Masons cut out the flam and get straight to the handshakes






Masons are cutting their meetings short to accomodate busy commuters – but the handshakes and the noose remain centre stage


  • For centuries outsiders have been fascinated by their mysterious combination of arcane symbols, practices and props, amid the allure of a powerful cabal.
  • But Masonic gatherings are now being overhauled to drag them into the modern world.
  • The traditionally lengthy meetings, whose initiation rituals are at the heart of Masonic societies, are being replaced with more quick fire affairs to cater for busy executives.
Masonic illustration

Masonic illustration Photo: Alamy

A new lodge has opened in southern England for professionals and office workers whose punishing working hours prohibit them from attending the more long-winded meetings of the brotherhood.

The Lodge of Brevity dispenses with much of the bureaucratic elements which traditionally open Masonic meetings such as reading the minutes of previous meetings and noting apologies for absence – in order to get straight to the heart of the matter; the reciting of key phrases, the rolled-up trouser legs and the handshakes.

All were trying to do is attract a few new members. Were not trying to take over the world.

Member of Provincial Grand Lodge of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight

The idea is to allow Masonic meetings to begin later in the evening, enabling commuters to arrive in time for the start of the rituals.

David Foot, communications officer for the Provincial Grand Lodge of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, told The Telegraph: We can no longer afford to have meetings which last for hours. Its simply off-putting for would-be members who have all sorts of competing pressures, such as work and family demands.

In todays world its impossible for busy people to leave work in time to get to a lodge meeting that starts at 5 or 6pm, so the Lodge of Brevity meetings will start at around 7.30pm. They will also be shorter, which means they wont eat into precious family time so much.

By dispensing with mundane business such as the reading of the minutes which usually takes an hour and can all be done beforehand on-line we can get on with the substance of meetings and still get home at a decent time.

By the substance of things Mr Foot of course means the ritual that accompanies all lodge affairs, such as swearing oaths of allegiance to the Crown and the law on a sacred text and the initiation of new members.

“Members are just as likely to be dustmen and office workers as doctors, civil servants and bank managers.

David Foot, Hampshire mason

The initiation ceremony involves the existing members staging a short allegorical play in which significant phrases are uttered to symbolise the journey of the new member from a childlike state of innocence, through to living a full and worthy life to preparing for death.

At one point a noose is placed around the neck of the applicant, to symbolise the cutting of the umbilical cord.

As the novice passes through each stage, a special handshake, known as the Grip which cannot be repeated or demonstrated outside of lodge meetings – takes place between members.

The brotherhood hopes the new fast-track meetings adopted by the Lodge of Brevity, based in Chandlers Ford, near Eastleigh, Southampton, will also help attract new members and stem the long-term decline in new blood being initiated into lodges.

Masonic symbol on door of Lodge in Langport, Somerset

Masonic symbol on door of Lodge in Langport, Somerset Photo: Alamy

The United Grand Lodge of England which draws together the countrys lodges , has lost as many as 100,000 members over the past 20 years about a third of its membership from its post-war peak, when men who had experienced the camaraderie of life in uniform looked for organisations to continue that in peacetime.

The secretive rituals of the Masons, and the public suspicion that they are secret society exerting a hidden influence on society, have long inspired works of fiction from the Marquis de Sades Juliette to The Da Vinci Code.

But modern-day Masons insists their affairs are much more benign and mainly involve charitable work carried out amid a clubbable atmosphere the organisation donates 30 million a year to charity.

Indeed Mr Foot points out that new lodges, far from being the preserve of captains of industry, financial moguls or high court judges and civil servants, are organised around more mundane lines. They include a rugby lodge, a yachting lodge and a motor sport lodge called Chequered Flag, which was recently consecrated in Southampton and has over 230 brethren, or members.

Secret Brotherhood of Freemasons

Secret Brotherhood of Freemasons Photo: History Channel

Mr Foot said: A new member could be sitting down to dinner with a vicar on one side and a plumber on the other. Members are just as likely to be dustmen and office workers as doctors, civil servants and bank managers.

The Masons have launched a membership recruitment drive ahead of the organisations 300th anniversary in 2017.

Early lodges were formed as a non-sectarian, socially egalitarian forum in which men of integrity could fraternise, while avoiding the vexed issues of religion and politics.

Frequently meeting in coffee houses they adopted the working tools of the stonemason the square, compass and apron as their symbols, to denote the building of an upright life.

Close up of a plate glass window showing masonic symbols in a Freemasons Lodge

Close up of a plate glass window showing masonic symbols in a Freemasons Lodge Photo: Alamy

In some countries however, masons did become shadowy groups of men operating within the establishment in opposition to democratic forces.

In Italy the P2 or Propaganda Due – lodge drew together senior intelligence and military officers, industrialists and right wing politicians, including Silvio Berlusconi, as a state within a state, with the intention of keeping the left from power. P2 was also active in Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina, in support of the countries military dictatorships.

British masons are at pains to emphasise they have no such subversive ambitions.

All were trying to do is attract a few new members, said a member of one of the new Hampshire lodges. Were not trying to take over the world.












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Diario Masónico

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