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335. The Freemasons: History's Greatest Conspiracy Theory

335. The Freemasons: History's Greatest Conspiracy Theory

Thu, 25 May 2023 01:00

A grubby, secretive cabal of devil worshippers that run the world, or a fraternity of like-minded individuals who enjoy eccentric rituals? Freemasonry, originating in the Middle Ages, played a significant role in the formation of the new American nation under George Washington, held the British empire together, and later served as a tool for authoritarianism and revolutionary conspiracy.

Tom Holland and Dominic Sandbrook are joined by historian John Dickie on a journey to uncover the true history of the Freemasons, a society which has counted among its ranks Mozart, Benjamin Franklin, the Duke of Wellington, Shaquille O'Neale, and many more…

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Thanks for listening to The Rest is History. For bonus episodes, early access, add free listening and access to our chat community, please sign up at Or if you're listening on the Apple Podcasts app, you can subscribe within the app in just a few clicks. There's so many things clamoring for our attention. It's really hard to know what to even care about. So, make me care about, is created in partnership with the Bellamillinda Gates Foundation. And we're going to explore topics that actually have deep importance and impact in the world. And I'm willing to bet that you're not only going to learn something new, but who knows? You might end up feeling a little bit more hopeful too. Make me care about, wherever you listen to podcasts. In 1885, the French Catholic Church celebrated a spectacular propaganda coup. One of its fiercest critics, the anti-clirical writer Leo Taxiou, had at last seen the light and was eager to tell the world about his conversion. Above all, Taxiou was determined to expose the grotesque and hateful network to which he had belonged since his teens, the diabolical world of free masonry. The great architect of the mason's, Taxiou, it announced, was the devil. Their lodges house statues of goat-headed beasts. Their rituals involved bestial forms of carnality and prostitution, last seen in ancient Babylon. The worst masons of all were the new reformed paladians, led by a devil-wershipping lesbian called sister Sophia Sappho. In public, Sophia Sappho seemed a gentile spencer. But in private, she would arrive with passion as she spat on a consecrated host, before forcing a newly initiated sister to have sex with the sacramental bread stuffed up over China, published in a series of best-selling books. Taxiou's revelations transfixed France. He was invited to an audience with Pope Leo the 13th, who told him that he had read every word. And then, after 12 years of headlines, Taxiou called a public meeting at the geographical society in Paris and revealed the truth. Dominic, as you will well know, that's a review by a top critic of the book The Craft, how the free masons made the modern world by John Dickie, who is Professor of Italian Studies at University College London. That top critic was yourself. Yes, so that is the ultimate Sunday Times review opening. That's the kind of thing that literally the day loved. You used to say loads of sex, please. I mean, so what I found when I came across this in this wonderful book, it's one of those books actually The Craft, it's called. And it's one of those books where as you read it, the scales kind of fall from your eyes, because I had always been interested in who were the free masons. Where do they come from? What do they believe? Is that Dominic because you yourself are a free mason? No, I'm absolutely not Tom, but as you are now going to say, of course, I would say that. Wouldn't I, if I was part of this diabolical conspiracy, as we will see, the truth that Taxiou reveals is surprising, shall we say? So are we going to reveal the truth now? I think should we get the author of the book that we reviewed, who has very kindly agreed to come on the show and talk about free masons? Should we get him to tell us what the truth was? I suspect we should. So John Dickie, thank you so much for joining us. A wonderful book now. Come on, Leo Taxiou. Was he telling the truth about Sister Sophia Safo and the new reformed paladians and the devil or not? Well, it's great to be here and I'm tempted to suggest that people read the book to find out, perhaps I'm not giving away too much by saying it was actually a gigantic hoax. I mean, one of the biggest hoaxes in modern history that certainly had large parts of the Catholic Church fooled and lasted 12 years and tells us a lot about this still ongoing paranoia that the Catholic Church has about free masons. But there will be lots of people listening to this who will say, okay, fine, well, it wasn't, you know, okay, maybe the free masons aren't devil worshipping lesbians. But there are still all kinds of mysterious things. It's a network that has, you know, people of our generation always talk about the police in Britain that has infiltrated this institution, that institution. So when you come to write about it as a historian, to what extent were you yourself, you know, how much of that did you have in your head? Because you've written about the mafia before, haven't you? So you're very good on shadow, it's shadowy sinister organizations. Yeah, I came to it through the mafia really because I'd been on a radio, a lot TV, a lot talking about the mafia. And I defined, when I stood to find the mafia, I did exactly the way Sicilian Mafia was you do. And I said, well, it's like a free masonry for criminals. And I got a message from the head of communications at the United Grand Law, Jive England at the end of the day saying, would you like to come in for a chat because our members are up in arms? So I went along and had a chat with them and did the tour of the museum. And based on what I already kind of knew about a free masonry in the Italian context, particularly, I realized there was a big story there because there are really only two narratives out there about the free masons. One is the sort of, either it's a conspiracy theory or it's a sort of grubby cabal. Like kind of story we grew up with, you know, all on the other story that you have out there is the free masons version, which is it's all a noble and misunderstood tradition of brotherhood and charity work and that sort of thing. And both of those stories have some elements of truth in them depending on where you go in history and where you go across the world because free masonry is global, phenomenon. But there's an awful lot in the middle that neither of those stories captured and that is huge fun. I mean, I've never had so much fun writing a book as I did writing this one. But you know, the other mystery that I've always kind of been aware of never until I read your book, probably got a handle on is the origins because the origin story, the free masons themselves say, I mean, it goes back to the time of Solomon and Mason's building the temple in Jerusalem and somehow the Templars fit in and they worship ahead of a demon called Baffermet and somehow the Illuminati there as well. And that great swirl of historically themed conspiracy theories, the free mason seem to be sat right in the middle of it. And I'm guessing that in part the kind of the secrecy of that is, I mean, it's a huge part of the fun for the free masons. But also what is the actual history of how the free masons came to being? presumably it doesn't go back to the middle ages, let alone back to the time of Solomon. No, I mean, you really need to look at two moments that were the key moments in the development of free masonry. One was the court of James VI of Scotland, the future James I of England at the very end of the 16th century when you had a sort of law L-O-R-E of stone masons. Stone masons had created their own sort of corporate mythology if you like that included all of these things like Euclid and Solomon's Temple and all of that sort of stuff. And in a very interesting political move, a man called William Shaw, SCH-A-W, who was James the first basically Minister of Works, Minister of Public Works, made a kind of alliance with these senior stone masons who were building things like James's new chapel at Sterling Castle. And introduced them, it seems, to certain versions of Renaissance, philosophy, classical philosophy, in particularly the art of memory, which I'm sure you know all about. The idea that you were memorised at speech by visualising going through a whole building with various things like a memory palace, or a memory palace, or a columns here and pictures there, and that kind of thing. And in the Renaissance, the Renaissance philosophy of Hermeticism, that became a sort of portal to the secrets of the universe. And William Shaw introduced these stone masons to this mythology, to this, sorry, this Renaissance philosophy, as a sort of flattering overture if you like, and promised to help them organise themselves. And that suited their sort of, they had to become a stone mason, you had to memorise quite a lot in terms of the mythology and so on and so forth. It helped them organise their initiation rituals, it gave, it turned the cells of their organisation that they called lodges into theatres of memory. And if you go to a masonic lodge today, you, a masonic temple, you will see a chessboard floor, you will see columns and globes and various symbols moving around that are a memoir, that mnemonics, to help you negotiate your way through the long and complicated rituals. And the new and exciting idea was that this had a kind of philosophical content, that this was giving you access to some kind of truth, whether it be an ethical truth or a philosophical truth, all sorts of different kinds of truth have been superimposed on that. So that's the one moment, and at that moment it becomes fashionable, gentlemen start to join these lodges of stone masons in search of fashionable intellectual concerns of the age. And it spreads around the country, albeit in very sort of small, low-key forms. And by country you mean Britain or just Scotland? It enters England, I mean one of the main vehicles seems to have been Scottish forces involved in the civil war, the civil wars. And it's by the beginning of the 18th century, it's kind of national, but rather uncoordinated it seems. And then we get the second big moment, which is in 1717, when a group of four lodges come together to found what's called a grand lodge, a sort of supervisory body to enforce the rules, if you were, and decide who is legitimately a Freemason, and who isn't, at this time, they're beginning to call themselves Freemason. And a Freemason is someone who works freely with stone rather than kind of... That's the origin of the word. But it has many meanings in the sources. It keeps its original meaning, which is the guy who elaborately shapes the stone and then hands it over to a guy to just bung it in a wall or a church or whatever. But I think the connotations of freedom and so on were helpful in it becoming the name for the Freemasons. Because by the beginning of the 18th century, Freemasonry has separated it off from any real concrete. In fact, that foundation of the grand lodge in 1717 seems to be in a key moment in that process, separated itself off from any of that stone masonry stuff. And the accoutrements of the stone mason, the gloves, the apron, the set squares, the, you know, the lead weight things, you know, all of those sorts of tools, stop being tools of stone mason and just become part of the metaphorical kit of these rituals, of these Masonic rituals. So John, they meet at the Goose and Gridiron pub, it's in 1717, and they tell Hammer is out. And Tom and I were discussing this beforehand. I said to him that it's a bit like the foundation of the football association, hammering out common rules. And Tom said, while it's actually his 18th century, so it's more like the rules of cricket. But there is a sense of that, isn't there? There is a sort of, you know, you were talking about gentlemen earlier, that these are actually quite well-born, well-educated, well-off people who are coming together to create the rules of a, it's not quite a game, but it's a kind of ritual, isn't it? And they do regard it. I think one of the things that comes through from your book is they regard it as fun from the beginning, that there's, that's an important part of it. It's a kind of, that sort of brotherhood element is actually quite jolly, rather than sinister. Yeah, absolutely. It's part of that 18th century world of clubs and all of that sort of thing, very, very much part of that, in a way the most successful and long-lasting part of that. And, you know, the comparison with sort of cricket or whatever also stands up in the sense that, you know, through the empire, it's then spread around the globe, once, particularly once you've got a rule book set up in 1723. Yeah, boozing and drinking and so on has always been an absolutely key part of Freemasonry. Also, the lack of women is also another very distinctive 18th century club aspect. Yeah, that's right. I mean, the motions have always been quite rightly, I think, given a hard time for this. But that rule book from 1723, the Anderson's constitutions, as its name, the constitutions of the Freemasons, is the first to actually officially say, look, you can't have any women, can't have any slaves, can't have any, you know, whatever. And that's created a lot of problem. You know, as you'll know from the book, there's, there are versions of Freemasonry that have incorporated women in various forms right up to kind of full equal membership mixed lodges. But the norm is still, I think, very, you know, male. It's a, this is a book, as I said, about male eccentricity and history. Although you do introduce someone who may have been female or maybe not, who is the Chivalier de'on, who is, I guess, representative of the spread of Freemasonry from England across the channel. And the Chivalier de'on is either a man who dresses as a woman or a woman who dresses as a woman pretends to be a man and somehow become a Mason. Yeah, no, it creates an obviously great hilarity. The Masons have all, as well as having good time themselves have always provoked enormous laughs among everybody else because of their strange, you know, rolling their trousers, legs up and bearing their chests and all that kind of stuff. And one major course of hilarity during the 18th century was this story of the Chivalier de'on, who was basically a French spy, French government agent and kind of scandalous to end up joining a launch in London. And for whatever reasons, again, the story is complicated, and it depends who you believe, started dressing as a woman and actually claiming to be a woman. And eventually would be welcomed into the bosom of Freemasonry back in France. Yes, where they did allow, they did have a form of female Freemasonry at the time, so called the Docksian lodges. But in the meantime, there was a huge betting market open about whether the Chivalier de'on really was or wasn't a woman. And eventually, I think probably because of bribery, somebody was a witness coming up and said, well, I actually had sex with the Chivalier de'on, she's definitely a woman. And yeah, the truth wouldn't be revealed until she died. And we found out that she was anatomically male. Wow. So I tell you what, a strange thing that I had never realized before reading a book was that Freemasonry's linked to wigory. So there's loads of wigs, it's sort of the Robert Warpole era. So is it a sort of political patronage group at this stage? Well, kind of everything is in the 18th century. But yes, I mean, they absolutely, particularly because of the secrecy code they've got, which I think we probably need to get into at some stage. They need the protection of the wiggy leat. What I think happened, and it's still, you know, opinions are divide in among historians, what I think happened with the setting up of that grand lodge was that was effectively a kind of wig coup within Freemasonry. And they elbowed out the Tories who'd previously been in charge, you know, the fate of Christopher Ren who had been, it seems to be in a kind of figurehead of the exception as the Freemasonry was called kind of in London before. Because he was an architect. I mean, he was literally building temples. Yes, absolutely. Yeah, and all of, you know, many, many of the builders, the contractors and people that he used in building st. Paul's and all the other churches were Freemasons, were members of this thing called the exceptions as was Christopher Ren's son and so on and so forth. And I think what happens in, you know, transition into the wig regime is that they kind of want to move on from that Tory version of Freemasonry create a new version. And so, Jim, does that, that association of Freemasonry with kind of Wiggy's principles of liberty and freedom and enlightenment thought? Does that explain its success on the continent where there's this kind of Anglomania, this, this fascination with England as, you know, Voltae comes here and says that it's the great home of liberty. Is that part of what explains its success? Definitely. I think so. You know, Freemasonry is a kind of vehicle of enlightenment values again and again and it's not just in, you know, when it's first exported to France that people see it in, seeing it as something modern. But again and again, you know, we see it in the early Republic in the United States or in the early movement for Indian independence, it seems to be, offer itself as a very good school of modern politics and of of the kind of skills and of values that you need to take part in a modern state. So all that sort of supreme being stuff and all the quite vague. Well, the simultaneously very detailed but also kind of vague, religious stuff. My sense is that that's a product of the enlightenment and it's designed for an age where they don't want sectarian passions to, to, you know, people arguing all the time about high and low church and Catholic and Protestants and stuff and this is a good way of smoothing that over but it's also, it is very wiggish and very enlightened and very mid is essentially you can absolutely see where it appeals to the founding fathers of the United States for example, can't you? Yeah, no, that's absolutely right. You know, we better come onto the secrets. Am I allowed to say the secrets online? Yeah, I'm just saying to tell about that. Okay, because you know, free, free Mason swear the most terrifying oeds during their rituals to maintain the secrets of free Mason. Do we know of what these aides are? Because presumably they have to keep the secret. Oh, yeah, yeah, no, you can feed them online, you know, yes, you've got to keep the secret and it all happens in the secret place and it's all hidden by symbols and stuff like that. But once you strip all of the, you know, the kind of funny walks and oeds and all that out of the way, I love the quote you give of what was in Kustos, a Portuguese, was he Portuguese? I can't remember. He was London based but he was a Huguenot. Yes, who gets kind of abducted by the inquisition in Portugal and tortured and confesses to all kinds of stuff and then comes back and he he he he he he he thing that that basically the secrecy is is just a way of getting people to join as secrecy, natural excited curiosity, this prompted great numbers of persons to enter into this society. So the secrecy is basically marketing tool. Among other things, it's a very good route, marketing tool. But the secrets want, you know, you get three main rituals to really begin your career as a Freemason. They're entered apprentice, the fellow craft and the master mason rich. Once you've been through those, you are a Freemason in the full sense of the word. And each one of those has this terrifying secret that you're supposed to learn. And the first one that you learn in the end to the apprentice, you know, after all of this palava of blind folding and swords pointed at your breasts and all of this kind of stuff is that you've got to be a nice chap. And the second secret at the end of the fellow craft ritual again, lots of palava is that it's a good idea to find out more about the world. And the third secret, you can tell I'm not a Freemason, of course, because I would say there's no way out. Of course, you would, yeah, we're not following for that. It's probably as good a proof as you're going to get if somebody gives away the secrets like this. But you can find them on the internet anyway. Anyway, and the third secret after the master mason ritual, which is an extraordinary bit of theatre, you know, you're sort of ritually beaten to death by other Freemasons and then sort of zipped into a body bag and carried around the lodge building and then symbolically revive by this sort of Masonic manhug. And the secret you learn at the end of all of this is that death is quite a serious business and it kind of makes you think a bit. So, in other words, the secret is just towering, towering banalities. And what it, what that tells us a number of things, one is that's quite ingenious rather than making some terrifying political or theological secret, the truth, the secret, they're making it at this kind of empty form of secrecy, which is open to everybody. Nobody can disagree with these whatever religious faith you are and so on and so forth. They're a vehicle of tolerance. But what they do do is borrow the whole kind of aura of secrecy and mystery of secrecy to create a certain sort of quasi-religious feeling around the rituals and around Freemasonry and a sense of sacredness around their rituals while not treading on anybody's toes. And is that why it's so popular with the founding fathers who like that kind of watered down daisd kind of approach to things do you think? Yes, exactly. I mean, it works very well for them. There were Freemasons on both sides in the American War of Independence, you know, the military is full of Freemasons on both sides. But it's really once they set about, you know, setting up the rules of a public and Washington place, that Washington, particularly, who was a Freemason, so he's, well, look, this is a real, we haven't got religion to legitimate what we're doing. And all the lessons of history are that republics don't work. We know that, you know, wherever you are, particularly in classical history, republic, it's going to collapse into anarchy or tyranny sooner or later. So what we need is something to give us a sense of sacredness without having any particular religious kind of input without offending anybody. And the Freemasons are perfectly fitted for that task. So that's why Washington is very public about his Freemasonry when he's president and why he, for example, in the laying of the cornerstone of the capital building in Washington. So ceremony, I kind of reconstruct in the book. You know, this is, you know, Washington, he knows this city is going to carry his name. He knows that it's going to have a big statue of him at the center and, you know, at the moment, it's just a plan drawn out in the mud on the banks of the of the Potomac. And yet he makes, he uses a Masonic ceremony and the Masons are very good at ceremonies and rituals and all that stuff to give this sense of sacredness here. We're founding something really important. And, you know, when reports of that reach around the country, it really sets off the, this fashion for Freemasonry and for Masonic cornerstone laying ceremonies in the early American Republic. And what about the dollar bill? So that's something that comes up on life. You spend any time at social media. That kind of thing comes up again and again that, you know, it's part of a globalist conspiracy and has been from the beginning, the eye. What is it? The eye of Providence or the Escort of Cromwell, what it's called? You know, the pyramid, all that stuff. Is the genuine sort of Masonic influence going on there? Yeah, what better evidence do you need of a global conspiracy than the fact that advertising it on the dollar bill? No, that didn't, it was originally, that symbol, the pyramid with the all-seeing eye, was at some point the obverse of the seal of state. And that was, I forget, in the 1780s, some time. That was early 1790s was kind of put in place. But at the time, it wasn't a Masonic symbol. And as far as we know, none of the people who designed it were Freemasons. No, it gets incorporated onto the dollar bill under FDR in the 30s. And FDR, when this design, you know, using this new design for the dollar was proposed, which, you know, resurrected, if you like, this obverse of the seal of state as part of the design of the dollar bill was, he was a Freemason, he was a 32nd degree Freemason. But he was actually really worried that that would kind of offend his Catholic base. Because by this time, the Freemasons, who have been hoovering up symbols, left, right, in centre, nothing, but basins like more than symbols. And there will get them from anywhere, hence the confusion about their origins, because the Templars, you know, ancient Egypt, it's all good. It will make for good ceremonies. And so he wanted to actually check that his Catholic base wouldn't be offended if he put a sort of what some might interpret as a Masonic symbol on the on the dollar bill. And he was reassured. Unfortunately, he wasn't to know about the conspiracy theories that would grab around it much later. Well, so talking of conspiracy theories and Catholic dislike of Freemasonry, which we open the episode with, we should come to that, I think, in the second half. Look at the role that Freemasonry is supposed to have played in the French Revolution. And the role it definitely plays in kind of polarizing Catholic and secular opinion in France in the 19th century. So we will come back and talk about that after the break. There's so many things clamoring for our attention. It's really hard to know what to even care about. So, make me care about is created in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. And we're going to explore topics that actually have deep importance and impact in the world. And I'm willing to bet that you're not only going to learn something new, but who knows? You might end up feeling a little bit more hopeful too. Make me care about wherever you listen to podcasts. Acast powers the world's best podcasts. Here's the show that we recommend. For listeners, I am Dana Kay White and much to my own surprise, I am a decluttering expert. I'm the creator of the No Mess decluttering method and host of the podcast, Aslaub comes clean. As I figure out ways to keep my own home under control, I share the truth about cleaning, organizing, and decluttering strategies that work in real life for real people. People who don't love cleaning and organizing, I teach strategies I developed by working through my own clutter. In episode 376, I shared three moments when you should hesitate and declutter. Like, when I think I need to buy more hangers, I actually need to declutter my closet. If you've heard naturally organized people talk and felt like they were speaking a language, you did not understand. Come join us at Aslaub comes clean, the podcast. You might just find your people. Acast helps creators launch, grow, and monetize their podcasts everywhere. Do you know, Dominic, I was going to try and do the r-ear of The Queen of the Night from Mozart's Opera The Magic Flute, which I gather, John, maybe you could confirm this supposition is about a Masonic rituals. It's kind of Mozart's version of the rituals that you go through. Anyway, my voice isn't up to singing the r-ear of The Queen of the Night, but if any of our listeners, by the way, want to accept that, put it as a little clip on social media, I'm not going to stop them. My reading of that is that Mozart was like his mate Hyden, was a Freemason. And he definitely Freemasonry influenced The Magic Flute, but being a good Freemason, he wasn't going to give away the Masonic secret. So what he produces is a very strong, very recognizable Masonic flavor while giving him sort of bit of deniability about it. Just before we come to the French Revolution, which I know Tom said we're going to talk about just before the break. For all those people, George Washington, Mozart, all these people in the 18th century, am I writing thinking that for them, joining the Mason's is, you know, it's fun, there's the rituals, it's open to everybody, it's tolerant, it's kind of enlightened. It's a bit like joining a private members club today, if you're a kind of hipster. Is there a bit of truth in that, that it's kind of cool, and you meet lots of interesting people, but there's no great, you know, there's no metaphysical importance to you necessarily. It's not an existential thing to be a Mason, or I'm underplaying it. I think you are underplaying it a little bit. I mean, you have to remember that people join Freemasonry for lots of different reasons, and it means different things to different people. You know, in the same way that the secrets are a kind of empty center that then lead people to a Imagine and project all sorts of things onto them, whether they're Mason's or non-Mason's. There are different ways of living out your Freemasonry. It's certainly the 18th century, you know, it felt very modern and temporary. It's also about status. You know, there's lots of badges and stages to go through. And you know, as Freemasonry went on, they invented, you know, they didn't just have, there were just two degrees when Freemasonry started off. Then they added another one, and then this growth became kind of exponential. And that, because people love the badges of status, the kind of the ceremony, they're all, you know, the sense of belonging. So it's, you get status that is not the same as the status you would have in the outside world, but is a kind of refracted version of it. And so it's all sorts of aspects. But in cases, kind of erases status, doesn't it? Because the gloves that Mason's wear are designed to ensure that you can't know whether you're shaking the hand of a Duke or a dustman, a regent your book. Yeah, that's what that's the conventional explanation within Freemasonry. Certainly, there's a sort of utopian egalitarian vibe, the idea of brother, you know, if I'm an ordinary member of a lodge, and so is, you know, the Duke of Kent, in theory, we are just brothers, you know, we are equal, formally equal. And that's very exciting. That sort of temporary suspension of the rules outside world. So liberty, equality, and fraternity. And so you could, I guess see why in 1797, a Catholic abay, raved about the revolution that everything in the French Revolution, everything right down to the most appalling deeds was foreseen, premeditated, arranged, resolved upon and decided, everything was caused by the deepest wickedness because everything was prepared and directed by men who alone helped with thread uniting the intrigues. That had long been woven within the secret society. So the idea that these principles that the French Revolution flaunt are actually deriving from Freemasonry and it's all a kind of scam and is a veil covering what is in fact, deep wickedness. And this is a Catholic theme that runs right the way through the 19th century and it's what Leo Taxiil is basically exploiting. Yes, absolutely right. I mean, we owe the birth of the conspiracy theory in its modern form. You know, the idea of the secret elite behind the scenes controlling everything. That fantasy, we owe to Catholic fear of Freemasonry. You know, the idea that somehow it's just a front that there's some demonic purpose behind it, that fear, which is system as I said by this guy, the Abbey Bachwell, who's sitting in his house on the edge where road in London, in exile from the French Revolution, trying to make sense of the constanation caused by the French Revolution, the overthrowing of thrown and alter. It's got to be a conspiracy. Somebody's got to be to blame and it's got to be the Freemasonry, to the Pope that excommunicated as long ago as 1738. And that idea becomes very, very contagion and the Freemasons are perfect for it because they've got this sort of Russian doll. Firstly, they've got their code of secrecy, you know, and they may well say, oh, no, honestly, there's really nothing to it. They would say that, wouldn't they? And then even the structural ends itself to this. This Russian doll thing of, you know, ever higher degrees and the myth that was created was that this was all kind of machinery for depriving people of their free will until they became sort of Satanist robots by the time they got to achieve it. Yes, exactly. By the time of the higher degrees, and it was all aimed at overthrowing thrown and alter, bringing about exactly what happened, you know, under the Jacobins. But there's a tiny degree of, so in the first half, we were talking about how Freemasonry was identified with wickery, with enlightenment principles, with tolerance, with free thinking, with brotherhood, erasing distinctions, you know, underneath the gloves, whatever. So when the Abbey Barrelwell says, oh, well, this is all a result of Freemasonry, there's a pitiful, minuscule, little germ of sense there, is there? Or, yeah, I think so. I mean, even if you take Freemasonry at-face value, you know, for what it is in the 18th century, it looks deeply, deeply dodgy, you know, it's a center of aggregation away from the court, away from, you know, a philosophical free thinking. So, you know, it's subversive and heretical, and therefore, even in it's the most innocent interpretation, interpretation of it for the churches is positively dangerous. Does the Catholic church have a sense of it as being from Britain, being in that sense Protestant? Or not? Yeah, I think so. I mean, it's also, it would soon become associated with Judaism and all sorts of, you know, anything and everything that they didn't like. I think primarily for them it's heretical, because when- what happens is the Freemasonry, and it has its roots in all of the most ancient herrises, you know, the Maniquians and all of these people. So, basically, they're buying into what the Freemasons are saying. I mean, are they thinking that it comes from Babylon and from- Yeah, that's exactly it. The Templars or whatever, you know, who's we all know ended up rather badly. That's the point. The Freemasons have gone round during the 18th century, assembling these vast sort of museum of symbols, display cases of symbols that they can use to say, you know, to show that they're very ancient and they go back to the Old Testament or whatever it is, and they've given them all these symbols for the sort of mise en scène of their ritual performances. And all the Abbey Barwell and those who followed him had to do would say, well, Maniquan is clearly, you know, Heresy, you know, the Templars, good grief, devil worshipers, baffermet. So, they take the irony of this, of course, they take the Mason's version of their own history at face of value and just, you know- Yeah, because we did some at Baricepses on the Cathars and how essentially the notion of Catholicism was invented in the 19th century by nervous Catholic writers. And I guess that this is all part of that swirl and mix. But meanwhile, while all this plava is going on in France, in the British Empire, it seems to be- it does seem to be playing a role slightly analogous to cricket. So we mentioned this before, but it is being taken out, say, to India, and just as Indians start to to play cricket and it becomes a game where Indians and British can can meet on the playing field. So in India, the whole idea of brotherhood and the erasure of race and religion and things like that means that these lodges become places where British and Indians can meet and become Mason's, is that right? Meet on the level in Masonic jargon. Yeah, that's absolutely right. I mean, the free masonry does so much work for the British Empire. For a start, it's a kind of welfare system for an social network. You can be, if you're an imperial soldier, particularly, or a sailor, or if you're a bureaucrat or a merchant, whatever it is, you can find a kind of home from home. The familiar, you can find a welcome. Your Masonic credentials are your passport to a world of mutual support and a social life and a bit of fun and so on and so forth. So that is very important. But then you're absolutely right. There is this element of kind of allowing the native elites a bit of conditioned access. You know, you can check them beforehand, check they're okay. But particularly if they're politically useful, like, you know, whatever various members of the Indian elite are, you can bring them on board and flatter them and, you know, flatter them with this sort of formalized equality that you get on the playing field or indeed in the Masonic lodge. You have this brilliant stat, and I'm going to feel your wonderful book. By the outbreak of the First World War, there were at least 10 brothers in India who put Maharaja, the occupation column of the lodge register. And Kipling said, the man who would be king starts with a, there's a whole section about Masonry there, isn't there brother this, brother that, they're all kind of shaking hands and giving each other the wink and stuff. Yeah, yeah. I mean, the two rascals are at the centre of the man who would be king, kind of our Freemasons, and use Masonic rituals to create a bit of woo-woo kind of authority around their, their reign and keep Kipling, of course, you know, Archimperialist and the great poet and writer of Imperial Freemasonry. And the hatred, going back to the Hittoms points about the hatred, the anti-Masonic conspiracy theories. I mean, they are extraordinarily long lived within in Catholic societies, aren't they? So, I mean, one thing that I find, I've always found absolutely mystifying is that Franco, so after the Spanish Civil War, or during the Spanish Civil War, Franco is completely obsessed with Mason's and there's all kinds of... Well, you've got Black Bull, didn't he? Well, there's all kinds of anti-Masonic legislation, isn't there? I mean, really virulent, other that many Mason's in Spain, he was, wasn't he Black Bull by his own brother? Yeah, that's the theory, you know, we don't know. And his brother who later disappeared, and I, you know, suspicious plane crash. But let's not go down that rabbit hole. Yeah, I mean, there's a lot said about, you know, the Mason's themselves love to talk about their martyrs, if you like. And they love to tell stories of their oppression and how the world has misunderstood them. And the key baddies in their narratives are the Nazis, who did indeed ban Freemasonry in 1935. But actually much, much worse than Hitler when it came to, you know, clumping down on Freemasonry. Was Franco, as you say? I mean, he'd... The Spanish military at the time, and anybody from a Catholic background in Spain at the time and imbibed very, very profound hatred and suspicion of Freemasonry. You know, the culture wars that we saw in, in 19th century Catholic Europe that led to that taxil, hopes, you know, the sort of free thinking taxil, taking the mick out of the churches obsession with Freemasonry were particularly very, very, very late in Spain. And that Catholic anti-Masonry is really the reason why Franco was much more brutal in repressing Freemasons than were either Mussolini or Hitler, who both all the same did abolish Freemasonry. Yeah, Franco, I mean, it was fed information for a long time by this group, a sort of secret network, that claimed to be, you know, from some deep throat inside the international Masonic conspiracy. And this goes on from pretty much the end of the Spanish Civil War right until the mid-Sixies, I think. And they're telling me, yeah, they're out to get you, and, you know, when Truman well, we don't really know who was behind this. I mean, it was all completely fake information. They'd been making up, you know, bulletins from Masonic Central Command internationally, and, you know, letters from Truman or whoever it might be or Roosevelt and Churchill, making all this intelligence up to feed Franco's poor and paranoia. And the best guess is that they were just using him, you know, using it to kind of get at enemies within the regime. But Franco also set up this special tribunal to repress, to put Freemasonry on trial. I mean, minimum sentence 12 years for membership of Freemasonry, or indeed of, you know, any of the Masonic, supposed Masonic front organizations like Rotary Club or... The Rotary Club? Yeah, you're speaking Esperanto or anything like that made you a Freemason. And in the end, although, you know, there were at most a thousand former Freemasons left in Spain at time, there were 80,000 Freemasons listed, and you can still visit, are visited the, the kind of archives in Salamanca where they have all these paranoid records of Franco's regime. And there's a terrible museum, isn't there, with all for wax works in Salamanca? Yeah, that's right, because of course, like all of these authoritarian regimes, they claimed they finally, finally, finally were able to expose the secrets of Freemasonry. And so when they raided and closed down the lodges, they kind of pinched the best bits of kit from the lodges, filled up these showcase propaganda lodges with all this material with sort of dummies in cloaks and things like that. And said, you see, you know, demonic conspiracy, that's what they're at. And they made great visitor exhibits. It's not difficult to make Freemasonry look kind of macabre and weird, because a lot of the rituals have kind of death and skulls and scoffins and all of that sort of stuff in. So that's Spain, what about Italy? Because of course, in Italy, I mean, you've written about the mafia, particularly in the 1970s with the P2 launch, which is this sort of ultra right wing breakaway lodge that's in, if you read any sort of slightly conspiracy theory, book about 70s, 80s, Italy, P2 are controlling everything in their role with the Vatican bank, the death of Roberto Calvi, who's hanging from a bridge on that fries bridge, isn't he? So he was a banker working for the Vatican. God's banker. God's banker. Was he God's banker? Yes, that's right. And he was a man of P2. Is that true? Yeah, I mean, this is where, you know, this is really where the most, perhaps not Satanist, but the most atlandish conspiracy theories actually proved to be true. The P2 is a kind of limit case of real conspiracy. And what happened basically is this guy, Lichor Gellie, who was a former fascist, basically. Freemasonry is in deep trouble in Italy in the post-war period, because both of the dominant political parties, the Communist Party and the Christian Democrats are both anti-Musonic. They're both won't let Freemasons join them. There's an article in the new Italian constitution that bans secret societies without explicitly mentioning the Freemasons. So the Freemasons are worried and they really want to get back to their glory days in the, in the 19th century when they were very influential in Italy. And this guy, Lichor Gellie, comes along and says, look, you know, I've got loads of really important friends and I can make sure they come into Freemasonry. And we can do something really, but you know, like back in the old days, because back in the old days, all the elites, Freemasons in Italy, belonged to this lodge called Lodge Propaganda, which was right under the control of the grandmaster of the grandorian to Italy, almost his personal lodge. So they weren't bothered by ordinary Freemasons asking them for favors or, you know, selfies or whatever they did. And back in those days. And Gellie eventually took control of this, re-engineered it, and turned it into his personal kind of patronage and blackmail engine, which he, you know, he funded right wing terrorism. He laundered money for the mafia. He, you know, whole series of scandals where he brought corrupt people together. And so how did the Vatican and Calvary fit into all this? Well, Calvary was at the time in an unconnected development. Unconnected. The church was looking to get money to fund its anti-communist activities in Eastern Europe, you know, hope John Paul and all that, right? And so Vatican money was going in and also mafia money and all mingling around in these dodgy banks, which were really the center of the P2 system. And they were the sort of financial lung of what Gellie did. They allowed him to offer, you know, offered to lend money on mates, rates, terms to trouble businesses in return for them joining and lending support and building the empire. I mean, a lot of Gellie's power was based on bullshit, basically. You know, there's a story. I don't know whether it's true or not, but it ought to be true. Um, is a guy called Ali Giero Noscese, who was the sort of might yardward of Italy of the time. He was the great impersonator. Hey, you, John. Yes, exactly. Um, and he was found to be a member of P2, although he died before it was discovered. And the theory is that when, you know, a potential member would come in, Gellie would get this guy to call and put him on speakerphone. And Noscese would pretend to be, I don't know, Giulio Andreotti or the interior minister or somebody really well. And so Giulio, my mate, you know, I will do for you and all this kind of thing. Well, here's a scam for us. Exactly. But if that story's not true, and it probably isn't I'm afraid he gives some idea of how, you know, Gellie loved to boast about all his contact, because of course that attracted more influential contacts into his network. And that all came apart in the late 70s, early 80s. That right. It was all exposed when the best particular bank collapsed. Calvie was found who was handling the money was found hanged in London. Yeah, hanged, probably hanged by the mafia, not by the Freemasons. We still don't know. I mean, you know, seems to be the most likely explanation of the mafia. We're a bit angry because all their money had gone up the spout. But we don't know. We don't know. But yeah, it was in 1991, I think it was that the raid discovered the membership lists and lots of other compromising material in his office in Arhe, so in Tusconi. Should we end on a slightly more wholesome note? Because obviously, we don't want to give the impression that Freemasons are actually all involved in conspiracy and people hanging in bridges and things. So I thought one of the sweetest things in your book was to discover it. They're not only had buzz or aldrin being a Freemason, but that he he'd got special permission from the Grand Lodge of Texas to set up a lodge on the moon. Yeah, yeah, quality lodge. I'm trying quality lodge on the moon. Exactly. It's still there if you care to visit. But the Chinese get to the moon. They won't go there. Well, they because it's illegal in exactly. Yeah, they'll have to stay well clear. But also, there are lots of implausible people among American basketball players and things. Shakylo Neal is the great West Indies critic Captain. Shakylo Neal, yeah, Clive Lloyd, exactly. And it does have an appeal among African Americans, isn't it? As surprising appeal among African Americans. Yeah, the chapters about the states were the ones that I most enjoyed writing because despite Freemasonry's sort of enlightenment, credo of racial religious and social tolerance and so on and so on, the United States really writes since the foundation of the American Republic. Freemasonry has been divided along racial lines because of racism, basically, that the earliest black Freemasons, among whom was a man called Prince Hall, were prohibited from joining and founded their own tradition, now known as Prince Hall Freemasonry. And Prince Hall Freemasonry has an extraordinary record of involvement in the fight against slavery, the first black troops to fight in the Civil War in 1863 were recruited and most of them are NCOs were Prince Hall Freemasons. Wow. You know, the Civil Rights Movement is full of Freemasons. The NAACP was largely funded, by Masonic donations, for good marshal who led the sort of brown verse of the Board of Education case, was a Prince Hall Freemason, Medge, Evers, you know, from the Bob Dylan song or any appointment in that game and all that. He was a Prince Hall Freemason. Rosa Parks was a member of a female Masonic organization and both her father and her grandfather were Prince Hall Mason. So it's got a long history of involvement in civil rights and what they call uplift endeavors. Doesn't that tell you something about the nature of Masonry? That actually it's a club for people who like joining and doing things and being activists and being, you know, meeting like-minded people and that ultimately more than anything else, more than the ritual. I mean, the ritual's a fun for a lot of people. I mean, maybe there are people who believe in them, but I get the sense from your book looking at the great span of Freemasonry that actually it's clubable. There's an awful lot of clubable public spiritage kind of people and also people who are ambitious, who want to meet, you know, people who will help them as in, you know, Italy or wherever. Well, that's the core business. I wouldn't underestimate the power of that sense of the sacred. You know, he does tend to underestimate that, right? You know, as I've tried to explain Freemason partly about death and it's about coming to terms with death together with your mates in those rituals. And that's, you know, that is at the core of many religions. You know, Bertrand Russell said that the core work of all religion is dealing with fear. And we shouldn't forget as well that Freemasonry as well as, you know, in any however we might define Freemasonry as an sort of vaguely narrow sense. It's not just that that's influential. Freemasonry is an organizational template. This idea of a society of men, a brotherhood of men for eternity linked by rituals and a certain mythology organized in cells, but with access to a much broader network, that's Freemasonry. But it also very, it gives its origins to the Sicilian mafia. You know, the Sicilian mafia very much has Masonic DNA in its origins in its beginnings. And tons of other organizations have borrowed that Masonic template, the Ku Klux Klan, millions of other brotherhood, you know, fraternal organizations, the Mormon Church has, you know, lots and lots of stuff. The history of the early history of the Mormon Church and all early history of the history of Freemasonry very closely intertwined. Such a fascinating way of, I mean, basically all post 18th century history is there, to some degree, isn't it? There are Mason's everywhere. You mentioned Roosevelt. What was Roosevelt? Thirty second degree. Yeah, that's right. So he had gone through thirty two rituals or whatever. Yeah, although that is the Scottish right, okay, which is the most elaborate system of rituals and there are tons of these things. But yeah, I mean, it's fairly, these days it's fairly easy going through it. They make it easy for you to go through all those rituals. They're kind of performed for you. Still. Often in in packs, you know, I mean, it's the list of say, let's end by just listing some of the people who've been Mason say, five kings of England, you say. 14 presidents of the United States, Robert Burns, Arthur Conan Doyle, Gertr, Mozart with mentioned Hayden, Sibelius, Arnold Palmer, Sugar Ray Robinson, Peter Sellers, and that King Cole Oliver Hardy, Henry Ford, Cecil Rays, David Crockett, Oscar Wilde Walt Disney, Winston Churchill, Duke Ellington, and Duke Ellington. Amazing. It is pretty amazing. So as Dominic said, all of history is there and your book is kind of therefore not just about the Freemasons, but about the world since the early modern period. So that's the craft, how the Freemasons made the modern world. John, thanks so much. It was absolutely wonderful. My pleasure. And of course, if you've listened to this and you think it was a bit too soft on Freemasonry, then that's proof that we're all secretly Mason's. We've been lying to all along. And if you think we've been too harsh, then you're a Mason and you know that we're not. So everybody's a winner. Everybody will come away. Everyone comes away. A little bit disappointed, which is how we like it on the rest of history. And on that note, thank you John. And goodbye, everybody. We'll see you next time. Goodbye. Bye. There's so many things clamoring for our attention. It's really hard to know what to even care about. So make me care about is created in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. And we're going to explore topics that actually have deep importance and impact in the world. 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