Being a Mason, one is likely to encounter in some fashion their opposite, the anti-Mason. My first encounter occurred after I was elected to receive the degrees, but prior to my admission into the Lodge. Anti-Masonry is something we Freemasons are constantly plagued with and with the advancement of communication technology such as printing presses in the 18th century and the emergence of the Internet in the late 20th century, anti-Masons have new venues for spreading their propaganda and reaching a new audience. I am not here to discuss or argue against specifics, but show the recorded history of anti-Masonry around the world. This will be chronological in order, with some exceptions. I did not cover every event or publication as there is just too much information.
One of the earliest known anti-Masons were the Gormogon who was established in 1723 in England. They were officially known as the "Ancient Noble Order of the Gormogons" and started by an expelled Freemason named Phillip Wharton. As no records are known to exist, no one knows what their goals and mission were other than to oppose Freemasonry and ridicule it, which this is known only due to articles published by the group; the first article being published in the London Daily Post on September 3, 1724. There is no one theory as to the meaning of Gormogon some of them very vulgar. This group was short lived and faded away into obscurity after a few years.
In 1730, Samuel Pritchard, a disillusioned ex-Mason, published "Masonry Dissected" which was the first expose of the Masonic ritual. This book is used today in the study of the development and evolution of the three degrees of Craft Masonry. This book would be revised in 1738 and would be reprinted in several different languages.
Following the introduction of Freemasonry in Florence, Italy, in 1733, persecution followed.
On April 28th, 1738, one of the biggest events of anti-Masonry occurred when Pope Clement XII issued the Papal Bull "In Eminenti Apostolatus" which was the first official edict against Freemasonry. The logic behind this edict was that Freemasonry works in secrecy and that nothing good comes from; it's ironic to see this as it is still an argument used by many anti-Masons. As a result of this edict, Catholics are prohibited from joining the Craft. Here are some excerpts of this edict:
Now it has come to Our ears, and common gossip has made clear, that certain Societies, Companies, Assemblies, Meetings, Congregations or Conventicles called in the popular tongue Liberi Muratori or Francs Massons or by other names according to the various languages, are spreading far and wide and daily growing in strength; and men of any Religion or sect, satisfied with the appearance of natural probity, are joined together, according to their laws and the statutes laid down for them, by a strict and unbreakable bond which obliges them, both by an oath upon the Holy Bible and by a host of grievous punishment, to an inviolable silence about all that they do in secret together. But it is in the nature of crime to betray itself and to show itself by its attendant clamor. Thus these aforesaid Societies or Conventicles have caused in the minds of the faithful the greatest suspicion, and all prudent and upright men have passed the same judgment on them as being depraved and perverted. For if they were not doing evil they would not have so great a hatred of the light.
With this Papal Bull, suppression of Freemasonry continued in Italy, but most notably in Florence.
While the date is not known exactly, Freemasonry arrived in Portugal between 1735 and 1743. The first two Lodges were established by British Merchants living in Portugal. With the passage of the first anti-Masonic Papal Bull, the second Lodge dissolved and all membership moved to the first. A Swiss Protestant named John Coustos founded a Lodge in Lisbon in 1741, but in 1743 he was arrested and sentenced to death. With the assistance of King George II of England, his death sentence was commuted and was liberated in 1744 where he was sent to England. In 1748, he broke his silence and published a book on the abuses he faced while imprisoned. Freemasonry in Portugal would be free from persecution from 1760-1770, but would resume in 1777 with the rise of Maria I.
Persecution spread and in 1740 members of a Madrid Lodge were imprisoned as King Philip V of Spain had issued an edict against Freemasonry, but this was most likely in response to In Eminenti Apostolatus. Freemasonry was banned at different times in history and in this early history; anti-Masonry had a very deceitful twist to it. On January 17th, 1750, Joseph Torrubia secured permission of the Pope to become a Mason. He was a Roman Catholic Priest living in Spain and wished to find out who were Masons. He compiled a list and in March of 1751 gave a list of 97 Lodges and their members to the Grand Inquisition which in turn arrested and punished those listed and who they could arrest.
On May 18th, 1751, Pope Benedict XIV issued another anti-Masonic Papal Bull called "Providas Romanorum Pontificum". This Papal Bull was issued in order to make it very evident that the condemnation and opposition of Freemasonry was permanent and applied to the future as well as to the present. Here is an excerpt of this edict:
In order to prevent anyone from saying that We have imprudently omitted anything to swiftly eradicate the pretext of deceitful calumnies and silence them, after heeding the counsel of some of Our Brother Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, We confirm the same Constitution of Our Predecessor [In Eminenti Apostolatus], word for word, as set out above, which must be considered the broadest and more efficacious on the matter: In our full knowledge and in the plenitude of Our Apostolic authority We confirm it, validate it, renew it and desire and decree that it must have perpetual force and efficacy in all things, according to its content, as if it had been promulgated by Our motu proprio and with Our authority and had been published the first time by Us.
Truly, among the most grave reasons for the prohibitions and condemnations set forth in the mentioned Constitution, there is one whereby in such society [Freemasonry] and secret meetings men of all religions or sects can join together in close gatherings; it is clear that this can harm the purity of the Catholic Religion.
The second reason is the strict and impenetrable promise of secrecy, which forces one to hide what he does in those meetings, to which one can properly apply this saying of Cecilio Natale to Minucio Felice on a different topic: 'Honest things always love the public light; the evil ones are secret.'
The third reason is the secret oath by which one [a member of Freemasonry] commits to inviolably observe, in such a way that it is permited for him when questioned by a legitimate power, to use any excuse - be it a promise or an oath - to avoid the obligation of confessing everything asked of him in order to know whether anything in those secret meetings is done contrary to the stability and the laws of Religion and the Republic.
The fourth reason is that these Societies are opposed to both Civil and Canonic sanctions, taking into account that Civil Law prohibits gatherings and meetings without the permission of the public authority, as one reads in the Pandette (book 47, tit. 22, De Collegis et corposibus illicitis) and in the famous letter of C. Plinio Cecilio (n. 97 of book 10), who reports that it was forbidden by his edict, under the direct command of the Emperor, for Eterie to take place, that is, for societies and meetings to exist and gather without the authorization of the Emperor.
The fifth reason is that in many regions and cities, the mentioned societies and groups have already been proscribed and banned by laws of the secular Princes.
Finally, the last reason is that prudent and honest men have faulted the mentioned societies and groups: by their judgment anyone who becomes a member of them incurs a stigma of depravity and perversion.
On July 2, King Ferdinand VI of Spain suppressed the Craft in his dominions by strengthening the enforcement of the Papal Bulls issued by the Roman Catholic Church.
In 1754 Alexander Slade published a book called "Free Mason Examin'd" which made a claim that Masonry's rituals were based on the Tower of Babel and that we as Masons reject God.
On September 12th, 1775, Ferdinand IV, King of the Two Sicilies, issued an edict against Freemasonry which forbade the meeting of Freemason in Lodges under his dominion, under the penalty of death. In 1777, this was repealed at the behest of Caroline of Austria, his wife, but the anti-Mason decree would be renewed in 1781. When Maria I succeeded her father, Jose I, suppression of Freemasonry returned in Portugal. Often Masons would be arrested and convicted without trial; it got so bad Masons resorted to extreme measures to conceal their meetings by mean such as meeting upon boats out in water.
In 1789, Joseph Balsamo, a charlatan who was more popularly known as Count Alessandro di Cagliostro, was arrested in Rome by two men working for the Inquisition and was convicted of being a Freemason. He was originally imprisoned at the Castel Sant'Angelo, but was moved to the Fortress of San Leo after one failed escape attempt. He died in 1795 while still in prison.
In 1797 John Robison, a Professor of Natural Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh, published his infamous book, "Proofs of a Conspiracy against all the Religions and Governments of Europe carried on in Secret Meetings of the Freemasons, Illuminati and Readings Societies". This piece of work is one of the most notable anti-Mason writings and it is something still heavily cited by anti-Masons even in the modern day. Bro. Ed King of MasonicInfo gives a better description of this work and the man behind it: http://www.masonicinfo.com/robison.htm
In 1798, a New England Pastor, Jedidiah Morse, started a storm of anti-Masonic sentiment with his sermons. These tirades were aimed at not only the Masons, but the Illuminati as well, and much of his fire was fueled by the Robison's book. Being a staunch Federalist, he attempted to root out the Illuminati in America who he feared would support the anti-Federalists in the US, but was discredited by his failures after some time and his anti-Masonic sermons died out during the first decade of the 19th century. Strong anti-Masonic sentiments would not rise again until the Morgan Affair and the short rise of the Anti-Masonic Party.
Although Freemasonry was excluded from it, in 1799, the British Parliament passed the Unlawful Societies Act which was used for the "effectual suppression of societies established for seditious and treasonable purposes."
In 1801, Emperor Francis II prohibited Masonry on Austria. Seen as reactionary later in his reign and very paranoid by the violence of the French Revolution (his aunt being Marie Antoinette), feared a Jacobin uprising in his dominions and with the conspiracies rejected all societies that could be seen as "secret" which he saw as a threat to his authority.
Not long after ascending the throne in 1814, Ferdinand VII, King of Spain, ordered the closing of Masonic Lodges and reestablished the Inquisition in order to deal with the members. In September, 25 men were arrested for being suspected of Freemasonry. Severe punishments were given to those convicted which included exile, confiscation of property, and/or death. This continued until the Revolution of 1820. On August 1st, 1824, Ferdinand VII decreed the death of all Masons without trial.
On September 13th, 1821, Pope Pius VII issued the Papal Bull "Ecclesiam a Jesu Christo" which stated Freemasonry existed "for weakening and overturning the same Church" and damned Freemasonry for its "religious indifference". It continues to state that anyone with Masonic membership should be excommunicated.
On March 13th, 1826, Pope Leo XII issued his Papal Bull "Quo Graviora" which gave his own condemnation of Freemasonry and prohibited membership in a Masonic Lodge in perpetuity.
Perhaps one of the most famous stories and catalysts of anti-Mason sentiments is the Morgan Affair. On March 13th, 1826, William Morgan, a supposed Mason, living in Batavia, NY, signed a contract for a book that was to expose the secrets of Freemasonry; some believe out of resentment for his Masonic affiliation being questioned by the Batavian Masons. Prone to drunkenness Morgan bragged about his book and soon everything came to a head in September. He was arrested for theft, but upon making bail was rearrested for failure to pay a debt of $2.68 and upon his release from jail he disappeared by means of which were never agreed upon by the "eye witnesses". Anti-Masons push that he was kidnapped and killed by a band of Masons. Several Masons were arrested and convicted of kidnapping, but there was never proof that he was killed. Even after his disappearance, his book was still published. All of these circumstances culminated in an uproar of public outrage. Regardless of reality, ALL Freemasons were seen as guilty of the murder of William Morgan. Soon anti-Masonic propaganda spread into all avenues of society to include churches and politics which led Thurlow Weed, a NY politician, to form anti-Masonic movement in February of 1828, gathering discontented opponents of President Andrew Jackson, known to be a Mason, into the Anti-Masonic political party. In many places in New England and America, Masonry ceased to exist for a number of years, but would come back, stronger. This event still has some affect Freemasonry today, though many may not realize it.
"Far from the truth are such impressions. With dozens of exposés printed; with hundreds to be bought for a few cents; with this cancer existing for more than two hundred years, would not Freemasonry have been long ago destroyed if these books were actually as harmful as so many supposed? Actually Freemasonry has grown from a handful of men in 1717 to five million in the civilized world, neither because of, or in spite of exposés..."
On May 21st, 1829, Pope Pius VIII issued the Papal Bull "Traditi Humilitati" which was directed against the Craft although it never mentions Freemasonry by name. On August 15th, 1832, Pope Gregory XVI issued the Papal Bull "Mirari Vos" which condemned those who prescribe to any form of liberalism and religious indifference. On November 9th, 1846, Pope Pius IX issued his Papal Bull "Qui Pluribus" like the last two never mentions the Craft, but further condemns political liberalism and religious indifference.
In 1847, letters written by John Quincy Adams condemning Freemasonry were published. In this same year, Thomas DeQuincey wrote an essay called "Secret Societies" which made wild accusations, unfounded assumptions, and concluded that Masonry was an evil organization.
Pope Pius IX issued many Papal Bulls against Freemasonry. On April 20th, 1849, he issued the Papal Bull "Quibus Quantisque Malis"; on December 8th, 1864, he issued his Papal Bull "Quanta Cura"; on September 25th, 1865, he issued "Inter Multiplices"; on October 12th, 1869, he issued his Papal Bull "Apostolicae Sedis Moderationi"; and on November 21st, 1873, he issued the Papal Bull "Etsi Multa". All of these were directed against Freemasonry directly or indirectly.
In October of 1867, the National Christian Association was established in Aurora, IL, which originated with a convention of clergymen to discuss "secret societies". Since its inception it has issued anti-Masonic material.
On April 20th, 1884, Pope Leo XIII issued the Papal Bull "Humanum Genus" which wasn't just another condemnation like those of Pope Pius IX, but directly attacked Freemasonry as a godless society which supported and assisted the kingdom of Satan. Ten years later Pope Leo XIII established the Anti-Masonic Bureau.
One of the biggest hoaxers to plague Freemasonry and fuel the fires of anti-Masons is Marie Joseph Gabriel Antoine Jogand-Pagès, or more commonly known as Léo Taxil. He penned many works that were later found to be fictitious, and have caused unfounded uproar by anti-Masons. One such work involved a woman by the name of Diana Vaughan, a supposed descendant of the Rosicrucian alchemist Thomas Vaughan, and who was involved in Satanic rituals conducted by the Freemasons. In 1896, an Anti-Masonic Congress was held in Trent to look into the matter of Diana. The Quakers of Philadelphia issued a tract denouncing Freemasonry. In 1897, Taxil called a conference where he admitted he had fabricated it all to ridicule both the Catholic Church and Freemasonry, and afterward he had to flee for his life.
In 1913, the Catholic Encyclopedia was published by the Abbe Pater Hermann Gruber, a Jesuit, who was a staunch anti-Mason. This Encyclopedia contained an article on Freemasonry which made accusations of liberalism, naturalism, Deism, which he condemned altogether as against Christianity.
Mussolini's Grand Fascist Council issued its first resolution against Freemasonry on February 13th, 1923. They stated that Fascists who were Masons must choose between the two. The Grand Orient replied that Fascist Freemasons were at liberty to give up Masonry and that such action would be in accord with the love of country which is taught in the lodge. Although many did in fact resign, violent action was taken against Freemasonry and many of their properties were destroyed. The Masons of Italy appealed to the Fascist government to end the violence, but in August of 1924 it was declared that the Fascists must disclose the names of Masons who did not support the Mussolini regime. Soon agencies were formed to collect on Freemasonry as Mussolini saw it as a subversive organization under the umbrella of radicals in France. Soon Masons were arrested and charged with being "agents for France and England" and some Masons were even assassinated. One of those arrested was none other than General Cappello, a prominent Fascist and Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Orient of Italy, who was arrested in 1926 after resigning from the Fascist Party rather than Masonry on trumped up charges. He was sentenced to 30-years in prison. In the following years, Mussolini's henchmen looted the homes of known Masons throughout Italy and murdered many more.
Like Spain, Portugal had banned Freemasonry at different times. In 1931, Masonic meeting were prohibited by order of the police. The police went around the known Loges and sealed the doors and the Grand Master, John Martin de Matos, was secret imprisoned in a hospital for "health reasons". Freemasonry has existed under the parliamentary democracy, but everything changed in May of 1926 when a military coup led by General Gomes da Costa installed an authoritarian government that would eventually be led by António de Oliveira Salazar.
In 1935, Spain barred Masons from joining the military. Civil War began in 1936 and in October, 6-Masons were hanged for simply being Masons. Francisco Franco, the soon-to-be leader of Spain, had his troops destroy Masonic temples, confiscate property, and torture and execute Masons; some were forced to dig their own graves before being shot. Grave-sites were desecrated if they had symbols thought to be Masonic on them. It was a criminal offense for a man to have ever been connected with Freemasonry. Between 1939 and 1975, around 16,000 Spanish citizens were executed for the crime of Freemasonry, but upon the death of Franco in 1975 the ban was lifted and Masonic activity resumed.
Freemasonry was also a victim of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. The Nazis saw the Freemasons as servants of the Jews and, from an official publication, "...hostility against the Freemason as a servant of the Jew, must be worked up to a frenzy." Once Hitler took power in 1933, his followers informed Masonic leaders they had no place in the new Germany, but many were also misled that Masonic activity would not be prohibited. Soon the government attempted to implement changes they saw as necessary. Many Masons started meeting underground and in complete secrecy. Soon Masons were being prevented from entering businesses and working as public servants such as education and military sectors. Many Masons were being imprisoned for various types of trumped up charges. On August 8th, 1935, Hitler announced the final dissolution of all Masonic Lodges in Germany and blamed the assassination in Sarajevo in 1914 which led to World War I on the Freemasons. Masonic property was confiscated and propaganda campaigns against Freemasonry started nation-wide. Many things were taken to Berlin to be a part of an anti-Masonic exhibit, but those properties not used were often burned or destroyed. Masonic members and dignitaries alike were sent to concentration camps. So many libraries and archives were destroyed and records lost. As the Nazi regime spread across Europe the suppression of Freemasonry followed along, although the anti-Masonic actions didn't make much world news.
After WWII, Spain was still led by the Franco authoritarian government that spent in 1949 $100,000 on maintenance of a special tribunal to suppress Freemasonry. In this same year, Lodges were dissolved in Hungary.
Masonic oppression had existed in Hungary for some time. In 1919, the army started to raid, confiscate property from, and destroy Masonic Lodges. In 1920, Freemasonry was outlawed by decree. In the post-WWII environment Masonic Lodges were described as "meeting places of the enemies of the people's democratic republic, of capitalistic elements, and of the adherents of Western imperialism."
In 1955, Dr. Mauro Baradi, a PGM of the Philippines, was opposed by the Catholic Church to serve in a public office as he was a Mason.
In 1956, the High Synod of the Greek Orthodox Church petitioned the Greek Ministry of the Interior to withdraw government recognition of the Craft.
In 1959, 21-Masons were imprisoned in Spain under the laws first passed by Franco on his ascension to power. In 1940, Franco had banned Freemasonry as he blamed Freemasonry for the fall of the Spanish Empire in the 19th century as well as the cause of the Spanish Civil War. With the passage of this law, all Masonic properties were to be confiscated.
On October 11th, 1962, the Ecumenical Council of the Roman Catholic Church, or commonly known as Vatican II, convened and didn't conclude until December 8th, 1965. Among other things it reversed Pope Leo XIII's "Humanum Genus" a condemnation of Freemasonry. It had been during this time that William H. Quasha, Grand Master of the Philippines, had visited Rome to explain the nature of Freemasonry to Catholic leadership.
In 1966, the Grand Master of a Cuban Grand Lodge relinquished his office and gave the seal to the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Florida for safekeeping. On face value, this makes it appear as if Freemasonry was completely banned from Cuba, but this isn't so. The Gran Logia de Cuba still exists in Cuba and in 2010 had 316 Lodes with around 29,000 members. During the Cold War they were closely monitored by the government but after the fall of the Soviet Union, restrictions were eased, which led the creation of a new Lodge, the first since 1967. Still today there is some restriction and monitoring by the government, but Cuban Masonry is a unique animal.
On June 19th, 1974, the Sacred Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith, of the Roman Catholic Church, sent letters to Episcopal Conferences informing them of Canon 2335 and its application to Masonry: "a Catholic who joins the Freemasons is excommunicated only if the policies and actions of the Freemasons in his area are known to be hostile to the Church..." This misled some to believe the Church no longer objected to Freemasonry. This congregation had other names, but is most known as the "Holy Inquisition" and oldest among the nine congregations of the Roman Curia, being founded in 1542 by Pope Paul III, and whose mission it is to "spread sound Catholic doctrine and defend those points of Christian tradition which seem in danger because of new and unacceptable doctrines". Thus is the reason they have been so involved with the suppression of Freemasonry throughout history.
With the overthrow of the Shaw of Iran in 1979, Freemasonry was also banned as many of the previous leaders were believed to be Masons and many authoritarian nations in the Middle East are under the ignorant belief that Freemasonry is controlled by the Jews. When the Islamic government took over may people were fired for just being accused of being a Mason. Propaganda is still spread that Freemasonry is still plotting with the Zionists and Western powers against Iran. The Grand Lodge of Iran currently operates in exile, currently headquartered in Los Angeles.
In 1980, the German Bishops Conference produced a report against Freemasonry. They make many allegations which repeat many things already seen in Papal Bulls from the 19th century. They conclude that Freemasonry is alternative to religion and thus all Catholics are forbidden from joining Freemasonry. The last two Popes have also upheld the condemnation of Freemasonry.
I know I just touched upon the tip of the iceberg, but I hope this shows the rough and rugged road Freemasonry has come down. I didn't touch upon a lot of the books written against Freemasonry nor did I touch upon the personalities of David Icke or Alex Jones as I don't see them as the same as men like Franco or Mussolini, but rather just loud annoying dogs seeking attention. For anyone into further reading on the subject, Bro Robert Cooper wrote a book on anti-Masonry called "The Red Triangle: A History of Anti-Masonry". Far too many Masons, particularly we American Masons, have forgotten or don't necessarily know about anti-Masonry and the suppression of Masons. Freemasonry has been a champion of individual liberty, religious freedom, and progress. For these reasons and by our private nature we are a convenient target to fanatics, ignorant, and tyrannical. While I'm not trying some kind of scare tactic, I do wish to impress upon your minds the need to guard our West gate and be ever vigilante to dangers that have repeated themselves throughout history.