Suppression of Freemasonry

A number of governments have treated Freemasonry as a potential source of opposition due to its secret nature and international connections. After the founding of modern speculative Masonry in England in 1717, several Protestant states restricted Masonic lodges: the Netherlands banned the lodge in 1735; Sweden and Geneva, in 1738; Zurich, in 1740; and Berne, in 1745. Catholic Spain, Portugal, France and Italy attempted to suppress Freemasonry after 1738. Bavaria followed in 1784; Austria, in 1795; Baden, in 1813; Russia, in 1822.[1] It was also banned in Pakistan in 1972.[2]

Masonic scholar Paul Bessel has noted that the language used by modern totalitarian regimes is similar to that used by some other modern critics of Freemasonry.[3]

Freemasonry was persecuted in all the communist countries,[3][4] but the organization has survived in Cuba, allegedly providing safe haven for dissidents.[5]

The Americas

After the 1826 disappearance of William Morgan, who was allegedly kidnapped by Freemasons[6] after publishing an exposé and then apparently killed,[7] the Morgan affair resulted in increased suspicion of Freemasonry and the formation of the Anti-Masonic Party. William A. Palmer of Vermont and Joseph Ritner of Pennsylvania were both elected governor of their respective states on anti-Masonic platforms.

John Quincy Adams, President of the United States during the Morgan affair, later declared, objecting to the oath of secrecy, in particular to keeping undefined secrets, and to the penalties for breaking the oath, "Masonry ought forever to be abolished. It is wrong - essentially wrong - a seed of evil which can never produce any good."[8]

Though few states passed laws directed at Freemasonry by name, laws regulating and restricting it were passed and many cases dealing with Freemasonry were seen in the courts.[9] Antimasonic legislation was passed in Vermont in 1833, including a provision by which the giving and willing taking of an unnecessary oath was made a crime. (Pub. Stat., sec. 5917),[10] and the state of New York enacted a Benevolent Orders Law to regulate such organizations.[9]


In 1938, a Japanese representative to the Welt-Dienst / World-Service congress hosted by Ulrich Fleischhauer stated, on behalf of Japan, that "Judeo-Masonry is forcing the Chinese to turn China into a spearhead for an attack on Japan, and thereby forcing Japan to defend herself against this threat. Japan is at war not with China but with Freemasonry (Tiandihui), represented by General Chiang Kai-shek, the successor of his master, the Freemason Sun Yat-sen."[3]


Freemasonry was outlawed in the Soviet Union during the Communist era and suppressed throughout Central Europe (Hungary and Czechoslovakia).[4]


Benito Mussolini decreed in 1924 that every member of his Fascist Party who was a Mason must abandon either one or the other organization, and in 1925, he dissolved Freemasonry in Italy, claiming that it was a political organization. One of the most prominent Fascists, General Capello, who had also been Deputy Grand Master of the Grande Oriente, Italy's leading Grand Lodge, gave up his membership in the Fascist Party rather than in Masonry. He was later arrested on false charges and sentenced to 30 years in jail.[11]


In 1919, Béla Kun[12] proclaimed the dictatorship of the proletariat in Hungary and Masonic properties were taken into public ownership. After the fall of the dictatorship of the proletariat the leaders of counter-revolution as Miklós Horthy blamed the Hungarian freemasons for their First World War defeat and for the revolution. Masonry was outlawed by a decree in 1920. This marked the start of raids by army officers on Masonic lodges[13] along with theft, and sometimes destruction, of Masonic libraries, records, archives, paraphernalia, and works of art. Several Masonic buildings were seized and used for anti-Masonic exhibitions. The masonic documents were archived, preserved and may still used for research.

In post war Hungary, lodges were re-established, but after five years[13] the government described them as "meeting places of the enemies of the people's democratic republic, of capitalistic elements, and of the adherents of Western imperialism". They were banned again in 1950.[3]

Nazi Germany and occupied Europe

The Nazis claimed that high-degree Masons were willing members of the Jewish conspiracy and that Freemasonry was one of the causes of Germany's defeat in World War I.[14] In Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler wrote that Freemasonry has succumbed to the Jews and has become an excellent instrument to fight for their aims and to use their strings to pull the upper strata of society into their designs. He continued, "The general pacifistic paralysis of the national instinct of self-preservation begun by Freemasonry" is then transmitted to the masses of society by the press.[15] In 1933 Hermann Göring, the Reichstag President and one of the key figures in the process of Gleichschaltung ("synchronization"), stated "in National Socialist Germany, there is no place for Freemasonry".[16]

Bundesarchiv Bild 183-W1028-507, Erlangen, Freimaurer bei Zeremonie
Lodge "Libanon zu den 3 Zedern" in Erlangen, Germany. First meeting after World War II with guests from USA, France and Czechoslovakia; May 1948.

The Enabling Act (Ermächtigungsgesetz in German) was passed by Germany's parliament (the Reichstag) on March 23, 1933. Using the Act, on January 8, 1934, the German Ministry of the Interior ordered the disbandment of Freemasonry, and confiscation of the property of all Lodges; stating that those who had been members of Lodges when Hitler came to power, in January 1933, were prohibited from holding office in the Nazi party or its paramilitary arms, and were ineligible for appointment in public service.[17] Consistently considered an ideological foe of Nazism in their world perception (Weltauffassung), special sections of the Security Service (SD) and later the Reich Security Main Office (RSHA) were established to deal with Freemasonry.[18] Masonic concentration camp inmates were graded as political prisoners, and wore an inverted (point down) red triangle.[19]

On August 8, 1935, as Führer and Chancellor, Adolf Hitler announced in the Nazi Party newspaper, Voelkischer Beobachter, the final dissolution of all Masonic Lodges in Germany. The article accused a conspiracy of the Fraternity and World Jewry of seeking to create a World Republic.[20] In 1937 Joseph Goebbels inaugurated an "Anti-Masonic Exposition" to display objects seized by the state.[16] The Ministry of Defence forbade officers from becoming Freemasons, with officers who remained as Masons being sidelined.[3]

During the war, Freemasonry was banned by edict in all countries that were either allied with the Nazis or under Nazi control, including Norway and France. Anti-Masonic exhibitions were held in many occupied countries. Field-Marshal Friedrich Paulus was denounced as a "High-grade Freemason" when he surrendered to the Soviet Union in 1943.[21]

In 1943, the anti-Masonic propaganda film Forces occultes was produced in Nazi-occupied France, accusing the Freemasons of conspiring with Jews and Anglo-American nations to encourage France into a war with Germany.

The preserved records of the RSHA—i.e., Reichssicherheitshauptamt or the Office of the High Command of Security Service, which pursued the racial objectives of the SS through the Race and Resettlement Office—document the persecution of Freemasons.[18] The number of Freemasons from Nazi occupied countries who were killed is not accurately known, but it is estimated that between 80,000 and 200,000 Freemasons were murdered under the Nazi regime.[22]

Papal States

In 1736 the Florentine Inquisition investigated a Masonic Lodge in Florence, Italy,[23] and the Lodge was condemned in June 1737 by the Chief Inquisitor in Rome. The lodge had originally been founded by English Masons, but accepted Italian members.

In 1738, Pope Clement XII issued In eminenti apostolatus, the first Papal prohibition on Freemasonry.

A more contemporary call for suppression is found in the encyclical Humanum genus of 1884, which calls Masonry a dangerous sect and demands that all bishops be vigilant on its abuses.


It is claimed that the dictator Miguel Primo de Rivera ordered the abolition of Freemasonry in Spain.[24] In September 1928, one of the two Grand Lodges in Spain was closed and approximately two-hundred (200) masons, most notably the Grand Master of the Grand Orient, were imprisoned for allegedly plotting against the government.[25]

Following the military coup of 1936, many Freemasons trapped in areas under Nationalist control were arrested and summarily killed in the White Terror (Spain), along with members of left wing parties and trade unionists. It was reported that Masons were tortured, garroted, shot, and murdered by organized death squads in every town in Spain. At this time one of the most rabid opponents of Freemasonry, Father Juan Tusquets Terrats, began to work for the Nationalists with the task of exposing masons. One of his close associates was Franco’s personal chaplain, and over the next two years, these two men assembled a huge index of 80,000 suspected masons, even though there were little more than 5,000 masons in Spain. The results were horrific. Among other countless crimes, the lodge building in Cordoba was burnt, the Masonic Temple of Santa Cruz de Tenerife in the Canary Islands was confiscated and transformed into the headquarters of the Falange, and another was shelled by artillery. In Salamanca thirty (30) members of one lodge were shot, including a priest. Similar atrocities occurred across the country: fifteen (15) masons were shot in Logrono, seventeen (17) in Ceuta, thirty-three (33) in Algeciras, and thirty (30) in Valladolid, among them the Civil Governor. Few towns escaped the carnage as Freemasons in Lugo, Zamora, Cadiz and Granada were brutally rounded up and shot, and in Seville, the entire membership of several lodges were butchered. The slightest suspicion of being a mason was often enough to earn a place in a firing squad, and the blood-letting was so fierce that, reportedly, some masons were even hurled into working engines of steam trains. By 16 December 1937, according to the annual masonic assembly held in Madrid, all masons that had not escaped from the areas under nationalist control had been murdered.[25]

After the victory of dictator General Francisco Franco, Freemasonry was officially outlawed in Spain on 2 March 1940. Being a mason was automatically punishable by a minimum jail term of 12 years.[26] Masons of the 18º and above were deemed guilty of ‘Aggravated Circumstances’, and usually faced the death penalty.[27]

According to Francoists, the Republican Regime which Franco overthrew had a strong Masonic presence. In reality Spanish Masons were present in all sectors of politics and the armed forces.[28] At least four (4) of the Generals who supported Franco's rebellion were Masons, although many lodges contained fervent but generally conservative Republicans. Freemasonry was formally outlawed in the Law for the Repression of Freemasonry and Communism.[29] After Franco's decree outlawing masonry, Franco's supporters were given two months to resign from any lodge they might be a member. Many masons chose to go into exile instead, including prominent monarchists who had whole-heartedly supported the Nationalist rebellion in 1936. The common components in Spanish Masonry seems to have been upper or middle class conservative liberalism and strong anti-clericism.[30]

The Law for the Repression of Freemasonry and Communism was not abrogated until 1963.[29] References to a "Judeo-Masonic plot" are a standard component of Francoist speeches and propaganda and reveal the intense and paranoid obsession of the dictator with masonry. Franco produced at least 49 pseudonymous anti-masonic magazine articles and an anti-masonic book during his lifetime. According to Franco:

"The whole secret of the campaigns unleashed against Spain can be explained in two words: masonry and communism... we have to extirpate these two evils from our land."[27]

United Kingdom

It was the Unlawful Societies Act of 1799 that saw the first statute "for the more effectual suppression of societies established for seditious and treasonable purposes"; once enacted it affected all societies whose members were required to take an oath not authorised by law, shall be deemed "unlawful combinations." It was as a result of the intervention of the Grand Master of the Antients, The 4th Duke of Atholl, and the Acting Grand Master of the Moderns, the earl of Moira that a special exempting clause was inserted into this legislation in favour of societies "held under the Denomination of Lodges of Freemasons" provided that they had been "usually held before the Act" and their names, places and times of meeting and the names of the members were annually registered with the local Clerk to the Justices of the Peace. This continued on until 1967 when this Act was repealed by a section of the Criminal Justice Act which meant that the annual returns of all the Lodges to the authorities ceased.[31]

Since 1997, several members of the British Government have attempted to pass laws requiring Freemasons who join the police or judiciary[32] to declare their membership publicly to the government amid accusations of Freemasons performing acts of mutual advancement and favour-swapping. This movement was initially led by Jack Straw, Home Secretary from 1997 until 2001.[32] In 1999, the Welsh Assembly became the only body in the United Kingdom to place a legal requirement on membership declaration for Freemasons.[33] Currently, existing members of the police and judiciary in England are asked to voluntarily admit to being Freemasons.[34] However, all first time successful judiciary candidates "must declare their freemasonry status" before appointment.[34] Conversely, new members of the police are not required to declare their status.[34]

In 2004, Rhodri Morgan, the First Minister of the Welsh Assembly, said that he blocked Gerard Elias' appointment to counsel general because of links to hunting and Freemasonry,[35] although it was claimed by non-Labour politicians that the real reason was in order to have a Labour supporter, Malcolm Bishop, in the role.[36]

Islamic world

After the condemnation of Freemasonry by Clement XII in 1738, Sultan Mahmud I followed suit outlawing the organization and since that time Freemasonry was equated with atheism in the Ottoman Empire and the broader Islamic world.[37] The opposition in the Islamic world has been reinforced by the anticlerical and atheistic slant of the Grand Orient of France.[37]

On July 15, 1978, the Islamic Jurisdictional College—one of the most influential entities that interpret Sharia, or Islamic law—issued an opinion that deemed Freemasonry to be "dangerous" and "clandestine".[37]

After World War I, while under the British Mandate, Iraq used to have several lodges. This all changed with the 14 July Revolution in 1958, however, with the abolition of the Hashemite Monarchy and Iraq's declaration as a republic. The licences permitting lodges to meet were rescinded, and later, laws were introduced banning any further meetings. This position was later reinforced under Saddam Hussein the death penalty was "prescribed" for those who "promote or acclaim Zionist principles, including Freemasonry, or who associate [themselves] with Zionist organizations".[38]

Freemasonry is illegal in all Arab countries except Lebanon and Morocco and the current Grand Lodge in Turkey.[37] [39]

See also


  1. ^ Whalen, W.J., "Freemasonry" The New Catholic Encyclopedia (1967) article hosted at Retrieved 2017-11-03.
  2. ^ "Masonic mystique, Dawn, December 13, 2009
  3. ^ a b c d e Bessel, Paul M. (November 1994). "Bigotry and the Murder of Freemasonry". Retrieved 2011-10-19.
  4. ^ a b Whalen, W.J., "Freemasonry" The New Catholic Encyclopedia (1967) article hosted at Retrieved 2011-10-19. "Soviet Russia outlawed Masonry in 1922. Freemasonry does not exist today in the Soviet Union, China, or other Communist states. Postwar revivals of Freemasonry in Czechoslovakia and Hungary were suppressed in 1950."
  5. ^ Cuba's muzzled mavericks find haven among Masons Archived 2006-12-31 at the Wayback Machine, by Gary Marx, published April 14, 2005
  6. ^ Ridley, Jasper;The Freemasons: A History of the World's Most Powerful Secret Society, pp. 180-181 (Arcade Publishing 1999).
  7. ^ Finney, Charles Grandison; The Character, Claims, and Practical Workings of Freemasonry.
  8. ^ Adams, John Quincy Letters on the Masonic Institution, p. 68-71, 1847 Press of T.R. Marvin
  9. ^ a b Mackey, Albert Gallatin and H. L. Haywood [Encyclopedia of Freemasonry Part 3], p. 1286, Kessinger Publishing 1909
  10. ^ Vermont Catholic Encyclopedia, 1911, Accessed June 26, 2008
  11. ^ 'The Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction', Alphonse Cerza, published by the Masonic Service Association, September 1967
  12. ^ King, Edward L. ""Famous" Anti-Masons". Retrieved 14 August 2017.
  13. ^ a b L. Nagy Zsuzsa: Szabadkőművesség a XX. században, Budapest, 1977, Kossuth Könyvkiadó; L. Nagy Zsuzsa: Szabadkőművesség, Budapest, 1988, Akadémiai kiadó
  14. ^ Art DeHoyos and S. Brent Morris (2004). Freemasonry in Context: History, Ritual, Controversy. pp. 100–101.
  15. ^ Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, pages 315 and 320.
  16. ^ a b The American Mercury Newspaper, 1941 Archived 2012-08-13 at the Wayback Machine accessed 21 May 2006
  17. ^ The Enabling Act Accessed February 23, 2006.
  18. ^ a b "Documented evidence from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum pertaining to the persecution of the Freemasons Archived 2012-12-10 at the Wayback Machine" accessed 21 May 2006
  19. ^ The Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, volume 2, page 531, citing Katz, Jews and Freemasons in Europe.
  20. ^ Bro. E Howe, Freemasonry in Germany, Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No 2076 (UGLE), 1984 Yearbook.
  21. ^ Denslow, Freemasonry in the Eastern Hemisphere, at page 111, citing a letter from Otto Arnemann in 1947, cited as Note 22 in Bigotry and the Murder of Freemasonry by Paul M. Bessel
  22. ^ Hodapp, Christopher (2013). Freemasonry for Dummies, 2. Edition. Wiley Publishing Inc. ISBN 1118412087.
  23. ^ From the biography of Tommaso Crudeli on the website of the Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon
  24. ^ "In 1925, Spain's first dictator of this generation, General Primo de Rivera, ordered the abolition of Freemasonry in his country." The Anhilation of Freemasonry by Sven G. Lunden by The American Mercury Newspaper, 1941. Hosted by the Grand Lodge of Antient Free and Accepted Masons of Scotland
  25. ^ a b Scanlan, Matthew. "Freemasonry and the Spanish Civil War: Part I, the Path to War". Archived from the original on 28 August 2010. Retrieved 19 August 2009.
  26. ^ "Freemasonry banned in Spain by General Franco". Retrieved 14 August 2017.
  27. ^ a b ""Freemasonry and the Spanish Civil War: Part II", by Matthew Scanlan retrieved 19 August 2009". Archived from the original on 11 July 2011. Retrieved 14 August 2017.
  28. ^ Bowen, Wayne H. (2006). Spain during World War II. University of Missouri press. p. 249.
  29. ^ a b Ruiz, Julius, Franco's justice: repression in Madrid after the Spanish Civil War, p. 25 Oxford Univ. Press
  30. ^ Hugh Thomas, The Spanish Civil War, Penguin, 1965 p. 47-48
  31. ^ Pietre Stones The Unlawful Societies Act of 1799, Dr Andrew Prescott, retrieved 13th July 2012
  32. ^ a b "New judges must declare masonic membership", BBC, March 5, 1998, retrieved Feb 26, 2006
  33. ^ "Freemason policy review due ", BBC, Dec 8, 2001, retrieved Feb 26, 2006
  34. ^ a b c "House of Commons Hansard Written Answers for 21 Jul 2005 (pt 69) " Archived 15 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine, UK House of Commons, July 21, 2005, retrieved Oct 2, 2007
  35. ^ "Morgan criticised over job blocking", BBC, March 22, 2004, retrieved February 26, 2006
  36. ^ "Mr Morgan wanted another QC, Malcolm Bishop, who has stood as a Labour candidate and is a close associate of former Lord Chancellor Derry Irvine." Morgan 'blocked' QC appointment
  37. ^ a b c d Layiktez, Cecil "Freemasonry in the Islamic World", Pietre-Stones Review of Freemasonry, 1996
  38. ^ "Saddam To Be Formally Charged". Washington Times. 1 July 2004.
  39. ^ Cite error: The named reference was invoked but never defined (see the help page).

External links

Esotericism in Germany and Austria

This article gives an overview of esoteric movements in Germany and Austria between 1880 and 1945, presenting Theosophy, Anthroposophy and Ariosophy, among others, against the influences of earlier European esotericism.

Freemasonry in Barbados

Freemasonry in Barbados is one of the oldest established organisations in the country. Regular Freemasonry is controlled from London and Edinburgh by the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) and the Grand Lodge of Scotland through local Provincial Grand Lodges. More recently Prince Hall Freemasonry has also been established on the island.

Freemasonry in Germany

Freemasonry in Germany started in several places during the second quarter of the Eighteenth century. After the extinction of the Rite of Strict Observance, which had a wide following and claimed Templar origins for its higher degrees, the several Grand Lodges in Germany defied all attempts at unification, although a largely ineffectual central organisation came into being with the unification of Germany. During the 1920s Freemasons were harassed alongside Jews by those taken in by the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and blamed for the German surrender of 1918. This culminated with the suppression of Freemasonry by the Nazis in 1935, with many Masons in Germany and occupied countries being executed or sent to concentration camps. Freemasonry returned to Germany after World War Two. A single central body now represents five "regular" Grand Lodges. Liberal, women's, and mixed lodges also exist.

Freemasonry in Lebanon

Freemasonry in Lebanon started with the charter of a Lodge by the Grand Lodge of Scotland in 1861, and has expanded to include Lodges working in multiple languages (including Arabic, English, and French) and chartered under multiple jurisdictions and streams.

Grand Lodge of Manitoba

The Grand Lodge of Manitoba is the Grand Lodge, or governing body, of the masonic organization in the jurisdiction or Manitoba, Canada. Manitoba contains 54 lodges with 4,000 members. The Grand Lodge was established on 12 May 1875.

Grand Lodge of Missouri

The Grand Lodge of Missouri is one of two statewide organizations that oversee Masonic lodges in the state of Missouri. It was established on April 21, 1821. It is located in Columbia, Missouri.

Grand Master (Masonic)

A Grand Master is a title of honour as well as an office in Freemasonry, given to a freemason elected to oversee a Masonic jurisdiction, derived from the office of Grand Masters in chivalric orders. He presides over a Grand Lodge, and has certain rights in the constituent Lodges that form his jurisdiction. In most, but not all cases, the Grand Master is styled "Most Worshipful Grand Master." One example of a differing title exists in the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, where the Grand Master is titled "Right Worshipful". Under the Grand Lodge of Scotland the role is titled "Grand Master Mason".

Liberté chérie

Liberté chérie was one of the very few Masonic lodges founded within a Nazi concentration camp during the Second World War.

List of Freemasons

This "List of Freemasons" page provides links to alphabetized lists of notable Freemasons. Freemasonry is a fraternal organisation which exists in a number of forms worldwide. Throughout history some members of the fraternity have made no secret of their involvement, while others have not made their membership public. In some cases, membership can only be proven by searching through the fraternity's records. Such records are most often kept at the individual lodge level, and may be lost due to fire, flood, deterioration, or simple carelessness. Grand Lodge governance may have shifted or reorganized, resulting in further loss of records on the member or the name, number, location or even existence of the lodge in question. In areas of the world where Masonry has been suppressed by governments, records of entire grand lodges have been destroyed. Because of this, masonic membership can sometimes be difficult to verify.

For ease of searching, our list has been sub-divided into sub-articles, based on convenient alphabetical groupings:

List of Freemasons (A–D)

List of Freemasons (E–Z)

Order of Quetzalcoatl

The Order of Quetzalcoatl, colloquially known as the "Q", is a Masonic invitational body. It is heavily involved in philanthropy, and its main contribution is towards transportation funds for Shriners hospitals.

The Order, which was founded in Mexico City on March 14, 1945 by Arthur J. Elian, takes its name from the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl. Its chapters (called Teocallis, Nahuatl for "house of god") are located in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Panama. All members of the Order, called Artisans, must be Shriners in good standing in their Shrine Temples.The Order derives its terminology from Nahuatl, and its rituals are loosely based on Aztec ritual, including the use of the teponaztli war drum and the sacred drink, pulque.The order consists of an initiation (Coate) and two degrees (Artisan and Master Artisan). A candidate becomes a Coate when he is initiated into the order. Then he becomes an Artisan through a ritual ceremony. He may then advance to Master Artisan either through consecration ceremonies at the order’s annual business meeting (called a Feast of Fire) or through traveling to either the Temple of Quetzalcoatl at Teotihuacan in Mexico City or Chichen Itza in Cancun.

Order of Royal and Select Masters

The Order of Royal and Select Masters is an appendant order of Freemasonry and frequently referred to as 'Cryptic Degrees'. In England and Wales, the degrees are practiced as a stand-alone organisation of Freemasonry while in some other Masonic Constitutions, they form part of the York Rite.

Order of Saint Thomas of Acon

The Commemorative Order of Saint Thomas of Acon is an independent British Christian masonic organisation. Membership is restricted to those who are subscribing members of a Preceptory (Commandery) in amity with the Great Priory of the United Religious, Military and Masonic Order of the Temple of England and Wales and Provinces Overseas (commonly referred to as the Knights Templar). Membership is by invitation only. The basic organisation of the Order is a Chapel.

Rite of Strict Observance

The Rite of Strict Observance was a Rite of Freemasonry, a series of progressive degrees that were conferred by the Order of Strict Observance, a Masonic body of the 18th century.

Royal Order of Jesters

The Royal Order of Jesters is a male fraternal organization, allowing only Shriners in good standing to join. Admission is by invitation only.

Royal Order of Scotland

The Royal Order of Scotland is an appendant order within the structures of British Freemasonry. Membership is an honour extended to Freemasons by invitation. The Grand Lodge of the Royal Order of Scotland is headquartered in Edinburgh, with a total of 88 Provincial Grand Lodges in several locations around Britain, and in a number of countries around the world.

Square and Compasses

The Square and Compasses (or, more correctly, a square and a set of compasses joined together) is the single most identifiable symbol of Freemasonry. Both the square and compasses are architect's tools and are used in Masonic ritual as emblems to teach symbolic lessons.

Some Lodges and rituals explain these symbols as lessons in conduct: for example, Duncan's Masonic Monitor of 1866 explains them as: "The square, to square our actions; The compasses, to circumscribe and keep us within bounds with all mankind". However, as Freemasonry is non-dogmatic, there is no general interpretation for these symbols (or any Masonic symbol) that is used by Freemasonry as a whole.

Tall Cedars of Lebanon

The Tall Cedars of Lebanon of North America is a side degree of Freemasonry, open to Master Masons in good standing in a regular Masonic Lodge. Its motto, "Fun, Frolic, & Fellowship," is indicative of this social bent. Its members are distinguished by the pyramid-shaped hats they wear at their functions. The name is derived from the cedars of Lebanon that King Solomon used to build his Temple.

Tracing board

Tracing boards are painted or printed illustrations depicting the various emblems and symbols of Freemasonry. They can be used as teaching aids during the lectures that follow each of the Masonic Degrees, when an experienced member explains the various concepts of Freemasonry to new members. They can also be used by experienced members as reminders of the concepts they learned as they went through the ceremonies of the different masonic degrees.

Volume of Sacred Law

Volume of Sacred Law (VSL) (also known as the Book of the Law) is the Masonic term for whatever religious or philosophical texts are displayed during a Lodge meeting.

In English-speaking countries, this is most often the King James Version of the Bible or another standard translation of the Bible. If a Lodge has non-Christian members, other texts may be used, and in Lodges with a membership of mixed religions it is common to find more than one sacred text displayed. Every candidate is given his choice of religious text for his Obligation according to his beliefs.

One of the most notable individual VSLs is the George Washington Inaugural Bible. It belongs to St. John's Lodge No. 1 in New York City and has been used at its meetings since 1767. It is famous, however, for being the Bible used at the first inauguration of George Washington as President of the United States. It was also used (sometimes in conjunction with another Bible) for the Presidential inaugurations of Warren Harding, Dwight Eisenhower, George H. W. Bush, and Jimmy Carter.

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