Freemasonry, Dan Brown, and the New New Age

Guestblogger Arthur Goldwag is the author of "Cults, Conspiracies, and Secret Societies: The Straight Scoop on Freemasons, The Illuminati, Skull and Bones, Black Helicopters, The New World Order, and many, many more" and other books.

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On September 15, 2009, THE LOST SYMBOL came off press. Fans of THE DA VINCI CODE, with more than 80 million copies in print perhaps the bestselling novel of all time, were thrilled--they had been waiting for Dan Brown to write another book for six years. Random House, B&N, and Amazon were delighted; they moved more than a million copies in twenty four hours and another million copies by the end of the week; two months later, it still sits high atop the bestseller lists.

The Masons breathed a sigh of relief, because, even if Brown had sensationalized their secret rites and made them look a little silly (drinking wine out of skulls and all that--which come to think of it, is a lot less demeaning than donning fezzes and driving miniature cars in parades, which members of the Masonic fraternity called the Ancient Arab Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, better known as the Shriners, do right out in public), he portrayed them as men of reason, and implied that their ranks are still as crowded with the powerful and the wealthy -- Cabinet secretaries, plutocrats, Senators, Museum directors -- as they were two centuries ago, when they could count Goethe, Mozart, George Washington, Lafayette and Paul Revere among their members.

I was guardedly hopeful myself. With all those Masonic symbols on its cover, I figured that CULTS, CONSPIRACIES AND SECRET SOCIETIES stood a small chance of being captured by THE LOST SYMBOL's commercial gravity, much as a tiny planetesimal can get pulled into a gas giant's orbit. But happiest of all was Lynne McTaggart, the real-life author of THE FIELD and THE INTENTION EXPERIMENT, whose books and research in the field of Noetic Science are specifically cited in THE LOST SYMBOL's pages.

No one has ever accused Dan Brown of being a literary stylist; he's too easy to parody. His narrators natter on like chatty tour guides, bludgeoning us with trivia and heavy-handed exposition. His hero Robert Langdon seems to suffer from a testosterone deficiency; his celibate bad guys, with their bulging muscles and self-mortified flesh, are creepily fetishized. But ANGELS AND DEMONS, THE DA VINCI CODE, and now THE LOST SYMBOL do more than merely lead their legions of readers on merry chases; they exhort them to reconsider their world view. Though the answers he provides may be trivial and sometimes historically inaccurate, the questions Brown asks us to consider are worth pondering. Does the church misrepresent Christianity? Is history filled with mysteries and intrigues that mainstream chronicles elide? Are science and religion converging?

Brown earnestly wants us to expand our view of human potential, to open ourselves up to a whole new paradigm--one that is more capacious and filled with possibilities than either secular scientism or the traditional Judeo-Christian world view. In a very broad sense, that was the Masons' philosophical program as well. Stripped of all its pageantry and mumbo jumbo, Freemasonry (which, despite its claims of ancient provenance, can't be dated back any further than the early 18th century) celebrates the rational, non-dogmatic, individualistic values of the Enlightenment. God-the-Architect is a Deist idea. The Masonic openness to Rosicrucian arcana, alchemy, and Kabbalah is an attribute of the same unfettered, non-judgmental curiosity that led to the scientific and technological breakthroughs of the early industrial era--and for that matter to the rise of the bourgeois merchant class and the overthrow of entrenched Aristocracy. Masons did play the outsized role in the French Revolution that their enemies accused them of; Adam Weishaupt's Bavarian Illuminati envisioned an age in which Kings and Catholicism would no longer hold sway. Augustin Barruel and John Robison's 1798 exposes of the Illuminati conspiracies sparked a transient panic in the United States that anticipated 1950s-style McCarthyism; a second wave of anti-Masonic paranoia swept the country in the late 1820s. It's ironic that the prospect of world revolution so frightened the post-colonial Americans, since they were revolutionaries themselves. Not only had they thrown off the shackles of king and church, they had thrived because they did so.  Wp-Content Uploads 2009 04 Eye-Pyramid-300X300

Benjamin Franklin -- a reluctant but eventually an ardent revolutionist -- is the very type of the American Freemason. Inventor, scientist, and entrepreneur, he was a mass of contradictions: a sententious moralizer and codifier of bourgeois virtues, he attended séances at the hedonistic Hellfire Club in England; homespun and self-educated, he was a familiar in the royal courts and academies of Europe. He was our Leonardo Da Vinci, except he couldn't paint or sculpt. And like most of our founding fathers, he had a healthy skepticism of democracy.

Just as we worry about what less advanced nations will do with nuclear technology today, the men of the Enlightenment worried about what the ignorant masses would do with the incredible powers -- philosophic, economic, political, technological and scientific -- that they were unlocking. Their fears were not misplaced... we are living with some of the consequences of their discoveries today. Much of our planet is poisoned; its climate is changing; we live under the shadow of weapons of mass destruction.

Esoteric Masonry acknowledges -- as do all the mystery religions and philosophies, going back to Egyptian Hermeticism and Pythagoreanism--that some things are best kept within a select circle. That doesn't mean the Masons were secret aristocrats or magi; only that they knew how dangerous it could be when complex ideas were trivialized, debased, and distorted by people who didn't understand them. Back in the eighteenth century, the boundaries between science and magic were still porous; chemists were still trying to turn lead into gold; physicians were practicing medicine without the benefit of germ theory; physicists were only just beginning to move away from Aristotle's world view towards one that we would now call Newtonian (Newton himself -- a devout, mystically-inclined Christian and a practicing alchemist -- lived into the 1720s).

The fact that the early Masons were as intrigued by ancient esoterica as they were doesn't mean that they were Gnostics or Zoroastrians or Rosicrucians, any more than their knowledge of Latin and Greek classics made them pagans. One legacy of the Enlightenment is our ability to unravel science and superstition, to draw distinctions between theology and natural science, and between ancient wisdom and ancient ignorance. Those boundaries are so clearly demarcated today that many people have come to believe that science and religion are mutually exclusive.

Dan Brown's THE LOST SYMBOL mixes them up again. In its telling, the Freemasons were the keepers of the embers that cutting edge Noetic scientists are fanning into flame--a philosophic technology that will bring us wonders like ESP and teleportation, and that one day might even conquer death. Noetic science takes some of the spookier discoveries of quantum physics--that particles can remain "entangled," even when they are separated by vast distances--and extends it to the "big, visible" world.

There really is an Institute of Noetic Sciences, in Petaluma, California (Obama's much-reviled ex-Green Jobs czar Van Jones is a member of its board; other famous names are Desmond Tutu, Dean Ornish, and Deepak Chopra). And as I noted, there really is a Lynne McTaggart. "All matter in the universe exists in a web of connection and constant influence," she writes, "Which often overrides many of the laws of the universe that we used to believe held ultimate sovereignty....The significance of these findings extends far beyond a validation of extrasensory power or parapsychology. They threaten to demolish the entire edifice of present-day science." McTaggart's Intention Experiment is a web-based project that recruits volunteers to beam thought energy at objects and people and measure the results. Click here for the protocols of some of the early experiments.

For all of her references to quantum physics and her nods to falsifiability and the scientific method, McTaggart mostly hearkens back to nineteenth century New Thought--Phineas Parkhurst Quimby's "mind cure" movement that inspired Christian Science, the Power of Positive Thinking, and the "Think and Grow Rich" philosophy of Napoleon Hill. In 1888, in a biographical sketch of his father that he published in the New England Magazine, Quimby's son George summarized the essential tenets of New Thought: "That 'mind' was spiritual matter and could be changed'; that we were made up of 'truth and error'; that 'disease was an error, or belief, and that the Truth was the cure.'"

Rhonda Byrne's bestselling THE SECRET is infused with New Thought and Noetic Science; one of its "stars" is James Arthur Ray, whose self-improvement empire is teetering on the brink in the wake of the sweat lodge disaster that took three lives in Sedona, Arizona last month.

The crown jewel of the experiments that the Noetic Scientist heroine of the THE LOST SYMBOL had secretly carried out was one in which she weighed a dying man immediately before and after his death, proving that his departed soul had physical mass. This same experiment was really carried out by a Dr. Duncan MacDougal in 1907 (he determined that it weighed 21 grams). MacDougal also killed a bunch of dogs and concluded, with equal scientific authority, that they didn't have souls. As it happens, I also believe that human beings have souls (dogs too), but I don't think they can be weighed and measured. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the soul is precisely that part of us that can't be dissected or quantified.

Like Brown and his Masons, I agree that we have much to learn from the ancients: from esoterica like Hermeticism, Gnosticism, and the Kabbalah, from canonical authors like Plato and Aristotle, and mainstreatm religious scriptures like THE BOOK OF THE DEAD, the Bible, and THE UPANISHADS. Shamans and herbalists know things that scientists are only now acknowledging; we are only just beginning to appreciate Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. But I somehow doubt that the materialized spirituality of Noetic Science is the bridge to the future that Brown makes it out to be; one can be open-minded without embracing pseudoscience.

Historically, the Masons have stood for the spirit of free inquiry and, setting aside their heartily reciprocated detestation of Roman Catholicism aside among some American Masons at various periods in American history -- particularly the era of the second Ku Klux Klan, in the teens and '20s -- religious tolerance. It's nice for a change to see them portrayed as idealistic good guys instead of sinister oligarchs presiding over a malign New World Order. But the Masons aren't New Agers. For all of Dan Brown's earnest talk of a new paradigm, I feel like he's urging us -- and them -- to take a giant step backwards.


  1. “Noetic Science”, like “Christian Science” or “Creation Science” or “Country Music”, is an oxymoron. (just kidding about that last one. Kinda.)

  2. I like your conclusion. Contemporary Freemasonry seems so vestigial – all the Masons I’ve met can’t compare, certainly, to Ben Franklin, but more to the point Freemasonry itself is like a lazy soldier during an extended peacetime. It’s devolved into something so utterly useless and outdated that I can’t imagine its value.

    As for Brown’s new paradigms, well, a student fresh off the Da Vinci Code once told me, “No, it could be right – you just have to believe that everyone in history has been lying to you.” That’s right – EVERYONE. New paradigms that build off established knowledge are useful and workable, but Brown’s (like most conspiracy theories) are hostile to real knowledge and assume that our ancestors were so incompetent, compared to our new Race of Geniuses, that everything they believed is wrong and that what little they had right they were too weak to pass on in any effective way. Dan Brown has all of Gnosticism’s unfounded, elitist arrogance.

  3. Sorry, but I don’t think Dan Brown talks earnestly about anything. Isn’t he just the exact oversimplification, distortion, and commercialization that these alleged secret societies were afraid of?

    I hope the readers of BB are skeptics enough to call sensationalism and pseudoscience where they see it.

  4. I drive past Beyond Words — the publisher of The Secret — on the way home to work each day.

    If they really had a handle on majestic workings of the universe you’d think they could do better for themselves than a suite in a dowdy office park, with a sign up front reading “BOOK SALE – UP to 80% OFF.”

  5. Also, The Secret is essentially christian propaganda bullshit – what it really does is make downtrodden folks complacent and thus less likely to organize for change. Really, why bother actually working with your community to change your fortunes, when you can just BELIEVE – right from your comfy couch.

    It also turns blame inwards on low-income or disadvantaged people. Things suck for you? Guess you didn’t believe enough.

  6. I really don’t get the whole “controversy” around Dan Browns books. They are fiction, are sold as fiction and never pretend to be other than fiction. Fiction. As in, he makes it up for the purpose of entertainment and everyone knows it.

    How is the overly serious response to his books any different than the christian whacko fringe getting up in arms about Harry Potter?

    1. I don’t get all THAT worked up. Of course I understand that his books are meant to entertain. But I comment on them because millions of people do read them and talk about their ideas and Brown does pretend that they are factual in most matters. The Da Vinci Code begins with this statement:

      “Fact: The Priory of Sion–a European secret society founded in 1099–is a real organization” (a highly debatable proposition) and then goes on to say that “all descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate.”

      THE LOST SYMBOL opens with a similar claim about the monuments and buildings in DC; it plugs the work of the real life Noetic Scientist McTaggart, and its last 50 pages read like an infomercial for Convergence and the New Age.

      I’m not saying, as Evangelical Harry Potter alarmists do, that Dan Brown is covertly promoting something that’s dangerous to readers’ souls, that his books should be kept out of the hands of children. But I am expressing concern that fake history and woo woo psuedoscience are being packaged for a Bible-sized audience, not all of whom are as critical-minded or well-informed as they might be.

      1. …not all of whom are as critical-minded or well-informed as they might be.

        You said a mouthful there.

        Another way to put it is that many people have the critical thinking skills of a tomato.

        1. “…many people have the critical thinking skills of a tomato”

          “[F]ake history and woo woo psuedoscience are being packaged for a Bible-sized audience, not all of whom are as critical-minded or well-informed as they might be.”

          I have only a scant grasp of gnosticism, and it’s been shaped, roughly (besides by guest BB posts from Goldwag and Horowitz), by skimming through Irenaeus’ anti-gnostic screed; so I can’t claim to have the most balanced of pictures. I would summarize my understanding of the gnostic worldview (and stow Freemasons under the same umbrella), that the key tenet is, to quote Mr. Goldwag, “that some things are best kept within a select circle”: it may be that only certain people are born pre-destined to manifest the divine, or that only by knowing the right stuff, can one accede to the lap of God.

          I cry bunkum. I’ll grant as much as that the only people within the select circle for whom a secret Mason handshake is important, should be those who feel it’s important. By the same token, it’s only people particularly interested in physical cosmology, who should pursue careers in astrophysics, and only those bent on bothering about God, who should get on with it. This is not unlike, I think, what MadFist writes in #31, about being “willing to accept the loan of a kayak”. However, there is the issue that, if only the Masons have the kayaks, and they’re only lending them to the people who know the secret handshake…

          I’m not entirely sure what my point here is… I guess I believe that people can be imprisoned by their own ignorance, and can bind those around them in the same shackles… I just get antsy when a broad minded conversation about secretive societies uses some language that sets us well-informed, critically-adept conversers apart from the less-gifted hoi polloi. “If they only had this piece of information I possess…”

          Of course, that’s markedly different from, “I have the secret piece of info, and you can suck an egg”. Or, “I have the secret info, and it’s yours for $10,000. Per month.” Maybe that’s my point: here-here, for open sourcing the secret info!

          Maybe there’s an entry-point for your post on Scientology, Arthur: my similarly scant grasp of that phenomenon includes skimming Wm. Burroughs’ grapples over the efficiency of its methods within the secrecy of its institution.

          Musing on… Freemasonry seemed to be an efficient method, a couple hundred years ago, for assembling groups of men with ideas to foment revolutions. Today, it’s, at least, a method (however efficient) for improving self-esteem and sense of community.

      2. It is the general tone of importance that seems to be given Browns books that confuses me, not your commentary on the phenomena. I can appreciate your attempt to help people keep it real, but I’m not sure that the people who are risk of being sucked into the recursive fictional fantasies spelled out in Browns books fit the demographic reached by a scholarly, yet readable tome such as yours.

        Maybe a fiction work about a ancient, shadowy group of sceptics determined to bring enlightenment to mankind, or at least stop it from being duped so often…..

        add some explosions you could probably get a movie deal out of it too.

        maybe not.

  7. Too bad Brown’s writing is so lackluster – with all that fascinating history to work with, there could have been a good book in there. Sorry, I suppose that’s not nice, but I really don’t understand the popularity of these poorly written novels, beyond the “controversy”. Would anyone have cared about DaVinci Code if it wasn’t so “heretical”?

    The silly what-if alt history/conspiracy stuff can be a lot of fun, but it really helps if you can write an actual plot and believable characters around it. I may be bitter, as well, that the intellectual hero, a character sadly missing in modern popular entertainment, seems to only appear in ridiculous unscientific dreck.

  8. @ DANALAN

    because they’re fictional stories “based on” actual events, and most people are too dumb or too lazy to bother figuring out what’s fact and fiction. most people are barely bright enough to know that hogwarts, tattooine, middle earth, and the starship enterprise aren’t real, so finding context in things that people have a vague memory of learning, further bastardizes whatever shred of knowledge that they had. It’s like a more plausible version of the ‘national treasure’ movies.

  9. I had so much fun reading the Illuminatus! trilogy and the Name of the Rose, and Foucault’s Pendulum when I was in college, these Dan Brown books seem like a real bummer.. It is very obvious sometimes that there are probably grand conspiracies out there, but it’s not the job of a pulp novelist to expose the shining truth.

    1. I’m having a really hard time picturing any genre that can accommodate both *Foucault’s Pendulum* and Dan Brown (and I know, Eco’s own website calls the book “the thinking man’s *Da Vinci Code*”). The gap in quality and intelligence is so great …

  10. I’m pretty sure that Dan Brown writes the screenplay first, then does a re-write as a novel. That’s what “DaVinci Code” read like (well, the part I read before I gave up on it). A weak story poorly told; that some think his writing is so wonderful is a sorry statement about literacy today.

  11. It’s a wonderful sentiment. Now, if only The Lost Symbol weren’t such a horrible mess of cliches and wooden prose.

    I like your enthusiasm though and am greatly enjoying Cults, Conspiracies and Secret Societies.

  12. but it’s not the job of a pulp novelist to expose the shining truth.

    Exactly right. The Dan Brown books are pulp adventures.

    ANY one of them could have had Doc Savage or The Shadow or Indiana Jones as the protagonist and been set against the backdrop of pre-WWII Europe or in the case of The Lost Symbol, in WWII America with Nazi spies seeking the MacGuffin.

    You don’t sit there in a roller coaster and analyze each twist and dip of the ride. You throw your arms up and yell real loud.

    A pulp adventure is the literary equivalent of a roller coaster ride.

    Accept it for what it is, and enjoy it for what it is.

  13. Imagine my surprise, after considerable investments of money and time, to find out the grand secret of the 32nd degree of Freemasonry is “Love.” Oh, not for a moment do I consider “love” is a bad thing, but in a world full of music, books and movies, it’s a secret I had learned many years before. I suppose 100 years ago when Freemasonry was at it’s peak and movies were a non-thing, the ritual (which is basically interactive theater) was the closest you could get to a real experience.

    1. Imagine my surprise, after considerable investments of money and time, to find out the grand secret of the 32nd degree of Freemasonry is “Love.”

      If you will indulge my curiosity…what would not have surprised you?

    2. As a mason of 15 years, I can report that the degree ceremonies can, if you let them have a much more powerful effect than that of a good movie. The drama, emotional and intellectual content of the degrees can, if you allow it, press your spiritual buttons in a way that has a long term and profound impact.

      1. As a Mason of 12 years, I can tell you that a ritual is a ritual is a ritual. If you have a religion, attended school or a even a sporting event, you’ve been through it; sometimes you’re into it, sometimes you’re not. After 12 years of watching guys not even know why they go through the motions, I decided I was better off without their lot. They perform the ritual, but don’t even wonder what it’s all about.

        They talk about the three pillars of Masonry being brotherly love, relief and truth, but without curiosity, you can’t expect to find truth. And if you find an interesting truth to share, what’s the point sharing it with disinterested parties? Even the so-called old-timers had only the shallowest knowledge of what it was all about.

        The Craft is dying of stale blood. The enlightened brothers should have been wise (remember Solomon?) and opened their doors to African Americans and women so many years ago when Masonry was still relevant. The infusion of fresh ideas and minds could have saved those worshipful ‘freethinkers.’ It’s too late now.

        Mason died in spirit a long time ago, and it’s still dying in body. In 20 more years, the last of the temples will be what so many of them already are, curious old rental halls.

        So maybe I’m a rat, but you see, it’s just that I don’t like riding on sinking ships…

  14. i’ve not read any of dan brown’s books but many people i’ve spoken to about them appear to think them factual. it’s the ‘based on true accounts’ snip that seems to do it for most people, it turns it into an either/or philosophy. (an upcoming movie on alien abductions spins the same tagline unfortunately).
    i’m starting to believe that edward bernays was right all along. humankind isn’t yet mature enough to make critical choices en-masse.

    changing the subject slightly, but keeping with the theme of cults, conspiracies and secret societies, i’d be interested to hear arthur goldwag’s take on the recent scientology setbacks.
    are you going to give us an article on this organization?
    always good to give the hornet’s nest a shaking methinks

  15. It used to annoy the shite out of me to read what non-Masons had written about Freemasonry. Kind of like it used to annoy my sister when her (ex) husband would talk about women as though he had any effing clue what he was talking about. Or like a straight man that simply knows all there is to know about being a lesbian.

    Now I’m little more amused to read about what we are or are not, how much power we have or do not have, and (my favorite) how old we are on average… Incidentally, I’m 39 and the oldest man in my Lodge of 50 men.

    I’m not sure how or why we’re so interesting to such a vast cross section of society, but dang guys… Get a (different) hobby. Try knitting. Knitting is good.

    That said, if you really just like posting what you hear on AM radio at 3:00 in the morning, well, I guess I can’t fault you that. In fact, I’d like to offer you a for-rills high-quality Master Mason to ask questions of! I’ll start us off by offering some basic ‘need-to-know’ information…

    Here’s what I have learned in my journey to the 32nd degree; hopefully it will clear lots of stuff up:

    Masons are very conservative, and very liberal. And many are moderate. Masons must be Christians. Or Buddhists. (That’s me) Or Jews. Or Rastafarian. Or Muslim. Or any other religion that believes in God. Or any non-religion, as long as they believe in the existence of some form of higher power.

    George Bush is NOT a Mason. Nor is President Obama, though I wouldn’t blackball the latter were he to petition for admission to my Lodge.

    Masons are very, very old, if they have lived for a long, long time. They are very young, however, if they have not lived for very long. In between, they are somewhere in between old and young. You can take wisdom like that to the bank.

    Masons are super rich politicians that wield unrealistic amounts of power. Masons are also school janitors and bus drivers. Many members of Congress and the Senate are Masons. At least as many more are not.

    Masons must be American or European. Or Japanese. Oh, or Asians of any kind. Or middle Eastern. Russian is still good. Africans are 100% welcome, and Aborigines of all Nations are welcomed with open arms. Sorry if I missed any… You’re also welcome to join.

    Masons must be white. Or black. Or any other color. Preferably not blue, as that generally means that they are dead. We’re less likely to accept you if you are dead. Doesn’t mean we *won’t*, just lessens the chances.

    Masons must be men. Unless you’re a woman, in which case you can join one of the Masonic womens’ organizations. Or you can join a Co-Masonry group that allows both boy parts and girl parts to wear aprons. They don’t come to our meetings, we don’t go to theirs. It works out pretty well.

    You CANNOT (rightfully) be a Mason if you do not have enough imagination to envision some form of spiritual entity, emanation, or energy that exists outside of our minds.

    You CANNOT be a Mason if someone else controls how you vote, speak or think. We’re pretty sticky on that one. Liberty is a big deal to us.

    Masons were involved in the Boston Tea Party, as were non-Masons. As well as the French Revolution. And the American Civil War. As the oldest and largest fraternity ever to have existed, it would be difficult to pick an instance in history where we were not involved. Kind of like finding a war that didn’t involve women in any way.

    Masons are for big business. And many of us own small businesses. And most hate big, invasive governments, but that’s kind of a ‘universal appeal’ kind of hatred. Generally we just do what we can to not get on the radar… We leave that to the folks that don’t know shite but what they heard at 2:36 in the morning on an AM station. I’m not judging, I’m just saying.

    Most of what you read about Freemasonry (as with most of what you read about UFOs, Sasquatch, and American Indian rain dancing) is pure shite. Even, in some cases, where it is written by Freemasons. Not all who write books are qualified to do so. Again, I’m not judging… The world needs ditch-diggers, too.

    Masons have many secrets. This is no secret. Some of us have more secrets than others. Other still have greater and bigger secrets than most. Some cannot be trusted to keep a gas card PIN, so they are not entrusted with anything. Many of these are put in charge of big, important projects like selling pancakes on Saturday mornings. Others still get cranky at this and try their hand at publishing ‘tell-all’ books. Please see above.

    Freemasons MUST have served in the military but only if they claimed to have served in the military. Otherwise, we don’t care.

    Freemasons pledge their undying allegiance to their country. We even have a formal spoken pledge that we must memorize. We call it the “Pledge of Allegiance” and we recite it every time we meet formally. Luckily most of us know it or have at least heard it before we join.

    Many Masons have children. Some have dogs, and others, cats. Some also have horses. I’ve even heard of some that have a cross-section of all of these groups.

    Freemasons have top-secret handshakes that you can find using any computer connected to the interwebs. We also have words that we say to one another that mean nothing to outsiders, but something to us, and that most of you could not care less about.

    Many of us like Boing Boing. At least I do.

    I hope that this has helped. I like to be up front and open about my non-secrets.

  16. If only the History Channel didn’t derive the bulk of its programming from Dan Brown. How am I supposed to catch up on my JFK and Hitler conspiracies when they have to keep churning out sensationalist dreck on the Templars, Jesus, and now the Masons?
    Oh well, I can always turn to Discover so I can watch stuff go fast or go boom.

  17. I have five more guest blog posts to do; perhaps one of them will be on Scientology. I’ll have to see what I can dig up.

  18. Oh, and spot on with the summation, Goldwag. I have to agree that it’s nice to see someone writing something in an intelligent manner rather than for the sake of the wave that happens to be passing…

    I feel strangely compelled to buy your book now… These are not the droids I’m looking for. HEY! Quit that!

  19. @madfist
    “You CANNOT (rightfully) be a Mason if you do not have enough imagination to envision some form of spiritual entity..”

    surely that should read ‘You CANNOT (rightfully) be a Mason if you HAVE enough imagination NOT to envision some form of spiritual entity’
    It doesn’t take a whole bunch of imagination to repeat what godbotherers have been spouting for thousands of years. it takes a lot more to envisage how things work in the absence of.
    interesting comment though, i’m all for dragging myths into the light.
    so if you’re not the evil empire trying to control the world, what exactly are freemasons for? apart from fomenting an ‘us and them’ schism and giving the job to the applicant who knows the secret handshake or silly walk.

    1. @Pixleshifter

      1) You have an excellent point, even if you made it in a seemingly passive/aggressive statement. Seemingly what you wrote could have just as easily read “I am smart; I do not believe in God, therefore people that believe in God are less smart and have less imagination.”

      What we do is far different from spouting scripture. Quite the opposite. We do not even discuss religion within the walls of the Lodge. God, yes. Religion, no. Many believe (as you may) that God was created by religion. Our view is that religion was created by man to help the masses understand God. What happened to it after that is a true tragedy, but it is what it is.

      Regardless, I would hope that you can agree with the idea that I, a Buddhist, can discuss and debate and help develop the concept of ‘God’ with a Christian, a Muslim, or a Hindu and still have room in my life to accept that you have no belief in God (and be okay with it) is a nice position to be in.

      What we do is tear the standing concepts apart. We pick at the inconsistencies in the ‘holy books’. We also give people that are repulsed by ‘religion’ a safe venue to explore what they believe may actually be their experience of God. You have no idea how many conversations I’ve had with men that have a concept of God, but are wholly turned off by ‘religion.’

      …And (sadly) a lot of us are Bible-thumping, knuckle draggers that would black-ball a man for not being a ‘Christian enough.’ I hope you were able to take from my post that we are nothing, if not diverse in our beliefs and practices. Your experience is 100% up to you, and the man that helps you find a lodge in which your brain fits.

      Now, back to your statement about imagination… When born, we have no ‘concept’ of God outside of those that take care of us. None. It’s not debatable. Water is wet, fire is hot, and when born our imagination is not developed to a point where we can conceive of anything that we cannot see. We simply do not have the experience from which to draw.

      In your view – one that I cannot debate, incidentally. YOUR reality is as valid as ANY reality – but in your reality, God was created by Man.

      My point was that you MUST have to have gotten at least as far in your mental development to be able to imagine that the concept of God may OR may not have validity. You must have reached a point in your development to have ACTIVELY DEBATED with yourself or others about that existence and have come to a conclusion.

      Step one = pre-God or spiritual/ethereal entity
      Step two = The possibility that God may or may not exist
      Step three = Whatever comes next for you

      You must simply have reached step 2 and decided in favor of ‘some form’ of what might be defined as ‘God’. We stipulate that you must also be 18, simply because that is our society’s imaginary ‘age of transformation’… Some may actually be ready at 12. Others never get there. You obviously have, and have decided that Freemasonry isn’t for you. It’s all good.

      2) I never said that we didn’t control the world. I will now report this incident to my subterranean Lizard Masters.

      That said ~ Sorry to cut this short… The fam demands breakfast. = )

      I am, however, fascinated by different beliefs (including your own) and would love to continue the discussion. Feel free to add questions ~ I’ll keep checking back from time to time.

      Peace ~

      1. One thing though…the Tibetan Buddhism I have studied for years is a non-theistic view of the world. How can you say you believe in “God”?

        “If you meet the Buddha in the road, kill him.”

  20. #22 – Good point! Considering that the secret of the 31st degree was the introduction to our purple alien monkey masters, I thought the 32nd degree’s ‘love’ was a bit of a let-down. Perhaps I should restate my preface as, ‘imagine my disappointment.’

    Ahem. But really, with all of the secrecy and speculation surrounding the Craft, I’m not sure what I expected, but I think I anticipated something more controversial or earth-shattering. I was young and naive.

  21. @MadFist
    my own passive/aggressive statement was in reaction to what i perceived as your own passive/aggressive statement regarding imagination. no offence intended, but if you throw me a spin ball expect me to bat it for six.

    it’s true that in order to come to some conclusion of accepting or rejecting the idea of a deity, we first have to hold the concept in our heads and weigh it up, i just take exception with the idea that ‘atheists have no imagination’. i’m sure, however, that isn’t the way you meant it.
    you also say that you can “discuss and debate and help develop the concept of ‘God’ with a Christian, a Muslim, or a Hindu” and to accept that some have no belief in God. do you also debate and develop the concept of god with atheists (which may entirely change your outlook) or is it just acceptance rather than discourse with atheism?
    i guess another way to put it is, if you became an atheist would you still be welcome as a mason?

    i did indeed glean from your comment that the masons are a diverse group of people, same as any. some good, some bad, some dumb, some smart.
    i’d still like to know what the purpose of the organisation is though. if, as you say, its purpose is to understand the meaning of god, then i can understand why atheists would be out of place, but fail to understand the secrecy, as if god renders the knowledge to the select.

    the way i see it, it’s the public image (or lack of) that gets people suspicious. any group that claims secrets and binds its members to those secrets, whilst having had so much to do with civilization’s great advancements is bound to draw frosty glances and whispered rumours.

    if the concept is to understand god, then surely those ideas would best serve you in a public light, spread your knowledge. i don’t understand the secrecy of it all, to me it just begets a ‘we know something you don’t’ appearance.
    it’s good to know that there isn’t really anything sinister about the organization, but if you keep secrets that’s going to continue to foster the idea that there is.

    peace back at you

  22. Breakfast is over… Homemade egg mcmuffins. = ) (I use hard salami instead of ‘Canadian’ bacon)

    Now, in regard to the ‘creating [the] us and them schism’ comment, I can only assume that by ‘schism’ you really mean ‘difference.’ It’s there whether someone points it out or not; I’m neither creating nor cementing anything. 1=1… if it’s there, it’s there. Period.

    I believe one thing and you believe another. I would point out that YOU are the one that has put ME in the box, not the other way around. It does not mean that we’re in opposition or at odds, it simply means that there is a difference in how we perceive the world.

    Do you not align yourself with ANYONE? really? Sounds pretty lonely. The fact that you have to believe in God before you can join the Order is no different from saying you have to be believe in animal rights to join SPCA, or that you have to believe in conservative values to appreciate the slime that spews from Limbaugh’s mouth. ‘If you don’t play an instrument, you don’t get to ride on the bus with the band.’ That said, why would you even remotely want to or have a problem with someone else doing it? It really has nothing to do with you.

    If I have an apple and you have no apple it does not mean that we have to fight about it. It simply means that you have no apple. 1=1; I do/you don’t. If I offer you part of my apple and you don’t accept it, it has nothing to do with me. If you decide that my merely having an apple is offensive to you, again, it has absolutely nothing to do with me; it’s 100% your perception to do with as you will.

    And no, I hire on basis of experience because experience is what pays my mortgage. But from the sounds of it, you would NOT hire someone for wearing a Masonic ring. No offense, but that’s pretty closed-minded, don’t you think?

    Off to kayak with the kid. (We also don’t allow people that do not have access to a kayak to go kayaking with us. We have a couple to loan, but you have to be willing to accept the loan of a kayak. If you don’t you can’t go. Sorry.)

  23. I read the words of Madfist and i want in…

    …of course I’ve always wanted in. The “G’s” as we always called them, my Grandparents, have all passed along with their crafts. If it were not for my childish reservations about church I’d have let my Deism lead me to a lodge already. I know and have always known that the Masons were involved with the ethics of my nation, such as they are or have been, and that involvement is a duty.

    It has been described as ‘practice democracy’. I could use some practice because the healthy criticism for democracy that my hero Ben Franklin expressed has largely won out for me. This is because i am not engaged, and I despise the inaction that is borne of deliberate misunderstanding in our society.

    Perhaps it is time to put my head under a roof with like minds. BoingBoing has taught me that there are others like myself out there to find. To find masons in BB’s works gave me a great feeling of goodwill for the magazine.

    Now if I only knew a single Mason in my hackish little isolated world to ask I’d have something better to do than drink. Many who know me assume I’m a Mason anyway because I am a Deist and a Geometer(machinist)and I am a booster for the lodges in all debates.

    1. @#33… Where are you? I can help.

      Here you go ~

      Give me a general area (as specific as you feel comfortable with) and I can offer you contact information to get you started.

      All others ~ Feel free to email questions that you may have. Not saying that I have all the answers, but I can probably at least started on the right path to your answer.

      Or buy Goldwag’s book. He’s probably got lots of good info in there. I wouldn’t actually know as I’ve never experienced his book, first hand… = )

    2. @ anonymous | #33 | 9:38 on Sat Nov. 7

      If you are serious about your interest in Free and Accepted Masonry you should do a quick Google search for “Grand Lodge of [insert your state/province/country here] F&AM ” Most Grand Lodge websites list the local lodges under their jurisdiction and provide contact information for the officers of those lodges. You will find that all you have to do is ask, and the doors of freemasonry will be opened unto you.

  24. “their heartily reciprocated detestation of Roman Catholicism aside..”

    This statement is way off the mark. “Anglo_Saxon” Freemasonry (the type dominant in English-speaking countries that demands a belief in a supreme being and doesn’t get involved in politics or religion) doesn’t “heartily detest” Catholicism at all. It admits men of many religions and doesn’t exclude Catholics at all. Indeed, four Grand Masters of English Freemasonry have been Catholics.


    Please correct the article!


    A mason from Wales

    1. I should have said “American Freemasonry’s historic detestation.” American Masonry has a mixed record on race, too.

      Those Grand Masters put themselves in an awkward position vis a vis the Church. In 1983, when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger, the current Pope renewed the Vatican ban on Masonic membership that has been in effect since 1738. The stated reasons for the ban are Masonry’s “religious indifferentism,” its “contempt” for ecclesiastical authority and the potential conflict with the sacrament of confession of Masonry’s required secrecy.

      I’ve read a lot about Masonry, pro and con, but I am not a Mason myself and I can’t claim to speak with unshakable authority. Masons–and anyone else–should feel free to correct me whenever circumstances warrant it.

      1. A quick PS. America in general has a poor historical record on Catholic tolerance until after the Civil War; America in general has a not-so-good record on race, either. In most cases, the Mason’s have been ahead of the curve when it comes to matters of tolerance and open-mindedness. My understanding is that French Grand Orient Freemasonry is more open to Atheism and Occultism than other Rites.

      2. OK. So what is your evidence that American Freemasonry has a “historic detestation” of Catholicism?

        Can you substantiate this with documentary evidence that shows American freemasons “detested” Catholicism?

        Aren’t you able to correct the article?

        1. I’ve asked Boing Boing to rephrase the offensive line as follows (I can’t go in and change it myself):

          “Historically, the Masons have stood for the spirit of free inquiry and, setting aside the heartily reciprocated detestation of Roman Catholicism among some American Masons at various periods in American history—particularly the era of the second Ku Klux Klan, in the teens and ‘20s—religious tolerance.”

          When I wrote the offensive line, I was thinking of a Catholic friend who told me that her parents had raised her to believe that Masons were her enemies (she was born in Maine in the early 1950s). As it happens she married a southerner whose father had been a high-ranking Mason.

          I apologize if I left the impression that Freemasonry does not welcome Catholics as members. It clearly and emphatically does. Unfortunately, many Conservative Catholics (including some rather high up in the Vatican) continue to regard the Masons with unalloyed hostility. Here’s an item from Philadelphia’s The Bulletin, dated May 13, 2009, about a recently-published book by John Scalza called Why Catholics Cannot Be Masons. “Mr. Salza became very involved in Freemasonry, rising through the ranks of its Scottish Rite, where he achieved its highest rank, the 32nd degree…..Through his familiarity with Masonic ritual, Mr. Salza said he became uncomfortable with what Freemasonry taught about God.
          ‘Everything is superficial until you get in the lodge and learn what the ritual is teaching,’ said Mr. Salza. ‘Freemasonry teaches that man can be saved without belief in Jesus Christ. When I realized that, I became a walking contradiction. I had to solve that contradiction by leaving.’”

          From the forthcoming The Masons vs. The Catholic Church by Roger Trudeau-LeBlanc, #10 in a series called Catholicism on Trial: “Masonic organizations are irreconcilably opposed to Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church…Has membership in Masonic organizations been forbidden by Popes? Yes!” Or this, from a far-right wing blog ( “Many Catholic Americans don’t understand the intrinsically anti-Catholic nature of Freemasonry. You have to understand that in America, Freemasonry has already accomplished most of it’s goals. The government is totally Freemason. The democratic road to socialism is well underway, and nothing less than a total collapse of Washington DC can change this. Therefore, there is no need for Freemasons to work so hard in the United States. Most of their work is already finished. The primary function of most American Freemasons is now mainly fundraising, to help spread Masonic ideas around the world. In Europe Freemasonry takes on a much more openly anti-Catholic role, as it continually tries to undermine the influence of the Catholic Church there.”

          As for Anti-Catholicism among Masons…. Many people have probably forgotten how deeply Anti-Catholic America was in its early years. Not just during Puritan times and the Colonial era, and the Knownothing explosion from the 1830s-1850s, but well into the Twentieth century, especially in parts of the American south. William Joseph Simmons, who revived the KKK in the mid-teens, was an enthusiastic Mason. According to William Whalen, the author of Christianity and Freemasonry (1958 and 1998), “Enthusiasm for the Klan was more widespread among average Masons than among Grand Masters and Masonic leaders, who saw the dangers of too close an association with such an unsavory group. But Klan recruiters concentrated on Masons, since they believed that they were already hostile to Catholics and blacks and not overly fond of Jews.” David M. Chalmers, in Hooded Americanism (Doubleday, 1965, 1981), remarked that one Klan leader, F.Y. Clark, selected his recruiters “from among members of other lodges, since they would be likely to be skilled in the world of ritualism and fraternal dynamics. He particularly favored Masons because of the size of their own order and because the chances were they would not be overly friendly toward Roman Catholics.” Lynn Dumenil, who wrote Freemasonry in American Culture (1984), remarked, also talking about the same era, that “In Masonic literature, anti-Catholic rhetoric was far more pervasive than it had been in the late nineteenth century. Masons continued to describe Catholicism as the enemy of Freemasonry, but by far the most persistent theme was Catholicism as an enemy of Democracy.”

          Since I posted the piece to make the point that the Masons are institutionally open-minded and tolerant, I hope we can rest it here. I apologize again for any offense I might have caused.

          1. Thanks, Arthur, appreciate the thought and research you put into the correction. I was hesitating to weight in becasue, not being an American, still less a historian, I didn’t have the werewithal to assert that American freemasonry was never anti-catholic, but felt that it shouldn’t have been, in an institutional sense, anyway.

          2. You’re welcome. If you scroll up, you’ll see that Boing Boing made the requested change.

            As I said earlier, I’m not a Mason and “I can’t claim to speak with unshakeable authority” on that or any other subject. Some posters were scandalized by that admission, but in my experience no author is immune to criticism or correction.

  25. you seem to be misreading me
    i don’t put anyone in a box (well except for that annoying guy once, but he deserved it. i’ll let him out eventually).
    if you have an apple and i have none that’s fine. if you however, tell me that you have something special and won’t tell me what it is that’s fine too. but expect mistrust and rumours from people you tell that to. it’s entirely correct that it’s other peoples attitudes and perceptions that may be misplaced, but being human that’s what will happen and you will be perceived with mistrust. show us the apple and it’s not an issue, hide the apple and tongues will wag and you can hardly cry ‘unfair’. that’s the way of the human unfortunately. i make no judgement whatsoever of your choices as i believe that i (with conscious effort) can see beyond all that, as we all can with a little aspiration to.

    you also seem to make a rather presumptuous statement when you call me closed-minded for not hiring a ring bearer. i never once insinuated that. i would hire that person based on their skills, i wouldn’t even recognize a masonic ring if one hit me in the face. (insert jibe here). but is it, or is it not true that a mason would hire another mason, all applicants being equal? maybe not. enlighten us. all we have to go on are the rumours and folks like you are the way to the truth surrounding the hype.

    your other statement regarding loneliness i find rather odd. that ourselves and everything we have ever known are built of atoms forged in the hearts of suns, billions of years ago and billions of miles away, that scarcely a drop of water has left our planet since its inception and that i am composed too of that, that every thought we think or philosophy we ponder comes down to neurons that we all have in common leaves me with a sense of oneness with the entire universe and loneliness is the last thing i feel. we are all brothers, and all equal, even the rocks and stones.
    one could argue that the need to invoke a conscious deity to commune with would belie true loneliness.

    i’m not having a go at you, you seem to be of high intelligence and have knowledge in your field and i’m glad to have had this discourse with you, boingboing seems to be a rare place where godwin’s law et al hold little sway
    enjoy your kayaking
    i shall swim alongside rather

  26. Sorry ~ Too much wind. No kayaking today…

    @PS#30 ~ Sorry if I sounded snippy in my last post – It’s a busy, busy day and I obviously didn’t proofread outside my own head. It was not intended as an affront to what you had said.

    With that in mind, excellent question. No, we do not discuss it with Atheists. At least not in Lodge. Truth be told, we spend most of our time trying to dodge Atheists… Someone told them that we hate them, and now they don’t like us. It wasn’t us, I swear. = )

    We discuss God with one another. The thinking being that you must have made the decision you need to make before joining the Craft. We are not here to change your mind about anything other than acceptance of other’s beliefs in God. And yes, if you refuse to accept another’s concept of God, you will get the boot.

    We don’t proselytize, nor do we recruit. And still, at over 3 million members, we’re the largest fraternity in the world. Some would tell you that we’re a philanthropic organization. We do donate over $2MM a day to different charities, so it does make a good story. Charity, however, is merely a piece of the puzzle. (This is not meant to be snarky, but) Funny how nobody ever questions our right to open free children’s hospitals around the world.

    In regard to secrets. I got nothin’. We have them in spades. If you want to learn the ones that we have then you’re welcome to join and prove yourself to be of a nature that you can assimilate them into your own life.

    We don’t pass on our secrets when you get to a certain level, numerically. (Sorry @28…) Anyone that can listen to a lecture, watch a play and pass a test can climb to the heights of the 32nd degree. (or the corresponding degree from the Y:.R:.) Secrets are passed to those that prove themselves ready to learn them. Degrees are merely a way of preparing a man for what he may or may not eventually learn.

    We don’t pass them on to non-Masons because that are Masonic secrets. I trust you are just as taken aback by the fact that Coke and KFC both withhold information from you. When’s the last time you asked someone for their SSN, or asked to stroll around in a bank vault and just look at the money? The truth is, in the wrong hands the information could be used inappropriately. When one proves that they are trustworthy we offer it to them.

    Does that help? I hope so. Keep em coming.

  27. Wait… You wrote and published a book entitled “…The Straight Scoop on Freemasons…” and you’re not one? Isn’t that a little cheaty?

    Shouldn’t it have been titled something more along the lines of “…The Straight Scoop on Freemasons and Every Other Secret Society To Which I do not Belong as I Perceive it Through my Limited Experience and What I’ve Read From Other Authors That May or May Not Have Had More Experience …”?

    Oh well, to each his or her own… Now, if you’ll excuse me I’m gonna go write a book revolving around a book I read about gun repair. I don’t actually own a gun, but I’ve seen them on t.v., and I hardly see how that matters anyway.

  28. to be fair, a ‘straight scoop on freemasonry’ shouldn’t be written by a freemason as it would be perceived as biased from the start, regardless of whether or not it was.
    it shouldn’t be written by an ex-freemason either, disgruntlement (is that a word?) would also lend itself to bias. i’ve not read the book, but it seems to me that it should be written by someone neutral. would you trust a book on scientology written by a scientologist? there’d be no mention of xenu at all.
    by the same token, don’t get a priest to write a book on christianity, as all he’ll give you is the king james edits. no gospel of thomas, mary, judas nor any of the apocryphals, deemed unfit or discovered too late.

    not a great analogy regarding coke and kfc keeping secrets though, as those are trade secrets and related to profit and loss, kinda like the scamtologists i guess (if you learn it we lose money. cough up first).

    i’m not comparing you (dog forbid) and good to hear that your secrets aren’t profit or heirarchy related, but i still fail to see how in the wrong hands information can be used against you, unless it’s false or misleading information.

    also, great to see you debating with an atheist. we’re not all bad. this thread has certainly opened my eyes to some of the myths and misconceptions regarding freemasonry. if i had a belief in a deity i might well join up. i’m always up for a philosophical discussion with spirited people.

  29. LOL!! Anytime… I posted an email addy above if you’d care to continue. And I have to half-agree with the sentiment on experience not equating 100% to authority. Half. I went to Amazon (US) to buy his book and read some of the reviews. I’ll wait for the movie…

    And Satya Sai Baba ~ For or against?

    Are you on the “Bizarre possible kiddy-porn connection” side or the “Sweet Jeebus, this man has built more roads and schools in the past decade than the Indian government” side?

    I have no dog in that fight, I just like to hear different people’s views on him as we used to sell his products in our store.

    1. I went to Amazon (US) to buy his book and read some of the reviews. I’ll wait for the movie..

      Actually, you went to Amazon today and wrote a negative review for a book that you haven’t even read.


  30. Interesting discussion. I have to thank MadFist for his insights, as well as Arthur for broaching this topic.

    I’ve had an intermittent curiosity about Freemasonry for decades, largely because my dad was a Mason and yet he never spoke about it. There was a Masonic Bible knocking about the house, distinguished by its appendices, full of Egyptian art and chronicles of Egyptian history, as I recall. It was fascinating to look at but I couldn’t make much sense of it.

    On a recent trip to DC, a series of circumstances that began with Dan Brown’s latest led to my discovery of the House Of The Temple. I remembered that my father had flown to DC in the late 1960s to be initiated as a 33rd Degree Mason. I felt that I should visit this place, if only to see it from the outside. It proved to be open to the public, with guided tours available, which I took.

    It’s an intriguing building. Weird things seem to happen as soon as you enter. People appear and disappear abruptly. Much of what the Masonic staff says seems to carry a subtext. There are ladies in the office & gift shop, presumably members of one of the sister organizations. You can buy Masonic baseball caps & playing cards & other typical tourist souvenirs, as well as any number of books. I kept knocking stuff off the gift shop shelves. I’m not normally a clumsy person; it was almost as if something was interfering slightly with my hand-eye coordination while I was there.

    In any event the place is worth a visit if you’re in the neighborhood and are at all curious about the organization. The structure is impressive. The architect was not a Mason, as one might expect, though he worked with several Masonic consultants in the design.

  31. Thank you, Arthur, for the post.

    I also very much enjoyed reading all of the comments.

    It’s funny how actual lodge and masonic life is so much gentler, simpler and more sublime than any of the opinions or controversies that one sees on the net.

    Regards to all.

    23 years in the craft, Twice Past Master, GL of NY State

  32. Madfist: You’re a riot. I love everything you said. As a MM in an F&AM Lodge (California) I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It did have some crossed wires such as the York Rite’s “blood skull” and various other mishaps but, all in all, it was good reading. I love how he (D. Brown) piques the interest of the reader in regards to the history lessons. The greatest treasure of that book was the “secret” history of the Temple of Liberty. Still everyone loves a good Apocrypha. And the greatest secret of Masonry is that there is no secret other than that of personal satisfaction in what we create in our communities.
    So Mote It Be.

  33. No person who has not belonged to the Craft could ever possibly write an accurate, well informed book on Freemasonry. The only person even remotely qualified is a Freemason. And if you think he’s being biased, join a lodge, go through the degrees and decide for yourself. Anybody who even mentions “Freemasons” and “Conspiracy” in the same topic IS biased and looking to either feed their own misguided delusions of the Order or do harm to the Craft. We are not an elite group that only allows prevelidged persons to join. We are public and allow all those who believe in a higher power (even Bhuddists) to be members. It’s simply a Mystery School that teaches in the allegory of Temple Building. If by serving the evil Old Dominion by aiding the poor, the weak, the indigent, then by God, my road to Hell has been paved with good intentions. But remember this, if you indict Freemasonry, you indict the very Foundation of the US which was not established as a Christian Nation but on Masonic Values specifically. This is obvious to Freemasons when we hear various founding documents e.g Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, etc.

    1. No person who has not belonged to the Craft could ever possibly write an accurate, well informed book on Freemasonry.

      I have nothing against Masons, but would you apply that bizarre statement to Communists, Nazis, ancient Romans, indigenous Amazonians or any other group? Should we just burn all the history and anthropology books, shut down National Geographic and admit that Masons are gifted by God with a mysterious and singular quality of unknowability? Because I find that pretty weird.

      More to the point, why is the hair on the back of your neck standing up when Arthur has written a generally positive post on Freemasonry? Is picking fights with people who are on your side one of your secret rituals, or are you normally content with accusing anyone who talks about Masons of being profoundly un-American?

      1. Apples and Oranges. All those you mentioned were well documented and historic. While Freemasonry was well documented, it’s ritual was not. Freemasonry is a school of thought revealed only to its’ intiates in a manner that educates. Until you’ve experienced it, you’re only speculating…even if you know all it’s “secrets,” you still won’t get it. And if you’re books title infers biased (i.e. The Straight Scoop on Masonry), then it most assuredly is. Look, I love a good juicy speculative thought that has been allowed to run it’s course. Loads of fun but, on this topic, I know better. That doesn’t mean I won’t read it and ultimately that’s all he cares about.

        1. I make no claim to reveal Freemasonry’s secrets. I’ll go a step further and say that there is probably nothing about Masonry in my book that a Mason of good standing wouldn’t know.

          What my book’s subtitle (written by its publisher) is meant to imply is that my approach to cults, secret societies, and grand conspiracies (hundreds of them–only a small part of the book is specifically about the Masons) is balanced and non-sensationalistic. A lot of writers, for example, have claimed that the Masons are a part of a world-wide conspiracy–in fact that they are a gentile “front” for a Jewish conspiracy to control the money supply (this is basically what the Protocols of the Elders of Zion says). Others imply that they are deeply involved in Occultism. Some writers on conspiracy–Jim Marrs, for example–are conspiracists themselves; their books purport to trace the connections between the Trilateral Commission and the Vatican, the ancient pyramids, the face on Mars, and the Freemasons who pull the strings in the White House. Mine does not.

          I have been invited to give a lecture at the Masonic Hall on 23rd Street in Manhattan early next year. I’m not sure what I will talk about yet, but one thing I do know is I’m not going to presume to teach them about their own secrets!

    2. Hello irsean!! Thought I might find you here. I like what you wrote here and I agree that a person has to make up their own mind. “2B1ASK1”–SD #668

  34. @irsean
    read my comment above regarding bias
    regardless of his good or bad deeds, i take exception to people such as sai baba who claim miraculous powers and immaculate conception to fool others

  35. I’ve known Masons who were rabidly anti-Catholic. I’ve also known Masons who weren’t.

    I’ve done enough reading to believe that, historically, there was some overlap between Masonry & anti-Papism, particularly in the American Midwest. I also believe that most anti-Catholic Masons lived in a state of cognitive dissonance, from what I know of the Craft as an outsider. But it seems silly to deny that the overlap didn’t exist.

  36. I find it interesting that the Temple Of The House gift shop sells books about Masonry written by non-Masons.

  37. Those masonic doors will not open to a woman ordinarily. One exception was Annie Besant back in 1890’s London, England. Otherwise, it’s a man’s world.

    1. Barbara in BC – only partially true. Regular freemasonry, it’s true does not admit women. I can’t speak for Canada/USA but here in the UK there are two grand lodges for women that exclude men. While not formally recognised by the United Grand Lodge of England, that organisation does acknowledge that their working is “regular” in other respects.

  38. Fringe societies and cult groups love attention, even the negative kind because it (re)energizes their organizations. Attention brings in money, followers, etc. If one really wants to bring about what so many of these groups merely yak about, go into the fields that have actually brought about benefits to humanity and not those that merely talk about what everyone else does/does not or should/should not do.

  39. @#62
    The Freemasons aren’t a cult or a fringe group.

    Freemasons donate over one million dollars per day to global charities. Charitable donations and charitable community efforts are the main activity of Freemasons.

    1. @Art:

      True, we’re not a cult or “fringe group”, but I’d dispute your claim that:

      “Charitable donations and charitable community efforts are the main activity of Freemasons.”

      Interior (i.e. moral, psychological) growth is the main activity of Freemasons. If it’s not then they’re not doing it properly. The charitable activities are an *outcome* of that central activity: they are not the primary function of freemasonry IMHO.

  40. Having read most of Brown’s work, I am convinced that he is playing a game.

    When he makes historical, etymological, religious, or architectural details pivotal to his books he emphatically gets them wrong. He puts stairs in buildings where there are ramps, he has computer scientists fixing cryogenically cooled crypto hardware with soldering irons, he defines pantheism as “believing in a pantheon”, and he does this sort of stuff again and again and again. His books are such fountainheads of subtle misinformation that it simply has to be purposeful.

    I bet he laughs his head off every time someone gushes over how “accurate” his books are. I actually enjoy reading his work just for this reason, I find it quite amusing.

  41. But ANGELS AND DEMONS, THE DA VINCI CODE, and now THE LOST SYMBOL do more than merely lead their legions of readers on merry chases; they exhort them to reconsider their world view. Though the answers he provides may be trivial and sometimes historically inaccurate, the questions Brown asks us to consider are worth pondering. Does the church misrepresent Christianity? Is history filled with mysteries and intrigues that mainstream chronicles elide? Are science and religion converging?

    Science and religion are not perceptibly converging. Neither are science and New Age/Noetic thought. And The Secret is a thoroughly bad book.

    I think the most pertinent question would be “Why is the Web graced with so many long, detailed lists of of the errors and misapprehensions in Dan Brown’s novels, criticizing them from so many different viewpoints?”

    Or, as TV Tropes puts it:

    “But what happens when a creator has been making noticeable claims — or simply strongly implying — that their work is highly researched and as correct as they can make it, only for you to quickly discover it to be a big pile of pants? When that happens, you’ve been Dan Browned.”

    Here are a few of those sites:

    High points and short summaries: Top 10 Errors of the Da Vinci Code.

    The Truth about Da Author Dan Brown — How does his research stack up?

    UK Telegraph: The Lost Symbol and The Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown: 50 factual errors.

    Midsize examinations:

    Biblical Archaeology Review: The Da Vinci Code.

    Wikipedia: Inaccuracies in The Da Vinci Code

    Opus Dei: The Da Vinci Code, the Catholic Church and Opus Dei: A response to The Da Vinci Code from the Prelature of Opus Dei in the United States. A list of factual errors about Opus Dei.

    The 600-pound gorillas:

    History Versus the Da Vinci Code. A substantial website from an atheistic and historical point of view. The chapter-by-chapter analyses are finished, but the topic index is still under construction.

    Carl E. Olson and Sandra Miesel, Ignatius Press: The Da Vinci Hoax: Exposing the Errors in The Da Vinci Code. Exhaustive, book-length dissection. Very serious. Very Catholic. Superfluous to almost anyone’s needs.

    Specifically about Angels and Demons:

    No loss for words: Dan Brown is a fraud: A list of errors in Angels and Demons Angels and Demons: Factual Inaccuracies.

    Wikibooks: Angels and Demons/Divergence from Reality.

    And then there are the questions Dan Brown should have asked:

    “Isn’t the appropriate conclusion to draw from Holy Blood, Holy Grail that some people in 20th C. France may actually believe all that stuff about the Merovingians, Rennes-le-Chateau, Prieuré de Sion, Mary Magdalene, and the Knights Templar?”

    “Hasn’t it been established that the whole business about Rennes-le-Chateau and Bérenger Saunière was cooked up by Merovingian pretender Pierre Plantard, and by Gérard de Sède, a Surrealist with a taste for alternate history?”

    “Given that everyone of European descent is descended from Charlemagne, and that the Merovingian line precedes Charlemagne, and that the supposed offspring of Christ and Mary Magdalene go back further still, wouldn’t every person of European ancestry be descended from Christ and Mary Magdalene? And if so, then what’s the big deal?”


    “What happens when you use anagrams to encrypt messages?”

    There’s a sense in which it’s true that history is “filled with mysteries and intrigues that mainstream chronicles elide.” There will always be intriguing speculations which arise from, but can neither be confirmed nor denied by, our necessarily incomplete historical record. That’s why we call such things speculations, not history.

    The kind of “New Thought/Noetic Science” that Lynne McTaggart and Rhonda Byrne preach, and James Arthur Ray sells, plays as fast and loose with the physical sciences as Dan Brown’s conspiracy-theory sources play with history. In the past, I was willing to excuse it, a bit uneasily, as dopey but harmless speculation. I won’t call it harmless any more.

  42. I don’t regret having been a Mason, as it was a part of my path. From it I found brotherly love.

    And when my mind was troubled, I then turned to Buddhism. For a long while it was also a part of my path. From it I found relief.

    But I needed something neither Hiram nor Buddha could provide to me. (Though Buddha certainly did show me the tools I’d need) For that, I turned to Joseph Campbell, Bertrand Russell and Charles Darwin. It was from them that I found the truth.

  43. Concerning atheism and secrets…

    First off, “no one man speaks for Freemasonry.”

    My personal opinion is that the fraternity is VERY open to differing views on the nature of “God.” God could be a simple mathematical variable/formula or even an all-mighty deity. The intent is to find men that believe in a power, existence, experience..SOMETHING that is higher than the ego and physical self. The details of an individuals belief in a Supreme Being practically doesn’t matter so long as it is genuine! A belief in a higher being displays an individuals potential to work for something big and to make “A good man better.” We identify our common belief in a higher SOMETHING as the Supreme Being. Call it God if you want to.

    If a man denies a belief in a higher being, whatever that being is, then it becomes difficult to entrust that person with something larger than their self. As a fraternity, men are hard at work to improve not only their selves but the men around them. In this way, fraternity has a two-fold nature, to develop the individual and to develop loving bonds among individuals. The declaration of a belief in a Supreme Being further affirms the potential for an individual to work towards “making good men better.”

    And for secrets…

    Freemasons have historically been despised by totalitarian governments that seek to prevent dissent. A typical mason is an advocate for civil liberty making them natural enemies of such people. This has helped create a culture of secrecy and measures to prevent the doing of harm. Many masons would argue (some would of course disagree) that most of the secrets of Freemasonry are not in the rituals or handshakes or spoken words, but in the personal experiences of people and in the trust that is held among brothers.

    This isn’t to deny that mistakes have been made by some masons that have tarnished the reputation of the fraternity. Some masons and lodges are very strict with their secrecy while others are very open and seek to clarify misunderstandings about Freemasonry. What is important is that a man can feel safe and private in his endeavors. Civil liberty is not an ideal that has always been implemented such as it is today in western society!

  44. I think we’re all missing the big questions:

    1. Is Obama a mason?
    2. Was he present when Neil Armstrong faked the moon landing in the basement of the lodge on Olympus Mons?

  45. I found the Noetic Science stuff — the whole idea about the power of group thought — pretty interesting, and I like how you linked to all kinds of sites in your article. (I had no idea Van Jones practices, if that’s the right word, noetic science though!) I was checking out McTaggart’s web site and you can

    @Arthur #74

    You mentioned the building on 23rd st. in NYC.
    Apparently, you have been invited to the Grand Lodge of New York State!

    If you never visited it before, you’re in for quite a treat- The architecture and history is remarkable.

    Good Luck with your lecture and let us know the date.

  46. Hello, Monnowman,

    I was replying to the post at #61.

    My reply referred to the actual activities that are evident to the world by Freemasons(to bring about benefit to mankind, example: charity.)that #61 was not aware of when he called us a “cult or fringe group.”

    I was not referring to the interior growth of the mason and craft in general.

  47. I don’t buy it. Practical magic is already quite advanced. Look at MKULTRA’s successor MONARCH. Ever been to Denver International Airport? I’ve heard some people get headaches, light-headed or nauseous when they walk in; especially in the underground shafts and tunnels. Does anyone know why the Freemsaon architects built reportedly 88.5 square miles of underground tunnels and facilities? Or why two of the largest concrete shafts have extensive sprinkler systems installed in them? Or why some of the exterior fencing is lined with razor wire angled in? How about fuel pumps that can pump 1000 gallons of jet fuel per minute? Look at some pictures of the original murals and other art throughout the airport. What do the symbols mean?

    All of the Masons I know and have met are kind and respectable people. I don’t believe they have malevolent intentions. But they don’t understand the true meaning of the symbols or rituals they are performing. All the mystery religions’ (not just maasons) symbols and rituals are very similar not only in shape and practice but in that they carry multiple meanings. Sure the three pillars of masonry are love, relief and truth but at the higher levels (I understand there are at least 14 more than 33) the meanings become much darker. Look at Aleister Crowley. All mystery religions are the same in that they offer “hidden knowledge”. It seems the same models are followed in many modern regligions also: secret rituals, symbols and handshakes with multiple meanings. Call me old fashioned but it seems to me that evil is still done under the cover of darkness.

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