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Rudyard Kipling

On this page you also read five Masonic Poems by Kipling:
The Mother-Lodge
L' Envoi
The Palace
The Banquette Night


The Lodge of Hope and Perseverance, No. 782, English Constitution in Lahore, Punjab, India was seeking a Secretary. The year was 1885 and there was a new resident in Lahore, a young man, not yet of legal age, employed as an assistant editor of the provincial newspaper. His father was a Freemason, a notable artist, and Curator of the Lahore Museum. It was suggested that the son was eminently suited for the vacant office, and thus, at twenty years and six months, Rudyard Kipling became a Freemason and Lodge Secretary in a Masonic connection that influenced his life and writings through many years. During those years his fame grew as, in Somerset Maughamıs appraisal, ³our greatest storyteller² . To recall something about Kiplingıs engagement with Freemasonry is the purpose of this presentation. To read Kipling with an eye for Masonic references is an interesting enterprise. Others have found it so and have written on the subject. In his ³The Life of Rudyard Kipling² , C. E. Carrington makes several references to the Masonic influence. I have drawn on this and other sources in bringing this presentation to you on Kipling, the Man and Mason.

Joseph Rudyard Kipling: 1865 - 1936

Joseph Rudyard Kipling was born at Bombay, India on December 30, 1865, the son of John Lockwood Kipling and Alice MacDonald Kipling. His father had gone to India to accept the post of Principal of the newly founded Sir Jamjetjee Jejeebhoy School of Art. His parents were gifted persons; his mother, Alice, sparkling and elegant, established her claim to his ambiguously aimed dedication in Plain Tales from the Hills , ³To the wittiest woman in India². One of her sisters was the mother of Stanley Baldwin, another was Lady Burne-Jones. At five years of age, Rudyard was brought, by his parents, to England and spent five unhappy years with a foster family in Southsea, an experience he later drew on in Baa, Baa, Black Sheep (1888). He then went on to the United Services College, Westward Ho!, near Bideford in North Devon where he remained until his school years were over and he returned to India to become a member of the editorial staff of the ³Civil and Military Gazette² in Lahore. Here he rediscovered the land of his birth and developed the flair for writing that had already marked his school years at Westward Ho!. It is recorded that ³After the paper had been put to bed in the sultry Indian midnight, he would find his way into the old walled city² to sense the mystic atmosphere of that colourful land and its ancient people, and to exercise a talent for absorbing background and for storing in his memory impressions and incidents which provided material for a half-century of literary production. In the bazaars, from all sorts and conditions of natives, from police officers, and from service people, he gathered copy that was to be the basis of many poems and stories. His biographer says that ³One of the channels by which he penetrated the underworld was Freemasonry --- he was fascinated by the mysterious bond that over-came class rules. Freemasonry was a cult that transcended caste and sects. It was the only ground in a caste ridden country on which adherents of different religions could meet on the levelı.² In his twenty-first year he began to produce the verse and stories that were to make him famous and which attracted attention from the outset. His stay in India was terminated in 1889, when he returned to England where he established literary contacts and lasting friendships and where the artistry of his writing won growing recognition. Among his new friends, he was especially drawn to an American publisher from Vermont, Wolcott Balestier, whose sister Caroline he married on January 18, 1892 shortly after Wolcottıs untimely death. Carrie and Rudyard took up residence, from 1892 to 1896, in Brattleboro, Vermont, the home of the Balestier family. The had a large home built to their own specifications on the outskirts of Brattleboro where their two daughters were born and where they made many friends and were noted for their hospitality. Kipling accomplished much writing here, including the Jungle Book and Captains Courageous. Unhappily a family quarrel developed with Carrieıs brother Beatty and the outcome was a return to England in 1896. The Kipling home still stands in Vermont and has been preserved as a historical landmark. It is not the intent of this presentation to dwell on Kiplingıs increasing fame after his re-establishment in England. As his genius was acknowledged, honours were at his command but he refused all except those of a literary nature. He was the first English writer to be awarded a Nobel prize for literature in 1907. It is also of interest that his first honorary degree was from McGill University, for which he visited Montreal in 1907, and on that occasion, Sir William VanHorne, President of the Canadian Pacific Railway, placed his private car at Kiplingıs disposal for a trip to Vancouver and return. Financial success, public acclaim, and personal sorrows marked the years until death on January 18, 1936 and Kiplingıs funereal service in Westminster Abbey. His eldest daughter, Josephine, caught pneumonia in February 1899 during a trip to New York and never recovered, dead at age 6! His only son, John, was killed at the Battle of Loos in Belgium, on September 27, 1915 just six weeks after his eighteenth birthday! Kipling gave unstintingly of his time and effort as a member of the Imperial War Graves Commission and is credited with the authorship of the inscription seen in every cemetery ³ Their Name Liveth for Evermore².

Kipling's Masonic Life:

In ²Something of Myself² Kipling writes: ³In 1885, I was made a Freemason by dispensation (being under age) in The Lodge of Hope and Perseverance 782 E.C. because the Lodge hoped for a good Secretary. They did not get him, but I helped, and got Father to advise me in decorating the bare walls of the Masonic Hall with hangings after the prescription of King Solomonıs Temple. Here I met Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, members of the Araya and Brahmo Samaj, and a Jewish Tyler, who was a priest and butcher to his little community in the city. So yet another world was opened to me which I needed.² We get a little more detail in a letter Kipling wrote in the London Times, dated March 28, 1935: ³ In reply to your letter I was Secretary for some years of the Lodge of Hope and Perseverance No. 782, English Constitution which included Brethren of at least four different creeds. I was entered by a member of the Brahmo Samaj (a Hindu), passed by a Mohammedan, and raised by an Englishman. Our Tyler was an Indian Jew. We met, of course, on the level and the only difference that anyone would notice was that at our banquets some of the Brethren, who were debarred by caste rules from eating food not ceremoniously prepared, sat over empty plates. I had the good fortune to be able to arrange a series of informal lectures by Brethren of various faiths, on baptismal ceremonies of their religions.²

Kipling also received the Mark Master degree in a Lahore Mark Lodge and affiliated with a Craft Lodge in Allahabad, Bengal. Later, in England he affiliated as an honorary member of the Motherland Lodge, No. 3861 in London. He was also a member of the Authorsı Lodge, No. 3456, and a founder-member of the Lodge Builders of the Silent Cities, No. 4948, which was connected with the War Graves Commission and which was so named at Kiplingıs suggestion. Another Masonic association was formed when he became Poet Laureate of the famous ³Canongate Kilwinning, No. 2² in Edinburgh, the Lodge of which Robert Burns is said to have served in the same office. Enquiry of Brattleboro Lodge, No. 102, in Vermont, discloses no record of Rudyard Kipling having visited during his residence in the community. Years later, however, he accepted a fellowship in the Philalethes Society, an organization of Masonic writers formed in the United States in 1928. The February 1963 issue of ³The Philalethes², a publication of this Society, recalls that, before the original list of forty Fellows was closed in 1932, Kipling was proposed as the fortieth Fellow. When the Secretary wrote to advise him that they wished to honour the author of ³My Mother Lodge², ³The Man Who Would Be King², ³Kim² and other Masonic stories, Kipling accepted.

There seems to have been some quality deep within his nature to which Freemasonry appealed. The idea of a secret bond, of a sense of community, and of high principles among men sworn to a common purpose, fitted his concept of a social order. To quote his biographer Carrington: ³ Freemasonry, with its cult of common action, its masculine self-sufficiency, its language of symbols, and its hierarchy of secret grades, provided him with a natural setting for his social ideals.² On his first trip to America in 1889, he made use of Masonic introductions whereby his visit was enriched. An American novelist, Edward Lucas White, became a life-long friend, and it is said that in their correspondence and association they made continued use of Masonic terminology. Kipling was essentially a Craft Mason, and there is no indication of interest in the extraneous branches of the Institution. The place of his Mother Lodge in his affection is suggested in the article read to the Leicester Lodge of Research on November 25, 1929 in which reference is made to a current press item about Kiplingıs sending a ³Masonic Tool² to his Mother Lodge in Lahore. It is not strange then that these feelings be reflected in his work.

We find the reflection of Kiplingıs Masonic interest in three areas of his writing. There are wholly Masonic poems, of which ³ The Mother Lodge² and ³Banquet Night² are largely familiar to Masons; there are the overtly Masonic-based stories such as ³The Man Who Would Be King², ³Kim² and those relating to the Lodge of Faith and Works, No. 5837, English Constitution, such as ³In the Interests of the Brethren², ³The Janeites² etc.; and there are the numerous Masonic allusions which colour many of his poems and stories.

The Man Who Would Be King has been called a masterpiece. It is one of his earlier stories and was written in India, about the strange adventure of two vagabonds, Daniel Dravot and Peachy Carnegan, with whom the author became acquainted in an unusual way. In a railway carriage, one of the two accosted the author Masonically and persuaded him to take a message to the other ³on the square --- for the sake of my Mother, as well as your own². The two adventurers go off on an unhallowed expedition, and after two years one returns with a fantastic tale of experiences in a kingdom beyond Afghanistan, where they found Masonic practices among the natives, had used Masonry to further designs of power, and had met ultimate disaster from which only one returned --- maimed, disfigured and demented --- carrying the shrunken head of his erstwhile comrade. His story, from ecstatic beginning to gristly end, defies imagination. The unscrupulous pair had found the crude mountain tribesmen knowledgeable of the E.A. and F.C. degrees but ignorant of the M.M. degree. Dravotıs fertile mind concocted the devious scheme of using the Sublime degree as an instrument for control. So the plan progressed, and a lodge was formed, when, lo, in a dramatic moment, the Masterıs symbol was disclosed on the underside of the very stone used by Dravot as the Masterıs seat. It corresponded to that on his Masterıs Apron. ³Luck again², says Dravot to Peachy, ³ they say itıs the missing Mark that no one could understand the why of...² and then Dravot declared himself ³Grand Master of all Freemasonry in Karfiristan.... and King of Karfiristan, equally with Peachy!² Then, in Peachyıs words, ³We opened the Lodge in most ample form².

But, it was too good to last. Call it human frailty or moral transgression, the sweet wine of success was to much for Dravot, and when he looked for a Queen to share his Kingdom, the god became a man of the earth. Sowing the winds of desire, he and Peachy reaped the whirlwind of horror as the disillusioned natives turned on them and left only the mentally-bereft junior partner to escape back to civilization and death, with the dried and withered head of Daniel Dravot as the relic of the man who would be king. This story was made into a movie and can be found in some video stores.

Kim, a picturesque novel of the Indian underworld, has a high measure of artistry and has been compared with E.M. Forsterıs Passage to India. Essentially, it is the story of the education of a police spy who counteracted a Russian spying plot in India; but it contains a thread of Freemasonry. Kimball OıHara was the orphaned son of a wastrel ex-sergeant of the Mavericks, an Irish regiment, who had married the nursemaid in a Colonelıs family. With both parents dead, the three year old child was left with a native woman, who strung around his neck a leather amulet-case containing his fatherıs entire estate: Kimıs birth-certificate, his fatherıs ³clearance-certificate² and OıHaraıs Master Masonıs certificate. Growing up in the native environment, the lad meets many interesting characters and eventually finds his fatherıs old regiment; the Masonic certificate is a talisman and as the story unfolds Kim rises to the challenge of his heritage.

Kipling seems ever-ready to insert, often in an incidental manner, Masonic allusions suggested by the ritual, terminology and symbols with which he was so intimately acquainted, and which had become embedded in his mind. The interested reader, who is persistent, will find more of such, often when least expected. Sir George MacMunn wrote: ³Kipling uses Masonry in much the same way he uses the Holy Writ, for the beauty of the story, for the force of the reference, and for the dignity, beauty, and assertiveness of the phrase. There is one more effect that familiarity denies us which is present in the Masonic allusion and that is the almost uncanny hint of something unveiled.² It is certain that in their search for a good secretary, the Brethren of ³Hope and Perseverance² found one who became an exemplar of the great principles of our Art, in his life, work and influence. Surely his spirit must have been present at the memorable ceremony at the Ashoka Hotel in New Delhi, India on November 24, 1961, when the new Grand Lodge of India was consecrated, comprising 145 Lodges over whom the Grand Lodges of England, Ireland, and Scotland had relinquished their authority. And at this point, in conclusion, some lines (non-Masonic) seem appropriate as placed by Kipling at the end of his collected works.

³If I have given you delight
by aught that I have done.
Let me lie quiet in that night
which shall be yours anon:
And for the little, little span
the dead are borne in mind,
seek not to question other than,
the books I leave behind.²

Canadian Masonic Research Association
Kipling and Freemasonry---MWBro. Robert A. Gordon PGM - G.L. P.E.I.
Rudyard Kipling: CRAFTSMAN--- Sir George MacMunn
Grand Lodge of Scotland Year Book
Debits and Credits: Rudyard Kipling
The Illustrated Kipling: edited by Neil Philip


I do not know who the original author of this learned discourse was as I have cobbled it together from a number of sources, but it is important to me that the reader understand that I am not the author.

Eric G. Edgar, P.M., Virgin Lodge No. 3, Grand Lodge of Nova Scotia

There was Rundle, Station Master,

 An' Beazeley of the Rail,

An' 'Ackman, Commissariat,

 An' Donkin' o' the Jail;

An' Blake, Conductor-Sargent,

 Our Master twice was 'e,

With 'im that kept the Europe-shop,

 Old Framjee Eduljee.


Outside -- "Sergeant! Sir! Salute! Salaam!"

Inside -- "Brother", an' it doesn't do no 'arm.

We met upon the Level an' we parted on the Square,

An' I was Junior Deacon in my Mother-Lodge out there!


We'd Bola Nath, Accountant,

 An' Saul the Aden Jew,

An' Din Mohammed, draughtsman

 Of the Survey Office too;

There was Babu Chuckerbutty,

 An' Amir Singh the Sikh,

An' Castro from the fittin'-sheds,

 The Roman Catholick!


We 'adn't good regalia,

 An' our Lodge was old an' bare,

But we knew the Ancient Landmarks,

 An' we kep' 'em to a hair;

An' lookin' on it backwards

 It often strikes me thus,

There ain't such things as infidels,

 Excep', per'aps, it's us.


For monthly, after Labour,

 We'd all sit down and smoke

(We dursn't give no banquits,

 Lest a Brother's caste were broke),

An' man on man got talkin'

 Religion an' the rest,

An' every man comparin'

 Of the God 'e knew the best.


So man on man got talkin',

 An' not a Brother stirred

Till mornin' waked the parrots

 An' that dam' brain-fever-bird;

We'd say 'twas 'ighly curious,

 An' we'd all ride 'ome to bed,

With Mo'ammed, God, an' Shiva

 Changin' pickets in our 'ead.


Full oft on Guv'ment service

 This rovin' foot 'ath pressed,

An' bore fraternal greetin's

 To the Lodges east an' west,

Accordin' as commanded

 From Kohat to Singapore,

But I wish that I might see them

 In my Mother-Lodge once more!


I wish that I might see them,

 My Brethren black an' brown,

With the trichies smellin' pleasant

 An' the hog-darn passin' down; [Cigar-lighter.]

An' the old khansamah snorin' [Butler.]

 On the bottle-khana floor, [Pantry.]

Like a Master in good standing

 With my Mother-Lodge once more!


Outside -- "Sergeant! Sir! Salute! Salaam!"

Inside -- "Brother", an' it doesn't do no 'arm.

We met upon the Level an' we parted on the Square,

An' I was Junior Deacon in my Mother-Lodge out there!

IF If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you; If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, But make allowance for their doubting too; If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies, Or, being hated, don't give way to hating, And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise; If you can dream - and not make dreams your master; If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim; If you can meet with triumph and disaster And treat those two imposters just the same; If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, Or watch the things you gave your life to broken, And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools; If you can make one heap of all your winnings And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, And lose, and start again at your beginnings And never breath a word about your loss; If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew To serve your turn long after they are gone, And so hold on when there is nothing in you Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on"; If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch; If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you; If all men count with you, but none too much; If you can fill the unforgiving minute With sixty seconds' worth of distance run - Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it, And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!
L' ENVOI to "Life's Handicap" My new-cut ashlar takes the light Where crimson-blank the windows flare; By my own work, before the night, Great Overseer I make my prayer. If there be good in that I wrought, Thy hand compelled it, Master, Thine; Where I have failed to meet Thy thought I know, through Thee, the blame is mine. One instant's toil to Thee denied Stands all Eternity's offence, Of that I did with Thee to guide To Thee, through Thee, be excellence. Who, lest all thought of Eden fade, Bring'st Eden to the craftsman's brain, Godlike to muse o'er his own trade And Manlike stand with God again. The depth and dream of my desire, The bitter paths wherein I stray, Thou knowest Who hast made the Fire, Thou knowest Who hast made the Clay! One stone the more swings to her place In that dread Temple of Thy Worth -- It is enough that through Thy grace I saw naught common on Thy earth. Take not that vision from my ken; Oh whatsoe'er may spoil or speed, Help me to need no aid from men That I may help such men as need!
THE PALACE (1902 ) When I was a King and a Mason -- a Master proven and skilled -- I cleared me ground for a Palace such as a King should build. I decreed and dug down to my levels. Presently, under the silt, I came on the wreck of a Palace such as a King had built. There was no worth in the fashion -- there was no wit in the plan -- Hither and thither, aimless, the ruined footings ran -- Masonry, brute, mishandled, but carven on every stone: "After me cometh a Builder. Tell him, I too have known." Swift to my use in my trenches, where my well-planned ground-works grew, I tumbled his quoins and his ashlars, and cut and reset them anew. Lime I milled of his marbles; burned it, slacked it, and spread; Taking and leaving at pleasure the gifts of the humble dead. Yet I despised not nor gloried; yet, as we wrenched them apart, I read in the razed foundations the heart of that builder's heart. As he had risen and pleaded, so did I understand The form of the dream he had followed in the face of the thing he had planned. * * * * * When I was a King and a Mason -- in the open noon of my pride, They sent me a Word from the Darkness. They whispered and called me aside. They said -- "The end is forbidden." They said -- "Thy use is fulfilled. "Thy Palace shall stand as that other's -- the spoil of a King who shall build." I called my men from my trenches, my quarries, my wharves, and my sheers. All I had wrought I abandoned to the faith of the faithless years. Only I cut on the timber -- only I carved on the stone: "AfterT me cometh a BuilderT. Tell him, I too have known!"
BANQUET NIGHT "Once in so often," King Solomon said, Watching his quarrymen drill the stone, "We will club our garlic and wine and bread And banquet together beneath my throne. And all the Brethren shall come to that mess As Fellow Craftsmen--no more and no less. "Send a swift shallop to Hiram of Tyre, Felling and floating our beautiful trees, Say that the brethren and I desire Talk with our Brethren who use the seas. And we shall be happy to meet them at mess As Fellow Craftsmen--no more and no less. "Carry this message to Hiram Abif-- Excellent Master of forge and mine: I and the Brethren would like it if He and the Brethren will come to dine (Garments from Bozrah or morning-dress) As Fellow Craftsmen--no more and no less. "God gave the Hyssop and Cedar their place-- Also the Bramble, the Fig and the Thorn-- But that is no reason to black a man's Face Because he is not what he hasn't been born. And, as touching the Temple, I hold and Profess We are Fellow Craftsmen--no more no less." So it was ordered and so it was done, And the hewers of wood and the Masons of Mark With foc'sle hands of the Sidon run And Navy Lords from the Royal Ark, Came and sat down and were merry at mess As Fellow Craftsmen--no more and no less. The Quarries are hotter than Hiram's forge, No one is safe from the dog-whips' reach. It's mostly snowing up Lebanon gorge, And it's always blowing off Joppa beach; But once in so often, the messenger brings Solomon's mandate: "Forget these things! Brother to Beggars and Fellow to Kings, Companion of Princes-forget these things! Fellow Craftsman, forget these things!"

On "Pietre-Stones" you also read by R. Kipling:
In the Interests of the Brethren

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