Masonry and its Message for Modern Britain
English 21st century society and its legal principles, as shown up in relief by modern British Freemasonry and the Masonic stand.
1. History and Character of Masonry
It is said to originate from the masons who built the Christian Cathedrals of medieval Europe. It has grown through respected works of charity in England to command even Royal involvement and support e.g. The Royal Free (Masonic) Hospital – a revered London teaching hospital. The Masonic Hall (HQ) in Covent Garden is modelled on the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem at the time of Christ. Clearly Masonry draws upon the early Jewish observance and the Christianity of the Middle Ages – these strands can only be extrapolated by Masons who are in the know.
I have never been a Mason although I was asked to join by a Circuit Judge in about 1975 when I was a young barrister. He said my Catholicism did not debar me but I politely declined. Clearly little is known about Masonry as active Masons do not divulge its inner workings by bond of privacy and they are the ones who matter to Freemasonry. It has been strong in the Legal World and the Church of England in years gone by – it is still strong in the legal profession. Its legal Lodges do good work to this day and have had a history going back to the Edwardian period and may be before. I defend the Masons for their solidarity and outgoing nature not to mention their altruism. Yes their meetings are secret.
2. Secrecy within the Masons
There may be a point in shaming Masons in their secrecy but they are entitled to insist on confidentiality to avoid misquotations, misinterpretations and misunderstanding and to protect the essence of what they do. They are humble and meek men and seek no publicity (ancient Christian values in my view). They don’t wish to be in the limelight advisedly or their methods and channels would be trampled upon. In modern British Society this is infra dig – even the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) allows cameras in as of very recently. If you do not let the cameras in you are pilloried as reclusive and conspiratorial and secretive to cover up your misdeeds. The press including the BBC have filmed clandestinely (Old Peoples’ Homes) and the News of the World cunningly (Max Moseley who won his privacy suit). Some places must be inviolate. (The cameras are seen too often in our Catholic Cathedrals when the Holy Mass is being offered and the Bread and Wine is being changed to the Body and Blood of Christ). I may be old fashioned but the Masons are right to keep the uninitiated out of their Lodges to prevent their ceremonies being debased. We could take a leaf out of their book. Masonry is no religion comparable to Catholicism but the vestiges of Christian Medievalism resonate in their rites. These are by no means religious rites nor heathen sacrifices. Us non-Masons cannot say anymore – we are not informed on the subject. The Masons I have known have been honest and reliable men.
3. The Modern Message of British Masonry:-
To reinforce the bond of confidentiality in all society’s shapes and forms: e.g.
- Marital union – between husband and wife.
- Business confidentiality within enterprises.
- Privacy in the Jury Room.
- Confidentiality amongst Judges when they retire to consider their decisions. E.g. Court of Appeal and the Crown Court and the Magistracy.
- Professional privacy: Solicitor/client.
- Absolute confidentiality: employer/employee over compromise agreements and their legal advisors and generally.
- Between doctor and patient)*
- Between priest and penitent)*
- Sub-judice Rulings of the Courts preventing disclosures pending Judicial decisions or Jury’s verdicts.
- Directives by Judges to insist on security and privacy to protect life and limb.
* Neither enforceable in law
I argue Masonry is properly and indirectly supporting these examples of privacy by its own insistence on confidentiality for its adherents, many of whom are Judges and Lawyers and understand these issues.
4) What is the media reaction to this picture of privacy in Masonry and generally as I describe?
It is axiomatic to British Journalists there should be practically no secrecy. Thus on the grounds of so called wrong doing the boxes I have set out at 3. a) - j) may all be attacked and opened according to the media. This is regrettable as “openness” is being used to defile the private lives of certain affected persons. Masonry stays out of direct involvement in this debate on secrecy that continues but make no mistake it backs non-disclosure and protection of the private life of the subject. I submit the balance has gone too far toward “openness” when it comes to private life and even professional confidentiality. Yes, the professional bodies will enforce confidentiality quite rightly within bounds. (The Solicitor is now obliged to report his client on occasion). I am primarily speaking of the unregulated field (not Solicitor/Client or compromise agreements). In this field it is a free for all as the Jimmy Saville deceased furore so amply demonstrates. Are you not meant to take your secrets to your grave? No longer the case it appears. The British Masons without doubt will take their secrets to their graves – brave and honourable men. They will defend their privacy to the last despite defamatory remarks, slurs, rumours and mistaken views of their purposes. They will not answer back – an example to us all.
It is remarkable British Masonry has survived (only men may be members) to the present. It personifies a very vital yet unmodern message in an intolerant politically correct British Society that brooks no opposition. Masonry is a beacon of light of liberty and fraternity in the modern British yet it cannot “blow its own trumpet”. It calmly gets on with its work despite media and public hostility springing from envy and ignorance. Of course it is not egalitarian in the modern sense – it is humble enough to know you cannot “create” equality.
What is equality when it comes to English Masonry? Do not run down Masonry because it does not confirm to the simplified and banal modern sense of equality. That is a cheap ploy. Within Masonry masons would sincerely say the (women) cannot join according to the traditions and mores of this truly ancient almost sacred society. As English Society and professional bodies lay down their equality rules Masonry may equally lay down its own rules. If that makes Masonry a society within a society so be it but I doubt that proposition is correct. What we are seeing is equality at work in its deepest sense:- the equality which allows Masonry to run its Lodges alongside our public and professional bodies. Liberty means nothing without this equality of opportunity in Masonry I write of.
Masonry has much to offer as do Masons. We can be thankful for their presence within our number. We would be much the poorer without these Lodges. Women are losing nothing – the work of English Masons is supporting women young and old. Women are gaining much from English Masonry albeit invisibly. Masonry takes nothing away from women with professional lives and careers. It gives opportunities to them.