Over the last two
hundred years or so, scientific developments have revolutionized our world in
all respects. Science has created a social dynamic which has turned our modern
Western civilization on its head and seen some traditional institutions largely
abandoned. These societal changes have been the subject of much debate but very
little rational insight over the closing decades of the twentieth century.
amongst those institutions which have seen their influence seriously eroded in
modern Western society are Christianity and Freemasonry—both of which have
been singled out as lacking relevance or as having lost touch with the modern,
younger generations and New-Age lifestyles. Each of these institutions has
suffered plummeting membership whilst retaining an ageing, committed core of
followers which, in the fullness of time, will inevitably be lost.
has responded to these challenges by becoming more transparent and open in its
practices, and by doing ‘good works’ (charitable activities, generally in
the wider community). There can be no question that many Grand Lodges throughout
the world have gone through extensive organizational analysis, self-examination
and consultation in seeking to understand the causes of membership wastage and
also in their endeavours to ‘find the answer’. However, the results of all
this effort has not brought about a renaissance in membership.
ANZMRC publishes a quarterly newsletter, Harashim (Hebrew for Craftsmen), which is circulated worldwide in PDF format by email.
The response of
the established Christian Churches has been more complex, with mainstream
Christianity largely involuntarily spawning a plethora of Evangelical,
Revivalist and New-Age Churches and cults. None of these changes has, in any
real sense, addressed the core issues confronting Christianity as it moves into
the third millennium. Interestingly, whilst their relevance (and membership
base) has been threatened both by social change and (internal) religious
dissent, elements of the established Christian Churches have, in part, responded
to the pressures of our changing civilization by singling out Freemasonry as an
abhorrent secret society which ought to be excised from Western Christian
civilization. In this context, given the somewhat ambivalent relationship which
has always existed between the Christian Church and Freemasonry, the behaviour
of these elements is unsurprising in the face of the overwhelming threat posed
by the rapidity and magnitude of technological and social change—Freemasonry,
arguably, is an ‘easy target’.
the period in question—the latter part of the twentieth century—scientific
and technological advances have continued apace, revolutionizing everything in
our lives, if not our lives themselves.
we are to understand these upheavals and take full advantage of the
opportunities and challenges as they present themselves, it is necessary first
to reflect on the past, for it contains powerful lessons.
Nature of Early Western Civilization
much of the period of Western Civilization, the institutions of State, religion
and learning have been closely allied, if not inseparable. In ancient Greece,
founded his Academy in about 387 bc
at Athens for the purpose of ‘philosophical, mathematical and scientific
research’, but—as his writings and records show—the Academy encompassed,
in the broadest possible way, the intellectual pursuit of politics, philosophy,
religion and science, and sought to influence the society of the day at all
levels. The defining work of Plato was continued by his student and successor,
Aristotle, as head of the Academy. The collected works of Plato and his
successors formed the basis of the development of Western society over the next
two thousand years.
These works still form the basis of modern philosophical thought and permeate
all levels of our civilization.
developed in almost all early Western Civilizations (or possibly always
existed), a close if not intimate relationship between State (in its various
forms), religion and science. This relationship remained strong and grew through
the Dark Ages, reaching a high point during the Middle Ages where, although
ostensibly separate, Church and State worked in a symbiotic relationship. Any
Head of State who dared disobey or breach papal directives risked
excommunication, seizure of properties and wealth. The ‘disobedient’ Head of
State also faced certain warfare against obedient, pious enemies fired with the
‘love of God’ and the promise of wealth and power once the ‘enemy of the
Church’ had been crushed. The intimacy of the relationship between Church and
State can be best seen in the period of the Crusades which were initiated on 29 November
when, at the behest of Pope Urban II at Clermont, nation states were called
to war, ultimately to gain salvation, remit sin, protect pilgrims or gain
indulgences proffered by the Church.
in the suppression of the Knights Templar, which resulted in the confiscation
and transfer of the wealth of the Order, we again see the closeness and intimacy
of the relationship between Church and State. On 12 October 1307,
Philip IV (‘The Fair’), King of France, moved against the Knights
Templar in France. In these events, which culminated in the burning at the stake
of the Grand Master of the Knights Templar, Jacques de Molay, on 19 March
1314, we see Church and State working together for common purpose at the
direction of Pope Clement V.
also was intimately enmeshed with religion and whilst one of the objectives of
the alchemists was certainly the transmutation of base metals (such as lead)
into gold, the ‘higher alchemy’ sought the transmutation of man.
This involved a ‘spiritual
alchemy’ which ultimately was deeply Christian in its intent.
close relationship between religion and science, and the steady (but relatively
slow) pace of scientific advances and discoveries in the two thousand years
after Plato had first articulated his philosophies, allowed science to progress
generally in amity with religion. That this was in fact the case is not
surprising, given that both during the Dark Ages and beyond, the Church, via its
monasteries and like institutions, had provided the primary centres of learning
and research. Other individuals or isolated centres of learning and research
were supported by the royal courts of the dominant powers of the time.
These latter centres of learning remained very much
under the influence of the Church through the various royal courts.
three momentous events occurred or were initiated in relatively quick succession
which changed forever the measured, robust balance between Church and State
which had held sway for two millennia in all Western societies and nation
states. These events were:
Revolution and the Reformation were watersheds which effectively destroyed the
unique relationship between State, Church and Science. Henceforth it was no
longer possible to integrate secular and ecclesiastical decision-making without
challenge anywhere in Europe.
the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the middle of the eighteenth
century, we see the overt ‘face’ of the new dynamic—Science—in Western
society. This new dynamic has changed the face of the entire world and has
continued to grow in strength with the passage of time. The Industrial
Revolution marked the ‘unshackling of science’ and the beginning of a new
age dominated by scientific thinking: the Age
of Reason. Unlike the preceding two millennia, which in reality saw slow
and gradual evolutionary change, the Industrial Revolution brought with it
radical, rapid, uncompromising change. These changes continue apace today. This
new dynamic, the Age of Reason or the
Scientific Revolution, is the dominant causal factor which has led
to the erosion of influence of almost all traditional institutions in modern
society, and is the ‘driver’ of the
and Religion in the Twentieth Century
the Western (traditional) Christian Churches have seen a similar dramatic drop
in membership as has been experienced by Freemasonry in many jurisdictions, it
must be understood that the parallel only holds good over the latter part of the
twentieth century. For example, in Victoria there are today almost double the
number of Freemasons when compared with numbers in 1900,
whereas membership of the (traditional) Christian Churches has fallen
continuously over the twentieth century.
facie, therefore, it might reasonably be concluded that whilst Freemasonry and
Western Christianity have both
suffered very serious attrition over the latter part of the twentieth century,
it is in fact only the established Western Christian Churches which exhibit
long-term deep-seated issues as to their relevance in Western society. However,
this simplistic analysis begs the question. The population of Australia has
increased approximately twentyfold over the twentieth century. Thus the plight
of Freemasonry in reality is serious. Although our membership has not decreased
significantly over the long term, two fundamental issues confront Freemasonry in
the third millennium: firstly, our inability to attract ‘new’ members from
the expanding population base; and secondly, the ageing demographic profile of
our existing members.
us examine why these events have occurred on a broad scale, firstly by
considering what Freemasonry and religion offer, and secondly by examining the
impact of science and technology over the same period.
combined Grand Lodges of Australia and New Zealand signify approval of a series
of pamphlets which state that Freemasonry:
members with an insight and knowledge of history and philosophy, an appreciation
for ancient ritual and symbolism, personal development, public service and hands
on involvement in charitable activities and community issues.
is the hope of Freemasons that under the Fatherhood of God they might bring
about the Brotherhood of Man, that each Freemason might so regulate his life and
actions by the principles of morality and truth; and learn to limit his desire,
so the he may live respected and die regretted.
these ‘definitions’ which exist as the ‘public face’ of Freemasonry in
Australasia fail to articulate the purpose of Freemasonry. Freemasonry
also possesses philosophical and psychological dimensions founded upon a belief
in the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man. It provides a framework
through its teaching, involving both ritual and symbolism, by which moral and
higher principles are unveiled through allegory to the truly committed seeker of
knowledge and light. The purpose of Freemasonry has been articulated by WBro
VRevd Frederick A Shade, PJGD, as follows: 
The purpose of Freemasonry is to assist in the development of each member
as a fully integrated person, to achieve psychological maturity . . .
Whatever may be the official aim of the Craft, this is its primary purpose . . .
and [it] is concerned with the interior growth and maturity of the individual.
therefore, is intended to help us in our search for identity and in our
quest for meaning.
Arguably, nothing could be more relevant, as we move
into the twenty-first century, seeking to improve Freemasons as individuals and
established Western Christian Churches offer salvation, stability, and hope for
better things to come, all encapsulated in the acceptance or commitment to a
belief system (a religion). In so doing, religion completely ‘explains’ and
justifies the order of things (the world), with a promise of ‘better’ things
to come. Therefore religion is comfortable in a world where knowledge and
understanding are stationary, for the world is already fully ‘explained’. It
is here that we find the inherent ‘friction’ which must necessarily exist as
a consequence, between religion and science. The comfortable, understood and
fully ‘explained’ world presented to a committed believer is, in reality,
continuously changing as science and technology advance. Thus, rather
indiscriminately, science is either removing completely, or challenging, vital
elements of the various religious belief systems, setting up and maintaining a
continuous friction between the two.
seeks to understand, order and explain every part of our world and the universe.
It does this using the scientific method, an objective process wherein data is
collected, measured, tested, assessed and ordered, allowing sound conclusions to
be reached. This scientific method allows the development of ideas, hypotheses,
concepts, models, theories, and ultimately laws. As such, science is empirically
based, initially reaching tentative findings (conclusions) which become more
certain (or fail) as more quantifiable data is accumulated. Science, therefore,
is a self-critical, self-correcting, growing system of empirical (or factual)
understanding, allowing practitioners (the true ‘believers’) to manipulate
the world around us in a very predictable manner.
friction between science and religion may be seen in the early twentieth century
in the United States of America in what has been labelled ‘The
Trial of the Century’.
In 1925 the subject of the teaching of evolution theory was contested through
the Courts in the State of Tennessee in the renowned ‘Scopes Trial’. In this trial the merits of evolutionary theory
were tested (against creationism) when a schoolteacher, John Scopes, was tried
and convicted of breaching a state statute in teaching from George Hunter’s Civic
Biology, a high school textbook that promoted the ‘theory’ of evolution
as articulated in Charles Darwin’s The
Descent of Man. Ultimately, the decision was overturned on appeal,
and the theory of evolution entered the mainstream of education on a permanent
also confronts both Freemasonry and religion generally in the area of morality.
Science, in its purest sense has little (if anything at all) to do with
morality, whereas, by their very nature, Western Christianity and Freemasonry
(‘a system of morality, veiled in allegory’) draw heavily upon and make
judgments as to what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’. For example, as
Christians we find cannibalism to be abhorrent; however, no such inhibitions
existed in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea, where an Animist belief
system prevailed until recently. Even today, clans still exist in which
cannibalism is practiced. The Fore
people have long engaged in ritual cannibalism of their dead relatives.
This practice led to the development of
Kuru, human prion disease of the same type as BSE/n CJD (‘mad cow’
practice of ritual cannibalism of relatives has been subjected to extensive
scientific study and has been shown to be the single causative factor in the
development of Kuru, or n CJD.
For this reason, science is opposed to cannibalism—it is an
however, this practice of ritual cannibalism still forms part of the Animist
religious belief system of the Fore people and is neither morally
repugnant nor proscribed as such. On the contrary,
young ones dying of the disease are particularly sought out for the practice of
Kuru, although we Freemasons and
Christians alike reject it out of hand as wrong or positively evil.
the close of the twentieth century Freemasonry has become confused and uncertain
as to its direction and role in society. It has increasingly become less
relevant, as is evidenced by the widespread decline in membership. During the
closing period of the twentieth century, Freemasonry has grappled with its role
and purpose, but has been largely paralysed and unable to respond to the
challenges of its major detractors—who may be found in the mainstream
Christian Churches, and at the highest levels in public office. Interestingly,
it may well be that the latter have drawn their opinions from their membership
of, or involvement in, the former. Most importantly, the desire to respond to
and gain acceptance from its detractors in the mainstream Christian Churches,
has blinded Freemasonry to the true nature of the challenge that both
Freemasonry and mainstream Christianity actually face.
That challenge is the ‘new religion’ of a largely secular society—Science.
Freemasonry and the mainstream Christian Churches must engage Science,
embrace it, accept it, and adjust to it, in order to regain relevance in society
if they are to survive in any recognizable form in the third millennium.
The Third Millennium
these early years of the third millennium, both Freemasonry and the mainstream
Christian Churches have continued to fixate upon each other—in effect,
squabbling over a diminishing available or potential population-base from which
to draw membership, rather than attempting to ‘find themselves’ and engage
with the new ‘social dynamic’, science
and technology, which permeates every element of modern society.
the beginning of the twenty-first century, it is salutary to reflect upon our
society. Science and technology have transformed civilization in every aspect
and have created modern secular states. Science now provides individuals with
security, identity and belonging, hope and a future with the promise of much
more to come. Thus it may be seen that science has usurped both the mainstream
religions and Freemasonry. It may also explain, in large measure, some of the
conflict which exists between Islam and the West.
promises much in the twenty-first century, and we may rest assured that science
will deliver. For example:
of the human genome,
research, culminating in the growth of
purpose-designed, compatible, body parts,
consequences of scientific advances in each of these areas are incalculable. It
may well be that, for example, Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution itself
will be radically modified as mankind,
through science, supplants the natural evolutionary process.
we really be surprised that to many, science is ‘the new religion’?
While all else has effectively stood still, science has continued to press
forward in the pursuit of knowledge, bringing with it all those things once only
dreamt about or promised in a future life. Long life and health are available to
every man and woman (generally speaking), natural disasters and plagues are far
away (thankfully) and we can now engage in warfare, also far away, and with
little risk. That which is unknown or not explained is, with every passing day,
reducing. Interestingly, an Order affiliated with Freemasonry instructs the
Aspirant in the course of his Admission to:
‘press forward in the pursuit of wisdom . . . the advancement of
is inescapably led to suggest: perhaps Freemasonry has the answers but doesn’t
a religious perspective, there are, interestingly, signs of the beginnings of
rational engagement between the Catholic Church and Science: the Vatican has
(rightly) rejected Intelligent Design 
as incompatible with the creation of the universe, whereas Darwin’s
theory of evolution is ‘perfectly compatible’ if the Bible is read
to properly engage science is fraught with risk for both Freemasonry and
Religion. For example, the arguments put forward by the proponents of Intelligent
Design are demonstrably irrational, subjective and emotive, and will
ultimately see the fundamentalist Christians who articulate them discredited.
however, does have an Achilles heel—it
does not moralise and is empirically based. Therefore science cannot
provide guidance or judgment as to what may be right or wrong, good or evil.
Interestingly also at the end of the (cosmic) day, when all that is knowable is
known, there will remain those things which
require a leap of faith or belief. For example, we may, with a high level
of scientific confidence accept the ‘Big
Bang Theory’ of creation of the Universe.
However, the singularity
from which the ‘Big Bang’
emanated—that point which is infinitely small, infinitely dense, and in which
time has ceased (stopped)—itself required creation.
also faces another ‘problem’ in absolutely ordering, explaining and
predicting events in the universe—Godel’s (Incompleteness) Theorem, which
(in part) may be stated as follows:
Any consistent formal system S within which a certain amount of
elementary arithmetic can be carried out is incomplete with regard to statements
of elementary arithmetic: there are statements which can neither be proved nor
disproved in S.
Godel’s (First) Incompleteness Theorem simply tells us that whilst certain
things happen, or are a predictable outcome, from which there is no apparent
deviation, we can neither prove nor disprove that it
(the ‘expected’) will always be the outcome. That is, to our
current level of mathematical rigour, some things are ‘unknowable’ in the
absolute sense; we simply trust or ‘believe’ that they will always occur.
Ill-informed attempts have been made to apply Godel’s Theorem to all manner of
problems—to ‘prove’, for example, that the Bible is ‘complete’. In
this case all we need ask ourselves is: ‘Is the Bible a formal
system? The answer becomes obvious, No;
we cannot use science (and, in particular Godel’s Theorem), to prove the
validity or otherwise of the Bible It is simply not applicable.
lies an inherent limitation of science, and an opportunity for Freemasonry.
Science has actually proved that there exists ‘systems’ (‘things’ and
event sequences) which are likely to happen, but are not provable, absolutely
so; thus there are ‘things’ outside the parameters of science. These
‘things’ rely upon judgement, interpretation, opinion and belief.
then is, arguably, the light at the end of the tunnel for Freemasonry.
Freemasonry, a system of morality, veiled in allegory, illustrated by signs and
symbols, can do two things: firstly, it can engage the ‘New World’ (so
remarkably anticipated by Aldous Huxley in his classic science fiction novel, Brave
New World) and contribute to and strengthen the Achilles heel of
Science—its lack of morality and judgment—and secondly, by its very nature,
Freemasonry is well suited, and able, to embrace science by articulating the
fundamental belief system required to underpin Science. That is, a belief in The Great Architect of the Universe, for
science can only ever explain what is ‘in the box’, not why or how ‘the
box’ was made. All
this is possible in the third millennium, providing Freemasonry embraces and
articulates its true purpose which
is, ultimately, to assist in the
interior growth and development of mature individuals. It can do this by
engaging science in specific areas where it is now, and always will be, unable
to provide ‘the answers’ to mankind.
the past, Freemasonry attracted members from society because it had something
‘special’ to offer. This special thing was, I suggest, over and above any
opportunity to merely socialize at the more superficial level. However, over the
latter part of the twentieth century and as we move forward in the twenty-first
century, Freemasonry has failed to articulate its ‘special’ nature and
purpose in the context of the modern era. That is, Freemasonry has, to this
point in time, failed the
primary test of survival—the ability to adapt to its new, ever changing environment.
set out a view of the true purpose and message of Freemasonry, how then may it
be brought to relevance in the Third Millennium? Careful analysis unequivocally
points out the way ahead:
must engage society (become an integral part of our society as it continues to
evolve, not be an ‘appendage’);
must evolve radically (become relevant and robust);
must articulate, in modern form, what we can do both for
and in society; and
must accept that Freemasonry never
was, nor will be, for everyone.
What we must do
of all organisations, can ‘fill the gap’ in the ‘godless’ modern
society. We can inject the following both individually and organisationally:
of these values is inherent in the true purpose of Freemasonry and we, as an
organization, are ideally placed to go out into society ‘teaching and
preaching’ for the good of the Brotherhood of Man in the world today.
can we do this?
entrepreneurial. We must, first and foremost, accept and embrace the true
purpose of Freemasonry in the Third Millennium and articulate it in the form of
a structured ‘doctrine’, leading to the development of (amongst other
things) a system of training for the good of society. We ought to (for example),
register as a training provider and offer courses and workshops for government,
business, and all comers in such subjects as business ethics, governance,
corporate responsibility and corporate morality. In this context, it is no
accident that evangelical churches are on the rise, that individuals are seeking
boasts an endless succession of outstanding leaders, of men of high morality,
ethics and achievement—many of whom have attained high office both in society
and in Freemasonry—surely therein lies the proof of this message.
all, however, we must inculcate the purpose of Freemasonry in all that we do.
Charity is good, but we have much more to offer. What is more, our ‘special’
characteristics set us apart from all other organisations in society today.
Freemasonry naturally inherits the high ground of ethical conduct and moral
approximately two millennia prior to the Industrial Revolution, little or no
separation existed between State and Religion in Western societies. Furthermore,
religion encompassed all manner of learning, or provided the framework in which
it developed. This meant that religion, science/alchemy, philosophy and the arts
were effectively, a continuum. However, with the advent of the Industrial
Revolution, preceded by other major societal changes—the Reformation, the
French Revolution and the like—not only was the relationship between State and
Religion shattered, but also science and technology were unshackled.
changes precipitated great advances and also great friction and hardship as the
established order of society was altered forever. The pace of scientific
discovery and technological change continued to accelerate through the
nineteenth and twentieth centuries, leaving many social structures and groups
isolated or disenfranchised. Two of these groups, namely Freemasonry and the
established Christian Churches, find themselves struggling for relevance at the
beginning of the third millennium. However, these same circumstances provide a
unique opportunity for Freemasonry in particular: science
provides no moral direction, and ultimately requires belief in a creative
‘force’. If Freemasonry engages science in society and articulates its
purpose in a relevant manner, it will find a meaningful role in the third
millennium. It will be filling a vacuum which currently exists, and for
which there is no ‘natural’ heir in modern Western societies.
can do this by actively and forcefully projecting its core values and purpose
unashamedly into society as a role model and training provider in the fields of
morality, ethics and corporate governance. If we begin working towards this goal
(and ultimately, succeed), membership of a Masonic body will become sought after
and highly valued, both individually and organisationally, once again.
we must never forget two things that science inherently teaches: firstly,
evolution is a continuous process (ignore it and we will become extinct); and
secondly, we must identify and embrace what we truly are, then stand up and be
counted, otherwise ‘competing organisations’ (our ‘natural competitors’
in society) will take our rightful place.
Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, as articulated in his seminal work, The
Descent of Man, has never been more relevant.
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D: Cambridge Biographical Encyclopedia, 2 edn; Cambridge University
P: The Mind of God, Penguin, 1992.
T: Godel’s Theorem – An Incomplete Guide to its Use And Abuse, A K Peters,
and Religion’, brochure distributed by Grand Lodges of Australia & New
R: The Trembling Mountain: A Personal Account of Kuru, Cannibals and Mad Cow
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E J: Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s continuing debate
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E: The Piebald Standard, Cassell, 1959.
of Cardinal Paul Poupard, Head of the Pontifical Council for Culture, in the Australian,
5 November 2005.
Freemasonry’, brochure distributed by Grand Lodges of Australia & New
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Cambridge University Press, 1998; Cooper, J M: Plato—Complete Works,
or about that date, as best can be established.
Simon E: The Piebald Standard – A Biography of the Knights Templar,
Cassell, 1959, pp 238, 283; also Runciman S: The First Crusade,
Cambridge University Press, 1951. But see Coil’s Masonic Encyclopedia
(1995 edn) p 207 for alternative dates.
Sherwood Taylor, F: The Alchemists, Paladin Press, 1976.
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‘Freemasonry and Religion’,
brochure distributed by Grand Lodges of Australia & New Zealand, nd.
Shade, F A: ‘The
Psychology of Freemasonry’ in Masonic Inducements, (transactions of
the Victorian Lodge of Research) 2004.
Shade, F A: ‘The Value of Ritual’, Freemasonry Victoria,
# 81, August 1999.
Larson, E J: Summer for
the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s continuing debate over Science and
Religion, Basic Books, 1998.
Klitzman, R: The Trembling Mountain: A Personal Account of Kuru,
Cannibals and Mad Cow Disease, Lightning Source Inc, 2001.
a doctrine/belief system which argues that mankind is too perfect to
have evolved by chance or natural selection—that is, the development of man
and his environment has occurred under the direct influence or control of God
and was not a random scientific process.
Poupard, Cardinal Paul (Head of the Pontifical Council for Culture),
reported in the Australian, 5 November 2005.
Davies, P: The Mind of God,
Franzen, T: Godel’s Theorem – An Incomplete Guide to its Use And
Abuse, A K Peters, 2005.