Windhoek-Myths, fears and urban legends are synonymous when hearing the word Freemason. Who are these secret men in our society that greet each other with secret handshakes, control the global economy and make sure that their fellow Masons get the cream of the crop?
New Era took the bold step and paid a short visit to their “den”, where only the anointed ones meet and greet. But seems that these rumours and myths are all ripped out of proportion.
Initially, doubting the whole invitation, through the Facebook page of the Namibian Freemasons, to an open door question and answer session, curiosity took over and I sat down with this exclusive community who, it is often said, “allow only rich white men in their midst” to find out more about them.
Welcomed at the door by Gernot Piepmeyer, a Freemason, this reporter was told that the only rule was: “Please, no pictures as some do not want their pictures in the newspaper.”
Who are the Freemasons? First of all, they are not all old rich white men dressed in black. There were Namibians old and young from all walks of life, even a few brothers from other countries of Africa.
The Freemasons, according to the information shared, is the world’s oldest and largest non-religious, non-political fraternity and charitable organisation. The oldest document that makes reference to Masons is the Regius Poem, printed about 1390, which was a copy of an earlier work. In 1717, four lodges in London formed the first Grand Lodge of England, and records from that point on provide more information about the Freemasons.
The Freemason’s meeting place, or club, is called a Lodge and can also be described as an organisational cell of the Freemasons. There are currently 10 Lodges in Namibia. Two in the Otjozondjupa region, three in the Erongo region and five Lodges right here in Windhoek.
The stories of the Freemasons controlling the global economy, that they are Satanists and will do anything to oppose a country’s law were all busted during the Q&A session at their hall in Robert Mugabe Avenue.
“Would we have a Holy Bible open and on display during our meetings if we were worshipping Satan,” said one of the members New Era spoke to.
As a prerequisite to become a Freemason one must believe in a Supreme God, be it Christian, Muslim or Hindu, and every member is encouraged to practice his or her religion. The word “her” is pertinent, as some Lodges have female Freemasons, contrary to the myths that only wealthy old white men are allowed to become part of this “secret society”. There are currently no women’s Lodges in Namibia, however countries in Europe and the Americas have well established Lodges only for women.
The freemasons will not do or ask any of their members to do anything that is contradictory to the country’s laws New Era was assured. This answer came in the light of the stories circulating the Internet, that the Freemasons will do anything to protect their members, even from the proverbial word “murder”. Members are required to “be peaceable subjects and cheerfully conform to the laws of the country in which [they] reside”.
Doing some research and watching endless videos and stories about the freemasons, one thing is for sure, there are those who are against the freemasons, there are those who stay apathetic and then there are the extremists who will go out of their way to find any stones to throw at the unknown world of the freemasons.
Their persecution dates back many centuries, said Dr Michael Andrew Roberts – one of the senior members of the local Lodge. The freemasons went underground in Germany during the World War II after being banned for helping people escape war-torn Germany to other countries in Europe.
Even in Windhoek, on June 26, 1979, one person was killed and several injured after an unknown fanatic threw a hand grenade through the window – accusing them to be a communist support group, Roberts told New Era.
After a recent spate of negative press in one of the UK’s newspapers the CEO of the United Grand Lodge of England, Dr David Staples, wrote an open letter with the hope of addressing the misrepresentation of, and discrimination against, members. As a result English lodges are opening their doors, inviting members of the public to find out the facts for themselves and to get first-hand experience of who really are the freemasons.
This drive to greater transparency prompted the local Freemasons to publish a report on their support for a charity event at the beginning of this year. Teopolina Nangolo of the Findano Pre-Primary School identified that in the long run she would like to build a brick and mortar kitchen to cook food for the more than 80 children currently at the pre-school. However, in the interim a ‘kambashu’ (temporary structure) would suffice to have the kitchen under a roof during to the rainy season. Thanks to the Freemasons’ generous donation the temporary facility is up and running.
Contrary to common myths, members are not invited to join. To become a Freemason one must write a letter to a Lodge requesting membership. Membership is open to men over the age of 21 and is not restricted to those who are influential members of the business community with fat bank accounts.
However, there are requirements before one can be initiated into Freemasonry. One has to believe in a Supreme Being (God) and be known as a man of sound moral character to the Brethren in the Lodge applied to. That latter process does not happen overnight.
The rules and aims of Freemasonry are available to the public. Meeting places are known and in many areas are used by the local community for activities other than Freemasonry. We are “a society with secrets or traditional modes of recognition but not a secret society”, said Roberts.