You may recall the debate in 1999 about whether the new millennium started in 2000 or 2001. There was a certain numerological neatness in celebrating the roll over from 1999 to 2000 but being pedantic, the next generation of 1000 years of history didn’t actually start until the roll over from 2000 to 2001. Having a mathematical background (I was once a theoretical physicist) I tended to align with the latter (an excuse for parties two years in a row) and it was on this basis that I began to reflect on the new decade rolling out ahead of us. The Twenties.
One hundred years ago, the world was entering a decade which in retrospect became known as the Roaring Twenties. The global economy was beginning to turn a corner after the impact of both the Great War and the Spanish ‘flu pandemic, science, medicine, engineering and the arts were flourishing, and new technologies such as the motor car, aviation, radio and the telephone were setting the trend for many innovations that would shape the second half of the century and beyond. In his recent book, ‘Apollo’s Arrow: The Profound and Enduring Impact of Coronavirus on the Way We Live’ social epidemiologist Dr Nicholas Christakis predicts that as Coronavirus is finally brought under control that we might see parallels to the 1920s with people seeking greater social interaction, being less risk averse about spending and a flourishing creative arts, scientific and global travel scene as we seek to readjust to a post pandemic world. The new Roaring Twenties.
The 1920s was also one of the great epochs for the expansion of Freemasonry. Men returning from the horrors of the First World War would often seek to continue their fraternal bonds through the Craft and the decade saw a large number of lodge consecrations as a result. By my count, in Hertfordshire alone, nineteen Lodges will celebrate their Centenaries between 2020 and 2030.
And of course, we will see two Hertfordshire Lodges celebrating their centenaries this year including Royston No. 4304 and my mother Lodge, Harpenden No. 4314. This year’s celebrations may inevitably suffer some impact from the ongoing aftershocks of the pandemic but the opportunity to reflect on the first 100 years of a Lodge does remind me of the constant evolution of Freemasonry, a subject I used to enjoy the opportunity of writing about for Orations that were delivered at various banner dedications and centenary celebrations.
While there are many constants to the underlying fabric of the Craft (often embodied in what we know as the Landmarks of the Order, a subject which requires a fuller discussion on another day), Freemasonry does, and indeed should continue to evolve and change to reflect the world from whence its membership is drawn as well as in recognition of its significant contribution to that world – whether it be charitably, philosophically or fraternally. Freemasonry often reminds me of a golden thread or chain through history, with each and every one of us, and each and every Lodge contributing to that chain by providing a link between the past and the future while encompassing the present. Every one of us makes a contribution to that historical body of Freemasonry, and in turn continues to build the foundations on which our history from this point forward will be based. As I have written about before, that continual learning, development and evolution is enshrined in the liberal arts and sciences, and the daily advancement in Masonic knowledge we are all encouraged to make. This was core to the emergence of modern day Freemasonry in the 17th and 18th centuries at the time of the Enlightenment and is equally relevant today as we continue to address the issues of wider society in the body of the Craft. As we emerge from the darkness of the pandemic, this is our opportunity to write the next Chapter in the history of Freemasonry as we seek to build and evolve our Order and its contribution to modern society.