Given the secretive nature of the Freemasons, it's no surprise that numerous conspiracy theories about the group have emerged over the years. Theorists have accused the Masons of everything from satanic worship to playing a role in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Some claim that the lower ranks of the organization are just a front for the highest-order Freemasons, who they say are involved in plots to control the world's governments and financial institutions.
Some of the most powerful and influential men in history have been Freemasons. Here are just a few of them:
Throughout their history, the Freemasons have been the object of suspicion. They were thought to have provoked both the French and American Revolutions (in conjunction with the Illuminati), and were accused of having committed several murders.
Anti-Masonic fervor reached its peak in the United States in 1826, when a former Freemason named William Morgan wrote a book entitled "Freemasonry Exposed." The book reportedly revealed many secrets about the group. In response, three Freemasons abducted Morgan and took him to the Canadian border. What happened next is a matter of debate. One story tells the abductors drowned Morgan in the Niagara River. Another claims he escaped across the border to live the remainder of his life in Canada. Despite the lack of clear evidence in the case, the event sparked great anger against the Freemasons, whom many Americans viewed as murderers. A national anti-Masonic movement took root, complete with its own newspapers and political party. The Freemasons suffered great membership losses as a result. The number of Lodges in New York dropped from 480 in 1825 to 75 just 10 years later. A similar decline in membership echoed throughout the country. It wasn't until the nation became preoccupied with the Civil War that the Freemasons once again began to gain popularity.
In reality, there is no real factual basis to any of the conspiracy theories against the Freemasons—from the suggestion that the Masons designed the Washington, D.C. street grid in the shape of a pentagram (a sign of the occult), to the idea that they were somehow involved with the Jack the Ripper murders in 19th century London. But as long as the Freemasons continue to cloak themselves in a veil of secrecy, the questions -- and accusations -- about them will likely continue.
For lots more information on Freemasons and other related topics, check out the links on the next page.
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More Great Links
- Anti-Masonry Points of View
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- Ridley, Jasper. "The Freemasons." New York: Arcade Publishing, 2001.
- Knight, Stephen. "The Brotherhood: The Secret World of the Freemasons." London: Dorset Press, 1984.
- Preston Campbell-Everden, William. "Freemasonry and its Etiquette." New York: Grammercy Books, 2001 edition.
- Leadbeater, C. W. "Freemasonry and its Ancient Mystic Rites". New York: Grammercy Books, 1998 edition.
- Rich, Paul. "Female Freemasons: Gender, Democracy and Fraternalism." Journal of American Culture, Spring 1997, 20, pg. 105.
- Carroll, Robert Todd. "The Skeptic's Dictionary: A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions."
Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2003.
- Lovgren, Stefan. "'National Treasure': Freemasons, Fact, and Fiction." National Geographic News, November 19, 2004.
- Tolson, Jay. "Inside the Masons." US News, September 5, 2005.
- Freemasonry Primer
- Morgan, David and Sally M. Promey. "The Visual Culture of American Religions." Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001.
- Schultz, Nancy Lusignan. "Enemies Real & Imagined in American Culture." West Lafayette, Indiana: Purdue University Press, 1999.
- Berkun, Michael. "A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America." Berkeley, Calif: University of California Press, 2003.
- "Secret History of Freemasons," Discovery Channel, February 11, 2007.