Several Bulgarian Freemasons have been interviewed for this story and their opinions are included below. Most, however, spoke only under condition of remaining anonymous. One of them, Dimitar Nedkov, agreed to give an interview to Novinite.com.
Dimitar Nedkov is considered by many the top expert on Freemasonry in Bulgaria. He was initiated into one of the first Bulgarian Blue Lodges shortly after the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe in the early 1990s. He is an active participant in the restoration of Freemasonry in Bulgaria and has served as Grand Chaplain of the Grand Lodge of Bulgaria. Nedkov is a Mason 33 Degree (the highest), co-founder of the Supreme Council, 33 of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, former Grand Orator of the Grand Lodge of the Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons in Bulgaria. An avid Masonic scholar, he is the author of “The Freemasons Returned to Bulgaria” (1998) and “The Third Millennium of Freemasonry” (2000) and “The Lessons of Freemasonry (2005). His last book, a fiction - “33 The Menace Dan Brown” appeared on the book stands in December. One of the founders of the Masonic magazine Svetlina (Light) and the web site freemasonry.bg. Nedkov is a member of the International Academy of the Illuminati in Rome
The article below is also based on Nedkov’s book “The Freemasons Returned to Bulgaria” and the book “Masonic Lodges in Bulgaria” by Dr. Mitko Ivanov.
Nowadays, a Masonic Temple can be found in just about every city, but in the history of human kind, there is hardly another organization so much surrounded by mystery, intrigue, secrecy, opposition, and controversy than Freemasonry.
No one has been both revered and hated by the entire spectrum of society as the Freemason. Freemasons are honored by many for their humanitarian beliefs and as the true founders of contemporary democracy, and at the same time, despite the fact they are required to obey the law and banned from discussing religion or politics, Freemasons face the staunch opposition of groups, often as irreconcilable among themselves as they are critical to the Freemasonry - from Christianity to Islam, from Fascism to Communism, and almost everyone in between.
Freemasons have long declared that Freemasonry is not a religion or its substitute; however, the roots of the resistance towards them are most often attributed to the Roman Catholic Church. The controversy stems from the fact that many Freemason teachings (mainly deism) don’t align with the official church’s doctrine - Freemasonry is based on the belief that the Universe is the work of what they call The Grand Architect, who, as the expression of Deity, governs both society and nature.
According to Dimitar Nedkov, the membership of a Lodge is a representative sample of society because kinds of people are behind it - white and black, Christians and Muslims, monarchists and democrats, rich and poor, powerful and ordinary voters, bad and good people. The Masonic rites and rules make, however, all members strive for harmony in human relations, the harmony that is missing more and more in real life, he says.
Freemasons and their history have intrigued scores of Masonic and non-Masonic researchers, but, as much as everything else, the exact establishment of the Freemason societies remains surrounded by mystery and controversy. For historians, the origins of Freemasonry range from Noah's Ark trough the King Solomon’s Temple and the Great Pyramids in Egypt to the Middle Ages.
The one certain fact is that those societies were created by free men, people, who due to their skills, abilities, knowledge of their craft, were allowed to live independently and move from place to place. They could have been the builders of the Pyramids or of the King Solomon’s Temple. In fact the King of Tyre, Master Hiram and King Solomon are considered in Masonic rituals the three founding Grand Masters. It was the King of Tyre, who sent Solomon of Israel Master Hiram, architects, workmen and material for the Temple’s construction.
In the Middle Ages, unlike the feudal serfs, builders, painters, and stonemasons moved freely across Europe to work on ambitious cathedral and fortress projects, most likely giving the name of today’s Freemasons. Their tools - the compass, the square, the hammer, the chisel, the trowel and others, became the base of the symbolic of Freemasonry.
The place used by those workmen to rest, eat and sleep was called a lodge, a term currently used to designate not as much the location of the Freemasons’ meetings, but rather the basic unit in their organization. While working together for a long time on the huge construction projects, the builders and their families supported and helped fellow members of the group, growing extremely close and fond of each other. To these days this brotherly love is the cornerstone of Freemasonry, where members are called brothers and their organizations - Brotherhood or Brethren.
There is also the widely explored possible connection between the Freemasons and the Order of the Knights Templar, founded in 1117 by the first Crusaders to protect Christian pilgrims, and operating from that same Temple of King Solomon. By the 13th century the order grew into an organization known for its power and wealth. In 1307, Philip IV of France, with an eye on their riches, ordered all Knights Templar to be arrested and executed. Those surviving the massacre escaped to Scotland and, according to some historians, began using the then more unassuming name Freemasons to identify themselves.
The transformation of the order of the Knights Templar to the Freemason society is just one theory, but there certainly has been a connection between the wealthiest organization at the time, funding the ambitious construction projects in Europe and the workmen actually building castles and cathedrals.
With time, large-scale buildings gradually stopped being erected throughout Europe. Work lodges began loosing members and accepting people from all trades and professions, turning them from craftsmen guilds or operative masons into fraternities - alliances of individuals united around common ideals i.e. speculative masons.
June 24, 1717, when the first Grand Lodge, the Grand Lodge of England, was founded, is often mentioned as the official date of the beginning of Freemasonry. Grand Lodges quickly expanded to Ireland, Scotland, France and North America where the first President of the United States, George Washington, became also the first Grand Master.