Saturday, December 15, 2007
Discovery: Secret History of the Freemasons
Tonight Sat Dec 15 The Discovery Channel presented “National Treasure’s Secret History of the Freemasons,” punctuated by ads for Disney’s new movie “National Treasure: Book of Secrets” hosted by Nicholas Cage.
The program unfolded in typical Discovery documentary style, with lots of rhetorical questions asked repeatedly. The basic thesis was the idea that the Freemasons are the custodians of secret knowledge which they use to “rule the world” and impose a new world order. There are loose connections to many developments in history, going back to the building of King Solomon’s Temple and the attempt to get secrets from a stone craftsman named Hiram Abiff.
Some people connect them to the Knights Templar, an exotic order of warrior monks that became powerful during the Crusades. The cultural fraternity as we know it developed from the stonemasons’ guilds in the middle ages. The secret passwords and symbols were associated with the passage of “trade secrets” within a profession. In the 18th Century, “speculative masons” started forming fraternities just to explore knowledge.
The program explores several urban legends connecting the Masons to a sensational underworld murder in Britain in 1982, to Jack the Ripper, and to an accidental shooting in a Lodge in New York.
The program ends with a televised rendition of an initiation into the First Degree. It is essentially a harmless acting out of the incident in Solomon’s Temple but does involve a fake slaying. In the end, Freemasonry is more about self-improvement and the general promotion of virtues associated with liberty than anything else.
There are other cultural fraternities, such as the Rosicrucian Order AMORC, which also has a system of degrees and rituals. AMORC does speak of “mysteries” or of knowledge passed by avatars over the ages, with Christ such an avatar. Like the Freemasons, AMORC insists that it is not a church as such. But New Age writers sometimes speak of “the invisible empire of the Rosicrucians.”
The idea that some of knowledge is secret and passed on by organizations really grows out of the idea before that knowledge should be passed within churches, families or trades. The Internet is changing this perception. Ideas like wikis (and Wikipedia), search engines (Google, etc), Web 2.0, and knowledge databases are taking what started with systematic indexing by libraries (still done and sold in compilations by companies like LexisNexis) and uncoiling them in a manner that they are much more usable, at kuch lower cost, by the “average person.”