Sarmad Ishfaq |
The Freemasons are secular fraternal organizations that find their roots from stonemasons of ancient civilizations. The Masons claim they are an organization working for the enlightenment of man. Specifically, their aims include practising and promoting charity, helping society, and inculcating positive values in their members such as integrity and fairness. The Freemasons are a well-organized and hierarchical group. The basic unit of the organization is called a lodge – this is where the Freemasons meet regularly and conduct their business, which could range from electing new members to payment of bills.
Freemason members can belong from whichever creed, race, or religion as long as they believe in a Supreme Being – God. A common allegation made by different governments and individuals is that they are a substitute for religion but the Masons claim that they allow their members to practice their respective religions and do not discuss religion or politics in their lodge meetings. Masons are allowed to publicly acknowledge that they are members but there are certain things that are to be kept private from the mainstream.
Interestingly, there is no international Grand Lodge that controls all of Freemasonry, which means all Grand Lodges are independent of each other.
There are three degrees present for Masons: they are – from lowest to highest – Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason. Once a member becomes a Master Mason, he can join a related organization namely the York Rite or The Scottish Rite. A Master Mason can belong to both, neither, or one of these two bodies. Each local lodge is under the control of a regional Grand Lodge or Grand Orient. Interestingly, there is no international Grand Lodge that controls all of Freemasonry, which means all Grand Lodges are independent of each other.
Every lodge has a Master, two Wardens, a Secretary, and a Treasurer. It is interesting to note that lodges will have a Bible present there but as people from different faiths are allowed, it is called the Volume of the Sacred Law. The Freemasons are also infamous for their secret handshakes, grips, signs, symbols, and rituals which usually only members are privy to. To become a Freemason, you need to be recommended to the organization by an existing member and then seconded by another.
After this, that person’s character is examined and only when found acceptable will the doors of Freemasonry be open to him. It might be surprising to most but many of America’s founding fathers and presidents were Freemasons including Benjamin Franklin, Paul Revere, George Washington, James Garfield, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, Howard Taft, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Gerald Ford etcetera. Many other notable Freemasons include Mozart, Beethoven, J. Edgar Hoover, Newton, Napoleon, Buzz Aldrin, Mark Twain, John Wayne etcetera.
Conspiracy Theories Surrounding Freemasonry
Today Freemasonry has a plethora of negative connotations attached to it. This is because many conspiracy theorists have suggested that the secretive organization is not so innocent. They state that while not all Masons are evil, those found in the upper echelons of the group (comprising 2-3%) operate under insidious designs (details ahead). Although in Freemasonry, the 32nd degree is usually considered to be the highest rank a Mason can achieve, it is possible to reach an honorary 33rd degree through hard work and extreme dedication.
Masons are allowed to publicly acknowledge that they are members but there are certain things that are to be kept private from the mainstream.
However, conspiracy theorists state that a 33rd degree Mason is one who is revealed the true secrets and agenda of the Illuminati – a secret society that was born in Bavaria. Conspiracy theories regarding Freemasons and the Illuminati are abundant ranging from their desire to install a single world government (also called the New World Order) to the eradication of most of the world’s population. The 33rd degree Masons are thought to be well connected to the Illuminati – the Illuminati, according to conspiracy theorists, controls most of mass media, the entertainment industry (Hollywood and the music industry), banking, and even governments of various countries.
Pakistanis might remember the series “The Arrivals” which was an internet sensation and was even aired on ARY News – the docuseries claimed that all of the theories above are true. Pakistanis and other nationalities have had a huge interest in the Masons and Illuminati since then. Whether these theories are true or not, I will leave up to you. There is plenty of research material available at the click of a button for those interested.
Freemasonry in Pakistan
Many people are unaware that Pakistan, prior to and even after independence, housed a plethora of Freemason lodges. Although Freemasonry is now banned in Pakistan, it enjoyed its apex under British rule. Freemasons had lodges throughout the country but have since been removed by a law passed by Mr. Bhutto in 1972. Lodges were present all over the country most notably in Karachi, Multan, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Murree, Peshawar, Kohat, Lyallpur (now Faisalabad), Chittagong (East Pakistan) etc.
Mr. Rafique Khan, a Pakistani born in Rawalpindi in 1925 and writing for the website NativePakistan.com, states that Rawalpindi had three lodges, one of which was present in Rawalpindi Cantonment on Canning Road opposite of Gurgson Dry Cleaners. This lodge used to be called “Jadoo Ghar” by the locals. Only members who had their rings engraved with the Masonic insignia were allowed inside.
The Freemasons are also infamous for their secret handshakes, grips, signs, symbols, and rituals which usually only members are privy to.
The locals used to recognize Masons by their secret and idiosyncratic handshakes that they would perform with each other. The lodges included the Light in the Himalayas No.1448 which was under the Grand Lodge of Scotland, the Stewart Lodge No. 1960 and the Black Mountain Lodge No.1256. It is not sure which one of these three lodges was the “Jadoo Ghar” lodge on Canning Street.
Upon further tedious research and thanks to Lanes Masonic Records (a website), I found out that the Light in the Himalayas No.1448 was located in Murree (RWP district) and another lodge called Lodge Ramsay No.675 was also present in Rawalpindi in the year 1865. Lahore also has some history with regards to the Masons. The famous author of the Jungle Book, Rudyard Kipling, was made a Freemason at the Hope and Perseverance Lodge No.782 in Lahore.
This lodge was built in 1859 in Anarkali – its site on Lodge Road is now the Lady Maclagan Government High School. A second Masonic lodge was built in 1914 using the foundation stone of Hope and Perseverance Lodge on land which was once a garden. In the 1980s, the Heritage Foundation Pakistan and passionate Lahori citizens initiated a project to renovate the historic buildings on Mall road, including this one. This lodge later became the Punjab Chief Minister’s Secretariat. The Masons claim that this building still belongs to them and have been locked in a litigation battle with Pakistan for decades.
Lahore’s former Masonic lodge
There were several lodges in Karachi as well namely Good Companions Lodge No.7180, Indus Lodge No.4325, and Scinde Lodge No.4284. Another lodge named the Hope Lodge was also in the city, which dates back to 1824, but after Freemasonry’s ban it was given to the Sindh Wildlife Department. Adjacent to the Governor House in Karachi, this lodge is located near Fawara Chowk. In 2009, renovations began to protect the building and to use the ground floor as a wildlife museum.
According to an article written in Express Tribune, this lodge had a few rich Muslim, Parsi, and Hindu members but was mainly dominated by British members. This lodge was created under orders of Dr. James Burnes in 1842, who was the Provincial Grandmaster of the Scottish Freemasons. The Hope Lodge was one of the few clubs in Karachi during that time but since then the building has not been maintained and has decayed drastically. All that remains inside now are a few plaques one of which mentions the members of this lodge – including the locals.
Hope Lodge in Karachi
There was also a quiet popular lodge in Peshawar called the Khyber Lodge No.582 EC. The Lodge still has a running website (www.khyberlodge.co.uk) which states that in British Indian Peshawar, it dominated the social scene. The building was used as a place of worship, hospital, library and meeting place. The Khyber lodge interestingly was the one to sponsor the Stewart Lodge No. 1960 in Rawalpindi in 1881 (mentioned above). From 1892 to 1912, the Khyber Lodge boasted of its importance as it contained one of the highest numbers of Freemasons in the entire district.
After partition, however, the lodge was moved to London where it still shockingly exists today. The brothers of Khyber Lodge meet four times a year at 10 Duke Street, St James, London. Other lodges include the Mooltan lodge No.130 in present day Multan, Cabul River Lodge No.3205 in Lahore, Hardinge Lodge No.3754 in Peshawar, Chenab Lodge No.7857 in Lyallpur (now Faisalabad), Kohat Lodge No.4459 in Kohat, and Star of Pakistan Lodge No.7381 in Chittagong.
A lodge in Multan
Freemasonry was present in Pakistan until Prime Minister Bhutto placed a ban on the organization in 1972. The government confiscated all lodges and documents relating to them. Laws were passed forbidding any meetings of Freemasons inside Pakistan and these laws have not been reversed since then. Other than Pakistan, all Arab countries have also banned Freemasonry except for Morocco and Lebanon – this is because most Arab countries see Freemasonry as being anti-Islamic and also discern it as pushing a Zionist agenda.
Sarmad Ishfaq is a researcher for Lahore Center for Peace Research. He has several publications in international journals and magazines in the field of Terrorism/Counterterrorism and International Relations. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.