Studies have shown that there are over 6 million Freemasons around the world, and even though it is in its 5th century, this organization remains the most shadowy and secretive group. Very little is known about the organization and its membership.
But over time, a few aspects of Freemasonry have come to light, including its origin and some of its philosophies. In this article, I endeavor to reveal some of the most famous Freemasons alive today.
But first, we need to understand its history, operations, regulations, and other important aspects. This will help clear the air and put to rest many of the conspiracy theories surrounding freemasonry.
What Is Freemasonry?
Freemasonry is a fraternal organization that traces its origin to the local groups of stonemasons and cathedral builders that regulated the training and certification of stonemasons and their relations with local authorities and customers since the end of the 14th century.
From the start, this organization has been the subject of many conspiracy theories, with some people even alleging that it is a group of devil worshippers and atheists.
In the 17th century, the first Grand Lodge was started in England, which became the most elementary, local unit of Freemasonry. The Grand Lodge is made up of several private lodges that are usually managed at the local level (normally equal to either a state, province, or a national border) by the Grand Lodge. Of interest to note is the fact that there is no global Grand Lodge to supervise the entire Freemasonry organization.
Every Grand Lodge is autonomous and does not necessarily recognize the legitimacy of the rest. Today, Freemasonry is made up of two main groups: Regular freemasonry and Continental Freemasonry. Each of these groups has its set philosophies that every member must abide by.
• Regular Freemasonry: this group insists that a book of scriptures be opened in every working lodge, every member professes their faith to a Supreme Being, no woman should be admitted, and no politics or religion should be discussed.
• Continental Freemasonry: this group represents all lodges in regions where some or all of the restrictions enforced by Regular Freemasonry are not followed.
How Do I Join Freemasonry?
This is one of the most commonly asked questions about Freemasonry. The truth is that it is not easy to join this group, particularly because it is a top-secret organization. However, there are three grades of the ancient craft guilds: Apprentice, Journeyman (fellow or fellowcraft), and Master Mason.
Every candidate must go through these grades and understand the meanings of the associated symbols. Then, he must learn the secret Freemasonry rules, signs, and words that he must use to show to other members that he has been initiated. These grades are both symbolic ethical plays and lectures.
Each of these grades has a degree offered by Craft Freemasonry, and any member who holds any of these degrees is referred to as a Freemason or Mason. There are several other degrees based on localities and are normally managed by their own bodies, separate from the ones who manage Craft degrees.
Entrants for Freemasonry are gradually initiated into the organization, starting from the Apprentice level to the Master Mason level. In each conferment ceremony, the candidates must first take up new responsibilities of the degree, after which they are entrusted with the secrets of their new rank, including passwords, signs, and grips (secret handshakes).
Freemasonry Grand Lodge meets regularly to carry out the usual formal businesses of smaller organizations such as approving minutes, electing new members, appointing officers and taking their reports, considering correspondence, bills, and annual accounts, organizing social and charitable events among others.
Apart from these businesses, the Lodges also perform ceremonies to confer masonic degrees or receive lectures, which normally revolve around Masonic history and rituals.
In most instances, the Lodge holds an official dinner at the end of every meeting, usually involving toasting and songs. Most of these meetings are heavily guarded by “Tylers”, who stand outside the door with drawn swords to deter any intruders. Tylers must be senior members of Freemasonry (but not too old) because they are expected to attend even the highest degree conferment ceremonies.
The other major Masonic ritual is the yearly installation of the Master of the Lodge, together with his appointed officers. In some regions, the Master of the Lodge is considered a separate rank with distinctive attributes, titles, and secrets.
After one year, the Master endows his successor and moves on to become a Past Master. All Past Masters enjoy special privileges in the Lodge and Grand Lodge. Now that we understand what Freemasonry is and how it operates, let’s look at some of the most famous contemporary freemasons.
Top Five Famous Freemasons Alive Today
1. Steve Wozniak
Born in August 1911, Steve Wozniak is a renowned American electronics engineer, programmer, technology entrepreneur, and philanthropy. He is popularly known by his nickname “Woz”. Woz rose to fame in the late 1970s following the successful launch of Apple Inc., which he co-founded with his partner Steve Jobs.
The company later grew to become the world’s largest information technology company by revenue and the largest company worldwide by market capitalization.
Through his work at Apple, between 1977 and 1981, Woz has been widely recognized as a prominent inventor of personal computers. He played a pivotal role in designing Apple II, which was launched in 1977. Wozniak also influenced the creation of the initial Apple Macintosh prototype in 1979.
Woz left Apple in 1985 and launched CL9, through which he developed the first programmable universal remote. He continues to pursue several other businesses and charitable ventures, mainly focusing on technology. The 70-year-old tech guru remains an employee of Apple but in a ceremonial capacity.
Wozniak runs several philanthropic organizations including Electronic Frontier Foundation, Tech Museum, Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose among others. He has also offered financial and technical support for technology programs in his local school district in Los Gatos. Most of his educational and philanthropic projects are run by Unite Us In Song (Un.U.Son.), an organization he formed to organize US festivals.
Throughout his career, Woz has won numerous awards, including the ACM Grace Murray Hopper Award, National Medal of Technology, Isaac Asimov Science Award, 5th Annual Telluride Tech Festival Award of Technology among others. He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in September 2000.
Steve Wozniak is alleged to have joined Freemasonry in 1980 at Charity Lodge: No. 362, Campbell, CA. Since then, he has been regarded as one of the most contemporary members of Freemasonry. He is a third-degree Freemason, according to the National Treasure which profiled him. The organization also reveals that he is on par with 14 Presidents, Mozart and Bach.
2. Michael Richards
Michael Richards is a renowned American film actor, writer, producer, and standup comedian who has featured on many TV shows and films. Born in July 1949, Richards began his acting career as a standup comedian. He gained national recognition when he appeared on Billy Crystal’s first cable TV special in 1982. Richards later joined ABC’s Fridays, where he became a regular guest actor.
Throughout his acting career, Richards has made many guest appearances on various television shows, including Cheers. He has also featured in many films including So I Married an Axe Murderer, Young Doctors in Love, Coneheads, Airheads, Problem Child, UHF, Trial and Error among others.
For nine years, he played Cosmo Kramer on the TV sitcom Seinfield, which earned him the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series three times.
After Seinfield, he launched his own TV sitcom, The Michael Richards Show. Unfortunately, the show was discontinued after running for only two months. One of the lowest moments in his career was in 2006 when he was captured in a cellphone video launching into a racist tirade while appearing as a standup comedian on Laugh Factory.
Because of the widespread negative media coverage of the story, Richards was forced to announce his retirement from standup comedy in 2007.
In 2013, Richards made a comeback on television appearing as Frank in a TV sitcom called Kirstie. He is alleged to be a member of Riviera Masonic Lodge No. 780 in Pacific Palisades, California. Richard is also said to be a 33rd-degree Freemason and a member of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Southern Masonic Jurisdiction, where he has received the Knight Commander of the Court of Honor award.
3. Jesse Jackson
Jesse Louis Jackson Sr. is a popular American civil rights activist, politician, and Baptist minister. He was born in October 1941 in Greenville, South Carolina, to Helen Burns (a 16-year-old high school student at the time) and Noah Louis Robinson, who was a married man. Growing up under the Jim Crow segregation law, Jackson suffered a great deal of racial discrimination.
In 1960, he was arrested alongside seven other African-Americans while coming from college after they staged a sit-in protest at the Greenville Public Library, which only permitted white people.
This led to the closure of the main library and a branch that was reserved for black people. Jackson took part in many other civil rights marches, including the Selma to Montgomery protests organized by Martin Luther King Jr and James Bevel.
He also led Operation Breadbasket—a popular initiative aimed at encouraging widespread boycotts of certain products by blacks to force white-owned companies to hire black people and to buy from black-owned businesses. Jackson has made several unsuccessful attempts to become the President of the United States.
However, he succeeded to run for office as a shadow senator for the District of Columbia, a position he served in from 1999 to 1997.
Throughout his career in civil rights activism and politics, Jackson has won many accolades including the Jefferson Award for Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged, Spingarn Medal, Presidential Medal for Freedom, and many others.
He is said to have been made a Master Mason on Memorial Day, May 25, 1987, by the Grand Master Senter of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Illinois, thus making him a Prince Hall Freemason.
4. Al Green
Popularly known as Reverend Al Green, Albert Leornes Greene was born in April 1946. He is a renowned American singer, songwriter, and record producer. Al Green is best known for his signature hit single Let’s Stay Together, which he released in the early 1970s.
He has also released a series of other hit singles including Tired of Being Alone, Take Me to the River, Love, and Happiness, and I’m Still in Love with You.
In 1981, Green became a pastor and started producing gospel songs. That year, he released his first gospel album, Lord Will Make a Way, which won him his first Grammy Award in the Best Soul Gospel Performance category. However, his gospel music journey didn’t last long as he returned to secular music in 1988, releasing the hit single Put a Little Love in Your Heart.
Throughout his musical career, Green has won eleven Grammy Awards, including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
His two singles, Let’s Stay Together and Take Me To the River, have been inaugurated into the Grammy Hall of Fame. In 1995, Green was inducted into the Rock-and-roll Hall of Fame, and nine years later, he was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. In 1976, Green founded the Full Gospel Tabernacle Church in Memphis, near Graceland, where he lives and preaches.
He is also said to be a member of the Prince Hall Masons, the African-American wing of Freemasonry, at the Thirty-Third Degree.
5. Silvio Berlusconi
Born in September 1936, Silvio Berlusconi is a former Italian Prime Minister, who served in four governments between 1994 and 2011. He has also served as a member of the Chambers of Deputies and a member of the European Parliament. Aside from politics, Berlusconi is a successful business owner with a lot of interest in the media industry and football.
He owned the popular Italian football club A.C. Milan from 1986 to 2017. He also owns majority shares in Mediaset—an international media company based in Italy. In 2018, Forbes Magazine ranked him as one of the 200 richest people in the world with a net worth of about US$8 billion. The same magazine ranked him as the 20th most powerful man in the world.
Despite his longstanding career in politics and business, Berlusconi has been involved in numerous controversies, including a 4-year jail sentence and a 5-year ban from holding public office for tax evasion in 2013. However, this imprisonment was reduced to one year following a general pardon.
In the same year, the former Prime Minister was sentenced to 7 years in jail after he was found guilty of paying a minor for sex and an attempt to cover-up the scandal. He was later acquitted by the Italian court of appeal.
Silvio Berlusconi is said to have joined the Propaganda Due Masonic Lodge in 1978, when he established his first media group, Fininvest. This Lodge consisted of prominent journalists, parliamentarians, entrepreneurs, and military leaders who called for the amalgamation of the media, clampdown on trade unions, and redrafting of the Italian Constitution.
Despite the many conspiracy theories and misrepresentations that have dogged it for centuries, Freemasonry remains one of the well-known secret organizations in history, attracting members from all walks of life, including some of the most famous people in the world today. Its association with influential figures has contributed to its admiration.
Freemasons only meet in temples, which they refer to as “lodges”, as that is where primeval stonemasons assembled when working on churches or cathedrals. Lodges are clustered by regions, mainly according to the old country boundaries.
Some of the most famous Freemasons include Oscar Wilde, George Washington, Sir Winston Churchill, among others. Not everybody is qualified to join Freemasonry, as there are strict rules and procedures to be followed during and after initiation.