That in 1969 astronaut Buzz Aldrin founded a lodge on the Moon does not seem strange to John Dickie (58, Dundee, UK), author of The Order, a worldwide history of Masonic power (Debate, 2022). On the contrary, he maintains that his creation proves “the confidence and the pride” that they showed towards the United States and that many cosmonauts belonged to this secret society created in Scotland in the 18th century. “It makes ironic sense, but it’s a fact that astronauts carried silk flags [del mismo material que los mantones masónicos] in their space missions and which are now exhibited in Masonic museums,” he said.
To the author, among other books, of bestsellers Cosa Nostra (2006), it is also not shocking to write nearly 500 very documented pages of a few lodges whose keystone lies precisely in secrecy. “It’s a paradox generated by themselves and by outsiders. Their secrets haven’t really been secrets. People were afraid of them, especially the Catholic Church, because they thought they wanted to deceive others and they harbored sinister mysteries. When John Coustos, a 40-year-old London jeweler, was tortured by the Portuguese Inquisition in 1743, he revealed all, but his captors did not believe he was telling them the truth, as the supposedly terrible secrets kept were so banal. .
Dickie asserts that the great hidden secret of Freemasons is that “we are all going to die”. The three major Masonic degrees or levels are summed up, he continues, in “being a good person, trying for a better world and that death is something very serious to think about. Only that”. The Scottish writer and historian maintains that the element which unites the brotherhood is not so much the set of secrets as the dark ceremonial which surrounds it and “the feeling of union”. He nevertheless believes that the rites, which include the tearing of garments, the giving of symbols, kneeling or swearing, “should not be taken literally. If we did so, it should be understood that the communion of Catholics would be properly talking about cannibalism. And no one thinks of such a thing.”
The writer, who is professor of Italian studies at University College London, argues that the confrontation between the Church and the Freemasons has its roots in the 18th century, a time of significant religious struggles. “To understand Freemasonry, you have to think of it as a second-rate religion, because its members can belong to any of them. You cannot be an atheist. Death is a fundamental element of religions and Masonic rituals include its symbols, as well as those of resurrection. As the philosopher Bertrand Russell said, “Religion revolves around the fear of death.” Masonic too.”
The historian believes that the great error of Pope Pius IX was to give the Jesuits “a crucial role” in his fight against the Freemasons by putting them in charge in 1850 of the review Civita Cattolica, a publication intended to spread the message of the Holy See to as many readers as possible. “Because the Jesuits have thus become the number one enemy of the Freemasons. This gave them a lot of exposure and gave them more prominence than they had as a secret society. The Catholic Church was, at the time, traumatized by revolutions in Europe that challenged secular values. The Jesuits’ response was to blame the Masons for all the evils in the world and to invent a conspiracy. Freemasonry was delighted with the relevance given to it.
Dickie’s book puts on the table the contradictions of the universal values of Freemasonry with the sometimes brutal actions of its members. For example, US President Harry S. Truman, a Freemason, ordered the dropping of the first atomic bomb and caused hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths. “Freemasons were crucial to the British Empire and to all the crimes that were committed. They also supported an anti-Semitic agenda long before Hitler came to power. Examples abound, such as the division by social levels, its anti-African tradition in the United States or the exclusion of women. However, Freemasonry takes up many principles of the Enlightenment: modern society, transparency, equality between people, human rights. It’s a huge paradox.”
Dickie – “I checked it in the archives” – offers a multitude of names of historical figures who belonged to lodges half the world. He mentions Garibali, Bolívar, Washington, Conan-Doyle, Gothe, Oscar Wilde, Sibelius, Peter Sellers, Newton, Oliver Hardy, Walt Disney, Buffalo Bill, Nat King Cole, Mozart, Haydn… . The problem is whether they were Masons because they were important or if they were important because they were Masons. Freemasons love to brag about it, but it is clear that Winston Churchill, for example, did not have time to attend the mandatory meetings. But that was an exception, that’s why he let his name be used as one of his members. The cases of Mozart or Hayden were different, Freemasonry was part of their enlightened culture. His mission in life was to follow the goals of Freemasonry.
Freemasonry, according to the British, has influenced movements and groups as disparate as the Ku Klux Klan or the Mafia. “Freemasonry is everything in the history of the Western world. Most people think it was conspired everywhere, but it’s just a pattern of organization, a brotherhood that’s made up of local cells, the lodges, that form a larger network. This idea of interconnection is very contagious and that is why it has been adopted by criminal groups such as the Sicilian Mafia, the Ku Klux Klan and, why not, by the Mormon Church or Rotarians, who have imitated many of their rituals. They all have Masonic DNA.
Dickie cannot guarantee that Francisco Franco – “I haven’t found him, although there are people who support him” – was a Freemason, although his brother Ramón tried and was not admitted. The writer believes that the dictator firmly believed in the Judeo-Masonic conspiracy. “He was a conspiracy theorist,” he laboriously pronounces that last word in Spanish as he remembers it doesn’t exist in English, but it sums up a vital attitude very well. “Franco represented the culmination of a long tradition of confrontation between secular and religious values, which was very important in Spain, Italy and France at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century.
The historian recalls that after the French Revolution, values were reversed, giving rise to modern conspiracy theories to explain the change. “The idea that there was an educated elite pulling the strings of mainstream society, i.e. Freemasonry, is becoming very contagious in Europe and conflated with Catholic anti-Semitism. This is how the false image of a Jewish plutocracy that manages capital and wants to undermine society with the Freemasons is born. It is an idea that is embraced by the extreme right, like Hitler, and the extreme left, like the Bolsheviks. Franco assumed this tradition, as he was the most Catholic of European dictators. He considered himself an heir to those culture wars and became the biggest proponent of the conspiracy theory.”
Dickie, who makes it clear that he is not a Mason, gives a compelling reason for not entering a lodge. “It’s not possible because I am an atheist and to be a Freemason you have to believe in God, in a supreme being. My grandfather, on the other hand, was one because he was a person for ethics was very important. A shocking thing when you ask one of its members what Freemasonry means to them is that their eyes start to water and you realize about the importance of the feeling of belonging to a lodge, that he is trying to achieve something in life and the metaphor of belonging to a group with values similar to the ancient masons who built churches and cathedrals in the Middle Age They committed a lot of hypocrisies, but I have respect for them.
Dickie is confident in his answers at the Ateneo Madrid, where this interview took place, a building full of Masonic symbols. For all questions he has an exact answer, except when asked how it is possible that, if symbology is fundamental to Freemasons, the English pub where the Grand Lodge was established in 1717 -Goose and Gridiron- was been demolished and not prevented. “I imagine it will be for a reason as ridiculous for masons as its real estate value”, laughs the one who points the finger at Henry Ford, William Lever, the pioneer of industrial detergents, or Cecil Rhodes, the world mining magnate , as the Masons copy. .