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Leaders Tackle the Myths Behind the ‘Secret’ Organisation

Source: BBC

The Freemasons, often perceived as a clandestine society with esoteric rituals, secret handshakes, and concealed symbols, have long been a subject of intrigue and speculation. In an effort to shed light on the inner workings of this organization, Kevin Shoesmith of BBC News ventured into Hull’s Masonic Hall to interact with its members.

Understanding Freemasonry

Neil Armstrong, who once held the esteemed title of provincial grand sword bearer, describes Freemasonry as a fraternity committed to equality and benevolence. He emphasizes the organization’s philanthropic endeavors, highlighting its position as the second-largest charitable donor after the lottery.

Tracing its roots, Armstrong explains that Freemasonry has its origins in the practices of ancient stonemasons who constructed cathedrals.

These craftsmen established temporary shelters, known as lodges, adjacent to their construction sites to continue their work during adverse weather conditions. The symbols and rituals of modern Freemasonry draw inspiration from these architectural and masonic traditions.

The Handshake Mystery

Contrary to popular belief, the Freemasons don’t have just one secret handshake. Jim Kerr, a former provincial senior grand warden, reveals that there are multiple handshakes, each corresponding to a specific rank or degree within the organization.

These handshakes, he explains, date back to the times when stonemasons traveled across regions to work on construction projects. To verify their expertise and credentials at a new site, they would use a unique handshake and password. While Kerr was willing to demonstrate one such handshake, he emphasized that it’s more of a symbolic gesture than a guarded secret.

Transparency and Secrecy

Addressing the common perception of the Freemasons as a secretive group, Armstrong clarifies that the organization is quite open about its activities. The aura of secrecy, he says, stems from historical events when Freemasons faced persecution in Nazi Germany and were forced to operate covertly.

Symbols and Rituals

The Freemasons’ lodge is adorned with various symbols, each carrying a specific meaning. For instance, the “all-seeing eye” symbolizes the omnipresent watchfulness of the universe’s grand architect. Masonic ceremonies also incorporate tools and symbols associated with stonemasonry. Within the lodge, two stones, a rough ashlar and a ‘perfect’ ashlar, represent a Freemason’s journey from initiation to mastery.

Membership and Inclusivity

While traditionally male-dominated, Freemasonry has evolved to include female members, with dedicated female lodges in places like Driffield and Bridlington. As for joining the organization, prospective members need to be proposed and seconded by existing members. However, interested individuals can also express their intent to join via the Freemasons’ official website.

In conclusion, the Freemasons, while shrouded in mystery and misconceptions, are a fraternity rooted in ancient traditions, committed to charity, and bound by a code of ethics and camaraderie.

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