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It is inevitable that many Freemasons will object to this book, if only because it overturns some cherished masonic beliefs. At least readers will be aware of the reason why, if it is in demand, all manner of excuses will be made by some booksellers for not stocking it.
One final point, which shows how easy it is to see masonic conspiracy where in reality there might be none. The episode is recounted in some detail because it has already been referred to in the press but not in the detail necessary for a balanced judgement to be reached. It dramatically affected The Brotherhood, so it is fitting that The Brotherhood should set the record straight.
Although the book is now being published by Granada, it was originally commissioned by New English Library. It was the idea of Simon Scott, managing editor of NEL. Scott approached my agent, Andrew Hewson, in the spring of 1981 after reading my Jack the Ripper, and suggested that I was the person to write it. We met, I produced a synopsis and specimen chapter, and The Brotherhood was commissioned. I began work in September 1981 and delivered the typescript to Scott in June 1982. It was to be the lead non-fiction title in NEL’s spring 1983 catalogue.
From the first, Scott made it clear that only a handful of people within New English Library would know of the project. At the time the book was commissioned, NEL was owned by a remote American cartel which did not care what its English subsidiary published so long as it showed a profit at the end of the year. Nevertheless, Scott and editorial director Nick Webb took the precaution of confiding in their managing director, a non-Mason, and getting his full backing for the book. Scott told me that to avoid the possibility of sabotage by any hostile Freemasons within or associated with the company, The Brotherhood would not be entered in any schedule. Even the advance payment was obtained from the accounts department under an innocuous and misleading project title. At the time these seemed to me excessive cloak-and-dagger activities, although I knew that the publishing world had traditionally been rife with Freemasonry.
Shortly after I started work on the book, NEL was taken over by Hodder & Stoughton, whose chairman and managing director - two brothers eminent in publishing - were Philip and Michael Attenborough, also non-Masons.
After the takeover, NEL retained its own separate management structure with its existing managing director, and in practice no editorial control was exercised over NEL books by the Hodder management. So alarm bells began to ring in Webb’s mind when, shortly after I delivered the typescript, Michael Attenborough asked to see it. He had not done this with any previous NEL book. Although Scott and Webb were anxious to get the book legally vetted, edited and delivered to the printer as soon as possible, and constantly pressed Attenborough for any comments he wished to make, he continued to sit on the typescript. This was baffling to Scott and Webb. The delay was by now beginning to jeopardize plans for a spring 1983 publication. Finally, after holding the script for nearly seven weeks, Attenborough asked Scott to gut the book and produce a precise summary of its content. This was done. The weeks continued to roll by, with no word from above. When Scott was in Frankfurt and Webb in New York, word came that the project was to be squashed. Scott flew back to London and a series of frantic transatlantic calls took place between him and Webb, then Webb and Attenborough. But by the time Webb was able to catch a plane home the deed was done. The Brotherhood was killed.
Scott’s anger knew no bounds. He fought and fought for the book, even making it a resigning issue, but Attenborough was adamant. Then Attenborough told Scott that although neither he nor his brother was a Freemason, their father - John Attenborough CBE - was a senior member of the Brotherhood, and in deference to him they would not publish it.
I went to see Michael Attenborough at his Bedford Square office in January 1983, when the book was safely placed with Granada. He said he was delighted the book would be published.
‘Are you?’ I asked. ‘Then why didn’t you publish it yourself?’
He spent some time in obvious discomfort explaining that it had not been a pleasant decision and was one he genuinely regretted having to make, but that he did not feel that the sales force would be completely behind the book and it was not a title which Hodder felt it could publish with enthusiasm.
Yet I knew that the sales force had expressed great interest in the book and were looking forward to handling it. I told him so.
I was with him for three quarters of an hour, and eventually he admitted something which he seemed nervous of confessing: he loved his father. John Attenborough, according to his son, is a devoted Freemason and a devoted Christian. In view of what I say in the book about the incompatibility of the two religions,* (#ulink_5a23ee2e-4e45-546b-bd57-1f05ec434b80) he and brother Philip realized they would cause their father very great pain by publishing The Brotherhood. Attenborough assured me that his father had not seen the script and he had not discussed the project with him.
If the incident does not demonstrate the direct power of Freemasonry over the Fourth Estate, it does offer a vivid example of the devotion that Freemasonry so often inspires in its initiates, a devotion that is nothing less than religious. So it was that the Attenboroughs made their decision to throw away £8,000 in advance royalties and thousands more in legal fees and in terms of time spent on the project by the editorial, design, subsidiary rights, promotion, sales and other departments rather than wound their father.
Scarcely a week has passed since the publication of the first edition of The Brotherhood without a call for an inquiry into Freemasonry emanating from some aspect of British society.
The Prime Minister, the Attorney General, Ministers and MPs of all political persuasions, Churchmen of most denominations, local authorities, trades unions, and many others - even Bernard Levin - have been drawn into the debate.
Apart from minor adjustments, this edition is largely as it was. But response has been so immense that the possibility of a sequel is not discounted.
Only one of the things which intrigues me is why Grand Lodge should ban Freemasons from owning, discussing or even reading the book.
(#ulink_de511f39-958e-5753-9075-4432af4afb17)From the Latin pro (before) and fanum (the temple); i.e. one outside the temple, not initiated to the rites performed within.
(#ulink_f485dfe4-038c-51a5-be38-dcf11c1dd49e)These individuals acted, I don’t doubt, without the knowledge of Grand Lodge, which always prefers to ignore the very existence of outside enquirers.
(#ulink_e9d78847-92b5-5491-bd17-78df3bbb31ab)Past or present holders of office in the United Grand Lodge are brethren of grand rank.
(#ulink_e50d28c2-fbd6-5f4c-b012-dd8bde0bba40)1 use the word advisedly. See Chapter 25 (#litres_trial_promo) - ‘The Devil in Disguise?’ - below.
PART ONE Workers’ Guild to Secret Society (#u008cf99f-f0aa-5435-a099-cd5311db03a1)
CHAPTER 1 Origins (#ulink_c9e2c8c1-c40f-5d26-9007-e3d41c556903)
Some Freemasons claim great antiquity for Freemasonry. This is reflected in the masonic calendar which is based on Archbishop Ussher’s seventeenth-century calculation that the Creation must have taken place in the year 4004 BC. For convenience, the odd four years are ignored and Anno Lucis (in the Year of Light, when Freemasonry is deemed to have begun) is four thousand years ahead of Anno Domini - so a masonic certificate of initiation bearing the date A.L. 5983 was issued in A.D. 1983. The implication is that Freemasonry is as old as Adam.
Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, masonic writers produced vast numbers of books seeking to show that their movement had a continuous history of many hundreds, even thousands, of years. Some claimed that the ancestors of the Brotherhood were the Druids or the Culdees; some claimed they were the pre-Christian Jewish monks, the Essenes. Others insisted that Freemasonry had its origins in the religion of ancient Egypt - an amalgam of the briefly held monotheism of Ikhnaton (c. 1375 B.C.) and the Isis-Osiris cult.
Modern masonic historians are far more cautious. It is now accepted that Freemasonry as practised today goes back little more than three centuries. What is true, though, is that the philosophic, religious and ritualistic concoction that makes up the speculative element in Freemasonry is drawn from many sources - some of them, like the Isis-Osiris myth, dating back to the dawn of history. Rosicrucianism, Gnosticism, the Kabbala, Hinduism, Theosophy and traditional notions of the occult all play a part: but despite the exhaustive literature - one scholar estimates that some 50,000 items of Masonry had been published by the 1950s - it is impossible to determine what comes from where and when, if only because Freemasonry on its lower and more accessible levels is opposed to dogma. There is therefore no authoritative statement of what Masons believe or what the Brotherhood stands for in the first, second and third degrees, to which the vast majority of members restrict themselves. Even a 33 Mason who has persevered to attain all the enlightenment that Freemasonry claims to offer could not - even if he were freed from his oath of secrecy - provide more than a purely personal view of the masonic message and the meaning to be attached to masonic symbolism, since this remains essentially subjective.
The comparatively short documented history of Freemasonry as an institution is nevertheless quite extraordinary. It is the story of how a Roman Catholic trade guild for a few thousand building workers in Britain came to be taken over by the aristocracy, the gentry and members of mainly non-productive professions, and how it was turned into a non-Christian secret society enjoying association with offshoot fraternal societies with millions of adherents throughout most of the non-Communist world.
In many cultures and at many times humankind has been drawn to the esoteric - the conception that the great truths about life and how to control social and natural phenomena are secrets and can be known only to initiates, who pass on their privileged knowledge to the elect from generation to generation. As one highly placed Mason told me, ‘Truth, to the initiate, is not for everyone; pearls must not be thrown before swine.’ Equally, throughout history men have joined together in secret groups to further purely worldly ambitions. All such groups also involve initiation - the initiation ceremony involving fearful oaths of secrecy. For secrets to remain secret there must be certain and effective sanctions. Secret societies formed for essentially practical ends have commonly had religious and moral elements. The religious element creates awe and so adds to the effectiveness of the oath of secrecy. The moral element determines the fraternal way that the organization’s members treat each other, which might bear small resemblance to the way they treat outsiders.
Freemasonry is both a speculative, philosophic - even religious and mystical - system, and a fraternity of those organized to help each other in material matters. For some Masons it is entirely the former, for others entirely the latter, but for most it is a mixture of the two.
Masonic historians seem as uncertain as non-Masons about who first saw in the obsolescent mediaeval Christian masonic guild an organization that could be taken over and converted into a quasi-religious, quasi-secular secret society. What evidence there is indicates that this evolution began very slowly and almost by chance, and that it was only later that the potential of the masonic guild as a clandestine power base was perceived. In other words, it appears that the original interest of the gentry in the masonic lodges stemmed from curiosity, antiquarian interest, and a kind of fashionable search for an unconventional, exclusive social milieu - rather like a jet-set fad for frequenting working men’s pubs.
There are a number of reasons why the masonic guild should have attracted this genteel interest. First, the working (or ‘operative’) masons’ craft guild was ripe for takeover, structured in the heyday of Gothic architecture in the thirteenth century,* (#ulink_7ec9a415-6e63-57ed-b582-19dd318804f4) by the end of the sixteenth century the craft was dying. King’s College Chapel at Cambridge, perhaps the last truly great English Gothic building, had been completed about 1512. Secondly, the highly skilled stonemasons of the Gothic age were peculiar in that many were itinerant workers, moving from church site to cathedral site as work was to be found. They had no regular headquarters like other trades, gathering in temporary lodges on site to discuss their affairs. And, as they often did not know each other as did permanent residents of mediaeval towns, they needed some method of recognition, some way of maintaining a closed shop to protect their demanding and highly esteemed profession against interlopers who had not undergone the rigorous apprenticeship necessary to acquire the mason’s skills. These, as Professor Jacob Bronowski termed them, were the ‘industrial aristocrats’.
There were thus cosmopolitan romance, an exclusivity and an organized secretiveness about the masons’ guild, which became increasingly moribund as baroque replaced Gothic architecture. All of this had potential fascination for men of education.
Modern Freemasonry probably originated in Scotland. The earliest known instance of a non-stonemason, a gentleman, joining a masons’ lodge is John Boswell, Laird of Auchinlech, who was a member of the Lodge in Edinburgh in 1600. Apparently the first English gentleman to join an English Lodge was Elias Ashmole, founder of Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum. An antiquarian deeply interested in Rosicrucianism, he joined in 1646. Masonry became so fashionable that as the seventeenth century progressed the ‘acceptance’ (the collective term for non-stonemasons) became the majority in the masonic Lodges. For example, in 1670 the Aberdeen Lodge had thirty-nine ‘accepted’ members while only ten remained ‘operative’ masons. But it was not long before the novelty in participating in the quaint and venerable doings of artisans wore thin. Men of fashion saw no reason to prolong association with working men, and they began to form their own gentlemen’s Lodges. Freemasonry was launched.
(#ulink_15bbe401-5146-5dec-a038-3468cf6e8a21)“The term ‘lodge’ was first used, so far as can be discovered, in 1277.
CHAPTER 2 Metamorphosis (#ulink_ac8805d9-9153-5b11-940c-220a16437019)
The ‘speculative’ Masons inherited seven fundamental points from their ‘operative’ predecessors:
(1) An organization with three grades of members: Apprentice, Fellow or Journeyman, and Master Mason.
(2) A unit termed a Lodge.
(3) Legendary histories of the origins of the masonic craft set out in the 100-odd manuscripts containing the so-called ‘Old Charges’, the oldest being the Regius manuscript of 1390, which was in verse.
(4) A tradition of fraternal and benevolent relations between members.
(5) A rule of secrecy about Lodge doings, although the Old Charges themselves were simply lists of quite ordinary rules for the guild, which members were enjoined to keep ‘so help you God’. As befitted a Christian grouping there were no blood-curdling oaths.
(6) A method of recognition, notably the Scottish ‘mason word’ traced back to 1550: unwritten but variously rendered as Mahabyn, Mahabone or even Matchpin.
(7) A thoroughly Christian foundation - the Old Charges are permeated with mediaeval Roman Catholicism.
With the demise of the original ‘trade union’ purpose of the organization and with the eclipse not only of Roman Catholicism due to the Reformation but also the waning of Christianity with the rise of science, what was left towards the end of the seventeenth century was the framework of a secretive association, likened by one authority to a peasant’s cottage ripe for development as a luxury weekend home for the well-to-do.
Serious masonic historians themselves deplore the lack of documentation about the three or four critical decades before the foundation of the Grand Lodge of England in 1717. But it was during these years that the course Freemasonry was to follow was set. It was evidently then that a few men among the small number (possibly only a few hundreds in all) of ‘accepted’ Masons must have come to see the potential of a secret society cutting across class divisions to embrace aristocrats, gentry, professional men and elements of the expanding middle class. It was to be a brotherhood which would put a string to pull into the hand of every member, and strings enough in the hands of its shadowy controllers to manipulate events - like puppet masters behind the scenes. But who these people were and just how consciously they planned or, as some have said, even plotted, is shrouded in mystery.
One thing united a majority of politically conscious people at this time: the need to preserve the gain of the Civil War of 1642-51 - the limitation of the power of the King. The ‘accepted’ Masons of the last quarter of the seventeenth century would appear to have been largely drawn from the type of people most anxious to preserve and to increase the steadily growing influence in society and government of men of quite moderate wealth and standing.
Whether Lodges as such or Masons as Masons took part in the initiative to invite William of Orange and his consort Mary to become joint sovereigns in 1688 is not known, but the suggestion is plausible. All that is certain is that by the early years of the eighteenth century a number of Masons had set their sights high: they sought a maximum of reputability. In 1716, according to Dr James Anderson (of whom more later), ‘the few Lodges at London resolved … to chuse a Grand Master from among themselves, till they should have the honour of a Noble Brother at their Head’. The stage was set for the system of tame aristocratic and royal figureheads that we know today, which confers an aura of indisputable approbation on everything to do with Freemasonry. When Grand Lodge was founded, George I had been on the throne only three years. The prominent in Masonry were poised to have a hand in the manipulation of the new Hanoverian dynasty.
Before the foundation of Grand Lodge in 1717, moves to transform the old guild into a true secret society were well under way. As the normal trade union business of operative masonic Lodges dwindled and eventually ceased, so the element of ritual based on the readings of the Old Charges - their legendary stories about the origins of the masons’ craft and their injunctions to members to obey the traditional rules - was transformed. Lodge ritual, initiations and speculative dissertations became the main business of actual Lodge meetings. At the same time, fraternal conviviality - which in the old days of operative masonry had probably been confined to a tankard or two after meetings in a local ale house - soon became a major feature of masonic society. Much was eaten, much was drunk, and much was discussed in the privacy of masonic meeting places (usually taverns) after the rather dry formal doings in Lodge were over. The ‘better’ the Lodge - in the sense of social class - the ‘better’ the conversation and the more lavish and expensive the entertainment. Masonry was already on its way to mirroring and reinforcing the class system and the emerging social order based on strictly constitutional monarchy. Whatever it was to become overseas, where no Civil War, no Glorious Revolution had yet taken place, Masonry in England was already headed towards a conservative future. The sights of its prime movers were already set on a movement underpinning a type of society admirably suited to its purposes: a stable society with limited social mobility in which a secret inner ‘Old Boy’ association could provide an environment where considerable benefit could be gained by members who knew how to ‘play the masonic organ’.
To achieve this end, though, the confidentiality of the old guild had to be reinforced. The transformation into a secret society meant the institution of formal oaths accompanied by penalties. But once again, before the establishment of Grand Lodge, very little is known of the development of ritual, particularly the oaths. There is evidence that rituals based on various incidents in legendary masonic history were tried out in different Lodges - rituals perhaps based on stories of Noah’s Ark and the Tower of Babel alluded to in some Old Charges. It is also probable that rituals based on the story of the building of King Solomon’s temple, the principal subject of present-day rituals, were ‘worked’ (the masonic word meaning the acting out of the Brotherhood’s ceremonies). But why this subject was chosen when the legends in the Old Charges give no special prominence to the story of Solomon’s temple, no one has been able to explain satisfactorily.
Formal oaths of secrecy to be sworn by individual initiates appear in a number of Old Charges containing ‘new orders’, but as these were published five years after the establishment of Grand Lodge they are possibly spurious.
Either way, no horrific sanctions are mentioned. Even so, the inclusion of an oath in the initiation rituals can be regarded as a crucial step in the creation of a secret society from the old guild.
CHAPTER 3 Schism and Reunion (#ulink_4d300bf5-b1d4-50db-83a7-7bc28885cd2b)
In 1717 Freemasonry enters properly into history. Four London Lodges alone formed Grand Lodge and owed allegiance to it. What is interesting is that a none-too-well-off gentleman, Anthony Sayer, was installed as Grand Master. The upper classes kept a low profile. They backed the creation of a central organization welding individual Lodges together, but evidently wanted this done before they assumed control. Of the four original London Lodges, the first three contained not one ‘Esquire’ between them, whereas Lodge Original No 4 was made up of seventy-one members of whom, in 1724, ten were nobles, three were honourable, four were baronets or knights, and two were generals.
In 1718 Sayer was replaced after barely a year by George Payne, a ‘man of more substance’, being a member of Original No 4. But he too had only one year in office - another interim while the upper classes moved in on the small gentry just as the small gentry had moved in on the ‘operative’ artisans a century earlier.
The third Grand Master was the Reverend John Theophilus Desaguliers, a Doctor of Law, a Fellow of the Royal Society and chaplain to Frederick, Prince of Wales, whom he admitted to the Brotherhood in 1737. He was of French extraction. A headhunter for Freemasonry, he not only visited Edinburgh to encourage the Scots along the organizational path the London Masons were following, but visited The Hague in 1731, where he admitted the Duke of Lorraine to the Brotherhood. The Duke married Maria Theresa in 1736 and become co-Regent when she acceded to the Austrian throne in 1740. How far the Duke contributed to the masonic heyday under Joseph II when Mozart, Haydn and a host of other notables were Freemasons is not known. But the cosmopolitan Dr Desaguliers certainly appears to have sparked the missionary zeal of British Freemasonry which eventually carried the movement to almost every country in the world.
Desaguliers too only held office a short time. In 1721 he gave way to the long awaited first noble Grand Master, the Duke of Montague. But, unlike his predecessors, Desaguliers was not usurped: the evidence suggests that he was the prototype of the long line of powerful masonic figures who preferred the shade to the limelight, the reality of power to mere appearances.
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