Numbers in themselves are not that
important. In many cases the only reason
we need large memberships is to finance the
large buildings we have inherited from our
predecessors and to continue to fund the
many charitable programmes they started.
What surely matters is the quality of the
men we bring into Freemasonry, the moral
and spiritual lessons they learn from their
Masonry and practice in their lives, and what
they, in turn, put back into the Order.
In England over the last 20 years we have
suffered from a great deal of spiteful attacks
on the Craft. This has had a considerable
effect on men in certain professions from
which we traditionally drew quality
candidates and future leaders. It became
clear that joining Freemasonry was not
a smart career move.
To counter these attacks we began a
programme of much greater openness and
persuaded our brethren that there was much
in Freemasonry of which they could be
justifiably proud and about which they
should talk to their families and friends.
In promoting openness we stressed our
charitable work and the effect it has on our
local communities. In this we have been
almost too successful and Freemasonry has
been perceived as simply another major
charitable organisation, with even our
members at times forgetting the other two
Great Principles of Brotherly Love and Truth.
Explaining Charity is easy, it has tangible
results. Explaining philosophical concepts
such as Brotherly Love and Truth is much
more difficult because they can be
understood on many different levels.
We describe Freemasonry as a very
personal journey of self-discovery leading to
self-knowledge. It is a journey which aims to
make the individual a better person, and
thereby able to lead a more fulfilling life and
be of more use to his fellow man.
Freemasonry has many virtues, but one
which I have encouraged our members to use
to promote our Order is tolerance. There can
be few other organisations in today’s world
that practice the degree of tolerance we find
in the Craft – accepting all men of good faith.
We are not concerned with a candidate’s
nationality, colour or social status, nor with
his religious or political persuasion. We care
only that he has a belief in a Supreme Being,
has a general desire for knowledge and wants
to be of service to others.
We also require candidates to have what
our Emulation ritual describes as ‘a perfect
freedom of inclination’ – our forebears who
wrote our rituals realised that to be openminded
is a prerequisite for an Order which
teaches us to be open-hearted.
I am often asked in England whether
Freemasonry is relevant to modern society.
I firmly believe that it is more relevant today
than at any time in the past. We live in an
increasingly selfish and materialistic world
in which basic moral values are regularly
challenged or ignored. Freemasonry, with
its insistence on high standards of conduct
and its practice of tolerance, is a much
needed counter-balance and provides a
moral and spiritual anchor for men at a time
of great uncertainty. It also teaches them
leadership qualities which are so needed
by society nowadays.
Trust is another Masonic characteristic
which we should be emphasising to potential
candidates and others. It is linked to our first
Grand Principle, Brotherly Love, is one of
the lessons of our Third Degree story, and is
the mortar with which the trowel binds us
together. You do not have to be a Mason for
very long before you learn first hand the
importance of trusting and being trusted.
Developing qualities of tolerance, trust
and discrimination leads us eventually to
wisdom and Truth. Truth, our third Grand
Principle, is at once the lowest rung on the
Masonic ladder when it is solely concerned
with morality and the highest rung when it
is considered as an aspect of Divinity.
Truth depends on our sense of what is
true for us personally and for that we must
listen to our conscience, the voice of nature.
The principles and virtues of Freemasonry,
as taught in our rituals, have much to offer
a society in need of tolerance and trust.
If we are to attract younger men into
Freemasonry we have to be clear about what
Freemasonry is for and be willing to discuss
with them the principles on which it is
founded and their relevance to modern day
life. Young men nowadays shy away from
dogma and doctrine and are educated in
a way that makes them question everything
before they do it. Freemasonry has no
dogma or doctrine: it is a system which
teaches us the process by which we can
become more enlightened.
If we wish to encourage more men to
join us we must be able to answer their
questions in contemporary language and
in a way that inspires them. And once they
do join, we must put all our efforts into
retaining them by helping them to bond
with the other members of their lodge, and
giving them something worthwhile to do
as soon as possible after their initiation.
We have been gradually putting these
ideas into practice in England and in my
travels at home over the last year I have
sensed a new spirit of optimism. We are still
losing members at an average of 1% a year,
but the annual intake of new initiates appears
to be stabilising at about 8,500.
It is early days yet and we will continue to
look at new ideas to strengthen our message
and make the public more aware of our
existence. We should not be afraid of
change or of new ideas. For over 400 years
Freemasonry has had the ability to adapt
itself to a changing society without altering
its Grand Principles or Landmarks.
Provided we remain centred, manage
change and allow ourselves to listen to the
“voice of nature” I believe we can continue
to provide what is undoubtedly the largest
and best known male initiatory system in the
MW Grand Master, it has been four years
since Pamela and I last visited your Grand
Lodge and as always it has been a real
pleasure to be with you again in New York.
Thank you for your outstanding
hospitality and the warmth of your
welcome, and may the happy relationship
between our two Grand Lodges and our two
countries long continue.
The Citation presented to Lord
Web site created by Mark Griffin