Tracing the past
An artist and engraver who specialised in pen and ink work, John Harris created a set of tracing boards that are still used in ritual today
The principles of Freemasonry are communicated using symbols during the ceremonies and then afterwards by illustrated lectures. Early lodges used to draw these motifs on the floor of their lodge room and wash them off after the meeting. By the late 1700s, floor cloths and symbolic tablets for the master’s pedestal were being used. Then from the early 1800s a set of three tracing boards in a variety of sizes and materials became the standard, to help to illustrate one of the three ceremonies.
Royal Arch chapters do not usually employ tracing boards, but some older chapters do have them. These examples were produced by John Harris (1791-1873) along with his Craft versions, but were not adopted as the former were.
A LIFE OF DEVOTION
Harris was an artist and engraver who specialised in pen and ink facsimile work, notably for the British Museum, but he is best known to Freemasonry as a designer of tracing boards. He became a Freemason in 1818 and by 1820 was selling his designs of portable miniature tracing boards. In 1825 he dedicated, with permission, a set of miniature Craft boards to the Grand Master, the Duke of Sussex. This was taken as an official seal of approval and helped to increase sales.
In 1845, the Emulation Lodge of Improvement, which is the largest masonic ritual association, organised a competition to design a standardised set of boards to be used in all lodges that worked Emulation ritual. Harris won the competition and his boards can be seen in every Emulation ritual book published today.
In later life, Harris suffered from ill health and blindness. He moved into the Asylum for Worthy, Aged, and Decayed Freemasons, later the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution, in Croydon. He is buried with his wife Mary in the town’s Queen’s Road Cemetery, Croydon. His grave was recently rediscovered and the Provincial Grand Lodge of Surrey, which now owns the plot, has provided the grave with a new headstone.
You can find several examples of Harris’s tracing boards at the Library and Museum of Freemasonry.
A system of 33 degrees
The Ancient and Accepted Rite, or Rose Croix, is one of the oldest Orders, yet many Craft Freemasons know little about it. The Grand Secretary General explains how the Rite has attracted more than a quarter of a million members worldwide
Known outside England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland as the Scottish Rite, this order takes as its founding documents the Grand Constitutions of 1762 and 1786, the latter written by a group of eminent Freemasons under the titular direction of Frederick the Great.
The first Supreme Council (as national governing bodies of the Rite are known) was founded in South Carolina in 1801, with responsibility for an area now known as the Southern Jurisdiction of the United States. A Supreme Council for the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the United States was created in 1813, and it is from that body that England and Wales received its warrant of constitution in 1845.
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
Documents issued with this warrant instructed that membership be restricted to those of the Trinitarian Christian faith, but today (apart from the British Isles and three other countries) all Supreme Councils around the world use the Craft requirement of a belief in a Supreme Being.
The Rite consists of 33 degrees, of which (in most jurisdictions) the three degrees of Craft Freemasonry are accepted in lieu of the first three degrees of the Rite. Of the remaining 30, different jurisdictions work different degrees, but in England and Wales just five are worked: the 18°, 30°, 31°, 32° and 33°. The only one worked in chapters is the 18°, known by the grand title of Sovereign Prince of the Rose Croix of Heredom. It is from this that the Order gets its nickname in England and Wales: Rose Croix.
EDUCATING THE MEMBERSHIP
The 18° is a profound and complex ritual, and one much loved by the members of the Order. The other four degrees are worked only at the Order’s headquarters in London. The ‘intermediate degrees’ from the 4° to the 17° are not worked in this country; however, a group of ritualists, the King Edward VII Chapter of Improvement, demonstrate one or two of them each year around the country for the education of the membership.
The 30° is roughly equivalent to Past Master and is awarded to those who have successfully completed a year in the Chair of their chapter. Degrees beyond the 30° are strictly limited, being granted by the Supreme Council for outstanding service to the Order. These promotions are not mere investitures at which a collar or sash is awarded, but a full ritual carried out by the Supreme Council itself.
Promotion to the 33°, the highest of the Rite, is restricted to Members of the Supreme Council, Inspectors General (roughly equivalent to Provincial Grand Masters) and a few other very senior members of the Order. Past members of the 33° have included Their Majesties King Edward VII, Edward VIII and George VI, and more recently Their Royal Highnesses The Duke of Kent and Prince Michael of Kent. The Duke of Kent is Grand Patron of the Order, an office formerly held by his father, the first Duke.
The Supreme Council collectively acts as Grand Master of the Order. No Council Member can instigate change without the unanimous consent of the others, which removes opportunities for confrontation. This also helps to maintain a happy and productive environment while the Council strives to work in the best interests of the Order and its members.
The Order has a flat structure: there are no Provincial Grand Lodges. Rather, each District is overseen by an Inspector General. There is therefore no significant gap in communications between individual members and the Supreme Council, a fact much prized both by the membership and the Council itself. The Supreme Council for England and Wales is ‘in amity’ with more than 40 other countries around the world, meaning members within this jurisdiction may visit chapters in those countries, thus promoting masonic harmony across the Scottish Rite, the largest international masonic community after the Craft.
With their own terminology, structures and practices, each masonic Order is different from the next. Here we break down the origins, requirements and beliefs of Rose Croix.
Why is it called Rose Croix?
The nickname Rose Croix derives from the 18° of the Order, the Rose Croix of Heredom.
I have a friend who’s a member overseas, but he isn’t a Christian. Is he allowed to visit here?
Absolutely. So long as his jurisdiction is one of the 42 countries recognised by England and Wales, he would be welcome to visit any chapter here – subject to invitation, of course.
Where is it based?
The Order is based at 10 Duke Street, St James’s, London, traditionally known as the Grand East. It moved there in 1910 from its old headquarters, which had perhaps the most masonic address in London: 33 Golden Square!
What is the relationship between the Craft and Rose Croix?
Although neither formally recognises the other, in practice the relationship is an extremely close one. The Grand Master, Pro Grand Master and Deputy Grand Master are all members of the 33° and the Grand Master is the Grand Patron of the Order. Similarly, all nine Members of the Supreme Council are Grand Officers of UGLE.
Who runs it?
The Order is headed by a Supreme Council of nine eminent members. The current Sovereign Grand Commander (Chairman of the Council) is Alan Englefield, formerly Provincial Grand Master for Oxfordshire and the first Grand Chancellor of UGLE.
How many members are there?
There are around 27,000 members, with around 24,000 in England and Wales and 3,000 in its Districts overseas. Worldwide there are many, many more, with more than a quarter of a million in the US alone.
Is the country divided into Provinces in the same way as the Craft?
Yes, although in this Order they are called Districts. Each is headed by an Inspector General.
What is the supreme council’s emblem?
It is a double-headed eagle surmounted by a crown and holding a sword between its claws. A triangle on top of the crown displays the number 33. Underneath reads ‘Deus Meumque Jus’, which translates as ‘God and my right’.
Is Rose Croix an ‘invitation only’ Order?
Absolutely not! Membership is open to all those who have been a Master Mason for at least one year and are prepared to sign a declaration that they profess the Trinitarian Christian faith.
How many people hold the 33°?
There are around 150 members of the 33° in England and Wales, of whom the large majority are current or past Inspectors General.
How did a renowned masonic jeweller come to play a pivotal role in the union of the two Grand Lodges? Dr James Campbell explores the life and times of Thomas Harper
Visit any masonic meeting in England or Wales and you will find members dressed in the same aprons: sky-blue with rosettes for Master Masons; sky-blue with plumb rules for those who have been through the Master’s Chair; and garter-blue for Grand Lodge and Provincial Grand Lodge Officers, with standard jewels suspended from their collars. While this regalia is well known, the people who came up with these designs have been largely forgotten. One of them was Thomas Harper (c. 1736-1832).
Before 1813 there was no standard masonic regalia. There were special aprons that denoted rank, but huge variations remained in the designs – as can still be seen today in Scottish masonry.
When the two Grand Lodges of England and Wales (the Premier or Moderns and the Antients) came together on 27 December 1813 to form the United Grand Lodge of England, an effort was made to standardise designs, including warrants, certificates, the ritual and the regalia. The Duke of Sussex, the new Grand Master, formed a Board of Works charged with working out the details. The first meeting was held on 7 February 1814. The minutes survive and record that Thomas Harper was in the chair.
There are some people for whom Freemasonry is an agreeable but small part of their otherwise busy lives, and others whose lives become so devoted to Freemasonry that it defines them. The latter was most definitely the case for Thomas Harper.
Harper’s origins remain obscure: we know nothing about where he was born or where he grew up. His first appearance in the historical record is because of his Freemasonry. We know that he was by 1774 a member of Lodge of the Antients, No. 190, in Charlestown, South Carolina. It is believed he probably first became a mason in 1761 in Bristol before setting sail for the American colonies.
A loyalist, Harper returned in 1781 with his wife and child, moving to London and setting himself up as a silversmith. He registered his mark at Goldsmith’s Hall and soon distinguished himself as a jeweller, rising to eminence in the City and acting as Master of the Turner’s Company in 1798, 1813 and 1829.
It is chiefly as a jeweller that Harper is remembered today. He made jewellery for several livery companies, but his principle output was in masonic jewels of all kinds. These are exceptionally fine and have become the most sought-after of all masonic jewels, instantly recognisable by his maker’s mark featuring his initials ‘TH’ on the reverse. His shop was in Fleet Street and he later moved to nearby Arundel Street.
There are some people whose lives become so devoted to Freemasonry that it defines them. This was most definitely the case for Thomas Harper
ANTIENTS AND MODERNS
Harper’s skill as a jeweller was such that it has largely overshadowed his other achievements and involvement in the Craft. To say that Harper was a keen Freemason is an understatement. On his return to England he had joined Lodge No. 5 of the Antients, now Albion Lodge, No. 9, whose most prominent member was Laurence Dermott, the first Grand Secretary, and the driving force behind the formation of the Antients Grand Lodge.
Harper rose quickly through the ranks of the Antients, being elected their Junior Grand Warden in 1785, Senior Grand Warden from 1786-88 and Deputy Grand Secretary from 1792-1800, before being elected Deputy Grand Master in 1800 and serving until the Union. He became a member of the Antients’ Grand Master’s Lodge, No. 1 and became Senior Warden in 1788, Master in 1793 and Treasurer from 1794-1829.
Harper was also prominent in the rival Moderns Grand Lodge. He had joined Globe Lodge, No. 13 (now no. 23) in 1787, which was then, as now, one of the lodges that nominated a Grand Steward and in 1794 his name was put forward, although it is not clear whether he took up the office.
INTRIGUE AND EXPULSION
In 1792, Harper had joined William Preston’s breakaway Lodge of Antiquity (No. 1 in the Moderns, now No. 2), helping organise its reunion with the remainder of the Lodge No. 1 in 1792, becoming its Treasurer from 1792-1803. He was thus for a brief time Treasurer of both Lodge No. 1 of the Antients and of Lodge No. 1 of the Moderns. His membership of both Grand Lodges was not without incident and he was briefly expelled from the Moderns in an intrigue in 1803 – but the expulsion was reversed in 1810.
After Dermott’s death in 1788, Harper took over producing the constitutions of the Antients (mysteriously entitled Ahiman Rezon). Like Dermott, he believed in the reunion of the two Grand Lodges, and became a prime mover in this effort. He was ideally placed as Deputy Grand Master of the Antients and a previous member of several Moderns’ Lodges, and played a leading part in the proceedings.
As a reward he was made a member of both the Board of Works and the Board of General Purposes in 1814, the ruling committees of the new United Grand Lodge of England. In these capacities he became involved in the designs for new jewels, aprons and certificates.
Harper also produced aprons alongside his business in masonic jewellery. He supplied Sir John Soane’s apron when he joined Grand Master’s Lodge, No. 1 in 1813. Both the apron and the receipt are retained in Sir John Soane’s Museum.
Harper chaired the first meeting of the Board of Works, which discussed the masonic jewels to be attached to the collars of the various officers. In the following weeks the coat of arms of the new Grand Lodge and the form of the aprons were discussed, with Harper present and involved in all of them.
It may be going too far to say he designed it, but Harper was undoubtedly an important influence on the regalia we have today, and a key player in forming modern Freemasonry.
Today is the first anniversary of the United Grand Lodge of England’s epic Tercentenary celebration at the Royal Albert Hall – and to mark the occasion a DVD has been released
Over 4,000 Freemasons from Provinces and Districts were joined by representatives from over 130 sovereign Grand Lodges from around the world for this Especial Meeting to mark 300 years since the founding of the world’s first Grand Lodge for Freemasons.
The event started with the procession of Grand Officers entering the Hall, before the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, took his place in the Queens’s Box, accompanied by the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes, Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence and Assistant Grand Master Sir David Wootton. The audience then witnessed a theatrical extravaganza which embraced the rich history and heritage of Freemasonry and featured a cast of renowned actors including Sir Derek Jacobi, Samantha Bond and Sanjeev Bhaskar.
The DVD is available to all UGLE members and has been distributed to Provincial Offices – please contact them if you have not received your DVD.
The Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, spoke about the historic event, which you can view below.
Lodge Centenaries are always special occasions and Thursday 13th September 2018 was such an occasion for Edgware Lodge No. 3886 in Middlesex
The Centenary meeting of Edgware Lodge No. 3866 meeting was held at the Harrow District Masonic Centre and it was special for a number of reasons. Firstly, it was to be the first official visit for the new Pro Provincial Grand Master Peter Baker.
Secondly, it was a member of Edgware Lodge who had conceived the idea of the Harrow District Masonic Centre. Sadly, this member did not live to see his vision come into being. Indeed, Edgware Lodge was the third largest contributor to the fund raised to create the centre which finally saw light of day in 1954.
Some of the original lodge furniture used by many Secretaries and Treasurers over the years had also been presented by the lodge. Since the building of the Centre, members of the lodge have given time and devotion in assisting with the administration and running of the Centre.
Edgware Lodge was founded at the end of the First World War by a group of local tradesmen and worshippers at the St Lawrence Church in Little Stanmore. Indeed, the Lodge Crest shows this church which had special relevance to the composer Handel whose Organ is to be found there. A former Rector of St Lawrence Church was non other than John Theophilus Desaguliers, the son of a French Hugenot Minister, who became the third Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of England in 1719.
The lodge was Consecrated by the Right Worshipful Lord George Francis Hamilton GCSI (Knight Grand Commander of the Most Exalted Order of the Star of India), the Provincial Grand Master in 1918, and the Installing Master was the Very Worshipful Alexander Burnett Brown, Deputy Provincial Grand Master at the time as well as holding Office as Grand Superintendent of Works.
Like many lodges formed at that time, it flourished meeting in the Abercorn Hotel at the bottom of Stanmore Hill and then for many years at the Railway Hotel Edgware. About 25 years ago the lodge fell on hard times with a fall in membership but struggled on for some years. In 2003, the remaining members finally concluded that sadly it was not possible to continue and made plans to surrender its warrant.
However, a chance meeting between a member and another brother at a meeting in Ealing determined that a group of Freemasons, all members of Lions Club International, were looking for a home. So approximately six months later at the Installation meeting, 10 new members joined the lodge with many instantly appointed to office as Wardens, Deacons and Inner Guard. With so many new candidates, the lodge was able to support other lodges with work for some time after. Edgware Lodge now has a rosy future as it moves ahead into its second century.
The centenary meeting was a splendid evening. All those members who were involved in its organisation are to be congratulated and the Worshipful Master, Umesh Ragwhani, conducted the evening in a relaxed and friendly way. Members were presented with a commemorative pin whilst all those attending received a set of cuff links and a copy of the Lodge History to date. The oration by the Provincial Chaplain the Reverend Dr William Dolman was most interesting and was packed with historical facts.
A number of other historical documents relevant to the lodge were presented to form part of a Lodge archive and there was also a display of Jewels. The following Provincial Officers attended: Peter Baker, ProProvGM, Paul Huggins, PSGD AProvGM, Peter Annett, PGStB AProvGM, The Rev Dr Bill Dolman, ProvGChap, Howard Walters, PAGDC PPrJGW, ProvGTreas, Michael Dean, PJGD PProvJGW, Acting ProvGSec, Jim Mitchell, PAGDC ProvGDC, Brian Shaw, ProvGSwdB, Liam Delahunty, ProvSGD, Stuart Smith, ProvAGDC, Chris Pugh, ProvGStB, Phil Cooper, ProvGStwd, Frankie Whelan, ProvGStwd, and Tom James, PProvAGSwdB, ProvGTyler.
The members of the Lodge were absolutely delighted to receive this visit from Province and the presentation of a Centenary Warrant. This visit and the introductory address given by the Pro Provincial Grand Master Peter Baker made the entire evening something those present will never forget.
Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge
12 September 2018
Report of the Board of General Purposes
The Minutes of the Quarterly Communication of 13 June 2018 were confirmed.
Meetings in 2019
The dates on which the Board of General Purposes will meet in 2019 are: 12 February, 19 March, 14 May, 16 July, 17 September and 12 November.
Overseas Grand Lodges
The Board considered it appropriate to draw attention to Rule 125 (b), Book of Constitutions, and the list of Grand Lodges recognised by the United Grand Lodge of England, which is published in the Masonic Year Book, copies of which are sent to lodge secretaries.
Only Brethren who are members of lodges under recognised jurisdictions may visit English lodges. They must produce a certificate (i.e. a Grand Lodge certificate or other documentary proof of masonic identity provided by their Grand Lodge), should be prepared to acknowledge that a personal belief in TGAOTU is an essential Landmark in Freemasonry, and should be able to produce evidence of their good standing in their lodges.
It is the Master’s responsibility to ensure that the requirements of Rule 125 (b) are met.
It is particularly noted that the hazard of admitting a member of an unrecognised constitution arises not only in connection with overseas visitors, or individuals resident in this country who belong to an unrecognised constitution overseas, but there are also Lodges of unrecognised constitutions meeting in England, and care must be taken that their members are not admitted to our meetings.
Brethren are reminded that they are permitted to visit lodges overseas only if they come under a jurisdiction which is recognised by the United Grand Lodge of England.
A list of recognised Grand Lodges is published annually, but as the situation does change from time to time, Brethren should not attempt to make any masonic contact overseas without having first checked (preferably in writing) with the Grand Secretary’s Office via their Metropolitan, Provincial or District Grand Secretary, that there is recognised Freemasonry in the country concerned and, if so, whether there is any particular point which should be watched.
The Board recommends that the terms of this warning should be repeated:
- Verbally in open lodge whenever a Grand Lodge Certificate is presented, and
- In print once a year in a lodge’s summons.
Brethren should also be aware of the masonic convention that communications between Grand Lodges be conducted by Grand Secretaries. They should therefore not attempt without permission to make direct contact with the Grand Secretary of another Constitution. This does not preclude direct contact on a purely personal level between individual Brethren under different Grand Lodges.
Following the recent adoption of a policy on gender reassignment, the Board recommended a small amendment to the document Basic Principles for Grand Lodge Recognition originally drawn up by the Board of General Purposes in 1929 at the request of the MW The Grand Master, His Royal Highness The Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, KG.
The amendment relates to paragraph 4 and, if approved, would bring that paragraph into line with this Grand Lodge’s policy. It is intended that when the document is printed in future in the Book of Constitutions, the Masonic Year Book and the booklet Information for the Guidance of Members of the Craft, a footnote will be included to the effect that the amendment was made at the Quarterly Communication of 12 September 2018.
The Board had received reports that the following lodges had resolved to surrender their Warrants in order to form amalgamations:
Langbourn and Dominicos Lodge, No. 5252, in order to amalgamate with National Westminster Lodge, No. 3647 (London); Pilgrim Lodge, No. 7265, in order to amalgamate with St Catherine’s Priory Lodge, No. 7960 (Surrey); Y Bont Faen Lodge, No. 8533, in order to amalgamate with Industria Cambrensis Lodge, No. 6700 (South Wales); and Erewash Lodge, No. 9376, in order to amalgamate with Dale Abbey Lodge, No. 5603 (Derbyshire).
A recommendation that the lodges be removed from the register in order to effect the amalgamations was approved.
The Board had received a report that eight lodges had closed and had surrendered their Warrants. The lodges are: Wodehouse Lodge, No. 1467 (South Africa, Eastern Division);
Northbourne Lodge, No. 3241 (Durham); Argosy Lodge, No. 3740 (West Lancashire); Faraday Lodge, No. 4852 (Northumberland); Faith and Honour Lodge, No. 7142 (Middlesex); St Mary’s Lodge, No. 7244 (Warwickshire); Circle of Sussex Lodge, No. 7905 (Sussex) and Beacon Lodge, No. 7915 (Worcestershire).
A recommendation that they be erased was approved.
Expulsions from the Craft
Eight members had been expelled from the Craft
Library and Museum Charitable Trust
The Board had received a report from the Library and Museum Charitable Trust.
Presentation to Grand Lodge
A presentation on Solomon – Fostering Curiosity, Developing Understanding was given by Stuart Hadler, Provincial Grand Master for Somerset and Anthony Howlett-Bolton, Provincial Grand Master for Berkshire.
13 June 2018: 9965 Curitiba Lodge Curitiba, South America, Northern Division.
11 July 2018: 9966 Square Wheels Lodge, Warwick, Warwickshire.
Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge
A Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge will be held on 12 December 2018, 13 March 2019, 12 June 2019, 11 September 2019 and 11 December 2019.
The Annual Investiture of Grand Officers will take place on 24 April 2019, and admission is by ticket only. A few tickets are allocated by ballot after provision has been made for those automatically entitled to attend. Full details will be given in the Paper of Business for December Grand Lodge.
Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter
Convocations of Supreme Grand Chapter will be held on 14 November 2018, 25 April 2019 and 13 November 2019.
Instrumental in shaping the way that Freemasonry is now run, Anthony Wilson embraced modernisation with a focus on teamwork
Anthony Wilson, a long-time Freemason, died on 14 May this year after a long battle with cancer fought with great dignity. Anthony was born in 1950, educated at Eton, and subsequently qualified as a chartered accountant. One of the first audits he conducted was for the Grand Lodge 250th Anniversary Fund. Some 20 years later he became a Trustee of the charity, which is now known as The Freemasons’ Fund for Surgical Research.
Initiated into Tuscan Lodge, No. 14, in March 1976, Anthony was appointed Deputy Grand Director of Ceremonies in 1997 and served as President of the Committee of General Purposes from 2001 to 2004. He subsequently became President of the Board of General Purposes in March 2004.
Anthony was instrumental in reducing the Board to a more manageable size and making it more effective, efficient and fit for purpose. ‘My background is in chartered accountancy, and I’ve always been interested in business and how you can improve it,’ Anthony told Freemasonry Today 10 years after becoming Board President. ‘Working on the Board was a way of helping the running of Freemasonry that wasn’t purely ceremonial but rather administrative. It’s very much a collegiate affair – we’re a team and I’m very fortunate with the support and counsel I get.’
Promoted to Past Senior Grand Warden in April 2012, Anthony played a prominent role during the Tercentenary celebrations, including unveiling the memorial stones to Freemasons awarded the Victoria Cross during the First World War, through to the Especial meeting of Grand Lodge at the Royal Albert Hall, where he was seated in the Royal Box with the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent.
He retired as President of the Board of General Purposes at the end of 2017. Following his death, the United Grand Lodge of England sent condolences on behalf of all members of Grand Lodge to his widow, Vicky, and family.
Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes paid tribute to Anthony’s work: ‘I don’t often mention individuals in this context, but Anthony Wilson was a very special mason and a very special friend to so many of us. He carried out his duties in a very understated way, but he presided over the Board during a very busy period including, of course, the 300th celebrations.
‘He was an incredibly hard-working and efficient President who managed to carry out his role without falling out with anyone – quite a feat! And all this despite his illness, which was with him for far too many years. But he never, ever complained, and many would not have known how ill he was. He is sorely missed by all who knew him.’
Looking back on why he first became a Freemason, Anthony told Freemasonry Today: ‘Initially, what attracted me was the intrigue of finding out what Freemasonry was about, but once I’d been through the ceremonies, my whole view of it changed. It was relaxed, but there was also a formality – it wasn’t an easy ride. Don’t just expect to get things out of it; put things into it and you’ll get enjoyment. I realised that there was a lot of knowledge, that it was telling you a story linked to your values and that it gelled with what I stood for in life.’
A better place
If Freemasonry is to thrive by spreading a consistent and strong message, Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes believes that every member needs to behave and act responsibly
During the early part of this year, we have built on the euphoria of our Tercentenary year. In March, 149 brethren were invested with their special Tercentenary ranks, and in April we had the usual Annual Investiture presided over by the Grand Master. I felt both meetings had a wonderful atmosphere.
I have lost count of the number of times that I have been asked why Freemasonry is relevant in today’s society. I think it would be right to turn this round and ask how today’s society cannot fail to be improved by Freemasonry.
I have said in the past that I believe that the Charge after Initiation explains very clearly what is expected of a Freemason throughout his life – at home, at work, in lodge and in the community at large. If the world lived their lives in accordance with that Charge, how much better a place it would be.
Over and above this, Freemasonry provides continuity and reliability – qualities so often missing in the lives of so many. We all know when our lodges meet, and that Grand Lodge meets on set dates every year. We all know the format that our meetings will take, and there is perhaps solace to be drawn from that comfortable regularity of the masonic year.
LIVING UP TO RESPONSIBILITIES
We are all confident that those needed at our meetings will turn up, usually on time, unless there is a very good reason. We all know that our lodge Secretaries will produce the minutes and that the Treasurer will have prepared the accounts and had them audited for the appropriate meeting. Surely, in a world where there is so much disharmony and a general lack of agreement, an organisation that can provide so much unanimity and concord should be welcomed with open arms?
If I may use a cricket analogy, just as the Marylebone Cricket Club is considered to be the custodian of the laws of the game, the United Grand Lodge of England, in conjunction with the Grand Lodges of Ireland and Scotland, are looked on by the majority of the masonic world in rather the same light. It is important that we live up to that responsibility in all aspects of our behaviour – from the individual mason to Grand Lodge.
There is an annual meeting between the three ‘Home’ Grand Lodges, and I have recently returned from this year’s meeting in Dublin. We are agreed that Freemasonry is going through a good phase at the moment, but we are equally agreed that there is no room for complacency.
Lodges must give a good account of themselves in their communities, which should be backed up by the Provinces and Districts in a wider context. It is Grand Lodge’s duty to monitor all this and, at the same time, ensure that we exemplify all that is good in Freemasonry to the world at large.
Brethren, if we are all successful in this, the world will be a better place, and a better place for the positive influence we bring to it. Long may that continue.
‘Freemasonry provides continuity and reliability’
13 June 2018
An address by the MW The Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
Brethren, I really believe that during the early part of this year we have built on the euphoria of our Tercentenary year.
In March, 149 brethren were invested with their special Tercentenary ranks and, of course, in April, we had the usual Annual Investiture presided over by the Grand Master. I felt both meetings had a wonderful atmosphere.
It was hoped that the DVD of the Royal Albert Hall event would be circulated with the next edition of Freemasonry Today, however the Board have come to the conclusion, I think quite rightly, that the chances of a significant number of the DVDs being damaged in transit was too great a risk and it is therefore the intention to distribute them to active members through individual masonic halls. I am sure that this is something that we will all be proud to watch time and time again, but, perhaps, not boring our friends and families too much along the way.
Brethren, I have lost count of the number of times that I have been asked why Freemasonry is relevant in today’s society. I think it would be right to turn this round and ask how today’s society cannot fail to be improved by Freemasonry?
I have said in the past that I believe that the Charge after Initiation explains very clearly what is expected of a Freemason throughout his life; at home, at work, in lodge and in the community at large. If the world lived their lives in accordance with that Charge, how much better a place it would be?
Over and above this, Freemasonry provides continuity and reliability – qualities so often missing in the lives of so many. We all know when our lodges meet. We all know that Grand Lodge meets on set dates every year. We all know the format that our meetings will take, and there is perhaps solace to be drawn from that comfortable regularity of the masonic year. We are all confident that those needed at our meetings will turn up, usually on time, unless there is a very good reason. We all know that our Lodge Secretaries will produce the minutes and that the Treasurer will have prepared the accounts and had them audited for the appropriate meeting. Of course, there can be slip ups, but these are rare and are almost always quickly rectified.
Brethren, surely in a world where there is so much disharmony and a general lack of agreement, an organisation that can provide so much unanimity and concord should be welcomed with open arms.
Brethren, if I may use a cricket analogy where the MCC is considered to be the Custodian of the Laws of the game, UGLE in conjunction with the Grand Lodges of Ireland and Scotland are looked on by the majority of the masonic world in rather the same light. It is important that we live up to that responsibility in all aspects of our behaviour, from the individual mason up to the Grand Lodge.
There is an annual meeting between the three ‘Home Grand Lodges’ and I have recently returned from this year’s meeting in Dublin. We are agreed that Freemasonry is going through a good phase at the moment, but we are equally agreed that there is no room for complacency. It is of great importance that we, as individuals, set an example of behaviour in our lives and in our lodges. Lodges must give a good account of themselves in their communities, which should be backed up by the Provinces and Districts in a wider context. It is Grand Lodge’s duty to monitor all this and, at the same time, ensure that we exemplify all that is good in Freemasonry to the world at large.
Brethren, if we are all successful in this, the world will be a better place, and a better place for the positive influence we bring to it. Long may that continue.
The end of mythology
John Hamill looks back to the pivotal moment in 1984 when Freemasonry had to confront its negative image with a policy of openness
Reviewing the many events that took place in our Provinces and Districts during the Tercentenary celebrations, I was struck by the number that included families, friends and members of the public. As the Pro Grand Master said in his review of the year, those events exemplified our membership’s renewed spirit of confidence and its pride in the Craft. It also reveals members’ wish to share that pride with their communities.
To most of the current members, being so visible in their communities last year was something new. However, like many things in Freemasonry, it was a welcome return to the past. Up to the outbreak of the Second World War, Freemasonry was a very visible part of the community. Meetings at national and local levels were freely reported in the national and local press: two weekly masonic newspapers and a monthly magazine were on public sale. Freemasons regularly appeared in public ‘clothed in the badges of the order’ either laying foundation stones of new structures or taking part in civic processions or those celebrating national events. As a result, Freemasons were both known and respected in their local communities.
A MUCH-NEEDED WAKE-UP CALL
During the war, Freemasonry turned in on itself and, with a shortage of newsprint, much social reporting disappeared from the media. After the war, introversion continued and Freemasonry gradually disappeared from the public consciousness. An unwillingness by Grand Lodge to engage with the media when they misreported Freemasonry allowed a mythology to grow. This was greatly helped by the less scrupulous in the world of journalism who knew they could write what they wished about Freemasonry without any fear of an official comeback from Grand Lodge.
The mythology and its effect on Freemasonry came to a head in 1984 with the publication of the late Stephen Knight’s anti-masonic rant, The Brotherhood: The Secret World of the Freemasons, which, for the first time in English Freemasonry, brought together the strands of anti-masonry in one volume.
In effect, the book was a wake-up call to English Freemasonry. The lead was taken by the Grand Master, who asked the Board of General Purposes to seek ways of better informing the public as to what Freemasonry is – and its place in society – so that they had good solid information against which they could weigh the nonsense appearing in the media on an almost daily basis. That gave birth to what has become known as the Openness Policy, which the Grand Master has greatly supported since its inception.
AND A CONTINUING EVOLUTION
It has been a long process – a perfect example of the old adage that it takes years to build a good reputation, seconds to lose it and years to rebuild it. I think that future historians will see the events of 1984 and what followed as a watershed moment. Since then, Freemasonry has evolved, and taken a long look at what it is and how it should fit with modern society. Today, it is a relevant and contributing part of our communities, without having changed its basic principles and tenets.
After all the positive media coverage that we received during last year’s celebrations, it was more than sad that a reputable newspaper such as The Guardian should put on the front page a story about Freemasonry that contained three major untruths, which a call to Freemasons’ Hall could have corrected. The story, as we know, led to ‘Enough is Enough’, which is reported on in this issue. As you will see, it was not a one-off project to meet an immediate need, but will be a continuing process led from the centre, with the Provinces, Districts and Metropolitan area all having a crucial role to play.
Plans are in place to provide the tools from the centre to bolster and maintain that pride and confidence that was so evident during the celebrations. Having been involved in ‘openness’ since its inception, I am convinced that what is already in place and what is being developed for the future will change attitudes and the public’s perception of Freemasonry. There will always be a minority that will believe the myths and are not open to their minds being changed, but with time they will become an insignificant minority.
‘Freemasonry has evolved, and taken a long look at what it is and how it should fit with modern society’