Qs & Ans —
‘The Freemasonry does not pull the political strings in government around the world. This is simply not the case’
Freemasonry is viewed as being secretive, thus evoking a fear of it, more so as it is believed to engage in weird practices behind the closed doors of its lodges, Besides, it is assumed that it has occult connections with the high and mighty, especially those wielding political power, and can thus exert influence that goes counter to the interest of the people at large. How far is this true? Apparently they are not – as the following interview of Master Mackenzie of United Grand Lodge of England, who was recently here in the context of the Tercentenary of English Freemasonry, reveals. There, openness and transparency are the order of the day, and a conscious effort is made using all media platforms to dispel the wrong notions that people harbour about Freemasonry.
* We learn from the press release issued on the occasion of the English Freemasonry’s 300th anniversary worldwide that the organisation, whose “roots lie in the traditions and ceremonies of the medieval stonemasons who built cathedrals and castles” has grown into “one of the world’s oldest and largest non-religious, non-political, fraternal and charitable organisations”. The public perception is that the freemasonry is also one of the world’s most powerful organisations. What is it that has allowed stonemasons to make this happen?
The inference behind the question is that Freemasonry is somehow pulling the political strings in government around the world. This is simply not the case.
The power of freemasonry lies in its ability, through its allegoric plays to be able to collectively unite men (in a lodge) in positively influencing their ability to adhere to the principles it maintains: Charity, Honesty, Integrity and Tolerance – ‘Making good men better’.
The fact that there are over 6 000 000 freemasons across the globe will testify to its ability, even in modern society, to attract members across all walks of life and social standing.
* We also learn from the press release that the United Grand Lodge of England has this year decreed that “freemasonry should be demystified”. “We hope to demystify the prevailing and erroneous conception and attitude towards the institution,” stated a member of the organising committee. How far will this go to really open the institution to the public besides the holding of an “Open Day”?
The process of ‘demystifying freemasonry’ has been ongoing, albeit at a different pace around the world. Given the media coverage across the globe regarding the Tercentenary of English Freemasonry, it has been important to supplement the increased public awareness of it with information surrounding its formation and its practices. UGLE have recently appointed a PRO as has the District of South Africa North under whose management English Freemasonry on Mauritius is overseen.
It is certainly the intention that the profile of English Freemasonry should continue to be raised. UGLE has its own website as does the District of SA North (www.thisisfreemasonry.org) which inter alia, highlights our activities, provides details about Freemasonry and provides a means by which prospective members can join. The District also has a Facebook page (search DGLSA_North300) open to all.
* The aim of Private Lodges engaged in the practice of Freemasonry is said to have “always been about ‘making good men better’”. Does the Freemasonry’s definition of “good men” also encompass the influence that the prospective freemason would command in society – and that would explain the growth of the Freemasonry’s clout and power?
Freemasonry is open to all men, of all faiths, and any occupation. No favour is provided based on occupation. There are as many artisans in Freemasonry as there are professionals.
* This demystification exercise will surely be a long-drawn, not a one-off process organised specifically in the context of the special jubilee celebrations. Has the distance travelled so far make the Freemasonry comfortable about opening its membership registers to the public? Wouldn’t that help in the demystification process?
It is left to the individual to declare if he is a Freemason, in the same way that he may declare membership of the local Rotary Club or Round Table.
* In these days of good governance, transparency and openness, it is possible that governments and civil society would increasingly press for freemasons holding public office in different fields to disclose their links to the organisation. How would the United Grand Lodge of England respond to that? And would it expect all the Private Lodges all over the world to open their doors to the outside world?
I cannot respond on behalf of UGLE or for those lodges not under its control. What I can say is that information about Freemasonry is freely available. The Book of Constitutions (our Rule Book) is available for sale to the public and is in public libraries, as is our book of ritual. Our meeting places are known. The headquarters of UGLE in London are open daily to the public and it issues leaflets and produces videos to help explain Freemasonry to the public. Members of its Lodges do not deny or conceal their membership. Therefore, as a society it falls very far short of being secret.
- Published in print edition on 15 September 2017