Why Do Some People Hate Freemasonry?
Conspiracy: How the Paranoid Style Flourishes and Where It Comes by Daniel Pipes 258 pp. New York: The Free Press, 1997. $25.00
Every Freemason is amazed to hear that there are some people who hate Freemasonry and Masons. We cannot believe that anyone would have anything other than good feelings about our wonderful organization that engages in charitable work, talks about helping brethren and their families, and promotes patriotism, family values, truth, justice, and the American way. What could possibly cause some people to hate us?
Daniel Pipes is an newsletter editor and lecturer from Philadelphia who has written many books about the Middle East. Now he has written an extremely informative book about the major conspiracy theories in history that continue to affect our lives today, and he clearly shows who attacks Freemasonry and why. (This book is available for purchase from the publisher, or at book stores, and it is also available in local public libraries. The D.C. Library has it in the Martin Luther King, Jr., branch, catalog number "Hist/909.8/P665.)
For the last 100 years, those who feared secret conspiracies focused on two groups: Jews and Freemasons. They say either or both of these groups are trying to take over the world, destroy democracy, all governments, Christianity, all religions, so they (we) can rule over what is left after this destruction. These conspiracists are sure they are right, and all evidence proves what they are saying.
Freemasons do charity work? That is to convince the public we are not as sinister as we really are. There is no evidence that Jews are trying to take over the world? The conspiracy theorists invent forgeries such as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which appear to be the minutes of a meeting where they are quoted doing just that. Just remember that appearances are deceiving, apparent friends are really enemies and vice versa.
Pipes' book also describes the Enlightenment, that period of history in the 1700s when men's minds were liberated to think in new ways, and when Freemasonry's ideals developed. Freemasonry is, according to Margaret C. Jacobs in Living the Enlightenment, the modern embodiment of the Enlightenment. But while this period of history liberated mens' minds, it also led to fears among those who were uncomfortable with the fundamental changes taking place around them.
And since Freemasonry was a part of them, maybe even the most important element, that organization must be the center of the secret conspiracy to cause harm. "Few organizations have inspired so much speculation and awe as does the Freemasons," says Pipes, even though most Masons probably find this statement surprising and even ridiculous, since we know what Masons really do.
Of course, the statements of millions of Masons that we are a beneficial organization are only part of the proof of the deviousness of Freemasonry. Supposedly, our leaders, those who are members of the Supreme Councils of the Scottish Rite, the Active 33rd Degree Mason, know and pursue the evil purposes of Freemasonry, while they make every effort to convince the rest of the Masons and the public that Masonry is not evil. Or at least this is what a truly-convinced conspiracy theorist says.
Pipes teaches us a lot about Freemasonry while writing about those who oppose us. Masons of the early 1700s were men of different classes could meet in an egalitarian atmosphere of deism, tolerance, and self-improvement. They were middle class liberals who sought to improve society through free speech, elections, and secularism. It offered an exhilarating way to escape the usual confines of society, and the distinctive symbols and elaborate rituals added to the excitement.
Along the way, we learn more about the Illuminati than I have been able to find anywhere else. This is the group, often confused with Freemasonry itself, that probably actually was a conspiracy of sorts and that attempted to use Masonic lodges. It existed from 1776 to 1784 in Bavaria, but in the minds of some it continues to exist today. In fact, some really believe that the founder of the Illuminati, Adam Weishaupt (who lived from 1748-1830) came to America, killed George Washington, and impersonated him. Weishaupt only made it look as if the Illuminati has been ended, so he could secretly achieve his goals.
The real Illuminati wanted to build a just and modern society, and they thought they could attain their aims by becoming Masons and taking over Lodges. Some feel the Illuminati and Freemasonry officially achieved union at the Congress of Wilhemlsbad in 1782, a date that also marked the legal emancipation of Jews in Austria, thus combining two groups feared by some.
If all this sounds so incredible that no sane person could believe it, remember that Pat Robertson is a respected figure in American society, and he has written books saying the United States and the world continue to be threatened by the Illuminati, Freemasonry, and international "bankers," which is often a code word for Jews. And many people believe Robertson, and go even further than he does. It is also useful to remember that Henry Ford, a Mason, wrote frequently about the secret power of Jews and others who worked in secrecy to try to take over the world.
Some might think all this is merely interesting, since those who believe these crazy things cannot have any real influence. But they have. Those who believe in conspiracies, such as the fear that Masons are trying to destroy civilization, have had and continue to have a very influential role. In some ways, Pipes points out, the 20th century has been dominated by these people.
Even today, the political views of many are influenced by their beliefs that Jews and Masons are secretly trying to destroy all that is good. Many believe that Jews and Masons work jointly. Hitler's Mein Kampf talked of Masons as the agents of the Jews, and British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, those who attacked Dreyfus in France with false evidence, and others believed the same thing.
So where does all this leave us? What should we do about it? It is impossible to completely end false accusations against Masons and others hounded by conspiracists, because every bit of evidence will be seen as further evidence of us hiding our true intentions. But the vast majority of people are men and women of good will. If all they hear are the stories of the conspiracy people, they may come to think there is some truth in what they say.
If Masonic leaders are knowledgeable, if they learn exactly what those who oppose us have said in the past, and exactly what facts can be cited to prove to fair-minded people that the allegations against us are untrue, then those who are always against us can be kept to a small number.
Otherwise, if our leaders and we do not speak up, and know exactly what can and should be said we could very well find ourselves in another situation such as Freemasonry found itself in the 1830s in America, when thousands of Masons became convinced themselves that Freemasonry was an evil institution and they joined in an almost successful effort to wipe it out in our country. The choice is up to us.
Copyright 1998-2002 by Paul M. Bessel. Book review prepared December 1998 (published in the D.C. Voice of Freemasonry magazine in 1999)
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