The Rev Neville Barker Cryer points out that history often excludes the influence of Freemasonry
In my Volume of the Sacred Law there is a saying of which I have been recently reminded by events: a well-known teacher is explaining to his followers that if they are people of integrity then they should be a light to the world and not hide their light under a cover. There were two things that happened to me lately that made me think more carefully about that.
There was a time in the past when I was so busy with my ‘daily avocation’ and my many involvements in Freemasonry that brethren would ask me, ‘How did you have any time to have five children?’ I appreciate why they asked because it must have seemed that my engagements prevented my doing any of the things that most normal beings get involved in. In the light of my present writing, reading and speaking activities it may seem surprising that I can sit down long enough to watch television programmes, but I do.
The other evening I found myself fascinated by a programme about the life of Frederick the Great of Prussia. Having had to withdraw from a planned tour of East Germany because of health reasons three years ago, it was rewarding to see inside his palaces, to learn about his musical accomplishments, his well-known army reforms and his friendship with such Enlightenment figures as Voltaire.
The programme sought to give a comprehensive view of the king’s interests and I was waiting for some recognition of the king’s close involvement with Freemasonry, an activity which he shared with his French guest. There was not a whisper of that and yet if you are going to applaud the Enlightenment views of Frederick the Great, then an involvement with Freemasonry at that time was no small part of that interest. It was not him, but the makers of the programme, who were hiding his light under a bushel.
I thought the same was true when I later watched the film, ‘The King’s Speech’. Learning how it had been the presence of either critics or people who were unknown to him that brought on his speech impediment, what, I wondered, would have been His Majesty’s state of mind when he was in his lodge or addressing those in Grand Lodge? Would he then have been much less anxious when he was among friends? Of course, we were not given the chance to know for his light in this brotherhood was hidden from view. I wonder if there is a mason still alive who could tell us about that?
What, at least, I am trying to say on this occasion is that whilst in some respects we masons may need to be modest about our activities, there are also times when perhaps our contribution both in the past and the present ought not to be so hidden. Our contribution to society’s well-being ought to be noted.
On the other hand perhaps our past inclination to keep our presence under wraps has been the case for far too long and has spread too widely. I heard only the other day that an assistant provincial ruler was due to visit lodge premises in a town with which he was unfamiliar. Not knowing where exactly to go, he parked his car in the main street and approached a group of young men who were chatting nearby.
‘Excuse me’, he said. ‘Do you know where the local Masonic Hall is?’ ‘Yes,’ said one of the young men, ‘I do’. ‘Then could you kindly show me the way?’ said the visitor. ‘I can’t’, said the young man, ‘it’s a secret.’
Even if these words were meant to be a subtle hint of mockery we still have a lot of our past imagery to live down or we have hidden away our light for far too long.