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From: PROSPER THE ART, by J, Sullivan.

Developed by W.Bro. Kent Henderson
Dip. T., B. Ed., Grad. Cert. Ed., Grad. Dip. Ed., M. Ed, Diploma of Masonic Education (Sth. Aust.)
Past Junior Grand Deacon, A. F. & A. Masons of Victoria, Australia.


Early in my Masonic career, I was struck by the statement contained in the north-east charge in the initiation ceremony to the effect that the branches of Freemasonry are spread over the whole surface of the habitable globe. Likewise, in the tracing board lecture in the first degree, I was interested in a further reference to the world-wide nature of the order, which reads as Freemasons will know: "Let me first call your attention to the form of the Lodge, which is a parallelepipedon, in length from east to west, in breadth between north and south, in depth from the surface of the earth to the centre and even as high as the heavens. The reason a Freemason's Lodge is described of this vast extent, is to show the universality of the science."


For some time, I felt that these references may have been an exaggeration or an over-emphasis of the real situation and the truth would be that Freemasonry was, in the main, a British institution with lodges functioning in the United Kingdom, In some countries formerly members of the British Empire, in parts of America and, perhaps, in a few other English-speaking areas around the world. It was with these feelings in mind that I decided to conduct an examination into this aspect of the Craft's operations. My research was carried out under the following four main headings:


(i) Is Freemasonry really spread over the whole surface of the habitable globe!

(ii) If so, why2

(iii) Is Freemasonry the same the whole world over!

(iv) The conclusion of the matter!


This, now, is as I see the universality question.


(i) Is Freemasonry really spread over the whole surface of the habitable globe?


For a start, there are more than 750 lodges on the register of our own United Grand Lodge of Victoria with two-thirds of these meeting in the metropolitan area of Melbourne and the remaining one-third in country districts. Within the six state Masonic jurisdictions in Australia, there is a total of some 2500 lodges. Outside Australia, the United Grand Lodge of Victoria recognises and enjoys fraternal relations with 110 Grand Lodges representing countries and states in other parts of the world.


But this is not the full story because there are many other countries where Freemasonry lives. Mainly because these areas are not large enough Masonically, they do not have their own Grand Lodges, but Masonic Lodges do function in these places under the aegis of what might be called "parent" or home Grand Lodges which have their headquarters in, for example, England, Scotland, Ireland, the Netherlands and the Philippines. Some of the lodges were formed in small communities by early settlers migrating to overseas colonies. Others were constituted under the sponsorship or authority of travelling military lodges, ie, lodges which were attached to British military regiments which saw service in many parts of the world in the 18th and 19th centuries.


In the matter of "parent" Grand Lodges and taking, as an example, the United Grand Lodge of England, which is the largest of them, this Grand Lodge has constituted some 47 Provincial Grand Lodges in various counties in England and Wales as well as in the Channel Isles and on the Isle of Wight. In Kent, Lancashire and Yorkshire, the counties are of such size that they have been split geographically and two Provincial Grand Lodges operate in each case.


The United Grand Lodge of England has also created a number of District Grand Lodges in certain countries to control the operations of groups of lodges formed under the English Constitution. These, in the same way as the Provincial Grand Lodges, do not have the status of full Grand Lodges. The United Grand Lodge also exercises control over smaller groups of lodges in other areas by appointing Grand Inspectors in a supervising capacity. There is a further smaller category of cases where lodges meet under the English constitution as single lodges in isolation, so to speak.

A somewhat similar situation obtains under the other "parent" constitutions to which reference has been made.


Looking at the overall situation, my researches have indicated that there are Masonic lodges in all states of Australia, including the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory; all states of the United States of America; all provinces of Canada, including the maritime provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island; somewhat surprisingly, perhaps, the Central American states, including Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama and El Salvador; the Caribbean including Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago, the Dominican Republic and even in the small areas of the Leeward, Windward and Virgin Islands; all countries in South America; the United Kingdom, Scandinavia, and most countries in Europe outside the so-called Iron Curtain (although in the latter regard, Freemasonry was a strong force in most of those countries years ago, and there are current reports that in some of those areas clandestine meetings of Freemasons take place from time to time); many countries in Africa, including some nations now regarded as "emerging" such as Botswana, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Togo; the Mediterranean area including Gibraltar, Cyprus and Malta; the Middle East in Israel, Saudi Arabia and Jordan; various parts of Asia, including Hong Kong, India, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Taiwan; and the Pacific area, including New Zealand, Papua/New Guinea, New Britain and in smaller islands such as Fiji, Guam and Vanuatu.


In the old Masonic catechetical lectures, Freemasons are told that our ancient brethren "assembled on high hills and low vales, even in the valleys of Jehosophat and many other secret places."


Today, Masonic lodges are active from Alaska, Iceland, Newfoundland and Finland in the frozen north to Argentina, Chile and New Zealand in the south, in the west and east, in the mountainous areas, in valleys, on the plains, by lakes, on the equator and on large and small islands.


To quote a few examples, there is a Lodge Polaris in Goose Bay, Labrador, Lodge Star of the South in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Lodge Mt Everest -- Lebong in Darjeeling, India, Lodge San Lorenzo Valley in Boulder Creek, California, City of the Plains Lodge in Bathurst, New South Wales, Lodge of the Lakes in Baldwin, Michigan, Lodge Equator in Kisuma, Kenya, and Lodge St Helena meeting in Jamestown on the tiny island of St Helena in the south Atlantic Ocean.


There are approximately 40,000 lodges throughout the world with a total membership in excess of five million. The Craft has spread through all strata of society -- kings, princes and other royal personages, presidents, statesmen, churchmen, military and civic leaders, men of all professions, crafts and trades, men of all races and cultures.


From the foregoing, it can be seen that Freemasonry is spread, indeed, over the whole surface of the habitable globe.


(ii) If so, why?


What is there about Freemasonry that appeals to men on a multi-national basis!


Do men join our Masonic ranks because of mere inquisitiveness, because father was a Freemason and it might be a nice family gesture to continue the association, because it could be a WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) organisation or because it could tend to improve one's personal status and possibly lead to some social or business advancement?


Or, on the other hand, do many of our candidates join because they have had the opportunity of mixing with Freemasons and their families or, as we are told, of developing a preconceived favourable opinion of the institution, a general desire for knowledge or a sincere wish to render themselves more serviceable to their fellow men!


Certainly, I believe, there have been men who have become members for one or other of the first group of reasons. But, because we do not solicit or coerce men to join our order, I hold the view that Freemasonry has flourished because there is a world-wide belief that Freemasons are respectable men. In the face of prejudice, disbelief, :scorn and sometimes prohibition, the Craft has attracted members over its long history despite the aura of secrecy which has been allowed to cloak its activities. Freemasons were seen to be men of goodwill, doing good and providing balance in the community.

It could be that many have sought to enter our portals because of our professed special regard for the equality of man, irrespective of colour, class, caste or creed -- a world brotherhood transcending individual states and individual nationalities. We hope that people are coming to the realisation that Freemasonry is not an organisation that has something to hide but is, in fact, a rather special fraternity of men dedicated to the development of character, social conscience and true charity in all men.


(iii) Is Freemasonry the same the whole world over?


To this question, there must be two answers -- Yes and No.


Yes It is the same everywhere in the sense that all Masonic jurisdictions agree on:

· the fundamental nature of the Masonic concept

· the historical part played by the ancient stonemasons in relation to the development of our speculative art

· recognition of the presence of a Supreme Being, a Great Architect, a Grand Geometer from whom all goodness springs

· the use of a Sacred Volume to act as a rule to guide our faith and actions

· the principles and tenets on which the order is based, namely brotherly love, relief and truth and the other human virtues

· the use of a ritual and associated ceremonial as the means of presenting the Masonic message.


No It is not the same in all constitutions in relation to the detailed nature of procedures, practices and general operations. There are substantial differences in approach in many matters, including modes of recognition, method of appointment of Grand Lodge officers, form of dress, regalia, types of symbols employed, lodge officers' titles, layout of temples, frequency of meetings, means of advising brethren regarding meetings, entrance of brethren into the temple, time lapse between the taking of degrees, proficiency tests for candidates before progression through degrees, toast lists at festive boards and in the use of alcohol or otherwise at festive boards.

For purposes of illustration and as a matter of interest, a number of special examples of differences are set out hereunder:


The ritual varies in matter of detail from one constitution to another. In England, for instance, there are some 20 or more rituals in use due, no doubt, to the reluctance to commit any part of Masonic workings to paper for many years. It was all left to memory, even after an agreed upon ritual was laid down in 1813, and variations have inevitably arisen from differing interpretations in different areas and, also, from a desire to retain certain long-observed customs in particular places. The Irish constitution is unusual in that it does not authorise a printed ritual but relies on an oral tradition.


In some constitutions, but particularly in lodges operating under the Grand Lodge of Scotland, all brethren, irrespective of Masonic rank, are addressed as "Brother". In many constitutions in the United States of America, Masonic lodges sponsor and give moral support to young people's organisations, namely, the Order of De Molay for young lads up to the age of 18 years, and the Orders of the Rainbow and Job's Daughters for girls. Representatives of these orders often are invited to attend Craft communications. The Grand Lodge of Ohio, in particular, makes annual "Excellence in Youth" awards to outstanding leaders in these three youth organisations.


The installation ceremony in many English lodges, by design, has a certain degree of informality built into it contrasting with the ceremony in Victoria which, especially when carried out by Grand Lodge teams, is made an occasion of formal pageantry. There is a somewhat similar difference of approach in degree work. On the other hand, visitors to English lodges are "proved" more diligently than in Victoria.


Informality is taken in some of the USA constitutions to an extent that Victorian brethren would find a little difficult to understand. In some lodges, the wearing of sports shirts with open-necked collars predominate and smoking during ceremonies is regarded as normal.


The membership roll of some lodges in south-cast Asian countries includes brethren of different religions, such as Mohammedans, Sikhs, Hindus, Parsees, Zoroastrians and Christians. In these lodges, the Sacred Volume of each religion represented is displayed during meetings.


In the USA, Masonic lodges are more involved in community service work than our Victorian lodges. American Freemasonry has sought to develop an overt image in society by active participation in community projects such as schools, children's homes, retirement villages, libraries and other public building:. Often, Freemasons are invited to lay foundation stones, or corner stones as they are termed in America, for these buildings. In the past, Victoria has adopted a rather low profile attitude in the matter of community involvement, preferring to proceed on the basis that Freemasonry's responsibility is to prepare brethren in a philosophical manner to appreciate the virtue of displaying charity and benevolence to one's fellows and to stimulate them to wish to join organisations working for worthy community causes. But, our approach is clearly changing and we may be drawing nearer to the American Freemason's way of thinking in this aspect of Masonic operations. The work of our newly-formed Masonic disaster task force as a unit member of the State's Emergency Services organisation in times of bushfires and floods and other catastrophes is a significant development in this respect.


In various countries and in some of the other states of Australia, master masons are permitted to present a number of the degree charges and addresses. Victoria differs in this regard and allows only past masters, in their role as rulers in the Craft, to make these presentations. This policy has been followed on the principal score of not wishing to do anything that could possibly endanger standards. Master masons in Victoria, however, are permitted to deliver the tracing board lectures and the wardens, of course, present the working tools.


To encourage lodges to aim for high standards of efficiency in their operations, the Grand Lodge of Ohio issues Grand Master's awards to lodges complying with a large number of stipulated requirements. This Grand Lodge also presents each year a distinguished service award to a member of the Constitution for notable service to the Order.


In many German lodges, at the point in the first degree when light is restored, the senior warden stamps his foot hard on the floor at which all brethren call out "God punishes the villain." The second degree ceremony is a joyful one with rose garlands wound around the pillars and three roses, coloured white, pink and red, are placed on the master's pedestal. For third degree ceremonies, the lodge room and furniture are completely shrouded in black with a black carpet to absorb all noise. All brethren wear a black funeral cloak.


In the Grand Orient of Brazil, the candidate at his initiation, amongst other procedures of a relatively unusual nature, is required to drink from two bottles, the first containing a sweet liquid, the other a bitter one. When his face distorts after the second drink, he is informed that Freemasons should be able to "take the bitter with the sweet." Later, his hands are washed and dried by his proposer and then passed through an open flame. After the initiation is concluded, the atmosphere changes somewhat and the candidate receives a bouquet of flowers to take home to his lady or family.


In certain constitutions, some Masonic meetings are permitted to be held in places other than temples. For example, meetings are held from time to time in the open air in some states of the USA, including Arizona, Kentucky, Maryland and Georgia. On the other side of the world, meetings have been conducted in Israel in King Solomon's Quarries or the Caves of Hezekiah which are located close to the Damascus Gate under the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. In Australia, combined meetings of lodges have taken place in the Jenolan Caves near the Blue Mountains in New South Wales.


There are many constitutions with lodges working in different languages. For example, the Grand Lodge of Quebec comprises approximately 100 lodges including a number of lodges where only French is spoken. These are referred to as Francophone lodges, the others using English being called Anglophone lodges. In the Grand Lodge of Israel, there are lodges working in Hebrew, English, French, Arabic, German and Rumanian.


In the Grand Lodge of Florida, there are four Spanish-speaking lodges. In the Grand Lodge of Turkey, there are lodges working in Turkish, English, French and German. Many other cases could be quoted.


In some overseas constitutions, the festival days of St John the Baptist and St John the Evangelist are observed as special Masonic days. These days are of special significance in

Masonic history. The inaugural meeting of the Grand Lodge of England was held on 24 June 1717 (St John the Baptist's Day) and the meeting formally establishing the United Grand Lodge of England was held on 27 December 1813 (St John the Evangelist's Day). In the past, Freemasons in some parts of England were known as St John's Men. Why the two St Johns were so honoured by the early Freemasons is not clear as it does not appear that either had any special connection with building or the craft of the stonemason.


In a number of North American constitutions, regalia may be worn at divine service on special occasions and at Masonic funerals. One of these constitutions, the Grand Lodge of Florida, has four lodges on its register formed for the sole purpose of conducting funerals.


(iv) The conclusion of the matter


Freemasonry is certainly entitled to claim that the Craft is of a world-wide character with only a few countries without a Masonic influence. As has been shown, it has to be acknowledged that there are many procedural and attitudinal differences in operations in the various Grand Lodges but these differences between "what we do and what they do" are not differences that divide. All constitutions agree unreservedly on the basics.


The fact that there are variations in approach from one country to another, from one state to another, from one district to another, is nor at all a matter for concern. Rather, the variations have developed in each area as part of local Masonic history and development, a sort of local Masonic folklore, and from a blending of the feelings and opinions of Masonic personalities in each jurisdiction over a long time, and give each area a refreshing and welcome uniqueness. This is far better than a dull uniformity which could blunt enterprise and initiative to the overall detriment of the order. It would merely be a case of uniformity for uniformity's sake and this could be inimical to our best interests.


To sum up, the all-important thing is that as we Pursue our Masonic duties and activities in our own areas and endeavour to apply the principles and tenets of the Craft to our daily lives, we can gain great confidence from the knowledge that we do not work in isolation. We have brothers in Masonry all over the world all aiming for the same basic goals.

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