Leave the secret handshake at the door
September 24, 2010.
Or so says one of Queensland's highest ranking members.
Next month, Queensland's monolithic Freemason head quarters on Ann Street will unbolt its doors and usher in the public as part of Brisbane's inaugural Open House Day.
It's a chance for the world's oldest fraternity to lift, if only partially, the veil of secrecy that has shrouded the organisation for as long as most can remember.
Graham Schulz, Deputy Grand Secretary of the United Grand Lodge of Queensland, says he's looking forward to welcoming curious tourists to the 80-year-old temple.
Unlike Rotary or Lions, Mr Schulz says, the Freemasons don't seek out constituents, so the October 2 event will serve as an educational experience cum passive membership drive.
“Young men come and see the building and go 'wow, I had no idea about this',” he explains. “And the reason they don't know is because - unless they have someone in the family involved - they're not aware, because we don't actively recruit.
“That's one of the key tenants of Freemasonry - we don't coerce people to join.”
Another key element of the brotherhood descended from the King Solomon's Phoenician craftsmen includes raising money for worthy causes (Queensland's Lodge recently gave $300,000 to the Queensland Institute of Medical Research).
“It's about making good men better, and better members of the community,” Mr Schulz says.
Contrary to popular belief, Mr Schulz says, the Freemasonic experience is not religious or “a cult”.
“In fact, when we're at Lodge, we don't talk about religion or politics,” he says. “Because they can be divisive and we have an agreement that we don't talk about either.”
Instead, he describes membership as an opportunity to experience something “authentic” – a quality the Deputy Grand Secretary believes is particularly attractive to modern young men.
“With the increasingly secular society, men are looking for something like this [to join],” he says. “A brotherhood where they can get together - spend some time once a month and have a few drinks afterwards.”
Mr Schulz refers to the “Shed Night,” a movement gaining popularity across Christian churches that offers parishioners the chance to “grow in victory becoming champion sons of the King”.
“[At these events] male members of the church get together and go and hang out in someone's shed for a night and listen to a guest speaker and have a few drinks and talk to one another,” the Freemason says.
“Well, [Freemasonry] is the original Shed Night - it has those sorts of effects on men, the male-bonding type thing.”
There's also the appeal of being part of a worldwide organisation, Mr Schulz says, one where members can go to any lodge, anywhere in the world, and “know that he would be immediately welcomed and looked after if needed”.
But does that offer extend to women?
Correcting the assumption that Freemasonry is an exclusively male domain, the proud long-term member says there are chapters or orders in the organisation that allow female participation.
He lists the Order of the Eastern Star, White Shrine of Jerusalem and the Order of the Amaranth and says there are Lodges that admit both men and women in France and America, but that they are quite few in number.
Brisbane remains an all-male domain, though Mr Schulz says female membership could be something that “will happen down the track”.
“But at the moment, it's a fraternity and that's what it is,” he says. “The same as the CWA is, if you want to call it, a sorority – it's just one of those things.”
It's also a “thing” critical to the preservation of a status quo that Mr Schulz says is just as vital to the women associated with the order through their relationships to male members as the male members themselves.
“The critical thing for Freemasons is that partners and spouses and wives of Freemasons should be able to trust the man when he goes off to Lodge,” he says. “That they should trust the man - that he is going to do something good.
“That's a big attraction for Freemasonry as well.”
The United Grand Lodge of Queensland will be open to the public for guided tours as part of the Open House Day, October 2. Other locations open on the day include the Brisbane Magistrates Court, Commissariat Store Museum and Tattersalls Club. More information available at http://www.brisbaneopenhouse.com.au/event.