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Some Interesting Masonic Facts

There are many myths and “theories” about Freemasonry and sometimes it may be hard to distinguish between the myths and the actual facts. Rumours throughout the many years of Freemasonry has brought about many wrong information, misguided accusations and all around “illiteracy” about the craft. That is why today we’d like to share some very interesting and truthful facts about Freemasonry.

Freemasonry in the past

Freemasonry exists in various forms all over the world, with a membership estimated at around five million, including approximately 480,000 in Great Britain and over two million in the United States.

The conventional establishment of Freemasonry is usually dated to 1717, when the Grand Lodge of London emerged on the 24th June. The emergence of this Grand Lodge marks the beginning of Grand Lodges governing other lodges.

In 1860 in Limerick, Ireland, there a stone was found in a small Chapel, dated 1517, with the following inscription: “I will serve to live with love & care, upon the level, and by the square.”

The Reverend James Anderson, a Presbyterian Minister who wrote the masonic Book of Constitutions which originally stated that a Freemason can “never be a stupid Atheist nor an irreligious libertine”, but this was later, in 1815 modified to “let a man’s religion or mode of worship be what it may”, professing freedom of religion and of worship.

The third degree did not exist at the beginning of Freemasonry.

In fact, it only started in the 1720s, and it took quite some time to spread through Masonic lodges.

Age of Reason

Freemasons played a great part in the Age of Reason and period of Enlightenment as in the late 1700s where they helped reform society.

Since always, Freemasonry has valued human consciousness and reason, and these values were transmitted to the Enlightenment, when people were fighting for freedom of worship and speech, public education and a democratic government. Freemasons were also the first advocates of equality.

The fraternity has always disregarded social distinctions and was one of the first organisations in the world to believe all men are equal.

Masonic principles brought in to conflict with the Catholic Church during the Age of Reason.

Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903) called Freemasonry “the kingdom of Satan” and, “Their chief dogmas are so completely and manifestly opposed to sane reason that it is difficult to imagine deeper perversion.

In reality is it not the peak of madness and of the most audacious impiety to be so presumptuous as to want to destroy the religion and the Church created by God Himself”.

Photo: Ekem

Masonic Symbolism

When the great Obelisk of Alexandria (Cleopatra’s Needle) was moved to New York in 1880, there were discovered certain emblems on the original foundation and pedestal. One is clearly a square, causing some to conclude that Masonry existed in ancient Egypt. This issue is still open to debate.

However, in reality, Freemasonry started being illustrated by symbols because at the very beginning, most Freemasons were illiterate, so the symbols served to remind the members of the teachings of the Fraternity.

The oldest Masonic symbol is the square and compasses. It is also the most universally recognized symbol of Freemasonry, even though its exact significance varies in different countries.

The square usually symbolizes morality while the compasses symbolize wisdom of conduct. Together they mostly symbolize the harmony and perfection experienced when one lives in honesty and follows the path of right.

The term “on the level”, used to describe someone who is truthful and honest, was actually derived from Freemasonry, where the level symbolizes being straightforward and truthful.

Montana’s (USA) first livestock brand was the Square and Compasses and is still in use today. It was registered by Poindexter and Orr of Beaverhead County, MT in 1873.

Incredible Masonic Facts

Andrew McNair, a Philadelphia Mason, rang the Liberty bell in Independence Hall of July 8, 1776 to call the people together to hear the reading of the Declaration of Independence. The bell developed a crack when it was rung for the death of Chief Justice Marshall, the Past Grand Master of Virginia.

Between 1890 (when it became a state) and 1951, every Governor of Wyoming, except one, was a Mason. The one, Mrs. William A. Ross, was the wife of a mason and a member of Eastern Star (a female freemason’s fraternity).

When Mussolini gained control of Italy, Masonic lodges were declared illegal and the Grand Master was arrested, tried, and imprisoned, where he died. Mussolini also ordered all Masonic references removed, including the emblems on the base of Garibaldi’s monument in Rome.

On his famous solo flight across the Atlantic, Charles Lindbergh wore a square and compasses on his jacket as a good luck piece. He was a mason.

Eight of the people who signed the Declaration of Independence were Freemasons.

The Grand Master of Mass. commanded rebels at Bunker Hill while the Grand Master of England commanded English forces. The G.M of Mass. was killed.

During the American civil war, enemy soldiers who recognized each other as Freemasons helped each other and saved each other’s lives. Even during war, these Freemasons’ loyalty to the craft did not fade away.

The total number of VC’s for the “supreme award of gallantry in the presence of the enemy”, to-date amounts to 1361, of which Freemasons have received 156 (11.5%). During the Great War (19114-1918), the total number of VCs awarded was 634, of which 91 were Freemasons.

It was rumoured Napoleon was a freemason but never proven, although he did adopt the title of “Protector of Freemasonry”. However, his four brothers were masons, many of his Officers, members of his Grand Council for the Empire and 22 of the 30 Marshals of France were also Freemasons. Even his wife, was admitted into a French female lodge in 1804.

In July 1863, Confederate raiders rode into Versailles, IN, capturing the local militia and stealing the county treasury. The next day, General John Morgan (CSA), learned that his men had also made off with the jewels of the local lodge. They were returned the following day.  Morgan was from Davies Lodge No.22, Lexington, KY.

Hitler believed that the Masons were a tool of the Jews and under the Nazi regime, it’s estimated that it is estimated that between 80,000 and 200,000 Freemasons were murdered.

Bernard Pierre Mangam, Marshall of France and Senator was appointed Grand Master of the Grand Orient of France and served from 1862 to 1865. This is unusual because he was not a Mason. He was appointed by Emperor Napoleon III.

Every US President from Tennessee was a Mason (they being, Presidents; Jackson, Johnson, Polk).

In Fascist Spain under Franco, it was a crime to be a freemason. Masons convicted had to serve prison terms equal in years to the number of Masonic degrees possessed. Master Mason – 3 years.

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, was a brother of Clear Lake Lodge No1417 in Texas. He was also the lunar module pilot on Apollo 11, the first lunar landing in history.When he stepped on the moon, he had with him a special dispensation from his Grand Master to claim the moon as being the territorial jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Texas.

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Robert Burns was initiated an Entered Apprentice in Lodge St. David, Tarbolton on 4 July (ironic date) 1781, at the age of 23. For Burns , the song, “Auld Lang Syne”, is a concrete expression of his love of mankind and his ideal of international brotherhood.

Francis Stephens, the Duke of Lorraine, received the first two Masonic degrees in 1731 in a special lodge convened at The Hague, Holland, becoming the first known royal freemason. Later he received the third degree in England. In 1735 renounced his title.

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Charles Darwin was a Freemason. Darwin became a Freemason in Scotland, and his grandfather and son also were Freemasons.

Richard E. Byrd and his pilot Bernt Balchen, both brothers, dropped Masonic flags over the north and south poles. Brother Balchen also tossed his Shrine Fez on the South Pole.

Gordon Cooper, in his Mercury capsule, carried a Masonic coin and a blue Masonic flag on his 22 orbit flight, which he later presented to his mother lodge.

Richard E. Byrd and his pilot Bernt Balchen, both brothers, dropped Masonic flags over the north and south poles. Brother Balchen also tossed his Shrine Fez on the South Pole.

Gordon Cooper, in his Mercury capsule, carried a Masonic coin and a blue Masonic flag on his 22 orbit flight, which he later presented to his mother lodge.

In 1801, Czar Alexander I of Russia banned the craft. In 1803 he rescinded the order and became a Freemason. But in 1822 he again ordered Freemasonry banned in Russia.

Dr. Edward Jenner, in 1789 discovered the vaccination process against smallpox. He was worshipful master of Faith and Friendship Lodge #270 in Berkeley, England at the time.

Polar explorers Richard E. Byrd and Bernt Balchen dropped Masonic flags on the North and South poles.

The 14 U.S. presidents known to be Freemasons are: George Washington, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, James Polk, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, James Garfield, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, Howard Taft, Warren Harding, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Gerald Ford.

The first known speculative Freemason to be initiated is either Sir Robert Moray in 1641 or Elias Ashmole in 1646, depending on who you are talking to and where it took place.  Arguably it was Sir Robert Moray who was the first to be initiated on English soil, when considering purely speculative Freemasonry,  on Scottish soil there were quite a few before either of them.

In Australia, (Queensland), 103 year old RWBro. Ted Smout, OAM, ASM, Legion d’Honneur, Past Assistant Grand Master has celebrated 83 years in masonry. He was initiated into Victoria Lodge, No.10, Brisbane, 10 May 1921; he was Master in March 1935.

Out of the 56 men that signed the declaration of independence a total of eight of them were Freemasons. These men were: William Ellery, Joseph Hewes, William Hooper, Robert Treat Paine, Richard Stockton, George Walton, William Whipple, and the two most well known Freemasons who signed were Benjamin Franklin and John Hancock.

In Australia Bro. Jack Lockett, who died in 2002 aged 111, had been initiated into Ouyen Lodge, No. 249 (Victorian Constitution) in 1921 giving 81 years in Freemasonry. He was also Australia’s oldest man at the time.

W.Bro. Fred Birch, Teddington Lodge, No. 4528, Middlesex, has been in Freemasonry 78 years. He was initiated 5 October 1926.

Historically the longest serving Freemason was WBro. Arthur King-Davies, initiated into Llynfi Lodge, No.2965, South Wales (E.D.) 10 May 1911, died 26 December 1991. He had served 80 years 7 months in Freemasonry.

The Wilding family in Cheshire have tyled Lodge of Sincerity, No. 428, continuously since 1836, a total of 168 years. The current Tyler, Bro. Tony Wilding, is the 7th generation of the family to serve the Lodge.

The third degree did not exist (as we know it today) at the beginning of Freemasonry. In fact, it only started in the 1720s, and it took quite some time to spread through Masonic lodges.

W.Bro. John Denton, founding Master of Harrogate & Claro Lodge, No. 1001, in 12 regular and 3 emergency meetings performed 45 ceremonies in his year, 1864, initiating, passing and raising 15 candidates with 10 multiple ceremonies. 

The term “on the level”, used to describe someone who is truthful and honest, was actually derived from Freemasonry, where the level symbolizes being straightforward and truthful.

The term “square deal or on the square” has a similar meaning and origin.

Operative Lodge #150 in Aberdeen, Scotland is unusual in that it is only open to operative stonemasons.

R.W. Bro. Colonel Alexander Foster Gough as Master of Honour Lodge, No. 526, in 1858-59, presided over 15 meetings at which he initiated 12 candidates, passed 10 and raised 10 giving a total of 32. But during his second period of Master of the same Lodge, 1859-60, he initiated 11, passed 12 and raised 10; a total of 33 candidates. From 1889-92 he was Provincial Grand Master of Staffordshire.

Freemasonic symbols are usually regarded as existing because of the secrecy of the fraternity. However, in reality, Freemasonry started being illustrated by symbols because at the very beginning most Freemasons could not read, so the symbols served to remind the members of the teachings of the Fraternity. This same philosophy applies to signs and tokens as up until the modern era, most could not read or write and these were the credentials, resumes and diplomas of the day.

W.Bro. Major Henry Sadler, Master of Aldershot Camp Lodge, No. 1331, in 1916, during his year presided over 136 Degree ceremonies: 48 initiations, 42 Passings and 46 Raisings. The candidates were mostly NCOs awaiting transfer to the front-line. During his masonic career W.Bro. Sadler performed a total of 174 Degree ceremonies.

The use of white gloves in Freemasonry is a symbolic idea handed down to Masons through the ancient and universal language of symbolism, and, like the apron, is intended to denote purity of life and action. The gloves given to the candidate for himself are intended to teach him that the acts of a mason should be as pure and spotless as the gloves now given to him.

In the continental rites of Masonry, as practised in France, in Germany, and in other countries of Europe, it is an invariable custom to present the newly-initiated candidate not only, as we do, with a white leather apron, but also with two pairs of white kid gloves, one a man’s pair for himself, and the other a woman’s, to be presented by him in turn to his wife or his betrothed, according to the custom of the German masons, or, according to the French, to the female whom he most esteems, which, indeed, amounts, or should amount, to the same thing.

On closing – a voice from the past, an example of compassion, brotherly love and tolerance. A lesson we should, heed and apply today when tolerance appears in short measure.

When asked of Masonry, President William McKinley explained:  “After the battle of Opequam, I went with the surgeon of our Ohio regiment to the field where 5,000 confederate prisoners were under guard.  As soon as we passed the guard, the doctor shook hands with a number of prisoners and began passing out his roll of bills.

On the way back to camp I asked him, ‘Did you know those men?’ ‘No’ ‘But you gave them a lot of money, do you expect to get it back?’ ‘If they are able to pay me back, they will. It makes no difference to me; they are brother masons in trouble and I am only doing my duty.’ I said to myself, ‘If that is Masonry, I will take some of it myself.

All the brethren of Porchway Lodge, and on behalf of all freemasons where ever they may be dispersed on land, sea or in the air, we hope you have found our masonic facts page interesting and informative.

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