Aniti-Masonry, Masonophobia, and Criticism of the Craft
Freemasonry has been criticized and accused of being up to no good ever since its beginnings in the 17th century. Curiosity about what those men are up to in their closed and guarded lodge rooms, and what their secret words were have dogged the Craft consistently from then until the present day. Most of the conspiracy theories and rumors are utterly groundless. All it takes is an examination of the claims being made and their sources to expose how ludicrous they are. Still, there seems to be something like Masonophobia, a kind of pathological fear of Freemasons in a few, sad individuals.
Among the kinds of criticisms that have been levelled at Freemasonry are the following sorts of ideas.
Masons have too much fun. They drink too much and their lodge meetings are just an excuse for having a party.
Well, brotherly love will do that. But in reality lodge meetings in modern times are sober and serious affairs, sometimes punctuated with levity, but most grand lodge jurisdictions today forbid drinking in the lodge room. The famous table lodges, which are sort of ritualized feasts with lots of toasting, were the cause for this kind of criticism back in the days when lodges met in taverns and drinking wine was more common than drinking water. One of the chief tenets of Masonry is that we learn to govern out passions, and so any Mason who is getting too rowdy is forgetting what his membership in the fraternity is all about.
Masonry is a religion and so you cannot be a Mason and a member of a Christian Church.
This is a warped argument. Freemasonry only demands of its members that they profess a belief in God. Beyond that, they can belong to any religion or sect they wish and no questions asked. Masonic rituals are based a good deal on the Bible, but that does not interfere with the fundamental tenet of religious tolerance and freedom of conscience. Religious belief is not even discussed in lodge because it was historically such a bone of contention among men. To promote brotherly love, theological differences are left outside the door. Now if your church will not permit you to think for yourself or fraternize with men of other religious faiths, or if it will not permit you to set aside perpetual proselytizing, then it is your church which will not tolerate Masonry and that is not Masonry's problem. The lodge will welcome any brother of any faith with open arms, so long as he is sincere in his devotion to his own moral self-improvement.
Masonic rituals involve bloody and horrible oaths.
That is one of the reasons some churches give for not allowing their members to be Masons. The traditional symbolic penalties of the obligations in each degree are bloody, but they are symbolic, referring to part of the ritual drama and are not intended to be taken literally. That subtlety is impossible to grasp unless you have experienced the way Masonry uses allegory to teach moral lessons. Some churches won't tolerate oath-taking of any sort, even if it is done on a Bible. If your religious beliefs say that swearing solemn vows are bad, except when done in an authorized religious ceremony (such as marriage), then you may not be able to be a Mason. But, again, the problem lies in the prejudices and dogmas of your church, not in Masonry. Masonry does not enforce murderous penalties on those who fail to keep their promises to the Craft. Generally, they are just admonished and if the fault is malicious, they are expelled from the organization. That is pretty much standard procedure for most clubs and associations and there is nothing sinister about it.
Masons worship Satan – or Pan – or a Goat.
This one has very specific origins in the nineteenth century. Leo Taxil was the pen name of a French writer who composed a phony exposé of Masonry that claimed it was a cult of Lucifer. Taxil grew famous and rich off his spoof and then confessed that he had made it all up to dupe the Catholic authorities, to show how gullible they were. But the forgeries and claims made by Taxil have been repeated ever since as if they were accurate. In fact they were groundless and silly. The involvement of a few Masons in occultism and the claims that Masonic Knights Templar descend historically from the medieval Order of Knights Templar have also contributed to this sort of fear-mongering.
The Templars were accused of all sorts of atrocities by the Pope when he decided to shut them down, but it is generally believed by historians that he was really after the Templars for their treasure and their power, and that the stories of anti-Christian rites were made up, just as they were during the witch-craze in the seventeenth century. Nobody knows where the goat thing came from but it may have been an illustration in a book by the French occultist and Cabalist Eliphas Levi, sensationally depicting "Baphomet" the idol that the Templars were supposed to have worshipped. The goat-headed hermaphroditic creature depicted seems to have no basis in any historical facts at all (even the confessions elicited under torture from the medieval Templars only talk about "worshipping" "a head" -- whatever that means). Levi's composite figure is pure imagination and symbolism that has nothing to do with either the Templars or Freemasons.
Another possible source for the goat joke is the initials of the phrase used by some Masons for God, the Great Architect Of The Universe (G.A.O.T.U.), which if your spelling is very bad might be taken for "goat." Go figure.
Masons are a big conspiracy to rule the world.
This Anti-Masonry is just like anti-Semitism – it is rooted in a fear of people who constitute themselves as a group apart. The people who believe this sort of thing are the sort of people who can never gain access to the reality of Freemasonry because they are too hostile and too unable to engage in rational discourse. They are motivated by fear of the unknown and a sense that they have no control over their lives. It should be fairly apparent that nobody is really in control of the economy, but if there are conspiracies and corruption in governments or behind the scenes in smoke-filled rooms, they are not related to Masonry. If individual brothers use their Masonic connections for mercenary gain, then they are engaging in un-Masonic conduct. But the dream of some secret organization planning assassinations and manipulating currencies is one of those things that just won't go away.
Freemasons need to be on their guard against this kind of wild-eyed Masonophobia only because history has shown that it can erupt into hysteria. Many have been the dictators who have suppressed Freemasonry as a way of trying to stifle dissent against their tyrannical regimes. Those who accuse Freemasons of conspiracies are in company with the likes of Hitler, Stalin, and the Russian Tsars of the nineteenth century. Despots do not like free-thinkers who believe in human rights.
Most Masons do not waste their time thinking about the strange accusations of anti-Masons. But it is certainly an area for study, as a kind of psychopathology or sociopathology. A very good web site that takes on all these conspiracies and urban legends and debunks them soundly is www.masonicinfo.com. If you want to truth and are confused about the facts, that is a great place to carry on your research. When you are done, come back to the real world of Masonry and visit your local lodge. They might even buy your dinner.