I confess I’m a sucker for a good treasure hunt. I love the idea of solving riddles, breaking codes, and following the winding path through an unfolding conspiracy. I cheer as the ever expressionless Nicholas Cage blazes through hundreds of years of US history, as Tom Hanks discovers long-unnoticed symbols on the world’s most revered and well-studied works of art, and as Harrison Ford stands before an ancient knight and chooses wisely.
And my heart delights in exploring the fictional possibilities provided by the secret societies that make such plots possible, all of which seem to somehow relate to the Freemasons.
I wish I could give you a concise history of them because they are fascinating. Unfortunately there’s not a lot known (at least by outsiders) about the origin of the Freemasons. I mean sure there is a circle of thirteen Grand Masters that each have a part of a code leading to a series of clues (39 in all) throughout the world that when put together will reveal the secret history of the fraternity and simultaneously signal the apocalypse. Probably.
Outside of that, what I have been able to uncover (in a brief Internet search) is that there are people who have spent A LOT longer searching through MUCH more reliable sources and have come up with some thoughts.
Basically, the Freemasons most likely started as actual stonemasons. Or they were influenced by actual stonemasons. And though there have been attempts to trace the group back to the pyramid builders of Ancient Egypt and to Solomon’s temple, all we really know is that documentation suggests it may have developed sometime before 1400.
Whether the organization formed from a trade guild of masons finding that they already had a structure in place that might serve to make the world a better place, or whether the first Freemasons were regular guys who wanted to do all of those things and thought the allegory of the tools used by literal builders was pretty neat, is anyone’s guess. Either way, the fraternity has long existed for the purpose of promoting the dignity of the individual, the right to freedom of religious worship, the need for public education, and the establishment of democracy.
Or so they claim.
But because we all know that conspiracy theorists and Hollywood screenwriters are generally good sources of reliable information, I think it’s safe to say that Freemasons are really just a group of powerful satanic treasure-hoarders who are plotting to take over the world, to the tune of $1.5 million in charitable contributions per day.
Clearly Freemasonry has done and is doing some great things in the world. Still, it has run into its share of serious criticism from major world religions that find within its devotion to ritual and secrecy the components of a religion itself, one that may in many ways conflict with mainstream Christian, Jewish, and Islamic teachings.
I won’t pretend to be an expert on Freemasonry and its relationship to world religions, but I will say that I am convinced that masonry is the Devil’s work.
I say this because late this past Saturday afternoon, my husband was looking at a flower bed at the corner of our house and he made a rash decision. Our lot is pretty hilly and so this flower bed is the height of a single landscape block on one end, but becomes a four foot retaining wall at the corner of the house. And it’s been falling.
So, my husband, who is not a mason by trade, decided that Saturday afternoon was the right time for him to transform into an “expert” bricklayer, removing the heavy stones and laying them all over our yard so he could rebuild the wall, level and perfect. He did not look at a forecast first.
So then when Saturday evening brought him news of a family emergency and with it, plans to be out of town the next day, and with the first part of the week promising rain to wash away all of the exposed dirt pile in our corner flowerbed, it fell to me (also not a mason by trade) to build a brick wall.
Here’s the thing. I get bricks. I played with Legos as a kid. And I watched my husband tamp down the dirt, lay the paver gravel, and check several times with the level before laying the block and checking it again. I had even helped out by handing him tools. How hard could it be, right?
And it’s not that hard to lay the blocks on top of one another once that first layer is level, but I was working on a slope so there were still quite a few blocks that needed to be placed directly on the ground itself. After an hour or so, I had gotten to the point that I could lay a level brick on the dirt after several attempts. And then I got to a brick that had to lay half on the dirt, and half on another brick.
It took me three hours. THREE. HOURS. For one brick. ONE. BRICK. Neighbors stopped by to laugh with at me as I reveled in my incompetence. But I finally did it. Because I was determined to do it. It was a matter of pride. After my eventual success, I took a few pictures, put a tarp over the whole darn thing, and walked away.
Now I know that the average mason doesn’t spend three hours to place one brick, at least if he does I hope he doesn’t charge by the hour. So the only conclusion that I can draw is that he must have sold his soul. And I have to assume that fifteenth century masons did as well.
Because that is the only way I can see them successfully building great architectural wonders in which they could hide clues leading to vast amounts of undiscovered wealth that would one day be rediscovered by nerdy treasure hunters seeking to return it to the world thereby foiling the Freemason attempt at total world domination. Probably.