I’ve been trying to get into the Masonic Lodge in Brisbane for years, as it’s typically only open to the public during Open House weekend. This year, thanks to this blog, I remembered it was Open House last weekend in Brisbane and I made a point of going. Why? I’m a history enthusiast, and the Freemasons have always seemed so obscure, with their symbols, secrecy and portrayal in popular culture. Additionally, Brisbane’s Masonic Lodge is one of only two Masonic memorials in the world.
It was nice to finally step inside this grand old building – at least for Brisbane’s standards – which I’ve walked by for years, wondering what’s inside. We were greeted just inside the entrance by several Freemasons, wearing their typically formal, yet ornate attire. They gave us an introduction before directing us to the main hall on the first floor.
I must admit to being a bit suspicious upon entry – of the building, the society, what it represents. Perhaps it’s the stigma that popular culture associates with the secrecy of the Freemasons. I also admit that I’ve always found the Freemasons intriguing and alluring. So when I did step into the elaborately constructed Grand Hall in the Masonic Lodge in Brisbane, I was a little surprised how forthcoming and friendly the Freemasons were.
Conversations with Freemasons
Shortly after entering, I spoke with Regional Commander and 33-degree Freemason Greg Goding, who said that essentially, Freemasonry was the first men’s shed and the symbolism and secrecy associated with it is just theatre. He continued to say that Freemasonry, at its core, is about teaching men to be better men. A level 33 degree Freemason sits at the highest level of Freemasonry and comes after many years of service, Greg told me.
Further down in the depths of the Masonic Lodge in Brisbane, in Lodge Room 1, I spoke with Freemason Rodger Klopp, who gave me a slightly different perspective. He told me Freemasonry originates from the Scottish stonemasons and he acknowledges the Freemason’s association with the Knight’s Templar, but doesn’t understand it. He added the tools used by the stonemasons, such as the square and compass, represent mankind’s state of perfection.
I wanted to tell him there’s no such thing as perfection and that life doesn’t travel in straight lines, but I thought the better of it.
The stonemasons, who were particularly active during the 14th-century, were master builders, responsible for some of the most elaborate architecture in Europe. Notre Dame and Westminster Abbey were allegedly the work of stonemasons. Apparently, they guarded their secrets – which were sought after – and stonemasons were selective about taking on apprentices. Training was apparently long and arduous, requiring advanced mathematics and intricate knowledge of architecture.
Masonic Lodge Brisbane – The building
Greg Goding told me the Masonic Lodge Brisbane building was constructed between 1928 and 1930, using materials locally sourced and around the state. The roof, Greg told me, was put on last and the logs used to create the pews, along with other materials, were lifted down into the lodge with a crane. It’s obvious no expense was spared in the building, as it received the finest attention to detail, such as an organ with 1048 pipes that sits at the top of the Grand Hall.
The Freemason’s Sword & The High Chair
Freemason Glenn Farrell, who is a secretary of the Masonic Lodge in Brisbane, was kind enough to show me up to the organ and take a picture of me in the Grandmaster’s high chair. He also took a picture of me holding the Freemasons sword, which is a symbolic instrument in Freemason society that represents justice, truth, equality and firmness.
I also had a moment of fun feeling the weight of the sword, as well as acting like an angry man of authority in the Grandmaster’s high chair – most probably misrepresenting Freemasonry in the process. Although, what else would the mallet be used for?
Meeting the Current Grandmaster
The highest order of Freemasonry, the title Grandmaster, is given to a Freemason who oversees a sector or jurisdiction of Freemasonry. I was downstairs looking at pictures of past Grandmasters when I saw the current Grandmaster in his office in the Masonic Lodge in Brisbane. I had a brief chat with him and he let me take a picture. I asked him what a Grandmaster did and he told me it involves quite a bit of travel, visiting and checking in on different Masonic lodges, which includes the UK.
I majored in Egyptology at university and I noticed what looked like the Eye of Horus in Egyptian mythology. Apparently, this is the Eye of Providence, which is the all-seeing eye that represents god watching over humanity. It appears the Freemasons were influenced by the beliefs of the Egyptians, who highly prised symmetry and alignment to the heavens, which was evidently passed down through the ages.
The letter G hanging from the roof also stands for ‘geometry’ and the square and compass seen on various attire/pictures, as I’ve mentioned, represents the Freemason’s tools that guide man to his highest self. The picture of the roughly hewn stone from the Masonic Lodge in Brisbane (below) is used to represent man in his state before entering the Freemasons. He gradually gets shaped into a smooth dude. Well, that’s the idea.
My Own Thoughts
Freemasonry appears to mix the symmetry and mathematics of Egyptians and the Stonemasons. It also incorporates warfare into its ideology, as many of its founding members were soldiers and the sword represents the Freemason’s instrument of truth. I imagine the ornate attire stems from both power and battle, as historically Freemasons have been some of the most elite members of society, such as Benjamin Franklin.
The Freemasons I encountered on my visit to the Masonic Lodge in Brisbane were friendly, proud and more than willing to impart their knowledge with you. Well, at least that’s the impression I got. The organisation is also known for its philanthropy, as they make rather large donations to organisations in need. When I asked Glen Goding where the money comes from, he said ‘from our own pockets’. Powerful men indeed.
Interestingly, Freemason Roger Klopp reflected that values which teach young men how to be a better version of themselves seem to be lost these days. Freemasonry is not as popular as it once was. I suggested that perhaps Freemasonry isn’t as enticing as TikTok.
Whether that’s a good or bad thing, I’ll leave up to you.