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Items for Masonic Lodge Bulletins
Published by Silas H. Shepherd, Henry A. Crosby and George C. Nuesse,
members Wisconsin Grand Lodge Committee on Masonic Research; George B.
Goodwin and Fred W. Russell, Associate Members.
(Research Pamphlet No. 15)
These brief paragraphs on various phases of Masonry are designed for
use primarily in monthly bulletins issued by Masonic Lodges, to serve as
suggestions for study. The Research Committee believes that they may
also prove of help to those who seek suggestions for subjects on which
to prepare lodge lectures. The paragraphs were collected in this way in
response to increasing demands for them from lodge officers.
January 15, 1922
In Freemasonry, written history began by reducing tradition to
historical narrative, and for many years legends were accepted without
evidence. But with the critical school of historians the purely
traditional was separated from the evident historical. Traditions are
never invented, although often exaggerated, and much elaborated through
successive generations. Tradition, however, has a foundation in fact,
and is valuable for the preservation of knowledge which might otherwise
THE MASON'S CHARACTER
Freemasonry has always been true to its name, and the real Mason is
the builder of the temple of his own character. Its mission is to
furnish high ideals for the individual, that may be reflected in his
actions towards his fellow men. The Masonic ideal teaches that moral
and spiritual attainments are far more important than the material and
AN ANCIENT DOCUMENT
In tracing the genealogy of Freemasonry we eventually arrive at the
date 1390 A.D., when the Regius manuscript, the oldest known and most
important version of the Old Charges, is supposed to have been
written. Traditions lead back to the creation of the world, and
include most of the great teachers of mankind as Masons; but to those
who insist upon applying the approved methods of historical research to
the study of Freemasonry, the Regius Manuscript affords a starting point
in cumulative documentary evidence relative to the direct ancestry of
the fraternity. The Regius Manuscript, as it is known, is a poem
written on sixty-four pages of vellum, handsomely bound. It was
presented to the British museum by King George II, in 1757. It was at
first catalogued as a poem of Moral Duties, and this may have caused its
tardy discovery in 1839 as a Masonic document.
A SPUR TO STUDY
The question of what is Freemasonry is one for individual
interpretation, and calls forth earnest endeavor to construe the lessons
taught in each degree. The question of whence it originated must
necessarily be answered by facts, and as such are limited, it cannot be
fully answered until more historical truths have been recovered. The
various theories which have been advanced in regard to its probable
origin are of value as they induce the student to verify the data on
which they are founded, so as to maintain an intelligent theory of his
ONE VERSION OF FREEMASONRY
After the Norman conquest, England was invaded by a perfect army of
ecclesiastics; and churches, monasteries, cathedrals and abbeys were
commenced in every part of the country. Where these buildings were
being erected in towns the work could be undertaken by the local guild,
but when they were far from the populous places a difficulty as
experienced in procuring sufficient skilled labor. To meet this, it is
supposed that many experienced members of the guilds were induced to
sever their connection with the local body and accept service under the
new ecclesiastical authority, thus becoming free from the restrictions
and limitations to which they had previously bee subject, and henceforth
being designated Freemasons.
The church building Freemasons, being a national organization whose
members travelled throughout the length and breadth of the land,
wherever employment was obtainable, ofttimes found it impracticable to
refer to their late employers for their character and qualifications.
Hence arose the necessity for sign, token and word, with which our
ancient brethren went to and fro. Whence came this sign, token and
word? We do not know. We read of an assembly at York, 926 A.D., of
which, however, no record remains. But there must have been a meeting
held somewhere, at which regulations were adopted, which served to bind
the brotherhood together for many generations (John A. Thorp, P.A. Gr.
THE 1723 CONSTITUTION
In 1723 Brother James Anderson's Constitutions of the Freemasons
appeared. It was purported to have been compiled from old Manuscripts
and Records, many of which have doubtless been lost. Brother R.F. Gould
calls attention to "three striking innovations" in the 1723
Constitutions, to-wit: "It discards Christianity as the (only) religion
of masonry, forbids the working of the Master's part in private lodges,
and arbitrarily imposes on the English craft the use of two compound
words, Entered Apprentice and Fellow Craft, which had no previous
existence in its terminology." Brother Gould believed that at the
formation of the grand lodge in 1717 it inherited from the time
immemorial Masons only two degrees, and that the fellow Craft and Master
Mason were one.
AN EARLY SPECULATIVE MASON
The earliest record of a "speculative Mason" being admitted to a
lodge is the record of the Lodge of Edinburgh, June 8, 1600, when John
Boswell, the Laird of Auchenleck, attested his presence with his mark.
AN OLD LANDMARK
One of the most prominent of Masonic historical landmarks is
contained in the diary of Elias Ashmole, the celebrated antiquary and
founder of the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford, when he wrote: "1646, October
16, 4:30 p.m. I was made a Freemason at Warrington, in Lancashire, with
Col. Henry Mainwaring," etc. Brother N. Rylands has conducted an
exhaustive research into the records of the lodge into which Elias
Ashmole was initiated, with the result of finding that there was
probably not a single member of the lodge at that time an operative.
SYMBOLS IN EGYPT
Ancient Egypt has ever been of interest to the student of Masonry.
In ancient Egypt we find the building of temples and the teaching of
character building by the use of symbols at an early period. We also
find a legend that is of the most fascinating interest to every Mason.
Our ancient brother, the great Pythagoras, is reputed to have receive
the degrees of Masonry in Egypt. The Greeks borrowed freely from the
Egyptians, and the Eleusinian mysteries contain the same allegory of the
resurrection to a future life as those of Persia and Egypt, with
modified detail. In the foundation of Cleopatra's Needle in 1879 were
found a rough ashlar, a perfect ashlar, a square, a trowel, a
trestle-board and a hieroglyph (meaning temple), all placed in such
position as to show that they were used as symbols.
EARLY CHINESE PHILOSOPHY
In China the implements of architecture were used in a system of
moral philosophy at a very early date. Mencius, who wrote about 300
B.C., said: "A master Mason, in teaching his apprentices, makes use of
the compasses and the square. Ye who are engaged in the pursuit of
Wisdom, must also make use of the compasses and the square." In a book
called Great Learning, 500 B.C., we find that "A man should abstain from
doing unto others what he would not they should do unto him; and this is
called the principle of acting on the square."
WHY WE MEET
We meet for the purpose of admitting members to our fellowship, to
instruct them in the lessons and principles (of Masonry) and to
strengthen each other in adherence thereto, said George W. Speth, in a
public lecture in 1892. We meet to hand down to succeeding generations
the knowledge and practice of certain ceremonies, which we have
ourselves inherited from our Masonic ancestors, and the analogues of
which can be traced in the remotest antiquity... Lastly we meet to
practice our three grand principles of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth.
THE FIVE SENSES
The five senses may be defined as man's faculty for receiving
impressions, and are the means by which he received his knowledge of the
material world. Their proper use enables us to form just and accurate
notions of the operations of nature, to provide sustenance for our
bodies, to ward off danger, to enjoy the blessings which God has given
us, and contribute to the happiness and comfort of others. Their
improper use tends to impair our faculties and weakens our power to
grow. Masonry urges us to make proper use of these senses and thereby
attain to the fullness of true manhood. (C.C. Hunt, Iowa).
MORE ABOUT SYMBOLISM
Two features of Freemasonry are particularly prominent, its teachings
of morality by means of symbolism, and the antiquity of its symbols.
A ritual was used in the Ancient Mysteries which many Masons believe
to be predecessors of the Freemasonry of today, and from which many of
our forms and ceremonies may have been either directly or indirectly
derived. It contained a dialogue, darkness, light, death and
resurrection. In the times in which the Ancient Mysteries flourished,
the most important truths of science as well as morality were taught to
the qualified and were veiled from the multitude by symbolic teaching.
The square and compasses used in China 500 B.C. as emblems of
morality, and the tools of Speculative Masonry, found in the foundation
of Cleopatra's Needle, are evidences of the age of masonic symbolism.
The Masons may have borrowed the symbolism of the original users and
adapted it to the present as well as they could with limited knowledge
of its original significance, or it may have come down to them through
WORDS AND SIGNS
Attached to the Harleian ms, (1665) is a scrap of paper on which is
written "there is several words and signs of a Freemason to be revealed
to you which as you will answer before God at the great and terrible day
of judgement you keep secret and not to reveal the same in the ears of
any person but to the Masters and fellows of the said society of
Freemasons so help me God." This is the earliest mention of words and
signs in the Old Charges of Masons.
"Thales of Miletus had been the first of the philosophers, the first
to tread the ground of the interpretation of nature in principles of the
understanding. He and the others of that early school though to find
the elemental principle, one in air, another in water, another in fire,
another in chaotic primeval matter. Then came Pythagoras with his
teaching that number was the essence of all things. He and his school
said that as the forms and proportions of all things are referred at
last to number, so number is necessarily the principle of things. Not
only, said they, is 1 the point, 2 the line, 3 the plane, and 4 the
solid, but quality is 5, justice is 9, temperance but a number,
fortitude a number, prudence a number. 'Their error lay in mistaking
the symbol for the essence' " (M.W.G.M. Melvin M. Johnson, Roxbury,
THE SECRET PRINCIPLE
"It is singular that the philosophical historian, in tracing the
progress of various peoples, and in noticing the institutions which
served to develop their intellectual and moral capabilities, should have
passed by, nearly, without note or comment, those remarkable
associations, which, although working in silence and secrecy, achieved
no mean or unimportant task, in the great work of human education, and
social regeneration and advancement. The universal prevalence of the
secret principle, in both ancient and modern times, is of itself a most
significant fact, and of sufficient magnitude to arrest the attention of
all earnest and intelligent minds. The secret institution could not
have existed, as it has done, through all time, or at least since the
dawn of civilization, enlisting the warmest sympathies of the purest and
best of men -- the fathers of civilization, the chiefs of philosophy,
and science, and art -- unless it had responded, in a degree at least to
some of the most urgent and vital needs of humanity." (Philosophical
History of Freemasonry, Arnold).
OLD TRACING BOARDS
To the Masonic student reviewing changes which have taken place in
forms and ceremonies during the past 200 years, the old tracing boards
and charts furnish much that will repay scrutiny. The emblems of
fidelity, and the sword pointing to a naked heart, are missing from the
old tracing boards of the eighteenth century, and the number of steps of
the winding stairs is seven in most cases. In some of the old tracing
boards we find three windows as the three lights of a Lodge, and the
"broached thurnel" as a substitute for the perfect ashlar. In the
latter half of the 18th century the "ancients" displayed the operative
tools on the floor of the Lodge; while the "moderns" used a drawing to
illustrate them. The suspended key of the old tracing boards has no
significance to the Mason unfamiliar with the ritual of the 18th
DECLINE OF ARCHITECTURE
"The human race has two books, two registers, two testaments --
architecture and printing, the Bible of stone and the Bible of paper.
Up to the time of Gutenberg architecture was the chief and universal
mode of writing. In those days, if a man was born a poet he turned
architect. Genius scattered among the masses, kept down on all sides by
feudality, escaped by way of architecture, and its Iliads took the form
of cathedrals. From the moment that printing was discovered,
architecture gradually lost its virility, declined and became denuded.
Being no longer looked upon as the one all-embracing sovereign and
enslaving art, architecture lost its power of retaining others in its
service. Carving became sculpture; imagery, painting; the canon, music.
It was like the dismemberment of an empire on the death of its Alexander
-- each province making itself a kingdom." (Victor Hugo).
One of the subjects of great interest to the Masonic student is that
of Mason's marks. These are found in great profusion both in the form of
letters and geometrical designs, some of them apparently intended as
proprietary marks, of the workmen who used them, and as symbolic marks.
The first authentic documents on the regulation of marks are said to
have been found in German ordnances in 1462. This does not prove,
however, that there were not regulations preceding that date. One
instance is known of a mark descended to the user from his father, who
obtained it from the grandfather, "who received it from the Lodge." It
is an odd fact that there is no reference in the Old Constitutions of
England to proprietary marks, and this phase of the subject is shrouded
ROYAL ARCH MASONRY
The oldest minutes of Royal Arch Masonry discovered are those of
Fredericksburg Lodge, Virginia, Dec 22, 1753, and the earliest records
in England of 1758. The Royal Arch is now the most popular and
universally practiced of the so-called higher degrees. The earliest
recorded reference to it so far discovered was found in 1743, when the
master of the lodge at Youghai, Ireland, was preceded by "the Royal Arch
carried by two Excellent Masons."
RULE AND LINE
"The rule directs that we should punctually observe our duty and
press forward in the path of virtue, neither inclining to the right or
left. The line teaches moral rectitude, to avoid dissimulation in
conversation and action, and to direct our steps in the path which leads
us to immortality. The plumb admonishes us to walk uprightly in our
station, to hold the scales of justice in equal poise. The Square and
compasses are emblematical of the mathematical sciences and useful
arts." (A. Lewis, London).
"Every crime against our laws, every sin against decency and
morality, every sharp practice against square dealing in business, is a
serious reflection on the Masonic Lodge, in the neighborhood in which it
is committed. Masonry should not take the pure principles of morality
and preserve them in the walled up seclusion of lodge halls, like as we
preserve fruit and vegetables and keep them in dark cellars for our own
use; but our lodges and our lives should be as lighthouses, blazing out
the truths of right living, to bless the community, state and nation, in
which we have our being." (Milton Winham, P.G.M., Arkansas).
SOURCES OF LIBERTY
"Two-thirds of the Masons of the world are to be found in North
America, and have built upon the sure foundation of a belief in God.
Since France removed the Holy Writings from its altars and struck from
its ritual all reference to the Bible and a belief in and dependence
upon the Supreme Being it has practically stood still, Masonically.
With one-third the population of the United States, its three rival
Grand Lodges have less members under their obedience than a single
American grand jurisdiction. We refuse to acknowledge anyone as a
brother Mason who does not put his trust in God. We cannot substitute
for this, vague platitudes concerning 'Liberty, Equality and
Fraternity.' They have no comprehended the source from which true
liberty springs." (Aldro Jenks, P.G.M., Wisconsin).
"The triangle with its three sides has played a great part In the
traditions of Asia, in the philosophy of Plato, in Christianity; indeed
in all religions and all mysteries. It has ever been regarded as the
image of the Supreme Being. Neither the line nor two lines can
represent a perfect geometrical figure. But three lines, by their
juncture, form a triangle, the first, the primal perfect figure. This
is one reason why it serves to symbolize the Eternal Who, infinitely
perfect in His nature, is as the creator, the first being, consequently
the first perfection. There are three essential degrees in Masonry,
three secret words of three syllables each. There are three grand
masters. There are three principal officers of a lodge. This continual
reproduction of the number three, of which I have given only a few
instances, is not accidental nor without profound meaning. The same is
to be found in all the ancient mysteries." (M.W.G.M. Melvin M. Johnson,
Roxbury, Mass., 1916).
"Col. Paul Revere was initiated in St. Andrew's Lodge, Boston, Mass.,
Sept. 4, 1760, and was Grand Master from December 12, 1794 to December
27, 1797. In a letter to the secretary of the Massachusetts Historical
Society relating to the events of April, 1775, he said: 'We held our
meetings at the Green Dragon tavern. We were so careful that our
meetings should be kept secret that every time we met, every person
swore upon the Bible, that they would not discover any or our
transactions, but to Messr. Hancock, Adams, Doctors Warren, Church, and
one or two more.' "
"Within proper bounds, Masons may and should welcome publicity. A
secret society is one which seeks to conceal its existence and its
objects. Freemasonry is not such a society and is secret only as to the
obligations, means of recognition, ballots upon candidates and forms and
ceremonies observed in conferring degrees. With the exception of those
particulars, Masonry has no reservations from the public. As to
everything else -- its design, its moral and religious tenets and the
doctrines taught by it, the time and place of its meetings, the names of
the officers of a Lodge and those belonging to it -- are all in no way
secret and may be known by any one." (Committee on Publicity,
Connecticut Grand Lodge).
The square as an emblem is geometrical and not mechanical in its
origin according to authorities, who trace it back to the ancient
Egyptians, who in solemn processions carried the cubit of justice, by
which perpendiculars, right angles and squares might be laid our, its
form being that of one arm of a square, with the inner end cut to an
angle of 45 degrees.
"The close analogy between justice and that which is perfectly
upright is so obvious as to have become universal. The terms 'an
upright man' and a 'just man' are in nearly all languages synonymous,
hence the scriptural phrases: 'The way of the just is uprightness; thou,
most upright, dost weigh the path of the just;' 'He that walketh
uprightly' and the admonition 'to walk uprightly before God and man.'
Besides this, the square was used in Egypt to redetermine the boundaries
of each man's possessions when, as frequently happened, the landmarks
were swept away by the inundation of the Nile, thus recovering to every
man his just rights. The Egyptian land-measure itself was an aroura or
a square, containing one hundred cubits.
"The square representing the fourth part of a circle, has a direct
allusion to division of the ecliptic and celestial equator into four
equal parts, indicative of the solstitial and equinoctial points, and
the division of the year into four seasons. By it we are also enabled
to divide the circle of the horizon into quadrants, and by the aid of
the sun in the south to correctly mark out the four cardinal points of
the compass. In not only geometry, but astronomy also, the use of the
right angle is indispensible.
One of the hidden mysteries of ancient Freemasonry is that symbolism
which teaches that character can be built or developed in only one way,
and that is by doing good to others. It is hidden from those who are
unworthy to receive it but it unveils itself to those who seek truth,
ask for light, and knock at the door of their better nature.
"Man cannot assume a moral obligation; nor can anyone thrust a moral
obligation upon him. With every acquisition of knowledge a moral
obligation automatically attaches to him."
"Mason receiving the third degree should be entering upon a lifetime
of study, self-improvement and service to his fellows, and his lodge is
intended to be and should be the source of light and instruction and a
field for serious and devoted work for the principles, which our
institution inculcates and upon which it is founded. The conception
that the prosperity and greatness of a lodge is measured by its large
membership and its wealth is erroneous. That lodge is prosperous and
great which commands the affections of its members, and displays
spiritual rather than material wealth." (William Rhodes Harvey, P.G.M.,
A REMARKABLE RITUAL
"The ritualism of Masonry is truly a wonderful thing. Simple in its
dignity and with no striving for dramatic effect, its power is so
intense that, when even fairly rendered, levity is impossible and the
initiate is consciously impressed with a serious grandeur. So
distinctive is it in its character that ten consecutive words from it
cannot be used in the press, on the rostrum or in conversation without
practically every Mason recognizing them; so quaint in its context that
its antiquity is instantly impressed on the hearer; so tuneful in its
rhythm that it rivals the stately measure of poetry; so natural in its
movements and so devoid of restraint that its force is felt at first
subconsciously but the words often spoken always convey a new idea; and
withal, so lofty in its principles and so true its precepts that it is
not a wonder some men make Masonry their religion." (Louis H. Fead,
"The first temperance society on record was established by the Free
Masons of Italy, just a century since. On the 28th of April, 1748, Pope
Clement XII issued his celebrated bulletin forbidding the practice of
Free Masonry by the members of the Roman Catholic church. Many of the
Masons of Italy continued, however, to meet; but for the purpose of
evading the temporal penalties of the bulletin, which extended in some
instances to the infliction of capital punishment, they changed their
exoteric name, and called themselves Xerophagists. This is a compound
of two Greek words signifying "those who live without drinking." This
title they selected because they then introduced a pledge of total
abstinence into their by-laws." (Charles Scott).
"A regular system of morality, veiled in allegory, and illustrated by
"The subjugation of the human that is in man by the divine; the
conquest of the appetites and passions by the moral sense and reason; a
continual effort, struggle and warfare of the spiritual against the
material and sensual."
"Masonry is the activity of closely united men, who, employing
symbolic forms borrowed principally from the mason's trade and from
architecture, work for the welfare of mankind, striving morally to
ennoble themselves and others, and thereby to bring about a universal
league of mankind, which they aspire to exhibit even now on a small
ILLITERACY AN ENEMY
"It requires the educated mind to appreciate and give expression to
the high ideals of Freemasonry. Illiteracy, therefore, is an enemy to
the Masonic institution. This is not a new conception as is evidenced
by the fact that in the Fellowcraft degree as handed down to us through
the ages, the candidate's attention is pointedly directed to the
necessity of becoming familiar with the liberal arts and sciences. It
is not only vital to Freemasonry but absolutely essential to the
establishment and perpetuation of democracies." (Aldro Jenks, P.G.M.,
A FORCE FOR GOOD
"Our lodges should maintain that high efficiency of moral rectitude,
in both principles and practices, which would be helpful and beneficial
to the neighbourhoods in which they are located. While masonry is
neither religious, political nor financial, yet it should stand among
all these giving that moral support, to those just and correct
relations, that each should sustain to the other. Masons, as men of the
community, should in their conduct and conversation create and maintain
that healthy public opinion, that assures respect to our churches and
sanctity to our religion; that upholds our government and gives dignity
to the enforcement of our laws; that sustains our various industries,
and promotes honesty and fair dealings in all our financial relations;
that creates the community stamina and loyalty; that brings peace and
security to our homes, and joy and happiness to our hearts." (Milton
Winham, P.G.M., Arkansas).
The oldest of the known manuscript charges of Freemasonry, written
about 1390, is in the old English of
Chaucer's time, and is very difficult to read. This old manuscript
contains 15 articles and 15 points, of which the following is a free
transcript, care being taken to convey the spirit of the thought rather
than literary accuracy:
(1) The Master must be a trusty man, an honorable and impartial
medium between the lords who hire and the operatives who labor.
(2) He must be punctual in his attendance at the assemblies.
(3) He must take no apprentice for a term of less than seven years.
(4) He must take no apprentices, save the free and well born.
(5) He must take no mutilated person for an apprentice.
(6) He must not take Craftsman's wages for apprentices' labor.
(7) He must take no immoral or depraved person for an apprentice.
(8) Finding an employee incompetent, he must immediately discharge
(9) He must undertake no work that he cannot finish.
(10) No master shall supplant another in his business.
(11) He shall not require his workmen to work by night, except in
search of knowledge.
(12) He shall speak no evil of his fellows' work.
(13) He must instruct his apprentices in the Masonic science.
(14) The Master shall take no apprentices for whom he has not
(15) He shall not compromise with his fellows in their sins for any
(1) The Mason must love God and his brethren.
(2) He must work diligently in working hours that he may lawfully
refresh himself in the hours of rest.
(3) He must keep the secrets of the brethren with fidelity.
(4) He must be true to the Craft.
(5) He shall receive his wages without murmuring.
(6) He shall not turn a working day into a holiday.
(7) He shall not carnally lie with a brother's wife.
(8) He must be just and true to his Master and brethren in every
(9) He shall treat his brethren with equity and in the spirit of
(10) He must live peacefully and without contention with his
(11) Seeing a brother about to err he must admonish him with
(12) He must maintain the general regulations of the Craft.
(13) He shall commit no theft or succor a thief.
(14) He must be steadfast to these laws and to the laws of his
(15) He shall submit to the lawful penalty for what ever offences he
Those wishing a description of this manuscript may consult the Wisconsin
Grand Lodge Research committee's pamphlet entitled "The Old Charges."
WHY FREEMASONRY SURPASSES
It is in its symbols and allegories that Freemasonry surpasses all
other societies, says Oliver Day Street. If any of them now teach by
these methods, it is because they have imitated Freemasonry. In our
Masonic studies, the moment we forget that the whole and every part of
Freemasonry is symbolic or allegoric, the same instant we begin to grope
in the dark; its ceremonies, signs, tokens, words and lectures at once
become meaningless or trivial. The study of no other aspect of
Freemasonry is more important.
One of the many interesting and important assertions made by
Dr. Mackey in his History of Freemasonry, which may be found in the
Wisconsin Consistory library, Scottish Rite cathedral, is that a
predilection for mystical numbers occurs in all the churches of the
mediaeval period. Thus the cathedral of Rheims has seven entrances, and
both it and the cathedral of Charters have seven chapels around the
choir. The choir of Notre Dame at Paris has seven arcades. The cross
aisle is 144 feet long, which is sixteen times nine; and 42 feet wide
with is six times 7. The towers of Notre Dame are 204 feet his, which
is 17 times 12, the astronomical number. The length of the church of
Notre Dame at Rheims is 408 feet, or 34 times 12. The cathedral of
Notre Dame has 297 columns; but 297 divided by 3 gives 99, and this
divided by 3 again produces 33. The naves of St. Ouen, at Rouen, and of
the cathedrals of Strasburg and Charters are of the same length -- 244
feet. The Saint Chapelle, at Paris, is 110 feet long and 27 feet wide;
but 110 is 10 time 11, and 27 is 3 time 9. In these few examples we
have developed the numbers 3,7,9,10,11 and 12, all of which have been
retained in the mystical system of the Speculative Freemasons; and their
appearance among the mediaeval Masons could have been neither by
accident or coincidence, but must have arisen from a pre-determined
Dudley in his Naology says that the idea that the earth was a level
surface and of a square form may be justly supposed to have prevailed
generally in the early ages of the world. The biblical idea was that
the earth was square. Isaiah (xll 13) speaks of gathering "the
dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth," and in the
Apocalypse (xx,9) in the vision of "four angels standing on the four
corners of the earth." So thoroughly grounded were these beliefs that
in ancient times the "square," now the recognized symbol of the lodge,
was the recognized symbol of the earth, as the circle was of the sun.
In this antiquated expression "Oblong square," we therefore have not
only an apt description of the ancient world and evidence that the lodge
is symbolic thereof, but also a remarkable evidence of the great age of
Freemasonry. (Oliver Day Street in Symbolism of the Three Degrees).
NOT A RELIGION
Freemasonry, says George W. Speth, is not a religion. It admits men
of all religions.
The Deputy District Grand Master of Burman wrote to me from
I have just initiated Moung (i.e. Mr.) Ban Ohm, a Burman, who has so
far modified his religious belief as to acknowledge the existence of a
personal God. The W.M. was a Parsi, one Warden a Hindu, or Brahmin, the
other an English Christian, and the Deacon a Mohammedan.
UNION OF PRINCIPLES
It has been noted, says Dr. Mackey, as an evidence of the union of
principles which began to distinguish the architects of and after the
Tenth century, who called themselves Freemasons, that in the time of
Caesar a habitation in Helvetia differed more from a dwelling in the
northern part of Italy, though the regions were adjacent, than the
church reared in England and Sweden did from one erected in Sicily or
Palestine, remote as the countries were from each other (quoted from Mr.
Thomas Hope). Now let it be remembered that this unity of design was
introduced by the Traveling Freemasons; that these derived a knowledge
of the great principles of the art of building from the artificers sent
by the Roman College, in company with the legions of the Roman army,
into all the conquered provinces... and finally that these stone-masons,
for purposes of their own aggrandizement, admitted non- professionals...
into their ranks, who eventually overcame the former in influence and
numbers and transmuted the Operative into a Speculative institution.
THE ANCIENT SECRET
Michelet, in his History of France, says on the subject of the secret
of the mediaeval Masons that it was geometrical, and consisted of an
application of the science of numbers, used in a mystical sense, to the
art of building according to the principles of Gothic architecture,
which was the peculiar style of the Freemasons, says Dr. Mackey in his
History of Freemasonry. He says that this geometry of beauty, as he
calls it, is conspicuous in the type of Gothic architecture, as
exhibited in the cathedral of Cologne. This is a regular body which has
grown in its appropriate proportions with a regularity equal to that of
the formation of crystals. The cross of this church is strictly deduced
from the figure by which Euclid constructs the equilateral triangle.
HOW THE LAWS DEVELOPED
The jurisprudence of Freemasonry emphasizes the importance of
conforming to "ancient usages," and has much in common in this respect
with the :common law" of England. The written laws of Freemasonry have
been gradually developed as necessity seemed to warrant. Sometimes they
were modified to protect certain interests which appeared to be vital to
the harmony of the Craft as, for example, the legislative action in
regard to jurisdiction. Prior to 1717, when lodges may by immemorial
usage, there does not appear to have been any question as to
jurisdiction, and brethren would meet and practice the rites of
Freemasonry without authority other than their unquestioned time
immemorial prerogative. The grand lodges of the United States were
originally formed by lodges in the states declaring Masonic independence
in emulation of the political Declaration of Independence.
IMPROVEMENT IN MASONRY
It is desirable that an approximation to Masonic ideals be obtained
in its jurisprudence, and to accomplish this result the largest possible
number of brethren should be well informed on the facts and theories
bearing on the fraternity. If they fail in their duty to improve
themselves in Masonry, an Institution will replace a Fraternity. To
avoid such a catastrophy, each brother should contribute his best
thought, knowing not only what the law is, but why it is so.
FRATERNITY AND PHILOSOPHY
In considering Freemasonry as a fraternity and a philosophy, there is
disclosed a much more complex and diversified field of investigation
than exists in its element as an institution. The four old lodges that
met and formed the Grand Lodge of England in 1717, were, to a certain
extent, both operative and speculative, and it is of first concern to
determine the measure of the operative feature then existing, and the
extent to which the speculative leaven had entered into the workings of
the lodges just prior to the grand lodge era. Several widely quoted
historians have held that the era mentioned was "a period of transition"
from an operative art to a speculative science. Mackey, devoting the
greater part of three volumes to the elucidation of this theory, traces
the "builders" through the Roman colleges and the traveling Masons of
the Tenth century to the Steinmetzen of Germany, the Mestrices des
Masons in Gaul, the guilds of England and the lodges of Scotland, to
whom were transmitted the secrets of the building craft and the spirit
of fraternal cooperation in labor.
R.F. Gould, noted Masonic historian, says: "If we go back to the
Ancient Mysteries, we meet with dialogue, ritual, darkness, light, death
and reproduction. Many features of the Mysteries were preserved until a
comparatively late era, and to me at least it seems a not unreasonable
conjecture that some of them may have survived without a break or
continuity, and are now a part of Masonry."
Albert Pike says: "I became convinced that in Freemasonry the Ancient
Greater Mysteries were revived."
The Philosophies of all ages are of Masonic interest, and a possible
cause for some of the obscurity, surrounding Masonic symbolism may be
found in the influence wielded by alchemy, astrology and magic in the
OLD MASONIC MANUSCRIPTS
Seventy-eight of the old Masonic manuscript charges have been found,
and within the last sixty years have been critically studied by some of
the most scholarly craftsmen, who show what they meant to our ancient
brethren, and the extent to which we may call the mediaeval "guilds" our
Masonic ancestors. The :Old Manuscripts" are the connecting link
between what Freemasonry is known to be (as established by research),
and the theories concerning it in the past. Secrecy was maintained to a
greater degree by the Craft before, than after the era of Grand Lodges,
and only hints are given of the arcana that they possessed; but the "Old
Manuscripts" contain evidence that our ancient brethren were the
custodians of a system of morality not known to any other craft or
GRAND LODGE ERA
In 1717 the Masonic Grand Lodge are commenced. It has been popularly
called the revival. There appears to have been a period when the
fraternity languished, and the theory has often been advanced that this
was due to the decadence in architecture, and to the fact that cathedral
building no longer claimed the skill and thought of the best talent of
the world. Before the decadence began, the Craft was to a great extent
connected with the guilds, and many historians claim that we are the
direct descendants of the mason's guild.
Masonic symbolism has claimed a large share of attention, and
necessarily so, because Masonry without its symbolism would be a
lifeless form. It is so conspicuously the most prominent feature that
every reader is eager for works which will assist him to interpret it
and reveal the "hidden mysteries." Much has been written on this
subject; but the book has never been produced, and probably never will
be, that will fully explain the symbolism of Freemasonry.
MANY MASONIC BOOKS
The great interest that has been aroused by Masonry through many
centuries is indicated by the great number of Masonic books that have
been published. Dr. G.B.F. Kloss, one of the strongest exponents of the
theory that the Freemasons derived their origin from the builders of the
Middle Ages, wrote many works on the subject, but his most valuable
contribution was A Bibliography of Freemasonry, published 1844, and
containing a list of five thousand six hundred and forty-nine books on
Masonry, which in all probability enumerated almost the entire number
then in existence. Many of the more important Masonic works, however,
are those of the modern school, published since the latter half of the
THE MODERN SCHOOL
The Early History and Antiquities of Freemasonry by George F. Fort,
published in 1875, was the first Masonic history written according to
modern critical methods, as he carefully separated facts and theory, and
gave tradition its proper place. Much has since been brought to light,
but he was a pioneer in that rational thought advocated by later
historians, and the first to give us a substantial basis for the belief
in our connection with the Comacine Masters, which has recently been
amplified by Leader Scott...
"The pre-eminence which cathedral building attained in Europe from
about 1100 to 1500 A.D. is one of the most pertinent facts in
history. During the Crusades, and for a period which lasted until the
Reformation, there was in Europe a highly developed religious zeal which
found its expression in the building of structures which are the wonder
and admiration of mankind. Some have ascribed the principal
ecclesiastical structures to the fraternity of Freemasons, depositaries
of a concealed and traditionary science. There is probably some ground
for this opinion' and the earlier archives of that mysterious
association, if they existed, might illustrate the progress of Gothic
architecture, and perhaps reveal its origin. 1997-07-01
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