Andrew Montgomery Looks at the Need for this New Office 

Those of us who study the Communications of the Grand Lodge may have noticed that, from last September, we have had a new Grand Chancellor – new in every sense, for Alan Englefield is the first man to hold that office. We may wonder why another Senior Grand Officer is required, the Craft has managed to get by without a Grand Chancellor for over two hundred and fifty years, so why do we need one now? Given that the title of Chancellor is difficult to pin down: it can refer to the German Head of State, the Finance Minister of the United Kingdom or the honorary head of a university, Grand Chancellor sounds suspiciously like another example of ‘Jobs For The Boys.’ It isn’t.

How many Freemasons does it take to change a lightbulb? Change!? Things have changed and they’ve changed for the better. It is good to be able to report that, globally, Freemasonry is on the rise! 
For two centuries, the business of managing Grand Lodge’s relations with her sister Grand Lodges was overseen by a triumvirate that comprised the Grand Secretary, the Board of General Purposes and the Grand Master’s advisers. Up until the Great War, “external relations” were handled in a gentle and gentlemanly manner. Emergencies, such as the defection of the Grand Orient of France, in 1876, were few and far between. It was largely a case of deciding on the regularity of new Grand Lodges, and until the drastic redrawing of the map of Europe following the collapse of the old empires after 1918, there weren’t very many new Grand Lodges to worry about. 
After the Second World War there was another period of creative cartography. The suppression of Freemasonry in what was now the “Eastern Bloc” led to masonic activity going underground – though the light was never extinguished – and an increase in bodies styling themselves “masonic” though wholly irregular by the standards of the United Grand Lodge of England. The infamous Italian ‘P2’ affair is an example that many of us will recall with a shudder. 

The Increase in Grand Lodges

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, masonic lodges that had met in secret reemerged and dormant Grand Lodges were re-established. In 1989, Grand Lodge recognised seventeen regular Grand Lodges in Europe; today thirty-six are recognised and one is under consideration. 
The total number of overseas Grand Lodges recognised by the United Grand Lodge of England is now a hundred and sixty-seven, in seventy-five countries This statistic, which at first appears a paradox, is explained by the fact that the States of America have individual Grand Lodges. 
There are also Lodges overseas, which remain part of the United Grand Lodge of England, are governed directly from London, and remain under the jurisdiction of the Grand Secretary. It is obvious that External Relations – dealing with Grand Lodges recognised by Grand Lodge but working under Constitutions other than our own – now require a full time office and a dedicated officer. 

Our First Grand Chancellor

Alan Englefield may accurately be described as a dedicated officer. Born in 1940, he was educated at Thame Grammar School, under the headmastership of Hugh Mullins who later became headmaster of the Royal Masonic School at Bushey. Though never a Freemason himself, he was clearly sympathetic to the values that the Craft seeks to inculcate. He was far more concerned with a boy’s ability to behave like a young gentleman than in his academic ability or his prowess on the sports field. He was, in every sense, of the Old School. The Grand Chancellor will not, I am sure, mind being similarly described. 
Alan’s career in the Police Force, in his native Oxfordshire, spanned thirty two years. He was 35 and already a Police Inspector when, on a Police College scholarship, he won a place at Worcester College, Oxford to read Law. 
The college council, in that inimitably indirect, Senior Common Room way, expressed its concern that the policeman in their midst, should he detect the scent of some particularly exotic cheroot at a party on college premises, might see fit to report the matter to his law-enforcement superiors. 
Their fears were quickly put aside. Alan Englefield assured them that, in his view, the maintenance of college discipline was a matter for the college authorities. This little anecdote reveals an important facet of the Grand Chancellor’s character; one vital in the holder of that office. He is not a man given to interfering in areas that are not his direct concern! 
He was initiated into Icknield Way Lodge, No. 8292, in the Province of Oxfordshire, in 1971. He is also a member of the Apollo University Lodge (Oxford), No. 357. On the completion of his Constabulary duties, he worked for nine years for the Ministry of Defence. 
Alan was Provincial Grand Secretary for Oxfordshire from 1988 to 1993. From 1997 to 1998 he was Assistant Provincial Grand Master but left that post on being appointed Grand Secretary General of the Supreme Council - the governing body of the Ancient and Accepted Rite for England and Wales and its Districts and Chapters Overseas - which rules Chapters Rose Croix. Between 2002 and 2007 he was Provincial Grand Master and Grand Superintendent for Oxfordshire, and in 2007 he was appointed Grand Chancellor. 

Representing the Craft

As Grand Chancellor, one of his duties is assist the Grand Master and the Rulers of the Craft in representing Grand Lodge on formal visits to recognised Grand Lodges overseas and at international gatherings of regular masonic bodies. 
It is abundantly clear, taking into account the proliferation of new Grand Lodges and the great number of long-established ones already detailed, that the role of maintaining close, fraternal relationships is one of vital importance, but Brother, formerly Inspector, Englefield is all-too-well aware that the purpose of the Grand Chancellor’s Office is not to act as a form of Masonic Interpol 
Despite that fact that United Grand Lodge of England is the world’s premier Grand Lodge, it is not in a position to ‘lay down the law’ to others, nor does it seek so to do, for that is the route to resentment, schism and ruin. Grand Lodge, via the Grand Chancellor’s Office, can offer support and guidance based on centuries of experience, but it is determined ever to recognise the distinction between advising and interfering. 
All Grand Lodges, like College Councils, are sovereign bodies and do not take kindly to outsiders - even when they’re insiders - meddling in their internal affairs. 
The Grand Chancellor is a not a full time employee, though one imagines that his spare time must be in rather short supply. He is chairman of the External Relations Committee; to keep the Rulers, the Grand Master’s Advisers and the Board of General Purposes up to date on dealing with recognised Grand Lodges there is much correspondence to be dealt with! He works in close collaboration with John Hamill, Grand Lodge’s Director of Communications, and with Peter Roberts, External Relations Adviser. 
He is responsible for ensuring that Grand Lodge’s policy concerning External Relations is properly adhered to whilst encouraging the exchange of information and views from across the world, thus drawing the masonic family ever closer together.

Published in International
Monday, 02 February 2009 10:26

Shakespeare and Freemasonry

In July 1929, Lord Ampthill, Pro Grand Master of UGLE, accompanied by 600 masons in full regalia, laid the foundationstone of Stratford's Shakespeare Memorial Theatre. United Grand Lodge of England perceived a link between the craft and the bard. Why?

"For charity itself fulfills the law, and who can sever love from charity?" (Love's Labour's Lost, IV.iii). This speech expresses the essence of a Freemason's purpose: to be a builder of love. Shakespeare was an ethical teacher. Could he also have been a mason?

Look at the Dedication in the first Shakespeare Folio, addressed "To the Most Noble and Incomparable Pair of Brethren, William, Earle of Pembroke... and Philip, Earle of Montgomery..." - not the normal way to address noblemen. The Dedication describes Shakespeare as "so worthy a Friend and Fellow", while "the most, though meanest, of things are made more precious, when they are dedicated to Temples." Masonic-style inferences are numerous in the plays, some obvious, others subtle. In Henry V (I.i), we hear of "the singing masons building roofs of gold.", while Love's Labour's Lost (I.ii) mentions a lodge and, possibly, a disguised password: 

I will visit thee at the lodge.
That's hereby.
I know where it is situate.
How wise you are...
Come Jaquenetta.

Coriolanus (IV,vi) refers to 'apron men' ("You have made good work, you and your apron men"), the meaning of the lambskin apron being touched upon in Measure for Measure (III.i) in the satirical jest: "And furred with fox on lambskins too, to signify that craft, being richer than innocency, stands for the facing."

The opening lines of Julius Caesar may be understood as a cryptic description of the difference between an operative mason ('carpenter') and an accepted Freemason. :

Speak, what trade art thou?
Why, sir, a carpenter.
Where is thy leather apron, and thy rule?

Why dost thou with thy best apparel on?

You, sir, what trade are you?
Truly, sir, in respect of a fine workman, I am but, as you would say, a cobbler.
But what trade art thou? Answer me directly.
A trade, sir, that I hope I may use with a safe conscience; which is, indeed, sir, a mender of bad soules.

In Henry VI, Part 2 (II.iii), death is touchingly embraced by Peter ('an armourer's man') : "Here, Robin, and if I die, I give thee my apron; and Will, thou shalt have my hammer: and here, Tom, take all the money I have". Having won through and "prevailed in right", the King declares that "God in justice hath revealed the truth and innocence of this poor fellow."

The Tyler used to draw the symbolic teaching of the degree on the floor before the candidate's entrance. Gonzalo, in The Tempest (, may refer to this and the masonic pillars: "For it is you that hath chalk'd forth the way which brought us hither... 0, rejoice beyond a common joy! and set it down with gold on lasting Pillars." The chief character of The Tempest is of course Prospero, an initiatic name for one who gives joy and prosperity by enabling others to prosper: the mark of a true master mason. He describes himself as "Prospero, Master of a full poor cell... Thy no greater Father"; and as "Prospero the prime, reputed in dignity and for the Liberal Arts without a parallel... having both the key of officer and office... all dedicated to closeness." A fitting ending might be to refer to the mystery of the password. Look at Love's Labour's Lost (V,iii) : 

One word in secret.
Will you vouchsafe with me to change a word?
Name it...
You have a double tongue within your mask, And would afford my speechless visor half... Let's part the word.
No! I'll not be your half...
One word in private with you ere I die.
Bleat softly then; the butcher hears you cry.
The tongues of mocking wenches are as keen

As the razor's edge invisible,

Cutting a smaller hair than may be seen;

Above the sense of sense: so sensible

Seemeth their conference...
Not one word more... Break off... Break off...

In this mocking dialogue, the word is provided crytically through the use of a Capital Letter Code, beginning with the key One word, and continuing with the reference to the Bleat of the sacrificial Lamb or Word of God. Furthermore, The Word is divided by CAT, descriptive of the Mocking Wench in the text, and a creature associated with the Moon, the celestial sign associated with this Word and Pillar of Freemasonry. Here, the word is not only 'parted' but 'halved and lettered', with Shakespeare appearing to show his mastery of its meaning and usage. Was he a mason? 

Peter Dawkins MA (Cantab) is the Director of the Francis Bacon Research Trust

Published in Features
Saturday, 19 April 2008 16:21

The President's Conundrum

The Royal Arch - An Order or a Degree?

One of the problems in uniting the Premier Grand Lodge, sometimes referred to as the Moderns, and the Antients Grand Lodge, was how each Grand Lodge regarded the Royal Arch. The Premier Grand Lodge did not recognise it, while the Antients Grand Lodge embraced it wholeheartedly and worked it as a Fourth Degree in their Craft lodges. A compromise was found that placated both Grand Lodges. The Royal Arch was accepted as being part of pure Ancient Masonry but had to be worked in separate Chapters and no longer within Craft lodges. A pronouncement was made in the Act of Union of 1813, that pure Ancient Masonry consists of three degrees and no more, namely those of the Entered Apprentice, the Fellow Craft, and the Master Mason, including the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch.

Published in SGC
Saturday, 19 April 2008 16:06

Masonic Harmony

A Reflection By David Hughes

Looking back over the last thirty-one years of my masonic career I have realised that my early years in the lodge gave me a sanctuary, an oasis of peace and tranquillity from the busy and hectic life as a construction director of a national company.

Published in Features
Saturday, 19 April 2008 15:34

Who Cares?

What the Lodge Almoner Does: Gerald Middleton Explains

The office of Lodge Almoner is completely different from any other office within the lodge. His duty is to look after the welfare of the members and their wives or partners during times of distress which can arrive in any shape or form. And he must also be able to lend a sympathetic ear as those in trouble may have difficulty discussing it with another. His low-profile report in the lodge during the meeting is often the only glimpse lodge members get into his world. 

I should like to give you some insight into the world of Lodge Almoners, the reports I will give are all cases I have dealt with. Not all Almoners will have experienced this workload but some might have had much more. 
I first accepted the Office of Lodge Almoner about five years ago and during this time I have enjoyed the work and found it very rewarding with the normal routine of sending cards, flowers, paying visits to Brethren recovering from accidents, operations or suffering bereavements. But mixed in with these are the private conversations regarding the problems faced by Brethren, problems which range over every facet of life: perhaps his wife or partner is ill, or his house is too large with an overgrown garden and the need is for a Home. Or perhaps the lodge member is lonely without his family, having trouble with wills, or unemployed or relocating jobs. 
These are just some examples of the private chats, sometimes at the lodge, or at home, or on the telephone at any time of the day or any day of the year. 

Life can turn upside down in no time at all

One lodge brother had cancer which was in its early stages. We had a conversation at the lodge and then, his condition deteriorating, he could no longer attend meetings so I would visit him at home. After a while he had to give up his car but he could not walk very far and was distressed at not being able to get about. With the help of the Dorset Provincial Care Fund, a motorized chair was purchased to the Brother’s great delight. However, he managed to use it for only a short time. My reward was to see his happiness even for that brief period. His cancer reached the stage when admission into a Macmillan Hospital was necessary. I visited him there regularly and he enjoyed a different face and conversation. He died peacefully with his family around him. 
A widow of a former lodge member was lonely. She was living a block of flats in a wonderful location but she had not met anyone. I contacted the Masonic Care Home to enquire about vacant rooms. The staff there were wonderful and helpful; we arranged a visit to this home for the widow and had a tour of the facilities with the manageress. The widow liked it very much and is now a resident, enjoying her life and company. This was a very rewarding conclusion both for her and for me. 

A lodge member had breathing problems: we had many private talks but eventually he had problems coming to lodge meetings as he could not walk very far any more. We purchased a lightweight wheel chair through Dorset Provincial Care Funds. This enabled his wife to drive him about on visits. Eventually his condition worsened and he could not go out as he was dependent upon oxygen day and night. I visited him regularly and for Christmas – which was his last – I made up a hamper of his and his wife’s favourite things. My reward was to see the tears in their eyes when they received it. 
The last case is sad and a reminder that life can turn upside down in no time at all. A young Freemason with a family, selfemployed, with financial commitments, was hurt when walking on uneven ground one weekend and unable to walk. Suddenly he had no income and he started paying his commitment from his savings. I contacted him, discussed his situation and then got in touch with Dorset Provincial Masonic Care and the Masonic Samaritan Fund. 

With the wonderful help from these two funds we could give him some immediate financial help locally and arranged for the necessary operation for his injury. We also made an application to the Grand Charity for financial help. 
However, being unable to work during a long recovery process together with his financial problems caused him to become very depressed. I spoke to him on a regular basis but the last time I did so he was in utter despair. The next message I received was to inform me of his death. 
I assisted his wife with the funeral arrangements and since then have helped in any way possible. The Grand Charity has given assistance and now the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys have supported his daughter at University. At present she is doing very well and taking exams. 
This is just a short insight into the office of a Lodge Almoner. Nobody in the lodge knows what you do, only those concerned and your Provincial Almoner. 

And even he does not know everything that passes between you and those you are helping. So do not take this office with promotion in mind. Also, do not take on this office if you are a person who absorbs other people’s problems. You must be able to stand back while at the same time retaining a sensitivity to the situation. 

But do accept this office if you are able, for your rewards will be great, in particular knowing that you can help people in a direct way, and this brings great satisfaction. 

Gerald Middleton is Lodge Almoner for Northbourne Lodge No. 6827 and Fraternal Lodge of Dorset No. 9649. His wife is also a Freemason. 

You can contact Freemasonry Cares to discuss how they can help:

  • By Freephone: 0800 035 6090
  • By email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Via the web:
  • By mail: Freemasonry Cares, 60 Great Queen Street, London, WC2B 5AZ
Published in Freemasonry Cares
Saturday, 19 April 2008 15:08

Working With The Centre

What is a centre?’ The centre of what you may ask? Let me explain, the centre is ‘a point within a circle from which every part of the circumference is equidistant.’

When I first heard this explanation in the ritual I thought it curiously selfevident, there was more to it and I began thinking, ‘what and where is this centre?’

Before I joined Freemasonry I was teaching and practicing the martial art Aikido. In this you are taught to work from your centre which is defined as a point around two inches below your navel, depending on your stature. By working from your centre you can achieve balance and a connection to the universal energy we called Chi. After I joined the Craft I began to look at the similarities in the teachings of masonry and Aikido as I began to notice that the philosophy overlapped in many areas.

Freemasonry teaches Brotherly Love and the beauty of compassion, and that the way we think and act can bring great benefits, not only to oneself, but also to the world we live in. Within Freemasonry we have members who act as mentors to help candidates to understand the workings of masonry and to feel at ease within the lodge. In Aikido, as in masonry, each person is a mentor and you are taught to look after each new pupil. In fact, you can learn a lot from helping the beginner, you learn about looking after someone and developing their abilities.

Freemasonry is steeped in tradition and within that tradition the development of your inner being - the hidden mysteries of Nature and Science - through reflection upon yourself is one of the basic teachings; again we find the same philosophy taught by Aikido.

Freemasonry is a journey we take with each other, the office we fill within the lodge being a step on the ladder of knowledge. When you focus your mind on the ritual it energizes and relaxes the mind by taking you away from your daily thoughts and concerns. Remember to watch and listen closely to the lodge workings for there is such a lot to gain from the knowledge they contain. This again brings my mind back to my martial arts training - to look and listen to what is going on around me and to go freely in harmony with the universal energy, Chi.

Within masonry we are encouraged to steadily persevere in the study of the Liberal Arts with the aim of polishing the mind.

Furthermore, the ceremonies themselves demand our serious concentration. This focused struggle is the same as learning a technique in the dojo - the martial arts training hall. In truth, anything which takes effort to accomplish reaps many rewards, we only have to look at the Olympics to appreciate what effort and concentration can achieve.

I look at Freemasonry as a journey for knowledge, one which is never ending.

Masonry is a meeting of like minded people who enjoy life and embrace all people, no matter what their culture, colour, politics or faith, and this is something very special in this mixed up world of ours. Anyone who practices a martial art will tell you that everyone is accepted within the dojo. A few years ago I was invited to the World Martial Arts Congress in Pittsburgh in the United States where the diversity of peoples reminded me of a Grand Lodge meeting with many present from around the world, all enjoying each others company without any animosity or resentment.

People are so often pessimistic: when I tell others that I am a Freemason and very proud of the fact, most soon voice the criticism, ‘But that’s a secret society.’ My reply is, ‘We are a society with secrets, not a secret society’ and this, together with my enthusiasm towards masonry, soon shows them the light. Abig help to me in this is to tell them that I practice and teach Aikido and to explain that all martial arts have secrets, those which are passed on to students who reach a level of expertise in order to allow them to understand the meaning of what they are being taught.

So people ask me, ‘Are you saying then that a martial art is a secret society?’ This sudden insight focuses their minds and they start to think more deeply about what I am saying. Or is it perhaps the fear of upsetting a martial artist which is the important factor? Who can tell? The truth is that I will use all methods at my disposal to defend masonry.

I look at Freemasonry as a journey for knowledge, one which is never ending, and which, along with my continual Aikido training, is constantly developing. I feel lucky to have come to both these disciplines in the development of both my mind and my body and, as a result, to have gained insight into the great centre of life. 

Stewart Hardacre is a sports psychologist and teacher of Aikido martial arts. He is a Past Master of the Acorn and Rose Lodge, No. 5677, Manchester and of United Companions Lodge No. 6895.

Published in Features
Saturday, 19 April 2008 14:36

Our Future's Debt to the Past

The Grand Secretary, Robert Morrow, talks to Julian Rees

When you enter the office of the Grand Secretary of the United Grand Lodge of England, you feel the palpable weight of the history of Freemasonry over nearly three hundred years, and the way in which Grand Secretaries have influenced affairs in that time. 
Yet Robert Morrow, in the first few words we exchanged, proved himself to be the most approachable of Grand Secretaries. ‘Where does that easy contact with people stem from?’ I asked.

‘My background was in senior management in banking, a sphere where you learn to see the good in everyone, and to reciprocate their goodwill.’ But then he added an interesting insight into his own thinking. ‘My training at Oxford University, reading latin, greek and ancient history, and therefore my exposure to ancient texts, gave me perhaps an insight into the way the human mind works. Particularly when you read Aristotle, whose Ethics describes the different kinds of person, which gives you the beginnings of an understanding of the human mind.’

Not long after leaving Oxford he went into banking, but not before he had started on his masonic journey. ‘I never knew a time when I wasn’t going to be a Freemason. On the evening of my twenty-first birthday I went across the road and asked my father’s best friend if he would propose me into Freemasonry.’

Robert comes from an impressive masonic pedigree; there are Freemasons on his father’s side going back at least six generations.

‘What was it that you found in Freemasonry?’ I asked.

‘Two things I think. First, it was a whole new cycle of things that one could get involved in and learn about. It wasn’t long before I discovered Quatuor Coronati and started learning. It was a rich seam to mine, and it is a seam I am still mining. I do not believe you can ever get to the end of the journey, and that is what is so wonderful about it. The second thing I think was the social aspect. There I was, twenty-one years old, and the way the lodge took me to its heart and looked after me was the beginning of a very special relationship. I didn’t know what to expect. I spent the first days wondering what was going on.

‘I often say to initiates, if we have done our job properly tonight, you should by now be thoroughly confused, but please don’t worry. The next time you watch a first degree being conferred on a candidate, take part in his ceremony, and think back to when it was being conferred on you. That is something I still do, even after all these years.’ Did he feel that society might be too bound up in materialistic pursuits, and that Freemasonry might be an effective antidote? ‘The answer to that has to be a simple yes. The ‘me-now’ generation is the most avaricious grasper of satisfaction over a feeling that some things are better enjoyed by waiting for them. Freemasonry can be an antidote to this but only, surely, for those who are so inclined.’ 

‘How would you describe the function of the Grand Secretary?’ ‘Well, he is effectively the Chief Executive of the United Grand Lodge of England. Like any big organisation there has to be somebody who has got day-to-day hands-on responsibility for running it.

As in running any organisation, it would not be possible without the assistance of others, and I am extra lucky to have a team of dedicated people who are absolutely top-flight.’ What about his relationship with the other Rulers? ‘When I give talks to lodges from time to time, I often start with an overview of the hierarchy – what the Rulers do, what the Board of General Purposes does, the Grand Master’s Council and so on, and I say that I am the servant of many masters. A Grand Secretary ought to have in his makeup some view of the future, where he thinks Freemasonry ought to go and how to get it there’.

He explained that the vision of Freemasonry, the richness of what Freemasonry can be in the future, is ‘very much the province of the Pro Grand Master, and without his will in driving forward change in Freemasonry, it would be enormously difficult to have confidence that Freemasonry as we know it is going to survive for another three hundred years. Society has changed more in thirty years than in three hundred, more in three years than in thirty. We have to accept that if society is changing at that rate, Freemasonry must change with it, must adapt, otherwise it will become a dinosaur, and we all know what happened to the dinosaurs. But I don’t want to see Freemasonry changing at a very high speed or changing its essential nature. I don’t want to see it changing its reliance on its past. Change for its own sake is inefficient and ultimately doomed to failure.’

‘Tell me about the relationship of Grand Lodge with foreign jurisdictions,’ I asked. ‘I regard our relationship with other recognised Grand Lodges to be a very important part of my job,’ he said.

‘This area is my own specific responsibility. I think I have been able to build on what my predecessor, Jim Daniel, did. There is a very large masonic family out there, and it is nice to know that we are respected by other Grand Lodges. But we do not have any power outside our own jurisdiction. We are the biggest, and we have acquired a certain “mossy” sense of seniority.’ Is the United Grand Lodge of England in some way a sort of reference point? ‘Without question. I get a huge number of enquiries and requests from other Grand Lodges, ranging from points of protocol to advice on disciplinary issues. But we are not the world’s masonic policemen, nor a masonic mediator. If we can help, it’s important that we do so, but only if we’re asked to do so.’

What did he think about the different roles of national masonic publications?

‘When we started MQ, it was as a vehicle for disseminating Grand Lodge and Grand Chapter news. At the beginning, it had perhaps too much lifestyle content. We have changed that in line with feedback we had. Freemasonry Today too has changed since its launch, and you now have what I consider a very successful magazine. You can cover aspects of Freemasonry that MQ can’t, and I find it fascinating. You have some superb writers, you pick on topics of unusual interest, and you do write on esoteric and symbolic aspects in a way that focuses on specialised masonic interests. Your contributors tend to be more independent of the hierarchy, and that is immensely valuable.’

I asked him to tell me about the present health of Freemasonry. ‘I think we can begin to be quietly confident of the future. It is early days, but we are beginning to see signs of improvement. After the second world war there was a gigantic increase in membership, and of new lodges. With hindsight I suppose we can say it wasn’t the best answer, since membership was never going to be sustainable at that level. I believe that as men came back from the war, they had formed a special bond and they found in Freemasonry a way of continuing that.

‘Kipling said “All ritual is fortifying. Ritual’s a necessity for mankind. The more things are upset, the more they fly to it”. Thank God we haven’t had a major war for sixty years, but that means that continuing source of bonding has fallen away. And the simple fact is that we have too many lodges. We must accept the fact that lodges have to close, there is going to have to be amalgamation and so forth, and we are beginning to see some encouraging trends. It is still very early days, and in some parts of the country numbers are still going down, but in other parts there are encouraging signs of an increase in membership.

‘The policy of engaging in the community again is beginning to pay dividends. The “Freemasonry in the Community Week” was a huge success. The local press gave us good coverage, but I think the national press focuses too much on bad news, not good.’

Why was Grand Lodge’s public relations machine unable to break through that? ‘I think “was” is the operative word. We learned from the experience, and we contemplated doing it again after, say, five years. The Pro Grand Master commented that if we did it again we should call it “The Freemason in the Community”. I think this would give a nice fillip to the idea and would give people a slightly newer direction in which to take the initiative.’

This then is a man who evidently has big ideas for the future, ideas which he tantalisingly doesn’t want to talk about just yet. ‘There are some very interesting and exciting initiatives, which I hope it will be possible to progress,’ he says. ‘We have to keep Freemasonry relevant to what’s going on, without betraying that huge historic debt to the past. I haven’t stopped thinking of things to do.’

Clearly not, and with such an energetic Chief Executive mapping out the future, we can only surmise that Freemasonry can look forward to a very interesting future.

Published in Features
Saturday, 19 April 2008 14:14

The Seven Liberal Arts

Clement Salaman Reveals How They Were Devised As A Path To Truth

Liberal Arts was a term coined in the Middle Ages: ‘liberal’ from the Latin liber, meaning ‘free’. The name is apt; these arts are intended to bring freedom to the mind. We need to be reminded of the source of freedom now, with the world threatened by the grossest forms of mental oppression and spiritual intolerance.

The Liberal Arts go back over 2,500 years, to classical times. They were practised over Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, being disseminated through the empires of Alexander and Rome; they are part of our heritage. 
The most important influence on education in classical times was that of Plato (427-347 BC). His concept of education – which he attributes to the earlier philosopher Socrates – was based on ‘excellence’: every individual had his own particular excellence, but the excellence of the human being, in general, resided in the soul; the excellence of the soul being expressed by justice. Thus, the main aim of education was the cultivation of justice. 
For Plato, the source of creation is the "Good", the Light of pure spirit; all physical creation being just a shadow or reflection of this. He refers to the "Good" also as the "One" or as "God": for him, all education must be designed to bring about a recognition of this "One", a recognition not just in theory, but in experience. For once experienced, he believed, the pure Light of the Good would become the basis for every decision and action that a man or woman might take. And where the principle of justice guided the rulers, there one would find a happy state. 

Instruction in the Virtues

To Plato, reason meant far more that it does today, it meant the knowledge of what is truly good for man. Through adhering to reason, the human being could attain the virtue of wisdom, and where wisdom prevailed, just actions would inevitably follow.

When the passions of the soul came under the control of reason, a man would know what to fear and what not to fear. Plato had no doubt that one need not fear any harm to, or death of , the temporary and shadowy body; but one should fear harm to the real and immortal soul. And with the mind and the passionate part of the soul in accord, the appetites of the senses would be controlled; the individual would then be close to the joy of the Supreme Good.

Learning of Divine Things

Even before Plato, many of the basics of education had already been established among the ancient Greeks. It was the practice for children, before the age of seven, to be given music to develop their soul and gymnastics to develop their body. Much more of Plato’s programme – particularly that designed for ages ten to seventeen – had been accepted from at least the time of Pythagoras (6th century BC). But we have only Plato’s explanations as to why these subjects were so important.

Plato argues that geometry and arithmetic have their origins in realities which are the abode of the Good itself. Through contemplating the importance of geometrical figures and arithmetical mysteries, the soul is easily led back to this Divine realm which it once knew before being locked into a body on earth. Plato writes in his Republic:

"the knowledge at which geometry aims is knowledge of the eternal, and not of anything perishing and transient".

Creation and the Mean

Of all the aspects of arithmetic, Plato was particularly interested in the concept of the ‘mean’ because it connected directly with the central tenet of his philosophy, that the universe was One.

Plato states that creation proceeded in accordance with the ‘mean’. He gives three kinds of mean: the first and most simple is represented by the series 2,4,8 – four being the mean. The second is the series 1,2,3 – two being the mean. The third is a series 3,4,6 – four being the mean since it is a third more than three, and a third less than six. In each case the first term bears the same relationship to the middle term, as the middle term does to the last.

This equality of proportion was how Plato considered that the unity of the One is carried into the multiplicity of Creation. In other words, the multiplicity of Creation is harmonised by an equality of proportion.

These proportions are also those of the musical scale and hence the importance of music: the soul recognises the beauty of music because the soul and music resonate to the same proportion. And astronomy was directly linked to music and mathematics, thus also to the One. However, according to Plato music in the educational curriculum must only be such as to inspire courage or temperance.

Astronomy was all important because Plato associated the heavenly bodies with the ‘World Soul’ – he did not mean that their physical characteristics were substance of soul but that this was the inner intelligence which moved them.

It would be wrong to believe that Plato did not attach any value to the study of literature. He is certainly severe on occasion: in his Republic he bans poets and playwrights on the grounds that they reflect that worldly life which is only a reflection of reality. But elsewhere, after remarking that poets and storytellers were wrong to present unjust men as happy, and just men as wretched, he adds that we should "require their poems and stories to have quite the opposite moral".

The inclusion of grammar, rhetoric and logic in the ancient curriculum was mainly due to the work of Isocrates, who had founded his academy in Athens in 393 BC, six years before Plato founded his which uniquely, for the times, was open to both men and women.

These two masters, Plato and Isocrates, shaped the course of education for millennia. In Roman times the study of Rhetoric and Grammar continued, and in the Middle Ages, while education became Christianised, the subjects remained.

The Italian Renaissance reintroduced the ancient concept that education concerned the whole man – body, mind and spirit – and this idea passed into the English educational system through the early Public Schools.

The Liberal Arts need to be reconnected with their origins. The quadrivium is essentially the search for abstract truth and the trivium the rediscovery of the essential being of every man and woman which has been reflected in literature through the great writings of the past. The main purpose of the latter was to present noble characters (or heroes) as models whose virtues men and women could imitate thus fulfilling their full, and true, potential.

Clement Salaman is a translator, writer and lecturer on Renaissance subjects, particularly the Neoplatonic and Hermetic ideas which found expression at that time. He is the leader of the team which has translated the five volumes of letters of Marsilio Ficino and also the Hermetic Texts (reviewed in Freemasonry Today, Issue No. 17).

Published in Features
Saturday, 19 April 2008 14:09

"A Catastrophe has Occurred"

Diane Clements Investigates the Failure of Grand Lodge’s Bankers

At Grand Lodge, in March 1878, Lord Carnarvon, the Pro Grand Master, rose to make an announcement. Describing the event as "a catastrophe", he reported that the banking house of Willis Percival & Co, which held the funds of Grand Lodge, Grand Chapter and the Masonic Charities, had failed. The Grand Lodge balance of £3,543 was at risk.

The City of London, in the 1870s, was taking on the face of the modern City. Its residential population had declined as it had become easier to live outside the metropolis and travel in by train and road. Old town houses were demolished and their sites combined into large commercial buildings. The advent of new technologies such as the electric telegraph in the 1840s had encouraged large increases in the amount of business transacted, although most was still conducted face to face. 

Lombard Street

For the Victorians, Lombard Street, where Willis Percival & Co. were based, was synonymous with banking. Although the street has retained such connections even up to today, the business of banking in the 1870s was very different; it was dominated by private partnerships, including the major firms of Barings and Rothschilds. The main business of such banks was the taking of deposits and the finance of trade by acquiring (as an investment) the bills of merchants. However, "Joint stock banks" – the forerunners of today’s high street banks - were growing in importance. They had the advantage of having a solid base of shareholders to provide capital. In contrast, partnership banks could only call on the capital of their active partners or accumulated profits.

Against this background it was not unusual for banks to fail. The Bankers Magazine (which had a regular paragraph entitled "Mercantile Embarrassments" in which failures were listed) reported, in 1878, statistics of bank failures in the previous five years – fifteen in all including five in each of 1873 and 1874. But unless there was suspicion of wrongdoing such failures did not excite particular attention. 

The Collapse

Willis Percival & Co., founded in 1700, was one of London’s oldest private banking partnerships. At the time of its failure it had three partners – Henry Willis, Samuel Tomkins and Samuel Leith Tomkins. Samuel Tomkins had been a member of the Lodge of Antiquity, No.2, since 1852, although he had been initiated in a Scottish lodge (St. Andrews Lodge, No. 333, S.C.). He was Master of Antiquity in 1854 and its Treasurer from 1861. Samuel Leith Tomkins was a member of the same lodge and had been a Grand Steward in 1862. Grand Lodge records do not provide evidence for Henry Willis’ membership of Freemasonry.

The financial position of the bank had been deteriorating for several years although, as the bank did not publish any financial information (in common with other partnership banks), this only became clear after its collapse in February 1878. The Bankers Magazine made reference to "the crisis of 1857" when the bank "is believed to have suffered severely through its Greek connections". Willis Percival had also encountered another problem endemic to partnerships: in 1877 the senior partner had died causing a reduction in the capital available.

The particular cause of the Bank’s collapse, however, was not international affairs nor even shortage of capital. The partners had over-extended credit to one borrower - Gerussi Brothers & Co. of Finsbury Circus, a firm of merchants - to the extent of £250,000, many times the bank’s capital base and comprising nearly half of its assets. When the depressed trading conditions caused the merchants to fail, the bank collapsed.

Within a few months what could be salvaged had been bought by the Hampshire and North Wiltshire Banking Company, which purchased the assets and goodwill for £288,460 and resumed business at 76 Lombard Street under the joint management of Henry Willis and Samuel Leith Tomkins, two of the former partners. Creditors received nine shillings (45p) in the pound.

Grand Lodge Finances

At the time of the collapse Samuel Tomkins was Grand Treasurer, a position he had held since 1853 and to which he had been elected in succession to Richard Percival, a previous partner of the Bank (and also a member of the Lodge of Antiquity, No.2).

The office of Treasurer had been introduced in 1725 when the Committee of Charity was established. In 1727 the position became Grand Treasurer with the incoming Grand Master nominating the post holder each year and Grand Lodge electing him.

As Grand Lodge had no income in those early years, the Grand Treasurer was solely responsible for the Charity Fund, holding money on behalf of the Committee of Charity (which authorised disbursements), providing a personal surety for it, and reporting receipts and disbursements to each Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge.

In 1768 the premier Grand Lodge began to plan for the financing and building of the first Freemasons’ Hall, to register members, and to charge fees which were paid into a general fund for administrative expenses. After the Union in 1813 this income was supplemented from room rentals, from the lease of the Freemasons’ Tavern and income earned from investments.

The amounts involved were initially relatively small. In 1818, according to the quarterly report on receipts and payments, the Board of Benevolence received income of £1,435 during the year and the Fund for General Purposes had income of £2,756 (both including income from investments). By 1878 the Board of Benevolence receipts had increased to £8,714 (equivalent to £357,000 today) and those for the Fund of General Purposes to £11,598 (£475,000). 

The Impact

Grand Lodge had a balance of £3,543 with Willis Percival & Co (equivalent to £145,000 today). As an interim measure an account was opened at the London and Westminster Bank (one of the better capitalised joint stock banks) for future receipts with cheques to be signed by the President of the Board of General Purposes and the Grand Secretary. A committee was established to investigate the loss and to make recommendations about the future of Grand Lodge’s financial affairs. Following this report a new account was set up at the Bank of England. The Grand Treasurer was "to keep a general supervision of the accounts" and to sign cheques for funds voted by Grand Lodge which had to be countersigned by the Grand Secretary; furthermore, the accounts were to be audited. A new Grand Treasurer was appointed in 1879 (Tomkins had resigned in March 1878 and the post was in abeyance) and from that date a new Grand Treasurer was elected every year.

Tomkins felt obliged to resign from the Lodge of Antiquity (although Samuel Leith Tomkins remained a member until his death in 1899). The Lodge accepted the resignation but "expressed regret at the circumstances in which it had taken place, and its warm sympathy and continued respect".

Five months after the collapse Tomkins died, aged 68, in July 1878. The Freemason published an obituary; it noted that he had never returned to Grand Lodge. He had died a broken man.

The author would like to thank John Hamill, Director of Communications, for permission to use his earlier research into the role of the Grand Treasurer.

Diane Clements is the Director of the Library and Museum of Freemasonry, Freemasons’ Hall, London. She previously worked in banking in the City of London.

Published in Features
Saturday, 01 March 2008 13:31

A New Mason's Impressions

Ryan Modlin Appeals for More Insight

There are some points I was aware of before making enquiries into Freemasonry about five years ago. It was a peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols. It was ‘a most happy association of friends which provides interest, a discipline of life, many social activities and has a long history of charitable support’. It was not a secret society, nor a religion, although its members are required to have a belief in God and its principles are common to many of the world’s great religions. It was fun and provided a wonderfully happy social life for its members as well as having a serious side. It was the largest single contributor to charity in the country second only to the lottery. You will get out of it what you put in. And it will make you a better person.

From these points and from the sheer number of friends and colleagues who were already Freemasons, I decided for myself that this amounted to something very interesting I wanted to pursue. 

Many of the Freemasons I have met recently, most notably at the Northern Conference of The Cornerstone Society, will point to the fact that in none of the above comments is the great inner personal and spiritual strength that can be attained by a participation in our ceremonies and rituals. 
The night of my initiation, I was terrified. Everyone kept approaching me wishing me luck and telling me to enjoy it. But I had absolutely no idea what to expect, so how could I possibly prepare to enjoy it? 
Candidates are often rushed through their three degrees in small lodges so that they can take up offices within the lodge. I soon realised that I was missing something. 
As I came to my passing, at only my second full meeting, it occurred to me that I was about to learn more signs, tokens and words, and yet I was not quite sure I could remember what I had been shown and told at my initiation. I had been given a card with some questions and answers and told to learn them. 
I answered the questions clearly and that was it. They were not referred to again. I received a similar card at the conclusion of my passing and given similar instructions as last time. I distinctly remember opening the lodge in the second degree on the night of my raising. This was the first time I’d been up to the second degree. Taking my ceremonies in alternate months meant I hadn’t had the opportunity of seeing a lodge opened and closed in the second degree. I had been asked to prove my proficiency in the second degree and yet there was so much that I hadn’t been exposed to, such as the tracing board and lectures. I didn’t even know what the liberal arts and sciences were. 
I was desperately worried that I was still coming to terms with opening and closing in the first, really had no idea how to open and close in the second and yet I was about to be raised to the sublime degree of a Master Mason in the third degree. 
My induction into the Craft was disappointing, since there was a lack of impressions left on me by the ceremonies. This is not a criticism of the Brethren who conducted the ceremonies. On the contrary, the first thing that struck me at my initiation was the incredible accuracy and meaningful delivery on the part of my friend and proposer who took the chair for the ceremony, and the Brother who delivered the charge. The Charge and being restored to light are the two things that really stick in my mind from my initiation. 
Unfortunately, all I remember from my passing is answering the questions and taking some odd steps up a winding staircase. 
Since my raising, I have become absorbed in the ritual of Freemasonry and have found myself exploring the allegory and spiritual direction that can be gained from it. My disappointment stems from the fact that I wasn’t aware this really existed until it was too late. I had allowed the ceremonies to pass over me so that I might concentrate on repeating the prompts of the deacons. 
We need to explain to a candidate beforehand that he is about to embark on a physical, spiritual and mental journey from darkness to light and that the ritual should be absorbed and interpreted to his own ends. 
Had this been so, I would have listened more intently and immersed myself in the ceremony and participated in it rather than merely being part of it. I could have allowed the ceremony to have a real meaningful effect on me at the time of experience. 
At my raising, I again answered the necessary questions. I distinctly remember the darkness, a reference to death, being hit very tamely by three tools and being laid on the ground and covered in a white sheet. Why not employ three distinct blows, to bring the mind sharply into focus on what is occurring? On the other hand, I have to say the ceremony was further explained in a detail lacking in the previous two, and for the first time I had a dawning sense of appreciation, although I didn’t quite know of what and why. Again, the role play and skill of the Brethren was to be commended, but again, participation in the ceremony hadn’t had a profound effect on me. I had not been advised that what I was about to experience could shape my personality, outlook and way of life by allowing myself to absorb the excellently worked ritual and applying it to my own life. 
It was only from this point that my masonic knowledge started to develop. Our Director of Ceremonies gave us a lecture on the first degree tracing board. He then gave us the traditional history of the third degree ceremony and, most importantly, he enrolled the three ‘junior’ Brethren of the lodge and me to learn and perform the first section of the second lecture. This gave me a greater insight into the second degree that had so quickly passed me by. It informed me what the second degree ceremony involved and in particular when referring to one point of the compasses, it occurred to me that the second degree was a midway point in which I was supposed to have made some form of ‘progress’. So, at last I was starting to get a small appreciation of what masonry is all about, and when I take part in and watch ceremonies, I try and enter into the atmosphere and share the experience of the candidate. Seeing the ceremonies worked and learning the ritual keeps the messages at the forefront of my mind. 
My initial disappointment has now vanished; I find that I am throwing myself fervently into masonry. It is without doubt the greatest thing I have ever done and I have no problem in recommending this to anyone who is prepared to listen. The personal and spiritual development that Freemasonry is guiding me through is tremendous and works in perfect tandem with my church. The ritual, for me, is teaching me to look at myself in a new way. 
To strive to reach an understanding of myself so that I may reach a deeper understanding of the universe with which we are all entwined. This is the aspect of Freemasonry, above all others that should be extolled to everybody, especially potential candidates. 
Start by adding the personal, mental and spiritual development that can be attained by a participation in our ritual to the list which I gave above. Have no fear in sharing your experiences; not only with your Brethren in Freemasonry, but to those who are not on the square, that they too may learn to appreciate it in a similar manner or at least have a better understanding as to why it is so popular with so many men (and women) in society. 
Discuss this aspect of Freemasonry with candidates during the initial visit to the potential Brother’s home. It is a quality of Freemasonry that should rank as highly as any other. 
Finally, the candidate’s proposer or a nominated Brother might conduct an ‘appraisal’ before and after each of the three ceremonies. Beforehand, this should be to prepare the candidate mentally for what he is about to experience, naturally without giving anything away. And after a ceremony to discuss what the candidate has experienced, to answer any questions and to further help him understand the journey he is on. This is something I have done recently with my own candidate and have learned that he firstly enjoyed the ceremony and secondly that he was already applying his own thoughts and interpretations to the initiation having followed the course of the ritual intently. 
I believe this is the way to revitalise the Craft and encourage more young men to join.

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