by Dr.Robert Lomas
European Freemasonry thrived and the Order was carried by travelling military lodges to every corner of the planet. The oldest universities such as Oxford and Cambridge were proud of their lodges; the great shipbuilders and the men who took the American railroads westwards mingled with the judges and the generals to work together for a better society. Ambition burned in their bellies and failure was never considered. The American Constitution and the Royal Society came into existence because of Masons like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Sir Robert Moray, Alexander Bruce and Elias Ashmole. This is the story I told in THE INVISIBLE COLLEGE, which was published in the States as FREEMASONRY AND THE BIRTH OF MODERN SCIENCE.
The city of Washington was designed by Freemasons and London raised from the ashes of the Great Fire due to the inspiration of Grand Master Mason, Sir Christopher Wren. A subject my good friends Robert and Graham have explored more fully in TALISMAN.
Even the 'Wild West' was tamed by Freemasons Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, Buffalo Bill and Pat Garrett to name but a few.
In every town throughout the Western world Masonic Temples provided the meeting ground for the men who set out to achieve. For example in the West Yorkshire town of Halifax, the world's largest building society was created by Freemasons meeting in the Old Cock Inn. Now a major bank this institution, named after the town, provided the financial structure to give hundreds of thousands of ordinary people their first opportunity to own their own home.
At a time when leading thinkers and doers in England were either Christians or Jews, Freemasons of all religions met on equal terms in the lodge to share their enthusiasm for progress on the road to making life better for themselves, their families and the community at large. They worked in harmony with their church or synagogue as any religious differences evaporated in the atmosphere of tolerance that is central to the Order.
As they achieved ever-greater success their towns and their countries grew more prosperous and new, more specialist, ways of working together came along. Freemasonry had fought for and attained an age of reason and personal freedom. Now people could develop themselves and their communities without the need to meet in darkened rooms, wear strange regalia and recite odd-ball ritual.
No longer are Masonic lodges the meeting place of 'movers and shakers'.
The people who would once have been the backbone of the Order, now would not dream of asking to join. They have better things to do in their life; careers to build, families to rear, social commitments to take up their time. Everyone from businessmen to police officers, from councillors to academics gives the Order a wide berth. These days membership of the local lodge is either irrelevant or positively detrimental to a young person's career. Yet Freemasonry still has much to offer modern society. It offers a means to improve the individuals who join its lodges.
If you are interested in Freemasonry my website www.robertlomas.com has a lot of Masonic material including the full text of William Preston's Illustrations of Masonry, and my university website has a whole database of discarded Masonic ritual www.bradford.ac.uk/webofhiram/
Dr Robert Lomas