What you need to know:
- Freemasonry remains a secret order, built on the power of mystery and with a roster of powerful members.
- For years, the Church in Kenya has associated freemasonry with devil worship amid chilling stories of how people have disappeared just by walking outside the freemason temples.
- So mysterious has the organisation been that the Church instigated the formation of the Devil Worship Commission in 1994 to investigate its activities.
Freemasonry remains a secret order, built on the power of mystery and with a roster of powerful members.
For years, the Church in Kenya has associated freemasonry with devil worship amid chilling stories of how people have disappeared just by walking outside the freemason temples.
So mysterious has the organisation been that the Church instigated the formation of the Devil Worship Commission in 1994 to investigate its activities.
Lawyer Ambrose Rachier spoke to NTV reporter Duncan Khaemba about the organisation and the mystery around it.
What is Freemasonry?
It is arguably one of the oldest societies in the world coming from medieval times.
Many secret societies existed particularly in England, but masonry became formalised around 1640 and then got perfected around 1813.
It is a member’s organisation in which someone who knows you very well invites you to join. Our main objective is to engage in charity to help humanity.
But, in the process, we ensure that our intellectual faculties are all the time interrogated and we also just have something that you can call companionship or fellowship through dinners and so forth.
What is your response to those who say that it is a satanic enterprise or some kind of devil worshipping?
I think it is all about ignorance. If you get to the masonic hall, the first thing you get is a citation of King Solomon to God saying: “I shall build you a house and you shall establish your throne forever.”
In reference to building a temple for God, nothing could be further from satanic than that and, indeed, masonry is about building a temple, that is why we have degrees of builders.
I think most are talking from a point of view of Christianity, yet masonry is not based on any particular religion.
We have Muslims in freemasonry, Christians, Buddhists and a few atheists, so there is no reference whatsoever to issues of devil worship, whoever the devil is.
How does one become a Freemason?
First, is when you get to hear bout it, and you are lucky to get in there — I am saying lucky in the sense that unless you hear it from somebody else, you may never be interested in it.
In particular, these negative attitudes are being propagated by ignorant people. You will never hear about it.
Somebody who has been an insider—like me, I have been there since 1994—would find it is something good, something that I would want to invite a friend.
So I would give you a talk, and then go to a meeting and propose that I have somebody that I would like to introduce.
We will then invite you to an interview; we talk to you about a few things.
In particular, we are concerned about your family, what they will think about you because of all these negative views, and if there is any rejection.
It will then be announced to seek objection.
If there is, you will not come in. An objection will come from someone who may say you have a negative character.
If there is no objection, you will be welcomed and shown what it is all about.
How is one initiated?
Well, we have our own ceremonies; just like weddings or cultural functions like circumcisions, where there are certain rituals that we cannot talk about publicly. We do have initiations.
You said you joined freemasonry in 1994, how did you join?
A friend of mine came and asked me whether I had heard of Freemasonry. I said I had heard about it but didn’t know what it was about.
He took me through it and they eventually asked me if I wanted to be proposed.
So he got his other friend who knew me, because you have to have two people — one proposing and one supporting — and I was then interviewed, accepted and initiated. I have since grown to become a very senior officer.
Public perception is that it entails oath-taking…
No, there is no oath-taking, but there is nothing wrong with oath-taking anyway.
You see, if you are elected Member of Parliament, what do you do? You take an oath, what is wrong with that oath? Nothing.
I have seen recently members of Parliament being sworn in. In the Court of Appeal, when you are sworn in as a judge, you take an oath.
If you are becoming a magistrate, you are sworn in and you take an oath.
If you are being admitted to practice medicine, you take an oath. There is no strange oath that anyone takes in freemasonry.
If I may ask, how many stages do we have that one has to undergo in the world of freemasonry?
The craft of masonry is divided into three. You go in as a junior person, and then an apprentice, and then you become a fair craft person, and then you become a master.
There are others that go on to the highest degree that you can get to, which is what we call the 33rd degree.
That is symbolic as it was the age of Jesus when he was crucified. I am now at the 30th degree.
Where is the devil there? I ask again, where is the devil?
But it’s different from these ranks. You have to go through those ranks, depending on your seniority level, and your activity and performance.
There is a lot of work that you have to do there. It also requires very clear thinking if you want to join.
You have to be a clear thinker and have an interest. But we also welcome those who just want to come and enjoy.
Here is a lot of enjoyment in it because of the camaraderie that there is.
Tell me, why is it a men-only affair?
Nowadays, I think there is an only women’s unit in the United States.
They have started admitting women, so it’s no longer a men’s affair only but I will take you back a bit into history.
Just ask yourself, in Catholicism, the priesthood, for a long time, has been a preserve of men.
So it’s just part of the gender issues that really need to be addressed.
Some of them have their origins in medieval practices and times, and you wonder why women were disenfranchised in the US until 1964.
These are things that as men, we need to address, and I am happy that Americans have started addressing them so that there are women freemasons.
Why not in Kenya?
I would like someone to tell me why for a long time we haven’t had women priests in the Catholic Church, and that is a Christian church.
I am trying to debunk this idea that there are some devilish men meeting to take oaths and do things that are not permissible.
For your information, in 1995, just because of a protracted debate about devil worship, President Daniel Moi formed a commission or task force to come and look into Freemasonry. I remember them visiting, us at the freemason’s hall.
I saw some of my friends who are lawyers in the commission. We were able to answer them. Since then, the whole thing has been demystified, as was all that talk about devil worship.
We ushered them in and took them around and urge them to ask questions.
And I think that was a good thing to open up for the world to see what freemasons do and what they stand for.
You said that joining is by invitation and that somebody has to introduce you. Why so much secrecy?
There is no secrecy; it’s just a matter of making sure that we don’t have crooked people joining.
We have appointed ministers and they are vetted.
This is a kind of vetting, there is no secrecy. It is to vet you to find out whether you are a suitable person.
Sometimes, we get people who get disinterested and they are allowed to leave when they find out it is not the kind of thing for them.
But we are trying to build a group of people with the same interests. If you say you are honourable, we expect you to introduce someone who is also honourable in society.
It's not about class, you can be semi-illiterate and you will come in because we look at the objectives.
What kind of a person are you? You need to be a good person. We also embrace charity. Do you have views about charity and do you practice charity?
There are views out there that people join the freemason society ostensibly to acquire wealth and power. What is your comment?
We join freemasonry to propagate charity. There are a few wealthy people in freemasonry, and there are those people who live ordinary lives like me.
I am not a wealthy person and I am not a powerful person. In fact, most of the people there are just simple Kenyans.
Some of them are businessmen, some are medical practitioners, and lawyers, and there is no discrimination as to what kind of person you are.
What I can say is that there are few politicians, if I remember. I don’t think we have any politicians.
Some of them are judges of our courts. The common denominator is not wealth it is charitable practices.
One of the widely held beliefs is that it involves sacrificing close family members for wealth or power.
Yes, I heard all that. But in the 28 years, I have never seen a sacrifice. I have not seen anyone that has sacrificed anybody.
I understand people are sacrificing their sons and daughters or children.
There is nothing like that, and masonry is universally practised, which is an amazing thing If you go to a lounge in India, you will see the same things we practice here in Nairobi.
I have visited a lounge in England because we are allowed to visit other places and see what the others are doing.
I have visited a lounge in London itself, and I just found that there are ordinary people who talk about the charity that we talk about here.
So you have said that you have heard about sacrificing their sons and all that. Have you lost any member and had people say it is because you are a member of the society?
I want to thank God for this. All my children are alive. I have lost no sibling or child, and they are known
I have a son who is 43 years old and practices law with me in my firm here.
I have other children, and I have suffered no death. In my family, I have only lost both my parents, and last year, courtesy of Covid-19, I lost my brother who was 60 years old.
So there is not even the slightest link to any kind of human sacrifice. This is a myth, and it does not happen anywhere that I know myself, and it does not happen in East Africa.
We have branches and we visit Seychelles for brotherhood, we visit Tanzania, and in November, we are going to establish a lounge in Tanzania.
We also visit Uganda and normally it’s a great pleasure to go and do work in some of those places.
We go and meet brothers in a district where we have a head. We do these visits, and in Tanzania, I haven’t heard of anyone being sacrificed, this is some loose talk from idle minds.
Have you initiated any of your children or family members?
Yes, my very close family members are there. I have put in many of them, close to 20 people that I have already taken in.
But they had to opt-in; it is not like I am pushing them to go in. Do you see the contradiction?
You bring in your son, nephew or friend. Let's talk about the son. Is this the same son you would want to sacrifice? It doesn’t make sense.
How does your family take it?
They know it and they are happy with it. You see, we go and we come back home, and tell them today we are going to freemasonry usually around 6 pm or so.
And by 9 o’clock or so, you tell them please don’t keep dinner for me today I will am going to have dinner at the freemasons hall on Nyerere Road.
They know it. My children know it, my family knows. They know that today, Ambrose Rachier is going for freemasonry. There is a way we dress, and I carry my attire to go and dress.
This is a society of men, and now that is the only part I want to apologise for, that we should bring in women because the subject we are talking about includes everyone else.
We have projects that we support — bursaries and we are building a home for the elderly in Muthaiga. These are some o the things that we are doing.
You said that the meeting is from 6 am onwards on Nyerere Road at the freemasons hall, and you said there is the way the service is conducted, and that you go there with an attire. Please explain.
Depending on the lounges, there are completely different types of attire, depending on the origin.
Masonry had one origin, but subsequently, there are times in the 17th or 18th century, when there was a schism, just like in churches, where you start a church, where there is the conservative and the evangelical church protestants as a different one, Christ is the answer, and people who worship on Saturdays, they are called Adventists.
Masonry is a little bit like that, and we have branches. Some are based in nations in countries, where there are Scottish, Irish, and English lounges.
When you go to France, we also have a lot of masonries. We have books that we use for different lounges.
Each and every craft has got their system of running the meeting, and it comprises many things.
You have a meeting, and there is someone who chairs the meeting.
There is also a committee, which meets before the day of the meeting, and we meet in different days.
We have a freemasons hall in Mombasa, Kisumu and Ruiru.
Why is it that the meeting starts at six o’clock and how is it done?
We do that because of people who go to work, and we also don’t want you to stay too late because of family reasons.
Masons are family people, very responsible people, and I am not scared to say I am one of them, and it is something I don’t regret joining.
It’s not weekly, it's monthly. And it’s something to do with the British. We don’t have meetings in August, September and December.
In December we devote it to the lord, and those of us who are Christians celebrate Christmas and pray.
Are rituals done?
I am not allowed to talk about it. If you want, I will propose you come and join, and you will not regret it so that you see how it is done. But again, we have those secrets.
If you are at a lower level we don’t tell you what we do at the second level or the third level. You have to pass a certain test.
It is not about ritualism, I can see you are trying to explore more about ritualism. That is not important.
What is important is the meeting of these people to discuss matters of charity, and at the end we actually give offerings.
Apart from the Pentecostal Church, Christ is the Answer Ministries and the Seventh Day Adventists who normally just come the way they are dressed, yesterday you saw Archbishop Ole Sapit, how was he dressed?
In a robe! Then you see that Muslims when going to pray, they dress in a certain way.
You have also seen catholic priests, the fathers, and you have seen the pope dressed.
So I find it completely interesting that people would pursue how a person is dressed in freemasonry yet the issue of ceremonial dressing is a thing that is in the public domain.
We just wear a suit and some kind of apron to symbolise building, because when you go to build you wear an apron for painting and that kind of thing. That is all; there is nothing beyond that.
I want to emphasise that there are different organisations the ones that are disassociated from devil worship, people dress in a way that is fascinating. If you go near my place in Lwanda market, you will find people playing the drums and they are wearing like Israeli Nineveh.
Transcribed by Mercy Chelang’at