Ancient Free & Accepted Masons Masonic Square and Compass

Freemasonry is a tradition in my family. Below is a photograph, developed July 16, 1951, of my uncles, grandfather, and father wearing their masonic aprons. From left to right, Lorraine Cletus Johnson, Dean Rodrick Johnson, John Creston Johnson, Maro Johnson, and John Charles Johnson.

The photograph was taken at my grandfather's farm in Baylis, Pike County, Illinois. I received the photograph from my father's cousin, Elmer Bradbury, after my father died. My father never talked about his membership in the Lodge. The only reference to his membership that I remember while I was growing up was when I took a pair of navy colored socks with the masonic seal from the family laundry room. When my mother noticed I had put them on, she told me, in a nearly panic-stricken voice, that I could not wear those socks because of the secret insignia on them. I might have been mildly curious about this, but really didn't give it much thought. I was just a teenager scrounging for a pair of socks to wear that day.

I was encouraged to consider joining the Lodge by the same individual who invited me to join the secret order H+O+A+C. He had been an active member of all the orders of Masonry for years and he assured me that the experience would be rewarding. So, I solicited the required recommendation from members of Garfield Lodge No. 559 and completed my degree work between November 1985 and January 1986. The individual who originally recommended the Blue Lodge to me then insisted that the full benefit of Masonry would not be felt unless I continued my degree work in the other other branches of Masonry that contitute the York Rite: Royal Arch, Council of Royal and Select Masters, and Commandery (Knights Templar). The made for a lot of meetings where I left my wife and children alone for the evening and a lot of annual dues. But at least I had a lot of neat membership cards.

At the time, I took Masonry very seriously. On two occasions I was the featured speaker at Lodge meetings. Here are copies of my two talks: The Psychology of Freemasonry and Masonry as a Mystery. But, over the few years I belonged to these organizations, I began to have the same doubts that I had about Christianity. In the talks I gave at Lodge meetings, I suggested that Masonry differed from other fraternal orders in that Masonry was more than a men's social club. I truly believed at the time that initiation into and work within the order conferred upon the initiate special knowledge and power. When I realized that this was one more example of wishful thinking on my part, I had to leave Masonry. It was a magical time while it lasted, but eventually the curtain came down on my self-deception.

If you visited this page hoping to find Masonic secrets, I have bad news: there are none. The secrecy surrounding Masonry merely represents a psychological device that supports male bonding, as noted by anthropologist Lionel Tiger in his book, Men in Groups. The secret words, handshakes, etc., can be found easily on the Internet. There is no secret wisdom. Sorry.

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John A. Johnson
Created June 12, 2003