Emerald Isle Lodge No XIX talk by Wor Bro Chris McClintock
It was with trepidation that I agreed to lecture on my researches to Emerald Isle Lodge No. 19 in Dublin. Few lodges in the Irish Constitution, save perhaps Grand Masterʼs Lodge, and Lodge No. 2 (the oldest continually working lodge in the Constitution), have such an august reputation. Formed within a military setting in the early 1900s within the 1st Connaught Rangers, it subsequently found itself in Lahore Pakistan when Freemasonry was prohibited there in 1983. The Lodge applied for a duplicate warrant - its first one lost with the other seized lodge items in Pakistan - and resumed their labours in Dublin in 1992. It is their fervent wish to one day be allowed to return to their beloved Lahore, and drink a toast to such at every meeting. Their membership is drawn from all over the world and surely uniquely in the Constitution, the Lodge Summons for this meeting was sent out to five continents, including Antarctica.
Part of my presentation always includes mention of the fact that the Craft is not Christian - very specifically not Christian. This does not mean it is anti-Christian in any way - it is simply multi-denominational. The Brotherhood is open to all who profess a belief in a higher power, meaning that men of all faiths can come together in fraternity without any of them feeling less or better than the brother of a different faith sitting beside him. I was therefore delighted to find the lodge room prepared with seven different books of faith side by side on the altar in reference to the mix of faiths in the lodge, and found the inclusivity that that demonstrated very heart-warming.
As the brethren gathered and I heard local Irish, English and Scottish accents mixed with Australian and Thai, I felt just a little nervous for the first time in a long, long time. I have spoken far and wide on the topic of the metaphors and symbolism of the Craft - once being privileged to speak as far from home as Boynton Beach Florida - but this talk was different from all the preceding ones.
The main part of my lectures involves the Sun symbolism that is all-pervasive in the Craftʼs not inconsiderable battery of imagery, but what is less obvious is a very specific link I have discovered to the stars, in particular to the constellation of Orion and its place and stance in the heavens. By the time I have listed the various uses of sun and star symbolism in our rituals it generally takes me around an hour - barring me from spending much time delving into why those references would be used. On this occasion, however, I decided to make some radical changes to what I included in my talk.
The writing of a book or books involves much reading and re-reading, and over the years of working with the concepts contained within them, one becomes very familiar with those concepts. Every now and again the brain makes linkages that flesh out the picture of not only what we do in Freemasonry, but why we do it. Increasingly therefore I find my attention turning away from just noting down occurrences in our labours that can be traced back to ancient mythologies and archaic ways of comprehending deity, and focusing more on trying to understand why including such things would enhance our rites and rituals. This is an extremely valid pursuit, because it sets the arcana in a context that will not only hopefully make the mysteries of Freemasonry easier to comprehend for the brethren - but will draw the sting of much of the criticism of our Order by those who are on the outside looking in, and who ʻknow with certaintyʼ that our rites are sinister and anti-Christian.
This desire to update my talk to include this speculation was uppermost in my mind when I was asked to visit Lodge Emerald Isle, so I immediately set about a re-write. I could not include all my original talk and then double the time with the inclusions, so a hard decision had to be made. I decided to cut all mention of the stars and Orion from the talk and concentrate instead on the sun and how the transformation from the dark half of the year to the light half was so fitting as a framework for the transformation of the individual from being in a state of darkness to one of Light. The intention is, of course, that I will later do the same with Orion and the stars, and devote another lecture to delving deeply into our rituals from that perspective.
I arrived in Dublin mid afternoon and was helped to set up in the magnificent Grand Lodge room by the Grand Tyler, Keith Stent. Around fifty brethren would be present and it was decided that the only way a visual presentation would work in such a large hall was by gathering the brethren in one area - and this necessitated asking the Worshipful Master if he would mind leaving his place in the East for the duration. He of course did, and when I rose to speak, all nervousness left me.
The presentation went better than I could have expected, and a forest of hands shot up for the ten minute question and answer session afterwards. Unfortunately the first question required an answer that took eight minutes so it was decided, because a meal was scheduled immediately after labour, that further questions would be left until later. My heart sank at that, because it is usually hard to generate interest again after an hour has passed, but my fears were unfounded as after dinner the questions came thick and fast.
In my presentation I link the symbols of the Craft with those of the Celtic Church and through that body of men to those who venerated the sun in pre-Christian times. Someone asked where I believed the link was forged. After expanding on what I had said previously, I was delighted to be able to turn to one of the brethren of Emerald Isle present, my very dear friend Bill Howie from Scotland, now living in Durham, who is in his eighties and after a few rough years is now well enough to resume his travels. He is a Masonic researcher too, and we had earlier that day been speaking on the paper he is currently working on entitled ʻTyronesian Architects, Monks and Sacred Geometryʼ. In it he suggests a confluence of ideas when the Architects of Tyron, (a breakaway group of monks from the Benedictine Order whoʼs chosen way to worship God was through building using sacred geometry) forged an alliance with a cell of Celtic Monks at the building of Kilwinning Abbey in Ayrshire Scotland. So impressed was the audience with the tale he told, and so well did it dovetail with my own presentation, that he was prevailed upon to present his paper in Ireland where the brethren present would have a chance of hearing it.
So all-in-all there was huge interest in my talk and I was greatly encouraged that my decision was right to focus on a smaller aspect of our rituals and more fully apply them to why we do what we do the way we do it. The talk showed that every little nuance and gesture in our labours weaves a tapestry of ageless meaning around the candidate as he travels the Masonic route from Entered Apprentice to Master Mason. It also demonstrated why the preservation of our rites intact and without allowing any changes is paramount, because as they are they work together and tell a complete story. By omitting something or moving it around however, we render the entire rite as meaningless mumbo-jumbo.
It would be remiss of me not to mention the two main facilitators of the evening - the Secretary of the Lodge, Terence Read, and the Master of the Lodge, Clive Atterbury. Every lodge relies heavily on its secretary, and watching Terence in action was a pleasure indeed. Over dinner afterwards I had a good chat with the Master and an interesting fact arose, which led to my invitation to speak. A couple of years ago my friend and Brother Paal Dinnesen from Thailand was so impressed with my book ʻThe Craft and the Crossʼ, that he very generously purchased 20 copies to give as presents to his Masonic friends dotted around south east Asia. The books didnʼt arrive and I was on the verge of parceling up another boxful (hoping they wouldnʼt disappear down the same wormhole the first box had) when the now Master of Emerald Isle, Clive Atterbury, who apparently understood the vagaries of the Thai post office system better than most, tracked them down to some remote sorting office. Clive was one of those given a book and he was impressed by it too - so because of the benevolence of Paal Dinnesen half way around the world, I was invited to speak in Dublin.
The Master of the Lodge Wor Bro Clive Atterbury with the author
The generosity of the lodge meant I didnʼt have to make the 3.5 hour drive home that night but availed of a comfortable bed followed by a hearty Irish breakfast in Buswellʼs Hotel across the street. This enabled myself and my wife to spend a couple of hours in the company of our friend Bill Howie the following day before we headed north. During the morning I managed to persuade him to present his paper on the Tyronesian Architects to Lodge 200, the Irish Lodge of Research, some time in the future. All-in-all it was a wonderful trip, where I met some old friends and made some new ones in convivial surroundings - something which has always lain at the very heart of the Craft.
Wor Bro Chris McClintock