I’m a Freemason, and the discrimination against us has to stop
Defending free speech is crucial in 2018. That’s why I support Dr David Staples’ campaign to set the record straight on Freemasonry and object to unfounded discrimination against our members. However, we as an ancient and honourable order also owe it to society to explain who we are and what we do, and defend our purpose, especially following inaccurate reporting in the media.
We Freemasons have a reputation for being a bit odd. You’ve probably heard rumours that we roll up our trouser legs, give strange handshakes and meet in a blacked out room guarded by man with a drawn sword in his hand. Guess what? It’s true.
We do these things not just because we’re eccentric free spirits but because at one time this was normal behaviour for people who wanted to learn how to improve themselves. It’s a 500-year-old system that helps its members learn about themselves, improve their moral fibre and develop strong attitudes to civic responsibility and charitable work. It isn’t broken so we don’t try to fix it.
I first met Freemasonry when my then girlfriend, long since my wife, invited me to a gentlemen’s night at the Lodge of East Gate in Chester, where her mother was Worshipful Master. Many years later she encouraged me to join Ryburn Lodge in Halifax and I went on to co-write a bestselling book called The Hiram Key, which inspired the Da Vinci Code. I wrote that book to help me understand Freemasonry as nobody could, or would, explain it to me.
I discovered that Freemasonry is the oldest, non-religious, self-help organisation in the Western world. The first lodge was set up in Aberdeen around 1480 by three stonemasons, Bros Alexander Stuart, David Menzies and Matthew Wright, who wanted to study the symbols they used in their trade to learn more about the world around them.