It was at some point during the Middle Ages that the Masonic Fraternity or Freemasonry was formed from a stonemasons’ guild somewhere in Europe. Since that time, the society has spread all over the world and included many famous members. While the focus of the society is on personal study and social improvement there is much more to this surreptitious organisation. There are lots of Freemasons secrets but inevitably some of them have fallen through the cracks or has been released to the public over the years. Here are ten amazing facts that you probably do not know about this historic society.
1. Secret Handshake
One of the many nicknames for the Freemasons is the “funny handshake mob”. While this nickname sounds rather silly it is actually quite fitting because the Freemasons have multiple secret handshakes depending upon the degree within the society. There is a unique handshake for first, second, and master degree masons. The purpose is to allow one mason to greet another within an everyday setting without making it obvious to non-members.
2. Belief in a god
A Freemason cannot be a candidate if they are an atheist. Originally, members had to be Christian but that has since changed to include other religions as long as candidates believe in a god or supreme being. This is because the society does not believe it is enough to simply be a good person because good people have nothing to strive for beyond this life. In order to be a Freemason, a member must have a belief in god so that they fear for the repercussions of any wrong doing whether it is within the society or within their personal lives.
3. Initiation Ceremonies
Initiation ceremonies include ancient symbols of blindfolds and naked chests and feet. Freemason initiation ceremonies remain quite secretive but these are known facts that have been shared throughout the years. One famous initiation ceremony took place on August 23, 1879 when a Freemason was initiated while in a hot air balloon flying over France. Freemasons take the initiation process very seriously because it shows the commitment of one brother to the society as a whole.
4. Of the nine justices on the United States Supreme Court in 1952 eight of them were Freemasons.
The chief justice at the time was Fred Vinson and the associate justices included: Hugo Black, Stanley Forman Reed, Felix Frankfurter, William O. Douglas, Robert H. Jackson, Harold Hitz Burton, Tom C. Clark, and Sherman Minton. All Supreme Court cases during the year of 1952 were decided almost entirely by Freemasons including Ray v. Blair which was a major decision ruling that it is legal for political parties to require state elected officials to pledge to vote for a certain party candidate.
5. Freemasons Symbols
The golden rule that we all learn in elementary school comes from the Freemasons. The concept of treating others the way that you want to be treated comes from a book called Great Learning that is attributed to the Freemasons and was written sometimes around 500 B.C.E. The writing states that, “A man should abstain from doing unto others what he would not wish they should do unto him; and this is called the principle of acting on the square.” This is particularly interesting because the Freemasons have many symbols but the most well known freemasons symbols are arguably of the compass and the square.
6. Widely Represented
Freemasons are represented in almost every major field. Most people know of the many political affiliations of Freemasons such as George Washington and Sir Winston Churchill. However, fewer know that the Freemasons are also represented in athletics with Arnold Palmer and Ty Cobb as well as in science with Charles Darwin and Buzz Aldrin. Even the literary and musical fields claim famous Freemasons including Mark Twain and Beethoven respectively. Freemasons are represented in every profession.
7. Female Membership
Some people may know that women are now allowed in certain Masonic lodges but few know that the first two women ever initiated into the society were done so because they spied on Freemason activity. The first was in 1712 in Ireland when the daughter of a Freemason spied on the activity and was initiated after she was caught. The woman was given a full Masonic funeral when she died. The second woman was not officially “initiated” but instead “obligated” after they caught her spying on a Kentucky Masonic lodge then held her captive for one month.
8. Fate During Nazi Germany
During Hitler’s reign in Nazi Germany, an estimated eighty to two hundred thousand Freemasons were killed in concentration camps. An even higher number was confined in the camps because Hitler feared that they were a danger to his reign as the Freemasons were known to be positive, contributing members of society. After the war ended, membership numbers actually increased as many soldiers returning from war sought out other men for companionship and ended up joining Masonic lodges for support.
9. The Freemasons have been the subjects of many film, literary, and even musical creations. For instance, Mozart’s music was inspired by the Freemasons and he himself was a member. Some of the better known movies about Freemasons include: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus and Paint Your Wagon. Other famous books including War and Peace and The Da Vinci Code revolve around Masonic characters or symbols. The media circus surrounding this secret society likely stems from the many potential controversies.
10. Relationship With Illuminati
The Freemasons do not actually have any connection with the infamous Illuminati. The Illuminati was a Bavarian society calling for reform that some people believe died out in the eighteenth century while others hold that they are still in existence but hidden from the public eye. Either way, there is a common misconception that the Illuminati and the Freemasons have some sort of connection when in reality the two are nothing alike. The original confusion came from the fact that the Illuminati modeled their infrastructure after the successful structure of the Freemasons.
References / Sources
Freemasons and the Illuminati
Inside the secret world of Freemasons
Masons of California