Science and Citizenship

A fourth industrial revolution (hereafter IR4), based on nanotechnology, artificial intelligence and robotics, was declared at the 2016 World Economic Forum in Davos. 

This four-part series will suggest for readers of The Square, a basis for acquiring a 21st Century Masonic Mindset, hopefully, it will lead to a future-proofing of ‘Freemasonries’.

The term ‘Freemasonries’ will be employed to indicate that there is not a homogenous Freemasonry beyond the specificity of Jurisdictions.

Influenced by the universally recognised works of Yuval Noah Hariri (2014-9); and, Andreas Önerfors’ Freemasonry: A Very Short Introduction, (OUP, 2020), these articles will be titled:-

(i) Freemasonries and governance;

(ii) Freemasonries and religiosity;

(iii) Freemasonries and the Fourth Industrial Revolution; and,

(iv) Freemasonries universal: towards a universal civil society.

The defining characteristic of our species, Sapiens, is the ability to invent believable stories.

Storytelling creates an imagined universe parallel with, but different from, the physical universe of nature which existed long before us.

Storytelling creates a relationship, termed as ‘trust’, between storyteller and believer; also, a ‘trust’ among the believers of the same story; this enabled large-scale human cooperation way beyond family and tribe.

Football’s World Cup is a prime example of this and a reminder that a Freemasonry universal cannot be the rule of any one, ‘peculiar’, Masonic jurisdiction.

Indeed, initiates into some Freemasonries are informed that they are ‘citizens of the world’, yet the phrase remains without explanation and therefore, application.

Could Freemasonries conjoin in something like the form of the World Cup?  This will be considered in Part Four.  

In The Constitutions of the Freemasons (1723) the Sixth Charge (2) instructs that a Mason is, ‘resolv’d against all politics’. Yet, with Prestonian authority, it has been suggested, ‘…. 300 years ago…..we find Freemasonry ….. representing and expressing the political and religious views of a core group at its centre’.

It is reasonable to suggest that all Masonic jurisdictions commenced with the representation and expression of the political and religious views of a core group at their centre and have continued, uninterruptedly, to do so.

Although, the ‘politics’ and religion may have changed since commencement.  

For at least 300 years, the term ‘politics’ has been used so subjectively and emotively as to devoid it of explanatory value.

The ‘political process’ is when two or more people agree to do something:- in government, on parochial church councils, boards of general purposes, lodge general purposes committees etc.

That is to say, ‘politics’ = decision-making processes. ‘Politics’ is also used when the term ‘ideological’ would be more appropriate; perhaps this was intended in the Sixth Charge.

‘Politics’ – rival ideologies – Whig v Tory were not to be discussed as they had been decided – decidedly Whig! 

The House of Commons: the Speaker, Arthur Onslow (seated, centre), calling upon Sir Robert Walpole (left) to speak. Stipple engraving by R. Page after W. Hogarth and J. Thornhill.
IMAGE LINKED:  Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

With the Whig Parliament’s 1714 invitation to George, Elector of Hanover, to occupy the British throne, the gestation of English Freemasonry occurred between then and the publication of The Constitutions.

It could be understood as a challenge to both spiritual and secular traditional authority. It was designed for the defence of constitutional government, in the form of ‘civil powers’, Protestant ‘Kings and Princes’.

It was a mini-constitution for citizens of the British state as with the abolition of the divine right of kings’, people were no longer as subjects in fealty to a monarch.

Yet to ‘chuse Grand Masters’ was to be, ‘from among ourselves, till we should have the honour of a Noble Brother at our head’!

Houghton Hall, Norfolk – Photograph: Dennis Smith,
IMAGE LINKED:  wikimedia Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Whig politician, Robert Walpole was effectively, Prime Minister of Britain 1721-42. Masonic Initiations were held at his Country Seat, Houghton Hall, Norfolk.

Lodge rooms were school rooms in which science and citizenship were taught …

 

‘The Newtonian and Whig leadership of The Royal Society, whose authority had been enhanced by Newton’s own presidency, guided the Grand Lodge of England in its formative years.’ (Margaret C Jacob, The Radical Enlightenment.)

Lodge rooms were school rooms in which science and citizenship were taught. Science, by demonstrations and experiments in the lodge room of the Newtonian scientific method which enabled greater prediction and control of and over nature.

Vitally and of world-wide significance, lodge rooms were schoolrooms for teaching self-government. ‘Where two or three are gathered together’, a constitution will soon follow!

Different theories of government (ideologies) are competing invented stories; in the last 300 years, the three major such stories have been liberal democracy, communism and fascism.

The first of which, contemporary with its gestation and mostly tolerant of Freemasonries, has been a Masonic choice.

Thus the idea of liberal democratic governance, in miniature, was heuristically taught in lodge-rooms through the organisation of decision-making, minute-taking and election to offices.

As well as ritual, although perhaps also through it, self-government was rehearsed in the lodge room. Lodges anticipated, and were microcosmic of, the participatory citizenship and statehood to come.

Overall, Masonic influence on British voluntary associations was in the late 18th Century setting an organisational pattern from which many types of club and society borrowed. Increasingly, Masonic links provided a spinal element in social networking, helping to underpin contacts and communications in business, politics and local administration.

Peter Clark, British Clubs and Association 1580-1800: The Origins of an Associational World, (p. 348. OUP 2000)

For much of its first 200 years, English Freemasonry was anything but secret! Lodge and festive board proceedings were fully reported in regional and local newspapers, Grand Lodge policy was debated in the columns of The Times.

Freemasons had been central in decision-making in government, business and civil society.  The 10th August 1895 edition of The Freemason reported that ‘nine members of the Cabinet were Freemasons with several ministers below that rank’.

But from 1903, with the enforced proscription of press-reporting by lodges, a bubble of pseudo-secrecy was created.

This may well have attracted some to Freemasonries; however, the chimerical nature of the ‘secrets’ soon disillusioned some who joined and not unsurprisingly, undermined public trust.

To congratulate UGLE on its 1917 bi-centenary, King George V (not a Mason) wrote, ‘The traditional loyalty of British Freemasons is a force upon which Sovereigns have ever reckoned.’

For the 1939 Board of General Purposes, there was ‘no need to emphasize the duty of Masons to their King and Country’.

The ‘secrecy bubble’ burst in 1984; urgently in need of change, the story was replaced with Policy ‘Openness’ as confirmed with the Grand Master and Grand Secretary participating in media interviews and the televising of a Grand Lodge meeting in 1992.

Arising from ‘secrecy’, many state-Masonic interactions occurred during the decade. 

However, Clark’s ‘Masonic influence’ raises the question:

Was it Freemasons combining as Freemasons taking an active role in shaping their societies or was it individual Freemasons doing this as members of non-Masonic organisations?

Should a Freemason stand for a governmental election as a Freemason on a manifesto of Masonic values seeking local lodge support and from Provincial and Grand levels? 

If not, why not?

And if not, what then might be a future relevant public role for those in Freemasonries?

The novelist John Steinbeck, probably best known for his classic novels: East of Eden, The Grapes of Wrath, and Of Mice and Men, was born in Salinas, California, in 1902.

His extended family were steeped in Freemasonry, and as might be expected, he himself became a member of the Craft.

He was initiated into Freemasonry in Salinas Lodge, No. 204, California, on 1 March, 1929; ‘Passed’ to the second degree of Fellow Craft on 12 April, 1929, and ‘Raised’ to the third, or Master Mason degree on 24 May 1929, thus becoming a fully-fledged member of the Lodge.

The liberal democracy story is based on the primacy of the individual with a governance occurring at a confluence of government, business and civil society.

Its central stories can be summarised as:- (a) the majority knows best; (b) the customer is always right; (c) equality is only possible with economic growth; and, (d) I know myself better than anyone or anything else.

However, IR4 is increasing challenging these stories; they are becoming less credible and less fit for purpose.

Perhaps this is evidenced since 2016 with less predictable voting behaviours creating an urgent need for new stories which will take into account the application of the scientific methodology driving IR4.

If by constitutional means, a British republican party was able to command a majority in the House of Commons, thereby becoming the ‘civil power’ and constitutionally replacing constitutional monarchy, how would this impact on ‘traditional loyalty?

Would English Freemasons toast, ‘The President and the Craft’? 

King James II; table with a crown in the background. Engraving by P. Landry, 1693
IMAGE LINKED:  Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

With the departure of James II in 1688, the ‘divine right of kings’ was superseded by constitutional monarchy – rule through Parliament.

The monarch remained head of the Church, but yet again, rule over the Church was through Parliament.

Thus not only was the divine right of kings abolished but, seemingly, so also was the divine right of deity. (Now a constitutional deity?)

The second Charge covers terrestrial Masonic citizenship. The first Charge, ‘Of God and Religion’ covers celestial Masonic citizenship.

’Since their publication, the Charges have been revised, altered, amended, part deleted and reworded, all many times, to meet the challenge of industrial revolutions.

Some Freemasonries claim to be ‘secular and neither a religion nor a substitute for religion’;  perhaps it is time for this to be clarified and in Freemasonries, where it is not already the case, to individuate secular from supernatural.

Some were searching for a ‘science of society’, not arrived as yet: will IR4 deliver this?

It will surely necessitate further substantial revision of the Charges. This will be covered in the following Parts. 

Article by: Gerald Reilly

Science & Citizenship

Towards a 21st Century Masonic Mindset:
Part 2: ‘Freemasonries’ and Religiosity.

By taking account of such New Testament texts as, ‘our citizenship is in Heaven’, ‘we are ambassadors for Christ’ and ‘obey God rather than man’, some early Christians were characterised by their refusal to accept Roman citizenship.

November Issue (out 1 November 2020)

Freemasonry: A Very Short Introduction

by Andreas Önnerfors

Freemasonry is one of the oldest and most widespread voluntary organisations in the world. Over the course of three centuries men (and women) have organized themselves socially and voluntarily under its name.

With a strong sense of liberation, moral enlightenment, cosmopolitan openness and forward-looking philanthropy, freemasonry has attracted some of the sharpest minds in history and has created a strong platform for nascent civil societies across the globe.

With the secrecy of internally communicated knowledge, the clandestine character of organization, and the enactment of rituals and the elaborate use of symbols, freemasonry has also opened up feelings of distrust, as well as allegations of secretiveness and conspiracy.

This Very Short Introduction introduces the inner activities of freemasonry, and the rituals, symbols and practices. Looking at the development of the organizational structure of masonry from the local to the global level, Andreas Önnerfors considers perceptions of freemasonry from the outside world, and navigates through the prevalent fictions and conspiracy theories.

He also discusses how freemasonry has from its outset struggled with issues of exclusion based upon gender, race
and religion, despite promoting tolerant openness and inclusion. Finally Önnerfors shines a light on the rarely discussed but highly compelling history of female agency in masonic and para-masonic orders.

ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area.

These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.

 

The Radical Enlightenment –
Pantheists, Freemasons and Republicans

by Margaret C. Jacob

When first published in 1981, “The Radical Enlightenment” encountered both praise and blame.

In the course of time it became a classic. In the era after 1945 the book was perhaps the first English language scholarly work to address freemasonry seriously.

“a landmark in the studies of Masonic influences regarding the period of European enlightenment” – Bruno Gazzo, Editor of Pietre-Stones Review of Freemasonry

“This book chronicles those beginning events in Europe which gave Freemasons a proud heritage of freedom and fighting for it. Try Jacob’s book. I’ll bet you buy extra copies to give to your friends.” – Jim Tresner, Ph.D., Book Review Editor, “The Scottish Rite Journal

 

21 Lessons for the 21st Century

by Yuval Noah Harari

How do computers and robots change the meaning of being human? How do we deal with the epidemic of fake news? Are nations and religions still relevant? What should we teach our children?

Yuval Noah Harari’s 21 Lessons for the 21st Century is a probing and visionary investigation into today’s most urgent issues as we move into the uncharted territory of the future. As technology advances faster than our understanding of it, hacking becomes a tactic of war, and the world feels more polarized than ever, Harari addresses the challenge of navigating life in the face of constant and disorienting change and raises the important questions we need to ask ourselves in order to survive.

In twenty-one accessible chapters that are both provocative and profound, Harari builds on the ideas explored in his previous books, untangling political, technological, social, and existential issues and offering advice on how to prepare for a very different future from the world we now live in: How can we retain freedom of choice when Big Data is watching us? What will the future workforce look like, and how should we ready ourselves for it? How should we deal with the threat of terrorism? Why is liberal democracy in crisis?

Harari’s unique ability to make sense of where we have come from and where we are going has captured the imaginations of millions of readers. Here he invites us to consider values, meaning, and personal engagement in a world full of noise and uncertainty. When we are deluged with irrelevant information, clarity is power. Presenting complex contemporary challenges clearly and accessibly, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century is essential reading.

 

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