The Secret Society of the Freemason
Dating to 18th-century London, Freemasonry is one of the oldest of these operating fraternal orders, although the group’s mythology claims it is rooted in the building of King Solomon’s Temple around 966 B.C. Like many similar groups, the Masons were borne out of a British craft guild, wherein stone layers learned the tricks of the trade. A present day member named Lettelier, who is a York Rite Mason, a Scottish Rite Mason, a Shriner, and a Past Master of his Lodge in Havana, provides some insight into the not-so-secret society of the Freemason.
“The concept of freemasonry, which taught architecture and geometry, goes back thousands of years,” Lettelier says. “The Greek temples, the pyramids in Egypt, you name it—none of that could have been built without a knowledge of mathematics. So whenever you see the square and compass with the letter G in the center, that stands for God or sacred Geometry.
Back in the 1500s and 1600s when the great European cathedrals were being built, a ‘freemason’ was a bricklayer or stonemason, who was free to travel and work,” he continues. “This was a big deal, because most men weren’t free. There were kings and knights, but the serfs were owned by the king. Uniquely, Freemasons were people who were allowed to travel, work, and receive master-masons wages wherever they went. They were accomplished tradesmen. Back then, you probably spent 10 years as an apprentice before you received a degree. If you gave up the secrets of geometry to someone who wasn’t worthy or well-qualified, the Freemasons would literally put you to death.”
Modern-day Freemasonry, however, emerged when the stone masonry guilds began to initiate honorary members, armchair architects or intellectuals excited about the new ideas of reason and science that were catching on during the Enlightenment. “Geometry is taught in colleges now,” Lettelier says. “But 200 years ago, geometry was only taught in Masonic Lodges. During the Renaissance, men of social class joined their local Masonic Lodges so that they could learn these things.”