|R.W.Bro. YASHA BERESINER|
|THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE CRAFT IN ENGLAND IN THE LAST CENTURY|
A review of Freemasonry in England in the last century is a subject for an entire book. The only logical method to present this brief review is to select some dates of importance in the past 110 years, emphasizing the significance and consequence of the historic events as they occurred in a chronologic sequence.
The year 1901 is an apt start in this chronology. It was the end of the reign, for more than a quarter of a century, of a Grand Master, whose popularity had brought the Craft into fashion and prominence. Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (1841-1910), to be crowned King Edward VII, was initiated in Stockholm in 1868 by Prince Oscar, future King of Sweden. In 1874 Edward was made Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England (hereafter referred to as the UGLE) and his dedication to the Craft and personal fun-loving approach to life made Freemasonry a stylish pursuit. Britain as a whole, in this first decade of the 20th Century, was enjoying a sense of prosperity, even invincibility and Freemasonry swept along in the same vein. Notwithstanding the drop in Lodge membership following on the Masonic independence of Australia and Canada, Freemasonry prospered with many Royals and aristocrats joining the Craft. It was nothing new. In 1737 Frederick Lewis, Prince of Wales (1707-1751), was the first member of the royal family to be initiated by Dr John Desaguliers (1683-1744) at Kew Palace. His younger brother, William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland (1721-1765), was initiated in a military lodge in Belgium just 6 years later, in 1743 and an array of members of the Royal family have patronized our mysteries since. The newly crowned King become the Grand Protector of the Order – as Queen Elizabeth II is today – and HRH Arthur, Duke of Connaught (1850-1942), his brother, initiated 1874 in the Prince of Wales Lodge No. 259, was installed as Grand Master in the Albert Hall, serving until 1939.
It was within this ambiance of popularity that Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill (1874-1965) was initiated into the Studholme Lodge No. 1591 on 24th May 1901. He came from a family of Freemasons: Lord Henry John Spencer-Churchill (1797 – 1840) the 4th son of the 5th Duke of Marlborough became Deputy Grand Master in 1835. Winston’s father, Lord Randolph Churchill (1849-1895) and his uncle, Randolph’s elder brother, George Charles Spencer-Churchill (1844-1892) the Marquis Blandford, were both initiated in the Churchill Lodge in 1871. Finally Charles Richard John Spencer-Churchill (1871–1934) 9th Duke of Marlborough, and first cousin of Winston, was initiated on 7th of May 1894 aged 21. It is not therefore surprising that Churchill should follow in family tradition, even if his interest in the Craft was far from being enthusiastic. He never went beyond his status as a Master Mason and resigned in October 1911, on being appointed First Lord of the Admiralty. Churchill’s membership is reflective of a large number of prominent men joining the Craft due to expectation or for no other reason than it being fashionable to do so.
In this first decade of the 20th century Britain witnessed the emergence of Freemasonry amongst women. Following on the initiation o 4th January 1882 of Mlle Maria Deraismes (1828-1894), the distinguished feminist author, in France and the subsequent foundation of the Droit Humaine, the International Order of Co-Masonry, in April 1893, London consecrated Human Duty Lodge No 6 on 26th September 1902. The new and first co-Masonic body in Britain had the famed Mrs Annie Besant (1847-1933) as its first Grand Commander. It has always remained closely associated with the Theosophical Society, founded in 1875. Continuously active, the Order consecrated a new Lodge in Central London in March 2010.In 1908 the Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Masonry under the guidance of the Rev Dr William Cobb (1857-1941) seceded, soon changing its name to the Order of Women Freemasons which, as the name suggests, was restricted to women alone.
The current Immidiate Past Grand Master, MW Bro Brenda Fleming-Taylor, presided at the centenary celebrations of the Order in London in June 2008 at the Royal Albert Hall. There were no less than 4000 Brethren of the Order present. The present Grand Master, elected 16th October 2010, is MW Bro Zuzanka Penn. Another breakaway group, also restricted to women alone, was named The Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons and consecrated in 1913. The first Grand Master was Mrs Elizabeth Boswell-Reid who held the office until 1933 and was succeeded by her daughter Mrs Lily Seton Challen. The present Grand Master is MW Bro Sheila Norden. The continued charitable contributions of these feminine orders are admirable and impressive. The UGLE at first saw these bodies as irregular. Several applications made to Grand Lodge by the Order of Women Freemasons were refuted. Only in 1998 did the UGLE, still refusing to give them any recognition, formally admit that The Order of Women Freemasons and The Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons were regular in practice (with the sole exception of their gender).
MASONIC RANKING SYSTEM (1908)
An interesting and important development in the London area in the first decade of the 20th century was the institution of the new London Rank. From time immemorial, so to speak, and until October 2003, London masons maintained a unique status by being directly responsible to the Grand Master. This was in stark contrast to their Provincial colleagues where power rested with the Provincial Grand Master and allegiance to him led to rewards of Provincial honours based on a progressive system for which there was no equivalent in London. Perhaps the great privilege of immediate access to the Grand Master was thought to be sufficient. Nonetheless, in 1908 the establishment of the London Rank was a welcome compensation to bring London Masons, to some limited extent, in line with their Provincial colleagues. Full compensation and effective equality came with the establishment of the Metropolitan Grand Lodge of London in October 2003.The Grand Rank system, that is the ‘national’ awards granted to masons in England, remains unique. At the Union in 1813, the right of nomination of all Grand Officers was vested in the Grand Master. Grand Officers are still appointed annually and invested by the Grand Master or his representative at an Annual Festival in April. The award of ‘past rank’ was an English innovation, initially very sparingly awarding grand honours and yet not requiring the holder to have previously held active office. It allowed the recognition of long and faithful services to the Craft by many who could not be accommodated within the limited number of available active Grand Ranks. Today, though tensions are raised at times, the processes of recommendation and selection continue annually, having been tried and tested and operated relatively impartially, over the years.
RETURN TO THE FOLD (1913)
England saw several splits and breakaways since the inception of the Premier Grand Lodge in 1717. At one stage we had four Grand Lodges running simultaneously. The 20th century brought to a happy ending the last of these splits when, in 1913 the last lodge of the Grand Lodge of Wigan re-joined the UGLE. Following on the foundation of the Premier Grand Lodge in 1717, as early as 1725 – a date that remains controversial to this day – a Grand Lodge of All England at York was founded. It is generally agreed that the body and its daughter Lodges, warranted in the North of England, had all died out by 1792. In 1751 the formation of what became known as The Grand Lodge of England According to the Old Institutions kept Freemasonry split for more than six decades, culminating in the Union of 1813. Another major split occurred in 1777. Several Brethren of the Lodge of Antiquity (now No. 2) under the leadership of their immediate Past Master, the Edinburgh born well known Masonic scholar William Preston (1742-1818), seceded from the Moderns Grand Lodge. They formed the Grand Lodge of England South of the River Trent, returning to the fold in 1789. Finally, following the Union in 1813, trouble began to brew in Lancashire, North of England. In 1821, Lodge No. 31 of Liverpool was suspended for their refusal to accept and obey the authority of the UGLE. A year later the Lodge was erased for having continued to meet while under suspension. As a result, Lodge No 31, together with Sincerity Lodge No. 486 of Wigan and a few members of friendship Lodge No. 44 of Manchester, set up the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of England According to the Old Constitutions, popularly referred to as The Grand Lodge of Wigan. They had time to constitute six daughter Lodges, before John Mort was elected their last Grand Master in 1886. He was an active member of Sincerity Lodge, now No 1, the only remaining Lodge on the register of the Wigan Grand Lodge. Mort insisted on the continuity of the status of a Grand Lodge, which thus persisted for another quarter century before finally returning
to the fold of the UGLE in 1913. We have not looked back since.
WARTIME HOSPITAL (1916)
When war broke out in August 1914 and Freemasons were called to arms, they followed in a long and established Masonic military tradition. The earliest recorded Lodges outside of England are attributed to Military Lodges who met on foreign land and even on board ships under the authority of their ‘Travelling Warrant’. Meetings held by Brethren under the adverse conditions of Prisoner of War camps have been well recorded. They cover the Napoleonic Wars and continue to the 20th century. The military record of serving and fallen Brethren is a matter of pride and well commemorated by the institution.In 1911 members of the Malmesbury Lodge No. 3156 first began to consider a Masonic Nursing home and in 1916 they purchased a property in Fulham, West London and, appropriately, named it the Freemasons’ War Hospital and Nursing Home. The establishment dedicated itself to the treatment and welfare of servicemen wounded in the various theatres of war. The impetus thus given to what was intended as an initial temporary facility led to the formal opening of the Royal Masonic Hospital by King George V and Queen Mary on 12th July 1933. It was enthusiastically supported by the fraternity and went from success to success. It was soon recognised for its excellence in all aspects of medical care and rehabilitation, including a sophisticated training school for nurses. The hospital was functioning at its peak when the Second World War broke out.
Once more the hospital successfully catered for over 8,000 soldiers who were treated and rehabilitated in the premises. Following the war, however, with the establishment of the National Health Service in 1948, the fortunes of all the hospitals in the country began to decline. The Royal Masonic Hospital was no exception. A successful appeal to the Brethren in 1960 was well supported, but sadly did not suffice to allow the hospital to maintain the very high standards that had been established in the past years. Furthermore, one perennial problem, namely the location of the Hospital in London, surfaced again. It had more critical and vociferous support by families who had to travel long distances and incur high overnight expenses in support of the sick members of their family.The remainder of this story is tragic. In his 1973 report RW Bro Mr Justice Bagnall had already indicated that the Hospital could not continue to function as a general Hospital and by the 1980s the Hospital was making heavy losses. In September 1984 the report of the Committee of Enquiry which had been set up under the Chairmanship of The Rt. Hon. Sir Maurice Drake – coincidentally and fittingly, a member of Malmesbury Lodge – identified a buyer for the
Hospital and recommended a sale. To the dismay of many Brethren, this was rejected at Grand Lodge in October 1984. The Hospital finally went into liquidation in 1996 following an extended period of controversy and acrimony. The functions of the Hospital are today filled by the New Samaritan Fund and patients are now treated near their homes.
FREEMASONS’ HALL (1933)
In the three years following the end of the First World War in November 1918, some 350 new Lodges were consecrated in England. The founders consisted of servicemen who sought continuity to the camaraderie they had enjoyed during their difficult war time service. In 1919 a decision was taken to erect a Masonic Peace Memorial, honouring the 3,225 Brethren who fell in the war. This was to become our present Freemasons’ Hall. The foundation-stone was laid by the Duke of Connaught, Grand Master, on 14 June 1927 and the Hall was completed and dedicated in 1933. It was the third hall built on the same site. The first consisted of two adjoining houses purchased in 1774 by the Premier Grand Lodge. The architect appointed to amalgamate the houses with a Grand Hall between them was Bro. Thomas Sandby (1721-1798). The resulting building had The Freemasons’ Tavern as a frontage. Considerable structural changes took place after the Union in 1813 when the Duke of Sussex invited his friend, the famous architect of the Bank of England, Sir John Soane (1753-1837) to add extensions to the building. Having submitted his proposals as a layman, John Soane was soon initiated, passed and raised on the same day and given the rank of Past Grand Superintendent of Works, to add a Masonic dimension to the respect he very much enjoyed as an architect. When Bro Frederick Cockerell (1833-1878) built the second Masons’ Hall in the 1860s he incorporated Sandby’s original Grand Hall of 1775 into his building and sadly much of John Soane’s later work was replaced. In 1908 the edifice was demolished to allow the building of the present impressive Freemasons’ Hall. The art-deco architecture of the building, its Grand Temple and stylised Lodge rooms, the Museum and Library of Freemasonry which it houses, are all a source of great pride to all English Freemasons. The building, however, is also a source of concern and anxiety. Its annual maintenance absorbs much of the membership income of the 239,209 freemasons in England and the Districts registered on 1st May, 2010 and, as we are frequently reminded, the membership is declining.
250TH ANNIVERSARY (1967)
In England, charity is the pivot on which Freemasonry rotates and it is rich in its history and traditions. The concept, however, remains particular to British Freemasonry, as practiced by the Grand Lodges of England. It is not emulated by European and other Grand Lodges, certainly not to the same extent. European freemasonry does not have a centralised body coordinating or administrating charitable affairs. Each Lodge makes its own decision as to the distribution of charitable donations, which are usually directed at non-Masonic institutions or events. In America, for instance, organisations beyond the Craft, the Shriners being a primary example, place emphasis on care in the community with hands-on activities more in the style of Rotarians than English Freemasons. The long standing English tradition of charitable giving was manifest in the 250th anniversary of Grand Lodge, celebrated on 14 June 1967 at the Royal Albert Hall in London. The centrepiece of the celebrations was the installation of our present Grand Master, HRH Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent, grandson of George V and thus first cousin to Queen Elizabeth II. A 250th Anniversary Fund was created in 1967 by the contribution of £1 per head by all members of the Craft to commemorate the founding of the Grand Lodge of England in 1717. The purpose of the Fund was to assist the Royal College of Surgeons of England, to establish an annual grant for research into the science of surgery. The fund, supported by additional income, initially raised in excess of £500,000. The income from the fund is administered by a body of trustees in Grand Lodge who make direct donations to the Royal College of Surgeons. The total paid to date by the UGLE to the Royal College of Surgeons is £ 3.9 million (Euros 4.5 million). This is an outstanding and excellent example of the application of Masonic charity in England. 25 years on, on 10th June 1992, 12,500 freemasons and their guests gathered at West London’s Earls Court, to celebrate the 275th anniversary of Grand Lodge. For the first time press and television were present at a meeting of Grand Lodge. The event was featured on television newscasts around the world. The year also celebrated, in addition to the 25th Anniversary of HRH The Duke of Kent as Grand Master, the 40th anniversary of H M The Queen’s accession to the throne. The British Television media could not resist the temptation, notwithstanding the totally overt nature of the celebrations, to broadcast a covert strip of film depicting the ceremony of initiation.
A MAJOR REVIEW (1971)
The many aspects of the charitable face of freemasonry, which developed and surfaced over the last two centuries, reached a climax in 1971. A committee was set up by the Grand Master, to be chaired by the Hon Mr. Justice Bagnell, to consider the rationalising of existing Masonic charities, in the light of recent development of the Welfare State and the now active and accessible provision of Social Security. Following exhaustive enquiries, the committee published their ‘Bagnell Report’ on 29 April 1974. It was well received and accepted by the Grand Master who now set up a steering committee to implement the recommendations. The historic context for the dramatic changes that were now to take place reverted to the Union of the Antients and Moderns in 1813. The general funds of both Grand Lodges were combined into a Board of Benevolence and Charity, which continued as the predominant priority of the newly formed United Grand Lodge of England. In January 1981, the original Fund of Benevolence, which could trace its roots to 1720, became the independent Grand Charity. It was given its own President, Council and Committees and continues today the most senior of the charities. Its annual donations (exceeding £ 6.8 million in 2008) are dispensed equally within and without Freemasonry. The Royal Masonic Institution for Girls (RMIG), founded by Chevalier Bartholomew Ruspini in 1788, and the Royal Masonic Institution for Boys (RMIB), amalgamated in 1986 to form the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys. Today only the independent Masonic School for Girls survives, highly successfully. It provides for the education of all children and grand children of Freemasons up to University level. It is responsible for over 1,600 young people involving also children with no Masonic connections.
In 1983 the publication of Stephen Knight’s (1951-1985) The Brotherhood had major repercussions on English Freemasonry. It brought about a fundamental change in the manner in which post-war Freemasonry presented itself to the public. The book was another exposure, similar to the hundreds of similar attacks on Freemasonry published since Samuel Prichard’s’ Masonry Dissected saw the light of day in October 1730. The difference was the public perception of such exposures. In the 1980s conspiracy theories were rife and popular and the suggestion that the Police and Judiciary were under the total control of Freemasons in England, was received with credulity. It was the aftermath, led by a press crusade against freemasonry, that led the Grand Master to launch his own campaign of openness, which continues to this day. Until 1984 and since its foundation in 1717, the policy of Grand Lodge had been one of ‘no comment’. Today the function of our Director of Communications is to ensure that what the press says is accurate and factual. The radical changes, therefore, leading to the appointment of a Director of Communications, the nomination of provincial spokesmen, use of the services of a Public Relations company and other measures to ‘open’ Freemasonry to public scrutiny, was a dramatic change indeed. Within the Craft, removal of the physical penalties from the ritual, was formally approved by Grand Lodge and was a direct consequence of these unprecedented changes.
ITALIAN SUSPENSION (1993)
The Grand Orient of Italy won recognition from England in 1972 – having been established for over 100 years. It was the first time England recognised any Masonic Grand Lodge in Italy. In April 1993, a week after his election as the Grand Master of the Grand Orient of Italy, Giuliano di Bernardo dramatically resigned from the Grand Orient. He simultaneously set up his own Regular Grand Lodge of Italy and applied for formal recognition. The response by the United Grand Lodge of England is unique in English Masonic history. Recognition of the Grand Orient was ‘suspended’, a term never before used, at the Quarterly Communication on 9th June 1993 and withdrawn on 8th September. On 8th December 1993 the Regular Grand Lodge of Italy was formally recognised by England and recognition followed automatically by Ireland and Scotland. In December 2001, M W Bro Fabio Venzi (b1961) was installed as the Grand Master of the Regular Grand Lodge of Italy and continues to rule to date.
PRINCE HALL (1994)
A long standing and much discussed issue worldwide reached its climax in England in 1994 when the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts was recognised by the UGLE. The origins of the tension date to 1775, when an African-American named Prince Hall, together with fourteen other Afro-Americans, was initiated in Boston, Massachusetts. On 29 September 1784, these individuals applied and obtained a Lodge Warrant from the Grand Lodge of England and formed the African Lodge No. 459. What followed appears to be a comedy of errors, with applications and communications of the African Lodge being ignored by the Grand Lodge in London. In 1797 the African Lodge, clearly without authority, allowed two new Lodges to meet at Providence, Rhode Island and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. By 1813, though still listed on the register of the Grand Lodge of England, all contact with the African Lodge had been lost. In 1827 the African Lodge declared itself an independent Grand Lodge later styled ‘Prince Hall Grand Lodge’. In 1998, the Board of General Purposes of the UGLE agreed that the philosophy and practice of Prince Hall Masonry was regular. In doing so it followed a practice that has started some years earlier in Connecticut in 1989. In considering the application from the Grand Master of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts – from which, it was agreed, all Prince Hall Lodges derive their authority – the Board recommended that this Prince Hall Grand Lodge should be accepted as regular and recognised. The present philosophy of the UGLE is to favourably consider applications from Prince Hall Grand Lodges that have been recognised by the Grand Lodge in their own ‘territory’. Data compiled in 2008 shows that 41 out of the 51 mainstream American Grand Lodges recognize Prince Hall Grand Lodges.
HOUSE OF COMMONS SELECT COMMITTEE (1997)
Government interference in Masonic affairs in England has been mercifully moderate; the Unlawful Societies Act of 1799 that saw the first statue for the more effectual suppression of societies established for seditious and treasonable purposes, comes readily to mind as a rare example. The decision, therefore, in December 1996 of the Home Affairs Select Committee to look into Freemasonry and its influence on the criminal justice system, was received with considerable disparagement by the fraternity. The conclusion that the perception that Freemasonry interfered in the criminal justice system was “unjustified paranoia” was received with relief and satisfaction. It was not, however, the end of the matter. In spite of the conclusions of the committee that ‘that when the (Masonic) oaths are read in context, there is nothing in them that would show a conflict between the oath taken by a judge or policeman and that taken by a freemason’, the text was amended at the last moment on the proposition of Chris Mullin MP, to a recommendation calling for police officers, judges, magistrates and crown prosecutors to publicly register their membership of the society. Until very recently, the Lord Chancellor’s form requiring statements of membership required all magistrates, police officers, legally qualified members of the CPS, prison staff, probation service staff and members of the judiciary to declare voluntarily whether or not they were freemasons. This requirement was only lifted by the Home Secretary Jack Straw in November 2009, following on European Human Rights legislation, resulting from the successful case of the Grand Orient of Italy, the precise details of which are: Chamber judgement, Grande Oriente d’Italia di Palazzo Guistiniani vs Italy (No.2) (Application No. 267400/02).
LORD NORTHAMPTON: NEW PRO GRAND MASTER (2001)
If one single Brother has had an impact on changes in Freemasonry in the past 100 years, it would undoubtedly be the British Peer, Spencer “Spenny” Douglas David Compton, 7th Marquess of Northampton (b 1946). On 14th March 2001 HRH the Duke of Kent (b 1935), Grand Master of the UGLE, invested the Marquess of Northampton as Pro Grand Master in succession to Lord Farnham. Lord Northampton came from twenty-eight generations of the family: the Comptons – in direct male descent, which they can trace back to at least 1204. He was initiated into Ceres Lodge, No. 6977, in Northampton, in 1976. In 1995 he was appointed Assistant Grand Master responsible for London and kept the post for five years. In many ways he revolutionised Masonic thinking, especially in London. He instigated the ‘open’ policy of Freemasonry and, most importantly, the establishment of the Metropolitan Grand Lodge. He was a popular and innovative Masonic leader and totally dedicated to the Craft. He also brought in to the English Craft a refreshing and much needed element of self search and philosophic, if not esoteric, appreciation of aspects of Freemasonry. At the UGLE Quarterly Communications in September 2008, Lord Northampton announced his intention to retire as Pro Grand Master having helped the fraternity come through one of the most difficult periods in its history. He has left a yawning gap behind and he is still sincerely missed by Brethren of the fraternity at every level. M W Bro Peter Geoffrey Lowndes (b 1948) was appointed Pro Grand Master on 11th March 2009.
METROPOLITAN GRAND LODGE (2003)
As stated earlier in this paper, London Masons had, since time immemorial, enjoyed a special status by being directly responsible to the Grand Master, in the absence of the equivalent of a Provincial Grand Master for London. This was to cease on 1st October 2003 when the Metropolitan Grand Lodge of London (and Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London) was inaugurated in the presence of the MW the Grand Master HRH the Duke of Kent at the Royal Albert Hall. The glittering ceremonies were attended by a full house that packed the stalls, balconies and galleries of the Royal Albert Hall as Lord Millett was installed Metropolitan Grand Master. This controversial and innovative initiative, the brain child of Lord Northampton when Assistant Grand Master, has had its fair share of problems. The complexity of the set up, the new ranking system and appointment of Metropolitan Grand Officers (ten Group Chairmen and ten Deputies) had to be revised and considerable heart searching reforms continue to date.
DIVISION OF RESPONSIBILITY (2006)
Generations of Grand Secretaries of Grand Lodge, before and after the Union, have monopolised the effective administration of the Craft. The name of Laurence Dermott (1720-1791), that most extraordinary man and freemason, Grand Secretary of the Antients, comes to mind, as does Samuel Spencer, his contemporary counterpart in the Moderns Grand Lodge. Others include Thomas Harper, William White and James Heseltine and, more recently, Sir Edward Letchworth and Sir James Stubbs, the last of that ilk of Grand Secretary. After his passing in the year 2000, the power of the Grand Secretary began to diminish culminating in the 2006 announcement by the Board of General Purposes that henceforth the office of Grand Secretary would be divided. The new system saw three areas of responsibility instead of the single role of Grand Secretary: a Chief Operating Officer (currently R W Bro Nigel Brown) whose responsibility would be the management of Freemasons’ Hall in London; the Grand Secretary to remain responsible for all matters Masonic in England and for Districts and Lodges overseas and the new appointment of a Grand Chancellor (currently RW Bro Alan Englefield) responsible for external relations with other Grand Lodges on the continent and overseas. Major changes, allowing England to fall in step with long standing European practices.
EUROPEAN GRAND MASTERS’ IN LONDON (2007)
In the light of the age-old acrimony and criticism endured by the UGLE on the subject of recognition and regularity, the London Conference of Grand Masters in November 2007, must have been regarded as a revolutionary and courageous event. It came about by the invitation of the UGLE to European Grand Masters, several of unrecognised constitutions, to meet and discuss aspects of sovereignty, communications as well as regularity and recognition. The 44 Grand Masters who accepted the invitation were formally welcomed by the Grand Master, HRH the Duke of Kent, at a highly cordial dinner. The two-day long conference that followed was chaired by the then Deputy Grand Master, Peter Lowndes. The speakers included the Pro Grand Master, Lord Northampton, the Grand Master of Austria, Michael Kraus and Gustavo Raffi, Grand Master of the Grand Orient of Italy. It was an undoubted success that has opened the door to similar future conferences.
THE INTERNET AGE (2010)
Our forefathers could not have visualised the success and universal expansion of Freemasonry, let alone 21st century technology, which is beyond the comprehension of the average Mason today. Nonetheless, looking at present trends and recent developments, Freemasonry appears well placed in this virtual age of cyber space. The first Masonic bulletin board was set up in 1978 and by then some Masons had already been communicating by e-mail, the earliest record of which, surprisingly is in 1966. What revolutionised the then new communication media was the introduction of the Modem in 1977. By 1995 we had the still active and popular UK Mason list and the foundation of the Internet Lodge No. 9659, boasting today a membership in excess of 1100 brethren, led us to the road of no return. Lodge secretaries no longer need special dispensations to send minutes and summonses by e-mail, Grand Lodges worldwide have their own websites as do many private Lodges. So much is now so readily available on the World Wide Web that, subject to filtering the information for accuracy, life has become simpler and easier . . . even writing this article!
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