Of all the many lenses we might use to view Freemasonry, this is perhaps one of the most colloquially familiar, even to the point of being a cliche. For some, the words “Freemasonry” and “conspiracy” may even be practically synonymous. While conspiracy culture has leveled any number of accusations and theories at the fraternity, much to the consternation or annoyance of most within the brotherhood, it may serve us all, whether from the inside or out, to ask this basic question: Is Freemasonry a conspiracy?
While some Brothers’ eyes may roll at the question, it is a legitimate inquiry. After all, although the rituals themselves are a matter of public record by now, having been revealed in various exposes, Brothers do still meet behind closed doors, and utilize symbolism and secret handshakes not understood by the average layperson; it should surprise no one that such things leave a lot open for speculation from outside the Lodge.
As always, this writing does not represent the views and opinions of Universal Co-Masonry, but is merely the reflections of one Co-Mason.
The definition of a conspiracy is “a group of people planning in secret, usually to do something harmful or unlawful.” The public statements of Freemasonry about its goals, purposes, and philosophy do nothing to indicate a conspiracy, by that definition.
Freemasonry has described itself as a “Beautiful system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.” Universal Co-Masonry goes a bit further, stating our intention “to help all human beings to unite and work together for the perfection of Humanity.” However, anything so publicly stated could hardly be considered a conspiracy, even if it would be a benevolent one.
Brother Manly P. Hall, in his book Hidden Keys of Freemasonry, alleges that Brothers were heavily involved conspiratorially in both the French and American revolutions. If true, this would mean that some Masons at least admit to conspiracy, and are proud of the fact. Likewise, the secret colleges of the early enlightenment had a great deal to do with the scientific revolution, were intertwined with Masonic communities, and could also be considered conspiratorial in nature. These events of history are ones that some Brothers are happy to claim as benevolent Masonic conspiracies, so we cannot disregard the idea that Masons have historically conspired, altogether.
As far as current Masonic conspiracies, the accusation or speculation of conspiracy, by definition, implies an ulterior motive which is concealed behind any public persona of an organization. From that perspective, of course, it could never matter what any Freemason says to the contrary, because they would always be considered to be concealing this ulterior motive, which is perhaps an instance of the problem of radical skepticism. So, then, how might we know if, and to what extent Masons conspire, today?
The amount of theorizing and accusation made by anti-masonic conspiracy theorists is far too vast to adequately cover in this brief post. Freemasons have been accused of anything ranging from being “shape-shifting inter-dimensional reptilians,” to being “atheists seeking to destroy religion.” However, when one examines the purported evidence of these ideas, it becomes apparent that great leaps of thought and belief, as well as a lack of deep fact-checking, are required to connect the dots in such a way as to believe any of them.
However, is it all false? Is it possible that corruption and conspiracy has entered some Lodges, in the past or even today? I’m going to be perhaps a bit controversial here, among Masonic circles at least, and say: Possibly.
As an exclusive organization which does have private meetings, I regard it as entirely possible that some individuals or groups have used the organization of Freemasonry as a way to conceal activities and influences which would not be condoned by society, or most Brothers. There has been at least one historical case of serious Masonic conspiracy with relatively strong evidence, and many scattered clues to possible other cases, as conspiracy theorists love to remind us. While most of these are isolated incidences, hoaxes, or inconclusive at best, do they all amount to nothing?
We may do well to remember that it was the exclusive, structured nature of operative masonry which originally made it so appealing to those esoteric practitioners seeking shelter from authority so long ago, ultimately leading to the development of Speculative Masonry. If it was so useful to those seeking to hide their forbidden practices from religious persecution, why couldn’t it be likewise useful to those with other purposes?
This is certainly not to say that Freemasonry in general is a grand conspiracy, as it is so often accused of being. I personally have seen nothing in my experience to indicate that it is. Perhaps we “conspire” to improve individuals and humanity as a whole in its path of evolution, but we openly admit to that in our declaration of principles, thereby rendering it non-conspiratorial.
However, it’s also this author’s opinion that as Masons, we should never be so weary of conspiracy theorists’ wild speculations that we are overly quick to disregard actual evidence of corruption or bad actors among our ranks. Within the vast non-sense of conspiracy lore is perhaps a kernel of truth: that any organization which meets behind closed doors and communicates in arcane terminology, symbols, and signals is by this very fact an ideal hiding place. So, as such, we must be ever watchful of corruption by those who do things they wish to hide.