FREEMASONRY is the system of the Freemasons, a secret order and pantheistic sect, which professes, by means of a symbolical language and certain ceremonies of initiation and promotion, to lay down a code of morality founded on the brotherhood of humanity only. Some writers apply the term Freemasonry not only to the Freemasons proper, but also to all secret organizations which seek to undermine Christianity and the political and social institutions that have Christianity for their basis.
The origin of Freemasonry is disputed. The Freemasons themselves, in the language of their rituals, assume the sect to have begun its existence at the building of Solomon's Temple; but serious Masonic writers, as well as all writers of repute, declare it to be merely a conventional fiction. Nor is any more value to be attached to the attempts that are occasionally made to find a link between the pagan mysteries and Freemasonry. Some writers trace Freemasonry to the heresies of Eastern origin that prevailed during the early and middle ages in certain parts of Europe, such as those of the Gnostics, Manicheans, and Abigenses, some of whose mischievous tenets are, no doubt, apparent in the sect. The suppressed order of the Knights Templars, too, has been taken to have been the source of the sect; and this theory may have some countenance in the facts that a number of the Knights in Scotland illicitly maintained their organization after the suppression, and that it was from Scotland that Freemasonry was brought into France at the beginning of the last century.
But it seems more in consonance with many known historical facts to trace the sect to the medieval guild of stonemasons, who were popularly called by the very name of Free Masons. During the middle ages the various trades were formed, with the approbation of the Church, into guilds or close protective societies. In general no one was permitted to follow a trade for wages or profit, as apprentice, journeyman, or master, until he had been made free of the guild representing that trade. Each guild had its patron saint, and several guilds, it is certain, had each its peculiar ritual, using its own tools and technical language in a symbolical way in the ceremonies of initiation and promotion that is to say, in entering an apprentice, and at the end of his time declaring him a worthy fellow journeyman or craftsman, etc. The guild of Free Masons was singular in this: that it was a migratory one, its members traveling under their masters in organized bodies through all parts of Europe, wherever their services were required in building. When first referred to they are found grouped about the monasteries, especially about those of the Benedictines. The earliest form of initiation used by the guild is said to have been suggested by the ritual for the reception of a Benedictine novice.
The South of France, where a large Jewish and Saracenic element remained, was a hotbed of heresies, and that region was also a favorite one with the guild of Masons. It is asserted, too, that as far back as the twelfth century the lodges of the guild enjoyed the special protection of the Knights Templars. It is easy in this way to understand how the symbolical allusions to Solomon and his Temple might have passed from the Knights into the Masonic formally. In this way, too, might be explained how, after the suppression of the order of the Temple, some of the recalcitrant Knights, maintaining their influence over the Free Masons, would be able to pervert what hitherto had been a harmless ceremony into an elaborate ritual that should impart some of the errors of the Templars to the initiated. A document was long ago published which purports to be a charter granted to a lodge of Free Masons in England in the time of Henry VII, and it bears the marks in its religious indifference of a suspicious likeness between Freemasonry then and now. In Germany the guild was numerous, and was formally recognized by a diploma granted in 1489 by the Emperor Maximilian. But this sanction was finally revoked by the Imperial Diet in 1707.
So far, however, the Free Masons were really working stonemasons; but the socalled Cologne Charter the genuineness of which seemed certain drawn up in 1535 at a reunion of Free Masons gathered at Cologne to celebrate the opening of the cathedral edifice, is signed by Melanchthon, Coligny, and other similar illomened names. Nothing certain is known of the Free Masons now evidently become a sect during the seventeenth century, except that in 1646 Elias Ashmole, an Englishman. founded the order of Rose Croix, Rosicrucians, or Hermetic Freemasons a society which mingled in a fantastic manner the jargon of alchemy and other occult sciences with pantheism. This order soon became affiliated to some of the Masonic lodges in Germany, where from the time of the Reformation there was a constant founding of societies, secret or open which undertook to formulate a philosophy or a religion of their own.
As we know it now, however, Freemasonry first appeared in 1725 when, Lord Derwentwater, a supporter of the
expelled Stuart dynasty, introduced the order into France, professing to have his authority from a lodge at Kilwinning,
Scotland. This formed the basis of that variety of Freemasonry called the Scotch Rite. Rival organizations soon sprang up.
Charters were obtained from a lodge at York, which was said to have been of very ancient foundation. In 1754 Martinez
Pasquales, a Portuguese Jew, began in some of the French lodges the new degree of "cohens," or priests, which was
developed into a system by the notorious SaintMartin, and is usually referred to as French Illuminism. But it remained for Adam Weishaupt, Professor of Canon Law at the University of Ingolstadt, in Bavaria. to give a definite shape to the anti-Christian tendencies of Freemasonry. In 1776, two years after the expulsion of the Jesuits from the University, he brought together a number of his pupils and friends, and organized the order of the Illuminati, which he established on the already existing degrees of Freemasonry. The avowed object of the Illuminati was to bring back mankind beginning with the Illuminated to their primitive liberty by destroying religion, for which this newest philosophical invention was to be substituted, and by reshaping ideas of property, society, marriage, etc. One of the Illuminati, a Sicilian, Joseph Balsamo, otherwise Cagliostro, organized what he called Cabalistic Freemasonry, under the name of the Rite of Misraim. He it was who in 1783 predicted, as the approaching work of the Freemasons, the overthrow of the French monarchy. Indeed, Freemasonry was very active in the French Revolution, and assisted in bringing about many of the calamities which accompanied the great upturning of society.
Freemasonry in the meantime had split up into numerous sects, or "rites," all working to the common effort of destroying a belief in the divine revelations of Christianity. In 1781 a great assembly of all the Masonic rites was held at Wilhelmsbad, in Hanover, under the presidency of the Duke of Brunswick, which refused to recognize Weishaupt's system, but at the same time permitted the most mischievous tenets of Illuminism to be engrafted on the higher degrees of Freemasonry, especially of the socalled Scotch Rite. About this time the Scotch Rite was established at Charleston, S. C., by some officers of the French auxiliary army. The York Rite had been introduced into the United States by English colonists.
Freemasonry in Continental Europe has been the hatchingground of most of the revolutionary societies, many of which were affiliated to the higher Masonic degrees. In France the sect was officially recognized by the government of Napoleon III., but advanced Freemasons bore this unwillingly, as it involved restraint. An avowed belief in God was required for initiation, but this requirement, through the efforts of M. Mace, of the University, was finally abolished in the convention of Freemasons held at Paris, September I4, 1877.
A recent French writer maintains that Freemasonry is unknown to most of the craft managed by five or six Jews, who bend its influence in every possible way to the furtherance of the antiChristian movement that passes under the name of Liberalism. Throughout Continental Europe, in the SpanishAmerican States, and in Brazil, Freemasonry has of late years again become very active. The war against the Catholic Church in Germany had no more bitter supporter than Freemasonry. If the Kulturkampf was not directed from the lodges, at least nearly all its leaders were Freemasons. During "the Commune" of Paris, in 1871, Masonic lodges took part as a body in the insurrection, marching out to the fight with their red banners. In France and Belgium the lodges have officially commended their members to assist the Ligue de l'Enseignement a league intended to bring about the complete secularization of the primary public schools.
In the Englishspeaking countries, however, Freemasonry has hitherto protested its respect for government and established society, and it has not had any immediate action on politics, its members being usually found as numerous in one political party as another. But it has never failed indirectly to use its influence for the advancement of its members over others. Englishspeaking Freemasons have usually been accustomed to regard the pantheism of their rituals as an amusing mummery rather than as a reality. These Freemasons usually disown for their order any aims but those of a convivial and natural benefit society, but no one can fail to see that indifferentism in religion at least is one of the necessary results of Englishspeaking Freemasonry at its best. But the constant influx into the Englishspeaking countries of Jews and Continental Freemasons must necessarily impregnate the order with all the poison of the Continental sect.
Freemasonry is essentially opposed to the belief in the personality of God, whose name in the Masonic rituals veils the doctrine of blind force only governing the universe. It is also essentially subversive of legitimate authority, for by professing to furnish man an allsufficient guide and help to conduct it makes him independent of the Church, and by its everywhere ridiculing rank in authority it tends, in spite of its occasional protests of loyalty, to bring all governments into contempt.
The sect has been repeatedly condemned by learned and respectable men of all countries, Protestant and Catholic. Five bulls have been directed against it by name viz., "In eminenti," Clement XII., 1738; "Providas" Benedict XIV. 1751, "Ecclesiam Jesu Christi," Pius VII., 1821, "Qui graviora," Leo XII., 1826; "Quanta cura," Pius IX., 1864.
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