hoggThe most recent meeting of the lodge was the installation of our new worshipful Master and it took place in Manchester, England on March 16th 2013. It was a wonderful, truly international affair

Our new Master James Hogg lives in Florida and we had a very international attendance from our membership.

There were members from France, Holland, Kosovo, Malta, Romania, Serbia, Sweden and the United States as well as England and Wales. We also had several guests from France, Holland and Romania.

Many of those attending joined together for a social evening on the previous day and it was a very interesting and international weekend for us all.

Any Freemason is welcome to attend our meetings and if you do wish to attend the next one please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

If you are already a Freemason you can apply to join the lodge here


Because of space constraints, it has been necessary to abridge commentary material somewhat.

The Master, in opening the discussion said: My hearty congratulations to Bro Busfield on the excellent presentation of his paper in lodge, a paper I have personally found to be pertinent and nost interesting. I say pertinent because it has been my experience of late that whenever Brethren get together for a chat, the condition of the Craft comes up for discussion. And interesting because of the varying opinions which Brethren advance as their reasons for the causes of the present decline. Over the years I think I have heard them all.

However I do not believe that the present condition of the Craft, in this country at least, is the result of someone not trying to do something about it. There have been many attempts to make improvements over the years and Freemasonry here in Auckland has changed greatly in consequence. For instance, when I joined in 1948 we had to wear white gloves to our Ladies Nights and alcohol was forbidden. The Installation ceremony has also undergone considerable change to make it easier and shorter, changes have been made to the Obligations and many other things have been altered or relaxed. But sadly no sooner are some changes made in one direction than they are overtaken in another by some new development in society.

In my view it is these changes in our socio-economic life style which are largely responsible for the decline which is almost impossible for Freemasonry to cope with. Somehow Masonry no longer seems to be compatible with a world where tax laws make de-facto relationships socially acceptable and sound economic sense; a world where the human rights and the feminist movements are demanding that men take a greater share in running the home and caring for the children; where equal pay and equal opportunities mean that household chores must be shared during what were formerly leisure hours; a world where increasing crime and violence mean that women of ages no longer wish to remain alone at night, where new inventions and gadgets keep the emphasis on worldly possessions and helping one's fellow man is the responsibility of the State. Bro. Busfield's finding regarding net movements seems to support this view, where 'out the door' numbers now exceed initiates coming in. Until this area can be rectified there is little hope of arresting the decline.

From the many comments made to me since publication it is obvious that this paper has created a great deal of interest among brethren of all ranks. This must not only be very gratifying to the author but ultimately for the good of the Craft also. Now while all may not agree with Bro. Busfield's prediction, I am sure that all must agree that he has shown a masterly skill in researching his material and has presented it with all the force of sound logic. The true value of this paper lies not so much in telling us something which we already knew, but rather in showing quite clearly just how serious the situation really is.

I admire Bro. Busfield's courage in tackling a subject most likely to arouse disagreement and indeed I feel he would be disappointed if this were not so and now, as I can contain myself no longer, I declare the paper open for discussion.

Bro F H Fraser said: Bro Busfield's professionally presented paper puts me in mind of a rattlesnake: it can be deadly, but it first devotes considerable time and effort to warning its potential victim by loudly rattling. This enables the victim to take evading action. This subject is quite patently too large to be given the serious analysis and discussion it certainly deserves, in the time available tonight. I believe that though this is the right forum, this is not the right occasion for doing anything more than cursorily canvass the subject. I wish to appeal to this Lodge to arrange for a properly organised seminar on the topic. For such an event I have drawn up a suggested ground-plan and invite further suggestions and contributions. I shall therefore confine myself merely to pinpointing and listing what I believe to be the issues arising from the paper.

Before doing so, and without going into the question of the various legitimate uses of statistical material, I wish to draw to the attention of brethren the necessity to bear in mind the vital distinctions to be made between statistics, trends and forecasts.

Avoiding what General Montgomery referred to as 'belly-aching'. I shall accentuate the positive and submit a series of points that need to be looked at in any examination-in-depth of this truly vital matter:

  1. Consideration of the statistical material.
  2. Is there a problem? If so, how do we define it'? (In case you think this merely a rhetorical or facetious question, I ask you to remember Dr. Schuhmacher's "Small is beautiful" and Oliver Cromwell's dictum "A few honest men are better than numbers."
  3. How do we see ourselves? As a moral force and leaven as a mass movement, or as a society for the enhancement of individual ethics, moral values and spiritual growth?
  4. Desirable goals. (Definition of alternatives).
  5. The path ahead: Actions we could take as individuals, lodges, Grand Lodges. Can we learn from other countries'?

Finally, I would like to pay a tribute to Bro. Busfield by suggesting that I am sure his intention was to ask: "Whither Masonry?" rather than pronounce the verdict: "Wither, Masonry!"

Bro. R. Powell said: in my opinion Bro. Busfield's paper would rate as one of the most important and incisive to have been presented for many years. Without wishing tediously to repeat the many cogent points he raises, I would suggest that every concerned brother should read and reread closely the five words which conclude the portion headed 'Attitudes', i.e. what has been done?

In the section headed 'Appeals for Progress' the quotations from Past Grand Masters addresses make fine reading but appear to be rather 'airy-fairy' platitudes when what is really required is firm direction from our hierarchy, and Grand Lodge assistance in implementing programmes. In recent times I have heard at least one currently active Grand Lodge officer when, replying to the customary toast at installations, make suggestions which I consider well worthy of further exposition and subsequent possible adoption by at least some lodges.

In his final chapter. 'My Appeal to the Craft', I would suggest that Bro. Busfield has succinctly set out the requirements which attach to the question contained in the title of his paper, and then have every brother ask himself, 'Am I doing my share?'

If the thoughts expressed in this paper go unheeded then perhaps in the year 2026 or thereabouts the question might be 'What was Freemasonry?'.

Bro. R. H. Ellyett said: Bro Busfield is correct in his assessment of the Craft as it is in New Zcaland now. He will also be correct in his suggestion that we could be looking at our last forty years if the present decline is allowed to continue unchecked.

I trust that those who rule and govern the Craft in this country will first take notice and then take action to prove his suggestion wrong. We are fast approaching the 21st century and I would like to feel that a revitalised Craft with its wonderful precepts will he able to adapt and change, where change is possible, so that it will have a place in the future.

Thank you Bro Busfield for your effort, research and diligence in producing this paper. I, like you, hope we will have many more than 40 years as a useful organisation, with benefit to its members and the community of which it forms part.

Bro. P. J. Smith said: Bro. Busfield's paper makes interesting, if not startling reading. If one is to interpret the information from the graphs too literally, it would appear that the end is nigh and we are doomed!

I feel that we should take comfort from the fact that throughout its 270 year history Freemasonry has experienced many ups and downs. I accept that as far as New Zealand is concerned its future does not look all that good, however we should not overlook the fact that suburban lodges with a high local profile are continuing to prosper e.g. Browns Bay, Howick, Pakuranga, Wairoa, Waitakerei, etc.; other cities and towns throughout the country would have lodges experiencing similar growth. Whether this trend at local level is sufficient to counter the indicated decline remains to be seen. I believe that if we want to reverse the trend we must all make a positive commitment to our Craft and work harder so that it will survive and once again prosper.

It should be noted that various community service clubs and some of the local church groups are having membership problems, not too dissimilar to our own. and their solution like that of any other human endeavour, be it recreation or business, lies with its members or owners. Careful planning and hard work are the essential ingredients for recovery.

Bro. R. I. Goodall said: Bro. Busfield is to be warmly congratulated for the courageous and concerned paper depicting the sad, serious decline in membership. His application to sound research is clearly evident throughout his work.

The paper makes the current situation crystal clear and is one which could well be made available to every freemason in New Zealand.

Credible measures designed to effect improvement have been taken over the years to publicise, to teach, to educate, and so on: each has had its worth but an effective remedy still remains to he found to deal with a situation as serious as the paper reveals. Wholesale publicity of the Craft is not envisaged in this comment but regular, controlled, well reasoned, fully edited publicity is, bearing in mind always that the Craft may not have ready access to favourably disposed news outlets after many years of comparative silence. The secrecy often ascribed to members and felt by those outside the Craft can and does inhibit relations, one with the other.

The relaxation and other similar suggestions mooted from time to time cannot seriously be seen as a method for improvement. Surely the qualities needed are such as dedication and application to win excellence, to teach by precept and example the tried and proved qualities of etiquette and the social graces so inextricably a part of Masonic ceremonial procedure and method, to remind brethren and to teach initiates that Freemasonry is unique and not to he compared with other organisations.

In his final section Bro. Busficid says the Craft has an abundance of ability to deal with the problem. I agree and suggest the formation of a group having proven records in their own particular fields, to he found by each Prov. GM nominating his brightest prospect. The brief, a full report and recommendation for urgent corrective action and future policy.

In his foreword to the first "Freemason" of Mareh 1973, MWBro Sir Edwin Bate, PGM. quoted Lord Cobham, saying, "Opinion is free, facts are sacred"; he himself said "and if there be criticism let us have it. I think that Bro. Busfield with rare constructive criticism has provided ample proof of the facts.

To arrest any sort of decline of Freemasonry is undoubtedly the responsibility of each brother. Just as we are arranged in order of rank and precedence and in accordance with custom, so are the necessary initiatives the bounden duty of our senior officers. Want of attention to our deep problem surely cannot he allowed to continue .

Bro J. P. Glenie said: The problems of modern Freemasonry which Bro. Busfield has shown up so starkly in this paper, are very real. Whether they do in fact portend the end of the Craft within the forty years of his title is perhaps another matter. I have a very positive conviction that the Craft will ultimately rise above its troubles and continue to serve the community as a useful social organisation. I believe Freemasonry is valuable and will so continue, even if like the phoenix, it must first arise from its own ashes, perhaps in a greatly modernised form. But much reorganisation and careful nurturing will first be essential.

There is a considerable parallel between the Church and the Craft in the incidence of the support received within the community at any time. A religious faith is essential to our spiritual well being and. over the centuries, support for the Church has waxed and waned as the impact of external influences has become apparent. Today the tide of church attendance seems to have ebbed but history will surely repeat itself and the tide will again turn as social conditions change.

So it will be with the Craft if the right steps are taken. In the history of the Craft progress has not always been strong and steady and we have had our ups and downs. At present we are in an ever lengthening down but if we reorganise to meet the challenge, the tide for us too will turn when social conditions are right. This is a materialistic age but, from his very nature man must ultimately look again to spiritual values.

The Craft experienced a substantial upsurge after the last war as returning servicemen reached out for the atmosphere of peace which had so long been denied them and which the lodges offered. They looked too for the male companionship to which they had become accustomed during the years of the War. So they flocked to the lodges and the Craft flourished. Today these influences have waned and other social forces have taken over.

Society is undergoing great change. Some of the churches are becoming jealous of influences which to them appear to be in competition with their own interests - and to some of them, Freemasonry is one such organisation. Until this is settled, a great social influence, probably a vital one, is working against us. How to obtain the goodwill of these Churches is something that the Craft may well have to consider in a very positive way.

Other social organisations too have become suspicious of us. There has been much ado in the Police Force in England, with the fear, quite wrong I am sure, that membership of the Craft rather than loyal and able service is the real key to promotion. Public Bodies have in some cases become jealous of Freemasonry and have set out to destroy its influence among their employees. Elsewhere stories have been spread that the Craft seeks to support political power and when such anti-state organisations as P2 in Italy pass themselves off as Masonic lodges, which they certainly are not, then favourable public opinion of our Order is seriously eroded. These of course, are only some of the influences we face and do battle with today.

Within our own ranks, the Craft may have been its own enemy in so long preserving the aura of secrecy which has surrounded it and which has probably engendered suspicion. Have we held too long to our penalties, supposedly known only to our members but in reality quite widely known, and I believe resented, in the community. Grand Lodges are now at last correcting this. What about the way we prepare our candidates? Is that also well outmoded?

In so many ways we must, I think, move with the times and tailor our institution more closely to the social consciousness of the period. If we fail to do this, time may well run out. The new century will be a period of violent change and Freemasonrv must move to keep abreast of these changes Our Craft is well loved by us and greatly valued. We must ensure that in forty years time, it is much more than a cherished memory .

I believe the problems we face are world wide and no solution pertinent only to New Zealand will be valid. The great question therefore is how to find common ground, on an international level, in searching for the answers which are so vital.

Bro. D. J. Merryweather said: The realistic and somewhat depressing paper presented by Bro. Busfield certainly brings home the state of the Craft. There is no point in ignoring bad news however and hoping it will go away. As was pointed out, leadership is a basic requisite to continued growth and prosperity and it is an aspect of leadership I wish to highlight. To my mind the most serious graph was that showing the loss of members through resignations etc. which outstrips the initiations. As was outlined efforts have been made to arrest this outflow with to date little success. When a newly installed Master is elevated to the Chair he is full of enthusiasm to do the best he can for the lodge. This of course entails visiting.

We have all heard of the Master who manages to visit every lodge in the Auckland District during his year of office, which must have a detrimental effect on his private as well as public pursuits. A man can only do a given amount and in many cases the welfare of the lodge as a whole suffers with the Master devoting so much time to visiting. I would submit that if some of the effort put into visiting could be redirected to contacting lodge members and having their existence acknowledged this loss could at least be slowed. I am by no means advocating the abolition of visiting for after all it is one of the landmarks of the Craft, but I am advocating a redirection of enthusiastic endeavour. For too long Masters have followed the example of their predecessors with little thought to the consequences. It is time for a little visiting close to home.

Bro I .M Enting PGW wrote from Wellington. Bro. A. H. Busfield deserves thanks and congratulations for attempting to grasp the nettle of the numbers game. Similar papers have bean given elsewhere one by Bro. W. Ed Millett to Research Lodge of Wellington No. 194. Although it is some time since I looked at the original figures I am pretty familiar with them having been heavily involved in both the 1980 and 1982 Surveys and having drafted the ''21 Points'' report for the Condition of the Craft Committee it may be recalled that I was called upon to present summarised findings at the Communication Seminar of 1981 in Invercargill; and at the request of MWBro Knox then Grand Master to a 1982 Seminar of the Grand Lodge of Victoria. On other occasions I have delivered the same message to Research Lodge of Wellington and to other Lodges mostly in the Wellington District. This is simply to establish in part my qualification to comment.

Bro. Busfield's figures are incontrovertible. I haven't checked them in detail but they are clearly in line with predictions previously made. Events and non-events of the past four years would lead any trained observer to expect exactly this result. Nor does one have to be a statistician to predict what is going to happen next. NO MASTER WHAT STEPS BE TAKEN NOW THE NUMERICAL POSITION MUST BECOME WORSE, PROBABLY A LOT WORSE, BEFORE IT BECOMES BETTER. There will of course. always be those who say "Don't confuse me with the facts. I've made up my mind".

The quoted statements of Past Grand Masters were probably more an attempt to inject a positive element into a negative situation than a strong vote of confidence in the numerical future. Whether the strong growth of 1945-60 resulted in debased standards is a matter of opinion, I personally doubt it, and tend to the belief, nothing more, that today's candidates are neither better nor worse.

There may be something in the cyclical argument. All manner of things ... businesses, customs, morals, economics ... do experience these phenomena. As far as organisations are concerned it has been my observation, supported by those of many others, that trends, cyclical or otherwise arc seldom reversed unless the situation be taken in hand. It is a relief when things have "bottomed out'" but that point is defined only in retrospect. The Craft in New Zealand has not "bottomed out" yet. The matter of dual membership is I understand now easily dealt with. New computer facilities at Grand Lodge Office are said to have the answer.

Either there is a problem or there is not. Numbers are important or of academic interest only. While agreeing with our present Grand Master that Freemasonry is not and never was intended for all men I simply point out that a sustained flow of new business is essential to organisational health. That statement is so obvious as to border on the trite.

And whatever attitude we as individuals care to adopt history tells us that there is NO GUARANTEE OF SURVIVAL. There is no divine providence which says that because something is good or even great it will continue in perpetuity. There is a tendency to point to our long history but the plain fact of the matter is that it is not so long. Taking Freemasonry in its present form 1717 to 1986 is only 269 years. It took a lot longer than that to build Canterbury Cathedral. And an examination of the good things which have evolved and disappeared over that period would quickly disprove the 'myth' of organisational immortality.

The plain fact of the matter is that all organisations, any organisation exists only as long as it meets a genuine and recognisable need. That there is a genuine need for Freemasonry in the world some of us never for a moment doubt, but whether that need is recognised widely enough is quite another matter. We are not back in 1717, nor 1817, nor even 1967. Everything about us including the society upon which we depend for our very existence is changing at a pace probably never before experienced in human history.

Therein lies the real challenge, the need to adapt to a new environment. In my opinion and that of many others, that challenge cannot be met solely on our terms. Those who are adamant that no changes be made are like somebody entering a free-for-all, not fighting according to Queensbury rules. The Craft just has to face up to the challenge as it is, not as we would like it to be.

This immense problem has exercised the minds of some top leaders of the Craft for a long time. Amorphous in nature, it called for definition. The surveys of 1980 and 1982 did just that, not wholly but to a very considerable extent. Despite the warnings clearly sounded, it is certain that the Craft as I whole does not realise the critical and deteriorating nature of the situation. It is also probable that many who do haven't the faintest idea of how to start putting it right.

It is idle to expect a panacea or sovereign remedy. Had there been one at least one of the Grand Lodges of the world would have found it and we would know about it. Individual Lodges, in a spirit of brotherly love, must work at it too in their own patch. What applies to the Craft as a whole mostly applies to the lodge.

But having said all that, for the present at least it is important that brethren like Bro. Busfield continue to speak up. If enough of us bang the drum long enough we may eventually he heard. Let us hope that that happens before it is too late.

Bro. R. Johnston said: Bro. Busfield is to be commended on his administering some medicine, not very palatable but hopefully it will commence the remedial process. Basically his paper calls for plans and specifications from the supervising architects, hopefully these will materialise. However dressed stones will he required for the building from individual lodges. To this end I have a small reminder contribution to make:

Firstly the role of the lodge Mentor must be maintained and developed. Brethren who are better informed will have a better appreciation of Freemasonry, locally, nationally and world-wide

Secondly some degree meetings could be sacrificed for discussion meetings and speakers provided, both masonic and non-masonic, for refectory meetings.

Thirdly our almost forgotten brethren should be catered for, those unable to attend and those whose interest has waned, by making better use of the lodge summons in providing a précis of minutes, news about members and past and future masonic activities. After all they loyally pay their dues so should be entitled to some return.

Bro. R. E. Pugh-Williams wrote: I am pleased Bro. Busfield put a Question Mark to the title of his paper.

I personally believe Freemasonry will survive in spite of remarks in it, being convinced there will always be a hard core of dedicated Freemasons, come what may. The passage over the next two decades will be grim, our losses will be as predicted, but from the hard core will come rejuvenation.

Statistically and graphically Bro. Busfield proves that Freemasonry is in dire straits over the membership problem. I hope his paper will make people sit up and take notice. Yet I wonder! We have had many papers on this theme and I am cynical enough to think little real notice will be taken of it.

My criticism of the paper is that it does not go far enough to solve our problems and offers very little in the way of positive recommendations. However its contents must be taken to heart in the first place by the rulers of the Craft. Over the years our leaders have told us that they are confident all will be well as far as membership is concerned in the future. At Board level the problem has been recognised with, in my opinion, only half hearted efforts to rectify problems. The trouble is that Freemasonry is a very slow ponderous machine whose moment of inertia progresses at the pace of a tortoise.

The answer to our problem is lack of education at lodge level. We lose members because of poor proposers and seconders together with lack of knowledge and interest by Masters and officers. If an initiate is blessed with a good proposer and seconder he invariably becomes a good freemason. The ideal ones take the trouble to guide and explain in the formative stages. In my experience such proposers and seconders are few and far between whilst the average Master and officer neglect the initiate on completion of his degrees.

Education is the very foundation on which the future of the Craft rests and unless that base is provided the structure will be unsound. We have the means to provide that foundation yet few seem keen to avail themselves of that offered. It has been proved beyond a shadow of doubt that if the Mentor Schcme is adopted with true enthusiasm and motivation the membership problem will be solved.

However for it to be a success it must have the genuine, sincere interest and backing of the Provincial Grand Masters and his Officers. Such does not necessarily mean they run the scheme, but delegate suitable brethren for that task and see that it is implemented at lodge level. Bro. Busfield mentions in his paper that an eminent Brother stated, 'we have expertise within the Craft', then for goodness sake let us use it to the full.

However, efforts to get Provincial Grand Masters interested in the Mentor Scheme and its operation have not been a great success and I know our present Grand Master has had his problems in this area. Until our rulers come to real terms with masonic education in a truly positive, meaningful way the 40 years of Bro. Busfield will shrink to 10 years.

There are other avenues of masonic education. It is a source of disappointment that members of the original Central Masonic Education Committee did not more actively promote the Mentor Scheme in their own areas. Some did, but when rebuffs and frustrations appeared, instead of coming into the scene with all guns blazing, they gave up and did nothing. That Central Committee no longer exists, but surely it could he resurrected with a new and younger element to promote masonic education.

Instead the situation has developed where Provincial Grand Masters are requested to invite a knowledgeable brother into their Province to explain and promote the scheme. Until he is invited nothing can be done. To date only one Provincial Grand Master has availed himself of this offer. It might be added that the visit to his district has borne fruit. Brethren interested in masonic education have produced an "Elementary Masonic Handbook For New Zealand Freemasons". At present it is in draft form, but they are anxious to interest Grand Lodge to publish the handbook which is designed as information to complement the work of lodge mentors. It will be of interest to observe how far this positive project will progress. Here again we have "expertise within the Craft".

All that is needed for the Mentor Scheme is a sound basic knowledge, a pleasant disposition to encourage discussion and then listen, plus a willingness to prepare for a mentor session. It is at this point that Research Lodges could provide these basics to instill confidence. The mentors will realise their commitments are not all that demanding. The secret of success of the scheme is to keep it at the fireside chat level. From Bro. Busfields remarks it would appear Auckland has tried instruction nights for EAs and FCs with no success. It is gathered such nights were open to all the EAs and FCs in the Auckland area. If so (and in this I may stand corrected) there was a captive audience in an environment which stifled discussion. Few will stand up and ask questions in a large group, instead most will keep quiet for fear of making a fool of themselves by an elementary question.

For years freemasons have held themselves up as figures hoping men will rush to them seeking membership. Fifty or sixty years ago such was the case. Today it is an entirely different ball game. Instead of men coming to the Craft, Freemasonry must go to men. There is no point of placing oneself on a pedestal and saying: "We are the greatest by precept and example - our organisation is the greatest in moral values" and then hope men queue up to join.

Freemasonry must go out to the public. Not to solicit, but to let them know Freemasonry's place in the community. It can be done by placing a public notice in community papers inviting those interested to have explained in plain English our aims anal objectives. The more conservative of our organisation will frown upon such an approach. By such efforts a Canterbury lodge gained six initiates in three months. Of great interest, all six in their ignorance, had been waiting for Freemasonry to approach them and invite them to join. There was no soliciting, merely an honest explanation of Freemasonry for the man in the street. Those six are now dedicated Mentor Scheme attenders. In that lodge all Officers from Director of Ceremonies via IPM, Master to Inner Guard are products of a lively Mentor Scheme.

Freemasons and in particular senior ones hope for Deus ex machina to appear, then wave a magic wand with and Hey Presto to solve our membership problems. Such is a pipe dream. Masonic education is the answer and that backed by genuine, meaningful, sincere encouragement by rulers of Freemasonry. Then our membership problems will be solved. Then Bro. Busfield will have to deliver a paper on "The Next Forty Years - Plans For the Same" and that title with no Question Mark.

Bro K J Towers wrote from Wellington: It will be interesting to note when comment is made if a majority share your thinking It is my personal view that you have taken too much of a pessimistic view and have allowed your statistics to outweigh the positive signs of new life and thinking

You more than suggest that there is a blame on Grand Lodge as if it were an entity for a failure to remedy the loss of members and ignore the fact that Grand Lodge is the total of us all as members and that it is as individual masons that we must carry and promulgate our message and truths to the World. To me (personally) your paper fails to make a claim upon the individual mason to accept his responsibilities to the Craft and if he fails to do this then society and those outside our membership will continue to see little to attract them to us and for those who have joined to feel that there is nothing to stimulate and retain their interest

I trust that others will speak concerning present day sociological factors which have an unprecedented import upon us. You reference to the time of depression 1931-36 was to me not relevant to the causes of today's falling membership.

In spite of these comments I enjoyed reading your paper and appreciate your preparation of it. Hopefully it will awaken those who sleep at this time

Bro B C Major said: This paper provides the evidence of a trend which has been obvious to any who has been in the Craft for several decades and I for one need no further convincing. I accept the clear evidence of the decline but not necessarily the conclusion supplied by the paper's title.

Bro Busfield has refrained from offering any solutions in his desire to have the paper stand alone in its impact. One hopes that those in authority in the Craft will digest its information and consider well before making decisions.

I do not agree with any suggestion that candidates who entered the Craft in great numbers in the post-war period were of any lower quality than those entering now. They were no worse and no better

But the whole social climate was different. We had come through a war with all its trauma, hardships, disorder; men were only too ready to put all that behind them, settle down into an ordered existence and seek the ideals they had as visions during the war. The steady institutions of marriage, family, the church and community were what they sought and Freemasonry was part of this order.

Today much has changed. Toflers Future Shock spelled out the bewildering and increasing speed of change that was to beset us, and is now doing so. The technological revolution that we are in the midst of is pressuring us, especially the young, to abandon the anchor of moral values and place our trust instead in the technocrats. Aberrations abound, we are bombarded with extremes of behaviour and, not surprisingly, the susceptible are often caught up in these extremes. Freemasonry receives its share in fallacious and nonsensical publicity from the ignorant or the mercenary, even those professing high moral principles.

Transient and temporal endeavours have been made, are still being considered, to make changes in our institution in a panicky response to our declining membership. But it is no good pasting over the surface with gimmicky ideas which are here today and gone tomorrow. The education exercise was a waste of time; you can lead a horse to water but you cant make it drink. Those members who want masonic education will seek it out for themselves, as they have always done; those who don't will ignore it, as they have always done,

The decline will not be reversed until society reverses it.

We must stick firmly to the basic principles of our institution and eschew any ideas of quick answers. We will have to weather out the decline, possibly to the perilous point of near extinction, until society itself changes to provide a harmonious climate for regrowth, For we cannot provide that climate on our own. There is evidence of the beginnings of change now, of a swing back to the steady influences that have been eroded, and I for one believe that somewhere between the extremes will be found fertile ground for society to flourish again in the pattern in which Masonry can recover .

Bro I J Nathan said: There have been many words written and spoken on the subject of declining membership. One Grand Master wanted every lodge to initiate five candidates each year while another stressed the importance of quality rather than quantity, and so on. Bro. Busfield's paper goes beyond the mere talk with some hard hitting facts backed up by excellent visual displays, both of which give a clear message .

I have spent some time this year reading 19th-century newspapers and what has surprised me is the vast quantity of masonic events that have been reported compared with a dearth of such news in 20th-century papers. There has been a slight increase of such events in recent years. It would seem that this repression of reporting any masonic news in the press dates hack to the early days of the Grand Lodge of New Zealand. At the Communications of 1901 a Provincial Grand Master sought a decision as to Rule 117, substantially the same as our present Rule 292, whether the approval of the Grand Master was required before any masonic news could be printed, to which the Cirand Master replied, "I should think so." In 1911 the then Grand Master called attention to the fact that he alone could approve the printing of any masonic events.

In the 19th century the names of all active freemasons were frequently in the papers. Installation meetings were fully reported: the new officers named, who gave the charges, who the installing officer was and sometimes the speeches were reported in full. Social activities of the lodges received good coverage also.

The 20th-century mason dresses curiously, carries a quaint little bag, disappears into strange almost windowless buildings and nothing of his activities is made known to the public. Is it surprising then that our motives, our aims and objectives, and our conduct is viewed, if not suspiciously, with some reservations? Were we to be more open about our meetings and publicise our activities then we would receive a more positive support from the community These are days of open government and freedom of information With our cloistered existence we are an anachronism.

Bro Busfield, in reply said: Thanks firstly for all the good counsel, and particularly for the patient and understanding support of our editor Bro. Major. and to all those who have made such thoughtful contributions tonight. I doubt I have the ability to respond adequately to the many excellent comments. It is gratifying that the facts presented have not been challenged, but it had been my hope that the senior Grand Lodge members, who had declined to contribute information for the paper, would now have responded to make more complete the record of action taken. Perhaps this is another aspect of the inertia we must endeavour to overcome. By the way, the President of the Board of General Purposes does have a sense of humour. Although he did not reply to my enquiries, he posted back, unused, my self-addressed stamped envelope. Bro. Adams' suggestion of prompt and earnest study of possible actions is imperative, but there are already many steps that can be taken if we have the will to do so. This view was further emphasised in the able contributions by Bro. Powell, Bro. Ellyett and Bro. Goodall. Bro. Fraser's comments remind me of the epigram "if all statisticians in the world were laid head to toe, it would be a very good thing!" I'm sure all trust that in the gathering storm we will weather and not wither. Bro. Glenie and Bro. Major both provided thoughtful summations of the rapidly changing social factors now and in the future. But love and understanding is still sought by all, requiring us to adapt the Craft's contribution if it is to be worthwhile. We cannot sit on our hands; we must offer whatever we can to foster and hasten the looked-for changes in society.

Bro. Enting emphasises that there is no guarantee of survival, we must face up to the challenge, but do we have enough time to 'eventually be heard?'

Bro. Pugh-Williams advances the need for education and the Mentor scheme. It is sad so much of this enthusiastic brother's endeavours, without much support, 'have died in the hole.'

In reply to Bro. Towers, every endeavour was made not to blame anyone, we are all in it together, but merely to report the facts. The members resigning in the depression were unable to retain membership even if they wanted to - not so today.

Bro. Johnstone and Bro. Merryweather both echoed the widespread appeal for leadership, support and education. I have difficulty in agreeing with some of Bro. Smith's comments. Not many organisations have successfully withstood such a fall. Not many lodges are doing well. Even Lodge Homewood, featured in the last 'Freemason', while obviously bringing profit and pleasure to those involved has still suffered losses far greater than the average in the Wellington area.

Bro. Nathan makes a plea for more authoritative and informative publicity for the Crafts aims and activities.

It is surprising to hear suggestions that our area is weathering the storm better than most. The national drop in membership since 1981 has been under 10% (9.76), to be compared with Northland l0.3%, South Auckland 10.43% and Auckland 10.9%. The differing views on education expressed tonight illustrate the need to gain general acceptance of the crisis before considering actions to be initiated. We are in a 'life boat' situation. There is no point in debating the restaurant menus or even designing a safer ship - we must concentrate all our energies into making for safer surroundings.

One final comment - so many grassroots members are looking for a lead - where will that lead come from? One final question for each one of us to ask ourselves - 'If my response reflects the attitude of the Craft in general. what will the future of Freemasonry be?'

Copyright 1986 United Masters Lodge No 167, Auckland, New Zealand. Readers may redistribute this article to other individuals for non commercial use, provided that text, all html codes, and this notice remain intact and unaltered in any way. This article may not be resold, reprinted, or redistributed for compensation of any kind without prior written permission of the author. If you have any questions about permissions, please contact the author or United Masters Lodge.

Preferred citation: Alan Busfield, "The Final Forty Years of Freemasonry?" published in the transactions of the United Masters Lodge #167 Vol 26, No. 12, pp243-251, 1986 and the Discussion in Vol 26, No. 13, pp271-282, 1986


by Bro A H Busfield

Our Rise and Fall

For seventy years, the New Zealand Constitution prospered. From the uneasy beginnings of 1890, the Craft grew in numbers and influence (apart from an understandable hesitation during the great depression) at a remarkably consistent rate, expanding its influence for good throughout the community and attracting many men of eminence and authority. Several Governors General and Premiers were masons; in the mid-fifties all the Cabinet Ministers were freemasons except one 'and she would join if we'd let her', said Prime Minister Holland. Our centennial in 1990 was approaching with an anticipated membership in excess of 65,000.

The first thirty years have been a different story. From 1963 the fall in membership has been sadly just as consistent and steep. Our numbers have fallen by 14,061 or 30% in the last twenty two years.

The present 1.01 percentage of masons to the country's total population is the lowest ever in the history of the Constitution, to be compared with 2.1% in 1956. (Our Sister Constitutions' normal policy of non disclosure of membership prevents the coverage of the total craft in New Zealand but their experiences have been very similar. Dual membership has not been eliminated from the figures in this paper, but, with the Grand Lodge estimate of 5% in the forties and 7% today, may not be of material significance. The masonic years quoted have varied in length slightly from time to time. Information helpfully supplied by the Grand Secretary, by RWBro D M Holmes and VWBro R E Pugh-Williams has been of great assistance.

In 1982 'The Condition of the Craft Committee' (more about their work later) completed various projections of our membership for the remainder of the century. The results of the last three years show that their severest calculations not to be over pessimistic. Noting the drop of 10% in the previous five years, the Committee warned our numbers could fall in


1986 to 32,800
1991 29,520
1996 26,568
2001 23,912


(In August 1985 the actual total was 33,076

They concluded that by hard work and constant application our total in 1995 should not be less than 25,500. With the benefit of hindsight we should accept that even with this dedication we will be hard put to retain 23,500. If the trend of the last decade continues into the next century, there will be by 2020 scarcely enough masons in New Zealand to hold a Lodge. And well it might! Similar drifts throughout the masonic world are no consolation. The present experiences of the mainline churches and similar institutions do not in any way enhance our situation.

Factors Involved

The factors involved must be looked at. The trends shown in the graph of initiates precede by fifteen years the total membership movements. The peak of 1868 initiated in 1947 was followed by a continual drop to under 600 in 1985.

The average age of our new members is increasing. A survey in the 'white paper' covering North Auckland, Auckland, South Auckland and Waikato districts with participating lodges representing one third of New Zealand membership, reveals that the average percentages of initiates under forty years of age were in


1955 60.8%
1965 53.7%
1975 48.6%
1985 40.7%


The average age of all initiates in the sample were in


1955 36.8
1965 39.1
1975 40.1
1985 42.6


Superficially not a great increase, but when translated into potential service to Masonry (accounting for increasing life span), the average life expectancy of an initiate in


1955 was 35.71 years
1965 33.16 years
1975 32.79 years
1985 30.95 years


a reduction over the past four decades of 13.3% in the average possible years of membership.

The NET movement of members (joining versus resignations and strike off's), after the first post war decade, deteriorated sharply until the mid-sixties; thereafter the net annual loss 'out of the door' has fluctuated around the seven hundred mark

Our ageing has resulted in an increase in deaths from the 350 mark in 1940 to the six hundreds in the fifties, seven hundreds in the seventies. There has been a slight decrease in the eighties, but the percentage of deaths shows a constant increase.


1955 1.4%
1960 1.5%
1965 1.7%
1970 1.9%
1975 2.0%
1980 2.2%
1985 2.3%


These three factors, Initiations, Movement and Deaths directly affect our membership figures. In the foreseeable future all will have a tendency to further increase the rate of decline. Even at the present time, if all movement of members in and out were to cease our membership would continue to fall - our deaths are more numerous than our initiations; and the same, were we able to eliminate all deaths, the net movement 'out of the door' is more than the initiates coming in. This has never happened before the 1980s.


Of the dozens of members spoken to in recent months, no one has appreciated the situation to be as serious as now outlined - many have misconceptions:

Our Grand Masters have said:

1981 '... I can assert that there is growing evidence to show that we have arrested the decline ... The future now offers real hope for improvement.'
1982 '... the decline is showing signs of levelling off and we will, I am confident, show an increase in the near future.'
1983 'referring to the years decline (848 compared with 815 the previous year) 'This indicates that with the co-operation and support of all the members there will be an early return to increasing membership.'
1984 'We have inherited a wonderful institution which I believe is in a healthy condition...'

In 1979 the President of the Board of General Purposes, and in 1982, 1983 and 1985 the Grand Master, expressed the pleasure at the greater numbers of younger men joining our ranks. There must be great variation throughout the country, as in the northern third of New Zealand membership, the numbers of initiates under 30 years of age were in:


1965 84
1975 55
1985 27


Similarly for those in their thirties, the totals were in:


1965 137
1975 107
1985 74


Many masons believe our post war growth was too fast with a consequent lowering of initiate standard. In the fifteen years 1945-60 we grew by 16,086 or 57%, but in the earlier period 1925-30 we grew by 13,824 and more than doubled in membership (102%). Are the fewer candidates of today of higher standard?.

Some claim 'this has happened before' and will rectify itself. The only previous set back was in the middle of the worst depression of modern times (1931-36) when membership fell by 1855 or 6.8%. In the relatively prosperous and progressive years since 1963 we have declined by over 14,000 or 30%.

Others emphasise the distorting influence of dual membership during the rapid increase in new lodges post war. It is worthwhile reviewing the movement chart while noting the pattern of new lodge formation.

New lodges formed 1945-64


1945 3 1950 10 1955 7 1960 5
1946 6 1951 5 1956 5 1961 3
1947 8 1952 6 1957 6 1962 5
1948 11 1953 6 1958 5 1963 6
1949 9 1954 5 1959 6 1964 3



Many masons believe the number in the Craft to be of little consequence - that Freemasonry will still continue. Others are concerned with the situation but adamant that no changes be made. To them this paper may be of little interest. They seem undaunted by the future financial burden (our costs go up while our numbers fall) and the physical problem of managing and maintaining the many masonic charitable organisations throughout the country; or by the history of other fraternal groups which have just 'faded away into the nigh''.

Some claim all organisations have recession and recovery cycles, and our position will right itself in due course. These members are invited, taking into account these facts, to extend for a few years the factor graphs and consider the effect on our outlook.

Many are worried and have expressed their concern. At the Annual Communications of Grand Lodge, in the Grand Masters addresses, the matter was only raised twice in the first decade after 1963, but in the second decade seven times and given prominence on the last two occasions. The President of the Board of General Purposes has almost always referred to the continued loss, yet strangely the situation was only discussed once in the first ten years since 1963, twice in the second ten and not at all in 1984 or 1985. The record of the last years references to the Craft's condition occupies fifteen lines (in comparison, say, to three pages debating the precedence of the precedence of the Boards). For several years The New Zealand Freemason, by editorial and article (with the assistance of the Educational and Condition of the Craft Committees), has constantly emphasised the growing problem. Seminars at several Communications, meetings of interested members and of Past Masters groups, discussions in refectories and Standing Committees have enabled views to be expressed concerning our downward drift. Much has been written, even more has been said about out falling numbers, but what has been done?

Activity at Board Level

In his busy life the President of the Board of General Purposes was unable to respond to my enquiries, access to the Boards minutes was not available, (the P J Oliver index of resolutions proved some assistance), and several past Boeard members were vague over specific initiatives. However, it is interesting to discover that, appreciating negative symptoms appearing in the late fifties, the Board of General Purposes in 1959 completed and supplied to lodges a report and practical suggestions.

1965 The Board receive a report on the loss of membership emphasising that the cause was decrease in initiations rather than resignations. The Committees recommendations for remedy were not accepted by the Board and 'referred back'. Grand Lodge was informed that year a comprehensive report together with recommendations would be presented at the next Communications
1966 Communications was advised that the Board was ' not yet in a position where it feels that it could make a worthwhile recommendation to Grand Lodge'.
1970 A progressive new rule (210A) relating to masons changing abode was recommended to Grand Lodge and has been refined in subsequent years
1973 The Board resolved to establish a permanent Condition of the Craft Committee.
1977 At the instigation of a Wellington Past Masters group, the Board decided to conduct a survey of members opinions and attitudes to Freemasonry.
1978 Saw the proposals discussed and authorised in August but sad events required postponement of action until November 1979. The extensive Raines survey of Lodge buildings was tabled. External publicity and internal education committees were formed.
1980 The Board reforms the Condition of the Craft Committee as an active body. Changes of emphasis in the work of Grand Lodge office were initiated, and the Knox 'five initiates' plea recommended to the Craft.
1981 The Condition of the Craft Committee completed appreciation of the pilot survey and supervised the conduct of a further questionnaire.
1983 After a two year investigation of a Canterbury information project and overseas schemes the Educational Committee launched the Mentor scheme (hopefully under the supervision of regional {or district} committees, but very few appear to have been established?

The Condition of the Craft Committee presented a summary of survey findings, authoritative forward projections on the future of the Craft, and their recommendations (now known as the 'Twenty One Points'). This was widely distributed and parts published in The New Zealand Freemason. At the conclusion of the paper the Committee 'sees its role as a continuing one and fundamentally on the action front. Many reports of a similar nature have been prepared in other Constitutions. In most cases they have dies in the hole. The same fate could well overtake this report...'. Of the six papers of consequence prepared the Board apparently considered one in depth (relating to district committees) before disbanding the Committee in February this year.

The 'Twenty One Points' raise many questions. For example, what has happened about:

  • Item 3 The major overhaul of our transfer system?
  • Item 9 Educational programmes in addition to the Mentor scheme (and what support given to the enthusiastic mentor co-ordinator)?
  • Item 16 Clarification of our attitudes to 'de facto' relationships?
  • Item 18 Development of the district committee scheme?

What action has been taken about ritual revision and the proposed study of selected progressive lodges. (The recent progress of several sister Constitution city lodges bears examination).

The Board, always with an extensive agenda, has approved many advices to the lodges, sponsored changes in acceptable dress, penalties presentation, and streamlined executive control and administration. Communications have improved with publicity much more widespread, but has there been any rethink of our objectives and operations?

There is no evidence yet published of any forward policy or plans for the future being developed although, to quote an eminent brother, '...Goodness knows, we have the expertise within the Craft to do just that'. Many resigning brethren do not express the same confidence in us.

Activity in our District

The detailing of actions taken in this district have faced similar difficulties, despite the co-operation and interest of many brethren. A Past Provincial Grand Master, RWBro S H Downes, responded positively to my enquiries. He emphasised 'that mere numbers were not the be all and end all of our aims', while explaining his main task, in command of the district, was to encourage the maintenance of the highest possible standards in the lodges under his control.

The minutes of our Masters and Wardens meetings record since 1960 only thirteen items relating in some way to the sustaining of membership. A very efficient school for Masters and Wardens continues to interest many of our principal officers, but instruction nights for Fellowcrafts and Entered Apprentices, commenced in 1971, continued for only a few meetings. The Roskill village attracts active interest from many brethren, while its annual dance, bowling and golf tournaments help sustain the spirit of fellowship among us. A valiant attempt to rejuvenate St Benedict's Street as a masonic centre continues today.

Activity in Local Lodges

Progressive moves have been made by some lodges in our district. One change to daytime meetings, two dining lodges, some moves to new premises, improvement to many buildings, meetings for prospective members, presentations to local schools have all been positive steps. Many individual moves to create interest are of course subject to the enthusiasm of the Masters at the time. The United Masters Lodge, responding to the Provincial Grand Masters request, produced in 1966 a paper 'The Problem of the Apathetic Mason' (by our present Provincial Grand Master); in 1976 Wbro E B Isham spoke on 'Can we Reverse the Drift', while in 1984 WBro J F Y Schinka detailed many practical suggestions in 'Communications within our Lodges' a paper reproduced in full by The New Zealand Freemason. Two papers, 'Fifty Years Ahead' with its special discussion evening (1973) and 'Looking Backwards - Looking Forwards' (1979), reflected little concern over our downward drift. The continuing supply of lecturers and lectures to our lodges helps sustain the interest. In my own lodge, considered to be one of the bright masonic areas of Auckland, high levels of attendance at meetings and social functions, comparative youth of many of the officers, involvement in the relatively new Howick and Districts Trust Centre all auger well for the future.

Enquirers receive a comprehensive practical coverage of Craft membership and there is an air of enthusiasm among many members and their wives. Yet in its life of twenty five years (apart from founders, deaths and present members) over seventy men have passed through the lodge. My mother lodge, in the same area and one of the largest in New Zealand, has a similar pattern; in its first twenty years, seventy four members came and went but in the last two decades 140 disappeared. This increasing pattern of interested entrants becoming disenchanted departures is repeated throughout the country.

Whether action within the Craft has been adequate is a matter of opinion. Certainly it has not been sufficient to restrain our decline.

Appeals for Progress

Many appeals for progress have been heard:

from Grand Masters:

'To allow Freemasonry to take the road to apathy and indifference ... is a gratuitous insult to our early brethren.'

'No progress has ever been made by the unthinking and complacent acceptance of existing conditions.'

from a Board President and a Past Grand Secretary:

'We cannot get improvements unless we make changes - we must adapt to different conditions and circumstances - we dare not remain static.'

from Grand Lodge Officers:

'Let us not wait for tomorrow - it may be too late. Let us put our house in order today.'

'... not much has changed and not much has been done - except talk.'

from Past Masters:

'Interest and enthusiasm cannot be induced by legislation.'

'(We) need a bold new approach from the top.'

All are illustrations of pleas printed in the past.

My Appeal to the Craft

I believe the facts speak for themselves. We face not just a problem but a crisis. I believe we must act now. We have no time to adhere to our usual pedantic business procedures or search for consensus answers, nor is this the time to debate solutions. The Craft has an abundance of ability to produce promising remedies to explore. I urge that consideration of this paper be concentrated on the extent of the problem and the need to gain urgent and general acceptance of it.

There is no intent to criticise - but hopefully to galvanise. If with full appreciation of the crisis, we with urgency and resolution take bold, even radical action now, we may yet preserve the future of Freemasonry. But the first vital step is - I submit - to stimulate the will of all in the Craft to readily accept, absorb and apply the remedies developed. If we fail to do this, we could be well within the Final Forty Years of Freemasonry.


Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of New Zealand 1940-85

History of the Grand Lodge of New Zealand 1890-1969 RWBro F G Northern PDepGM

Transactions of the United Masters Lodge No. 167

P J Oliver Index to Board of General Purposes Minutes

Seminar papers

Published Reports to Board of General Purposes and Lodges

White Papers 1927-85

Pilot Survey of Opinions and Attitudes July `980

Second Survey of Opinions and Attitudes February 1982

Profiles of Membership Trends WBro D G Wolstenholme

Copyright 1986 United Masters Lodge No 167, Auckland, New Zealand. Readers may redistribute this article to other individuals for non commercial use, provided that text, all html codes, and this notice remain intact and unaltered in any way. This article may not be resold, reprinted, or redistributed for compensation of any kind without prior written permission of the author. If you have any questions about permissions, please contact the author or United Masters Lodge


Preferred citation: Alan H Busfield, "The Final Forty Years of Freemasonry?" published in the transactions of the United Masters Lodge #167

Vol 26, No. 12, pp243-251, 1986 and the Discussion in Vol 26, No. 13, pp271-282, 1986



It's not completely our fault.

By: James W. Hogg


This article details the thoughts and perceptions of the author, who grew up in the 1960's and 1970's, as a member of the baby boom generation. It is not meant to assert that there is only one way of viewing the events leading up to the present. Necessarily, some generalizations have been made in presenting this material. Any good lawyer will acknowledge that, for the most part, there is an exception to every rule. Where reference is made to a "liberal" view, this describes a philosophical theory or belief-- not a political commentary. The author has attempted to write in a politically neutral style. "Liberalism" is known to transcend both of the political parties in our two party system of politics in the United States. Members of both of these parties hold liberal beliefs to various extents. There are many different ways to look at things. The purpose of this article is to provoke serious thinking, brought to your attention by a member of one group Masonry would like to target for future membership growth. This article merely advances some of these viewpoints as perceived by the author.

Agenda of social engineers of the 60's

Society has changed dramatically since the heyday of Freemasonry after World War II. These were the days of unprecedented growth in America's economy, bringing with it prosperity and a wide variety of well paying jobs. During these years, it was possible for the average wage earner to raise a family on one income. We were rebuilding our economy in the wake of the war with many new manufacturing jobs. Back in those years, America was the innovator and virtually all the well made products came from the industrialized countries, such as the United States, Germany, and Great Britain. "Made in the U. S. A." became a mark of quality. Then came the 1960's. What changed? We had a new liberal focus on the way things should be for a better future. Along with this came the civil rights protests in the South, resulting in new laws being passed by the legislature in Washington guaranteeing civil rights to everyone. This conjures up images of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous "I have a dream" speech. No longer would segregated schools and racial discrimination in this great land of ours be tolerated. Now, there were laws on the books to prevent this type of discrimination against others because of their race. Today, these laws are also being applied with respect to gender. Recent developments in the law provide that one cannot discriminate against an individual because she happens to be a woman. Examples of this are the U. S. armed forces and the B. P. O. Elks. Today, both must accept women among their ranks. This new outlook was to have a profound influence on not only Freemasonry, but other fraternal organizations and private clubs throughout the United States.

Results of this change - tax code, public accommodation laws, disdain for private groups

The social engineers of the 60's saw this as an opportunity to re-mold our society and change things to dismantle the old ways of doing business. This was the beginning of a new attitude toward private groups and fraternal organizations. These groups were seen as hotbeds of racial discrimination and no longer of use to a civilized society where everyone was supposed to be equal. It was thought that because these groups selected those with whom they wanted to be associated with by ballot of the membership, this was tantamount to discrimination. It was also a well known fact that membership in certain of these organizations benefitted the members in their business endeavors. Frequently, business meetings were held within the rooms of private clubs. Thus, the social engineers asked, "why should members of private clubs be permitted to use their memberships in these clubs to benefit themselves financially?" They saw this as the epitome of an "old boy's" network, to which those who were not white male Caucasians were excluded from participation.

With this general analysis as a base, new laws were promulgated. The result is the familiar rubric of Internal Revenue tax code regulations concerning what a tax exempt organization can and cannot do with respect to retaining its tax exempt status. Also, the public accommodation laws on the federal level came into being, severely restricting what a private group could do if it wished to remain private and keep its Constitutional First Amendment right of freedom of association. To quote from coverage of the General Governor's report contained in the August/September 1997 issue of Moose Magazine, which is the international publication of the Loyal Order of Moose: "The Private Policy, which essentially states that only members of the Loyal Order of Moose and the Women of the Moose may enjoy full Social Quarters privileges within our Lodges, was emphasized throughout the General Governor's report [to the 109th International Convention]. He noted that in the U. S., the Internal Revenue Service has recently stiffened enforcement and penalties against fraternal and veterans' organizations that sell merchandise to non-members. 'Sales to non-members threaten a Lodge's right to privacy and its not-for-profit status,' said [David A.] Chambers [the out-going General Governor]. 'The rule is simple; you are either a member or a guest, but you cannot be both. Non-members cannot make purchases in our Lodges. In other words, non-members cannot spend one penny.' Moose Magazine, p. 14. [emphasis in original]. From all of this, it is very clear that our Federal Government has a complete disdain for private organizations for many of the reasons outlined above.

Case in point: Judge David B. Sentelle.

President Reagan nominated Judge Sentelle on February 2, 1987, to be a U. S. circuit judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia circuit. Judge Sentelle happens to be a prominent Mason from North Carolina, having been unanimously confirmed by the U. S. Senate on October 16, 1985, to be a U. S. District Court Judge for the Western District of North Carolina. It seems that this time, his membership in the Masonic fraternity became of issue during the nomination and confirmation process in the Senate. The issue raised there should be very familiar to everyone by now: invidious racial discrimination. After a lengthy discourse about what the fraternity represents, a tally of present and past U. S. Presidents and legislators as being Masons, and a reference to our own Sovereign Grand Commander advising that Freemasonry does not discriminate based on race, color or creed, Judge Sentelle was confirmed. Freemasonry was under attack in the United States Senate of all places! I recommend as required reading the Senate proceeding, which contains the details of this account. It can be found in the 100th Congress, First Session, p. S-11868 to 11870, which was re-printed in Transactions, The American Lodge of Research, F. & A. M., Vol. XV, No. 3 - 1983. [Note to editor: "1983" is not a typo!]

Government being the answer to everything

The liberal view of government also embraced the concept that government was the answer to everything. No matter what the problem was, it could be solved by establishing another government agency on the federal level. All we had to do was give this new agency money to address whatever happened to be the problem of the day. A perfect solution would be found and implemented by the agency and all would be well with the world. This attitude began with Franklin D. Roosevelt's "New Deal" era, later to be refined during Lyndon B. Johnson's "Great Society". Indeed, government also grew in latter years during George Bush's administration with tax increases and more government regulation imposed on the people. It was not until the late 60's where we finally achieved deficit spending on the federal level on a recurring basis. The belief was, and still is today, that we can spend and tax our way out of all the problems facing us. High taxes are necessary to maintain a large and strong central government. This is one reason why it takes two incomes to accomplish today what one income could do in the 1950's. The general public is generally thought to have insufficient knowledge to know what is best for them. Thus, the need for a large and strong central government. After all, someone needs to protect the people from themselves.

Vietnam era protests, anti-establishment views

The protest movement surrounding the Vietnam War added fire to this new liberal view of government. The post World War II baby boomers growing up in the 50's and 60's did not want to fight in this unpopular war in Southeast Asia. Many asked: just what was the U. S. really doing there in the first place? These young people saw those running our country as the establishment and they wanted change. Many saw versions of socialism as the answer to all of our problems. Not coincidentally, the belief was that private groups and clubs, such as Freemasonry, were part of the establishment. In the eyes of these baby boomers, this was considered bad. We had a big central government now to take care of all our needs. Private groups and clubs were no longer considered relevant in this newly re-engineered society. Another thing that did not set well with these baby boomers was the way in which our returning Vietnam Veterans were generally treated by our society. They were openly criticized and, for the most part, not welcomed back after serving in the armed forces. This was quite a stark contrast from the welcome that awaited those returning from military service after World War II. It is interesting to note that today, many of these baby boomers are now running our country. It is no small wonder that they feel the way they do about private organizations such as ours!

The Re-engineering of our Educational system.

Concerning perceptions gained by our youth regarding fraternal organizations, there is one other dynamic that comes into play and that concerns how our children have been educated in the recent past. The social engineers also were able to influence our institutions of higher learning, convincing educators that the new liberal view of government was good for the country and would vastly improve the standard of living for everyone -- particularly those who were poor or disadvantaged. The siren call was irresistible. Who could possibly be against helping the poor and enhancing educational and occupational opportunities for the disadvantaged? Opposing these ideals would be un-American! Thus, we instituted a socially responsible curriculum in America's schools and colleges. Those of us who grew up under this new system were taught all about the evils of race discrimination and how the government was there to help us, doing many great things for the people. We were also taught that collective bargaining was good for America and that, generally, big business was greedy and had no interest in its workers' well being. We were also taught that the Keynesian theory of economics was the universal and accepted way of studying business and economic cycles in America. Let us not forget the concept of new math -- also a product of the 60's. None of our educational materials ever mentioned Freemasonry, the Moose, Elks, the American Legion, V. F. W., or the many other worthy organizations in existence at the time. Only one time do I recall a passing reference to the Grange and its relationship to farming being mentioned in connection with a social studies course I had in grade school. None of the schools I attended ever had any programs where groups such as these ever conducted a program or presentation for the students. I had never heard of Freemasonry until I was a junior in high school and then I happened upon it only because I was a stamp collector. To make matters worse, I could find nothing in my high school or university libraries that would tell me what Freemasonry was! (Note: I grew up in the Northeast.) This raises an interesting question: How can fraternal organizations encourage people to join them if prospective members have no clue as to what a fraternal organization does and has to offer? Put another way, people will not enter a store unless they perceive that there is something within that store which they can obtain to fulfill a need. Remember, however, that one major reason for this lack of available information was that private groups were seen as being part of what was wrong with America!

Change in corporate culture and financial rewards to employees.

The gradual shift in the moral perception of society is reflected in the new corporate culture in existence today. In the years that my father pursued his career, loyalty and hard work were usually rewarded by promotions and the ability to climb the corporate ladder to success. This made career planning relatively easy. Also, many companies shared their profits with the employees because, after all, they were the ones who made the wheels turn generating corporate earnings. When the company did well, so did the workers. Profit sharing today, generally, is now relegated to the top corporate executives and the shareholders of a corporation. When the workers do get profit sharing, it is not as generous as the way it was in the old days. A case in point is this: A neighbor who lived across the street from me while I was growing up received a profit sharing bonus in the early 1950's amounting to $30,000 from her employer. (Note: that is $30,000 in early 1950's dollars. Think about what that would be worth today.) At the time, she was an executive secretary for a mining firm that mined Molybdenum, a mineral used in the steel making process. The company she worked for was a predecessor to another company, which is known today as Amerax. She informed me that everyone in the firm received bonuses like this that particular year, according to position and years of service. When she received her bonus, she was called into the President's office, made to feel comfortable, and told that the firm was grateful for her services as an employee. It was at that time she was handed the envelope containing the $30,000 check. In the years following, the bonuses were smaller, more typically amounting to anywhere from one half to 100% of her salary for the previous year. The story nowadays is different. While profit sharing does exist today, it rarely reaches heights such as in this example just described. There are, of course, exceptions -- such as securities firms on Wall Street after an extraordinarily successful bull market year. As for wages in general, it should be noted that the relationship between a top executive's pay and the average worker's pay today continues to grow in disproportionate ways. This is a matter of public record. Just pick up a proxy statement for almost any public corporation and this fact becomes very evident.

Loyalty generally goes unrewarded, employment security suffers.

Today, we are in an era of mergers and acquisitions, resulting in a constant re-engineering of a company's reason for existence. This generally means that downsizing for competitiveness is in order. This includes layoffs to make way for productivity advances through the use of technology and automation. Loyalty is generally no longer a part of the equation. An employee's loyalty to company A is meaningless when company B steps in and acquires company A. There is no longer employment security, especially after a merger has taken place or when an economic recession grips the economy. This is evidenced by the sheer number of workers who job hop regularly. The economic fortunes of a company are more tenuous today as well. For example, look at the Hudson Foods scare, where E. Coli bacteria was found in meat processed by this firm. This resulted in an expensive recall of processed meat, ultimately resulting in the company being sold to another corporation. One can only wonder if the owners of Hudson Foods received a fair price for their company! Consider also the number of jobs that were lost after Wells Fargo Corporation acquired First Interstate Bank Corp. and the former began downsizing the product of the two combined organizations. These are just two of many examples one could cite.

Civility in business is lacking.

Civility in competition between business existed in the 60's when I was growing up. Rarely did one see a business deprecating its competition in advertisements during that era. Today, one hears it on a daily basis. A case in point is the current burger war between McDonald's and Burger King. The latter introduced a burger that is very similar to one marketed by McDonald's and has been advertising that "the Big King is better than the Big Mac because it's bigger and more tasty." Back then, this was just not done. The competitor was simply referred to as "brand X."

Freemasonry in prospective.

As Masons, we are all aware of what Freemasonry represents and what it teaches. I need not reiterate them here. Our ceremonies are beautiful and the lessons taught in them are great. There is no doubt about this. However, look at modern life today. We have experienced a decline in civility, increase in crime, and a general lack of concern for others. Would this condition exist today if our fraternity were as powerful and influential as it was years ago? That, unfortunately, is a question that none of us can really answer. We would all hope that the answer is a resounding "no." We must all attempt to find a way to make Freemasonry relevant and applicable to our fellow man in today's society. Failure to do this will mean Freemasonry's eventual extinction in future years.

Masonic Renewal. Success is a journey, not a destination

A lot has changed in the United States in the last 40 years. Unfortunately, we in the Masonic Fraternity were not paying attention to these changes over those many years. One of the great things we have established in the fraternity, which is long overdue, is a Masonic Renewal Plan. We are attempting to define Freemasonry as it applies to society today. No longer is it possible for us to continue doing things as they have been done in the past. Today, we must identify benefits that we can confer on our new members, find new ways to satisfy their needs for associating with their fellow men, and new ways to benefit new Masons' families and their communities. Do we know what these needs are and how to fulfill them? After all, isn't this what we are really "selling" in our Masonic "store"? The only way we will be able to restore Masonry to its former position of respect in society is through hard work, good public relations, and providing solutions to the needs of today's society. We have some very capable brothers behind this effort, along with some very talented professionals to help us implement the plans. My prayers are that these efforts will pay off. However, the results will be hard won and will certainly come slowly. We must remember that true success is a journey and not a destination. There is no such thing as instant success in any field. We all must do the best we can if we want to preserve the rich heritage of our fraternity for those who will follow us in the years to come.

James W. Hogg is an attorney in Fort Myers, Florida, having recently graduated from law school and passed the Florida bar. Before attending law school, he owned his own mortgage banking firm for 12 years in the Fort Myers area. He is also a Perpetual Member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Fort Myers, a Past Master and Perpetual Member of Fort Myers Beach Lodge No. 362, F. & A. M., Past District Deputy Grand Master of the 29th Masonic District for the Grand Lodge F. & A. M. of Florida, and past presiding officer of all the Fort Myers York Rite Bodies. He has also earned the rank of Knight York Cross of Honour.

Copyright (c) 1999, The Philalethes Society. Redistribution rights are reserved by the copyright holder. Permission to quote from, redistribute or to otherwise use the Copyrights and all rights including any of these materials must be obtained from the copyright holder.

Past Influences, Future Role and Present Acknowledgment

by WBro Phillip Hellier, BCom, MBus, PhD, DipEd, Kellerman Lecturer (Victoria, 2000)

Abstract: Referring to the Retrospect of the Third Degree (UGLV), this paper briefly outlines the Masonic approach to individual development, past influences on this approach and the contribution Freemasonry can make to an ever-changing world. It is argued that the lack of community awareness and acceptance of the Craft is partly due to an inadequate conceptual understanding of Freemasonry by its membership in general, which has resulted in the failure of the Craft to remain socially and culturally relevant. A conceptual model is developed to help focus attention on the central attributes of the Craft and to improve social relevance. The conceptual model also provides a coherent framework for future Masonic research.


One of the objectives of Freemasonry, as promoted by the United Grand Lodge of Victoria (Appendix A), is to 'Provide opportunities for self development'.

Self-development is the growth of the individual person's abilities by the individual himself. Such development can of course be greatly influenced by the people and organisations with which the individual relates.

In previous periods of operative masonry, the craft guilds were largely concerned with the development of the individual as a skilled craftsman. The operative stone mason left the ranks of Apprentice and became a Fellow of the Craft when he was able to demonstrate that he was a skilled workman who had mastered the requirements of his trade. With the development of speculative Freemasonry, self-development was expanded to include a broadening of the mind, intellect and talents in general, through education and learning, not only for individual benefit but for the greater benefit of society in general (Information For Fellowcraft, UGLV).

This paper will examine the current Masonic approach to self-development, by considering the Craft's understanding of the world and the individual, some streams of thought that have influenced current Masonic views, and future implications for the Craft.

Masonic view of the world

The state of the world and the individual's interpretation of it greatly affect the range of opportunities for self-development. The unified view that Freemasonry holds about the universe, and the individual's place within it, is contained in the rituals of the first, second and third degrees, and is summarised in the Retrospect of the Third Degree (Appendix B).

Freemasonry perceives the universe to be composed of two dimensions, material and spiritual. With regard to the spiritual dimension, Freemasonry takes a monotheistic view. That is, one God is acknowledged, and is believed to exist as a distinct being, who created the world and who works through and in the world. God also being the ultimate basis for determining moral and good human behaviour.

Referring to the first degree, the Retrospect says (from line 20):

. . . above all, it taught you to bend with humility and resignation to the will of the GAOTU, and to dedicate your heart, thus purified from every baneful and malignant passion, fitted only for the reception of truth and virtue, as well to His glory as the welfare of your fellow-creatures.

As to the material world, Freemasonry exhorts the individual to expand his knowledge and to develop his intellectual abilities to gain understanding. As the Retrospect states (line 27):

. . . you were led in the second degree, to contemplate the intellectual faculty . . .

The Retrospect provides a very useful outline of the Masonic approach to the material world, as it contains guidelines for individual behaviour and self-development. Masonic view of the individual

The Retrospectteaches the individual at least five great truths concerning life:

Truth 1.That we all enter this world helpless and dependent on others for our immediate survival and development.

Truth 2.That we also enter this world equal, not in terms of physical attributes or mental abilities or material endowments, but in terms of our mortal condition.

Your admission into Freemasonry in a state of helpless indigence, was an emblematical representation of the entrance of all men on this, their mortal existence. It inculcated the useful lessons of natural equality and mutual dependence . . . [line 11]

Truth 3.That because human beings share a common mortality and dependence upon each other, there is the need for charity and support one another, particularly in times of trouble or distress.

. . . it instructed you in the active principles of universal beneficence and charity, to seek the solace of our own distress by extending relief and consolation to your fellow-creatures in the hour of their affliction . . . [line 15]

Truth 4.That self-development is achieved by the expansion of the intellect through the study of nature and science, and the application of reason to the experiences of life.

. . . you were led in the second degree, to contemplate the intellectual faculty, and to trace its development through the paths of heavenly science . . . [line 27]

To your mind, thus modelled by virtue and science, nature, however, presents one great and useful lesson more-she prepares you, by contemplation, for the closing hour of your existence . . . [line 32]

Truth 5.That the active pursuit of reason and the expansion of the intellectual faculty, subject to the will of God, will lead ultimately to truth and virtue, that is, a totally fulfilled life.

Such, my brother, is the peculiar object of the third degree in Freemasonry. It invites you to reflect on this awful subject, and teaches you to feel that to the just and virtuous man death has no terrors equal to the stain of falsehood and dishonour. Of this great truth the annals of Freemasonry afford a glorious example in the unshaken fidelity and noble d-- of our GM HA . . . [line 39]

Hence we see that, while human mortality and universal charity are emphasised, Freemasonry considers self-development largely in terms of the expansion of reason and the human intellect. Freemasonry is part of a long historical tradition which defines personal development in terms of the intellectual faculty.

Past influences

Thinkers and writers up to the nineteenth century, with their emphasis on reason and the intellect, the development of rational systems, and the importance of experience and observation, can be seen to have had considerable influence upon the Masonic view of self-development. This paper shall briefly outline these three influences.

Reason and the Intellect

Reason, knowledge and the intellect, since at least the time of the ancient Greeks, have been recognised as central to an understanding of life and the universe.

Plato (c.427-c.347 BCE, The Republic) saw the soul as being divided into three parts; the rational part or intellect, the will, and the appetite or desire. He saw the ideal society, like the soul, also being partitioned into three sections or classes, the philosopher kings, the guardians, and the ordinary citizens. The philosopher kings were to lead the people, for by reason and thought they came closest to an understanding of truth and ultimate reality-what he called 'ideas' or 'forms'.

Aristotle (384-322 BCE, Metaphysics) did not speak of a separate world of 'forms' or 'ideas'. He maintained that the world of the senses, or the material world, is the real one. Aristotle sought to find, by reason, cause-and-effect relationships between things in the world.

The early Christian writers tried to interpret Christianity and to relate it to the philosophy of the ancient Greeks and Romans.

St Augustine (345-430, The City of God) taught that all history is purposeful or directed by God. He is above everything, and human beings and the world are God's creation. The supreme goal of human beings is a mystical union with God.

St Thomas Aquinas (1265, Summa Theologica), who was influenced by Aristotle, took religious philosophy a step further. He argued that the universe was organised on the basis of reason, and that a knowledge of it leads to God. He said that a person should use both faith and reason in believing in God.

The views of these early philosophers, concerning the importance of reason, and the intellect, for understanding the universe and for drawing close to God, are echoed in the words of the Retrospect:

. . . you were led in the second degree, to contemplate the intellectual faculty, and to trace its development through the paths of heavenly science, even to the throne of God. The secrets of nature and the principles of intellectual truth were then unveiled to your view. [line 27]

Freemasonry does not see a conflict between scientific endeavour and a belief in God. It views knowledge about the universe as leading to a better understanding of the creative laws of TGAOTU. As a consequence, Freemasonry emphasises the importance of the intellect and reason in coming to understand the universe and the place of human beings in it.

Rational Systems

By the use of their intellect, human beings have been slowly able, through observation and reason, to develop an understanding of the physical, emotional and spiritual environments, or systems, in which we operate.

A system is a mental image which assists us to understand a more complex reality; for example, a river system, a legal system, or a number system. It helps us to obtain an overview of the whole situation, and to understand the important variables that affect the object being studied.

It was during the period of the European Renaissance (1400-1600), that scientists used observation and reason to investigate the physical characteristics of the earth and to develop the concept of a solar system. Nicolaus Copernicus, Galileo and Johannes Kepler saw themselves as discovering physical truths through reason. They laid the foundation of measurement, experiment and mathematics upon which Sir Isaac Newton (1687, Principia Mathematica) built his great system of the world. Newton, in fact, described the world as a giant machine, or system.

The systems view of understanding is clearly evident in Masonic teaching, as seen from the answer given by the second degree candidate to the question, What is Freemasonry? 'A peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols' (Degree Ritual, UGLV 1991, p 51).

The systems view is also evident from the Retrospect:

But it is first my duty to call your attention to a retrospect of those degrees through which you have already passed, that you may the better be enabled to distinguish and appreciate the connection of our whole system, and the relative dependence of its several parts. [line 5]

Experience and Observation

During the 1700s, influenced by Newton's work, philosophers adopted a practical approach, and believed that experience and observation gave rise to knowledge. For example, John Locke (1690, Essay Concerning Human Understanding), spoke of the mind as a blank tablet upon which experience writes. Experience acts on the mind through sensation and reflections and these two processes give human beings their ideas and understandings. David Hume (1739-1740, A Treatise of Human Nature) also argued that all our knowledge is limited to what we experience; that the only things we can know are objects and events of sense perception and experience.

Masonic teaching emphasises the importance of experience and observation, not just visual observation but also mental observation or contemplation. From the Retrospectwe see the importance of experience and the contemplation of that experience for gaining an understanding of ourselves, life and death.

To your mind, thus modelled by virtue and science, nature, however presents one great and useful lesson more-she prepares you, by contemplation, for the closing hour of your existence, and when, by means of that contemplation, she has conducted you through the intricate windings of this mortal life, she finally instructs you how to die. Such, my brother, is the peculiar object of the third degree in Freemasonry. [line 32]

The Masonic view of self-development has been influenced by past philosophers, and particularly by the development of scientific method following the European Renaissance. Freemasonry understands self-development in terms of an increase in knowledge, acquired by observation, reasoning, experiment, measurement and the construction of mental systems, to assist an understanding of the world and the meaning of human life.

As a system of rational personal development, Freemasonry has an important role to play, both now and in the future-although the world of the mid-21st century will be substantially different from that of today.

Societal trends

The wonderful thing about the future is that it can be guessed at. The future is not known, for the universe and human life are full of paradox and surprise (Adams, 1992). Nevertheless, tomorrow is connected to yesterday via today, and we can discern trends that are likely to become major characteristics of future society which will substantially affect individual self-development. These trends include an increase in personal freedom, an increase in scientific discovery, and an increase in the rate of social change.

This paper shall briefly consider these trends and their implication for personal development and the role of Freemasonry.

Increasing personal freedom

Since the mid 1700s there has been an expansion of theory and practice supporting increased individual freedom, particularly in the areas of the economy, government and society. For example, there has been the development of national economic systems based largely on the theory of competitive markets, in which individual freedom to make production and distribution decisions is paramount.

In government, the fundamental individual liberties of expression, religion, assembly and equity have been enshrined in Bills of Rights, constitutions and laws. In society there has been the development of a philosophical perspective (sometimes called existentialism) which encourages social and behavioural experimentation, human life being seen basically as a series of decisions that must be made with no way of knowing conclusively what the correct choices are.

In a world of increasing personal options, individuals will have greater freedom to make their own choices. But they will also be increasingly made accountable for their choices.

Increasing scientific discovery

Many areas of science and intellectual endeavour are making important contributions to our understanding of the world and self-development. For example: in chemistry, with the development of polymers, synthetic fibres, compounds and pharmaceutical drugs; in microelectronics, with the development of the micro-chip, the computer, the visual display unit and communication networks; in medicine, with the development of ultra-sound diagnosis, fibre optics and laser beam surgery, organ replacement and repair operations; in genetics, with the manipulation and evolution of the DNA code of animals, vegetables, and bacteria; and in astronomy, with the use of satellites to help discover the history of the universe.

The pace of scientific discovery is increasing over time and the effects are having a profound impact on the way in which we understand and interpret the world, and experience life.

Rapid social change

The effect of increasing personal freedom and increasing scientific discovery is that the individual in the twenty-first century will face a world characterised by an increasing rate of change. Such change can be enormously beneficial, but the difficulty for the individual is one of adjusting to an increasingly transient world. What Alvin Toffler (1972) called 'future shock' will be suffered by many people. The failure to effectively adapt to social change can result in the individual suffering a sense of insecurity, disorientation, alienation, and ultimately a lack of meaning of self and of life in general.

Role for Freemasonry

In June 1992 the Weekend Australianproduced a series of articles under the general heading of 'Creating the Future'. This series brought together the views of nearly one hundred of Australia's leading thinkers. In a summary article at the end of the series, the newspaper columnist Philip Adams made the point that our personal freedom, technologies, pace of human life and inventions are out-distancing our philosophies, ethics and laws. He observed that in every area of science we need to be better informed, but we must remember that data is not information, information is not knowledge and knowledge is not wisdom. He wrote: 'There's an awful lot of data around, and information in unprecedented amounts. But wisdom? That's in short supply. Indeed it may be becoming rarer, more elusive'. (Adams, 1992, p 18)

Here then, is a major role for Freemasonry in this age of individualism, materialism, free choice and transience: to provide a moral basis for wise decision-making and self-development. Freemasonry, through its well-defined and stable authority structures, rituals and illuminating allegories, provides an environment of peace and harmony in which the intellectual faculty is encouraged to develop and in which moral values and wisdom are fostered in the individual.

Freemasonry emphasises that self-development depends upon the individual's improved knowledge and understanding of himself and the world about him. Freemasonry reminds us that self-development is undertaken in a material world, and that the development of the intellectual faculty occurs within a mortal body. It uses the tools of operative masons and translates their use into moral values and the building of the spirit. It leads the individual ultimately to recognise that reverence and respect for God is wisdom, and that to shun evil is understanding (Job28:28).

Although Freemasonry is veiled by the mist of the past, it points to God and eternity. It is concerned with the past, the present and the future, and belongs to future ages. (Wiley Odell May, in Dewar, 1966, preface) Freemasonry has an important role to play in providing responsible opportunities for individual self-development, for its members and others, in a world which is increasingly characterised by creative individualism, scientific discovery and pervasive change.

Community acceptance

There remains an unanswered question. If Freemasonry has an important role to play in providing responsible opportunities for self-development for its members and others in the twenty-first century, why is this not generally acknowledged by the community? It could be because Freemasonry lacks an adequate understanding of itself, and because it lacks an outlook recognised by the community as relevant to the twenty-first century.

Prior to undertaking the second degree ceremony, the candidate is asked, 'What is Freemasonry?' and the required response is, 'A peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols'. (Degree Ritual, UGLV 1991, p 51). But this is only a partial truth. Freemasonry is not simply a peculiar system of morality veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols. First and foremost it is a way of understanding the universe in which we live and how we relate to it and to one another.

Before you can have a morality or morality system, you must have understanding, a conceptual view of the world and humans within it. Understanding precedes morality. Morality is simply acceptable motivation and behaviour, based on a given understanding of the world. There is the need for a new approach, a conceptual analysis of Freemasonry.

A Conceptual Model

The explanation of the Masonic approach to self-development presented in this paper suggests the following conceptual model (Figure 1) of interrelated components.

Figure 1

This paper in fact provides and initial exploration of the ritual, philosophy and self-development components of this model of Freemasonry. The paper also implies that the significance of the model components may vary over time. That is, the model is not static. A Dynamic Analysis

The important role that Freemasonry can play in the twenty-first century is not generally acknowledged, because the community does not see Freemasonry as relevant. Aspects of morality and charity have been effectively passed from one generation of Craft brethren to the next via Masonic ritual. However, there has been a failure to adequately spell out the philosophy, the outlook and assumptions, underpinning Freemasonry, and a failure of the Masonic approach to adequately respond to changing individual and community values. Figure 2 provides a diagrammatic representation of the problem.

Figure 2


Need For Relevance

A brief outline of the development of western values and perspectives since 1600 will illustrate how Freemasonry has failed to remain relevant in an ever changing world.

Recent historical research indicates that Freemasonry was very much influenced by the English and French Enlightenment which began in the 1600s and lasted till the late 1700s. The Enlightenment was characterised by the view that knowledge and society is not advanced by habit or superstition, but by reason, that is, by logic and the rational scientific approach to understanding. The Enlightenment saw the continuing separation of the State from the Church, with men and women increasingly putting their fate in their own hands rather than in that of God or the Church.

The Enlightenment was also characterised by the notion that the law should be based on natural and equal rights for all. That is, the right of education, freedom of speech and religion. The period of the Enlightenment was accompanied by the rise of British middle-class respectability and semi-religious activities, and the establishment of gentlemen's studies, libraries, galleries, clubs, societies-and Freemasonry.

The views of the Enlightenment generated the assumptions and perspectives which underlie Freemasonry of the 1700s and 1800s. These Masonic perspectives and assumptions included:

  • a belief in a single Supreme Being
  • the presence of an all-seeing eye and an invisible hand to oversee human activities
  • a view that God created the world so that it could be understood by the reasoning power of humans; and that the laws of nature can be discovered by mathematics-in particular, geometry
  • an understanding that human nature and conduct is well ordered and, like the physical universe, a science of human nature and society is possible
  • that there is a link between scientific reasoning, understanding and the discovery of truth
  • an acknowledgment of the importance of education, for it teaches good methods of reasoning
  • the promotion of the value of labour, the work ethic, the protection of trade skills
  • and the acceptability of secrecy in organisations to control membership and standards.

These assumptions and perspectives still underlie much Masonic ritual and practice. However, the philosophy, perspectives and assumptions underlying current Freemasonry are substantially different from the prevailing values, attitudes and understandings in the community today. For example, prominent community perceptions include:

  • the separation of religion from everyday life
  • a quest to find sustainability rather than God
  • an awareness of the conflict of

The invisible hand is not seen to operate, and what is good for the individual is not necessarily good for society: for example, the need to reconcile individual liberty on the one hand, with equality on the other.

There is also the demand for confirmed historical accuracy, with a general ignorance of the Bible, particularly the Old Testament. There is an acceptance of the link between education, scientific reasoning and understanding, but not necessarily between education and the discovery of truth. It is acknowledged that there are few rational truths or absolutes. Statements about the world or human behaviour are never certain, they are only probable at best, and value systems are based largely upon situational ethics. There is the declining importance of skilled physical labour and trade labour, and the increasing requirement for organisational accountability and transparency.

Research directions

The conceptual model (Figures 1 and 2), by highlighting the key attributes of Freemasonry, not only focuses attention on philosophical aspects of the Craft, but also provides coherent direction for future Masonic research:

  • Firstly, more specific and precise definition of the model components: for example, a more complete understanding of current theories of knowledge formation and learning.
  • Secondly, more complete analysis of the key relationships between the model components: for example, the link between philosophy (such as Buddhism) and Masonic ritual.
  • Thirdly, the measurement and quantification of the model components and the direction and strength of the key relationships between the components: for example, the relationship of morality (such as beneficence) to self-development.
  • Fourthly, the change in the model components and relationships over time: for example, the impact of World War Two veterans upon the development of Freemasonry.
  • >Lastly, the application of the conceptual model to the analysis of organisational performance: for example, the divergent roles and functions of Grand Lodge and warranted lodges.


There is no doubt that Freemasonry has a great deal to offer in terms of wise decision-making in an increasingly transient world. Whether Freemasonry will make a substantial positive contribution to future society will ultimately depend upon reconciling the disparity between the philosophy, the perspectives and assumptions of Freemasonry, and current community perceptions and values.

The way forward is not to double our efforts on ritual, or to increase our benevolence, or even to strive for new members. These will necessarily follow if we rediscover the Masonic vision of the ritual-writers. To go forward we must first understand the philosophy upon which our ritual is based. Then we must reinterpret that philosophy in the light of a changed world.

For example, it is about developing a meaningful understanding of God for all monotheistic believers. It is about uniting these believers into a caring, peaceful and harmonious brotherhood, which transcends religious, cultural, national, ethnic and locational boundaries and barriers. It is not about secrecy and exclusion. It is about world community, expansive inclusion, transparency and accountability.

It is not simply about benevolence shown to those in distress, the aged, the sick, the poor, and disaster victims. It is equally about the moral development of the young, through the removal of discrimination and vilification and through such activities as drug-free sport and recreation. It is about the development of the skill and intellectual levels of all humans to ensure sustainable families, friendships, communities, and material lifestyles.

It is about moral regeneration, in all aspects of life. And it begins with the individual, the young and the family. We failed to capitalise on the large Masonic memberships of the 1950s and 1960s because of excess secrecy, habit and protocol. In effect, we locked our families out of Freemasonry.

The Masonic vision is about providing its members with a moral basis for decision-making. It is about values and standards based on a VSL, not upon professional association standards and situational ethics. To catch the Masonic vision requires a return to the underlying principles and tenets, the philosophy, upon which Freemasonry is founded. And having understood that philosophy, to interpret and apply it to a radically changed world.


ADAMS, P: 'Choosing the Right Direction for Change' in the Weekend Australian, 27/28 June 1992, p 18.
BEAGLEY, D: 'Enlightened Histories of Our Times' in Freemasonry Victoria, Issue 83 February 2000, pp 14-15.
BREWER, J: The Pleasures Of The Imagination: English Culture in the 18th Century, Harper Collins.
DEWAR, J: The Unlocked Secret: Freemasonry Examined, William Kimber & Co, London 1966.
Holy Bible (1994) New International Version, Zondervan.
REES, J: 'Spirituality in Freemasonry', Canonbury Masonic Research Centre, London March 2000.
ROCHE, D: France in The Enlightenment, trans A Goldhammer, Harvard University Press.
TOFFLER, A: Future Shock, Pan Books 1972.
United Grand Lodge of Victoria: Degree Ritual (1st 2nd & 3rd Degrees) 1991.
--- Information for Fellow Crafts.
World Book Encyclopedia (1982) vol 1, pp 129-130; vol 15 pp 345-352.


  • Practice universal charity
  • Provide opportunities for self development
  • Build friendships
  • Foster moral standards
  • Seek excellence in all pursuits

(Degree Ritual, UGLV, 1991, p 1)





Line Ref
[1] Bro —, having taken the great and solemn
obligation of a MM, you have now a right to
demand of me that last and greatest trial, by which
alone you can be admitted to a participation in the
[5] mysterious s . . . ts of a MM. But it is first my
duty to call your attention to a retrospect of those
degrees through which you have already passed,
that you may the better be enabled to distinguish
and appreciate the connection of our whole system,
and the relative dependence of its several parts.
[11] Your admission into Freemasonry in a state of
helpless indigence was an emblematical represen-
tation of the entrance of all men on this, their
mortal existence. It inculcated the useful lessons
[15] of natural equality and mutual dependence, it
instructed you in the active principles of universal
beneficence and charity, to seek the solace of your
own distress by extending relief and consolation to
your fellow-creatures in the hour of their affliction;
[20] above all, it taught you to bend with humility and
resignation to the will of the GAOTU, and to
dedicate your heart, thus purified from every bane-
ful and malignant passion, fitted only for the
reception of truth and virtue, as well to His glory
as the welfare of your fellow-creatures. Proceeding
onward, still guiding your steps by the principles
[27] of moral truth, you were led in the second degree,
to contemplate the intellectual faculty, and to trace
its development through the paths of heavenly
science, even to the throne of God. The secrets of
nature and the principles of intellectual truth were
[32] then unveiled to your view. To your mind, thus
modelled by virtue and science, nature, however,
presents one great and useful lesson more – she
prepares you, by contemplation, for the closing hour
of your existence, and when, by means of that
contemplation, she has conducted you through the
intricate windings of this mortal life, she finally
[39] instructs you how to die. Such, my brother, is the
peculiar object of the third degree in Freemasonry.
It invites you to reflect on this awful subject, and
teaches you to feel that to the just and virtuous
man death has no terrors equal to the stain of
falsehood and dishonour. Of this great truth the
annals of Freemasonry afford a glorious example
in the unshaken fidelity and noble d . . . of our
GM HA, who was s . . . just before the completion
of KST, at the construction of which he was, as
[49] you are doubtless aware, the principal architect.

(Degree Ritual, UGLV, 1991, pp 92-94)

Copyright 2000 by ANZMRC. Readers may redistribute this article to other individuals for non commercial use, provided that text, all html codes, and this notice remain intact and unaltered in any way. This article may not be resold, reprinted, or redistributed for compensation of any kind without prior written permission of the author


by WBro John L Belton

The views represented in this paper are mine alone and do not represent those of the Internet Lodge or any Masonic body or organisation.

The objectives of this paper are to:-

  1. To offer quantitative numerical research on the issue of falling numbers
  2. To demonstrate that there are two clear and distinct factors that affect trends in Masonic membership.
  3. To demonstrate that these factors are global and not merely 'little local difficulties'.
  4. To offer various pointers as to how freemasonry should progress in this difficult situation.

My interest in falling numbers started in my Mother Lodge (Mellor Lodge 3844 Derbyshire EC) when I installed as my successor a Past Master in the Lodge - something that had never been done before. An attempt to reverse this treadmill of recycling Past Masters prompted further research and in its turn this paper. In short what had happened in Mellor Lodge was that it had raided its stock of Master Masons and they had eventually run out.

The summons for my Initiation in May 1989 listed ten Stewards in hindsight the fact that not one of them ever progressed to become Master of the Lodge made it clear that whatever the problem was it had been around for a while.

Casual enquiry as to the reasons for these falling numbers produced a variety of opinions; the economic recession, changing work practices, cost, fewer candidates, no younger candidates and 'today's youth is not what it used to be'. All these views were firmly held by the individuals, and indeed those holding them strongly tended to discount all other opinions and there was a widely held view that freemasonry had been through these problems before and in the fullness of time would be restored to its former glory. Curiously there was (and is) a virtual complete absence of any objective analysis - a lack FACTS or FIGURES on which to base either a diagnosis or treatment! The hunt was on for some numerical data to try and test some of the commonly held opinions and assumptions.

A good starting point for quantitative data is the figures for the number of Grand Lodge Certificates issued by United Grand Lodge of England over the years, and these are published annually in the Quarterly Communications of Grand Lodge including the past ten years figures. In the 15 year period from 1982 to 1997, the number of GL Certificates issued fell from 15700 to 10200 - a decrease of 35%. Extrapolating this trend to 2010 the forecast number would fall to 5900 per year - a further 40% decrease!

Working on the assumption that these figures are applicable at the next lower level of the organisation it would mean that putting them, for example, in the context of the Province of East Lancashire; that in 1997 each Lodge actually initiated on average 0.9 masons that this would be forecast to fall to 0.5 in 2010. Clearly a matter for concern! This trend is of at least 15 years duration and would not be expected to reverse or stabilise in the medium term i.e. the next decade. Such an argument is supported by the fact that across the world the numbers in freemasonry have been falling since the early 1960's

The first key message is that the number of new members can be expected to fall by around 4% per year over the next decade; assuming the past trend continues - and that it is neither better nor worse.

Initial quantitative investigation started in Mellor Lodge 3844 - my mother Lodge in the Province of Derbyshire. Clearly if one wants to examine any trend over time it is helpful to look at the behaviour of groups or cohorts doing the same thing over different periods of time and see what had changed between one group and the next. Such an approach is different from the normal published figures, which merely show the changes in a year and includes and ranks equally those who joined yesterday and 50 years ago. It must be noted that they are different generations and it would thus be reasonable to expect them to behave differently.

The analysis therefore takes groups of masons joining in successive five year periods and to examine their Masonic careers and see what changes have taken place in certain measurable characteristics. The analysis only included candidates, excluded joiners and of course deaths (the latter not being considered an active reason by any member for ceasing Lodge membership)

Analysis of Mellor Lodge 3844 EC Membership Data

Period No. of
No. of
Av. Age of
Av. Years
Av. Years to
1945-49 4 0 39.5 10.5 23.0 100%
1950-54 13 0 41.1 11.8 25.6 54%
1955-59 10 0 42.8 11.0 16.6 70%
1960-64 10 3 41.5 9.6 17.2 80%
1965-69 6 2 37.2 10.0 16.0 50%
1970-74 10 3 42.7 8.3 13.4 60%
1975-79 8 2 33.4 8.5 9.8 75%
1980-84 10 3 47.4 7.0 8.3 40%
1985-89 8 4 39.5 5.5 5.3 50%
1990-94 7 2 39.1 N/A 3.7 38%

Source: Membership Register of Mellor Lodge 3844 EC as at Jan 1999

Straight away it was clear that the 'Age at Initiation' has changed little over the last half century - there is no evidence here that there ever was, in earlier years a much younger group of men becoming masons - the figures show an average of 40 years plus of minus 5 over the last half century! The period of 'Years to the Chair' had come down from around 10 to 5 (until we ran out of Master Masons that is).

The startling discovery was the rapidly decreasing period of time from Initiation to Resignation or Exclusion - deaths excluded - down from over 20 years in the 50's to around 10 years in the mid 1970's and then to 4-6 years in the 1980's or early 90's.

These findings, especially the reduction in duration of membership, did not find ready acceptance outside my Lodge and all sorts of reasons were given as to why Mellor 3844 was really just an exception to the 'real and normal situation'. This prompted analysis of the records of other Lodges elsewhere to see if there was any similarity in results.

The next set of data came from Welbeck Lodge in Nottinghamshire - where it still takes 14 years to become Master - but the underlying trend for duration of memberships was the same. The analysis was repeated for Lodges in Alberta and Ontario in Canada, Montana in the USA and in Queensland, Australia. This data is not easy to obtain on other than an individual Lodge basis because of the need to include all those who became members and that computerised records at a Provincial or Grand Lodge level are incomplete for that time period or could only be accessed by hard copy record cards which ceased to be updated after computerisation.

Average years to Resignation / Exclusion by period of Initiation

Period Mellor
Lord Salton
1945-49 23.0 15.4 18.0 15.7 12.5 20.4 N/A 17.8
1950-54 25.6 20.2 26.2 17.4 14.7 16.8 26.3 18.8
1955-59 16.6 14.5 13.4 13.2 16.1 13.6 21.3 14.3
1960-64 16.1 17.6 10.0 12.6 14.4 16.2 17.0 14.5
1965-69 16.0 13.8 19.7 12.0 15.6 15.3 16.0 15.3
1970-74 13.8 10.6 13.3 10.8 14.2 N/A 12.8 11.7
1975-79 9.8 8.1 11.0 8.4 7.6 9.0 9.8 9.6
1980-84 8.3 8.2 10.7 6.5 8.8 4.8 8.3 6.5
1985-89 5.3 2.5 6.2 4.8 7.8 6.0 5.0 N/A
1990-94 3.7 3.8 4.5 N/A 4.0 4.3 4.0 N/A

Source: Lodge Membership Registers

Eerily the results were again almost identical in terms of duration of membership and seemingly independent of geographical situation.

For all the Lodges analysed the first experience of decrease in average duration of membership was during the period 1955-59 and this approximates to a date of birth of circa 1925 and reaching the age of 21, adulthood, around 1945 and becoming a mason between 1955 and 1959. These Brethren will now be aged on average in their mid - 70's. The fall in duration of membership has continued from that date without respite.

The validity of the above results could be queried on the basis that the duration of membership in recent groups is artificially lowered because there are members yet to resign and this is indeed correct. However it should be noted that the percentage of candidates who have already resigned in say the groups from 1980 onwards is not dissimilar to those prior to say 1970 and before. The figures are shown below:-

% Resignations / Exclusions by period of Initiation

Period Mellor
Lord Salton
1945-49 100% 61% 33% 56% 31% 44% N/A 39%
1950-54 54% 71% 25% 59% 28% 83% 25% 43%
1955-59 70% 73% 33% 64% 36% 89% 30% 51%
1960-64 80% 64% 8% 72% 31% 63% 73% 41%
1965-69 50% 50% 27% 40% 31% 50% 50% 43%
1970-74 60% 64% 25% 65% 18% nil 70% 60%
1975-79 86% 89% 31% 62% 19% 100% 62% 47%
1980-84 40% 67% 36% 74% 47% 100% 40% 60%
1985-89 50% 29% 50% 28% 25% 100% 25% N/A
1990-94 38% 75% 44% N/A 23% 37% 43% N/A

Source: Lodge Membership Registers

Of course the data is from a limited number of Lodges in a limited number of places and has not been subjected to strict statistical analysis but nonetheless there is a remarkable degree of consistency between the figures from diverse parts of the English speaking world. One must conclude that there is a trend across the English speaking Masonic world and the trend is GLOBAL.

This is the second key message: Those who do become masons stay as members of the Craft for a very significantly shorter period of time than they ever did in the past - about 20 - 30% of the time they did half a century ago!!

This might best be defined as the TRANSIENCE OF MEMBERSHIP. It has not been reported elsewhere within Freemasonry but the evidence for its existence is convincing. We need to take due account of BOTH the decreasing number of candidates AND the decreasing period of time they remain members whenever we consider the problem we face! (The concept of transience will be dealt with later in the paper).

The figures from the Province of East Lancashire show that of those resigning in any one year 50% had resigned within about 10 years. The basis of this figure is different from the Lodge analysis for it includes only those resigning in any one year and regardless when they became members of the Craft

The individual Lodge analyses indicate an average of 4-5 years and will not include any allowance for those who have not yet resigned in the more recent of the five year periods.

The real figure lies between the two, somewhere near 7 years.

Now we can understand the symptoms we see, in the form of Missing Master Masons, in many Lodges where they are; missing from the stewards benches, missing from floor offices, missing from rehearsals and missing from regular meetings. Partly this is a result of the smaller numbers becoming Masons but mainly it is that they stay a much shorter time as members.


We have looked at what the effects of 'falling numbers' are on individual Lodges, the micro level, but it is also worth considering the effects on Provinces and Grand Lodges, that is at the macro level, for there undoubtedly must be significant potential problems arising. Here I am grateful for permission to quote from my report of membership trends produced for the Province of East Lancashire.

Resignation or Mortality - which is more important?

Many Masons will probably have guessed already that resignation is the key factor in driving the numbers downwards - so lets have a look at the effects of mortality alone and resignations alone on the membership of the Province of East Lancashire. But first let me state that these figures are extrapolated from current trends and are limited to two years data and that they are only forecasts. It is likely that any other Province with a similar metropolitan / urban population mix would show a broadly similar trend, the Province of East Lancashire were the first to do the analysis

If we take a snapshot of numbers at the end of 1997 and use the current resignation trends and actuarial mortality tables to forecast the year 2008 - a period of 10 years hence, we find that :-

1. If one assumes that there is no mortality, then membership would fall from resignations alone by 43%.

No. of Masons 10529 9900 7800 6000 5100
Cumulative loss 6% 26% 43% 51%

2. If we assume that there are no resignations but only reduction resulting from mortality then membership falls by 24%. (The calculations were done using the mortality table "a(90)" of the (British) Institute of Actuaries).

No. of Masons 10529 10300 9300 8000 7200
Cumulative loss 2% 12% 24% 32%

3. If we combine the both mortality and resignation then membership falls by 46% - a net annual decrease of between 4 and 5 % per annum.

No. of Masons 10529 9689 7593 5727 4825
Cumulative loss 8% 28% 46% 54%

The key driving factor is clearly resignation - and especially resignation among 'new' masons. I hasten to point out that the figures for East Lancashire are not atypical - every Grand Lodge in the English speaking world is shrinking, some more, some less. The only exceptions to shrinkage are the French speaking Obediences, and some Northern European Grand Lodges and Turkey.

This quantitative work should, indeed, must be merely the start for it is clear that we do not yet fully understand what exactly is going on. There are many questions yet to be answered!

Q. Why should the Province of East Lancashire be shrinking by 4-5% per year while those of Derbyshire and Essex appear to be contracting by only around 1.5% per year?

Q. Of those resigning in the first (say) 8 years how many had floor offices and what were they? - one might ask if there was a link between the pressure (internal and external) to learn the ritual and non attendance?

Q. What are the real reasons for resignation or exclusion? An exit interview with Lodge members or Proposer or Seconder is unlikely to guarantee to give an objective answer - after all none of us like to be gratuitously uncomplimentary to those we know.

Q. Why are some Lodges so much more successful than others?

We need to know in order to be able to produce a strategy for renewal which stacks the odds in favour of the best possible outcome! Even the definition of what the best possible achievable outcome is needs more clarity of thought. More work needs to be done both on numbers and attitudes - and undertaken by people with those professional skills - whether in the Craft or not.


We must all accept that Freemasonry IS part of society both as an organisation and as individual Lodges or individual masons. There has been an internal tendency to consider that freemasonry is something separate and apart from mainstream society, even that it positively should not change at all and can escape the changes within society.

It is clear however that whether in employment, divorced, voluntarily retired, with teenage children; none of us can distance ourselves from the real world out there. Every individual and organisation has to accept that fact, adapt to it and live with it; a liking or not for what one sees is immaterial. Freemasonry is no exception and thus we have no option but to respond to the changes in society.

Is there evidence and publications out there that can shed some light on our problem? The answer is yes, and to disregard such evidence, either through unawareness or design will make any actions taken either less effective or totally ineffective! The exclusion of such published evidence on the grounds that it 'not relevant to our organisation' or that it came from another country is at best unwise.

Robert Putnam, Professor of International Affairs at Harvard University, in his paper "The Strange Disappearance of Civic America" looks at the decline of 'Civic and Social Capital' in America using published statistical data and notes that each successive cohort (a defined group of people within certain parameters, in this case time) are each successively less involved in any form of social or civic activity. He examines factors such as:-

  • busyness and time pressure
  • economic hard times
  • residential mobility
  • suburbanisation
  • working women and two career families
  • disruption of marriage and family ties
  • changes in the structure of the American economy
  • 'the sixties' including
  • Vietnam, Watergate and disillusion with public life; and
  • the cultural revolt against authority (sex, drugs etc.)
  • growth of the welfare state
  • the civil rights revolution
  • television, the electronic revolution and other technological changes

Putnam finally concludes that the only factor that correlates with this decline is the advent of television! One might argue with his diagnosis but clearly the finger of suspicion points at changes that have, and are continuing, to take place in Society. In sociological terms Putnam is 'right wing' in that he is concerned at the loss of civic involvement as we know / knew it, by contrast the 'left wing' view would be to let all past civic and social involvement decay or disappear in the (full) expectation that it would be replaced by something different. Putnam also notes that the fall started among those who became adults immediately after the end of World War II.

Freemasonry must ask itself if it wishes to be concerned with 'civic values' and if it considers its values important to society or by default it will adopt an approach that Masonic values do not matter in the total context of society in the new millennium.

Dr Jonathan Sacks in his "Politics of Hope" notes the same effect but feels that it is due to increasing state involvement in our lives. He considers that until the mid century we had a 'liberal society' - one in which we all accepted that while we had freedoms those freedoms had rights and responsibilities that went along with them. He notes the change to a 'libertarian society' where we accept and demand our rights but do not consider that we owe anything back to society in return. In effect this marks a decline in willingness to make any contribution or commitment to society.

"Future Shock" a seminal work by Alvin Toffler published in 1970, and still in print today, examines the concept of 'Transience' in society. This transience he sees (even in 1970!) as being reflected in the increased divorce rate, decreasing marriage rates, increased single parentage, shorter duration of employment with one employer. All of this some thirty years ago!!

The results of this increased transience are visible around us and are recorded in the national press and in announcements from government. Thus one reads that; the government actuary expects that the new millennium will see more unmarried people than married ones, that almost all churches report declining attendances, that the British government is so concerned about falling civic involvement that they are planning to introduce the teaching of civic values at an early stage of education of our children.

These are therefore not just 'Changing Times' they are 'Radically Changing Times'- changes that might have taken a century are happening in decades - in a historical sense these changes are taking place at such a rate that they appear in the timeline as a discontinuity rather than a rate of change. In this sense TODAY IS NOT LIKE YESTERDAY AND TOMORROW WILL NOT BE LIKE TODAY.

When individuals have heard about the subject of my address they have asked me to include some proposals for dealing with the issues. I decline! Why? Because being able to stand here to address you gives me power, it is however power without responsibility for implementation.

However there are a few pointers that are worth making by way of summary because they could well define the style of approach to the problem.

  1. The decline in numbers has been going on for around 40 years and is not going to reverse itself as if by divine intervention. Thus any extrapolation of existing trends over the next 10 years is going to happen whether we like it or not. We must plan accordingly!
  2. That the changes in society are radical and deep seated, and that they will likewise require a radical approach by freemasonry (and many other organisations).
  3. That the strongly 'top down' nature of Masonic management makes it difficult for the messages from the bottom to be heard at the top and that those with expert and professional skills are often excluded from the process of change because they are not correctly placed in the hierarchy.
  4. That we must have among our numbers professional marketers, market researchers, strategists, analysts, public relations and other skills that could be put to good use. The Grand Lodge of South Australia, under the leadership of MWBro John Stone, has been most proactive in these areas and initial results of their programmes are encouraging - probably the most encouraging anywhere in the world!

It must be stressed that from Australasia to North America and all English speaking countries in between, that the decrease has not bottomed out anywhere. Almost all the panaceas have been tried and repeated in various parts of the world, and the numbers have continued to decline. By and large the lessons learnt by one Grand Lodge have not been taken to heart by others, the excuse that "we are different" has led to the setting of unrealistic objectives - which have then not been achieved. Where the trend has been bucked it is in individual Lodges or in innovations which give Lodges very specific characteristics. In short it is that individuals in some Lodges have been able to exercise a degree of choice in how they choose to operate - that they are non conformist to the extent that they have adapted to a style that suits the members rather than any standard style the organisations might promote - and that they have not allowed those things that started as 'Custom and Practice' and moved through being 'Traditions' to become 'Landmarks' to impede sensible adaption.

We all need to remember that Freemasonry is a voluntary occupation (hobby), that it competes with work, family, partners, television and all those other ways that leisure hours can now be spent, many of which have become more common during the last half century. If those who join do not find it to be "Value for their Time and Money" then they will leave. While things can be suggested and proposed, even forced into Lodges ONLY a wholehearted acceptance by the Lodges members that they have SMART Objectives (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed) will produce any reasonable chance of commitment and success. This will require "Internal Openness" not only about the scale of the problem itself, but about what has been done and what might be done. The whole matter of the severe shortage of internal openness by Masonic Authorities will require further attention. We all live in an age of communication, surrounded by it, bombarded by it - and the members of any organisation that does not communicate effectively to its members will find those members assuming that there is in fact nothing to communicate. Not only must the communication flow out but its receipt by individual members must be virtually guaranteed - messages that inadvertently stop at in-trays might as well not have been sent! The booklets recently sent by the United Grand Lodge of England to every Mason represent an ideal example of communications best practice.

It has been the practice of Masonic management in many parts of the world to seek to achieve a degree of uniformity across Lodges and by various means to enforce that. This leads to an unwillingness to speak up, unwillingness to experiment, even an unthinking compliance - in the years ahead that may lead to more pain and decay than is needed.

When considering the universality of decline it is useful to reflect upon the vast differences in Masonic practices across the English speaking world. Let me elucidate a bit. Grand Lodges can be appointive or elective, Lodges may have memberships in the hundreds or thousands or a few tens, may meet from 4 to 20 times a year, the candidate may have anything from a few questions to many pages to learn, candidates may not become full Lodge members till they have completed their third degrees, there may or may not be any 'after proceedings', which vary from a seated meal to stand up sandwiches, alcohol may be served or not - one could go on and on.

The fact that numbers are falling across the English speaking world, and with practices being so varied, indicates that there is no formula for Masonic meetings that protects against decline - quite simply because the base causes of that decline do not lie within Freemasonry!

Universal panaceas have therefore, not surprisingly, been proved ineffective in halting or reversing the downward trend - although they may have slowed it. I also refuse to believe that universally every Grand Lodge has handled things with such poor planning and commitment that they have all failed - that is beyond the bounds of credibility. It will therefore be important to try and find objectives which are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed) and which gain broad acceptance (rather than imposition) among all members within particular Masonic administrative groups.

Those managing the Craft need to consider allowing appropriate experimentation, monitoring, and then permitting success to be copied. The exchange of 'best practice' around the world will be essential in trying to ensure that wheels (whether square, oval or round) are not reinvented endlessly - and in this the Internet can offer a powerful tool in enabling and facilitating the necessary exchanges.

Maybe Grand Lodges (and individual Masons too - for we all share some degree of responsibility) have to stop treating the symptoms and look rather more deeply at ourselves. We need to 'reinvent or rediscover' the values we have held for centuries so that we can share them among ourselves and make them known outside the Craft.

We must all consider with great care what is important to each of us as individual freemasons - is it "Content or Form". Content is the moral and spiritual lessons contained in our ritual and their practical application by all of us in our everyday lives. Or is it form? By form I mean; that to be a 'real' freemason one must wear a black tie, that the absence of a full stop in a summons is a mortal sin, that the colour of a members apron transcends being a Brother pure and simple. These thoughts and others like them are difficult questions to address - but address them we must. For only by knowing what our core values are, by knowing what it is that real Masons value, what is relevant to the new Brother, may we really start to address the issue of how we go about our own renaissance.

Are we more concerned with a renaissance above all in numbers? Do we merely value the number of memberships? Or is it the renaissance in values that will bring with it a renewal in vitality, renewal in moral values and thus as a result an eventual halt to the decline - by placing a high value on the qualities of humanity, morality and fraternity. It may not be mere coincidence that many of those who are actively involved in dealing with these issues and have agonised on 'what comes next' are increasingly calling for a revaluation and return to the true inner message of Freemasonry!

You might all well ask what this Lodge, the Internet Lodge 9659 (United Grand Lodge of England) is going to do to make its contribution? It is clear to me that what is not happening is the effective sharing of experience and best practice around the world - the wheel is being reinvented time and again. I therefore am delighted to announce the start of an invitation only list called renaissance-list  for those around the world grappling with these issues so that ideas and experience can be shared. As a Lodge we are about communication - let us use those skills and enthusiasm to enable others to hone their thoughts and ideas for the good of the Craft!

There are good and worthy younger men out there looking for a set of 'values for life' - something that Freemasonry should be able to offer, but that they will only join and stay when the total 'Masonic package' fits their needs.

We will need Brothers of vision to lead us, and we must allow Lodges and Brethren of vision to experiment with new styles. Permitting the enthusiasm of Brethren appropriate free rein will bring with it greater success and allow us all to feel more positive about the future of the Craft.


This paper is dedicated to VWBro Alan Busfield, Past Grand Lecturer of the Grand Lodge of New Zealand - for he was to my knowledge the first, in 1986, to present a detailed numerical analysis of the falling numbers situation. Also to acknowledge my grateful thanks to those Brethren on the Internet who have helped in the development of my thoughts, those who have delved into Lodge membership registers, and to the Provincial Grand Master for the Province of East Lancashire, RWBro James D Hemsley and the Provincial Grand Secretary, WBro Alan Garnett for allowing me access to the membership data for East Lancashire, together with WBro George Berry for bringing the rude data into due form so that I could analyse it.

Selected Bibliography

  1. Robert D. Putnam, 'The Strange Disappearance of Civic America', in The American Prospect no. 24 (Winter 1996) .
  2. Jonathan Sacks, 'The Politics of Hope' 1997 publisher Random House, London (ISBN 0-224-04329-3).
  3. Alvin Toffler, 'Future Shock' 1970 publisher Pan Books, London ISBN 0-330-02861-8 (and still in print as a paperback).
  4. Kent Henderson, 'Back to the Future - A Prescription for Masonic Renewal'
  5. Alan H Busfield, 'The Final Forty Years of Freemasonry' in Transactions of the United Masters Lodge No 167, Auckland, New Zealand; Vol. 26, No 12 pp 243-251 and discussion in Vol. 26, No. 13 pp 271-282
  6. R Pottinger, 'New Zealand Freemasonry in 2005'
  7. Harry Kellerman, 'The Challenge of the Changes in Membership in New South Wales'; The 1992 Kellerman Lecture for NSW in the Proceedings of the 1992 Australian Masonic Research Council Conference, Melbourne.
  8. Peter Thornton, 'Nine out of Ten Freemasons would attack Moscow in Winter';

The 1992 Kellerman Lecture for Victoria in the Proceedings of the 1992 Australian Masonic Research Council Conference, Melbourne.

Copyright 1999 by John L Belton. Readers may redistribute this article to other individuals for non commercial use, provided that text, all html codes, and this notice remain intact and unaltered in any way. This article may not be resold, reprinted, or redistributed for compensation of any kind without prior written permission of the author.

Preferred citation: John Belton, "The Missing Master Mason".



Andrew Prescott Centre for Research into Freemasonry, Sheffield University Inaugural Lecture

Delivered 6th March 2001

Most inaugural lectures draw together research which has been in progress for many years. This inaugural lecture is unusual in that it marks the launch of a new programme of research, with the establishment here at Sheffield of the Centre for Research into Freemasonry, the first such centre in a British university. I will not this evening be presenting the fruits of years of reflection on the subject of freemasonry, but will instead seek to convey why this is an exciting new area for research. I will, however, take advantage of one tradition of the inaugural lecture and begin with some personal reflections.

I was born in Battersea, an unremarkable area of south London, which was until the early nineteenth century a peaceful country village. One of the few surviving relics of Battersea's rural existence is the beautiful riverside church of St Mary, a Georgian building which incorporates remnants of an earlier medieval church. When my great grandfather moved to London, he became verger of this church, and my family have been associated with it ever since, my father holding a number of church offices there. Like many historians, my appetite for the past was first whetted by local history. This was due to my father, who was an enthusiastic local historian. In his researches, my father drew heavily on a book published in 1925 called Our Lady of Batersey by John George Taylor, the headmaster of a grammar school known locally as Sinjuns. Our Lady of Batersey is a history of St Mary's church and, weighing in at 442 heavily footnoted pages, is perhaps the most detailed study ever written of a single parish church, earning Taylor a doctorate and election to the Society of Antiquaries. Taylor's book was privately printed by a Chelsea stationer and is difficult to obtain. My father's copy was his most precious possession, and I am sure that my ambition to be a historian owes something to the awe with which I regarded that thick black book. I suppose it was inevitable that, when the time came for me to attend secondary school, my preference should be for Taylor's old school, Sinjuns.

And so I began on the path which thirty five years later brought me to the University of Sheffield with a brief to investigate the history of freemasonry. For anyone interested in freemasonry, the first port of call is the remarkable Library and Museum of Freemasonry in Freemasons Hall London, one of London's hidden treasures. When confronted by a library containing extensive archives which have been little used by historians and thousands of rare publications, many of which have escaped the bibliographical net, the main problem is knowing where to start. I was dimly aware that there was a masonic lodge associated with my old school, and finding out something about the Old Sinjuns lodge seemed as good a starting point as any.

I quickly found a history of the lodge, Old Sinjins No 3232, by John Nichols, a history master at the school. The lodge was formed in 1907 after a circular had been sent to members of the Old Boys Association, pointing out how a masonic lodge would weld 'in the closer ties of fraternal good will those friendships which many of us formed during our school life'. To my surprise, I found that one of the first recruits to the lodge was J. G. Taylor, the author of Our Lady of Batersey. Taylor was master of the lodge in 1923 and, as headmaster of the school, arranged for a lodge meeting to be held in the school hall. Until 1954, the lodge always included at least one member of staff of the school. Among the lodge possessions were items with interesting school associations, such as a box of working tools made in the school woodwork shops from old school desks. The lodge endowed school prizes and helped the school purchase the portrait of the founder and his wife, which hung in the school hall. The lodge held services at St Mary's church, and at least three vicars of the church became members of the lodge. The lodge's usual place of meeting was until 1911 the Gaiety Restaurant in the Strand and thereafter Pagani's Restaurant, also in the Strand. Following bomb damage to Pagani's in 1940, the lodge moved to Freemasons Hall. It still survives, meeting nowadays in the Duke of York's barracks in Chelsea. The masonic lodge has thus outlived the school, which closed in 1986.

At the end of Nichols' book, I noticed that an earlier lodge history had been compiled by John George Taylor. This was, to me, an amazing piece of information - I knew that none of the major research libraries possessed any such work by Taylor. I checked the card catalogue at Freemasons Hall and there indeed was this work by Taylor. I ordered it up, and was presented with a mint copy of a handsomely produced volume in a distinguished blue binding. The Freemasons' Hall copy of Taylor's book is the only publicly accessible copy in existence. It was published by the same printer as Our Lady of Batersey and looks almost like a supplementary volume to it. Taylor's distinction as a historian is evident even in this short lodge history. It begins with a very well informed account of the development of school lodges which anticipates more recent findings of masonic scholars, and contains a short history of the school which is more rounded than that given in Our Lady of Batersey.

I do not expect you to share my enthusiasm for the works of J.G. Taylor, but the identification of this forgotten work by a significant topographical scholar seems to me emblematic of the remarkable discoveries that can be made by investigating the records of freemasonry. The finds I was able to make for Battersea - and the Sinjuns trail led me down many other interesting paths that I won't bother you with now - can be repeated for almost every town and city in Britain. In investigating the Old Sinjins lodge, the feature I found most striking was the way in which freemasonry was portrayed as an accepted part of everyday life. Restaurants like the Gaiety or Pagani's went out of their way to cater for the masonic trade, having their own masonic temples and offering rooms where lodges could store their equipment. The masonic lodge was part of school life. Masonic rituals were practiced in the headmaster's study, and the making of lodge equipment was an acceptable woodwork project. Sinjuns was not unique in offering school facilities for masonic purposes. When the Federation of School Lodges was formed in 1947, the first meeting was held at another Battersea grammar school, Emmanuel School, with the active support and encouragement of the Headmaster and Chairman of Governors.

It is only in the past seventy years that freemasonry has lost its public face. Until then, public masonic processions, most often held in connection with the laying of foundation stones and the opening of new buildings, were a familiar feature of town life. In 1797, the opening of the general infirmary at Sheffield was marked by an enormous masonic procession, in which freemasons from all over the north of England were joined by the local clergy, the cutlers' company and an enormous number of sick clubs and friendly societies. The well-being of a masonic lodge was a matter of local concern. In 1821 at Monmouth, news that disciplinary action against the local lodge had been suspended so that it would be able to join a procession was greeted, much to the embarrassment of the Master of the lodge, with the ringing of church bells. These processions continued into the twentieth century. In 1910, the year in which Keir Hardie was reelected as one of the MP's for Merthyr Tydfil and which saw the beginnings of the industrial conflict leading afterwards to the disturbances at Tonypandy, masons from all over South Wales processed through the streets of Merthyr to lay the foundation stone of a new masonic hall, the proceedings being watched with great interest by the Mayor and Mayoress and enthusiastically reported in the local paper. The laying of the foundation stone of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre at Stratford upon Avon in 1929 was again attended with full masonic ceremonies.

Given the local prominence of freemasonry and the strong topographical tradition of British historical scholarship, the neglect of freemasonry by British historians is surprising. It is now more than thirty years since the distinguished Oxford historian John Roberts published his inspiring rallying cry in the English Historical Review, `Freemasonry: the Possibilities of a Neglected Topic'. Roberts pointed out that freemasonry began in Britain and that the first Grand Lodge was established in London in 1717. From England, it spread rapidly though Europe, and by 1789 there was perhaps 100,000 masons in Europe. Roberts emphasised that, despite the fact that freemasonry is one of the social movements of British origin which has had the biggest international impact, it has been largely ignored by professional historians in Britain. This contrasts with, say, France and Holland, where freemasonry has been the subject of elaborate scholarly investigation. Because of the neglect of this field by British historians, it has been dominated by, on the one hand the anti-masonic conspiracy theorists and, on the other, by masonic antiquarians investigating details of ritual or institutional development. Since Roberts wrote, the area has received more attention from professional historians in Britain. Major studies on different aspects of the history of freemasonry have appeared by such scholars as David Stevenson, James Steven Curl and, most recently, Peter Clark. Nevertheless, the study of freemasonry is still seen as by many British historians as a marginal subject, and its many historical connections remain largely unexplored.

Both Roberts and Stevenson suggest that this neglect is partly because the enormous literature produced by masonic scholars is baffling and confusing for historians. Many historians are certainly discouraged by articles in masonic journals with such titles as `Passing the Veils' or `The Mystery of the Winding Staircase'. However, there are perhaps broader intellectual reasons for this neglect. Masonic scholars are obsessed with discovering the origins of the craft. Sir Walter Besant was one of the founders of the English masonic lodge devoted to research, Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076. Besant declared that he was not an enthusiast for the rites and ceremonies of freemasonry, but felt that it had great potential as a force for social and religious improvement. He considered that a great defect of freemasonry was that its origins were imperfectly understood and, in helping to found Quatuor Coronati, he hoped to put this right. The results have been perhaps the opposite of what Besant intended. Enthusiasts constantly chew over the same slender evidence of early freemasonry, elaborating theories of its origins, which range from the over-pragmatic to the over-fantastical. These activities are not helped by the recurrent assumption that the rituals preserve a hidden spiritual truth handed down from ancient times. The results are very reminiscent of Shakespearean authorship mania, and it comes as no surprise to find that one theory suggests that Shakespeare invented freemasonry. Like discussions of Shakespearean authorship, these theories often rely heavily on ciphers, numerology and singular coincidences and, because the questions considered are posed in such a way as to anticipate the answers, the lines of argument are frequently self-validating. In the case of both Shakespeare and freemasonry, the saddest aspect of this feverish activity is that it is completely pointless. Just as it would make very little difference to our perception of Shakespeare's plays if it could be proved that Bacon wrote them, so our appreciation of the historical impact of freemasonry would be little changed if it could be showed beyond doubt that it stemmed from the Pharaohs or the Templars.

The obsession with origins has, paradoxically, robbed freemasonry of its history. The focus on the early period means that we neglect the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, when freemasonry was a major force in society and there is extensive documentary evidence of its activities. Of course, this later period poses its own dangers. There is a risk of producing inward-looking and self-obsessed institutional history. The only way of avoiding this is by anchoring the investigation of freemasonry within broader historical problems. It is when freemasonry is considered within these wider themes that its richness as a historical subject becomes apparent. For example, freemasonry is an important aspect of imperial history. Army regiments formed masonic lodges and, as these military lodges moved around with the regiment, they rapidly spread freemasonry through the colonies. Freemasonry became, with gothic architecture and organised sports, one of the forces that bound together the British Empire. Mixed race lodges were one of the chief forums in which coloniser and colonised could mix socially. As countries jostled for control of a particular territory, so their Grand Lodges also vied to establish themselves as the supreme masonic authority in the area. Conversely, as colonies demanded greater autonomy, so their masons also tried to secure more independence.

With its central secretariat and provincial hierarchies, freemasonry was organisationally very advanced. The organisational structure of freemasonry influenced groups such as the United Irishmen, and this is perhaps the sphere in which freemasonry has had its most significant historical impact. Moreover, rituals and oaths, which are reminiscent of masonic forms, are found in many early trade unions and friendly societies. The oaths and rituals for which the Tolpuddle Martyrs were prosecuted were very similar to those used by freemasons. It is not clear whether freemasonry was the source of these features or if they represent an older common tradition, but this is clearly a major area for investigation. One concern of historians of radical activity in the nineteenth century has been to establish how far there was continuity between the various radical groups. One such common thread which has been overlooked is an interest in freemasonry. Tom Paine wrote on freemasonry, seeing it as a relic of the ancient sun religion destroyed by Christianity. Richard Carlile, the populariser of Paine's work, took up this theme at greater length. He apparently influenced Charles Bradlaugh, who became a mason (resigning in protest at the appointment of the Prince of Wales as Grand Master). Bradlaugh's interest in freemasonry as a force for social reform may partly account for Annie Besant's involvement with it. Besant helped introduce from France a form of freemasonry that admitted both men and women.

Mention of Annie Besant raises another major issue, that of gender, and the way in which freemasonry has helped shape gendered hierarchies in society. There are innumerable other possible themes that could be mentioned: the role of freemasonry in philanthropy, in education, in underpinning the social position of the aristocracy, and so on. This evening I want to concentrate on just one such historical problem, an issue which is still central to the intellectual concerns of history as a discipline, namely that of how nations are formed and how they function. For British historians, this problem is a very current one, thanks largely to Linda Colley. In her book Britons: the Forging of A Nation, she argues that the concept of Britishness is an artificial construct, forged in the wake of the union between England and Scotland in 1707, tempered by the Hanoverian succession and the defeat of the Jacobite rebellions, and burnished by a succession of wars against France. Colley is the most influential of a large number of historians ranging from Raphael Samuel to Norman Davies who have recently investigated what I have called in the title of my lecture tonight the problem of Britain, namely the issue of how British national identity was constructed from the diverse national and regional groups who inhabit the British Isles.

Anyone interested in the history of freemasonry will encounter this historical problem very quickly. One of the essential starting points for the study of freemasonry is David Stevenson's magisterial study The Origins of Freemasonry: Scotland's Century, 1590-1710 in which Stevenson draws attention to the wealth of documentation for lodges in Scotland in seventeenth century. Stevenson argues that `in spite of much obscurity, the evidence indicates that something that is recognisably modern freemasonry first emerges in seventeenth-century Scotland, and then spreads to England'. The early development of freemasonry in Scotland is closely linked to the figure of William Schaw, Master of the King's Works under James VI. At the beginning of his book, Stevenson points out how the importance of the Scottish evidence had previously been played down, sometimes deliberately. He gives a startling illustration of this in the publication history of the standard nineteenth-century history of freemasonry by Robert Freke Gould (I quote): 'Gould very sensibly dealt with early Scottish freemasonry before early English freemasonry, as so much Scottish evidence pre-dated English evidence. But the heretical implications of this arrangement were too much for English twentieth-century masonic editors. Consciously or unconsciously responding to their built-in assumptions of English primacy, chapters were swapped around so that early Scottish freemasonry was considered not only after English but after Irish freemasonry! No doubt this arrangement was justified by the order in which the national grand lodges were founded, but the result is an absurdity'. Stevenson has also described how English masonic scholars produced convoluted explanations to account for the fact that all the earliest surviving lodge records were Scottish. 'My favourite explanation', he wrote, 'was that English lodges had existed for so long that they had given up bothering to keep records. In Scotland, the lodges...kept minutes because writing was something pretty new to the beknighted Scots.'

Shortly after its establishment in 1717, the Grand Lodge in London issued a rule book called The Book of Constitutions, compiled by James Anderson, a Presbyterian clergyman. Anderson explicitly links the creation of the Grand Lodge to the Hanoverian succession. He writes: 'King George I entered London most magnificently on 20th September 1714 and after the rebellion was over AD 1716 the few lodges at London finding themselves neglected by Sir Christopher Wren thought fit to cement under a Grand Master as the centre of union and harmony'. As befits somebody who wrote a Latin elegy for George I, Anderson takes every opportunity to present the prosperous state of freemasonry as reflecting the flourishing state of Britain under the rule of the 'Saxon kings', as he calls them. His concluding paragraphs echo the kind of new British rhetoric which Linda Colley has catalogued at length. In Anderson's words: 'And now the freeborn British nations, disengaged from wars, and enjoying the good fruits of liberty and peace, the Brothers of the Royal Art have much indulged their bright genius for true antient masonry...'. For Anderson, freemasonry helped cement the British nation, 'made so firm, that the whole body resembles a well-built arch of the beautiful Augustan stile.'

Anderson's was not the only view of freemasonry, however. In France, Jacobite exiles brought freemasonry with them, and a rival masonic rhetoric developed. Andrew Ramsay, employed by the Old Pretender as tutor to his son, became an active and prominent freemason in France. In a famous oration before the French Grand Lodge in 1737, Ramsay enunciated a view of freemasonry which was radically different to that of Anderson. He stressed the international and catholic character of freemasonry. He stated that freemasonry had been created by the crusaders to help bind individuals of different nations in a common fraternity in order to create a new spiritual empire of virtue and science. Freemasonry had been lost to Europe because of the strife of the religious wars, but the true faith had been preserved in Scotland, which was now bringing freemasonry back to Europe. The use of freemasonry as a battle ground between Hanoverian loyalists and Jacobites was not confined to the kind of shadow boxing we can see in the works of Anderson and Ramsay. In 1722, an attempt was made by Jacobites to infiltrate the London Grand Lodge. On the continent, freemasonry provided a useful cover for Jacobite conspiracy, and papal condemnations of freemasonry in the eighteenth century were largely prompted by the need to rein in Jacobite hotheads.

Linda Colley sees the concept of Britishness as emerging from precisely the kind of dialectic that is evident from the works of Anderson and Ramsay, and clearly the history of freemasonry may potentially assist in elaborating the Colley thesis. However, for Colley, the modern nation of Britain is very much an Anglo-Scottish creation. It is striking how, in Colley's book, little attention is given to Wales. There are just 23 references in the index to Wales and the Welsh language. It does not seem credible that, if the period 1707-1837 really saw the invention of British nationality, the third major national grouping in Britain made such a limited contribution to the process. Further examination of the Welsh situation raises serious doubts about whether the Colley thesis as a whole is a viable. Above all, there is the matter of language. In 1801, at least 80% of the population of Wales and Monmouthshire were still Welsh speakers, with a high proportion of monoglots. It is difficult to see how one can talk about a British nation having been created while such a large separate linguistic grouping remained. Moreover, Welsh literature and culture still fostered a strong sense of an alternative mythology of nationhood, looking back to the romantic tradition of the bards, Prince Madoc and the Mabinogion, which represented a different view of Britain to that being developed in England and Scotland. Wales had undergone great changes in the eighteenth century, principally the development of its fissural and populist non-conformity, but it is difficult to see how these changes feed into the overall picture described by Colley. If one is to see a point at which Wales becomes more firmly absorbed into British nationhood it is probably in the 1890s, when the percentage of Welsh speakers for the first time falls below 50% and a more integrated Anglo-Welsh society (what Gwyn Williams has called Imperial Wales) emerges. But by this time there was already a significant demand for greater autonomy for Wales. One is left wondering whether the kind of integrated British nation described by Colley ever actually existed.

The history of Welsh freemasonry reinforces the point that the framework of national development when considered from a Welsh perspective may be very different to that which adopts a primarily Anglo-Scottish view. Although Welsh freemasonry, unlike Scotland, falls under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge in London, it is treated administratively like an English county, and the Grand Lodge is known as the United Grand Lodge of England. From the point of view of the history of freemasonry, Wales is perhaps most interesting as the dog that didn't bark. For a long time, freemasonry could find no firm footing in Wales. Although a lodge was established in Carmarthen as early as 1724, and the provinces of North Wales and South Wales were among the earliest established by the Grand Lodge, at a time when freemasonry was spreading like wildfire through Europe and America, in Wales it made very little impact. The handful of lodges which were established were generally introduced by outsiders. These lodges were small, prone to internal quarrels, and short-lived. By 1850, freemasonry was on the verge of disappearing altogether in Wales. It was only in the late 19th century, in Imperial Wales, that Welsh freemasonry finally began to flourish. This chronology seems to mirror the overall pattern of integration of Wales into a broader British nation, and suggests that we require a more sophisticated view of the process of formation of national identity than one which restricts the process to the period 1707-1837.

The complex cross-currents which contributed to Welsh national formation are illustrated by the role of the London Welsh. Extensive Welsh immigration to London made it a dominant centre of Welsh culture in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. As new ideas of Britishness stressing the Anglo-Scottish nexus emerged in the eighteenth century, there was a risk that Wales would be marginalised. This problem was exacerbated by the fact that the Welsh gentry included a number of Jacobite sympathisers whose loyalties were suspect. It was the London Welsh who first responded to these pressures in ways that would profoundly influence Welsh culture.

In February 1715, an announcement appeared in the London Gazette that a service would be held on March 1st at St Paul's, Covent Garden, where a sermon would be preached in the Ancient British language. This would be followed by a procession to Haberdashers Hall, where a President and Stewards would be elected and future commemorations arranged. This initiative marked not only St David's Day but also the coincidence that March 1st was the birthday of the Princess of Wales. The occasion was used to produce Hanoverian propaganda for Wales; 4,000 copies of the sermon were sent to Wales 'to be dispersed among the common people...that they might be instructed in the duties of brotherly love and loyalty to the King in their own language'. Thus was born the Society of Ancient Britons, and the annual St David's day procession became a familiar feature of London life. The Society became an important charitable body, establishing a school for the children of impoverished Welsh in London. The Society of Ancient Britons predated the formation of the English Grand Lodge by two years, and it performed for the London Welsh many similar social functions to freemasonry: a formal social gathering, a charitable role, and a visible demonstration of Hanoverian loyalty. However, as the Society grew more prosperous, its character changed. The charitable component became more important, and the commitment to the Welsh language weakened, with the St David's day sermon being given by courtly bishops in English.

Irritation at the anglicised respectability of the Ancient Britons helped prompt the formation of the Honourable Society of the Cymmrodorion in 1751 by Richard Morris of the Navy Office, a native of Anglesey. Richard was one of three remarkable brothers who played an important part in preserving and revitalising Welsh literary culture. It was said that another reason for the establishment of the Cymmrodorion (which means aborigines) was pique after the eldest Morris brother, Lewis, had failed in his candidature for the Royal Society. Although the Cymmrodorion had strong social and charitable components, its primary function was the discussion of Welsh literature and history in the Welsh language. The rules outline an ambitious programme of study and proposed the formation of a Welsh library and museum. Members of the Cymmrodorion had to swear an oath in Welsh and undergo a rite of initiation. This may seem reminiscent of freemasonry, but such proceedings were common in clubs at this time and do not necessarily indicate masonic influence. However, the Cymmrodorion sought to provide in the Welsh language a similar mix of social, charitable and intellectual activities to that offered by freemasons lodges, and it is not surprising that the London Welsh were more inclined to support the Cymmrodorion than the freemasons.

Although both the honorary chief presidents of the Society, William Vaughan and Sir Watkin Williams Wynne II, were freemasons, few of the active members of the Cymmrodorion were freemasons. The only significant figure to become involved with freemasonry was Goronwy Owen, a poet whose ideas on epic poetry profoundly influenced Welsh poetry for nearly a hundred years. Owen was a demanding man, probably an alcoholic, who ended up as a tobacco planter in America. He became a freemason while he was a curate at Walton near Liverpool. He wrote enthusiastically about his new hobby to William Morris, stating that 'the chief thing that urged me to look into this secret craft was that I fully believed it to be a branch of my old ancestors, the Druids of yore, and I didn't guess badly'. The Morrises were unconvinced, however, and preferred to concentrate on the Cymmrodorion. The society did not long survive the death of Richard Morris, and was replaced by various other groups. There is a strong sense, however, in which the Society of Ancient Britons, the Cymmrodorion and its successor bodies represented an independent response by the London Welsh to the same cultural trends which prompted the formation of Grand Lodge, and in some respects these London Welsh clubs and societies can be seen as a kind of parallel freemasonry. It seems that a kind of symbiotic relationship emerged between the London Welsh institutions and freemasonry. The meeting which re-established the Cymmrodorion in 1820 was held in the Freemasons' Tavern in Great Queen Street, a regular meeting place of the London Welsh, which has been described as 'the locus originis of some of the most important Welsh cultural and educational movements of the nineteenth century'. Moreover, some eisteddfods were held at this time in Freemasons' Hall. Whether this was more than just coincidence cannot be established.

The ambiguities of the relationship of the London Welsh to freemasonry are encapsulated in the figure of Edward Williams, whose bardic name was Iolo Morganwg, `Ned of Glamorgan'. Iolo was a South Welsh stonemason who became one of the most accomplished Welsh lyric poets. Iolo lived in London from 1773 to 1777 and 1791 to 1795, organising bardic ceremonies on Primrose Hill. In his determination to ensure the survival of a vibrant Welsh literary culture, Iolo produced many pastiches of medieval Welsh poetry and manuscripts. How far his visionary forgeries were influenced by the laudanum he took for his asthma is not clear. Iolo's forgeries were taken as genuine historical discoveries until very recently. He claimed to have found in Raglan Castle old manuscripts describing the rights and privileges of an order of bards. He believed that he was the sole survivor of this ancient gorsedd of bards and successfully established it as part of the eisteddfod. The gorsedd still forms an important component of the national eisteddfod. The rituals, secret signs and three bardic orders devised by Iolo are strongly reminiscent of freemasonry. Iolo's critics denounced the gorsedd as `pure freemasonry' and accused Iolo himself of being a freemason, a charge he hotly denied. In fact, it seems that Iolo's fevered imagination drew on many sources, the most important of which was the Friendly Society of Ancient Druids which had recently been formed in London. If there was any masonic influence on Iolo, it came perhaps by this route.

Iolo lived near Cowbridge, a small town between Cardiff and Bridgend. He perhaps witnessed a scene in 1765 described by the diarist, William Thomas: 'The first of this month was held at the Bear in Cowbridge, the Society of Free Masons, being in all about 24, and went to Cowbridge church by two and two, in their white aprons, with their trowels, hammers and other instruments as belong to masonry, according to their rank in the fraternity...A great crowd admiring and looking at the sight, being the like never before seen here'. Thomas thus presents the masonic procession at Cowbridge as something novel and strange. His diary contains mordant pen portraits of many local inhabitants, and he notes that some were freemasons. In these entries, he again portrays freemasonry as exotic and alien, as in his comments on Thomas Matthews, who had died in London: `He was a freemason and when a youth a very wild sort of a man, but of good memory in what he read, but esteemed the Bible as an old story as folks report, and somewhat melancholy the last years of his life.'

Thomas's depiction of freemasonry as alien and marginal accurately reflects its position in eighteenth-century Wales. Few lodges were established and these were mostly short-lived. This is epitomised by the lodge at Wynnstay near Wrexham. Wynnstay was the seat of the Wynn family, owners of a vast estate who were effectively the kings of North Wales. The freemasons' lodge was established by the fourth baronet, who took a close interest in the preparations, asking Grand Lodge for the warrant to be `wrote finely upon vellum' and demanding its prompt dispatch. Sir Watkin was an ornament of the London cultural world - an enthusiastic amateur actor, a friend of David Garrick, a promoter of musical concerts, and an artistic patron. He made Wynnstay a smart place to visit, building a private theatre on the estate. The masonic lodge seems to have been just like the theatre, another fashionable amenity. It did not put down strong roots in the locality, and expired shortly after Sir Watkin's death.

Ports such as Swansea and Haverfordwest provided more fertile ground for freemasonry. The story of the Beaufort and Indefatigable Lodges in Swansea illustrates many of the issues associated with early freemasonry in Wales. The Beaufort Lodge was established in Swansea in 1769. It got off to a bad start. Some of those who had signed the petition for the lodge were not regular masons, and the Deputy Provincial Grand Master had to travel over from Carmarthen to rectify the situation. Then the Master embezzled the lodge funds, including money owed to Grand Lodge. At this point, Gabriel Jeffries took charge. Jeffries was a member of the town council and afterwards served as portreeve, the equivalent of mayor. When a trust was set up to improve Swansea Harbour, he became the clerk and quickly demonstrated great financial acumen. Jeffries' first act in trying to rescue the Beaufort lodge was to try and get in the good books of Grand Lodge by sending three barrels of oysters to the Grand Secretary. He also sent a long list of equipment he wanted for the lodge. He was willing to use his own considerable financial resources to make the Swansea lodge the match of any in London. A surviving account shows that money was no object. A visit of the Cowbridge masons to Swansea was marked by an enormous feast, the ringing of the church bells and the firing of guns. Opulent lodge furniture was purchased, including such exotic items as gilt pomegranates and a sword so huge that no box could be found to transport it. Jeffries persuaded many local dignitaries to join the lodge, including members of the council and the local MP. He drew up plans for a masonic hall, which he declared would compare with any in England. Jeffries' motives appear to have been partly civic - he hoped that the provincial grand lodge would be moved from Carmarthen to Swansea - and partly personal - he wanted to be a provincial officer himself.

Then Jeffries lost interest. The lodge rapidly declined and by 1800 was virtually defunct. In that year, George Bowen, a painter who had been master of a lodge in London, moved to Swansea and decided to start a more vigorous lodge. He met many other newcomers to Swansea, particularly visiting sailors from Scotland and Ireland, who agreed that this busy port should have an active lodge. Statutory restrictions at this time meant that new lodge warrants could not be issued, and new lodges had to take over the warrants of defunct lodges. The Grand Secretary in London suggested that Bowen should ask Jeffries for the warrant of the Beaufort lodge. Bowen went to see Jeffries, who regarded the interloper with suspicion and made difficulties about handing over the Beaufort warrant and equipment. So Bowen tried Neath, where a lodge established by Jeffries under the patronage of the local landowners, the Mackworth family, was also virtually defunct. With Sir Digby Mackworth's agreement, the Neath lodge was transferred to Swansea and renamed the Indefatigable. At this point, Jeffries threatened to prosecute Bowen for establishing an illegal lodge, an offence then punishable by transportation. Finding his trade badly affected by this dispute Bowen brought actions for slander against Jeffries and his associates. Dissuaded from continuing his actions by Grand Lodge, Bowen left Swansea on business, and the new lodge almost collapsed. It rallied on his return, and somehow managed to stagger through, despite the continued jibes of Jeffries. The lodge remained very dependent on mariners from across the Bristol Channel, particularly Somerset, Devon and Cornwall. Bowen's final letter to Grand Lodge makes the difficulties of trying to introduce freemasonry to Wales very clear. In London, he wrote, masters 'are supported by able and well experienced officers past and present, each of them knowing well their respective duty. The reverse is my situation, my wardens are young in masonry and younger in office and for the want in experience in the grand and fundamental part are but of little service to me... even the whole of the writing necessary for conducting the lodge is all and must be performed by myself...'

The most concerted attempt before 1840 to introduce freemasonry on a large scale to Wales was the work of one man, Benjamin Plummer, a merchant from Somerset. Plummer was initiated into freemasonry in 1798 in the Royal Athelstan Lodge in London, an Antients Lodge. At this time, English freemasonry was split between two rival grand lodges. In 1751, a group of largely Irish masons who had been unable to join lodges operated by the Grand Lodge formed in 1717 established their own Grand Lodge which claimed to represent an older form of masonic practice. The Antients became particularly popular among artisans and tradesman, with strong support in the industrial towns of north-west England. Eventually, in 1813 the two Grand Lodges were reconciled and the United Grand Lodge of England was established. Plummer rose rapidly through the ranks of the Antients. In 1803, he became Master of the Royal Athelstan lodge. The following year he was appointed to a national office, Grand Sword Bearer. In 1805, he became Grand Junior Warden of the Antients and in 1806 Grand Senior Warden. It was at this point that he launched his masonic missionary campaign in South Wales. His business took him on a constant journey round the country, and required him to spend half the year visiting towns in Wales. The exact nature of Plummer's business is not clear; it is possible that he sold naval supplies of some kind.

Plummer found Welsh freemasonry in a sorry state. He afterwards wrote that when `I commenced my exertions, there were but two lodges, one of them in Swansea, which was very thinly attended, and the other at Brecon in a dormant state'. During a period of eight years from about 1807, Plummer established eight new lodges in Wales and initiated more than two hundred masons. He planned his campaign like a military conquest. He selected Caerphilly as his starting point, then used a kind of swarming technique, with members of the Caerphilly lodge establishing lodges in nearby towns, whose members in turn formed further lodges elsewhere. Members of the Caerphilly lodge set up new lodges in Cardiff, Newport and Merthyr. Members of the Newport lodge established lodges in Pontypool and Carmarthen. The Pontypool lodge helped set up a lodge in Abergavenny, and so on. This process was assisted by the masonic lodges of French prisoners of war billeted in towns like Abergavenny, with whom Plummer maintained close contacts. Plummer's energy in pursuing this strategy is evident in his breathless correspondence with Grand Lodge, dealing with dozens of detailed queries about the new lodges and issuing a stream of complicated instructions for forwarding his mail as he moved from place to place.

Plummer's attempts forceably to implant freemasonry in Wales could create problems. A Modern's lodge had been reestablished at Carmarthen in 1810, but disputes had arisen and Plummer saw a recruiting opportunity for the Antients, boasting to Grand Lodge that if an Antient lodge could be created in Carmarthen, thirty masons from the rival Grand Lodge would join it. An Antient Lodge was duly consecrated by Plummer at Carmarthen, with masons from his Newport lodge as the senior officers. Returning to the lodge a few months later, Plummer found it in uproar because the Master had secretly taken the lodge warrant and equipment by boat to Tenby and illicitly created masons there. Plummer annulled these proceedings and claimed he had restored harmony to the lodge, but the Master wrote to Grand Lodge complaining about Plummer's overbearing manner. He alleged that Plummer had insisted that the lodge pass a vote of thanks to him and, when this was passed by only a small majority, had gone from house to house with a petition supporting his actions, which he had bullied members of the lodge into signing. Plummer countered by sending to Grand Lodge documentary evidence of the Master's dubious proceedings at Tenby, including an account of his expenses there which included an expensive box at the theatre and ten pounds for `dinner bill and girls'.

By 1814, Plummer had become weary. The union between the Grand Lodges seems to have disillusioned him, as he felt provincial officers were appointed who had insufficient involvement with local freemasonry. He lobbied unsuccessfully to become a provincial officer in Wales himself. Shortly before Plummer petitioned to become Provincial Grand Master of South Wales, the Indefatigable Lodge at Swansea had passed a resolution that 'Benjamin Hall of Abercarn in the county of Monmouth, MP for the county of Glamorgan...become a mason', and Hall was promptly appointed Provincial Grand Master. Plummer accepted this disappointment with fortitude, declaring that Hall `is a man much respected, possessed of great talent, high property and great responsibility', but adding `I hope it will be convenient with him to attend the duties of that office (if any are required).' Plummer went on to say that `I cannot attend the business of masonry in this country as heretofore but I trust that Grand Lodge considering my exertions are satisfied. I have done my duty in forwarding the welfare of masonry'. In May 1815, however, Plummer was back in Swansea and wrote one last letter to Grand Lodge: 'It is with unfeigned regret I have to inform you that the various country lodges I am in the habit of visiting three times in each year through the counties of Somerset, Wilts, Gloucester and Monmouth and South Wales are much disappointed since the Union of the two Grand Lodges, expecting a regular quarterly communication...; and at this time four quarters are past, without any information. The ancient lodges, in particular, finding themselves thus neglected, feel disposed to retract from the union, and remain independent of any Grand Lodge...'

This threatened western rebellion did not take place, unlike north-west England where a number of lodges did shortly afterwards secede from United Grand Lodge. However, as soon as Plummer left the scene, the lodges he had established fizzled out. All Plummer's lodges except those at Cardiff and Merthyr had disappeared by 1830. Even those which survived experienced great difficulties. Merthyr was at this time the largest Welsh town, but between 1816 and 1827 the Loyal Cambrian lodge in Merthyr failed to recruit a single new member. The lodge rallied slightly in the 1830s, but again no new candidates were recruited between 1843 and 1849, and the possibility of closing the lodge was considered. In 1853, when the Provincial Grand Lodge for eastern South Wales met at Merthyr, only thirty six people attended. The position in North Wales was even worse; between 1811 and 1852, no Provincial Grand Master for North Wales was appointed.

Most masonic scholars have ascribed the difficulties of early Welsh freemasonry to economic reasons, but this hardly explains the problems of the lodge in Merthyr, for example. Moreover, the difficulties of freemasonry contrast with the growth of the friendly societies, which became a significant feature of Welsh society. In the 1830s, while freemasonry was struggling, Swansea had 47 friendly societies and Merthyr 32. There were nearly 200 such societies in Glamorgan alone. While the freemasons in Merthyr could only muster six people to attend a Provincial Grand Lodge, the funeral of an Oddfellow in Merthyr attracted 170 brethren from four lodges, and on Christmas Day 1838 400 Merthyr Oddfellows processed in full regalia. Moreover, in contrast to England, the Welsh friendly societies attracted significant support from the upper middle classes. The Welsh preference for friendly societies seems to have been due largely to language. There were a number of indigenous Welsh-speaking friendly societies, most notably the Ivorites, and English friendly societies such as the Oddfellows allowed proceedings to be conducted in Welsh. By contrast, the freemasons remained a resolutely English-speaking body; at a time when 91% of Merthyr's population was Welsh-speaking, it is not surprising they had difficulty recruiting there.

The greater flexibility of the friendly societies allowed them to become more closely allied to the emerging Welsh national institutions. Friendly society processions formed an important part of the Eisteddfod. The Oddfellows and Ivorites took a prominent part in the opening of the Carmarthen Eisteddfod in 1865. They were also one of the main attractions of the processions at Wrexham and Oswestry marking the coming of age of the Sir Watkin Williams Wynne IV in 1841. Another problem for the freemasons was their close alliance with the established church. The various Welsh clergymen who were freemasons before 1850 all seem to have been Anglicans. Given the overwhelmingly non-conformist character of Wales, this must also have weakened the position of the freemasons.

All this was about to change. In 1847, a parliamentary commission undertook an investigation of the state of education in Wales. The commissioners were three English lawyers who could not speak Welsh. Their report was ill-informed and prejudiced, portraying Wales as an ignorant backward country, inhabited by promiscuous and dirty people. The commissioners ascribed the backwardness of Wales to the Welsh language and the influence of non-conformity. The report caused an outcry in Wales, where it became known as the Treason of the Blue Books. The importance of the 1847 report as a watershed should not be exaggerated, but it certainly galvanised the existing debate about language and education in Wales, and gave an enormous impetus to attempts to improve Welsh education. Welsh society became determined to prove its respectability through education. There were many views on the future of the Welsh language, but an influential body of opinion felt that English should be the language of trade and commerce and that Welsh should be used only for domestic purposes. The Cambridge academic Connop Thirlwall, the Bishop of St Davids, explicitly urged that the Welsh language should become merely a tourist attraction. The revived Society of Cymmrodorion organised an English-speaking social science section at the Eisteddfod to act as an instrument of modernisation.

Frederick Bolingbroke Ribbans studied at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge and became a schoolmaster at Birmingham, where he specialised in commercial education. From 1843 to 1857, he was Headmaster successively of Sir Thomas Powell's School and Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School at Carmarthen. Following his retirement in 1857, he returned to England, settling at Windsor. Ribbans was a minor, and faintly ridiculous, man of letters. He published a collection of poetry, the quality of which can be judged from the opening couplet of his lines to a Cambridge friend: 'Thank you Charlie for your letter, Never yet was penned a better.' He also produced some very banal works of religious instruction and pamphlets extolling the virtues of the Anglican church. His pamphlets on education were more forward-looking, advocating the value of a commercial education and even suggesting the introduction of decimal coins and measures. Ribban's enthusiasm for commerce is also evident from his poetry, including his lines on the opening of the railway in Carmarthen in 1852, beginning 'Hail commerce! source of every social good', and praising the railway as 'a boon to Wales - a source of profit too - when her vast mineral wealth is brought to view'.

Ribbans' most notorious literary work was his memoir of the royal librarian, Bernard Bolingbroke Woodward, claimed as a relative on the strength of the coincidence of middle name. Ribbans' memoir comprises a number of inaccurate anecdotes and transcripts of letters to him by Woodward, including tactful comments on Ribbans' lamentable poetical efforts. The memoir was savaged by reviewers, who commented that the only reliable item in it was the photograph at the beginning, and questioned the propriety of reproducing so many personal letters. Woodward had published a history of Wales, which cast doubt on many popular Welsh legends, which was so badly received in Wales that Woodward was apprehensive about visiting the country. Ribbans praised Woodward's work and gave examples of the backwardness and superstition of Wales, declaring that the only answer lay in education of the sort proposed by Bishop Thirlwall, the advocate of Welsh as a tourist attraction.

Ribbans, then, was an enthusiast for Anglicanism, commerce and the greater use of English by the Welsh. He was also a keen freemason, including a masonic song in his collection of poetry. In 1841, a lodge, known as St Peter's lodge, had been re-established in Carmarthen; Ribbans became master in 1845 and helped set the young lodge on its feet. In 1855, St Peter's lodge sponsored the application to establish the Brecknock Lodge at the Castle Hotel in Brecon, and Ribbans was the first master of the lodge. In 1856, he was instrumental in establishing the Prince of Wales Lodge in Llanelli, and was again the first master of the lodge. Despite his teaching duties in Carmarthen, Ribbans attended all the meetings of the lodge in Carmarthen during his year as master, initiating fourteen new recruits. Ribbans' devoted service was marked by a special presentation in 1856. In 1857, he served as the Grand Senior Warden for the Province of South Wales Western Division.

Ribbans' work seems to epitomise a new phase in the history of Welsh freemasonry, where it is explicitly linked to a modernising movement, the distinctive features of which were commerce, education and the English language. It is at this point that freemasonry becomes a feature of Welsh life. The change can be seen by looking again at the membership figures of the Loyal Cambrian Lodge in Merthyr. From its low point in the early 1850s, the lodge rallied, establishing a new lodge at Aberdare in 1856, and attracting in the 1860s an average of four recruits a year. This figure increases to an average of six a year in the 1870s, including, significantly, an Unitarian minister. In the 1880s and 1890s, yearly recruitment is frequently in double figures, including such notable individuals as Lord Rhonnda, owner of Cambrian coal mines, MP for Merthyr and a significant figure in the Liberal establishment of late Victorian Wales. The annus mirabilis for the Loyal Cambrian was 1911, when twenty new candidates were initiated, comprising a cross-section of the Merthyr upper crust, including the Chief Clerk of the County Court, the Deputy Town Clerk, a police inspector, three solicitors, colliery engineers, a surgeon, an architect and musicians from the suburb of Cefn Coed. A similar resurgence is evident in North Wales. When Sir Watkin Williams Wynne IV became Provincial Grand Master of North Wales in 1852, only one North Welsh lodge was active. By the time he retired in 1885, the number of lodges had increased to 23 with seven hundred and forty members. By 1943, the number of lodges had increased to 46; by 1977, there were 96 lodges and a total north Welsh membership of more than 6000.

The link between the growth of freemasonry and the movement for improved educational and cultural provision in Wales is illustrated by an event in Haverfordwest. The Haverfordwest lodge had recruited sixty members in six years, and the need for a new meeting place was pressing. There had also been for some time complaints about the town's lack of a public assembly room for concerts, lectures and other functions. The new masonic hall opened in 1872 incorporated a large hall, with seating for 600 people, which was made available for town use. Inhabitants of the town actively contributed to fundraising for the hall, principally through a grand masonic bazaar, held over three days in November 1869, which raised four hundred pounds. The night before the bazaar opened the local MP, Colonel Edwardes, was initiated into the lodge. Colonel Edwardes, afterwards Lord Kensington, later became Provincial Grand Master for the western division of South Wales, and an important figure in the late Victorian growth of Welsh freemasonry.

The story of Welsh freemasonry turned full circle in 1929, with the consecration of Gwynedd Lodge No. 5068,. the founders of which were all members of the Honourable Society of the Cymmrodorion. The first master of the lodge was Sir Vincent Evans, the Secretary of the Cymmrodorion and a prominent figure in the national Eisteddfod. The close relationship of this lodge to the liberal welsh establishment was reflected in the membership of Gwilym Lloyd George, the Prime Minister's son. It was hoped that the formation of this lodge would rekindle the older social functions of the Cymmorodorion, which had been squeezed out by its work as a learned and educational society. Thus, the society which had represented in the eighteenth century a London Welsh response to freemasonry itself became linked with freemasonry. At the consecration of the Gwynedd lodge, it was pointed out that, although there were lodges in London operating in French, German and Italian, no Welsh version of the ritual was available. The Gwynedd lodge produced a book of Welsh masonic songs and a lecture on the second tracing board in Welsh, but progress in giving Welsh the same status as other languages was slow. In 1979, permission was given for the use of a Welsh address to the Worshipful Master in installation ceremonies, and, finally, in 1982 Dewi Sant Lodge No. 9067, was formed, which was the first lodge given permission to perform the ritual in Welsh.

This lecture has been an extended reflection on a passing remark of Raphael Samuels, who, seeking to illustrate the dangers of Anglocentrism in history, pointed out that, in investigating the origins of freemasonry, one might start by comparing it with the eisteddfod. Unfortunately, Raphael's remark misfired, in that, as David Stevenson has magnificently shown, the best place to start examining the origins of freemasonry is in fact north of the border, where the earliest lodge records survive. Nevertheless, I make no apologies for concentrating, in my consideration of the problem of Britain this evening, on Wales. There has recently been a fashion for producing works which claim to offer British history looking at the whole of Britain, but which in fact largely concentrate on England, with token examples from Wales and Scotland. I would contend that truly British history can only emerge from detailed studies of aspects of the history of Britain's component national groupings. Laurence Brockliss and David Eastwood have suggested that it is a mistake to think in terms of the creation of an integrated concept of British nationality, and that the British state which gradually emerged in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was formed of multiple allegiances. Even this is perhaps too rigid, and the concept of Britishness should perhaps be conceived as more fluid and dynamic, changing shape constantly from the earliest to the most recent times. It is perhaps a mistake to see freemasonry as playing one single role in this process. Its function also changes and it can assume multiple identities. It would be wrong to see the role of freemasonry in Welsh history as exclusively associated with Anglicising modernisation from 1850. As a body with a highly organised provincial structure, freemasonry could offer even the most remote areas access to metropolitan facilities and thus help build a sense of national identity.

In 1769, the son of one of the members of the lodge at Anglesey went mad. Grand Lodge's committee of charity in London agreed to pay the expenses of admitting the unhappy man to Bethlem Hospital in London and the Senior Grand Warden, one of the governors of the hospital, made the arrangements for his admission. The Grand Secretary himself went to the hospital to fill up the necessary forms, and obtained advice from a friend on the medical staff as to how the various practicalities should be handled. Later that month, the `poor lunatick', accompanied by his doctor, unexpectedly arrived by coach in London late one evening. The Grand Secretary, James Heseltine was away, and no-one would allow the poor man any shelter, even in their stables. Eventually, the landlord of a tavern close to Heseltine's office allowed him to stay there, provided he was chained to a table and the doctor slept in the same room on chairs. There was a delay in completing the admission to Bethlem and the doctor who had accompanied the man to London refused to stay with him any longer, so Heseltine, who had now returned, arranged for the patient to be sent to a madhouse just outside London. Heseltine, who was `left with the man upon my own hands and answerable for everything', also sorted out the eventual transfer to Bethlem and gave the necessary security required by the hospital should he ever escape. He then sent a detailed account of his proceedings back to Anglesey. Sadly, about a year later, the unfortunate man died, and Heseltine again intervened to ensure that he had a decent funeral. Acts of charity and kindness such as Heseltine's can contribute to the shaping of a nation. By providing a means by which provincial members could get access to metropolitan facilities such as hospitals, freemasonry could help bring Wales closer to London and played a part in developing those everyday contacts which are the sinews of the nation.

Copyright 2001 by Andrew Prescott. Readers may redistribute this article to other individuals for non commercial use, provided that text, all html codes, and this notice remain intact and unaltered in any way. This article may not be resold, reprinted, or redistributed for compensation of any kind without prior written permission of the author.


Celil Layiktez

Note: The archives of lodges in Turkey, prior to the foundation of the Grand Lodge in 1909, were in the hands of foreign obediences. These documents were lost due to wars, persecution, fires etc. I was able to reconstruct the history of Freemasonry in Turkey through a research in the archives of the Grand Orient de France, preserved from the Germans during the occupation in the Bibliothèque Nationale Française (1890 pages microfilmed), plus the archives of the Grand Lodges of England, Ireland and Scotland. The Greek and Italian Masonic archives had been destroyed during the German occupation.

1721 – 1826

A lodge which name is lost, operated in Istanbul, somewhere near the Galata tower, during the reign of Osman III (1703 – 1730). The lodge was founded probably around 1721 by Levantines (mainly Genoese people) living in the tower quarters.

The first known Turkish Mason is Sait Çelebi, ambassador to France and later grand vizier. The French officer, Count de Bonneval, after some intrigues in the French Court during the reign of Louis XIV, emigrated to England and later came to Turkey to reorganize the Turkish army. Count de Bonneval took a Turkish name and became Kumbaraci Ahmet Osman Pasha. It is said that he was a mason. Another known mason in this period is Ibrahim Müteferrika, who together with Sait Çelebi, started the first printing press used by Muslim subjects of the Ottoman Empire. (The Christians and Jews already had their own printing presses).

10 years after the excommunication of freemasonry by Clement XII in 1748, Mahmud II came under the pressure from his Christian subjects and also the Muslim clergy to take similar action. It was thought that the Pope would not charge a fraternity with atheism in vain, and freemasonry was outlawed in the Ottoman Empire. An English lodge was sacked by the police, but as the British ambassador gave notice in due time, the list of members had been rescued. In the Vatican archives, there is a letter by the Pope congratulating the French Cardinal Tencin, and wishing that the same could be done in Naples.

According to Gould, Alexander Drummond, the British Consul in Aleppo, had been appointed as District Grand Master for 'the Orient' by the Grand Lodge of England. Later in 1764, Dr. Dionysios Menasse had been appointed District Grand Master for Asiatic Turkey and Armenia.

In 1786 a second charter had been given by the Lodge Saint Jean d’Ecosse in Marseilles to the Lodge Saint Jean d’Ecosse des Nations Réunies in Izmir. The first charter having been lost during the great Izmir fire. According to the correspondence, this lodge had been consecrated after 1751 and before 1778, and was closed in 1826.

In the last decade of the eighteenth century, Selim III’s mother, Nakshidil Sultan happened to be the cousin of Josephine, Napoléon’s wife. Under her influence, lodges from different obediences prospered in the Ottoman Empire. However in 1826, Mahmut II abolished the Janissaries to create a modern army and outlawed the order of the Bektashis to which they belonged. Thus it was possible to describe Freemasonry as a “kind of Bektashism”, and as a consequence it was also closed and the known freemasons were sent into exile.

1826 – 1856

Mustafa Reshit Pasha, Grand Vizier, had promulgated the Reform Edict of 1839. It is said that he had been initiated while he was Ambassador in London although no evidence has been found for his Initiation. His lodge is not known and as there were no 'family names' in usage at that time. Thus any search for the names of Reshit and Mustafa could be anyone of that name (the practice of having fixed names for families was only introduced by Kemal Ataturk in the twentieth century). His good friend the British Ambassador in Istanbul, Lord Reading, was however a known freemason.

After 1839, with the unofficial permission by the Grand Vizier, freemasonry underwent a slow revival in Turkey.

The Crimean War

The arrival of British, French and Piemontise expeditionary forces and diplomats in Istanbul and Izmir in 1856 led to an explosion of lodges under a variety of obediences.

In 1857 the short-lived Grande Loge de Turquie was founded in Izmir by the Grand Orient of France. After the end of the Crimean War, with the departure of foreigners, this grand lodge came to an end.

The creation of an irregular Irish Grand Lodge:

In 1856 Captain Atkinson, an Irish officer in the 47th British Regiment, claiming to possess an Irish warrant created three lodges in Izmir and then “The Grand Lodge of the Ancient and Honourable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons of TURKEY”. (The constitution of this Grand Lodge is in the Irish archives). This was however a fraudulent commercial enterprise - Atkinson initiated some 200 masons and then disappeared with the funds.

The creation of the District Grand Lodge of Turkey (English Constitution)

The irregular masons started to visit or join English and French lodges. There was literally a panic in London and in a swift move, the Grand Master, Lord Zetland ordered the foundation of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Turkey, in Istanbul. The first Provincial Grand Master being the British Ambassador Sir Henry Bulwer. The consecration ceremony taking place on the 24th June 1862 in the Embassy.

The Supreme Council of Turkey (1861)

The founder (1861) and first Sovereign Commander of the Scottish Rite in Turkey (1864) was Prince Abdülhalim Pasha, or shortly, Halim Pasha, Brother of the Khedive (Governor of Egypt, then part of the Ottoman Empire). Halim Pasha was uncle of the Khedive Ismail Pasha under whose rule the Suez Channel had been opened. Halim Pasha was also Grand Master of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Egypt (English Constitution). In 1869 this Supreme Council was recognised by the American Southern Jurisdiction.

The extinction of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Turkey

In 1869 Lord Bulwer had been recalled to London and at the same time Halim Pasha was in exile in Istanbul. Having good relations with the Sultan, he was proposed as Provincial Grand Master. But as his proficiency of the English language was insufficient, an American, John Peter Brown, Secretary at the American Embassy and known writer and researcher of the Islamic mysticism was elected in his place. Hyde Clark, the P.D. Regional G.M. in a letter to a Bro. Harvey (I could not read his family name) in London, proposes that there would be simultaneously two Grand Masters. This proposition was not carried on for obvious reasons.

After Brown, Bro Stephen Scouloudi was elected Grand Master in 1873. The Provincial Grand Lodge was run inefficiently; dues were not or could not be collected. Thus in 1884 when Scouloudi resigned, no one was elected in his place. At that time there were four English Lodges in Istanbul and seven in Izmir.

Lodges at the end of the 19th Century

At the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries, there were in total 11 English, 7 Scottish, 2 Irish, 1 Polish, 2 Spanish, 5 German, 15 Italian, 2 Greek, 6 French and 1 Hungarian lodges - plus a few chapters attached to the English, Scottish and Irish lodges in Istanbul, Izmir and Thessalonica alone.
{There were many lodges in the rest of the big cities of the Empire too (in the provinces of Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Bulgaria, Romania and Macedonia and also in different cities of Anatolia) but as they were not relevant to the creation of the Grand Lodge of Turkey, I did not include them in this study.}

Constitutional Monarchy

Three sons of Sultan Abdulmedjit, the Princes Murat (later Sultan Murat V) and two of his brothers, Nurettin and Kemalettin had been initiated in the French Lodge Prodoos. Five Grand Viziers, including Midhat Pasha who masterminded the first Constitutional Monarchic regime, Turkish ambassadors to European countries and foreign ambassadors to Turkey, famous freedom writers and poets were members of this lodge. Louis Amiable, French Lawyer and politician, writer of the history of the Lodge “les Neufs Soeurs” cradle of the Encyclopedists in Paris before the Revolution, was the Orator of the Lodge. (He was in Istanbul on contract to reorganize the Turkish Bar Association).

After the suicide (?) of Sultan Abdulaziz, Prince Murat acceded to the throne on the 30th May 1876, but due to a mental illness, was deposed three months later and his brother Abdulhamit was enthroned, but only after bargaining with Bro. Midhat Pasha, and promising to start the constitutional process. He was not long to go back on his promise. On the 5th February 1878 Abdulhamit sent Grand Vizier Bro. Midhat Pasha into exile in various places, but finally to Taif (port city of Yemen, then a province of the Ottoman Empire) arranging his death by poisoning there. On the 13th February 1878 Abdulhamit adjourned the parliament indefinitely, starting a period of absolute despotism which lasted 30 years.

Cleanti Scalieri, W.M. of the Lodge Prodoos plotted a bloody but unsuccessful kidnapping of Murat V from the Ciragan Palace, to restore him on the throne. (Articles on the subject by Bro. Rizopoulos and myself in the Ars Quatuor Coronatorum Volumes 104 and 107 respectively

A Masonic political party: Union and Progress, created according to the model of the “Carbonaries” in Italy.

After the model of Young Italians, Young Germans and Young Swiss, the Young Turks organized in Paris with the aim of bringing back the constitutional monarchy. But the Young Turks talked a lot but did not act. Five freemason, military students in the faculty of medicine started a revolutionary party that later took the name of Union and Progress. Their model was the Italian quasi-masonic revolutionary society, the “Carbonaries”.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, the main European powers had obtained an immunity for their subjects living in the Ottoman Empire. This immunity system was called “capitulations”. The Turkish police did not have the right to search a house belonging to a foreign subject. Thus the members of Union and Progress in Thessalonica were able to plot their revolution in Italian, French and Spanish lodges gathering in houses belonging to foreigners. To get around the Capitulations, the police organized a robbery in the temple of the lodge Macedonia Risorta, were the archives were kept, to obtain the members’ lists, but a freemason in the police force tipped off the Worshipful Master of the lodge in time. The frustrated policemen took revenge on the furniture of the temple. The police tried also to harass the members by waiting in the street for them to leave the building.

Abdulhamit and freemasons

Abdulhamit knew very well what freemasonry was about. As stated above, three of his brothers were freemasons. The princes Kemalettin and Nurettin were in line for the throne. Most of the European powers were governed by freemason kings and ministers. For these reasons, Abdulhamit did not want to alienate the Freemasons. Therefore, while persecuting the lodge members of the Italian, French and Spanish lodges in Thessalonica, he gave large donations to the charity efforts of English Lodges in Istanbul.

He even planned the creation of a Grand Lodge in Istanbul, of which he would be the Grand Master. This lodge would act as a senate, assembling the leaders of the different warring communities in Istanbul, (mainly Turkish intellectuals, the members of the Italian, Levantine, Greek, Armenian and Jewish communities). This project was never realised but shows the intricacies of the way Abdulhamit’s mind worked.

The Second Constitutional Monarchy

A great number of high ranking officers were Freemasons and as well as being members of the Union and Progress Party, low ranking officers were not required to become Freemasons to be accepted into the Union and Progress Party, but they hoped to get a quicker promotion if they would be initiated first.

The action of the Union and Progress Party, and its threat to invade Istanbul with the armies stationed in Thrace, obliged Abdulhamit to promulgate once more a Constitutional Monarchy on the 23rd July 1908.

The reaction was not long to come. On the 31st March 1909 the fundamentalists took control of Istanbul.

The freemasons in Thrace, mainly from Thessalonica, organised an army of reservists. Almost all officers were freemasons. There were too many officers so some actually joined the expeditionary force as simple soldiers. The army recaptured Istanbul from the fundamentalists, there were bloody battles and hangings, and Abdulhamit was dethroned by a committee of five deputies, all of them Freemasons.

As a result of all this, freemasons became the target for the hatred of fundamentalist Islam.

The Masonic State

According to the French historian Thierry Zarcone, the period from 1908 to 1918 could be called “The Masonic State”. The Union and Progress Party in power used freemasonry in its foreign relations. Deputations of mason parliamentarians went to Italy, France, Hungary and Germany. The freemason deputies claimed that with their effort, democracy, that is the French slogan of liberty, equality and fraternity, was prevailing now in Turkey and that the European powers should be of assistance. The Albanians had revolted against the Ottoman rule and the Italian parliament was about to vote an aid program for the rebels. After the intervention of the Grand Lodge of Turkey, the Italian freemasons in the parliament were effective and the motion failed to be carried.

Eleven months later, at the end of 1911, after Italy’s expedition to Libya (which was Ottoman territory at that time), the same scenario was repeated, but naturally this time the Grand Orient of Italy could not act against its own government. In answer to the letter from the Grand Lodge of Turkey, the Grand Master issued a very general statement on the 29th September 1911 (“Per l’Impresso di Tripoli”, Rivista Massonica, 1911, No. 15-16) and the relations between the Italian And Turkish Grand Lodges were severely affected.

The Creation of the Grand Lodge of Turkey (Ottoman Grand Orient)

On the 3rd March 1909, the dormant Supreme Council of Turkey (1861) was revived. This Supreme Council first consecrated 4 Turkish lodges. These 4 lodges plus 3 Italian, 2 French, 1 Spanish and 2 Egyptian lodges (One of them, Resne, English Constitution) assembled to form the Grand Lodge of Turkey on the 13th July 1909, and elected its first Grand Master, the Minister of the Interior Mehmet Talat S. Pasha, who later became Grand Vizier (Prime Minister). This Grand Lodge was consecrated by the Supreme Council.

The closing of lodges in 1935

This Grand Lodge gave charters to a total of 66 lodges, mainly in Turkey but also in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Greece, Lebanon and Palestine.

In 1935, the year when Freemasonry decided to hibernate, 6 ministers, the President of the Parliament, more than 60 deputies and many state governors, were Freemasons. Ataturk’s private doctor, M. Kemal Oke, was a Past Grand Master.

In 1935 the English, Germans and Russians transformed Turkey into a vast stage for propaganda and espionage. The Nazi propaganda machine was also stressing the Judeo-Masonic danger. The Ministry of the Interior, Sukru Kaya, a 33° Scottish Rite Mason, in order to curb these activities passed a law from parliament closing all clubs and societies. Freemasonry was not mentioned in the text, but the minister warned his brothers that it would be wiser to stop the activity of Freemasonry by its own free will. That’s how things happened and the reason why Freemasonry was able to recover its buildings after the war.

All lodges did not close. The Supreme Council continued its activity behind closed doors, even chartered 3 new lodges. Craft lodges met at the homes of brothers. The police showed a knowing tolerance to all this, with the tacit approval of the President of the Republic Ismet Inonu, who even gave a little financial aid to the Supreme Council.

The awakening (1948)

Turkey wanted to be accepted by the U.N. The Turkish diplomats were told that Turkey was not a democratic nation and that even Freemasonry was closed, as it was in all the totalitarian regimes.

The President approached his personal doctor, Supreme Grand Master M. Kemal Oke, the same doctor who looked after Kemal Ataturk, and told him that the time to resume official working had come.

In 1948 lodges, under the Supreme Council, started to labour in Istanbul and Izmir, and in 1949 in Ankara.

A troubled period started with lodges trying to liberate themselves from the Supreme Council’s rule. The Grand Lodges of Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir were created, and finally those three grand lodges united on the 16th December 1956 to create a totally independent Grand Lodge of Turkey.

International Recognition

After the initial recognition by some American and European Grand Lodges, in 1959 an official deputation by the Grand Lodge of Scotland visited Turkey. The recognition process was delayed to 1963, due to the military coup of 1960.

Most of the regular Grand Lodges had recognised the Grand Lodge of Turkey, except England and Ireland. In order to satisfy them, the Grand Lodge of Turkey was reconsecrated by the Grand Lodge of Scotland in 1965. (That is why our Grand Officers’ regalia is green). In 1970 the Grand Lodges of England and Ireland recognized the Grand Lodge of Turkey.

The schism of 1965

Friction was continuous between the Supreme Council and the Grand Lodge.

At the end of 1964, The Grand Secretary, on his own, gave a letter to Bro. Suleyman Demirel, stating that he (Demirel) was not a freemason. The Grand Secretary was actually the Senior Warden of the lodge in which Demirel had been initiated in 1955. Demirel used this document against the fundamentalist wing in his political party, was thus elected to the Presidency of the party and reigned on Turkish Politics until 2000, when he retired as President of the Republic.

In the 1965 Grand Master elections, the Brother who issued this letter was elected, in spite of the Supreme Council’s secret opposition. The Supreme Council preferred the election of a Brother who would be obedient to them and tried to cancel these elections. This led to a lot of turbulence in the ranks of Turkish Freemasons. Finally a schism occurred, with a small group of brothers creating a separate Grand Lodge, which later attached itself to the French Grand Orient. Today this irregular grand lodge has about 3000 members and is in relations with a Turkish Women’s Grand Lodge. This is a rather new body and has a few hundred members, organized in all major cities in Turkey.

Today the Grand Lodge of Turkey has about 180 lodges in 10 cities, with 12000 active members. It is recognized by all the regular Grand Lodges and is active, promoting freemasonry in the Balkans, Russia and turkic language speaking former Soviet Union republics.

We have a research Lodge that is publishing a quarterly research magazine “Mimar Sinan” (named after Sinan the famous Turkish architect). Since 1991, I have published the bimonthly Masonic magazine TESVIYE (level), in the name of the Grand Lodge of Turkey.

Copyright 2001 by Celil Layiktez.


The honour of being invited to address the members of the Internet Lodge is one that I much appreciate though I have to declare that I come to you as one who has not so far been drawn into all the octopus-like clutches of websites, on-line and e-mails. My sincere hope is that the subject now to be presented will be fitting for such a company...

It is some years ago that I went on record in establishing that what really distinguished Freemasonry from any other sort of fraternal association was the centrality of ritual in its activities. To that conviction I hold as firmly as ever. Indeed I will now assert, in the 50th year of my membership of the Craft, that if ritual is ever allowed to become regarded as optional or irrelevant then the demise of 'ancient and accepted Freemasonry' is within sight.

Making such a declaration, however, is not meant to imply an innate or inflexible conservatism. The Freemasonry of which ritual is so integral a component has clearly had to be able to accommodate and respond to change through three and half centuries in order to persist. Those who think that what we may regard as the solid presence of the Craft Institution is averse to adaptation only need to scan its history to be proved wrong. The events of 1717, 1751, the 1780s, 1813 to 1817, the 1830s, the 1850s and much else since are quite sufficient to prove that European and American Freemasonry at least have undergone necessary adaptations in order to meet the demands made by changing social and political circumstances. Our great Order has proved time and time again that whilst retaining its basic landmarks it can ride the stresses and strains that life in a real world can place upon it. We have survived exposure, calumny, prejudice, misrepresentation, religious and political intolerance, and degradation by our own members. We have learned to adapt in these fields. Can the same happen with ritual and if so, how?

Before I begin to tackle that important question, however, it may be as well if I deal with the question that some may be asking in their hearts - Is this something we really need to be bothered about? Are you not posing a problem that doesn't currently exist? Well, if that is how matters seem to you where you are in your lodge then I appreciate your puzzlement or surprise. It is not how I am hearing certain things as I move about my country and the world and it is certainly not how some Masons, whether preceptors or newly made Masons, are seeing it either. Let me illustrate.

I am currently an honorary member of the oldest lodge in York with a history that goes back to 1778. It has met constantly throughout that period once a month and in the last 3 years it has still been able to welcome 10 candidates, half of them under 40, into the Craft. Its future as a viable Masonic unit does therefore seem stronger than many lodges elsewhere. Yet speaking with one of the senior Past Masters only the other day he shared with me what is his present concern. "They seem to be very happy to have entered our fellowship", he said, "but several of them have queried why there seems to be such a pressure on them to come to rehearsal evenings and learn ritual. They quite like the ceremonies but they are not interested in taking part themselves. They much prefer the festive board and think that that is the really attractive part of the evening."

That is one aspect of the problem and it is a view that is not simply restricted to York. Nor is it the only issue. Whilst there are still many Masons who are prepared to tackle ritual learning there are rather more these days who either cannot or will not undertake the tasks that used to be borne by Worshipful Masters. Very much fewer are the men who can discharge what is still required in the workings of Pennsylvania where the W.M. conducts not only the major part of the ceremony of each degree but then also carries out the explanation of the ceremony when the candidate is brought back after adjusting his dress. Even in that Grand Lodge moreover the post of W.M. is taken over by another P.M. if more than one degree is conducted in the course of an evening. Yet what is happening elsewhere is that there is more and more division of the work because learning by heart is less and less something with which brethren are familiar in their normal lives. To those in an Internet age such a skill is less and less required.

There is also something else. A brother in Derby recently presented me with a list of 38 'howlers' or mispronunciations that he had collected whilst visiting over a few months. 'Transistory' for 'transitory' and 'articifer' for 'artificer' are well known but 'mistresses and privileges' 'an asian and 'orrible institution', more 'orrible than the garter', 'the two great pillocks', the 'ravishing birds of the air', that 'safe and sacred suppository' and my latest, 'Exhalation' for 'exaltation' (which suggests hot air instead of understanding what we are saying), all begin to highlight the fact that the language which is used in the ritual does come from speech of a long time ago and can create difficulties for modern man unless it is explained beforehand. The whole issue of the intelligibility of what we are required to learn and say is another side to the problem.

Further, there is the whole matter of dress (why do I have to come in so dishevelled?), movement (why do we have to keep going round the room?), apparent repetition (why do we have to keep having the same ceremonies over and over again?), endless moralizing (why do we have to listen to these extra addresses or charges?), constant adjustment (why do we have to keep changing the signs we give?) and lack of action (why is there not more drama like we get in part of the 3o?). When all these matters are added to the points made previously it will, I think, be agreed that we really do have something to address. Is it not time to consider further changes to the form and use of the ritual we employ?

In what follows I shall seek to address all these issues and make some suggestions about ways in which they might be dealt with. The ideas proposed are all based on what has been tried at some time or another in some part of Masonry but they will not appeal to everyone. What I have sought to do is to try and get some new thinking or movement started so that what are already present obstacles can be faced and challenged. We cannot allow some of these difficulties to fester further.

Has the time come, for example, for a steady review of what it is that we are seeking to do by using the ritual we have and then trying to see whether what we currently say or do is meeting that objective? When the Union of two Grand Lodges took place in England in 1813 there had to be just such a review in order to decide what was to be at least the core of English and Welsh lodge ritual for the foreseeable future. The Irish Grand Lodge went through a similar process at much the same time. In England the outcome was a form called 'Sussex' or 'Emulation' though the method of transmitting that revised form only by word of mouth and memory led inevitably to a number of variations according to the strength of local traditions or the types of ritual book that were adopted as the 19th century progressed. In Ireland one form was laid down and applied strictly, as it still is, by appointed officers who visit lodges in turn.

Generally speaking the new rituals were much shorter than what had taken place before, they modernised some of the language, eliminated any significant emphasis on one religious allegiance, removed the requirement to deliver explanatory lectures, reduced or removed the use and explanation of the tracing board, and separated the dining function of the lodge from the ceremonies. What was aimed at was truer universal membership, greater dignity and management of the degree ritual and better control of what happened at the festive board. That is still generally where we are now. But does the content of our ceremonies still reflect new elements in our current situation? Are we taking account of a generally different educational system? Is the social make-up of our candidates different? What about the whole ethnic issue? To present an adequate response to this question would require another whole lecture.

Is it, however, not a matter of content but of wording? If it has become a matter of concern to the Christian churches to review and replace much of their 16th to 18th century ritual language with the best of more up to date prose what is it that prevents us doing the same? Not of course that something has not previously been attempted because Logic working in England was created by those who found some of the earlier phrasing to be both confusing and inaccurate for a later generation. Just how far such efforts are effective or worthwhile is a matter of personal judgement and I have to state that in my experience the use of Logic or some similar form of ritual is only rarely encountered.

What does seem to me to be an alternative to 'rocking the boat' or 'shaking the foundations', by proposing or attempting to modernise the ritual, is to take definite steps to explain the words that are used especially where they are not words in common use. If ever there was a task that could be done usefully on Rehearsal evenings, or what are oddly called Lodges of Instruction, it would be the spending some minutes each time on words that have been used that evening and which could be better learnt or spoken by being better understood. Alternatively there needs to be the occasional talk in open lodge in which such matters are clarified. My own lecture, "Why do we say and do that?" in my book, 'I Just Didn't Know That', was just such a talk given for the benefit of newly initiated brethren who had just taken the first degree. I have to tell you that when that was first given a young solicitor came over to me and said, "If that is what it all means and there is more to come I am really interested".

I cannot forebear at this point to make a further reference to the usual practice in much of North America where, after the main part of a ceremony is over the candidate is brought back to the lodge room, now fully dressed and more relaxed, and has the features of the ceremony through which he has passed explained to him. No longer does such a new initiate wonder why he came in a somewhat dishevelled state and with a slipshod foot and a blindfold, why there was prayer, why he processed round the room, why he was proved and tested after making an obligation and what the signs, tokens, words and apron all mean. When you see all this ritual so plainly explained as part of the ceremony you wonder at the reason why such a practice was dropped at the Union of our Grand Lodges, or at least from those lodges that had previously practiced such a custom. If it was on the grounds of time then I would have to say that it is time well spent and time, which we have for nearly 200 years, wasted. For those who find ritual mystifying and thence perhaps less useful we either have to explain it or improve its presentation.

That leads me on to another suggestion. The very fact that those who will in future become our candidates are used to increasingly well-produced and sophisticated drama, whether in films, T.V. plays, theatre or public spectacle, might perhaps pose the question whether the way we conduct our ritual is dramatic enough for the future? When one again considers the 'obstacle race' that some North American candidates have to cover in order to reach the obligation pedestal, the procession with rose petals strewn in front of the 2o candidate in the London Pilgerloge and the lowering of the candidate into a real grave with the Brethren walking and singing round it at Slingsby in Lincolnshire or Barnstaple in Devon, England, one is bound to ask whether the starkness of Emulation ritual is any longer the best medium for most Masons. To see the candidate reminded of his obligation by the slamming of a desk lid at Bristol, or the newly installed Master warned to behave himself by a fully dressed cook/chef brandishing a saucepan at Rawtenstall in Lancashire may seem to some the unwelcome antics of a bygone age, but those who progress to the Rose Croix, the Red Cross and the Knights Templar orders are only too well aware of a heightened sense of awe and awareness as they share in something more dramatic and visually meaningful. The intermediate degrees of the Rose Croix, in the presentation of which for 10 years I was an honoured participant, are constantly well attended and create real interest. The same degrees conferred in America at the end of the week before Easter, with full theatrical accessories, are, if you ever have a chance to witness them, a wonder to behold.

Without in any way wanting to suggest that we become obsessed or over-engaged with presentation I am bound to say that we need to ask ourselves whether for the future we do need to use lights, props, music and symbolism even more effectively than is often the case at present. To hear the chants and hymns used in the first degree in parts of West Yorkshire, the 12 chants used in the Royal Arch in Newcastle on Tyne, and the singing of 'Hail Masonry Divine' at an Installation in York, are all points of effective presentation that have certainly made an oldie like me think again about the solemnity of what we are doing. Whether the pendulum ought to swing again in favour of light in the East, displaying the emblems of mortality, more participatory music than less, and more objects laid out on the lodge floor - as we still do in Chapter - are other factors worth consideration. We stress visual aids in education today so why not use the same techniques with all that we possess?

We must not, of course, in thinking about explanation and presentation forget that all this requires brethren to deliver it. That raises again the whole problem mentioned earlier about a growing doubt as to how much ritual, if any, brethren in the future are going to be willing to undertake.

We already have encouragement to split up the work, e.g. the giving of charges, the tracing board explanations, the tools, the 3o history and the Royal Arch lectures. What is clear from my researches for writing my new book on Old York Masonry is that there were certain Passed Masters in the 18th century who were recognised and appointed to discharge the Lectures or explanation of the history and symbolatry lying behind the ceremonies performed. In the North of England this developed into travelling teams of such P.Ms called Harodim, who would visit a centre at which Masons would assemble to receive this further instruction in the five degrees of Craft, Royal Arch and Knights Templar. In the 19th century a similar practice was adopted in the same area of England to instruct Mark Masons in the meaning of the ancient forms and practices of that degree.

What that leads me to wonder is whether, if we really are going to be faced with a significant number of 'reluctant' ritualists, whether in each lodge there should be a small core who will maintain the work by delivering the ritual in a meaningful way or even a local team who will come in and enrich the private lodge's work by undertaking this part of the evening. In Northumberland something very similar has already been introduced for lodges where the numbers at present are reduced and where there is a temporary lack of P.Ms who can present all the work. Of course this is a suggestion that may trouble those who take a pride in maintaining their own lodge's work but I am not talking about what might be all right for the present but what might be facing some lodges in the near future.

What we could also think about is the re-designing of ritual books so that what was said above about Instruction lodges or talks could be supplemented by having explanations of words or ceremonial with the text laid out in our manuals. This in itself would not be the whole answer because we are seeing a growth in the number of non-reading Masons and to them such enhanced books would obviously be less help.

What I have tried to do in this lecture is to begin to face up to a situation that seems to be present already in some parts of our great Society. If the problems I have outlined are not present in your situation then be thankful but even where all might seem at present to be happily arranged it does us no harm to ask ourselves whether there are ways of further helping our members with their use of this core of our Order. For others the problems are already beginning and it behoves us to try and offer help and suggestions where this is the case.

There are three more observations that I must make before I close. The first is that in whatever we do to adapt sensibly to our contemporary situation we ought never to lose sight of the esoteric content of what we are doing. In admitting candidates into any degree or Order we are not just formally entering them on the books. We are meant in a real sense to be affecting their lives and the way that they will henceforth both see and carry out those lives. They are entering into new levels of relationship with their 'brethren', with the ancient Society they enter and the world in which they still live and work. How that happens is a 'mystery' but that it happens is a 'privilege'. Ritual is the means by which that takes place. We must not so change and trivialize our ritual that it is merely an odd form of 'abracadabra'.

The second observation has to be, therefore, that in the end of the day the most fundamental requirement for true ritual has to be the maintenance of sincerity and a genuineness of meaning in its delivery. As a clergyman I have to tell you that the one great danger in my profession is undue familiarity with ritual texts. Once you imagine that all that matters is getting through the set words of the appointed ritual, and not meaning or conveying the meaning of what you say, then much, if not all, of what you are saying might as well be mumbo-jumbo. It does indeed become what the 16th century Reformers called 'hocus pocus' from a badly spoken 'hoc est corpus meus'. Revising the ritual may help to make it more meaningful but its delivery is paramount.

The third observation has to be another question - how do we most usefully and sensibly debate or advance this whole matter? How do we keep in touch with those who need help and discover what helps most? How do we ensure that what we may do to meet difficulties does not transgress the understanding of Masonry that we share with all other regular Masonic bodies, like other Grand Lodges, but equally how can we best benefit by learning from them where they may have the same problems? Is it not interesting to reflect that early in the experience of the Australian Grand Lodges it was thought that in order to preserve the quality of ritual used at Lodge Installations it was preferable to have a State team do that ceremony than leave it to the private lodge brethren? This, however, is but the start of a discussion on this important topic. Other minds need to engage with 'the future of ritual'. I simply rest my case.

Bro Rev Neville Barker Cryer
Given at Internet Lodge 9659
13 October 2001




John Soane, architect (1753-1837) was appointed Grand Superintendent of Works of the Freemasons in 1813, a post he held until his death. He had been initiated as a freemason earlier that same year and is depicted in his Masonic Robes in this portrait by John Jackson which hangs in the Picture Room at his Museum on Lincoln's Inn Fields.

 Soane began making designs for a new Freemason's Hall in Great Queen Street, London in 1826 and work finally began on the building in 1828. His executed design for the interior of the Council Chamber was one of the most personal and richly ornamented of his career and is illustrated here by a watercolour made in 1828 by Soane's perspectivist Joseph Michael Gandy.






The most striking feature of the room was its canopy ceiling which has been likened to 'an outstretched bat's wing'. The canopy was designed to 'float' above the centre of the room - its high canted sides and deep profile echoing Soane's earlier neo-Tudor designs for this room.

In the centre of the canopy was a coffered lantern containing signs of the zodiac and fitted with yellow glass (the model for this was later incorporated by Soane into the little study at his house and Museum). The four side windows of the room were glazed with coloured glass further hightening the atmosphere and four additional clerestory windows contained painted glass with representations of the five orders of antiquity. In his essay for the 'John Soane' Royal Academy exhibition catalogue of 1999 the architectural historian David Watkin calls Soane's Council Chamber 'a piece of speaking architecture, rich with symbolical and natural ornament'. The room was completed in 1831.






In 1813, shortly after his initiation, Soane also designed an Ark of the Masonic Covenant to be used that December at the union of the two Fraternities, the Grand Lodge and the Antient Grand Lodge. This Ark (illustrated here in a pen and wash drawing by Soane's pupil George Underwood) was triangular, with a different classical column at each corner (Doric, Ionic and Corinthian, symbolising wisdom, strength and beauty) and measured about 4ft high and 3ft wide.

Soane's Council Chamber at the Freemason's Hall was destroyed in 1863.





(c) Sir John Soane's Museum 2003

William Palin
Assistant Curator Sir John Soane's Museum
13 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London WC2A 3BP UK
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7440 4246
Fax: +44 (0) 20 7831 3957


By Bro Alan B Bevins, Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden (Surrey) EC

Presented to United Masters Lodge No 167 NZ, at the meeting on 22 Apr 1999


This is the story of a year in the life of a typical English lodge secretary. It reflects the happenings of a typical English lodge, if there is such a thing, though its procedures are normal English practice. It reflects the work of a real lodge and the writer hopes that the members will recognise their part in the story and be comfortable with it. The writer is now removed geographically from the lodge, only attends annually, and misses the harmonious friendly and relaxed nature of the members and the meetings. The writer although involved in its formation and history and now removed many thousands of miles was at the time of writing in the office of Chaplain! After relinquishing the Secretary's chair and upon being appointed to that office he used to say that the Chaplain's job could be done from anywhere. He meant within the lodge room and not thousands of miles away, however, he did offer to do the prayers by fax.

This paper can be looked upon as a thank you for allowing him to play a major part in the lodge formation. As he said to the lodge in October 1997, now was the time for younger Past Masters to imprint their character on the lodge, as it must remain a dynamic evolving body to keep the membership strong.

The Place

The place was 30 miles or 40 km west of London in the Masonic Province of Surrey, as far north and west as was possible without crossing the boundary into the two Provinces of Berkshire or Hampshire & the Isle of Wight. It was partly rural and partly urban, within easy commuting distance of London and of coastal cities such as Southampton. A major motorway ran roughly east-west through the middle of the area. It was a cluster of towns around Aldershot, Camberley and Farnborough all of which arose through the development of the British Army over the last few centuries.

The Lodge

The name was St Crispin Lodge, which had been chosen by the founders because of the association with Agincourt Lodge the mother lodge of which several of them were members. The Battle of Agincourt had been fought by King Henry V on St Crispin's Day, the 25th October in 1415. The meeting dates of the lodge were the fourth Thursdays in the month so that the one in October would, from time to time, fall on St Crispin's Day. The lodge logo designed to be simple and less costly for jewels, seen on the banner, the Past Master's jewel, and the agendas, was a stretched animal skin, on which were a King Henry V crown with the square and compasses. St Crispin and St Crispinian were two brothers in medieval times, workers in leather, shoemakers, who did much for charity by making shoes for the needy. The motto shown on the lodge badge below the animal skin was 'Deo Gracias', said to have been spoken by Henry V upon receiving news he had won the battle.

It was a Surrey lodge, about 17 years old, had over 50 members, about the average size, and met in a Masonic Centre in Hampshire. It was formed from members of one of the lodges in Camberley and began its life in the town where at that time there were four lodges (one of which was a Hampshire lodge), two chapters (one of which was a Hampshire chapter), a Mark lodge (which later moved to meet in Hampshire) and a Knights Templar Preceptory. Some members also belonged to lodges in Hampshire, Berkshire and London. They came from all imaginable occupations and backgrounds. The jobs and professions included: engineer, electronics engineer, electrician, policeman, printer, cafe proprietor, builder, sports therapist, prison hospital warder (several of these), airline operations manager, airline pilot, airport building engineer, salesman, dry-cleaning shop owner, airline ground trainer, school master, building site supervisor, management consultant, newspaper shop licensee, pub licensee, bookshop owner, fireman, garage proprietor, banknote salesman, casino cashier and butcher.

Of the 18 founders, the four who started the process were members of the mother lodge, three of which were joiners of that lodge and had been initiated in lodges in London, Wales and the USA. The petition for the new lodge, when presented to the mother lodge by the Master designate who was one of those four, was 'authorised' by the other three of them who were the reigning Master and both Wardens. At the time of writing, there were nine founders still on the membership roll of which six were active members.

A year previously the lodge had moved from Camberley and crossed the County (and Province) boundary to meet in Hampshire at a Masonic Centre with better dining facilities and a good bar, as the then meeting place built around the late 1880s, and converted in 1925 for Masonic use, was unlikely to be developed into a proper centre as the members had hoped. Until that move, the members had to drive two miles after the lodge meeting to the rugby club pavilion where the meal was laid on, at a price of £9.00. The dining location had been changed several times mainly because successive restaurants had changed ownership and rebuilding or refurbishing took place when this happened. At one location, the room was L-shaped. The table was thus in the form of a square which was novel, but the two Wardens who sat at the end of each table run, as was the normal custom in English lodges, could not see each other, though they both could see the Master who sat at the apex. That led to many amusing incidents and much friendly banter between the extremities of the two table arms where the occupants knew by the voices who was where but could not see each other.

The lodge met seven times per year at monthly intervals at a regular time of 5.30 in the evening, followed by a full four course meal, which usually began about 8.30. Even though the meal was at restaurants, in a separate room, the room was always tyled and Masonic speeches and Masonic fire were used.

The Secretary

The Secretary was for two years before the lodge was formed, the organising or petitioning secretary, a role which encompassed most of the preparation work before the consecration. He was also the first Master, sometimes referred to as the 'Primus' Master. Immediately after that first year he took up the Secretary's pen. He was considered to be the 'keeper' of the founders' intentions and when any discussion arose about this he was the authority they turned to for his memory of earlier events and agreements, as well as the written word of meetings which had taken place earlier. He was in his sixties and had been in the Craft for some 30 years or so at the time of writing.

Summer in England

The scene is now set. It was the quiet season. The last meeting had been held at the end of May and the next was September. Installation of the new Master and officers was October. There would normally not be much work for the Secretary for some weeks, or so it may have seemed. The Secretary always used this time of the year to get much preparation done to save time later. At the beginning of June he set up a meeting with the Master and the Senior Warden, or whoever was likely to be the next Master. The purpose was to start the potential Master on the process of determining who his officers would be. As with other lodges in England, it was the Master's sole discretion to choose and appoint them apart from the Treasurer, and the Tyler when that officer was not a member of the lodge. The Treasurer and the Master were elected by the members in a secret ballot and the Tyler when not a member of the lodge was elected by a show of hands. The approach the potential Master would make was to say "if I am elected would you like to be...?" Some Secretaries were known to be 'kingmakers' in selecting the officers each year, but our Secretary always insisted the Master of his own free will and accord, did two major things, firstly to appoint the officers and secondly to determine the sequence of the degree work and his programme for the year, appointing those who would help him with the ceremonies. Members rarely volunteered to do the regular work in the lodge so the Master usually had to ask specific members for each part of the work.

The Secretary would not tell him who to appoint as officers, but would advise him the consequences, good and bad, of specific appointments so he (the new Master) could better assess what to do. The current Master would also inject into the discussion the import of the conversations he had a year earlier when he was asking members to take up office. The Secretary would also include the names of those who had earlier stepped aside and wished to return to the 'ladder' of offices. He would include comment on specific member's aspirations which had been communicated to him, but without breaking any confidences entrusted to him. He acted as a confidante to many members on lodge-related situations as well as being the fount of constitutional knowledge.

That annual discussion included consideration of Past Masters due for elevation to Provincial office, since each year Provincial Grand Secretary asked for nominations. Whereas this was from a limited number of Past Masters, and often was easy to determine the candidates, views were usually explored. This was later discussed more fully in a committee meeting. It was normal for each Past Master in turn to be promoted to Provincial office after a wait of several years. Some years there was no appointment.

That meeting was also to brief the new Master on what his role was and what scope of authority he had. It was a follow up to several meetings which the Secretary and Senior Warden had during the previous nine months or so. Another meeting was usually held about two months later to assess his progress on the officer list. This period could either be smooth or stormy dependent on the reaction by members as to the office they were asked to fill, or not fill as the case may be. There were always many phone calls between the potential Master and the Secretary for a few weeks. During this time, the Secretary himself approached members to fill the roles of the two auditors, the two Master Masons on the lodge committee, the representative for the Provincial Charity Committee, the three trustees for the lodge Benevolent Fund and three trustees for the lodge Charities Association. Some of those elections were in September and others in October. In some years a member had to be found to volunteer to be Treasurer.

The long quiet season was the best to do all this activity. As it was summer, there were also social events such as barbecues and pub skittles matches, which gave the Secretary a chance to speak to members face to face rather than over the phone. The skittles matches were with a Hampshire lodge, and the venue was the Masonic Centre bar, where a skittles run was assembled as needed. This was far from perfect and the joins between sections in the run required appropriate skill to get an accurate shot. The skittles too had seen better days and often failed to stay upright long enough to be knocked down. There was no restriction how many players took part. It didn't matter who was on which side as long as the two captains were not from the same lodge. Often the result was unimportant too, particularly when the scorer(s) lost count. A raffle was held which usually made a tidy sum for charity.

Other things were also necessary to be done during this time. The Master on leaving office was always presented with a Past Master's breast jewel, and this had to be ordered at least twelve weeks ahead. This was in addition to his proper light blue collar with the narrow silver stripe and jewel which all Past Masters had to wear to be recognised as such. There was also regalia to get, the Past Master's collar and collar jewel which the intended wearer paid for, and the new Master's apron which the lodge paid for. The meeting dates were re-confirmed with the Masonic Hall secretary. The dining arrangements for the Masonic year were agreed with the caterer. The Steward who was at the top of the list of Stewards each year was given the responsibility for arranging the dining table plan and for accepting apologies and guests attendance under delegation from the Secretary. A briefing meeting was arranged with him for this. In many English lodges, this role was done by the Assistant Secretary, usually a Past Master, but our lodge always felt that it was an excellent role for a younger member to be involved with lodge administration and to get to know all the members better.

The financial year ended on 30th June so the Treasurer usually needed help to do the books, and chase for late subscriptions. There were several Treasurers during the lodge's history and almost all of them left the accounting to the end of the year and then experienced difficulties in getting the books fully made up. This invariably meant that the accounts were rarely ready to put to the lodge meeting in September as required by the bylaws. The founders had determined June as the end of the financial year so that the Treasurer could use the quiet summer months to get the accounts ready in time. At the same time the annual return of membership was due to the Grand Secretary and the Provincial Grand Secretary.

A visit was made to the lodge room to check the equipment. Items frequently went missing as the room was used by other lodges. Those lodge members who put their own equipment away removed anything which was movable, and if the lodge did leave anything out it would be spirited away into another lodge's store. It was a time to check whether the candles needed replacing, the quantity and type of regalia, aprons etc books of constitutions and rituals needed for the year.

The Master-elect was reminded about the charity collection taken during each meeting. Unless he announced at each collection as it is about to be done where the money was to go, then it automatically went to the lodge Benevolent Fund. Our Secretary always insisted that members must be given the opportunity to choose whether to support the specific charity announced or not. The charity usually chosen was the one which the Provincial Grand Master had said he would support. Its worth digressing at this point to explain what the arrangement is in England and Wales for charity activities.

Under the charities legislation lodges themselves are not able to gain charitable status, but they may set up funds which can be registered as charities such as benevolent funds for distribution of money or charities associations for its collection. At Grand Lodge level, the charitable body is the Grand Charity set up in 1980 to replace the Board of Benevolence. Provincial and District Grand Lodges have a similar body. Grand Lodge collects in addition to the annual dues a donation of about £2.00 per member on behalf of the Grand Charity. Even though that donation is only taken only from members in England and Wales, Grand Charity do allocate funds overseas too. The fund is for deserving charities and for members and their dependents in distress. Lodge Treasurers include that donation into the costing of the annual subscriptions. At lodge level, it is a well-established routine for four methods of collection of money. Firstly, at each meeting an agenda item usually before the first rising, is entitled the 'charity column', the 'charity box', the 'broken column' or a similar name, where a box sometimes of ingenious design is passed round the lodge or taken around by the Deacons so that members and guests can deposit their donation. It is normally expected to be the highest coin (£1) or the lowest bank note (£5) or a few pieces of 'silver'. Secondly, at the dinner table there is a raffle. Thirdly, members are encouraged to donate an annual sum preferably by covenant with a tax advantage if the lodge charities association is registered as a charity. Fourthly, there are social events at which raffles are arranged. Legislation in 1992, put greater responsibilities upon lodge charity trustees so Grand Charity arranged for a system where lodges could have their funds managed by them under the title Relief Chest, also taking advantage of greater interest rates for the size of the money handled. Thus the collection of money for charity is an accepted routine activity therefore the role of a Charity Steward is that much easier and there is a constant inflow of funds, without the need to exhort members frequently.

As we know, in English Masonry, there are the two schools, the homes, and formerly the hospital now the New Masonic Samaritan Fund, charities for our own members and their dependents. The latter replaced the hospital west of London with the capability of medical support worldwide. These four charities are mainly financed from the Festivals. Each year, an English Province is nominated as the patron of one of those charities and hosts the festival on a planned date. For several years up to that, money is accumulated by the lodges in the Province for the fund and the total achieved is announced at the festival. Members who had donated above a fixed but quite small amount would be designated as Stewards and could with the addition of a nominal fee acquire a specially designed jewel to be worn for the year. The jewel carried the badge of the Province and/or the personal coat of arms of the Provincial Grand Master. London, which is not a Province, from time to time also hosted one of the festivals.

The Master-elect was also reminded about the routine items included in each of the three risings. In England, normally, all business administration was done in those risings. The First related to Grand Lodge, the second related to Provincial Grand Lodge and the third to lodge level and all other matters except those of a social and non-Masonic nature which were taken at the dining table. By September, the notification had usually been received from Provincial Grand Secretary as to who was the annual visitor on behalf of the Provincial Grand Master, and the meeting suggested as the nominated date. The Secretary also advised the Master Elect on the routine where as Master he would appoint the workers for each meeting in advance but that on the night the Director of Ceremonies found substitutes for absences, which allowed the Master to prepare himself for the meeting, and to greet guests.


The fourth Thursday in September was the first meeting. It was conducted by the Past Masters which gave the Master the period from May to October to get ready for installing his successor. The November and September meetings were always reserved for initiations so that the candidate had most of the year's meetings ahead of him to get to know the other members.

The agenda was typed and sent to the printer. The Secretary always sent the job to the printer at about five weeks before the meeting with a target date which then allowed time for putting in envelopes, and posting, so that the members got them at about ten days in advance of the meeting. That gave the printer about two weeks to do them. More than one printer had been used over the years and they all left the job until the last minute and seemed only to do them when chased. More recently, the agendas were done by a member who used his home computer which meant it was more timely and accurate.

On the agenda, the Secretary always put two names against a degree ceremony in case the first choice was unable to attend at the last minute. Comment was often made by members of English lodges that if a name or any other item was not on the agenda it could not be taken. A regular agenda item was 'any other business brought regularly before the lodge' which covered any such eventuality and silenced the critics. There was however, one occasion when a candidate did not turn up and the Secretary had only the one candidate at that level. In agreement with the Master and having consulted the Director of Ceremonies he asked another member who was due to progress to another degree if he was willing to take it. As he was willing, when opened, the lodge as a whole was asked to decide, which it did, in the positive.

On another occasion the Secretary was asked to point out politely to a Grand Officer guest to mind his own business when the candidate in a First degree had a ring on his finger, and that visitor stopped the ceremony to ask for it to be removed. The Secretary said that the presence of a ring which could not be removed, was not a bar to the ceremony taking place as normal. It was insensitive to stick overly strictly to the letter of the ritual and thus embarrass the candidate and that his intervention had done just what was intended to be avoided.


October was the installation meeting. All work was done by Past Masters who were members of the lodge except that the address to the Master was sometimes done by a relative or friend of his who was from another lodge, and the address to the brethren was always done by a Past Master from the mother lodge, as a continuing link with that lodge. Masters of the other lodges in the town were invited to the Installation and their dining fee was paid by the lodge. Normally two or three attended. The Secretary composed a one-page addition to the lodge history using the minute book as the source of information, which was sent out with the Installation agenda.

Each year, the lodge received a formal visit from Province. It was often to the Installation meeting. Where such visits took place, if the official visitor was other than the Provincial Grand Master his Deputy or one of the Assistants, he went into the lodge with all the members and guests before the Master, and left after the Master and Wardens when everyone else did. If it was one of those Executives, he was usually accompanied by a Director of Ceremonies and a formal escort was arranged. The lodge was opened normally and that Director of Ceremonies was admitted. He announced that the Provincial Grand Master or the Executive was 'without' and called for 8 members to form the escort. The use of the word 'without' always caused someone in the room to say 'without what'. The escort was formed down the centre of the room in pairs, comprising of the Director of Ceremonies, Assistant Director of Ceremonies, the two Deacons, the Secretary, the Treasurer, and two Past Masters, and then they left the room. Outside, they were greeted by the visitor and returned to form the same double line inside the room, down which the visitor went to the Master, and after being greeted sat to the Master's right. As a rule those chairs were empty as they were only used by Grand Officers, of which there were none in the lodge membership. Apart from this convention and for specific lodge officers, there were no special places where members and guests sat.

The escort could easily form down the middle of the room as the whole of the open area of the floor was the black and white carpet with nothing placed upon it. There was linoleum under the rows of chairs around the room. This carpet was of course well worn in two or three places. The holder of the Director of Ceremonies office required extra skills to stay upright when rising to his feet from his chair. There was also a worn area where the members entered the room and each new Inner Guard had to learn how to avoid the holes and the gradually separating edge when he made his usual reports. Those reports were simplified as a lodge variation from the published ritual book. All reports on the door were a single knock except where a candidate was to enter for the first time in the ceremony. This made it easier for the Junior Warden who's procedure required him to react differently by standing up in response to three knocks compared to all single knocks where he remained sitting. The only variation to the clear floor was in the First and Second degree ceremonies when the candidate was at the north east or south east respectively. His feet were placed against an ashlar. A frequent occurrence was for the second Deacon to fail to remove it in time for the candidate to move off and fall over it.

There was also a tendency common in a lot of lodges to panic when an official visitor was due. They felt it was necessary to examine the lodge differences alluded to earlier, and to revert to the printed ritual for that meeting. The Secretary had many strong discussions with members to prevent such changes from the lodge's accepted working. He often quoted the brief given to the founders when they met the Deputy Provincial Grand Master at the very start of the founding process, which was the line taken by the Grand Lodge. Every lodge had the right to choose its working, that neither Grand Lodge nor Provincial Grand Lodge would interfere as long as the lodge conformed to the basic Masonic principles, but that having chosen a working to let the founders personality and experiences be injected and stick to it. Naturally, among the founders, there was experience of several different workings, though all very similar.

As several members were used to the Emulation Working, it was that book of ritual which the lodge had adopted. The Secretary's view was that even though the founders had adopted, for this lodge, those variations their mother lodges did, if the Lodge Committee discussed any further change to those variations or to any part of the procedures of the ritual, and recommended this to the lodge which then voted upon it with a positive result, then that change would be adopted, but that no change would be adopted without that process taking place.

One such example was the suggestion that the Chaplain should have joined the outgoing procession at the end of a meeting. The procedure was for the Director of Ceremonies and Assistant Director of Ceremonies to set off round the lodge in the first verse of the closing ode. The Junior Deacon joined them as they passed him, then the Senior Deacon, and on the second round the Junior Warden and Senior Warden in turn also joined the procession. It stopped at the Master's chair with the two Deacons to the South of it and the two wardens to the North. The Master then joined, the Wardens closed up and Grand Officers, if any, plus Provincial and District Grand Officers and holders of London Grand Rank, sitting Masters of other lodges, but no other officers. In any case the Chaplain was usually a Provincial Grand Officer. The only variation to this was the inclusion of the Initiate or representative of the Provincial Grand Master who joined the procession alongside the Master, where that representative was not a Provincial Executive. As a new lodge, it did add to the interest of the occasion in the early years, for example, when a Master was doing Universal Working, a Deacon was doing Taylor Working and the rest were doing Emulation.


As mentioned earlier, November was the time for new members to be introduced and there was always a steady demand for entry to the lodge. Often this gave rise to discussions on whether to do double ceremonies or not. The compromise was to do double Seconds but the other two ceremonies were singles.


The lodge did not meet in December as the fourth Thursday would be Christmas from time to time. Likewise there was no meeting in March because of Easter. So January February, April and May were very much routine uneventful meetings except for the usual misinterpretations of ritual to be set right by the Secretary or the Director of Ceremonies which even after many years of experience still dogged some members.


After the two Initiations and the Installation, the rest of the year's programme was taken up with two Second degrees and two Third degrees. Each member was about 18 months to two years in getting from the initial entry to the Third degree. Immediately after each Third degree ceremony the Secretary sent a request form to Provincial Grand Secretary so that the Grand Lodge Certificate arrived before the next meeting, to be presented, usually by the Secretary. As a rule the number of candidates was such that some Second and Third degrees were passed out to other lodges in Berkshire and Hampshire who were short of work. A simple letter from our Secretary and the Master making the request met the constitutional rules.

Strange happenings

One member had the ability to communicate with a departed lodge member. One evening before he joined the lodge, when in the home of his proposer whom he had known for many years, he described the movements of a ceremony without knowing what he was actually describing. The proposer contacted the Secretary and all three (or was it four) met in the lodge room one evening. This brother then with his eyes closed pointed out that he was being guided by someone who was sitting in the Senior Warden's chair, and from the front of that chair moved around the room taking measured steps. It took the Secretary some minutes to realise that if he had started from the door, he described almost perfectly the action of a Senior Deacon in the First degree ceremony. He described the person from whom he was taking instructions and the description fitted a member who had died of a heart attack when in the office of Senior Warden. Some months later when the brother was introduced into the lodge he said that the deceased Senior Warden was alongside him during his ceremony.

Another strange but down to earth occurrence was when a member of another lodge in the Province of Berkshire was proposed for joining. This itself was not unusual as members joined lodges across the County/Province boundaries to experience the wider comradeship and the different workings. This brother had thus far only reached the stage of being an Entered Apprentice. The Secretary of his Berkshire lodge refused to create the required clearance certificate confirming he had no money owing to the lodge. That Secretary rang our Secretary and in no uncertain terms told our Secretary that none of 'his members' under any circumstances was allowed to join another lodge until he had taken all three degrees, and in any case, the Secretary of the lodge which he was asking to join should write and ask for such a certificate. Our Secretary's response was to say that there was no regulation which supported that restriction and that members must be freely allowed to choose the lodges of which they wished to be members at any stage in their Masonic career. He said that our lodge accepted any man for membership providing the proper procedure was followed, that he was vouched for by a proposer and seconder, duly interviewed and accepted by the lodge committee, had the proper forms and was accepted by ballot in open lodge. He asked what would that Secretary do if one of the members moved to another part of the country, and said that provision of the certificate was a proper part of the application by the candidate and his proposer. A clearance certificate arrived a few days later. On the subject, of certificates for joiners, our Secretary took the view as many others did that it was the responsibility of the candidate and his proposer to obtain the proper certificates, from the lodges of which he was a member. In any case it would be expected that he was already in regular contact with that or those Secretaries, and a face to face request was the best method. It also put pressure on the proposer and candidate to get the certificate before the ballot.

Committee meetings were held four or five times a year at the home of the Master or the Secretary until the Lodge moved to Hampshire. The main hall below the Masonic Hall in the Surrey town was let to a company which held discos on several nights in the week. This did have some slight problem in that on lodge nights, if the meeting was late finishing, the members had to pick their way through the teenagers who had occupied the entrance and the staircase.

The dinner after each meeting, called the Festive Board reserved one dinner a year to entertain the ladies. This was apart from the more formal annual Ladies Night held at a local hall in October just before the Master completed his year. Many lodges held their annual Ladies Night in a hotel in the seaside town of Bournemouth with two nights accommodation and meals included.

There was a 'lodge of instruction' once per month and each lodge meeting was preceded by a rehearsal. Whereas the lodge of instruction had a reasonable attendance, of say ten to fifteen, the rehearsals were very poorly attended, usually only by the Master, the Director of Ceremonies perhaps the Assistant Director of Ceremonies, a Deacon or two and possibly a Warden. They retired to the local pub afterwards, and after the move to the Farnborough Masonic Centre, the in-house bar.

In each meeting except the Installation meeting, the Director of Ceremonies or the Secretary did a five minute lecture for the education of the members, and the lodge of instruction was also used to inform the members about the Craft and to explain why certain things were done and what the ceremonies meant. Often members sought preferment in office without realising that promotion was solely by merit and not of right. This applied to older members equally as well as the younger ones. The Secretary explained this by pointing out that the best way for promotion was to demonstrate their ability by taking part in ceremonies and other lodge affairs so that those in the 'ladder' ahead of them were aware, because it was those who when they became Master would be choosing their officers and their ceremony workers, and not the Secretary, Director of Ceremonies or any other senior member of the lodge.

The dinner after the meeting as mentioned earlier, was known as the Festive Board and included not only the formal toasts but 'take wines'. In most English lodges the Immediate Past Master or the Master or even the Director of Ceremonies (but always the Master in this lodge) used the gavel to gain attention, then the Immediate Past Master would stand and say 'The Worshipful Master would like to take wine with...' The Master and whoever was named stood and each raised their glass. In this lodge the Master himself at the gavel stood and said 'I would like to take wine with...' There were about seven or eight 'take wines' at pauses in between the courses. They were used to recognise exceptional work in the ceremonies, to say welcome back to a member who had been a long time absent, or had been in hospital, and to find out who had the gravy boat or mustard pot

The formal toasts were those used in all lodges - five in number, The Queen, the Grand Master, the Grand Officers, the Provincial Grand Master, the Provincial and District Grand Officers and holders of London Grand Rank, and finally the guests. The latter toast was followed with a reply or sometimes two. The Provincial Grand Master had his own toast albeit he like all Provincial and District Grand Masters was a present Grand Officer. Once a year a junior member proposed a toast to the founders. At the Installation meeting, the Immediate Past Master toasted the Master and the Master replied. Then the Master toasted the Immediate Past Master and he replied. The attendance was about two thirds of the membership, with a small number of guests, but at the Installation there tended to be a larger number of guests. Apart from a nominated few paid by the lodge, all guests paid for their meals as of course did the members.

With six out of seven meetings for degree ceremonies, the Master delegated most of the work, keeping the first part of a First, a Second and a Third to himself. The Charge after Initiation, Second Degree Tracing Board, and the Traditional History following the Third, were always done by Past Masters and the other three ceremonies were also done by Past Masters. Apart from the fact that only two or three could do the Second Degree Tracing Board and the Traditional History this gave the members a variety of people to listen to thus generating more interest. The working tools were always done by a junior member except at the Installation meeting.


The calendar was now showing May. The year had turned full circle. Many events had taken place during the year. Many things had happened in the same way they had in the previous year and others before that. Some new events had happened, and now the last meeting of the year had just taken place which has brought us to the point where this narrative began.

Alan Bevins, April 1999

Post Script

by W. Bro Graham Shepherd-Jones, Master St Crispin Lodge 9046

Having read the "Year in the life of a secretary of an English Lodge" by Worshipful Brother Alan Bevins I am moved to add a somewhat disjointed update from the same Lodge. It just outlines the true Masonic friendship and support of that band of brethren who practice their masonry at St Crispin lodge 9046.

A new duly installed master took over the running of the Lodge for the year 2001 - 2002. His name Gerald Crease-Smith. Each and every member of St Crispin knew that "Gerry" has Dyslexia and hence found learning his ritual extremely difficult. It was therefore with some disbelief that we saw him rise through the minor offices and find himself eligible to be elected as Master. He was duly unanimously elected by the Brethren of St Crispin to be their Master for the year. Maybe, you might think that this was just a simple gesture to Gerry and that the lodge would somehow manage to struggle through the year with the minimum amount of pain.

What happened was one of the most encouraging sights in masonry I have yet to witness. It has instilled in me something that I shall remember for the rest of my life. It is not the correct presentation and faultless recital of ritual that has kept masonry together for so long, which even Gerald would agree, was never going to happen in his year. It was the true support and encouragement from each and every member of the Lodge. Even this would have made his year one to be remembered, but the true meaning of masonry, brotherhood and friendship emanated from Gerald. He showed so much Brotherly love as master of St Crispin to each and every brother who attended during his year, visitors included.

Gerald had without any question been a very active mason, visiting other lodges and enrolling in Chapter. His outgoing and friendly nature always rubbed off on everyone he met, and it was as no surprise that on the evening of his installation the Lodge was full to capacity. I believe this was as much an encouragement to the brethren of the lodge as it was to Gerry. At a time when Freemasonry has declined in numbers it is this kind of evening that will bring members back and entice new members to join.

I have no words to be able to describe the warmth and Brotherly love that emanated from the Lodge that evening and during the festive board that followed. You will have to take my word that it was one of the most pleasurable experiences I have encountered. I'm sure that each and everyone there felt it. This evening could have been the pinnacle of his mastership but Gerry continued to grow in warmth at every meeting.

What I have learned from his year is to encourage each and every brother, support them in any way possible. If you have the talent to produce ritual by the book then put whatever is needed to make it meaningful, not just recite it parrot fashion. But most of all be open and warm hearted to everyone who has supported you and be prepared to show them how you feel. Worshipful Brother Gerald's mastership has left the lodge a much friendlier place and a Joy to visit.

This year as the immediate past master he has offered his support to the reigning master and also without fail attends class of instruction just to pass on to his best abilities his experience.

I know without a shadow of doubt that everything he did or said during his year was from the Heart and should we ever be able to reproduce one tenth of the warmth he generated this world would be a far greater place and masonry will thrive because of it.

God bless you Brother Gerald, you are an inspiration to us all.

Graham Shepherd-Jones - June 2003


By Yasha Beresiner, PGStB (UGLE) Hon SGW (GL State of Israel) PSGW (Reg GL Italy) PM Quatuor Coronati Lodge 2076 EC

There are many questions in the long history of Freemasonry which perturb scholars and to which there really are no definite answers. For instance, it is now well established that Elias Ashmole was the first English speculative free mason initiated in July 1646. Could he have been initiated in an operative working Lodge? It is also known that he was an intellectual, a wealthy man of standing. Why did he become a Freemason? Furthermore when organised Freemasonry began in London in June 1717 it consisted entirely of ‘gentlemen’ intent on drinking and dining and having a good time in general. What happened in between times? How and why the change, between 1646 and 1717, from an apparently aristocratic institution emerging 70 years later as nothing more than a Gentlemen’s Club at best? The first English Constitutions by James Anderson were published in April 1723, some 6 years after the formation of the Grand Lodge of England. Until then we appear to have been enjoying festive aspects of freemasonry quite happily without minutes, rules or regulations. Why was it found necessary to publish so many restrictive sets of laws for the comportment of freemasons? By their very nature, the answers to these questions remain theoretical only.

Ashmole was born in May 1617 in Staffordshire, England. A talented and ambitious man, he was able to fulfil many of his dreams after his second marriage to the wealthy Lady Mainwaring, 20 years his senior. He retired at the age of 25 and pursued personal interests thereafter. During 1645 and 1646, crucial years in the English Civil War, Ashmole’s political and military careers developed on parallel lines. In March 1646 he was made a Captain in the King’s Army and he witnessed the defeat of King Charles by Cromwell three months later. He returned to Smallwood and on 16 October 1646 Elias Ashmole was made a freemason in Warrington. This is the evidence of the first initiation of an English speculative mason. That is, notwithstanding the fact that those present and listed would have certainly been initiated at an earlier date. It took place at 4.30 in the afternoon. The precise time can be given because he kept a daily diary now housed in the Bodeleian Library in Oxford. But many questions arise regarding his initiation. What was the exact nature of the Lodge in which Ashmole was initiated? In the whole of his extensive manuscript annotations there are only two references to his Masonic activities, dated 1646 and 1682. The names of those present in 1646 as listed by Ashmole in his diary are uncontested. None of those present belonged to the stonemasons' trade. The Lodge, however, will have consisted of several additional members not present at the initiation and who may well have been working operative stonemasons. There are two perennial questions raised with regard to Elias Ashmole’s initiation.

Why did he join? And why is there no other mention of freemasonry in his extensive diaries until his visit to London in 1682? The answer may lie in that freemasonry was not an organisation of particular consequence or sufficient importance for Elias Ashmole to make additional annotations. Ashmole may have joined because by nature he was a joiner. He could not have resisted the temptation to discover the nature of what even then was a mysterious association and he may well have found nothing of consequence in the fraternity for further comment or record. There is the added possibility that in the quite and secretive ambiance of a Masonic meeting he was able to meet with unrecorded intellectual colleagues to discuss those aspects of esoteric and hermetic studies very much experimental in the scientific world at the time. Ashmole was an extraordinarily accomplished man. By 1648 he had extended his studies in Astrology and Anatomy to Botany and Alchemy. This last subject was to occupy him considerably and he wrote several books on the subject, the first in 1650.He was undoubtedly fascinated with esoteric and hermetic studies. He often consulted oracles. Yet Ashmole made a point of not allowing his enthusiasm for alchemy to obscure his historical research and he never saw himself as a practicing alchemist. He may have attended meetings unrecorded in his diary until the summons to the Masons Company in London in 1682.

It is now that he mentions freemasonry for the second and only additional time in the 2000 odd pages of his diaries. The entry is dated 10th March 1682, thirty-five years after his initiation. The same curios questions arise in this instance as they did with regard to the first entry. What ceremony did Ashmole exactly attend in London? He was The Senior Fellow among them thus he was a speculative freemason gathering in an operative environment of the Masons Company of London. What was he doing there? The recorded ceremony of the acception in the Masons Company has yet to be explained. It appears to be a ‘club within the club’ to which selected individuals were admitted as members. Ashmole’s presence here may be seen as evidence, or at least suggest, that Ashmole’s own lodge into which he was initiated in 1646 was of a similar composition. Elias Ashmole, in 1646, may well have experienced in an operative Lodge an aspect of an acception ceremony he was to attend several decades later in London.

So we find that Ashmole may have found access to an esoteric content in some or other aspect of the Craft proceedings. He may have had colleagues similarly inclined. There are interesting hints in the diary annotations at the nature of Masonic activity at the time. Colonel Henry Mainwaring, with whom Ashmole was initiated, was a Roundhead parliamentarian friend, diametrically opposed to the Royalists who Ashmole supported. The implication is that freemasonry, from these very early days, recognised no political boundaries. The structure of the Lodge is also hinted at by the significant reference to Richard Penkett as a Warden. Furthermore Ashmole took his obligation on the Sloane Manuscript, an ancient charge in manuscript, which was expressly composed for the ceremony of his initiation. Thus we see that the structure of freemasonry has been reasonably consistent through the centuries. Thus whilst the structure or format of the institution did not change over the years, the content, the ritual and ceremony and, more importantly, the academic quality of its membership, may well have been diluted. The departure of academics and their replacement by ‘Gentlemen’ may have caused a decline in quality over the years. By 1717 the Society may well have altered completely, emerging finally as just another one of he many London clubs of the period.

Although the Premier Grand Lodge was formed on 24 June 1717, it was not until exactly 6 years later, on 24 June 1723 that the first Secretary to the Grand Lodge, William Cowper, was appointed. It is only after this date that minutes of Grand Lodge began to be kept. There are no records of any kind of the activities of Grand Lodge before June 1723. The historic report of the events that took place on that fateful day in June 1717, are only to be encountered some twenty years later, in Anderson’s second edition, The New Book of Constitutions published in 1738. It is from these Constitutions that we know that on the day at the feast, the Brethren by a Majority of Hands elected Mr Anthony Sayer Gentleman, Grand Master of Masons. Anthony Sayer (1672-1742) proclaimed George Payne (d 1757) as his successor in 1718; these two Brethren were the only two commoners to be elected Grand Master.

Every early indication points at our Society as a fun, food and charity institution from the start. The lack of any minutes and rules or regulations at the start is in line with an organisation not taking itself too seriously. Six years of unregulated activity. At the time there were several dozen other similar institutions. What was it that assured the success of Freemasonry beyond any of the other contemporary organisations? The answer is simple: the Freemasons were able to recruit members of the nobility, and soon, Royalty itself, to join the Craft. There was a price to pay, however: constitutions. Nobility and aristocracy would not join a Society without orderly regulations. This fact, however, leads to the more important and difficult question: what inducement did a member of the aristocracy have at the time to join freemasonry?

Since 1718 the appointment of Grand Master was only afforded to Brethren of great distinction, of the aristocracy, nobility and royalty. The first of these, the third Grand Master to be elected in 1719, was the Reverend John Theophilus Desaguliers (1683-1744). He graduated from Oxford with a Doctorate of Civil Law, having taken his holy orders in 1710. Four years later he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and became the Curator of this most prestigious scientific institute. Here then, the question already posed has to be repeated. What could have possibly been whispered into the ear of so prominent a man as Desaguliers, the author of books on experimental philosophy, closely associated with the aristocracy and Royalty, as to persuade him to become a freemason? It is my view that Freemasonry and the Royal Society had very little indeed in common at this or any other time. There is no real evidence, beyond the circumstance surrounding Ashmole mentioned above, that we freemasons have had secrets associated with Hermetic philosophy, the Kabbalah or other similar mystical schools of thought. Outsiders have maliciously associated our organisation with a series of tasteless activities, ranging from sorcery and witchcraft to idolatry and devil worship.

The Royal Society, on the other hand, during this early period at the turn of the 18th Century, focused its scientific research on what was then referred to as alternative philosophy the same experimental philosophy in which John Theophilus Desaguliers, our Grand Master to be, excelled. Here were a group of scientists, respected through the world, whose daily research, in simplistic terms, revolved around esoteric and hermetic studies and the secrets of nature. There was a standing understanding that the revelation of the one yet to be discovered secret of nature could transform the scientific world. It would allow the fulfilment of the study of alchemy and convert basic metal to gold. Through the one secret of nature, yet unknown, communication with those who had passed beyond would be possible. It was in this environment of serious study that the Royal Society members would have heard of the formation of a body calling themselves Freemasons, who had a secret known only to them. It is possible that, notwithstanding the conviction that the secrets of any such inconsequential body as the Freemasons, could not be of any scientific importance, someone had to ensure that that was indeed the case. Although Elias Ashmole and his ilk had been both Freemasons and members of the Royal Society before the turn of the Century, their views and outlook of Freemasonry would have been clearly of a different perspective to that of the organised Freemasonry that was launched in June 1717.

John Theophilus Desaguliers, Curator and respected member of the Royal Society, was selected or may have chosen himself to investigate this newly set up organisation. On being initiated into our secrets and mysteries and admitted a member of the Craft, the new candidate, Bro Desaguliers, would have quickly discovered that there were no secrets among the masons, beyond traditional forms of recognition. Here, he would have found the true spirit of brotherly love, relief and truth prevailing. His very high social standing will have certainly induced the Grand Lodge to offer him the highest possible office from the outset, which he may well have accepted. This would explain why there appears to be so little, if any, information about Desaguliers prior to his appointment as Grand Master in 1719.

Enchanted by the camaraderie of our institution and true to his obligation, on his return to the Royal Society, Desaguliers would have rather persuaded his colleagues to join the fraternity than disclose the inconsequential secrets he had learnt and sworn to observe. This then may well have been the beginning of the involvement of the aristocracy in our midst. The Constitutions were written at the instigation of Desaguliers who, no doubt, had the future of the Institution at heart and the Aristocracy, nobility and royalty in his head. He brought with him Lord Montgomery our first Noble Grand Master. Clearly with the presence and membership of such distinguished Brethren some rules and regulations for the comportment of the Brethren became necessary. Thus Grand Master Desagulier instructed James Anderson to compose or ‘digest’ the Constitutions and secure the continued patronage of Nobility and Royalty, which England has enjoyed ever since.

There are an infinite number of unanswered and unanswerable questions in the rich history of freemasonry and they will continue to baffle and delight historians for ever.

Selected Bibliography and Sources:

Baigent, Michael Freemasonry, Hermetic Thought and The Royal Society of London AQC 109, 1996
Carr, Harry Haunch T O and others Grand Lodge 1717- 1967 Oxford 1967
Josten C H Elias Ashmole Oxford, 1966
Page, Bryan F Elias Ashmole The First recorded English Freemason Prestonian Lecture for 1988
Rogers, Norma The Lodge of Elias Ashmole, 1646 AQC 65 1952
Tuckett J E S Dr Richard Rawlinson and the Masonic Entries in Elias Ashmole’s Diary AQC 25 1912
Ward, Eric Anderson’s Constitutions Oxon 1976
Weisberger, William R John Theophilus Desaguliers: Promoter of the Enlightenment and of Speculative Freemasonry AQC 112, 2000

A selection of Masonic research papers presented at Internet Lodge, written by members of the Lodge or donated to the Internet Lodge Library.

The opinions reflected by the authors are not necessarily those of The Province of East Lancashire or the United Grand Lodge of England.

  • I am my Brother's Keeper
    Masons and Freemasonry during the American Civil War
    By Bro Eli Minoff
    The Annual Bern Herman Memorial Lecture presented in Mount Carmel Lodge No 44 (Grand Lodge of the State of Israel) in Haifa, Israel on 19th December 2006.
  • Harry S Truman By Bro Eli Minoff
    The Man, The 33rd American President and The Most Prominent and Influential Freemason in the United States during the 20th Century.
  • Freemasonry and Alchemy
    By M.W.Bro Fabio Venzi, Grand Master of the Regular Grand Lodge of Italy
  • A Peculiar System of Morality
    By W.Bro Roger Marjoribanks (dec'd)
    Subtitled Masonry and the Middle Ages this is an account of the history of Freemasonry written by W.Bro Roger Marjoribanks a former member of Internet Lodge until his death in 2013.
  • Elias Ashmole's initiation ... and some more questions.
    By W.Bro Yasha Beresiner, PGStB (UGLE) Hon SGW (GL State of Israel) PSGW (Reg GL Italy) PM Quatuor Coronati Lodge 2076 EC
  • The Origin and Fate of the Temples at Jerusalem
    By W.Bro P.E.H.Thomas
    This wonderfully detailed document has been prepared primarily for the interest of all Freemasons whose Constitutions are recognised by the United Grand Lodge of England. It deals essentially with Biblical facts insofar as it has been possible to establish them with reasonable confidence. In so doing, it encompasses that portion of Biblical history which, in essence, forms the bedrock of much Freemasonic ritual; not only within the Craft but within the Holy Royal Arch as well.
  • A Year in the Life of the Secretary of an English Lodge
    By Bro Alan B Bevins, Past Provincial Junior Grand Warden (Surrey) EC
    Presented to United Masters Lodge No 167 NZ, at the meeting on 22 Apr 1999
    This is the story of a year in the life of a typical English lodge secretary. It reflects the happenings of a typical English lodge, if there is such a thing, though its procedures are normal English practice.
  • John Soane - Architect
    By William Palin, Assistant Curator Sir John Soane's Museum
    John Soane, architect (1753-1837) was appointed Grand Superintendent of Works of the Freemasons in 1813, a post he held until his death.
  • Masonry with a Message and a Mission
    Some remarks on the history of Freemasonry in The Netherlands Address to Internet Lodge, Kingston-upon-Hull, August 8, 2002 by Evert Kwaadgras Archivist, Librarian & Curator to the Grand East of The Netherlands.
  • The Future of Ritual
    By Bro Rev Barker Cryer PGChap.
  • The History of Freemasonry in Turkey
    by V.W.Bro Celil Layiktez PAGM (GLoTurkey).
  • Masonic Principles Revisited
    Are the principles on which Freemasonry is founded still relevant today and more importantly are they relevant to the future?
  • Freemasonry and the British Problem
    By Andrew Prescott
  • The Trials and Tribulations of a Masonic Apologist
    By W. Bro: R.A. Gilbert, PPrSGD (Glos.) Presented in Internet Lodge in August 1998.
  • The Missing Master Mason
    Presented in Internet Lodge in March 1999 by the Worshipful Master, WBro John Belton.
  • A Response to the Missing Master Mason by The Revd. Neville Barker Cryer.
    Reply for the Guests at Internet Lodge Installation on March 20, 1999
  • A European View of Masonic Growth
    By WBro. Michel L. Brodsky.
    Presented in Internet Lodge in August 1999.
  • Centennial History of Granite Lodge No. 446 GRC
    By WBro Alan Tibbetts.
  • The Devil's Freemason
    Prof Andrew Prescott
    Britain's first academic researching freemasonry explains the background to his appointment and offers an intriguing paper on Richard Carlile and his exposure The Manual of Freemasonry - still in print 170 years later! A fascinating tale of 19th century radicalism in England.
  • The Masonic Approach to Self-Development
    Past Influences, Future Role and Present Acknowledgement. by WBro Phillip Hellier.
  • The Decline in Masonic Menbership - Is it really our fault?
    A look at the Declining Membership in Freemasonry. By Bro J Hogg.
  • The Final Forty Years
    By Alan Busfield - a view of the historic and future membership trends in New Zealand. One of the key papers on the subject - essential reading.
  • Discussion
    On the paper The Final Forty Years by Alan Busfield.