Freemasonry: The society that has more secrets than answers

Freemasonry traces its origins to events around the building of King Solomon's temple. [Caroline Kimutai, Standard]

Confessions of a former Mason

John Mark is a 50-year-old Kenyan who comes from a family of Masons. His father, a senior Mason introduced him to the society. In his family, Mark's brother and brother-in-law are also Masons. By the time resigned as a Mason, he had practiced Masonry for eight years and was a Master Mason and Junio Deacon for his mother lodge.

"My father is a Freemason. I always knew I would join the fraternity at some point. I was proposed by my father and was interviewed to determine my eligibility," he tells me. Apart from his family, his church Deacon was a fellow Mason who he frequently met in meetings. He says many clergymen are Freemasons.

Symbols and rituals

My curiosity increases when I walk into a room that looks like a library. Here, all sorts of symbols and tools are displayed. I notice symbols drawn from tools of stonemasons like the Masonic campus and square, trowel etc. These tools, Mark tells me, serve as reminders of some of the moral teachings of the order that are accompanied by rituals.

Freemasonry traces its origins to events around the building of King Solomon's temple. In Masonry, "ritual" has two meanings. One meaning refers to a book containing the order of ceremonies and another meaning refers to some ceremonies/enactments which are a form of teaching. The reason for two definitions is because Freemasonry frequently uses old English, and the meaning of some words/phrases may seem at odds with modern English.

As I walk around the lodge, I notice some of the Masons are wearing aprons on top of their suits. This, Mark tells me is how Freemasons identify themselves as "speculative masons", recognizing that their roots lie in "operative masonry". As such, they utilize items commonly used by "operative masons", including aprons and tools.

I also sought to understand the meaning of the candle lighting ritual during the meeting. "The candles represent the sun, the moon, and the Master of the lodge. The symbolism is just as the sun rules the day and the moon governs the night with order and regularity, so also must the Master rule and govern his lodge with equal order and regularity," explains Mark. The candles remind the Master of his role during the meeting. After the meeting they are turned off because they are not needed.

Freemasonry requires each member to believe in God. [Caroline Kimutai, Standard]

Freemasonry and religion

Freemasonry requires each member to believe in God. However, it does not subscribe to a particular religion, and so does not require a member to believe in a particular God. "It is common knowledge that religion and politics are subjects that divide men. For the advancement of brotherhood, no discussions on those two topics are allowed."

During initiation, there are lodges that ask new initiates to take vows using a book. Mark clarifies that the book used depends on the predominant beliefs of its members. Vows are taken on the relevant book of faith of a member like what happens in a court of law.

"Freemasonry is essentially a system of morality (moral living). The only departure is that it does not specifically subscribe to Christianity (or any other religion)," explains Mark adding that contrary to popular myths, Freemasonry doesn't endow anyone with superpowers.

Human blood and sacrifice

As I conclude the interview, I ask about a common myth about the Masons; that they drink human blood, offer human sacrifice, and walk nude during meetings. "Those are myths. I have sometimes heard Freemasons encourage some other myths to create an atmosphere of intrigue!"

So why did Mark resign from Freemasonry? "Because members of my mother lodge had questionable morals and were not following the tenets of Masonry. But I miss the teachings and watching the ceremonies." On the ceremonies, I agree with Mark. They are indeed fascinating to watch!