Freemasonry, although its leaders strenuously deny it, is a secret society. In England and Wales alone it has more than 600,000 initiates, with a further 100,000 in Scotland and between 50,000 and 70,000 in Ireland. All the members of this extraordinary Brotherhood are male. All except those who are second-, third-, or fourth-generation Freemasons, who may join at eighteen, are over the age of twenty-one. All have sworn on pain of death and ghastly mutilation not to reveal masonic secrets to outsiders, who are known to brethren as the 'profane'.*
The headquarters of the Brotherhood in England and Wales is in London, where the massive bulk of Freemasons Hall squats at the corner of Great Queen Street and Wild Street like a gigantic elephant's footstool. This is the seat of the United Grand Lodge of England, the governing body of the 8,000-plus Lodges in England and Wales. These Lodges, of which there are another 1,200-odd under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Scotland and about 750 under the Grand Lodge of Ireland, carry out their secret business and ritual in a deliberately cultivated atmosphere
*From the Latin pro (before) and fanum (the temple); i.e. one outside the temple, not initiated to the rites performed within.
of mystery in masonic Temples. Temples might be purpose built, or might be rooms in hotels or private buildings temporarily converted for masonic use. Many town halls up and down the country, for example, have private function rooms used for masonic rituals, as does New Scotland Yard, the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police.
The Grand Lodges control what is known as 'craft' Freemasonry, and brethren often refer to the Brotherhood as 'the Craft'. Craft Freemasonry covers the three degrees of Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason. The vast majority of Freemasons rise no higher than Master Mason, and most are under the impression that there are no higher degrees. Even many of those who go on to become Royal Arch Masons, governed not by Grand Lodge but by Grand Chapter, have no idea that the masonic ladder extends a further thirty rungs above those on the third who believe they have already reached the top.
There is an important distinction to be made between Freemasonry, which is the movement as a whole, and Freemasons, which describes any number of individual Masons. This appears self-evident, but confusion of the two ideas has led to some gross misunderstandings. Take the death of Captain William Morgan in America in 1826. There is evidence to suggest that Morgan, having revealed certain masonic secrets in his book Freemasonry Exposed, was kidnapped and murdered by Freemasons. There have been suggestions that Mozart, a Mason, was poisoned by members of the Brotherhood, allegedly for betraying masonic secrets in The Magic Flute. And in 1888, the Jack the Ripper murders in the East End of London were perpetrated according to masonic ritual. Purely because people, wilfully or innocently, have regarded the words Freemasons and Freemasonry as interchangeable, these deaths have frequently been blamed, not on various individual Freemasons, but on the whole Brotherhood.
Some people, even today, look upon Freemasonry as an underground movement devoted to murder, terrorism and revolution. Hence, we read of Freemasonry as a worldwide conspiracy and watch, through the clouded vision of certain woefully mistaken writers, the whole of world history since the Renaissance unfold according to masonic machinations.
Freemasonry is not a worldwide secret society. It is a secret society that, originating in Britain, now has independent offshoots in most of the non-Communist world. And although the British Grand Lodges recognize more than a hundred Grand Lodges (forty-nine of them in the USA), they have no control over them, and most reflect the character and political complexion of the country in which they operate. Far from being revolutionary, there is no organization more reactionary, more Establishment-based, than British Freemasonry. Its members derive benefit from the Brotherhood only so long as the status quo is maintained.
Nevertheless, Freemasonry has a potent influence on life in Britain - for both good and ill.
The Brotherhood's stated aims of morality, fraternity and charity are well known. Indeed, circumspect and even secretive about all of Masonry's other doings, the average member of the Brotherhood will be eloquent on the generous donations made by United Grand Lodge and individual Lodges to charity, both masonic and profane. In 1980, for instance, Grand Lodge gave away £931,750, of which just over £300,000 was for non-masonic causes. In addition, many thousands of Masons and their relatives have benefited from the Royal Masonic Institution for Girls ('for maintaining, clothing and educating the daughters of Freemasons'), the Royal Masonic Institution for Boys, the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution, the Royal Masonic Hospital ('for Freemasons, their wives, widows and dependent children'), and the Masonic Foundation for the Aged and the Sick.
On the other hand, there can be no doubt that many others have suffered because of Freemasonry entering into areas of life where, according to all its publicly proclaimed principles, it should never intrude. The abuse of Freemasonry causes alarming miscarriages of justice. It is one of the aims of this book to look at some of the effects of this abuse.
The Brotherhood is neither a commendation nor a condemnation of Freemasonry. Nor is it another wearisome and misnamed 'exposure' of Masonry's no longer secret rituals. Those rituals, or most of them, can be found in public libraries. In this respect the book differs from the vast majority of books written on the subject in the past 260 years. There is much here that will be unknown to the general reader, but all the verifiable facts I have obtained are presented in full, whether they are favourable or unfavourable to Masonry. Where I enter into speculation - and I do this as little as possible - I make it clear.
I am a journalist. From the beginning, I have thought of this investigation into Freemasonry in modern society as an extended piece of journalism. It is a factual report researched intensively over a relatively short period but because I was working without the benefit of a secretary or researchers the report does contain gaps. My network of contacts within Freemasonry, although extensive, represented a tiny fraction of all the Freemasons in this country. And the secret workings of Freemasonry, its use in manipulating this deal here, in getting someone promotion there, in influencing the actions of police, lawyers, judges, Civil Servants, is meat for a lifetime of study. I have therefore had to concentrate on some areas of society at the expense of others. I have devoted most time and energy to the areas of greatest concern. I trust readers will understand if this plan leaves questions where they feel there should be answers. I shall welcome comments, information and observations from anyone who has something to say. The updating process is already in hand and I expect to be able to expand and revise for as many editions as the public requires. Perhaps a better sub-title might therefore be Freemasonry: An Interim Report, because in addition to being wide-ranging and complicated (though always intensely fascinating), the nature of Freemasonry is changing - and the investigator has to face the problem of organized secrecy and 'disinformation'.
This latter can be crass and easily spotted, like the information passed to me covertly by a high-ranking Freemason posing as a nark, which said that at a certain degree a Candidate was required to defecate on a crucifix. This absurd sort of tactic is aimed at the gullible anti-Mason who is on the lookout for scandal and sensation, and who will believe anything that shows the Brotherhood in an unfavourable light. Such writers do exist, and in some number as I have found in the ten months I have had to prepare the report. These are the people who repeat what they are told without checking on facts and sources, and who ignore all evidence which runs counter to their own argument. And it is they who fall for the kind of disinformation tactic which several Freemasons attempted to practise upon me.* The crucifix story is just one example. There are others - including the yarn, gravely whispered to me in the corner of the Freemasons Arms just along the road from Freemasons Hall in London, that Prince Charles had been secretly initiated into a north London Lodge that practised Black Magic; and the
*These individuals acted, I don't doubt, without the knowledge of Grand Lodge, which always prefers to ignore the very existence of outside enquirers.
fabrication, in support of which someone with access to Grand Lodge notepaper forged some impressive correspondence, that both main political parties had approached Grand Lodge prior to leadership elections to discuss the person most favourably looked upon by the Masons. Nonsense.
Had I accepted any of this disinformation and published it, as was the intention of those who went to such lengths to feed it to me, the whole of this book would have been open to ridicule. What the disinformers evidently most desired was that The Brotherhoodshould be dismissed as irresponsible and unreliable and quickly forgotten.
I began my enquiry with two questions: Does Freemasonry have an influence on life in Britain, as many people believe? And if so, what kind of influence and in which areas of society? I felt from the beginning that it was important, if possible, to approach the subject from a position of absolute neutrality. In my favour was that I was neither a Mason nor an anti-Mason. But I had studied the subject in the early 1970s for my book Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution, and had received a large volume of letters from readers of that book, containing information, questions, theories and arguments on a range of topics associated with Freemasonry. So I did not have the open mind of one completely ignorant. I had already reached certain conclusions. Because of this, as the hundreds of Masons I have interviewed since the spring of 1981 can testify, I probed all the more deeply for evidence that might upset those conclusions, in order to obtain as balanced a view of Freemasonry in modern Britain as I could.
But when I began writing, I very quickly discovered the impossibility of complete neutrality. I had seen, heard and discovered things that had made an impression upon me. It would have been a negation of my responsibility to the reader to deny her or him access to these impressions: I was, after all, carrying out the enquiry on behalf of those readers. Inevitably, I have reached conclusions based on the mass of new data now available to me.
Two months after I began research on this book, the United Grand Lodge of England issued a warning in its Quarterly Communication to Lodges, reminding brethren of the rule in their 'Antient Charges' concerning the ban on discussing internal affairs with outsiders. One Royal Arch Mason of thirty years' standing told me it was the first of its kind in his experience. The Quarterly Communication, according to one informant, is 'the method by which Freemasonry at its supreme level gets down to the lower levels'.
The Communication of 10 June 1981 contained this:
We have nothing to hide and certainly nothing to be ashamed of, but we object to having our affairs investigated by outsiders. We would be able to answer many of the questions likely to be asked, if not all of them, but we have found that silence is the best practice. Comment or correction only breeds further enquiry and leads to the publicity we seek to avoid. We respect and do not comment on the attitudes of other organizations. It is unfortunate that sometimes they are less respectful of ours. If therefore any of you is approached by any reporter. .. you will only be carrying out our practice if you gently decline to comment. Do not be drawn into argument or defence, however . . . Remember the Antient Charge, 'Behaviour in Presence of Strangers, Not Masons': You shall be cautious in your words and carriage, that the most penetrating stranger shall not be able to discover or find out what is not proper to be intimated; and sometimes you shall divert a discourse, and manage it prudently for the honour of the worshipful fraternity. . .
This warning was issued by no less a figure than the Pro Grand Master, Brother the Rt Hon the Earl Cadogan, sitting as president of the Brotherhood's Board of General Purposes. The reminder of possible disciplinary action against Freemasons who contravene Antient Charge VI.4 was not provoked solely by the United Grand Lodge's concern about my own enquiries. London Weekend Television had recently discussed in its Credo programme whether Freemasonry was compatible with Christianity, and the fact that several Freemasons of grand rank* had taken part in the programme had caused a storm within the Brotherhood.
A non-Mason such as I, working for information against this kind of organized secrecy, newly reinforced by stern warnings, would be hard put to obtain anything in certain areas of the subject without the assistance of at least some genuinely motivated 'moles'.
I was fortunate to have established within a few months an entire network of moles. The information this led me to was as startling as it was disturbing.
After my first book appeared in 1976, the London Evening News, which serialized it, received a letter from the Freemason director of a chain of bookshops, stating that he was so enraged by evidence I had produced linking Freemasons to the Jack the Ripper case that not only would he physically attack me if we should ever meet (referring to me as 'this specimen'), he would never stock the book and would do all in his power to wreck its distribution to shops not owned by him. To some extent he succeeded. Although after the serialization it was in high demand, and quickly climbed to the top of the bestseller lists, I was soon receiving letters from would-be readers asking where it could be bought. Despite continuing demand for the book (it was reprinted in 1977, 1978, 1979, twice in 1981 and again in 1982) it cannot be found in branches of this particular chain. Many Freemason managers of other bookshops refuse point-blank to stock it.
*Past or present holders of office in the United Grand Lodge are brethren of grand rank.
Many previous books on Freemasonry have been published. Many, chiefly those by Masons themselves, are still in print after several years. It is interesting to see how many outsiders' works on the Brotherhood have gone quickly out of print despite continuing demand for them.
It is inevitable that many Freemasons will object to this book, if only because it overturns some cherished masonic beliefs. At least readers will be aware of the reason why, if it is in demand, all manner of excuses will be made by some booksellers for not stocking it.
One final point, which shows how easy it is to see masonic conspiracy where in reality there might be none. The episode is recounted in some detail because it has already been referred to in the press but not in the detail necessary for a balanced judgement to be reached. It dramatically affected The Brotherhood, so it is fitting that The Brotherhoodshould set the record straight.
Although the book is now being published by Granada, it was originally commissioned by New English Library. It was the idea of Simon Scott, managing editor of NEL. Scott approached my agent, Andrew Hewson, in the spring of 1981 after reading my Jack the Ripper, and suggested that I was the person to write it. We met, I produced a synopsis and specimen chapter, and The Brotherhood was commissioned. I began work in September 1981 and delivered the typescript to Scott in June 1982. It was to be the lead non-fiction title in NEL's spring 1983 catalogue.
From the first, Scott made it clear that only a handful of people within New English Library would know of the project. At the time the book was commissioned, NEL was owned by a remote American cartel which did not care what its English subsidiary published so long as it showed a profit at the end of the year. Nevertheless, Scott and editorial director Nick Webb took the precaution of confiding in their managing director, a non-Mason, and getting his full backing for the book. Scott told me that to avoid the possibility of sabotage by any hostile Freemasons within or associated with the company, The Brotherhood would not be entered in any schedule. Even the advance payment was obtained from the accounts department under an innocuous and misleading project title. At the time these seemed to me excessive cloak-and-dagger activities, although I knew that the publishing world had traditionally been rife with Freemasonry.
Shortly after I started work on the book, NEL was taken over by Hodder & Stoughton, whose chairman and managing director - two brothers eminent in publishing -were Philip and Michael Attenborough, also non-Masons.
After the takeover, NEL retained its own separate management structure with its existing managing director, and in practice no editorial control was exercised over NEL books by the Hodder management. So alarm bells began to ring in Webb's mind when, shortly after I delivered the typescript, Michael Attenborough asked to see it. He had not done this with any previous NEL book. Although Scott and Webb were anxious to get the book legally vetted, edited and delivered to the printer as soon as possible, and constantly pressed Attenborough for any comments he wished to make, he continued to sit on the typescript. This was baffling to Scott and Webb. The delay was by now beginning to jeopardize plans for a spring 1983 publication. Finally, after holding the script for nearly seven weeks, Attenborough asked Scott to gut the book and produce a precise summary of its content. This was done. The weeks continued to roll by, with no word from above. When Scott was in Frankfurt and Webb in New York, word came that the project was to be squashed. Scott flew back to London and a series of frantic transatlantic calls took place between him and Webb, then Webb and Attenborough. But by the time Webb was able to catch a plane home the deed was done. The Brotherhood was killed.
Scott's anger knew no bounds. He fought and fought for the book, even making it a resigning issue, but Attenborough was adamant. Then Attenborough told Scott that although neither he nor his brother was a Freemason, their father - John Attenborough CBE - was a senior member of the Brotherhood, and in deference to him they would not publish it.
I went to see Michael Attenborough at his Bedford Square office in January 1983, when the book was safely placed with Granada. He said he was delighted the book would be published.
'Are you?' I asked. 'Then why didn't you publish it yourself?'
He spent some time in obvious discomfort explaining that it had not been a pleasant decision and was one he genuinely regretted having to make, but that he did not feel that the sales force would be completely behind the book and it was not a title which Hodder felt it could publish with enthusiasm.
Yet I knew that the sales force had expressed great interest in the book and were looking forward to handling it. I told him so.
I was with him for three quarters of an hour, and eventually he admitted something which he seemed nervous of confessing: he loved his father. John Attenborough, according to his son, is a devoted Freemason and a devoted Christian. In view of what I say in the book about the incompatibility of the two religions,* he and brother Philip realized they would cause their father very great pain by publishing The Brotherhood. Attenborough assured me
*I use the word advisedly. See Chapter 25 - 'The Devil in Disguise?' -below.
that his father had not seen the script and he had not discussed the project with him.
If the incident does not demonstrate the direct power of Freemasonry over the Fourth Estate, it does offer a vivid example of the devotion that Freemasonry so often inspires in its initiates, a devotion that is nothing less than religious. So it was that the Attenboroughs made their decision to throw away £8,000 in advance royalties and thousands more in legal fees and in terms of time spent on the project by the editorial, design, subsidiary rights, promotion, sales and other departments rather than wound their father.