The advertisement on side of the MAX said “got light?”


Playing off the “got milk?” campaign, I thought at first it was an ad for Portland General Electric. No, it was an advertisement for Freemasonry. Yes you read correctly. Freemasonry is now taking its message to the public by taking public transit.

The famed fraternal mystery cult that once included the likes of George Washington and Ben Franklin, the very same cult that gave us the illuminated eye on our dollar bill, and inspired numerous conspiracy theories about powerful men doing creepy ceremonies and ruling the world—you know, The Illuminatus! Trilogy, From Hell, Dan Brown’s novels etc.—that very same organization is now advertising on the MAX just like a visiting circus. Why? Has Masonry lost its fingernail grip on “the new order of the ages?” In truth, it sort of has.

“To be perfectly honest most our members are 50-plus,” says Steven Heller secretary at one of Portland’s nine lodges. “And that is part of what this campaign is to try to rectify.”

Heller says there are only about 9,600 Masons left in Oregon. This is down from a high in the mid-sixties of several hundred thousand. One reason for the fall in membership, says Heller, is Masonry itself. “I think people think of Freemasonry as an old boys club. And the truth is, for a long time it was.” The other problem, says Heller, (besides getting past the Dan Brown phenomenon) is how Masonry recruits new members. As it turns out, they can’t. Masons aren’t allowed to solicit new members, and with few actually seeking out the sacred mysteries, well, you get the Oregon Grand Lodge’s “got light?” campaign, which Heller says, gets around the pesky no soliciting rule.

As to “got light?” itself, Heller says it’s a reference to the mystery that lies at the center of masonry: illumination, enlightenment, and all that. And while this might seems passé in an information age when all the secrets of the fraternity have been laid bare online, in Freemasonry’s defense they’ve been doing this shtick (i.e. the let’s-make-our-members-wait-through-numerous-boring-lower-levels-before-we-tell-them-the-real-truth shtick) for over 400 years.

Of course, (Spoiler Alert!!!) the campaign could be a reference to Lucifer, a.k.a. the light bearer—not the dark evil boogeyman of Christian lore so much as the Greek god Prometheus, who gave fire to humanity and was punished for all eternity for his kindness. But come on, let’s not get all conspiratorial. I’m sure the big secret at the center of Masonry is something more than the old M. Night Shyamalan switcheroo. I mean it’s like saying several Hollywood stars believe the ghosts of dead space aliens inhabit our bodies and keep us from becoming happy healthy individuals. And that can’t be true.

And for more on Masonry. Here's Mr. Franklin: