Freemasonry is the most populous secret society on the planet, with an estimated six million members worldwide. Masons are organised into lodges, where they meet with fellow brothers periodically to discuss aspects related to the fraternity.
Traditionally, lodges are organised in geographic locations, but sometimes they are managed by professionals from a particular industry or academics from an institution such as a university.
For centuries, many of the secrets of Freemasonry were tightly guarded, and very little was known about the inner workings of the fraternity by those on the outside. Masons were generally recruited by word of mouth and were invited by peers who were already fraternity members.
However, since the turn of the 21st century and the advancement of modern technology such as the Internet, many of the closely guarded secrets of Freemasonry moved from stuff of legend to common knowledge.
In one sense, some of the lurid conspiracy theories that were eminent previously lost some of their allure, as many of Masons’ actual practices became known. That being said, Freemasonry is still shrouded in mystique, and those on the outside are intrigued to learn more about the secret society.
In this post, we will introduce many of the secrets of Freemasonry, several of which have been closely guarded by Masons the world over until recently. This is not an attempt to ruin or taint the appeal of Freemasonry; it is merely to offer concise information regarding Masonic practices to those that are interested in becoming a Mason.
It’s important to note that this post will not draw on conspiracy and focus on established Masonic symbolism and thought. Many of the secrets shared in this post have been researched thanks to the writings of Masons themselves.
Thematically, one could argue that spirituality is the most fundamental theme of Freemasonry. All brothers must profess belief in a Supreme Being to be welcomed into the fraternity, and all Masonic teachings are laced with spiritual metaphors and allegories.
While Freemasonry isn’t a religion, it is inherently spiritual. But Masonic spirituality refers to events and actions that affect the world in its entirety and is not just concerned with individual religious or spiritual affiliations.
Masons understand their place within the cosmos and understand that their actions significantly impact the benevolence of humankind. For Masons, men are interlinked, and it is their duty to be the best possible version of themselves.
For this reason, Masons are found in many countries all around the world and don’t all conform to one unified religion or creed. The strength of Freemasonry is in its spiritual universality; the fact that Masons across the globe hold faith in the same Supreme Being and live by the same moral code to be the best men they possibly can.
Although Freemasonry is not a religion, many religious men are attracted by the spiritual framework placed upon the Masonic teachings. For this reason, you can find Masons of many religious denominations.
Historically, some religions, such as Catholicism, have gone as far as denouncing Freemasonry, as they believe Masonic views contradict the church’s teachings and the Holy Scriptures.
Freemasonry challenges this notion, and in actual fact, many Masonic rituals and ceremonies utilize religious symbolism to convey a particular teaching. Moreover, religious texts are widely recited within lodges, particularly passages from the Bible.
Often, outsiders are confused by the use of spirituality within Freemasonry. That’s why it’s sometimes erroneously thought to be a religion, or at least attempting to replace some of the world’s most established religions.
But from a spiritual perspective, Freemasonry is inclusive and welcomes brothers from different backgrounds. This is in stark contrast to religions, where the congregation is taught that their religion is the only real and right religion and is, therefore, better than all others.
Masons don’t necessarily need to follow a specific religion. As has been mentioned, they simply must profess faith in the Supreme Being, or as he becomes known within Freemasonry, the Grand Architect of the Universe.
As you can ascertain, universal spirituality is an integral theme of Freemasonry, even though it is widely misunderstood from the outside. This takes us nicely on to the next secret that we will explore: Masonic light.
Wherever you look within Freemasonry, or whatever source you read, you will likely find some reference to the Masonic light. Much like spirituality, Masonic light is of universal significance to Masons worldwide and unifies the fraternity.
Light is used allegorically and metaphorically within Freemasonry. For example, one secret that was closely guarded throughout the first few centuries of Freemasonry’s existence was the initiation ceremony that all new brothers must complete.
Before entering a lodge, the candidate must roll up one trouser leg to show that he is unshackled, and therefore not a slave and able to make his own choices. He is then led inside the lodge as a free man, but he is blindfolded.
As he enters the lodge, a rope is placed around his neck, which signifies his relationship and symbolic tie to other Masons. Once the ceremony is completed, the blindfold is removed, and the candidate sees the Masonic light for the first time.
At this stage of his Masonic journey, the brother is regarded as an Entered Apprentice and has a long journey ahead of him to work through the varying degrees of Freemasonry. Yet after seeing the light, anything is now possible for the new Mason.
Light is an integral symbol of Freemasonry and is the first of all symbols presented to the Entered Apprentice. From the first ceremony, light as a metaphor continues to be presented to Masons in different modifications to symbolize other things.
In its simplest form, Masonic light is said to represent the process of enlightenment. The rationale being that the Entered Apprentice has journeyed throughout life thus far without understanding the teachings of Freemasonry, and as such, has been wandering in the dark.
Thanks to the Masonic teachings and his fellow Masons’ support, he will now see the light and see life through a new lens. This will help him become a better man, and his fraternity membership will help him accomplish his goals in life.
If we dig a little deeper, we learn that the Masonic emphasis on light is rooted in ancient historical practices in the nations of antiquity. Historically, light always constituted a principal object of love and adoration and was the primordial source of knowledge and goodness.
Therefore, a dichotomy was drawn up between light and dark, as the light was said to represent all that was good and pure about the world, whereas darkness was said to be the embodiment of evil. It is within this important historical context that the significance of the Masonic light is portrayed to brothers.
Therefore, it’s fair to say that the Masonic reverence for light is rooted in the historical adoration of light as an emblematic representation of the forces of good. For this reason, the allegorical meaning of Masonic light is significant in Masonic lodges across the world.
The Eye of Providence
Perhaps the worst-kept Masonic secret is the Eye of Providence. This is partly because it can be found on the back of a $1USD bill and the Great Seal of the United States.
Conspiracy theorists immediately get excited when they see the Eye of Providence symbol. They believe it is proof that Freemasonry interferes with the world order and conspires with governments worldwide to fix particular outcomes.
While there are undeniable links between the U.S. government and Freemasonry, they are not as lurid as many people make out. Many former U.S. Presidents, including George Washington, were prominent Freemasons, and this is where much of the debate about Freemasonry’s involvement in the government stems from.
Indeed, more than just a Masonic symbol, the Eye of Providence has become a symbol of the Illuminati, a group that many people mistakenly confuse to be the same as Freemasons.
Many people are convinced that the Illuminati has been behind some of the most significant criminal events in history, from the assassination of J.F.K. to the terrorist attacks in New York City on September 11th, 2001.
The theory goes that the all-seeing eye of the Illuminati is continually watching over ordinary people, and the people who make up the secret, powerful group are indiscriminate with their actions to maintain the current global power structures.
In reality, the Illuminati’s existence, if indeed it does exist, has nothing at all to do with Freemasonry. The links between the two are extremely tenuous, and many people mistakenly think the two entities are the same thing.
The all-seeing eye, also known as the Masonic eye, or the Eye of Providence, is perhaps the most widely recognized symbol of Freemasonry and is shrouded in intrigue.
Before it was widely used in Freemasonry, the earliest appearance of the eye in history can be traced back to ancient Egypt, where it was used as a symbol by the Hebrews and the Egyptians. In the Egyptians’ time, the eye was known as ‘The Eye of Horus’, named after the God of the same name, who was most notably the God of kingship and the sky and held many other significant roles in ancient Egyptian theology.
The Egyptians believed the eye to represent royal power, protection, and good health, and it was also symbolic to the pharaohs, who thought the eye would protect them on earth and in the after-life. In this sense, The Eye of Horus was like a guide and could be used to navigate difficult decisions and to choose the right path.
To those in power, the eye also could ward off evil. There are many similarities between ‘The Eye of Horus’ and ‘The Eye of Ra,’ and although they belonged to different gods, they represented many of the same concepts. It is clear that before The Masonic Eye became a significant symbol of Freemasonry, it was symbolic to others in times gone by.
After that, and in Christianity, God is regarded as omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent, meaning he is everywhere and can see everything. For example, in the Bible, in Psalm 34:15, it is written, “The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry.” The ancient Egyptians’ all-seeing eye was the perfect symbol for Christians, as it symbolizes their God’s nature.
What was to become The Masonic Eye sometime after the Renaissance became a symbol of divine power during it. The idea was that the eye was all-encompassing, as it would follow you everywhere you go. A beautiful example of the Eye of Providence as a Christian symbol can be seen in Pontormo’s 1525 supper at Emmaus. However, it is believed that the eye was added to the painting well after the artist completed it.
During this period, The Masonic Eye was also representative of The Holy Trinity of The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit. The eye was often drawn enclosed in a triangle. As late as the seventeenth century, the eye was even portrayed with clouds and sun around it, further emphasizing the symbolism of the eye being in the sky and overseeing life on earth.
For many, God’s watchfulness was seen as compassionate and was a sign of God’s benevolence and strength. For others, it was seen as representative of a jealous God who would always be watching and would be quick to hold those to account that stepped out of line and did not conform to Christian values.
The Masonic Eye is an essential symbol of Freemasonry the world over. From as far back as ancient Egypt, the all-seeing eye has represented a superior being watching over humanity. That symbolism has continued through to today, where Freemasons see the Masonic Eye as the watchful eye of The Grand Architect of the Universe.
The Masonic Eye in Freemasonry represents the fact that a mason’s actions never go unseen, and they should always behave in a socially acceptable and responsible way. This is crucial to understanding Freemasons’ behavior, as they adhere to a code, and their actions are held to account by a Supreme Being.
As you can see, far from being a secret, the Eye of Providence is actually a vital symbol of Freemasonry and represents the importance of being the best version of yourself possible. It is meant to be a constant reminder to Masons that the Supreme Being is omnipresent and is catching a watchful eye over their behavior.
The Holy Scriptures
As has been touched upon already, Freemasonry and religious teachings are deeply interlinked, and many Masonic teachings are entrenched with spiritual meaning. However, this does not mean that Freemasonry is a religion, and this is a vital distinction.
Regardless, we can trace many of the Masonic secrets, or at least many of the core Masonic teachings, to the Holy Scriptures, particularly from some of the books in the Christian and Hebrew Bibles.
We can see the Holy Scriptures’ significance because, in every Masonic lodge, there is an altar that houses the Holy Bible. While Freemasonry is not a religion, the Bible takes pride of place in the center of each lodge.
Ordinarily, altars are found in places of worship, such as churches, temples, and shrines. Altars are prevalent in the religions of Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, Judaism, Shinto, and Hinduism. But they have also been a fixture within Masonic temples for as long as Freemasonry has existed. Throughout history, altars have been utilized in different ways by cultures across the world.
We see the early influences of Freemasonry within many of the stories of the Old Testament, including Genesis, when God created light. This is the story that Freemasons have inherited regarding the beginning of the world.
Peace and harmony
While it may be amiss to say that peace and harmony are secrets of Freemasonry, there are certain misconceptions about the importance of peace and harmony within the secret society.
Many people are surprised to hear that the promotion of peace and harmony are fundamental values of Freemasonry and each Mason promotes them throughout their lives.
After all, Freemasonry prides itself on helping men become the best possible version of themselves. By promoting peace and harmony across the world through their actions, Masons can successfully achieve this.
It’s misleading to believe a lot of the conspiratorial hype surrounding Freemasonry that makes us think about black magic, the Illuminati, and other under-hand events and actions that tarnish the reputation of Freemasonry.
Many people on the outside believe that Freemasonry’s silence on many accusations stems from the fact that they’re guilty of malpractice, which is not the case. Masons are taught not to argue with outsiders when it comes to their practices and rituals, which is part of the reason that they’re not quick to refute allegations that allude to malpractice and rather outlandish accusations.
Central to the Masonic teaching, and something that Masons are taught from the moment they are initiated as Entered Apprentices, is that they should promote peace and harmony throughout their dealings with everyone they encounter.
Therefore, every lodge across the world should be harmonious and should be an environment in which Masons can share stories about their practice and reflect upon their contributions to society as a whole.
Suppose disagreement or discord arises within a lodge, and an accusation is laid at the feet of a brother. In that case, other Masons are requested to step in and help resolve the issue in a considerate and amicable way.
A big part of a Masons’ duty is conflict resolution, and ensuring that lodges remain welcoming and peaceful places is of fundamental importance to the fraternity. Because there is no central management of lodges, brothers are encouraged to handle disputes and disagreements internally and ensure that peace is restored as quickly as possible.
While many disputes can be settled, if a Mason has acted out with their values and not in accordance with Masonic values and principles, they can be asked to leave their lodge and not return to any future meetings.
If the conflict or disagreement is with a non-Freemason, Masons are asked not to argue about the particulars or secrets of Freemasonry for three specific reasons:
- Freemasonry is a peaceful fraternity of honorable men attempting to live lives which are pleasing to the Supreme Being;
- Peace and harmony cannot be achieved by arguing with people;
- Freemasonry encompasses hundreds of years throughout history. Its biblical and historical study can be a lifelong undertaking, and mistakes are expected.
To explain Freemasonry to non-Freemasons in a way that won’t induce conflict or discord, Masons are encouraged to avoid discussing many of the conspiracy theories spread by outsiders.
The main reason for this is that for a Mason to refute all of these allegations and conspiracies; it would take a long time and would require a lot of effort. Outsiders can also pick holes in many of the teachings and ceremonies of Freemasonry, as many are open to interpretation.
Moreover, you can’t necessarily persuade someone who wishes to argue with you that they are wrong about a specific topic. Freemasons would rather spend their time pursuing other essential values and tasks and don’t want to waste time arguing with people making accusations about the fraternity.
As has been discussed, while the promotion of peace and harmony is not necessarily a ‘secret’ of Freemasonry, it is a vital element of the fraternity, and all brothers are encouraged to pursue peaceful and harmonious activities that allow them to live following Masonic values.
The pursuit of peace and harmony can be achieved by sticking with brothers through thick and thin and is one of the most integral aspects of the Masonic Lodge.
Inside the Masonic Lodge
Masonic lodges take very many forms and are not necessarily uniquely designed or built for purpose. Having said that, some famous lodges, such as the Detroit Masonic Temple, were specifically built to host Masonic functions and form an integral part of the Masonic architecture across the world today.
Some lodges meet in or around religious buildings such as churches and temples, but they are in no way affiliated with these religious bodies. Moreover, some lodges meet at community halls or other communal buildings.
You shouldn’t read into the lodge’s location in any great detail, as the value in the meeting comes in the discussion between the brothers and in the ceremonies that take place between the four walls.
One commonality is the fact that, at the center of each lodge, an altar stands with a holy book atop. The holy book is often the Bible, but sometimes it is the Torah, Koran, or even the Veda; it just depends on the lodge.
In some instances, a lodge may even contain more than one of these Holy Books. This is often done as a symbolic gesture to show the lodge’s universal spirituality and to remind brothers that they are not affiliated to any of the religions.
The Holy book’s presence in the center of the lodge is also a reminder to Masons that their religious beliefs are the foundation necessary to make them a better man. Masons believe that their faith in a Supreme Being is all that is required, and the individual stories associated with their faith are not as important.
Read more: Masonic Bibles
Historically, lodges have been sacred places in some respects. Non-freemasons are generally not permitted to enter, and the only way men can see inside is to become an Entered Apprentice after their blindfold is removed.
However, in practice, many lodges across the world often show candidates the inside of the lodge before joining. This is undoubtedly the case in different parts of the U.S., as tours are sometimes given to showcase the facets of the lodge when there is no meeting taking place.
Furthermore, lodges sometimes open their doors to the wives and families of the Masons. This is particularly the case during the election of a new ‘Worshipful Master,’ which usually occurs once every year. This is referred to as an open meeting, and an appropriate dress code is applied.
The Masonic dress code
While there isn’t a specific uniform for brothers to wear, there are particular items of clothing that brothers wear for special ceremonies. In the past, these items of clothing have been shrouded in mystery, as their significance was unknown on the outside.
However, as time has progressed, we have learned that much of the Masonic regalia is, in fact, inspired by the dress of the medieval stonemasons. For example, the Masonic apron is a piece of Masonic clothing that evolved from the aprons that stonemasons wore during their working day.
The dress code of Masons varies quite significantly from lodge to lodge. In some instances, Masons wear full tuxedos, white gloves, and the full ceremonial garb expected of Freemasons. This is particularly the case for formal events.
In contrast, it is known that some Masons meet in just a shirt and jeans, mainly when conducting an informal officers’ meeting. With such contrasting expectations within Freemasonry, Masons can find it challenging to know what to wear when meeting their brothers.
However, most lodges will produce clear guidelines identifying what is expected when attending meetings, and the brothers are expected to follow these guidelines.
Today the apron is symbolic and is usually white and only worn by Masons at particular ceremonies. It is perhaps the most widely known Masonic garments and is how outsiders can easily identify Masons.
When not attending Masonic meetings or functions, some brothers elect to wear a Masonic ring to showcase their membership in the fraternity. Masonic rings come in many varieties and are a very popular way of displaying membership of the fraternity.
It’s widely thought that upon becoming a Freemason, you are automatically given a ring. This isn’t actually the case. In fact, Masonic lodges are known to provide their own rings to members on two specific occasions: after the 14th and 33rd degrees of the Scottish rite.
Masons who achieve these degrees are few, and it’s incredibly prestigious. Those that adorn these official rings of Freemasonry do so with pride, as it’s an indication of their dedication and knowledge of the importance of Freemasonry in their society.
As with all Freemasonry regalia, the ring has a significant symbolic meaning. The ring represents eternity and the cyclical nature of life. As is the case with rings more generally, it symbolizes eternal attachment and obligation. Masons wear their rings as proof of their allegiance to Freemasonry and showcase it as a vital part of their lives.
As wedding rings remind people of their duty of care toward their partners, the Masonic ring fulfills a similar purpose. When a Mason wears his ring, it is a reminder of his duty of care and commitment to his fraternal brothers.
It is also a reminder to live his life aligned to the values and principles promoted within Freemasonry. For those within Freemasonry, being a Mason is not just a title; it’s a way of life, and the ring is a pertinent daily reminder of this.
Conclusion: Revealing the secrets of Freemasonry
Since the advent and proliferation of the Internet, in particular, many of the secrets of Freemasonry have been revealed. The once-secret society isn’t quite as secret as it once was, as people have learned a lot about some of Freemasonry’s traditions and ceremonies.
Due to their willingness to maintain peace and harmony with their brothers across the world, Masons often don’t refute many of the conspiracy theories perpetuated about Freemasonry.
This means that much interest is paid to the theories, but that is out of the control of Masons, and they don’t seek to set the record straight, externally at least.
While we’ve shared many of the secrets of Freemasonry in this post, many are reserved for those that join the fraternity. Therefore, some of the fraternity’s mysteries will only be revealed as a Mason progresses through his journey.