My Journey into Masonry by Anthony Obiedzinski
Growing up, I found the concept of Freemasonry shrouded in mystery and intrigue. It was a “secret society,” a candidate being able to join only if invited. As I recall during high school, one of my first encounter with Freemasonry was through a short story by Edgar Allen Poe, titled, “The Cask of Amontillado.” In that story a man lures a Freemason down into a wine cellar. He says, “show me a sign,” and proceeds to push him into a room, then throws a torch in with him. He quickly builds a wall with stone. The man is buried and burning. It turns out that Poe harbored anti-Masonic sentiment. But why?
I walked away from that story asking, why would anyone want to immolate a Freemason? Were Freemasons evil? I had heard rumors that they secretly ruled the world. Why so hated? What did they do? Who are they?
Freemasonry has often been portrayed negatively and is surrounded by conspiracy theories. This speculation ranges from the Freemasons belonging to a New World order to the practice of Satanism. It is easy to see why the Masons can be misrepresented: Masonic symbolism is woven into the Great Seal of the United States which appears on the one-dollar bill. The imagery includes the Latin phrase, “novus ordo seclorum” which translates to New World Order. Sources say the phrase was actually referring to the symbolization of the birth of the United States, as some founding fathers were Freemasons.
I remember asking my father about the Freemasons. He replied with a vague explanation, saying that they are a secret fraternity and that one must be asked to join. On a positive note, he mentioned that they are actively involved in and do good things for the community.
Later in life, as I researched Freemasonry, I discovered their claim to be the world’s oldest fraternity, predating written records, with lodges and rituals springing up across Europe as Masons built structures, evident in the Gothic-style churches across Europe. Freemasonry became official in the 1700s with Freemasonry’s transformation from the Operative to Speculative Masonry, from the trade of building with bricks to the lessons of life; literally Freemasonry as a trade and livelihood transformed to the Freemasonry of symbolic teachings of the great truths of life.
Defined in formative years as “a system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols,” the modern definition being, “Freemasonry is an organized society of men, symbolically applying the principles of Operative Masonry and architecture to the science and art of character building. Making good men better.” Masonry “places emphasis on the individual man by strengthening his character; improving his moral and spiritual outlook; and broadening his mental horizons.” The great truths of Freemasonry center on the search for light and truth. While the great truths are no secret, the way in which the great truths are communicated is secret. While researching on the internet, I learned of their universal doctrine, “Brotherhood of Man and the Fatherhood of God.” I also found that to be a member one must believe in a Supreme Being and in the immortality of the soul. They are beliefs which I hold. I believe they can facilitate men’s search for light and truth out of darkness.
Initially, I was interested because of their secretive nature but then came to learn of their benevolence and charity. This was important because I had a sense of obligation to give back to my community and I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself. Freemasonry’s integral concept to Freemasonry is charity, their causes ranging from local events such as fundraising for Rochester’s Ronald McDonald House, to nationwide charities such as funding and fundraising for the Shriner’s Hospitals. The lodge I eventually joined holds a bowling tournament each year to raise money for Hilton’s middle-school’s special education program.
I expressed my interest in joining to a man who frequented my place of work, who was wearing a ring that had the square, compasses, and the “G” in the middle. I knew that these symbols alluded to Freemasonry. He would come into my store and I’d ring him out on the register and we’d strike up conversations. Finally, I asked, “so when are you going to invite me to join?” I was surprised when he said the next time he comes in, he would bring a petition for me to fill out and return to Clio Lodge No. 779. On his word he brought in the form which I carefully filled out and returned to him shortly after, and anxiously waited for a reply from the lodge. After a couple of weeks, I got a call from a brother asking if we could meet to discuss my petition. I met with him and two other brothers at Clio Lodge in Hilton. They asked questions about me and my character and asked why I wanted to join. I had proved to have possessed the qualities of a Freemasonry. Now, a year after being initiated, I stand with my brothers as Free and Accepted Masons, ever ready to roll up my sleeves and do the good work we do.
(Left to right: Daniel Torres, Shawn Booth and Anthony Obiedzinski, raised as Master Masons June, 2019)