by Dr.Robert Lomas
It is just over seventeen years since I became a Freemason.
As a junior Mason I found the rituals of the Craft interesting but confusing. The symbols had an emotional appeal but it soon became clear that there were as many views as lodge members about what they were supposed to mean. There was no clear answer to how it had all started or what it was supposed to be doing. But from the moment I joined I had a feeling that Freemasonry was a satisfying thing to belong to.
The history of the Order seemed to be one of its best kept secrets. I soon realised that little was known about what happened before 1717.
The more I found out about the local history of Freemasonry in Yorkshire the more evidence I saw that it had been around for a long time before that first meeting at the Goose and Gridiron in London. York had a Grand Lodge of its own long before 1717. I found copies of Ancient Charges from well of over a hundred years before Freemasonry was supposed to have begun. None of the Craft’s own stories of its origins fitted the facts.
Eventually I set out to answer my own questions about the origins of Freemasonry. This quest began as a private endeavour based on a clean sheet of paper. I had no preferences for the outcome. If I found the Craft to be some sixteenth century eccentric invention - so be it. This was the beginning of a long quest, which resulted in five best-selling books, four written in company with Chris Knight.
I have come to the view that the world can only benefit from open and frank discussions on the subject of human belief and our interaction with the power that underpins the universe – the power that many people call God, scientists call the Laws of Physics and Freemasons call the Great Architect of the Universe. Freemasonry, the second largest and best equipped spiritual organisation in the world, may well be the best forum to foster this discussion.
Freemasonry claims that it is not a religion and that it is compatible with the belief systems of all religions. I entirely accept this, although it does provide a focal point for many people who are not active in any particular faith – and for them it provides spiritual values without the need to subscribe to an entire belief system. But is also is a comfortable and tolerant meeting place for members of any religion.
The standard explanation for the existence of Freemasonry is based on the idea that the bizarre rituals are simply 'morality plays' borrowed from the initiation rites of guilds of working stonemasons by philosophic gentlemen for their own betterment. In my view this starting point is inherently silly, and any steps leading from it are likely to be deeply flawed. The rituals work in a systematic psychological way improve the minds and morals of those exposed to them, a subject I am currently writing about and plan to publish next year.