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The Masons

James A. Watkins is an entrepreneur, musician, and a writer with four non-fiction books and hundreds of magazine articles read by millions.

The Three Original Grand Masters of the Masons are King Solomon, King Hiram, and Hiram Abiff the Master Builder of the Temple of Solomon (according to myth)

The Three Original Grand Masters of the Masons are King Solomon, King Hiram, and Hiram Abiff the Master Builder of the Temple of Solomon (according to myth)

The Origin of the Masons

The Masons are the largest fraternal organization in the world. Many emperors and kings have been Masons, as well as famous leaders such as Giuseppe Garibaldi, Benito Juarez, and Simon Bolivar. The Founding Fathers of America had their fair share, including George Washington, James Monroe, Alexander Hamilton, John Hancock, and Benjamin Franklin.

Freemasonry is a way for men with all sorts of different religious beliefs to come together as brothers. However, those beliefs must include One Supreme Being and faith in the resurrection and immortality of the human person. Those who reject God cannot be trusted. Any discussion of your particular beliefs is forbidden in a Masonic Lodge.

There are myths about the origins of the Masons. One is that their genesis goes back 3,000 years to King Solomon of Israel, his friend King Hiram of Tyre, who helped him build the First Temple of Jerusalem; and a fictional character named Hiram Abiff. Another is that the Masons evolved out of medieval stonemason guilds. A guild is like a labor union for independent contractors in a particular field. The Encyclopedia Britannica unequivocally declares that stonemasonry is the origin of the organization. I don’t think so.

Masonic Initiation

Masonic Initiation

The Old Charges of Masonry

The oldest documents of the Masons date from the 14th Century. They are from the same period and the same locations where the Knights Templar disappeared, England and Scotland.

Those documents are known as the ‘Old Charges of Masonry.’ Their purpose is to delineate the duties and responsibilities of members. Included are an oath to secrecy about the organization; a vow to never betray another brother; a promise to never have sex with the wife, daughter, mother, or sister of a fellow mason; and an obligation to provide any visiting brother with lodging, food, and work for two weeks, as well as traveling money and directions to the next lodge up the road.

The Masons publicly announced their existence in 1717. Before that, they indeed were a secret society, meaning their very existence was a secret. Before 1717, the Masons were only England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. They called their meeting places, "lodges." Their brotherhood centered on belief in God, moral behavior, constant self-improvement, and charity.

Andrew Michael Ramsay (1686-1743) from Scotland, who served as tutor to Bonnie Prince Charlie, introduced Freemasonry, as it is officially called, to France in the 1720s. Soon after that, Pope Clement XII issued a proclamation that forbade any Roman Catholic from joining the Masons.

Symbol of the Freemasons

Symbol of the Freemasons

Entered Apprentice

The initiation ceremony for a new Mason has several fascinating features. It begins with an interrogation of the candidate in the Masonic Lodge. He must respond that he wants to join because of his high regard for the Masons. The initiate must confirm his wish to learn, to improve his character, and to be of service to his fellow man. He must declare that he has no mercenary motives; that is, he is not joining to gain business connections or employment opportunities.

All metal objects are taken from him. He then rolls his left trouser leg above the knee, removes his left shoe and sock, and is blindfolded (“hoodwinked”). A rope is placed around his neck (a “cable-tow”), and his left shoulder and chest are bared. A compass point is pressed against his bare breast. At the same time, the Senior Deacon warns him that his flesh will be tortured should he ever attempt to reveal the secrets of Masonry. The blindfold is necessary to secret societies so that the initiate does not see who the other members are, until after he has passed muster and said his oath.

The candidate affirms that his trust is in God. After some further pomp and circumstance, he kneels in front of an altar. On the altar sits a Bible with a compass and square on its open pages. With his left hand under the book and his right hand on top of the compass and square, the initiate vows to never reveal any part of the arts and mysteries of the Masons. He further asserts that if he breaks this vow, he freely accepts the penalty: Having his throat cut, his tongue torn out, and his body buried in the sea sand at low tide.

The blindfold is removed, and the ‘Entered Apprentice’ is told the Masonic handgrip and two hand signals. He is presented with a Masonic Apron.

The Many Levels of Freemasonry

The Many Levels of Freemasonry

Fellow Craft

The next step after Entered Apprentice is to become a 'Fellow Craft.' This involves another ceremony with a new oath. These are the words spoken: "I most solemnly and sincerely promise and swear without the least hesitation, mental reservation, or self-evasion of mind in me whatsoever, binding myself to no less penalty than to have my left breast torn open and my heart and vitals taken from thence . . . if I ever should prove willfully guilty of violating any part of this my solemn oath or obligation as a Fellow Craft Mason, so help me God.”

The Fellow Craft learns the Masonic handgrip and a new hand signal, which moving his flat right hand across the left side of his chest before dropping it to his side. He is told to study astronomy, geography, and navigation. He learns that Freemasons built the Temple of Solomon in the Holy Bible. He is informed that the large golden letter G that is part of Masonry's symbolism represents Geometry. And that Geometry is the foundation and focus of Freemasonry—especially for the degree of the Fellow Craft.

Masons

Masons

Masonic Lodge in London

Masonic Lodge in London

Master Mason

The higher rank is Master Mason. This time the oath includes “binding myself under no less penalty than to have my body severed in twain and divided to the north and south, my bowels burnt to ashes.” Pretty serious stuff.

These penalties show us that the origins of the organization are in medieval times, in particular with the Knights Templar.

After the ceremony, new secrets are divulged. The Master Mason sign is to use the hand to signify slashing his stomach. The Grand Hailing Sign of Distress is revealed, along with how to request assistance from a brother Mason: “Oh Lord, is there no help for the Son of a Widow?”

Now it is time to learn the story of the murder of Hiram Abiff, supposedly the master-builder of the Temple of Solomon in ancient Jerusalem. As part of that story, Hiram Abiff is one of the three original Grand Masters of the Masons, along with Hiram, the King of Tyre, and King Solomon himself.

This story of Hiram Abiff is told as theatre, while the initiate is blindfolded. Suddenly, he is startled by being grabbed and shaken by an assailant who demands the Masonic secrets. In the drama, this attacker is called Jubela, who then rubs a wood and brass ruler across the blindfolded man's throat. Another attacker named Jubelo now seizes him to demand the secrets of the Masons. This one issues threats and slams the man in the chest with a square. A third traducer named Jebulum strikes him in the head with a maul, and the initiate is pulled down to the floor. Then, he is wrapped in a blanket and carried to the side of the room. He hears all sorts of strange sounds, scuffling and shuffling, groans and cries. Finally, he is grabbed with a Lion's Paw Grip and raised to his feet. A secret word is whispered to him, which he has to whisper back: mahabone. The blindfold is removed, and he is now a newly minted Master Mason, who probably needs to change his underwear.

The new Master learns that the Masonic Lodge is correctly known as the Sanctum Sanctorum – the Holy of Holies. Now he, at last, learns about the All-Seeing Eye of God, the Great Architect of the Universe. It is on your dollar bill, over the topless pyramid that represents the unfinished Solomon's Temple. The Master now knows the meaning of all the secret signs and symbols. He knows the mysterious words and terms Masons use worldwide to recognize each other.

Hiram Abiff

Hiram Abiff

Masonic Temple Decoration

Masonic Temple Decoration

Captain William Morgan

In 1826, Captain William Morgan of New York got a book deal to reveal the secrets of Masonry. When the Masons found out about it, the printer's shop was burned down, and Morgan arrested. Someone anonymously put up his bail money, but as he left the prison, he was snatched off the street and taken to an abandoned fort. He was never seen again. Five Masons confessed to the kidnapping part. The sheriff, the judge, and most of the jurors of their trial were Masons.

A furor erupted across the United States that led to the formation of an Anti-Masonic political party. Its leading spokesman was former President John Quincy Adams. He wrote so much about the Masons that his letters formed a book. Decades later, the famous honorable Reverend Charles Grandison Finney led a crusade against the Masons.

Freemasons

Freemasons

The Links Between the Knights Templar and the Freemasons

The Knights Templars addressed each other as frère, which is ‘brother’ in French. A brother Mason is a frère Macon, which is whence the term 'Freemason' is derived. The most important links between the Templars and the Masons are that the former disappears right in the same place and in the same time frame as the latter appears—and they are the only two organizations devoted to the Solomon’s Temple, from which the Templars took their name. Paintings of the Temple of Solomon adorn the walls of Masonic Lodges around the world.

After the Knights had been condemned in 1307 by King Philip of France and Pope Clement V, they became hunted men. The only way they could escape detection, and contact each other for assistance, was in secrecy, with signs, symbols, codes, and passwords. England and Scotland provided a sort of haven for them. Except they were not secure from religious authorities, who were commanded by the pope to arrest them and hand them over to be tried for heresy. Anyone who harbored a Templar was to forfeit his property, see his home demolished, his land confiscated by the Church, and face execution.

When one looks at the words and terms used by Masons today, as well as layout of the Masonic Lodges and the symbols therein, the circle and the mosaic on the floor, in addition to the lambskin apron and gloves used, one can trace these things right back to the Templars but no other group.

The Shriners

The Shriners

The Shriners

The most conspicuous part of the Masons today is the Shriners. They are lauded for the twenty-two Shrine Hospitals for Crippled Children, three of which are burn centers. These care facilities have no billing department at all because their services are always free.

The equally famous Shrine Circus not only gives away free tickets to orphans and children from broken homes, but they also provide free transportation for them.

For much of its history, Freemasonry has been seen as a Protestant Group. That is why the Knights of Columbus were formed as a group for Catholics like the Masons.

At the time of the American founding, Masons may be the reason we have the Free Exercise of Religion named first in our Bill of Rights. How you worshiped God was never a concern of Freemasonry—as long as you did.

My primary source for this article is Born in Blood by John J. Robinson.

Temple of Solomon

Temple of Solomon

The First Temple of Jerusalem, Built by King Solomon

The First Temple of Jerusalem, Built by King Solomon

© 2020 James A Watkins

Comments

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on February 18, 2020:

Hey Chris Merritt, my friend! It is good to 'see' you here. Thanks for checking out my piece, and you are welcome. I enjoyed your comments. I think in the beginning the "as long as you are worshiping God" thing simply meant it was nondenominational. That way, men from various Protestant groups could join together as brothers to do good works, leaving arguments about who is 'right' outside. Nowadays, with an eye to expand internationally, the Masons do allow Jews and Muslims and maybe others, of those others believe in a monotheistic God.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on February 18, 2020:

T ~ Thank you for coming by to read my work and share that sad story. I had never heard "DeMolay is the young Masons of America." I had not heard of them at all. I appreciate the enlightenment. People can be so crass sometimes.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on February 18, 2020:

North Wind ~ Thank you very much for taking the time to read my article. I appreciate your comments. I don’t think that is true about the possession of the body after the death of a Mason. I agree with you that the link to Solomon is probably fictitious. I think it was invented to camouflage the real connection to the Knights Templar. And yes, there does seem to be a bit of an occult edge to their symbolism.

Chris Merritt from Pendleton, Indiana on February 18, 2020:

James, thank you for writing this...it is a subject that has been on my mind for a while now. I have been approached by a very dear friend to become a member. But, two things that bother me. One, is this verse...“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). So, the idea that "as long as you are worshiping God" as an acceptable reason seems to be demeaning to those of us who are Christian. The second problem, is I find it just kind of "weird" for grown men, to have secret hand shakes and go through strange rituals. Maybe it's just me, but I struggle finding time to focus on God and doing for my family. I appreciate this article as it has helped me find comfort with my decision.

The Logician from now on on February 16, 2020:

Are you familiar with DeMolay. They are part of the "family" of Masons and associated organizations. DeMolay is the young Masons of America. DeMolay is open for membership to young men between the ages of 12 to 21 of “good character” who acknowledge a higher spiritual power. It has about 15,000 active members spread throughout every continent save Antarctica.

When I was 14 or 15 my neighbor who was in DeMolay invited me to a diner where they were recruiting new members. This was in the 1960s during the Vietnam Nam war. My parents pushed me to go because they said it was an influential organization that would help me to get ahead. What happened at the dinner sickened me.

There was some brief ceremonial things going on I didn’t pay attention to and then a leader of some sort spoke about a DeMolay young man from that chapter who recently died in Vietnam Nam. Evidently he had enlisted and they spoke of his bravery in wanting to serve the country and how he was the epitome of a DeMolay! I was keenly impressed with this eulogy which portrayed the fallen soldier as a hero and person of character for serving his country.

Then the adults left us to our dinner and immediately the older members began to laughingly talk about the kid who died in Vietnam Nam and what a nut he was to enlist and how the eulogy was a farce, they showed no respect for the deceased or the principles of the organization. It was like yeah they have to say that to keep up the facade but that’s not why they were there, they were there to get preferential treatment and connections to get ahead. I didn’t even finish my meal, I just wanted to leave and get as far away from these hypocrites as I could. They were disgusting and digging into the food like gluttons. I’ve often wondered if the same spirit I saw there permeates the mason organization.

North Wind from The World (for now) on February 16, 2020:

A very interesting read. I have heard that at the funeral of a mason, they have final authority over the body and not even the family is allowed to be with them at the grave when they perform their own final rite.

It is an interesting story about Solomon and his temple but I believe it to be just that - a story. Other groups use Solomon as a source of their beliefs as well and he is a credible one to use because he was the wisest man! I believe it to be a clever tactic.

I can not say that I believe the masons to be of the Most High God. They go about things in a way that is more like the practices of the occult rather than the people of God.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on February 15, 2020:

Devika Primić ~ Thank you so much for reading my writings. I am well pleased that you my article interesting, informative, and enjoyable. I could not ask for a better response. Thanks again.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on February 15, 2020:

itakins ~ Thank you very much for taking the time to read my work here. It is good to hear from you again. As I noted in my article, Catholics were excluded until recently, which is why the Knights of Columbus was started to give Catholics their own fraternal organization.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on February 15, 2020:

Dave McClure ~ You ask a very good question. I have to think that in the 14th Century, the oaths were taken seriously by the fugitive Knights Templar and then Masons. Of course, within a few centuries no one would take those vows seriously. However, they kept them out of tradition I suppose.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on February 14, 2020:

Hi James this is very interesting and so much I did not know here. An informative hub on the history of Shriners and a lot to know of the Masons. You shared a lot of both and I enjoyed a lesson.

itakins from Irl on February 13, 2020:

James,,with respect , this is a very sanitised account of freemasonry.

No mention of infiltration of the Catholic church , and no mention of who the actual higher power is i.e. Lucifer !

Dave McClure from Kyle, Scotland on February 13, 2020:

Hmmm, if these barbaric oaths are taken seriously, the organisation supports torture and murder. If they are not serious, they are patently stupid. Why would anyone join such a coterie of manipulative villains?

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on February 13, 2020:

Peggy Woods ~ Thank you for coming over to read my article about the Freemasons and Shriners. There is some mystery about their origins. After studying various theories, I decided I believe this one, that they originated with the Knights Templar. The other two ideas, that they originated 3,000 years ago in Israel or from medieval stonemasons are quite unconvincing to me.

I surely agree with you: "It sounds like their main purpose is to not only honor God but do good works towards others. The world could use more people with those beliefs and actions!"

I did not know "They have distinctive gravestones." I'll have to look into that. Thanks!

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on February 13, 2020:

Cheap Trick Dean! It has been a long time since we've communicated. All is well on my front and I hope you can say the same. Am I correct that you are a fellow Michigander? (Although I have been in Chicago for ten years now.)

Thank you for reading my piece. I am so glad you enjoyed it.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on February 13, 2020:

Awdur ~ It is always a distinct pleasure to hear from you. Thank you for your lovely laudations. The French masonic historian Paul Naudon has highlighted the similarity between the death of Hiram Abiff and the murder of Renaud de Montauban in the late 12th Century chanson de geste, The Four Sons of Aymon. Renaud, like his prototype Saint Reinold, was killed by a hammer-blow to the head while working as a mason at Cologne Cathedral, and his body hidden by his murderers before being miraculously re-discovered.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on February 13, 2020:

Rachael Lefler ~ Hello my fellow Illinoisan. Thank you for taking the time to read my article on the Masons. Based on your comments, I think I should have elaborated more about the Shriners. The Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine (AAONMS, anagram for A MASON) was founded in 1870 as a group within a group of Masons. Until 2000, before being eligible for membership in the Shrine, a Mason had to complete either the Scottish Rite or York Rite systems, but now one only has to be a Master Mason to join the Shriners.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on February 13, 2020:

Pamela Oglesby ~ Thank you for being my first visitor. I sincerely appreciate your gracious compliments.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on February 12, 2020:

We have a Shriner's Hospital here in Houston where much good work is done. The history is interesting, but considering that it is a secret society, I wonder how much of it is true and can be verified? It sounds like their main purpose is to not only honor God but do good works towards others. The world could use more people with those beliefs and actions! They have distinctive gravestones.

cheaptrick from the bridge of sighs on February 12, 2020:

Hello James,it's been a long while since last we spoke.Hope you're doing well and prospering these days.

What a fine piece of work you've given us here.I very much enjoyed it.

Dean

Awdur from Chicago on February 12, 2020:

Fascinating article! So much current information about the Masons and their origins! Thanks for the lesson! Any idea about the origin of Hiram Abiff? Could he be based on an actual historical figure?

Rachael Lefler from Illinois on February 12, 2020:

Fascinating. I thought the Shriners were a different group?

I didn't know the Masons were probably just a name change from the Knights Templar.

They sponsored some local scholastic bowl tournaments when I was in high school. We had to learn IHSA scholastic bowl vs. masonic scholastic bowl rules, as the structure was a little different. I think they're good people, but it seems kind of weird to have a secret society now when no one is being persecuted.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on February 12, 2020:

This is a very good article about the hisotyr of the Masons and the Shriners. I knew about the good work of the Shriners, but I didn't know all the history of these groups. This is very well done, James.