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From beneath the sloping roof of an ornate building in Old Town, a single eye watches Karmelitská street. Framed by a triangle on the building’s facade, the carving’s stony gaze reveals no secrets.Yet its very presence speaks to a past forgotten by many. This symbol of an eye in a triangle adorns a building used as an 18th-century meeting place for freemasons. Woven into the fabric of this ancient city is a Masonic history that’s still being made. Freemasonry is defined by the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE), the world administrative center of regular Freemasonry, as a “society of men concerned with moral and spiritual values,” one of the oldest fraternal orders taught precepts through “ritual dramas.” Recently, Masonic leaders from across Europe gathered in Prague to discuss the future of Freemasonry in Central and Eastern Europe. “It was a very important event for Prague,” says the country’s new grand master, Hynek Beran, who was initiated into the elected post the same April weekend. Indeed, to a layperson, the European Masonic Forum’s attendance of leaders from 24 masonic “obediences,” including 14 grand masters across Europe, seems momentous. In fact, European Masonic leaders have been meeting annually since the late 1990s, John Hamill, director of communications for the UGLE, told The Prague Post.The meetings began in 1999, when the grand masters of Germany and Austria met in Romania to discuss the new lodges of Eastern Europe, according to Hamill. Grand masters, elected annually by ballot, head Grand Lodges, of which there is usually one in a given country.Meeting in a different place every year since, Hamill says the gatherings have “greatly helped” the Grand Lodges of Eastern Europe. “Many of the East European and Balkan Grand Lodges are small and have little money, and one of the topics discussed is how they can adapt themselves to present circumstances.” With an unbroken tradition dating back to 1923, Czech Freemasonry is among the most well-developed in post-communist Europe. Still, with 10 lodges nationwide, “regular” freemasons number just 360, compared to several thousand in neighboring Austria, Beran says. (“Irregular” Masonic bodies, which operate outside the “regular” tradition originating in the British Isles, claim fewer than 200 adherents here.)Now, as the organization quietly gains members and momentum, its members are seeking ways to help Freemasonry grow, and show nonmembers that world domination and eating children are not part of its repertoire.

Opening doors

Grand Master Beran, a lively 45-year-old energy consultant from Prague, makes no attempts to shield his voice from other diners in a busy New Town café. He speaks enthusiastically about his hopes for Czech Freemasonry, revived in 1990 after more than 40 years of dormancy under communist rule.“We do not want to be secret,” Beran says plainly. “We have a philosophy that should be offered to normal people.” Though Beran, who was one of the first initiates into the newly reconstituted Czech lodges, would like to see Freemasonry develop here, this does not necessarily mean rapid growth in membership. Rather, he seeks to “build a positive image,” and to attract those interested in “real Freemasonry.”This involves following three great principles — brotherly love, relief (or charity) and truth — articulated by the Grand Lodge of England after its founding nearly 290 years ago, June 24, 1717. (The origins of Freemasonry, though not specifically known, may date to the Knights Templar centuries before.) Tolerance and equality are also part of the Freemason creed, according to Armand Muno, treasurer of the Czech Grand Lodge and recently installed worshipful master (or director) of the English-speaking Hiram Lodge in Prague.“We’re not looking for the elites,” nor for anyone of a particular religion or ethnicity, says Muno, 47. Regular Freemasonry requires a belief in a supreme being, but not necessarily one from the Christian tradition, as well as a commitment to keep religion and politics out of the lodges. Consequently, Czech membership lists include people from several continents as well as from minority groups in the Czech Republic. They also span the spectrum of religious belief, given some qualifications. “There are Buddhists, Hindus … scientists who don’t believe in any god but nature,” Beran says. According to Muno, religion disqualifies a candidate only when beliefs clash with the principles of masonry, as is the case with Muslims who follow Sharia law. “Muslims who do not abide by Sharia are welcome.”Closed historyFriendly professionals in pressed slacks contradict popular images of Masons as cannibalistic conspirators. Negative associations and suspicion, however, constitute a natural reaction to something little understood, says widely published Masonic scholar Robert Gilbert. “People are afraid of something they don’t understand,” he says. Still, Freemasonry “has to retain some mystique, or it has no appeal for people.”This mystique is nowhere stronger than in places where totalitarian regimes have squashed organizations such as the Freemasons. Though Czech Freemasonry swung in and out of royal favor after its birth in Bohemia in the late 1730s, 20th-century regimes dealt dire blows to the order.“Because Freemasonry embraces such principles as equality, fraternity and freedom of thought, it is not liked by dictators, of the right or left,” the UGLE’s Hamill explains.During World War II, Freemasons were rounded up through membership lists and sent to concentration camps. Incriminating records from that time, Beran says, were burned by Masons themselves. Some Czechoslovak Freemasons managed to escape to France and finally England, where they set up an independent lodge in exile. “Comenius in exile is the only occasion in which England has recognized a Grand Lodge or lodge in exile,” Hamill says.The communists adopted a different control strategy.Čestmír Bárta became a Mason in December 1949, not long after the communist takeover of Czechoslovakia. His father, who was a Freemason, had been sent to Auschwitz. When the communist regime instituted a policy requiring government agents to attend lodge meetings, the Grand Lodge chose to go into dormancy rather than submit.“It was obvious that there was no way of preventing infiltration, wiretapping and abuse of the information obtained by these means,” Bárta says. “Not even initiations were taking place during that period.”Bárta was one of 28 Czech Freemasons who, through clandestine informal meetings, maintained contact with each other to eventually re-establish Freemasonry after the fall of the Iron Curtain. He later served seven years as grand master of the Czech Grand Lodge.“Civil society had to … re-create itself again,” he says, noting the sense of importance surrounding the re-establishment of the order. “Czech Freemasons knew that creation of a normal democratic society was a question of at least one generation, and that the attitudes of Freemasons had great potential to support the process of humanization of the newly germinating civil society.”Such lofty aims may be gaining appeal in lands now embracing democratic ideals, but Bárta admits there may be a long way to go. “People now usually don’t know what this is about, and they are not interested in it.” Beran, meanwhile, takes a more optimistic view toward finding those drawn to this philosophy amid the chaos of modern life. “In globalization, everybody is looking for his history.”

Naďa Černá and Hela Balínová contributed to this report.

Article taken from:
http://www.praguepost.com/articles/2007/06/13/freemasons-decry-secrecy-myths.php

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“Il Grande Oriente d’Italia di Palazzo Giustiniani condanna ancora una volta e con la massima fermezza ogni forma associativa che, utilizzando del tutto impropriamente e abusando della denominazione “Massoneria”, persegua fini contrari a quelli professati dalla Libera Muratoria. Il Grande Oriente d’Italia, nel rigoroso rispetto dei propri principi e delle leggi della Repubblica, non persegue fini affaristici, né di occupazione delle cosa pubblica, né di inquinamento delle attività economiche e, soprattutto, non ha al suo interno logge segrete o coperte. Nessuno tra i 24 nominativi che risulterebbero indagati dal P.M. di Potenza, appartiene al Grande Oriente d’Italia”.

Lo ha dichiarato Massimo Bianchi, Gran Maestro aggiunto della maggiore istituzione Libero Muratoria italiana, in merito alla notizie sull’indagine in corso da parte della magistratura di Potenza.

“Come afferma anche il Gran Maestro Raffi – aggiunge Bianchi – la Massoneria che noi rappresentiamo è quella che si è aperta alla società, altamente trasparente e, quando ci si mette in vetrina, non possono esserci dei personaggi strani, quindi, se il P.M. Woodcock parla di “massoneria deviata” o “coperta”, non ci riguarda, non ha nulla a che fare con noi”.

“In materia di legalità e di osservanza dei valori di democrazia, libertà e di dignità – conclude – la nostra Istituzione è da sempre in prima linea. Quanti parlano di massoneria deviata e di logge coperte non si riferiscono affatto alla Massoneria del Grande Oriente d’Italia di Palazzo Giustiniani, che – deve essere chiaro – è la prima vittima di tali fenomeni illegali”.

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“Ancora una volta, dopo il caso della regione Marche, la Magistratura europea ha condannato lo Stato italiano per aver violato, in pregiudizio dei Massoni la libertà di associazione, censurando comportamenti di criminalizzazione e di discriminazione nei confronti dei Liberi Muratori del Grande Oriente d’Italia di Palazzo Giustiniani. Ora è un imperativo che tutti gli Enti pubblici e le Regioni che ancora contemplano al proprio interno dispositivi legislativi o regolamentari contrari alla Massoneria – adottino, con immediatezza, ogni misura necessaria a rimuovere la violazione censurata dalla Corte Europea.

” Così il Gran Maestro del Grande Oriente d’Italia di Palazzo Giustiniani, avvocato Gustavo Raffi ha commentato la sentenza con la quale la Corte Europea dei Diritti dell’Uomo ha accolto il ricorso presentato dal Grande Oriente, difeso dall’avvocato Anton Giulio Lana, contro la legge regionale del Friuli Venezia Giulia (15 febbraio 2001, n 1) che obbliga di dichiarare la propria eventuale appartenenza alla Massoneria, per accedere alle cariche regionali indicate dall’articolo 55 della legge.

La Corte di Strasburgo, infatti, pronunciandosi contemporaneamente sulla ricevibilità e sul merito, ha riconosciuto, per sei voti contro uno, la violazione dell’articolo 14 (diritto a non subire discriminazioni) letto in combinato disposto dell’articolo 11 della Convenzione europea dei diritti dell’uomo (diritto alla libertà di associazione) dichiarando, inoltre, che la condanna dello Stato convenuto rappresenta di per sé un risarcimento a titolo di danno morale fermo restando l’obbligo dello Stato di rimuovere la situazione di incompatibilità con la Convenzione europea dei diritti dell’uomo.

“Con tale legislazione – ha aggiunto l’avvocato Raffi – si è perpetratata una discriminazione tra cittadini e si sono coartati e affievoliti i diritti dei Liberi Muratori che, per conservare la loro identità ed il diritto di accesso a ruoli di responsabilità, sono stati costretti a dimettersi dalla Massoneria, al fine di non rendere dichiarazioni mendaci”.

” Grande – ha aggiunto il Gran Maestro Raffi – è ora la soddisfazione dei Liberi Muratori per questa ennesima condanna del governo italiano per la violazione della Convenzione europea dei diritti dell’uomo. Si tratta ancora una volta di un messaggio forte giunto dall’Europa che censura ogni forma di discriminazione attuata nei confronti nei confronti di individui o associazioni nel nostro Paese. ” Adesso – ha concluso – la Regione Friuli Venezia Giulia dovrà modificare la legge censurata in modo da dare piena attuazione agli obblighi assunti dall’ Italia mediante la ratifica della Convenzione europea dei diritti dell’uomo”.

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  • Akhenaton – Approfondimenti di vari argomenti esoterici, e informazioni riguardo a rituale Emulation e Arco Reale.
  • Alleanza Cattolica: Materiali sulla Massoneria – Presenta per intero il volume “Massoneria e religioni” a cura di Massimo Introvigne. In tre capitoli il fenomeno massonico è analizzato in chiave problematica dal punto di vista cattolico.
  • Amici di Paolo Ungari – Sito dedicato al maestro massone, politico, accademico e intellettuale laico.
  • Carboneria – Materiali per lo studio dei mestieri forestali e delle loro tradizioni simboliche. La Carboneria è anche definita la massoneria del legno.
  • L’Essenza della Massoneria Italiana: il Naturalismo – Il testo completo del saggio del gesuita F. Giantulli, scritto negli anni ’70, che condanna i fondamenti filosofici della massoneria.
  • Istituto di Studi Storici Tommaso Crudeli – Sito dedicato al poeta e massone settecentesco vittima dell’Inquisizione. Bibliografia e critica.
  • Loggia P2 e Massoneria – Pagina informativa sugli scopi della loggia deviata Propaganda 2, contiene il Piano di Rinascita Democratica elaborato da Licio Gelli e una lista di atti criminosi ricollegabili alla sua attività.
  • Massoneria e Anticristo – Sito antimassonico che investiga l’anticristo. Esatto luogo di nascita dell’Anticristo e il frenetico lavoro della massoneria per prepararne la strada. Il sito è dedicato alla Santa Vergine Maria.
  • La Melagrana – Grande quantità di materiale esplicativo, documenti ed approfondimenti sulla massoneria italiana. Area riservata agli iniziati. Il sito non dipende da alcuna Gran Loggia.
  • Panarion – rivista di studi esoterici – Pagina dedicata alla rivista, con i sommari dei numeri pubblicati e l’indirizzo email a cui chiedere i testi completi. Saggi di approfondimento nella pagina dei link.
  • Pietre Rivista di Massoneria – Rivista con scritti sulla storia della massoneria e la sua influenza sulla letteratura, la musica, l’arte, l’architettura. Documenti e simbolismo, rituali massonici. Collezione di antiche stampe e grembiuli.
  • Il Razionale – Rivista laica indipendente di cultura e massoneria, in formato .pdf, che tratta argomenti generali e di interesse locale (Napoli e Campania).
  • Sixtrum – Massoneria ed esoterismo dell’ordine martinista. Storia, miti, tradizioni. Notizie sul sistro, strumento musicale dell’antico Egitto.
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    A fraternal organization, sometimes also known as a “fraternity,” is an organization that represents the relationship between its members as akin to brotherhood. There is a great deal of overlap between the terms Friendly Society and fraternal organization. Most mystical organizations are also fraternal.

    What follows is a list of contemporary fraternities. 

    International

     Australia

     Canada

    South Africa

     European Union

     United States

     Middle East

     Philippines

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    ROBERT COOPER and I step out of Freemason’s Hall into Edinburgh’s George Street, the central strand of James Craig’s New Town grid plan of 1766. Cooper is curator of the Grand Lodge of Scotland, and he starts pointing out a Freemasonic townscape.

    “Craig was a Mason,” remarks Cooper, a 54-year-old former civil servant, “and the New Town is of course quite geometric compared to the Old Town, in fact some have suggested that the New Town Plan was designed according to Masonic geometry,” – Freemasons traditionally regard geometry as ‘the queen of sciences’.

    To the east, beyond St Andrew Square, rises Calton Hill with its National Monument – the unfinished Parthenon known as “Edinburgh’s Disgrace”, due to a shortfall in public subscriptions, which prevented its completion. The Grand Lodge of Scotland, says Cooper, was involved in fundraising for the scheme, and its foundation stone was laid in 1822 by the tenth Duke of Hamilton, Grand Master Mason of Scotland, amid much Freemasonic pageantry and cannon salutes.

    There won’t be quite such panoply this weekend, when Freemasons’ Hall hosts the first event of its kind, a major International Conference on the history of Freemasonry. Nevertheless it is a milestone event, which, despite early predictions to the contrary, has amazed its organisers by attracting more than 250 speakers and delegates from all over the world. And the majority of speakers are not Masons. Cooper, therefore, has his work cut out, but agrees that, in a very real sense, this is Freemasonry coming home.

    While the earliest origins of Freemasonry – whose members, in a nod to their roots among working stonemasons, refer to themselves as “The Craft” – remain obscure, the first records of anything resembling modern Freemasonry come from Scotland, as Cooper explains. “Freemasonry began here in the 16th century, if not earlier, and we’re proud of the fact that here we’ve got the oldest lodge records in the world.” Dating from 1599, these are the records of Aitcheson’s Haven, a small stonemasons’ lodge once based in East Lothian.

    “It was taken up later in England then spread across the world,” says Cooper. He adds, in wearily defensive tones: “It’s curious that we’re continually accused of running a ‘New World Order’ and all this stuff. The reality is very different. There is no real co-ordination between countries, which makes them all interestingly different. But now they’re coming back to their roots.”

    So Cooper has much on his mind as we stroll west along George Street – named with North British fervour after a very eminent English Freemason, King George IV. We pass North Castle Street, where number 39 was once home to Sir Walter Scott, another Freemason, who orchestrated the riot of tartanry which greeted George IV when, in 1822, he became first reigning monarch to visit Scotland since 1641. George Meikle Kemp, who later designed the monument to Scott in Princes Street was another Mason.

    Scott, suggests Cooper, would have been involved in raising funds for the Calton Hill monument, designed to commemorate the dead of the Napoleonic wars. The charitable work continues, but Masonic processions are a thing of the past, he observes: “The Second World War put an end to that. Hitler claimed that it was the Jews and the Freemasons who had brought Germany to its knees.The Grand Lodge of Scotland was first on the hit list if the Nazis invaded the country… so you stopped telling people that you were a Mason.” He grins: “I have no problem telling people – but then I’m a professional Freemason.”

    Yet his organisation has long laboured under an unenviable image – which its critics would say has been well-earned – from the much-parodied spectacle of men in aprons to disquieting concerns about networking within the police and judiciary, and even bringing down governments, as in the case of the Italian P2 Lodge scandal of 1981.

    That irregular lodge was described by investigating Italian authorities as “a state within a state”, its members including government ministers, members of parliament, secret-service heads, judges, defence chiefs and bankers – including Roberto Calvi, the former president of the Vatican’s Banco Ambrosiano, who was found hanging from Blackfriar’s Bridge, London, in 1982. Licio Gelli, the lodge’s Grand Master, was eventually jailed in connection with the bank’s fraudulent bankruptcy.

    So far as that affair is concerned, says Cooper, “people forget that P2 started out as a Masonic lodge, but when the Grand Lodge of Italy realised what was going on, they closed it down. It continued illegally.” The secrecy issue is, he argues, more in the perception than in the fact. “Does the Mafia, for instance, have a public museum like Freemason’s Hall here, where people can go and see their history? It’s just silly.”

    And he is dismissive about attempted moves, at Holyrood and Westminster, to make MPs, police and members of the judiciary declare Masonic membership: “This brought back horrible memories of what happened in Hitler’s Germany when the Grand Lodge there was asked to provide a list of members and at least 80,000 of our members ended up in the gas chamber. So when we hear a liberal democracy asking people to reveal membership of a legal and legitimate organisation, then we really have major concerns.”

    By this time we’re in Charlotte Square, its unified frontages designed in the 1790s by Robert Adam – another Mason, and Cooper points out recurring twin-pillar motifs. There were supposedly two pillars in the porch of Solomon’s Temple, where, according to Masonic lore, the first Lodge met.

    Talking of squares, he lists some of the Masonic expressions derived from craftsmanship and long absorbed into everyday usage – “all square”, “meet on the level and part on the square”, not to mention “pillar of the community”, “third degree” and “on the level”. Our conversation turns to a group of buildings back on North Castle Street, opposite Scott’s house. These, claims Cooper, were the last houses built in Scotland in the late 18th-century by stonemasons who were also Freemasons and who shortly afterwards left for America, to help construct Washington DC. George Washington was a member of a Scottish Lodge in Fredericksburg and, among other things, adds Cooper, these wandering Scots Masons helped construct the building which became known as the White House.

    The development of Freemasonry in America is one of many topics being aired this weekend (others consider Freemasonry’s role in the Enlightenment, in promoting equality in 19th-century India, and even in the music hall). According to Cooper, the Scottish lodges in America tended to attract the radicals while the English lodges drew those loyal to the crown – “although that’s probably oversimplification”. Certainly, he says, Paul Revere was a member of the Lodge of St Andrew in Boston. He and another Mason, Joseph Warren, are recorded as meeting at Boston’s venerable Green Dragon Tavern in November 1773, the minutes noting rather cryptically: “Consignees of Tea took up the Brethren’s time…”

    Back at home, Cooper, who conducts walking tours of “Masonic Edinburgh”, describes the Royal Mile as “the most Masonic street in the world”. The oldest records of a lodge still in existence are held by the Lodge of Edinburgh (Mary’s Chapel), No 1, which originally met in the now vanished Niddry’s Wynd and are now based in Hill Street. Other locations include the High Kirk of St Giles, where Edinburgh stonemasons were officially granted the aisle to St John the Evangelist for their use, and Holyrood Palace, where two of the earliest Masonic documents were prepared.

    John Street meeting room, off the Canongate, was the location of Robert Burns’s supposed inauguration as “poet Laureate” of Canongate Kilwinning No 2 – an event which seems to have little foundation but was enshrined in a well-known painting by Robert Watson. Other notable masons have included Sir Winston Churchill, authors Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Rudyard Kipling, and the polar explorers Robert Scott and Ernest Shackleton.

    Back at Freemason’s Hall, David Begg, Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Scotland hopes the conference might dispel some myths – such as enduring allegations of religious bias. While some people still confuse Masonic lodges with the Orange Lodge, and a belief in “the Great Architect of the Universe” is a prerequisite of membership, Freemasonry recognises no distinction of religion, creed or colour, stresses Begg, who recalls having seen a Jew and a Muslim take their Masonic oaths side by side, one on the Torah, the other on the Koran. Mainstream Freemasonry remains “a society of gentlemen”, although there are other Masonic organisations for women or for both sexes. At least one paper this weekend is likely to argue that they should open their doors to women, says Begg, “so it’s not all self-congratulatory.”

    Giving the perspective of a historian (and non-Mason) David Stevenson, Emeritus Professor of Scottish history at St Andrews University and a plenary speaker at the conference, argues that while historians in America and Europe have long accepted Freemasonry as an important social and cultural phenomenon, “by contrast academic historians in Britain have until recently acted as if it didn’t exist”. However, continues Stevenson, a course in the study of Freemasonry has opened at Sheffield. “In recent decades, acceptance has grown that the evolution of Freemasonry is too important to ignore through narrow-minded prejudice or, in the case of Masons themselves, an inward-looking emphasis on secrecy, even when there are no secrets.”

    Stevenson’s paper will stress how, in Scotland at least, freemasonry has remained “predominantly a social, moral and charitable organisation of skilled working men”. He also describes its role in promoting egalitarian thinking, and suggests that freemasonry’s once very public presence has diminished, “partly because it came to be attacked by both fascists and communists – Masons tend to argue that an organisation that was ruthlessly suppressed by both Hitler and Stalin can’t be all bad. Only in the last decade or so have Masons come to accept that obsessive secrecy fostered suspicions and conspiracy theories.

    “This conference is an important example of Freemasonry coming out of the closet.”

    • For further information visit www.ichfonline.org or www.grandlodgescotland.com

    FREEMASONY…THE MYTHS AND THE FACTS

    • FREEMASONS EMERGED FROM THE KNIGHTS TEMPLAR

    DESPITE the cliams of Dan Brown, legions of conspiracy theorists, and the mythology surrounding Rosslyn Chapel, Robert Cooper, who has written a book on the subject, says there was no link between the origins of the Freemasons and the Knights Templar.

    • MASONS EXCLUDE ROMAN CATHOLICS

    A COMMON belief in Scotland, possibly caused by the bigotry of individuals, or even individual lodges (this writer encountered an anti-Catholic stance on the part of one local lodge back in the 1970s), as well as confusion with the Orange Lodge. The official line is that Freemasonry recognises no distinctions of race, religion, colour or creed, although it does require members to believe in a “great architect” or supreme being. Cooper says: “I was in Rome in February. How many Protestant Freemasons did I meet? None. I was in Penang last year. How Many Christian Freemasons did I meet? None – just Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs.”

    • MASONS INVOKE OATHS ABOUT “HAVING MY THROAT CUT ACROSS, MY TONGUE TORN OUT BY ITS ROOTS, AND MY BODY BURIED IN THE ROUGH SANDS OF THE SEA AT LOW WATER MARK…”

    THAT OATH is no longer part of the mason’s “obligation”, but it is still referred to in a historical context and explained to members. The oath of obligation, says Cooper, “like our pinny (apron) and jewels (medals) are all symbolic”.

    • THEY EXCLUDE WOMEN

    MASONIC organisations, such as the Grand Lodge of Scotland, remain men only, although there are other masonic groups which admit women only, or both sexes. Cooper argues they are not anti-women or anti-feminist, simply gender-specific, like a football team. “We have the slight burden of history in a sense that there were never any women members of early lodges and that’s continued to this day, but there’s nothing sinister about it.”

    • FREEMASONRY IS A SECRET SOCIETY

    THE official line is that Freemasonry is not a secret society, but its lodge meetings, like those of other social and professional associations, are open only to members. Freemasons are encouraged to speak openly about membership, while undertaking not to use it for their own or anyone else’s advancement. Concerns about possible Freemasonic networking and improper influence continue, however. In 2002 there calls for MSPs to declare if they were masons, and in 1992 Maria Fyfe, MP for Glasgow Maryhill, tabled a Commons motion asking MPs to declare Freemasonic membership.

    JIM GILCHRIST

    Article taken from: http://news.scotsman.com/edinburgh.cfm?id=810732007

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