The Independent Magazine for Freemasons
This issue presents the usual variety of historical, geographical and, hopefully, thought-provoking articles which seems to please our readership. In a recent issue I asked readers to explain what they thought ‘truth’ meant when we talk of ‘brotherly love, relief and truth’. Several of you responded to this challenge and a response is included. The responses have generally explained truth in semantic/philosophical terms when the original letter which prompted the request was about some Masons not being truthful to candidates, not living up to their own rhetoric and generally rewriting their history to look better. When an organisation has existed for so long, with so many members and in so many places it is hard to see how it might be otherwise.
One area in which this is particularly appropriate has been the relationship between Freemasonry and the Catholic Church. I am told by Catholic Masons that all is now fine and there is absolutely no issue from the Church. An article included suggests that this is just not true. Based on doctoral research it explains what the Church’s issue was, and still is, for Catholics who also wish to be Masons. Of course, most Catholic Masons will just ignore this. Another article suggests that Freemasonry developed in an atmosphere of antagonism to organised religion – so it is interesting to see a picture of the Pope outside a Masonic lodge in Spain and his request, apparently, to have future dialogue with the Masons. The first article would suggest, however, that this is unlikely to be driven by a desire to forgive and forget – but let’s see what happens. There is a suggestion from another article that much of the religiosity in Freemasonry is a later addition as the ritual expanded and the establishment, including the Anglican Church, became more involved. It is all rather complex – but it has been suggested that the unease, indeed condemnation, we have often experienced from organised religion will not go away until we remove some (maybe all) of the religiosity from our ceremonies – which is probably not going to happen in our part of Freemasonry. In other parts a belief in God is not required – again, all very complex. However, we have noted in other issues that regular candidates have already been initiated on a blank book and on Darwin’s Origin of Species – so the definition of a Volume of the Sacred Law has certainly been reinterpreted. Members’ definition of what constitutes a Supreme Being has also been varied. Hindus believe in many Gods. Buddhists believe we are all part of the one Godhead. Many Jews do not believe in an afterlife, and so on. All would be welcome in most Masonic constitutions. However, the suggestion in one article that a candidate could believe in Star Wars or June Whitefield is not likely to gain much credence anywhere near here. This from an article commenting on the report in the Radio Times promoting the documentary ‘Inside the Freemasons’. The documentary itself seems to have gone down well with most people who saw it. However, many readers were not happy about the reporting of the series while others, no doubt, will say ‘I told you so’. It really is very difficult for the rulers in the Craft. Whatever they do, someone will find fault – which is not surprising when we have so much variety of membership and we cannot even agree what Freemasonry is supposed to be for. Several articles in this issue present differing views regarding this. All good reading.
Of course, the 300th celebrations are still in full swing and a number of events have finally taken place in London – notably the ball at Gt Queen St and the actual anniversary celebration at the Albert Hall. We include some pictures of these. In England, the provinces were all asked to have a tercentenary activity of some sort and Hertfordshire responded with a wonderful display of lodge banners on their website as well as combining with other provinces to create a special tercentenary banner. Again, pictures included.
We include our letters to the editor which seems to be growing. The request for readers to take a photograph in the most unusual place they find themselves, while holding a copy of the Square, has thus far elicited two responses, and we are hoping to receive many more before we close the competition, with one reader in a jail – thankfully, not as an inmate. Apparently, the food at this particular jail was always good in order to prevent riots so an article detailing the corn, wine and oil that our ancient apprentices supposedly lived on would not have gone down well there. In the exercise yard inmates walked around and round anticlockwise – which fits in well with an article on ‘circumambulation’ in the lodge. But should we square the lodge or walk in a circle cutting the corners? Should we be clockwise when races, supermarkets and prison exercise yards seem to favour anti clockwise? Some get very hot about this while others couldn’t care less. For some of our authors this is not what Freemasonry is about. The Square is there, hopefully, to reflect all opinions without favouring any of them.
Finally, on a personal note, after four years as the editor of this magazine, I have decided that it is time to move on and hand over the task to a successor. It has been very interesting and very fulfilling – indeed a labour of love – and I have made many contacts and friends as a result. Thanks to all of you who have supported me with articles and encouragement. I wish my successor, and the magazine, all the best for a successful future. I have always felt that The Square has an important role to play. It will be interesting to be a reader again and hopefully to contribute to it from time to time – assuming, of course, that my writing is good enough!