The Independent Magazine for Freemasons
The tercentenary celebrations are in full swing and these are added to the many Masonic conferences which would be running anyway. By the time you get this issue, conferences in Toulon and Paris will have been and gone, the European Masonic meeting in Twickenham will have just finished while others such as in Athens, Colorado, Wichita and the rest will still be planning their big day. There are so many of these conferences which give the ordinary Mason a chance to meet and listen to the many excellent speakers who are available. It is a shame that so often it is the few enthusiastic Masonic researchers presenting to the other enthusiastic Masonic researchers. Most Masons seem to forget their agreement to pursue a daily advancement in Masonic knowledge – which is not just about reading the ritual. There are plenty of other Masonic books available.
Unfortunately, sometimes one can read the views of some Masons and become confused and even alarmed. Notable among these were the trio of J.S.M. Ward, E.A. Waite and W. Wilmshurst. Wilmshurst still has a small but enthusiastic following in certain lodges but the other two have largely slipped away, although copies of their books are found on the dusty shelves of many Masonic libraries. Ward’s guides to the three degrees and the Royal Arch used to be given to many brethren – but no longer. Thus, the lead article is about J.S.M. Ward and his activities and views. In reading this, one can see why he might not be welcomed for membership in such as Quatuor Coronati Lodge, which now restricts itself largely to historical fact avoiding anything which might be considered too spiritual (dare I even say esoteric?) Some of Ward’s connections were also problematic and thus, I have added an article about one of these, the world’s wickedest man, Aleister Crowley. We did have an article in an earlier issue which presented Gerald Gardner, the founder of Wicca and another contact of Ward’s. Have a read and then maybe retrieve Ward’s book from the shelves and see what you make of it. In a future issue we will have a look at Waite.
We have articles on Freemasonry in Armenia, in Malta, in South America and an interesting article on a Jewish lodge in Rhode Island (in the USA, not the island). The first two are interesting, in that in both instances the writers were not keen to name living brethren or have pictures of them because Freemasonry is still under a cloud in those areas. An article on the condemnations of Freemasonry from a number of sources does raise a question: if Freemasonry has been criticised and even condemned over such a long period, and from so many sources, are we so sure that all the accusations against the Craft are spurious? I suspect not and an article in the last issue was clear that Masons had indeed murdered William Morgan. I only raise this delicate subject because we espouse that one of our aims is truth. If that is so, we should perhaps be willing to be truthful about our own activities (and shortcomings) over the last three hundred years.
A letter to the editor raises this point from a brother who started his Freemasonry with a lie – and this, reportedly, continued. I’ve had a lot more letters to the editor recently, which is good, and I am already hearing what brethren think about the television programmes being aired, even as I write this. It is called ‘Inside the Freemasons’. There are several programmes, running an hour each time and the makers had full access to many areas of the Craft. I saw my first episode last night and was surprised to see that I was in it myself, standing waiting to enter a meeting of one of my own lodges! The programme was very interesting. It certainly made the point that Masons were enthusiastic workers for charity – albeit, some were seriously challenged by learning any ritual. It will be interesting to see if anything vaguely resembling the views of the three ‘W’s’ above gets mentioned but there is no doubt that what I saw presented a very likeable side of Freemasons.
I also include an in memoriam for Leo Zanelli. He was, I think, the second editor but reigned supreme for 15 years. I talked with him a few times when taking over this role. I said I was a bit worried about being seen as critical of the organisation, of offending writers and their views by disagreeing with them, not publishing their pride and joy and correcting their terrible grammar and logic. What did he do when faced with this? Leo said that he just told them to ‘get *^”+#%’. I have ignored his advice but it probably said much about Leo. I am sure he will be missed!
I went to an installation the other night and the Master elect again promised to maintain the ancient landmarks of the order. Of course, most could not begin to say what these are – so an article describing these might help.
I also include an article on the lodge rooms at what was once the Great Eastern Hotel beside Liverpool Street station. Few get a chance to see them these days. They remind us of the tremendous influence the development of the rail systems had on the spread and development of Freemasonry, not just in England but also in the USA, Australia, India, Canada and the like. The railway brought contact and settlements, and then lodge rooms. Indeed, without the railway it is unlikely that this magazine would have ever been started.
Finally, we are so focused on 300 years that I thought it interesting to include some of what was happening when we celebrated the 200th anniversary. The average age of Freemasons may be high – but I doubt that there are any who actually remember it! Happy reading…