Help Me Maintain This Website!!!!!!
Click above graphic to make a fast and secure donation,
so I can afford to keep his website going and growing!
FACTS - NOT FICTION ABOUT FREEMASONRY
From The Freemason Website
This information pertains mostly to the Grand Lodge of England but it has lots of good information
TABLE OF CONTENTS
There have been dozens, possibly hundreds, of books written on the subject of Freemasonry and, although it may be questioned whether another is necessary, the author, with more than thirty years in the Order, believes that there are two important areas which have not had the attention they warrant and hopes that this book may meet that need.
First, there is the man, not a Mason but seriously interested in our Order, seeking information to enable him to decide whether to enquire further, with the possibility of membership. Then we have the newly entered member, enthusiastically seeking information, but surprised to find it not easily available, and without the experience to know where and how to find it.
Most of the books available tend to fall into one of two broad categories. First there are those which appear as `exposures', written either simply for profit, or from ill-will. Often the writers have been refused membership or, having joined, have found Freemasonry not the open door expected to wealth or to advancement socially or in their employment; or, they have been expelled for reasons of their own misconduct. Whatever the reasons such books do us harm, possibly losing us prospective members.
The second category consists of the many books written by Freemasons for Freemasons, usually describing or elaborating on our ceremonies and rituals, highly specialized and aimed specifically at serious students of the Craft.
The intention of this book is not esoteric study, but to provide a simple description of the principal features of the Order, some explanation of our ceremonies, organization and practices, and the principles for which we aim -sufficient, we hope, to encourage the non-Mason and new-made member to enquire further.
It should be understood that within the Craft there are variations in practices in different parts of the country - even within our own Province -not of course in principles, but in working details, and the young Mason may need to talk things over with senior members of his own lodge for a full understanding of these slight differences, which do in fact give 'character' to our lodges.
The writer's time in the Craft has been a source of very great pleasure and satisfaction, brought him more friends than he can count, and a greater appreciation of his fellow men and of morality. If these notes help to gain one new member, then it has all been worthwhile.
One of the most frequently asked questions, yet one of the most difficult to answer simply and concisely - indeed, it is almost impossible to condense into a few words - is just what this great fraternity, having hundreds of thousands of members of every possible race, color and creed in every walk of life throughout the world, really is.
There is a simple description, which the Freemason hears quoted on numerous occasions throughout his Masonic career "A system of morality, veiled in allegory, and illustrated by symbols" and this does make sense to those already in the Craft; but it is perhaps too enigmatic for the non-Mason to appreciate.
A description given in an old German encyclopedia, published in 1900, may be as good as any for the non-Mason: "Freemasonry is the activity of closely united men who, employing symbolic forms borrowed from the masons' trade and architecture, work for the welfare of mankind, striving to bring about a universal League of Man, aiming morally to ennoble themselves and others, to bring together a body of men, banded for the common purpose of intellectual, moral and social improvement."
Like Kipling's Single Men in Barracks, Freemasonry does not turn Men into 'Plaster Saints', but it does encourage them to cultivate and practice Brotherly Love, Charity, and Truth - not just in relations with each other, but to all mankind.
As with so many aspects of Freemasonry, these are questions for which there are no precise answers. However, thanks to the researches of many dedicated and knowledgeable Freemasons, we can form reasonably accurate estimates of the origins of the Order, which owe much to the old crafts of masonry and architecture.
It must be confessed that endless theories have been quoted and fanciful claims made but, whilst many of these may be quite ingenious in attempting to trace Freemasonry back to the earliest times of Operative Masonry and its supporting science Geometry - even to King Solomon and the ancient Egyptians - such claims cannot be accepted from the facts known and proven to us.
There is little doubt, however, that `Speculative' Freemasonry as we know it did have its roots in the Operative Masons' craft. Masonry and architecture grew together, and it was quite usual in early days for masons to work for years on one building or project. Consider the great cathedrals and the lack of sophisticated equipment and machinery available to the men who designed and built them, and we can appreciate why highly skilled craftsmen and artisans could, and often did, spend whole lifetimes on one project.
The masons working in such conditions formed closely knit communities. Workshops and living quarters grew immediately alongside the building sites; these became the centers for the masons' lives - they were their 'Lodges' and known as such. Over centuries masons evolved rules and regulations to control their lives, at work and when off duty. These, commonly known as `Ancient Charges and Regulations', are recorded in old manuscripts or books, which can be proved to have existed a century or longer before the earliest possible trace of 'Speculative' Masonry appeared.
Many of these Ancient Charges and Regulations were adopted by the early Freemasons; they are applicable today and, indeed, are written into our present day `Constitutions'. It says much for those old masons that their old original Charges remain almost unchanged in words and meaning today. The early masons were jealous of their skills and craft knowledge, and went to great lengths to keep them secret from outsiders. Young men who wished to enter their trade were obliged to undergo years of training, and levels of skill were strictly enforced by long established practices.
On first being employed by a Master Craftsman, the young man became an `Entered Apprentice' and served as such for several years. He would eventually be advanced to a higher grade as `Fellow of Craft'; and only after several further years at this level would he qualify as a `Master Mason', allowed to undertake his own projects, and to employ men to work for and under him- It will be appreciated that having undergone such years of subservient working, a Master Mason would be jealous of his trade `secrets' and wish to preserve them.
There is evidence that in order to maintain their `secrets' and to exclude casual and unskilled labor, the early masons made use of certain words and signs as means of identification. A migratory mason, traveling the country seeking work, could easily identify himself to others who might give him employment or assist him in any way possible in his search.
We have proofs that as early as the seventeenth century some lodges started to admit men who were not masons or even directly engaged in the masons' trade. As early as 1665 the records of the London Company of Masons refer to persons who had no direct connections with the trade, being admitted as `Accepted Masons', and the inference is that the practice had been going on much earlier.
Quite why the trade took in such men is not clear, but it is thought probable that they were men of local importance - nobility, gentry, merchants, etc. - possibly employing masons on projects of their own, or simply technically interested in the mason's craft. One of our earliest authenticated records of a man of considerable learning and importance, having no direct connection with the mason's operative craft, being taken into a lodge which had both operative and 'speculative' members, is the diary of Elias Ashmole, one of England's great diarists, eminent antiquary, Fellow of the Royal Society and founder in 1677 of the first public museum to be established in England, the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford.
In his diary he records that "on the 16th October 1646 he was made a `Free' Mason in a lodge at Warrington, Lanc's". He refers to the presence of the Wardens and six members who were not connected in any way with the masons' trade. Ashmole records another equally important if not more significant occasion when, in March 1682, he attended a lodge held at the Masons' Hall, London.
He refers to six new members being admitted into the "Fellowship of Freemasons". Of the six, four were members of the London Company of Masons, a trade organization (the Hall referred to being the headquarters of the London Company), which was not in any respect a company of Freemasons. The Master, Thomas Wise, two Wardens and five other members of the London Company were present, not as Officers of the Company, but as members of the Freemasons' Lodge. It therefore appears that a lodge of `accepted' or `speculative' Freemasons did meet at the Hall of the London Company as a quite separate entity.
To put these events into a relative timescale, we have to realize that Queen Elizabeth I had only been dead forty-three years, Shakespeare only thirty years, the Spanish Armada was within memory of living men, Charles I was still three years from his execution, Samuel Pepys was thirteen years of age, and the Great Plague and Fire of London were still twenty years in the future.
Well educated men of the day held superstitions and believed in witchcraft, so it is little wonder that written records of the emergence of Freemasonry are not plentiful. Of special interest another well known and important Speculative Mason at that time was Randle Holme III, a contemporary of Ashmole, holding high office under Charles II, being deputy to Garter, principal King of Arms. In 1688 Holme published a Directory of Heraldic Arms, in which he gave honors to the "Fellowship of Masons" adding, "the more so as being myself a Member of that separate Society called `Freemasons"'.
A hand note of his, estimated by the British Museum to have been written during the period 16401650, known as the Harlian MS, found with the MSS of Constitutions of the Masons states: "There are several Words and Signs of a Freemason to be revealed to ye, which as ye will answer before God at the great and terrible day of judgment, ye keep Secret, and not to reveal the same in the Ears of any person, but the Master and Fellows of the said Society of Freemasons, so help me God".
Holme is known to have been a member of a lodge at Chester, whose surviving records are amongst the oldest known to us. Of 26 known members, more than twenty are known to have been gentlemen or merchants, having no connections with the operative trade. The evidence is that the lodge, of great antiquity, by 1670 was already far advanced in transition from entirely Operative to completely Speculative.
So, although we cannot be precise in determining the starting date or period of Freemasonry, we can with confidence point to the early seventeenth century as the most probable period during which it had its beginnings; and with some speculation, but based on expert studies and interpretation of hundreds of MSS and Trade and Town Records, we can summarize the probable development of the Craft .....
1.... The formation of simple trade, craft fellowships, fraternities or
guilds, back into the thirteenth century, or earlier.
These developments occurred over a period of some five hundred years, during which great changes took place, and it is in the sum total of these changes that the transition took place from Operative to Speculative Masonry, not as the inspired actions of some learned body or society of men at a particular moment in time.
Communications being what they were, the spread of Speculative Lodges throughout the country was of necessity slow. There was, however, some social interchange as brethren from lodges moved around, if only locally, and met other Freemasons, and visiting between lodges certainly helped in the spread of the Craft.
In large towns, of course, communication was easier, and it was almost certainly due to this that the first Grand Lodge eventually evolved. Known to us as the Premier Grand Lodge, it was established in 1717 by the action of four London lodges, which met at the following locations:
No. 1 The Goose & Gridiron Alehouse in St Paul's Churchyard,
Unfortunately, written records were not kept until the first Minutes were recorded in 1723, and we have to depend on the writings of Dr James Anderson, who compiled and published of his own accord the first 'Constitutions' of 1723.
We know he was a man of very fertile imagination, apparently determined to prove the great antiquity of the Craft, so we treat his writings with caution; his First and Second Constitutions drew heavily on the old MSS Charges, and he obviously embellished a so called `Traditional History' to suit his own ends. However, according to his account which we have no reason to doubt, an assembly and feast was held at the Goose & Gridiron Alehouse on St John Baptist's day 1717.
The oldest mason present proposed a list of candidates for the first Grand Officers and, by show of hands, the brethren present elected Mr. Anthony Sayer, Gentleman, to be Grand Master of Masons, Captain Joseph Elliot and Mr. Jacob Lamball, Carpenter, to be Grand Wardens, and they were duly installed into office.
The Grand Master then ordered the Masters and Wardens of the four lodges to meet the Grand Officers every quarter, by summons from the Grand Tyler. These are the facts as known of the formation of Grand Lodge. We do not know what the founders had in mind; certainly it was no scheme of planned organization and regulation, probably it was no more than a wish to promote growth locally of the Craft.
Also, several members of the four lodges were members of the London Company of Masons, and might have thought it desirable to bring similar order and regulation to the Speculative Craft lodges as existed in the Company. Of the four lodges only one, the original No. 4, appears to have been formed entirely of Accepted and Speculative Masons, and its members were nearly all aristocrats with the Duke of Richmond as Master.
The other three lodges were of mixed membership and certainly existed originally as Operative lodges. No. I had various names until in 1770 it became the Lodge of Antiquity, the name it still bears. It is now No. 2 on the Register of Grand Lodge. being superseded only by the Grand Master's Lodge No. I and the unnumbered Grand Stewards' Lodge. As may be expected, the earliest Grand Masters included some famous names. Anthony Sayer set a precedent which it is most unlikely any who followed would have wished to emulate, or is likely now to claim.
He became the first petitioner to Grand Lodge for Charity Relief, and finished his Masonic career as Tyler to another London lodge. Only two more 'Commoners' held the rank of Grand Master, then in 1721 the second Duke Montague became the first of an unbroken succession of royal or noble Grand Masters. In 1723 Dr Anderson produced his first `Constitutions'; this was a private venture, and did not necessarily have the prior agreement or approval of Grand Lodge. Then in 1738 he produced his second issue, this time with the knowledge and, presumably, agreement of Grand Lodge.
One of the most important features of these second `Constitutions', which was to have the most profound effect on the Craft then and ever since, was the inclusion of a famous clause which separated Freemasonry from any one religion, and opened it to all true believers in a Supreme Being, irrespective of race, color or creed. In spite of the criticism which might be directed against Dr Anderson, all credit must be given for his original works.
His Constitutions had a profound influence on the course of world Freemasonry. The first Irish Constitutions in 1730 were based on his, and the Americans in 1735 produced theirs as reprints, word for word, of Anderson's, and pirated versions went to many parts of the world, playing an important part in the spreading of Freemasonry and the development of lodges based on the principles of the English original system.
Although the Premier Grand Lodge and Freemasonry generally prospered in England, all was not entirely harmony and brotherly love and many lodges, especially those outside London, did not recognize the authority of the new Grand Lodge. Some, in fact, positively resented what they probably regarded as interference with their domestic affairs, and the situation was made even worse when Grand Lodge changed certain ceremonials and rituals.
Many important Masons regarded such changes as departures from the original Landmarks of the Order. Some changes were not all that serious but, in the acrimonious atmosphere growing at the time, all points of difference became subjects of argument. Amongst the more serious accusations made against Grand Lodge were:
1. The transposing of modes of recognition in the First and Second Degrees.
There were other points, less serious, but all added fuel to the fire. The situation gradually worsened until finally, in July 1751, six Lodges totaling some eighty brethren formed a rival Grand Lodge, giving it the rather pretentious title of "The Most Ancient and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons, According to the Old Institutions".
They claimed to practice an older and purer form of Freemasonry, calling themselves 'The Ancients' and dubbing the earlier Premier Grand Lodge `The Moderns'. This epithet stuck and was the cause of much confusion later for early historians. Although resented, even condemned, by Premier Grand Lodge, the Ancients prospered, being helped and heartened by early recognition by the Grand Lodges of Ireland and Scotland.
Many important Masons joined or attended the Ancients' lodges, one of the most influential being Laurence Dermott who became their second Grand Secretary and, in 1756, produced their first `Constitutions' named `Ahiman Rezon'. A clever and powerful character, he was to have a pronounced effect on Freemasonry generally and was amongst the most tireless in working for reconciliation of the two systems.
In spite of the initial disruptive effect of the rival Grand Lodge, both systems flourished and, as years passed, relationships improved. Many Moderns, including Grand Officers, were attracted by the more colorful workings of the Ancients, and there is no doubt that the Ancients' working of the Royal Arch Degree resulted in much interchange of visiting brethren. Practically from the start there were endeavors to reconcile the two bodies of Masons, and these were much helped by the fact that the Grand Masters and many of the Grand Officers were of royal or noble blood, many being related. Thus, in the Premier Grand Lodge, the Grand Master was the Duke of Sussex whilst his brother, the Duke of Kent, was Grand Master of the Ancients.
It is little to wonder at, therefore, that with their efforts and the help of many others such as the Dukes of Athol, Beaufort, Cumberland and Gloucester, Lord Blaney, Laurence Dermott, William Preston and, possibly the most active of all, Thomas Dunkerley, peace should be achieved. After sixty-two years of separation, reconciliation came with the union of the two Grand Lodges into one, with the title "The United Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons of England", which title still holds good today, although for sake of convenience it is usually abbreviated to `United Grand Lodge of England'.
The Duke of Sussex was proposed by his brother and duly elected first Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge in 1813. Despite the anguish and trouble caused by the splitting of the Grand Lodge by the Ancients, credit must be given to them for preserving much of the beauty of the ceremonies and rituals we enjoy today, and especially for the Holy Royal Arch which might not have survived but for their stubborn refusal to accept the dictates of the Premier Grand Lodge, and their adherence to the ancient Landmarks.
This, then, may be regarded as the `end of the beginning' in that the two main schools of thought in Freemasonry having buried their differences, the Craft settled down to a period of comparative peace and steady advancement. It will be appreciated that Freemasonry in its earliest days cannot be positively dated but, like Topsy, it just `growed and growed' with a few hiccups along the way.
For historical purposes it should be recorded that during the period leading up to this, indeed through to 1832, there had been a total of six 'Grand' Lodges, of which four were in existence at the same time.
1. First was the Premier Grand Lodge, formed in 1717 and still existing in
effect in United Grand Lodge.
From this period on Grand Lodge never again lost its ruling influence, and the Craft went from strength to strength. This may therefore be a convenient point at which to break off from the general History of the Society and introduce some of the other features of the Craft - its organization today, and those important areas which have influenced the special character of Freemasonry.
Some of these, being as old as the Craft itself, had been delayed or subdued by the troubles described of the earlier periods.
Freemasonry in England is completely under the authority of the United Grand Lodge of England, having its headquarters at Freemasons' Hall, Great Queen Street, London, with the full title of "The United Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons of England".
Freemasonry originated in England, the Premier Grand Lodge of 1717 being the first in the world, and it spread overseas mainly through the early colonists and the regiments of the British army; but whilst many Masonic lodges overseas are still completely under the jurisdiction of United Grand Lodge, Freemasonry developed in many countries to such levels, with characteristics special to the territories concerned, that local Masons formed their own 'Grand Lodges, many of which are today recognized by United Grand Lodge on excellent fraternal terms.
For practical purposes, Freemasonry in England is established in three broad 'tiers' or levels. First is United Grand Lodge, headed by the Most Worshipful the Grand Master, supported by a large complement of `Officers', and ruling the whole Craft of English Freemasonry.
Next are the Masonic 'Provinces', roughly approximating to counties, of which at the time of writing there are 47. Each Province has a Provincial Grand Lodge, ruled by a Provincial Grand Master, who also has a large team of Officers. Whilst self-supporting and governing to a large extent, every Provincial Grand Lodge is subservient to United Grand Lodge.
Third are the `private' Lodges, which are the root and soul of the Craft. There are more than 7800 such Lodges in England and Wales, of which some 1642 are within the greater London area and under the administration of Grand Lodge. The remainder are distributed throughout the Provinces, numbers in each varying considerably from as few as eleven in the Province of Jersey to more than five hundred and thirty in West Lancashire.
In addition, there are `District' Grand Lodges in some 36 countries, or areas overseas. in places such as Cyprus, Bengal, Burma, Sri Lanka, etc., administering some 794 private lodges, all under the overall authority of United Grand Lodge of England. Further to the foregoing, there are many Grand Lodges in other parts of the world, including Scotland. Ireland, Canada, New Zealand, India and Australia, and in the Commonwealth countries and outside the Commonwealth area.
There are sixteen Grand Lodges in Europe, four in Asia, two in Africa, sixteen in South and Central America, three in the West Indies, and fifty-one in the USA. All of these foreign lodges can be, and frequently are, in communication with their English brethren, either through their own Grand Lodges in contact with United Grand Lodge or, if recognized, directly with our private lodges through visits here.
Hundreds of thousands of Freemasons are thus involved and, whilst their individual operating and ceremonial procedures may vary, their Principles do not and, therefore, subject to differences in language and local customs, an English Freemason can feel perfectly in accord with these overseas brethren. An Englishman visiting some foreign country, perhaps for business reasons or simply touring, can very easily make contact with his brother Freemasons and receive invitations to visit their lodges, having previously received authorization from the Grand Secretary.
This is one of the great special pleasures of membership and, like inter-visiting here between lodges, does much to foster very close good relationships between peoples, irrespective of race.
Contrary to popular belief, even amongst some Freemasons, our fraternity is not in any respect a `secret' society; indeed, its one great secret is that it has no mysterious secrets in any written or physical form.
There was a time, some two hundred years ago, when the Craft was in danger of being caught up in the `Unlawful Societies Act' which became law in July 1799; but clauses were incorporated in the Act which excluded those lodges which had existed prior to the passing of the Act.
This did restrict the formation of new lodges, until in 1817 a revision of the Act gave a change in the Exemption Clause for all regular lodges of Freemasons. However, all lodges were obliged to deposit annually with their local Clerk of the Peace a list of all members, names and addresses; this continued until in 1966 further changes nullified the Act of 1817.
We do maintain for purposes of recognition passwords and pass signs, confidential to members; these are intended simply to prevent unauthorized persons gaining access to our assemblies, but this confidentiality does not in any way whatsoever oblige or permit us to conceal anything unlawful, or in any way harmful to our fellow men or society generally. Unfortunately, books written by ill-wishers - so-called 'Exposures' -often try to create the impression that we are a secret society, and of course many areas of the media, usually looking only for sensationalism, try to dramatize any reference to Freemasonry as a secret society.
However. such books, papers and radio or TV programs are usually only seeking for profit. and this becomes fairly obvious. For its part Freemasonry has always ignored such publicity, treating it with the contempt it often merits.
There are no secrets regarding our Aims and Principles; indeed, from our point of view, the ideals and teachings of Freemasonry cannot be too widely known and encouraged. Membership is not a secret, but brethren should not advertise it; however, when appropriate the information in this book may be given to anyone well known to be a member or seriously interested in our fraternity.
Readers will find more on this subject in Chapter 20. The real secret of Freemasonry is only open to him whose heart seeks for it sincerely and honestly; the knowledge comes but slowly, and the brother holding it preserves it jealously.
Although Freemasonry supports all true religions, it is not in itself a religion; indeed, theological discussion is not permitted in our lodges, nor in any formal Masonic context. In its earliest days, Speculative Freemasonry, like Operative Freemasonry from which it evolved, was strongly influenced by the Established Church.
But shortly after the formation of the Premier Grand Lodge in 1717, one of the most far reaching measures was established - the disassociation of the Craft from any one creed or religion. The rule then adopted still holds good today: "Let a Man's Religion be what it may, he is not excluded from the Order, provided he does believe in the Glorious Architect of Heaven and Earth, and practice the Sacred Duties of Morality". Thus Freemasonry is the center of union between `good men and true', and the happy means of conciliating friendship between those who might otherwise have remained at a distance.
Freemasonry ensures that men of widely differing creeds can, and do, meet together in peace and harmony. Indeed, in many parts of the world, the Masonic lodge is the only place in which they can come together `on the level' and in brotherly love.
Some of the great religions have, in the past, shown enmity to our Fraternity, probably the most notable being the Roman Catholic Church which, for some 236 years, from 1738 to 1974, was in conflict with the Craft, to the extent of strongly forbidding its members, under threat of excommunication, from joining us.
Fortunately, time and patient work by many eminent churchmen and Freemasons brought Rome to a proper understanding of the real nature of Freemasonry, as practiced under the English Constitution, until in 1974 the Church lifted its objections, a fact published by the bishops in England and Wales.
It is perhaps unfortunate that our own Established Church, the Church of England, holds the Craft in disfavor to the extent, on occasion, of trying to ban its clergy and members from joining us. Fortunately, many thousands of good, sincere members of the Church, including many clergy of highest rank, choose to ignore this attitude.
It is interesting to observe the double standards which can enter into these official attitudes. It is a fact that many famous churches and cathedrals receive very large donations from the Masonic Charities Organization toward their charities and repair funds; such bodies do not find their principals so strong as to refuse these donations.
For its part, Freemasonry has never at any time reacted to the enmity of and Church or religious body, or attempted to exclude any of their members. On entering the Craft, an initiate is asked to declare his belief in a 'supreme being'; other than this, he is not expected at any time to state what his religious associations are.
As with religion, politics is excluded from discussion in any Masonic context. This had been questioned as a restriction on thought, but this is not the intention of the Craft.
English Freemasonry recognizes the right of every individual to his own opinions and beliefs in political as in religious matters. But it also realizes that these subjects are amongst the most controversial in the world, discussion of which can, and frequently does, lead to great personal arguments, strains and quarrels.
Grand Lodge has always refused to express opinion on matters of state, or domestic policies, or on rival theories of government or religion. From time to time this principle has been the subject of special conferences between the Grand Lodges of England, Scotland and Ireland.
All reaffirmed the position, nothing having been found to cause any change in policy. Should Freemasonry deviate by expressing opinions, it could be accused of approving or denouncing any particular movement which might arise, thus causing discontent or discord amongst its members.
It is perhaps interesting to remember that the only governments to have shown enmity to the Craft, including complete banning and even persecution of members, have been those which also banned all other freedom of thought, notably Fascism and Communism
The simple answer to this question is `no'.
It must be made clear that no member has any legal or moral right to any benefit of financial nature from the Craft in general, his lodge, or any other individual member, for himself or his dependants. This may appear a paradox.
All Masons are exhorted to practice Charity, and the Craft does have its large charitable institutions which donate enormous sums annually, not just to Masonic ends, but to all sections of society.
Hundreds of thousands of pounds go to hospitals, research establishments and national institutions such as the National Lifeboat Institution which has had both large and small lifeboats given to it; ambulances and coaches are donated for conveying the sick or elderly, and practically every known hospice of any note in the country receives a donation which may range from £500 to £2,000 - as example, in 1992 the Masonic Grand Charity made grants, classed as `minor', to some 235 Hospices and Institutions totaling £300,000.
Additionally, `major' grants are made to the lamer institutions and for national and international disasters, all this being for non-Masonic ends. We do, of course, also have our own areas for receipt of movies from the Grand Charity. Our Girls and Boys Institutions, Benevolent Institution, and New Samaritan Fund - which has replaced the Royal Masonic Hospital -are all supported by the Craft, and brethren may feel some satisfaction and security that such great resources exist.
There are, in addition, the Provincial Grand Charity funds, and every private lodge has its own charity funds; but no member has any legal right or claim to any of these resources. However, it would be quite impossible to calculate the numbers of individual brethren w ho have received benefits with no ties and in complete confidentiality from private lodge and Grand Charity funds.
It must also be stressed that brethren should not presume on their membership, to promote their personal interests in social or business life, or to use their Masonic membership to insinuate themselves into situations which might otherwise not normally be open to them. The fact that a man is a Freemason must never outweigh his duties to his family, his employer, or society as a whole.
To what extent may a Freemason advance the interests of another brother? Only so far as such help may be given without detriment to himself, his connections, or in any way injuring the interests of any third party.
To what extent should a Mason give preference to another Mason over a non-Mason? Only to the extent that if, in every other respect, things are equal then the fact of one being a Mason may weigh the balance; but this is no more than may occur between any friends in life, Masons or not.
Brethren who attempt to use Freemasonry for their own ends or profit simply demonstrate their complete failure to understand the principles of the Craft, and they betray the sacred promises they made before their brother Masons and the Supreme Being. They do our Order immeasurable harm. We know of the readiness of outsiders, especially the media, to jump on any opportunity to discredit our Fraternity as a society of `fixers'.
It is essential we be meticulous in our adherence to the tenets of the Craft, and show the world that Freemasonry stands for honesty and integrity in all things.
A very pertinent question this, having two aspects - money and time -equally important and, in the case of money at least, one which many people appear to be diffident to discuss openly and frankly. Yet it is essential for the peace of mind of any candidate, and equally important for his wife and family, that the subject be properly appreciated. Fortunately both areas can be estimated fairly accurately and an applicant be given a good indication of his possible commitments.
Both items can be roughly divided into two main areas: unavoidable
commitments, which every Freemason must undertake, and `voluntary' items, where
the Mason can decide for himself to a large extent just how much in money or
time he is prepared to be responsible for. The main items of cost are:
This figure presumes that meals following lodge meetings are paid for 'on the night' and are not included in the annual subscription. This was common practice at one time, but has been discontinued by most lodges as being unfair to those members unable for some unavoidable reason to be present for one or two meetings, perhaps through illness or holidays, when no rebate would be paid; and in these days of ever increasing cost the practice is considered undesirable.
These are the mandatory costs; most others may be considered 'voluntary' in as much as brethren can decide for themselves to what extent they wish to incur them or not. Typical of these `voluntary' .expenses are dining fees. Most lodges hold meals after the main meeting ends; this may be anything from a simple standup snack and drink to a full three or four course dinner with wines etc.
Presuming the meal cost is not included in the annual subscription, then any member ordering and taking the meal pays before leaving. The amount can vary quite a lot; some lodges meet at Masonic Halls where there are dining facilities, others may have to attend a separate hotel or similar venue, but a candidate can be given a reasonable idea of the usual costs involved. Outside London and apart from special occasions, an average cost would at present range from £10 to £15 per meeting.
Most lodges take a charity collection, either in the lodge room or during the after proceedings. The amount, which can be quite moderate and is completely confidential, is left to the individual. It is usually for the lodge's own charity funds or other nominated cause, which may not be Masonic. Brethren are encouraged to take out a covenant for charity.
This will be a fixed total sum paid over a predetermined number of years; an advantage of the method is that if the individual concerned is a tax payer, then the Masonic charity nominated can reclaim the relative tax from the Inland Revenue, so that the total sum is considerably increased at no extra cost to the member.
Then there are a number of social events, which many lodges hold for the pleasure and entertainment of members and their families, such as ladies' evenings, Christmas and similar parties, obviously all varying from one lodge to another. These `voluntary' expenses depend on individual lodges' circumstances, but experience shows that they are unlikely to exceed around £200 for a very full year's programs of lodge meetings and other activities.
Over and above these costs, which may to a certain extent be considered unavoidable if a member is to enjoy a full Masonic life, there are other expenses which are entirely up to individuals, such as inviting and paying for visitors at one's meeting, visiting other lodges, possible membership of another lodge, or of one or more of the `side' degrees.
All involve costs similar to the basic `mother' lodge, and it is impossible even to guess at the activities any individual brother may choose to engage in; all are entirely a matter of personal taste and, in any case, by the time a member is sufficiently experienced to consider these additional activities, he will be quite capable of evaluating their effect on his finances.
Costs quoted above are typical of those at time of publication - 1998 -but of course will alter in due course; up to date details can be provided for any interested enquirer. The time taken up in Masonic activities is similarly affected, partly mandatory, partly voluntary, the latter being the individual's personal choice.
The first and most important obligation is attendance at the regular meetings of a brother's `mother' lodge. The number of meetings each year varies. Some meet every month, but this is rare; the majority probably meet six or seven times, usually during the winter months. The regular meetings are normally held on a certain fixed day of each month, this day having been established by the day of the original consecration (formation) of the lodge.
Most meetings are held in the evening for convenience of members' work commitments; a few may be held on a Saturday, but there are no meetings on Sundays or public holidays. A regular meeting divides into two periods. The first is time spent on formal lodge business in a special Lodge Room; this may last from one and a halt to two and a half hours depending on the amount of business to be conducted.
The second part is spent, after the lodge is formally `closed', at a 'festive board' which, as stated above, may vary from a casual snack to a four course dinner, taking two or three hours. Lodges vary a great deal in their practices, but a candidate can be told all this beforehand. Following a regular meeting, usually within a few days, some lodges hold an Officers' meeting for the purpose of discussing the previous meeting, agreeing the formal Minutes to be recorded, and deciding the programs of work for the next regular meeting. Officers' meetings are informal, only taking an hour or so, and not usually followed by any meal.
Most lodges that do not adopt this procedure hold an annual - or occasionally more frequent -committee meeting, which comprises the more senior members of the lodge. Another very important commitment is attendance at a Class or Lodge of Instruction. As the name implies, such meetings are for the purpose of instructing members, including those not actually yet in Office, in the various ceremonies and duties of all the Officers, in preparation for the time when they will be responsible for the lodge working.
Some lodges simply content themselves with one or two rehearsals for the ceremony to be conducted at the next regular meeting. All ceremonial carried out in our lodges has to be learnt by heart, no books or papers being allowed in the lodge room. The Lodge of Instruction, or rehearsal, is vital, therefore, in ensuring a good standard of working.
Experienced instructors (Preceptors) help brethren to follow not simply the words but the meanings and symbolism of the various ceremonies, and regular attendance ensures that brethren carry out their duties efficiently, and with pleasure to themselves and the assembled company. Lodge of Instruction meetings or rehearsals are informal and rarely take more than one and a half to two hours.
To sum up these more or less mandatory duties, and depending upon the number of times the lodge meets and whether it has regular Officers' meetings and a Lodge of Instruction or rehearsals, we are talking of between one and two dozen meetings, totaling perhaps thirty to sixty hours per Masonic year. Additional voluntary activities include such events as social evenings, which are very popular as wives and families can share the brethrens' company. Masters and Officers may attend an annual meeting of their Provincial Grand Lodge, and likewise the Province may hold a Church service.
As in the case of financial commitments, members can spend more time in visiting, attending meetings of `side' degrees etc., and it is entirely a question of personal choice. But it is important at this stage to give a word of caution, especially to the `young' brother entering on his Masonic career with enthusiasm.
There is no doubt that the activities of Freemasonry are very enjoyable, and it is only too easy for the enthusiastic young Mason to become more and more involved, with consequent increasing demands on his finances and time. It is essential that he maintains a sense of proportion.
On no account should he allow his responsibilities to his family and domestic affairs, or to his employer, to suffer due to his Masonic activities.
We hear the phrase 'Masonic widow' used, and it is appalling to think that a man may neglect his home life for his Freemasonry, to an extent that such an epithet becomes justified. A good Mason should aim not only to enjoy his Masonic career himself, but to ensure his family also get pleasure from his membership.
It is presumed that most men who may be interested in becoming a member of our Fraternity will have developed their interest through knowing a Mason, perhaps a friend, relative or business colleague.
If not, then it is really essential that they take steps to be introduced to a known Freemason, and in such cases it will probably be many months before any further move can be contemplated.
It is not just the knowing, it is more a question of the 'depth' of knowledge by the Mason of the character and principles of his friend. Presuming a Mason is known well, then all the interested party has to do is tell him of his interest, and ask if he can help him; it's as easy as that.
Sometimes an opportunity arises at a ladies' evening or other social Masonic occasion; but enquiry will be welcomed, certainly no offence be taken, and a variety of action on the following lines will probably follow, although some lodges may be less formal in their handling of the application. The Freemason will ask his friend to put his request in a brief written note, which will be brought to notice at the lodge's next Officers' Meeting and, if acceptable, he will give his friend preliminary forms for him to complete.
Apart from obvious name and address details etc., the 'candidate' will be asked to provide the names and addresses of references, of which two should be Freemasons. The candidate may need help from his Masonic friend in this respect, as the latter cannot himself be a referee.
The preliminary form is then presented at the next Officers' Meeting and, if all is satisfactory, letters will be sent to the referees asking their opinions in confidence of the candidate. Nothing further can proceed until all replies are received; then, if all are favorable, the next step can go ahead. The candidate is given further forms to complete, in much more detail. The Grand Lodge proposal form requires details of the candidate's employment, or business, and includes a declaration that he has not previously applied for, nor been refused membership of any other Masonic lodge; also. that he has not been convicted of any infringements of the law (other than minor traffic offences).
At the same time a `visiting committee' is appointed, usually composed of two experienced past masters of the lodge who will, if all preliminary formalities are satisfactory, contact the candidate and arrange to meet him at his home and, if possible, at a time when his wife will also be available to meet them. The `committee' talk informally with the candidate, giving some indication of what is in store, and getting from him indications of what he knows, and what he expects from the Craft.
They will also have a talk with his wife, possibly alone, and satisfy themselves that she is quite happy about her husband's application to join the Craft, and that she does understand and agree with the commitments, both in terms of finance and time. If necessary the committee may give them together some of the information referred to in the previous chapter, although this should have been provided by the Proposer much earlier in the proceedings.
The visiting committee reports back to the Lodge and, if all is satisfactory, the application becomes formal. The Proposer and Seconder make a formal proposition at a Lodge meeting in accordance with notice printed in the Lodge Summons; then at the next meeting a ballot of members takes place and, if found in favor, the candidate is formally elected. Initiation can follow at any regular meeting within twelve months.
All this presumes no hitch in the proceedings, but should any cause for dissatisfaction arise then the proceedings could be delayed and, in event of problems proving insurmountable, then the worst might occur and the application be refused. This, of course, would be most embarrassing to all concerned, not least the Proposer, and really the responsibility for ensuring it cannot occur lies with him.
It is his knowledge of the candidate that should prevent an application getting beyond the earliest stage; it is therefore essential that he should have very thorough and intimate knowledge of his friend before allowing matters to proceed to any formal extent. A person who is refused at a late stage is bound to feel resentment, and that does no good for Freemasonry, no matter how justified.
As the time for initiation nears, the proposer will advise his friend in respect to dress and payments for fees etc.; usually the Lodge secretary writes advising the candidate formally of his coming entry, inviting him to attend, timing etc., but the Proposer should still take the lead in ensuring all is arranged properly.
He may collect and take the candidate with him to Lodge, introducing him as necessary to the Master, Secretary and Tyler, and will leave him to the tender mercies of the latter, from which point the candidate simply does as he is told.
After the ceremony the Candidate usually receives special treatment. He is now a member of one of the greatest societies for good in the world.
Every newly made Freemason is presented with a copy of the Book of Constitutions, containing all the laws and regulations of the Craft, without which being present no lodge can open or carry out business. It contains a fundamental `Declaration' as a preliminary to all its contents. I quote verbatim: "By the Act of Union between the two Grand Lodges of Freemasons of England in December 1813, it was declared and pronounced that Pure, Ancient Freemasonry consists of Three Degrees and no more, those of the Entered Apprentice, the Fellow Craft and Master Mason, including the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch".
Every Freemason progressing normally in his lodge will, over a period of time, go through these Three Degrees. It may take months depending upon the work programs of the lodge, but it is obligatory and until he does so he cannot proceed further in the Craft.
When he attains the Third Degree he becomes a Master Mason and qualifies to progress through the various offices in the lodge (explained later), eventually to become Master - the highest honor the lodge can bestow on any brother - when his title becomes 'Worshipful Brother' which it remains until, and if, he reaches the office of Deputy Provincial Grand Master of a Province.
He may now join the Order of the Holy Royal Arch (colloquially known as the `Chapter'); this is not obligatory but highly desirable, being the completion of the Third Degree and opening the way to a wider and more fulfilling Masonic life.
He may also, if he chooses, join one or more of the other Orders or Degrees described in a later chapter. In the course of his initiation the candidate confirms his complete agreement to, and acceptance of, our Rules and Regulations in an oath taken, in the case of lodges under the English, Christian, Constitution on the Bible.
However, as Freemasonry respects and accepts members of all true religions and faiths, the word `God' may not be recognized by some members of other faiths who may also consider some book other than the Bible as holy law. Freemasonry respects this and permits the use of other books - a typical example could be the Koran - but requires belief in a `Supreme Being' in the candidate's obligation. However, we also understand that certain religions forbid the taking of oaths as such, and Freemasonry respects and meets the special needs of such by accepting a solemn undertaking instead.
This may all seem somewhat confusing to the non-member, but the essential principle is that Freemasonry does not prevaricate or dodge issues. We want `good men and true' to join us; they are the very marrow of our fraternity. We simply insist that they do have `faith' and recognize a `Supreme Being'.
After that we do not care if they are white, black, pink or striped; they are our BROTHERS and we welcome them as such. The candidate is now an `Entered Apprentice' Freemason.
In the course of his obligation he has made certain promises, the most important probably being that he will not divulge to anyone outside the Craft those special `signs' and `words' used between Freemasons as a means of recognition and identification. This promise is one of the factors quoted by non-Masons as evidence of our Order being a `secret society'.
It is a fact that in days long gone by the wording of the oaths was somewhat lurid and even bloodthirsty. It is also a fact that such threats were never imposed, being mainly intended simply to add seriousness and emphasis to the occasions at a time when men were perhaps rather more naive than today.
In any case our Rulers wisely decided that such oaths were unnecessary and dropped them from the obligations taken in any of our ceremonies. Next in the Mason's career comes the `Fellow Craft's' Degree, more commonly known as the Second Degree. This is usually taken several months after the First Degree, sufficient to ensure that time and instruction prepares the young Mason for his advancement.
The actual period may vary considerably from time to time, depending on the amount of `work' the lodge has in the offing. It is likely to be several months at least, during which time the candidate may attend the opening and closing ceremonies of the lodge, and any work carried out in the First Degree; but he has to leave the lodge temporarily if it is opened in any of the `higher' Degrees.
There is no reason why a newly entered Brother should not attend the Lodge of Instruction but, in the same manner, he would have to leave when work above the First Degree was being carried out. This is a somewhat boring period for the Entered Apprentice but, if properly explained to him, he should not feel any sense of exclusion.
Whilst waiting to be passed to the Second Degree the candidate is given certain ritual to learn by heart - not a great deal, but quite important, being his first Masonic `work'. Eventually he goes through the ceremony known as `passing' to the Second or Fellow Craft's Degree. The ceremony is shorter and simpler than the Initiation ceremony and to some may appear less impressive, but it is in fact a most important Degree; indeed, in Scotland, under the Scottish Masonic Constitution, the Degree of Fellow Craft is in many respects the most important of all three Degrees.
During the ceremony the candidate receives his first insight into the symbolism which plays such a large part in Masonic working. The `Second Degree Tracing Board' is presented to him; unfortunately he may not be sufficiently experienced to appreciate fully the significance of this most interesting item of ritual, but as time passes he will certainly have other opportunities to hear it, and may be invited to learn and present the work himself to another candidate.
In this Degree, as in the former, the candidate receives instruction in the esoteric and symbolic aspects of Freemasonry, and will again be called on to confirm his trust in his obligations. Having `passed' through the ceremony, he becomes a `Fellowcraft' Freemason; his life gets a little easier and more interesting in that he can now remain in lodge whilst it is open in both First and Second Degrees, but still withdraws when it opens in the Third Degree. There is then another period of waiting, during which he receives further instruction and is given more ritual to learn by heart before he can be advanced further to the Third Degree, probably the most important step in his Masonic career.
Certainly he can progress no further until he has taken this next move. Many consider the `raising' of a brother to the Third Degree, that of 'Master Mason', to be the most impressive of Masonic ceremonies. There are other ceremonies - entering the Royal Arch, or one of the many Side Degrees, and of course eventually `installation' into the Chair of the lodge - which are all impressive; but none are more important, and the raising of a brother to the Degree of Master Mason is rightly one of the most beautiful pieces of Masonic esoteric working.
The ceremony, which may take up to two hours, cannot fail to impress the candidate. It falls into two parts: a long `traditional' history is recited to him, and he receives further confidential `recognition' information. At the conclusion of the ceremony he is presented, either by the Master on behalf of the lodge or possibly by his proposer, with a book of Masonic ritual, the famous `little black book' of the Masons, which contains details of all the ceremonies, explanations for the tracing boards, other Lodge tools and furnishings and their symbolism, up to and including in part the ceremony of installation of the Worshipful Master of the Lodge.
He will also now receive a formal invitation to join the Lodge of Instruction, of which it is most important he should take advantage if he has not already done so; he may also be offered the opportunity of obtaining a book of Masonic lectures, not essential to his career, but most interesting for a fuller understanding of much of our symbolic teachings.
He is now a fully fledged Freemason, entitled to all privileges and to attend all ceremonies (except Installation) and, if necessary, take one of the junior offices in the event of an officer being absent through illness or other cause - hence the importance for him to attend the Lodge of Instruction.
His 'Raising' to the Third Degree is reported to Grand Lodge, and within a short time he will receive from that body his `Grand Lodge Certificate' which, as its title implies, is a document confirming his membership of our society, essential proof in event of his visiting strange lodges, especially when traveling abroad.
He should not publicly advertise nor display his certificate, but keep it safely within easy access. He will also be issued, possibly either by the Lodge or as a gift from his proposer or other friend, with his `Master Mason's Apron', the outward sign to all other Masons of his rank.
In most private lodges a brother's progress is more or less `automatic' in that, whilst any promotions are the prerogative of the ruling Master, it would be discourteous and could indeed cause resentment, if a Master did not make promotions according to well established levels of `seniority' in the Lodge order of ranks.
Promotions normally occur once each Masonic year, when a new Master takes the Chair; this `Installation Night' is usually held by date and day when the lodge was first consecrated. Appointments of Master, Treasurer and Tyler differ from others, being elected by vote of the members of the lodge then present.
The Master is first proposed and seconded in `open lodge' for office, a formal ballot follows and, if approved, he is declared elected and is installed in the Chair in a ceremony described later. He then appoints his officers for the ensuing year. The Treasurer and Tyler are also proposed and seconded, approval for the latter being simply by a show of hands. The illness or death of an officer may call for temporary appointment, but usually a Past Master will be invited to fill the vacancy as a temporary measure.
This process of `progression' only applies really to those offices not
regarded in some lodges as `permanent', the so called progressive offices
The above sequence is the order in which a brother takes the offices during his progress through the lodge. Apart from the question of 'permanent' offices, each office is normally held for one year. However, there is no doubt that in some instances it is preferable for an office to be held for longer than one year, typical being those of Secretary and Treasurer, the duties of these being numerous and complicated; it is more satisfactory for the work to be done by someone having several years' continuous experience in them, as explained in more detail later.
Apart from this, the process of progression is very much a matter of routine. Starting as a Steward, a brother eventually reaches the position of Senior Steward - unless this is a permanent position as it is in some lodges -then on to Inner Guard, and continues year by year according to the list, eventually reaching office as Master of the lodge.
At the end of his year he `retires' to become Immediate Past Master, not an office as such, but position by right of progression. On reaching Master he is honored with the prefix of `Worshipful', and retains that title for the remainder of his Masonic career, unless he rises to the heights of Deputy Provincial Grand Master when he becomes a `Very' Worshipful brother. In the case of the `permanent' offices, the holder still `retires' in effect at the end of each year, but is reappointed by the in-coming Master.
In some lodges the offices of Chaplain, Secretary, Director of Ceremonies, Treasurer, Almoner and sometimes others are all treated as permanent, either for a fixed period of perhaps five years or until a brother voluntarily decides to relinquish his post. For example, there is no question that the Master of a lodge, the lodge itself, Provincial Grand Lodge and Grand Lodge all benefit by the services of a permanent Secretary.
The duties are so manifold and in some instances so complicated, that the experience which comes from several years in the office does pay off, paperwork is kept properly, records are maintained and essential information passed on to Grand Lodge and Provincial Grand Lodge and other authorities regularly and promptly, the Treasurer is helped in the administration of his accounts, the process of introducing new candidates and the promotion of existing members all go more smoothly and effectively.
A new or nervous Master relies a great deal more on his Secretary than is realized until one reaches that office, and the same benefits arise from the other so-called permanent officers. However, on the other side of the coin one has to admit the benefits for individual brethren of serving a year in these offices; so much is then learned of the essential administration of a lodge, that it is quite a problem to decide which method gives the overall advantage.
And there is always the danger that a permanent office holder may come to regard the post as his personal prerogative, rather than that of the Worshipful blaster. and exercise his powers dictatorially. The author feels it important to stress certain factors regarding all offices. One does unfortunately hear unthinking comments such as "Oh, he's only a Steward" or "I'm only Junior Deacon" etc.
Such remarks are quite unjustified; every office is vital to the well being and prosperity of a lodge, and it is hoped the following brief descriptions of the offices will help to get this point across.
STEWARD Headed by the Senior Steward, the work of these officers is mainly concerned with the comfort and welfare of members and visitors, more outside the lodge room than inside, including service at the Festive Board. In many lodges the Senior Steward has the important duty of ordering and maintaining the lodge stocks of wines and spirits etc. He should ensure that the Secretary and Treasurer have full details of numbers at dinner, and of the consumption of liquors with relative costs.
He should carefully keep watch on the consumption of drinks, see that wine
bottles, beer cans etc. are not left on tables. Good, caring Stewards can add
greatly to the `atmosphere' of the lodge. There is an old saying: "A good
Steward makes a good Master". This simply means he is thinking of and
concerned for the comforts of brethren and visitors, and always looking to
maintain the reputation of the lodge for friendliness and hospitality; no Master
can go far wrong on that basis.
He must be fully aware of the duties involved, completely knowledgeable in
regard to the means by which a person can prove Masonic identity and rights, and
diligent enough to ensure this for any brother, no matter how exalted in
apparent rank. He can call on the Master or Director of Ceremonies for
assistance but, when doing his job properly with due courtesy he need not
hesitate to refuse entry to anyone until satisfied of their Masonic rights. A
good, efficient Inner Guard can help considerably in setting the `tone' or
feeling of a lodge for anyone entering.
The Junior Deacon takes charge of the new candidate at the Initiation ceremony, and can do a great deal to ensure his comfort and confidence, and certainly his pleasure, in this his first experience of a Masonic ceremony, one which should remain in his memory for the whole of his Masonic career, no matter how `high' he may rise in the Craft. This officer's performance, supported as it should be by his own confidence, will contribute very considerably to the pleasure which all present will get from witnessing a well conducted ceremony.
SENIOR DEACON An office similar in many respects to that of the Junior Deacon, the main difference being that whilst the Junior looks after the candidate during the ceremony of Initiation, the Senior is in charge during ceremonies of Passing and Raising, those being to the Second and Third Degrees.
Assisted by the Junior-Deacon, he is also the direct messenger of the Master
and, with the Junior, takes part in the opening and closing formalities of the
lodge. Together they are two of the five officers accompanying the Master when
he enters or retires from the lodge. Both officers have very important duties
and it is essential, if these are to be carried out with efficiency and dignity,
that the Deacons attend Lodge of Instruction regularly.
But unless the Secretary is off ill or on holiday, the `office' work of the lodge does not directly concern the Assistant. The Secretary should, in fact, give his Assistant instruction and guidance in lodge paperwork, but unfortunately it is rare for this to be done even if, as is sometimes the case, the Assistant progresses on to the Secretary's office in due course.
There is a growing tendency for the Secretary's office to become permanent
with a Past Master occupying it for several years; whilst good for the overall
efficiency with which the work is likely to be done, permanent Secretaries do
tend to act as though there is no need to train or instruct the Assistant, to
the latter's - and sometimes to the Lodge's - disadvantage. It is something
which the Master should keep in mind and, if he considers it advisable, should
tactfully prompt the Secretary to give some instruction to the Assistant.
The Secretary can be a great help to the Master, both in and out of the Lodge Room, and it is really a very logical arrangement which both Grand Lodge and Provincial Grand Lodge favor. The Secretary's duties are many and varied, amongst the more important being recording Lodge Minutes, maintaining all routine records for Grand Lodge and Provincial Grand Lodge with associated correspondence, the preparation and maintenance of numerous forms, essential paperwork etc. relating to new candidates and members' progress through the Lodge and Craft generally.
Possibly the best way to give some indication of his work is briefly to describe his year. The Secretary is formally appointed and invested into office on Installation night. His duties commence about halfway through the proceedings, and he must immediately start keeping note of all that occurs.
Much will be routine, of course, but he must be ready to record the unexpected and cannot really relax his attention throughout the whole meeting. At the following Festive Board he must similarly keep aware and be ready to note any unusual happenings. There should already have been prepared, either by the retiring Secretary or by himself if a permanent officer, full details of those attending, meals booked etc., and must ensure that payment is collected and recorded before being passed to the Treasurer.
In many lodges the Treasurer himself collects the dining fees. In some lodges, shortly after the Lodge meeting, usually within two or three days, a meeting of the Officers is held which the Secretary attends and probably presents draft Minutes from the Lodge meeting for approval or correction as may be necessary.
He also reports correspondence or other information for the Master etc., and should produce for signing all the formal returns which now have to be sent to Grand Lodge and Provincial Grand Lodge and possibly other Masonic bodies. At the Officers' meeting the future programs of Lodge work is discussed, and decisions taken on the programs for the next Lodge meeting.
If any new candidates are 'in the pipeline' the Secretary must report progress and arrange for further action as decided on; he also reports any new applications for membership, and notes further action to be taken by himself. He must apply for any new Master Mason's Grand Lodge Certificate, and on receipt report same for the Master's attention. He may himself have to keep notes for the production of Minutes of the Officers' meetings, although this is often one of the tasks delegated to his Assistant.
Following the Officers' meeting, the Secretary sends off all necessary correspondence, forms and returns etc., in accordance with decisions taken. He also corresponds with such bodies as the Masonic Hall, Charities, and possible Provincial Committees for various activities. To sum up, he is the Lodge `dogsbody'. After the first meeting his work becomes fairly routine.
At each Lodge meeting he presents the Minutes of the previous meeting which, when approved by the Brethren "in open Lodge assembled", are signed by the Master. He will have sent out Summonses to all Lodge members and to invited guests, and received and recorded their replies. He, his Assistant or the Senior Steward, will order the necessary meals and, as soon as possible after the meeting opens, will check and note attendances.
Correspondence and other notices have to be read, the necessary formalities taken care of when Initiations or other Ceremonies are on the programs, and throughout he must keep careful notes of all proceedings for purposes of compiling the Minutes later. Prior to the next Installation meeting, he is responsible for the due preparation of essential forms which, following the meeting, must go to the various Masonic authorities.
Throughout his year he gives due notice for all meetings and either attends himself or ensures that his Assistant or other qualified Brother attends to keep proper records for him. So it will be appreciated that the Secretary is, or should be, the 'hub' around which much of the Lodge life revolves.
A good Secretary makes everyone else's job easier, and certainly can do more
than anyone else to ensure the smooth and efficient working of the Lodge, for
which the Master will get due credit. It will be seen that an experienced
`permanent' Secretary can only be an advantage from every point of view, but
there is no doubt that a brother serving a year in this office benefits by
learning of the workings of the Lodge and its relation with Grand Lodge and
Provincial Grand Lodge.
His duties are many and interesting. Together with the Senior Warden he plays
a vital part in all ceremonies, and particularly that of Initiation of a new
member when he delivers a most important and interesting `Charge' or exposition
of the basic principles of Freemasonry which, if given with due seriousness,
cannot fail to have a most important effect on the newly made Mason.
He has an enormous amount of ceremonial and ritual to polish off in preparation for Installation at the end of his year, all additional to the routine work of the Lodge. It is now that the years of attendance at Lodge of Instruction and private `swotting' will pay off. A Warden, knowing with confidence that he has the work well learned, will thoroughly enjoy his year and go into the ceremony of taking the Chair of the Lodge, nervous but very happy.
WORSHIPFUL MASTER Obviously the most important single office in the Lodge, and one for which it is hoped the years of preparation will have been well used. In many Provinces, but particularly in Worcestershire, a team of high ranking officers from the Provincial Grand Lodge attend the Installation of each new Master.
It does add greatly to the dignity and impressiveness of the proceedings, specially in those instances where the Lodge is opened in normal manner by the Master and regular Officers, and then the Provincial Team is announced and enters in considerable state to take the principal offices for the period of reading and confirming the Minutes.
This does, however, tend to increase the nervousness of the Master Elect, and it is now that his years of preparation can pay dividends by giving him the confidence to play his part calmly and with dignity. The actual ceremony cannot be described here; brethren below the rank of Installed Master leave the Lodge room, only Past Masters and Provincial Officers remain.
Suffice it to say that it is a most impressive event, specially the so called `extended' ceremony which is used in some but not all Provinces. It is usually conducted by the retiring Master, assisted by Past Masters acting as Wardens etc. During the ceremony the Warrant of the Lodge is entrusted to the safe keeping of the new Master for the ensuing year. After the actual ceremony of Installation is completed, the Lodge is opened again to Master Masons, followed by Fellowcrafts, followed by Entered Apprentices, each having a small ceremony of introduction to the new Master.
The Master now goes on to invest all his officers, who take their rightful
places in the Lodge, so that by the end of this part of the proceedings the new
team is established for the ensuing year. The retiring Master is now the..
He can now relax and watch with enjoyment others doing the work. He remains
in this position for the year, but may be called on to take over the Chair in
the event of the Master being absent for any reason. At the year's end, in those
Lodges where the office is progressive, he moves on to..
He should have the confidence and presence to keep order in the Lodge Room
and at the Festive Board, and on the night of Installation will liaise closely
with the visiting Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies. Like the Secretary,
he is to a great extent a `Jack of all Trades'; the standards of the Lodge will
certainly benefit from and reflect a good DC.
It is obviously important that the Treasurer be a Past Master of considerable
experience, ideally including some accountancy. He is elected by the Lodge, not
appointed by the Master.
His function is the control and distribution of the Lodge charity funds. Freemasonry has many charities, and it is noted for its support, not only of its own Masonic charities, but of many outside deserving causes. Private lodges regularly collect and distribute movies to these, and additionally the Lodge may have its own charity fund intended for the comfort of its own members or their dependants.
The Almoner is responsible for making payments to all of these causes, but it is most important that he should keep aware of the situation within the Lodge's own membership, and in the event of any brother suffering hard financial times, the Almoner should be ready to assist as appropriate. Hence the need for tact.
He may have to approach members at their own homes, discuss their problems and needs, and obviously in order to do this he must have the confidence of the members in his confidentiality. The Charity Steward is the Almoner's counterpart, his function being the collection of charity funds from the brethren. Lodges have charity collections regularly, mostly at the Festive Boards after meetings, or at Ladies Evenings or other social occasions. The Charity Steward usually announces the collection and gives an explanation of the Charity and reasons for selecting it.
Some Charity Stewards are more enterprising than others and regularly organize raffles or similar schemes for getting in funds; but this should not be done to an extent that becomes a nuisance, or imposes undue strain on members' resources. Monies so collected are recorded and passed over to the Almoner (or Treasurer in some lodges) for banking and distribution in due course.
There is no reason at all why the two functions should not be combined, but it is a pleasant idea when the Almoner is a brother of many years' experience and a much younger member, possibly not even a Past Master, is the Charity Steward, working hand in hand with him. Both offices are most rewarding and should be taken at opportunity with enthusiasm. The foregoing covers the principal officers of a lodge.
There are, however, two more; one is essential, the other not so vital but a
great asset to any lodge. The essential office is that of ..
The Tyler controls the preparation of candidates before the various ceremonies of Initiation, Passing and Raising, and at times during these ceremonies. For these reasons it is essential that this office be filled by a Mason of experience; he does not have to be a Past Master, but there is no doubt that it is desirable that he is so.
He also `prepares' the Lodge Room prior to meetings, laying out as required the various officers' regalia and Lodge ornaments etc., ensuring at the time that the Warrant of the Lodge is in the Room (for without it the Lodge cannot proceed with a meeting). He later clears away all this material, seeing that it is safely stored in .the Lodge chest; he checks its condition, reporting undue wear or damage to the Master.
He communicates during meetings with the Inner Guard by a series of special signal knocks on the door of the Lodge. There is normally also a small trap door in the main door through which he can speak to the Inner Guard as necessary. Most Tylers are not actual `members' of the Lodge they serve, being in effect a kind of Masonic `professional', and are paid by the Lodges for their services.
They are also elected by the Lodge, not appointed by the Worshipful Master.
The other important, though not vital, officer is the..
This more or less covers a Mason's normal progress through his lodge. He may, of course, join other lodges, or other Degrees and Orders, and in due time he may be honored with Provincial Grand rank, even Grand rank; but nothing can, nor should, take away any part of his career in his `Mother' Lodge if at all possible. It covers a period of probably twelve or fifteen years at least, years of great interest and pleasure.
In closing this chapter, let me once more stress the importance of a brother joining and religiously attending a Lodge of Instruction and, if available, a Class of Rehearsal. He may read and thoroughly digest the work from his 'little black book' of Ritual, but to get the full `flavour' of the ceremonial he should take the opportunity of rehearsing and actually taking the various offices in practice.
All participation in Masonic ceremonial is pleasurable, but for the thoroughly well prepared and trained officer, it is an experience he is unlikely to forget.
All lodges - Grand, Provincial and private - have a similar structure. Grand Lodge and Provincial Grand Lodge, having administrative responsibility for the thousands of Masons in the private lodges in this country and overseas, require larger organizations, this being reflected in the much greater number of officers.
But, numbers aside, the actual structure of lodges is more or less the same. Every lodge has a ruling Master, supported by his team of officers, some permanent, others moving year by year up the chain of authority. In the case of Grand and Provincial Grand Lodges, the `Master' has the aid of a Deputy Grand Master and one or more Assistant Grand Masters, who between them share the many duties involved in administration of possibly a hundred or more private lodges.
The United Grand Lodge of England is presently ruled by the Most Worshipful Brother H.R.H. the Duke of Kent K.G., and in his case alone. because his royal duties must take precedence over his Masonic affairs, he has a Pro Grand Master who deputizes for him whenever circumstances require it. Unlike the private lodges, these ruling Grand and Provincial Grand Officers used to hold their offices for life or until they retired voluntarily; recently, however, a retiring age of seventy-five has been introduced, although it is not always rigidly enforced.
The normal list of officers in private lodges is as follows, their function being described in the previous chapter:
In the case of Grand Lodge and Provincial Grand Lodge there are other officers, not included in private lodges, needed for other additional and larger ceremonials performed by the ruling bodies.
Some offices are held by several brethren; there may be as many as ten Assistant Directors of Ceremonies, for example, whereas in a private lodge there is unlikely to be more than one in each office other than Steward. Private lodges can, subject to conforming to the Constitutions and Regulations of Grand Lodge, manage their own affairs with little, if any, interference from Masonic authorities.
They are very much closer to their Provincial Grand Lodge in terms of every day administration, usually being on the best of terms and receiving considerable support from the Provincial officers; this is particularly so in the case of the Provincial Grand Secretary who has all the day to day dealings with the lodges.
Mention has been made previously of the fact that in most Provinces a Mason of experience who, having been through the Chair of his lodge, has continued to give his full support to and attendance at lodge affairs, can expect after some years (usually five in Worcestershire) following his year in office as Master to receive `Honors' from the Province in the form of `promotion' to Provincial Grand Rank.
This may be in the form of an actual office for one year, or may be to the rather peculiar position of `Past' Provincial Grand Rank. This somewhat odd system does have the merit of allowing far more worthy brethren to receive Provincial Honors than would be possible if only brethren serving in an actual office could be so honored. Provincial Grand Lodges did not develop through any formal organizing by Grand Lodge; indeed, in the early years there was no such organization.
Bearing in mind the lack of communications in the formative years of the Craft, it is surprising how comparatively quickly it spread and grew. and by the early 1700s it was obvious that some form of local authority was becoming essential if control of Masonic development was to be maintained throughout the country.
Whilst the basic Principles of the Craft were known and respected by lodges everywhere, it was a fact that local variations were creeping into the ceremonies and rituals; there was no `standardized' method of teaching, such as the excellent books of ritual now available. Members visiting other areas and lodges in the country tended to pick up details of procedures which might particularly interest them, and Grand Lodge realized that unless some form of formal administration could be brought about, there was a danger of too many variations becoming regarded as the norm.
Again, however, it was not a case of carefully planned development under control of the London authorities, but more an appreciation of the changing Masonic world which almost willy nilly resulted in changes leading authority. Some of the larger towns were already pressing to be recognized as Masonic centers. Bristol, Bath, Chester, Norwich and others were granted this, until in 1725 brethren in Cheshire became sufficiently strong to apply -demand may not be too strong a word - for recognition of what they described as "The Grand Lodge of Cheshire Province".
Recognition was granted by Grand Lodge in 1727, backdated to 1725 as date of formation. Thus started the three tier system by which lodges in the Provinces were linked to Grand Lodge through Provincial Grand Lodges. Once started, the process developed rapidly, until today the country is divided into 47 Provinces, each having its own Grand Lodge with full ruling administration and operating a system of "Honors" as described. Whilst the Provincial Grand Lodges were developing, no equivalent grew in the London area.
London lodges came directly under the jurisdiction of Grand Lodge, but were not part of it, and members did not receive Grand Rank except, as any other recipient, as reward for long and meritorious service to the Craft. Thus London Masons of private lodges were at a disadvantage in respect to those rewards we are told "sweeten labor", and there is no doubt there were grounds for dissatisfaction. By the early 1900s this had grown to an extent that could no longer be ignored.
The late Right Worshipful Brother Sir Alfred Robbins, an important and very active Grand Officer, took the matter in hand and in 1907, largely as a result of his endeavors, nearly two hundred years after the formation of the first Provincial Grand Lodge, a resolution was passed in Grand Lodge empowering the M.W. the Grand Master to confer upon a certain number of Past Masters of London lodges a distinction equivalent to Provincial or District Grand Rank.
This was confirmed by Grand Lodge in March 1908, the honor to be known by the title of "London Rank"; then, in June 1939, the word "Grand" was added, bringing the title on a level with the Provinces. In 1909 the London Grand Rank Association was formed, and today is a very strong and influential corporate body. London Grand Rank, and the London Grand Rank Association, caters for all lodges within some twenty miles radius of Freemasons Hall. Initially the number of recipients was limited to 150, then in 1911 increased to 250, and finally in 1930 a ruling was made fixing the annual rate to about one in three of London lodges.
The title of "London Grand Rank" is equal in every respect to that of Provincial Grand Rank, and its holders are entitled to the same Craft courtesies. How, then, does it differ? First, the honor is conferred by the M.W. Grand Master himself. Secondly, the rank is the title itself; there are no grades of officers, as in the Provinces, all holders are equal other than by seniority according to their date of individual investitures.
There is a form of further promotion to "Senior" London Grand Rank. When a member's `Honors' become due, the lodge receives notice from Provincial Grand Lodge requesting suggestions for appointments and promotions.
This system, which is not followed by all provinces, has the advantage that the members of the lodge are best qualified to know the most deserving brother at any given time; our Provincial Grand Lodge welcomes this assistance.
It is probable that the majority of lodges in this country meet in premises specially built or adapted for their purpose usually known as Masonic Halls. Some in outlying districts may meet in rooms specially provided in a local hotel, or even in a few instances the local pub, but such are not ideal for reasons of privacy.
A typical Masonic Hall will probably serve several lodges; in large towns this could be as many as 30 to 40. Such Halls usually have two or even three actual Lodge Rooms, or Temples, together with supporting facilities such as cloak rooms and dining rooms with kitchen; the dining room can serve the double purpose of acting as an assembly room for Ladies Evenings and for other social events.
Then there may be a number of smaller rooms for committee meetings or Lodges of Instruction and the like. The most obvious feature of specially built Masonic Halls is the lack of external windows at street level, ensuring the necessary privacy in the Temples.
The Temple is specially designed for the purpose of lodge meetings and ceremonies, and as such is fitted out with suitable special furniture, seating and other features, including the entrance door which, locking from the inside, has a small trapdoor with spy hole, through which the Inner Guard can communicate with the Tyler.
Most features of the Temple - furniture, fittings, etc. - have a form of Masonic symbolism, even to its basic shape, and location relative to the compass. Some fittings and furnishings are permanent, others are removable, being the property of lodges using the Temple. It is usual for the interior and fixtures to be ornamented with Masonic symbols.
Sometimes the banners of the lodges which use the room are hung round the upper walls, making a very colorful and attractive background for the proceedings. Anyone approaching the Temple whilst a meeting is in progress is met by the Tyler who will, if he does not recognize them, require evidence of their right to be there.
They may have to "prove" themselves Masons, and even then the Tyler may call on the lodge Inner Guard to give further "clearance" before allowing the person concerned to have entrance.
When attending formal lodge meetings brethren wear dark clothing; this may be simply a dark gray or black suit with white shirt, black tie, black socks and black shoes, or more formal wear such as morning suit - even in some lodges evening dress - all including white gloves. The regalia worn falls into two categories.
First is the "apron" which every Mason wears. In the case of an Entered Apprentice it is a plain white soft leather apron, usually property of the lodge, as the brother only needs it for the limited period of his being in the First Degree. A Fellow Craft wears a similar white apron, with the addition of two blue rosettes.
And on reaching the Third Degree this becomes a white apron with light blue edging, having three rosettes and silver tassels. This Master Mason's apron is presented to the brother on his being Raised to the Third Degree. Sometimes the lodge presents it, occasionally the brother's proposer or other friend.
It remains his property and is worn until such time as he may be promoted to higher rank. The officers of the lodge usually wear similar Master Masons' aprons, sometimes with the insignia of their office on the apron, a form of a double circle in which is usually the lodge number and name, having the emblem of office central in white or silver. The Master and Past Masters wear similar aprons, but in place of rosettes are three sets of perpendicular lines on horizontal lines.
Provincial and Grand Lodge officers have different aprons again, but this is not information necessary here. In addition to aprons, each officer wears a collar from which is suspended the emblem of his particular office. Collars are of standardized design, but the Master's collar is usually rather different, often being embellished with small plates bearing the names of past holders of the office.
Usually the Master's apron, like his collar, is lodge property, being handed on to his successor in due time. The Master and his two Wardens wear cuffs which also carry insignia of office. The collars of officers of private lodges can only be worn in their own lodge, or if officially representing their lodge as Master or Wardens in Provincial or Grand Lodge meetings. Each officer of the lodge has his particular emblem or jewel of office suspended from his collar.
The so-called jewels are to some extent self-explanatory and are as listed below. However, a Past Master's jewel is rather more intriguing, being the representation of the forty-seventh proposition of Euclid, engraved on silver plate suspended within a square. There are a number of theories, some quite fanciful, why this theorem of Euclid, attributed to Pythagoras, should be the emblem of a Past Master.
The description by Dr James Anderson, who produced the first Constitutions,
is probably as satisfactory as any: "The foundation of all Masonry, sacred,
civil and military". The other officers' jewels are:
One final item, very important, is the lodge "banner" which stands near the Master's place when the lodge is open. It is literally a banner, usually measuring three or four feet wide by five or six feet deep, suspended from a staff by silken cords. The banner carries a design relative to the lodge, woven in silks, and including usually the name, number and date of original formation of the lodge.
Many banners are quite magnificent, with most complex pictorial details including Masonic figuring. When not in use banners are often hung round the walls of the Temple or dining room, making a splendidly colorful backcloth.
In previous chapters we have concentrated on the Three Degrees which are the root of Freemasonry, these being those of Entered Apprentice (1st Degree), Fellowcraft (2nd Degree) and Master Mason (3rd Degree), and every Mason must achieve these if he is to continue and progress in the Craft.
There are other degrees of which membership is not compulsory. It is perhaps unfortunate that because these degrees have higher numbers and we hear of the 7th - 15th - 18th - 29th - 30th - even 33rd degree and members tend to be of mature years Masonically speaking and high rank, the impression exists that they are `higher' degrees; but not so, and we again quote the Declaration made at the Union of the two Grand Lodges that "Pure Ancient Freemasonry consists of Three Degrees and no more", these of course being those already stated, with the added comment "including the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch" known colloquially as `The Chapter'.
With the exception of two of these, namely the Holy Royal Arch and the Mark Degree, all the other degrees, orders and rites, although recognized and respected by the Craft, are quite separate. For convenience of reference we use here the title `Side Degrees'. With regard to the Holy Royal Arch and Mark, they are the largest and most prominent Masonic bodies outside the Craft.
THE ROYAL ARCH has its own complete organization under the "Supreme Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of England", similar in many respects to the Craft by whom it is administered. Its rules and regulations appear under separate heading in the Book of Constitutions, and many rulers in the Craft hold equivalent positions in the Royal Arch.
Its members meet and work in chapters and we find Grand, Provincial and private chapters as with lodges. Every chapter is associated with a Craft lodge from which it takes its name and number, although not every lodge has its chapter. Anyone wishing to join a chapter must be a Master Mason and member of a lodge.
The Supreme Grand Chapter resulted from the Union of the Grand Chapters of the Ancients and Moderns in 1817, following the Union of the Craft Grand Lodges in 1813. The Royal Arch is "the completion of the Third Degree".
THE MARK DEGREE may be regarded as the first completely separate 'side degree', being a distinct relation to the old Craft Masons. Grand Mark Lodge was formed in 1856 and, like the Royal Arch, many rulers in the Craft hold similar positions in the Mark. Allied closely to the Mark, practically an extension of it, yet still a separate `degree' is that of Royal Ark Mariners, all RAM lodges being attached to Mark lodges.
RAM was granted formal recognition in 1871 by setting up of the Grand Master's Royal Ark Council.
So, we leave the subject of the "side degrees" for future study, the subject being worthy of a book to itself, being an interesting and fascinating part of the Masonic story.
However, we cannot leave without mention of one particular `side degree' with the title "The Worshipful Society of Free Masons, Rough Masons, Wallers, Slaters, Paviours, Plaisterers and Bricklayers", which would appear to say it all!
From its earliest times Freemasonry has been subjected to abuse and attack from religious and political groups, governments and individuals; yet our Society is based on the brotherhood of man, respect for all civil and moral laws, tolerance for all religions, faiths and creeds - all irrespective of race, color or nationality.
How or why, therefore, should the Craft draw on to itself such enmity, often amounting to active hatred? It can be attributed largely to complete misunderstanding of the aims and principles of Freemasonry.
For example, our openly declared acceptance of all men without regard to their religious or political beliefs, subject only to belief in a `Supreme Being', is anathema to some of the world's more extreme forms of religions and governments, which regard with suspicion and resentment any beliefs and systems other than their own; some officially condemn our fraternity, forbidding their peoples to have any dealings with or become members of Freemasonry.
Then the ordinary human failings of suspicion, envy, mistrust, etc. have also played a part in anti-Masonry attitudes, and of course the media seeking sensationalism frequently portray Freemasonry as a `secret society' with all that that implies. Additionally there are those who, for various reasons, leave the Craft sometimes bearing us ill-will and spreading false witness.
In more extreme instances claims have been made that Freemasons have penetrated and tried to influence areas of public life such as government departments, councils, police forces, even the judiciary for our own devious end or profit. Unfortunately misinformed people may believe such claims, even though they are unsupported by any proper evidence.
So, what should be our response to such attacks and attitudes? Well, obviously our members should take every opportunity to refute such accusations and by calm, reasoned discussion explain the true situation. When doing this they can refer specifically to some of the more important counteractions which have been very successful; very good examples are:
In response to demands by various groups and individuals that all Freemasons should be obliged by law to declare every detail of their membership of the Craft if employed in such services and professions, and that these various departments should also be obliged to publish details of any staff known to be members, the Government ordered a most searching investigation by the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee into these accusations, with special emphasis regarding the judiciary and police.
The subsequent investigations received every possible co-operation and help from Grand Lodge. A report issued by the Select Committee, whilst couched in typically 'Parliamentary' terms, completely exonerated Freemasonry.
In the course of the investigations the following official bodies and
authorities, without exception or qualification, refuted the accusations made
against the Craft:
For more than two hundred years the Church was probably the strongest of all anti-Masonry forces. In April 1738 Pope Clement XII issued a papal 'bull' condemning Freemasonry in extremely strong terms and forbidding all Catholics throughout the world to have any relationship with or be members of our Order.
The threat of excommunication reinforced his orders, and this and many other similar warnings reached every Catholic community through the bishops and down to the lowliest parish. Even as recently as 1965 Pope Paul offered immediate amnesty to any Catholic who renounced membership of the Craft.
Many eminent individuals worked tirelessly and quietly over the years and, by reasoned pleading and explanations, did eventually convince the Church authorities that Freemasonry, as practiced under the English, Scottish and Irish Constitutions, was in fact Christian in principles and supportive of all true religions.
This was accepted and acknowledged by the Pope who ruled officially that Catholics could in future without risk of punishment be members of Freemasonry under those Constitutions. This ruling was published by declaration by the Catholic bishops during November 1974, yet even now many Catholics and Freemasons seem unaware of this very important reconciliation. Surely this approval by one of the world's greatest and strictest religions should satisfy the most skeptical of our critics.
From time to time Grand Lodge and Provincial Grand Lodge issue notices and letters providing information such as that above, but unfortunately very often the lodges do not give such matters the serious attention they warrant; usually lodge Secretaries say something to the effect that `such and such has been received and is available for brethren to read'. The importance is not stressed nor any follow up made.
If brethren are to be properly equipped to counter accusations against the Craft, it is essential they should be fully aware of such information. It must be properly communicated and it is suggested that the Secretary, or the worshipful Master, make a separate statement in open lodge when such communications are received to ensure brethren do appreciate the importance of the subject matter.
Secretaries could also enclose photocopies with the summonses sent out to all members. Finally and very important, every brother can help to correct misunderstandings and change the attitude of the public at large by personal example through his conduct in day to day life, by always adhering to those basic rules and tenets of the Craft which he so solemnly promised to obey at his initiation.
He should not deny nor hide his membership of Freemasonry, but take to heart and practice the message from the Pro Grand Master, the Rt. Hon. Lord Farnham, which opens the newsletter of 25th March 1997: "Be proud of your membership, be happy to be known as Freemasons, and be prepared to let people know what you stand for".
Readers are referred to Chapter 20 for further information on this subject.
It is known that in certain overseas countries women's organizations, similar in many respects to Freemasonry, have developed, and in some instances the Masonic Constitutions there have recognized this.
However, it is not the case in this country. Certain of these women's institutions have, we understand, appeared in this country but are not recognized by Grand Lodge. Our Rulers have, however, shown sympathy towards them by permitting them use of the many facilities of Masonic Halls - with the exception of the actual Temples - for their social functions, dinners and meetings.
Anyone who appreciates the high moral and spiritual values shown by women can understand the attraction for them of the underlying principles of the Craft. Who knows what the future may hold? Only time will tell.
A candidate for Freemasonry may be assured that he will be entering one of the world's greatest organizations for peace, based as it is on love of all men one for another, on the total equality of men irrespective of race, color or creed, on sincere belief in civil and moral law and abhorrence of war, greed, crime and evil in any form.
We do not deny that Freemasonry has had its share of `bad pennies'; what society of human beings has not? But the fact of them being bad cannot be laid at the door of the Craft, and we can be reasonably certain that they do not last very long.
Only too often men join our fraternity having completely false ideas of what they are entering into; then, when they find that it is not an automatic entry to personal advancement in society, in their work or to easy wealth, they soon become disenchanted and drop out, unfortunately too often bearing a grudge against the Craft.
It is an important purpose of this book to try and ensure that any and every candidate for Freemasonry does have a clear understanding of what he is entering into, what will be expected of him, what commitments he will be called for, what Freemasonry will offer him, and what he should put into our society - not just what he thinks he can get out of it. A candidate may get some satisfaction from the knowledge that many very serious, deep thinking men have gone before him, finding in Freemasonry answers to some of their needs in life, in many instances dedicating their lives to it.
We mention a few, not with intention of `name dropping', but to give some indication of the very wide ranging company he can look forward to joining, at least in spirit. During its history Freemasonry has attracted men from practically every walk of life, men of science, medicine, the arts, political and military callings, literature, the theatre and music, and monarchs of many nations.
We mention but a few, but it would be possible to fill volumes. Kings of Belgium, Denmark, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden have honored Freemasonry and themselves, as have twenty-three princes of our own Royal Family, by joining the Craft since 1737. Eight have served as Grand Master, some having had special influence in the Craft's affairs and history. Prince William Henry, Fifth Duke of Gloucester, initiated February 1766.
Prince Henry Frederick, Duke of Cumberland, initiated February 1767, became Grand Master in 1782. Some controversy accompanied his appointment, resulting in a motion being agreed that a Prince of the Blood Royal occupying the office of Grand Master, should himself have the authority to appoint a peer of the realm as proxy.
The office of `Pro Grand Master' has been occupied since by many famous men, acting for and on behalf of a royal Grand Master in event of his unavoidable absence on royal duties. Prince Edward Augustus, Duke of Kent and father of Queen Victoria, was initiated August 1789 and had a busy Masonic career, serving as a Past Master of the Premier Grand Lodge and Provincial Grand Master for Gibraltar and Andalusia.
In Canada with his regiment he was active in three lodges of the Ancients, became Provincial Grand Master of Upper and Lower Canada under the Ancients' constitution, thus creating the anomaly of a Past Grand Master of the Premier Grand Lodge (the Moderns) becoming Provincial Grand Master of the Ancients Grand Lodge. This was of great advantage later when he was elected Grand Master of the Ancients Grand Lodge in November 1813. He played a leading part in the reconciliation of the two Grand Lodges which led to the formation of United Grand Lodge.
At meeting of the two separate Grand Lodges on 27th December 1813 he proposed that his brother, the Duke of Sussex, then Grand Master of the Moderns, be elected the first Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England. Prince Augustus Frederick, First Duke of Sussex, initiated in 1805. worked tirelessly for reconciliation together with his brother and, as referred to above, was installed Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England on 2nd May 1814. He remained in office for thirty years. Prince Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, was initiated at Stockholm in Sweden in December 1868 by the King of Sweden. On his return to England he was `examined' by the Earl of Zetland and 'accepted' into Grand Lodge.
He became very active, was Master of Royal -alpha Lodge N° 16 in 1871, Founder and First Master of Navy Lodge N° 2612 in 1896, accepted the honor of "Patron of the Order" in Scotland and in Ireland, and was installed Grand Master in 1875, holding that office until his accession in 1901 when he took the title "Protector of the Order". An interesting story concerns a special `Masonic' ring, which was presented to him shortly after he joined the Craft. He never removed it during his lifetime and gave instructions that it was to be buried with him.
A portrait of him wearing it was presented to Grand Lodge, being a copy of the original which hangs in Buckingham Palace and which bears Masonic details. The artist, Fildes, not appreciating their significance, did not show them in the copy, but King George V gave instructions that they were to be added clearly to it.
Prince Albert, Prince of Wales, later King Edward VIII and of course later still Duke of Windsor, was initiated in 1919, became Master of the Household Brigade Lodge N° 2614 and St Mary Magdalen Lodge N° 1532. He rose to Senior Grand Warden and Provincial Grand Master for Surrey in 1924; then, on becoming King in 1936, accepted rank as Past Grand Master. The Duke of York, later King George VI, was initiated into Navy Lodge in December 1919, becoming most active of all royal Masons.
Senior Grand Warden in 1923, Provincial Grand Master for Middlesex in 1924, he joined his father-in-law's lodge, Glamis N° 99 of the Scottish Constitution, in 1936 and in November of that year became Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Scotland. At his accession in December 1936 he resigned, having to cease active participation in Freemasonry, but he did continue his interest in English Grand Lodge, being invested Past Grand Master in 1937, the only King of England to have conducted the affairs of United Grand Lodge. In July 1939 he installed his brother, Prince George Edward, Duke of Kent, as Grand Master, he having been initiated in Navy Lodge in April 1928.
He was tragically killed when serving in the Royal Air Force on active service in 1942. H.R.H. Prince Edward George, Second Duke of Kent, was irritated on 16th December 1963 in Royal Alpha Lodge N° 16, the third `royal' to join that lodge, was appointed Senior Grand Warden in April 1966, and was installed as Grand Master on 27th June 1967, the 250th anniversary of the founding of the first Grand Lodge, and to mark the occasion a gift of £500,000 was made from Grand Charity to surgical research for benefit of all mankind.
In 1992, to mark his twenty-five years as Grand Master and the 275th anniversary of the Premier Grand Lodge in 1717, a great meeting was held attended by over 12,000 brethren at Earls Court, London, which was specially furnished for the occasion.
The inner workings were carried out in a separate room, allowing ladies and gentlemen of the press to attend the main meeting. With the Grand Master presiding, a meeting of Grand Charity was held and a sum of £300,000 was put at the disposal of the Council for making 'minor' grants to a wide range of non-Masonic charities.
Then a special gift of £500,000 was made to the pediatric services for nursing of the Macmillan Cancer Relief Fund. Further large grants were made to other charitable works, including £1,250,000 to `CARE' (Cottage and Rural Enterprises), £500,000 to the Home Farm Trust for the mentally handicapped, £250,000 to the Campbell Village Trust also for the handicapped, and £50,000 to the Elizabeth Fitzroy Homes for the mentally handicapped.
These grants, additional to the more conventional regular grants made by the Craft, gave great pleasure and satisfaction to all throughout Freemasonry. Our present Grand Master has led in the emancipation of the Craft, addressing the public at large through press and TV and correcting many of the classic misconceptions regarding Freemasonry.
He has given guidance to the Craft for `openness' in dealing with the non-Masonic world, including the 'revolutionary' suggestion that, when considered helpful, a Freemason may make the first approach to a potential candidate.
His brother, Prince Michael of Kent, who was initiated in March 1974 and promoted to Senior Grand Warden in April 1979, is Provincial Grand Master for Middlesex in the Craft and Grand Master of Mark Master Masons.
Some of the other countless men of honor who have been members of our Fraternity include: Men of Letters, Musicians, Actors etc.: Alexander Pope, Rudyard Kipling, Robert Burns, James Boswell, Sir Walter Scott, Conan Doyle, Voltaire, Alexander Pushkin, Beethoven, Liszt, Mozart, Johann Christian Bach, Haydn, Sibelius, Souza, Sullivan, Irving Berlin, Lionel Monkton, Sir Henry Irving, Harry Lauder, Sir Donald Wolfitt, Douglas Fairbanks, Peter Sellers, Sir William Gilbert, Samuel Wesley.
Men of Adventure: Cecil Rhodes, Shackleton, Scott of the Antarctic, Amundsen, Admiral Bird, Raffles of Singapore, Lindbergh, Malcolm Campbell, astronauts Le Roy Cooper and John Glenn.
The Military: Napoleon and his great Marshal Ney, their opponent and victor Wellington, Field Marshals Roberts, Kitchener, Sir John French, Earl Haig, Marshal Joffre, Sir Claude Auchinleck, Earl Alexander of Tunis. General Sir Francis Wingate, Generals MacArthur and `Vinegar' Joe Stillwell. Of the Navy: Admiral Sir Stanley Smith, Rear Admiral Lord Charles Beresford, Admiral Jellicoe. For the Royal Air Force: Marshal of the RAF Lord Newall - the list is endless.
Men of Science, Philanthropy, Statesmen: Sir Joseph Banks, Sir Alexander Fleming, Sir Bernard Spilsbury, Dr Barnado, L.S. Amery, Lord Randolph and Sir Winston Churchill, Henry Ford, Edgar Hoover, `Buffalo' Bill Cody, Jack Dempsey.
It would be difficult to find any other fraternity which has attracted such a widely varying membership, all most unlikely to wish to have any possible relationship with a society of `fiddlers', but all believing in a common 'principle'. Surely all cannot be wrong?
The genuine candidate should know that we are rather particular whom we admit into our fraternity. We remember the advice of a famous Freemason: "Be very cautious whom you may recommend as a candidate for initiation; one false step at this point may be fatal.
If you introduce a disputatious person confusion may be produced which may end in dissolution of the lodge. If you have a good lodge, keep it select; great numbers are not always beneficial."
The heading to this chapter is the title chosen by Grand Lodge for what must be one of the most radical changes ever in Masonic policy; one which is likely to have far reaching effects on the future of the Craft. We have to accept the unpleasant fact, made increasingly obvious through the media, that the British public at large has an erroneous perception of Freemasonry.
This has been influenced by the unprovoked attacks of antagonistic individuals and groups, whose derogatory comments are often of a political nature and unsupported by facts. Several years ago Grand Lodge, well aware of and concerned with the growing antipathy towards Freemasonry, instigated long and searching enquiries to ascertain the cause of the misconceptions.
They sought advice from legal and public relations experts, and their conclusion was that the main problem lay in three areas, these being the perception that..
a). Freemasonry is a secret society whose members are obligated to the Craft
to the exclusion and detriment of others and society generally,
During this period Grand Lodge adopted an official policy which encouraged such attitudes by refusing to deal with the media or any other authorities.
It is little wonder that in these circumstances ignorance on the part of the public and media grew into suspicion that Freemasonry was all that they feared - suspicions which Grand Lodge did little to dispel. So for practically two generations brethren grew up in this atmosphere.
An old cliché goes: "It takes thirty years to build up a reputation, five minutes to destroy it, and fifty years to rebuild it". That is the situation we now have to face. Accepting that there is no `magic wand' to wave and dispel these serious misconceptions overnight, Grand Lodge decided that only a long, persistent policy of openness, a steady drip, drip, drip of truthful information and real facts, given freely and frankly with enthusiasm whenever opportunities occurred by knowledgeable and confident Freemasons, could ensure a reversal of the public's perceptions.
In 1984 Grand Lodge, led by the Most Worshipful the Grand Master, arranged a series of meetings in order to ensure that the new policy should be explained and the Craft consulted. An information committee was set up, official spokesmen were appointed (the Grand Secretary and the Curator of the Grand Lodge Library and Museum) to meet with journalists and representatives of other areas of the media and to speak on behalf of Grand Lodge.
To give some idea of the enthusiasm with which these hard working brethren set about their task, it is understood that the Grand Secretary has given over 180 radio interviews and over 50 TV appearances, and the Librarian over 140 radio interviews and 30 TV appearances. Within the Order meetings have been held; for example, in May 1997 a seminar at Freemasons' Hall was attended by representatives of the Provinces and including many Provincial Grand Masters, to ensure that the new policy should be clearly understood and communicated to lodges in all areas.
Grand Lodge has sponsored videos and leaflets explaining the Craft, experienced lecturers on Freemasonry, over 200 letters produced - all aiming to answer the many misconceptions held by the public. So you can see that at higher levels much has already been started and is having effect. However, much more remains to be done and this is where we, the rank and file of the Craft, can - indeed must - play our part.
Our detractors, though vociferous, are few in number. Remember that there are over 350,000 Freemasons at ground root level; all talking with enthusiasm and love on behalf of Freemasonry. This puts a different perspective on the situation. Every brother, no matter how junior, must equip himself so as to be able to talk openly, frankly and with confidence on all aspects of Freemasonry.
This little book gives you an indication of how much can be told or explained without compromising the relatively few areas of confidentiality in our various ceremonies. We should welcome opportunities to explain facts, answer questions and correct the misconceptions for our friends, colleagues in business, and our families; in fact, for anyone interested. We should not answer genuine enquiries in a negative way by saying, "I cannot tell you that, it is secret".
If you do not know the answer, say so but promise to find out and inform your questioner later, and then do so. An open and honest answer will elicit a positive response. I have written `talk with confidence'. In order to do so brethren must themselves be sure of their facts and knowledge of Freemasonry, and for this Masters of lodges must take responsibility.
On numerous occasions at Installation meetings and at other ceremonies Masters are told, or reminded, that their duties include the `instruction and guidance' of their brethren. How many actually do so? Many appear to think that, by performing the openings and closings and other ceremonies efficiently, they meet their obligations, but it is simply not enough.
The new policy of openness requires that ALL brethren should be equipped to talk and to explain our principles and aims to the public at large. Masters have a responsibility to ensure that all necessary facilities are provided to assist their brethren. Regular Lodges of Instruction can be used, special lectures can be arranged, and Provincial Grand Lodge will gladly help in this. Every Lodge should consider appointing their own `Information Officer', an experienced Past Master, perhaps retired and with time to give to researching the subject and able to instruct all members as and when required.
We will find meetings being arranged, seminars, open days, etc. held, all organized by Provincial Grand Lodge, and must give our full support by our attendance. Lodges can also arrange their own opportunities to open up our society. For example, Lodges could set aside one regular meeting per session as an occasion to invite the friends and families of brethren to accompany them to the Hall, be accommodated in the dining room, whilst the Lodge is opened and closed with the minimum of business, then join their guests, still in regalia, and invite them to the Temple and briefly explain our principles and symbolism, encouraging questions and interest before proceeding to the Festive Board and usual after proceedings.
In this case costs would be limited simply to the meal, but an excellent opportunity given for friends to experience Freemasonry `off duty', so to speak. It could well result in enquiries regarding membership. From time to time newsletters and similar papers are issued from Grand Lodge and Provincial Grand Lodge, providing important information on relevant subjects. It is essential that such are given full prominence. Frequently the lodge secretary simply refers to their receipt with the comment "available for brethren to read".
The excellent and very informative paper by W. Bro. N. Sebright of 4th September 1997 is a very good example; in my opinion such papers should be read fully in `open lodge' by the secretary, master or, if appointed, the `Information Officer'.
It really is essential that the new policy of openness be fully supported by us. Whilst this chapter was not, or is not, primarily the purpose of this little book, it is an essential part of it, not simply for the non-Mason or newly entered brother, but for all, including the most senior members.
I hope that what is written in the book may be of interest and help for anyone seriously interested in our fraternity as well as for the junior brethren.
SO MOTE IT BE
To translate this page to any language, click below and go to the bottom of the page
[What is Freemasonry] [Leadership
Development] [Education] [Masonic
This site is not an official site of any recognized Masonic body in the United
States or elsewhere.