Masons increase recruitment effort

by Beacon Staff • October 25, 2006

A popular story centers around the pyramid design on the bill's reverse side, with a single eye floating in the air.

According to the popular story, the pyramid and eye are a tribute to a secret society known as the "Freemasons.,For those who like a good conspiracy theory, one of the most enduring mysteries begins with the $1 bill.

A popular story centers around the pyramid design on the bill's reverse side, with a single eye floating in the air.

According to the popular story, the pyramid and eye are a tribute to a secret society known as the "Freemasons."

Here at Emerson, the mystery of the Freemasons lingers right next the Ansin Building on Tremont Street, where the organization's regional headquarters resides.

The organization, however, is not entirely secretive.

The Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts sits directly across from Emerson's Little Building, on the corner of Boylston and Tremont streets.

"It's a creepy building with no windows. I've always been curious about it," said Katie Cotugno, a senior writing, literature and publishing major.

The male-exclusive Masons are now opening their doors even further.

In the past, the group has often accepted as few as three to four people each year.

Robert Huke, public relations director for the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, said the organization is attempting to branch out.

"We have always tried to extend what our fraternity offers to as many people as possible," Huke said. "In the past we have not actively sought members. That is what has changed. We can't operate as we have in the past since we are becoming more well known."

The official Web site now describes the group as a "society with secrets, not a secret society." The "hollow sidewalk" signs near the lodge are also not a great mystery, Huke said.

"The only things under the sidewalks are pipes, dining rooms and a kitchen," Huke said.

A student at Harvard University, who wished to remain unidentified, was sent an e-mail in his first semester of freshman year from the Masonic Society of Massachusetts.

"We've been watching you," the e-mail said. "And we think you would be good for our organization."

The student said there were no people in his family, friends or acquaintances that were Masons.

He still is unaware of how the Masons got his contact information or how exactly they were "watching" him, though he said he was attracted to the organization, which he described as "sweet and ominous."

He joined the Masons soon after the invitation was extended to him and attended the primary dinner with the senior members of the lodge at Harvard.

All of the meetings for the particular sect that he joined were held at the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts on Boylston Street.

The Masons perform a large amount of community service. Major charities include the Shriners Children's Hospital and the Masonic Angel Foundation, which provides support to low-income families who do not qualify for other types of financial aid.

"I actually work on the Angel Fund, but there are a large majority of people who just go for dinner and functions and so on," the Harvard student said. "They do a lot of charity work and that was one of the reasons I became involved."

According to a New York Times article, the Masons are afraid that there will not be enough young people to continue on the tradition.

The Harvard student said the Masons are attempting to become a more family-oriented organization, and have increased the annual enrollment to about 50 in 2005. The minimum age in Massachusetts for joining was lowered to 18 five years ago.

"The thought was that if you are old enough to fight for your country then you are old enough to join the Masons," Huke said.

According to Huke there are 40 thousand Masons in Massachusetts and 240 lodges in the state.

Harvard is not the only college in Boston that has its own lodge of the Masons.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Boston University have chapters, as well as Northeastern University, which recently gave up its charter.

The orders of Masons are divided into lodges, which not only refers to the actual building but the groups of men who attend it. There are 11 groups of Masons who meet in the lodge on Tremont Street.

The Masons still perform rituals that cannot not be spoken about in detail at all outside of the lodge.

There is an oath of secrecy that all new Masons have to take upon initiation, according to the student.

"With the initiation into each of the three degrees of Masonry there is an obligation that is taken," Huke said. "It says that we will not violate the secrets of that degree. But, the obligation is symbolic and it represents a sense of integrity and it does threaten the 'ancient penalties.'"

The Harvard student said that the initiation ceremony threatens death for revealing its secrets.

During the first years in America, the Masons were predominantly a white organization from the upper and middle class. The group is now accepting more and more minorities into the lodges.

"They're looking for the best and most skilled young people...[they want] large quantities of talent," the student said. "They're trying to save themselves as an organization."

"I know he [my grandfather] belongs to it [the Freemasons] as a social organization. He just wanted to be involved," said Greg Blake, a freshman marketing major.

The list of prominent Freemasons includes every president on a piece of United States currency, Benjamin Franklin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John Hancock, Paul Revere, Buzz Aldrin, Louis Armstrong and John Wayne.

The building itself may remain something of a mystery to Emerson students, but those interviewed said they did not feel at all threatened. Megan Larkin, a sophomore organizational and political communications major, said she passes the building regularly.

"I feel like it's a nice contrast to the crack dealers on the other corner," Larkin said.