A Message to English Freemasonry

A New Paradigm of Freemasonry

We believe that a number Freemasons who have found fault with our findings may have done so because they have measured what we have said against existing views of Masonic history. Some have raised genuine points where we have some detail wrong or have wanted to enter into healthy debate. However, in our view, there are also those who believe they have a duty to protect the long established dogma, largely created by the London Masons of the early 18th century. The more 'expert' they consider themselves to be, the less likely most of them are to be prepared to consider a new way of looking at the whole subject.

What we have put forward in our four books amounts to such a radical reappraisal of Freemasonic origins that it is simply not possible to dismiss elements of our findings on the grounds that they conflict with old assumptions. Our explanation for the existence of Freemasonry and its current rituals has to be discussed on its own merits and then compared (as a complete alternative) to the standard theories.

Our efforts differ to most modern Masonic researchers in that we have looked at a total context rather than restricting ourselves to Masonry alone. It is our view that you can not understand a fish without studying the sea.

To use another analogy, we feel a little like Galileo trying to persuade the establishment that the world is a sphere that orbits the sun. Existing authority figures have always had a major problem adjusting to new ideas, although today real academics often thrive on the rapid and radical changes that occur in the hard sciences. Back in the early 17th century, there never was any evidence that the sun and other heavenly bodies orbit around a flat and stationary Earth, just as there is not a jot of evidence to support the improbable idea that the aristocrats of 18th century speculative Freemasonry adopted the rituals of simple stonemasons.

But old nonsense is robust nonsense.

We consider that the Grand Lodge of England's own explanation of the Craft's origin is wholly untenable. It claims that all explanations are just theories whilst proceeding to promote the stonemasons' explanation.

As we finished Uriel's Machine  we were pleased to receive, with the compliments of the Grand Secretary of the United Grand Lodge of England, two booklets entitled 'Your Questions Answered' and 'Freemasonry An Approach to Life'.

These mini-booklets are a good attempt to start the process of dispelling some of the sillier ideas about Freemasonry that exist in the general world today. Indeed at least one of the ideas contained in these booklets was suggested by ourselves to the Grand Lodge.

However, these little documents do contain some of the same old information, some of which is, in our view, either highly debatable or even demonstrably wrong.

One leaflet asks; 'How and when did Freemasonry start?' Then it states that it is not known how and when Freemasonry started, and that the earliest recorded 'making' of a Freemason in England is that of Elias Ashmole in 1646.

But even in this detail they are wrong.

In a meticulously researched book, entitled The Origins of Freemasonry. Scotland's Century 1590 -1710 and published by the Cambridge University Press in 1988, Professor David Stevenson, then the Professor of Scottish History at the University of St Andrews produced the original lodge minutes which showed two of the leading covenantors were made Freemasons at a meeting of Edinburgh Cannongate Lodge held at Newcastle in 1641. This makes Elias Ashmole the third recorded 'making' of a Freemason in England. And shows clearly that Freemasonry started in Scotland at least fifty years before Brother Ashmole's initiation, into what can only have been a Scottish lodge.

One of the Masons made at Newcastle in 1641 was Sir Robert Moray, a founder member of the Royal Society, along with Ashmole. One of the three leading Scottish lodges of research is named Lodge Sir Robert Moray in honour of this great man. When Professor Stevenson, a non-mason addressed these Scottish research lodges he was treated with the respect due to his academic position, and his findings were welcomed and discussed widely. At a later date when he addressed the 'primary' English lodge of research called 'Quator Corinarti' the learned professor's presentation was coolly received. We recommend that all members of the Craft read Stevenson's evidence for themselves.

Robert has since written a book developing this thought more fully. It has been published in the UK as The Invisible College, and in the US as Freemasonry and The Birth of Modern Science.

The leaflets also state that The Grand Lodge of England was the first grand lodge in the world, being established in 1717, but that was only a London based organisation of just four lodges. Lodges in the towns and cities of Scotland had been working together for centuries before this date, they just did not choose to adopt the rather presumptuous title of 'grand'.

Despite the proof that we and others have put forward about the origin of Scottish Freemasonry lying with the Knights Templar, it appears to us that UGLE continues to turn its blind eye. These leaflets repeat the odd idea that English gentlemen and aristocrats of the 17th century suddenly decided to ask the guilds of stonemasons if they could adopt their craft based rituals for their own betterment. The reality is almost the reverse. The stonemasons of Europe were accepted into the lower levels of Templar rituals when the Knights Templar instigated their famous programme of medieval cathedral building across the whole of the continent. When the power of the Templars was suddenly extinguished in the early 14th century, these high grade stonemasons kept the rituals that Templar had given them and they formed guilds in mainland Europe, but not in England, Ireland, Wales or Scotland. In circa 1440, William St.Clair of Roslin brought in these continental master masons, rather than use local Scottish masons to build Rosslyn. He, and his descendants were thereafter Grand Master Masons of Scotland.

William St. Clair called in these masons because his family were the guardians of Templar rituals and documents, and from 1440 onwards the operative masons were reunited with the spiritual, or speculative masons.

Our Starting Point

It was, what appeared to us as, the utter implausibility of the old stonemason theory of origin that first prompted us to start our quest into the origins of the rituals used by Freemasons. Indeed, we had both joined Freemasonry out a sense of curiosity.

Nobody we asked could tell us where it came from. Most members seemed to simply accept that it is some sort of amateur dramatics with moral overtones, and a chance to have a meal and a drink afterwards; a gentlemen's dinning club with charitable objectives and opportunities to dress up in strange regalia that includes elaborate leather aprons, white gloves, ornamental collars and cuffs.

We knew that non-members viewed it quite differently. After the First World War Freemasonry took to ignoring all external comment about itself and its purpose. Non- Mason, Christian opponents to Freemasonry, such as writer Walton Hannah, realised that they could say what they liked about the Craft without anybody answering their assertions and misunderstandings. Hannah discovered this lack of defense when he wrote an article in Theology (Jan 1951), published by the Christian pressure group the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, titled, "Should a Christian be a Freemason?". Hannah was pleasantly surprised at the considerable controversy this article generated and at the number of private letters he had from practicing Freemasons, which he describes as 'full of courtesy and forbearance'. But it did not change his opinion that Freemasonry was an evil organisation which needed to be destroyed, citing as his reason "the necessarily evasive answers of Masons". In this manner were planted the seeds of the present widespread belief, even espoused by the present Government, that Freemasons are not to be trusted, even under oath.

We set out to discover the origins of the rituals contained within Freemasonry which led us in totally unexpected areas. What we found was so important that we wrote down the story of our quest and, seven years after starting out, we published The Hiram Key. In this book we told how we had come to the considered view that Freemasonry is a repository of ancient teaching that could be traced to the Jerusalem Church during the times of Jesus and James.

Those rituals had, we said, been resurrected by the medieval order of the Knights Templar and brought to Scotland where it was turned into Freemasonry during the 14th and 15th centuries. Our motivation to publish our first book was three-fold:

  1. To share the excitement we felt at finding the fabulous history that lay behind the Order
  2. To show to the world in general that Freemasonry was an unfairly ignored source of historic knowledge.
  3. To combat the rising tide of ill-informed books that attack Freemasonry as some sort of evil conspiracy against society.

We felt that the leaders of English Freemasonry were not prepared to defend themselves adequately against authors such as the late Stephen Knight and Martin Short whom we felt portrayed Freemasonry as a vast sprawling network with undesirable tentacles in every area of public life.

These anti-Masonic books have helped legitimize the current campaign to make Freemasons second class citizens. Ignoring the fact that Freemasonry is not a 'secret society', Martin Short wrote in 1989:

"What action should be taken? [about Freemasonry]. I suggest it should be more than would appeal to the Tory MP who says, 'if people wish to belong to secret societies, that is their own business,' but probably less than required by the Labour man who feels it 'should be illegal'.

The only proper way would be to put a 'disclosure' bill to the vote. This bill should also give full public access to full and up-to-date membership list of all Masonic lodges."

These writings, and the failure of the leadership of United Grand Lodge of England to adequately address their false accusations, did enormous damage to what is a benign, charitable, if somewhat eccentric order.

The Future

The world is changing and everybody is entering a new information age, an age which questions the traditional practices and even methods of authority. Today, most of the westernised world have a democratic view of authority which is reflected in all levels of society. Even in England hereditary authority is no longer simply accepted, the monarchy is called to account for its morals and extravagances, the hereditary House of Lords has been abolished, even un-elected and unaccountable commissioners of the European Union have been toppled from their gravy-train by public opinion. The traditional view of authority being passed down from on high to the grateful underlings is no longer acceptable to anyone. The nature of authority is changing but Freemasonry is only just beginning to change with it.

In the information age, knowledge is power and the only members worth having are those with many other choices for their loyalty and sources of entertainment. Bright, informed people bore very easily, particularly if they are not challenged. Occasionally authority can command compliance, but it can never command commitment. The generation who will have to be the next generation of Freemasons are as unconvinced by assumed authority as any in history. With no positional and hereditary authority to command, how can the Rulers of the Craft build any legitimacy into their decisions. How can they encourage membership now they can no longer command obedience?

The most capable future Freemasons will not think of themselves as loyal soldiers, but more as sought after assets. It's not longer acceptable to say, "become worshipful master of your lodge, keep your nose clean and in ten years or so you'll get to be a provincial grand officer, with some gold braid". This false carrot of conferred status is of little value to people who can achieve real status in their own professions and want to spend what little spare time they have doing something interesting and useful. How do you motivate these sort of people to become masons and if they join how to you keep them?

Threats are no use, for what possible sanctions can be applied to professionals who are not prepared to be cowed by anyone, let alone a local butcher, or a retired bank manager, in a fancy apron. How can the 'rulers' of the Craft exercise authority, over the brightest and the best new members, in the absence of dependency? Certainly they cannot continue as they have done and unless they change then Freemasonry will die with them.

When the people who now control English Freemasonry were young, control was everything. Senior brethren were allergic to surprises. Everybody asked permission for everything and did exactly what they were told. This led to a illusion of power on the part of some of the previous occupants of UGLE, but this sense of control was illusory. It is not possible to seek to restrict debate when there are so many sources of information now available.

Gary Hamel, Visiting Professor of Strategic and International Management at the London Business School commented on the changing environment for authority in general, saying:

"It was once the case that unless you were caught with your hand in the till, or publicly slandered your boss, you could count on a job for life in many large organisations. Loyalty was valued more than capability, and there was always a musty corner where mediocrity could hide. Entitlement produced a reasonably malleable work force, and dependency enforced a begrudging kind of loyalty. That was then, this is now.

Talk all you like about building a high commitment organisation, but isn't commitment reciprocal? No wonder loyalty ain't what it used to be."

Experience brings with it authority and in the past hierarchical superiority has rested on the supposition that the people at the top know more than the people at lower levels. In a system which has seemed to be based on promoting people by the 'Buggin's turn' principle, this can never be true. The danger is that the people running Freemasonry may come to know less and less about it. It does not take any bright young man, joining a local lodge, long to notice this lack of knowledge in some senior members. No amount of blustering can disguise it. If the next generation cannot respect Freemasonry they will not join or support it.

Freemasonry was a protected environment. It was seen by outsiders as a high status club to belong to and if the price of preferment was not to ask difficult questions, then in an age which accepted assumed authority perhaps that was considered a fair price for the social status Freemasonic rank conferred in society. But the territory has changed dramatically.

Gary Hamel also commented on this problem and suggested a solution for organisations which had it:

"Shouldn't authority be as much a function of foresight as hindsight? In a world of discontinuous change, shouldn't authority rest not only on experience, but also on the capacity to learn and adapt?"

Personal computers, networks and the internet are creating an information democracy. The information boundaries that once allowed senior brethren to seek to restrict the debate amongst the junior brethren can easily be breached. If relevant facts are broadly accessible then every decision can be challenged? Authority can no longer be idiosyncratic and capricious. When junior Masons are in possession of all the facts, and capable of making their own judgments they are more than willing to challenge the judgment of those they pay to administer, what is after all only a hobby organisation.

An organisation which cannot imagine the future will have no place in it but John F Kennedy also reminded us that anybody who forgets their history will not have any future either. Here then are the three main challenges that we believe English Freemasonry faces today.

  1. Preserve the ancient teaching and re-instate the old rituals so we can learn from the past.
  2. Attract intelligent and thoughtful young people into your lodges, both male and female, so that they can learn the true purpose of the Order and share in its beliefs and values.
  3. Move to a system of authority which is acceptable to today's society. This will involve a change to election rather than appointment.

Then English Freemasonry will have a future.