Freemasons reveal themselves in own magazine

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The Independent Online
The journey to the modern world has been a gradual one for freemasonry, its path punctuated by significant events: an inquiry by backbench MPs, a recent waspish television documentary, and satirisation on Coronation Street.

Now the followers of the Great Architect have been given that crucial element of any late 20th century pursuit - the publication of its own magazine. Coming soon to a newsagent near you is Freemasonry Today, a glossy mag, price pounds 2.20, written for "everyone with an interest in Freemasonry".

Although its first quarterly edition is available only on subscription, attracting a healthy 27,000 so far, the company hopes it will soon takes its place alongside the array of fishing, sporting and lifestyle titles on newsagent shelves. Whether it can attract the casual browser over the rival appeal of Loaded, Rugby World, or Company, is doubted by some critics.

The list of contents underlines the largely serious tone of the journal, with headlines such as Why Ritual Excellence?, In those days the Masters carried Swords, and Making History: Elias Ashmole & the Origins of Speculative Freemasonry. The adverts are also revealing, offering a chance to buy the best quality regalia for members, or the opportunity - for just pounds 24.99 - to obtain a video of the "ultimate tour". That is, footage of Freemasons' Hall in London.

However, the magazine also contains a few surprises, including a piece written by a pop music composer eulogising fellow-mason Mozart (whose The Magic Flute was in one sense a publicity puff for freemasonry) and a review of a new CD collection from the late Jimi Hendrix.

The editor, Tobias Churton, himself a freemason, believes general readers will be attracted as well as the estimated 350,000 members in England and Wales. "The aim is to spread the the knowledge of the masonry to masons and the general public. Its history, theory, philosophy and presence throughout the world."

He added:"There has been a dearth of such information which has meant that masons have had to rely on exaggerated and mythologised accounts."

Although the founders of the publication are all masons and any profits will go to charity, there are non-masons involved in the production. Mr Churton is using designers Remote Stone, a group of young people more associated with CD covers and rave ticket designs. "They are young and open-minded and I really wanted them to be involved with the magazine," he said.

Although described as "independent", Freemasonry Today is fully backed by the United Grand Lodge of England. Its spokesman, John Hamill, said it had long been looking for such a publication, in a effort to move away from the secrecy that surrounded the organisation in the 1950s and 1960s.

He said:"There is a tradition of masonic journalism and there used to be a monthly illustrated magazine. The tradition was interrupted by the Second World War."

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