Freemasonry might be the most misunderstood "secret" society in the world. Is it a religion? A cult? A group of men planning to overthrow the world's political leader to unleash their own agenda on us? The answer to all of those questions is a resounding, "no," which leaves us scratching our heads. Learning about the Freemasons can be as difficult as finding a non-blurred Bigfoot in the woods. Don't panic, though, because here's everything you need to know about the Freemasons so you too can one day join the fraternity.
One of the biggest misconceptions about the Freemasons is that it's a secret society. The simple truth is this: Freemasons are free to tell the world they are Freemasons. No one can stop them and they won't be punished.
They just can't spill the beans about what goes on behind the scenes. If they do, then they need to be prepared to suffer the consequences. One man, William Morgan, was paid a large amount of money in 1880 to reveal the society's secrets in a book. But before he could, he went missing and was never heard from again.
It Began In 1717
While some records have Freemasonry dating back to the 1600s, the accepted establishment of the society is 1717. It was the year the Grand Lodge of London opened. This was the first of many Grand Lodges and marked the beginning of the spread of Freemasonry.
In the United States today, there are 51 Grand Lodges. Each one is responsible for helping govern the brotherhood in that region and keeping track of its members. Worldwide, it is estimated there are six million registered Freemasons.
It's All About Friendship And Brotherly Love
As far as secret societies go, the Freemasons are actually one of the least scary ones. The main goal of the Freemasons is to create a fraternity between men. This bond will help nurture friendship, morality, and brotherly love.
This belief system is why they chose the square and compass as their standard emblem. Members use the tools of stonemasonry (where the symbol comes from) to come together and learn how to stay together, even through times of disagreement and bloody wars.
The Real Reason They Use Symbols
Another big misconception about Freemasons concerns why they use symbols. Most people believe symbols are used to help guard the fraternity's secrets. The truth is that the Freemasons began using illustrations because when the society was started most members couldn't read.
Like hieroglyphics, the symbols used by the Freemasons have meaning and are used to tell a story. By looking at the shapes and figures, society members are reminded of the teaching of their Grand Lodge and their brotherhood.
What Is A Lodge?
A Freemason lodge is a building or other location where a congregation of society members meet. Each one is awarded a charter by its region's Grand Lodge and left to run itself. As long as the core beliefs are being taught, most Freemason lodges are allowed their God-given independence.
When individual lodges meet, there is no rulebook about how the event must be run either. Each fraternity is allowed to run its own program, with no pre-determined length, time, or message.
All Members Must Believe In... Something
To become a Freemason, the biggest requirement is that you believe... in something. You don't need to believe in God, but it is a necessity you believe in some overarching power. If you are an Atheist, you are out.
The wording of the requirement states that all prospective members must believe in a "Supreme Being," but the "form" of that is left up to interpretation. You must also come to the Freemasons of your own will, without the influences of friends and family.
Secret Handshakes Are A Must
Aside from being able to say "yes" if someone asks if you're a Freemason, there is another way members identify each other: with secret signs. These signs can be anything from specific jewelry or clothing accessories to the famous Freemason handshake.
The "handshake" happens when one man's thumb strokes the other man's hand in some way during contact. One of the more popular symbols is wearing a ring with the Masonic emblem. Badges for lapels are widely available for members of the society to buy and wear as well.
Several Presidents Were Freemasons
To date, there have been 14 Presidents who were known Freemasons. George Washington was the first, followed by Monroe, Jackson, Polk, Buchanan, Johnson, Garfield, McKinley, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, Truman, and Ford. On top of that, the society has always had a strong presence in the Supreme Court, too.
From 1789 through 1940, there were rarely less than three Freemasons on the in the Supreme Court. From 1941 to 1946 Freemason justices outnumber non-Freemason justices five to four.
They Might Have Territorial Rights To The Moon
The Apollo 11 mission saw the United States land the first men on the moon. Buzz Aldrin was one of those men, and he was also a member of Freemason Clear Lake Lodge #1417. Before he took flight, his Grand Master gave him a second mission.
Upon landing on the moon, Aldrin was supposed to claim it as territory for the Grand Lodge of Texas. Aldrin says that he refused to follow his order because he did not have the authority. John Glenn, another famous astronaut, was also a Freemason.
The Tale Of The Captive Woman
Freemasons and women have an interesting relationship. One notable story about this relationship is about Catherine Babington. At 16 years old, she wanted so badly to know about the society that she would hid inside a pulpit at her uncle's house during meetings.
This happened for a year until she was finally discovered. As punishment, she was supposedly held captive for a month, before being sworn in as a Freemason herself. Even though she was too young, she had memorized all the society's rituals and was given a "pass."
They Are Not Connected To The Illuminati
Conspiracy theorists have long believed that the Illuminati and Freemasons are interconnected. While there is not evidence to disprove this claim, there is no evidence to prove it either. Still, in all likelihood there is very little chance the two societies are working together.
For one, the Illuminati is a secret society that some people believe died out long ago. The Freemasons are not a secret society, they just keep their beliefs secret from outsiders.
They Are Great Frenemies
During the Civil War it was impossible for Freemasons avoid conflict with each other. Both sides had their share of Freemason soldiers, creating an interesting situation if two recognized each other. It turns out that even though they were at war, they would refuse to harm each other.
Freemasonry is bigger that your country, and those who met on opposing lines would actively work to keep each other alive. You know what they say: "keep your friends close, and your enemies closer."
Freemasons Worship The Sun
The Freemasons, along with several other exclusive societies, worship the sun. Sun worshiping has been practiced in cultures worldwide throughout the entirety of recorded history. According to the Freemasons, "The Master of Light and Life, the Sun and the Moon, are symbolized in every Lodge by the Master and Wardens; and this makes it the duty of the Master to dispense light to the Brethern."
As for which sun god members of Freemasonry are asked to worship, they have a choice of hundreds, including Ra, Osiris, Apollo, Adonis, and Mithras.
The Requirements To Get In
Hoping to become a Freemason yourself one day? Here's everything you need to know to see if you qualify. First, you need to be a man with free will (although women are allowed in some lodges). Second you must meet the minimum age requirement (usually 18-25).
Any new member of the Freemasons must have good morals and be of sound body and mind, as well. And just like with any job interview, you must be able to supply strong character references, ideally from other Freemasons.
The Statue Of Liberty Was Built By A Freemason
Frederic Bartholdi, the man who designed the Statue of Liberty, was a Freemason. After he designed the Statue, which was gifted to the United States by the French, the Grand Lodge blessed it in a Masonic ritual. Does this mean we're all Freemasons?
No. But it does show just how deeply embedded in world history Freemasonry goes. Going back even further, the seeds of the United States were planted by Freemasons. Eight of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were brothers!
Some Of Their Symbols Are Fakes
Because so much investigative reporting has been done uncovering the lives of Freemasons, the society has come up with ways to protect itself. If you ever learned a version of a handshake on television, it was probably fake.
If you tried to give the "secret handshake" that you learned on Nightline at a real lodge, you would get turned away. It's not easy to be a Freemason in today's information-driven society. That's one of main reasons they plant so much misinformation out there.
It's Not Free
Despite having the word "free" in its name, it will cost you money to be a Freemason. Every year, annual dues must be paid to your lodge. How much that lodge charges is up to them. Some are as low as $50 a year, while others cost several hundred.
To help make you feel better about the money you're spending, the Freemasons have done a little math comparing today's fees to those in the 1700s: "a fair estimate of those $47 Initiation Fees would translate into the equivalent of $70,000... We have it cheap"
It's One Big Social Club
The idea of Freemasonry as a secret society dates back to 1717, when the first Grand Lodge was built in London. Men would leave work and go straight to the club to blow off steam. As long as you were a member, it didn't matter what walk of life you came from.
Outsiders saw this strange assortment of men coming and going, and rumors about what was happening inside the lodge began to swirl. Suddenly, downing a pint with friends turned into secretly plotting world domination!
Lodges Are Boring
If you've ever been inside a Freemason lodge then you know there is a lot of hype about nothing. Typical lodges consist of just a few rooms; a meeting room, administrative offices, and a social lounge. They're nothing like they used to be.
When lodges first started popping up, they were de facto hotels for traveling Freemasons. A blacksmith in a town with no familiarity could find comfort by staying at that town's regional lodge until his business trip was over.
Shaq Is A Freemason
Freemason society is just as strong today as it has always been. NBA Icon Shaquille O'Neal even opened about his brotherhood on national television. During a segment on NBA TV, Shaq showed off his Masonic ring to the camera.
The large piece of jewelry looked like a NBA Championship ring, only instead of a Los Angeles Lakers symbol the ring was emblazoned with the square and compass. Other famous faces who are members include Simon Cowell, Steve Wozniak and Reverend Jesse Jackson.