What is abundently clear is that this all provided the aristocracy an hiring hall for convenient scoundrels. It also allowed the like minded to congregate as well. Real criminal conspiracy actually took place stage left but only after the lodge had helped clear the participation.
Not too surpringly it soon became a necessary instituion for those seeking public office. All this long before modern comms.
The element of secrecy had a natural value, but it also allowed criminal secrecy as well.
The true era of formation was during the first half of the eighteenth century when hte Jacobites in particular were about and had real access to aristocratic power and cash as well. Their needs were large and this expanded the whole system. Remember someone was paying for all this
In this temple every heterodox belief might be held. It was called Christian but was without Christian faith, or hope, or love. It was simply an astutely planned system for propagating the ideas of its founders; for a fundamental part of the policy of Socinus, and one in which he well instructed his disciples, was to associate either to Unitarianism or to the confederation formed at Vicenza, the rich, the learned, the powerful, and the influential of the world. He feigned an equal esteem for Trinitarians and anti-Trinitarians, for Lutherans and Calvinists. He praised the undertakings of all against the Church of Rome, and working upon their intense hatred for Catholicism, caused them to forget their many "isms" in order to unite them for the destruction of the common enemy. When that should be effected, it would be time to consider a system agreeable to all. Until then, unity of action inspired by hatred of the Church should reign amongst them.
In Holland they blended with the Anabaptists, and in England they found partisans amongst the Independents and various other sects into which the people were divided. The Abbe Lefranc believes (Le Voile Leve, Lyons, 1821), that Oliver Cromwell was a Socinian, and that he introduced Freemasonry into England. Certainly, Cromwell's sympathies were not for the Church favoured by the monarch he supplanted, and were much with the Independents. If he was a Socinian, we can easily understand how the secret society of Vicenza could have attractions for one of his anti-Catholic and ambitious sentiments. He gave its members in England, as Mgr. Segur tells us, the title of Freemasons, and invented the allegory of the Temple of Solomon, now so much used by Masonry of every kind, and which meant the original state of man supposed to be a commonwealth of equality with a vague Deism as its religion. This temple, destroyed by Christ for the Christian order, was to be restored by Freemasonry after Christ and the Christian order should be obliterated by conspiracy and revolution. The state of Nature was the "Hiram" whose murder Masonry was to avenge; and which, having previously removed Christ, was to resuscitate Hiram, by re-building the temple of Nature as it had been before.
Mgr. Segur, moreover, connects modern Freemasonry with the Jews and Templars, as well as with Socinus. There are reasons which lead me to think that he is right in doing so.
Then, as to its British History, we have 1 Gougenot des Mousseaux, in his work Le Juif, le Judaisme et la Judaisation des Peuples Chretiens (Paris 1869), has brought together a great number of indications on the relations of the high chiefs of Masonry with Judaism. He thus concludes:—"Masonry, that immense association, the rare initiates of which, that is to say, the real chiefs of which, whom we must be careful not to confound with the nominal chiefs, live in a strict and intimate alliance with the militant members of Judaism, princes and imitators of the high Cabal. For that elite of the order—these real chiefs whom so few of the initiated know, or whom they only know for the most part under a nom de guerre, are employed in the profitable and secret dependence of the cabalistic Israelites. And this phenomenon is accomplished thanks to the habits of rigorous discretion to which they subject themselves by oaths and terrible menaces; thanks also to the majority of Jewish
One of the works which Antichrist will do, it is said, is to re-unite the Jews, and to proclaim himself as their long looked-for Messias. As it is now generally believed that he is to come from Masonry and to be of it, this is not improbable, for in it he will find the Jews the most inveterate haters of Christianity, the deepest plotters, and the fittest to establish his reign.
The ancient guild of working masons had existed in Great Britain and in Europe for many centuries previous to his time They were like every other guild of craftsmen—a body formed for mutual protection and trade offices. But they differed from other tradespeople in this, that from their duties they were more cosmopolitan, and knew more of the ceremonies of religion at a period when the arts of reading and writing were not very generally understood.
They travelled over every portion of England and Scotland, and frequently crossed the Channel, to work at the innumerable religious houses, castles, fortifications, great abbeys, churches and cathedrals which arose over the face of Christendom in such number and splendour in the middle and succeeding ages.
To keep away interlopers, to sustain a uniform rate of wages, to be known amongst strangers, and, above all, amongst foreigners of their craft, signs were necessary; and these signs could be of value only in proportion to the secrecy with which they were kept within the craft itself. They had signs for those whom they accepted as novices, for the companion mason or journeyman, and for the masters of the craft. In ages when a trade was transmitted from father to son, and formed a kind of family inheritance, we can very well imagine that its secrets were guarded with much jealousy, and that its adepts were enjoined not to communicate them to anyone, not even to their wives, lest they become known to outsiders.
The masons were, if we except the clockmakers and jewellers, the most skilled artisans of Europe. By the cunning of their hands they knew how to make the rough stone speak out the grand conceptions of the architects of the middle ages; and often, the delicate foliage and flowers and statuary of the fanes they built, remind us of the most perfect eras of Greek and Roman sculpture. So closely connected with religion and religious architecture as were these "Brothers Masons," "Friars," "Fra," or "Free
The era of the so-called Reformation was a sad epoch for them. It was an era of Church demolition rather than of Church building. Wherever the blight of Protestantism fell, the beauty and stateliness of Church architecture became dwarfed, stunted, and degraded, whenever it was not utterly destroyed. The need of Brothers Masons had passed, and succeeding Mason began to admit men to their guilds who won a living otherwise than by the craft. In Germany their confraternity had become a cover for the reformers, and Socinus, seeing it as a means for advancing his Sect — a method for winning adepts and progressing stealthily without attracting the notice of Catholic government—would desire no doubt to use it for his purposes.
We have to this day the statute the genuine Freemasons of Strasbourg framed in 1462, and the same revised as late as 1563, but in them there is absolutely nothing of heresy or hostility to the Church. But there is a curious document called the Charter of Cologne dated 1535, which, if it be genuine, proves to us that there existed at that early period a body of Freemasons having principles identical
It is to be found in the archives of the Mother Lodge of Amsterdam which also preserves the act of its own constitution under the date of 1519. It reveals the existence of lodges of kindred intent in London, Edinburgh, Vienna, Amsterdam, Paris, Lyons, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Antwerp, Rotterdam, Madrid, Venice, Goriz, Koenigsberg, Brussels, Dantzig, Magdeburg, Bremen and Cologne; and it bears the signatures of well-known enemies of the Church at that period, namely — Hermanus or Herman de Weir, the immoral and heretical Archbishop- Elector of Cologne, placed for his misdeeds under the ban of the Empire; De Coligny, leader of the Huguenots of France; Jacob d'Anville, Prior of the Augustinians of Cologne, who incurred the same reproaches as Archbishop Herman; Melancthon, the Reformer; Nicholas Van Noot, Carlton, Bruce,Upson, Banning, Vireaux, Schroeder, Hoffman, Nobel, De la Torre, Doria, Uttenbow, Falck, Huissen, Wormer.
These names reveal both the country and the celebrity of all the men who signed the document. It was, possibly, a society like theirs, which the Venetian Government broke up and scattered in 1547, for we find distinct mention of a lodge existing at Venice in 1535. However this may be, Freemason lodges existed in Scotland from the time of the Reformation. One of them is referred to in the Charter of Cologne, and doubtless had many affiliations. In Scotland, as in other Catholic countries, the Templars were suppressed; and there, if nowhere else, that Order had the guilds of working masons under its special protection. It is therefore possible, as some say, that the knights coalesced with these Masons, and protected their own machinations with the aid of the secrets of the craft.
But while this and all else stated regarding the connection of the Templars with Masonry may be true, there is no real evidence that it is so. Much is said about the building of the Temple of Solomon; and that the Hiram killed, and whose death the craft is to avenge, means James Molay, the Grand Master, executed in the barbarous manner of his age for supposed complicity in the crimes with which the Templars were everywhere charged. There is tall talk about such things in modern Masonry, and a great deal of the absurd and puerile ritual in which the sect indulges when conferring the higher grades, is supposed to have reference to them.
But the Freemasonry with which we have to deal, however connected in its origin with the Templars, with Socinus, with the conspirators of Cologne, or those of Vicenza, or with Cromwell, received its
The Rosecroix, Rosicrucian degree, a society formed after the idea of Bacon's New Atlantis, appeared; and the various grades of companion, master, secret master, perfect master, elect, and Irish master, were either remodelled or newly formed, as we know them now. Charles I was decapitated in 1649, and Ashmole being a Royalist to the core, soon turned English Masonry from the purposes of Cromwell and his party, and made the craft, which was always strong in Scotland, a means to upset the Government of the Protector and to bring back the Stuarts. Now "Hiram." became the murdered Charles, who was to be avenged instead of James Molay, and the reconstruction of the Temple meant the restoration of the exiled House of Stuart. On the accession of Charles II the craft was, of course, not treated with disfavour; and when the misfortunes of James II drove him from the throne, the partisans of the House of Stuart had renewed recourse to it as a means of secret organization against the enemy.
Those who ambitioned office found there the means of advancement. The old spirit breathed into the fraternity by Socinus, and nourished so well by the heretical libertines of the England and Germany of the seventeenth century, and perfected by the Infidels of the eighteenth, was master in all its lodges. Banquets, ribald songs and jests, revelling in sin, constituted from the beginning a leading
The scoundrels of Europe found congenial employment in them; and before twenty years elapsed from their first introduction the lodges were a power in Europe, formidable by the union which subsisted between them all, and by the wealth, social position, and unscrupulousness of those who formed their brotherhood. The principles fashionable—and indeed alone tolerated—in them all, before long, were the principles of Voltaire and of his school. This led in time to the Union and "Illuminism" of Freemasonry.