Alongside the conspiracies that the original moon landing was fake, that 9/11 was orchestrated by the USA government, and the idea that the C.I.A invented and planted the deadly AIDS virus to wipe out homosexuals and African Americans, is the age old favourite – that secret societies rule the world.
I’ve been listening to scare stories about the illuminate and Freemasons for over two decades in the music industry, and have had a vague interest and intrigue about the group. In the past I haven’t bothered to actively pursue this fascination, but in recent years on finding out that close family members have in the past been masons and a couple still currently are (but refuse to tell me anything!), I’ve been more interested in finding out more about them.
Coincidently this past the month the Freemasons put on a Ball, a white tie charity ball that revived a 150-year-old masonic social tradition. I was invited to both the ball and their building at Great Queen Street in Covent Garden to ask anything I liked and get a feel of the event so hoping to make their brand more open and inclusive to the general public.
ENTRANCE TO THE BALL
The ball was as grand and opulent as expected and 1,000 guests turned up at the HAC – a very grand venue flanked in burning flames and sports cars, in the heart of Moorgate- to experience ‘’the best of English tradition, entertainment, and hospitality’’ and all money raised on the night went to two charities- Combat Stress and the Royal College of Surgeons.
Hosted by the Masonic lodges of the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and with guests from several London lodges, the University Lodges’ Ball was open to members of the public too. Sponsors for the ball included Aerice consultancy who were headline sponsors, other sponsors included Davidoff, William Evans (guns and shooting accessories) and Fuller’s (beers).
The ballroom was filled with gentlemen in White Tie and ladies in magnificent evening dresses for what I was promised would be ‘’a night of sparkling conversation, entertainment, and dancing’’.
Whilst mingling pre-dinner and taking in the champagne reception and string quartet, all I could think of and smile about, was the fixation that my friend had e-mailed me the night before, warning me not to attend. He said
‘‘they are among us. Blood-drinking, flesh-eating, shape-shifting extra-terrestrial reptilian humanoids with only one objective in their cold-blooded little heads: to enslave the human race. They are our leaders, our corporate executives, our beloved Oscar-winning actors and Grammy-winning singers, and they’re responsible for the Holocaust, the Oklahoma City bombings and the 9/11 attacks … at least according to former BBC sports reporter David Icke, who became the poster human for the theory in 1998 after publishing his first book, The Biggest Secret, which contained interviews with two Brits who claimed members of the royal family are nothing more than reptiles with crowns. They supposedly count among their number Queen Elizabeth, George W. Bush, Henry Kissinger, Bill and Hillary Clinton and Bob Hope. Encroaching on other conspiracy theorists’ territory, Icke even claims that the lizards are behind secret societies like the Freemasons and the Illuminati’’
I put this to a few of the guests I mingled with who laughed and warned me to prepare for the drinking from skulls part of the evening post dinner. Others giggled and said the rumours were silly and that you could see by this evening that ‘’we provide more charity than any other group on the planet’’. One of my uncles is a mason and tells me that they are ‘’simply a group of men that like to unwind after a hard week at work, together over a meal, and do good work for their communities and society together’’ Some think that despite donating heaps of cash to charity, they’re secretly plotting your undoing at Masonic temples across the world.
FREEMASON DEPUTY GRAND MASTER JONATHAN SPENCE.
To me it seems like a funny, yet uber cool fixation. On one hand its as if the Masons are a bit like Boy Scouts for middle-aged men. In the 1950s, if you wanted to get on in the law, banking or politics, being a Mason was obligatory so on went the suit and the winking eye with secret handshakes they were all proud of. On the other hand imagine setting up a group or gang that is global, has the reputation of power yet so many amazingly dangerous misconceptions. A pretty secretive, strong brand that’s not even trying to sell us anything! They should consider selling mason branded golf clubs, aftershave, cigars, whiskey, shooting apparel, an airline and clothing.
Whilst they may not be trying to sell us anything, others are eager to hang onto their coat tails. This month a new nightclub has replaced the old Movida club and calls itself Mason House with all the visual hints at being associated with the fraternity, but the Freemasons I met were quick to distance themselves from it.
The ball committee told me that there were three reasons for the ball to be held aside from the historical; to have fun, to raise money for their charities and to contribute to the developing openness of freemasonry and help with the general public opinion of it.
FEMALE LADY MASON NATASHA VICTOR.
We spoke to a Female Lady Mason Natasha Lorraine Victor, from the order of women’s freemasons, ( here is her full conversation.She does not represent the Order in any spokesperson capacity – and the interview below is strictly her subjective opinion and not a reflection of the Order or Grand Master)
‘I’m here today as a lady mason so I can talk to some females about what masonry is about and how they can get involved. I joined masonry about a year ago but it took me about a year to decide that I wanted to proceed and be initiated in the first degree. I did a lot of research, a lot of reading’’.
Talking about what made her want to become a lady mason Natasha revealed ‘’Initially, I found out about co-masonry, which this system set up for men and women to take part in masonry. Being a female that worked within the military and the fact that women have only been in the military for 10 years, it was quite surprising that women were allowed to join masonry. I wasn’t so keen on the idea of co-masonry so when I found out about lady masonry I was very enthusiastic about that. I totally understand that we should have our own denominations but we get to share in learning about the secrets of the universe, so to speak’’.
Of course I pushed her on ‘’the secrets of the universe?’’ I think that’s all subjective to the individual, I think that masonry is one of those tools that can help the individual find out what they’re supposed to know, so it won’t tell you what you need to know, it will tell you where to look, and it’s up to the individual to go on that quest for further knowledge’’.
Natasha feels its necessary for women and men to practise separately. ‘’It’s a completely subjective opinion in my humble opinion. In terms of rituals, I know there are certain things that I prefer to do, in terms of craft, in front of my fellow brothers, (because female masons are also known as brothers, so I’m known as Brother Victor), so we keep the workings, which is the sort of literature, the same. But at the same time we like having our separate factions. So in the mosque you’ll have male and female separated, in the synagogue you’ll have the same thing. I only think its Christianity that has such diversity. But that’s just basically my perception of it.’’
Masonary is often seen as quite exclusive, but Natasha reassured us this has changed;’’I would say that ultimately there have been social reasons or social implications which have meant that people have had to keep it secret so therefore a friend would recommend a friend, you wouldn’t just knock on the door and say “hey I want to join up”, because you wouldn’t know if you could trust that person. I think nowadays, there’s no longer a desire or a real need for this whole secrecy, if someone wants to join masonry, and they have a passion for it and there believe in a supreme being, which is a sort of external force, which most people do unless you’re atheist, then I’m sure the door is open for anyone to join’’.
Natasha was quick to put a stop to insinuations that being a mason helps you get on leaps and bounds in life; ‘’there are all these speculative things that masonry offers you jobs and networking and this kind of thing, but that’s a complete fallacy. If you went to a good school, compared to a state school, and that was on your CV you’re more likely to get, well I’m not saying that, that’s being stereotypical but that is the case that some people would think that. I think masonry have this old school vision of masonry being like that, it’s not like that at all. The three principles are basically brotherhood, charity and truth and I think that we try and incorporate that, and I think if you have those beliefs, then please look into it more’’.
Unsurprisingly, it seems that females fight for equality and diversity in the free mason world too…’’The United Grand Lodge of England, although it doesn’t officially recognise the order of women’s freemasons, some of the higher members and superior officers acknowledge us. So they will talk to us about certain things, they might not discuss ritual, we’re supposed to keep our working separate and they won’t respond with the handgrip because they don’t acknowledge us as brother basically. But hopefully in time, the chaps will come to see that the women are working from pretty much the same working, that we are doing the same things and actually I have achieved a higher degree than a lot of my male masons, colleagues, comrades have achieved thus far. So hopefully we can teach them a thing or two in the future’’.
The chat with Natasha had my head spinning. So many questions with PR friendly answers. However I didn’t have time to dwell on that as the pre-ball banquet was beginning with a special toast to Her Majesty The Queen in celebration of the 60th anniversary of her Coronation. On the menu were no human organs or sacrifices. Instead we were treated to regular foodstuff like smoked salmon, oven braised lamb shank and classic hot chocolate fondants with ice cream.
IRISH CEILIDH DANCING LED BY THE OXFORD UNIVERSITY BAND.
Post dinner we were invited to adjourn to either the grounds to take in the lawns and cannons, the grand ballroom with the Oxford Uni band directing us in some traditional Irish Rockall Ceilidh dancing, or for a freshly rolled cigar and shot of Remi Cognac in the outside Davidoff Cigar Marquee, where members of the SOAS Cuban big band were leading a Mariachi sing-along to ‘’I love rock & roll’’ whilst the public school boys got stuck right in.
THE SOAS CUBAN BIG BAND.
The cigars in the Davidoff Marquee were rolled by a sharp suited dude called Disney ‘’just like the animation legend’’ he told me.
CIGAR EXPERT DISNEY ROLLS THE CIGARS.
He had been flown in from Cuba for the event and was happily rolling up cigars and education smokers simultaneously about them alongside head cigar specialist Edward Sahakian- the cigar impresario from Bulgari hotels.
In another part of the grand house in the Ante Room, we were invited to take part in the casino gaming, and upstairs there was even a virtual shooting range that saw me in a ball gown firing off shots as public school boys yelled ‘’go Annie get your gun!’’ at me.
Throughout the night there was also a silent disco as well as a silent auction. At this point the irony of the phrase alluded to with sinister goings on ‘’things being done in silence’’ didn’t escape me. The auction had numerous things you could bid for including artwork by Tracy Emin and Matisse, experiences at Monaco Grand Prix, the US Masters, dinner at Highgrove House, the Ryder Cup, Wimbledon, Maldives and racing around the Nurburgring.
It was a truly wonderful night that assumed would show me how the other half live, but actually the attendees were more diverse than I had assumed they would be. Fascinating to observe their easy interaction with each other and welcoming to new comers. The ladies were gorgeous and beautiful in a very strong natural way with no sign of the insecure trappings of your average woman at the usual functions I’m used to attending. There was not one plastic surgery, hair extension, fake boob, fake eyelashes or other elements of insecurity amongst them. I guess most don’t have anything to prove to their peers. Also, I noticed that as a unified group the majority of Freemasons were unnaturally tall, strong looking glamazon types.
The same week I visited the Freemasons Hall in the heart of Covent Garden where freemasons Daryn K. Hufton-Rees (Daryn Hufton-Rees, a second degree mason, who has been a mason for a very short period of time), alongside his colleagues Mike and Alistair, spoke to me about the history, diversity and traditions about Freemasons and encouraging anyone and everyone to attend.
FREEMASONS MIKE AND DARYN WITH JASMINE.
FREEMASON HALL INSIDE DOOR FASCINATED ME AS IT HAS PERSIAN/ ZOROASTRIAN IMAGERY ALL OVER IT!.
They wanted to encourage inclusivity and put to bed myths and conspiracy theories about their organization. They repeated the fact that any of the public could visit Freemasons hall, informed me that brand like Amazon and Aston martin amongst other big brands hold parties in their venue for corporate functions. In fact, not too long ago the band Travis was performing on the grand masters sacred stage area. They clearly don’t take themselves that seriously.
FREEMASONS GRAND CHAPEL.
Daryn told us that i membership numbers there are 197,000 UK craft masons, 6912 UK lodges. These figures include London ( met) craft masons 34,000
and London ( Met) lodges 1335.
Here’s our full conversation with Daryn, which I feel its better to show you transcribed fully so that I am not including opinions or taking his words out of context;
DARYN HUFTON-REES INTERVIEW
Freemasonry is a fraternal organisation for my section, there is a female groups of freemasons and also a mixed sex group of freemasons. Freemasonry means different things for different people, for me personally I have a dining club, we get together on a regular basis, four times a year, we have our lodge meeting which is the element of freemasonry, where we discuss what we’re going to be doing with the lodge, how we’re going to progress ourselves, then we go off and have something to eat and chat, this is a normal everyday meal with a group of friends, I choose to be a freemason specifically because of the comradely and there are some element of charitable work that I do and which the rest of freemasonry do that I applaud.
This building is open to anybody, we have a museum that people can see, we have guided tours that take place two or three times a day, very open. We also use it for promotions of films, we use it for film sets, the front door, you will see in a moment, is the front door Spooks uses in the BBC television programme. So that’s its non-masonic function, its masonic function is as the administrative hub of the lodges of England. We have a number of ceremonies here, where we use the lodge temple but we have a number of lodge rooms around the building, which separate lodges can actually utilize if they don’t have a place to call their own.
The ceremonies are little playlets that we do within our little group sot demonstrate principle of life, principle of movement within life. The specifics are available for anyone to see, you can actually go down to the shop and buy a book, which I have at home which lists what I’ve got to say, what the repeats are etc. You can see a lot of stuff on the internet, I personally would not want to give you the information because I feel it would spoil it for you. When I first became a freemason, less than a year ago, I could have taken all the surprise out of the experience but I chose not to and I’m very glad I didn’t.
Can you tell us a bit about the oath?
This is a misnomer. There are no oaths as such, you are asked a certain number of questions whether or nor you feel you’re suitable to be a freemason, whether or not you’re a decent chap or chapess, if there’s anyone within the lodge who would rather you weren’t a member of that lodge, which is where black balling comes from, so there are lots of little bits but there are no so called oaths, we don’t swear allegiance to some goat god, we’re not going to try and take over the world. To be honest, it’s difficult enough trying to run this place, running the world at the same time would be virtually impossible.
I’m a member of a committee in London for another area that I look at and one of the chaps who was on the committee, I found out he was a freemason, I’ve often wondered about them so I had a chat with him about it and asked whether I could be considered to join his lodge, I was lucky enough to be able to join, this was about 12 months ago.
This is the grand temple of freemasonry, it’s used very regularly for lots of different ceremonies, installing people into new positions within freemasonry, I’ve only ever been here as a guest, of a couple of friends of mine, who’ve been lucky enough to be moved through. I find the room quite staggering even now, I’ve been here a few times and as you can see, it is amazing. There are people who could tell you far more about the building than I can, one thing I can tell you is that star above you, which is part of the air conditioning system, when it’s brought down actually touches the two sets of chairs, that’s how wide it is.
Craft freemasonry, we is the freemasonry I’m in, is just three degrees; you start of as an entered apprentice. This mimics the levels of a real mason working hundreds of years ago on schools or universities. This is another reason why we have the thing about the secret handshake, the secret words and the other bits, well if you think years and years ago, when people couldn’t read or write particularly well, if you were an incredibly skilled person moving from one side of the country to the other, the person on the other side, wouldn’t know the truth in what you were saying, that you could cut stone to a certain extent, that you were able to move stone in a certain why. So different words were given to each other, different levels of handshake, different signals were used. These have sort of been absorbed into freemasonry, and we use them to show are other brothers where we are on the ladder
THE STUNNING STAR CEILING AT FREEMASON HALL.
If nothing is a secret, show us the secret Handshakes?
No, again you may happily go on the internet to see them, you can find them in many places, in the same way I decided to join the club, part of the idea of the club, even though it’s rather childish almost, is that it is a club with secrets. So if you were at university at a dining club or a seven year old with a den, you may have a secret knock to be allowed in, we like to keep that sort of tradition going. It’s an open secret, but it’s a secret I’d prefer not to give out.
You can come from any walk of life, you come from any education background, the things we’re not allowed to talk about in the lodge are politics, money and business, so they idea that we in someway scratch each other backs and move forward is absolute nonsense. Yes, the lodge that I am in is a male only lodge, however there are female lodges, there are mixed sex lodges, the myth is perpetrated that was are an exclusive club of middle aged chaps, predominantly we are middle aged chaps to be honest, but we’re not that exclusive.
If you go to out website, you can actually ask to become a mason there and we’ll point you in the right direction. An idea of inclusiveness, we have a university of lodges ball taking place on the 23rd of November and we are inviting anybody and everybody to come and enjoy the evening, again I find the argument that in some way an ageist, sexist or racist person really quite annoying, it’s not true, I really am not, and I would like as many people as possible to join the masons.
What are the masons doing to try and encourage diversity?
This is where we come to a slight stumbling back because the thing with the masons is we don’t push ourselves down anybody’s throats, we don’t holla about our charitable work, we don’t run around saying look, I’m a mason, although on occasion did we go out in public in aprons, which should give you a clue. But, we would like people to approach us about joining. So the idea that we are a proactive organization hunting down new masons, is something that I would have thought is quite abhorrent. However, we make it very very easy, if you wish to be a mason, to join. The internet is out there with lots of information which is totally wrong. If you want to find out a little bit more of the truth, if you like, then use the UGLE website.
So why don’t you allow women into this lodge and how can they get involved?
You’re probably going to ask me something regarding the break up and how we…the different ethnicities, different sexes we have. This building is predominantly built around craft freemasonry, which is a male freemasonry. When we speak to Mike a little later, he’ll be able to speak about the other buildings around the area, which have other types of freemasonry in them, including one which is all female and a mix sexed one. The idea of spread of ethnicity, if you see any evening where there are group of masons, you will see every creed or colour. I’m not going to say there are not some exclusively specific lodges, there are, I know of a lodge where everyone has to be blind to join. You can go ask a guest, if you’re not blind but everyone in the lodge is blind. That is the only lodge that has a level of exclusivity to that level that I know of.
Are there any lodges where race is a factor?
Absolutely not, there are no lodges where race has anything to do with freemasonry, before it became politically correct to have a group of people joining of you from all over, somebody from here, somebody from there and somebody from somewhere else, freemasons have taken everybody all the time anyway, we haven’t had to change because there was no need. Not because we’re arrogant but because we got it right in the first place.
Why do you choose to have gender specific lodges?
Gender specific lodges; have come about because freemasonry was originally a male only club. It was male only because of it’s history, there were very few, if any, women who were masons, as in stone masons, in the time of the 16th and 17th century.
After attending both the ball and building, I still have many questions so will continue to explore them.
While many Freemasons are active in politics and society, the fraternity does not control the government as far as we know. I concluded by what I was told, that Freemasonry is a very loose collection of fraternal societies, devoted to the common goal, of helping its members better themselves morally and spiritually. Ritual dramas, like archaic plays laden with allegorical symbols, illustrate the society’s principles for its members. The only requirements for membership are that you are adult, choose to enter freely, and believe in a higher power of some sort – after all, there’s not much point seeking spiritual betterment if you don’t believe in a spiritual dimension to the world.
There are lots of Masonic groups. Some are male only, some are female only, and some are mixed sex. There are undoubtedly rich and powerful Masons — as there are poor and disenfranchised ones. Rich and powerful people have competing interests and intentions; occasionally they work together or against each other. Freemasons, in general, tend to be pretty pleasant, both to each other and to everyone else, but they’re no better at collusion and conspiracy than, say, book of the month clubs. The press team told me that actually, Masonic law strictly forbids members from indulging in any favouritism, nepotism or cronyism, and behind-the-scenes dealing can get Masons thrown out.
TRIBUTE AREA TO PAST MASONS AT FREEMASONS HALL.
The hilarious thing is also its not especially secret, either. Lodges tend to be listed in phone books, and have dedicated web pages. Members are welcome to tell other people of their affiliation. After attending their functions it seems to me that The only secret Freemasonry still has is the ways Masons can recognise each other – everything else, including detailed ritual scripts is freely available – and those are all easy to find on the web.
Like most of life’s secrets, there are multiple layers and corridors the majority don’t get to go down, but if you look at this link below where Freemasons openly debate, it’s clear they too are fed up of the rumours circulating about their group.
The Ghostwoods site concludes that masonry is ‘’ It is a cooperative effort to improve the world, by taking responsibility for yourself and the world around you, and working alongside like-minded people to make things a little better’’. My searchings’ so far conclude that this certainly seems to be the top line. If you’re interested then why not take a visit to their hall yourself, you can get a guided tour and ask whatever you like, and then make your own mind up.
A DESIGNER CHRISTMAS!
My Christmas started with an Italian themed Christmas tree designed by Dolce& Gabana at Claridges Hotel. Claridges is by far the best hotel in London and one of my all time favorites. The service and manners guests are treated with are second to none. Whether you’re a regular Joe like me or a wealthy Arabian princess I’ve observed all guests are treated with equal grace and a smile. The concierge, who always recharges my phone wit his bank of chargers behind his desk, makes you feel like he is honored to charge your phone. It also helps that they’re based in an area of central London where it’s easy to park.
THE DOLCE & GABBANA CHRISTMAS TREE AT CLARIDGES HOTEL.
On pulling up outside the door, I noted that the banks of paparazzi were already gathered and clicking away at VIP guests entering. First came the leggy, willowy lovely Laura Bailey in her red coat and flowing ponytail. Then we had a bevvy of lovely ladies from Pixie Lott to Poppy Delevigne and the ultimate diva-Joan Collins! (It took all my will power not to jump up and down in mutual diva envy when I spotted Joan and recalled my early Dynasty viewing days).
THE ULTIMATE DIVA- JOAN COLLINS.
Designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana created a special Christmas tree for the Claridge’s Hotel in order to bring the warmth and traditions of Italy to London. The Claridge’s Christmas tree has long been a festive landmark, drawing visitors from around the world to marvel at its magnificent design and for the 2013 Christmas tree the other guests that attended and enjoyed the event were: our host- Stefano Gabbana (who reminisced with me about our many MTV filming adventures and staying at his home in Sardinia to film his MTV Cribs show),
JASMINE WITH STEFANO GABBANA.
Eva Herzigova (who was a stunning classic in her red polka dot dress and so tall!), Oliver Cheshire, rapper Eve (who attended with her dashing man Maximillian Cooper – founder of Gumball car fabulousness and her stylist Richard Shoyemi),
MAXIMILLION COOPER, EVE, RICHARD SHOYEMI, JASMINE.
Mary Charteris, Olivia Grant, James Cook, Laura Bailey, Thom Evans, David Gandy, Tara Ferry, Isacc Ferry, Sam Webb, James Rousseau, Andrew Cooper, Marissa Montgomery & Jamie Rueben, Amy Gilliam, Holly Gilliam and Ron Arad.
Stefano told me that ‘
’the seven metre-high Christmas tree represents iconic traditional, Sicilian elements drawn from the designers heritage land of Sicily’’. He added that ‘’more than 450 festive Italian baubles that have been hand painted with images of the Sun, Citrus groves, Almond blossom and prickly pears to recreate the idea of a Sicilian Garden. At the base of the tree there are 30 hand crafted Sicilian Pupi made to resemble the Charlemagne and other Medieval Knights. The Pupi have been carved out of wood and dressed in velvet robes, Green, Red, Yellow and Blue the colours that have always been associated with Italian festivities’’.
EDIBLE WHITE CHOCOLATE SNOWMEN!
The grand staircase led to the balcony area where we were served the most festive food menu of delicacies I can ever recall experiencing. Fois gras mince pies, festive mincemeat macaroons, white chocolate truffle snowmen and mini edible Christmas trees were all offered by waiters from festive Christmas gift boxes. The champagne flowed all evening as I caught up with Eve and other journalists from the fashion and bourgeois worlds. Male supermodel David Gandy was such a gent and afforded his time to all clearly trying to get just a few seconds with him.
DOLCE & GABBANA TOP LADY CHANDNI MODHA, SUPERMODEL DAVID GANDY AND JASMINE.
An opera singer and pianist did their thing at the top of the staircase and made the whole night feel more Italian than ever.
At the end of the night we were handed a fabulous goody bag with perfume on our exit.
We left having treated each of our five senses to a jovial whirlwind. What could be more festive!