The Freemasons

Over the centuries the Freemasons, often the subject of both controversy and suspicion, have been accused of corruption, Satanism, scandal and political interference. Critics claim they are a secret society with an unknown possibly dubious agenda, a charge to which they vehemently disagree, claiming they are not a secret society but more a society with secrets. [1]

The roots of Freemasonry are extremely vague with some Masonic historians placing their beginnings as far back as the time of King Solomon, while still others believe the Masons to be the descendants of a group of Knights Templar that fled to Scotland to escape Catholic persecution. A more realistic starting point, however, might be the medieval stonemason guilds along with a strong Rosicrucian [2] influence.

Roots aside, certain facts are irrefutable: with Anthony Sayer as first Grand Master an English Grand Lodge was established in London on June 24, 1717, an Irish Grand Lodge in 1725, a British North American Grand Lodge in 1733 and a Scottish Grand Lodge in 1736.

It is often speculated that the Masons played a significant role in the American Revolution: George Washington was a Lodge Master when he became America’s first President; Paul Revere was Provincial Grand Master of Massachusetts; and Benjamin Franklin was Provincial Grand Master of Pennsylvania and one of the American Rosicrucian’s “Council of Three.” Other members included such notables as John Paul Jones, Andrew Jackson and a number of signatories of the Declaration of Independence.

The wording and graphics on the Great Seal of the United States are a constant source of controversy, the truncated pyramid and All-Seeing Eye allegedly representing (according to conspiracy theorists) a Masonic presence influenced by the Illuminati, the inscription “Novus Ordo Seclorum” (New Order of the Ages), a reference to a new world order, the United States designed to be the worlds first real utopia.

Secrecy is another contentious issue, secret handshakes, signs, words and rituals are an integral part of Freemasonry, much of which probably originated with medieval stonemasons, traveling craftsmen proud of their skills who considered themselves a cut above ordinary laborers and needed ways to recognize each other when newly arrived and looking for work.

Ties to the Knights Templar real or imagined have also contributed to Masonic ritual. Andrew Michael Ramsay (Chevalier Ramsay) an English Freemason moved to France in 1730 and in 1736 spoke to the embryonic French Masons; in his speech he mentioned the Templars and that they had instituted secret signs, words
and symbolic ceremonies to protect their organization from Saracen spies and to help recent Christian converts understand and adapt to their new religion. His lecture fired the imagination of Masons everywhere, the result a proliferation of chivalric Rites.

Further enhancements to the Templar myth have a number of Knights Templar sail to Scotland in 1307 (treasure and secrets intact), aid Robert the Bruce in his defeat of the English at Bannockburn on June 24, 1314, and play a pivotal role in the evolution of Scottish Freemasonry shortly thereafter.

The Templar degrees within Freemasonry seem to be the result of a fabrication by a certain Baron Karl Gotthelf von Hund, who around 1754 established the levels or degrees known as the Strict Observance along with the vows of absolute compliance to superiors unknown

The Baron claimed to have been contacted by these "Unknown Superiors" and commissioned to develop a new Rite, the central premise of which was that Jacques de Molay was not the last Grand Master, that he had been succeeded by Pierre d'Aumont the Templar Prior of Auvergne who had fled to Scotland with a small number of Knights in order to escape the fury of Pope Clement V and who had in turn been succeeded by an unbroken line of secret Grand Masters the so called "Unknown Superiors."

The Rite of Strict Observance died with the Baron in 1776, but Masons love their traditional rituals along with all the mysterious pomp and ceremony and his ideas were kept alive to be incorporated into new Rites by other Lodges.

John Hamill a Masonic scholar and Director of Communication (formerly the Librarian and Curator) for the Grand Lodge of England sums it up this way “There is not the slightest evidence that the Order of the Temple survived in any form for four decades let alone four centuries. There is indeed, not the slightest historical support for the Templar theory of origin. But no matter, for those with a vision of chivalry, such difficulties were minor problems to be glossed over. They wished Freemasonry to be derived from Templarism; ergo, it was so.”

Well that’s fair enough and perhaps it is so, as it relates to Freemasonry, then again perhaps not. What Hamill seems to forget or fails to mention is that even though Pope Clement V officially dissolved the Knights Templar at the Council of Vienne in 1312, many survived, free to go wherever they wished, join already existing Orders such as the Hospitallers or found new Orders in countries like Spain and Portugal. The Order of Montesa and the Order of Christ were basically the Order of the Temple under a new name, the latter even retaining the symbol, the "Knights Templar Cross," used on its flag.

The Freemasons have faced many trials and tribulations during their oft turbulent history: they were banned from Bavaria along with the Illuminati with whom they had alleged links, accused of fomenting the American revolution and almost banned in England, have been attacked by state religions (the secret word “Jahbulon” once used in initiation ceremonies a source of much religious controversy) and have been the target of conspiracy theorists who have accused them of almost everything else. Through it all the Order has survived, changed, evolved, adapted and today is most widely known for its charity work and community service.

Just as in any business club where contracts, work and information are exchanged between members, similar things may occur between Masons, after all aren’t contacts one of the primary reasons for joining any organization. It’s very hard to believe that the average Mason is anything but a regular Joe trying to make a living and enjoy life. What might transpire or perhaps has transpired when small groups of powerful men, who also happen to be Masons, conspire to influence world events is a matter of conjecture, though it would appear, looking at the world both past and present, that small groups of powerful men and women exert their influence on world events for both good and bad on a regular basis irrespective of any Masonic ties.

[1] A common dictionary definition states that the Freemasons are a worldwide society of men known for both their charitable work and their secret Rites.

[2] An international organization concerned with esoteric wisdom derived from ancient mystical and philosophical doctrines.

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