Nothing to do with obtaining stones without payment!
Freemasonry is a fraternal organisation that arose from obscure origins in the late 16th to early 17th century. Freemasonry now exists in various forms all over the world, with a membership estimated at around 5 million, including just under two million in the United States and around 480,000 in England, Scotland and Ireland. The various forms all share moral and metaphysical ideals, which include, in most cases, a constitutional declaration of belief in a Supreme Being.
The fraternity is administratively organised into Grand Lodges (or sometimes Orients), each of which governs its own jurisdiction, which consists of subordinate (or constituent) Lodges. Grand Lodges recognise each other through a process of landmarks and regularity. There are also appendant bodies, which are organisations related to the main branch of Freemasonry, but with their own independent administration.
Freemasonry uses the metaphors of operative stonemasons’ tools and implements, against the allegorical backdrop of the building of King Solomon’s Temple, to convey what has been described by both Masons and critics as “a system of morality veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.”
Being a rather secretive and yet influential organisation (although almost certainly less so today) there is no shortage of myths, legends and conspiratorial tales. Perhaps most well known is the killing of “God’s banker”, Roberto Calvi, under Blackfriar’s bridge by members of the illegal P2 Masonic lodge. The same organisation heavily involved in “stay behind” operations such as Operation Gladio. reading that article again now, I can’t help noticing that Poland gets a mention:
Mr Gelli denies he was involved but has acknowledged that the financier, known as “God’s banker” because of his links with the Vatican, was murdered. He said the killing was commissioned in Poland.
My own dalliance with the organisation was far less eventful. I joined the Freemasons while I was working at Marks & Spencer more than 20 years ago now. I had spent the first two years there doing a good job but getting nowhere fast and so I thought I’d see what happened if I slowed down but did all the “right things”. The right things included having coffee with the right people at 07:30 every morning, playing golf, joining the Masons and spending more time filling out papers than actually getting any work done. As far as my career at M&S was concerned it worked a treat although I left the company before taking any advantage of my new-found stardom. I never did enjoy the 07:30 start, especially when I was having to travel to Baker Street from St Albans. The golf bug remains to this day and I left the Freemasons after about a year. Well, the story goes that you can never really leave the Freemasons because it is very much frowned upon. I remember lines of ritual about my tongue being cut out and left on a beach at high tide…..or something equally spiteful that will happen to me if I try and leave. Or was that if I divulge secrets, whatever, it’s all very silly.
The whole experience was interesting. Rather like going to church but with the standing, sitting and kneeling replaced by blindfolds and trouser leg activities. Lots of ritual, plenty of symbolism, companionship, chances for progression through the ranks. I suppose it can be whatever you make of it and there are probably as many people who take it seriously enough to devote their life to it as there are people like me who just don’t see the point.
I’m useless at this stuff anyway. There is a certain handshake that might identify you as being a Mason to others but I can’t say that I ever really bothered using it as it’s a little awkward compared to a regular shake. This left me in a pickle on the very rare occasions I noticed someone giving me the secret signal because I had not reciprocated and now it was too late. I can hardly say “Excuse me, could we do that shake one more time!!”. There are things you can say as well about “being on the square” or other such poppycock but really, I found it all a bit embarrassing.
Apparently, Freemasonry has a long history in Poland, going back to the 1700’s. It was naturally outlawed during communist rule but has apparently enjoyed a surge in popularity since then. For some reason I can imagine Polish men finding the whole idea of a secret and potentially lucrative club quite attractive. Don’t ask me to explain that because it’s more of a gut feeling than anything factual. For those with Polish language skills you can read more at the Wirtualny Wschód Wolnomularski website.
I read somewhere that there’s a Polish TV presenter who wears a large “square and compass” pin on his jacket, visible to the viewers. Anyone know who it is?