Secrets of the Freemasons

"While he is being challenged to look inward at himself as a person, he is going to have to self-reflect, contemplate, think. This can't be done in a public forum," he said. "We are pledging ourselves to become better people in our home, in our churches, in all walks of life."

Throughout the centuries, the Freemasons evolved into a wide-ranging, worldwide fraternity with many members having considerable power and influence. In this country, that influence has sometimes reached all the way into the White House. Fourteen of 43 presidents have been Freemasons.

"More than one-third of the presidents belonged to the fraternity, so this is a substantial tradition of politicians being involved in Masonry, so there are fears at times in American history that Masons are too involved in politics," Bullock said.

There are all kinds of stories: that Masons wanted to control a government and thus were behind the American Revolution. Some claim that the Masons killed President Kennedy.

"These are terrific stories. They're yarns. There is not, however, a shred of historical evidence to back them up," Jacob said.

"Their grand secret is that they have no secret," Bullock said. "They're claiming that they're hiding something, but really part of the point is to pretend that you're hiding something."

Still Brown can have a field day in his next book. After all, how did a Masonic symbol -- if it is a Masonic symbol -- wind up on our $1 bill?

Some critics point to these conspiracy theories and group secrets as reasons for the drop off in Mason membership, but Morris said other organizations were experiencing a similar problem.

"It's also diminished in virtually every voluntary organization in the United States," Morris said. "When you look at all the organizations declining in membership and participation, I think you can't point to the Masonic traditions."

For more information about the Freemasons, visit their Web site.

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