By Richard E. Bleil, Ph.D.
The Masonic organization is the oldest of its type known to be in existence. And, yes, I’m a member. It felt very odd for me to be joining a fraternal organization, but then I came to understand it better.
A little later I will discuss the history, and some conjecture of history, but let me first discuss the modern Masonic organization. The Freemasons do their share of philanthropic work. For example, the Shriners are a component of the Masonic organization and funds (about 90%) of the Shriners’ Hospital for Children, a hospital that is free for the patients, including transportation and stay for parents, since the day it started. However, the stated purpose of the Freemasons is focused on the members, not the philanthropy, which is quite unusual.
The stated goal of the Freemasons is to make good men better. We want to improve the world, but we do so by improving ourselves. We want to lead by example. With this in mind, I would ask female readers to ask themselves one question: if you wanted to improve yourself as a woman, would you rather learn by other and outstanding women, or men? This doesn’t mean that women and family cannot participate. There are many ways for family to be involved, and as we’ve often stated, you cannot be a successful Freemason without their support.
Hopefully, I’ve defended the organization and my decision to become a member sufficiently, but what I really want to discuss is Masonic history. When I say that it is the oldest organization of its kind, this is not a boast. The first recorded meeting of the Freemasons occurred in Edinburgh, England, in 1599. This makes the organization at least four hundred years old, but, in reality, it is far likely to be older than even that.
At the time, the Masonic organization was indeed secret (today it is not secret, of I could not write about it, but it is an organization with secrets). Until some time in the 1970’s, members could not even identify themselves as members of the organization, nor could they ask anybody to join the organization. To become a member, one would have to ask a Freemason to join, which, as a result, was something of a guessing game. During the height of the organization, it has been estimated that roughly half of the male population in the US were, indeed, Freemasons. This was around the time of the Declaration of Independence and the Revoluationary War, and many of the teachings of the Masonic organization were indeed incorporated to the US Constitution.
But you have to ask yourself, how could such a secret organization have succeeded and grown in the early years? For example, there were approximately twenty members attending the very first meeting although they were never named because membership, even then, was highly secretive. This is a hint that although it was not publicly acknowledged as an organization until 1599, it must have existed prior to this date or how could it have had so many members on the first meeting? And if it were not already a significant underground organization, how could it have survived with such secrecy? As it turns out, there is strong evidence that the Masonic Organization may have been formed from the remnants of the Knights Templar.
The Knights Templar were formed as the military arm of the Catholic Church. They were tasked with protecting the journey to the holy land of Israel for Christians wishing to make the pilgrimage. They built forts, and developed the worlds first fully functional international banking system wherein those making the trip could deposit money in Europe, and be given their money anywhere along the way, allowing them to travel more safely.
This means that gold, or other forms of currency, had to be transported to each of the forts. The safest way to do so was probably incognito, with secret signs for the Knights and their cohorts to identify themselves, and so as to avoid drawing undesired attention to themselves. On Friday, October 13, 1307, there was an attempt to round up the Knight Templars and their entire organization in one surprise move. In reality, it is estimated that, at most, about twenty percent were successfully “collected”. Those that were captured were accused of heresy, tortured, and murdered.
And what happened to the remainder? No doubt, they already had the signals of identification, the practice of traveling without notice, and the commitment to help one another. Such forms of self identification and commitment are a large part of the Masonic training, but could the Knights Templar have survived, underground, and in-tact for three hundred years?
Consider the Peasants’ Revolt of England in 1381. This was over seventy years after the Knights Templar were rounded up. Much of the six month revolt occurred in and around London. But for the revolt to last for so long, the rebels were unusually well armed and trained. What’s more, there were a myriad of attacks outside of London. The targets of these attacks, as it turns out, were of particular historical significance to the Knights Templar, including landholdings that were confiscated when they were arrested, far too many such attacks to dismiss as coincidence.
The evidence presented in this short blog cannot possibly provide proof. Three hundred years is enough to make one question the plausibility, but the coincidences are remarkable in the teachings. Couple that with the events of the peasants’ revolt, seventy years later, that seemed to have evidence of Knight Templar involvement behind the scenes as well, and it does at the very least spark the imagination.