No Secret Anymore

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W Bro Ken Cownden puts in a lot of work for our enjoyment.  His ‘Further Thought for the Day’ papers are full of interesting articles. A recent issue contains an intriguing item for potential and new members as well as being informative to most Essex Freemasons.  It is about ‘Secrecy’.  Ken explains, “We all understand that ‘Secrecy’ in Freemasonry comprises of a small number of signs, grips and words to distinguish each other as a member and which Degree.”

Ken then takes his readers into the period between World War I and II “when Freemasonry grew considerably, membership registers were available, public parades often included Masons in regalia, notices for meetings were published in the local press and there was freedom of information about both Freemasons and Freemasonry”.

This changed dramatically, Ken explains, with the rise of Nazism in the mid-1930s and on the outbreak of World War II. Such openness and gatherings ceased in fear of a Nazi invasion bringing horrendous persecutions as in the countries which had been overrun by the Nazis.  In England, existing Freemasons became extremely concerned for the safety and security of their families as well as their own.

Freemasons’ lodges were decreed hostile by the Nazis and their property seized.  Brethren were required to declare their membership, similar to the forced registration of the Jewish people and were similarly later rounded-up and sent to concentration camps for extermination. An aura of ‘Secrecy’ developed which continued after hostilities ended, giving rise to much foolish and incorrect speculation (false news) about Freemasonry and its members.

With his interest in French masonry since 1984, Ken describes similar devastation in both Occupied and Vichy France. “From a Masonic point of view” Ken concludes “we were indeed fortunate that the Nazis did not get to the British Isles and wreak similar destruction and havoc to even more lives and society as they did.”

This aura of ‘Secrecy’ which Ken described, plus a growing discrimination against Freemasons, was allowed to linger on the way it did until three years ago in February 2018 when the new Chief Executive of the United Grand Lodge of England, Dr David Staples, launched the “Enough is Enough” campaign, writing to the Equality and Human Rights Commission and placing full-page press advertisements pointing out that 200,000 Freemasons had raised £33 million the year before for good causes.

With all the volunteering work and charitable donations made by Freemasons during the Covid-19 crisis, perhaps now more than ever we should metaphorically, as Doris Day once sang, shout it from the highest hills that our ‘Secret’ is ‘No secret anymore’.

Tony Hales

Content Generator
Provincial Grand Lodge of Essex