The Inquisitor

By Doug Pickford

Doug Pickford of Freemasonry Today interviewed Chris Mullin MP a few days before the Craft hit the nation's headlines.

Millions saw it on television. The MP later dubbed "The Grand Inquisitor" sat in the chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee and warned Grand Secretary Commander Michael Higham he could be in contempt of Parliament.

It was high drama and later the newspaper headlines screamed "Masonic Prison Threat" and "Leaders are told to name names in scandal probe." The Sun's usual in-depth probe offered its readers twenty reasons why masons are silly. Labour MP for Sunderland Chris Mullin was described in the Daily Telegraph as relishing his role as "The Grand Inquisitor exposing a secret society" whose skills as a former journalist were "tested to the limit" when as chairman of the committee he sought to obtain the names of masons involved with the disbanded West Midlands Serious Crimes Squad, the Birmingham Six bombings investigation and the Stalker affair.

A few days earlier, before the Select Committee had been reconvened, I had spoken to the man who the right-wing Daily Mail described as "one of Parliament's most dedicated crusaders". We met in the Central Lobby of the Commons, shook hands, exchanged pleasantries and found a room where we could talk. As we settled in, "The Grand Inquisitor" asked: "Are you a mason" There's nothing like getting straight to the point.

The 50 year old MP is a dedicated family man, an "older father with two children aged two and eight years by his wife whom he met in Vietnam." He likes nothing more than walking in the Lake District and gardening. Prior to his role as the crusading MP he was a journalist and author, travelling extensively in Asia in the 1970s and 1980s, briefly attending the Vietnam War. As he became less involved in journalism he begun to write novels and one, "A Very British Coup", was made into a television series and shown in 30 countries. It was about the election of a left-wing Labour government overthrown by the establishment.

My first point to the Inquisitor pointed to the fact that the Select Committee had some pretty strong words to say about Freemasonry.

"Well we haven't really", he replied. "The inquiry we conducted at the end of the last Parliament was into the role of Freemasonry in the police and judiciary: those were the terms of reference."

What prompted that?

"It was my idea, I suggested it to the other members of the committee which then had a Conservative majority and it was really to see if there really was any basis for the allegation that a number of those involved, prominently involved, in some of' the more celebrated miscarriages of justice had been masons. On that we reached no very firm conclusions. But where we did reach a firm conclusion was that we felt people involved in the criminal justice system, whether as police officers or as judges or magistrates, ought to be willing to disclose their membership of any organisation such as Freemasonry that potentially, although not necessarily actually. compromise their credibility."

There was a recommendation that names should be made public?

"The recommendation was that magistrates, judges, and police officers who are masons should disclose, yes."

Was there anything about any other organisation?

"Yes we had a certain amount of evidence sent to us in relation to now then, what were they? One of the Catholic organisations."

He appeared to be searching for names. I prompted: Catenians?

"Yes it was the Catenians. I haven't got the report in front of me but my recollection is the conclusion we came to - we didn't go into the Catenians thing although we published the evidence - which was quite interesting, we took the view that since there are 340,000 Masons in England and not more than 30,000 Catenians that they didn't represent a very big problem compared with, or potential problem, compared with Freemasonry. I ought to say to you I am not convinced that Freemasonry is necessarily a problem; it has been in one or two particular instances but I have nothing against Freemasons or Freemasonry."

I asked him about Opus Dei.

"Opus Dei. I think that is a very sinister and secretive organisation. I have no hesitation in saying that. It isn't very big in this country. If we were in Spain I might be taking a different attitude."

So no question of at the moment investigating those two?

"What I found is that masons often put up Catenians and Opus Dei in the hope of distracting attention from the issue that we are actually discussing, which is Freemasonry, and my response is that there may well be a case for looking at any organisation that doesn't disclose its membership."

Especially one you mentioned as probably "sinister"?

"Yes, but as I say, if we were in Spain where there are a lot of them, I think that would be the first place to start but we are in England where there are a lot of masons and very few Opus Dei members so we've started with masons."

"So is there a likelihood that perhaps in the future..."

"If someone could present a creditable case, yes, I mean people are suggesting subjects for inquiry all the time but nobody has, although I accept it is a very secretive organisation. It seems to me that what I saw about the Catenians there is an element of secrecy there, too, which looked unhealthy. The point I am really making is that my objection is to secrecy not to Freemasonry per se, then one gets into a lengthy philosophical discussion about the difference between a society with secrets and a secret society. I have already quoted what the Lord Chancellor said on this subject - he has got a formidable legal mind and he couldn't tell the difference. He didn't say he had got a formidable legal mind, I said that, but he couldn't work out the difference so I have no plans to go down that road."

When I asked: Have you any friends who are Freemasons? His face firstly looked quizzical, then his mouth began to show the signs of a smile as he replied:

"Mmmm. I can't say that I have, though they haven't told me if they are. But I have no... what consenting adults do in private is entirely up to them as far as I am concerned. My only interest is in openness in government and I do think people who are in positions of public responsibility are potentially compromised if they are members of a secretive organisation. I have no objections to public servants being Freemasons, let me say that. My objection is that I think it is unhealthy in a democracy for public servants or those who do business with the public sector to be members of a secret society, one of whose aims - now I know you will dispute this or most masons will - is mutual self advancement. Now I accept there are plenty of other objectives; I also accept that most Masons are entirely honest, honourable, straightforward citizens, I don't have (my problem at all with that. Unfortunately, one or two, as in any walk of life, have been caught using Freemasonry for other purposes and in the past, although I think it has changed a bit in the last few years, principally since the outsiders have started asking questions, Freemasons have become a bit more robust in dealing with those who misbehave in their midst, but one thing that did emerge in our inquiry was that in the years gone by not very much happened when you got caught, even if you went down to jail as some of the senior police officers in the 1980's did, it was many years - if at all - before Freemasonry started to ask whether your presence in the organisation was discrediting it or not. I think there has been some improvement there and I welcome that."

Do you feel the improvement has been because of yourself and the committee?

"Not because of me, no... all I can do is note the coincidence that it only seems to have happened since people who are not Freemasons started asking questions."

And you applaud that?

"I welcome it, yes. I think that is all to the good, and there has been some effort to make Freemasonry more open. When Commander Higham came to see us the last time he did concede that perhaps they had been their own worst enemies. I don't think he quite put it like that, so don't have me for misquoting him, but perhaps they haven't always been as open as they should he."

There is an apparent other side to Mr. Mullin. He actively campaigned to save the Queen Street Temple in Sunderland, built in 1779. 1 asked him about this campaign. He replied:

"There is a Grade One listed building - I think it is the only Grade One listed building in Sunderland - which is an old Masonic Hall going back several hundred years, maybe the oldest masonic building the country, but don't hold me to that, and the local masons here trying to get a grant from the Heritage Fund to restore it. Both Bill Etherington, the other Sunderland MP, and myself supported them."

Obviously you had no qualms about that because they were masons?

"No, not in any way. No, as I have said, I have nothing against Freemasons. My office is in the same building as the Durham County Freemasons, the same terrace of houses as the Durham County Freemasons. I have been in to see them. Lord Barnard himself came all the way from Raby Castle to see me and I emphasised to him that I had no objection to Freemasonry per se."

So where do you see everything leading to?

"Well, I think it is in the interests of Freemasons themselves that they get over this hang-up they have about admitting to membership of the organisation, because it isn't doing them any good. In my experience there is a lot of unjustified paranoia about Freemasons. A lot of people who are not Freemasons subscribe all the things that have gone wrong in their lives to masonic conspiracies which in my experience don't usually add up. The masons don't help by flatly refusing to come clean about who's a member and who's not, and often if they did it would become quite clear that whatever the explanation of whatever had gone wrong it doesn't have to do with Freemasonry. For example, we are now told that there are only three High Court judges out of about 96 who are masons; well obviously there cannot be much of a masonic conspiracy there, and indeed I think the three judges that are fairly open about it. So the problem is resolved as far as that is concerned. I think in the past it has perhaps affected the promotion system in the legal profession. But I think there are in some other circuits in this country an unhealthy preponderance of... there are quite a lot in the North East circuit - I would never suggest it affected the way they do justice, administer justice, but I do think there is at least an open question as to whether you stand a better chance of advancement within the profession if you are a mason."

Do you think this applies to the various police forces as well?

"I think there is some evidence to suggest, I don't put it any stronger than that, especially in some of the elite squads, that Freemasonry is a problem. I get quite a lot of policemen ringing me up and telling me that it is."

Not police masons?

"One or two ex-masons or, I note you never stop being masons, but one or two are no longer... and I note that certain professions appear to have what I would regard as an unhealthy preponderance in the higher... Northumbria Ambulance Service would be another example. There seem to be rather a lot of masons in the upper echelons. That does lead to the question - I am not asserting it - one has to be very careful here, but it does lead outsiders to ask whether or not the promotion system is in some way affected."

So what would you like to see? Would you like to see everyone in the Northumberland Ambulance Service for instance to declare that they are masons?

"I think public servants, particularly those associated with the administration of justice is the obvious starting point, ought to disclose various interests: I wouldn't say whether you are a mason, I would say whether you are a member of any society that swears you to some sort of oath of secrecy. And it would certainly bring Catenians in or anyone in Opus Dei but the section of the community most affected would be Freemasons because there are many more of them."

We are not talking about the Rotary Cubs, the Round Tables or anything like that?

"We are not, no."

I mused that they are certainly not secret societies and wouldn't say they promote self-advancement, to which he added:

"The argument could certainly be made that anything that was likely to affect either their chances of promotion or their judgement. It's not a big deal. MPs have to (although there was a bit of squealing to begin with) fill in a registry of interests which is public, anybody can look at it, and I don't see why judges shouldn't have to or magistrates come to that we needn't make a big deal of it. It's to be held in the case of magistrates by the chief clerk or whatever he is and is available for consultation if anybody wants to see it, but I have to fill in a form every Parliament listing my interests in a great deal more detail than anything I'm proposing for Freemasons."

You aren't suggesting that Rotarians, Round Tablers, etc. do so?

"I'm not, but I think I will leave the option open for any magistrate who was a member of any society who felt it would be better if he declared it to declare it. That's all he need do. It's no big deal . . ." He continued: "I am sure when you become a magistrate you have to fill in a form that says what your interests are and you would probably list all the clubs and things you are a member of. I think it is best to err on the side of openness rather than.... you have just confessed to me with no particular embarrassment that you are a Freemason and you don't have any problem, with that, do you? So I don't understand what the problem is." It is interesting you said "Confess" Why did you say I "confessed"? "Well, because of the difficulty I have in getting it out of other people who really ought not to have the same problem. No, don't read anything into it, you can always say you just "volunteered"."

We moved on to the issues of the Birmingham Six, the West Midlands Crime Squad and the Stalker affair I began to ask about the Birmingham Six.

Is there an implication in there that the officers were Freemasons and therefore...

He replied: "I carried out a very detailed investigation and I am familiar with most of the personalities involved and all I would say is this: that a number, I wouldn't put it any higher, I have no idea, of those involved both in the original investigation and subsequent events were Freemasons and that in one or two cases of which I am aware masonic contacts were utilised in the hope of heading off embarrassment, and so I wouldn't put it any higher than that. I certainly don't allege that what went wrong in that case is all the fault of Freemasons. I am not alleging that. either in that or in any other case. I simply don't know is the answer, the extent to which Freemasons were involved. Rather less than most people would like to believe I would imagine."

Does the same hold for Mr Stalker's case?

"In Stalker's it has been alleged by other people, not by me, that - and not by Mr Stalker I should add as well - that some of his difficulties were due to falling out with people who were masons, yet I have no idea whether there is any truth in that or not. The way to find out is to ask and that is what I have done. And the third case relates to the West Midlands Serious Crimes Squad which you will recall had to be disbanded and more than 30 people serving long prison sentences have had their convictions quashed so far as a result of the malpractices that some members of that unit got up to. Now again it is alleged that there was an unhealthy preponderance of Freemasons in that squad. Whether there was or not I don't know. The simple thing to do seemed to me to send Grand Lodge a list of the names and ask which were masons and which weren't."

Have you done that?

"I have done that in each of those cases. I have sent a list of seven names regarding Stalker: a list I think of 96 names, i.e. all those who were members of the squad at one time or another, and a list of I think 66 names of people from all professions connected with the Birmingham Six inquiry and I have warned them that there will be two or three other questions; a couple of them relating to local government and one relating to a magistrates' court, along similar..."

Involved with these cases?

"No, no. Unconnected. What I have done is taken three areas so far, half a dozen in due course, where people have made allegations and I have said let's see if there is any truth in these allegations and that's where we are up to at the moment; now some of these questions were asked in our initial inquiry in the last Parliament and Grand Lodge did provide us with figures which I did not find entirely satisfactory."

In what way?

"Well firstly the numbers in relation to the Freemasons in the Serious Crime Squad went up and then down and up again, I think, and I was not sure that they necessarily give us the whole picture - no doubt inadvertently - there are some difficulties one has got to recognise, practical difficulties you know, people have moved, died; but secondly, this is the main point, I didn't feel able to arrive at a conclusion one way or another until I saw which names, because there might be people who are entirely peripheral to the wickedness that went on or there might be people who are central to it, and when I can see which I shall be in a position to form a judgement, but I emphasise I have reached no judgement at the moment and I have said to Grand Lodge that we are not proposing to publish the names."

Where would the names go?

"Well they would come to the committee. The committee agreed they need only be disclosed to the clerk of the committee and myself."

I asked if this was the case for Thursday (19 February), a few days hence, when the Select Committee was to reconvene, and he replied that the purpose of Thursday's hearing was to get yes or no answers on whether Grand Lodge was willing to cooperate. Who, I asked, was it called by?

"By the committee. I am afraid I think they have quite badly misjudged the mood because as I said to Commander Higham, I am not looking for a confrontation but one can be organised if you insist, and if we were looking for ground on which to test the powers of Select Committees in general, I cannot think of (my better ground, where there would be all party support in the House here, for the position the committee have taken so if I were Grand Lodge or whoever, I would be looking for a way of avoiding this particular showdown and I am disappointed it has come so tear, as this is an easily resolvable dispute, and I think the odds are that the conclusions drawn - though I would not predict what they would be - would well be favourable to the position that most Freemasons take, namely that there may well be a few masons involved in all these cases but they have not had a determining effect on the outcome, but we cannot get to those conclusions until we can have the information.

"I am particularly disappointed because I know that Grand Lodge has in the past co-operated with serious inquiries - there was one on Hackney for example where a QC called Andrew Arden was given access to probably a much wider range of names than we are seeking access to and they cooperate with Ombudsmen I know, and one of the refrains most frequent whenever any criticism of alleged masonic involvement occurs in one thing or another there is never any evidence. Well, there can never be any evidence until we get straight answers to straight questions, and it is no use Commander Higham coming to inquiries and talking in generalities if he wants to be taken seriously and I am sure he does.

"Now during the course of our original inquiry - that's the one held in the last Parliament - a number of specific allegations were made. A large number of irrelevant allegations were made which I discarded, but half a dozen more serious points arose. We had for example a former clerk of a magistrates' court in the South of England writing to us and saying that he discovered on taking over - in 1980 this was - that more than a third of the bench were masons and he thought this was unhealthy and he contacted the local masons and they agreed it was unhealthy too, and so they agreed there would be a five year moratorium on recruiting magistrates who were masons. And instead, at the end of that period, there were more masons on the bench than there had been at the beginning, as they waited until they were recruited as magistrates then recruited them as masons. Now that is quite a specific example that I may be putting to them in due course. I had another one from a council in West Wales where it is alleged that the chairmen of five of the eight main committees are masons. That is an unhealthy preponderance if it is true. I am not suggesting this is very widespread but where specific allegations have been put to us I am seeking to check them out. Now I don't think that is an unreasonable position."

Could it be argued that where there are five or eight masons on the bench, there could be five or eight Rotarians or Church of England members or whatever?

"It could be argued and no doubt it will be argued if I was to prove that every single member of the West Midlands Serious Crimes Squad were masons perhaps your Commander Higham would still be in his seat arguing that this did not necessarily prove that there was anything wrong with Freemasonry. Well it doesn't necessarily, but it is a problem for those who are not masons."

So apart from naming names how else could...

"Well, I am interested in seeing whether there is an unhealthy preponderance in any particular organisation and since the one we are looking at is Freemasonry in relation to criminal justice, that is what we are looking for. Now I will give you an example; it is quite true that there are very few proven cases where masonic influence has been used. There are some in the Metropolitan Police in the 1970s and 80s and there is one fairly recent one in relation to a planning application at Castle Point in Essex which we put to Commander Higham in our inquiry, where the Ombudsman discovered with the co-operation of Grand Lodge, and I am speaking from memory here, that eight of the 16 members of the planning committee were masons and a ninth as married to a mason and a controversial planning permission had been Warded to someone who was also a mason. Now I am sure you will see that whether those people abused their position or not, and I am not alleging they did, it does not look very good from the point of view of someone who is not a mason. particularly if you are on the losing side of that planning application. So the obvious way round it is for everybody to know in advance where everybody is coming from and then there won't be any unpleasant surprises."

So would you therefore be advocating that people are very open and say "I am a mason" on any planning application or inquiry?

"Well what normally happens if you have got what is alleged to be a relevant interest you take no part in that decision. I think a couple of those guys were in the same lodge or something so they obviously should have said at once that they were not taking any pale in that decision, and then I suppose it would be up to the clerk to make a ruling on the others if the others wanted to carry on. They would be wise to err on the side of discretion I would have thought."

There have been a number of books written about Freemasonry.

"I have only ever read one."

Which one was that?

"Martin Short. "Inside the Brotherhood.""

Mr Short gave evidence to the committee?


What did you think of the book?

"There were a lot of serious allegations in there plus a lot of evidence."

Would it be safe to say that it influenced you in any way towards your views on Freemasonry?

"I would certainly say that it gives a prima facie case - it cannot be dismissed out of hand - for greater openness, and if I was a Freemason I must say I would be arguing (and I gather there are some who do) for greater openness but if you have nothing to hide then what's the problem?

"I have sometimes heard it alleged "Oh we would be discriminated against if we did, but I an not aware, and none has been drawn to our attention during the inquiry, of anyone who has been discriminated against because they were a mason, but let me say that if a constituent came to me and said he had been sacked because he was a mason, I would take up his cause just as in the same way I would take up the cause of the Grade One listed Masonic hall in Sunderland."

The allotted time span of one hour for the interview was rapidly coming to a close. I chose one final question: if you were ever asked to become a Freemason your answer would be... Again, he smiled:

"Not my sort of thing really, but I prefer gardening and hill walking but I have no wish to spoil the enjoyment of those who do, providing they don't misuse the privileges that Freemasonry confers upon them or the contacts that they make."

I was left with the opinion that much of what had been said was not levelled at anyone but Commander Higham. I may be wrong but that is the impression I received. There were veiled warnings within some of the replies, I thought, looking ahead towards the "showdown" on that coming Thursday, 19 February 1998. Chris Mullin has, I believe, started a campaign that he is determined to finish. The same may very well be said of Commander Higham. I can speak for neither but I think both make formidable opponents.

This article is copyright Freemasonry Today, 1998 and is reproduced on the Internet Lodge website with permission.


The Right Honourable Baroness Knight of Collingtree DBE

In March 1997, The House of Commons Home Affairs Committee reported on the results of an investigation into Freemasonry in the Police and the Judiciary. I have been invited by your magazine to comment on the report. I must begin with an admission that I am a bad choice as an author of this article. That is because I am far from unbiased about the whole House of Commons Home Affairs Committee investigation into Freemasonry. I am a former member of this committee and was a member until I (voluntarily!) left the Commons at the last General Election. I recall that one particular member of the committee had for years been exhorting us to investigate the subject of Freemasonry. I always fought and voted against any such investigation. This was not because I have any connections with Freemasonry. In fact, no member of my family has ever belonged to the organisation and none of my friends, that I know of, are members and if they were they certainly never discussed the subject with me. My opposition was based on a belief that, in a free country, its people have a perfect right to join any society they wish, provided of course that they always act within the law of the land. In such circumstances, I believe that they should be quite free to associate with whomsoever they choose, adopt whatever ceremonies they desire and make whatever rules for themselves that they may deem appropriate.

Notwithstanding these views, one member of the committee, Chris Mullin, was convinced that the Freemasons were a sinister organisation. Mr. Mullin was subsequently made chairman of the committee by the present Government. He sustained a belief that Freemasons exerted vile and unfair influences, swear hair-raising oaths, and promote or defend other Freemasons unjustly. They were supposedly engaged in conspiracy to hide any wrongdoing by Freemasons, even to the extent of Judges exonerating guilty criminals, who were alleged, by Mr. Mullin, to make secret Signs from the dock. He also believed that policemen who were Freemasons failed to take appropriate action against their Brother Masons who had committed crimes.

Mr. Mullins persistent demands for an enquiry finally won through and it was decided to undertake such an investigation as he wanted in 1996-1997. We took evidence from a wide range of people, from the Lord Chancellor to the Magistrates Association, the Association of Chief Police Officers, individual members of the Judiciary, the Bar Council, the Crown Prosecution Service and from leading Freemasons. The first to give evidence was a Mr. Martin Short, the author of what was alleged to be the standard work on Freemasons. This is a claim I found to be spurious as Mr. Short is violently, even paranoically, anti-Freemasons. While I had begun the work with no knowledge at all of Freemasonry I was, as I have outlined above, dubious about the claims made against Freemasonry. This was more from a gut feeling or instinct than from anything else. The fact that Mr. Short was our first witness seemed to confirm that my doubts were well founded. There are no circumstances in which he could be described as an unbiased witness. I tried to serve the committee with an open mind. If Freemasons were abusing our system and that could be established by witnesses beyond peradventure, I should have been as condemnatory as anyone.

In the event, we received twenty-six printed memoranda and one hundred and fifty three which were not printed, these being mainly letters from private individuals. As the committee proceedings ground on I became more, not less, convinced that we were on a wild goose chase. The allegations against the Freemasons appeared to be based on perception, not fact.

To my mind, the finest witness of the whole enquiry was the Rt. Hon. Sir Ian Percival Q.C. As a Freemason (indeed he is a Royal Arch Mason) he clearly knew abundantly more about the organisation than did any other witness that we heard in the course of our enquiry. He was brilliant in his defence of Freemasonry and his factual dismissal of the charges made against them. He pinpointed the important difference between secrecy and privacy and demolished the case made by those who would sneer at the rituals. He stressed the vital need for principles in all our lives and pointed out that when allegations are made there should be the opportunity for the accused to reply. That was the best reason for our enquiry that I had heard. He clearly indicated that it was perception not evidence that had led to the accusations being made against Freemasons.

Many other organisations gave evidence. The Police Superintendents' Association told us that they had no evidence that Freemasonry caused any problem in the Police Force. They were confident that there would be no conflict of obligations for a 'Masonic' Police Officer and had received no evidence that Freemasonry improperly influences promotions within the Force. The Police federation also stated that they had no evidence that Freemasonry was an undesirable activity or that it led to any conflict of obligations for a Masonic Police officer.

We did, however, receive some conflicting evidence from Police officers. Ten of them claimed either that they suspected a malign Masonic influence or made specific allegations of abuse. These allegations included suppressions of serious criminal and disciplinary matters, promotion preferment, cheating in promotion examinations and the falsifying of blood test results of Freemasons charged with drunk driving offences. These ten were not Freemasons. In contrast, six Police Officers who were Freemasons wrote to the committee confirming that, during their service in the Force, their professional conduct had never been affected by their membership of Freemasonry. Again, this emphasises the difference between perception and evidence, as the ten who made claims of abuse did not actually provide evidence to support the validity of their claims.

The Law Society could recall no occasions of Masonic influence either on the Judiciary or on a Solicitor. They did urge, however, greater openness with regard to the Criminal Justice System and stated that the system for appointing Judges should be more open.

The Bar Council had no evidence of any substantial problem with respect to Freemasonry and the administration of justice. They did not favour a register of Freemasons in the Judiciary but regarded it as a matter for each individual Judge to decide whether his membership of the Freemasons was relevant to a particular case.

The Crown Prosecution Service stated that Prosecutors and other Staff were warned that conflicts of interest might arise from dealings with, or decisions in respect of, individuals who share their private interests, for example Freemasons. They have, however, no record of problems arising from Prosecutors who may be Freemasons.

The Association of Women Barristers argued that Judges should resign from Freemasonry upon appointment or, should at least, disclose the fact of their membership. The Association was concerned (although without any evidence) that Freemasonry had a discriminatory effect.

As we reached our conclusions, it was obvious that suspicion, without any evidence, had led to belief in some peoples minds that Freemasons should declare themselves. The committee was unable to agree on a final conclusion. Two members of the committee and myself supported the following wording:

It is obvious that there is a great deal of unjustified paranoia about Freemasonry and we have no wish to add to it. We believe that there would be practical difficulties in requiring a register of Freemasons in all areas of the Criminal Justice System, but it would certainly be possible to establish one. We also note that the Prime Minister has said he was in favour of a requirement for Public Officials to declare whether they are Freemasons or not, and that the Shadow Home Secretary believes that membership of the Freemasons should be a declarable and registerable interest. We would not go that far. We are reluctant to recommend a compulsory form of registration of Freemasons because we acknowledge that to do so implies a basis for suspicion and would be an unnecessary interference in a person's right to privacy which, like the secrecy of the vote, we struggle to preserve in so many areas of public life. We conclude that all reasonable suspicions relating to Masonic influence in the Criminal Justice System and other areas would be defused if the Freemasons were more open about their membership and there was less secrecy, and more light thrown on to their activities. We cannot help concluding that it would be in the best interests of Freemasonry in the modern world to reduce the secrecy and that the people best placed to take the necessary steps are the Freemasons themselves.

The majority of the committee would not support that wording voting instead for the following:

We recommend that Police Officers, Magistrates, Judges and Crown Prosecutors should be required to register membership of any secret society and that the record should be available publicly. However, it is our firm belief that the better solution lies in the hands of Freemasonry itself by openness and disclosure; all suspicion would be removed, and we would welcome the taking of such steps by the United Grand Lodge

All in all a minority of us were in favour of putting the facts to the Freemasons that a problem did exist and inviting them to deal with it themselves, while the majority wanted a requirement to register membership.

Since the committee concluded its work before the General Election of May last year the caravan has moved on. Mr. Chris Mullin, now chairman of the committee has forced a disclosure of the names of Freemasons in the West Midlands Police Force. This has had an interesting reaction in the Birmingham area which is, of course, served by that force. Memories of that terrible night of the Birmingham pub bombings in which some twenty-two innocent people were killed and about seventy injured, some very seriously indeed, are still vivid in the minds of the Birmingham people. These memories are not diminished by the twenty-four years that have now elapsed since that outrage. It was, of course, Mr. Chris Mullin who campaigned and eventually obtained freedom for the men imprisoned for the crime of those bombings. Incidentally the appeal verdicts were not that they were not guilty of the crime, it was merely that the verdicts were unsafe. They were given their freedom due to Mr. Mullin who has stated that he knows the names of the real bombers but has always steadfastly refused to divulge that information.

It is indeed an odd twist of fate that Mr. Mullin, who claims to know the names of guilty murderers and has never disclosed those names, should be instrumental in bringing the full weight and power of Parliament to demand the names of perfectly innocent policemen for the crime of being a Freemason. It is hardly surprising that there is considerable anger in the Birmingham area about this matter.

Lady Knight regrets being unable to enter into any correspondence on the subject of this article. We are grateful to her for her informative insight into the matter.

Copyright 1998, The Ashlar. Readers may redistribute this article to other individuals for non commercial use, provided that the 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 copyright holder. If you have any questions about permissions, please contact the publisher.

Preferred citation: The Ashlar No 5, September 1998, pp 23-26 Freemasonry, the Police and the Judiciary

The Ashlar is published by Circle Publications for the benefit of Scottish Freemasonry and is available on subscription from A N MacInnes, Ashford, 19 Upper Glenfinlas Street, Helensburgh G84 7HE, Scotland. Fax +44 (0)1436 674 325


Home Affairs Committee

Third Report


The following are the conclusions of the Home Affairs Committee inquiry into Freemasonry in the Police and Judiciary. The report was ordered by the House of Commons to be printed on 19 March 1997.

The principal issues addressed are,

"(i) whether membership of the freemasons causes any problems in the criminal justice process, and, (ii) whether any restrictions should be placed on membership of the freemasons by police officers, prosecutors, judges or magistrates, or any requirements for them to disclose membership should be established."


32 We have come to the following preliminary conclusions about the nature of freemasonry:

  • The Committee conclude that, when the oaths are read in context, there is nothing in them that would appear sinister, and nothing in the evidence that we have heard that would show a conflict between the oath taken by a judge or policeman and that taken by a freemason.
  • We do not believe that there is anything sinister about freemasonry, properly observed, and are confident that freemasonry itself does not encourage malpractice.


49: We have come to the following conclusions on what we have been told during this inquiry:

  1. there is a large number of freemasons within the criminal Justice system, but the numbers in themselves give no general cause for concern;

  2. there is some evidence that the numbers may be high in (i) some parts of the judiciary and magistracy, and (ii) some areas of the police (although it seems that in both areas the numbers may be substantially less than in the 1960s and 1970s);

  3. where it is not entirely groundless, most or all of the evidence alleging masonic corruption in the field of policing is largely circumstantial, in the sense that it involves assuming that steps taken by individuals who were freemasons, in respect of others who were also freemasons, were taken because both individuals were freemasons rather than because the individuals knew each other or for some other reason;

  4. it is not possible on the evidence we received to say that there has never been any abuse of masonic contacts and certainly there are many allegations. But some of the extreme criticisms of widespread abuse we received are manifestly unfounded and the others can not be said to have been substantiated to us on the balance of probability let alone beyond reasonable doubt, although in a small number of cases, such as that in Blackburn, this is a reasonable inference;

  5. where there is evidence of criminal or otherwise improper behaviour by freemasons, the freemasons themselves are taking stronger action against the perpetrators than was the case in the past; whether or not this is because of increased public interest, we welcome it; and

  6. there is a widespread public perception that freemasonry can have an unhealthy influence on the criminal justice system, and we certainly believe that one of the main reasons for freemasonry's poor public image is a perception that it is a secret society. We therefore encourage freemasons to address this perception and to correct the negative image of freemasonry.


56: It is obvious that there is a great deal of unjustified paranoia about freemasonry and we have no wish to add to it. We believe that there would be practical difficulties in requiring a register of freemasons in all areas of the Criminal Justice system, but it would certainly be possible to establish one. We also note that the Prime Minister himself has said that he was in favour of a requirement for public officials to declare whether they are freemasons or not, and that the Shadow Home Secretary believes that membership of the freemasons should be a declarable and registrable interest.We believe however that nothing so much undermines public confidence in public institutions as the knowledge that some public servants are members of a secret society one of whose aims is mutual self-advancement - or a column of mutual support, to use the masonic phrase. We note the claim by United Grand Lodge that freemasons are not a secret society but a society with secrets. We believe, however, that this distinction is lost on most non-masons. The solution is not bans or proscriptions or any form of intolerance. We acknowledge that a lot of honest people derive innocent social pleasure from membership of freemasonry and we have no wish to deprive them of such pleasure. The solution is disclosure. We recommend that police officers, magistrates, judges, and crown prosecutors should be required to register membership of any secret society and that the record should be available publicly. However, it is our firm belief that the better solution lies in the hands of freemasonry itself. By openness and disclosure, all suspicion would be removed and we would welcome the taking of such steps by the United Grand Lodge.

Parliamentary Copyright Notice

Source: Home Affairs

Committee Third Report: Freemasonry in the Police and Judiciary (HCP 192 1997) Parliamentary copyright 1997. Reproduced by Gordon Charlton under licence from the Controller of Her Majesty's Stationery Office on behalf of Parliament.

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The following is a News Release issued by the United Grand Lodge of England on 25th March 1997, in response to the Home Office report.

  1. The inquiry was originally into the police and the judiciary, and Freemasons gladly accept the Committee's conclusions at paragraph 32.

  2. As a lawful and law-abiding society, Freemasons will be disappointed by the hasty conclusion in paragraph 56 of the Home Affairs Committee's report, which is in marked contrast to the observations in the report itself. Page xxii of the report shows how the Committee's original understanding and tolerant view of Freemasonry was changed by an amendment. This draws on three suppositions for which the report provides no basis (and for which there is no basis) to support a recommendation which if implemented would interfere with a fundamental right in British life.

  3. There is no basis for saying in paragraph 56 that Freemasonry is a secret society. It is not one by law and never has been (the Unlawful Societies legislation in the 1700s exempted Freemasonry) . In practice our meeting places are known locally and published in Grand Lodge's Masonic Year Book, which with its rule book Grand Lodge¹s Book of Constitutions) is on sale to the public; our aims are a matter of public record, and Freemasons are free to disclose their membership.

  4. There is no basis for saying in paragraph 56 that one of Freemasonry's aims is mutual self-advancement. Freemasonry's aims were published in 1938 (and are re-printed in the front of the Book of Constitutions). None of these aims include mutual self-advancement. Grand Lodge's written and oral evidence emphasised that Freemasonry is not to be used to advance interests, and that this is very clearly understood by every Freemason, even from the time before he becomes a member of a Lodge. [A column of mutual defence and support, to use the correct phrase, does not mean mutual self-advancement.]

  5. Paragraph 56 is wrong in saying that Grand Lodge claims that Freemasonry is not a secret society, but a society with secrets. This is a minor point, and only worth mentioning because it shows that the amendment comes from a mind reluctant to admit any evidence not matching its preconceptions. This phrase has been used in the past by Freemasons and commentators to summarise an important difference between Freemasonry and secret societies. In recent years it has been recognised in Freemasons' Hall as too facile, and it is not in current use by central Masonic spokesmen, nor has it formed any part of Grand Lodge's evidence to the Committee.

  6. The Committee abandons its initial and reasonable reluctance to recommend a compulsory form of registration of Freemasons. Before paragraph 56 was amended this was 'because we acknowledge that to do so implies a basis for suspicion' (the Committee would have agreed there was no such basis) 'and would be an unnecessary interference with a person's right to privacy which, like the secrecy of the vote, we struggle to preserve in so many areas of British life'. Instead, and on the uncertain basis of unfounded suppositions (see above), the report recommends that those concerned with the administration of justice should be required to register membership of any secret society, and that the record should be available publicly.

  7. Because Freemasonry is not a secret society, the Committee has been led into accepting a flawed amendment. This is legislation based on perception, not reality, and if it comes into effect will be a sad day for individual freedom.

(signed) MBS Higham
Grand Secretary


John Lawrence, MM
Research Lodge of Oregon #198, A.F.& A.M.
Royal Arch Symbol

From the Ancient of Days the constellations were a tool for instruction using the starry heavens as a backdrop to explain to the Initiate the mythological journey to be taken through the dimension of time and space. Stars were identified and given certain characteristics in order to develop stories to explain the changes in the psyche of the Initiate as he successfully achieved each stage of development in his Soul's journey. The Zodiac in Masonry is also known as Masonic Astronomy, but the two are the same in purpose - a teaching instrument. The Zodiac's use for divination, as we know it today, was considered a corruption of the original intent of the constellations and their mythological content, but has since become the more dominant aspect perceived by the general public.

The Masonic Lodge, as seen through the symbols of the Zodiac, is a mythological journey of the individual Mason toward enlightenment. There are 12 Houses in the Zodiac. Each has an arc of 30 degrees, for a total of 360 degrees, or a full circle. Each House has a Sign and Planet assigned to it. As the Sun passes through the 12 houses of the Zodiac, each becomes the stage upon which a Mason's drama is played out. The Planets represent the actors and the 12 Signs make up the script.

Beginning in the East, as the Sun rises to open and adorn the day, we start the mythological journey at 6:00 a.m., the Spring Equinox, under the sign of Aries ruled by the planet Mars, the masculine principle or the conscious mind in action represented by Osiris (the archetypal man in Egyptian mythology). The element in this sign is Fire (or Spirit) and the Mason beginning this quest symbolically becomes Hercules and his 12 Labors, Moses and the 12 Tribes of Israel seeking the Holy Land, or Robin Hood and his 12 Merry Men. Continuing on our journey, we pass through the signs of Taurus and Gemini to arrive at the Junior Warden's station in the South. We are now at meridian height, the beauty and glory of the day, which is noon, or the Summer Solstice under the sign of Cancer ruled by the Moon. The element in this House is Water (or emotions).

Our next passage through the Zodiac is between the Signs of Leo and Virgo, the southwest corner of the Lodge, which is mid-way between the Summer Solstice and the Fall Equinox. This entry into the Lodge is the beginning of the harvest season and it is through this portal that Masons pass between the pillars Jachin and Boaz or the Sphinx in Egyptian mythology.

We progress to the West, at the close of day, where the Senior Warden resides. It is 6:00 pm, or the Fall Equinox, under the sign of Libra ruled by Venus (the feminine principle) or Isis in Egyptian mythology. The element is Air (or Mental) and it is the end of the harvest season where the Master Mason receives his wages if aught be due.

We are now passing into darkness and move toward the North into the Sign of Capricorn ruled by the planet Saturn - Kronos or Father Time. It is midnight or the Winter Solstice where the position of the Chaplin* is maintained over the Abyss. The element of this sign is Earth (or physical) and it is here that numerous traditions symbolize the sacrifice and struggle upon the Grand Cross of Matter - such as Horus, the Widow's Son in Egyptian mythology.

Our final destination for this particular journey is the Northeast corner of the Lodge between the signs of Aquarius and Pisces. It is 3:30 am, mid-way between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. This is the darkest point before the dawn in the Lodge and it is here we place the new Entered Apprentice. From either left or right, he can only move toward the Light, for it is the Light he seeks the most.

Fiat Lux!

* Oregon

Bro John Lawrence
Internet Lodge No 9659
April 2009


How to apply Masonic Symbols and Ritual to Everyday Living

John Lawrence, MM
Research Lodge of Oregon #198, A.F.& A.M.

An Initiate into the degrees of Masonry is inundated with a large number of symbols. These symbols are presented in a simplified format but are in reality a complex alchemy alluding to a deeper mystery. This paper is an attempt to offer in its own humble way a key to understanding Masonic symbols and ritual as they relate to everyday living. I will be using the Three Degrees as a basis for exploring some of the deeper mysteries of speculative Masonry.

I would like to begin by providing an explanation of the Three Degrees in a short story format about daily living. For events of everyday activities, we will assign the realm of the physical world to the Square over the Compasses or the Entered Apprentice Degree. The Square represents the material world and the Compasses belong to the Spirit. We can begin our Masonic day with a Mason getting into his Entered Apprentice car to drive to an Entered Apprentice grocery store. Upon arriving at the grocery store our Mason walks past a table where volunteers are requesting help for hurricane victims. This Mason pulls out his Entered Apprentice wallet to retrieve some money to help the hurricane victims. At this point, by giving aid and comfort to hurricane victims, this Mason has entered into the Fellow Craft Degree work of fellowship and brotherly love, symbolized by the intertwined Square and Compasses or the Realm of Emotions.

Upon leaving the store, our Mason crosses the parking lot and is met by another Mason from his Lodge. His Masonic friend has been wondering about the meaning of the phrase "the Widow's Son" and asks him for insights. At this moment, our Mason is entering into Master Mason Degree work represented by the Compasses over the Square, or the Realm of Reason or Spirit.

From this brief description, we can see that the bulk of our daily activities has to do with the Entered Apprentice Degree. We spend less time in Fellow Craft Degree work of charity and brotherly love, and even smaller yet is the portion of time we spend in the Master Mason Degree of reason, metaphysics and spirituality. The division of time and labor spent in each degree during our daily lives can be thought of in terms of a pyramidal concept. This is true of the Lodge as well. The Secretary's payment of bills, reading of minutes and correspondence, as well activities of the Budget Committee and building repair all fall within the necessary activities of the Entered Apprentice. Only in the Good of the Order or the fellowship of the dinner at Lodge do we see the Fellow Craft Degree being used. Rarely do we encounter the work of the Master Mason Degree during a Stated meeting.

This same model can be applied to Masonic symbolism as well. Take, for instance, the wages of a Mason. For the Entered Apprentice, his wages would be the going rate of so much money per hour for work in the physical world. To the Fellow Craft, Masonic wages would be the fellowship, brotherly love and charity work he does. But for the Master Mason, his wages would be Knowledge or the Light, which fall within the realm of the mind, metaphysics or Spirit.

The overwhelming majority of Masonic Lodges in the US fail to recognize any aspect of the Master Mason Degree. Most Lodges consider memorization of the symbols and degrees as adequate Masonic work. But the lack of analysis of what these degrees and rituals mean in a metaphysical context denies us the ability to reach the deeper mysteries of speculative Masonry. This is partly attributed to the relaxing of standards required of the Master Mason that has occurred over time - especially in his role as Worshipful Master of a Lodge. In the early days of Masonry it was the responsibility of the Worshipful Master to teach the Lodge. These early short talks or lectures were eventually incorporated into the standard lectures we give at the end of our degree work.1 Now these lectures require no intellectual participation of either the candidate or the Lodge. As a consequence, little discussion about Masonic symbols and rituals takes place except by those Brothers who enjoy discussing them among themselves outside the Lodge environment.

This leads us to the question, why go to such lengths to open a Lodge under Master Mason ritual only to do Entered Apprentice, or at best, Fellow Craft work? Why not, instead, open up the Lodge to a Third Degree discussion of a particular Masonic symbol or ritual? Allow the Brothers to openly discuss from the floor of the Tyled Lodge their understanding of a symbol or degree, perhaps using this model of the Three Degrees of Understanding

In his novel, Nine Faces of Christ, the anthropologist Dr. Eugene E. Whitworth used the lost 18 years of Jesus to illustrate the ritual work of the Essenes, Druids, Zoroastrians, Yogis and Egyptians based on his observations of nearly 140 cultures. What Dr. Whitworth noted in the ritual work of all these various cultures was a common thread of using three levels of understanding in the symbols required of each Initiate. Failure to reach the third level of understanding by the Initiate denied him access to the deeper mysteries of his particular Order.2 Why is this same standard no longer used by the Masonic Order in the US? Why is everyone who calls himself a Master Mason no longer required to reach the Third Degree of understanding of Masonic symbols and ritual work?

The challenge of this paper is intended to restore open discussion in Lodges around the Master Mason Degree work. Until we Masons understand what these degrees mean and how they apply to everyday living on a metaphysical level, Lodges will be nothing more than social clubs at best. And for those Masons who do take pleasure in the mystical ties that bind, the lack of any Master Mason Degree work leaves them with a sense of dissatisfaction because they learn nothing of the deeper mysteries of the Craft. As a consequence, many of them leave the Order and never return. And why should they, if it has nothing to offer them that they couldn't get at a Lion's or Rotary Club?

1 MacNulty, W. Kirk, A Philosophical Background for Masonic Symbolism , Heredom, Vol. 5, 1996
2 Whitworth, Eugene E., Nine Faces of Christ, DeVorss Pub., Marina Del Ray, CA, 1980

Bro John Lawrence
Internet Lodge No 9659
April 2009


James W. Hogg, 32°

Fort Myers, Florida

In just five years, the world's premier Internet Lodge has grown into a prestigious and productive group of more than 200 members.

R.W. Bro. James W. Hogg, 32°

The Internet and Freemasonry, can there be any two more diverse and different concepts? Is it possible to reconcile and bring them together? For the most part, Freemasonry is an ultra-conservative institution rooted in long-standing traditions, many of which have remained unchanged for centuries. The Internet, on the other hand, is a fast-paced form with an ever-changing composition. We must remember that the main dynamic applicable here is that both share the same common denominator-people. Freemasons are connected to one another through the Mystic Tie of the Brotherhood of Freemasonry, and Internet participants are connected to one another by the technology of advanced communications that make up the Internet.

How then does one bring the two together in harmony? Enter the role of Internet Lodge No. 9659. Internet Lodge was first conceived by W. Bros. Gordon Charlton and John Belton in a conversation that occurred on November 13, 1996. The concept of an Internet-based Lodge came into focus after months of discussion regarding just how a Lodge of this nature could be created and how it could function. Brother Charlton had previously introduced the concept to the Internet-based UK Mason-list e-mail discussion group and gleaned information there on how such a Lodge would be viewed by the Craft. With a clear plan in hand, all that was needed was its implementation. Internet Lodge No. 9659 was to become the premier Internet-based Lodge ever to be chartered.

R.W. Bro. James Dunsford Hemsley, Provincial Grand Master, consecrated the Lodge at Freemason's Hall, Bridge Street, Manchester, United Kingdom, on Thursday, January 29, 1998. The sponsoring Lodge was Mellor Lodge No. 1774, originally consecrated on Thursday, September 26, 1878, at Ashton under Lyne, now meeting at the Masonic Hall, Bridge Street, Manchester. There were 53 founding members and 54 joining members, who were proposed to the Lodge on the date of consecration. The purposes for formation of the Lodge were set forth in the Souvenir Program (reprinted below).

Since the date of consecration, Internet Lodge has grown to a membership in excess of 200 members, which is large by English standards. The membership is composed of Masons located on all continents throughout the world. W. Bro. Peter Lanes, the Master of the Lodge in 2001, hailed from Indialantic, Florida; the Master in 2002, W. Bro. Ab Goedhals, was from Valkenburg aan de Geul, the Netherlands; and the present Master of the Lodge for 2003-2004 is W. Bro. Derek J. Oliver from South Benfleet, Essex County, east of London.

Internet Lodge maintains a presence on the worldwide web at and offers access to both a public and a members-only section, which is password protected. The members-only section provides the members of the Lodge with access to Lodge summonses, committee reports, archives of past Lodge summonses, minutes of all past meetings of the Lodge, information on upcoming events, methods for booking attendance at upcoming Lodge events, a list of members of the Lodge and how to contact them, the Lodge By-Laws, and a Lodge family album. Other features are added as they become available.

One of the most valuable assets of the Lodge is the availability and access to the members-only Lodge e-mail list. Through this facility, every member has the ability to post an e-mail message to the special address, which causes his posting to be immediately delivered to every member of the Lodge worldwide within minutes of the initial posting. Through this communication vehicle, the members of the Lodge are able to carry out discussions on a wide range of topics, even though they are residing in far-flung locations throughout the world. In this manner, the Internet has brought Masonic Brothers together, even though they reside thousands of miles from one another.

Participating in a meeting of Internet Lodge is an event that can never be forgotten. The fraternalism and hospitality are unexcelled. One meets Brothers of all walks of life from many parts of the world. The events are well planned and well executed. Although the Lodge only meets three times a year, all business is dealt with quickly and efficiently.

I can state without hesitation that my involvement with Internet Lodge has been an educational and pleasurable experience. On my trips to England to visit the Lodge, I have met some of the most fantastic Brothers imaginable and have forged some magnificent fraternal ties. It is a privilege and an honor for me to serve as a Steward of Internet Lodge No. 9659.

James W. Hogg is an attorney at law, admitted to the Bar in Florida, Georgia, and the District of Columbia, and is a Perpetual Member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Tampa, Florida. He is a Past Master and Perpetual Member of Fort Myers Beach Lodge No 362, Fort Myers Beach, Florida, having also served the Grand Lodge of Florida as District Deputy Grand Master of the 29th District. In addition to being Steward of Internet Lodge No. 9659, he is also an Honorary Member of Pacific Rim Lodge No. 12 in Vladivostok, Russia, and a Founder Member (Honorary) of Amistad Lodge No. 81, Petach Tikva, Israel. The author acknowledges W. Bro. John Dutchman-Smith and W. Bro. Gordon Charlton for contributing Internet Lodge documents for this article.

The Internet Lodge

The Lodge, which is formed under the auspices of United Grand Lodge of England and within the Province of East Lancashire, will meet as a normal Masonic Lodge on the dates specified in its By-Laws.

By Dispensation the Lodge will meet at various venues.

All members of the Lodge will have an Email Address.

The Lodge aims to foster and encourage a wider and appropriate use of all means of electronic communications within Freemasonry in general.

The Lodge will meet three times a year to receive papers by keynote speakers. Two of these meetings will be held in differing locations to allow the members of the Lodge to meet to build a spirit of Fraternity. The Installation Meeting will be held within the Province of East Lancashire.

The Lodge, while having some aspects of a Research type of Lodge, will concern itself not only with historical research but also with matters of Masonic education and sociological trends in society as they affect Freemasonry both today and in the future. Relevant contributions will be sought not only from Masons within the United Grand Lodge but also from around the world.


This section contains articles written by members of Internet Lodge that are of general interest to masons and non-masons alike.

The Craft and the Home Office

This section contains articles relating to the Home Affairs Committee inquiry into Freemasonry in the Police and Judiciary.


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