 2

The first meeting was duly held and one Anthony Sayer, Gentleman, was elected as the initial Grand Master. He thereupon 'commanded the Master and Wardens of Lodges to meet the Grand Officers every Quarter in Communication'. Nonetheless, for the first four years of its existence the Grand Lodge only met annually, with its only business being the election of its Grand Master and Grand Wardens. 3 There would seem little doubt, therefore, that the formation of the Grand Lodge was not prompted by a perceived need of central organisation, but simply to enable the London lodges to meet together socially -- bearing in mind that members were now largely of the 'speculative' kind. The only other discernible reason was a desire to elect a 'noble brother' as their leader with, one suspects, the view of raising the social status of their organisation. Success first occurred in 1721, with the election of John, 2nd Duke of Montagu, as Grand Master. Since then the Grand Lodge of England has continuously had either a Peer of the Realm or Prince of Royal Blood as Grand Master.

It was not until the 1720s that the Grand Lodge commenced its emergence as a regulatory body. In 1723 the first secretary to Grand Lodge was appointed, and regular minutes kept. Grand Lodge started to meet more frequently, and its Constitutions were published. The membership of nobles attracted press publicity, and the number of lodges rapidly expanded - not only in England, but overseas as well. An independent Grand Lodge was formed in Ireland in 1725, followed by a new counterpart in Scotland in 1736.

The early years of organised English Masonry, however, proved far from harmonious, and the eighteenth century saw six rival Grand Lodges emerging at various times to claim jurisdiction over England or part of it. Only two of these persisted with any substantial following. These were the Premier Grand Lodge of England (often referred to as the 'Moderns Grand Lodge', or 'Moderns'), and the Grand Lodge of England According to the Old Constitutions (known as the 'Atholl Grand Lodge', or 'Antients'). The Moderns according to their opponents, introduced unacceptable changes into the rituals and practices of Freemasonry. 4

The Antients Grand Lodge, apparently spawned by their opposition to these 'innovations', had emerged by 1751. It was originally established by Irish Masons then living in England who were 'unhappy' with the Premier Grand Lodge. Both these Grand Lodges developed and expanded their lodges and membership over succeeding years. This occurred quite independently of each other. Both Grand Lodges were rivals, often bitter rivals, and each considered the other to be irregular. Generally, the Moderns tended to attract more 'upper class' members, while the Antients had a broader membership base. The two Grand Lodges developed quite a number of divergent practices.However, except at official level, ordinary Masons were not particularly interested in this rivalry, and most members on both sides either ignored these divergences or paid little heed to them.

As Freemasonry spread rapidly around the world, the passage of time saw the old discords largely disappear. Newer members on both sides had no understanding of the issues involved, and even less interest in them. The pressure for union increased, and the chance of such an occurrence was greatly enhanced on the election of HRH the Duke of Sussex as Grand Master of the Moderns, and his brother HRH the Duke of Kent as Grand Master of the Antients. Joint committees of the two Grand Lodges met and overcame remaining problems, and the union was happily effected on 13 May 1813. The title United Grand Lodge of England was adopted, and the Duke of Sussex became its first Grand Master 5

The United Grand Lodge of England subsequently developed into the largest Masonic body in the world, having lodges chartered on every continent. English Freemasonry has directly or indirectly been the source of all Grand Lodges elsewhere on the globe. The Grand Lodges of Ireland and Scotland, respectively the second and third Grand Lodges formed, have also chartered lodges all over the world. As Masonry grew in strength in various localities, other Grand Lodges were formed.

Most Western European countries possess a Grand Lodge, as do virtually all the provinces of Canada, and the States of America. Similarly, most South and Central American countries have at least one Grand Lodge each. Diverse countries such as Israel, South Africa, India, Japan and the Philippines are likewise blessed. In Australia, each of the six states has long possessed a Grand Lodge, with the first being formed in South Australia in 1884.

It needs to be appreciated that Freemasonry is not one worldwide confederation. There are more than a hundred independent Masonic Grand Lodges in the world, most of which maintain 'fraternal relations' with each other - diplomatic relations,to put it in non-Masonic terms. Originally, relations between Grand Lodges were handled by what are known as'Grand Representatives'. These were senior Grand Lodge officers who acted as something akin to ambassadors. This system has long fallen into practical disuse, with business between Grand lodges being handled by their respective Grand Secretaries. Nonetheless, most Grand Lodges still appoint Grand Representatives, who act on an honorary basis. 6

There are also quite a number of differences in the constitutional, operational and ritualistic practices between Grand Lodges. They are only limited by a set of basic notions known as 'The Ancient Landmarks of the Order'. Even so, there is far from universal agreement as to what these are, or their number. Noted Masonic author Harry Carr defines a landmark as a principle or tenet that has 'always existed' in Masonic practice, and as an element in the form of the Society of such importance that, if removed, Freemasonry would no longer be Freemasonry. These are:

1 That a Mason possesses a belief in God, the Supreme Being, the Great Architect of the Universe.

2 That the Volume of the Sacred Law is an essential and indispensible part of the lodge, tobe open in full view when the brethren are at labour.

3 That a Mason must be male, free-born and of mature age.

4 That a Mason, by his tenure, owes allegiance to the Sovereign and to the Craft.

5 That a Mason believes in the immortality of the soul.

These items, he states, largely date back to the Old Charges, which were the written laws of the Operative Masons. The oldest of these documents dates from about 1390. 7

There are other authors, such as the American authority Dr Albert Mackey, who prescribed a larger range of Landmarks. What is, or is not, a 'Landmark of the Order' is to some extent academic. Clearly, there are quite a number of customs which are observable norms across the gamut of world Freemasonry. These include the division of symbolic craft Masonry into three degrees, the modes of recognition observed amongst members, the legend associated with the Third Degree Ceremony, the necessity of Masons to congregate in lodges, the government of a craft lodge by its Master and Wardens, the government of the fraternity by a Grand Master, and a number of others. 8

Freemasonry arrived on Australian shores soon after the original settlement of Sydney as a penal colony. There is evidence of a Masonic meeting in Sydney in May 1803, but it was not viewed kindly by the Governor who ordered the temporary arrest of its participants. The first lodge to meet in Australia was the Lodge of Social and Military Virtues No. 227 IC. This military lodge was stationed in Sydney in 1813, and was responsible for sponsoring the first stationary lodge in Australia -The Australian Social Lodge No. 260 IC, in 1820. This lodge is now Antiquity Lodge No. 1 NSWC. Masonry grew rapidly in the colony of New South Wales, enabling an English Provincial (later District) Grand Lodge to be formed in 1839. Provincial Grand Lodges followed to govern the Irish and Scottish lodges. When New South Wales received self-government in 1855, a groundswell of Masonic sentiment arose for a local sovereign Grand Lodge. There were early differences of opinion in this regard, and these led to the separate erection of a Grand Lodge of New South Wales in 1877. It was initially composed of thirteen lodges, most of which were previously chartered from Ireland. However, it failed to achieve recognition from the three 'home' Grand Lodges in Britain. It was not until 1888 that complete harmony was gained. In that year virtually all lodges in New South Wales amicably joined to form the United Grand Lodge of New South Wales with the then Governor, Lord Carrington, as its First Grand Master.

While New South Wales can boast the first lodge chartered in Australia, its early Masonic disharmony robbed it of the premier Australian Grand Lodge. That title went to South Australia, where Freemasonry had a unique beginning. Its first lodge was, in fact, formed in London in 1834 -- two years before the colony was actually founded! This was the South Australian Lodge of Friendship No. 613 EC, which is today Lodge of Friendship No. 1 SAC. It met in Adelaide for the first time in 1838.

A number of other lodges quickly sprang up, variously holding English, Irish, or Scottish charters. In April 1884 the South Australian Lodges, with only one exception, managed to agree on unity and erected the Grand Lodge of South Australia. The exception was the Duke of Leinster Lodge No. 363 IC, which still works happily in Adelaide. 9

The history of Masonry in Victoria holds a number of parallels with that of New South Wales. The first lodge chartered in Victoria was the Lodge of Australia Felix No. 697 EC, in 1834. This lodge remains the premier lodge in Victoria, as No. 1 VC. Scottish and Irish lodges followed, in the same pattern as the other Australian colonies. Victoria was greatly populated by the gold rushes of the 1850s, and a large number of lodges resulted from this period. As with New South Wales, early Masonic harmony proved elusive. After two early unsuccessful attempts by a number of Masons, a Grand Lodge of Victoria was separately formed in 1883. This new body had some success, commencing with six lodges and finishing with nineteen. It was nonetheless a minority organisation. A further five years of disharmony ensued before unity was found on the erection of the United Grand Lodge of Victoria in 1889. One English craft lodge, Combermere No. 752 EC (dating from 1858), still works in Melbourne, the last reminder of the turbulent Masonic days in Victoria of just on a century ago. 10

The island colony of Tasmania was the next area to attain a Grand Lodge. Tasmania was blessed with tranquil Masonic development, its premier lodge being Tasmanian Operative Lodge No. 345 IC, erected in Hobart in 1834, and now No. 1 TC. It was preceded by several lodges, the earliest of which was operating in 1825, and was Lodge No. 286 IC, attached to the 40th Regiment. A civilian lodge, the Tasmanian Lodge No. 313 IC, was erected in 1827 before the 40th Regiment left the colony, and a second - the Lodge of the Brotherly Union No. 313 IC - was founded in 1832. No. 313 granted a dispensation to form No. 345 IC, and No. 346 IC (now No. 2 TC) which was founded in the north. After twelve years operating under the Grand Lodge of Ireland this latter lodge, in an attempt to overcome the long delays in communication it was suffering with Dublin, gained a dispensation from the English Provincial Grand Master in Sydney to change its allegiance. It thereafter became Tasmanian Union Lodge No. 781 EC (how No. 3 TC) in 1844. Lodge No. 313 IC, and Lodge No. 326 IC both ceased working about this time.

Other English and Scottish lodges followed, with attendant Provincial Grand Lodges. On 26 June 1890 all twenty-two lodges then working in Tasmania met and unanimously created the Grand Lodge of Tasmania. Indeed, Tasmania was the only Australian Grand Lodge to be founded with every then available lodge exchanging its charter. 11

Freemasonry in Western Australia formally commenced on the chartering of the Lodge of St John No. 485 EC (now No. 1 WAC), in 1843. However, it was to be ten years before a second lodge - Freemantle No. 1033 EC - was formed in 1853. A Scottish lodge was chartered in 1896, and within four years thirty lodges were operating in Western Australia under Scottish allegiance. This phenomenal expansion gave Scottish Masonry the ascendancy in Western Australia. Only two Irish lodges were formed in the colony. Attempts were made in 1894 and 1899 to form a Grand Lodge, but consensus proved elusive. In the eastern Australian colonies where disharmony took hold, it was often the English lodges which provided the main difficulties, but in Western Australia it was the ascendant Scottish lodges. Its Grand Lodge was formed in 1900, but nearly half of the Scottish lodges then working, together with a few English lodges, stood aloof. Two Scottish District Grand Lodges, controlling fifteen lodges between them, still work in Western Australia today -- but long since in complete harmony with lodges of the Western Australian Constitution. 12

Queensland was the last Australian state to obtain an enduring Grand Lodge, largely because disharmony lasted longer in Queensland than elsewhere. Its first lodge was North Australian No.796 EC (now No. 1 QC), chartered at Brisbane in 1859. Further English, Irish and Scottish lodges followed. Early efforts to form a sovereign Grand Lodge were made in 1887 and 1897, but without success. However, in 1904 a convention of delegates brought together twenty-five Irish lodges and fourteen Scottish lodges to establish the Grand Lodge of Queensland (GLQ). Only one-third of Scottish lodges then operating in Queensland joined the new body, while only one Irish lodge declined to join. However, no English lodge could be persuaded to exchange its charter.

As a result of this event, Queensland Masonry remained divided for several years, and it was not until 1918 that positive steps were finally made to unite all lodges in the state. In 1920, as a prelude to unity, sixty-three of the English lodges then working in Queensland, together with the remaining Scottish lodges, formed the Queensland Grand Lodge (QGL). In 1921 the two Grand Lodges merged into the United Grand Lodge of Queensland - finally bringing about Masonic unity. A few English lodges did stand out of the union nonetheless, of which two still work in Queensland today.

Of particular interest in Queensland is its decentralised Masonic Government. Alone among the Australian states, Queensland has a widely dispersed population. As a result the state is divided into three parts for Masonic purposes. All lodges between the cities of Townsville and Cairns come under the District Grand Lodge of North Queensland. Lodges from Cairns to the far north come under the District Grand Lodge of Carpentaria, while lodges south of Townsville are under the direct control of the Grand Lodge. 13

The Queensland system of District Grand Lodges is based on the decentralised Masonic Government long since employed by the English, Irish and Scottish Grand Lodges. Under England and Scotland, lodges inside their geographical jurisdictions are placed in 'provinces', while lodges overseas are placed in 'districts'. For Ireland, the term 'province' is used whether the administrative unit is inside or outside Ireland. A Provincial, or District, Grand Lodge has reasonably wide administrative powers within its own area, together with some judicial powers. However, questions of policy invariably remain within the ambit of the Grand Lodge itself. 14

1 Pick, F.L. & Knight, G.N., The Freemasons' Pocket Reference Book, 3rd Edition (Frederick Muller, London, 1983), p.37 pp.224 et seq.

2 Hamill, John, The Craft (Aquarian Press, England, 1985), p.41.

4 Henderson, K.W., Masonic World Guide (A. Lewis, London, 1985), p.129.

7 Carr, Harry, The Freemasons at Work (A. Lewis, London, 1976), p.263.

A history of Freemasonry: from Enlightenment ideals to satanic conspiracy stories

Historian John Dickie talks to BBC History Magazine's Ellie Cawthorne about his new book charting the history of Freemasonry, from Enlightenment ideals and influential networks to secrecy and satanic conspiracy stories

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Published: August 24, 2020 at 1:45 pm

Ellie Cawthorne: When you tell people you are writing a book on the Freemasons, what are the initial reactions you get?

John Dickie: In Britain, I think there are two competing stories that dominate discussions of Freemasonry. On the one hand, they appear in the public imagination as a shady organisation with something to hide. And this is what fuels the newspaper coverage they get – outlandish stories in which they are responsible for cover-ups of the sinking of the Titanic, or the Hillsborough disaster. People put two Freemasons in a row and make a conspiracy.

Counter to that runs the Freemasons’ own narrative of their history, one of a noble, honourable tradition of brotherhood and altruism. This, admittedly, is much more dull.

But somewhere in between these two stories is a vast, untapped world of extraordinary tales about what Freemasonry has meant to people, about the things it has got involved in and the paranoia that Freemasons have generated throughout their history. And also how Freemasonry has been hugely historically important.

From its inception, secrecy has undoubtedly been an important element of Freemasonry. Why is this the case?

That’s certainly true. It’s been a great selling tool for them – this idea that if you join the Masons, you will learn the secrets and become part of an elect band with access to privileged knowledge. But the way that Masons use the word ‘secrecy’ actually translates to something more like sacredness, because it’s used to create a sense of awe and specialness around their rituals, which are very important to them.

But while it’s been a very powerful tool in the Masons’ arsenal, secrecy also inevitably leads to misunderstanding. After the 1980s, they had a kind of glasnost and opened their institutions and their libraries to non-Freemason scholars like me. But their latest formula for explaining it gives you some idea of the problem. Now they say: “We are not a secret society, we’re a society with secrets.” That’s not exactly going to put people’s minds at rest, is it? Instead, secrecy offers up a dark mirror for the rest of the world to project whatever it wants into. The way that secrecy is manipulated on both sides has been one of the great engines of Masonic history.

Listen: John Dickie sifts fact from fiction in the history of a much misunderstood organisation in this episode of the HistoryExtra podcast:

What can you tell us about the genesis of Freemasonry as a society?

The big question is how you get from stonemasons, who have calluses on their hands and put slabs into walls, to Freemasons, who have nothing to do with actual stonemasonry but instead adopt its tools – plumb lines and trowels and so on – as moral metaphors. Building offers a good metaphor for making yourself a better person.

But how did that transition happen? I think the first crucial stage was in the Scottish court of James VI, where ministers were trying to win over the stonemasons guild and introduced them to some very powerful elements of Renaissance culture. One key aspect of this was the art of memory. The great Roman orator Cicero used to remember his speeches by imagining himself in a building. Each room would represent a section of his speech, and each item in the room would be a point he needed to make. In the Renaissance, that kind of memory exercise was seen to have almost magical properties. It could, in the right circumstances, give you access to the mind of God. And the Masons began to see their ritualistic spaces as something similar, as theatres of memory. You can still see this in the design of Masonic lodges today: a chessboard floor with thrones around the edge and lots of symbols, such as globes, candles, columns or Bibles. It’s a sort of ritual theatre where you go through your Masonic journey, with each stage marked by a ceremony.

I think that was the magic moment that really elevated the initiation rituals of a stonemason’s guild into something more philosophically ambitious. Then gentleman non-stonemasons began to be attracted to Freemasonry as an organisation that was open to exciting intellectual developments.

Another crucial moment was the foundation of the first Grand Lodge of England, a kind of governing body for Freemasonry, in 1717. That event took place at the time when the Whig regime was establishing itself, and influential Tories were thrown out of every available position of influence in society and politics. The early years of the Grand Lodge are still surrounded in mystery, but there was certainly a Whig takeover there too. This was the moment where Freemasonry came off the byways of culture and entered the motorway of the Enlightenment. Within 15 years, there were Masonic lodges across Europe and the world, in Istanbul, the Caribbean, North America and Aleppo. It’s the most extraordinary success story of an idea that had found its moment.

What motivated men to join the Freemasons?

Undoubtedly, networking was part of the story. It was a way to connect yourself to certain bigwigs. It’s no coincidence that Huguenot exiles were important in early Freemasonry. These were immigrants on the make, and Freemasonry allowed them to make a play for patronage. It was a place for young men to learn from older men, and it could be enormously helpful if you needed to travel across the globe. Wherever you went, you would have a ready-made home from home, with familiar rituals and contacts, and your reputation would be able to travel with you.

There was undoubtedly a lot of boozing and back-slapping going on too. But it was by no means all cynical. There was clearly something very powerful about Freemasonry’s formula of ritual symbolism and moral messages for its members. It offered a means not only of individual development, but also a feeling of shared growth and male bonding. After the world wars, a lot of men turned to Freemasonry for the comradeship and sense of meaning that they found in war, but also for a way of coming to terms with big spiritual questions such as the meaning of life.

People often make vague assertions about Freemasons pulling all the strings. Can you give some examples how their influence actually played out in reality?

It could be extremely varied. Research done on early 19th-century Dresden shows that an awful lot of doctors and lawyers were Freemasons. This meant that it was much harder to become a successful lawyer or doctor if you weren’t a Freemason. But if you were an outsider wanting to get into the profession, joining the Masons was actually a relatively small price to pay in order to gain access. The network also had a role in monitoring people’s reputations and making sure that they maintained professional standards. In a sense, that could be seen as a positive thing.

Another example comes from under Napoleon, who revived Freemasonry after the French Revolution and used it as an instrument of his regime. Masonic lodges became temples for his personality cult. Tons of his generals and top people in his regime were installed at the head of grand lodges in countries that were then incorporated into the French empire. If you were an ambitious Neopolitan, for example, the lodge would be the place to hobnob with the French who’d come down to run the kingdom. So Freemasonry was a mechanism to control political culture it was an instrument of the regime.

Probably the best example of Masonic networking at its very worst is Italy’s P2 Lodge, which was mixed up in all kinds of corruption: blackmail, information gathering, rightwing terrorism, laundering money for the mafia – you name it.

So Freemasonry didn’t always live up to its foundational ideals?

Many Freemasons were dedicated to trying to live by those ideals – enlightened principles of universal brotherhood and reason, as well as inclusiveness irrespective of race, creed, colour and background. And it’s important to acknowledge that they weren’t just paying lip service to these ideas: they truly believed in them.

But that universalism was paradoxical from the beginning. It preached equal values for all, except if you were a woman. Or if you couldn’t afford the entrance fee. While it may have been formed with high ideals, it was ultimately victim to the same societal forces as everything else. Geography is a key qualification in any discussion about Freemasonry. Because very soon after it was created, the organisation was presented with a huge problem of brand control. People were inventing different forms all over the place to suit their own interests.

One interesting aspect of your research is Masonry’s relationship to race and imperialism. What can you tell us about that?

Freemasonry’s foundational code theoretically makes it open to all. That said, in many contexts, it has had a lot of problems dealing with race. The United States is the most startling case: it’s a universal brotherhood founded on the ideals of freedom and tolerance that has been racially divided since 1775. America has always had two Freemasonrys – one black and one white. That’s still the case to this day.

Imperialism is another huge blind spot in the way that Masons talk about themselves and their own past. In many ways, Masonry oiled the wheels of empire. As an imperial bureaucrat sent across the globe, you could walk into a lodge in Cape Town or Calcutta and instantly tap into a social life and support network. It also provided a handy cover story for imperialism, by cloaking it in the ideals of brotherhood and universal cooperation. But what happened when the locals wanted to join? In some cases, like in 18th-century India, some were welcomed into lodges very early on because imperialists wanted to co-opt local rulers. But towards the end of the 19th century, when Indians wanted to be integrated into power structures, attitudes towards their membership became more complicated. The ways that people like Rudyard Kipling, who believed profoundly in Freemasonry but was also profoundly racist, negotiated those strange contradictions is something that today’s Masons need to come to terms with.

How have the conspiracy theories surrounding Freemasonry led to Masons being persecuted?

The Freemasons have inspired a lot of fear over the years. They were already worrying conservative Europe in the 18th century, when the French Revolution came along. A French priest in exile in London called Augustine Barruel wrote a book blaming it all on the Freemasons. That really fired the starting gun on the conspiracy theories.

From that point onwards, anti-Masonry became a feature of almost all rightwing thinking. The idea of a Masonic conspiracy – an infiltrating power hidden in the lodges, some weird Magus or homunculus pulling all the strings – became the template for a new incarnation of anti-Semitism based on the idea of an obscure financial elite controlling everything. As the two began to merge, the idea of the Judeo-Masonic conspiracy emerged, which Adolf Hitler talks about in Mein Kampf. Hitler was prepared to turn his anti-Masonry on and off as suited his political purposes, and his political purposes were fundamentally anti-Semitic. Targeting the Masons also gave a socialistic flavour to his ideas when he needed it, because it seemed like he was sticking it to a bourgeois cabal.

Very few people know about Franco’s persecution of the Freemasons, which was astonishingly paranoid. During the Spanish Civil War, his people massacred Masons out of hand. It’s thought there were probably about 5,000 in Spain before the civil war. By the time it had ended, so many had gone into exile or been killed, that number had dropped to less than 1,000. This persecution went on into the ‘60s and ‘70s. There was a special tribunal set up to try Masons, and the minimum sentence was 12 years and a day. Franco’s great archive in Salamanca had index cards for 80,000 suspected Brothers. And this whole repressive machine was driven by the same old fantasy – of an endlessly resourceful, invisible Masonic conspiracy.

What about Freemasonry’s relationship with the church?

For most of the 19th century, the official policy of the Catholic church was that Freemasons had caused the ills of the modern world through a demonic conspiracy. The papacy couldn’t see their rituals and code of religious tolerance as anything other than heretical.

One peculiar incident that highlights the deep level of distrust is the Taxil hoax. In the 1880s, the Catholic church was locked in a culture war with the forces of secularisation. The church saw this as the rise of Satan and blamed the Freemasons. In this context, a man called Leo Taxil, who had been fervently anti-Catholic, converted and declared that he was a former Freemason who’d witnessed satanic goings-on and that he’d even seen the devil manifest himself in lodges. He claimed to have unmasked a Masonic conspiracy led by chain-smoking lesbians (bizarrely, Masonic conspiracies often end up with women at their head). Taxil went on to write reams of ever more far-fetched material and gained massive support from the Catholic church hierarchy until, 12 years later, he declared the entire thing had been a hoax.

Has Freemasonry adapted well to changing times?

Yes, in that its most successful era was probably the mid-20th century. I think the peak was in 1959 in the United States, when there were more than 4 million members. If you were white, American and middle class, you were fairly likely to be a Freemason.

I don’t think they are likely to die out anytime soon, but they are now a largely greying organisation. I think in order to sustain themselves, they do need to reflect on what their success was built on. The picture of the classic Freemason in 1950s America was the guy who drives back from the office to find his dinner prepared for him and then heads out for an evening at the lodge, leaving his wife behind to polish the floor. You just can’t live like that anymore. But there are some signs of moving forward. For example, French Freemasons recently admitted women to the Grand Orient. Interestingly, it was a trans woman who first broke the mould.

Why do you think it’s important to understand Masonic history?

The sheer scale of its reach, to start with. Freemasonry has proven to be extraordinarily contagious. That model, of organising yourself into a brotherhood with rituals, symbols and so on, helped give rise to things as diverse as the Sicilian Mafia and the Mormon church.

I’m also intrigued by anybody who believes in the great Enlightenment ideals of tolerance, reason, cosmopolitanism and the equality of rights. We need to understand the history of those ideas and how they’ve been put into practice. I think of Freemasonry and its different manifestations as a kind of tragicomedy of those Enlightenment values, brought into very sharp focus. It makes us think about how hard it is to live out our ideals and what it can take to achieve that.

The Craft: How Freemasons Made The Modern World (Hodder & Stoghton) is out now. John Dickie is professor of Italian studies at UCL. His books include Cosa Nostra: A History of the Sicilian Mafia (Hodder and Stoughton, 2004), and Delizia! The Epic History of Italians and Their Food (Free Press, 2007). John has written and presented a number of historical TV documentaries. His website is

Listen to an extended version of this interview with John Dickie on the HistoryExtra podcast


The Masonic lodge is the basic organisational unit of Freemasonry. [2] The Lodge meets regularly and conducts the usual formal business of any small organisation (approve minutes, elect new members, appoint officers and take their reports, consider correspondence, bills and annual accounts, organise social and charitable events, etc.). In addition to such business, the meeting may perform a ceremony to confer a Masonic degree [3] or receive a lecture, which is usually on some aspect of Masonic history or ritual. [4] At the conclusion of the meeting, the Lodge may hold a formal dinner, or festive board, sometimes involving toasting and song. [5]

The bulk of Masonic ritual consists of degree ceremonies conferred in meetings guarded by a "Tyler" outside the door with a drawn sword to keep out unqualified intruders to Masonry. (This officer, the Tyler, is necessarily senior because at the door he may hear the highest degree ceremonies, and often a less affluent elderly Mason is offered the office to relieve his need for Masonic company, refreshments and/or fees, without having to pay a subscription. He takes minor parts at the door of all meetings and ceremonies.) Candidates for Freemasonry are progressively initiated into Freemasonry, first in the degree of Entered Apprentice. At some later time, in separate ceremonies, they will be passed to the degree of Fellowcraft and then raised to the degree of Master Mason. In each of these ceremonies, the candidate must first take the new obligations of the degree, and is then entrusted with secret knowledge including passwords, signs and grips (secret handshakes) confined to his new rank. [6]

Another ceremony is the annual installation of the Master of the Lodge and his appointed or elected officers. [3] In some jurisdictions an Installed Master elected, obligated and invested to preside over a Lodge, is valued as a separate rank with its own secrets and distinctive title and attributes after each full year in the Chair the Master invests his elected successor and becomes a Past Master with privileges in the Lodge and Grand Lodge. [7] In other jurisdictions, the grade is not recognised, and no inner ceremony conveys new secrets during the installation of a new Master of the Lodge. [8]

Most Lodges have some sort of social functions, allowing members, their partners and non-Masonic guests to meet openly. [9] Often coupled with these events is the discharge of every Mason's and Lodge's collective obligation to contribute to charity. This occurs at many levels, including in annual dues, subscriptions, fundraising events, Lodges and Grand Lodges. Masons and their charities contribute for the relief of need in many fields, such as education, health and old age. [10] [11]

Private Lodges form the backbone of Freemasonry, with the sole right to elect their own candidates for initiation as Masons or admission as joining Masons, and sometimes with exclusive rights over residents local to their premises. There are non-local Lodges where Masons meet for wider or narrower purposes, such or in association with some hobby, sport, Masonic research, business, profession, regiment or college. The rank of Master Mason also entitles a Freemason to explore Masonry further through other degrees, administered separately from the basic Craft or "Blue Lodge" degrees described here, but generally having a similar structure and meetings. [12]

There is much diversity and little consistency in Freemasonry, because each Masonic jurisdiction is independent and sets its own rules and procedures while Grand Lodges have limited jurisdiction over their constituent member Lodges, which are ultimately private clubs. The wording of the ritual, the number of officers present, the layout of the meeting room, etc. varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. [12] [13]

Almost all officers of a Lodge are elected or appointed annually. Every Masonic Lodge has a Master, two Wardens, a treasurer and a secretary. There is also always a Tyler, or outer guard, outside the door of a working Lodge, who may be paid to secure its privacy. Other offices vary between jurisdictions. [12]

Each Masonic Lodge exists and operates according to ancient principles known as the Landmarks of Freemasonry, which elude any universally accepted definition. [14]

Joining a lodge Edit

Candidates for Freemasonry will usually have met the most active members of the Lodge they are joining before being elected for initiation. The process varies among Grand Lodges, but in modern times interested people often look up a local Lodge through the Internet and will typically be introduced to a Lodge social function or open evening. The onus is upon candidates to ask to join while they may be encouraged to ask, they may not be invited. Once the initial inquiry is made, a formal application may be proposed and seconded or announced in open Lodge and a more or less formal interview usually follows. If the candidate wishes to proceed, references are taken up during a period of notice so that members may enquire into the candidate's suitability and discuss it. Finally the Lodge takes an officially secret ballot on each application before a candidate is either initiated or rejected, [15] In UGLE any single member's adverse vote, a "blackball" given secretly without stating a reason, or at most two, will suffice to reject a candidate.

A minimum requirement of every body of Freemasons is that each candidate must be "free and of good repute". [16] The question of freedom, a standard feudal requirement of mediaeval guilds, is nowadays one of independence: the object is that every Mason should be a proper and responsible person. [15] Thus, each Grand Lodge has a standard minimum age, varying greatly and often subject to dispensation in particular cases. (For example, the Apollo University Lodge at Oxford has always had dispensations to initiate undergraduates below 21, the former English legal age of majority and still the standard UGLE minimum: in the twenty-first century, all university lodges now share this privilege).

Additionally, most Grand Lodges require a candidate to declare a belief in a Supreme Being, (although every candidate must interpret this condition in his own way, as all religious discussion is commonly prohibited). In a few cases, the candidate may be required to be of a specific religion. The form of Freemasonry most common in Scandinavia (known as the Swedish Rite), for example, accepts only Christians. [17] At the other end of the spectrum, "Liberal" or Continental Freemasonry, exemplified by the Grand Orient de France, does not require a declaration of belief in any deity and accepts atheists (the cause of the distinction from the rest of Freemasonry). [18] [19]

During the ceremony of initiation, the candidate is required to undertake an obligation, swearing on the religious volume sacred to his personal faith to do good as a Mason. In the course of three degrees, Masons will promise to keep the secrets of their degree from lower degrees and outsiders, as far as practicality and the law permit, and to support a fellow Mason in distress. [12] There is formal instruction as to the duties of a Freemason, but on the whole, Freemasons are left to explore the craft in the manner they find most satisfying. Some will simply enjoy the dramatics, or the management and administration of the lodge, others will explore the history, ritual and symbolism of the craft, others will focus their involvement on their Lodge's social side, perhaps in association with other lodges, while still others will concentrate on the lodge's charitable functions. [20] [21]

Grand Lodges Edit

Grand Lodges and Grand Orients are independent and sovereign bodies that govern Masonry in a given country, state or geographical area (termed a jurisdiction). There is no single overarching governing body that presides over worldwide Freemasonry connections between different jurisdictions depend solely on mutual recognition. [22] [23]

Freemasonry, as it exists in various forms all over the world, has a membership estimated by the United Grand Lodge of England at around 6 million worldwide. [3] The fraternity is administratively organised into independent Grand Lodges (or sometimes Grand Orients), each of which governs its own Masonic jurisdiction, which consists of subordinate (or constituent) Lodges. The largest single jurisdiction, in terms of membership, is the United Grand Lodge of England (with local organisation into Provincial Grand Lodges possessing a combined membership estimated at around a quarter million). The Grand Lodge of Scotland and Grand Lodge of Ireland (taken together) have approximately 150,000 members. [3] In the United States, total membership is just under 2 million. [24]

Recognition, amity and regularity Edit

Relations between Grand Lodges are determined by the concept of Recognition. Each Grand Lodge maintains a list of other Grand Lodges that it recognises. [25] When two Grand Lodges recognise and are in Masonic communication with each other, they are said to be in amity, and the brethren of each may visit each other's Lodges and interact Masonically. When two Grand Lodges are not in amity, inter-visitation is not allowed. There are many reasons one Grand Lodge will withhold or withdraw recognition from another, but the two most common are Exclusive Jurisdiction and Regularity. [26]

Exclusive Jurisdiction Edit

Exclusive Jurisdiction is a concept whereby normally only one Grand Lodge will be recognised in any geographical area. If two Grand Lodges claim jurisdiction over the same area, the other Grand Lodges will have to choose between them, and they may not all decide to recognise the same one. (In 1849, for example, the Grand Lodge of New York split into two rival factions, each claiming to be the legitimate Grand Lodge. Other Grand Lodges had to choose between them until the schism was healed [27] ). Exclusive Jurisdiction can be waived when the two overlapping Grand Lodges are themselves in Amity and agree to share jurisdiction (for example, since the Grand Lodge of Connecticut is in Amity with the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Connecticut, the principle of Exclusive Jurisdiction does not apply, and other Grand Lodges may recognise both, [28] likewise the five distinct kinds of lodges in Germany have nominally united under one Grand Lodge, in order to obtain international recognition.

Regularity Edit

Regularity is a concept based on adherence to Masonic Landmarks, the basic membership requirements, tenets and rituals of the craft. Each Grand Lodge sets its own definition of what these landmarks are, and thus what is Regular and what is Irregular (and the definitions do not necessarily agree between Grand Lodges). Essentially, every Grand Lodge will hold that its landmarks (its requirements, tenets and rituals) are Regular, and judge other Grand Lodges based on those. If the differences are significant, one Grand Lodge may declare the other "Irregular" and withdraw or withhold recognition. [29] [30]

The most commonly shared rules for Recognition (based on Regularity) are those given by the United Grand Lodge of England in 1929:

  • The Grand Lodge should be established by an existing regular Grand Lodge, or by at least three regular Lodges.
  • A belief in a supreme being and scripture is a condition of membership.
  • Initiates should take their vows on that scripture.
  • Only men can be admitted, and no relationship exists with mixed Lodges.
  • The Grand Lodge has complete control over the first three degrees, and is not subject to another body.
  • All Lodges shall display a volume of scripture with the square and compasses while in session.
  • There is no discussion of politics or religion.
  • "Antient landmarks, customs and usages" observed. [31]

Blue Lodges, known as Craft Lodges in the United Kingdom, offer only the three traditional degrees. In most jurisdictions, the rank of past or installed master is also conferred in Blue/Craft Lodges. Master Masons are able to extend their Masonic experience by taking further degrees, in appendant or other bodies whether or not approved by their own Grand Lodge. [32]

The Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite is a system of 33 degrees, including the three Blue Lodge degrees administered by a local or national Supreme Council. This system is popular in North America, South America and in Continental Europe. In America, the York Rite, with a similar range, administers three orders of Masonry, namely the Royal Arch, Cryptic Masonry, and Knights Templar. [33]

In Britain, separate bodies administer each order. Freemasons are encouraged to join the Holy Royal Arch, which is linked to Mark Masonry in Scotland and Ireland, but completely separate in England. In England, the Royal Arch is closely associated with the Craft, automatically having many Grand Officers in common, including H.R.H the Duke of Kent as both Grand Master of the Craft and First Grand Principal of the Royal Arch. The English Knights Templar and Cryptic Masonry share the Mark Grand Lodge offices and staff at Mark Masons Hall. [34] The Ancient and Accepted Rite (similar to the Scottish Rite), requires a member to proclaim the Trinitarian Christian faith, and is administered from Duke Street in London. [35]

In the Nordic countries, the Swedish Rite is dominant a variation of it is also used in parts of Germany.

Freemasonry describes itself as a "beautiful system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols". [36] The symbolism is mainly, but not exclusively, drawn from the tools of stonemasons – the square and compasses, the level and plumb rule, the trowel, the rough and smooth ashlars, among others. Moral lessons are attributed to each of these tools, although the assignment is by no means consistent. The meaning of the symbolism is taught and explored through ritual, [12] and in lectures and articles by individual Masons who offer their personal insights and opinions.

All Freemasons begin their journey in the "craft" by being progressively "initiated", "passed" and "raised" into the three degrees of Craft, or Blue Lodge Masonry. During these three rituals, the candidate is progressively taught the Masonic symbols, and entrusted with grips or tokens, signs and words to signify to other Masons which degrees he has taken. The dramatic allegorical ceremonies include explanatory lectures, and revolve around the construction of the Temple of Solomon, and the artistry and death of the chief architect, Hiram Abiff. The degrees are those of "Entered apprentice", "Fellowcraft" and "Master Mason". While many different versions of these rituals exist, with various lodge layouts and versions of the Hiramic legend, each version is recognisable to any Freemason from any jurisdiction. [12]

In some jurisdictions, the main themes of each degree are illustrated by tracing boards. These painted depictions of Masonic themes are exhibited in the lodge according to which degree is being worked, and are explained to the candidate to illustrate the legend and symbolism of each degree. [37]

The idea of Masonic brotherhood probably descends from a 16th-century legal definition of a "brother" as one who has taken an oath of mutual support to another. Accordingly, Masons swear at each degree to keep the contents of that degree secret, and to support and protect their brethren unless they have broken the law. [38] In most Lodges the oath or obligation is taken on a Volume of Sacred Law, whichever book of divine revelation is appropriate to the religious beliefs of the individual brother (usually the Bible in the Anglo-American tradition). In Progressive continental Freemasonry, books other than scripture are permissible, a cause of rupture between Grand Lodges. [39]

Origins Edit

Since the middle of the 19th century, Masonic historians have sought the origins of the movement in a series of similar documents known as the Old Charges, dating from the Regius Poem in about 1425 [40] to the beginning of the 18th century. Alluding to the membership of a lodge of operative masons, they relate it to a mythologised history of the craft, the duties of its grades, and the manner in which oaths of fidelity are to be taken on joining. [41] The 15th century also sees the first evidence of ceremonial regalia. [42]

There is no clear mechanism by which these local trade organisations became today's Masonic Lodges. The earliest rituals and passwords known, from operative lodges around the turn of the 17th–18th centuries, show continuity with the rituals developed in the later 18th century by accepted or speculative Masons, as those members who did not practice the physical craft gradually came to be known. [43] The minutes of the Lodge of Edinburgh (Mary's Chapel) No. 1 in Scotland show a continuity from an operative lodge in 1598 to a modern speculative Lodge. [44] It is reputed to be the oldest Masonic Lodge in the world. [45]

Alternatively, Thomas De Quincey in his work titled Rosicrucians and Freemasonry put forward the theory that suggested that Freemasonry may have been an outgrowth of Rosicrucianism. The theory had also been postulated in 1803 by German professor J. G. Buhle. [46] [47]

The first Grand Lodge, the Grand Lodge of London and Westminster, later called the Grand Lodge of England (GLE), was founded on St John's Day, 24 June 1717, [48] when four existing London Lodges met for a joint dinner. Many English Lodges joined the new regulatory body, which itself entered a period of self-publicity and expansion. However, many Lodges could not endorse changes that some Lodges of the GLE, which came to be known as Moderns, had made to the ritual, and a few of these formed a rival Grand Lodge on 17 July 1751, which they called the "Antient Grand Lodge of England." These two Grand Lodges vied for supremacy until the Moderns promised to return to the ancient ritual. They united on 27 December 1813 to form the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE). [49] [50]

The Grand Lodge of Ireland and the Grand Lodge of Scotland were formed in 1725 and 1736, respectively, although neither persuaded all of the existing lodges in their countries to join for many years. [51] [52]

North America Edit

The earliest known American lodges were in Pennsylvania. The Collector for the port of Pennsylvania, John Moore, wrote of attending lodges there in 1715, two years before the putative formation of the first Grand Lodge in London. The Premier Grand Lodge of England appointed a Provincial Grand Master for North America in 1731, based in Pennsylvania, [53] leading to the creation of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania.

In Canada, Erasmus James Philipps became a Freemason while working on a commission to resolve boundaries in New England and, in 1739, he became provincial Grand Master for Nova Scotia Philipps founded the first Masonic lodge in Canada at Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia. [54]

Other lodges in the colony of Pennsylvania obtained authorisations from the later Antient Grand Lodge of England, the Grand Lodge of Scotland, and the Grand Lodge of Ireland, which was particularly well represented in the travelling lodges of the British Army. [55] [56] Many lodges came into existence with no warrant from any Grand Lodge, applying and paying for their authorisation only after they were confident of their own survival. [57]

After the American Revolution, independent U.S. Grand Lodges developed within each state. Some thought was briefly given to organising an overarching "Grand Lodge of the United States," with George Washington, who was a member of a Virginian lodge, as the first Grand Master, but the idea was short-lived. The various state Grand Lodges did not wish to diminish their own authority by agreeing to such a body. [58]

Jamaican Freemasonry Edit

Freemasonry was imported to Jamaica by British immigrants who colonized the island for over 300 years. In 1908, there were eleven recorded Masonic Lodges, which included three Grand Lodges, two Craft Lodges, and two Rose Croix Chapters. [59] During slavery, the Lodges were open to all "freeborn" men. According to the Jamaican 1834 census, that potentially included 5,000 free black men and 40,000 free people of colour (mixed race). [60] After the full abolition of slavery in 1838, the Lodges were open to all Jamaican men of any race. [61] Jamaica also kept close relationships with Masons from other countries. Jamaican Freemasonry historian Jackie Ranston, noted that:

Jamaica served as an arms depot for the revolutionary forces when two Kingston Freemasons, Wellwood and Maxwell Hyslop, financed the campaigns of Simón Bolívar, the Liberator, to whom six Latin American Republics owe their independence". Bolívar himself was a Mason, enjoying contacts with Brethren in Spain, England, France, and Venezuela until after gaining power in Venezuela, he prohibited all secret societies in 1828 and included the Freemasons. [61]

On 25 May 2017, Masons around the world celebrated the 300th anniversary of the fraternity. Jamaica hosted one of the regional gatherings for this celebration. [62] [59]

Prince Hall Freemasonry Edit

Prince Hall Freemasonry exists because of the refusal of early American lodges to admit African Americans. In 1775, an African American named Prince Hall, [63] along with 14 other African-American men, was initiated into a British military lodge with a warrant from the Grand Lodge of Ireland, having failed to obtain admission from the other lodges in Boston. When the British military Lodge left North America after the end of the Revolution, those 15 men were given the authority to meet as a Lodge, but not to initiate Masons. In 1784, these individuals obtained a Warrant from the Premier Grand Lodge of England (GLE) and formed African Lodge, Number 459. When the UGLE was formed in 1813, all U.S.-based Lodges were stricken from their rolls – largely because of the War of 1812. Thus, separated from both UGLE and any concordantly recognised U.S. Grand Lodge, African Lodge retitled itself as the African Lodge, Number 1 – and became a de facto Grand Lodge. (This lodge is not to be confused with the various Grand Lodges in Africa.) As with the rest of U.S. Freemasonry, Prince Hall Freemasonry soon grew and organised on a Grand Lodge system for each state. [64]

Widespread racial segregation in 19th- and early 20th-century North America made it difficult for African Americans to join Lodges outside of Prince Hall jurisdictions – and impossible for inter-jurisdiction recognition between the parallel U.S. Masonic authorities. By the 1980s, such discrimination was a thing of the past. Today most U.S. Grand Lodges recognise their Prince Hall counterparts, and the authorities of both traditions are working towards full recognition. [65] The United Grand Lodge of England has no problem with recognising Prince Hall Grand Lodges. [66] While celebrating their heritage as lodges of African-Americans, Prince Hall is open to all men regardless of race or religion. [67]

Emergence of Continental Freemasonry Edit

English Freemasonry spread to France in the 1720s, first as lodges of expatriates and exiled Jacobites, and then as distinctively French lodges that still follow the ritual of the Moderns. From France and England, Freemasonry spread to most of Continental Europe during the course of the 18th century. The Grande Loge de France formed under the Grand Mastership of the Duke of Clermont, who exercised only nominal authority. His successor, the Duke of Orléans, reconstituted the central body as the Grand Orient de France in 1773. Briefly eclipsed during the French Revolution, French Freemasonry continued to grow in the next century, [68] at first under the leadership of Alexandre Francois Auguste de Grasse, Comte de Grassy-Tilly. A career Army officer, he lived with his family in Charleston, South Carolina from 1793 to the early 1800s, after leaving Saint-Domingue, now Haiti, during the years of the Haitian Revolution.

Schism Edit

The ritual form on which the Grand Orient of France was based was abolished in England in the events leading to the formation of the United Grand Lodge of England in 1813. However the two jurisdictions continued in amity, or mutual recognition, until events of the 1860s and 1870s drove a seemingly permanent wedge between them. In 1868 the Supreme Council of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of the State of Louisiana appeared in the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Louisiana, recognised by the Grand Orient de France, but regarded by the older body as an invasion of their jurisdiction. The new Scottish Rite body admitted blacks. The resolution of the Grand Orient the following year that neither colour, race, nor religion could disqualify a man from Masonry prompted the Grand Lodge to withdraw recognition, and it persuaded other American Grand Lodges to do the same. [69]

A dispute during the Lausanne Congress of Supreme Councils of 1875 prompted the Grand Orient de France to commission a report by a Protestant pastor, which concluded that, as Freemasonry was not a religion, it should not require a religious belief. The new constitutions read, "Its principles are absolute liberty of conscience and human solidarity", the existence of God and the immortality of the soul being struck out. It is possible that the immediate objections of the United Grand Lodge of England were at least partly motivated by the political tension between France and Britain at the time. The result was the withdrawal of recognition of the Grand Orient of France by the United Grand Lodge of England, a situation that continues today. [19]

Not all French lodges agreed with the new wording. In 1894, lodges favouring the compulsory recognition of the Great Architect of the Universe formed the Grande Loge de France. [70] In 1913, the United Grand Lodge of England recognised a new Grand Lodge of Regular Freemasons, a Grand Lodge that follows a similar rite to Anglo-American Freemasonry with a mandatory belief in a deity. [71]

There are now three strands of Freemasonry in France, which extend into the rest of Continental Europe:-

  • Liberal, also called adogmatic or progressive – Principles of liberty of conscience, and laicity, particularly the separation of the Church and State. [72]
  • Traditional – Old French ritual with a requirement for a belief in a Supreme Being. [73] (This strand is typified by the Grande Loge de France).
  • Regular – Standard Anglo-American ritual, mandatory belief in Supreme Being. [74]

The term Continental Freemasonry was used in Mackey's 1873 Encyclopedia of Freemasonry to "designate the Lodges on the Continent of Europe which retain many usages which have either been abandoned by, or never were observed in, the Lodges of England, Ireland, and Scotland, as well as the United States of America". [75] Today, it is frequently used to refer to only the Liberal jurisdictions typified by the Grand Orient de France. [76]

The majority of Freemasonry considers the Liberal (Continental) strand to be Irregular, and thus withhold recognition. The Continental lodges, however, did not want to sever masonic ties. In 1961, an umbrella organisation, Centre de Liaison et d'Information des Puissances maçonniques Signataires de l'Appel de Strasbourg (CLIPSAS) was set up, which today provides a forum for most of these Grand Lodges and Grand Orients worldwide. Included in the list of over 70 Grand Lodges and Grand Orients are representatives of all three of the above categories, including mixed and women's organisations. The United Grand Lodge of England does not communicate with any of these jurisdictions, and expects its allies to follow suit. This creates the distinction between Anglo-American and Continental Freemasonry. [77] [78]

Italy Edit

In the early 20th century Freemasonry was an influential semi-secret force in Italian politics with a strong presence among professionals and the middle class across Italy, as well as among the leadership of the parliament, public administration, and the army. The two main organisations were the Grand Orient and the Grand Lodge of Italy. They had 25,000 members in 500 or more lodges. Freemasons took on the challenge of mobilizing the press, public opinion and the leading political parties in support of Italy's joining the Allies of the First World War in 1914–1915. Traditionally, they promoted Italian nationalism focused on unification, and undermining the power of the Catholic Church. In 1914-15 they dropped the traditional pacifistic rhetoric and used instead the powerful language of Italian nationalism. Freemasonry had always promoted cosmopolitan universal values, and by 1917 onwards they demanded a League of Nations to promote a new post-war universal order based upon the peaceful coexistence of independent and democratic nations. [79]

Freemasonry and women Edit

The status of women in the old guilds and corporations of medieval masons remains uncertain. The principle of "femme sole" allowed a widow to continue the trade of her husband, but its application had wide local variations, such as full membership of a trade body or limited trade by deputation or approved members of that body. [80] In masonry, the small available evidence points to the less empowered end of the scale. [81]

At the dawn of the Grand Lodge era, during the 1720s, James Anderson composed the first printed constitutions for Freemasons, the basis for most subsequent constitutions, which specifically excluded women from Freemasonry. [82] As Freemasonry spread, women began to be added to the Lodges of Adoption by their husbands who were continental masons, which worked three degrees with the same names as the men's but different content. The French officially abandoned the experiment in the early 19th century. [83] [84] Later organisations with a similar aim emerged in the United States, but distinguished the names of the degrees from those of male masonry. [85]

Maria Deraismes was initiated into Freemasonry in 1882, then resigned to allow her lodge to rejoin their Grand Lodge. Having failed to achieve acceptance from any masonic governing body, she and Georges Martin started a mixed masonic lodge that worked masonic ritual. [86] Annie Besant spread the phenomenon to the English-speaking world. [87] Disagreements over ritual led to the formation of exclusively female bodies of Freemasons in England, which spread to other countries. Meanwhile, the French had re-invented Adoption as an all-female lodge in 1901, only to cast it aside again in 1935. The lodges, however, continued to meet, which gave rise, in 1959, to a body of women practising continental Freemasonry. [84]

In general, Continental Freemasonry is sympathetic to Freemasonry amongst women, dating from the 1890s when French lodges assisted the emergent co-masonic movement by promoting enough of their members to the 33rd degree of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite to allow them, in 1899, to form their own grand council, recognised by the other Continental Grand Councils of that Rite. [88] The United Grand Lodge of England issued a statement in 1999 recognising the two women's grand lodges there, The Order of Women Freemasons [89] and The Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons, [90] to be regular in all but the participants. While they were not, therefore, recognised as regular, they were part of Freemasonry "in general". [3] [91] The attitude of most regular Anglo-American grand lodges remains that women Freemasons are not legitimate Masons. [92]

In 2018 guidance was released by the United Grand Lodge of England stating that, in regard to transgender women, "A Freemason who after initiation ceases to be a man does not cease to be a Freemason". [93] The guidance also states that transgender men are allowed to apply to become Freemasons. [93]

Anti-Masonry (alternatively called Anti-Freemasonry) has been defined as "opposition to Freemasonry", [94] [95] but there is no homogeneous anti-Masonic movement. Anti-Masonry consists of widely differing criticisms from diverse (and often incompatible) groups who are hostile to Freemasonry in some form. Critics have included religious groups, political groups, and conspiracy theorists, in particular, those espousing Masonic conspiracy theories or the Judeo-Masonic conspiracy theory. Certain prominent Anti-Masons, such as Nesta Helen Webster (1876–1960), have exclusively criticized "Continental Masonry" while considering "Regular Masonry" an honorable association. [96]

There have been many disclosures and exposés dating as far back as the 18th century. These often lack context, [97] may be outdated for various reasons, [98] or could be outright hoaxes on the part of the author, as in the case of the Taxil hoax. [99]

These hoaxes and exposés have often become the basis for criticism of Masonry, often religious or political in nature or are based on suspicion of corrupt conspiracy of some form. The political opposition that arose after the American "Morgan Affair" in 1826 gave rise to the term Anti-Masonry, which is still in use in America today, both by Masons in referring to their critics and as a self-descriptor by the critics themselves. [100]

Religious opposition Edit

Freemasonry has attracted criticism from theocratic states and organised religions for supposed competition with religion, or supposed heterodoxy within the fraternity itself and has long been the target of conspiracy theories, which assert Freemasonry to be an occult and evil power. [101]

Christianity and Freemasonry Edit

Although members of various faiths cite objections, certain Christian denominations have had high-profile negative attitudes to Masonry, banning or discouraging their members from being Freemasons.

The denomination with the longest history of objection to Freemasonry is the Catholic Church. The objections raised by the Catholic Church are based on the allegation that Masonry teaches a naturalistic deistic religion which is in conflict with Church doctrine. [102] A number of Papal pronouncements have been issued against Freemasonry. The first was Pope Clement XII's In eminenti apostolatus, 28 April 1738 the most recent was Pope Leo XIII's Ab apostolici, 15 October 1890. The 1917 Code of Canon Law explicitly declared that joining Freemasonry entailed automatic excommunication, and banned books favouring Freemasonry. [103]

In 1983, the Church issued a new code of canon law. Unlike its predecessor, the 1983 Code of Canon Law did not explicitly name Masonic orders among the secret societies it condemns. It states: "A person who joins an association which plots against the Church is to be punished with a just penalty one who promotes or takes office in such an association is to be punished with an interdict." This named omission of Masonic orders caused both Catholics and Freemasons to believe that the ban on Catholics becoming Freemasons may have been lifted, especially after the perceived liberalisation of Vatican II. [104] However, the matter was clarified when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI), as the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued a Declaration on Masonic Associations, which states: ". the Church's negative judgment in regard to Masonic association remains unchanged since their principles have always been considered irreconcilable with the doctrine of the Church and therefore membership in them remains forbidden. The faithful who enrol in Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion." [105] For its part, Freemasonry has never objected to Catholics joining their fraternity. Those Grand Lodges in amity with UGLE deny the Church's claims. The UGLE now states that "Freemasonry does not seek to replace a Mason's religion or provide a substitute for it." [3]

In contrast to Catholic allegations of rationalism and naturalism, Protestant objections are more likely to be based on allegations of mysticism, occultism, and even Satanism. [106] Masonic scholar Albert Pike is often quoted (in some cases misquoted) by Protestant anti-Masons as an authority for the position of Masonry on these issues. [107] However, Pike, although undoubtedly learned, was not a spokesman for Freemasonry and was also controversial among Freemasons in general. His writings represented his personal opinion only, and furthermore an opinion grounded in the attitudes and understandings of late 19th century Southern Freemasonry of the US. Notably, his book carries in the preface a form of disclaimer from his own Grand Lodge. No one voice has ever spoken for the whole of Freemasonry. [108]

Free Methodist Church founder B.T. Roberts was a vocal opponent of Freemasonry in the mid 19th century. Roberts opposed the society on moral grounds and stated, "The god of the lodge is not the God of the Bible." Roberts believed Freemasonry was a "mystery" or "alternate" religion and encouraged his church not to support ministers who were Freemasons. Freedom from secret societies is one of the "frees" upon which the Free Methodist Church was founded. [109]

Since the founding of Freemasonry, many Bishops of the Church of England have been Freemasons, such as Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher. [110] In the past, few members of the Church of England would have seen any incongruity in concurrently adhering to Anglican Christianity and practising Freemasonry. In recent decades, however, reservations about Freemasonry have increased within Anglicanism, perhaps due to the increasing prominence of the evangelical wing of the church. The former archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, appeared to harbour some reservations about Masonic ritual, whilst being anxious to avoid causing offence to Freemasons inside and outside the Church of England. In 2003 he felt it necessary to apologise to British Freemasons after he said that their beliefs were incompatible with Christianity and that he had barred the appointment of Freemasons to senior posts in his diocese when he was Bishop of Monmouth. [111]

In 1933, the Orthodox Church of Greece officially declared that being a Freemason constitutes an act of apostasy and thus, until he repents, the person involved with Freemasonry cannot partake of the Eucharist. This has been generally affirmed throughout the whole Eastern Orthodox Church. The Orthodox critique of Freemasonry agrees with both the Catholic and Protestant versions: "Freemasonry cannot be at all compatible with Christianity as far as it is a secret organisation, acting and teaching in mystery and secret and deifying rationalism." [112]

Regular Freemasonry has traditionally not responded to these claims, beyond the often repeated statement that those Grand Lodges in amity with UGLE explicitly adhere to the principle that "Freemasonry is not a religion, nor a substitute for religion. There is no separate 'Masonic deity,' and there is no separate proper name for a deity in Freemasonry." [113]

Christian men, who were discouraged from joining the Freemasons by their Churches or who wanted a more religiocentric society, joined similar fraternal organisations, such as the Knights of Columbus for Catholic Christians, and the Loyal Orange Institution for Protestant Christians, [114] although these fraternal organisations have been "organized in part on the style of and use many symbols of Freemasonry". [114]

There are some elements of Freemasonry within the temple rituals of Mormonism.

Islam and Freemasonry Edit

Many Islamic anti-Masonic arguments are closely tied to both antisemitism and Anti-Zionism, though other criticisms are made such as linking Freemasonry to Al-Masih ad-Dajjal (the false Messiah in Islamic Scripture). [115] [116] Some Muslim anti-Masons argue that Freemasonry promotes the interests of the Jews around the world and that one of its aims is to destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque in order to rebuild the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem. [117] In article 28 of its Covenant, Hamas states that Freemasonry, Rotary, and other similar groups "work in the interest of Zionism and according to its instructions . " [118]

Many countries with a majority Muslim population do not allow Masonic establishments within their borders. However, countries such as Turkey and Morocco have established Grand Lodges, [119] while in countries such as Malaysia [120] [121] and Lebanon [122] there are District Grand Lodges operating under a warrant from an established Grand Lodge.

In Pakistan in 1972, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, then Prime Minister of Pakistan, placed a ban on Freemasonry. Lodge buildings were confiscated by the government. [123]

Masonic lodges existed in Iraq as early as 1917, when the first lodge under the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) was opened. Nine lodges under UGLE existed by the 1950s, and a Scottish lodge was formed in 1923. However, the position changed following the revolution, and all lodges were forced to close in 1965. [124] This position was later reinforced under Saddam Hussein the death penalty was "prescribed" for those who "promote or acclaim Zionist principles, including freemasonry, or who associate [themselves] with Zionist organisations." [115]

Political opposition Edit

In 1799, English Freemasonry almost came to a halt due to Parliamentary proclamation. In the wake of the French Revolution, the Unlawful Societies Act banned any meetings of groups that required their members to take an oath or obligation. [125]

The Grand Masters of both the Moderns and the Antients Grand Lodges called on Prime Minister William Pitt (who was not a Freemason) and explained to him that Freemasonry was a supporter of the law and lawfully constituted authority and was much involved in charitable work. As a result, Freemasonry was specifically exempted from the terms of the Act, provided that each private lodge's Secretary placed with the local "Clerk of the Peace" a list of the members of his lodge once a year. This continued until 1967, when the obligation of the provision was rescinded by Parliament. [125]

Freemasonry in the United States faced political pressure following the 1826 kidnapping of William Morgan by Freemasons and his subsequent disappearance. Reports of the "Morgan Affair", together with opposition to Jacksonian democracy (Andrew Jackson was a prominent Mason), helped fuel an Anti-Masonic movement. The short-lived Anti-Masonic Party was formed, which fielded candidates for the presidential elections of 1828 and 1832. [126]

In Italy, Freemasonry has become linked to a scandal concerning the Propaganda Due lodge (a.k.a. P2). This lodge was chartered by the Grande Oriente d'Italia in 1877, as a lodge for visiting Masons unable to attend their own lodges. Under Licio Gelli's leadership, in the late 1970s, P2 became involved in the financial scandals that nearly bankrupted the Vatican Bank. However, by this time the lodge was operating independently and irregularly, as the Grand Orient had revoked its charter and expelled Gelli in 1976. [127]

Conspiracy theorists have long associated Freemasonry with the New World Order and the Illuminati, and state that Freemasonry as an organisation is either bent on world domination or already secretly in control of world politics. Historically Freemasonry has attracted criticism, and suppression from both the politically far right (e.g., Nazi Germany) [128] [129] and the far left (e.g. the former Communist states in Eastern Europe). [130]

Freemasonry is viewed with distrust even in some modern democracies. [131] In the UK, Masons working in the justice system, such as judges and police officers, were from 1999 to 2009 required to disclose their membership. [132] While a parliamentary inquiry found that there had been no evidence of wrongdoing, the government believed that Masons' potential loyalties to support fellow Masons should be transparent to the public. [131] [132] [133] The policy of requiring a declaration of masonic membership by applicants for judicial office (judges and magistrates) was ended in 2009 by Justice Secretary Jack Straw (who had initiated the requirement in the 1990s). Straw stated that the rule was considered disproportionate, since no impropriety or malpractice had been shown as a result of judges being Freemasons. [134]

Freemasonry is both successful and controversial in France. As of the early 21st century, membership is rising, but reporting of it in popular media is often negative. [131]

In some countries anti-Masonry is often related to antisemitism and anti-Zionism. For example, in 1980, the Iraqi legal and penal code was changed by Saddam Hussein's ruling Ba'ath Party, making it a felony to "promote or acclaim Zionist principles, including Freemasonry, or who associate [themselves] with Zionist organisations". [115] Professor Andrew Prescott of the University of Sheffield writes: "Since at least the time of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, antisemitism has gone hand in hand with anti-masonry, so it is not surprising that allegations that 11 September was a Zionist plot have been accompanied by suggestions that the attacks were inspired by a masonic world order". [135]

The Holocaust Edit

The preserved records of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (the Reich Security Main Office) show the persecution of Freemasons during the Holocaust. [136] RSHA Amt VII (Written Records), overseen by Professor Franz Six, was responsible for "ideological" tasks, by which was meant the creation of antisemitic and anti-Masonic propaganda. While the number of victims is not accurately known, historians estimate that between 80,000 and 200,000 Freemasons were killed under the Nazi regime. [137] Masonic concentration camp inmates were classified as political prisoners and wore an inverted red triangle. [138] Hitler believed Freemasons had succumbed to Jews conspiring against Germany. [139] [140]

The small blue forget-me-not flower was first used by the Grand Lodge Zur Sonne in 1926, as a Masonic emblem at the annual convention in Bremen, Germany. In 1938, a forget-me-not badge, made by the same factory as the Masonic badge, was chosen for the Nazi Party's Winterhilfswerk, the annual charity drive of the National Socialist People's Welfare (the welfare branch of the Nazi party). This coincidence enabled Freemasons to wear the forget-me-not badge as a secret sign of membership. [141] [142] [143]

After World War II, the forget-me-not flower was used again as a Masonic emblem in 1948 at the first Annual Convention of the United Grand Lodges of Germany in 1948. The badge is now sometimes worn in the coat lapel by Freemasons around the world to remember all who suffered in the name of Freemasonry, especially those during the Nazi era. [144]

9 things you didn't know about Freemasonry

(CBS News) "Sunday Morning" looks at the rumors, fears and conspiracy theories sparked by the Freemasons' fraternal order , its secrets and rituals.

1. When meeting, Masons do not discuss religion or politics.

"There are certain subjects which are prevented or we simply proscribe from discussing within the lodge," Piers Vaughan, master of St. John's Lodge #1 in New York, told Mo Rocca. "And religion is one. Politics is another."

One of the world's leading experts on Freemasonry confirms.

"Do they discuss forms of politics and events that have happened? Yes, they do," said UCLA history professor Margaret Jacob. "Do they say, 'Well, I'm a Democrat and therefore I think . ' Or, 'I'm a Republican . ' No, I don't think they do that."

2. Freemasonry is not a religion.

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"Freemasonry has the look of a religion," said Jacob. "You think of religion as ritual, there's also this ritual element. But there are no priests, there are no ministers, there are no rabbis, there's no system of clergy of any sort. Everybody's their own thinker."

3. The Catholic Church condemns Freemasonry.

Jacob said the initial response to Freemasonry in continental Europe, particularly in Catholic Europe, was suspicion from seeing "all these men [from] different neighborhoods, different professions meeting in the cafe, breaking bread together, doing rituals, what could this be? Political conspiracy or religion."

In 1738 the Catholic Church condemned Freemasonry, and has since issued about 20 decrees -- directly or indirectly -- against the fraternity. In 1983 Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (the future Pope Benedict XVI) re-affirmed this position.

4. Atheists are not welcome.

Freemasonry is not a religion per se, but agnostics or atheists cannot belong, said Brent Morris, a Masonic historian, editor of the Scottish Rite Journal, and a 33rd degree Freemason.

"This is an organization of believers," he said. "When it was started on a formal basis in 1717, many historians believe that it was trying to bridge the gap between the religious civil wars that had been going on in England at the time. The Catholics would get in power and beat up on the Protestants the Protestants would get in power and beat up on the Catholics and everyone was beating up on the Jews.

"So when the Freemasons were formed, [they] said, 'Here's a group of men that agree that God is central in their lives, they can even agree that God compels them to do good in the community, then they can shut up after that." That was a radical concept -- that men could get together and agree on that fundamental level, and then get on with their lives."

So could an atheist join? No, said James Sullivan, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of New York: "The reason we, I think in the past, wanted somebody that had a belief in a supreme being is because we take certain obligation to be a good man, to support the fraternity. And if you didn't have a belief in a supreme being, the obligation would mean nothing."

5. Most of the Founding Fathers were NOT Freemasons.

Two of America's earliest presidents, George Washington and James Monroe, were Freemasons, as were Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock and Paul Revere. But many leading figures in the American Revolution -- including John and Samuel Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Thomas Paine -- were not Masons.

Of the 56 figures who signed the Declaration of Independence, only nine were confirmed Masons, according to the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania and of the 39 delegates of the Continental Congress who signed the draft of the new nation's Constitution in 1787, only 13 (one-third) were Freemasons.

6. There are NO secret Masonic symbols on the U.S. dollar bill.

The back of the dollar bill features an incomplete pyramid with an eye on top of it. Many people -- including some Freemasons -- say it's a Masonic symbol, but that's not the case. UCLA's Margaret Jacob says these symbols have been used by many different groups, including Masons, throughout history.

"I'm sure there are a lot of Freemasons who want to believe [they're Masonic symbols] and who will tell it to you, because it makes the Lodges seem important," Jacob said. "I mean, if you have a symbol on the dollar bill, that's a big deal!"

Brent Morris said there are two types of people who want to promote the idea that the symbols are Masonic: "The pro-Masons and the anti-Masons -- and that pretty well covers the universe.

"The Eye of God is a common icon for God looking over the affairs of man," Morris said. "It's an icon that appears in cultures across the centuries. The uncompleted pyramid [which also appeared on a 50-pound Colonial note] represented that our country was not yet completed, that we were continuing to grow."

7. The Shriners are Freemasons.

The Shriners (known formally as the Ancient Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine), the charity organization best known in the popular mind for driving tiny cars in parades, are an off-shoot of the Masons. They run 22 children's hospitals where patients don't pay a cent.

"You must be a Mason to become a Shriner," said Morris.

8. The secret Masonic password originated as a job tool

Masonry began as a guild for stone masons who built the castles and cathedrals of Medieval Europe. "If you were a baker, a miller, a brewer, you could spend your entire life in one village practicing your trade," said Morris. "If you are a mason, after they repair the church or build the town hall, there might not be any mason work in that town for decades, so you had to move to another jobsite.

"Now, you're illiterate the officers of the lodge are probably illiterate. So that's why they believe the Masons' word came into effect. It allowed the craftspeople to move from one jobsite to another and identify themselves as being part of the trade union.

"We have evidence in Scotland going back to the early 1600s that the Masons' word existed, and [that] was how you as a Mason in Edinburgh could identify yourself to a Mason in Lancashire that you were a member of the guild and could have work."

"Are there secret handshakes?" asked Rocca.

"Oh, secret handshakes, of course," replied Morris. "I mean, what's the point of having a password if you don't have a handshake?"

9. There is no hidden Masonic code on Rolling Rock beer bottles.

Introduced in 1939, the Rolling Rock brand of beer, from the Latrobe Brewing Company of Pennsylvania, ends a statement on its label with the cryptic "33." Over the years it has been suggested that it refers to the 33rd degree of Scottish Rite Freemasonry.

According to "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Freemasonry" (Alpha), Latrobe insists the "33" refers to 1933, the year Prohibition ended.

In 1986, Cecil Adams' "The Straight Dope" column investigated this urban legend and found that "33" actually was scribbled under the statement, indicating how many words it contained, and the printer mistakenly added it to the label. [You see, it's always printing errors.]

Freemasonry and the civil war - a house undivided

"My father had been a soldier in the Union Army. . .He was made a Mason in a military Lodge. . .Taken prisoner at Arkansas Post, he was carried up the Mississippi River to Rock Island, Illinois. . .My father became. . . desperately ill, and made himself known as a Mason to an officer of the camp. The officer took him to his own home and nursed him back to life. When the war ended, he loaned Father money to pay his way back to his Texas home, and gave him a pearl-handled pistol to protect himself. . .This experience of my father, when I learned about it, had a very great influence upon my life. . . the fact that such a fraternity of men could exist, mitigating the harshness of war, and remain unbroken when states and churches were torn in two, became a wonder and it is not strange that I tried for years to repay my debt to it."
-- Joseph Fort Newton, D.D. in River of Years - [1]

All the organizations, that is, except one: Freemasonry. While the War raged around them, Freemasons held on to the ties and the idealism that brought them together in the first place. Thousands of Masons fought in the War, and many died. But the tenets of the Craft, those ideals and moral codes that we, as Freemasons, [2] strive to abide by, were able to overcome the hatred and the animosity that the War generated.

There are a number of reasons why this organization, more than any other, was able to survive the tumult that was the Civil War. A major reason is the long and storied history of the Craft. The beliefs and tenets of the Lodge predate not only the Civil War, but the Constitution, the discovery of the New World, and, according to some, even the birth of Christ. When a tradition of that many years exists, it is difficult to ignore.

A second reason why Masonry held together is that membership in a Masonic Lodge is by choice only. No man has ever been recruited into joining a Lodge. Our rules in fact prohibit Masons from actively pursuing someone for initiation. Instead, a man interested in becoming a Mason must, "of his own free will and accord," [3] actively seek out a member of the Lodge which he wishes to join and ask him for a petition for membership.

The third reason is the structure of the Craft itself. There are a number of internal rules and customs that helped the Lodge as a whole avoid the turbulent politics and divisiveness of the War. This allowed the Lodge to continue to function as a place a man could go when he needed help, or a quiet haven from the storms that raged outside the Craft. It was then, and continues to be today, a place where true brotherhood exists.

Perhaps the best example of these ties of brotherhood occurred on the battlefield at Gettysburg. [4] This battle, the turning point of the War, saw 93,000 Federal troops doing battle with 71,000 Confederates. Of those numbers, more than 35,000 were killed or wounded in the three days of fighting from 1 July to 3 July, 1863. Of the men who fought, 17,930 were Freemasons, including the roughly 5,600 who became casualties. [5]

One of the most famous events that occurred at Gettysburg was the huge Confederate infantry push known as Pickett's Charge. On 3 July, Pickett (a member of Dove Lodge #51, Richmond, Va) led nearly 12,000 men on a long rush across open fields towards the center of the Union line on Cemetery Ridge. It has been called the last and greatest infantry charge in military history.

One of the men leading that charge was Brigadier General Lewis Addison Armistead, CSA. He was a member of Alexandria-Washington Masonic Lodge #22 in Alexandria. Originally from North Carolina, he had attended West Point, and fought with the US Army for a number of years before resigning his commission to fight for the Confederacy. During that time, he had occasion to serve with now Major General Winfield Scott Hancock, USA (Charity Lodge #190, Norristown, Pa.) while both men were in the west. The two had become good friends. However, with Armistead's resignation, it had been nearly two and a half years since the two men had had any contact. Until Gettysburg, that is.

It was Hancock who had taken command of the fragmented Union troops on Cemetery Ridge on 1 July, and organized them into a strong front that hadwithstood three days of pounding from the Confederate guns. And it was his position, in the center of the Union line, that was the focus of Pickett's Charge. During the action, both men were wounded. Armistead was shot from his horse, mortally wounded. Hancock's saddle took a hit, driving nails and pieces of wood into his thigh.

As the battle waned, it became clear that Armistead's injuries were fatal. Knowing that his old friend was somewhere behind the Union lines, Armistead exhibited the Masonic sign of distress. [6] This was seen by Captain Henry Harrison Bingham, the Judge-Advocate of Hancock's Second Corps (Chartiers Lodge #297, Canonsburg, Pa.). He came to the fallen Armistead, and declared that he was a fellow Mason.

The two men spoke for a time, and when Armistead realized that Bingham had direct access to Hancock, he entrusted some of his personal effects to him. Among them were his Masonic watch, the Bible upon which he had taken his obligations, [7] and a number of other items. Bingham said his farewells, and then returned to the Union camp to deliver the items. Armistead died two days later.

The fact that Armistead chose to use the Masonic sign of distress signified that his war was over, and that there was another, more pressing matter on his mind, even on the field at Gettysburg. What could lead one of the highest ranking and most intelligent officers in the Confederacy to lay aside all of the ideology of the war and call for a brother of the Craft from the other side? It is this question which I will now address.

During the war, and in the years just prior to it, the questions of secession, slavery, and states' rights were as much on the minds of Masons in this country as anyone. There was almost no way of escaping the thoughts of imminent warfare between the states. The following is taken from a letter, drafted in June of 1861, from the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, sent in response to a communication received from the Grand Lodge of Tennessee decrying the situation that the country was in.

"As to the present deplorable state of this country, Masons cannot fail to have opinions as to the cause that produced it. It is to be feared that some of our brethren are in arms against the union of the States others are in the ranks of its defenders. Taught by the history of he Order. . .they have carried these principles into the formation of opinions on the present crisis in our national history. But while Masons, as individuals, have been thus influenced and are acting in harmony with such views, Freemasonry is a silent, unimpassioned, abstracted observer of events. . . "Brethren -- We, with you, deplore the present unnatural and deeply distressing condition of our national affairs. . .But if this whirlwind threatens to overwhelm us, yet in this last extremity, the still small voice of Masonic faith will be uttered and heard, saying, Brethren, there is help at hand in this time of need.

"'Surely your God is our God your faith our faith your landmarks our landmarks your joy our joy your prosperity our satisfaction.' Then let us unitedly work together for the preservation and perpetuity of a common inheritance. . .[W]e will aid in maintaining unity, peace and concord, among the brethren and citizens of united sovereign States in our glorious Union. If all bonds should be broken, all ties rent asunder if discord, dissension, and disruption, shall mark the decline and fall of the most wise and wonderful of the governments of mankind, let the Masonic temple, in all States, kingdoms, lands, peoples or confederacies, be common refuge of an indestructible Masonic fraternity." [8]

These sentiments were echoed by virtually all of the other Grand Lodges at one point or another during this time period. Nobody wanted war. Negotiation was the overwhelmingly favored option. However, if war occurred, everyone hoped and believed that the Fraternity would be able to survive the conflict. But why? What was so special about Masonry that set it apart from other organizations similar to it?

The first reason is history of the Order. No other organization has the amount and the type of history that Freemasonry does. To truly understand the organization that exists today, it is imperative to examine and understand the history of the Craft.

There is no clear answer as to where the historical roots of Freemasonry lay. The first school of thought traces the Craft from the building of King Solomon's Temple in roughly the 10th century, B.C. At this point, before the advent of metal working tools, the construction of stone buildings required the work and planning of master architects. They had only stone and mortar to work with, and yet their plans were so well-designed as to stand for centuries.

There were relatively few masters, and the secrets of the trade were among the best-kept in the world. Masters knew that the demand for their expertise was overwhelming, and they guarded their knowledge well. Only a select few were elevated to the rank of master, and the process was a long and arduous one. A young man was first apprenticed to an established master, often for a period of several years. The apprentice learned the trade from that master, then set out on his own to practice his trade. Eventually, a few of these craftsmen were elevated to the rank of master, but only after years of labor. This pattern is repeated through many different eras in history, no matter what the craft being learned.

The master architect involved in the construction of King Solomon's Temple was a man named Hiram Abif. He was murdered by a trio of men who aspired to be made masters of the craft. The story of his murder forms the basis for the Master Mason degree in modern Freemasonry. Abif would not relinquish the secrets of the master, and sacrificed his life to protect the sanctity of that honor. These and other ideals are explained in the Master Mason degree, impressing upon the new Brother the extent to which others have gone to uphold the fraternity. [9]

The second line of thought traces the Craft's development from the guilds of the middle ages. This follows closely the ideals of the other school. Guilds of stonecutters were formed to protect the secrets of the actual profession of stonecutting. This was known as "operative Masonry." The first documented instance of a Masonic Lodge in England occurs in 926 A.D. These guildsmen could actually lay stone and build buildings. A person who was engaged in this profession was virtually forced to become a member of the guilds in order to secure work. It closely parallels the development of the "closed shop" labor unions in this country. Those who were not members could not find work.

As time went on, these guilds gained considerable power and influence. They began to develop allegorical meanings for the tools and terminology of the profession. They also developed secret signs, words, and modes of recognition so that one Mason could recognize another, no matter where they went. These insured that only those who were eligible could sit in on the meetings of the guilds. This allowed the mason to travel to other parts of the world, and still be recognized as a master stonecutter. This led to the coining of the term "Free & Accepted Mason," shortened to "Freemason." The mason, as a member of one of the guilds, was free to travel where he wanted and continue to earn a living as a stonecutter.

In the 17th century, when cathedral building was on the decline, some of the individual Lodges began to admit members who were not actual masons. These included civil and religious leaders, government officials, and other dignitaries. These dignitaries realized the power and influence of the Lodges, and gained membership to have a say in that power. Hence, a new type of organization developed. No longer were these guilds of operative masons. Here we see the development of what is know today as "speculative Masonry." Speculative Masonry kept the allegories and the secrets that the operative Masonic guilds used, but merely expanded the rolls of membership to include those who were not employed in the profession.

With a history as long and storied as this, it is little wonder that the ties that bond a man to all of his Masonic brethren are not taken lightly. They are solemn vows, taken in the presence of God and the members of his Lodge. This set of traditions, stretching back over many centuries, is not easily disregarded in favor of such fickle and transient notions as politics. Tradition, however, was not the only reason that the Craft remained together.

A second important reason why Masonry stood apart from other organizations is the way in which a man becomes a Mason. Freemasonry is unique in that we do not recruit new members. In order to gain admittance to a Lodge, a man must come to either the Lodge as a whole, or to an individual member of the Lodge, and request of them a petition for membership. The process itself is controlled by the Lodge after that point, but the important thing to remember is that the prospective member must make the initial query.

This tradition has drawn some criticism in the last few years, as membership has started to decline. Up until roughly the 1960's, membership in virtually all fraternal organizations was incredibly high. This included Freemasonry and all of its appendant bodies, Greek fraternities and sororities on college campuses, and other organizations such as the VFW, the Elks, Moose, Eagles, etc. After the 1960's, however, membership in all of these began to decline, and did so for nearly a generation. It has only recently began to level off, and in some cases, began to rise again. Many of the Grand Lodges, which are the governing bodies in Masonry, have relaxed regulations about discussing membership with prospective members. The rule has remained in place, however.

This is an important distinction for several reasons. First of all, there is a major difference between a group that you choose to join and one that you are coerced into joining. Often, in the other organizations, men were almost forced into becoming members. Perhaps they had a relative, a father or uncle, who was a member, and the younger man was naturally expected to join.

Certainly, this happens in Masonry to some extent, but there is still the element of choice. Throughout the ceremonies of initiation to the various degrees of the Masonic Lodge, the new Brother is repeatedly asked if this choice, to become a Mason, is "of his own free will and accord." This same question is asked no fewer than three times in each degree. [10] There is ample opportunity for a man to voice his objection if he feels he is being forced or coerced into joining.

Another difference is the one between a group a person chooses to join and one that he or she is born into. This is perhaps the most important difference in this context. When a person is born into a society, or a group, or a religion, he or she does not have this element of choice involved. This is one of the reasons that many of these other organizations did not hold together when the war came. A number of the people in the organization decided that they did not want to be in the organization anymore, and as they had never asked to be there, they felt that they were entitled to leave.

The best example of this is the political division between North and South. One of the reasons that some of the secessionists gave for wanting to leave the Union was that they did not have the same loyalty to the Union and the Constitution that the original founding fathers did. Those individuals made the choice to form this new national government, and to abide by the rules and the regulations thereof.

During the time of the Civil War, however, there was a serious question of what bound the new generation of Americans to the federal Constitution. There was a good deal more significance paid to the individual state identities. People would identify themselves as a Virginian first, and then as an American. This question of dual citizenship would plague this country until the question was settled through the bloodshed of civil war.

This concept was what allowed secessionists to declare that they had a more compelling allegiance to the state than to the nation. While this idea may seem strange to modern Americans, to our mid-19th century forefathers, it was perhaps foremost in their minds. For all the talk of slavery being the major cause of the war, the fact remains that the actual debate started over the question of states' rights. Overly simplified, the South was not fighting to preserve slavery, but rather to enforce states' rights. By the same token, the North did not go to war to end slavery, but to preserve the political and economic union.

The secessionists did not feel the same degree of loyalty to the Union, because they had not made a conscious decision to join that group. They felt powerless and on the outside of the political process. This led to a great deal of resentment towards the national government from the Southerners. They were inside a political system that they could not change, and when they tried to escape, a war was waged to keep them in.

On the other hand, the process for becoming a Mason was much different. With this element of choice being so heavily prevalent, each man in the organization was able to feel that he really belonged, that Freemasonry was a place in which he had some say over the government of the organization.

The government of Freemasonry and the way the organization is set up is the third reason that it was able to hold together. Every member in good standing had an equal vote in the affairs of the Lodge. [11] The whole process is very egalitarian. When a Lodge meets, it meets "on the level," meaning that no member is any higher than any other. The newest Brother has the same voice and the same voting power that the oldest does. The Master of the Lodge, who presides over the affairs of the body, is not a supreme dictator. Rather, he rules only by the consent of the members. In elections and other affairs requiring votes, his counts no more than any other.

Another advantage built into the structure of Masonry are the taboos that exist within the Lodge. While it is true that the Lodge is designed to be an open forum for members to express their opinions and to debate matters of importance, there are certain subjects which, as a rule, are not discussed.

By tradition, the only two taboo subjects are Religion and Politics. Our Masonic forefathers deemed them too divisive and the discussion of them as too temperamental and banned them from the Lodge. One of the purposes of the Lodge is to provide a safe haven for rational and intellectual debate. It also tries to encourage a state of harmony within the Lodge itself. To ensure this harmony, these two issues were banned. Our forefathers were well aware that there had never been a conflict that could not be traced to one of these two forces. So by not discussing them, they hoped to provide for this harmonious state that existed within the Lodge.

This stipulation helped to keep peace within the organization. The firebrands and masters of rhetoric that so infected governments and towns found no refuge within the Masonic fraternity. Levelheadedness and reason more often than not were able to prevail upon the leadership of the fraternity. That is what could lead the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania to declare that "Freemasonry is a silent, unimpassioned, abstracted observer of events." [12]

The very structure of the Grand Lodge system lends itself to the preservation of the Craft through national crises. The Grand Lodge is the governing body of Masons in any particular jurisdiction. It is made up of representatives from the various Lodges within that jurisdiction. However, the point to remember is that the Grand Lodge of one jurisdiction owes no allegiance to that of any other. Neither does it subject itself to the rule or authority of any superior body. Each Grand Lodge holds absolute sovereignty within its jurisdiction.

The first of the Grand Lodges was the United Grand Lodge of England. In 1724, four Lodges met in London and formed the first governing body. They understood even then that the relation to the national government was an important issue:

"A Mason is a peaceable subject to the Civil Powers, wherever he resides or works, and is never to be concerned in plots and conspiracies against the peace and welfare of the nation, nor to behave himself undutifully to inferior magistrates for as Masonry hath been always injured by war, bloodshed, and confusion, so ancient Kings and Princes have been much disposed to encourage the Craftsmen, because of their peaceableness and loyalty, whereby they practically answered the calls of their adversaries, and promoted the honour of the Fraternity, who ever flourished in times of peace. So that if a Brother should be a rebel against the State, he is not to be countenanced in his rebellion, however he may be pitied as an unhappy man and, if convicted of no other crime, though the loyal Brotherhood must and ought to disown his rebellion, and give no umbrage or ground of political jealousy to the government for the time being they cannot expel him from the Lodge, and his relation to it remains indefeatible. [13]

"The foregoing is a copy of Section II of the Constitution of Masonry as written by James Anderson for the Grand Lodge of England, and adopted by that grand lodge and printed on "this 17th Day of January, 1724." It was the article most frequently quoted in Masonic circles throughout the Civil War." [14]

These men who authored this Grand Lodge certainly understood the importance of loyalty to both the state and to the Fraternity. But the most important contribution that they made to the preservation of the Craft was the invention of the Grand Lodge system.

There is debate as to when the first Masonic Lodge was formed here in America. Some estimates trace it back to the 1650's or before. [15] Certainly, however, there were Lodges in place by the early 18th century. The first Grand Lodge in the Americas, in Massachusetts, was chartered in 1733. Importantly, it was totally sovereign from the Grand Lodge of England. By the time of the Civil War, 38 independent Grand Lodges existed in the United States. [16]

Each of these Grand Lodges was independent from all of the others, and absolutely sovereign within its own jurisdictional boundaries. This lack of a national leadership is a major reason why Freemasonry as a whole did not fracture along geographical boundaries, as did many of the other organizations. In those cases, groups like the Baptist Churches, the Presbyterian Churches, and others, all had some sort of national leadership council, comprised of representatives of all of the various regions throughout the country. And as the war fractured the country along a definitive line, so too did it divide the national committees of these various groups. It is not logical to assume that any organization, no matter how deeply held their convictions are, no matter how dedicated to their ideals the membership might be, could survive intact. In such a situation, where the leadership of the group is so deeply and obviously split, is it any wonder that the individual group members themselves broke away?

This element was missing from Freemasonry, however. There was no "Grand Lodge of America" to oversee the ones in the states. There was no national committee of leadership to look to for guidance. The individual Grand Lodges were on their own. The rules and regulations that they laid down were only valid within their jurisdiction.

Therefore, a Mason in Georgia did not have to be concerned with the views of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts on the issues of slavery and states' rights. He only had to be concerned with those of the Georgia body. Such a man would have a definite and palpable interest in the affairs of his state's Masonic body, and, importantly, he would have an avenue to make his thoughts and feelings on the various subjects heard. It could be easily said that he had a more direct link to the business and affairs of the Grand Lodge of his state than to the government of the United States.

This brings me to my final reason. The Masonic brotherhood is founded on three basic principles that we use to provide a moral guideline for our lives. Those three tenets are Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth. The concepts themselves seem simple enough. The first teaches us that we should love and respect all of our brethren of the earth, regardless of whether they are members of the Craft or not. The second teaches that we should do all that we can to help those who need our assistance. The third teaches us that we should ever seek the light of knowledge, for only in knowledge can men be truly free.

During the Civil War, Masons on both sides of the line had opportunities to display those virtues. The story of Armistead, Bingham, and Hancock is only one of hundreds of anecdotes that can be related about Masonic brotherhood overcoming the hatred and animosity of the Civil War.

There are a number of documented stories of warfare being put aside for the purposes of Masonic funerals. In Galveston, a Confederate Major named Tucker performed Masonic funeral services for a Union Captain named Wainwright who had died in Tucker's prison. "A public procession consisting of 'both friends and foe wearing the insignia of the Order, and accompanied with a proper military escort' accompanied the body to the Episcopal cemetery." [17] In another case, a Masonic Union Naval commander named Hart was killed on board his vessel during a long bombardment. A small craft sailed into that Louisiana port under a truce flag, and asked for a Mason. W.W. Leake, the man who responded, immediately opened his Lodge and afforded Hart full Masonic rites.

Some Masons took to wearing the signs and symbols of the Craft on their uniforms, in the hopes that a Mason on the other side, upon recognizing him as a Brother, would spare him harm.

Masons were also very active in the hospitals and the care units at the sites of major battles. Often, the hospitals were located on the farms or in the buildings owned by Masons. The Masonic Temple in Vicksburg was used as a hospital first by the Confederates, and then by the Federals after the fall of Vicksburg on 4 July, 1863. [18]

There are many reasons why Freemasonry was able to survive the divisiveness of the Civil War. The sense of tradition that extends back over many centuries lends it an air of dignity and reverence that is very difficult to ignore. No other organization or government has so long and storied a tradition.

A man must choose to a Mason. He cannot be born or forced into it. In an organization that a person chooses to join, there is a more developed sense of loyalty to that group. Those in which there is no choice, such as governments and religions, have less of such a loyal following.

Finally, the structure of the Craft itself lends itself to an advanced sense of coherency. Politics and religion, two of the most divisive elements in human history, did not enter the Lodge room. Every Mason was able to have an equal voice in the running of the Lodge. Each of the Grand Lodges was independent of the others. While there were well-developed lines of communication, no state had to surrender sovereignty to any other. Neither did they submit themselves to the rule of a supreme council. Lastly, the three tenets of the Craft, Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth, required Masons to act differently than non-Masons.

With all of these factors working in their favor, it becomes more evident why Freemasons were able to hold together as an organization more readily than many of their contemporaries. All of the traditions and history established Masonry as a legitimate organization. The attractive elements of Freemasonry itself made membership something that men were eager to embrace. And once these tenets of the Craft had been embraced, disobedience of them was unthinkable. So men, as Masons, were able to overcome all of the political strife and ideological turmoil, simply by holding true to a set of principles that were established long before there was a Union to fight over. A noble accomplishment, to say the least.


Munn, Sheldon A. Freemasons at Gettysburg. Gettysburg, Pa: Thomas Publications, 1993

Roberts, Allen E. Masonic Trivia and Facts. Highland Springs, Va: Anchor Communications, 1994

Roberts, Allen E. House Undivided: The Story of Freemasonry and the Civil War. Fulton, Mo: The Ovid Bell Press, Inc. 1961

Waite, Arthur Edward, ed. A New Encyclopedia of Freemasonry. combined ed. New York, NY: Weathervane Books, 1970

Motts, Wayne E. "Trust In God And Fear Nothing": Gen. Lewis A. Armistead, CSA. Gettysburg, Pa: Farnsworth House Military Impressions, 1994.

Chamberlain, Joshua Lawrence (Gen.) Through Blood & Fire at Gettysburg: My Experiences with the 20th Maine Regiment on Little Round Top. Gettysburg, Pa: Stan Clark Military Books, 1994 (Reprinted from Hearst's Magazine from 1913 on the 50th Anniversary of Gettysburg.)


[1] From Allen E. Roberts Masonic Trivia and Facts Highland Springs, Va, Anchor Communications, 1994. 87.

[2] I am a Master Mason of American Union Lodge #1, Free & Accepted Masons, in Marietta Ohio. I have been involved with Masonry (as a member of the Order of DeMolay) since I was 14 years old. I have always had a favorable opinion of the Craft, but I will attempt to view this subject from as objective a point of view as possible.

[3] This quote appears numerous times in the ceremonies of initiation for the Masonic degrees.

[4] Gordon Cook, personal interview. Columbus, Ohio, 4 November 1995 and Munn 6-19. Cook is a member of the Masonic Lodge of Civil War Research.

[5] Sheldon A. Munn, Freemasons at Gettysburg (Gettysburg, PA: Thomas Publications, 1993) 5.

[6] The sign of distress is a secret sign that is taught to a new Brother at the time of his raising to the degree of Master Mason. It is not a sign that is to be used lightly, but only in times of dire need.

[7] By tradition, a new Brother takes all of his obligations on the same Bible. He is then presented with this book at the time of his raising, as a reminder of all that he has passed through.

[8] Allen E. Roberts House Undivided: The Story of Freemasonry and the Civil War (Fulton, Mo The Ovid Bell Press, Inc, 1961) 33-35.

[9] The general text and message of the Masonic degrees have not changed since long before the time of the Civil War. Therefore, the stories I heard and the events I witnessed in 1995 are little different than the ones that Civil War-era Masons experienced.

[10] The three degrees in the Symbolic Lodge, or Blue Lodge, which is the foundation of the Grand Lodge system, are Entered Apprentice, FellowCraft, and Master Mason. Any further degrees are attained through other bodies appendant to the Blue Lodge. Once a man is made a Master Mason, he is free to choose not to join any other organizations. Or he may continue on through either the York Rite or Scottish Rite bodies. See the attached sheet for a tracing of the various degrees in each organization.

[11] The elections and business of the Lodge are conducted on the Master Mason degree. By rule, only Master Masons are present. "In good standing" refers to the payment of dues. Therefore, Master Masons who are not delinquent in the payment of his dues are eligible to vote and to hold office in the Lodge.

[15] Arthur Edward Waite A New Encyclopedia of Freemasonry Combined edition, (New York, Weathervane Books, 1970) 461-463.

[16] Massachusetts, 1733 North Carolina, 1771 Virginia, 1777 New York, 1 781 Georgia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, 1786 Maryland, South Carolina, 1787 Connecticut, New Hampshire, 1789 Rhode Island, 1791 Vermont, 1794 Kentucky, 1800 Delaware, 1806 Ohio, 1808 District of Columbia, 1810 Louisiana, 1812 Tennessee, 1813 Indiana, Mississippi, 1818 Maine, 1820 Missouri, Alabama, 1821 Florida, 1830 Arkansas, 1832 Texas, 1837 Illinois, 1840 Wisconsin, 1843 Iowa, Michigan, 1844 Kansas, California, 1850 Oregon, 1851 Minnesota, 1853 Nebraska, 1857 Washington, 1858 and Colorado, 1861 (from Waite 462)

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Freemasonry and Satanism: The History of Albert Pike

“In conscience and sincerely I believe that the Masonic Order is, if not the greatest, one of the greatest moral and political evils that weighs on the whole Union”
John Quincy Adams, VI President of the United States
Letters on Freemasonry “Letters on Freemasonry”, 1833

“Our battle is not against creatures of blood and flesh, but against the principalities and powers, against the rulers of this world of darkness, against the evil spirits who live in the celestial regions”
Saint Paul – Letter to the Ephesians – 6.12

If the most experienced in American history have certainly heard about the bloody deeds of the general Albert Pike, unfortunately few are aware of his fanatical obsession with satanic esotericism cultivated within the American Masonry, descendant of that of the Scottish Rite, and even they know less that he founded the Ku Klux Klan but earned instead of eternal infamy a great statue in Washington.

This is because his exploits date back to a time when critically analyzing the activities of the so-called “free masons” was strictly forbidden, or discredited from a historical point of view, since the most fervent followers of the secret societies of various ritual obediences had been among the champions of the Risorgimento and of the Unification of Italy, starting with the incensed international conspirator Giuseppe Mazzini, joined to Pike by Masonic brotherhood, mutual esteem and by projects for the creation of occultist and elitist Masonic lodges aimed at spreading the suprematist ideal of a New World Order.

Today, fortunately, there is an increasing number of scholars of historiography who are implementing a meticulous revisionism of the last three centuries, noting the fundamental and devastating role played by Freemasonry in the revolutions and wars of Europe, it is easier to reread events of the past with transparency. decrypt the plots that like cobwebs have harnessed countless areas of social life in a repeated international connection that will lead us, in subsequent articles, to reconstruct the mutual esteem and plans for the creation of occultist and elitist Masonic lodges aimed at spreading the suprematist ideal of a New World Order.

Today, fortunately, there is an increasing number of scholars of historiography who are implementing a meticulous revisionism of the last three centuries, noting the fundamental and devastating role played by Freemasonry in the revolutions and wars of Europe, it is easier to reread events of the past with transparency. decrypt the plots that like cobwebs have harnessed countless areas of social life in a repeated international connection that will lead us, in subsequent articles, to reconstruct the mutual esteem and plans for the creation of occultist and elitist Masonic lodges aimed at spreading the suprematist ideal of a New World Order.

Today, fortunately, there is an increasing number of scholars of historiography who are implementing a meticulous revisionism of the last three centuries, noting the fundamental and devastating role played by Freemasonry in the revolutions and wars of Europe, it is easier to reread events of the past with transparency. decrypt the plots that like cobwebs have harnessed countless areas of social life in a repeated international connection that will lead us, in subsequent articles, to reconstruct theexcellent crimes of Freemasonry between Italy, England and the United States of America .

Albert Pike, Mason 33rd degree of the Ancient Scottish Accepted Rite


Albert Pike has been called the Pope of American Freemasonry and has gone down in history as well as for the sharing of Mazzinian ideals also for his satanic veneration. “Born in 1809 in Boston, he became one of the most famous lawyers in the South. With almost superhuman intellectual faculties he spoke and wrote 16 languages. Entered Freemasonry in 1850, in 1859 he became Grand Master of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite (which we will shortly call RSSA for brevity), namely the supreme head of American Freemasonry “writes Estonian scholar Juri Lina on page 196 of his book architects of deception: the occult history of Freemasonry “.

Lina dedicated a life to deepening international plots and because of her clear opposition to Communism in 1979 she was exiled from her country. Even other scholars of American history agree that Pike, after the election of Abraham Lincol in 1860, through his Masonic hegemony, was among those who directed the insurrection of the South that led to the bloody US Secession War (1860 -1865). A few years earlier, in 1854, one of his close collaborators, Judah Benjamin, formed the “Knights of the Golden Circle” (Knights of the Golden Circle). Their first operations consisted of the paramilitary training of terrorists throughout Central America, with the aim of provoking a war between the United States and Spain, which ruled that area. To note the curious coincidence that they acted in the South American countries a few years after the guerilla actions carried out there by the Italian Mason Giuseppe Garibaldi before his return to Italy.

An adept of the Ku Klux Klan


The experienced writer Lina analyzes Pike’s lightning military and Masonic career in detail and characterizes his inhuman cruelty: “During the Civil War, Pike was a brigadier general of the southern troops and commanded an army made up of Indians of eight tribes. At his command, these troops committed massacres of such cruelty and ferocity that England even threatened to intervene “for humanitarian reasons”. Even Southern President Jefferson Davis, then, was forced to take action against Albert Pike and ordered him to disperse the Indian army. After the war, for his heinous crimes and his massacres, Pike was found guilty of treason by a Martial Court and imprisoned “.

But in the meantime the general had made his triumphal entry among the free masons. According to the Dictionnaire de la Franc-Magonnerie, Pike was co-opted by the 33rd degree of the American RSSA Albert Gallatin Mackey, secretary of the Supreme Council of Charleston, who persuaded Pike to join the Order where he became Sovereign Grand Commander of the Scottish Rite (Supreme Council , Southern jurisdiction) from 1859 to his death “. Here, therefore, that, as often happened to the masonry affiliates, he obtained impunity by virtue of an important brotherhood: «The American president Andrew Johnson, Albert Pike’s subordinated Freemason, on April 22, 1866, graciously praised him, while the American press kept, for a good nine months, a total silence on this news »adds Juri Lina.

The assassination of his predecessor Abraham Lincoln, of which he had been deputy in the Union precisely during the years of the American Secession war, undoubtedly had a great influence on Johnson’s decision, ending in turn in the sights of the conspirators. Pike obtained the pardon even though the previous year had given further proof of his slavery and racist fanaticism: in December, in fact, after the victory of the Northern Union in the secessionist conflict, General Pike, together with General John J. Morgan and to a small group of Southern officials, in Pulaski, Tennessee, he transformed the aforementioned Knights of the Golden Circle into the bloody xenophobes of the “Knights of the Ku Klux Klan” (KKK), (from the Greek word kuklox meaning “circle” or “circle”) “). “Albert Pike, called” the 19th century Devil “, he was obsessed with the idea of ​​world supremacy. When he became a Mason of the 33rd degree, and head of the Illuminati of Arkansas, he devised a plan to take control of the world through three world wars and other great revolutions, ”concludes Juri Lina.


In her work Occult Theocrasy, Lady Queenborough, literary name of Edith Starr Miller, highlights the importance of the Ku Klux Klan founder in America and her relationship with the English Mason Longfellow, who moved in 1947, and the his friend Moses Holbrook, then Sovereign Grand Commander of Charleston. “Longfellow and Holbrook, in the course of their exchange of impressions of the Cabal, had planned to create a Satanic rite in which the adepts would be instructed in Black Magic, but Holbrook, the Grand Master of the Supreme Council of Charleston, who had already composed a suitable ritual and a sacrilegious mass called Adonaicide Mass (Mass that kills Adonai, the God of Christians) died, delaying the full implementation of the project.

Giuseppe Mazzini


To confirm this thesis comes the secret correspondence between the RSSA Freemason Giuseppe Mazzini (1805-1872) and a member of the International Revolutionary Committee of London, an organization placed under the direction of another high-ranking Mason, the British Secretary of State, Henry John Temple, third viscount of Palmerston (1784-1865), who linked his name to the English imperial politics of the time, from the opium war to the sulfur quarrel with the Bourbons which gave rise to the enmity that justified the English financing of the Expedition of the Thousand and the Unity of Italy, designed by the Mazzinian movements Giovine Italia and Giovine Europa.

Henry John Temple, III Viscount Palmerston in a portrait by John Partridge

Two letters are of great importance: the one that Mazzini sent to Pike on 22 January 1870 and that of Pike to Mazzini dated 15 August 1871. More historians agree that this correspondence is preserved in the secret archives of Temple House, the site of the Rite Scottish from Washington, but consultation prohibited. But the letter from the Southern General, written on August 15, 1871, was in the past exposed only once, however, to the British Museum Library in London. There a Canadian naval officer, Commodore William Guy Carr (present as a consultant for the United States at the San Francisco Conference of June 26, 1945) took vision by noting down various notes that allowed him to publish a summary in the book Pawns in the Game “Pawns in the Game”.

The Royal Canadian Navy soldier was in fact a fervent Catholic scholar of secret societies and satanic occultism. The document seems prophetic enough to advocate the “crisis-war-revolution” project, which devastated the 20th century. Here is an eloquent sentence written by Carr after reading the letter: «The First World War had to be fought to allow the “Illuminati” to break down the power of the tsars in Russiaand transform this country into the fortress of atheistic communism. The differences raised by the “Illuminati” agents between the British Empire and the German Empire were used to foment this war. After the war ended, communism had to be built and used to destroy other governments and weaken religions “.

The contents of Mazzini’s letter of January 22, 1970, according to the aforementioned scholar Lady Queensborough, are disturbing: «We must create a superior Rite that will remain unknown, to which those Masons of the High Degree we will choose will belong. With regard to our Brothers in Freemasonry, these men will have to commit themselves to the strictest secrecy. Through this supreme rite we will govern every Freemasonry, and it will become the only international center, the most powerful because its direction will be unknown ».

The Masonic team symbols and compass with the number of the beast in a panel in the middle


Pike, according to the reconstruction made by Commodore Carr in his book, answers to Mazzini on 15 August 1871, announcing that at the end of the world wars (he hypothesized three) those who aspire to the World Government will cause devastation never seen before: “We will unleash the nihilists and atheists and we will provoke a formidable social cataclysm that will clearly show, in all its horror, to the nations, the effect of absolute atheism, the origin of barbarism and bloody subversion. Then everywhere the citizens, obliged to defend themselves against a world minority of revolutionaries, these destroyers of civilization, and the multitude disillusioned by Christianity, whose worshipers will from that moment be without orientation in search of an ideal, no longer knowing where to direct the worship,

It is believed that precisely from these words and intentions was born that very secret lodge reserved for adepts of occultism called Palladism. To explain this concept another book written by an author under a pseudonym but no less documented, intervenes: “Freemasonry and the Secret Seven: the occult face of history” by Epiphanius, Editrice Ichthys: “Palladism, defined by the Larousse encyclopedia as” cult of Satan Lucifer, that is to say of Satan considered as the Angel of Light, the human and beneficial god “, was a secret theurgical society, unknown to the Masons even of high degree and therefore composed only of” emeritus “.

Preferably the Kadosh Knights, the 30th degree of the Scottish Rite, or equivalent degrees of the Egyptian rite of Memphis-Misraim were admitted the name accepted by the Palladian rite was that of Re-Teurgisti Ottimati, while the lodges were called Triangoli. The Palladian hierarchy had three degrees: Palladic Kadosh, Palladic Hierarch and Elected Magician. Palladism was placed above the Supreme Councils formed by the exponents of the 33rd degree of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite and from these positions descended to the lower grades by successive infiltrations. The origin of the “New and Reformed Palladian Rite” were Albert Pike and Giuseppe Mazzini “.

The monument to Albert Pike in Washington created by the Florentine sculptor Gaetano Trentanove


The Pope of Freemasonry, vicious and obese enough to exceed 140 kilos in weight, was also considered a lover of orgiastic sabbaths consumed in the woods with a great deal of alcohol and various women, such wild forums as to recall the Dionysian rites narrated by Euripides in the Bacchae. I consider it superfluous to mention the innumerable crimes and crimes committed by the Ku Klux Klan hoodcutters that highlight the fact that the satanist cult of the slaver, racist and cultured Mason Pike was not only a conceptual esoteric-theosophical research but a pragmatic and delirious diabolical fanaticism which, although it having the esteem of many intellectuals and powerful of his time, it is not difficult to define typical of a true possessor. Instead in America, the only one among the Southern losers, it has even won the public celebration with a statue,

Fabio Giuseppe Carlo Carisio

Juri Lina – Architects of Deception : the Occult History of Freemasonry, Architects of Deception: The Concealed History of Freemasonry, Referent Publishing, Stockholm 2004.
William Guy Carr – Pawns in the Game – Pawns In The Game, Cpa Pubblisher
Ephiphanius – Freemasonry and the Secret Seven: the occult face of history – Editrice Ichthys
Chiesa Viva – From Giuseppe Mazzini to General Albert Pike
Arturo Navone – An Impossible World – translation by michaeljournal

Black freemasons: the sons of Prince Hall

Black freemasonry dates from before the American war of independence, when a freed black abolitionist and leather worker by the name of Prince Hall (1735-1807) was refused admittance to the St John’s masonic lodge in Boston, Massachusetts. Undaunted by the rebuff, Hall and 14 other free black men were initiated into freemasonry in 1775 by a British military lodge based in Boston.

In 1784, after the British had left America, the grand lodge of England issued Hall with a charter to set up an African lodge in Boston. It proved so popular that Prince Hall was granted the status of provincial grand master, allowing him to set up two further African masonic lodges in Philadelphia and Rhode Island.

Over the next two centuries, Prince Hall freemasonry snowballed across the United States, becoming the world’s largest fraternity for black men. By the middle of the 20th century there were lavish Prince Hall masonic temples around the country – from Los Angeles to Washington DC, from Seattle to Madison, Wisconsin.

“One of the attractions of Prince Hall freemasonry to African-Americans is that it is an organisation started by African-Americans in the 18th century for African-Americans,” says Cherry. “It has a history. And, like all freemasonry in America, it became very popular in the early 20th century, which was a time when Americans tended to join things.”

By 1900, Prince Hall masonry had become a forum for politicised African-Americans, with Booker T Washington (1856-1915) and W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963) serving as active members. Throughout the 20th century, many key figures in the civil rights movement were attracted to freemasonry. The father of Martin Luther King Jr – Martin Luther King Sr (1900-84) – was a member of the 23rd lodge in Atlanta, Georgia. Medgar Evers, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) activist who was assassinated in 1963, was a 32nd-degree freemason in Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction. Alex Haley (1921-92), the writer of Roots and biographer of Malcolm X, was a 33rd-degree mason in the same order. Thurgood Marshall (1908-93), the first black member of the US supreme court, was supported by his Prince Hall lodge in Louisiana. The comedian Richard Pryor (1940-2005) joined a lodge in Peoria, Illinois, while actor and activist Ossie Davis (1917-2005), Paul Robeson (1898-1976) and the boxer Sugar Ray Robinson (1921-89) were all active Prince Hall masons.

“Like all freemasonry, Prince Hall freemasonry does tend to have a middle-class appeal,” says Cherry. “The many Prince Hall visitors to the Masonic Library and Museum in London are often doctors, lawyers or skilled artisans, and a lot of them have a military background. Some join because their family were members some think it’s a good way of networking. Some like the comradeship and the social aspects others like the ritual and the regalia.”

As well as being a networking institution, freemasonry might also have had a philosophical appeal to many politicised African-Americans. The mysterious tenets of freemasonry include gnostic texts, references to ancient Egypt and alternative interpretations of the Bible. Prince Hall lodges thus became a forum where pre-Christian knowledge could mix freely with black liberation theories and remnants of African religions.

The Earliest Masons in America

Possibly the earliest trace of Masonry in America is on a flat slab of stone found on the shore of Goat Island, in the Annapolis Basin, Nova Scotia. Cut into one face are the square and compasses and the date 1606. More that likely it was the grave marker of a French stonemason who had settled at Port Royal with DeMonts and Champlain in 1605.

The first undoubted accepted Mason on this side of the Atlantic was John Skene. On the membership roll of the Lodge at Aberdeen in 1670 he is listed as "Merchant and Mason." He served as Deputy Governor of East Jersey from 1685 to 1690.

In a letter, by Jonathan Belcher, Governor of Massachusetts, initiated in 1704, written on 25 September 1741 and addressed to the First Lodge in Boston, stated:

It is now Thirty Seven years since I was admitted into the ancient and Honorable Society of Free and accepted Masons, to whom I have been a faithful Brother, and well-wisher to the art of Masonry. I shall ever maintain a strict friendship for the whole Fraternity and always be glad when it may fall in my power to do them any Services.

In the possession of the Grand Lodge of Canada in the Province of Ontario is a parchment scroll eight feet six inches in length and six and a quarter inches wide bearing the hand written version of the "Old Manuscript Constitution" which governed the operative craft. It is endorsed as follows.

Memorandum: that at a private Lodge held at Scarborough in the County of York, the tenth day of July 1705, before William Thompson, Esq., President of the said Lodge, and several others, brethren, Free Masons, the several persons whose names are hereunto subscribed were then admitted into the said Fraternity: Ed. Thompson, Jo. Tempest, Robt. Johnson, Tho. Lister, Samuel Buck, Richard Hudson.

Notice that the date on this scroll dated 1705 referring to a Masonic Lodge in Canada that precedes that of the forming of the Grand Lodge of England in 1717.

Michigan Masonic Museum & Library

The Michigan Masonic Museum and Library has undertaken an ambitious project to document the First Master of every Masonic Lodge in Michigan. The Masonic Historian has also built a Master list using old Grand Lodge proceedings.

The Masonic Museum and Library is located at 233 East Fulton St – Suite 10, Grand Rapids, MI 49503. To schedule a visit or coordinate an event with the Museum Director, call Dirk Hughes at (616) 459-9336 or email [email protected]

  • Sunday – Closed
  • Monday – Closed
  • Tuesday – 10am to 6PM
  • Wednesday – 10am to 6PM
  • Thursday – 12noon to 8PM
  • Friday – 10am to 6PM
  • Saturday – 10am to 6PM

Top 10 Scandalous Freemason Secrets

The Freemasons are one of the most secretive and controversial religious groups in the world. Masons have existed for centuries &ndash and if we are to believe their claims, they&rsquove existed covertly for even longer. 

Whatever their history, speculation has always been an enjoyable pastime &ndash and this is especially true in the case of the Masons&rsquo more scandalous secrets. Having passed down traditions and secrets from one generation of initiates to the next, they make it difficult to know what&rsquos outdated and what&rsquos still practiced. Consider these ten masonic activities as provisional facts &ndash we don&rsquot know for sure, but it&rsquos always an interesting exercise to imagine what might be going on behind our backs.

Freemasons are commanded not to testify truthfully when another Mason is on trial. They admit that it may be perjury, but to them, it is a far greater sin to not protect one of their own.

Though some members deny it to the public, the Freemasons have at least one secret masonic handshake. Supposedly, there are even phrases a Freemason can utter when facing grave danger &ndash causing other members to rush to their aid. The founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, is said to have uttered this phrase in the last moments before his death.

This is one of the best-known facts about the Masons, but the general perception is that they have just one password. In fact, there are several passwords for various occasions and reasons. As the one person with the final syllable for the ultimate secret word was murdered, they substituted &ldquomor-bon-zi&rdquo for this word, and only very few people know the actual secret word. This secret word is used only for ceremonies: &ldquotu-bal-cain&rdquo is the more common secret password, on the tip of every Freemason tongue.

The initiation rituals- though described by Masons as beautiful ceremonies &ndash include a noose. It&rsquos hard to tell whether this is meant as a threat, a call to maintain silence, or simply as the symbol of an umbilical cord (as they claim), but in any case, it&rsquos unusual enough to warrant a mention. 

Freemasons believe that the east symbolizes rebirth. They sing the sun in its flight &ndash marvelling at its passage through the sky. Masonic lodges tend to be built in the east and in the west, as an attempt to control solar power for their own purposes.

It&rsquos impossible to become a Freemason if you&rsquore an atheist. The first requirement is that potential members must believe in a higher power of some sort. They claim not to care what higher power that is, but you must define it for yourself. You can lie about it, but religion seems to be a point of honor among them. On the other hand, traditionally excluded groups &ndash such as gay men &ndash are included in Masonry, so long as they behave in the same moral manner as other groups. The temple still excludes women, but some groups are currently challenging that fact.

Put it on in secret wear it in public. Hide in plain sight with this snazzy Eye of Providence T-Shirt at!

The official corruption of Masonry is well-documented, but often covered up. Half a million Masons in England are disproportionately involved in banking, politics, and government. Even hospitals and universities are often controlled by the Masons.

If you&rsquove ever looked closely at the US dollar bill, you&rsquove probably seen the All-Seeing Eye above the pyramid. This symbol is a Freemason symbol, and the Latin underneath is a Freemason motto, meaning &ldquonew world order&rdquo. Many say that the decision to include this masonic symbol was not influenced by Freemasons &ndash Benjamin Franklin being the only Mason on the design committee &ndash but the coincidence remains fascinating all the same.

Breivik &ndash responsible for the 2011 mass murder in Norway &ndash was a member of the Lodge of St. Olaf in Oslo. He was promptly excluded &ndash but his degree of involvement within the organization is open for debate. 

Some say that Masons have an agenda to take over the world &ndash but some Masons seem to have their sights set on the moon. Astronauts in the Apollo program &ndash including Buzz Aldrin &ndash were self-professed Masons. Their rite flags have been to the moon and back, and Aldrin seems to have claimed the moon for his Masonic lodge in Texas.

Some of these strange and scandalous secrets of the Freemasons are obviously urban legends, and should be taken with a grain of salt but others seem to contain a degree of truth. One thing&rsquos for certain &ndash Masonry is by no means an outdated cult. It still has many active members who seem to be working for some purpose &ndash even if we can&rsquot all agree on what that is.