Ms. Dowd’s review contains much inaccurate or misleading information about Freemasonry. This blog post is the first of a series in which I address the inaccuracies about Freemasonry that occur in Ms. Dowd’s review. The rest of the posts in the series may be found here.
Freemasons Do Not Murder Those Who Expose Their Rituals
Ms. Dowd writes of Dan Brown, “During the five years he researched this book, did Brown begin to believe those sensational stories about how, if you expose the secrets of the Masons, they will slit your throat?”
If Masons actually murdered those who exposed their rituals or other secrets, Freemasons would do little else but murder people, and the body count would have reached into the thousands quite some time ago. The ritual secrets of Freemasonry have been exposed many times over the last three centuries. We Masons may think poorly of those who expose our rituals and secrets—yes, we will de-friend them from our Facebook accounts—but we do not murder them or do them other harm.
The Oaths of Freemasonry
Stories like the kind that Ms. Down mentions have their root in an aspect of the oaths involved in becoming a Freemason. As part of the process of initiation, a candidate takes several solemn oaths. For the most part, these oaths involve commitments to moral behavior. In addition, candidates swear not to reveal Masonic secrets, such as signs of recognition, and other ritual details. The candidate swears that he “binds” himself to various bloodcurdling penalties if he breaks these obligations.
Over the years, a lot of people have been put out by the fact that Freemasons bind themselves to these bloodcurdling penalties, However, very few of the people who have commented on these oaths over the centuries have pointed out certain basic truths:
- Masons are never put under oath or asked to carry out these penalties on anyone. Indeed, because Masons are committed to observing the civil law, it easily could be argued that Masons themselves are actually forbidden by Masonic ethics to inflict these penalties on anyone, Mason or not.
- Candidates for Freemasonry take their oaths and pronounce their obligations at sacred altars (depicted above) and in the presence of Almighty God, each man using a Volume of the Sacred Law that is sacred to him. (Some men use the Jewish Bible, some a version of the Christian Bible, some the Muslim Quran, and so on.) The obvious conclusion to draw is that the penalties to which Masons bind themselves are penalties that they expect Almighty God shall inflict on them for breaking their word.
In all of history, there is only one instance in which it could credibly be the case that someone who exposed the secrets of Masonry might have been murdered by Masons. This was the famous Morgan incident of 1826, where William Morgan—a non-Mason who pretended to be a Mason, gained admission to lodges, and then published Masonic ritual—is alleged to have been murdered in upstate New York by Masons. This incident has a complicated history, the essentials of which are available here, courtesy of the Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon.
The occurrence of actual murder in the case of William Morgan is questionable. Morgan’s body was never recovered. Some have said that Morgan was paid to go into exile in Canada; some say that they sighted him, towards the end of his life, in the Caribbean. There are those, such as Stephen Dafoe in his recent book, Morgan: The Scandal That Shook Freemasonry, who maintain that Morgan was indeed murdered by Masons; for me, the jury on that case is still out.
If William Morgan was indeed murdered by Masons, this is a horrible thing that should never have occurred, and those who were responsible should have been punished to the fullest extent of the law. However, even if this murder had occurred, its very rarity proves that Masons do not make it a practice to murder, execute, or assassinate those who expose their rituals.
It is time to put to bed the “sensational story” that Ms. Dowd mentions, that “if you expose the secrets of the Masons, they will slit your throat.” This has never been true, as the most basic research by Ms. Dowd would have revealed to her. This is not just a sensational story, but an irresponsible one, even a libelous and prejudicial one, and she should have known better than to spread it around in her book review.
Basic questions about Freemasonry can be addressed to the author through the Freemasonry 101 blog.
I discuss the basics of Freemasonry in my book, Freemasonry: An Introduction, which will shortly be available again through Amazon; interested readers may ask to be notified of this availability through leaving me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org . I shall have a great deal to say about Freemasonry as it is depicted by The Lost Symbol in two places:
- one of my two chapters in the forthcoming book edited by Dan Burstein and Arne de Keijzer, Secrets of The Lost Symbol, which you can read about here;
- my own forthcoming book, Discovering The Lost Symbol: Magic, Masonry, Noetic Science, and the Idea that We Can Become Gods. (Publishers’ and agents’ inquiries are welcome!)
[The image is a stylized depiction of a Masonic altar. It is available on the website of the Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon.]
(Copyright 2009 Mark E. Koltko-Rivera. All Rights Reserved.)