Is Freemasonry a Conspiracy?

Is Freemasonry a Conspiracy?

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.

What Do Freemasons Have to Say About It?

masonic conspiracy historyThe 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?

Alleged Evidence of Masonic Conspiracy

Masonic ConspiracyThe 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?

Is Conspiracy an Illegitimate Concern?

all seeing eye masonicWe 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. 

Is Freemasonry Free from Religious Bias?

Is Freemasonry Free from Religious Bias?

If you investigate freemasonry and religion, among the first things you will find are various iterations of the following message:

Freemasonry is not a religion, and is not intended to be a replacement for religion. Within the ranks of the brotherhood are many people of varying backgrounds and faiths. Lodges in one part of the world may have more members of a particular faith than those in other parts, but regardless of this, believers of all faiths are welcome. The teachings and rituals of freemasonry are intended to be acceptable to all religious traditions, and the organization encourages its members to practice their chosen faith, and to serve God above all man-made institutions.

While this is true, the relationship of freemasonry to various religions has gone through phases, and evolved over time. Some religions or sects have regarded freemasonry with suspicion, or in some cases, outright condemnation. Meanwhile, some of the rituals and symbolism used in Lodge clearly are traceable to particular religions, such as the Judeo/Christian. Does this mean that freemasonry is particularly Christian or Jewish, as opposed to any other faith? What is its compatibility with other, non-Christian faiths?

Freemasonry’s Historical Relationship with Christianity

freemasonry and christianityComing, most recently, from Europe in the first and second millennia C.E., it should not surprise us that freemasonry has been influenced by religion, specifically Christianity. While the York Rite has many Christian elements, this is only an appendant body, whose degrees are not essential to being a Mason. Beyond this, the common use of the Bible as the Volume of the Sacred Law (or Lore) in the rituals is more-or-less the extent of specifically Christian symbolism in freemasonry, and even that is not ubiquitous among lodges and orders.

On the other hand, from a historical perspective, many believe that speculative (philosophical) Freemasonry might not exist today, if not for Christianity. This is due to the fact that much of what makes freemasonry so unique and valuable is to some extent the result of Christian oppression. In this sense, religion in the form of Christianity may have shaped Freemasonry far more from the outside than from the inside, at least according to many masonic historians, such as the masonic history described by Manly P. Hall.

During what we normally call the Dark Ages, various Western wisdom traditions, tracing their origins to the mystery schools of the ancient world, found refuge in the the ranks of operative masonry, among those who were truly stonemasons by trade. The operative masons’ democratic organizational structures, political independence, and secretive nature made this guild-like organization an appealing place for those who were considered heretics under the rule of the Catholic church. Within its ranks, they could practice and carry on their traditions in safety, and freely exchange ideas, blending the ancient wisdom teachings with the more literal craft of the masonic trade.

hermeticism alchemy and freemasonryThe fusion of these refugee practitioners of gnosticism, hermeticism, alchemy, astrology, and related systems with the operative builders of old is the origin of speculative freemasonry, as we know it today, and it all happened in part because of the religious tyranny of the church. Not only did freemasonry as we now know it come into existence partly to conceal themselves from the persecution of the church, but also subverted it in some ways, such as by being heavily involved in the secret colleges which ultimately culminated in the scientific revolution, and scientific enlightenment, displacing the Catholic church as a monopoly on truth. Yet, does this mean that Freemasonry was inherently anti-catholic, or anti-christian?

Freemasonry is primarily a collection of traditions and rituals, none of which are explicitly against any religion, but in fact are supportive of religion. What Freemasons generally are opposed to are tyranny over the minds and lives of people. Freemasons have been, throughout history, proponents and defenders of personal liberty, including the freedom to think, believe, speak, and worship as each person sees fit, as well as the ideal of self-rule and democratic forms of government. In fact, many masonic historians claim that our organization was instrumental in the democratic uprisings of the 18th century, including both the French and American revolutions.

In this light, we can safely say that freemasonry’s rocky historical relationship with Catholicism had less to do with their beliefs, and more to do with their imperial and dogmatic rule, which persisted even after the fall of the Roman Empire. Since the fall of that empire, freemasonry’s relationship to Catholicism and protestant Christianity has been much more congenial, even symbiotic, with many Masons also being members of various churches and clergy.

Conservative or Fundamentalist Religions

While much of freemasonry’s historical context is in relation to Catholicism, it has of course interacted with many other religions, as well. It might be safe to say that the theme is not so much variation in freemasonry’s attitude towards the various religions, antimasonryas we believe in freedom of individual worship, but rather in those other religions’ attitudes towards freemasonry. Often, the most conservative of these religions have a strong aversion to the theologically liberal nature of masonry.

The Muslim world is an excellent example. For various reasons, the Islamic peoples of the world have not generally had a very favorable view of Freemasonry, with it being totally banned in some Muslim countries. This seems to be due primarily to the Judeo-Christian flavor, symbolism, and historical lore of some aspects of freemasonry.

On the other hand, one appendant body of Freemasonry, the Shriners, clearly has Islamic symbolism, and some even trace their history to the first followers of Mohammed. Writers on the subject tie the Islamic opposition to freemasonry mostly to their political opposition to Judaism, and the long-standing rivalry between these two branches of the Abrahamic faiths.

Another group with a strongly antipathetic view on Freemasonry are some modern evangelical Christian sects, as well as some other protestant bodies. The details of their various stances are too great to go into, but generally they tend to associate Freemasonry with the occult, and therefore satanism, witchcraft, etc. Another common thread among both Evangelicals and Islamic people is the idea that Freemasonry is a Jewish conspiracy, mostly based on the prominent symbolism of Solomon’s Temple.

In general, those religious groups most opposed to Freemasonry are also those who are most opposed to freedom of religious thought, and those which are friendliest towards it are the most religiously liberal. Regardless of this, Freemasonry itself welcomes people of any particular faith.

Freemasonry and Non-Abrahamic Faiths

The relationship of Freemasonry to other belief systems outside the domain of hinduism and freemasonryAbrahamic religions follows the same aforementioned pattern; however, since non-Abrahamic religions tend to be less restrictive on personal freedom of thought, the relationship tends to be more often positive or neutral.

Hinduism in India, for instance, is generally accepting of all forms of worship as being within the myriad ways in which one can come to know God, Brahman or the absolute, and as such, freemasonry is usually regarded as another one of those ways, albeit one from a totally different cultural context, the West. Just as Hindus can accept Christ as a great saint, so they can usually accept freemasonry as a spiritual practice. Because of the British imperial rule, Freemasonry has had a presence there, and some believe that freemasonry has played some part in merging of East and West in India.

Likewise, there is not much in Buddhism which is opposed to masonic ideals and practices, and many masons practice some form of it. Today, some orders of freemasonry, most notably Universal Co-Masonry, are particularly friendly towards Eastern philosophy in general, even sometimes using the Vedas or I-Ching as our volumes of sacred lore. This is due in part to our historical ties to Theosophy, and consideration of the Eastern origins of much of Western esoteric tradition.

Lastly, what about Interfaith, Wiccan, Neo-shamanic, Pagan, New Age, and similar non-denominational, eclectic forms of spirituality? As with every other belief system, these should be welcome in freemasonry, so long as they believe in a singular, primary Higher Power, regardless of various sub-deities which may also be worshiped.

hermeticism and freemasonryAs far as which Order of Freemasonry this type of person might find most compatible, the main thing to consider is the culture of the brothers in the lodge; the more liberal and universal, the better. Membership in a primarily Christian or Muslim lodge may be possible, but might still feel out-of-place.

In that sense, Universal Co-Masonry, which is generally more religiously liberal as well as more mystically or spiritually oriented, is likely to be a more comfortable community for anyone on this type of path, the difference being primarily not in the rituals themselves, which are much the same as masculine masonry, but in the culture of the membership, and of course the lack of segregation by gender, race, or any other attributes.

Universal Freemasonry

TO THE GLORY OF GOD

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