Saturday, 6 May 2017

Freemasonry in 'War and Peace'

I must admit to never, ever having read Tolstoy's WAR AND PEACE, although in mitigation I can state that I have read Victor Hugo's LES MISERABLES! I was therefore very interested to watch the BBC adaptation of the book when it appeared on DVD.

One thing that I had not realised was the importance that Freemasonry played in the life of Pierre, Prince Bezukhov, and was I very interested to listen to the arguments put forward by Tolstoy in support of Freemasonry and to see the Initiation ceremony that was portrayed.

It was very different for that used in most UK Lodges, although I understand it is very similar to that used in the Swedish Rite, the version of Masonic ritual used across most of the Scandinavian countries.

At the end of April I was informed that I have been promoted within Freemasonry in Hertfordshire to the rank of Provincial Grand Orator. For those of you who are Freemasons, you will understand that this is a signal honour. For those of you who aren't, the new role I will be taking up in September will involve me visiting numerous Lodges in Hertfordshire to deliver talks on Masonic subjects and to be more heavily involved in Masonic historical research. I will also be expected to deliver Orations (short talks that are used as a starting point for discussions in Lodge Meetings) and to support the work of the Provincial Grand Master and his team at ceremonies such as the Consecration of new Lodges and Banner Dedications. How much this will impact on my wargaming and blogging I have yet to discover, but I hope that any impact will be minimal.


  1. Bob,
    NOW I understand your interest in Travel Battle!
    Congratulations, but I - and your other readers - hope it will not prove too much of a distraction from PW et al.
    Best wishes,

    1. Arthur Harman,

      I was asked if I would be willing to accept this promotion just over a month ago ... just as news of the release of TRAVEL BATTLE came out.

      I am hoping that it will not have too much impact on my wargaming. Masonically speaking, things are fairly quiet between the end of June and the beginning of September, with most meetings seem to take place from the beginning of October to the end of May. There is also a fortnight break over Christmas. I expect that I will be on Masonic duty once or twice a week ... which is not much more often than I am now.

      All the best,


  2. Having read War and Peace (from start to finish!) I have always thought Lev Tolstoy was himself a Freemason. But a quick check has unearthed no evidence I can find that in fact he was.

    Interesting comment about 'Grand orator' title. My father in Law (now deceased) was for a time member of the Timaru chapter (?) Freemasons and Toastmasters. Sounds like a candidate for a similar honour. But he left the Order. I have no idea why.

    1. Archduke Piccolo,

      There are hints and suggestions that Tolstoy might have been a Freemason, but no record that he was. This is not surprising as The Craft was banned in Russia from 1822 to 1993, and any records of clandestine meetings of a banned (and therefore secret) organisation are likely not to have survived. That said, he could have joined a non-Russian Lodge during his extensive travels across Europe ... but there do not seem any records to support that contention either.

      Interestingly he identified four types of Freemason:

      'He divided the Brothers he knew into four categories. In the first he put those who did not take an active part in the affairs of the lodges or in human affairs, but were exclusively occupied with the mystical science of the order: with questions of the threefold designation of God, the three primordial elements - sulphur, mercury, and salt - or the meaning of the square and all the various figures of the temple of Solomon. Pierre respected this class of Brothers to which the elder ones chiefly belonged, including, Pierre thought, Joseph Alexeevich himself, but he did not share their interests. His heart was not in the mystical aspect of Freemasonry.

      In the second category Pierre reckoned himself and others like him, seeking and vacillating, who had not yet found in Freemasonry a straight and comprehensible path, but hoped to do so.

      In the third category he included those Brothers (the majority) who saw nothing in Freemasonry but the external forms and ceremonies, and prized the strict performance of these forms without troubling about their purport or significance. Such were Willarski and even the Grand Master of the principal lodge.

      Finally, to the fourth category also a great many Brothers belonged, particularly those who had lately joined. These according to Pierre's observations were men who had no belief in anything, nor desire for anything, but joined the Freemasons merely to associate with the wealthy young Brothers who were influential through their connections or rank, and of whom there were very many in the lodge

      This is quite a good description of the people who make up Masonry, even today.

      The situation of Freemasonry in New Zealand makes research a little difficult. For example, there is a Lodge in Timaru (The Lodge of St John No 1137) which is part of the United Grand Lodge of England Southern District of New Zealand and four that meet in Timaru that are part of the Grand Lodge of New Zealand. The two organisations are in amity with each other (i.e. they work together though are separate, and people can be members of both). The same is true of the Holy Royal Arch, which is another element of Freemasonry and which is organised into Chapters rather than Lodges. It sounds as if it was the latter as well as the former than your father-in-law belonged to.

      As to why people leave ... well that is often down to a change in personal circumstances or a feeling that you are not getting out of your membership that same level of satisfaction you initially had.

      All the best,


  3. Hello Bob,
    Yes, I also understand that it is very similar to Scandinavian ritual. It would make sense given the proximity at the time.

    Anyway, it was very nice to meet you in person at the bloggers' meet up at Salute. I may see you in Queen St. one of these days.



    1. The Wilde Goose (Mark),

      I understand that Bristol Workings includes a similar element in the Initiation ritual ... and I hope to find out for myself in June as I have been invited to take part in one such ceremony in Bristol.

      It was great to meet so many people whose names I know but whose faces I don't. Here's to meeting up again next year!



  4. V many congratulations. One of my lodge members was the orator for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. Regretfully he has since died but he was hugely knowledgeable and when we kicked junior members out from some of the ceremonies they couldn't yet see, he would always go out to natter to them and help their 'daily advancement'.


    PS I managed to spot myself (albeit v briefly) in episode 5 of the Freemasons series on Sky! I was in the line up at grand lodge for the annual investiture when they were filming last year. At least I could prove to Lindsay I was there and not gallivanting in a pub.

    1. Guy,

      As you will see from today's blog entry, I was presented with my Provincial Grand Orator's aprons at a meeting of my Mother Lodge. My predecessor made the presentation, and I was deeply moved by this very kind gesture.

      As Lodge Mentor I always tried to make sure that I went out with the newer Brethren who couldn't stay in the Temple for all of the ritual, and many of them have subsequently told me how helpful that was in the growth of their understanding of The Craft.

      All the best,


      PS. I have yet to see any of the SKY TV programmes about Freemasonry ... but now I have a good excuse to pay special attention to who appears on my screen!