The rumors connected to the Free Masons are legions in pop culture and in conspiracy theory circles. The Masons’ crimes include everything from worshipping the devil to being descendants of the Knights Templar, and almost everything in between (some conspiracies even suggest that these two things are simultaneously true). One of the only sure truths is that the Free Masons is that they are a bona fide secret society, and that they have been around for quite a while. However most of the things that the group is accused of have already been disproven, but the ghosts of these accusations rattle on because they’re imminently more fun to speculate on then the truth.
While there is some argument about just how old Freemasonry is as an organization, most estimates date it back to the Dark Ages in the 1300’s. This is where the earliest, official Mason documents are from. Free Masons are not associated with the Knights Templar, as some have accused (using the swords in rituals confuses some people, since the Masons are very heavy on symbolism), nor are they the product of the Illuminati (which were created in Bavaria in the 1770’s and which lasted barely a decade). The Free Masons instead grew out of the practice of, well, masonry. Craftsman and artisans, the group began as nothing more than intellectuals of a craft, and the Masons likely began life as a simple tradesman’s guild.
Now, the origin of the group set aside, not many people really understand what Free Masons do or believe. The answer is pretty simple when you look at it. The Mason’s believe in and promote religious freedom, learning, self improvement and the lifting up of people through charity, good works and common betterment. Some evil stuff, when you get right down to it, eh? This belief system is drawn out symbolically, such as in the huge bronze doors in the Grand Temple which shows the building of the palance of the biblical King Solomon. Far from literal truth, this is meant to symbolically illustrate the goal of working together and moving closer to common good and civilization through hard work, learning and teaching.
What seems to have caused most of the misunderstandings, such as the debunked worshipping of Satan which was busted in the 1890’s, is the fact that the Free Masons are a secret fraternity. Since the group’s inception a code of silence has been employed that keeps the group’s beliefs, numbers and even their locations at times a secret from non members. The problem with secret societies that people know about is that the longer you won’t divulge your secrets, the more people will make things up and the more others will believe those things. In the year 1985 this all changed, and the Grand Lodge of the Masons openly gives tours to the curious public. Some of them are coming looking for Dan Brown’s secrets, but according to MSN’s interviews with the Masons those numbers aren’t as big as one might think.
So, if the Masons are in fact a harmless public charity that gives money to people going to college and which provides food and shelter for the needy, why have so many important and prominent people been involved with the group? A simple rule of statistics; correlation does not prove causation. The fact that most of the founding fathers of America were Free Masons doesn’t mean that the Masons engineered America. What it does mean is that the organization was popular for those in power and who held social status, like rich, white land owners who wanted to create their own republic. Every group has secrets they want to hide, but baseless speculation if left unchecked and uncorroborated by facts can lead to some pretty ridiculous beliefs. Check the Internet, I’m sure that you’ll find theories about how the Masons gave license to Jack the Ripper to kill prostitutes because they had offended the alien overlords and sacrifices needed to be made to appease the great and ancient gods. And those are the tame speculations.
“Who are the Freemasons,” by Anonymous at Be a Shriner Now
“Who are the Free Masons?” by Jon Watt at MSN