That's not a surprising question. Even though Freemasons are members of the largest and oldest fraternity in the world, MASONS or FREEMASONRY, and even though almost everyone has a father or grandfather or uncle who was a Mason, many people aren't quite certain just who Masons are or what freemasonry is about.
The answer is simple. Freemasons are members of a fraternity known as Freemasonry or Masonry. A fraternity is a group of men (just as a sorority is a group of women) who join together because:
Freemasonry explained - what is it?
No one knows just how old freemasonry is because the actual origins have been lost in time. Probably, it arose from the guilds of stone masons who built the castles and cathedrals of the Middle Ages. Possibly, they were influenced by the Knights Templar, a group of Christian warrior monks formed in 1118 to help protect pilgrims making trips to the
In 1717, Freemasonry members created a formal organization in
Who are the masons?
Freemasons are a unique institution that has been a major part of community life in
The fraternity of masons are an organization of men bound together with a philosophy of moral standards, mutual understanding and brotherhood in which all men are on a level and equal.
What are the masons?
Masons are men who have decided they like to feel good about themselves and others. They care about the future as well as the past, and do what they can, both alone and with others, to make the future good for everyone.
Many men over many generations have answered the question, "What are the Masons?" One of the most eloquent was written by the Reverend Joseph Fort Newton, an internationally honored minister of the first half of the 20th Century and Grand Chaplain, Grand Lodge of Iowa, 1911-1913.
Is freemasonry a religion?
Although Freemasonry is not a religion, its emphasis on the Fatherhood of God ensures that the Brotherhood of Man follows naturally. This coupled with the obligation to abide by the Golden Rule, particularly with a fellow Mason, makes for one of the strongest bonds of society. When you meet other Masons, the odds are very high indeed, that they will treat you as you would like to be treated.
The goal of this site is to serve as a forum for communication with the membership of the Michigan Masons in the Grand Lodge of Michigan, as well as an information resource for masons and non masons alike in
When are men considered masons?
Freemasons and virtue:
When they can look out over the rivers, the hills, and the far horizon with a profound sense of their own littleness in the vast scheme of things, and yet have faith, hope, and courage -- which is the root of every virtue.
Masons and nobility:
When they know that down in their heart every man is as noble, as vile, as divine, as diabolic, and as lonely as himself, and seeks to know, to forgive, and to love their fellowman.
Freemasons and sympathy:
When they know how to sympathize with men in their sorrows, yea, even in their sins -- knowing that each man fights a hard fight against many odds.
When they have learned how to make friends and to keep them, and above all how to keep friends with themselves.
Masons and life:
When they love flowers, can hunt birds without a gun, and feels the thrill of an old forgotten joy when he hears the laugh of a little child.
When they can be happy and high-minded amid the meaner drudgeries of life.
Masons and rememberence:
When star-crowned trees and the glint of sunlight on flowing waters subdue themselves like the thought of one much loved and long dead.
Freemasons and aiding a distressed voice:
When no voice of distress reaches their ears in vain, and no hand seeks their aid without response.
When they find good in every faith that helps any man to lay hold of divine things and sees majestic meanings in life, whatever the name of that faith may be.
Masons and fellow man:
When they can look into a wayside puddle and see something beyond mud, and into the face of the most forlorn fellow mortal and see something beyond sin.
When they know how to pray, how to love, how to hope.
Masons and their God:
When they have kept faith with themselves, with their fellowman, and with their God; in their hand a sword for evil, in their heart a bit of a song -- glad to live, but not afraid to die! - Masons.
Mason and Secrets:
Such men have found the only real secret of Masonry, and the one which it is trying to give to all the world. These are the Masons.
In a time when travel was by horseback and sailing ship, Masonry spread with amazing speed. By 1731, when Benjamin Franklin joined the fraternity, there were already several lodges in the Colonies, and Freemasonry spread rapidly as
What is a lodge?
The word "lodge" means both a group of Freemasonry members meeting in some place and the room or building in which they meet. Freemasonry or Masonic buildings are also sometimes called "temples" because much of the symbolism Freemasonry uses to teach its lessons comes from the building of King Solomon's
If you've ever watched C-
Every lodge has an altar holding a "Volume of the Sacred Law." In the
So is freemasonry education?
Yes. In a very real sense, education is at the center of Freemasonry. We have stressed its importance for a very long time. Back in the Middle Ages, schools were held in the lodges of stonemasons. You have to know a lot to build a cathedral -- geometry, and structural engineering, and mathematics, just for a start. And that education was not very widely available. All the formal schools and colleges trained people for careers in the church, or in law or medicine. And you had to be a member of the social upper classes to go to those schools. Stonemasons did not come from the aristocracy. And so the lodges had to teach the necessary skills and information. Freemasonry dedication to education started there.
It has continued. Freemasons started some of the first public schools in both
And Freemasonry supports continuing education and intellectual growth for its members, insisting that learning more about many things is important for anyone who wants to keep mentally alert and young.
Freemasonry teaches some important principles. There's nothing very surprising in the list. Freemasonry teaches that:
Since God is the Creator, all men and women are the children of God. Because of that, all men and women are brothers and sisters, entitled to dignity, respect for their opinions, and consideration of their feelings.
Each person must take responsibility for his/her own life and actions. Neither wealth nor poverty, education nor ignorance, health nor sickness excuses any person from doing the best he or she can do or being the best person possible under the circumstances.
No one has the right to tell another person what he or she must think or believe. Each man and woman has an absolute right to intellectual, spiritual, economic, and political freedom. This is a right given by God, not by man. All tyranny, in every form, is illegitimate.
Each person must learn and practice self-control. Each person must make sure his spiritual nature triumphs over his animal nature. Another way to say the same thing is that even when we are tempted to anger, we must not be violent. Even when we are tempted to selfishness, we must be charitable. Even when we want to "write someone off," we must remember that he or she is a human and entitled to our respect. Even when we want to give up, we must go on. Even when we are hated, we must return love, or, at a minimum, we must not hate back. It isn't easy!
Faith must be in the centre of our lives. We find that faith in our houses of worship, not in Freemasonry, but Freemasonry constantly teaches that a person's faith, whatever it may be, is central to a good life.
Each person has a responsibly to be a good citizen, obeying the law. That doesn't mean we can't try to change things, but change must take place in legal ways.
It is important to work to make this world better for all who live in it. Freemasonry teaches the importance of doing good, not because it assures a person's entrance into heaven -- that's a question for a religion, not a fraternity -- but because we have a duty to all other men and women to make their lives as fulfilling as they can be.
Honour and integrity are essential to life. Life without honour and integrity is without meaning.
What are the requirements to join the masons?
The person who wants to join Freemasonry must be a man (it's a fraternity), sound in body and mind, who believes in God, is at least the minimum age required by Masonry in his state, and has a good reputation. (Incidentally, the "sound in body" requirement -- which comes from the stonemasons of the Middle Ages -- doesn't mean that a physically challenged man cannot be a Mason; many are).
Those are the only "formal" requirements. But there are others, not so formal. He should believe in helping others. He should believe there is more to life than pleasure and money. He should be willing to respect the opinions of others. And he should want to grow and develop as a human being.
How does a man become a freemason?
Some men are surprised that no one has ever asked them to become a Mason. They may even feel that the Masons in their town don't think they are "good enough" to join. But it doesn't work that way. For hundreds of years, Masons have been forbidden to ask others to join the fraternity. We can talk to friends about Freemasonry. We can tell them about what Freemasonry does. We can tell them why we enjoy it. But we can't ask, much less pressure, anyone to join.
There's a good reason for that. It isn't that we're trying to be exclusive. But becoming a Mason is a very serious thing. Joining Freemasonry is making a permanent life commitment to live in certain ways. We've listed most of them above -- to live with honour and integrity, to be willing to share with and care about others, to trust each other, and to place ultimate trust in God. No one should be "talked into" making such a decision.
So, when a man decides he wants to be a Freemasonry Mason, he asks a Mason for a petition or application. He fills it out and gives it to the Mason, and that Mason takes it to the local lodge. The Master of the lodge will appoint a committee to visit with the man and his family, find out a little about him and why he wants to become a member of the Masons, tell him and his family about Freemasonry, and answer their questions. The committee reports to the lodge, and the lodge votes on the petition. If the vote is affirmative -- and it usually is -- the lodge will contact the man to set the date for the Entered Apprentice Degree. When the person has completed all three degrees, he is a Master Mason and a full member of the Freemasonry fraternity.
The original Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was a magical fraternity founded in London in 1888 by Dr. William Wynn Westcott and Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers, which ceased to exist under that name in 1903 but which continued under at least two spin-off organizations, the Stella Matutina and the Alpha et Omega, as well as a renamed faction headed by Arthur Edward Waite that underwent further splits. According to Liber LXI, the A.'.A.'. system of Aleister Crowley and George Cecil Jones was also a reformed perpetuation of the Golden Dawn order.
One of the conditions of initiation in the original "Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn" was that inductees were obligated to keep the actual name of the group secret. Advertisements called the group "Hermetic students of the G.D." While "Golden Dawn" is often used to describe the entire organization and magical system of the participants, it was properly only the name of the Outer Order, in which aspirants were initiated through a series of degrees using Freemasonic techniques amplified through Hermetic and occult symbolism and doctrines. Actual magical practices were reserved for the adepts of the Inner Order, which employed predominantly Rosicrucian symbolism, and was called Rosae Rubeae et Aureae Crucis.'
Influences on Golden Dawn concepts and work include freemasonry, theosophy, Eliphas Levi, Papus and medieval grimoire magic. The synthesis of these influences into a system of practical ritual magic was largely through the work of Mathers, who at times was teaching things he had discovered only days or hours before.
The "Golden Dawn," as it is commonly referred to, was probably the single greatest influence on twentieth-century western occultism. While it existed, it was the focal point of the (re-)development of magical thinking in
In its heyday, many cultural celebrities belonged to the Golden Dawn. Some well known members include:
Pamela Colman Smith
For many conspiracy theorists, the Illuminati is the ultimate secret society, a group that stretches its tentacles of control to encompass the entire world. According to these theorists, the members of the Illuminati are the real rulers of the world, and they have been pulling the strings from behind the political scenes for centuries. They have infiltrated every government and every aspect of society around the planet—and some say that their ultimate goal is to accomplish a satanic New World Order, a one-world government, that will prepare Earth’s citizens for the coming of the Antichrist. Although such paranoid claims make for exciting reading, the Illuminati of history, rather than legend, was a secret society formed in Bavaria in 1776 with the political goal of encouraging rebellion of the people and the abolition of the established monarchies. Structuring the society along the lines of the classes and orders of the Freemasons, the Illuminati included levels of enlightenment that could be achieved by undergoing initiation through various mystical rites and ceremonies. Although the society’s founder, a professor of religious law named Adam Weishaupt, sought to establish a new world order in the late eighteenth- century, the Illuminati was destroyed within 15 years of its founding. The term “Illuminati” was first used by Spanish occultists toward the end of the fifteenth century to signify those alchemists and magicians who appeared to possess the “light” of spiritual illumination from a higher source.
The term may have originated in the Gnostic dualism of the forces of Light and Darkness, and many individuals who claimed to be Illuminati, those enlightened by a higher wisdom, joined the Rosicrucians and took refuge in France to escape the fires of the Spanish Inquisition. The secret society known as the Order of the Illuminati was founded in the city of Ingolstadt in the southern German monarchy of Bavaria on May 1, 1776 by Adam Weishaupt, a 28-year-old professor of religious law. Beginning with only five members, Weishaupt’s order grew slowly, numbering about 60 in five cities by 1780. The professor deliberately blended mysticism into the workings of the brotherhood in order to make his agenda of republicanism appear to be more mysterious than a political reform group. He joined the Masons in Munich in 1777 and adopted many of their classes and orders and promised his initiates that they would receive a special communication of occult knowledge as they advanced higher in the ranks of the Illuminati.
Weishaupt’s society had little effect on the German political structure until 1780 when he attracted the interest of Adolf Francis, the Baron Von Knigge, a master occultist and a man who had risen to the highest levels in many of the secret societies that preceded the Illuminati, including the Masons. Knigge had no problem melding his interest in the supernatural with Weishaupt’s goal of political revolution, and the two men quickly established branches of the Illuminati throughout all of Germany.
A few months after Knigge had joined Weishaupt’s cause, membership in the Illuminati swelled to 300. Weishaupt had taken great care to enlist as many young men of wealth and position as possible, maintaining that philanthropy, as well as mysticism, was a principal goal of the society. He had also managed to create around himself a great aura of mystery, permitting himself to be seen by none but those in the highest ranks of the society, encouraging the myth that he was an adept of such great power that he existed largely as an invisible presence. Initiates into the ranks of the Illuminati underwent secret rites, wore bizarre costumes, and participated in grotesque ceremonies that were designed to give complete obedience to Weishaupt. Soon the Illuminati became a force to be reckoned with behind the scenes in Germany’s political life, and its members worked secretly to overthrow both church and state.
Illuminati Symbol in One US Dollar
As their influence as a secret society grew, Weishaupt and Knigge became concerned that a good many authorities were beginning to take seriously the rumors of the existence of the Illuminati. If it should be proven that the society existed in fact, certain of the more powerful German princes would take immediate steps to suppress it. To hide the society even more completely from the scrutiny of public view, the leaders implemented Weishaupt’s original plan of grafting the Illuminati onto the larger brotherhood of the Freemasons. The Illuminati were already utilizing the classes and grades of Freemasonry, so the initiates of the Illuminati would easily amalgamate with the more established society. To appear to become one with the Freemasons would allow Illuminism to spread more widely and rapidly, and Weishaupt and Knigge had great confidence that they would soon attain complete control over the blended organizations.
The hierarchy within the Freemasons were not long in discovering that the two interlopers had joined the fraternal brotherhood with less than honorable motives, and in 1782, a group within the Masons called the Strict Observance demanded that a council be held at Wilhelmsbad to examine the true beliefs of Weishaupt and the Illuminati. Knigge’s powers of persuasion effectively blocked the attempt of the Strict Observance contingent to expel Illuminism from their society, and he managed to enroll almost all the members of the council in the Illuminati.
By 1784, Illuminati membership had risen to 3,000, and the secret society appeared on the verge of assuming control of the entire Masonic establishment. At the same time that their goals seemed within their grasp, Weishaupt and Knigge fell into a sharp disagreement about the correct manner of proceeding with their master plan; and in April 1784, Knigge withdrew from the Illuminati, leaving Weishaupt the supreme commander of the increasingly powerful society. Later in that same year, a number of initiates who had reached the highest level within the Illuminati became disillusioned when the special supernatural communication from a higher source that Weishaupt had promised had still not manifested after eight years of membership in the society. It now became obvious to them that Weishaupt had only sought to use them as blind instruments for the achievement of his political ambitions.
The Illuminati was denounced as a subversive organization by many of its former members, some of whom informed the duchess dowager Maria Anna of Bavaria and the Bavarian monarch, Carl Theodore, that the society sought the overthrow of church and state. In June 1784, Carl Theodore issued an edict outlawing all secret societies in his provinces. In March 1785, another edict specifically condemned the Illuminati. Weishaupt had already fled to a neighbouring province in February, 1785, where he hoped to inspire the loyal members of the Illuminati to continue as a society. In 1787, the duke of Bavaria issued a final edit against the Order of the Illuminati, and Weishaupt apparently faded into obscurity. Although he never realized his goal of a German Republic and the overthrowing of the European monarchies, the sparks that he had ignited with the Illuminati would soon burst into the flames of the French Revolution in 1789.
The Knights Templar were a monastic military order formed at the end of the First Crusade with the mandate of protecting Christian pilgrims on route to the Holy Land. Never before had a group of secular knights banded together and taken monastic vows. In this sense they were the first of the Warrior Monks.
From humble beginnings of poverty when the order relied on alms from the travelling pilgrims, the order would go on to have the backing of the Holy See and the collective European monarchies.
Within two centuries they had become powerful enough to defy all but the Papal throne. Feared as warriors, respected for their charity and sought out for their wealth, there is no doubt that the Templar knights were the key players of the monastic fighting orders. Due to their vast wealth and surplus of materials the Templars essentially invented banking, as we know it. The church forbade the lending of money for interest, which they called usury. The Templars, being the clever sort they were, changed the manner in which loans were paid and were able to skirt the issue and finance even kings.
Perhaps because of this wealth or fear of their seemingly limitless powers, they were destined to be destroyed. The order met with a rather untimely demise at the hands of the Pope and the King of France in 1307 and by 1314, 'The Poor Fellow Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon' ceased to exist.
Although originally a small group of nine knights, they quickly gained fame largely due to the backing of Bernard of Clairvaux and his In Praise of the New Knighthood. Bernard at that time was often called the Second Pope and was the chief spokesman of Christendom. He is also the one responsible for helping to draw up the order's rules of conduct.
In European political circles, they became very powerful and influential. This was because they were immune from any authority save that of the Papal Throne. (Pope Innocent II exempted the Templars from all authority except the Pope.)
After the crusades were over, the knights returned to their Chapters throughout Europe and became known as moneylenders to the monarchs. In the process many historians believe they invented the Banking System. The Templars fought along side King Richard I (Richard The Lion Heart) and other Crusaders in the battles for the Holy Lands.
The secret meetings and rituals of the knights would eventually cause their downfall. The King of France, Philip the Fair, used these rituals and meetings to his advantage to destroy the knights. The real reason for his crushing the Templars was that he felt threatened by their power and immunity. In 1307, Philip, who desperately needed funds, to support his war against England's Edward I made his move against the Knights Templar.
On October 13th, 1307, King Philip had all the Templars arrested on the grounds of heresy, since this was the only charge that would allow the seizing of their money and assets. The Templars were tortured and as a result, ridiculous confessions were given. These confessions included:
- Trampling and spitting on the Cross
- Homosexuality and sodomy
- Worshipping of the 'Baphomet'.
Philip was successful in ridding the Templars of their power and wealth and urged all fellow Christian leaders to do the same thing. On March 19th, 1314 the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, Jacques de Molay was burned at the stake. De Molay is said to have cursed King Philip and Pope Clement as he burned asking both men to join him within a year. Whether he actually uttered the curse or if it is simply an apocryphal tale what remains as fact is that Clement died only one month later and Philip IV seven months after that.
The Hidden Treasures
The order was disbanded, and it was suggested that all European monarchies take steps to suppress the movement. On 19th March 1314, the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, Jacques de Molay, was burned at the stake on an island in the middle of the River Seine in Paris. As theflames rose, it is claimed de Molay cursed King Philip and Pope threatening that they would both follow him within a year. They both did – Clement died a month later and Philip seven months after that. However, the Knights Templar themselves are said to have continued in secret, and before his death, de Molay had passed on his powers to a successor. Some of the Templars are believed to have taken refuge in Scotland during the intervening years, but the movement did not reveal itself again until 1705. Since then the order has had associations with Freemasonry and other secret societies, but the movement has flourished and they have had many high profile and influential members. In more recent years, following the Second World War, the cohesion of the entire international order has become somewhat fractured.
The meetings are still held in secret. Apart from fiercely guarded rituals and traditions, it would seem that there are few mysteries surrounding the order. But one question remains – why did the Parisian Templars not fight when arrested by Philip’s men? In the days leading to their capture, a heavily-laden cart was supposedly removed from their buildings. Philip never found all the riches in their offices that he wished to acquire, and it seems the knights submitted to his thuggery meekly, in order to let their great treasure escape.
So what was this treasure? The obvious theory is that it was gold and jewels taken from holy temples of Jerusalem and the biblical world during the Crusades. However, many have speculated that the reaction of the Templars suggested that it was something beyond material value, and may have been something of enormous spiritual importance, such as the Ark of the Covenant or the Holy Grail. Others have considered that it may be secret Christian knowledge, such as the ‘bloodline of Jesus Christ’. The treasure, whatever nature it takes, has never been found, and where it is hidden remains a mystery. Many Templar experts have considered it may have been the root of Bérenger Saunière’s mysterious wealth, and believe it was buried at the church of Rennes-le-Château. However, one of the most widely-held theories is that the surviving Templars hid it at Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland. If the order did manage to continue throughout its banished years, there is good reason to believe the secrets of the treasure are known to only a select few. To the rest of us, the Knights Templar are only modern day descendants of an historical mystery.
The citizens of Paris awoke one morning in 1622 to find that their city had been ornamented with posters which the Brethren of the Rosy Cross (Rosicrucians) had scattered to announce that their secret order was now moving among the Parisians to save them from the error of death. In the seventeenth century, the Rosicrucians were rumoured to have accomplished the transmutation of metals, the means of prolonging life, the knowledge to see and to hear what was occurring in distant places, and the ability to detect secret and hidden objects.
Such announcements were met with great excitement. It was a time of reformation and enlightenment, and all of Europe was looking forward to the new world that the alchemists and magicians promised was about to emerge from the ashes of the old. And leading such a movement of a new appreciation of the arts and sciences and humankind’s true place in the universe was the Illumined Father and Brother Christian Rosencreutz (1378–1484), a brilliant magus, who at the age of 16 had already gained secret wisdom teachings from the sages of Arabia and the Holy Land.
When Rosencreutz returned to Germany circa 1450, he became a recluse, for he could see that Europe was not yet ready for the complete reformation which he so yearned to present to it. For one thing, he claimed to have acquired the fabled philosopher’s stone, which enabled him to produce all the gold and precious gems necessary to allow him to build a house where he could live peacefully and well. To share the power of the legendary stone of transmutation with the unwise, the worldly, and the greedy would be disastrous. Quietly, Rosencreutz accepted only a handful of carefully evaluated students to whom he imparted the knowledge that he had acquired in ancient Egypt and the connection that he had made with the mystery schools and the esoteric teachings of great masters. He was particularly enthusiastic about telling his students about Pharaoh Amenhotep and the monotheistic view of one God. At first there were only three disciples in attendance; then later, eight brothers, including Rosencreutz himself, swore to uphold the following precepts:
1. They would not profess any creed but the goal of healing the sick without reward;
2. They would affect no particular style of clothing;
3. They would meet once each year in the House of the Sainted Spirit;
4. Each brother would carefully choose his own successor;
5. The letters “R.C.” would serve as their only seal and character;
6. The Brotherhood would remain secret for 100 years.
When Rosencreutz died in 1484 at the age of 106, the five brethren who had been chosen to travel throughout Europe performing charitable deeds had established a reputation for being selfless benefactors. Although Rosencreutz had been buried in secret, one of the brothers happened by chance to discover his burial chamber and read the promise inscribed above the entrance that Rosencreutz would return in 126 years.
The discovery of the illu-mined father’s prediction inspired the surviving brothers to work in earnest to spread the teachings of Christian Rosencreutz throughout the world. Between 1604 and 1616, three manifestos were released in Germany by the secret brotherhood of the Rosicrucians (from the Latin, Rosae Crucis, “Rose Cross”). The first two pamphlets called upon the educated and influential to unite to bring about a reformation of the educational, moral, and scientific establishments of Europe. The German monk Martin Luther (1483–1546) had already set in motion a reformation in the spiritual sphere of life, the Rosicrucian Fraternity pointed out, but now it was time to educate the people of Europe to understand the true relationship of humankind to the universe and to perceive truly the distinctions between the material and the divine. The manifestos condemned all those who contributed to the moral decay of Europe, and the brotherhood promised to help alleviate all suffering and to eradicate all ignorance.
The Illumined Father Christian Rosencreutz possessed the wisdom and the wealth through the transmutation of base metals to elevate the common people of Europe. The manifestos also shared some startling assertions, among them:
1. The end of the world was near, but those who had become enlightened by the new reformation would be initiated into a higher consciousness.
2. New stars had appeared in the constellations of Cygnus and Serpentarius that predicted the destruction of the Roman Catholic Church.
3. The Illumined Father divined the secret code that God placed in the universe in the beginning of time and blessed those who possess such magic.
4. The transmutation of base metals into gold and precious gems is a natural miracle that has been revealed to such magi as Christian Rosencreutz. Forget about the efforts of the pseudo-chemists.
5. The Rosicrucian Fellowship has wealth to distribute, but it does not wish a single coin from anyone.
The manifestos created great excitement in early seventeenth-century Europe. Royalty, common folk, merchants, mystics, alchemists— all clamored for more information about the mysterious secret brotherhood. Those who were ill wished healing. Those who were poor were eager to accept a portion of the wealth the brotherhood was willing to distribute.
Those who were greedy wanted their turn with the philosopher’s stone and their opportunity to transmute tons of base metals into tons of gold. And perhaps most of all, people wanted to join the secret society and become Rosicrucians, but no one knew where any of their lodges were or where they might find the House of the Sainted Spirit.
Desperate individuals placed their letters of application for the fraternity in public places where they hoped the Rosicrucians might find them and contact them. It wasn’t long before charlatans began posing as members of the secret fraternity and attempting to charge the gullible for admittance, but when the deceivers could not produce mounds of gold upon demand, the crooks were either imprisoned or pummeled. Nor had too much time passed before word spread among the religious that the Rosicrucians were satanists who sought only to delude Europe into sin. In spite of entreaties, threats, and demands, no Rosicrucian stepped forward to identify himself, and the society remained secret—the most secret of all secret societies.
It is interesting to speculate that the symbol of Martin Luther, the Protestant reformer and founder of the Lutheran Church, was a red rose and a cross, which remains the emblem of Lutheranism. Could Luther also have sought to reform the whole societal structure of Europe, as well as the Roman Catholic Church? Unlikely, for Luther would not have used the language of the alchemist and the magus. Another member, according to some, is the great Francis Bacon (1561–1626), whose unfinished manuscript, The New Atlantis (1627), describes an earthly utopian paradise, a secret brotherhood who wear the Rose Cross on their turbans, who heal people without charge, and who meet yearly in their temple.
The philosopher Rene Descartes(1596–1650) was once nearly arrested on the accusation that he was a member of the secret society, but he convinced his accusers that the Rosicrucians were invisible, while, he, it was plain to see, was not. While the true identity of the Rosicrucians may never be known, nor whether such a man as Christian Rosencreutz ever really existed, the concepts expressed in their three manifestos pertaining to individual freedom, the separation of church and state, and the quest to determine humankind’s true place in the universe became ideals that inspired the period of Enlightenment and have been carried over into modern times.
Conspiracy theories about the Skull & Bones Society are almost as old as the society itself. The group has been blamed for everything from the creation of the nuclear bomb to the Kennedy assassination. It's been aped in bad teen horror films and satirized — along with fellow conspiracy-group targets the Freemasons and the Illuminati — in The Simpsons. Even CNN has done a segment on the
Minus the trappings of wealth, privilege and power, Skull and Bones could be a laughably juvenile club for Dungeons-and-Dragon geeks. But its rumoured alumni have made up a disproportionately large percentage of the world's most powerful leaders. (One historian has likened the society's powers to that of an "international mafia," for as another writer put it, "the mafia is, after all, the most secret of societies.") Bones men have, at one time, controlled the fortunes of the Carnegie, Rockefeller and Ford families, as well as posts in the Central Intelligence Agency, the American Psychological Association, the Council on Foreign Relations and some of the most powerful law firms in the world.
During the 2004 presidential election, the Republican and Democratic candidates were both former Bones men, though neither would say much about the subject. "It's a secret," John Kerry said when asked about his membership; "So secret, I can't say anything more," George W. Bush wrote in his autobiography, as if to complete Kerry's sentence.
A young Yale junior named William Russell founded the group after spending a year in Germany among members of some of the most mystical and elite clubs in the world, including organizations that mimicked the Enlightenment-era Illuminati. Russell returned to the U.S. determined to found a secret society of his own and "tapped" Alfonso Taft, whose son would later become President William H. Taft, to be among the first members of "The Brotherhood of Death," or as it was more formally known, "The Order of the Skull and Bones." Members worshipped Eulogia, a fake goddess of eloquence, glorified pirates and reportedly hatched schemes of world domination at the "Tomb" — which is rumoured to have a landing pad on the roof for the society's private helicopter.
Skull and Bones formed at Yale University, the third-oldest school in the U.S. and an institution "known for its strange, Gothic elitism and its rigid devotion to the past," according to journalist (and Yale secret society alumnae) Alexandra Robbins, who published Secrets of the Tomb in 2002. Skull and Bones is not the only secret society at the school either: others include the Scroll and Key, Wolf's Head, Berzelius and Book and Snake, all of which like keeping tabs on one another, some in the form of dossiers that include "reliability ratings." Each group picks its members in a highly confidential manner and subjects them to rounds of occult hazing rituals — what pledging a fraternity might be like, perhaps, at Hogwarts.
But whether a young Henry Luce (founder of Time magazine) actually laid naked in a coffin and told the tales of his early sex life during his Skull and Bones initiation, or if William F. Buckley jumped into a mud pie as part of his hazing, or whether any of the three Bush Bonesman (Prescott, H.W., and W.) really received a gift of $15,000 and the guarantee of a lifetime of financial security upon being selected — all these rumours, publicized over the years by Esquire, The Atlantic Monthly, the New York Times and numerous independent book authors, might never be known.
The group has remained silent about the lawsuit from Geronimo's descendants. But in a time when the Internet is opening up previously private information to the world and even Swiss banks are spilling their secrets, the activities of the Skull & Bones society might not be able to stay so clandestine for long.
Thuggee is the term for a particular kind of murder and robbery of travellers in India. It is one of many Indian words borrowed into English during the British colonial period. The English connotation of 'thug' is synonymous with terms like hoodlum and hooligan, indicating a person (or may or may not be anti-social) who harasses others, usually for hire. People regarded as thugs might commit assault (or 'menace'), battery, even robbery and grievous bodily harm, but they usually stop short of murder. Additionally, "thugs" usually travel in pairs, though they can work alone or in groups of four to six members, and are typically open about their presence (except to law enforcement officials); while "Thuggee" were covert and operated as members of a group, often called a "Thuggee cult" by the British. Hence, the word "Thuggee" is capitalised while the word "thug" usually is not; which enables distinction of a "Thug" (here, a short form of "Thuggee") from a "thug". There is some question as to the extent of the religious dimension of Thuggee. Most contemporary sources described Thuggee as being a religious cult, but some modern sources feel it was merely a specialised form of organised crime or paramilitary activity, with no particular religious dimension beyond the normal piety of the villagers from whom its members were recruited.
No organized cult of killers has ever murdered as many people as the Thuggee. In the 1830s this Indian secret society strangled upward of 30,000 native people and travellers as a sacrifice to their goddess Kali, the “Dark Mother,” the Hindu Triple Goddess of creation, preservation, and destruction. The name Thuggee comes from the Sanskrit sthaga, “deceiver.” Although the Thuggee probably originated sometime in the sixteenth century, they were not uncovered by British authorities until about 1812.
Great Britain was beginning to expand its territories in India, and the British administrators were becoming increasingly alarmed by reports of bands of stranglers that were roving the countryside murdering travelers. At first there appeared to be no connection between the bizarre killings, but then the bodies of 50 victims were found hidden in a series of wells in the Ganges area. Such large-scale mass murder could not have been kept secret for so long unless special pains had been taken to dispose of the victims’ corpses. Examination of the bodies revealed that the murderers had broken all joints of their victims’ limbs to speed up the process of decomposition and to prevent the swelling of the graves that would attract scavenging jackals and other wild animals. Such evidence convinced the authorities that they were dealing with one secret society, the Thuggee.
The murderous craft of the Thuggee was hereditary. Its practitioners were trained from earliest childhood to murder by the quick, quiet method of a strong cloth noose tightened about the neck of their victims. This weapon, the “Rumal,” was worn knotted about the waist of each member of the Thuggee. The Thuggee gloried in silent and efficient acts of murder above any other earthly accomplishment, and they travelled often in the guise of traders, pilgrims, and even as soldiers marching to or from service. On occasion, the more flamboyant would pretend to be a rajah with a large retinue of followers. Each band of Thuggee had a small unit of scouts and inveiglers who would loiter about hotels and market places gaining information regarding travelers and the weight of their coin purses. The inveiglers posed as travelers headed for the same destination as their intended victims. They would worm themselves into the confidences of their prey, pleading the old adage of safety in numbers.
The mass slaughters of large groups of merchants and travellers were usually committed when all were encamped. Working in groups of three, one Thuggee would loop the Rumal around the victim’s neck, another would press his head forward, and the third would grab his legs and throw him to the ground. In the rare instance when an intended victim escaped the nooses in the death area, he would run into scouts posted at the edge of the jungle. One hundred percent mortality of their victims was the goal of the Thuggee. In spite of what first appeared to be indiscriminate murder on a very large scale, the Thuggee had a peculiar code of ethics whose rules forbade the killing of fakirs, musicians, dancers, sweepers, oil vendors, carpenters, blacksmiths, maimed or leprous persons, Ganges water-carriers, and women. Despite the restriction against the murder of females, however, the presence of wives traveling with their husbands often necessitated the strangling of a woman to protect the secrecy of the society.
The strongest rule of the brotherhood was the one prohibiting the shedding of blood. According to Thuggee beliefs, the goddess Kali taught the fathers of thuggery to strangle with a noose and to kill without permitting the flow of blood. All victims of the Thuggee were sacrificed to Kali, and the members of the secret society would have been greatly incensed by an accusation that they killed only for booty. With the exception of a small number of boys who may have been captured or spared during a raid, a man had to be born into the cult in order to become an initiate. The minimum age for initiation into the society was 10, and the young candidates were allowed to watch their elders at work from hidden points some distance from the site of the attack. At the age of 18, they were permitted to make their first human sacrifices to Kali.
The Thuggee had their female counterparts in a secret sect of Tantrists who held that it was only by a constant indulgence in passion that a human could ever achieve total union with Kali. Only indulgence in the five vices that corrupt the soul of humankind— wine, meat, fish, mystical gesticulations, and sexual indulgence—could drive the poisons out of the human body and purify the soul.
In 1822, William Sleeman, an officer in the Bengal Army who had transferred to civil service, was appointed by Governor General Lord Bentinck to rid India of the society of stranglers. Fluent in four Indian dialects, Sleeman had been the British official who had first confirmed the growing suspicion that the murders were committed throughout central India by the Thuggee. He was well aware that it would be no easy task putting a halt to such large-scale murders, for the members of the secret society were indistinguishable from any other of the many bands of outlaws who infested the country’s roads. And what made the job of identifying the Thugs even more difficult was the fact that they were indistinguishable from any of the travellers and merchants who were their victims.
William Henry Sleeman
As their name implied, they were master deceivers. Finally, by meticulously marking the scene of each discovered attack site on a map and by maintaining careful records of the dates, Sleeman was able to begin to predict the areas where the next mass murders were likely to take place. When his agents and informants brought him word that known members of the Thuggee had been seen in a certain region, Sleeman sent his personally recruited police officers out disguised as merchants in order to ambush the Thugs who appeared to attack what they believed was a group of harmless travellers.
Between 1830 and 1841, Sleeman’s police captured at least 3,700 Thugs, breaking forever the back of the infamous secret society. Of this total, only 50 received a pardon for supplying valuable information that had been utilized in destroying the secret society. The remainder of those apprehended were imprisoned for life and 500 were hanged. Without exception, the Thuggee condemned to be hanged went to their own deaths with the same lack of emotion with which they had murdered their victims. In many instances, their final request from the hangman was that they be permitted to place the noose around their own neck. Trials of Thuggee brought out many ghastly facts about the deadly skills of some of its members. A band of 20 confessed that they had participated in 5,200 murders.
An individual named Buhram, who had been a strangler for 40 years, had the highest lifetime score to his discredit—931. When asked if he experienced any feelings of remorse or guilt, he answered sharply that no man should ever feel compunction in following his trade. Although isolated cases of a Thug’s proficiency with a noose still exist in India and in other parts of the world, the stranglers of the goddess Kali no longer exist as a secret society.
The designation of “thug,” however, remains as a negative term applied to brutish criminals. The violent chapter imprinted in India’s history by the cult of the Thuggee has been portrayed quite often in motion pictures, notably Gunga Din (1939) with Cary Grant, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., and Victor McLaglen; Terence Fisher’s Stranglers of Bombay (1960); Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) with Harrison Ford and Kate Capshaw; and The Deceivers (1988) with Pierce Brosnan.
The Bilderberg Group is a group of influential people, mostly politicians and business people, whose existence and activities are private, and due to its secretive nature is the subject of numerous conspiracy theories. The group meets annually at five-star resorts throughout the world, normally in
Although the group has no official name, the "Bilderberg Group" title comes from what is generally recognized to be the location of its first official meeting in 1954: the Bilderberg Hotel in
The group has been depicted as an international cabal of the influential and the affluent: politicians, financiers, and media and business moguls; the elite of the elite. Some believe that they have dictated national policies, rigged (or outright stolen) national elections, caused wars, recessions, and ordered murders and ousters of world leaders such as American president John F. Kennedy and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
The original intention of the Bilderberg group was to further the understanding between
Perspectives on the nature of the group
The stated reason for the group's secrecy is that it enables people to speak freely without the need to carefully consider how every word might be interpreted by the mass media. However, as many of the attendees have gained their power through the democratic process, it is debatable if it is morally desirable for them to exercise their power off the record. This secrecy has led conspiracy researchers to claim that the meetings have a sinister purpose; that they are merely a front for the Round table groups, or even a semi-public front for the Illuminati or assorted other secret societies.
The Bilderberg Group has been described as:
Attendees of Bilderberg include central bankers, defence experts, mass media press barons, government ministers, prime ministers, royalty, international financiers and political leaders from
The Ultimate Conspiracry - 50th anniversary
The Bilderberg group, an elite coterie of Western thinkers and power-brokers, has been accused of fixing the fate of the world behind closed doors. As the organisation marks its 50th anniversary, rumours are more rife than ever.
Given its reputation as perhaps the most powerful organisation in the world, the Bilderberg group doesn't go a bundle on its switchboard operations.
Telephone inquiries are met with an impersonal female voice - the Dutch equivalent of the BT Callminder woman - reciting back the number and inviting callers to "leave a message after the tone".
Anyone who accidentally dialled the number would probably think they had stumbled on just another residential answer machine.
But behind this ultra-modest façade lies one of the most controversial and hotly-debated alliances of our times.
On Thursday the Bilderberg group marks its 50th anniversary with the start of its yearly meeting.
For four days some of the West's chief political movers, business leaders, bankers, industrialists and strategic thinkers will hunker down in a five-star hotel in northern
What sets Bilderberg apart from other high-powered get-togethers, such as the annual World Economic Forum (WEF), is its mystique.
Not a word of what is said at Bilderberg meetings can be breathed outside. No reporters are invited in and while confidential minutes of meetings are taken, names are not noted.
The shadowy aura extends further - the anonymous answer phone message, for example; the fact that conference venues are kept secret. The group, which includes luminaries such as Henry Kissinger and former
In the void created by such aloofness, an extraordinary conspiracy theory has grown up around the group that alleges the fate of the world is largely decided by Bilderberg.
And while hard line right-wingers and libertarians accuse Bilderberg of being a liberal Zionist plot, leftists such as activist Tony Gosling are equally critical.
A former journalist, Mr Gosling runs a campaign against the group from his home in
"My main problem is the secrecy. When so many people with so much power get together in one place I think we are owed an explanation of what is going on.
Mr Gosling seizes on a quote from Will Hutton, the British economist and a former Bilderberg delegate, who likened it to the annual WEF gathering where "the consensus established is the backdrop against which policy is made worldwide".
"One of the first places I heard about the determination of US forces to attack Iraq was from leaks that came out of the 2002 Bilderberg meeting," says Mr Gosling.
But "privacy, rather than secrecy", is key to such a meeting says Financial Times journalist Martin Wolf, who has been invited several times in a non-reporting role.
"The idea that such meetings cannot be held in private is fundamentally totalitarian," he says. "It's not an executive body; no decisions are taken there."
As an up-and-coming statesmen in the 1950s, Denis Healey, who went on to become a Labour chancellor, was one of the four founding members of Bilderberg (which was named after the hotel in
His response to claims that Bilderberg exerts a shadowy hand on the global tiller is met with characteristic bluntness. "Crap!"
"There's absolutely nothing in it. We never sought to reach a consensus on the big issues at Bilderberg. It's simply a place for discussion," says Lord Healey.
Formed in the spirit of post-war trans-Atlantic co-operation, the idea behind Bilderberg was that future wars could be prevented by bringing power-brokers together in an informal setting away from prying eyes.
"Bilderberg is the most useful international group I ever attended. The confidentiality enabled people to speak honestly without fear of repercussions.
"In my experience the most useful meetings are those when one is free to speak openly and honestly. It's not unusual at all. Cabinet meetings in all countries are held behind closed doors and the minutes are not published."
That activists have seized on Bilderberg is no surprise to Alasdair Spark, an expert in conspiracy theories.
"The idea that a shadowy clique is running the world is nothing new. For hundreds of years people have believed the world is governed by a cabal of Jews.
"Shouldn't we expect that the rich and powerful organize things in their own interests. It's called capitalism."