Innovations in Freemasonry are
not condoned but were that not the case there would be two changes that I would
make: the adoption of the sub-rosa convention for the lodge room and the South
and the Chatham House rules as well in the lodge room.
We have always been motivated
to maintain harmony in our meetings and do or say nothing that may offend our
brethren. We are therefore instructed
not to engage in any topic in the lodge room of a religious or political
nature. This works well and it is a
convention to which I am very accustomed for they, together with “women,” are
the banned topics in an Officers’ Mess.
I am surprised that the latter is not banned in lodges given the strong
military origin of our Craft. Unless I
am mistaken, these topics are not banned in the South. We are also instructed that we may offer our
opinion and sentiments in the lodge after attaining a certain Degree, but the
qualification that there will be supervision.
What we have is the facility for a necessary contribution the debate but
one that is constrained to some extent.
It works largely because we only admit those of mature age and of sound
judgment. However, not always.
As in families, we do not
always have or initiate “the sharpest tools in the shed” despite passing the
maturity test and certainly in families there is often a social deficit – dare
I say it also occurs in Freemasonry! Some
will not or cannot understand the context in which things are said or indeed
what is actually is said. They have
“loose lips’ and because of their inadequacies can do untold unintended damage
in social relationships. Add to this is
a recipient who is “precious” or prone to make mischief and the problem is
worsened. The sub-rosa convention averts
Sub-rosa means "under the
rose" and it is used to denote secrecy
or confidentiality, The rose as a symbol of
secrecy and has an ancient history. It
probably had its origins in Greek and Roman culture and of myths from
Egypt. Roses were painted on the
ceilings of Roman banquet rooms were also a reminder that things said under the
influence of wine (sub vino) should also remain sub-rosa. In the Middle Ages,
a rose suspended from the ceiling of a council chamber similarly pledged all
present “under the rose” to secrecy.
Five-petal roses were often carved on Christian confessionals. The symbol of Henry VIII of England was the stylised Tudor dynasty
rose which covered the ceiling of his private chamber where decisions of state
were made in secret. We have ceiling
roses in our home in every room and we observe the etiquette of the
convention. It is surprising that the
emblem has not found its way into masonic symbolism.
The Chatham House Rule applies
to holding debates
and discussion panels on controversial issues.
There is freedom to quote from the discussion, but is not allowed to say
who made any comment. This Rule is
applicable for discussions in the lodge room where it is necessary to refer to
the debate to other Freemasons not in attendance. None of these measures should be necessary
but regrettably, we have people in our midst who report without maturity and
Yours fraternally ,