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The Moral Compass Issue

Don't Fear the Square and Compass

Conspiracy theorists have been accusing Freemasons of being an evil secret society long before that freaky pyramid eye showed up on the $1 bill.

by Stefan Lauer, Photos by Albrecht Fuchs
Jan 4 2012, 5:00pm


Sylvia Gräber, 44. Freemason since 1999. Rank: Master Mason. She is a journalist, sings in a pop-rock band, and says she finds a spiritual home in the rituals of the Freemasons without being tied to one specific religion.

Conspiracy theorists have been accusing Freemasons of being an evil secret society long before that freaky pyramid eye showed up on the $1 bill. Today, grammar-challenged internet dwellers blame them for everything from the financial crisis to fooling people into believing in global warming to communicating via a mysterious Pynchon-esque encrypted mail system. Since 1738, the Catholic Church has barred its followers from becoming Masons because doing so is apparently a guaranteed one-way ticket to hell.

The image of sinister world-dominating councils performing weird ceremonies while dressed in black hooded robes doesn’t quite square up with the lovely ladies of the Rose Garden and Symbola lodges—two of 19 female-only Masonic organizations in Germany. These Masonettes are devoted to Enlightenment-era ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity. They meet every month in a converted bank vault to perform rituals based on psychology and performance, not black magic.

Occasionally they attract the interest of people who want to join the Freemasons in hopes of gaining supervillain-like powers, until inevitably discovering that these women do not control the hidden levers of the world. They do have a bunch of cool knickknacks, though, and were kind enough to let us hang out and shoot some photos. The only thing some of them requested was that we not use their real names, and we had no problem with that.


The All-Seeing Eye is a symbol of the Great Architect of the Universe, a generic term for a supreme being that all Masons believe in. (The identity and makeup of the supreme being is left up to individual Masons to decide for themselves.)


The Rough Ashlar (the rock) represents the imperfections of man.


Maria Grimmler, 51. Freemason since 2000. Rank: Master Mason. Maria enjoys traveling and learning about Greek mythology and has two grown children. She told us she joined the Freemasons because it allows her to think outside of dogmatic boundaries.


Julia Plätzmann, 34. Freemason since 2010. Rank: Entered Apprentice. Julia’s interests include metal, soccer, and cats. She got the tattoo before becoming a member.


This square and compass on top of the Volume of the Sacred Law are placed in the easternmost part of the temple during rituals, next to the senior officer of the lodge, who’s known as the Worshipful Master.


Gea Bermann, 67. Freemason since 2004. Rank: Master Mason. She is a speech scientist and has four grown children. She said she became a Freemason because she loves the discussion between people who might be different but have the same goals.