Letter of the month: February 2001
From: "Robinson, Gerald E. (AIT)" <Gerald.E.Robinson@msg.ameritech.com>
To: "'firstname.lastname@example.org'" <masonry-ask@MIT.EDU>
Date: Wed, 7 Feb 2001 15:45:51 -0500
I am a recent F.A.&.M 3rd Degree, proud member of H. York Harrison
Lodge #32, PHA.
On some Masonic certificates I see the year written something like this:
A.D. 1999 A.L. 5999
I already know (or assume Masonically) that "A.D.." is Latin for
"anno Domini" (in the year of the Lord), but none of my lodge brothers
can tell me what "A.L." means or why the years are several thousand
before the present. No one knows the reason for it being placed on
Masonic documents either.
I would like to know why the NORTH is never considered an important
direction (except as a cornerstone corner for EA's to sit). I
understand the other directions because we refer to them all the time. I
wouldn't think of trying to change anything in Masonry, but one would
think that the NORTH would be a very good direction for inclusion. After
all, it is always looked to for direction in travel, used by compasses
and navigational purposes.
Can you shed some light (or a good reference) for me on these subjects?
My home e-mail address: email@example.com
G. E. "Rob" Robinson, Sr.
Planning Engineer (Network Services)
Ph: (517) 776-4046
Fx: (517) 771-2301
To: "Robinson, Gerald E. (AIT)" <Gerald.E.Robinson@msg.ameritech.com>
Subject: Re: Questions
In-Reply-To: Your message of "Wed, 07 Feb 2001 15:45:51 EST."
Dear Bro. Rob,
Those are two really good questions, and things that all lodges
should be teaching their new initiates.
Dates on lodge certificates and other documents are frequently given,
as you note, as "A.L." which is Latin for "Anno Lucis" or "year of
light". This commemorates "that august and sublime event" when the
Great Architect said "Let there be Light," and there was Light, symbolic
of the light that we are all seeking after.
An earlier generation of bible scholars created a chronology
(time-line) of biblical dates, and placed the creation in the year 4004
For symbolic purposes, Masonry adopts that line, but simplifies the
calculation to add exactly 4000 years to the common date to get the date
A.L. So, as you point out, 1999 A.D. would be 5999 A.L., and this is
currently the year 6001 "Anno Lucis."
In the Preston-Webb ritual as we use here in Massachusetts, there is
actually an explanation of this, given to the Entered Apprentice by the
Senior Warden. Here is a fuller explanation than the one given there.
Because of the tilt of the Earth on its axis, the noon-time sun
reaches a different height in the sky at different times of the year.
You have certainly noticed this: in winter, the sun is low in the
southern sky even at noon, while in summer, the sun is much higher in
the sky at noon, but still a little south of directly overhead.
Look on any globe and you will see two special latitude lines marked
at about 23 1/2 degrees north and south of the Equator. They are called
the "Tropic of Cancer" and the "Tropic of Capricorn" respectively.
(They used to teach all this in grade school geography, but I think now
they skip it to fit in more computer classes or DARE programs or
Any place on Earth that is between those two "tropics" will
sometimes see the noon-time sun south of the "zenith" (the point
directly overhead), and sometimes north of that point. But any place
north of the Tropic of Cancer will always see the noon-time sun
south of the zenith. Even on the longest days of the year,
when the sun gets highest in the skies, it will never be north
of directly overhead.
So, our ritual points out that since King Solomon's Temple was north
of that 23 1/2 degrees (actually Jerusalem is about 31 3/4 degrees) the
noon-time sun was NEVER north of overheard. That meant that although
the sun could shine into the windows on the east, south, and west of the
Temple, it never shone into the north windows, and so never lit the
north side of the sanctuary.
For this symbolic reason, we put our three principal officers in the
East, West, and South, but not in the North.
} ..After all, [north] is always looked to for direction in
} travel, used by compasses and navigational purposes.
Incidentally, that wasn't always the case. Older maps were
frequently arranged with the East at the top, and we still remember that
today, because whenever we turn a map to line it up with our
surrounding, we still say that we "orient" the map, and "orient" or
course, means "the East".
Thanks for writing.
| Gary L. Dryfoos | PM: Ocean Lodge AF&AM, Saugus, MA
| P.O.Box 425400, Camb, MA 02142 | PM: Mt. Scopus Lodge AF&AM, Malden, MA
| http://web.mit.edu/dryfoo/Masonry/ | Richard C. Maclaurin Lodge, MIT, MA
| w: 617.253-0184 f: 617.258-6875 | Internet Lodge #9659, E. Lancs UGLE
| | 32~; MPS; B'hood o/t Blue Forget-Me-Not
| | R.W. Grand Rep. GL Russia near GL Mass.
| "...one sacred band, or society of Friends and Brothers, among
| whom no contention should ever exist, save that noble contention,
| or rather emulation, of who best can work and best agree."
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