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Freemasonry Debunked

Tuesday, March 19, 2013 8:08 am EDT
"The greatest lure of Freemasonry is the mystique of a locked door—that’s why non-Masons are so fascinated by the organization"

Our culture is fascinated by Freemasonry. In everyday life, those of us who aren’t Freemasons (or Masons, for short) wonder what goes on in the fraternity’s closed meetings. We’re both curious about and suspicious of Freemasons’ rituals and symbols. Are they part of a secret religion? A cult? Thanks to certain books and movies in popular culture, we may even find ourselves wondering if Freemasons are carrying on the shocking legacy of the medieval Knights Templar or guarding a vast, hidden treasure.

Well, according to the popular For Dummies® series, Freemasons do keep some secrets, but none of them are as scandalous or conspiracy-laden as the rest of us might suspect.

“The greatest lure of Freemasonry is the mystique of a locked door—that’s why non-Masons are so fascinated by the organization,” says Christopher Hodapp, author of Freemasons For Dummies®, 2nd Edition (Wiley, January 2013, ISBN: 978-1-1184-1208-4, $19.99). “Everyone knows that the organization is characterized by rituals, symbols, and ceremonies known only to its members and Masters, and unwritten secrets that have been passed from mouth to ear for centuries.”

Hodapp, who is an active Freemason himself, sorts fact from fiction in his new book while revealing the truth about the organization he is a part of. Freemasonry, he explains, is a society of gentlemen concerned with moral and spiritual values and is one of the world’s oldest and most popular fraternal organizations.

Read on for a (small!) sampling of famous figures who were (or are!) also Freemasons:

Politicians and Founding Fathers

George Washington. America’s most famous Freemason, Washington was initiated in 1752, in Fredericksburg, Virginia. After the Revolutionary War, there was a strong movement to unite the nation’s Freemasons under a national Grand Lodge of the United States, and Washington was offered the position of national Grand Master, which he refused. He was elected as Worshipful Master of Alexandria Lodge #22 in 1788. When the new Capitol City that would eventually bear his name was designed under his watchful eye, Freemasons laid the cornerstone of the new Capitol building in 1793, over which Washington presided in full Masonic regalia.

In addition to Washington, thirteen other U.S. presidents are definitely known to have been Freemasons: James Munroe, Andrew Jackson, James Polk, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, James Garfield, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Taft, Warren Harding, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Gerald Ford.

Benjamin Franklin: Inventor, publisher, author, and statesman, Franklin was also Grand Master of Pennsylvania, and member of the Lodge of Nine Sisters in Paris.

Explorers and Adventurers

Following are some Freemasons who blazed new trails:

Davey Crockett: American frontiersman from Tennessee

Sam Houston: The man who avenged the slaughter at the Alamo and defeated Santa Anna at the battle of San Jacinto, becoming the first president of the Republic of Texas

John Glenn, Gordon Cooper, Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Wally Shirra, and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin: American astronauts, among them the first American to orbit the earth and the second man to walk on the Moon

Pioneers of Science and Medicine

Many Freemasons have played an important role on the scientific and medical frontiers. Among them is Alexander Fleming, a Scottish bacteriologist who won the Nobel Prize for his discovery of penicillin, opening the golden door of antibiotic therapy for infectious diseases.

Actors and Entertainers

All seven of the Ringling Brothers, of circus fame

The immortal American magician, escape artist, and showman Harry Houdini (real name Erich Weiss)

Actor Peter Sellers, best remember for Dr. Stangelove and Pink Panther movies

World-class guitarist and country music star Brad Paisley

Phil Collins, solo artist and lead singer of Genesis

Incredible Athletes

“Sugar Ray” Robinson: Immortal boxer, five-time World Middleweight boxing champion

Scottie Pippin and Shaquille O’Neal: NBA superstars

Military Leaders

Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, great English war hero and brilliant tactical soldier, known as the “Iron Duke,” the man who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo was a Freemason. Eventually he became Prime Minister of England. Although it has often been speculated that his perennial enemy, Napoleon Bonaparte, may have been a Mason as well, there is no documented proof of it.

Significant Businessmen

  • Henry Ford, a titan of American industry, was a Freemason. He was the founder of Ford Motor Company, inventing the concept of the assembly line in order to feed America’s insatiable appetite for hid Model T Ford. Not always a poster boy for good Masonic conduct, he was a virulent and poisonous anti-Semite, as well as a union buster, who would use any and all tactics to control his workers. However, many of the best ideas of the founders of American industry, including the five-day work week, profit sharing, the shortened average workday, and wages twice the minimum wage were Henry Ford’s ideas first.
  • Steve Wozniak, cofounder of Apple

Players in the World of Statecraft

  • Sir Winston Churchill: Great Britain’s greatest Prime Minister
  • J. Edgar Hoover: Founder of the FBI

U.S. Civil Rights Leaders

  • Booker T. Washington: Educator and reformer; prime mover behind the Tuskegee Institute, the first normal and technical school for African Americans
  • W. E. B. DuBois: American sociologist; one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the editor of its magazine, Crisis
  • Thurgood Marshall: The first black member of the U.S. Supreme Court, who successfully argued against the doctrine of separate but equal Brown v. Board of Education, the decision that integrated American schools
  • Jesse Jackson: Perhaps the most famous civil-rights leader apart from Martin Luther King, Jr.

Men of Arts and Letters

  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Famed classical composer and virtuoso pianist; gave an underlying Masonic theme to one of his operas, The Magic Flute
  • Oscar Wilde: Nineteenth-century Irish playwright and poet; author of The Importance of being Earnest and The Picture of Dorian Gray
  • Mark Twain: Author of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and many other books, all riddled with biting social commentary disguised as fiction
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: Creator of Sherlock Holmes

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