Dogged by conspiracy ideas, Freemasons insist their own is really a modern, open organisation. But could this male-centered body cast off its secretive image and conquer a sceptical public?
They designed the pyramids, plotted in france they Revolution and therefore are maintaining your flame alive for that Knights in combat Templar. These a few of the wilder ideas concerning the Freemasons. Today they're connected with secret handshakes and alleged corruption within the police and judiciary.
But dogged with this "secret society" image, the Freemasons have released a rebranding exercise.
On Friday, the U . s . Grand Lodge of England, the biggest Masonic group in great britan, puts out its first independent report. The way forward for Freemasonry, investigated through the Social Issues Research Center, aims to begin an "open and transparent" discussion in front of the group's tercentenary in 2017.
Nigel Brown, grand secretary from the U . s . Grand Lodge, states you're ready to banish the status for secrecy. "We are being positive now. It is important we obtain individuals minds from these misconceptions." For example, there's no such factor like a secret handshake and professional networking is forbidden under Masonic rules, he states.
Even this really is disputed. Martin Short, who authored concerning the Masons in the 1989 book Within the Brotherhood, states the handshake is real. "Should you meet a middle-ranking officer, you'll all of a sudden find this distinctive pressure involving the second and third fingers. The thumb switches position and you're feeling that somebody is providing you with an electrical shock."Image caption Stereotypes like the handshake persist
The report typically dodges such debate, surveying people and also the wider public on Masonic styles for example male connecting, charitable work and ritual. It argues that people value the city of Freemasonry which outsiders are largely unaware of the way the organisation works.
With 250Thousand people in Britain and 6 million all over the world, they're a minority, although one connected using the levers of energy. The very first US Leader, George Washington, and the other leading American revolutionary, Benjamin Franklin, were Masons. Today a substantial proportion from the Royal Household are people, and also the Duke of Kent is grand master from the U . s . Grand Lodge of England.
Masonic rules demand that people support one another and each others' authorized secrets, that has brought to fears of corrupt cliques developing.
It's not new, states Observer newspaper writer Nick Cohen.
Since the 1790s Masons happen to be "whipping boys" for global conspiracy advocates, he argues, adding that whenever in france they revolution, Catholic reactionaries were searching for a scapegoat and also the Jews - the typical target - were too downtrodden to become blamed.
It had been the Freemasons' turn and also the narrative of the secret society plotting within the shadows hasn't vanished, states Cohen. "You are able to draw an upright line in the 1790s let's start towards the Nazis, Franco, Stalin up to modern Islamists like Hamas."
The charter of Hamas - the Islamist party regulating Gaza - claims that the Freemasons have been in league using the Jews and also the Rotary Club to undermine Palestine.
These ideas are "clearly mad", states Cohen, but attacking the Masons has turned into a staple for anybody concered about a " New World " Order.
Additionally, there are a feeling that Freemasons are "strange", states James McConnachie, author from the Rough Help guide to Conspiracy Ideas.
Initiations include moving up a person's pants, being blindfolded having a rope round a person's neck, and getting a knife pointed at a person's bare breast. "They provide a progression to some greater degree of understanding, " McConnachie states. "It's alluring and cultish."
Grand secretary Brown argues the initiations are allegorical one-act plays. They provide people "all avenues of life" the opportunity to fully stand up before a crowd, conquer their fears, making buddies, he states.
"Individuals don't connect enjoyment and fun with Freemasonry but it is the most popular thread for all of us. It comes down to camaraderie and making lasting relationships."
Another vexed problem is its male-only image. You will find women's orders in great britan with 20Thousand people, but Freemasonry is extremely male. The UGLE doesn't recognise or approve mixed lodges.
The report talks of the "quiet revolution". However, many information ought to be withheld from public view, Brown states. "Keeping a little of mystery is nice news. If people joining know absolutely everything, where would the thrill be?"Image caption The centuries-old veil of secrecy is falling away
The Masons are walking a hard tightrope, states brand consultant Jonathan Gabay. For that rebrand to work, they need to demonstrate they're seriously interested in being open and transparent. But, along the way, they risk offending people who value the "cachet" of secrecy and tradition, he states.
People join the Masons not since it is a residential area group raising money for charitable organisation however for its "snob factor" and history, argues McConnachie. If this sounds like overtaken with a transparent, inclusive approach then your organisation could be indistinguishable from a number of other dining clubs. "You'd need to request - why would you need to be considered a Freemason as opposed to a Rotarian?"
Distrust remains strong. This past year, the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams controversially named a Freemason because the next Bishop of Ebbsfleet. He'd formerly stated that Freemasonry was "incompatible" with Christianity. In August 2010 it emerged that the new national Masonic lodge have been setup by senior cops.
Former Home Secretary Jack Hay attempted to deal with the problem of Freemasons employed in the criminal justice system. In 1999, new idol judges were needed to openly disclose whether or not they were Masons.
But following a ruling in the European Court of Human Privileges, the necessity was dropped in '09. Cops possess a voluntary requirement to reveal - only for their superiors.Image caption A wide open trip to the Masonic lodge in Paris
Researching his book within the eighties, Short discovered that "corruption within the police was enhanced and shielded through the Masonic lodges."
It's tough to understand whether anything has transformed because the Freemasons don't make their membership list freely available, he states. Brown responds that to do this would breach data protection rules.
Given all of the suspicion, you will naturally have a pity party for Freemasons, states Cohen.
"Researching them, you need to do become rather supportive. If people am getting at Freemason lodges are nests of corruption then fine. But they have reached prove it. It's really no good just saying it."
However, there's something amusingly peculiar about Masonic ritual. It is primarily the as opposed to the historic baggage that's their greatest obstacle for you to get a good hearing, he argues. "Moving your trouser advantage is very funny. When they want to rebrand then possibly they ought to drop the trouser leg moving."
"Masonic stories connect geometry with ancient Egypt, and thus structures sometimes possess a distinct Egyptian flavour, " states Professor James Stevens Curl, author ofFreemasonry &lifier the Enlightenment: Architecture, Symbols, &lifier Influences.