WHAT IS FREEMASONRY?
"TITTER YE NOT"
One night a brother was heading home after indulging a bit too much at the bar after his lodge meeting.
He was weaving a little across the path, steadying himself against the lamp-posts.
A concerned policeman saw him, and walked over to him.
"Well sir, where are we going at this time of night, eh?" he asked.
The brother replied
"I, officer, am going to a lecture on Masonry!"
Bemused, the policeman asked, "And just where are you going to hear a lecture on Masonry at this time of night?"
The brother replied, "From my wife!!!"
Why do Masons wear aprons?
To cover their working tools.
A country lodge was in the process of initiating a candidate on a hot and August night. A tropical thunderstorm was brewing and every-one was perspiring freely when the Master asked the candidate what he most desired.
The candidate replied,
At this juncture, the JD, being startled whispered, "Light" to the candidate.
"O.K.," the candidate replied, "a light beer, thanks."
Freemasonry consists of fraternal organisations that trace their
origins to the local fraternities of stonemasons, which from the end
of the fourteenth century regulated the qualifications of
stonemasons and their interaction with authorities and clients.
The degrees of freemasonry retain the three grades of medieval
craft guilds, those of Apprentice, Journeyman or fellow (now called
Fellowcraft), and Master Mason. These are the degrees offered by
Craft (or Blue Lodge) Freemasonry. Members of these
organisations are known as Freemasons or Masons. There are
additional degrees, which vary with locality and jurisdiction, and
are usually administered by different bodies than the craft degrees.
The basic, local organisational unit of Freemasonry is the Lodge.
The Lodges are usually supervised and governed at the regional
level (usually coterminous with either a state, province, or national
border) by a Grand Lodge or Grand Orient. There is no
international, world-wide Grand Lodge that supervises all of
Freemasonry; each Grand Lodge is independent, and they do not
necessarily recognise each other as being legitimate.
Modern Freemasonry broadly consists of two main recognition
groups. Regular Freemasonry insists that a volume of scripture is
open in a working lodge, that every member profess belief in a
Deity, that no women are admitted, and that the discussion of
religion and politics is banned. Continental Freemasonry is
now the general term for the "liberal" jurisdictions who have
removed some, or all, of these restrictions. The Masonic Lodge is the basic organisational
unit of Freemasonry. The Lodge meets regularly to conduct the usual formal business of any
small organisation (pay bills, organise social and charitable events, elect new members, etc.).
In addition to business, the meeting may perform a ceremony to confer a Masonic degree or
receive a lecture, which is usually on some aspect of Masonic history or ritual. At the conclusion
of the meeting, the Lodge might adjourn for a formal dinner, or festive board, sometimes
involving toasting and song.
The bulk of Masonic ritual consists of degree ceremonies. Candidates for Freemasonry are
progressively initiated into Freemasonry, first in the degree of Entered Apprentice . Some time
later, in a separate ceremony, they will be passed to the degree of Fellow craft , and finally they will be raised to the degree of Master Mason . In all of these ceremonies, the candidate is entrusted with passwords, signs and grips peculiar to his new rank.
Another ceremony is the annual installation of the Master and officers of the Lodge. In some jurisdictions Installed Master is valued as a separate rank, with its own secrets to distinguish its members. In other jurisdictions, the grade is not recognized, and no inner ceremony conveys new secrets during the installation of a new Master of the Lodge.
Most Lodges have some sort of social calendar, allowing Masons and their partners to meet in a less ritualised environment. Often coupled with these events is the obligation placed on every Mason to contribute to charity. This occurs at both Lodge and Grand Lodge level. Masonic charities contribute to many fields from education to disaster relief.
These private local Lodges form the backbone of Freemasonry, and a Freemason will necessarily have been initiated into one of these. There also exist specialist Lodges where Masons meet to celebrate anything from sport to Masonic research. The rank of Master Mason also entitles a Freemason to explore Masonry further through other degrees, administered separately from the Craft, or "Blue Lodge" degrees described here, but having a similar format to their meetings.
There is very little consistency in Freemasonry. Because each Masonic jurisdiction is independent, each sets its own procedures.
The wording of the ritual, the number of officers present, the layout of the meeting room, etc. varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
The officers of the Lodge are elected or appointed annually. Every Masonic Lodge has a Master, two Wardens, a secretary and a treasurer. There is also a Tyler, or outer guard, who is always present outside the door of a working Lodge. Other offices vary between jurisdictions.
Each Masonic Lodge exists and operates according to a set of ancient principles known as the Landmarks of Freemasonry. These principles have thus far eluded any universally accepted definition.
Candidates for Freemasonry will have met most active members of the Lodge
they are joining before they are initiated. The process varies between jurisdictions,
the candidate will typically have been introduced by a friend at a Lodge social
function, or at some form of open evening in the Lodge. In modern times,
interested people often track down a local Lodge through the Internet. The onus is on candidates to ask to join; while candidates may be encouraged to ask, they are never invited. Once the initial inquiry is made, an interview usually follows to
determine the candidate's suitability. If the candidate decides to proceed from here, the Lodge ballots on the application before he (depending on the Masonic
Jurisdiction) can be accepted.
The absolute minimum requirement of any body of Freemasons is that the candidate must be free, and considered to be of good character. There is usually an age requirement, varying greatly between Grand Lodges, and (in some jurisdictions) capable of being overridden by a dispensation from the Grand Lodge. The underlying assumption is that the candidate should be a mature adult.
In addition, most Grand Lodges require the candidate to declare a belief in a Supreme Being. In a few cases, the candidate may be required to be of a specific religion. The form of Freemasonry common in Scandinavia (known as the Swedish Rite), for example, accepts only Christians. 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 (a cause of discord with the rest of Freemasonry).
During the ceremony of initiation, the candidate is expected to swear (usually on a volume of sacred text appropriate to his personal religious faith) to fulfill certain obligations as a Mason. In the course of three degrees, new masons will promise to keep the secrets of their degree from lower degrees and outsiders, and to support a fellow Mason in distress (as far as practicality and the law permit). There is 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 further explore the ritual and symbolism of the craft, others will focus their involvement on the social side of the Lodge, while still others will concentrate on the charitable functions of the lodge.
The history of Freemasonry encompasses the origins, evolution and defining events of the fraternal organisation known as Freemasonry. It covers three phases. Firstly, the emergence of organised lodges of operative masons during the Middle Ages, then the admission of lay members as "accepted" or speculative masons, and finally the evolution of purely speculative lodges, and the emergence of Grand Lodges to govern them. The watershed in this process is generally taken to be the formation of the first Grand Lodge in London in 1717. The two difficulties facing historians are the paucity of written material, even down to the 19th century, and the misinformation generated by masons and non-
masons alike from the earliest years.
The earliest masonic texts each contain some sort of a history of the craft, or mystery, of masonry. The oldest known work of this type, The Halliwell Manuscript, or Regius Poem, dating from between 1390 and 1425, has a brief history in its introduction, stating that the "craft of masonry" began with Euclid in
Egypt, and came to England in the reign of King Athelstan. Shortly afterwards,
the Cooke Manuscript traces masonry to Jabal son of Lamech (Genesis 4: 20-22), and tells how this knowledge came to Euclid, from him to the Children of Israel (while they were in Egypt), and so on through an elaborate path to Athelstan. This myth formed the basis for subsequent manuscript constitutions, all tracing masonry back to biblical times, and fixing its institutional establishment in England during the reign of Athelstan.
Shortly after the formation of the Premier Grand Lodge of England,
James Anderson was commissioned to digest these "Gothic Constitutions" in a palatable, modern form. The resulting constitutions are prefaced by a history more extensive than any before, again tracing the history of what was now freemasonry back to biblical roots, again forging Euclid into the chain. True to his material, Anderson fixes the first grand assembly of English Masons at York, under Athelstan's son, Edwin, who is otherwise unknown to history. Expanded, revised and republished, Anderson's 1738 constituted the Grand Masters since
Augustine of Canterbury, cited as Austin the Monk. William Preston's Illustrations
of Freemasonry enlarged and expanded on this masonic creation myth.
In France, the 1737 lecture of Chevalier Ramsay added the crusaders to the lineage. He maintained anded that Crusader Masons had revived the craft with recovered in the Holy Land, under the patronage of the Knights point, the "history" of the craft in Continental Freemasonry diverged from that in England.
Anderson's histories of 1723 and 1738, Ramsay's romanticism, together with the internal allegory of masonic ritual, center on King Solomon’s Temple and its architect, Hiram Abiff, have provided ample material for further speculation.
The earliest known ritual places the first masonic lodge in the porchway of King Solomon’s Temple. Following Anderson, it has also been possible to trace Freemasonry to Euclid, Pythagoras, Moses, the Essenes, and the Culdees. Preston started his history with the Druids, while Anderson's description of masons as "Noachides", extrapolated by Albert Mackey , put Noah into the equation.
Following Ramsay's introduction of Crusader masons, the Knights Templar became involved in the myth, starting with Karl Gotthelf von Hund's Rite of Strict Observance, which also linked in the exiled House of Stuart. The murder of Hiram Abiff was taken as an allegory for the death of Charles I of England. Oliver Cromwell emerges as the founder of Freemasonry in an anonymous anti-masonic work of 1745, commonly attributed to Abbé Larudan. Mackey states that "The propositions of Larudan are distinguished for their absolute independence of all historical authority and for the bold assumptions which are presented to the reader in the place of facts." The anti-masonic writings of Christoph Friedrich Nicolai implicated Francis Bacon and the Rosicrucians, while Christopher Wren's connection with the craft was omitted from Anderson's first book of constitutions, but appeared in the second when Wren was dead.
The German pioneer in Masonic history Joseph Gabriel Findel , and others since, have sought the origins of organised masonry in the lodges of the medieval German cathedrals, although no link has been found to the development of the Freemasonry that later spread from England to Germany. Similarly, attempts to root Freemasonry in the French Compagnonnage have produced no concrete links. Connections to the Roman Collegia and Comacine masters are similarly tenuous, although some Freemasons see them as exemplars rather than ancestors. Thomas Paine traced Freemasonry to Ancient Egypt, as did Cagliostro, who went so far
as to supply the ritual.
More recently, several authors have linked the Templars to the timeline of Freemasonry through the imagery of the carvings in Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland , where the Templars are rumoured to have sought refuge after the dissolution of the order. In The Hiram Key, Robert Lomas and Christopher Knight describe a timeline starting in ancient Egypt, and taking in Jesus, the Templars, and Rosslyn before arriving at modern Freemasonry.
The earliest official English documents to refer to masons are written in Latin or Norman French. Thus we have "sculptores lapidum liberorum" (London 1212), "magister lathomus liberarum petrarum" (Oxford 1391), and "mestre mason de franche peer" (Statute of Labourers 1351). These all signify a worker in freestone, a grainless sandstone or limestone suitable for ornamental masonry. In the 17th century building accounts of Wadham College the terms freemason and freestone mason are used interchangeably.
Freemason also contrasts with "Rough Mason" or "Layer", as a more skilled worker who worked or laid dressed stone.
The adjective "free" in this context may also be taken to infer that the mason is
not enslaved, indentured or feudally bound. While this is difficult to reconcile with medieval English masons, it apparently became important to Scottish operative lodges.
A medieval Master Mason would be required to undergo what passed for a liberal education in those days. In England, he would leave home at nine or ten years of age already literate in English and French, educated at home or at the petty (junior) school. From then until the age of fourteen, he would attend monastery or grammar school to learn Latin, or as a page in a knightly household would learn in addition to his studies.
Between the ages of fourteen and seventeen he would learn the basic skills of choosing, shaping, and combining stone and then between the ages of 17 and 21, be required to learn by rote a large number of formal problems in geometry. Three years as a journeyman would often finish with the submission of a masterwork dealing with a set problem considered qualified, but still had a career ladder to climb before attaining the status of Master Mason on a large project.
In his function as architect, the Master Mason probably made his plans for each successive stage of a build in silverpoint on a prepared parchment or board. These would be realised on the ground by using a larger compass than the one used for drafting. Medieval architects are depicted with much larger compasses and squares where they are shown on a building site. Fine detail was transferred from the drawing board by means of wooden templates supplied to the masons.
The Master Masons who appear in record as presiding over major works, such as York Minster, became wealthy and respected. Visiting Master Masons and Master Carpenters sat at high table of monasteries, dining with the abbott.
The historical record shows two levels of organisation in medieval masonry, the lodge and the "guild". The original use of the word lodge indicates a workshop erected on the site of a major work, the first mention being Vale Royal Abbey in 1278. Later, it gained the secondary meaning of the community of masons in a particular place. The earliest surviving records of these are the laws and ordinances of the lodge at York Minster in 1352. It should be noted that these regulations were imposed by the Dean and Chapter of the Minster.
Nineteenth-century historians imposed the term "Guild" on the "fellowships" of medieval tradesmen as an analogy with the merchant guilds. The masons were late in forming such bodies. The major employer of masons in medieval England was the crown, and the crown frequently employed masons by impressment. In other words, they were forcibly recruited when the need arose. In 1356, the preamble to regulations governing the Trade of Masons specifically states that, unlike the other trades, no body existed for the regulation of masonry by masons. Finally, in 1376, four representatives of the "mystery" or trade are elected to the Common Council in London. This also seems to be the first use of the word "freemason" in English. It was immediately struck out, and replaced with the word "mason".
A fraternity (from Latin frater:
"brother"; "brotherhood"), fraternal order or fraternal organisation is an order, organisation, society or a club of men associated
together for various religious or secular aims. Fraternity in the Western concept developed in the Christian context, notably with the religious orders in the
Catholic Church during the Middle Ages. A notion eventually further extended with the middle age guilds, followed by the early modern formation of gentlemen's clubs, free oddfellows , student fraternities and fraternal service organisations.
Members are occasionally referred to as a brother or - usually in religious context - Frater or Friar.
Today, connotations of fraternities vary according to the context, including companion ships and brotherhoods dedicated to the religious, intellectual, academic, physical and/or social pursuits of its members. Additionally, in modern times, it sometimes connotes to a secret society, especially regarding freemasonry, odd fellows and various academic and student societies.
Although membership in fraternities was and mostly still is limited to men, ever since the Catholic sisters and nuns of the Middle Ages and henceforth, this is not always the case. There are mixed male and female fraternities and fraternal orders, as well as wholly female religious orders and societies, or sororities. Notable modern fraternities or fraternal orders that with time have evolved to more or less permit female members, include some grand lodges operating among freemasons and odd fellows.
Freemasonry describes itself as a "'beautiful system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols". The symbolism is mainly, but not exclusively, drawn from the manual tools of stonemasons – the square and compasses, the level and plumb rule, the trowel, among others. A moral lesson is attached to each of these tools, although the assignment is by no means consistent.
The meaning of the symbolism is taught and explored through ritual.
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 meanings of the Lodge symbols, and entrusted with grips, signs and words to signify to other Masons that he has been so initiated. The initiations are part allegory and part lecture, and revolve around the construction of the Temple of Solomon, and the artistry and death of his chief architect, Hiram Abiff. The degrees are those of Entered apprentice, Fellowcraft and Master Mason. While many different versions of these rituals exist, with at least two different lodge layouts and versions of the Hiram myth, each version is recognizable to any Freemason from any jurisdiction.
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.
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. 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.
Anti-Masonry (alternatively called Anti-Freemasonry) has been defined as
"opposition to Freemasonry", 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.
There have been many disclosures and exposés dating as far back as the 18th
century. These often lack context, may be outdated for various reasons, or could
be outright hoaxes on the part of the author, as in the case of the Taxil hoax .
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 "Morgan Affair" in 1826
gave rise to the term Anti-Masonry, which is still in use today, both by Masons in
referring to their critics and as a self-descriptor by the critics themselves.
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.
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 Roman Catholic Church. The objections raised by the Roman Catholic Church are based on the allegation that Masonry teaches a naturalistic deistic religion which is in conflict with Church doctrine. 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.
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. 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 enroll in Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion." 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."
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. 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. 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 USA. 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 reemasonry.
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.
Since the founding of Freemasonry, many Bishops of the Church of England have been Freemasons, such as Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher. 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.
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 Roman Catholic and Protestant
"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
"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
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). 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. In article 28 of i ts Covenant, Hamas states that Freemasonry, Rotary, and other similar groups "work i n the interest of Zionism and according to its instructions ...". Many countries with a significant Muslim population do not allow Masonic establishments within their durisdictions. However, countries such as Turkey and
Morocco have established Grand Lodges, while in countries such as Malaysia and Lebanon 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.
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. 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."
In 1799, English Freemasonry almost came to a halt due to Parliamentary proclamation. In the wake of the French Revolution, the Unlawful Societies Act 1799 banned any meetings of groups that required their members to take an oath or obligation. 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.
Freemasonry in the United States faced political pressure following the 1826 kidnapping of William Morgan by Freemasons and 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, culminating in the formation of a short lived Anti Masonic Party
which fielded candidates for the Presidential elections of 1828 and 1832.
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.
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) and the far left (e.g.the former
Communist states in Eastern Europe).
BROTHERHOOD OF MAN
Even in modern democracies, Freemasonry is sometimes viewed with distrust. 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. While a parliamentary inquiry found that there has been no evidence of wrongdoing, it was felt that any potential loyalties Masons might have, based on their vows to support fellow Masons, should be transparent to the public. The policy of requiring a declaration of masonic membership of 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
Freemasonry is both successful and controversial in France; membership
is rising, but reporting in the popular media is often negative.
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". 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
Septemberwas a Zionist plot have been accompanied by suggestions that the attacks were inspired by a masonic world order".
The preserved records of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (the Reich Security Main Office) show the persecution of Freemasons during the Holocaust. RSHA Amt VII (Written Records) was overseen by Professor Franz Six and was responsible for "ideological" tasks, by which was meant the creation of antisemitic and anti-Masonic propaganda. While the number is not accurately known, it is estimated that between 80,000 and 200,000 Freemasons were killed under the Nazi regime. Masonic concentration camp inmates were graded as political prisoners and wore an inverted red triangle.
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 annual Nazi Party 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.
After World War II, the forget-me-not flower was again used as a Masonic emblem at the first Annual Convention of the United
Grand Lodges of Germany in 1948. The badge is now 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.
I violate no secret when I say that one of the greatest values in Masonry is that it affords an opportunity for men of all walks of life to meet on common ground where all men are equal and have one common interest. Theodore Roosevelt