Olemic Thommessen has been a rising star in Norwegian politics for decades, culminating in his recent appointment as president of Norway’s parliament (Stortinget). Away from the public glare, he has also risen in the more secretive ranks of Norway’s Freemasons movement known as Den Norske Frimurerorden, and newspaper Aftenposten reported his masons membership on Wednesday as an issue of some concern.
Known as frimurerne, the Freemasons are regarded with suspicion by some Norwegians, mostly because of their secret rituals and recruitment patterns. The movement is open to male members only, also controversial in egalitarian Norway, and an oath of allegiance is required to join.
Prime Minister Erna Solberg told Aftenposten that she was aware that Thommessen is a Freemason before he was selected to head Norway’s parliament as Stortingspresident, a rank second only to the king. Like herself, Thommessen is a member of the Conservative Party (Høyre).
“Freemasons are not barred from assuming major public roles in Norway,” Solberg told Aftenposten. “As president of the Storting, you are not handling any particular political issues. You are in charge of its proceedings and manage its development.”
Thommessen himself said that he hadn’t attended a Freemason’s meeting for three years, but that he wished he had more time to go. He compared the masons as a voluntary organization and called it “an environment for learning and personal development” in which he wished more people would get involved.
Thommessen has reached the rank of level eight out of 10 in the Frimurerorden, Aftenposten reported, quoting the movement’s own documents. He holds a title that roughly translates into “Highly radiant trusted brother of Salomon.”
Roger Karsten Aase, a Norwegian who defected from the Freemasons movement and wrote a book about it, claimed that it’s “problematic” that Thommesen holds a high public office while he has also pledged allegiance to Den Norske Frimurerorden and its leadership. Like Thommesen, Aase also reached level eight before he quit.
“He belongs to a secret society which has a dictatorial structure,” Aase told Aftenposten.
No comment on costumes
Aase also claimed that a level eight Freemason is also made a “Knight Templar” who receives a special ceremonial suit, including a white coat with a red Maltese cross. Thommessen, who raised some eyebrows when he appeared at the highly ceremonial opening session of the Norwegian Parliament in an unusually colourful men’s bunad (traditional Norwegian dress), would thus be eligible to be wear a Knights Templar suit at meetings of the masons.
Thommessen refused to comment on suits and rituals. “Many people want to portray this as something secretive and mystical, but it isn’t,” he told Aftenposten. “A small part of the rituals are secret. Telling (outsiders) about this would ruin the experience.”
Another member of the parliament’s leadership, Kenneth Svendsen of the Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, Frp), is also, like Thommessen, a level eight Freemason. He told Aftenposten that he has never experienced any conflict of interest.