Fiction writer and best-selling author of the Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown, first put Freemasons in the public domain. One of the oldest yet little-known fraternities, they are slowly opening up to the rest of the world. Largely regarded as a secret society and eyed mysteriously by the layman, it’s newly elected Grand Master Vasudeva J Masurekar, India, talks to The Times of India, debunking the myths associated with the organization. He is the chief of the Indian Freemasons and is currently in the Bhopal to attend the golden jubilee celebrations of the Western Lodge.
Q. Many conspiracy theories abound any secret society…
A. Firstly, Freemasonry is not a secret society. Tell me, how can a global organization with around 4.5 million members be secret? In India alone, we currently have around 22,000 members. Yes, we do have a password and other methods of recognition for our ‘brothers,’ but I like to think of them as interesting facets rather than ‘secrets’ as mentioned by Dan Brown.
Q. Coming to the Da Vinci Code, where rituals like drinking wine in human skulls are described, how close to the mark was the writer?
A. It was pure fiction. But in his next book, The Lost Symbols, page 99 reads that ‘Freemasonry is the most honourable society in the world.’ It is particularly mentioned in the book. It is more close to truth. That should clear all doubts.
Q. Why has the society decided to open up to the common people after remaining shrouded in secrecy for around 300 years in India?
A. Beginning of this millennium saw death of ‘distance’ and most recently the death of ‘privacy.’ Different people are opining differently. We have opened up our investitures and swearing-ins just to present a true picture. There is some misinformation present in the common public. To address that, information should come from a competent body, that’s the intention. We have held public functions for the almost last 10 years. But this is the first time it is being held in Madhya Pradesh.
Q. Generally there is nomination of a member followed by a vote. Is there a screening too?
A. Members are supposed to give and receive nothing, economically, socially and personally. A member has to nominate a potential candidate after which the lodge (regional unit) votes. But there’s also a screening committee which questions the new entrant. Catholics and Sunni Muslims, of their own accord, do not become Freemasons as they confess to the priests and imams and are not completely free. Nevertheless, there are many liberal and broadminded Christians and Muslims who are active members.
Q. You became a Grand Master in November last year. What are your term plans?
A. A Grand Master has tenure of three years. Each unit has their own projects. Similarly, the Grand Lodge of India has adopted around 105 villages in remote areas that have difficulty in installing power. Also we are focusing on water problem in those areas. But the project is still in a preliminary stage. We have to involve the brethren in whatever way — be it money, ideas etc. But it can’t be in rhetoric. The feasibility and viability must be seen.
Q. Why are women not inducted as members in the community yet?
A. Traditionally, masons were builders — building churches, bridges etc across Europe. The society follows the typical ‘guru-shishya parampara’ by applying masonic principles.
Q. But that was in the 17th century. Today women are at par with men.
A. We have Masonic Ladies Association, which is involved in charities.
Q. Do they follow the masonic rituals?
A. There are no rituals. They are only involved in philanthropic activities. There are also exclusive women lodges where they call each other brothers. They also accept this was a men’s domain.
Q. What is the Grand Lodge doing to ensure security of the masonic properties including the ancient lodges in the Western India like in Indore and Khandwa?
A. We are taking care of the properties. The Indore lodge dispute is currently subjudice. Khandwa lodge has been converted into a hospital.
Swamy Vivekananda, Motilal Nehru, C Rajagopalachary, Rajendra Prasad, Ashok Kumar, Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, Tukoji Rao Holkar, Fakruddin Ali Ahmed
(source, Rageshri GangulyThe Times of India)