Most of us have seen the movie ‘National Treasure’ with Nicholas Cage. The film inspired a great deal of interest in one of the oldest organizations in recorded history, the Masons. A fraternal organization that has remained shrouded in mystery even in this, the era of communication, the vast majority of people in the free world have at least a passing knowledge of the Masons. Most towns of at least moderate size boast a lodge, and quite frequently you will see the square and compass (the symbol that most could identify as a masonic symbol but not name) on the “Welcome To…” sign as you come into said town along side the signs for the Lions, Elks, and Moose Lodges. Many know that it is a Fraternal organization, and that the members are comprised exclusively of men.
There are some facts that are commonly known, but not enough so to qualify as ‘common knowledge’. Most know that the organization is old, although not how old. Some know there are connected organizations, such as Eastern Star and The Shriners. Many would tell you that there have been many notable masons, but couldn’t name more than a handful. Odd, if you think about it, considering the Roll call of members. The majority of United States Presidents have been Masons. Supreme court justices. Scads of Senators and Representatives. Pillars of business. Nobel Prize winners.
Nearly any town in America will reveal that a significant portion of its prominent male citizens are members… doctors, lawyers, judges, politicians. And it isn’t an American phenomenon; the lodge predates the United States.
Members of Royalty and political executives worldwide have been Masons. Essentially, a rather large percentage of the world’s power belongs to members of the Masonic organization, and has for hundreds of years. So why is it that what may be the most powerful non political organization this side of the Catholic church seemingly bears no more than a passing interest for people as a whole?
Tp look for answers, one must begin with the organization’s long and storied history. The history of the Masons is an entire mystery unto itself. Some claim the organization predates the birth of Christ. Others claim the origins are far more recent, ‘only’ dating back 300+ years. If masonic ritual teachings are to be believed (not entirely a stretch) the fraternity was founded by the builders of King Solomon’s Temple. Surviving Scottish Lodge records date as early as the 1630s. One historical source that is considered credible which brings credence the antiquity of Freemasonry is the Halliwell Manuscript, or Regius Poem -it is believed to date back to the year 1390. It references several of the concepts and phrases found in Freemasonry. The record appears to be a revision of an earlier versin, which it references several times.
While the chronological beginnings of the lodge are shrouded, the purpose of the organization is even more so. Most feel that Masons descended from a guild of actual working stone masons and somewhere in the 1600’s went through a transformation, evolving into an organization of ‘gentlemen’. There are countless theories as to what exactly the masons do. That’s not to say that the information, or at least the vast majority of it, isn’t available. In this age of technology, there aren’t many secrets. With a quick google, you can learn the rituals step by step.
You can find out the secret words. You can dredge up every shred of symbolism there is to be found for every ritual object (of which there are many). But what is the lodge for? Why, for hundreds of years, have men continued to go through these rituals and practices? What is it about this club; a club of grown men that uses passwords and secret handshakes, for god’s sake, that has attracted a good portion of the most powerful men in the history of the world?
stay tuned for part 2