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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

Letters to the Editor - NO. 44 WINTER 2018

we are the same

Sir,

The Grand Secretary’s article in the autumn edition of Freemasonry Today took me straight back to 4 May 1999, and a ‘Discourse on Brother Rudyard Kipling’ at Blackpool Masonic Hall. This was presented by one of the nicest and kindest brothers I ever had the pleasure to have encountered in my masonic career, Past Senior Grand Deacon Jack Humphrey.The Grand Secretary’s article in the autumn edition of Freemasonry Today took me straight back to 4 May 1999, and a ‘Discourse on Brother Rudyard Kipling’ at Blackpool Masonic Hall. This was presented by one of the nicest and kindest brothers I ever had the pleasure to have encountered in my masonic career, Past Senior Grand Deacon Jack Humphrey.

Although some years have passed since this presentation and any vivid memories of the full evening have been dulled by age, one song has stuck in my mind through the years since then; ‘The Mother Lodge’. The idea was that one brother (my programme states a Royston Hartley) sang the verses, and the remainder of the members sang the choruses (in a most rousing manner if I recall correctly). To this day, I often find myself singing the first three verses (the only ones I can recall) and the chorus in my head.

Although it’s an old poem, I feel it really does emphasise just how Freemasonry brings individuals of all faiths, creeds and colours together. We, as Freemasons, were promoting equality long before it was the desire of the general populace.

Stephen Gaulter, St Aldhelm Lodge, No. 2888, Malmesbury, Wiltshire

Sir,

In the autumn issue of Freemasonry Today, I must praise the Grand Secretary for his well-written welcome. As a 35-year Lewis mason, you have wisely expressed what I believe is the root essence of our brotherhood: that on the level we are all the same and stripped of colour, realised economics and religious tenants, we become true individuals, whose starting points of view are common.

And, if we can start with those common viewpoints, we can build an edifice worthy of everyone’s trust and respect.

Gerald Campbell, Past Master, Grand Lodge of Quebec and Grand Lodge of Canada