Mystic Magic: Not-So-Secret Society
Grace Cavanaugh ~ Editor in Chief
Back to my regularly scheduled opinions, this week I wanted to talk about the Freemasons. I think everyone and their mother has heard of the freemasons, or at least seen their symbol around: stickers, carved into headstones, put on buildings.
But what are the freemasons? What do they do? And why does a secret society feel the need to put their symbol all over the world?
According to Britannica, Freemasonry is a “secret fraternal order of Free and Accepted Masons,” and is considered the “largest worldwide secret society.” That seems a bit ironic, being the largest secret society that has articles all over the place, but I digress. It is a Eurocentric society, started within the British Empire and then spread to all the different countries they conquered. There are also about six million members worldwide.
In the Britannica article, Freemasonry “evolved from the guilds of stonemasons and cathedral builders of the Middle Ages,” but opened up to other men when cathedral building fell out of style. They modeled themselves off of “ancient religious orders and of chivalric brotherhoods,” and in 1717, their first Grand Lodge was founded in England.
Shockingly, like many secret societies, the Catholic Church and other organized religions did not really like the Freemasons. While it may have been started by church-builders, Freemasonry is not a ‘Christian’ society. However, this also draws the criticisms that they are antisemitic, anti-Catholic, racist, and sexist for not allowing women (save a French lodge, who in the 19th century started allowing women). As for the racism, Black people were only welcomed rather recently, instead of the “Black-only” branch that Freemasonry had, according to a CBS article.
There are generally three different degrees within the lodges: apprentice, fellow, and master. In some countries, there can be thousands of different degrees within the main three, but it is not uniform across the world. There are also different groups that are not exactly Freemasons, but Freemason-adjacent, which is “especially prevalent in the United States,” according to Britannica. They are not a part of Freemasonry, per say, but they hold the same values and ideas. There are even recreational Freemason organizations that allow women. Members of the actual Freemasons, though, are not supposed to affiliate themselves with the recreational groups on threat of suspension.
From the CBS article, which is titled “Inside the secret world of the Freemasons,” they make it sound like any other fraternity, or sorority, on our campus. They have their secret rituals, the rooms regular people are not allowed to enter, and their own symbols. It is fascinating, although not terribly original to anyone familiar with Greek Life.
For more information, you can Google ‘Freemasons,’ or read the articles I found at https://www.cbsnews.com/news/inside-the-secret-world-of-the-freemasons/ and https://www.britannica.com/topic/order-of-Freemasons.