The Job of Freemasonry
in the Post-War World.
RW Bro. S.
Master of Manitoba
The Third Annual Inter-Provincial Conference
Of the Officers of the
Western (Canada) Grand Lodges, AF & AM
Held at Banff, Alberta on September 10th and 11th 1943.
Freemasonry has "subsisted
from time immemorial'", but organized Freemasonry as we know it today dates
from the formation of the First Grand Lodge in London in 1717. It is thus
226 years of age. From that time until the present, Freemasonry has had to
suffer the usual ups and downs which face such an order. With alternating
periods of prosperity and growth, of depression and recession, its constant
trend was an increasing strength and vitality which gave it force and
influence to meet those denunciations, suspicions and persecutions which
fell to its lot.
It is interesting to look
back upon the period in which the First Grand Lodge was formed. In 1713 the
war with Louis XIV was ended. He was the perfect example of a despot who had
tried to dominate all Europe. His defeat was accomplished by John Churchill,
Duke of Marlborough, a forbear of the present Winston Churchill. Then in
1723 were published the Constitutions, the noblest expression of the
universality of the Order that we know Concerning God and Religion. This was
a remarkable statement in a time of bitterest sectarian hatred and
intolerance imaginable. The temper of the times was all for relentless
partisanship both in religion and in politics. The noblest expression of
this doctrine is to be found, a generation later, in the Philanthropy of
Howard and the Humanity of Wilberforce.
In 1813 occurred the Act of
Union of the rival Grand Lodges of these called "'Moderns" and the so-called
"Ancients". Open warfare came to a head about 1750 between the rival Grand
Lodges. It appeared, for a long time, that the Order like religious,
political and social institutions of the time was merely talking about a
unity and a universality that it had neither the will nor the power to bring
into existence. But at last Freemasonry overcame its own internal feuds and
thus demonstrated that men can do such things if they have the mind. Let us
remember that the Union occurred when Great Britain was fighting Napoleon
who wished to dominate the world and who was finally defeated by Great
Britain at Waterloo in 1815.
These outstanding events
should, today, inspire every Mason to believe that Union is possible among
men, however diverse they may be in interest, creed or race. More, they
cheer and encourage because they demonstrate that it can be accomplished,
and example is greater than precept. So long as Freemasonry has these
outstanding triumphs to look back upon we need never lose hope for the
ultimate unity of the whole Masonic World, and the whole Non-Masonic world.
Union and Universality are not mere visions of poets.
However to understand the
part Freemasonry might play in the post-war world might be well to enquire
why the Masonic Order was one of the totalitarian states first victims. Some
time ago the magazine "Mercury" had an article about a book, published by
Adolph Hitler's own publishing house in 1938, under a title which translated
means "Freemasonry. Its World View, Organization and Policies", wherein if
the quotation carried in the article is accurate, those basic ideals seem to
be well summarized in forty words, although breaks in two places show that
the sentences from which the words are quoted may be considerably longer.
Here is the quotation-
"Masonic Lodges .... are
associations of men who, closely bound together in a union employing
symbolical usages, represent a supra-.national spiritual movement, the
ideas of Humanity.... a general association of mankind, without
distinction of races, peoples, religious, social and political
Freemasonry,. as each and
everyone of us must know, and must have known since first, at its altar, we
declared our trust 'in God' is founded in religion, but not in
denominational religion. Freemasonry we know inculcates good citizenship not
according to any particular governmental formula, but under whatever
sovereignty the initiate may, then or thereafter, make his home. Freemasonry
embraces men of every religious faith, except such as begin the institution,
and men of every nationality excepting those who are forbidden to become
members. Freemasonry, as so tersely stated by the German writer, makes no
distinction, whatsoever, of races or peoples or religions or convictions.
Thus, one of the undoubted elements of our strength, which tended,
heretofore, to contribute to our universality, has become in recent years,
if not an element of weakness, at least a mainspring for our present
troubles. This it is, outstandingly wherein our institution runs counter to
the thoughts, the plans, and the hopes of that ideology of government
embraced within this term "totalitarianism".
The exact moment in history
cannot be designated when any particular change or movement began. Just as
the beginnings of Freemasonry must antedate by far its outward manifestation
in the founding of the First Grand Lodge, so must the beginnings of
totalitarianism antedate by far its first outward manifestation in the then
tottering Russia. Unless its spread be arrested it will utterly destroy
Freemasonry and all the basic ideals represented thereby, throughout the
This statement is not an idle
fear if we consider the events of slightly more than twenty years following
the advent of Bolshevism. Commencing in 1917, what seems to be an inevitable
conflict began. The conflict opened up when sharp distinctions began to
develop and to secure governmental strength, not at the beginning with
references to races or peoples or religions, but to social and political
convictions. One placing a trust in God or having a concept of distinction
between right and wrong, or having tolerance, even the slightest, for
opposing political views, became suspects. The Lodges in which Freemasons
might congregate together, were dissolved. Commencing in Russia in 1917, the
trend to a totalitarian outlawing of Freemasonry became constantly an
increasing one. In 1919 Bela Kun proclaimed a dictatorship in Hungary and
ordered dissolution of all Masonic Lodges. His overthrow did not bring their
restoration. In 1924 Mussolini decreed that Fascists, who were Masons, must
abandon one of the two organizations and in 1925 he dissolved Freemasonry in
Italy. In 1925 General Primo de Rivera, established a dictatorship in Spain
and he abolished the institution. In 1934 when the Nazis took over Germany,
one of their first official statements was that there was 'no place for
Freemasonry in National Socialist Germany'. Thus it stood when appeasement
was born. Freemasonry by the edict of dictators, regardless of the will of
its members, or of the peoples to which its members belonged had ceased to
have valid legal existence in Russia, Hungary, Italy and in the German
Reich. Appeasement, which furthered the aggrandisement of totalitarianism
and particularly the Axis of Hitler and Mussolini., by concession after
concession, made to secure a world peace which was never achieved,
eliminated Freemasonry in the additional nations of Austria and
Czechoslovakia. All this before the advent of total war.
The short space of time which
elapsed from the invasion of Poland, Denmark, Norway, Holland, Belgium .and
France spelled the end of Freemasonry in these countries. Later it was
prohibited in Rumania, in Bulgaria, and in Yugoslavia in fear of the
conqueror coming to abate it. The outcome of the "Battle of Britain"
determined not only the fate of the British Commonwealth of Nations, but
also of the Freemasonry now there existing. Freemasonry has become
'verboten' in all of Europe except Sweden, Switzerland and the British
I do consider therefore, that
the part Freemasonry should play in the Post World should embrace the
following among others which totalitarianism has tried to wipe out:
1. Freedom of Religious
This is in accordance with
"The Charges of a Freemasons etc. A Mason is obliged by his tenure to obey
the moral law, and if he rightly understand the art, he will never be a
stupid atheist, nor an irreligious libertine. But though in ancient times
Masons were charged in every country to be of the religion of that country
or nation whatever it was, yet it is now thought more expedient only to
oblige them to that religion in which all men agree, leaving their
particular opinions to themselves, that is, to Good Men and True, or Men or
Honor and Honesty by whatever Denomination or Persuasion they may be
distinguished; whereby Masonry becomes the centre of Union, and the means of
conciliating true Friendship among persons that must have remained at a
This remarkable statement,
written many years ago, needs to be practised today. Its teachings are
something which totalitarian rulers cannot understand and so they destroyed
Freemasonry in their lands.
2. Freemasonry is the best
argument for the coming unity among men in the post-war world.
Men of all races, of all
colors, of almost every creed, tongue, .nation and location are now, as an
actual fact, Masons, and therefore bound to all the rest of us, however far
away we may be in all those particulars, by a tie that is stronger every
year. Masonry teaches brotherhood and benevolence. he Nazis and Fascists
dream of a Master Class of slaves and of human clods of earth. Hence Masonry
and totalitarianism cannot co-exist. It is a case of 'We or They' and
because they controlled the power of the mailed fist, Masonry was abolished.
Thus Masonry can make a contribution to the future by holding fast to its
ideals, by binding men together with bonds of friendship and fellowship.
Truth knows no national
boundaries. Tolerance is the virtue by which liberated minds make a conquest
by bigotry and hatred. Tolerance is the positive and cordial effort to
understand another's beliefs, practices and habits without necessarily
accepting them. Tolerance militantly protects the rights of an opponent.
Voltaire's famous aphorism "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend
to the death your right to say it" is for all ages the perfect utterance of
the tolerant ideal. Tolerance does not mean moral laxity. We become
intolerant when we attempt to force our neighbor to conform to our opinions.
Viewed in this way tolerance becomes the bulwark of social and individual
liberty and the chief element in any cultural advance that a society may
expect to make. We need by a glance at Italy or Germany to realize how
precious the virtue of tolerance has become to us, and how desperately we
must struggle to keep it alive. Our free press, our privileges of free
assembly and religious worship, our very form of democratic government are
supported by the dikes of tolerance, laboriously built and held by the
individual. For when we fail to practise tolerance in our individual lives,
we jeopardize the structure of all. Democracy is the principle of tolerance
extended into the sphere of politics. Tolerance preserves minorities. Take
away, tolerance, as in Germany, Italy, and our democracy would not survive.
Let Freemasons be on their guard against religious and racial persecution
else we may witness in this country an outbreak of ante-Semitic atrocities
so common in Europe. Of all the Commandments, 'Love thy neighbor' is the
least enforceable and the most voluntary. But to break it brings penalties
that are not less severe because they are self-inflicted. The lesson of
tolerance as taught in Freemasonry can help rebuild the world.
4. Helping to rebuild
Masonic Lodges in European Countries.
Our King, George VI, referred
to this at the installation of his brother-in-law, the Earl of Harewood, as
Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England. We, in Canada, must be
prepared to dip down into our pockets to raise funds for the rehabilitation
of Freemasonry in European countries, and in China. Our charity in this
matter should know no bounds.
I do not think that
Freemasonry has gone under in the countries where it has been abolished, by
government decree. While assembly is prohibited, yet the teachings and the
ideals of Freemasonry are so implanted in the hearts and minds of its
members, that when opportunity offers, it will thrive and spread its
beneficent teachings as before. The Light of Freemasonry must not be allowed
to be dimmed. That light symbolizes all that is worth while living for.
Above all it shows us the path that leads to the Fatherhood of God and the
Brotherhood of man, it illumes the great truth that we serve best ourselves,
by being of service to others; it guides us to the all important tenets of
freedom of thought and action.
The Masonic Fraternity must
assume grave responsibilities in the prosecution of the War and the greater
responsibility we assume to bring this dreadful slaughter to a close the
greater will be our influence to establish Peace and the only Peace Peace
founded upon God as the Creator and Preserver of Mankind and the principle.
that each one of us has at the altar of Freemasonry, before God sworn to
Though the cause of evil
Yet 'tis truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold,
And upon the throne be wrong.
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow,
Keeping watch above His own.
(James Russell Lowell)
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Closely allied to this matter
of secrecy and of recognition of visitors which I mentioned a moment ago, is
the custom of 'vouching'. In some places there has carne to be attached to
'vouching' the meaning of 'taking responsibility'. This is not the proper
meaning of the word. A Mason is allowed to vouch for another with whom he
has sat in open lodge on an occasion which the brother remembers so that he
recalls both the occasion and the person. Moreover, the vouching for the
visitor should be as of the date of the occasion remembered. If the occasion
be not recent the vouching can hardly cover the matter of present good
standing. I am not pleading for unbending rigidity but I believe that this
is a matter in which some looseness of practice exists and in which care is
There is one matter of lodge
practice which has a secret within a secret. That is the matter of
balloting. Not only is it lodge business, the very existence of which an
outsider has no right to know. In addition it involves a secret which to
locked up in the heart of the one who ballots, even in respect to his
brethren. It is doubly secret.
Now let me turn to what is
not secret about Masonry. My general statement was that its general
principles are not secret. This, I think, is where there is, among Masons at
large, the greatest need for instruction and I believe that attention to
this matter would be of great benefit to the Craft. These general principles
have been stated again and again for all the world by the Grand Lodge of
England and other Grand Lodges. As late as 1938 the Grand Lodge of England
put out a statement. It appeared in Saskatchewan Grand Lodge Proceedings of
1939. In one of Saskatchewan's Masonic Study papers for 1940 a summary or
tabulation of it was set out as follows;
A MASON MUST
- Believe in a Supreme Being.
- Believe that there is a revelation of Divine will in a sacred
- Be loyal to the government of the land in which he lives.
- Preserve his freedom of opinion and speech as a citizen.
A MASON MUST NOT
- Within a lodge introduce any religious or theological
- Outside of lodge in any such controversy take part as a mason,
- Within a lodge introduce any political controversy
- Outside of lodge take part in any political controversy as a
- Foment or share in any disturbance of the peace or of good
GRAND LODGE WILL
- Assert that it is sovereign and independent in its practice of
- Practice Freemasonry only within the three degrees.
- Encourage men to form their own opinions on all important
affairs and to be courageous in the support thereof.
- Encourage the inculcation in all lodges of the purest
principles of virtue and morality and the practice outside the lodge
of Brotherly love, relief and truth, Recognize as fraternal bodies
other Grand Lodges which have professed and do profess and practice
the principles herein set out.
GRAND LODGE WILL NOT
- Admit that in its practice of masonry it is subject to any
control or exercise of authority by any organization, special national
- Support either a mason or a non mason in any theological or
- Express any opinion as to:
- Merits of any political party.
- Any government domestic policy.
- Any government foreign policy.
- Any theory or plan of government,
- Any international question.
- Be represented in any petition or request to any government.
- Recognize as Masonic any organization which departs from these
The statement that Masons are
loyal and preserve their freedom of opinion and speech as citizens, and yet
Masonry will never enter into any religious or political procedure or
contest, has at times been found obscure and difficult. It involves
recognition of the fact that often a Mason as a man or as a citizen can and
should do things which he should not do as a Mason. Failure to recognize
this distinction leads to the idea that there is something secret about a
Mason's religion or a Mason's politics, and the situation is confused with
an. idea of secrecy which both within and without Masonry is harmful.
Masonry does not enjoin any member to make his religion or his politics
secret from the world. It lays no restraint on him in those respects. It
urges him to be true to himself.