Grand Secretary's column - Autumn 2018

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

From the Grand Secretary

Brother Rudyard Kipling was initiated in 1886 into the Lodge of Hope and Perseverance, No. 782, in Anarkali, Lahore, when he was only 20 years old. Eight years later, while hosting brother Sir Arthur Conan Doyle of Sherlock Holmes fame in Vermont, he wrote a poem for the Pall Mall Gazette titled ‘The Mother Lodge’. It is one of my favourites, celebrating that great masonic principle: equality. Equality without distinction of rank, race, creed, profession or class.

‘The Mother Lodge’ speaks of the various characters in that lodge, their backgrounds and their beliefs. During the height of the British Raj and all that colonial India meant, Hindus met with Catholics, Jews, Muslims and Anglicans in Lodge No. 782; officers sat with enlisted men, and accountants with railway workers. The poem contrasts the behaviours shown in public, where differences were observed by the conventions of the time, with those in lodge, where they were swept away. 

In 19th-century India, just as today, brethren held strong views about a wide range of subjects. There is no doubt that Kipling’s Catholic brethren would have believed that most of the rest of their lodge would quite literally be going to hell – a very real and unpleasant place for a 19th-century Catholic! Yet their one strength seems to be their acceptance of one another, and their celebration of their shared humanity. A desire to put aside their own feelings and beliefs and to try to understand the unintelligible. 

I have followed with interest the debates on social media since the United Grand Lodge of England released its gender diversity policy. At the one end, there are those who think that ‘wanting to be a tomato doesn’t make you a tomato’ through to those who would feel that changing gender should be as easy as changing your underwear.  

In our great organisation, there is room for that breadth of opinion, just as there was back in a small, dimly lit and dusty masonic hall in Anarkali over 130 years ago. Freemasonry is so much bigger than what each of us believes, and we do not all have to think the same. 

Dr David Staples
Grand Secretary

Outside – “Sergeant! Sir! Salute! Salaam!”
 Inside – “Brother,” an’ it doesn’t do no ’arm. 
We met upon the Level an’ we parted on the Square,
 An’ I was Junior Deacon in my Mother-Lodge out there!
Extract from ‘The Mother Lodge’ by Rudyard Kipling

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