The History and Influence of Freemasonry: From Hoaxes to Conspiracy Theories

TLDR Freemasonry originated as a group of well-educated individuals coming together to create ritualistic rules, but it evolved into a metaphorical kit for masonic rituals. Throughout history, Freemasonry has been associated with wiggish principles of liberty, enlightenment thought, and even conspiracy theories, influencing organizations such as the Sicilian mafia and the Mormon Church.

Timestamped Summary

00:00 In 1885, a former critic of the Catholic Church claimed to have converted and exposed the diabolical world of Freemasonry, but it was later revealed to be a hoax.
05:32 The two narratives about the Freemasons are either that they are a conspiracy theory or a noble tradition of brotherhood and charity work, but there is a lot in the middle that is not captured by these stories. The origins of Freemasonry can be traced back to the court of James VI of Scotland and a man named William Shore who introduced stone masons to Renaissance philosophy and helped them organize their initiation rituals. In 1717, four lodges came together to form a grand lodge.
11:20 The origins of the word "freemason" come from working freely with stone, but the term has evolved to have connotations of freedom and has separated itself from actual stone masonry, becoming a metaphorical kit for masonic rituals; Freemasonry began as a group of well-born, well-educated individuals coming together to create the rules of a ritual that was regarded as fun and jolly, similar to clubs and sports like cricket, and boozing and drinking have always been a key part of Freemasonry, while the exclusion of women has been a distinctive aspect of 18th century clubs, although there have been versions of Freemasonry that have included women; the Chevalier Dayon, a French spy, caused hilarity and scandal by dressing as a woman and joining a lodge in London before being welcomed into Freemasonry in France.
16:37 Freemasonry in the 18th century was linked to wiggish principles of liberty and enlightenment thought, which contributed to its success on the continent and its appeal to the founding fathers of the United States; the secrecy of Freemasonry was seen as a marketing tool to attract members.
21:50 The secrets of Freemasonry are actually banalities, such as being a nice person and learning about the world, but they create an aura of secrecy and mystery to add a sense of sacredness to the rituals, making it popular among the founding fathers of the United States who wanted a sense of sacredness without offending anyone's religious beliefs.
27:08 The Freemasons incorporated the Masonic symbol onto the dollar bill under FDR, who was a Freemason himself, but he was concerned about offending his Catholic base, not knowing that conspiracy theories would later arise around it.
32:20 The Catholic fear of Freemasonry led to the birth of the conspiracy theory that there was a secret elite controlling everything behind the scenes, and this fear was systematized by individuals like the Abbe Barreloelle who believed that Freemasonry was a front for deep wickedness and had roots in ancient heresies.
37:34 Freemasonry served as a welfare system and social network for the British Empire, and in India, it provided a space for British and Indian elites to meet and interact on an equal level, with at least 10 Maharajas being Freemasons by the outbreak of World War I. Additionally, Franco's obsession with Freemasons in Spain led to severe anti-Masonic legislation and repression, surpassing even Hitler and Mussolini.
42:55 In Spain, Franco was fed fake information by a secret network claiming to be part of the international Masonic conspiracy, leading to severe anti-Masonic legislation and repression; in Italy, the P2 Lodge, led by Licio Gelli, became a real conspiracy, involving important friends, funding right-wing terrorism, and laundering money for the mafia.
48:11 The Vatican and mafia money were mingled in dodgy banks that were at the center of the P2 system, which allowed Licio Gelli to gain power and influence through offering loans and support to troubled businesses in return for their membership and support.
53:33 Freemasonry is a club for like-minded, clubbable, public-spirited individuals who are ambitious and seek connections, and it has influenced various organizations throughout history, including the Sicilian mafia and the Mormon Church.
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