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Freemasonry and Brotherhood

First International Masonology Simposium

23 October 2009, Ankara


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StarRed Special Project 2012 Turkey
The Centenary Celebrations 1909-2009

MW Bro Remzi Sanver
On the 23rd of October 2009 an international Masonology Symposium was assembled in Ankara under the title of “Freemasonry and Brotherhood”. The symposium was sponsored by the Grand Lodge of Turkey within the framework of The Centenary Celebrations. The Grand Lodge of Turkey did not intervene in the academic aspects of the symposium asides from determining the title, in other words, the subjects discussed were shaped independently from the Grand Lodge. In fact, the term “Masonology” is reminiscent of such an independence. It is obvious that Freemasonry is a research topic of academic historiography and furthermore the academic inspection of Freemasonry is not limited with its own historical dimensions. In the second half of the 20th Century disciplines like philosophy, sociology, law, psychology and political science have included Freemasonry in their areas of research. Although this happened in distinct aspects, it has become a field of attraction in many universities where research centers have been established to inspect this discipline all over the world. Consequently, the term “Masonology” has been proposed with a meaning of “researching Masonic history by scientific methods”, today, it has turned into “researching Masonry, with all its aspects, by scientific methods”. The purpose here is not to prove that Freemasonry is a science but the concept of Freemasonry is being inspected by many Mason or non-Mason scholars using scientific methods.
MW Bro M. Remzi Sanver, Grand Master



by W Bro Trevor Stewart

© No part of this paper may be reproduced without written permission from the The Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Turkey. HTML code is property of PS Review of Freemasonry. Project Co-Editor: W Bro Tony Pope. All rights reserved ©

The paper will centre on a story about a small, apparently insignificant little Austrian freemason at the start of the First World War but it will enlarge the frames of reference to much wider philosophical questions about the nature of our fraternity, territoriality and its possible incompatibility with the original Grand Intent of the early eighteenth-century founders of speculative Freemasonry.

I - Introduction

I am fascinated by the methodology of history. I am assuming that everyone here today has, at some time anyway, asked himself: ‘How does one do historical research properly?’ So allow me begin by offering a few preliminary considerations.

Firstly, I want to draw your attention to what may appear to be an unusual verb-form in my sub-title: ‘the doing of Masonic historical research’. I have used this word deliberately. Being engaged in Masonic historiography—pre-occupied with it and even obsessed with it (as some of us are)—is a purposive activity: one which entails intention, choices, eliminations, accumulations and assessments. It is hardly ever casual. I hope that the reasons for my choice of this active verb-form will have become clear by the time I end my offering to you today.

Secondly, speculative Freemasons, right from the founding of the premier Grand Lodge in London in 1717, have been obsessed with compiling various types of Masonic history. They have wanted to know, and to be assured of, their origins.

John Hamill has sketched out the progress of English Masonic historiography through to the nineteenth century, following on from the pioneering excesses of James Anderson and William Preston and ending up with the ‘authentic school’. But if we have thankfully altered/improved our approaches to Masonic historiography since Anderson’s day, the question still remains as to what kind of history writing we are involved in and I do not think that much consideration has been given by English Masonic scholars to the general nature of Masonic research.

It is my intention, therefore, to offer a tentative theoretical and I hope a useful model for what we might do when engaged in Masonic historical research. And I propose to illustrate the potential usefulness of this model by referring to an event which happened in England in 1915 to a particular member of the English Craft.

But before I do that, let me offer a third preliminary thought: that there is a broad spectrum of English historiography. At one end of this spectrum we could find, say, John E E Dalberg-Acton, better known as Lord Acton (1834–1902), the founding editor of the first version of the 12-volume Cambridge Modern History. Though not a Freemason, Acton was a good example of the so-called ‘authentic school’ of historians. He was Regius Professor of History at Cambridge University. He was never a prolific author. Nevertheless, the copious marginalia in every book in his vast library betray the range of his thinking and, more importantly for my present purposes, his general approach to writing history. In writing his initial report for the whole project and outlining the general principles he wished contributors to adhere to, he asserted his firm belief—and that of many other of his contemporary colleagues then—in ‘absolute history’.

Acton was also a proponent of Leopold von Ranke’s notion of ‘universal history’ and his general approach can be seen as a kind of Whig adherence to the idea of history writing being a steady progression from inferior to superior insights in which events could properly be conceived of as being sequentially linked phenomena. Thus the 12-volume Cambridge Modern History, which was Acton’s final contribution to the development of English historiography, can be seen as one of the last late-Victorian attempts of the encyclopaedist ambition to compile a total description. Hence, he could write optimistically in the project’s prospectus thus:

"[Our] Waterloo must be one that satisfies French and English, German and Dutch alike; [so] that no body can tell, without examining the list of authors, where the Bishop of Oxford laid down his pen and where Fairbairn or Gasquet, Libermann or Harrison took it up."

So the ‘authentic school’ believed that if one continued one’s researching long enough, thoroughly enough and widely enough, one would produce purely objective history, that could not—and indeed would not—be questioned by others. The writing would be objective, impartial, calm, elevated, moving authoritatively from topic to topic in stately progress. Such a blatantly confident approach is still used by many English-speaking Masonic researchers and their work may be properly regarded as being under-pinned by a late nineteenth-century Victorian imperialism.

At the other end of this spectrum one might find someone such as Edward H Carr (1892–1982), the distinguished Cambridge historian of Soviet Russia who was active nearly sixty years after Acton. Carr never held a professorial Chair but in 1961–2 he was invited by the university to deliver the prestigious G M Trevelyan Lectures. Ironically, I guess, they had been established as a living memorial to the life and work of Trevelyan, another representative of the ‘absolute history’ school. I say ‘ironically’ because Carr’s lectures, enshrined afterwards in a slim book entitled What is History?—still in print and selling well—questioned devastatingly the whole rationale of the ‘absolute school’.

Carr espoused a relativist approach to historiography and saw history as ‘a continuous process of interaction between the historian [as observer/interpreter] and his facts, an unending dialogue between the present and the past’. In other words, historians were interrogators of the documentary and other materials with which they worked and they re-invented ‘history’ each in his own generation. While the historian is and must remain objective in his rise above the limitations of his own situation in society, for Carr and his followers total objectivity is an impossibility. Hence he could write rather cynically:

The belief in a hard core of historical facts existing objectively and independently of the interpretation of the historian is a preposterous fallacy … one that it is very hard to eradicate.

Such a very different approach from Acton’s intellectual certainties of the late nineteenth century needs some explanation perhaps. Carr was working in a very different moral and intellectual climate. Two World Wars and the insidious Cold War, then approaching its fiercest configuration, had engendered in a whole generation the relativism which still characterizes much of the present thinking in academe.

Now the model which I am proposing to you today lies somewhere—I hope comfortably—between these two ends of the spectrum.


II - The proposed model

I would like you to imagine that you are standing at the edge of a quiet pool of water, a stone in your hand. You throw it into the water. There is an initial splash, and you’re you watch the ever-expanding ripples circulating out from that impact. It’s the sort of thing we have all done when we were small boys. That’s the dynamic image of doing Masonic history; it’s an image which is not static; it’s an image of ever-widening concentric circles.

Now I am aware that this image of playful childhood has its obvious theoretical limitations. For one thing, the motion of the ripples on the surface of the pool would be vertical—not linear, as I have implied. Secondly, unlike the surface of the water which will eventually return to its previous tranquillity, providing that no more stones are thrown in, there will be a Heisenberg effect brought about by the mere presence and activity of the observer. History will never be the same once a historian has done his work.

That said, what I am proposing is a model which has a three-fold nature. There is the narrowest circle: the initial impact, as it were. Surrounding that, or rather subsuming that, is a wider circle. Surrounding that second circle, or again subsuming it, is the third and widest circle. I shall label the first circle that of First Order questions; the wider circle around it, that of Second Order questions; and the widest circle surrounding both, that of Third Order questions.

Let me assign more appropriate, more accurate descriptors. The first circle is that of restricted Narrative questions, the second, that of wider Contextual questions and the third, that of broader Philosophical questions. The First Order, or Narrative, questions are the easiest to formulate and the easiest to answer. They are subsumed within the Second Order, or Contextual, questions which are more difficult to formulate and are a lot more difficult to answer satisfactorily. They in turn are subsumed within the most problematic and searching questions, the broad, Philosophical ones, that could eventually prove to be almost impossible for the researcher to answer definitively.

Let me to explain about the First Order, or Narrative, questions. These could help the researcher to establish a narrative, or chronological sequence. For example: who was involved; his/their age(s); their circumstances; where; when; what happened first, second, next and finally?

These questions could be centred on a particular individual Freemason, or a particular lodge, or a special Masonic event, or even a particular Masonic artefact. This is a perfectly legitimate approach to ‘doing’ Masonic research, but the history that it produces is somewhat restricted and of little general value.

The Second Order, or Contextual, questions would be intended to generate—as far as time, facilities and other circumstances allow—a 360-degree panorama of the subject(s) which was/were focus/foci of the First Order questions. So one would become involved in providing answers to such questions as what happened elsewhere that was similar or different; how do these other phenomena compare and contrast with the original subject of the investigation; how can the similarities or differences be accounted for.

The Third Order, or Philosophical, questions would be aimed at providing a wider, ideational context. They could raise much broader intellectual issues such as what place the original event, and any similar or contrasting phenomena, may have had in the general culture obtaining at the time.

So let me give you an example of the kind of rather limited history that has been produced over several generations by simply using the First Order questions approach. Some years ago I started to investigate the lodges’ annual torch-lit eighteenth-century public parades at night in December in the streets of towns and villages with the Freemasons wearing their regalia—much to the amusement and perhaps interest of the non-Masonic spectators who, by all accounts, would applaud and even cheer. My first sources of information were almost entirely secondary ones: the various published lodges’ histories that had been diligently compiled probably by the lodges’ Secretaries, often to mark centenaries or bi-centenaries of the lodges.

These proved to be invaluable starting points because they usually drew on original primary source materials (for example, the lodge Minute Books, the Treasurers’ account books and successive sets of by-laws) that had either disappeared, or had been lost, or could not be made available to anyone outside the lodge. Sometimes they also included quotations from contemporary non- Masonic descriptions of the processions: for example, in newspapers that had long since ceased publication and so were also unavailable. I have got to say that the published paper, still available on enquiry, was not restricted to such a non-contextual approach!

But however useful as starting points they may be for the novice, the old lodge histories are nearly always far too self-referential. It is almost as if, for their authors—and presumably for their readers who were often the majority of the subscribers—nothing much else outside the actual activities of the lodge had ever happened. The resulting ‘history’ often amounted to nothing more than self-indulgent navel-gazing.

Or again, take another way of using the model. Suppose that one wanted to write about a particular medieval religious building on which it is known that operative stonemasons had worked. There are many such sites still left in England. Of course, one could limit one’s inquiries to the First Order type of question and so a full description of the site could be produced with illustrations such as photographs and architectural line drawings etc.

But if one then started to examine, say, the masons’ marks which might proliferate throughout the building and compared similar examples from elsewhere, one might discover what other buildings the particular workmen had been employed on. By ascertaining that, one could then work out how far the medieval operative stonemasons had been prepared to travel around gaining employment on other sites as journeymen; how long they had been in those sites; how much variation there had been in their daily wages during those periods etc. In other words, one would be contextualising the particular site and so be occupied in building up a more general and a more interesting picture of the life of these workmen who had created it, whom some Freemasons would claim were our ancestors.

Or take yet another example of how the model could be applied. Suppose that one wanted to write about a very old and spectacular Masonic chair. One could give a reasonable account of it merely using First Order questions. What is it? How old is it? What are the design features? Who was the maker? How much did he charge for the manufacture? What uses had it been put to? What is its general physical condition and state of preservation etc.?

One could extend this by using Second Order, or Contextual questions. Are there any similar pieces elsewhere? Who made them? Were the designers and cabinet makers Freemasons and which lodge(s) did they belong to? Where are the pieces located? Are there any variations in the amounts which were charged for each comparable piece, perhaps as the manufacturers became more famous or became more in demand? Are there any differences in the present physical conditions and how can these differences be explained?

However, one could extend the contextual account even further by using Third Order, or ‘philosophical’, questions. What effect, if any, did the increasing use of specially designed Masonic furniture have on the development of the rituals in the lodges—they having acquired their own premises rather than continuing to use the upper rooms of taverns, as most lodges had done in the earliest decades of the eighteenth century?

How does the design of such furniture compare with what was being manufactured for the huge country houses (that is, for non- Masonic premises) in those days?

What does the use of such ‘thrones’ say about the evolving status of the presiding Masters, who in former times had simply been elected and immediately proceeded to preside over the activities without any further ceremony being used?

Should one continue to use such ancient Masonic furniture in lodge today and so risk damaging it? Or, should it rather be set aside and carefully preserved as a museum artefact and so perhaps risk spoiling the members’ awareness of their lodge’s continuity.


III - Enter Bro Gustav Petrie

Gustav Petrie, a small Austrian man of gentle and engaging disposition, was personally of no real social or Masonic consequence. It is, therefore, not very surprising that no photograph of him is known to exist. Consequently, though his story can be made out (I believe) to be of some significance, we cannot even know now what he looked like.

Gustav was born in 1866 and, being employed in his native country in some form of managerial capacity in the coal trade, he came in early 1904 to the north of England and settled in the busy port of Sunderland where most of the sea traffic was wholly pre-occupied with the ever-expanding and very profitable coal export business. He took employment with the one of the prominent local mine owners as a coal exporter and so was in charge of the loading of the many ships that plied their trade out of the harbour southwards to London and northwards to Edinburgh and Aberdeen. As far as is known, he did not marry.

It was his commercial connection with the coal trade that led Gustav quickly into Freemasonry. Both his proposer and seconder were in the same business and were members of the famous old Phoenix Lodge (now No 94). It had started sometime in the very early eighteenth century and by 1784 had built and occupied its own purpose-built premises near the river Wear, which it still uses today. He was well-liked and presumably hard-working and soon found entry into membership of the popular lodge. He was initiated on 3 January 1905, aged 39; passed as a Fellow of Craft at an emergency meeting held on 28 March that year and subsequently raised as a Master Mason on 17 May 1905. They did not waste time, those Phoenix Lodge Masons, in those days.

Gustav was not ambitious Masonically and seemed to have preferred simply to wait on his brethren at table while they dined after the ceremonies. That particular office enabled him to be become quickly known by every member of the lodge and their many visitors. He was popular, and so it is not surprising to discover that towards the end of 1906 he was invited by some prominent members of the lodge to become one of the founders of a new, ‘daughter’ lodge that had been proposed and was in preparation.

The membership of the Phoenix Lodge was over 200 and that meant younger Masons would have to wait a long time before they could be considered for election as Master. Founding a new lodge, to meet in the same building but on different nights, was the answer. That lodge still exists, Thornhill Lodge No 3216. Photographs of most of the Founders can be found in the archives of the Phoenix Lodge but Gustav seems modestly to have escaped the camera.

As in his ‘mother’ lodge, Gustav assumed modest offices and seemed willing to just wait on the tables as before, though sometimes he was appointed to act as an Assistant Secretary. His competency in the ritual was such that on several occasions he was appointed to act as the Senior Warden of his new lodge. His obvious willingness to be of service meant that he continued to be very popular and the surviving lodge records show him to be frequently a ‘stand-in’ for absentee officers.

As with nearly all new lodges, there did not seem to be any shortage of candidates for initiation, at least in the early days, and Thornhill Lodge began to grow rapidly. There were evenings when multiple degree ceremonies were worked. The average attendance of members and visitors (usually from seven local lodges) at every meeting in the first ten years was thirty-seven brethren. In the period 1907–17 there were 112 initiations into membership of the lodge, the average number each year being ten. And they were mostly young men who lived locally. Their average age was thirty-three years. Of these initiates, 38% had some sort of connection with employment at sea. Everything seemed to be progressing very satisfactorily until the end of June 1914, when the First World War broke out.

On 16 August 1914, when political affairs in Europe were desperate, Henry de Vere Vane (1854–1918), ninth Lord Barnard, the Provincial Grand Master, wrote an extraordinary circular letter addressed to all of the sixty-four lodges in his Province but without taking advice from anyone elsewhere, even from his Deputy ‘upon whom he usually relied in such things’. In this action he was to pre-empt an edict that was to be issued by the United Grand Lodge of England in June 1915.

Barnard reminded his brethren of the wording in the First Degree Charge, ‘that Nature has implanted in the bosom of every man a sacred and indissoluble attachment to the country from which he derives his birth’ and he reminded them of ‘the unwavering allegiance due to the sovereign of their native land’. Besides, he continued, ‘patriotism that involves no personal sacrifice is a useless sort of virtue’. In his opinion one of the first duties of every Freemason was an absolute loyalty to his country.

"For over one hundred years, with the exception of wars that were at such a distance from us as to cause us no serious alarm, we have never been in any real danger of having an enemy on our shores … the virtue of Patriotism – that is to say of preparedness to undertake sacrifices for the prosperity and welfare of the country … has become a living thing … but no amount of flag-waving and shouting, and protesting our loyalty will avail us against the foe … "

And, therefore, to ensure that English brethren were not disturbed by the continuing presence in lodges of foreign brethren whose loyalty to the British allies’ cause could, of course, not be guaranteed, it would be better that any German, Austrian, Hungarian, Italian and Turkish members should return to their own countries immediately. In other words, he wanted all enemy foreign Masons out of his Province even if they were fully paid-up members of any of the sixty-four lodges there.

One can understand perhaps why Barnard may have adopted this attitude. His eldest son and heir, the Hon Henry C Vane, was a serving British officer in France, and he was to die of wounds received there in November 1917.

Gustav Petrie, ever the obedient Mason, resigned from the Thornhill Lodge in November 1914 and returned to his ‘native land’. The lodge Secretary noted in the Minute Book that his resignation ‘was received with much regret at the circumstances which had caused him to take such action’. The members of the lodge felt that ‘an expression of their appreciation for his valued services in the various offices which he had so ably filled should be recorded’.

And so one of the Founders of this lodge was told to go away; that his presence, because of his foreign nationality, was deemed—by the highest Masonic authority in that part of northern England—to be no longer welcome.


IV - Applying the model to the case of Bro Gustav Petrie

Now my suggested model can be applied to the case of Gustav Petrie. However, I must admit that I have not actually answered these questions and, like most teachers, I simply know some of the questions and entertain the hope that my listeners will start to find the answers.

In others words, I hope that you find an interesting subject (if you have not done so already) and perhaps start to use this model in order to see if it helps when applied to your own Masonic circumstances.

First Order considerations

So, at the First Order, or Narrative, level one could set out, in as much relevant biographical detail as possible, the facts of what happened. I have not given you today all of the background information about this man but I have no doubt that you will know the kinds of detail about him and what happened to Gustav that would be interesting. What are his dates? Where was he born? What were his family were like? What was his employment record both in Austria and in England? What were his home circumstances while living in Sunderland? What was his income from the flourishing coal trade there? What were the various minor offices he held in the lodge which he helped to found? What sort of character did he have as noted, for instance, by any of his Masonic and non-Masonic associates in any correspondence that has survived? And so on. Who knows: even a portrait photograph of him may be found one day in a neglected, dusty cupboard somewhere.

Gustav’s story is not long or complicated and assembling this data, in response to First Order questions, would not take too much time or trouble. The chronological account could use primary source materials which are still freely available: such as the Lodge’s relevant Minute Book, the Treasurer’s Account Book for the period; the menus which Gustav served while waiting upon his brethren at table; pictures of the Lodge room and the adjoining dining room and of the ships in the nearby harbour with which he was associated professionally. Copies of Barnard’s circular letter to his lodges still survive, as do a few other relevant records about him in the archives based in the Provincial Secretary’s offices.

Second Order considerations

First Order, or Narrative, questions would produce a basic biographical and/or chronological account. But it would be hardly very interesting. Second Order, or Contextual, questions—if applied systematically—would help to ensure that Gustav Petrie becomes someone rather more important, and in order to generate a 360-degree panorama of what happened to Gustav in 1914 one could begin by asking question such as these:

- What, if anything, happened to German- or Austrian-born brethren in any of the other lodges in the same area, and in other parts of England, and even in other English-speaking countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa, where there were UGLE lodges?

- If anything comparable did happen, how many such brethren were involved?

- What reaction(s) transpired among the brethren in their various lodges?

- What happened to lodges in England where there were perhaps several or even many foreign members, especially where they held offices at the time of the out break of World War I?

- The famous Pilgrim Lodge, now No 238 and founded in 1779, which meets in Freemasons’ Hall in London and which works its Schroeder-type rituals in German, closed down voluntarily throughout the First World War. Did that happen to any other UGLE lodges?

- Did lodges in ‘enemy’ countries treat English-born Freemasons, who happened to be working in Germany, etc, and who were fully paid up members of lodges there, in the same hostile way? If so, how many such Freemasons were involved? What did they do? Did they repatriate?

- This incident involving Bro Gustav seems xenophobic; how did it relate to the general climate of rampant xenophobia then prevailing in most English-speaking countries—a climate that was fostered constantly in Britain by newspapers, on posters, in some popular novels and in adventure films shown in the cinemas up and down the land?

- How did Barnard’s circular letter compare with what was decided by UGLE in that extraordinary Communication which it held in the Café Royal in June 1915?

- Did other English Provincial GMs, and District GMs overseas, anticipate that Grand Lodge decision in quite the same way? Did they try to explain their decisions in similar circular letters?

- What, if anything, happened in lodges where there were brethren who were German-born, Italian-born or Japanese-born nationals during World War II?

- Was the reaction by Masonic authorities to the presence and membership of any enemy nationals in UGLE lodges different in the Second World War period? What happened to, say, Japanese-born nationals who happened to be resident in the USA and who were members of American lodges at the outbreak of World War II? How did their American brethren treat them?

The Grand Lodge debate: June 1915

A significant part of providing the panoramic context would be to be to discover and then set out what the Grand Lodge in London did in laying down a general policy and the consequent procedures to be adopted.

The crucial meeting was the Grand Lodge Communication held in June 1915, by which time the War had been proceeding into horror for more than nine months and the numbers of casualties had begun to mount. By then the original patriotic optimism at the outbreak of hostilities that ‘it would all be over by Christmas’ had already proved to have been too much of a misdirected fantasy because comprehensive newspaper accounts of the unanticipated set-backs started to reach the anxious relatives of allied service personnel waiting at home.

The debate in the Grand Lodge was itself extraordinary both in its timing and conduct. It started in the famous Café Royal in the afternoon of 15 June at 4 pm and lasted until after 10 pm that night. Many brethren wanted to speak, and tempers were raised. The Assistant Grand Master, presiding as Grand Master pro tem, had to gavel no less than five times and to reprimand with increasing impatience the vexatious members who raised their voices and kept interrupting each other and, in the heat of the moment, forgot the usual, sedate debating procedures that normally characterize Grand Lodge proceedings. Eventually he had to command them to ‘respect the Chair’.

The matter which exercised the brethren on that summer’s afternoon and evening was what should or could they do about German nationals. The Grand Secretary had been receiving many inquiries from individual lodges about what they ought to do when foreign ‘enemy’ members were in their lodges. It was not just a simple matter of such men continuing to hold their memberships and so possibly continuing to attend the meetings. The following were the sorts of questions that were troubling them and which were voiced from among the assembled brethren.

- What should lodges do if they had a member who was from an enemy nation and, though he went back to his native country to fight on the opposing side in the war, he continued to pay his annual subscriptions? Was he to be regarded as a ‘normal’ member of the lodge? Indeed, could the lodge continue to be regarded by the other members and by him as ‘his’ lodge?

- If he were to be absent from the meetings—for obvious reasons—could he be regarded as having ceased his membership, at least until the anticipated eventual end of the then current hostilities? After all, most Englishmen at that early stage in the war were under no doubt that they would win and that Germany and her allies would be defeated.

- Suppose such a brother were to be wounded, could his English-born wife (and children if any) make a claim in the usual way for UGLE charity?

- Indeed, could he make a claim for UGLE charity if he were invalided out of his national service but continued to live in his native land? What would happen if he were killed in action? Could his widow, perhaps English-born, claim relief for herself and their dependent children, especially if they continued to reside in England?

[Such delicate financial concerns were important since those charitable funds had been accumulated from regular annual donations collected by the lodges from the ‘normal’ members.]

- What would happen if, after the cessation of hostilities and everything got back to normality and lodges began working as usual, German-born nationals were to start re-attending their English lodges to which they had (somehow) continued to pay their annual subscriptions? Could they, in such circumstances, claim their original places in the line of office bearers in succession towards the Chair—as had obtained at the start of the war—as though they had merely been away ‘working’ abroad like many other foreign-born brethren had done in the past?

- Suppose such a foreign-born national were to attend his lodge and present on that occasion there was an English-born gentleman who was on active service but home on leave. How could they both sit in the same lodge room? Why should the latter be obliged to sit alongside someone from an enemy nation, especially as he had been only a few days previously fighting against men of that enemy nation? What if the English-born brother had been wounded in the conflict? Should he be expected to sit in his lodge alongside (aged) male relatives of a younger foreign national who had returned to his native land to fight on the enemy side while they had continued to live and work and pay their taxes in England and also attend their lodges?

- What should happen should such a wounded English brother, recovering from his wounds in England, managed to attend his lodge proudly dressed in his uniform (as many brethren had started to do) and there found a brother, a German soldier (though not in uniform) who was a subscribing member of that same lodge or perhaps a subscribing member of a visiting lodge who had been fighting on the opposing side?


Tempers were raised and at one stage someone yelled across the floor in attempting to set out his English case for not regarding such enemy members as legitimate brethren: ‘After all, are we here not all loyal Englishmen first?’ An interesting and revealing repost was immediately yelled back at him from several quarters: ‘No! We are all here in this Grand Lodge first as Freemasons and not as Englishmen!’

These sorts of question were not theoretical but were voiced by lodges’ Secretaries seeking practical advice and ‘solutions’ if possible and if such cases were to arise.

The Board of General Purposes decided, following the advice of the then Grand Secretary, that it was no use him just issuing advice to individual lodges on an ad hoc basis. Some order or systematically determined policy would have to be introduced. After all, as one of the brethren present opined: in 1915 it was German nationals and their like who were under consideration because of their vicious prosecution of a disastrous war against England and her allies, but only a few decades previously—at the start of the nineteenth century during the Napoleonic wars—it would have been the French who were England’s enemies and the Germans and German-speaking nations who were England’s allies.

The case of Bro Benedict Arnold during the American Revolutionary War against Britain in the eighteenth century was cited by one brother by way of explanation. Arnold had been properly been regarded by the American Patriots as a notorious traitor to their cause and he merited whatever punishment the law, as it was then manifested in the new state, could devise. But he was not expelled from the Craft by his American brethren, since he had not been tried and found guilty of any Masonic crime. Yes, his actions in support of the British cause were properly regarded by them as constituting civic treason but, strictly speaking, he had not violated their Masonic constitutions.

According to the opinion which prevailed in the United Grand Lodge of England on that day in June 1915, as shown in the voting numbers, the same circumstances applied. These unfortunate foreign nationals—if they continued to pay their annual subscriptions and these subscriptions continued to be accepted by their lodges and they were not convicted of any Masonic ‘crime’—must be entitled to consider themselves and be considered by others in the English Craft as legitimate members of lodges under the UGLE.

The most that the Grand Lodge could do was to recommend to such brethren—indeed to urge them—that they cease to attend their lodges for the time being (that is, until current hostilities eventually ceased) so that the sensibilities of other, English-born members who were attending were not violated by their continuing presence. In other words that they should stop attending temporarily so that they could not be accused of disturbing the love, peace and harmony of the particular lodge—‘which should at all times characterize Freemasonry’—simply by being present. If they were to continue to attend, as they were perfectly entitled to do according to Masonic jurisprudence, then subsequently they could possibly lay themselves open to a Masonic charge of deliberately disturbing the lodge. In such circumstances an appropriate Masonic charge could be brought against them under existing rules in the Book of Constitutions and, if convicted on that charge and somehow continued to claim that they could attend, they could be expelled from the Craft.

The legal problem was explained at length by the Grand Secretary. If such foreign-born nationals continued to pay their annual subscriptions, the lodges had to continue to receive those subscriptions because at the time of paying they were still Freemasons under the English constitution and by paying they were obeying the lodges’ requirements as set out in their by-laws. Hence, if such subscriptions were paid, and those foreign-born brethren were not in arrears, they had to be regarded as members until such time as they, for whatever reason(s), ceased to pay.

For instance, they could be regarded under the lodges’ by-laws as meriting exclusion by those lodges if they simply ceased to pay on their own volition and became ‘in arrears’. In such circumstances, they would cease to be regarded as fully-paid members of their English lodges. They could be proceeded against by the individual lodges according to procedures set out in their by-laws and if, on proper inquiry, they were to be found not to have been in ‘good standing’, they could not continue to be entitled to attend those English lodges.

The Grand Lodge, having deliberated and set out the broad policy to be adopted, was it actually adopted? What evidence in lodges’ Minute Books signals that it was either obeyed or ignored?

A few Third Order considerations

These are just a few of the initial Second Order possibilities. And answering these more general Second Order, or Contextual, questions would take a lot longer than answering the First Order type. After all, the primary sources may well be scattered geographically. That would necessitate some travel and expense. They may be in varying and depleted physical conditions that would make transcription difficult and time-consuming. They could be written or printed in foreign languages and so translations could have to be made. Compiling large amounts of statistical data could involve devising suitable charts, graphs and tables to display the evidence succinctly, and could even entail the use of various methods of statistical analysis. The sheer amount of the assembled data could necessitate the co-operation of a co-researcher or two. And that possibility itself would open up a whole different and interesting development in the conducting of the Masonic research project because usually it would be a solo, or solitary, pre-occupation.

But what of the wider Third Order, or ‘Philosophical’, questions which subsume the two previous ones? How could one relate this particular to more general cultural considerations?

I believe that the case of Bro Petrie raises some important Masonic considerations. I shall illustrate this possibility by mentioning just two.

For instance, how far and in precisely what ways is membership of the Craft compatible with—to use Lord Barnard’s phrase—‘absolute loyalty’ to the state? That question may not arise in circumstances where the legitimate civil authority does not persecute the Craft and indeed encourages it. For instance in England and Scotland, from the Hanoverian era onwards, leading aristocrats, politicians, ecclesiastics and even members of the Royal Family, have been prominent and active members of the Craft, while in the USA, from the days of George Washington onwards, leading politicians and other notable personalities have sought and enjoyed membership of the Craft there.

In most English-speaking countries the Craft has enjoyed the ‘protection’ of the established state. One can understand why this might have become so in Britain since the early decades of the eighteenth century. The Hanoverian dynasty were not all that secure in their tenure of the throne (for example, with the Jacobite incursions into England in 1715 and 1745) and it is not surprising that six sons of King George III were encouraged to became prominent members of the Craft. That association of the Craft with the highest levels of British society has continued. The Craft is woven into the very fabric of the British establishment. It is a fairly happy association that has evolved and one which seems to work.

But what happens where the established state persecutes the Craft (for example, in France under the Terror during the Revolutionary period, in the Austria-Hungarian Empire under Emperor Joseph II, and in Nazi Germany)?

How far are members of the Craft, because of the oaths which they take as Master Masons, expected always to obey the expectations and even the commands of legitimate state authority? Are there circumstances in which Freemasons of a particular country might find their Masonic obligations at variance with the state’s requirements? Is loyalty to one’s state always superior to the demands of the Masonic oath? What if the state’s commands were patently immoral? What if the state demands that Freemasons betray their brethren to the secret police because membership of the Craft is defined by the authorities as a threat to the state security and those authorities have a legal responsibility to protect the citizens generally?

The history of Freemasonry brings many examples where Freemasons, for example when serving as fighters on battlefields during wars, have ‘forgotten’ their civic obligations to kill the enemy (as defined by their state) and, having found a wounded ‘enemy’ fellow Freemason, have treated him well and even rescued him from peril. How does such a member of the Craft reconcile his civic duty to protect his state or country, possibly at the cost of his own life, with his Masonic obligation towards another Freemason ‘not to injure himself myself or knowingly cause or suffer it to be so done by others, if in my power to prevent it’?

What if their superior officers, who may not be Freemasons themselves, learn of their subordinates’ humane actions towards the dreaded enemy on the battlefield, how would they react to the news? Would the benevolent Freemason who helped or even rescued the wounded ‘enemy’, deserve a court martial for disobeying the legitimate orders of a superior officer who would be functioning dutifully in complete obedience to the established authorities of their country?

The other interesting question which this case seems to raise is that of ‘territoriality’. How far, and in what ways precisely, can Freemasonry be regarded as just belonging to mere geographical locations? Is German Freemasonry restricted to only Germany? Or is the French Craft only for France? Or can English Freemasonry only be for England? Is the prevailing ‘territorial’ mentality, which has evolved over generations, compatible with the original ‘Grand Intent’ of the early eighteenth-century originators which was ‘Masonry universal’? That important phrase did not mean that they believed every man could, and should, become a Freemason but that they assumed the Craft would emerge everywhere eventually where there were some men of goodwill of a broadly similar disposition towards mutual tolerance, a general desire for knowledge and one of trying to render themselves more extensively serviceable towards their fellow human beings.

Perhaps in these fast-flowing days of the Internet, 24-hour news-gathering, and democracy, Grand Lodges could find it increasingly difficult to exercise their traditional forms of control over their members by restricting international communication at various levels and in various ways.

Furthermore, the whole problem of ‘recognition’ could be brought into play. This is something that the United Grand Lodge of England, acting as primus inter pares, has had recently come to that the world has changed rapidly and is continuing to do so; that the established ways of regarding foreigners who claim to be Freemasons have to be adjusted because those controls have become incompatible with the equally legitimate expectations of younger members whose daily lives at work involve travel and frequent international communication.


V - But what happened in Sunderland eventually?

As I hope you might imagine, that was certainly not the end of Gustav Petrie’s story. There was an interesting sequel to the events of November 1914.

In the middle of September 1920, when the stricken survivors of World War I were trying, at home and internationally, at the personal and at the political and governmental levels, to get things returned to some form of peaceful normality, Gustav Petrie returned to Sunderland and visited the lodge which he had helped to found. He had kept writing to the lodge—his occasional letters to his English brethren are carefully preserved in the lodge’s Minute Book of the period—and, presumably they replied to him though (as yet) their letters to him have not been traced.

Imagine, if you will, what could well have been the atmosphere in that ancient lodge room when he walked in as a visitor. After all, seated there—according to the records—were at least two aged members of the lodge who had lost close, younger relatives during the horror of that awful calamity that had just ended.

What is more, he gave greetings to the Master and the assembled brethren from his Johannes Lodge (his Craft or Blue lodge) and then from his St Andreas lodge (his ‘Green’ lodge, from the French word Ecossais, meaning ‘Scottish’). St Andreas lodges form the second stage in the Swedish Rite. They work the fourth to sixth degrees in a system or sequence of eleven degrees that is practiced in northern Europe.

Clearly, he’d found a new Masonic ‘home’ and had joined a Johannes (or St John’s or ‘Blue’ Craft) lodge while he had been exiled outside of England. ‘So what?’ you might say.

Well, the important thing is this. The Swedish Rite has not been worked in Austria. It is a northern European Masonic phenomenon. Therefore, the only possible conclusion could be that Gustav had joined a German lodge which worked the Swedish Rite after he had left England and had progressed through the system to achieve at least the fourth degree. And yet, within a mere two years of the conclusion of the Great War, here he was giving greetings to an English lodge as a German Freemason. And the remarkable thing that happened was that the English brethren greeted him warmly as a long-lost brother! And the Secretary recorded his delight in being able to write in the Minutes about the enthusiastic reunion which took place.

That simple, humane gesture by those ordinary, unimportant Freemasons in Sunderland in September 1920—more than any of the rather pompous and even pious self-justificatory expressions by higher Masonic authorities made in London and elsewhere at the time—restores my own faith in what exposure to the associationalism of Freemasonry can bring about in the hearts and minds of most ordinary men. It is, I suppose, a small but telling demonstration of the possible transition from the rough to the smooth ashlar, something to which surely we all aspire!

Short Biography of the Speaker


Trevor Stewart is a retired lecturer who was educated at Birmingham, Sheffield, Durham and Newcastle Universities. His academic work specialised in English eighteenth-century English literature and his doctorate research focussed on a coterie of gentlemen freemasons who lived in the north of England in the Enlightenment period. Trevor has continued to give fully documented papers on various masonic subjects in American, Belgian, English, French, German and Scottish lodges. He has also taught in history seminars at Cambridge, Oxford and Harvard Universities (2004) which focussed on newly discovered contributions which early eighteenth-century English freemasons made to the development and spread of 'Newtonianism'. In October 2007 he was invited by the Pennsylvania Grand Lodge Masonic Academy to give his paper on 'A Way Forward - some seminar techniques'. Trevor contributed papers on Freemasonry in the Enlightenment period to international conferences held at the Canonbury Masonic Research Centre (London), the University of Bordeaux and the first and second international UK conferences on the history of Freemasonry in Edinburgh (2007 & 2009). He has published several other papers in the annual transactions of the Quatuor Coronati Lodge (AQC) and of the Leicester Lodge of Research, in Hibiscus (GL of Florida) and in The Ashlar, the leading Scottish masonic quarterly. He edited two volumes of The Canonbury Papers (2005 & 2006) for the Canonbury Masonic Research Centre (London). In 2004 Trevor was appointed by the United Grand Lodge of England to be its Prestonian Lecturer. He is a Past Master of three English Lodges, including the Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076 (English Constitution) and is currently Depute Master of Lodge 'Sir Robert Moray' No. 1641 (a research lodge in Edinburgh). He edited 'From Across the Water' an anthology of eight past papers from AQC on North American Freemasonry in the colonial era.

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