Masonic myths and outright falsehood are continually spread concerning Freemasonry.
This is an attempt to set and keep the history of the Craft straight.
Throughout the centuries Freemasonry has taught its valuable lessons through allegory and symbols. The man from Galilee used parables extensively and well. Many historians and better speakers constantly employ anecdotes to illustrate the points they want to make. These methods emphasize the search for truth in an interesting and factual manner.
Myths on the other hand, can be innocent or dangerous. They can be outright lies or the perpetuation of distortions handed down through the generations. Many of these were invented by Masonic writers and speakers to enhance the image of Freemasonry. Some of these corruptions have caused the Craft problems with creditable historians because they were outrageous lies.
Freemasonry, actually, requires no exaggeration to magnify its greatness. The simple truth is all that is required to tell its story.
This is an attempt to destroy the myths that have been prevalent, often for centuries, by telling the truth.
Myth: There are goats in the Lodges.
Fact: Freemasons do not ride a goat in their lodges. It's a joke, perpetrated often by Masons themselves on nervous initiates.
Since at least the Middle Ages, the goat has been symbolic of the devil, and stories were circulated then of witches who called forth Satan, who came riding into town on a goat to take part in their blasphemous orgies. Then, as the Freemasons gained in popularity, detractors accused them of witchcraft, which is probably where the notion of initiates riding a goat came from.
It didn't help that some early ritual books from the fraternity referred to God as "God of All Things" and abbreviated it as G.O.A.T. That was quickly changed, and God is now referred to by Masons by the acronym G.A.O.T.U., for Grand Architect of the Universe.
Old catalogs from fraternal supply companies in the late 1800s actually offered mechanical goats for use in other fraternal organizations and "fun" degrees. As the golden age of fraternalism resulted in literally hundreds of other groups popping up in competition with the Masons, some were obviously less serious than others. Such items only served to perpetuate the myth that Masons and other fraternities required a goat-ride ritual for their initiations. Freemasonry never has.
Rest assured: There is no lodge goat. The degrees of Masonry are serious business to Freemasons, and there is no horseplay (or goatplay).
Myth: Masons placed The All-Seeing Eye on the U.S. $1 bill
Fact: If you saw the movie National Treasure, you know all about this one. The back of the U.S. $1 bill contains Masonic imagery of the All-Seeing Eye over an Egyptian pyramid. And everybody knows that's a Masonic symbol, right?
Well, not really. The eye and the pyramid are actually part of the Great Seal of the United States, which was put on the back of the $1 bill in 1935. There is indeed an All-Seeing Eye floating over an unfinished pyramid, with the words annuit coeptis (Latin meaning, "He [God] has favored our undertakings").
Beneath it are the words, novus ordo seclorum, which translate as "A new order of the ages." It does not mean "a new world order," as has been alleged, which is just one more reason to lament that high schools don't teach Latin classes anymore. (New world order would be written as novus ordo mundi. So there. Now go conjugate ten irregular verbs.)
A committee of four men, including Benjamin Franklin (the only Freemason in the bunch), designed the Great Seal of the United States in 1776. The image of the eye within a triangle to represent God was suggested by the only artist among them, Pierre du Simitiere — who was not a Freemason. Two other committees tinkered with the design before being approved. The unfinished pyramid was suggested by Francis Hopkinson (another non-Mason), and none of the final designers was a Mason.
The eye within a triangle to represent God appears throughout the Renaissance, long before speculative Freemasonry arrived on the scene. The triangle being three-sided represents the Christian belief in the Trinity of God — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. No records associate Freemasonry with the symbol before 1797, nor is the symbol in any way related to the Bavarian Illuminati.
As for the unfinished pyramid, it represents the strong, new nation of the United States, destined to stand for centuries, just as the famous pyramids have stood in Egypt. There are 13 rows of stones, representing the 13 original colonies, with the image of God watching over them.
Many Masonic lodges, especially in Europe, display the All-Seeing Eye just as it is used on the $1 bill — as a nondenominational representation of God. There is nothing sinister or occult about it, and there are numerous instances of it appearing in Christian art from the 1600s onward.
Myth: There is a "Masonic Bible".
Fact: Masons have been accused of using their own, presumably Satanic, bible in their ceremonies. Many people have seen Masonic bibles for sale on eBay and elsewhere and clearly believe that Bibles used by Masons are somehow different.
This myth is actually a two-part one. Lodges in predominantly Christian communities commonly have the custom of presenting the new Master Mason with a commemorative heirloom Bible. In the United States, the most common one is the 1611 translation of the King James version, published especially for Masonic lodges by Heirloom Bible Publishers of Wichita, Kansas. It contains an area in the front for the Mason to commemorate important dates in his degree work, places for his brethren to sign the record of his degrees, and a 94-page glossary of biblical references relating to Masonic ceremonies, along with essays about Masonry and some common questions and answers. The rest of it is the entire King James version of the Old and New Testament that is available in any bookstore.
The second part of this myth has to do with the use of the Volume of Sacred Law in a Masonic lodge. All regular, well-governed lodges must have a book considered sacred to its members open on the lodge altar during meetings. Depending on what part of the world the lodge is in and the beliefs of the lodge's members, this sacred book could be the Bible, the Hebrew Tanach, the Muslim Koran, the Hindu Veda, the Zoroastrian Zend-Avesta, or the Proverbs of Confucius. It's simply referred to as the Volume of Sacred Law, as a nonsectarian term.
Myth: Freemasons worship the devil.
Fact: Most certainly not. Neither do they worship money or power. In fact they do not worship at all at Lodge meetings. They respect ethical values when found in each other and in society and strive to inculcate all things good in themselves and each other. The philosophy of Freemasonry, its 'program for life' if you like, encourages the individual to develop towards the fulfilment of his own destiny using his potential and abilities in the best possible way.
Myth: Freemasonry is a secret society.
Fact: The answer to this question is simple, No. It is however, a society with secrets. There are certain aspects of its affairs which are private to its members just as they would be in any other private membership organization. Members are free to discuss what Freemasonry is about in any answer to any genuine enquiry. Whilst every Freemason promises not to reveal certain signs and passwords, they ARE willing to talk about what Freemasonry is and what they get from it. Masonic rituals have been published and are readily available in book form and on the internet. Many Masonic halls now have open days, when the public are invited to meet local Masons and tour their lodge rooms. The vast majority of Freemasons openly acknowledge their membership because they are proud of it.
Myth: You can gain a business advantage by being a Freemason.
Fact: No this is not true. Any Freemason found to be using his membership for personal or for business advantage, would be subject to Masonic discipline and could be expelled from the Order. It is severely frowned upon. In fact Masons are not even allowed to display membership certificates in their office or place of work and the use of Masonic signs is restricted to the Lodge Room. All good Freemasons will abide by these rules. There are six million Masons worldwide. Amongst these there will be some who try to bend the rules or use their membership for the wrong purpose. They are usually soon found out and then either suspended or expelled, particularly if they have broken the law of the land or engaged in any other activity that has the potential to bring Freemasonry into disrepute.
Myth: Freemasons get away with criminal offences.
Fact: There is no evidence whatsoever to support this suggestion except in the minds of conspiracy theorists. It has been suggested numerous times by certain authors, but not one of them has produced any evidence to support their statements. If a Freemason tried to do something of that nature before a Magistrate or a Judge who was a Freemason, it would more than likely have the opposite effect as we are expected to uphold the law of the land. A Freemason convicted of a criminal offence would probably be expelled from the Order and in fact you may not join the Order if your reputation is suspect.
Myth: Freemasons only look after thier own.
Fact: We don’t. Freemasonry does have strong charitable interests, although that is not its main purpose. There are Masonic charities which look after members and their family interests, but Freemasonry raises in excess of $2,000,000 per DAY which it donates to non-Masonic causes. Examples are the Shriners Hospitals for Children, Childhood Language Disorders Clinics, Masonic Homes, Masonic Student Assistance Program and many, many others. It is always one of the first to donate to the latter whenever and wherever disaster strikes and it is one of the largest donators to charity and children in need, worldwide.
Myth: Freemasonry is an elitist, Christian only organization.
Fact: Nonsense. Contrary to popular belief, Freemasonry is not a closed organization available only to those who are invited to join. Membership is open to all men of good character who might have a variety of religious beliefs, so that Jew can be in harmony with Arab, Protestant with Roman Catholic and Hindu with Muslim. As in many clubs, an applicant has to be formally proposed and seconded. Following a successful interview by a small Lodge committee there is next a ballot of members before one can join. Freemasons come from all walks of life and they do not have to be rich; it costs less to be Freemason than a member of many golf clubs for example, but you must clearly be able to afford your membership dues without causing any detriment to your family. The only requirement for entry is that you believe in a Supreme Being. Whether your Prophet is Moses, Buddha, Christ, Muhammad, the Báb or Bahá’u’lláh matters not. As long as you have that belief you will be eligible to join. In fact, Freemasonry may be under-represented by minority groups and religions and this is something we would really like to address. We are increasingly attracting younger Masons from varying religions.
Myth: Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry were Freemasons.
Fact: Neither Thomas Jefferson or Patrick Henry were members of the Craft. An exhaustive search of Masonic records in Virginia, and elsewhere, offers no iota of evidence to make them Freemasons. Jefferson participated in the cornerstone laying of his University at Charlottesville, which was done Masonically. He praised Freemasonry and his own words proved he had never been a member of the Craft.
Myth: All of George Washington's generals during the War for American Independence were Masons.
Fact: Thirty-three of the general serving under Washington were members of the Craft, a long way from "all." The late James R. Case and Ronald E. Heaton made comprehensive studies of the Revolutionary period and debunked many of the claims considered here.
Myth: Washington insisted that the Marquis de Lafayette be made a Mason before he would promote him to general, and the same claim has been made about the Baron von Steuben.
Fact: Both Lafayette and von Steuben were Freemasons before they arrived to help fight the British. This was true of Lafayette even though he wasn't 21 years of age when he arrived in America. It's highly likely that Washington never did know they were Masons. The stories of both of these men are highly interesting, but space prohibits the telling of them here.
Myth: The governors of the thirteen original colonies when Washington was inaugurated President of the United States were Freemasons.
Fact: From Lexington until the inauguration thirty different men served as governors. Of these ten were Freemasons. That's one-third! Wouldn't it be wonderful for the country if we could claim the same percentage today?
Myth: The Boston Tea Party was organized in St. Andrew's Lodge in Boston and its member participated in tossing the tea into Boston Harbor.
Fact: So well has the secrecy surrounding the Boston Tea Party been kept that to this day not a single participant can be truthfully named! It's true that St. Andrew's Lodge didn't meet on the night of the "party." This proves nothing. The "T" that has been claimed is part of the minutes of the Lodge is actually an indistinguishable scroll. By no stretch of the imagination can it be called a "T" or any other letter.
Myth: All, or almost all, Signers of the Articles of Confederation, Signers of the Declaration of Independence, and Signers of the Constitution were Freemasons.
Fact: Ten of the signers of the Articles, nine signers of the Declaration, and thirteen signers of the Constitution were, or would become, Freemasons. Even so, this is an excellent percentage of the participants. It should be noted that Edmund Randolph, governor and Grand Master of Virginia, although an important participant in the Constitutional Convention, didn't sign the document. He did, however, fight for its ratification. It should also be noted that four Presidents of the Continental Congresses were Freemasons: Peyton Randolph of Virginia, John Hancock of Massachusetts, Henry Laurens of South Carolina, and Arthur St. Clair of Pennsylvania. (For further study see Masonic Membership of the Founding Fathers, The Masonic Service Association, 8120 Fenton St., Silver Spring, MD 20910,)
Myth: There are many aprons owned or worn by George Washington floating around.
Fact: The only documented apron owned by Washington was one presented by the firm of Watson and Cassoul. It had been made by nuns at Nantes. It was the only apron listed in Washington's inventory that was released after his death.
Myth: Washington was Grand Master in Virginia.
Fact: Washington never was a Grand Master. At the instigation of American Union Lodge he was suggested for the office of Grand Master of a National Grand Lodge -- a non-existent body. The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania and some others agreed, but too many others disagreed with the concept of a National Grand Lodge. Washington was appointed Master of Alexandria Lodge No. 22 in Virginia by Grand Master Edmund Randolph when that Pennsylvania Lodge requested a charter from the Grand Lodge of Virginia. The following year he was elected Master, but there is no record of his installation into this office, nor is there any record of him presiding over this Lodge. To keep the record straight, there is much evidence of his respect, and perhaps even love for Freemasonry. Proof? He was buried with Masonic rites!
Myth: George Washington was Grand Master of Masons in Virginia.
Fact: Washington never was a Grand Master. American Union Lodge, on December 15, 1779, proposed Washington become General Grand Master of the United States! This proposal speaks volumes for the character of the Commander-in-Chief. The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania agreed five days later! Too many others were frightened by the concept of a National Grand Lodge. It is highly doubtful that Washington would have accepted such an office. Washington was appointed Master of Alexandria Lodge No. 22 in Virginia by Grand Master Edmund Randolph when that Pennsylvania Lodge (No. 39) requested a charter from the Grand Lodge of Virginia. The new charter was dated April 28, 1788. In December of the same year he was elected Master, but there is no record of his installation into this office, nor is there any record of him actually presiding over this or any Lodge.
Myth. Washington acted as Grand Master when the cornerstone of the Federal Capitol was laid on September 18,1793.
Fact. It was the Grand Lodge of Maryland that was called on to lay the cornerstone. Alexandria Lodge, of which Washington was a Past Master, held a place of honor. It was Joseph Clark, the Junior Grand Warden of the Grand Lodge of Maryland, who acted as Grand Master, pro tem. Clark placed the President between himself and the Master of Alexandria Lodge. The newspaper article reporting the event mentioned Clark as the Grand Master, pro tem. on several occasions. So did the Maryland historian in 1885. Washington didn't act as Grand Master, but without question he was the most honored and influential Freemason participating in the event.
Myth. George Washington never was interested in Freemasonry. He rarely, if ever, attended Lodge meetings.
Fact. To keep the record straight, there is much evidence of his respect and even love for Freemasonry. True, he seldom attended Masonic meetings. This is understandable when it is realized that from the day he was made a Master Mason until shortly before his death he worked for his country. Did he love and respect the Craft. The ultimate proof -- he was buried with Masonic rites! And this even before the Congress knew of his death. (For further study of George Washington and a complete account of his Masonic activities see George Washington: Master Mason, Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Co., Richmond, VA.)
Myth. George Washington renounced Freemasonry.
Fact. On the contrary he remained a member of the Craft from the moment he was Initiated into the Lodge at Fredericksburg, Virginia (No. 4) until the day he died. Even then his wife, Martha, asked the Freemason of Alexandria, Virginia, to hold and conduct his funeral (see above). In 1837, at state expense, Joseph Ritner, Governor of Pennsylvania, endeavored to "save" the reputation of the first President. He had published a tract "proving" Washington had never participated in Masonic events. Earlier the Blanchards, father and son and heads of a so-called "Christian" antiMasonic organization, were among the first "Christians" to "prove" Washington wasn't a Freemason. Much of the anti-Masonic diatribe they promulgated has been carried to the present day by crusading "saints" against "secret" societies.
Myth. Washington was uneducated.
Fact. Uneducated -- no; unschooled -- yes. As far as we can determine Washington never attended any school. Through his father's vast library Washington learned the fundamentals of mathematics, surveying and many other subjects. At the age of 17 he earned a substantial wage as a surveyor. In 1749 he was appointed surveyor of Culpeper County, Virginia, having produced a certificate "from the President and Masters of William and Mary College, appointing him to be surveyor of this county." From the many military visitors to Mount Vernon he learned the principles of warfare. From the intellectuals he learned how to study and use his common sense. The history of his life proves he became one of the most knowledgeable men of his, or any, day.
Myth. Washington did not love Martha; he married her for her fortune and social position.
Fact. Although critics are adept at reading the minds and thinking of others, _ ars must agree with Sherman who said: "War is Hell!" Would a man or woman who did not love each other deeply share winter quarters together? That's what Martha and George Washington did throughout the War for American Independence. (For more on George Washington, see his biography in Book 3.)
Myth: The oldest Masonic building in the United States is that of Royal White Hart Lodge in North Carolina.
Fact: Not true. It's Masons Hall in Richmond, Virginia, the home of Richmond Randolph Lodge No. 19 and Richmond Royal Arch Chapter No. 3. The building owned by Royal White Hart Lodge wasn't built until 1821. Masons Hall was built in 1785. It was originally the home of Richmond Lodge No. 10, the first wholly new Lodge chartered by the Grand Lodge of Virginia. It was also the first permanent home of the Grand Lodge of Virginia.
Myth: Freemasonry is a religion.
Fact: Absolutely false. This is one of several arguments employed by certain religious fanatics in an attempt to discredit Freemasonry. They quote Albert Pike and Henry Wilson Coil, among others, neither of whom was a man of the cloth, to "prove" their statements. Pike was not a researcher. Most of the hundreds of thousands of words he wrote came from his own mind, or the minds of others whom he never mentioned but with whom he agreed. Coil wrote millions of words about Freemasonry, and he was a lawyer and an excellent Masonic researcher. Most of the time the words of these and other writers are taken out of context to "prove" the thesis of the anti-Masons. Freemasonry's enemies conveniently ignore the thousands of Christian ministers, and some Rabbis, who prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Freemasonry, although religious is far from being a religion. Here are just three of these Doctors of Divinity who have proven the critics in error: Joseph Fort Newton, Norman Vincent Peal and Forrest D. Haggard.
Myth: Freemasonry is a secret society.
Fact: Unequivocally false. This is widely stated and believed, even by Freemasons. Many Masons believe this so strongly they won't even talk to their wives and families about the Craft. Many writers of yesteryear helped promote this error. Our ritualists have added to the belief. The critics of Freemasonry want the world to believe in this secrecy because they have little else on which to stand. Yet by no stretch of the imagination can Masonry be termed a secret organization. If it was, no outsiders would even know it exists. Anything that is known is not secret. Without question there are many secret organizations throughout the world, but only men and women within those circles are familiar with them. Most, if not all, ritualistic religions have conclaves (literally: rooms locked with a key from outsiders). Should these be condemned along with Freemasonry? Secret means: "Kept from general knowledge or view; kept hidden; operating in a clandestine manner"; and on and on. Secret groups meet in places known only to the few. Freemasons meet in places clearly marked for the public to see. Secret outfits never record anything that might become public property. All Masonic functions are fully recorded, proceedings can be read by the general public, thousands of books have been written and published about Freemasonry, millions of words about the Craft come off printing presses every year.
The Northern Light is an excellent example. Members of secret bands never advertise their affiliation; Freemasons proudly wear the Square and Compasses and other emblems. There are NO SECRETS in Freemasonry I've been saying for years. Many _ ic. There are several excellent Masonic libraries such as the one in Lexington, but non-Masons rarely visit them. The so-called secrets in Freemasonry have been "revealed" over and over again in books that can be found in any library or large bookstore. With the coming of television these secrets, often distorted, have gone into the homes of millions of people. So let us dispel the myth that Freemasonry is a "secret Organization." It isn't. It never has been. (NOTE: Several Freemasons are so concerned with the statements made in their churches about Masonic secrecy they asked for help in answering their critics. This is an attempt to help them.)
Myth: Much of our Masonic ritual was written by William Shakespeare.
Fact: There is no evidence to indicate Shakespeare even knew there was an organization of stone masons that would eventually become Speculative Freemasonry. The old Gothic Constitutions are the basis for The Constitutions of the Free-Masons compiled by Dr. James Anderson in 1722 and adopted in 1723. There is nothing in the Gothic tomes that remotely resembles the writing of the Bard. Many of Shakespeare's phrases have found their way into the rituals of the Craft, but they certainly were not written especially for this purpose. It would be nice to claim William as an early accepted member, but we can't. Let's stop trying.
Myth. There have been several women who were regular Freemasons. Many prominent Freemasons have said this is true.
Fact. The Constitutions of the Free-Masons of 1723, on which all Masonic law is based, tells us that Masons must be males. Every regular Grand Lodge in the world specifies that Freemasons must be males. There are no exceptions. To make a female a Freemason would be illegal. A few ladies have been said to have been initiated into Freemasonry for various reasons. Among them was Maria Desraismes who was initiated into Loge Les Libres Penseurs (Freethinkers) In Paris in 1881. The Master of the Lodge was expelled. Shortly thereafter the Lodge is said to have become co-Masonic, composed of men and women. CoMasonry is prevalent today in this country, but isn't recognized by regular Freemasonry. In this country and in England their are lodges of women "Freemasons." These ladies call themselves "Brother" and use the same titles as do regular Masonic Lodges. During a forum a couple of years ago, a young Master of a Lodge said: "I have one regret. I can't call my mother 'Brother!'"
Myth. The Lodge of the Holy Saints John at Jerusalem did, or does, exist.
Fact. Symbolism is an important function in Freemasonry. Actually symbolism is found everywhere. You're reading symbols right now. The dollar sign ($) is an excellent example. (As I understand it, this sign was originally composed of two other symbols: an "S" and a "U" joined.) As Freemasons are craftsmen, and St. John the Evangelist and St. John the Baptist were chosen as patron saints of Freemasonry perhaps about 1598, they had to belong to a Lodge, didn't they? What better Lodge than an imaginary one. And shouldn't it be at Jerusalem? No such lodge ever existed. Symbolically, though, it constitutes an ideal. As Carl Claudy said: "The thought ... is that we come from an ideal or dream lodge into this actual workaday world where our ideals are to be tested.... Masons mean only that their Craft is dedicated to these holy men, whose precepts and practices, ideas and virtues, teachings and examples, all Freemasons should try to follow."_ a book entitled Whence Come You? It was published in 1957. Among the many far-fetched "facts" he recorded was the finding of this Lodge of the Holy Saints John. He claimed its ruins were still standing in Jerusalem, and he had a picture to prove it. This was discredited. Later another claim that this lodge existed in London was also discredited by Harry Carr.
Myth: Freemasonry began when Noah recovered from the big flood.
Fact. Wonderful, if true. Dr. James Anderson in his 1723 Constitutions, gathered information from old Masonic documents. He believed Noah and his sons, Japhet, Shem and Ham, were "all Masons true." There are those who take the Craft back even further -- to the days of Adam. Actually no man knows when, where, or how Freemasonry as we know it began. Athelstan is said to have convened a meeting of Masons at York, England, in A.D. 927. There are signs that some form of Masonry existed from the 13th century on. Masonry's oldest known document, The Regius Poem, was written about 1390 and is based on older documents. We do know that operative craftsmen employed a form of teaching that has come down to us. Speculative
Freemasonry officially came into being with the formation of the first Grand Lodge of England in 1717. From this organization, which began as an annual, or quarterly series of feasts, has evolved the Freemasonry we have today. It is a result of growth, taking the teachings from the better religions, philosophies, using the symbolism of the operative masons to teach the neophyte valuable lessons. Since man began building with stone, there has been some form of masonry. Whether a connection can be made between the craftsmen of yesteryear and the modern era, has yet to be determined.
Myth: The story of Hiram as we portray it in our Lodges is based on truth.
Fact. It isn't. It has been called an "allegory," but factually it isn't. An allegory is a story within a story. What we portray is actually a fable. But it's a fable that teaches valuable and unforgettable lessons. The Temple Solomon had built to the glory of God was a fact. The story as told in the third, or Master Masons degree, is not meant to be factual. In a broad sense it can be called a legend. The "Hiramic Legend" is an important part of the teachings graphically imprinted on the mind of the candidate. I put it this way in The Craft and Its Symbols: "The lessons found in the Legend of Hiram Abif reach to the roots of the soul and spirit. They are instilled in the heart forever. You were an active participant, so that these lessons would be deeply implanted, never to be lost.... "The ultimate triumph of good over evil, and life over death, has been depicted throughout the ages in drama, song and story. Legends depicting a central figure being killed and then returned to life were common to many religions and rites. These undoubtedly had a bearing on the development of the lessons the ritualists of Freemasonry believed had to be taught. But the Hiramic Legend is more intense, moralistic, and meaningful than any that preceded it. "Hiram Abif did exist. He was a skillful worker in brass and other metals. He was sent to assist King Solomon.... [But] the Hiram Abif who actually worked at beautifying the Temple of Solomon lived to an old age! He died of natural causes!"
Myth: All, or most, of the Freemasons in Germany were murdered during the Nazi regime.
Fact: The truth about the horrors of Nazism will never be known. The number of German Freemasons sent to concentration camps, the gas chambers, prisons, tortured or murdered in their homes will never be known. Masonic leaders into believing he was writing legitimate accounts of Freemasonry. Unscientific research, the only kind possible in this case, indicated to Boyd that about two-thirds of the then 85,000 Masons in Germany were injured in some manner, this left one-third untouched. The number actually murdered or tortured is open to conjecture. It must be remembered that the Nazi horror reached into other countries and the Freemasons in them.
Fact: However we do know without question that Freemasonry is the first organization proscribed by dictators. An organization that believes in and teaches the Brotherhood of Man under the Fatherhood of God, that believes in the search for truth, cannot be allowed to exist under a despot.
Myth: Adolf Hitler hated and feared Freemasonry.
Fact: Not exactly. Oral histories (or accounts) can easily be fabricated, as was at least one concerning Harry Truman. This is especially true when publication comes after the subject's death. With this in mind a sketch of one such conversation recorded from Gesprache Mit Hitler was reported in Seekers of Truth. Herman Rauschnigg, the writer, said that Hitler told him Freemasonry "has always been harmless in Germany." It "achieves the fruition of fantasy through the use of symbols, rites and magic influence of emblems of worship. Herein lies the great danger which I have taken in hand. Don't you see that our party must be something very similar, and order, an hierarchic organization of secular priesthood? This naturally means that something similar opposing us may not exist. It is either us, the Freemasons or the Church but never two side by side. The Catholic Church has made its position clear, at least in regard to the Freemasons. Now we are the strongest and, there, we shall eliminate both the Church and the Freemasons."
Myth: Freemasonry did not operate during World War II in the countries controlled by the Hitler thugs.
Fact: It did, but not openly. (Even today there are countries in which Freemasons must meet in secret.) In the infamous Buchenwald concentration camp the Masonic popular reached close to 100 in October 1944. According to M. Jattefaux, a French Freemason, the known Masons met daily. By occupying the minds of these men with Masonic ritual and lessons helped relief them of their anxieties. Masonic subjects were selected and by word of mouth transmitted block by block. There quiet discussions would take place. Then block by block the results of their debate returned.
Myth: Hitler was elected Chancellor of Germany.
Fact: Not so. He was appointed by Chancellor by President Paul von Hindenburg. In July 1932 the Nazi received 37% of the vote; on November 6, 1932 the Nazi party dropped about five points. This alarmed the German industrialists who were backing Hitler. They persuaded their president to appoint Hitler as Chancellor. A short time later the Reichstag was ravaged by fire. The communist party was blamed, and as a result outlawed. Nazi terror followed; the Third Reich was formed; the rest is history._ ned it as a means of evading the Gestapo; Batham claims it was simply an emblem selected because the Square and Compasses wasn't worn by Freemasons. Most important, though, the early accounts and Batham do agree the blue forget-me-not was worn throughout the Nazi terror. This emblem was chosen to honor Masonic writers and educators through The Masonic Brotherhood of the Blue Forget-Me-Not.
Myth: All, or most, of the Freemasons in Germany were murdered during the Nazi regime.
Fact: The truth about the horrors of Nazism will never be known. The number of German Freemasons sent to concentration camps, the gas chambers, prisons, tortured or murdered in their homes will never be known. We do know, through research done by Lt. Col. David Boyd and others, that nowhere nearly the often quoted 80,000 Masons were killed. We do know that a French historian named Bernard Fay turned the names of Freemasons over to the Nazis. Fay had obtained many of these names from American Masonic sources. He had conned some Masonic leaders into believing he was writing legitimate accounts of Freemasonry. Unscientific research, the only kind possible in this case, indicated to Boyd that about two-thirds of the then 85,000 Masons in Germany were injured in some manner, this left one-third untouched. The number actually murdered or tortured is open to conjecture. It must be remembered that the Nazi horror reached into other countries and the Freemasons in them.
Fact: However we do know without question that Freemasonry is the first organization proscribed by dictators. An organization that believes in and teaches the Brotherhood of Man under the Fatherhood of God, that believes in the search for truth, cannot be allowed to exist under a despot.
Myth: The formation of the English Grand Lodge in 1751 came about because of a schism; its founders were Masonic traitors.
Fact: Absolutely false. It's one of the stories perpetuated by well-known and well-respected Masonic historians that refuses to die. And there is no excuse for its continuation. In 1887 Henry Sadler proved Irish Freemasons, mainly, founded the "Antients" Grand Lodge. They had never been a part of the "Moderns" Grand Lodge formed in 1717. In the pages of The Philalethes magazine for February 1974 Lionel Augustine Seemungal of the West Indies helped destroy this myth. He quoted Henry Sadler, Librarian of the Grand Lodge of England. Recently Cyril N. Batham used this myth to emphasize "that just because a theory has always been accepted throughout the whole masonic [sic] world, it is not necessarily correct."
Myth: Pythagoras was Raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason.
Fact: So say the ritualists of yesteryear, and their successors have compounded the fabrication. Pythagoras was indeed a great man (see the forthcoming The Mystic Tie for his story). Although he left behind no writings of his own, his students did. His influence has extended to the present day. It is little wonder his teachings have reached into Freemasonry, even if only fragmentarily. But, even if a form of Freemasonry was known while he lived (582-507 B.C.), he could not have been made a Master Mason. This degree wasn't invented (or had it evolved) until the late 1720's. Actually there are those who believe that the Freemasonry that did mature into what we have today was influenced by the Pythagoreans.
Myth: The Chapel of the Four Chaplains in Philadelphia, a non-sectarian foundation, has been accepted by all religions.
Fact: Not so. Briefly: the story begins on February 3, 1943 when the U.S. Troop ship Dorchester was torpedoed. As it was sinking four chaplains (Methodist, Rabbi, Catholic Priest, Reformed [Dutch] Church Minister) handed their life jackets to soldiers as they plunged into the sea. With arms linked, and singing, the chaplains went down with the ship. In 1948 Dr. Daniel A. Poling, father of one of the chaplains, became Chaplain of the Chapel. The father and son were Freemasons. Men of all faiths were invited to memorialize the heroism of the chaplains in 1951. Congressman John F. Kennedy was invited and accepted. He didn't show up -- his Cardinal Dougherty wouldn't let him! Later General James O'Neil, Deputy Chief of Chaplains of the U.S. Army was invited to dedication ceremonies. He accepted, but he, also, didn't show up. The same Dougherty wouldn't let him! Two employees of the government had refused! During the latter dedication Brother Harry S. Truman said these chaplains had obeyed a Divine command, and "this is an old faith in our country. It is shared by all churches and all denominations." This is one time Brother Truman erred.
Myth: There are no "legitimate" Black Freemasons.
Fact: Each Jurisdiction (state Grand Lodge) is sovereign, has its own rules, regulations and laws. Freemasons, even those who are officers and members of appendant bodies, must adhere to those laws. As far as I can determine, no Grand Lodge has a law prohibiting a Black man from petitioning one of its Masonic Lodges. There, as with all petitioners, the results of a ballot box will determine if he is elected. The individual members of each Lodge will determine how he ballots. As Freemasons we know the only criteria for election to receive the degrees are the petitioners moral qualifications. Religion, race, color, creed should never enter into this decision. We also know many of us are fallible.
Freemasonry is in a predicament. There is an excellent Black organization of predominately Black Freemasons called "Prince Hall Masonry." Throughout the United States there are Prince Hall Grand Lodges, composed mainly of Black men. This group traces its origin to 1775 (older than the United States) when 15 Black men, including one Prince Hall, were made Master Masons. In 1784, this loosely knit group received an English charter as African Lodge No. 459. This gave birth eventually to the present day Prince Hall Grand Lodges.
Although there are Black Masons in many recognized lodges, Prince Hall leaders would prefer to have these men petition Prince Hall lodges. Understandably, they do not want to give up their heritage. Some "regular" Grand Lodges have taken this into consideration and have recognized the Prince Hall Grand Lodge in their state. These Grand Lodges permit inter-visitation. Other Grand Lodges are considering much the same action.
Myth: World War I and II veterans petitioned Freemasonry in great numbers, but no Vietnam veterans are Freemasons.
Fact: Partially true and completely false. Veterans of the World Wars did come into Freemasonry in great numbers. During those wars they found the principles taught in Freemasonry in action. This was especially true during the second World War. Freemasonry, through The Masonic Service Association, went into action even before the United States entered the conflict. It was aided by Congressmen and Senators who were Freemasons, with Harry S. Truman taking the lead. Until long after the war the MSA, with the support of the Grand Lodges and such bodies as the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction provided a "Home Away From Home" for service men and women in this country and overseas. Freemasonry was highly visible. The political climate wasn't the same during the Vietnam "Police Action."
In an attempt to contain communism, Brother Harry S. Truman sent 35 "advisors" to help the French in Vietnam in 1950. Later, after the French had capitulated, Eisenhower answered a request by South Vietnam and sent a handful of American "advisors"; John F. Kennedy (rarely mentioned in connection with this fiasco) greatly escalated American involvement, turning it into a political war. It continued to be mismanaged by politicians. The hands of military strategists were completely tied. The furor created in the Congress overflowed to the streets and especially universities and colleges in the country. The war, as with all _ reemasonry on several occasions with Conrad Hahn, then Executive Secretary. This isn't the time or place to relate what was discussed, except to say he was deeply concerned. The Hospital Visitation program was the only important link Freemasonry had with our Vietnam veterans. It remains an important link.
It's false to say no Vietnam Veterans have become Freemasons.
A check with several folks and organizations such as the National Sojourners proves many of the men who upheld the honor of the United States by serving in Vietnam are Freemasons today.
Myth: The chief architect in the building of King Solomon's Temple, Hiram Abif, was slain before its completion.
Fact: According to Biblical accounts, this "worker in brass and other metals" lived to a ripe old age. Yet, every Freemason for centuries has portrayed Hiram Abif -- a legendary Hiram Abif. They have been the principal actor in a scene that never transpired. Naughty? No. There's a vast difference between the myth that's passed off as the truth, and one that's taught as allegory, or legend. In this case, as I wrote in The Craft and Its Symbols: "The Masonic Hiram Abif was 'born' -- and died -- to instill in the hearts, minds, and souls of Freemasons symbolic lessons of life. These include, but are not limited to, Perseverance, Lodge of mankind, Courage, Patience, Devotion to God, Fortitude, Justice, Fidelity to a trust, and the Immortality of Man. He is symbolic of what happens to man day by day.
All United States Presidents were Masons. All signers of the Declaration of Independence and of the Constitution were Masons.
Sound familiar? These are among the less harmful of the myths concerning Freemasonry that have been traveling about for years. And these are the type propagated by well-meaning leaders of the Craft.
Are they harmless? Not by any stretch of the imagination. These are what the enemies of the Craft leap on to "prove" Freemasons can't be trusted. This organization whose members say they are seeking truth too often spreads untruths. And these untruths can easily be discredited. We don't need to exaggerate or lie. Freemasonry is by far the oldest and largest fraternal association in existence. It has existed in its present form (Speculative) since 1717. It can trace its ancestry back another 300 years, at least. It still employs the tools of operative masons to teach wise and moral lessons. One-third of the signers of the Declaration and the Constitution were or would become members of the Craft. An excellent percentage without exaggerating. Many, but far from all, of Washington's general officers were Freemasons. That's good enough. We don't have to lie. Without the expertise of nonMasons we wouldn't have the United States of America. Washington knew this and trusted them.
Myth: Masonic Landmarks are well defined; we know exactly what they are; and we must follow them meticulously.
Fact: These landmarks are far from being known. Recently I pleaded for all of Freemasonry to work toward bringing harmony out of chaos within the Craft in France. The Grand Loge Nationale Francaise is recognized by the United Grand Lodge in England and our American Grand Lodges. Others are not. In my search for the truth I've received varying tales. A well known writer informed me that the Grand Orient in France is condemned because it had removed a landmark -- the belief in God. Is a belief in God a Masonic landmark? What are THE Landmarks? Where can we find an accurate list? In 1858 Albert G. Mackey wrote: "... the unwritten laws or customs of Masonry constitute its Landmarks,..." Then he proceeds to give the Craft a list of 25 "landmarks!" Perhaps not surprisingly, 13 Grand Lodges adopted his list; eight use them by custom; ten have their own list; the balance cite none. Among Mackey's detractors was the great Roscoe Pound who agreed with only two of Mackey's list.
Let's see what James Anderson in his The Constitutions of the Free-Masons had to say about deity. In his Article I. "Concerning GOD and RELIGION" he said: "A Mason is oblig'd by his Tenure to obey the moral Law; and if he rightly understands the Art, he will never be a stupid Atheist, nor an irreligious Libertine." With this statement an overwhelming majority of Freemasons will agree. But where does it say a Mason must believe in God?
Before I'm condemned to a fate worse than eternity in Hades, let me hasten to add that I agree with Anderson. Those who don't belief in, trust in, and revere God are stupid. And there is nothing to keep any Grand Lodge from adopting rules and regulations which its members must follow. All of them, as far as I can determine, absolutely do require a belief in one God, but leave the resolution of that belief to the individual. Most, if not all, Grand Lodges have minimum requirements which must be met before new Grand Lodges can receive recognition. This is as it should be. But these requirements are not Landmarks.
I believe, as did the great English Freemason, Robert Freke Gould in speaking of Masonic Landmarks: "Nobody knows what they comprise or omit; they are of no earthly authority, because everything is a landmark when an opponent desires to silence you; _ in his own way."
Then, too, one must consider the reasons why certain actions were taken by the organizations involved. It's easy for those of us who enjoy religious and political freedom to condemn those who must live under political and religious dictators. And, unbelievably, we even have dictators within Freemasonry. There are those jurisdictions, and you know it, where one man can and does set the policy for all, and no one dare deviate from that policy.
We must also consider many other factors. Not the least of these is expecting the uninitiated to know anything about Freemasonry. Even 90% or more members of the Craft don't understand what it is. That goes for the leadership as well.