Freemasonry is different things to different people. On one level, we enjoy the comradeship, a comradeship which owes nothing to any rigid religious discipline or codified form of behaviour, at least not outside the ritual. On another level, the organisation and practice of Freemasonry distracts, beguiles and corrupts us: many members find in it an opportunity for self-aggrandisement, and for them the search for higher rank and the illusion of self-importance become the essential pursuit.
On yet another level, we become engrossed in the forms and symbols, seeking to interpret them, to understand their true import. Then again, we may, in the practice of the form of our Craft, the conduct of our degree ceremonies, accidentally stumble across the actual content and discover truths in it of such poignant beauty and wonder, that we start to ask ourselves why we never realised it before.
Once we come to that realisation, it becomes of little interest whether this or that Lodge adheres to a belief in the Great Architect or not. It becomes of no importance at all that women are admitted to a Lodge, provided that our search for truth is founded in well-known Masonic principles – we are all creatures of the same universe, born equal, and equally able to communicate ideas of spiritual value to each other as long as the good will is there, and the necessary noblity of spirit motivates us.
Masonic history is a great diversion! Many of us delve into it with an enthusiasm we do not show in other Masonic activities. I believe that the only Masonic history worth our while is research into what our forebears, our founders, conceived as the essence of the Craft. If that essence was a proper pursuit of moral progress in ourselves, aided by spirituality, to become better men and women, and thereby to contribute to the furtherance of reason, compassion, moral conduct and goodness, then we have an obligation to follow such a Craft in that spirit. The present membership of many Masonic jurisdictions in the world deny this spiritual dimension, and appear to be profoundly afraid, even of the mention of the word ‘spiritual’, as I know from my own experience of the United Grand Lodge of England.
Let us not be diverted. The rewards can be immense.
Julian Rees was initiated in the Kirby Lodge No. 2818 in London in 1968, was Master in 1976/77 and again at the centenary of the Lodge in 1999/2000.
He is a holder of the silver matchbox award of the Emulation Lodge of Improvement, and has also served there on the Precepting Committee.
He was Master of the German-speaking Pilgrim Lodge No. 238 in 1978/79.
He was a regular contributor to the quarterly magazine Freemasonry Today since its founding in 1997 and from 2003 to 2007 he was Deputy and News Editor.
In 2003 he delivered the prestigious Wendel K Walker Memorial Lecture in New York, entitled Through Ritual to Enlightenment.
He was one of the founding members of The Cornerstone Society, serving as Secretary for a number of years, and has lectured to lodges in this country, in USA and continental Europe.
He has been honoured by the Institut Maçonnique de France with the Ordre Maçonnique de Lafayette.
He is a Past Junior Grand Deacon of the United Grand Lodge of England.
He is the author of Making Light – a Handbook for Freemasons, and The Stairway of Freemasonry – 30 Short Talks and Questions.
His two latest works So You Want To Be a Freemason? and The Tracing Boards of the Three Degrees in Craft Freemasonry Explained will be published in 2009.
Since the takeover of Freemasonry Today Julian Rees now writes for The Square magazine. His next book Ornaments Furniture and Jewels is due to be published by Lewis Masonic end 2012 or early 2013. Since the abandonment by UGLE of the spiritual dimension in Freemasonry, announced by the Deputy Grand Master in September 2011, Julian Rees has resigned from UGLE and joined the International Order of Co-Freemasonry Le Droit Humain.