The latest question I have been asked is similar to a previous article about Freemasons remaining friends with a brother who has committed a crime. This question deviates slightly and asks “do Freemasons assist brothers to evade the law from a crime?” I will answer this by explaining the new openness within regular Freemasonry.
Crime, of course, is extremely rare amongst regular, and irregular1, Freemasons. This simple question relates to protecting a brother who has committed a crime, and it will be fairly obvious from the previous article and the above statement that Freemasons definitely do not; this is totally beyond all of our deepest beliefs and practises.
However, along with regular and irregular Freemasonry, we have, in previous articles,2 mentioned the existence clandestine ‘Freemasons’ lodges. The original Masonic definition of a clandestine lodge, way back in the 1700’s and still in use today, is that a clandestine lodge is a lodge of Freemasons who have formed outside the governance of a recognised Grand Lodge (regular or irregular). In the 1700’s, as English Freemasonry was at its infant stage and the first acknowledged Grand Lodge was formed, there were many lodges that remained outside this new authority, these were the first clandestine lodges, some even grouped together to form a rival Grand Lodge. However, in today’s world, the words ‘clandestine lodge’ also include those groups of people who gather under the veil of Freemasonry, often getting up to no good, in fact, some even have criminal intentions. The new openness within regular Freemasonry may assist in exposing these illicit groups.
It is unfortunate that the attitude towards Freemasonry in the 20th century was anything but affable. This stemmed from the fascist leaders that existed from the 1920’s in Europe who had a great mistrust of our so called secret society. In their minds we were ‘out of their control’ (or out to rule the world). The consequence of this action was the murdering of some 80,000 Freemasons by Nazi Germany and their allies.
Ever since Freemasons became organised as Free and Accepted, but Speculative, rather than actual stonemasons from whom today’s Freemasonry evolved, Freemasonry has evoked opposition and anti Freemasonry movements. However, since our beginning there has never been a real fear of this anti Freemasonry sentiment until the Nazi’s took over Germany and the Italian fascist took over Italy. The result of this more recent anti Freemasonry attitude caused Freemasons throughout the world to become more secretive, even hiding the fact that they were members of the Craft of Freemasons, whereas prior to this members were proud and open about our fraternity. This lead to other more sinister groups hiding behind this cloak of secrecy.
But more recent events, especially in England, where more and more organisations began to demand that a Freemason declared openly his/her membership, which was not only up to their own conscience to admit, but also up to their understanding of the consequence of so doing, as so much mistrust formed as a result of this unnecessary secrecy.
Unfortunately one of the many conspiracy theories is the belief of many that Freemasons would conceal criminals or criminal activity inside the closed doors of a lodge meeting, or Freemasons would be able to manipulate the judge, and even jury, to ensure a ‘not guilty’ verdict in any trial. None of this, of course, is true or feasible, especially as genuine Freemasons undertake an obligation to uphold the laws of God and the ordinances of the country of their residency, and has been one of the tenets and landmarks since the times of the Stonemasons’ lodges.
Prior taking of such an obligation, the new member is told that “there is noting in these vows that is incompatible with your civil, moral or religious duties” (this is in all the various rituals used within Freemasonry I have been able to check). He is then asked if he/she is willing to take such a vow. (If not he/she would be lead from the lodge and the ceremony aborted)
This leads on to a second question recently asked, “do Freemasons recruit through fear?” The simple answer is that Freemasons never recruit, using fear or otherwise. We may encourage a little, but ‘to be one, ask one.’ is the only way to membership. In the early stages of the Initiation ceremony the new candidate is asked “do you seriously declare that, unbiassed by the solicitations of friends against your own inclination, you freely and voluntarily offer yourself a candidate for Freemasonry?” So, most definitely fear is never used.
The ‘secrets and mysteries’ of Freemasonry originate way back in Medieval Europe, that is the keeping of the “secrets” or skills of stonemasonry. In the days of the Stonemasons’ guilds, these organisations met in private, as the skills taught to an apprentice were kept strictly within the ‘brotherhood’ or guild of stonemasons. The reason for this privacy was simply that they wanted to keep their trade secrets away from those who weren’t members of a guild of stonemasons.
Included in the oath, taken by all apprentices of stonemasonry (and possibly a different oath by fellows of the craft) was a threat of the consequences of such revelations. This form of threat was continued into Speculative Freemasonry, but this has now been removed as it is has no place in our modern society; it is no longer needed. Today we simply state that the obligation undertaken is but a serious promise, and the violation of such will render the member ‘void of all moral worth.’
Today though, since it was realised that being secretive regarding membership fuelled such conspiracy theories, including those mentioned above regarding crimes, criminal acts and fear, Freemasons’ leaders began to realise that it is fine to openly declare membership. Because of this example from our leaders in England (United Grand Lodge of England – UGLE) more and more Freemasons across the world are opening up and sharing experiences, not just among other Freemasons, but to non Freemasons also, but never forgetting that the experience of that “air of mystery” surrounding our ceremonies is best kept, at least mostly, to our candidates (everything that we do is on the Internet for all to see should you wish to search it out). The picture above is that of the Lodge room (or Temple, which it is often called) where Neptune Lodge meets and, like many others, has been made open to the general public.
Referring back to fear, crime and criminal acts committed by pseudo freemasons hiding under a cloak of secrecy; this veil, as explained above, is rapidly being lifted by genuine Freemasons. The newly found openness to the world by regular Freemasonry should make us all extremely suspicious of any ‘lodge’ that meets in total secrecy, this is a clear indication to be cautious when dealing with such potential clandestine lodges.
So, in conclusion, should you find yourself being recruited into, or are already a member of, a lodge that encourages secrecy, then it is possible that there may be something deeply sinister going on inside, even if it is inside a ‘higher degree’ that you must be selected and invited to join. This may be the heart of a criminal enterprise, such ‘secret’ degrees simply do not exist.
1 Irregular Freemasonry simply covers the fraternity of good men and women who deviated from the ancient Landmarks and Tenets of pure Freemasonry (evading politics and admitting atheists).
These articles are written by W Bro Steve Froggatt PPJGD, former Chaplain of Neptune Lodge No 5150 EC. Steve was initiated into Freemasonry in 1986.They do not represent the view of any Grand/Provincial Grand Lodge.
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