The Independent Magazine for Freemasons
I am writing this before the December issue has even gone to print, as I will be in New Zealand from mid-December to early February. I plan to take a hard disk with all my programs and documents. This March issue is already ‘put to bed’ as we say. It emphasises how the world continues to shrink. Contributors are from everywhere and my work as editor could be done almost anywhere – if there is an internet signal. Masons are increasingly visiting lodges in other countries and this can only help to further Masonry universal but don’t count on one world-ruling body and don’t count on this being the English! One Mason has embarked on the journey of visiting 80 lodges around the world and we include some early pictures of his challenge. Michael Palin, ex-Monty Python and President of the Royal Geographical Society, copied Phineas Fogg’s ‘around the world in 80 days’ and reflected that what he saw had profoundly saddened him. Hopefully, Freemasonry will be different.
I said, last time, that articles seem to come in groups and this time we seem to have more about the Mormons and its founder, Joseph Smith. So many groups have borrowed from Freemasonry and its rituals. Why then, can some not accept that Freemasonry itself borrowed extensively from other groups with which it had no other direct connection? An article on Masonic research warns us to be cautious before we accept anything we read, as so much is unproven fantasy or simply careless inaccuracy. However, we include articles on our usual range of interesting topics – Masonic myths, the cult of Mithras, evangelist’s symbols and the Operatives, who seek to link modern Freemasonry more strongly with operative Masons.
We have our insights into Freemasonry in Slovenia, Japan, Italy and even Texas. We also have articles that seek to give advice as to how lodges, and the Craft in general, can be improved. To this end, the article about Greg Goding, and his travelling presentations, is interesting. We have included articles over several issues about lodges that are bucking the decline. They tell us that they have full houses, impatient waiting lists, energetic and enthusiastic meetings and are thus beacons to the rest of us. If, on reading this, you said ‘yes, but’, then you might be explaining why your own lodges are not in such a happy state. We are still receiving ideas to improve Freemasonry and one which was included was that all (yes ALL) higher ranks should have a job attached and that all such ranks should have a retiring age – say 65 – for Provincial and 70 for Grand rank; though you might retire a lot sooner than this (that’s me gone, for a start). Thus, this makes room for others. Now, if you just said ‘yes, but’ again, you are perhaps beginning to see the problem.
Anyway, we also have some articles on such as the Master’s song, various Masonic graces and even the reason for ‘passing the port’ as we do. All good stuff and it is worth noting that there are no rules about the festive board. Lodges do not need to have a festive board and they certainly do not need to make this part of the ritual, with the same toasts, the same taking of wine, the same speeches etc. Directors of Ceremonies will be shuddering at this thought but lodges could be far more creative in what they do at the festive board. One lodge I know has no toasts, no speeches, a simpler meal and just interaction and discussion between members who are encouraged to mix and mingle each meeting; thus, no DC at all. When you only meet once a month – or even once a quarter – this makes some sense. In another lodge, after finishing the lodge business, the members re-join wives and friends for a one-hour musical concert and then a lunch, cabaret style, with only grace and a minimal welcome and farewell to the guests from the Master. There are so many different things that could be done to prevent boredom with the festive board. It reinforces, perhaps, as in a previous article, that if you want to know what is wrong with any organisation you should talk to those who have left it, or who never come, if you really want the truth!
One article is particularly disturbing and that is the shift in the attitude of the Anglican Church towards Freemasonry. Christopher Haffner discovered this first hand when his membership of the Craft blocked his desire for ordination over many years. Even when he had completely resigned all Masonic involvement and was then able to become a Reader, he was still persecuted by parishioners to burn his regalia publicly and to undergo exorcism. Yes, you read that correctly – exorcism! This from an organisation that was totally committed to Freemasonry from the King down and which has benefited enormously from the support and charity of the Craft. Added to this we now find that Masonic symbolism is no longer welcome in Christian burials or graveyards and I cannot remember when local Freemasons last took any active part in a burial service – even of the most eminent members of the Province. We attend in large numbers but only as part of the congregation. We may read a lesson, and even imply membership but no hint of acacia or Masonic ritual. We include some of this in other articles.
However, since 1813, we have divorced ourselves from specific religious adherence (perhaps that’s part of the problem?). Is it now pragmatic to divorce ourselves from all religiosity – prayers, bibles, oaths taken on the VSL, etc. Thus, no religion could find fault with us. Well, this is something that has been touched upon again in the letters we have received …. but somebody else can push that cart!