When most of us hear the word “freemason”we usually think of a band of brothers that stretches across the world, a fraternity ofmoneyed men who engage in strange rituals and greet each other with a secret handshake. These people belonging to this mysteriousnexus believe in a higher power and together they share secrets and protect each other. And when they meet at the lodge they do sowith the doors closed to the world. What happens at the lodge stays at the lodge. The Master leads the ceremonies, and whathe says will never become public knowledge. The fact freemasonry is shrouded in so muchsecrecy does of course elicit us non-freemason to be curious, so today we’ll try to separatethe facts from the myth.
But let’s first go back to the beginningand see how it all got started. What we know as freemasonry goes back to whatwere called the guilds of stonemasons and cathedral builders back in Middle Ages Britain. A guild was a kind of an association for certainkinds of artisans or merchants, so you could call them clubs for skilled workers. If you look at documents as far back as the13th century you can find mentions of freemasonry, although the language used is either Latinor Norman French. So, it goes back a long way. As you know, a mason is someone who workswith stone, and the free part was supposed to signify just that, that these skilled artisanswere not feudally bound. They were free. A potential medieval Master Mason as a kidwould be educated in languages and math, andwhen in his teens he would learn how to workwith stone.
Let’s remember that building things backthen was very important, so learning how to work with stone was seen as a huge deal. As the kid grew into an adult he would becomea journeyman, and once he became a master mason he would gain a lot of respect. So, now you can see why these guilds wererespected. In the 17th and 18th centuries these evolvedinto modern freemasonry, and people belonging to this order believed in a higher power andbrotherhood, with the masonic rituals based on the myth of King Solomon’s Temple. You can find manuscripts belonging to freemasonrythat talk about the masons that built this temple.
There were lots of manuscripts and these havebeen studied since. We won’t go into what they all contain,but later they evolved into what are called Freemasonry constitutions. It’s said about 100 such manuscripts stillexist, but very few of them contain details of rituals and rites of passage. All you really need to know is that therewere lots of different groups of masons and lots of texts talking about codes of conductand sometimes rituals. Masons basically joined ceremonies and membershad certain rules to follow based on chivalry.
In 1717 the first Grand Lodge was establishedin England, and after that came more lodges. You could call the Grand Lodge the governingbody and lodges branches of that body. What’s important to mention is that freemasonrywas not especially a religious order, and it actually at times banged heads with theRoman Catholic church. As we said, Freemasons believed and stillbelieve in a higher power, but you are not supposed to discuss religion in regular Freemasonry. Talking about politics is also verboten, althoughin short there was a split in Freemasonry and some masons refused to follow the orderthat masons must believe in a deity. That order came from the United Grand Lodgeof England, and what happened was a masonry schism, meaning split, and then we got bothContinental and Anglo-American Freemasonry. For instance, the latter group doesn’t allowpolitical discussion but the former does. The split was a big issue, and the two groupsengaged in rivalry over the years. This was significant, and it’s written thatthis rivalry in part contributed to the rift that started the Mexican civil war.
So, there have been splits and disagreementsamong freemasons. They are not all alike. Some branches for instance allow women tojoin, and while freemasonry is global it’s written that masons in Anglo-Saxon countrieswere predominantly white protestants. There are also other branches that don’tbelong to the official order of freemasonry, so it’s actually quite complicated and thereported six million members don’t all follow the same rules. But what are the rules? What do these people do? What’s actually the point of becoming afreemason? If African political leaders and wealthy Americanbusinessmen belong to masonic orders, surely there is something to it? In 2018 the BBC did an interview with a freemason,although this was a freemason belonging to a women’s lodge. Her husband was a mason, too. She said there is nothing too strange aboutit, but she did have to pass three freemasonry degrees to achieve her leading role at thelodge. When you get this third degree you becomea fully-fledged mason. She didn’t give her name to the BBC, well,they didn’t print it we mean, and she would not discuss what goes down at the ceremonies. Those ceremonies are led by a master, butwhat he or she says cannot become public knowledge.
Not surprisingly, this kind of secrecy leadsnon-masons to thinking something really weird must happen, but all she said was that it’slike being in a play and you just do your bit. She said there is no back-slapping and shedoesn’t take part in any kind of nepotism, meaning she’s not rubbing shoulders withpeople to get ahead in her line of work. She said this to the BBC, “It's a bit likeFacebook in that way. You will come across people you've met inthe past, certainly if you've lived in the area for a number of years. We come from all walks of life and professionsbut it becomes a network.” She did say that the ceremonies are stillbased on the myth of King Solomon’s Temple, but refused to say anything else. This wasn’t good enough for us at the InfographicsShow, and we wanted to know more. We read that masons are supposed to followa certain kind of etiquette, but the problem is these codes of conduct are also kept secret. We found out that masons are expected to learnabout rituals, history, freemason symbols, and people are supposed to understand howto act as a mason. You have to give the Worshipful Master hisdue respect, and that means knowing where to stand when he is around. You can’t just turn up to a lodge with abottle of beer in hand and start mingling. There are strict rules to follow as to howyou should comport yourself. According to one website, it’s a bit likeschool. You have to sit in the right place, wear theright clothes, stand when you speak, and it’s considered bad manners to talk when othersare talking. When the master bangs that gavel, you mustobey. If you don’t, it’s said to be a massivediscourtesy. Don’t turn your back on this guy when hespeaks, and some lodges will have a salute you give to him. It sounds strict, and it is. You must also have good posture, or try tohave, and don’t go around telling stories about your blocked toilet bowl.
No “off-color” stories we are told, andit goes without saying that your phone should not start beeping during the ceremony. You will know all this of course because youhave read the codes of conduct and from theday you go to your first meeting you’llbe following these codes as you become an Entered Apprentice, a Fellow Craft and inthe end a Master Mason. Part of these meetings will include givingdegrees to members who have climbed a ranking, this we know for sure. It’s said that this graduation type ceremonyis one of the biggest reasons they have ceremonies. Yes, people listen to the master and theyfollow the rules and they say hello to their mason buddies, but it seems many of the meetingsare about giving degrees and telling people how to act when this happens. One person wrote that these ceremonies arebasically an exercise in administration. He wrote, “Deep and unfettered conversationson philosophy, science, arts, society, psychology, governance, foundational texts are very rarethese days, especially in the US and Canada.” Another mason wrote that when he meets usuallythe start includes talking about the last meeting and the minutes of that meeting. They might then discuss older members andnew members, or just talk about things that need to be paid for, such as getting a newroof. He wrote this:“Often there are various announcements of upcoming events, discussion of community projects,or planning for a future activity. Some meetings are reserved for ceremonies- such as admitting a new brother or advancing one to a higher degree. Others might honor members who have a substantialhistory of service in the Masons. Still other meetings may have an educationalpresentation. In my jurisdiction - Connecticut - the GrandLodge requires every meeting to have at least some component of Masonic Education.”
As we said, he wrote that during these ceremoniesthey must follow strict codes of conduct, so it’s a rather serious affair. He said at the end of this serious part, though,there are refreshments and people chat more informally. It all sounds a bit like a cross between abusiness meeting and a graduation, and perhaps at times a TedX just with funny clothes andupright postures. So, why is all this secret? Another freemason said while when they makea member of the public a freemason during a ritual it’s supposed to be secret, it’shardly the biggest secret in the world. He said yes, they don’t publish this ritual,but who publishes private business meetings. Those rituals can change based on the lodge,but in the end the ceremony is about these old codes of conduct and what it means tobe a freemason. It’s not as if babies are being sacrificedfor the great higher power or members engage is orgiastic behavior while howling like bansheesunder a blood moon. You just need to know the secret codes toget in, just like entering a combination code on a lock. Every freemason we found online said the samething. It’s business, graduation, talking aboutmembers, and bringing in new members. You’ve just got to follow the protocols. Remember, stand up straight, listen to themaster, and don’t let your Kanye West & Lil Pump ringtone go off during the ceremony. One journalist who interviewed a freemasonin the UK said when he entered the lodge it was full of freemasonry symbols. He was told that during meetings people haveto stand in the correct place. It’s important where you stand in relationto the master. He was told that new masons are given therules, learn the codes, and are told how to recognize another mason when not in a meeting.
This might not always be a secret handshake,but it is kept a secret.If you are a mason and you talk about thisto other non-masons you will likely be thrown out of the order.Another journalist who’d interviewed a freemasonwas told there are not just secret ways to know who is a mason but each degree of freemasonryhas its own password.This was in his lodge at least.When asked if anything weird went on, themason said no, adding, “We had a man who joined our lodge, he took the first degreeand was disappointed that there was nothing happening in the way of anything sinisterand he left.” He also said, “Here in Ireland we have astrict constitution which we follow closely.I heard that there is a group of people inIreland who are going into the rituals more deeply, but I don't think there's anythinguntoward going on there.”He said at his lodge it’s all about dressingup, doing some rituals, then having a good old chat.He said where he goes if you want to joinyou’ll have to be interviewed, have a background check, and then it goes to the vote usingblack and white beans.If they like you, you’re in.Too many black beans, and you’re not welcome.After hearing all this, would you like tobe a freemason? Are you already one of them and can you tellus more?Tell us in the comments.Also, be sure to check out our other videoThe Most Powerful Families Who Secretly Run The World? Thanks for watching, and as always, don’tforget to like, share and subscribe.See you next time.
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