Conspiracy theorists love the Freemasons.
Search the Internet for “Masons” or “Freemasons” and you’ll find yourself sifting through about five million sites. A vast majority of those will try to convince you of one or all of the following:
Freemasons ride goats into meetings. That eye on the back of the $1 bill is a Freemason symbol. All members must get a tattoo. Freemasonry is racist. Freemasons can never quit. America was founded by Freemasons. Freemasons worship Satan. Meetings are conducted with blood rituals. Masons keep their membership secret.
All of these, said Scott Fitzgerald, head of the Scarborough Lodge, make masons smile.
But what about designs of world domination and vast political power?
“Now that really makes us laugh,” said Fitzgerald. “We’re here to have fun and help along the way.”
On Saturday, Oct. 14, from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., the Gov. William King Masonic Lodge on Route 1 in Dunstan will open its doors to the community. This is something lodges all over Maine are doing in an effort to educate the public about what masonry is and perhaps more importantly, what masonry isn’t. Along the way, said Fitzgerald, if they gain a few members that would be great.
In the last 20 years or so, said Fitzgerald, myths have grown and membership has declined.
“Some of that is partly our fault,” said Fitzgerald. “If you don’t state what you are, people will make it up for you.”
With the publication of Dan Brown’s “The DaVinci Code,” the movie version starring Tom Hanks and the movie “National Treasure” with Nicholas Cage, Mason myths have resurfaced in pop culture and once again piqued curiosity.
The Scarborough lodge was created 45 years ago, but the first lodges were established in England and Scotland in the 1700s and came to America with colonists.
According to Fitzgerald, the drop in membership has to do with older thinking. “For the longest time people didn’t mention they were masons,” he said. Sometimes, he added, men would join only to find that their fathers or grandfathers were masons. Tradition said that interested men had to ask – possibly three times – before they were allowed to petition for membership. Now, said Fitzgerald, they don’t actively recruit, but they will put the idea into someone’s head.
The open house is intended to be family friendly, said Fitzgerald. There will be fried dough, pumpkin decorating and a moon bounce for kids. “We’ve got a few young guys here, so that sounded good to us,” said Fitzgerald.
Many of the members have young families, he added. Masons, said Fitzgerald, highly respect both family and the professional lives of its members.
“If jobs get in the way, or family, that’s ok. When they want to come back we’re here,” said Fitzgerald. “Masonry isn’t supposed to get in the way of your professional or family life, it’s supposed to add to your life, not take away from it.”
There goes the myth about never being allowed to leave, but what about blood rituals, tattoos and worshiping the devil?
Three years ago, when Fitzgerald joined, he used to check out the Web sites that told him all of the above. Now, he just laughs and cringes a little when he hears them.
“In no way is there any physical harm or anything degrading in Masonry,” said Fitzgerald. “Really, we’re just the most normal group of guys.”
As for any kind of religion, that’s left at the door, said Fitzgerald. The only requirement is believing in some kind of higher being.
“Whoever that is, is up to you,” said Fitzgerald.
Masonry, said Fitzgerald, is about helping out their fellow brothers and community service. In November they are organizing a Red Cross blood drive, they have a charity fund to support members’ widows and an ongoing child identification program where they give parents dental imprints, fingerprints and other identifiers in case something should happen to their children.
At the front of the hall are two stones, one smooth and one rough.
“That’s what we’re about,” said Fitzgerald. “Making a good man better.”
As to whether America owes its existence to Masonry, that might be more of an exaggeration, said Fitzgerald. George Washington was a Mason, as were some of those whose signatures appear on the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. But, said Fitzgerald, Masons or no, they still would have been influential men.
“It wasn’t Masonry that put them in power,” said Fitzgerald. “It was that they had ideals that matched up with Masonry.”
All of the myths and theories about Masonry are amusing, said Fitzgerald, but they’d like to start debunking a few.
“They make me cringe a little bit,” said Fitzgerald, “but mostly we’re entertained. They do bring people in.”
Scott Fitzgerald pointed out the smooth and rough stones that symbolize the Masonic goal of taking a good man and making him better. Scott Fitzgerald and the Gov. William King Masonic Lodge in Scarborough will open its doors to the public on Sat., Oct. 14.