The Future of Masonry
Quite recently, in conversation with a recently initiated friend of wide civic experience and mature age, active in education, he expressed his disappointment in Masonry, to the extent that he was considering leaving.
As he had come into a fine and respected lodge, his challenge could not be dismissed.
Could it be that he had developed a prejudice? Was his character incompatible with those in the lodge? These seemed unlikely reasons.
Could it be that his expectations were too high? Could Masonry not satisfy such a person?
The difficulty was that he had looked further than most brethren for those deeper meanings within our craft and he had not found brethren who could enlighten him.
These days searching questions are being asked and answer them we must, or we enter an era of degeneration in attracting only those who, having learned the floor work and passed through the offices, are then content to watch others do the same before repairing to a repast.
If that is to be the fate of our Noble Order, then it is being used for base social or business ends – the very things we are enjoined to avoid.
Many great societies have trodden that path and they have died. What keeps Masonry alive?
The answer to that most important of questions has to be the unique combination of the physical and the spiritual.
This is not a glib answer to a difficult question. The whole personal initiatory experience spread as it is throughout several degrees over an extended period, is designed and has evolved so that the contemplative mind can take its time in absorbing and bringing into practical earthly use those moral duties laid before us in our religious observances, whatever faith system each individual has chosen to follow.
That, I believe, is the nature, or character, of our fraternity. It must then be a mistake to think that, by flinging wide the doors of our Order to allow entrants after the mere formality of a peremptory interview, the perceived problems will be alleviated.
Finally, we should not lose sight of the reason for this fraternity of like-minded men – that reason is the like-mindedness of its members.
It is, after all a fraternity and not a numbers game.
Why is the apron flap sometimes up and sometimes down?
In the early days of English Freemasonry, the apron was a more or less complete lamb skin, a good deal larger than now used and void of decoration or edge lining.
When the early single ‘making’ degree was split into two, so a method of distinguishing the apprentice from the ‘master or fellow’ was needed.
If you examine some of these very old aprons, you will often find a small slit or button hole in the point of the flap that would normally flop down in front. That hole was used to attach the flap to a button on the waistcoat or similar garment, figuratively to protect the apprentice during his hard, manual labour, providing the necessary distinction.
Later on and today, English aprons became decorated with rosettes and linings that provide recognisable distinction, so the position of the flap has lost its significance.
In some constitutions, particularly those in America, plain white aprons are still used and the position of the flap retains its meaning, with a blue edge lining added to denote the master mason.
In England even today, many lodges retain the custom of positioning the flap.
There’s no harm in it and can be regarded as a lodge custom but for the above reasons it is not strictly necessary.
You will undoubtedly read at some time, dissertations on the apron that involve subjects of the spiritual and the material but there is no evidence of that appearing in any of the known catechisms of the time.
So it is almost certain that those ideas were brought into play for added mystery.
Freemasonry has ever provided fertile ground for dubious pseudo-esotericism!
The scandalous William Preston
William Preston – from 12th (1812) edition of his book “Illustrations of Masonry”
IMAGE LINKED: wikimedia Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
From the historical record of proceedings in Lodge of Brotherly Love, then meeting in London (now Howard Lodge of Brotherly Love No.56, meeting in Littlehampton, Sussex) comes the following entry for 18 December 1786:
‘All Bus.s being over the Lodge was closed Afr a Great Harangue abt. Br. Preston by Br. Js. Smith
[a visitor to the Lodge].’
Bro. Smith was a member of the ‘Tuscan’ Lodge, now No.14, but as there is no allusion to what he said respecting Preston, we can only surmise that it referred to Bro. W. Preston and some other members breaking away from the Lodge of Antiquity, No.1 [now No.2], and setting themselves up as Grand Lodge, South of the Trent, 1779-88 [under permission from the Grand Lodge of All England at York], at which latter date the breach was healed.
One does tend to think of the matter of Preston’s temporary break from the London Grand Lodge as a matter concerning only Lodge of Antiquity but here we can see that a wider concern was taking place.
Article by: Hugh O’Neill
Past Master of Craft lodges under the constitution of the United Grand Lodge of England. Member of Quatuor Coronati Lodge 2076, the world’s premier Masonic research lodge. Masonic historian and orator on Masonic topics.
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