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D.5 The Rituals and Beliefs of Freemasonry

The Old charges say that only men can be admitted among the Craft, and that the candidate must state that he believes in a monotheistic Supreme Being; he must also be “a free man born of a free mother”. In old Britain, serfdom and villeinage were inherited through the mother. Does this means that Freemasonry originated at that time? Young and old men are still prevented to join as well as the insane and, although the rule is not applied now, some kind of invalid. At the present time, candidates must be twenty-one years old although the sons of Freemasons are admitted at eighteen. Derogations are also possible. Candidates must also be of good character and good repute in their community. Nobody should be invited to join, and every candidate should apply in writing of his own initiative, stating that he is not seeking personal material benefit. This would have been impossible in Secret Masonry since, by definition, nobody knows anything about a secret society. At that time the organisation must have chosen the possible candidates.

Now the lodge votes on his admission and, if accepted, the candidate can be initiated as a “Entered Apprentice Mason” in a very pompous ceremony that takes place in the lodge prepared as a Lodge of Entered Apprentice Masons. This was unknown at the time of secret Masonry; at that time, initiation took place outside, more probably on an isolated hill, in a hidden valley, or in a barn or shed. A circle was drawn on the soil of what was symbolically the “ground floor of Solomon’s temple” when Entered Apprentices were initiated. Now, outside the door stands the Tyler, at the same time a sentry and a sergeant-at-arm in charge of security. The blindfolded candidate is introduced in the lodge and the ceremony begins with a long interrogation. When this is finished and the blindfold removed, the secrets of the Entered Apprentice are revealed to him, mainly the handgrip and two hand signs that he swears never to reveal under threat of terrible punishment. The candidate is now ready to receive the “Masonic Apron”, now often of white cloth or felt, whereas before it was of white lambskin. This symbol of innocence makes him a member of the Craft. He is then presented with the “Working Tools of the Entered Apprentice”, that is the twenty-four inches ruler that symbolises the twenty-four hours of the day and a gavel to chip away vices and superfluities.

After a certain period of training the Apprentice is ready to be initiated to the second degree or “Fellow Craft”. This probably means “Fellow of the Craft”, the equivalent of “Journeyman” in the medieval stonemason guilds, although, at that time, only Masters were members of the guilds. It could very well be that in the Secret Masonry there were only two degrees: the Entered Apprentice and the Fellow Craft whereas the Master was not the name of a degree, but the title of the Master of the lodge. If this is true, the original Master Mason was a Master of men, not a Master of the Craft.

The Fellow Craft initiation ceremony is no more than a variation on the Entered Apprentice ceremony with nothing dramatically new. Again the candidate is blindfolded. Initially, in Secret Masonry as in any other secret organisation, this was a precaution used to make certain that the candidate does not see the face of the members until he is initiated, has sworn to his obligations, and has been admitted. After he has taken the oath, the blindfold is removed and the new Fellow is told the handgrip, signs, and password of this degree. He is then led to the symbolic spiral staircase leading to the Middle Chamber of the Temple of Solomon, passing between two columns representing Jachin and Boaz, the bronze columns of the outer porch of the Temple of Solomon. On top of each of them there is a globe, one representing the map of the world, and the other the map of heaven. They are meant to motivate all Masons to study astronomy, geography and navigation. Originally, the new Fellow is told, these globes were hollow and used to protect the secret documents of Masonry from flood and fire. The new Fellow is then told that Freemasonry incorporates both Operative and Speculative Masonry and that Freemasons built, among others, the Temple of Solomon. The Fellow’s attention is drawn to a golden letter G suspended from the ceiling, or mounted on a wall above the Master’s chair. This letter stands for Geometry on which the Fellow Craft degree is founded. It is also the central theme of the Masonic order, as it is the base of the understanding of the universe, of the movement of the planets, and architecture. It is used in Freemasonry to describe the Supreme Being who is known as the Great Architect of the Universe.

The rites of initiation of the Master Mason are more complex and dramatic as they reveal the legend of the murdered Master. Again the candidate is blindfolded until he is told the several secrets of that degree, the signs, and the sentence used to ask for help: “O Lord, my God, is there no help for a Son of the Widow”, a reference to Hiram, the legendary builder of the Temple of Solomon, the son of a widow of Naphtali. After a break the new Master is brought back wearing his Master’s Apron. He is then told the story of the murder of Hiram Abif, the Master builder of Solomon’s Temple, and one of the three Grand Masters of the Masonic order together with King Solomon and the King of Tyre, Hiram. The candidate plays the role of Hiram Abif who was murdered by Jubela, Jubelo and Jubelum for refusing to tell the secrets of a Master Mason to the Fellow Crafts working for him. Hiram is then buried and his murderers are found by a search party despatched by King Solomon, However Hiram Abif’s secrets have been lost. The new Master Mason is then shown many of the Masonic symbols, none of which is known to have existed in secret Masonry.

In the initiation rituals of the three degrees a lot of words are used that have no meaning to day. Many people have tried to find a relationship with the medieval stonemasons, but all of them have failed to come with a believable explanation. On the other hand, if Freemasonry is the heir of the fugitive Knights Templar of the fourteenth century then, probably, these words’ origin can be found in medieval French. This is not easy, as these words have been modified when used by English speaking people. Tyler, for instance, comes from “tailleur” or tailor, that is the one who cut. This is an acceptable designation for the man who stands outside the lodge with a sword to protect it from intruders. The word “cowan” could come from the French word “couenne” that designates someone who is ignorant, a right word to designate an unskilled labourer. This would mean that the Tyler was protecting the lodge against the “cowans”, the unskilled workers. Many other words used in to day Freemasonry can be shown to have a medieval French origin. For instance, Hiram Abif could really be Hiram A. Biff, and “biff” in French means “biffer”, to strike out, or to eliminate. If this hypothesis is accepted, Hiram Abif means “Hiram who was eliminated”. In the same line the collective name for Jubela, Jubelo and Jubelum, the murderers of Hiram Abif, is the Juwes. This comes from the French word “jubé” that means “rood screen”, the screen in a medieval church that stood at the entrance to the chancel where the choir stood in front of a crucifix. It is there that the penance set by the priest after a confession took place. IN medieval Europe it could mean hours of prayers or, even, a beating while kneeling on a rough stone floor. In a religious order like the Templars, it was the place where the physical punishment, or penance for the sins made, took place including the whipping. The collective name of Hiram Abif’s murderers was without any doubt, the Jubes.

Many other words have the same medieval French origin. The Scottish term “intrant”, for instance, comes from “Entrant”, apprentice, or “Entered Apprentice”. Establishing that these lost words of Masonry have a French origin solves many little problems, but does not show a link between Freemasonry and the Knights Templar. It does add weight to this theory and weaken those linked to the building of King Solomon’s Temple, or to the old medieval British stonemason guilds. The French-language roots of these lost words indicates a strong probability that the society was in existence in the first half of the fourteenth century, giving even more weight to the Templar hypothesis. In effect, it was not until 1362 that a law replaced the French language by the English in the official acts like those of the courts of law in Britain. The word “lodge”, or “loge” in French, is not seen as meaning the room where the Masons meet. In fact a lodge, or “loge”, is a place where on can eat and sleep. This goes well with the notion of Masons being on the move, or on the run, like the fugitive Templars were once. These Templars had secrets that could cost them to loose their life and property, secrets that they had sworn not to reveal in any circumstances. The Old Charge that says that one should give work for two weeks to any brother who come to you, and then send him on his way with some money and the direction of the next lodge, is compatible with the fugitive Templar hypothesis. This is also true for the other Old Charge that says that a visiting brother going “into the town” should be accompanied by two local brothers to “witness for him”. Out of all this we see the emergence of a mutual aid and protection society helping men on the run.

These lodges, where men on the run could hide, had to be secure. It was also the obvious place where the local members of the secret society would meet. When there were no more members on the run to hide, the lodge kept its usefulness as a secret meeting room. Now, of course, that the society is not secret anymore, the lodge is their normal meeting room.

As we have seen, during initiation the candidate is half-naked and blindfolded. Moreover any metallic object, such as money or knife, is taken off him. In some way he is half-naked and defenceless, but the symbolism of the ceremony means that his brother will clothe him, shelter him, defend him, and feed him if necessary. The blindfold is justified by the fact that a candidate should not know who the members are until he is initiated. All of this makes sense in a secret society, but not in building trade guilds, although it does not necessarily make any connection with the Templars. It is only pointing to a society of people on the run, at risk of being caught, needing help, and to their sympathisers whose motivation to do it must be very strong. The circle drawn at the centre of the Masonic lodge, its centre, and two parallel lines, one on each side of the circle, find their images in the Templar churches where the knights were initiated. These churches were generally circular like the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Both the Templar and the masons walk in procession, the former within their circular churches, and the latter around the circle drawn on the floor of their lodges. The Masons have their black and white square mosaic pavement that has its equivalent in the Knights Templar’s battle banner, or “Beau Séant”, whose design is a black box above and a white one below representing respectively the sins the Templars had left behind and, the other, the pure life they had chosen as soldiers of Christ.

The clothing of the Templars and the Freemasons present also many similarities. The Masonic apron, for instance, was initially an untrimmed lambskin, a badge of innocence and purity. Medieval stonemasons had no use for it, but the Templars wore one around their waist as a reminder of their vow of chastity. The Masons always wear gloves during their ceremonies and the Templar priests did the same all the time to keep their hands clean, as requested by their Rule. Candidates to the Craft are wearing a white robe during their initiation ceremonies, and the Knights Templar wore a white mantle.

Masons are said to travel from West to East to finish, or rebuild, the symbolic Temple of Solomon. It is exactly what the Templars did when going from Europe to the Holy Land. The Roman Catholic Church did not approve of the early scientific discoveries and punished scientists like Galileo Galilei. As a result scientists and, in general, men of culture and science joined Freemasonry, and met in secret in what is known as an “invisible college” which existed in secret Masonic lodges in Britain starting around 1645. By 1665 the group led by Sir Christopher Wren asked, and was granted, a Royal Charter, and The Royal Society of London for the Improvement of Natural Knowledge was created. When Freemasonry became public in 1717, it was obvious that most members of the Royal Society were also Freemasons. Mainly men of science and architecture, members of both Freemasonry and the Royal Society, wrote the constitutions of the Grand Lodge. It is them who imposed Geometry as a central feature of Freemasonry and added the G to the compass and square. Their only mistake was to pretend that Geometry was introduced into Masonry at the time of the building of King Solomon’s Temple, when it is well known that neither Geometry, or the letter G, existed at that time. In other words, Geometry has nothing to do with the origin of Masonry.

The punishment foreseen for those Masons who would dare to reveal the secrets of the Craft are inhuman. However they have never been applied or, at least, there are no evidences that they have been. In fact no Masons swears to inflict the penalties, but only invite them down on his own head. These punishments are not worse that those applied in the name of the Church at the time of the Peasant Rebellion in England, and by the Inquisition all over Europe. In the context of protecting the Templars in hiding of what was expecting them if they were found, the violent penalties foreseen in the Masonic’s oath begin to make sense. At that time, and in these circumstances, the horrible Masonic penalties stop being mysterious. They were thought to be necessary to protect the fugitive Templars from deletion by the members of the secret society. At that time, when a man joined the order, he was putting his life and properties into the hand of all the other members who could identify him. This was the justification for the punishment of any would-be informer, who would then think twice before betraying his brothers since no reward was worth his life. That the mention of these punishments, which have no more meaning to day, have been kept in the Craft’s ritual can only be explained as a tradition. They obviously originated in the Medieval Ages when the betrayal of a brother could reveal that he was guilty of a crime, such as heresy and treason, for which he could loose his life and properties. Once again, these punishments can easily be explained by reference to the fugitive Templars, and not at all by the stonemason guilds.

Freemasons deny that Masonry is a religion although the primary requirement for membership is religious in nature. Indeed the candidate must swear that he believes in a Monotheistic Supreme Being and in the resurrection and immortality of the soul. Discussion of religion, and politics, is forbidden in the lodges. The Temple of Solomon is also seen as the first temple built to a monotheistic god. In fact, Freemasonry’s perception of God may be the only true monotheistic one in Christianity, because Masonry refers only to God (the embodiment of all that is good) and not to a devil or Satan (who embodies all that is evil). In addition, Masonry encourages people to believe in resurrection and immortality through personal merit and acts of charity, whereas Christianity teaches that this is reachable only through belief in God. The acceptation of non-Christians in Freemasonry has been often criticised, although to day this concept is widely accepted. From the start Freemasonry denied being a religion but, rather, a teaching that allows men of various religions to get together within a fraternal society. The Church, together with the State, was the authority to be feared most by the members of the Craft. In the fourteenth century, both the Church (the Roman Catholic Church) and the states believed that heretics had to be killed in order to prevent the diffusion of heresy, and its direct consequences on the orderly autocratic society of that time. During the Albigensian crusade against the Cathars in the thirteenth century, ten of thousand of people in the South of France -heretics and Christians alike- were killed with the Pope’s blessing. The Holy Inquisition dates from this period and Freemasonry, by accepting members of different religions, put its members at risk. To join such an organisation required a strong commitment to its beliefs, as the Inquisition automatically considered the members guilty of heresy and treason, and that may cost their life and properties. Again it is easy to relate the fugitive Templars to this dangerous commitment, whereas the members of the medieval stonemason guilds do not fit in it. Those fugitive Templars wanted to remain free and alive, to seek and to give help inside a fraternal secret organisation whose members had to swear loyalty to each other before God. The members of this organisation had to lead double life. To the outside world they must appear to be law-abiding citizen, churchgoers and to pay all their tax as required. Their life as members of the organisation must be kept fully secret as their activity went against the laws of the state, as well as of the Church. This organisation found many members during the life of the fugitive Templars and for centuries after. These fourteenth century dissenters are sometime described as the forerunners of the Protestant Reformation, but they were more reactionaries than reformers. They had no new ritual or doctrine, but they wanted the church to go back to its earlier principles. Instead the church promulgated that sin must be punished, and this applied to any secret protester or dissenter. To avoid punishment, secrecy at the highest possible level was required

The low clergy was very often on the side of the dissenters as they disagree with the highest religious authorities that wanted to concentrate all the power in their hand. As members of the Church they had access to the Scriptures, which the secular people had not at that time, and there they found that early Christians behaved in a different way that the high clergy who were only interested in power and money. The people, including the lower clergy, saw the sale of “indulgences” and other “merits” with distaste. The power of “transubstantiation” during the Holy Communion, when the bread is changed into the body of Jesus Christ and the wine in his blood, is given to the priests directly by Jesus through Peter and the following Popes. This means that only an ordained priest can serve mass in the Roman Catholic Church. Also, the power of the priests to forgive sins in the name of God seemed to many an abuse of power. All these disagreements and protests were clearly expressed by the priest John Wycliffe in the fourteenth century, before and after the Peasants’ Rebellion in England, as well as by the followers of the priest John Ball who had a large role in it. John Wycliffe’s followers, known as the Lollards, were driven underground where they survived for many centuries in “secret cells” all over Britain. Very little is known about them, but they were very similar to the lodges of the Freemasons and the aims of both organisations were also more or less the same. Could the Freemasons and the Lollards have been part of the same organisation?

The suppression of the Templars occurred at a time when there was much unrest in the lower clergy, at the time of a strong protest against the Church, and during the reign of a very unpopular king in England. It was, in other words, the right time to create a secret society in reaction against the Church. In addition the Franciscans who preached that all the clergy, including its highest level, should live a life of poverty, came under the wrath of the Pope. Most Franciscans changed their teaching but, in Italy, some known as the “Fratelli” or “Spiritual Franciscans” refused, and when on preaching their own doctrine. They were declared heretics in 1315, and excommunicated. Some of these poor monks were burned alive in 1318, four years after Jacques de Molay. The Templar hypothesis of the origin of Freemasonry is making more and more sense, but it does not yet offer an complete explanation of all the Masonic mysteries because of some events that took place after the Craft became public in 1717.

The First Grand Lodge Constitutions of 1723, written by James Anderson, seemed to de-Christianise Masonry, as if before that date members of the Craft had to be Christians but there is no evidence for it. It seems, on the opposite, that followers of all monotheistic religions have always been welcome in this secret society. When Masonry moved out of the taverns into purpose-built lodge, organ music became of current use, the brothers started to sing hymns, funeral of members of the Craft became very similar to the religious ceremonies and, in addition, they were sometime held in Anglican churches. From all this the general public began to confuse Freemasonry and religion. However Freemasonry is not a religion as members of all creed are accepted. Nothing in the Masonic beliefs, and concept of fraternity and mutual help, is contrary to the behaviour to be expected from a group such as the Templar Order that has been badly treated by the Roman Catholic Church all over Europe, including Britain. No other group in Britain but the Templars has ever been accused by the church of heresy and, until 1717, there is no evidence of Freemasonry anywhere but in the British Isles. If we believe of a link between the Templars and Freemasonry, it is understandable that this post-Templar society was created in Britain. This was, in fact, the only country were the Templars were not arrested straight away, but were given a three-months warning period, long enough to escape and organise themselves to survive in clandestinity. In addition the Inquisition was never allowed to operate in Britain. Why did Freemasonry become public in 1717, and not before or later? This will be explained later.

In Secret Masonry the Master Mason was a Master of men, not a Master of an art or Craft as it was the case in the stonemason guilds. Most of the members were either Fellows or Entrants who had no yet qualified for full membership, and they normally knew only the members of their lodge. The Masters were Masters of a territory or a lodge, and they had to keep communication with other Master Masons. Communication and rare secret assemblies were necessary for standardisation of recognition signals and passwords so that members could safely identify themselves to other unknown Masons. If it was assumed that security had been breached, then those signs and passwords had to be changed straightaway in a secret meeting of the Masters. Also, to direct a member on the run to another lodge, somebody had to know their location. Masters were the more important and dangerous members of the secret society as they could betray their own lodge, like the Fellows and Entrants, but also many others and perhaps the whole society.

Every Master being the heir of Hiram Abif was the “widow’s son”, whose role he played in his initiation ceremony. In this ceremony the Master would die “symbolically” for refusing, like Hiram Abif, to betray the secrets of the Master Mason. The death of Hiram Abif left the construction of the Temple unfinished. This continuation of Hiram’s story was symbolised by the evergreen branch of acacia, a symbol of immortality older than Christianity. Hiram’s immortality lies in the minds and bodies of the Masters who came after him to take his place, and finish the building of the Temple with the help of the Fellows and Entrants. The Masonic legend of Hiram Abif is in direct contradiction with the Bible. Here Hiram was not an architect, but a Master worker in brass and bronze who lived to see the Temple completed before going back to his home. The only similar mention of an unfinished temple in British history can only be found in the Templar saga whose last Master, Jacques de Molay, was murdered for refusing to tell the secrets of his order. The Templar order was then suppressed, and its properties and released members were transferred to the Hospitallers, combining in this way the two orders as requested for a long time by the Pope. The punishments brought on the Hospitallers during the Peasant rebellion can be seen as a late revenge by the Templars under the cover of a secret society that emerged as Freemasonry in 1717. This secret society was the Roman Catholic Church’s worst enemy in Britain for many centuries before, during, and after the Reformation. It was a rally point for religious dissenters who could find in it the help needed to escape the secular and religious authorities.

What was lost with the legendary Hiram’s murder has been described as the Master ‘s “word”, or his “secrets”. The Templars, on the other hand, lost their wealth, respect, and power as well as the life of many Knights. With Hiram, the architect and the planner needed to finish the construction of the Temple was lost. The Master Mason, in his initiation, becomes another Hiram, another “son of the widow”, whose task is to finish the construction of the new symbolic Temple which was interrupted by the murder.

The legend of Hiram Abif tells us that it is not by accident that two organisations identify themselves with the Temple of Solomon: one group was the heir of the other. The purpose of the Freemasons is told, in an allegoric way, in the story of the fate of the previous group, the Order of the Temple. The Temple was left unfinished because of the murder of the Grand Master, whose role the new Master Mason plays in his initiation. In this hypothesis, the Freemason is not an operative or a speculative mason, but he is a “symbolic” mason whose task is not connected with finishing the construction of any building, but to complete the tasks of the order of the Knights Templar.

As the origin of Freemasonry was lost, the Freemasons were left with an allegory, and they created a fantasy world by assuming that the allegory was factual. As a result, Freemasons believed that the order had been founded among the workmen who built the Temple of Solomon, which became the focal point in their doctrine. Later on, it was believed that Freemasonry was born within the stonemason guilds of the medieval age. Finally, it became generally accepted that Hiram Abif was not a real person, but only a myth that led the order to identify itself with the building trade. The consequent symbolism remains in use even to day and tends to confuse the origin and the purpose of Freemasonry. As a result the hypothesis linking the Craft’s origin with the construction of the Temple of Solomon, or with the stonemason guilds of the medieval ages, can only be described as legendary, or mythical. The only possible explanation left is that the temple that is at the base of Freemasonry is not a building, but the order of the Knights Templar that identified itself with this temple.