“Now the theoretical masons. Those are the masons who are not the practical masons, but the ones who are, you know, when the organization we now know as Freemasonry. They formed in 1717 in England. It was a number of protestant pastors and laymen who started these groups using some of the handshakes and symbols of the practical masons in order to form a secret society and they developed within it, just like in the old guild, the first levels were three stages of apprentice, journeyman, and master.
And what’s known as the Blue Lodge which is the most basic lodge, you have those three degrees. And every mason has to go through those three degrees in order to become a master mason. Now, beyond that, there are many other degrees, depending on what kind of lodge you belong to. First of all, masonry is most popular in the English-speaking world where it began, in England, and her colonies and former colonies. That would include Australia of course. The United States, it was very popular there. The first lodge in the United States also started in the 1700s. I don’t know when masonry got started here in Australia, but it was probably fairly early on. And, the different English forms of the Masonic Lodge have two main groups. One is known as the York Rite, the other is known as the Scottish Rite. It’s in the Scottish Rite that you have the 33 degress of the Masonic Lodge. In the York Rite, they have different kinds of degrees.
And, one of the things that happened after the 33rd degree was developed, that these were all fascinating and interesting, but after a while they got kind of boring. One of the ways that you know the Masonic Lodge developed is that since there really wasn’t that much spiritually going on at the lower degrees, they kept making more degrees. And some of the lodges had even more than 33 degrees.
And then there are groups beyond them like the Shriners. The Shriners were started by a circus clown. [laughter]. I’m serious. I’m serious. He was a circus clown and comedian. He was the most popular comedian in the United States back in the 1880s when he started the Shriners. And this was meant to be a benevolent society. But they would do a lot of things to have fun. It was kind of slapstick, a little bit, you had to be a mason to get into the Shriners but it had a sort of slapstick qaulity to it. They would play all kinds of tricks and make you do absurd things, dressed in women’s clothes and you know just stuff, be made a fool of and then you can join the Shriners. And they’re famous in the United States. I don’t know about here but in the United States they are famous for their hospitals for children. So, that’s one of the things they do.
And they have those little cars and little motorcycles. They’re certainly small and these rather unfortunately large men who really could do with a diet usually are riding these little cars and funny hats and clothes and they’re having fun and they use that as a way to promote the Shriners and to promote donations to their hospitals. So, that’s another degree that gets developed.” *
[*Added note: it should be noted that the Shriners were involved in various scandals. The first, they were accused of exploiting children to solicit donations; the second, members were disbanded after reports of sex acts at dinner; the third, Shriners CFO pleaded guilty to stealing $828K from hospital; and lastly, leaked report had alleged wrongdoing within Shriners Hospitals for Children.]