Alright! It’s time to wrap up last week’s article on myths about Masonry. If you missed last week’s article, please check it out for a small intro to the topic, as well as some other myths.
Myth #4- Masons worship the devil, or are involved in witchcraft
I was thinking about where this comes from the other evening in chapter, and came to the conclusion that there are a couple of major contributing factors. As I said last week, Masonry is not a religion, does not take the place of anyone’s religion, and actually requires that someone already have a faith before joining. I think that the first major influence that lead people to believe that Masons were devil worshipers came from G.O.A.T. As you know, goats, or goat heads, are often seen as symbols of devil worship or witchcraft, usually for the purpose of animal sacrifice. You may have seen many Masonic jokes or postcards that show Masons with a goat, or may have heard someone talk about “riding the goat” at a meeting. The Masonic phrase for God, the “Great Architect of the Universe”, or G.A.O.T.U., used to be referred to as “God of All Things” or G.O.A.T. This was changed quickly after the rumors began. In Chapter, I sit at Esther, which is the middle point of the star, and the point that causes so much controversy. I was thinking of why Rob Morris chose an inverted star, also called a pentagram, to represent the order. The traditional line used is that the star “points down to the manger”. This may have some truth, as OES tends to be very Christian oriented. I think that there may be simpler reasons, however. A Chapter room with all officers in attendance is 18 people. That alone can make for a crowded room, and the layout of the officers doesn’t help. If Esther’s point were at the top of the star, it would put three people in a row- the Chaplin, Esther, and the Marshall, which not only would make for a crowded front of the room, but would also result in a very empty back of the room. On top of this, another thought came to me as I sat at this point. If the star was not inverted, and the top point was Esther, this would have the star “point” to the East, and to the Worthy Matron. This may have given people the wrong idea, and think that the Worthy Matron and Patron were those that were meant to be worshiped and revered instead of God. Unfortunately, we may never know the true reason Morris chose this symbol. In addition to these points, someone who is a Satanist could become a Mason, and many have. Often hysteria about a topic begins when someone takes one example and begins to apply it to everyone else that fits even some of those same characteristics.
Myth#5- There are Masonic symbols hidden everywhere, if you know what to look for
Like many myths, this is one that is rooted in some truth. There are Masonic symbols everywhere, if you know where to look. All seeing eyes, double headed eagles, pentagrams, the square and compass, even the cornerstone of a building are Masonic symbols, and can be found almost anywhere if you look hard enough. Many older buildings may have served as a Masonic Lodge, and still bear their symbols. Money, movies, and more things that start with M (as well as those that don’t) can be hiding Masonic symbols “in plain sight”. The important thing to remember here is- many of these symbols are not exclusive to Masonry. Many people claim that the all Seeing Eye on the back of a US dollar is proof that Masons control the government. This symbol actually came from the artist Pierre Du Simitere, who was not a Mason. The concept can be traced back at least as far as ancient Egypt, where the eye of Horus was used as a symbol of power and protection. The pentagram, the symbol for OES, did not acquire any occult meanings until the 19th and 20th centuries, well after Masonry was established. Funnily enough, there is little argument about where the symbols of the Order of the Knights Templar came from. As far as there being a secret square and compass hidden in Washington D.C. that is the secret to the map of the super-secret Masonic treasure? Wishful thinking and often a cause of pareidolia, the scientific word for the psychological phenomena when we perceive vague stimuli as being significant. It has been theorized that humans are hard wired to see patterns like this, to make sense when there is none, in hopes of processing the information a bit easier. This is also the same phenomena that cause someone to see Jesus in a piece of toast.
Myth #6- Freemasonry is a secret society
This one we kind of did to ourselves. A lot of the idea of Masonry being a secret society came about during the 1950’s and 1960’s, its last real big boom. During the obligation, initiates swear that they will not let known any of the secrets presented to them during their initiation. The trouble is, it’s never explicitly stated what is a secret, and what is not. As T says, the only secrets are handshakes, and words of recognition. In our state, anything that is secret is written in code in the ritual book. In OES, all secrets are omitted from writing, and only given by word of mouth (which makes them that much harder to learn). You can learn all you want about Masonry, learn about each officer and what they do, much of the degree work, and even some of a Lodge’s actual business and never even graze learning a secret. The biggest secret in Masonry is that much of our meetings consist of paying the bills, and arguing over who has what percentage share of the building (my Chapter is going through this now, it’s not much fun to deal with, or to listen to). Nothing I ever write here will be a secret, and I have gone fairly in depth on a number of topics. If someone realty wanted to learn the secrets of Masonry, a quick Google search would probably do the trick. I would not, however, recommend doing so if you are, or are ever planning on being involved in the Masonic family. Freemasonry is not a secret society. A secret society would keep its existence hidden, and its membership secret. If Masonry is a secret society, we are doing a terrible job at it. We are very open, not only about our existence, but also about what we stand for, and the work that we do. Freemasonry isn’t a secret society, it’s a society with secrets.
There are a ton of myths and misconceptions out there surrounding Freemasonry. I may return to this topic in the future, simply because there are so many. These are kind of the common ones that you may come across in your lives. If you have any questions about any of these, or have a myth I did not cover that you would like to know about, please feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will be kind of continuing this theme a bit next week, when we look at the sutble ways that Masonry affects the world around us. Have a wonderful week!