Freemasonry: What Is It and What Is It Not?
Freemasonry is a concept that describes the teachings and practices of a fraternal order of the Free and Accepted Masons. It is currently one of the largest societies worldwide, with estimates of its worldwide membership count in thus century ranging anywhere between two million to over six million.
The Freemasonry culture spread by the growth of the British Empire in earlier centuries. To this day, it remains a popular fixture in parts of the British Isles and other countries that have affiliations with Britain.
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The Origins of Freemasonry
Freemasonry primarily grew from the guilds of cathedral builders and stonemasons in the Middle Ages. At the time, cathedral building had declined in popularity and profitability. So, some lodges that included working masons decided to accept honorary mason members as a means of improving their numbers, which were already in decline. Part of these lodges gave rise to what is now being perceived as the modern symbolic Freemasonry.
By the 17th and 18th centuries, a lot of these organizations had developed the rites and trappings of religions. Then, the first Grand Lodge was founded in England in 1717.
From its beginnings, Freemasonry has gotten a lot of pushback from a lot of other organized religions. This was mostly prominent from the Roman Catholics. So, to be fair, Freemasonry isn’t a Christian institution or a part of the Christian faith – although many have mistaken it for a Christian organization. Instead, Freemasonry contains many elements of a religion – it has teachings that combine morality, obedience to laid-down laws, and even charity to your fellow man.
Also, in most areas, applicants for Freemasonry will have to be male and adult. However, all applicants will need to believe in the existence of a soul, which is immortal, and a Supreme Being. However, some Freemason sites have also accepted people who question the viability of dogmatic faith and who oppose religious clergymen.
It is worth noting, however, that some Freemason settings freely accept women into their ranks. However, as things stand, it is still quite restricted to men alone.
Debunking Myths About Freemasonry
MYTH #1: Freemasonry is a Religion
While it might not be the most significant of myths, it is also widely believed that every mason is involved in a separate religion. Some say that Freemasons worship the devil in exchange for dominion and power on the Earth, others believe it is a cult dedicated by the founding fathers of the United States and England.
However, Freemasonry isn’t a religion. In fact, it lacks the fundamental elements that could have qualified it to be a religion. There are no sacraments of salvation for Freemasons, and there is no sacred text that people read from as part of a creed.
It is worth noting, however, that Freemasonry has some elements of religion, too. Prayers are said, an organ is played at gatherings (like it is in the old orthodox Churches), and candidates who want to be accepted into the order will need to believe in a Supreme Being – usually known as the The Great Architect Of The Universe (TGAOTU). Anyone who wants to join the order will need to believe in TGAOTU as part of the order of the United Great Lodge of England.
Note that TGAOTU isn’t a pagan god. It is essentially a representation of how every Freemason describes God. It is merely an ideal version of one’s self, which one aspires to be after the example of a Supreme Being that they worship in their personal faith.
As a human who has a faith, you believe in someone. It could be God (for Christians), Allah (for Muslims), and more. The concept of Freemasonry is to help people be as close to that Supreme Being in perfection as possible.
Moreover, Freemasonry is striving for mental, spiritual, and moral improvement of the self through ritual and contemplation as well as improvement of society through charitable works. In Freemasonry, every religion is regarded and thought to have an equal dignity under the banner. So, instead of being a religion of its own, Freemasonry is closer to concepts like tolerance, co-existence, and freedom of religion. Everyone can have their personal religion and strive for perfection in their own way.
MYTH #2: Freemasonry is a Secret Society
Many tend to describe Freemasonry as a secret society. Others believe it to be merely a society with secrets – not a secret society. This isn’t true.
For many who go to masonic halls for tours and excursions, access is easily given across different areas for people to look and examine relics and artefacts. For instance, the Freemasons’ Hall allows people into its library and get access to their archives. The Hall even comprises a Gift Shop where masons and non-masons can get resources about masonic history.
Masonic rituals and others are also available for many to read and view. As far as secrets go, there’s hardly anything you can nail the Freemasons to. The society is as free and as open as anyone is thirsty about knowledge on them.
MYTH #3: Freemasonry is Running the World from the Shadows
This is currently one of the top conspiracy theories and myths available on the internet. Check Reddit and other conspiracy-peddling online platforms, and you’ll find posts about rich and influential people across the world being part of a Freemasonry group with the objective of taking over the world and subjugating its people.
Others claim that Freemasons, as well as the ubiquitous illuminati, fund activities and criminal organizations across the world in service of some objective or another. Well, that’s all wrong too!
Officially, there’s no international body that even governs the Freemasons. While the organization considers the United Grand Lodge of England to be the “Mother” Grand Lodge, it merely means that other countries that have Freemasons tend to look England as a means of modeling their activities.
In no way does it convey the idea that there is an international community of people who dictate the activities of other small Freemasons and Freemason groups. There’s absolutely no such thing.
MYTH #4: The Dollar Bill Has Freemason Symbols
Famously, the back of the dollar bill contains a pyramid with an eye on top of it. Many, including some actual Freemasons, believe it to be a masonic symbol. However, that isn’t the case.
Research has shown that many groups have used the symbol throughout history. In some cases, masons used them too. While some masons believe in it to make their lodges seem important, that’s just not the case.
The symbol, which is usually called the Eye of God, represents God and His ability to watch over the affairs on the Earth that He created. However, the icon has existed across multiple centuries and cultures, and no one really knows where it originated from.
Also, the incomplete pyramid appeared on the 50-pound Colonial note long ago. Many believe it to have meant a country that wasn’t complete yet and which was still in the growth process.
MYTH #5: Most of the United States’ Founding Fathers Were Freemasons
To be fair, there’s a probable reason why many believe this is true. Two of the earliest American Presidents – James Monroe and George Washington – were Freemasons. Other top historical Freemasons include John Hancock, Paul Revere, and Benjamin Franklin.
However, many leading figures in the American Revolution – including James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, and Samuel and John Adams – weren’t masons.
According to the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, only 9 of the 56 people who signed the Declaration of Independence were confirmed Masons. Also, of the 39 delegates of the Continental Congress who signed the American Constitution in 1787, only 13 were Masons.
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