The Dentith Files – Freemasonry

Between 2008 and 2010, Matthew Dentith first joined 95bFM’s Simon Pound, then José Barbosa, on Sunday mornings to talk about conspiracy theories. Listen, as they say, again!

The Dentith Files

Today, Matthew enlightens us on the mysterious and utterly scando Stone Masons. Learn about their history and reputation for having lots of choice secrets.

Like last time, more content than we had time for, but it will lead on nicely to the next topic, the Illuminati, in two weeks time. Since there were topics we simply didn’t get on to here are the notes from today’s ‘episode’ along with an assortment of my finiest unanswered questions (now with trite and easy answers supplied, free of charge).

Freemasonry

A Potted History

The legends concerning the founding of Freemasonry are numerous. Some say it was founded by the Patriarch Lamech before the Flood, others claim Freemasonry is simply the remnants of the Roman college system, whilst others argue that the origins of Freemasonry are to be found in Egypt, or that modern Freemasons are the rightful heirs to the Templar legacy. What we do know is this. Freemasonry first appears as an organisation in ACE1717 when the Grand Lodge is founded in England. It seems to be based upon an early Scottish fraternal system for stonemasons, basically a social club for skilled stonecrafters to share trade secrets and network.

Freemasonry was but one of the many fraternal societies in the 18th Century; what made it so popular seems to have been its system of “revealed” knowledge, slowly doled out to its members through a variety of secret and mysterious rituals as the adept proceded through the three degrees of membership, the Entered Apprentice, the Fellow Craft and the Master Mason.

By the 19th Century it boasted eight million members. However, like many secret societies, Freemasonry split and fractured; from one English Lodge in 1717 Freemasonry split into the Egyptian Rite in 1788, the Ancient and Accepted Rite in 1802, the Scottish Rite in 1833 and more besides.

Given Freemasonry’s popularity with the growing middle-classes it soon garnered a reputation for being involved in politics and the occult (which were, admittedly, the growing concerns of the bourgeois). However, Freemasonry was, and still is (to a certain extent), merely a system of personal development… for men (some female lodges also exist, but we cannot, to paraphrase Michael Palin, escape the sexism inherent in the system). Whilst modern Freemasonry has begun to reinvent itself as a charitable organisation, the system and the rituals of initiation are meant to make Masons better men.

Which may explain why its members now number less than two million. In today’s economy Men don’t want to be better; they just want to be richer…

Questions:

Why is Freemasonry so suspicious?

Because in purportedly open societies secret organisations are de facto suspicious in their activities. Why else would they hide behind ritual, the common wisdom asks…

Why is it that there are so many songs about rainbows… sorry, that so many global Conspiracy Theories have Masons at the heart of them?

Because Freemasons have had a history of being in politics, because the Illuminati (which started out as Freemasonry) engaged in conspiratorial activities, because of the answer to the former question, because of the work of Antimasons (which can be considered both good and bad) and so forth.

What kind of knowledge is this “revealed” knowledge?

The kind of ‘knowledge’ one gets from a self-help book. But with bells, whistles and funky robes… (Plausibly, once upon a time, some of it might have been encoded mathematical secrets; for stonemasons this could have qualified as trade secrets…)

Why is Antimasonry so popular?

A good question. Probably because no one likes not knowing other peoples’ secrets. And because Freemasonry does pose a threat to other organisations that also trade on revealed knowledge or vested authority.


About Matthew Dentith

Author of "The Philosophy of Conspiracy Theories" (Palgrave Macmillan), Matthew Dentith wrote his PhD on epistemic issues surrounding belief in conspiracy theories. He is a frequent media commentator on the weird and the wonderful, both locally and internationally. On occasion he can be caught dreaming about wax lions but, mostly, it is rumoured he works for elements of the New World Order.