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Freemasons & Zombies: The Conspiracy

March 24, 2010 6 comments

A funny, yet eerie thing happens when you wander into the world of secret conspiracies; like  wandering the Cretan Labyrinth, it’s easy to lose sight of both your original starting point and your ultimate goal.

Our theory that early operative Freemasons became familiar with “revenants” (creatures that in folklore later became zombies and vampires), and codified the means of how to destroy them in certain ceremonies has been met with the expected amount of derision and skepticism. I think that many people simply fail to understand that Freemasons, being employed by the Catholic Church to work on their buildings, had a need to keep their activities on the downlow so as not to be accused of trafficking with the demonic by the less educated and more superstitious population.

We expected this when I volunteered to be the one to publish the ideas.

None of us believe that the revenants are supernatural creatures; those ideas didn’t come about until the Gothic period, when — ironically enough  — people began to be frightened by the idea of technology. No, we think that the historic records of the time will show that people were falling to an as-yet unnamed disease that caused the appearance of death, after which the victims became mindless eating machines (insert jokes about teen-aged boys here). Poor knowledge of medicine and other social factors contributed to the occasional outbreaks in the rural and wooded districts. Unfortunately, when people started moving to the cities in the early 1700s,  so did the outbreaks.

Initially, we theorized that high-level Masons were (although in league with the national and state governments) still keeping this quiet, so as not to alarm the general public, who have shown themselves to be more educated, but not really much less superstitious than they were in the Middle Ages. Naturally, this has met with a lot of skepticism from both Masons and non-Masons alike.

We expected this, too.

But what we did not expect was to be presented with an alternate theory: That the high-level Freemasons have been trying to educate the public by allowing them access to these rituals and ceremonies. Indeed, for the last several years, virtually every newspaper article, news show, or cable TV special has begun with “The once secretive Freemasons have begun to open their doors,” or “The secret mysteries of the Freemasons are being unveiled,” or “Freemasons, that once-secret society, have now begun to…”

The alternate theory, which we have found to be very compelling,  is that various Grand Lodges have been pressured by these higher-level Masons to show off a little, and to encourage non-Masons to look at our secret ceremonies, ostensibly to show that they are simply arcane rituals, but actually, so that the viewing public will understand what to do should there be a wide-spread outbreak of this unknown disease. Indeed, just the fact that we have come so far into the public eye in only a few short years suggests that the higher-level Masons may even expect that a wide-spread infection is about to happen.  Our rituals have been discussed in print by hundreds of authors, and in the last few years have been featured on the Discovery Channel, the History Channel, and several other cable TV specials. A generation ago — even ten years ago — this would have been unthinkable. Now we’re practically giddy when we think about it.

Ultimately, I expect that we’ll discover that our original conception was closer to the mark. But the idea remains: is it possible that an unknown disease — perhaps a new “superflu” is about to bring us culturally back to the Middle Ages?

Followup:

The secret lesson of Hiram and the Ruffians

Freemasons & Zombies: The Conspiracy

Freemasons reveal zombie preparedness plan

The secret lesson of Hiram and the Ruffians

March 19, 2010 6 comments

 

One of the great things about the internet is how people with seemingly nothing in common can exchange ideas without ever actually meeting in person. Such is the case when I recently began exchanging emails with an amateur historian, an epidemiologist, and a professor of sociology. At first, it seemed that our only common bond was that we all share an interest in Freemasonry; however over time it developed that we all had some questions about our gentle Craft that have never been satisfactorily answered. As we began discussing the dilemma, we also found that we were able to integrate our various fields of knowledge in order to work through the problem. In doing so, we believe that we have managed to solve one of the most puzzling  issues in the early history of the fraternity.

We now have some serious evidence pointing to the origins of what is commonly known as The Hiramic Legend in the Master Mason degree.

Some brief background: Early Freemasonry had only two degrees, the Entered Apprentice, and Fellowcraft (i.e., Fellow of the Craft). This situation was extant before the 1717 formation of the Grand Lodge of England, and continued for some years afterward. Yet, sometime in the mid-1700s, records show that various lodges seemed to have begun performing some variation of this legend. The origins of the drama are unknown, but is often attributed to being some kind of morality play. The drawback of this theory is that the legend draws on the Biblical story of Hiram Abiff; in the Old Testament, Hiram is a relatively minor character. More confusing is the rather obvious paradox in which the Masonic legend deviates so drastically from the actual Old Testament story: in the OT, Hiram Abiff comes to help King Solomon build his famed Temple, and when finished, goes home to his family with some considerable payment. In the Masonic drama, however, Hiram is shown to be struck down before the completion of the Temple by three Fellowcrafts, who then attempt to hide his body in a makeshift grave out in the dessert. This is the most extreme departure from Biblical scripture recorded in any of the dozens of Masonic ceremonies, and it stands to reason that there is a purpose for this. By taking what we know about Masonic history from that era, and placing it within the context of the social and cultural aspects of the time,  we believe that we have discovered that purpose.

To understand the social context, we need to consider that the early 1700s was the beginning of the Industrial Revolution; prior to this period, most people lived an agrarian-based lifestyle. However, as more factories were built in and around the cities, larger populations were drawn into the urban areas, and by the mid-1700s, larger numbers of people left the farming communities to see work in the factories. Not surprisingly, the population explosion led to issues of public hygiene: the spread of disease, the disposal of wastes, and the proper internment of the growing number of the deceased.

Although we can trace Freemasonry back to the late 1400s and early 1500s, it wasn’t until the early to mid 1700s that we see the rise of organized networks of Masons, via the formation of Grand Lodges. There are no records as to why several London lodges decided to formalize their arrangement, but it wasn’t long before other lodges joined the network — and it was a network, as the lodges we more able to freely exchange information, including the variations of their rituals and ceremonies. It is significant to note that during this period, There were still only the two degrees in Masonry;  “Master” Masons were those who were literally Masters of their lodges. Likewise, the degree ceremonies were relatively simple and the basic ceremonies were essentially the same in each lodge, although many lodges had their own particular set of “lectures” for the candidates.

At some point in the early to mid 1700s, we see records of lodges adding a type of morality play to the degree ceremonies. The main character varies in some of the earliest versions, but by the third quarter of the 1700s, that character was solidified as Hiram Abiff, and the stories became more consistent. Interestingly, they all contain similar elements: A character is beset by three assailants, and is then murdered; each assailant using a different weapon and attacking a different part of the character’s body. In many variations, the Hiramic legend specifies that Hiram is struck across the throat, in the chest, and in the head. The assailants (often referred to as the “Ruffians” in North America) strike with tools commonly associated with Masons: A square, a rule  (sometimes called the 24 inch gauge), and a mallet or setting maul.

While Masons often assume that the assailants use those particular tools as a way to tie in to the tradition working tools in the various degrees, as we unearthed more information about the underlying social context, it became obvious that this line of reasoning has it backwards; that is, the legend itself is an instructional play that uses these tools as a way to reinforce knowledge to which only a few were at one time privy.  And while we can not yet account for the reasoning behind using the character Hiram Abiff (except that he is a relatively minor character in the OT, and the change of storyline would be easily forgotten), we believe that the traditional lessons taught by this drama — about his integrity and bravery in the face of death — intentionally overshadow the real lessons that needed to be passed down to the new generations of Masons living in the crowded cities and urban areas. In this light, it is the Ruffians themselves who are the teachers and exemplars.

Read more…

Turning the Keys with Dr. Robert Lomas

March 9, 2008 Leave a comment

Few modern Masonic authors can generate the kind interest that follows Dr. Robert Lomas. Beginning with “The Hiram Key” and followed up by another half dozen books on the history and symbolism of the Craft, Dr. Lomas has offered up some interesting – and controversial – theories and ideas about the evolution of symbology and the meaning of the symbolic language underlying Masonic rituals and ceremonies.

On Sunday, March 9th, he called us from his home in England and joined Bro. Heath Armbruster of Saskatchewan, Canada for the second The Working Tools podcast. Masonic Media Mogul Cory Sigler (of The Working Tools magazine and social networking site), Justin Budreau (Masonic web designer) and I had a fascinating two hour conversation with Dr. Lomas on topics ranging from the Kirkwall Scroll, to Masonic symbols, to the evolution of symbolism, to Sir Robert Moray, to the inconveniences of tele-presentations. Chris Hodapp joined us partway into the program, asking his usual insightful questions.

Bros. Lomas and Armbruster worked together to create an interesting DVD on the history of Masonic symbolism which they are selling in order to raise money for several Masonic charities. Dr. Lomas gave several lectures which were compiled into a presentation for The DVD, which is selling for $15 Canadian. Anyone interested can contact Bro. Heath at lomasdvd@kinghiram104.com for more details. If the 2 hours Dr. Lomas spent with us is any indication, it will be an excellent addition to any Masonic library.

We should point out that Dr. Lomas, himself, has just published a new book called Turning the Templar Key in which he discusses the meaning of the rituals and ceremonies of the Knights Templar and relates them to modern Freemasonry.

The Talkshoe format worked flawlessly, allowing five or six of us to talk to each other by telephone from various countries and time zones. We were joined by about a hundred real-time listeners, a dozen or so of whom registered in order to use the IM feature. Many of them had excellent comments and questions, some of which were addressed by Dr. Lomas himself.

You can listen to the show (Episode 2), or download the MP3 file for your iPod or other player at The Working Tools channel.

Upright Regular Steps

October 8, 2007 Leave a comment

This past weekend we had a party for my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary. It turned into a family reunion as the hordes of out-of-town relatives descended on the small town of Woodbury, Connecticut and took over an inn for the weekend. I made a few notes on it elsewhere, so I don’t need to repeat it here.

But I did want to mention that on Saturday morning, while some people were nursing hangovers and others were antique shopping or visiting the local flea market, I took the opportunity to get a little quiet time to myself. Having been on a fitness kick since early summer, I had brought my road bike with me, and took a nice spin up and down historic Rte 67 from Southbury up through the center of Woodbury and headed out toward Watertown. 67 and US 6 run together at these points, and people not familiar with New England may not realize that US 6 is an old pre-Revolutionary War highway. Frankly, after seeing how many famous “Founding Fathers” and other early patriots slept along the route, it’s a wonder that we managed to rouse the troops at all, let alone win our independence.

That said, as I rode through Woodbury, just near the center of town I saw a huge 2-story high rock cliff with a rickety stairway bolted and supported along the side of the rock itself. A glance at the top of the stairway showed a plain white building with the familiar square and compasses. Without even seeing the sign I knew I was in front of the legendary King Solomon’s Lodge No. 7. The “lodge with the stairs” as it’s sometimes called by people in the Northeast corner of the state, and while I’d passed by it dozens of times, that was before I was a Mason, and so never really noticed it.

Lodge Photos

I’d heard stories about these stairs which are decidedly not to the local handicapped access building codes. In fact, a closer view of the stairway made me wonder how in the world a bunch of seventy-year old brothers could even manage this in the dark when I was hesitant to get close to them in broad daylight. The stairs are blocked off with boards and a Private – No Trespassing sign, but my guess is that the sight of thin boards and skinny metal pipes braced against the rocks would deter all but the most stout-hearted of interlopers.

Not realizing that the foliage and other scenery would be so pleasant during my 20-odd mile ride through the area, I didn’t pack my regular digital camera. These pictures were only taken with my phone camera, which really doesn’t do justice to either the building or the beautiful autumn scenery along the road. But I’m glad that I managed to at least get a glimpse of Masonic history over the weekend.

King Solomon No. 7 is one of the oldest lodge buildings in the state, and there is a fascinating history behind the stairway which can be read on their website here.

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