When it's your neck up there on the chopping block, you don't want a dull blade. ~ Anonymous spectator in crowd at guillotine execution, Paris, France, 1789
I have observed this same fascinating sign being performed by many other elitists, both ancient and modern. However, Old Ben certainly is the epitome of the occult secret society patriarch. This man's feats as a Mason and Rosicrucian are legendary. Mackey's Encyclopedia of Freemasonry acknowledges Franklin as "a devoted Freemason occupying for many years places of official prominence and serving his (Masonic) Brethren with conspicuous Masonic zeal and aptitude."1
The same Encyclopedia spends a great amount of space listing Franklin's exploits and positions held as a Freemason, not only in the United States, but in Great Britain and in France. In 1779, he was elected Worshipful Master of the Lodge of the Nine Sisters in Paris, and in 1782 he became head of a lodge of the Grand Orient de Paris. Earlier, Benjamin Franklin had officiated at the Masonic funeral of one of his "brothers," the monstrously wicked atheist, Voltaire.2 Voltaire, as historians will attest, was certainly up to his neck in mischief.
The Neck A Sign of Sacrifice
A number of dictionaries of symbols state that the hand placed on the neck signifies sacrifice. Now sacrifice can have at least two meanings—one, the continuing threat of the penalties to be applied to punish those adepts and initiates who so impertinently reveal the secrets of the Order; and two, the willingness of the individual performing the sign to sacrifice himself for the good of the Order, or for the good of the cause or Great Work of the Illuminati.
The Neck Ritual
The neck, being the bridge to the head and brain (intellect) and the point at which the jugular vein can be ruptured by a knife or stone thrust, does seem to be an appropriate place to physically focus this sign. Duncan's Masonic Ritual and Monitor summarizes the "Penal" code of Freemasonry. That reference book says the various penal signs are designed so that each "intimates that the stiff neck of the disobedient shall be cut off from the head of the living..."3
The ritual for the Grand Master Elect Degree, according to Richardson's Monitor of Freemasonry, has the candidate either placing the point of a knife under the chin, or alternatively clenching the fingers of the right hand, extending the thumb, placing it on the abdomen, and moving it upwards to the chin, as if ripping the body open with a knife.
In the York Rite, the Past Master, or Fifth Degree, the candidate places the thumb of his right hand (fingers clinched) upon his lips. This, says Duncan's, "alludes to the penalty of having his tongue split from tip to root."4
"Staying in the spotlight. If Pakistan can elect a woman leader, says Hutchinson, why can't the United States?"