Phoenix Freemasons give community members a peek inside

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Andrew Warianka, Arizona Freemason Lodge No. 2 secretary, brings a group into the Blue Room of the lodge. The Blue Room is modeled closely after King Solomon’s temple from the Old Testament of the King James version of the Bible, said Warianka. (Nicole Neri/DD)

The Phoenix branch of the Freemasons, one of the most well-known secret societies in the U.S., hosted an open house Tuesday night.

Dozens of people explored Arizona Lodge No. 2, downtown Phoenix’s Masonic, and listened to lectures from second-degree Freemasons about the history of the Masonry and of the 92-year-old lodge building.

“We’re technically a secret society, but we don’t have many secrets,” Andrew Warianka, Arizona lodge secretary, said. “We do have a few secrets, but you can find out most with a few words and a handshake.”

Warianka said that “a few words and a handshake” referenced the handshake and code words that Freemasons have historically used to identify each other.

Bo Buchanan, Senior Deacon of Arizona Freemason Lodge No. 2, in checkered buttons that mimic the floor of the lodge’s Blue Room. Buchanan said the black and white checkers represent good and evil. (Nicole Neri/DD)

“We want to make our public face more public,” said Bo Buchanan, Senior Deacon of the No. 2 Lodge.

Victor Olson, No. 2 Lodge Chaplain, said the Freemasonry “used to be everywhere,” but that its numbers have declined greatly.

Buchanan said the Freemasonry is surrounded by misinformation and misguided conspiracy theories.

In popular culture, the Freemasonry has been connected to a wide range of conspiracies and practices, from devil worship to attempting to create “The New World Order” to controlling politics. Edgar Allen Poe’s “Cask of the Amontillado” heavily referenced the Masonry. The Simpsons portrayed the organization as a vast, secretly powerful organization with far-reaching control.

Buchanan said he hoped that Tuesday’s open house would help dismantle some of this perception.

Freemason symbolism is shown throughout Arizona Freemason Lodge No. 2. The “G” in the symbol stands for both “geometry” and “God,” and the square and compass are craftsmen’s tools, said Andrew Warianka, lodge secretary Oct. 18, 2017.

“We want to show we’re just normal guys dedicated to certain things, like bettering ourselves and each other,” Buchanan said. “We have some secrets, of course, but that’s the nature of the organization.”

“Faith, hope, and charity. That’s what we do,” Warianka said.

The Freemasonry began in Europe as a fraternity of skilled stonemasons known for building strong, tall, hardy buildings, pioneering the use of structurally sound arches and flying buttresses, Warianka said.

Most Freemason branches do not allow women, although women can participate in the Order of the Easter Star if her blood relative or husband is a Mason.

Arizona Freemason Lodge No. 2 has a library filled with books mostly about subjects in liberal arts and Freemason information. (Nicole Neri/DD)

Buchanan said he joined the Masonry four years ago this month, after learning that his grandfather, who died when he was a toddler, was a Freemason.

“From the minute I walked in, I just thought that I was home,” said Buchanan.

Some attendees, like Jason Brock, said he wanted to join the Masonry and some of the event’s tour leaders about beginning the process.

To become a Freemason, men must ask for a petition, then must be unanimously voted into the organization by lodge members as a first-degree Mason.

Pins with Freemason symbols scattered on a desk in an office space in Arizona Freemason Lodge No. 2 in downtown Phoenix Aug. 17, 2017. (Nicole Neri/DD)

“I’ve always been interested in the esoteric aspect of their philosophy in the different stories that drive people—specifically men, I guess—to be better,” Brock said.

“Masonry is out there for good men,” said Warianka. “Our precept is to take good men and make better men of them.”

Bo Buchanan, Senior Deacon of Arizona Freemason Lodge No. 2 and two other Freemasons begin to make sure open house attendees have left, using the building’s original elevator. (Nicole Neri/DD)

Contact the reporter at nhneri@asu.edu.

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