The Builders II
Joseph Fort Newton
PART II – HISTORY
CHAPTER I – Free-Masons
The curious history of Freemasonry has unfortunately been treated only by its panegyrists or calumniators, both equally mendacious. I do not wish to pry into the mysteries of the craft; but it would be interesting to know more of their history during the period when they were literally architects. They are charged by an act of Parliament with fixing the price of their labor in their annual chapters, contrary to the statute of laborers, and such chapters were consequently prohibited. This is their first persecution; they have since undergone others, and are perhaps reserved for still more. It is remarkable, that Masons were never legally incorporated, like other traders; their bond of union being stronger than any carter. – HENRY HALLAM, The Middle Ages
From the foregoing pages it must be evident that Masonry, as we find it in the Middle Ages, was not a novelty. Already, if we accept its own records, it was hoary with age, having come down from a far past, bringing with it a remarkable deposit of legendary lore. Also, it had in its keeping the same simple, eloquent emblems which, as we have seen, are older than the oldest living religion, which it received as an inheritance and has transmitted as a treasure. Whatever we may think of the legends of Masonry, as recited in its oldest documents, its symbols, older than the order itself, link it with the earliest thought and faith of the race. No doubt those emblems lost some of their luster in the troublous time of transition we are about to traverse, but their beauty never wholly faded, and they had only to be touched to shine.
If not the actual successors of the Roman College of Architects, the great order of Comacine Masters was founded upon its ruins, and continued its tradition both of symbolism and of art. Returning to Rome after the death of Diocletian, we find them busy there under Constantine and Theodosius; and from remains recently brought to knowledge it is plain that their style of building at that time was very like that of the churches built at Hexham and York in England, and those of the Ravenna, also nearly contemporary. They may not have been actually called Free-masons as early as Leader Scott insists they were, ( The Cathedral Builders, chap. I.) but they were free in fact, traveling far and near where there was work to do, following the missionaries of the Church as far as England. When there was need for the name Freemasons, it was easily suggested by the fact that the cathedral-builders were quite distinct from the Guild-masons, the one being a universal order whereas the other was local and restricted. Older than Guild- masonry, the order of the cathedral-builders was more powerful, more artistic, and, it may be added, more religious; and it is from this order that the Masonry of today is descended.
Since the story of the Comacine Masters has come to light, no doubt any longer remains that during the building period the order of Masons was at the height of its influence and power. At that time the building art stood above all other arts, and made the other arts bow to it, commanding the services of the most brilliant intellects and of the greatest artists of the age. Moreover, its symbols were wrought into stone long before they were written on parchment, if indeed they were ever recorded at all. Efforts have been made to rob those old masters of their honor as the designers of the cathedrals, but it is in vain. ( The honor due to the original founders of these edifices is almost invariably transferred to the ecclesiastics under whose patronage they rose, rather than to the skill and design of the Master Mason, or professional architect, because the only historians were monks. . . They were probably not so well versed in geometrical science as the Master Masons, for mathematics formed a part of monastic learning in a very limited degree.” – James Dallaway, Architecture in England; and his words are the more weighty for that he is not a Mason.)
Their monuments are enduring and still tell the story of their genius and art. High upon the cathedrals they left cartoons in stone, of which Findel gives a list, ( History of Masonry. In the St. Sebaldus Church, Nuremburg, is a carving in stone showing a nun in the embrace of a monk. In Strassburg a hog and a goat may be seen carrying a sleeping fox as a sacred relic, in advance a bear with a cross and a wolf with a taper. An ass is reading mass at an altar. In Wurzburg Cathedral are the pillars of Boaz and Jachin, and in the altar of the Church of Doberan, in Mecklenburg, placed as Masons use them, and a most significant scene in which priests are turning a mill grinding out doctrines; and at the bottom the Lord’s Supper in which the Apostles are shown in well-known Masonic attitudes. In the Cathedral of Brandenburg a fox in priestly robes is preaching to a flock of geese; and in the Minster at Berne the Pope is placed among those who are lost in perdition. These were hold strokes which even heretics hardly dared to indulge in.) portraying with search ing satire abuses current in the Church. Such figures and devices would not have been tolerated but for the strength of the order, and not even then had the Church known what they meant to the adepts.
History, like a mirage, lifts only a part of the past into view, leaving much that we should like to know in oblivion. At this distance the Middle Ages wear an aspect of smooth uniformity of faith and opinic, but that is only one of the many illusions of time by which we are deceived. What looks like uniformity was only conformity, and underneath its surface there was almost as much variety of thought as there is today, albeit not so freely expressed. Science itself, as well as religious ideas deemed heretical, sought seclusion; but the human mind was alive and active none the less, and a great secret order like Masonry, enjoying the protection of the Church, yet independent of it, invited freedom of thought and faith. ( History Of Masonry, by Steinbrenner, chap. iv. There were, indeed, many secret societies in the Middle Ages, such as the Catbarists, Albigenses, Waldenses, and others, whose initiates and adherents traveled through all Europe, forming new communities and making proselytes not only among the masses, but also among nobles, and even among the monks, abbots, and bishops. Occultists, Alchemists, Kabbalists, all wrought in secrecy, keeping their flame aglow under the crust of conformity.) The Masons, by the very nature of their art, came into contact with all classes of men, and they had opportunities to know the defects of the Church. Far ahead of the masses and most of the clergy in education, in their travels to and fro, not only in Europe, but often extending to the far East, they became familiar with widely-differing religious views. They had learned to practice toleration, and their Lodges became a sure refuge for those who were persecuted for the sake of opinion by bigoted fanaticism.
While, as an order, the Comacine Masters served the Church as builders, the creed required for admission to their fraternity was never narrow, and, as we shall see, it became every year broader. Unless this fact be kept in mind, the influence of the Church upon Masonry, which no one seeks to minify easily be exaggerated. Not until cathedral building began to decline by reason of the impoverishment of the nations by long wars, the dissolution of the monasteries, and the advent of Puritanism, did the Church greatly influence the order; and not even then to the extent of diverting it from its original and unique mission. Other influences were at work betimes, such as the persecution of the Knights Templars and the tragic martyrdom of De Molai, making themselves felt, and Masonry began to be suspected of harboring heresy. So tangled were the tendencies of that period that they are not easily followed, but the fact emerges that Masonry rapidly broadened until its final break with the Church. Hardly more than a veneer, by the time of the German Reformation almost every vestige of the impress of the Church had vanished never to return. Critics of the order have been at pains to trace this tendency, not knowing, apparently, that by so doing they only make more emphatic the chief glory of Masonry. (Realities of Masonry, by Blake (chap. ii). While the theory of the descent of Masonry from the Order of the Temple is untenable, a connection between the two societies, in the sense in which an artist may be said to be connected with his employer, is more than probable; and a similarity may be traced between the ritual of reception in the Order of the Temple and that used by Masons but that of the Temple was probably derived from, or suggested by, that of the Masons; or both may have come from an original source further back. That the Order of the Temple, as such, did not actually coalesce with the Masons seems clear, but many of its members sought refuge under the Masonic apron (History of Freemasonry and Concordant Orders, by Hughan and Stillson).)
Unfortunately, as so often happens, no records of old Craft-masonry, save those wrought into stone, were made until the movement had begun to decline; and for that reason such documents as have come down to us do not show it at its best. Nevertheless, they range over a period of more than four centuries, and are justly held to be the title deeds of the Order. Turning to these Old Charges and Constitutions, ( Every elaborate History of Masonry B as, for example, that of Gould – reproduces these old documents in full or in digest, with exhaustive analyses of and commentaries upon them. Such a task obviously does not come within the scope of the present study. One of the best brief comparative studies of the Old Charges is an essay by W. H. Upton, “The True Text of the Book of Constitutions” in that it applies approved methods of historical criticism to of them (A. Q. C., vii, 119). See also Masonic Sketches and Reprints, by Hughan. No doubt these Old Charges are familiar, or should be familiar, to every intelligent member of the order, as a man knows the deeds of his estate.) as they are called, we find a body of quaint and curious writing, both in poetry and prose, describing the Masonry of the late cathedral-building period, with glimpses at least of greater days of old. Of these, there are more than half a hundred – seventy- eight, to be exact – most of which have come to light since 1860, and all of them, it would seem, copies of documents still older. Naturally they have suffered at the hands of unskilled or unlearned copyists, as is evident from errors, embellishments, and interpolations. They were called Old Charges because they contained certain rules as to conduct and duties which, in a bygone time, were read or recited to a newly admitted member of the craft. While they differ somewhat in details, they relate substantially the same legend as to the origin of the order, its early history, its laws and regulations, usually beginning with an invocation and ending with an Amen.
Only a brief account need here be given of the dates and characteristics of these documents, of the two oldest especially, with a digest of what they have to tell us, first, of the Legend of the order; second, its early History; and third, its Moral teaching, its workings, and the duties of its members. The first and oldest of the records is known as the Regius MS which, owing to an error of David Casley who in his catalogue of the MSS in the King’s Library marked it A Poem of Moral Duties, was overlooked until James Halliwell discovered its real nature in 1839. Although not a Mason, Halliwell was attracted by the MS and read an essay on its contents before the Society of Antiquarians, after which he issued two editions bearing date of 1840 and 1844. Experts give it date back to 1390, that is to say, fifteen years after the first recorded use of the name Free-mason in the history of the Company of Masons of the City of London, in 1375. ( The Hole Craft and fellowship of Masonry, by Conder. Also exhaustive essays by Conder and Speth, A. Q. C., ix, 29; x, 10. Too much, it seems to me, has been made of both the name and the date, since the facts was older than either. Findel finds the name Free-mason as early as 1212, and Leader Scott goes still further back; but the fact may be traced back to the Roman Collegia.)
More poetical in spirit than in form, the old manuscript begins by telling of the number of unemployed in early days and the necessity of finding work, “that they myght gete there lyvyngs therby.” Euclid was consulted, and recommended the “honest raft of good masonry,” and the origin of the order is found “yn Egypte lande.” Then, by a quick shift, we are landed in England “yn tyme of good Kinge Adelstonus day,” who is said to have called an assembly of Masons, when fifteen articles and as many points were agreed upon as rules of the craft, each point being duly described. The rules resemble the Ten Commandments in an extended form, closing with the legend of the Four Crowned Martyrs, as an incentive to fidelity. Then the writer takes up again the question of origins, going back this time to the days of Noah and the Flood, mentioning the tower of Babylon and the great skill of Euclid, who is said to have commenced “the syens seven.” The seven sciences are then named, to-wit, Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric, Music, Astronomy, Arithmetic, Geometry, and each explained. Rich reward is held out to those who use the seven sciences aright, and the MS proper closes with the benediction:
Amen! Amen! so mote it be! So say we all for Charity.
There follows a kind of appendix, evidently added by a priest, consisting of one hundred lines in which pious exhortation is mixed with instruction in etiquette, such as lads and even men unaccustomed to polite society and correct deportment would need. These lines were in great part extracted from Instructions for Parish Priests, by Mirk, a manual in use at the time. The whole poem, if so it may be called, is imbued with the spirit of freedom, of gladness, of social good will; so much so, that both Gould and Albert Pike think it points to the existence of symbolic Masonry at the date from which it speaks, and may have been recited or sung by some club commemorating the science, but not practicing the art, of Masonry. They would find intimation of the independent existence of speculative Masonry thus early, in a society from whom all but the memory or tradition of its ancient craft had departed. One hesitates to differ with writers so able and distinguished, yet this inference seems far-fetched, if not forced. Of the existence of symbolic Masonry at that time there is no doubt, but of its independent existence it is not easy to find even a hint in this old poem. Nor would the poem be suitable for a mere social, or even a symbolic guild, whereas the spirit of genial, joyous comradeship which breathes through it is of the very essence of Masonry, and has ever been present when Masons meet.
Next in order of age is the Cooke MS, dating from the early part of the fifteenth century; and first published in 1861. If we apply the laws of higher-criticism to this old document a number of things appear, as obvious as they are interesting. Not only is it a copy of an older record, like all the MSS we have, but it is either an effort to join two documents together, or else the first part must be regarded as a long preamble to the manuscript which forms the second part. For the two are quite Unlike in method and style, the first being diffuse, with copious quotations and references to authorities, ( He refers to Herodotus as the Master of History; quotes from the Polychronicon, written by a Benedictine monk who died in 1360; from De Imagine Mundi, Isodorus, and frequently from the Bible. Of more than ordinary learning for his day and station, he did not escape a certain air of pedantry in his use of authorities.) while the second is simple, direct, unadorned, and does not even allude to the Bible. Also, it is evident that the compiler, himself a Mason, is trying to harmonize two traditions as to the origin of the order, one tracing it through Egypt and the other through the Hebrews; and it is hard to tell which tradition he favors most. Hence a duplication of the traditional history, and an odd mixture of names and dates, often, indeed, absurd, as when he makes Euclid a pupil of Abraham. What is clear is that, having found an old Constitution of the Craft, he thought to write a kind of commentary upon it, adding proofs and illustrations of his own, though he did not manage his materials very successfully.
After his invocation, ( These Invocations vary in their phraseology, some bearing more visibly than others the mark of the Church. Toulmin Smith, in his English Guilds, notes the fact that the form of the invocations of the Masons “differs strikingly from that of most other Guilds. In almost every other case, God the Father Almighty would seem to have been forgotten.” But Masons never forgot the corner-stone upon which their order and its teachings rest; not for a day.) the writer begins with a list of the Seven Sciences, giving quaint definitions of each, but in a different order from that recited in the Regius Poem; and he exalts Geometry above all the rest as “the first cause and foundation of all crafts and sciences.” Then follows a brief sketch of the sons of Lamech, much as we find it in the book of Genesis which, like the old MS we are here studying, was compiled from two older records: the one tracing the descent from Cain, and the other from Seth. Jabal and Jubal, we are told, inscribed their knowledge of science and handicraft on two pillars, one of marble, the other of lateres; and after the flood one of the pillars was found by Hermes, and the other by Pythagoras, who taught the sciences they found written thereon. Other MSS give Euclid the part here assigned to Hermes. Surely this is all fantastic enough, but the blending of the names of Hermes, the “father of Wisdom,” who is so supreme a figure in the Egyptian Mysteries, and Pythagoras who used numbers as spiritual emblems, with old Hebrew history, is significant. At any rate, by this route the record reaches Egypt where, like the Regius Poem, it locates the origin of Masonry. In thus ascribing the origin of Geometry to the Egyptians the writer was but following a tradition that the Egyptians were compelled to invent it in order to restore the landmarks effaced by the inundations of the Nile; a tradition confirmed by modern research.
Proceeding, the compiler tells us that during their sojourn in Egypt the Hebrews learned the art and secrets of Masonry, which they took with them to the promised land. Long years are rapidly sketched, and we come to the days of David, who is said to aye loved Masons well, and to have given them “wages nearly as they are now.” There is but a meager reference to the building of the Temple of Solomon, to which is added: “In other chronicles and old books of Masonry, it is said that Solomon confirmed the charges that David had given to Masons; and that Solomon taught them their usages differing but slightly from the customs now in use.” While allusion is made to the master-artist of the temple, his name is not mentioned, except in disguise. Not one of the Old Charges of the order ever makes use of his name, but always employs some device whereby to conceal it. ( names as Aynone, Aymon, Ajuon, Dynon, Amon, Anon, and Benaim are used, deliberately, it would seem, and of set design. The Inigo Jones MS uses the Bible name, but, though dated 1607, it has been shown to be apocryphal. See Gould’s History, appendix. Also Bulletin of Supreme Council S. J., U. S. (vii, 200), that the Strassburg builders pictured the legend in stone.) Why so, when the name was well known, written in the Bible which lay upon the altar for all to read? Why such reluctance, if it be not that the name and the legend linked with it had an esoteric meaning, as it most certainly did have long before it was wrought into a drama? At this point the writer drops the old legend and traces the Masons into France and England, after the manner of the Regius MS, but with more detail. Having noted these items, he returns to Euclid and brings that phase of the tradition up to the advent of the order into England, adding, in conclusion, the articles of Masonic law agreed upon at an early assembly, of which he names nine, instead of the fifteen recited in the Regius Poem.
What shall we say of this Legend, with its recurring and insistent emphasis upon the antiquity of the order, and its linking of Egypt with Israel? For one thing, it explodes the fancy that the idea of the symbolical significance of the building of the Temple of Solomon originated with, or was suggested by, Bacon’s New Atlantis. Here is a body of tradition uniting the Egyptian Mysteries with the Hebrew history of the Temple in a manner unmistakable. Wherefore such names as Hermes, Pythagoras, and Euclid, and how did they come into the old craft records if not through the Comacine artists and scholars? With the story of that great order before us, much that has hitherto been obscure becomes plain, and we recognize in these Old Charges the inaccurate and perhaps faded tradition of a lofty symbolism, an authentic scholarship, and an actual history. As Leader Scott observes, after reciting the old legend in its crudest form:
The significant point is that all these names and Masonic emblems point to something real which existed in some long-past time, and, as regards the organization and nomenclature, we find the whole thing in its vital and actual working form in the Comacine Guild. ( The Cathedral Builders, bk. i, chap. i.)
Of interest here, as a kind of bridge between old legend and the early history of the order in England also as a different version of the legend itself, er document dating far back. There was a discovered in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, about 1696, supposed to have been written in the year 1436, which purports to be an examination of a Mason by King Henry VI, and is allowed by all to be genuine. Its title runs as follows: Certain questions with answers to the same concerning the mystery of masonry written by King Henry the Sixth and faithfully copied by me, John Laylande, antiquarian, by command of his highness.” Written in quaint old English, it would doubtless be unintelligible to all but antiquarians, but it reads after this fashion:
What mote it be? – It is the knowledge of nature; and the power of its various operations; particularly the skill of reckoning, of weights and measures, of constructing buildings arid dwellings of all kinds, and the true manner of forming all things for the use of man.
Where did it begin? – It began with the first men of the East, who were before the first men of the West, and coming with it, it hath brought all comforts to the wild and comfortless.
Who brought it to the West? – The Phoenicians who, being great merchants, came first from the East into Phoenicia, for the convenience of commerce, both East and West by the Red and Mediterranean Seas.
How came it into England? – Pythagoras, a Grecian, traveled to acquire knowledge in Egypt and Syria, and in every other land where the Phoenicians had planted Masonry; and gaining admittance into all lodges of Masons, he learned much, and returned and dwelt in Grecia Magna, growing and becoming mighty wise and greatly renowned. Here he formed a great lodge at Crotona, and made many Masons, some of whom traveled into France, and there made many more, from whence, in process of time, the art passed into England.
With the conquest of Britain by the Romans, the Collegia, without which no Roman society was complete, made their advent into the island, traces of their work remaining even to this day. Under the direction of the mother College at Rome, the Britons are said to have attained to high degree of excellence as builders, so that when the cities of Gaul and the fortresses along the Rhine were destroyed, Chlorus, A. D. 298, sent to Britain for architects to repair or rebuild them. Whether the Collegia existed in Britain after the Romans left, as some affirm, or were suppressed, as we know they were on the Continent when the barbarians overran it, is not clear. Probably they were destroyed, or nearly so, for with the revival of Christianity in 598 A. D., we find Bishop Wilfred of York joining with the Abbott of Wearmouth in sending to France and Italy to induce Masons to return and build in stone, as he put it, “after the Roman manner.” This confirms the Italian chroniclists who relate that Pope Gregory sent several of the fraternity of Liberi muratori with St. Augustine, as, later, they followed St. Boniface into Germany.
Again, in 604, Augustine sent the monk Pietro back to Rome with a letter to the same Pontiff, begging him to send more architects and workmen, which he did. As the Liberi muratori were none other than the Comacine Masters, it seems certain that they were at work in England long before the period with which the Old Charges begin their story of English Masonry. ( See the account of “The Origin of Saxon Architecture,” in the Cathedral Builders (bk. ii, chap. iii), written by Dr. W. M. Barnes in independently of the author who was living in Italy; and it is significant that the facts led both of them to the same conclusions. They show quite unmistakably that the Comacine builders were in England as early as 600 A. D., both by documents and by a comparative study of styles of architecture.) Among those sent by Gregory was Paulinus, and it is a curious fact that he is spoken of under the title of Magister, by which is meant, no doubt, that he was a member of the Comacine order, for they so described their members; and we know that many monks were enrolled in their lodges, having studied the art of building under their instruction. St. Hugh of Lincoln was not the only Bishop who could plan a church, instruct the workman, or handle a hod. Only, it must be kept in mind that these ecclesiastics who became skilled in architecture were taught by the Masons, and that it was not the monks, as some seem to imagine, who taught the Masons their art. Speaking of this early and troublous time, Giuseppe Merzaria says that only one lamp remained alight, making a bright spark in the darkness that extended over Europe:
It was from the Magistri Comacini. Their respective names are unknown, their individual works unspecialized, but the breadth of their spirit might be felt all through those centuries, and their name collectively is legion. We may safely say that of all the works of art between A. D. 800 and 1000, the greater and better part are due to that brotherhood – always faithful and often secret – of the Mugistri Comacini. The authority and judgment of learned men justify the assertion.
Among the learned men who agree with this judgment are Kugler of Germany, Ramee of France, and, Selvatico of Italy, as well as Quatremal de Quincy, in his Dictionary of Architecture, who, in the article on the Comacine, remarks that “to these men, who were both designers and executors, architects, sculptors, and mosaicists, may be attributed the renaissance of art, and its propagation in the southern countries, where it marched with Christianity. Certain it is that we owe it to them, that the heritage of antique ages was not entirely lost, and it is only by their tradition and imitation that the art of building was kept alive, producing works which we still admire, and which become surprising when we think of the utter iguorance of all science in those dark ages.” The English writer, Hope, goes further and credits the Comacine order with being the cradle of the associations of Freemasons, who were, he adds, “the first after Roman times to enrich architecture with a complete and well-ordinated system, which dominated wherever the Latin Church extended its influence.” ( Maestri Comacini, vol.1, chap. ii. Story of Architecture, chap. xxii.) So then, even if the early records of old Craft-masonry in England are confused, and often confusing, we are not left to grope our way from one dim tradition to another, having the history and monuments of this great order which spans the whole period, and links the fraternity of Free-masons with one of the noblest chapters in the annals of art.
Almost without exception the Old Charges begin their account of Masonry in England at the time of Athelstan, the grandson of Alfred the Great; that is, between 925 and 940. Of this prince, or knight, they record that he was a wise and pacific ruler; that “he brought the land to rest and peace, and built many great buildings of castles and abbeys, for he loved Masons well.” He is also said to have called an assembly of Masons at which laws, rules, and charges were adopted for the regulation of the craft. Despite these specific details, the story of Athelstan and St. Alban is hardly more than a legend, albeit dating at no very remote epoch, and well within the reasonable limits of tradition. Still, so many difficulties beset it that it has baffled the acutest critics, most of whom throw it aside. ( Gould, in his History of Masonry (i, 31, 65), rejects the legend as having not the least foundation in fact, as indeed, he rejects almost everything that cannot prove itself in a court of law. For the other side see a “Critical Examination of the Alban and Athelstan Legend,,” by C. C. Howard (A. Q. C., vii, 73). Meanwhile, Upton points out that St Alhan was the name of a town, not of a man, and shows how the error may have crept into the record (A. Q. C., vii, 119-131). The nature of the tradition, its details, its motive, and the absence of any reason for fiction, should deter us from rejecting it. See two able articles, pro and con, by Begemann and Speth, entitled AThe Assembly” (A. Q. C., vii). Older Masonic writers, like Oliver and Mackey, accepted the York assembly as a fact established (American Quarterly Review of Freemasonry, vol. I, 564; ii, 245).) That is, however, too summary a way of disposing of it, since the record, though badly blurred, is obviously trying to preserve a fact of importance to the order.
Usually the assembly in question is located at York, in the year 926, of which, however, no slightest record remains. Whether at York or elsewhere, some such assembly must have been convoked, either as a civil function, or as a regular meeting of Masons authorized by legal power for upholding the honor of the craft; and its articles became the laws of the order. It was probably a civil assembly, a part of whose legislation was a revised and approved code for the regulation of Masons, and not unnaturally, by reason of its importance to the order, it became known as a Masonic assembly. Moreover, the Charge agreed upon was evidently no ordinary charge, for it is spoken of as “the Charge,” called by one MS “a deep charge for the observation of such articles as belong to Masssiry,” and by another MS “a rule to be kept forever.”
Other assemblies were held afterwards, either annually or semi-annually, until the time of Inigo Jones who, in 1607, became superintendent general of royal buildings and at the same time head of the Masonic order in England; and he it was who instituted quarterly gatherings instead of the old annual assemblies.
Writers not familiar with the facts often speak of Freemasonry as an evolution from Guild-masonry, but that is to err. They were never at any time united or the same, though working almost side by side through several centuries. Free-masons existed in large numbers long before any city guild of Masons was formed, and even after the Guilds became powerful the two were entirely distinct. The Guilds, as Hallam says, ( History of the English Constitution. Of course the Guild was indigenous to almost every age and land, from China to ancient Rome (The Guilds of China, by H. B. Morse), and they survive in the trade and labor unions of our day. The story of English Guilds has been told by Toulmin Smith, and in the histories of particular companies by Herbert and Hazlitt, leaving little for any one to add. No doubt the Guilds were influenced by the Free-masons in respect of officers and emblems, and we know that some of them, like the German Steinmetzen, attached moral meanings to their working tools, and that others, like the French Companionage, even held the legend of Hiram; but these did not make them Free-masons. English writers like Speth go too far when they deny to the Steinmetzen any esoteric lore, and German scholars like Krause and Findel are equally at fault in insisting that they were Freemasons. (See essay by Speth, A. Q. C., i, 17, and History of Masonry, by Stembrenner, chap. iv.) “were Fraternities by voluntary compact, to relieve each other in poverty, and to protect each other from injury. Two essen tial characteristics belonged to them: the common banquet, and the common purse. They had also, in many instances, a religious and sometimes a secret ceremonial to knit more firmly the bond of fidelity. They readily became connected with the exercises of trades, with training of apprentices, and the traditional rules of art.” Guild-masons, it may be added, had many privileges, one of which was that they were allowed to frame their own laws, and to enforce obedience thereto. Each Guild had a monopoly of the building in its city or town, except ecclesiastical buildings, but with this went serious restrictions and limitations. No member of a local Guild could undertake work outside his town, but had to hold himself in readiness to repair the castle or town walls, whereas Free- masons journeyed the length and breadth of the land wherever their labor called them. Often the Free-masons, when at work in a town, employed Guild-masons, but only for rough work, and as such called them “roughmasons.” No Guild-mason was admitted to the order of Free-masons unless he displayed unusual aptitude both as a workman and as a man of intellect. Such as adhered only to the manual craft and cared nothing for intellectual aims, were permitted to go back to the Guilds. For the Freemasons, be it once more noted, were not only artists doing a more difficult and finished kind of work, but an intellectual order, having a great tradition of science and symbolism which they guarded.
Following the Norman Conquest, which began in 1066, England was invaded by an army of ecciesiastics, and churches, monasteries, cathedrals, and abbeys were commenced in every part of the country. Naturally the Free-masons were much in demand, and some of them received rich reward for their skill as architects – Robertus Cementarius, a Master Mason employed at St. Albans in 1077, receiving a grant of land and a house in the town. ( Note: on the Superintendents of English Buildings in the Middle Ages by Wyatt Papworth. Cementerius is also mentioned in connection with the Salisbury Cathedral, again in his capacity as a Master Mason.) In the reign of Henry II no less than one hundred and fifty-seven religious buildings were founded in England, and it is at this period that we begin to see evidence of a new style of architecture – the Gothic. Most of the great cathedrals of Europe date from the eleventh century – the piety of the world having been wrought to a pitch of intense excitement by the expected end of all things, unaccountably fixed by popular belief to take place in the year one thousand. When the fatal year – and the following one, which some held to be the real date for the sounding of the last trumpet – passed without the arrival of the dreaded catastrophe, the sense of general relief found expression in raising magnificent temples to the glory of God who had mercifully abstained from delivering all things to destruction. And it was the order of Free-masons who made it possible for men to “sing their souls in stone,” leaving for the admiration of after times what Goethe called the “frozen music of the Middle Ages – monuments of the faith and gratitude of the race which adorn and consecrate the earth.
Little need be added to the story of Freemasonry during the cathedral-building period; its monuments are its best history, alike of its genius, its faith, and its symbols – as witness the triangle and the circle which form the keystone of the ornamental tracery of every Gothic temple. Masonry was then at the zenith of its power, in its full splendor, the Lion of the tribe of Judah its symbol, strength, wisdom, and beauty its ideals; its motto to be faithful to God and the Government; its mission to lend itself to the public good and fraternal charity. Keeper of an ancient and high tradition, it was a refuge for the oppressed, and a teacher of art and morality to mankind. In 1270, we find Pope Nicholas III confirming all the rights previously granted to the Freemasons, and bestowing on them further privileges. Indeed, all the Popes up to Benedict XII appear to have conceded marked favors to the order, even to the length of exempting its members from the necessity of observance of the statutes, from municipal regulations, and from obedience to royal edicts.
What wonder, then, that the Free-masons, ere long, took Liberty for their motto, and by so doing aroused the animosity of those in authority, as well as the Church which they had so nobly served. Already forces were astir which ultimately issued in the Reformation, and it is not surprising that a great secret order was suspected of harboring men and fostering influences sympathetic with the impending change felt to be near at hand. As men of the most diverse views, political and religious, were in the lodges, the order began first to be accused of refusing to obey the law, and then to be persecuted. In England a statute was enacted against the Free-masons in 1356, prohibiting their assemblies under severe penalties, but the law seems never to have been rigidly enforced; though the order suffered greatly in the civil commotions of the period. However, with the return of peace after the long War of the Roses, Freemasonry revived for a time, and regained much of its prestige, adding to its fame in the rebuilding of London after the fire, and in particular of St. Paul’s Cathedral. ( Hearing that the Masons had certain secrets that could not be revealed to her (for that she could not be Grand Master) Queen Elizabeth sent an armed force to break up their annual Grand lodge at York, on St. John’s Day, December 27, 1561. But Sir Thomas Sackville took care to see that some of the men sent were Free-masons, who, joining in the communication, made “a very honorable report to the Queen, who never more attempted to dislodge or disturb them; but esteemed them a peculiar sort of men, that cultivated peace and friendship, arts and sciences, without meddling in the affairs of Church or State” (Book of Constitutions, by Anderson).) When cathedral-building ceased, and the demand for highly skilled architects decreased, the order fell into decline, but never at any time lost its identity, its organization, and its ancient emblems. The Masons’ Company of London, though its extant records date only from 1620, is considered by its historian, Conder, to have been established in 1220, if not earlier, at which time there was great activity in building, owing to the building of London Bridge, begun in 1176, and of Westminster Abbey in 1221; thus reaching back into the cathedral period. At one time the Free- masons seem to have been stronger in Scotland than in England, or at all events to have left behind more records B for the minutes of the Lodge of Edinburgh go back to 1599, and the Schaw Statutes to an earlier date.
Nevertheless, as the art of architecture declined Masonry declined with it, not a few of its members identifying themselves with the Guilds of ordinary “rough-masons,” whom they formerly held in contempt; while others, losing sight of high aims, turned its lodges into social clubs. Always, however, despite defection and decline, there were those, as we shall see, who were faithful to the ideals of the order, devoting themselves more and more to its moral and spiritual teaching until what has come to be known as “the revival of 1717.”
CHAPTER II – Fellowcrafts
No person (of what degree soever) shalbee accepted a Free Mason, unless hee shall have a lodge of five Free Masons at least; whereof one to be a master, or warden, of that limitt, or division, wherein such Lodge shalbee kept, and another of the trade of Free Masonry.
That noe person shalbee accepted a Free Mason, but such as are of able body, honest parentage, good reputation, and observers of the laws of the land.
That noe person shalbee accepted a Free Mason, or know the secrets of said Society, until hee hath first taken the oath of secrecy hereafter following: “I, A. B., doe in the presence of Almighty God, and my fellows, and brethren here present, promise and declare, that I will not at any time hereafter, by any act or circumstance whatsoever, directly or indirectly, publish, discover, reveal, or make known any of the secrets, privileges, or counsels, of the fraternity or fellowship of Free Masonry, which at this time, or any time hereafter, shalbee made known unto mee soe helpe mee God, and the holy contents of this booke.” – Harleian MS, 1600-1650
Having followed the Free-masons over a long period of history, it is now in order to give some account of the ethics, organization, laws, emblems, and workings of their lodges. Such a study is at once easy and difficult by turns, owing to the mass of material, and to the further fact that in the nature of things much of the work of a secret order is not, and has never been, matter for record. By this necessity, not a little must remain obscure, but it is hoped that even those not of the order may derive a definite notion of the principles and practices of the old Craft-masonry, from which the Masonry of today is descended. At least, such a sketch will show that, from times of old, the order of Masons has been a teacher of morality, charity, and truth, unique in its genius, noble in its spirit, and benign in its influence.
Taking its ethical teaching first, we have only to turn to the Old Charges or Constitutions of the order, with their quaint blending of high truth and homely craft- law, to find the moral basis of universal Masonry. These old documents were a part of the earliest ritual of the order, and were recited or read to every young man at the time of his initiation as an Entered Apprentice. As such, they rehearsed the legends, laws, and ethics of the craft for his information, and, as we have seen, they insisted upon the antiquity of the order, as well as its service to mankind B a fact peculiar to Masonry, for no other order has ever claimed such a legendary or traditional history. Having studied that legendary record and its value as history, it remains to examine the moral code laid before the candidate who, having taken a solemn oath of loyalty and secrecy, was instructed in his duties as an Apprentice and his conduct as a man. What that old code lacked in subtlety is more than made up in simplicity, and it might all be stated in the words of the Prophet: “To do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly before God,” B the old eternal moral law, founded in faith, tried by time, and approved as valid for men of every clime, creed, and condition.
Turning to the Regius MS, we find fifteen “points” or rules set forth for the guidance of Fellowcrafts, and as many for the rule of Master Masons. ( Our present craft nomenclature is all wrong; the old order was first Apprentice, then Master, then Fellow craft – mastership being, not a degree conferred, but a reward of skill as a workman and of merit as a man. The confusion today is due, no doubt, to the custom of the German Guilds, where a Fellowcraft had to serve an additional two years as a journeyman before becoming a Master. No such restriction was known in England. Indeed, the reverse was true, and it was not the Fellowcraft but the Apprentice who prepared his masterpiece, and if it was accepted, he became a Master. Having won his mastership, he was entitled to become a Fellowcraft B that is, a peer and fellow of the fraternity which hitherto he had only served. Also, we must distinguish between a Master and the Master of the Work, now represented by the Master of the Lodge. Between a Master and the Master of the Work there was no difference, of course, except an accidental one; they were both Masters and Fellows. Any Master (or Fellow) could become a Master of the Work at any time, provided he was of sufficient skill and had the luck to be chosen as such either by the employer, or the Lodge, or both.) Later the number was reduced to nine, but so far from being an abridgment, it was in fact an elaboration of the original code; and by the time we reach the Roberts and Watson MSS a similar set of requirements for Apprentices had been adopted B or rather recorded, for they had been in use long before. It will make for clearness if we reverse the order and take the Apprentice charge first, as it shows what manner of men were admitted to the Order. No man was made a Mason save by his own free choice, and he had to prove himself a freeman of lawful age, of legitimate birth, of sound body, of clean habits, and of good repute, else he was not eligible. Also, he had to bind himself by solemn oath to serve under rigid rules for a period of seven years, vowing absolute obedience B for the old-time Lodge was a school in which young men studied, not only the art of building and its symbolism, but the seven sciences as well. At first the Apprentice was little more than a servant, doing the most menial work, his period of endenture being at once a test of his character and a training for his work. If he proved himself trustworthy and proficient, his wages were increased, albeit his rules of conduct were never relaxed. How austere the discipline was may be seen from a summary of its rules:
Confessing faith in God, an Apprentice vowed to honor the Church, the State, and the Master under whom he served, agreeing not to absent himself from the service of the order, by day or night, save with the license of the Master. He must be honest, truthful, upright, faithful in keeping the secrets of the craft, or the confidence of the Master, or of any Free-mason, when communicated to him as such. Above all he must be chaste, never committing adultery or fornication, and he must not marry, or contract himself to any woman, during his apprenticeship. He must be obedient to the Master without argument or murmuring, respectful to all Free-masons, courteous, avoiding obscene or uncivil speech, free from slander, dissension, or dispute. He must not haunt or frequent any tavern or alehouse, or so much as go into them except it be upon an errand of the Master or with his consent, using neither cards, dice, nor any unlawful game, “Christmas time excepted.” He must not steal anything even to the value of a penny, or suffer it to be done, or shield anyone guilty of theft, but report the fact to the Master with all speed.
After seven long years the Apprentice brought his masterpiece to the Lodge – or, in earlier times, to the annual Assembly ( The older MSS indicate that initiations took place, for the most part, at the annual Assemblies, which were bodies not unlike the Grand Lodges of today, presided over by a President a Grand Master in fact, though not in name. Democratic in government, as Masonry has always been, they received Apprentices, examined candidates for mastership, tried cases, adjusted dispute., and regulated the craft; but they were also occasions of festival and social good will. At a later time they declined, and the functions of initiation more and more reverted to the Lodge.) – and on strict trial and due examination was declared a Master. Thereupon he ceased to be a pupil and servant, passed into the ranks of Fellowcrafts, and became a free man capable, for the first time in his life, of earning his living and choosing his own employer. Having selected a Mark ( The subject of Mason’s Marks is most interesting, particularly with reference to the origin and growth of Gothic architecture, but too intricate to be entered upon here. As for example, an essay en-titled “Scottish Mason’s Marks Compared with Those of Other Countries,” by Prof. T. H. Lewis, British Archaeological Association, 1888, and the theory there advanced that some great unknown architect introduced Gothic architecture from the East, as shown by the difference in Mason’s Marks as compared with those of the Norman period. (Also proceedings of A. Q. C., iii, 65-81.)) by which his work could be identified, he could then take his kit of tools and travel as a Master of his art, receiving the wages of a Master – not, however, without first reaffirming his vows of honesty, truthfulness, fidelity, temperance, and chastity, and assuming added obligations to uphold the honor of the order. Again he was sworn not to lay bare, nor to tell to any man what he heard or saw done in the Lodge, and to keep the secrets of a fellow Mason as inviolably as his own – unless such a secret imperiled the good name of the craft. He furthermore promised to act as mediator between his Master and his Fellows, and to deal justly with both parties. If he saw a Fellow hewing a stone which he was in a fair way to spoil, he must help him without loss of time, if able to do so, that the whole work be not ruined. Or if he met a fellow Mason in distress, or sorrow, he must aid him so far as lay within his power. In short, he must live in justice and honor with all men, especially with the members of the order, “that the bond of mutual charity and love may augment and continue.”
Still more binding, if possible, were the vows of a Fellowcraft when he was elevated to the dignity of Master of the Lodge or of the Work. Once more he took solemn oath to keep the secrets of the order unprofaned, and more than one old MS quotes the Golden Rule as the law of the Master’s office. He must be steadfast, trusty, and true; pay his Fellows truly; take no bribe; and as a judge stand upright. He must attend the annual Assembly, unless disabled by illness, if within fifty miles – the distance varying, however, in different MSS. He must be careful in admitting Apprentices, taking only such as are fit both physically and morally, and keeping none without assurance that he would stay seven years in order to learn his craft. He must be patient with his pupils, instruct them diligently, encourage them with increased pay, and not permit them to work at night, “unless in the pursuit of knowledge, which shall be a sufficient excuse.” He must be wise and discreet, and undertake no work he cannot both perform and complete equally to the profit of his employer and the craft. Should a Fellow be overtaken by error, he must be gentle, skillful, and forgiving, seeking rather to help than to hurt, abjuring scandal and bitter words. He must not attempt to supplant a Master of the Lodge or of the Work, or belittle his work, but recommend it and assist him in improving it. He must be liberal in charity to those in need, helping a Fellow who has fallen upon evil lot, giving him work and wages for at least a fortnight, or if he has no work, “relieve him with money to defray his reasonable charges to the next Lodge.” For the rest, he must in all ways act in a manner befitting the nobility of his office and his order.
Such were some of the laws of the moral life by which the old Craft-masonry sought to train its members, not only to be good workmen, but to be good and true men, serving their Fellows; to which, as the Rawlinson MS tells us, “divers new articles have been added by the free choice and good consent and best advice of the Perfect and True Masons, Masters, and Brethren.” If, as an ethic of life, these laws seem simple and rudimentary, they are none the less fundamental, and they remain to this day the only gate and way by which those must enter who would go up to the House of the Lord. As such they are great and saving things to lay to heart and act upon, and if Masonry taught nothing else its title to the respect of mankind would be clear. They have a double aspect: first, the building of a spiritual man upon immutable moral foundations; and second, the great and simple religious faith in the Fatherhood of God, the Brotherhood of man, and the Life Eternal, taught by Masonry from its earliest history to this good day. Morality and theistic religion – upon these two rocks Masonry has always stood, and they are the only basis upon which man may ever hope to rear the spiritual edifice of his life, even to the capstone thereof.
Imagine, now, a band of these builders, bound together by solemn vows and mutual interests, journeying over the most abominable roads toward the site selected for an abbey or cathedral. Traveling was attended with many dangers, and the company was therefore always well armed, the disturbed state of the country rendering such a precaution necessary. Tools and provisions belonging to the party were carried on pack-horses or mules, placed in the center of the convoy, in charge of keepers. The company consisted of a Master Mason directing the work, Fellows of the craft, and Apprentices serving their time. Besides these we find subordinate laborers, not of the Lodge, though in it, termed layers, setters, tilers, and so forth. Masters and Fellows wore a distinctive costume, which remained almost unchanged in its fashion for no less than three centuries. ( History of Masonry, Steinbrenner. It consisted of a short black tunic – in summer made of linen, in winter of wool – open at the sides, with a gorget to which a hood was attached; round the waist was a leathern girdle, from which depended a sword and a satchel. Over the tunic was a black scapulary, similar to the habit of a priest, tucked under the girdle when they were working, but on holy days allowed to hang down. No doubt this garment also served as a coverlet at night, as was the custom of the Middle Age, sheets and blankets being luxuries enjoyed only by the rich and titled (History of Agriculture and Prices in England, T. Rogers). On their heads they wore large felt or straw hats, and tight leather breeches and long boots completed the garb.) Withal, it was a serious company, but in nowise solemn, and the tedium of the journey was no doubt beguiled by song, story, and the humor incident to travel.
“Wherever they came,” writes Mr. Hope in his essay on Architecture, “in the suite of missionaries, or were called by the natives, or arrived of their own accord, to seek employment, they appeared headed by a chief surveyor, who governed the whole troop, and named one man out of every ten, under the name of warden, to overlook the other nine, set themselves to building temporary huts for their habitation around the spot where the work was to be carried on, regularly organized their different departments, fell to work, sent for fresh supplies of their brethren as the object demanded, and, when all was finished, again they raised their encampment, and went elsewhere to undertake other work.”
Here we have a glimpse of the methods of the Free-masons, of their organization, almost military in its order and dispatch, and of their migratory life; although they had a more settled life than this ungainly sentence allows, for long time was required for the building of a great cathedral. Sometimes, it would seem, they made special contracts with the inhabitants of a town where they were to erect a church, containing such stipulations as, that a Lodge covered with tiles should be built for their accommodation, and that every laborer should be provided with a white apron of a peculiar kind of leather and gloves to shield the hands from stone and slime. ( Gloves were more widely used in the olden times than now, and the practice of giving them as presents was common in mediaeval times. Often, when the harvest was over, gloves were distributed to the laborers who gathered it (History of Prices in England, Rogers), and richly embroidered gloves formed an offering gladly accepted by princes. Indeed, the bare hand was regarded as a symbol of hostility, and the gloved hand a token of peace and goodwill. For Masons, however, the white gloves and apron had meanings hardly guessed by others, and their symbolism remains to this day with its simple and eloquent appeal. (See chapter on “Masonic Clothing and Regalia,” in Things A Freemason Should Know, by J. W. Crowe, an interesting article by Rylands, A. Q. C., vol v, and the delightful essay on “Gloves,” by Dr. Mackey, in his Symbolism of Freemasonry.) Not only the tools of the builder, but his clothing, had moral meaning.) At all events, the picture we have is that of a little community or village of workmen, living in rude dwellings, with a Lodge room at the center adjoining a slowly rising cathedral – the Master busy with his plans and the care of his craft; Fellows shaping stones for walls, arches, or spires; Apprentices fetching tools or mortar, and when necessary, tending the sick, and performing all offices of a similar nature Always the Lodge was the center of interest and activity, a place of labor, of study, of devotion, as well as the common room for the social life of the order. Every morning, as we learn from the Fabric Rolls of York Mmster, began with devotion, followed by the directions of the Master for the work of the day, which no doubt included study of the laws of the art, plans of construction, and the mystical meaning of ornaments and emblems. Only Masons were in attendance at such times, the Lodge being closed to all others, and guarded by a Tiler ( Tiler – like the word cable-tow – is a word peculiar to the language of Masonry, and means one who guards the Lodge to see that only Masons are within ear-shot. It probably derives from the Middle Ages when the makers of tiles for roofing were also of migratory habits (History of Prices in England, Rogers), and accompanied the Free- masons to perform their share of the work of covering buildings. Some tiler was appointed to act as sentinel to keep off intruders, and hence, in course of time, the name of Tiler came to be applied to any Mason who guarded hle Lodge.) against “the approach of cowans ( Much has been written of the derivation and meaning of the word cowan, some finding its origin in a Greek term meaning “dog.” (See “An Inquiry Concerning Cowans,” by D. Rainsay, Review of Freemasonry, vol. i.) But its origin is still to seek, unless we accept it as an old Scotch word of contempt (Dictionary of Scottish Language, Jamieson). Sir Walter Scott uses it as such in Rob Roy, “she doesna’ value a Cawmil mair as a cowan” (chap. xxix). Masons used the word to describe a “dry- diker, one who built without cement,” or a Mason without the word. Unfortunately, we still have cowans in this sense – men who try to be Masons without using the cement of brotherly love. If only they could be kept out! Blackstone describes an eavesdropper as “a common nuisance punishable by fine.” “Legend says that the old- time Masons punished such prying persons, who sought to learn their signs and secrets, by holding them under the eaves until the water ran in at the neck and out at the heels. What penalty was inflicted in dry weather, we are not informed. At any rate, they had contempt for a man who tried to make use of the signs of the craft without knowing its art and ethics.) and eavesdroppers.” Thus, the work of each day was begun, moving forward amidst the din and litter of the hours, until the craft was called from labor to rest and refreshment; and thus a cathedral was uplifted as a monument to the Order, albeit the names of the builders are faded and lost. Employed for years on the same building, and living together in the Lodge, it is not strange that Free-masons came to know and love one another, and to have a feeling of loyalty to their craft, unique, peculiar, and enduring. Traditions of fun and frolic, of song and feast and gala-day, have floated down to us, telling of a comradeship as joyous as it was genuine. If their life had hardship and vicissitude, it had also its grace and charm of friendship, of sympathy, service, and community of interest, and the joy that comes of devotion to a high and noble art.
When a Mason wished to leave one Lodge and go elsewhere to work, as he was free to do when he desired, he had no difficulty in making himself known to the men of his craft by certain signs, grips, and words. Such tokens of recognition were necessary to men who traveled afar in those uncertain days, especially when references or other means of identification were ofttimes impossible. All that many people knew about the order was that its members had a code of secret signs, and that no Mason need be friendless or alone when other Masons were within sight or hearing; so that the very name of the craft came to stand for any mode of hidden recognition. Steele, in the Tatler, speaks of a class of people who have “their signs and tokens like Freemasons.” There were more than one of these signs and tokens, as we are more than once told – in the “Harleian MS,” for example, which speaks of “words and signs.” What they were may not be here discussed, but it is safe to say that a Master Mason of the Middle Ages, were he to return from the land of shadows, could perhaps make himself known as such in a Fellowcraft Lodge of today. No doubt some things would puzzle him at first, but he would recognize the officers of the Lodge, its form, its emblems, its great altar Light, and its moral truth taught in symbols. Besides, he could tell us, if so minded, much that we should like to learn about the craft in the olden times, its hidden mysteries, the details of its rites, and the meaning of its symbols when the poetry of building was yet alive.
This brings us to one of the most hotly debated questions in Masonic history – the question as to the number and nature of the degrees made use of in the old craft lodges. Hardly any other subject has so deeply engaged the veteran archaeologists of the order, and while it ill becomes any one glibly to decide such an issue, it is at least permitted us, after studying all of value that has been written on both sides, to sum up what seems to be the truth arrived at. ( This subject is most fascinating. Even in primitive ages there seems to have been a kind of universal sign-language employed, at times, by all people. Among widely separated tribes the signs were very similar, owing, perhaps, to the fact that they were natural gestures of greeting, of warning, or of distress. There is intimation of this in the Bible, when the life of Ben-Hadad was saved by a sign given (I Kings, 20 :30 35). Even among the North American Indians a sign-code of like sort was known (Indian Masonry, R. C. Wright, chap iii). “Mr. Ellis, by means of his knowledge as a Master Mason, actually passed himself into the sacred part or adytum of one of the temples of India” (Ananalslypsis, G. Higgins, vol. 1, 767). See also the experience of Haskett Smith among the Druses, already referred to (A. Q. C., iv, 11). Kipling has a rollicking story with the Masonic sign-code for a theme, entitled “The Man Who Would be King,” and his imagination is positively uncanny. If not a little of the old sign-language of the race lives to this day in Masonic Lodges, it is due not only to the exigencies of the craft, but also to the instinct of the order for the old, the universal, the human; its genius for making use of all the ways and means whereby men may be brought to know and love and help one another.) ( Once more it is a pleasure to refer to the transactions of the Quatuor Coronati Lodge of Research, whose essays and discussions of this issue, as of so many others, are the best survey of the whole question from all sides. The paper by W. J. Hughan arguing in behalf of only one degree in the old time lodges, and a like paper by G. W. Speth in behalf of two degrees, with the materials for the third, cover the field quite thoroughly and in full light of all the fact. (A. Q. C., vol. x, 127; vol. xi, 47). As for the Third Degree, that will be considered further along.) While such a thing as a written record of an ancient degree – aside from the Old Charges, which formed a part of the earliest rituals – is unthinkable, we are not left altogether to the mercy of conjecture in a matter so important. Cesare Cantu tells us that the Comacine Masters “were called together in the Loggie by a grand-master to treat of affairs common to the order, to receive novices, and confer superior degrees on others.” ( Storia di Como, vol. i, 440.) Evidence of a sort similar is abundant, but not a little confusion will be avoided if the following considerations be kept in mind:
First, that during its purely operative period the ritual of Masonry was naturally less formal and ornate than it afterwards became, from the fact that its very life was a kind of ritual and its symbols were always visibly present in its labor. By the same token, as it ceased to be purely operative, and others not actually architects were admitted to its fellowship, of necessity its rites became more formal – “very formall,” as Dugdale said in 1686, ( Natural History of Wiltshire, by John Aubrey, written, but not published, in 1686.) – portraying in ceremony what had long been present in its symbolism and practice.
Second, that with the decline of the old religious art of building – for such it was in very truth – some of its symbolism lost its luster, its form surviving but its meaning obscured, if not entirely faded. Who knows, for example – even with the Klein essay on The Great Symbol ( A. Q. C., vol. x, 82.) in hand – what Pythagoras meant by his lesser and greater Tetractys? That they were more than mathematical theorems is plain, yet even Plutarch missed their meaning. In the same way, some of the emblems in our Lodges are veiled, or else wear meanings invented after the fact, in lieu of deeper meanings hidden, or but dimly discerned. Albeit, the great emblems still speak in truths simple and eloquent, and remain to refine, instruct, and exalt.
Third, that when Masonry finally became a purely speculative or symbolical fraternity, no longer an order of practical builders, its ceremonial inevitably became more elaborate and imposing – its old habit and custom, as well as its symbols and teachings, being enshrined in its ritual. More than this, knowing how “Time the white god makes all things holy, and what is old becomes religion,” it is no wonder that its tradition became every year more authoritative; so that the tendency was not, as many have imagined, to add to its teaching, but to preserve and develop its rich deposit of symbolism, and to avoid any break with what had come down from the past.
Keeping in mind this order of evolution in the history of Masonry, we may now state the facts, so far as they are known, as to its early degrees; dividing it into two periods, the Operative and the Speailative. ( Roughly speaking, the year 1600 may be taken as a date dividing the two periods. Addison, writing in the Spectator, March 1, 1711, draws the following distinction between a speculative and an operative member of a trade or profession: “I live in the world rather as a spectator of mankind, than as one of the species, by which means I have made myself a speculative statesman, soldier, merchant, and artisan, without ever meddling with any practical part of life.” By a Speculative Mason, then, is meant a man who, though not an actual architect, sought and obtained membership among Free-masons. Such men, scholars and students, began to enter the order as early as 1600, if not earlier. If by Operative Mason is meant one who attached no moral meaning to his tools, there were none such in the olden time – all Masons, even those in the Guilds, using their tools as moral emblems in a way quite unknown to builders of our day. ‘Tis a pity that this light of Poetry has faded from our toil, and with it the joy of work.) An Apprentice in the olden days was “entered” as a novice of the craft, first, as a purely business proceeding, not unlike our modern indentures, or articles. Then, or shortly afterwards – probably at the annual Assembly – there was a ceremony of initiation making him a Mason – including an oath, the recital of the craft legend as recorded in the Old Charges instruction in moral conduct and deportment as a Mason, and the imparting of certain secrets. At first this degree, although comprising secrets, does not seem to have been mystic at all, but a simple ceremony intended to impress upon the mind of the youth the high moral life required of him. Even Guild-masonry had such a rite of initiation, as Hallam remarks, and if we may trust the Findel version of the ceremony used among the German Stonemasons, it was very like the first degree as we now have it – though one has always the feeling that it was embellished in the light of later time. ( History of Masonry, p.66.)
So far there is no dispute, but the question is whether any other degree was known in the early lodges. Both the probabilities of the case, together with such facts as we have, indicate that there was another and higher degree. For, if all the secrets of the order were divulged to an Apprentice, he could, after working four years, and just when he was becoming valuable, run away, give himself out as a Fellow, and receive work and wages as such. If there was only one set of secrets, this deception might be practiced to his own profit and the injury of the craft – unless, indeed, we revise all our ideas held hitherto, and say that his initiation did not take place until he was out of his articles. This, however, would land us in worse difficulties later on. Knowing the fondness of the men of the Middle Ages for ceremony, it is hardly conceivable that the day of all days when an Apprentice, having worked for seven long years, acquired the status of a Fellow, was allowed to go unmarked, least of all in an order of men to whom building was at once an art and an allegory. So that, not only the exigences of his occupation, but the importance of the day to a young man, and the spirit of the order, justify such a conclusion.
Have we any evidence tending to confirm this inference? Most certainly; so much so that it is not easy to interpret the hints given in the Old Charges upon any other theory. For one thing, in nearly all the MSS, from the Regius Poem down, we are told of two rooms or resorts, the Chamber and the Lodge – sometimes called the Bower and the Hall – and the Mason was charged to keep the “counsels” proper to each place. This would seem to imply that an Apprentice had access to the Chamber or Bower, but not to the Lodge itself – at least not at all times. It may be argued that the “other counsels” referred to were merely technical secrets, but that is to give the case away, since they were secrets held and communicated as such. By natural process, as the order declined and actual building ceased, its technical secrets became ritual secrets, though they must always have had symbolical meanings. Further, while we have record of only one oath – which does not mean that there was only one – signs, tokens, and words are nearly always spoken of in the plural; and if the secrets of a Fellowcraft were purely technical – which some of us do not believe – they were at least accompanied and protected by certain signs, tokens, and passwords. From this it is clear that the advent of an Apprentice into the ranks of a Fellow was in fact a degree, or contained the essentials of a degree, including a separate set of signs and secrets.
When we pass to the second period, and men of wealth and learning who were not actual architects began to enter the order – whether as patrons of the art or as students and mystics attracted by its symbolism – other evidences of change appear. They, of course, were not required to serve a seven year apprenticeship, and they would naturally be Fellows, not Masters, because they were in no sense Masters of the craft. Were these Fellows made acquainted with the secrets of an Apprentice? If so, then the two degrees were either conferred in one evening, or else – what seems to have been the fact – they were welded into one; since we hear of men being made Masons in a single evening. Customs differed, no doubt, in different Lodges, some of which were chiefly operative, or made up of men who had been working Masons, with only a sprinkling of men not workmen who had been admitted; while others were purely symbolical Lodges as far back as 1645. Naturally in Lodges of the first kind the two degrees were kept separate and in the second they were merged – the one degree becoming all the while more elaborate. Gradually the men who had been Operative Masons became fewer in the Lodges – chiefly those of higher position, such as master builders, architects, and so on – until the order became a purely speculative fraternity, having no longer any trade object in view.
Not only so, but throughout this period of transition, and even earlier, we hear intimations of “the Master’s Part,” and those hints increase in number as the office of Master of the Work lost its practical aspect after the cathedral-building period. What was the Master’s Part? Unfortunately, while the number of degrees may be indicated, their nature and details cannot be discussed without grave indis cretion; but nothing is plainer than that “we wed not go outside Masonry itself to find the materials out of which all three degrees, as they now exist, were developed.” ( For a single example, the Diary of Elias Ashmole, under date of 1646.) ( Time out of mind it has been the habit of writers, both within the order and without, to treat Masonry as though it were a kind of agglomeration of archaic remains and platitudinous moralizings, made up of the heel-taps of Operative legend and the fag-ends of Occult lore. Far from it! If this were the fact the presest writer would be the first to admit it, but it is not the fact. Instead, the idea that an order so noble, so heroic in its history, so rich in symbolism, so skilfully adjusted, and with so many traces of remote antiquity, was the creation of pious fraud, or else of an ingenious conviviality, passes the bounds of credulity and enters the domain of the absurd. This fact will he further emphasized in the chapter followmg, to which those are respectfully referred who go every-where else, except to Masonry itself, to learn what Masonry is and how it came to be.) Even the French Companionage, or Sons of Solomon, had the legend of the Third Degree long before 1717, when some imagine it to have been invented. If little or no mention of it is found among English Masons before that date, that is no reason for thinking that it was unknown. “Not until 1841 was it known to have been a secret of the Companionage in France, so deeply and carefully was it hidden.” ( Livre du Compagnonnage, by Agricol Perdignier, 1841. George Sand’s novel, Le Compagnon du Tour de France, was published the same year. See full account of this order in Could, History of Masonry, vol. i, chap. v.) Where so much is dim one may not be dogmatic, but what seems to have taken place in 1717 was, not the addition of a third degree made out of whole cloth, but the conversion of two degrees into three.
That is to say, Masonry is too great an institution to have been made in a day, much less by a few men, but was a slow evolution through long time, unfolding its beauty as it grew. Indeed, it was like one of its own cathedrals upon which one generation of builders wrought and vanished, and another followed,until, amidst vicissitudes of time and change, of decline and revival, the order itself became a temple, of Freedom and Fraternity – its history a disclosure of its innermost soul in the natural process of its transition from actual architecture to its “more noble and glorious purpose.” For, since what was evolved from Masonry must always have been involved in it – not something alien added to it from extraneous sources, as some never tire of trying to show – we need not go outside the order itself to learn what Masonry is, certainly not to discover its motif and its genius; its later and more elaborate form being only an expansion and exposition of its inherent nature and teaching. Upon this fact the present study insists with all emphasis, as over against those who go hunting in every odd nook and corner to find whence Masonry came, and where it got its symbols and degrees.
CHAPTER III – Accepted Masons
The System, as taught in the regular Lodges, may have some Redundancies or Defects, occasion by the Ignorance or Indolence of the old members. And indeed, considering through what Obscurity and Darkness the Mystery has been deliver’d down; the many Centuries it has survived; the many Countries and languages, and SECTS and PARTES it has run through; we are rather to wonder that it ever arrived to the present Age, without more Imperfection. It has run long in muddy Streams, and as it were, under Ground. But notwithstanding the great Rust it may have contracted, there is much of the OLD FABRICK remaining: the essential Pillars of the Building may be discov’d through the Rubbish, tho’ the Superstructure be overrun with Moss and Ivy, and the Stones, by Length of Time, be disjointed. And therefore, as the Bust of an OLD Hero is of great Value among the Curious, tho’ it has lost an Eye, the Nose or the Right Hand; so Masonry with all its Blemishes and Misfortunes, instead of appearing ridiculous, ought to be receiv’d with some Candor and Esteem, from a Veneration of its ANTIQUITY. – Defense of Masonry, 1730
Whatever may be dim in the history of Freemasonry, and in the nature of things much must remain hidden; its symbolism may be traced in unbroken succession through the centuries; and its symbolism is its soul. So much is this true, that it may almost be said that had the order ceased to exist in the period when it was at its height, its symbolism would have survived and developed, so deeply was it wrought into the mind of mankind. When, at last, the craft finished its labors and laid down its tools, its symbols, having served the faith of the worker, became a language for the thoughts of the thinker.
Few realize the service of the science of numbers to the faith of man in the morning of the world, when he sought to find some kind of key to the mighty maze of things. Living amidst change and seeming chance, he found in the laws of numbers a path by which to escape the awful sense of life as a series of accidents in the hands of a capricious Power; and, when we think of it, his insight was not invalid. “All things are in numbers,” said the wise Pythagoras; “the world is a living arithmetic in its development – a realized geometry in its repose.” Nature is a realm of numbers; crystals are solid geometry. Music, of all arts the most divine and exalting, moves with measured step, using geometrical figures, and cannot free itself from numbers without dying away into discord. Surely it is not strange that a science whereby men obtained such glimpses of the unity and order of the world should be hallowed among them, imparting its form to their faith. ( There is a beautiful lecture on the moral meaning of Geometry by Dr. Hutchinson, in The Spirit of Masonry – one of the oldest, as it is one of the noblest, books in our Masonic literature. Plutarch reports Plato as saying, “God is always geometrizing” (Diog. Laert., iy, 2). Elsewhere Plato remarks that “Geometry rightly treated is the knowledge of the Eternal” (Republic, 527b), and over the porch of his Academy at Athens he wrote the words, “Let no one who is ignorant of Geometry enter my doors.” So Aristotle and all the ancient thinkers, whether in Egypt or India. Pythagoras, Proclus tells us, was concerned only with number and magnitude: number absolute, in arithmetic; number applied, in music; and so forth – whereof we read in the Old Charges (see “The Great Symbol,” by Klein, A. Q. C., x, 82).) Having revealed so much, mathematics came to wear mystical meanings in a way quite alien to our prosaic habit of thinking – faith in our day having betaken itself to other symbols.
Equally so was it with the art of building – a living allegory in which man imitated in miniature the world-temple, and sought by every device to discover the secret of its stability. Already we have shown how, from earliest times, the simple symbols of the builder became a part of the very life of humanity, giving shape to its thought, its faith, its dream. Hardly a language but bears their impress, as when we speak of a Rude or Polished mind, of an Upright man who is a Pillar of society, of the Level of equality, or the Golden Rule by which we would Square our actions. They are so natural, so inevitable, and so eloquent withal, that we use them without knowing it. Sages have always been called Builders, and it was no idle fancy when Plato and Pythagoras used imagery drawn from the art of building to utter their highest thought. Everywhere in literature, philosophy, and life it is so, and naturally so. Shakespeare speaks of “square-men,” and when Spenser would build in stately lines the Castle of Temperance, he makes use of the Square, Circle, and Triangle: ( Faerie Queene, bk. ii, canto ix, 22.)
The frame thereof seem’d partly circulaire And part triangular: O work divine! Those two the first and last proportions are; The one imperfect, mortal, feminine.
The other immortal, perfect, masculine, And twixt them both a quadrate was the base, Proportion’d equally by seven and nine; Nine was the circle set in heaven’s place All which compacted made a goodly diapase.
During the Middle Ages, as we know, men revelled in symbolism, often of the most recondite kind, and the emblems of Masonry are to be found all through the literature, art, and thought of that time. Not only on cathedrals, tombs, and monuments, where we should expect to come upon them, but in the designs and decorations of dwellings, on vases, pottery, and trinkets, in the water-marks used by paper-makers and printers, and even as initial letters in books – everywhere one finds the old, familiar emblems. ( Lost Language of Symbolism, by Bayley, also A New Light on the Renaissance, by the same author; Architecture of the Renaissance in England, by J. A. Gotch; and “Notes on Some Masonic Symbols,” by W. H. Rylands, A. Q. C., viii, 84. Indeed, the literature is as prolific as the facts.) Square, Rule, Plumb-line, the perfect Ashlar, the two Pillars, the Circle within the parallel lines, the Point within the Circle, the Compasses, the Winding Staircase, the numbers Three, Five, Seven, Nine, the double Triangle – these and other such symbols were used alike by Hebrew Kabbalists and Rosicrucian Mystics. Indeed, so abundant is the evidence – if the matter were in dispute and needed proof – especially after the revival of symbolism under Albertus Magnus in 1249,that a whole book might be filled with it. Typical are the lines left by a poet who, writing in 1623, sings of God as the great Logician whom the conclusion never fails, and whose counsel rules without command: ( J. V. Andreae, Ehreneich Hokenfelder von Aister Haimb. A translation of the second line quoted would read, “Unless in God he has his building.”)
Therefore caft none foresee his end Unless on God is built his hope. And if we here below would learn By Compass, Needle, Square, and Plumb, We never must o’erlook the mete Wherewith our God bath measur’d us.
For all that, there are those who never weary of trying to find where, in the misty mid- region of conjecture, the Masons got their immemorial emblems. One would think, after reading their endless essays, that the symbols of Masonry were loved and preserved by all the world – except by the Masons themselves. Often these writers imply, if they do not actually assert, that our order begged, borrowed, or cribbed its emblems from Kabbalists or Rosicrucians, whereas the truth is exactly the other way round – those impalpable fraternities, whose vague, fantastic thought was always seeking a local habitation and a body, making use of the symbols of
Masonry the better to reach the minds of men. Why all this unnecessary mystery – not to say mystification – when the facts are so plain, written in records and carved in stone? While Kabbalists were contriving their curious cosmogonies, the Masons went about their work, leaving record of their symbols in deeds, not in creeds, albeit holding always to their simple faith, and hope, and duty – as in the lines left on an old brass Square, found in an ancient bridge near Limerick, bearing date of 1517:
Strive to live with love and care Upon the Level, by the Square.
Some of our Masonic writers (Letter “Touching Masonic Symbolism.”) – more than one likes to admit – have erred by confusing Freemasonry with Guild-masonry, to the discredit of the former. Even Oliver once concluded that the secrets of the working Masons of the Middle Ages were none other than the laws of Geometry – hence the letter G; forgetting, it would seem, that Geometry had mystical meanings for them long since lost to us. As well say that the philosophy of Pythagoras was repeating the Multiplication Table! Albert Pike held that we are “not warranted in assuming that, among Masons generally – in the body of Masonry – the symbolism of Freemasonry is of earlier date then 1717.” (Letter “Touching Masonic Symbolism.”) Surely that is to err. If we had only the Mason’s Marks that have come down to us, nothing else would be needed to prove it an error. Of course, for deeper minds all emblems have deeper meanings, and there may have been many Masons who did not fathom the symbolism of the order. No more do we; but the symbolism itself, of hoar antiquity, was certainly the Common inheritance and treasure of the working Masons of the Lodges in England and Scotland before, indeed centuries before, the year 1717.
Therefore it is not strange that men of note and learning, attracted by the wealth of symbolism in Masonry, as well as by its spirit of fraternity – perhaps, also, by its secrecy – began at an early date to ask to be accepted as members of the order: hence Accepted Masons. ( Some Lodges, however, would never admit such. members. As late as April 24, 1786, two brothers were proposed as members of Domatic Lodge, No.177, London, and were rejected because they were not Operative Masons (History Lion and Lamb Lodge, 192, London, by Abbott).)
How far back the custom of admitting such men to the Lodges goes is not clear, but hints of it are discernible in the oldest documents of the order; and this whether or no we accept as historical the membership of Prince Edwin in the tenth century, of whom the Regius Poem says, Ot speculatyfe he was a master.
This may only mean that he was amply skilled in the knowledge, as well as the practice, of the art, although, as Gould points out, the Regius MS contains intimations of thoughts above the heads of many to whom it was read. ( “On the Antiquity of Masonic Symbolism,” A. Q. C., iii, 7.) ( Historical Essay on Architecture, chap. xxi.) Similar traces of Accepted Masons are found in the Cooke MS, compiled in 1400 or earlier. Hope suggests that the earliest members of this class were ecclesiastics who wished to study to be architects and designers, so as to direct the erection of their own churches; the more so, since the order had “so high and sacred a destination, was so entirely exempt from all local, civil jurisdiction,” and enjoyed the sanction and protection of the Church. Later, when the order was in disfavor with the Church, men of another sort – scholars, mystics, and lovers of liberty – sought its degrees.
At any rate, the custom began early and continued through the years, until Accepted Masons were in the majority. Noblemen, gentlemen, and scholars entered the order as Speculative Masons, and held office as such in the old Lodges, the first name recorded in actual minutes being John Boswell, who was present as a member of the Lodge of Edinburgh in 1600. Of the forty-nine names on the roll of the Lodge of Aberdeen in 1670, thirty-nine were Accepted Masons not in any way connected with the building trade. In England the earliest reference to the initiation of a Speculative Mason, in Lodge minutes, is of the year 1641. On the 20th of May that year, Robert Moray, “General Quartermaster of the Armie off Scottland,” as the record runs, was initiated at Newcastle by members of the “Lodge of Edinburgh,” who were with the Scottish Army. A still more famous example was that of Ashmole, whereof we read in the Memoirs of the Life of that Learned Antiquary, Elias Ashmote, Drawn up by Himself by Way of Diary, published in 1717, which contains two entries as follows, the first dated in 1646: Octob 16.4 Nor. 30 Minutes post merid. I was made a Freemason at Warrington in Lancashire, with Colonel Henry Wainwaring of Kartichain in Cheshire; the names of those that were there at the Lodge, Mr. Richard Panket Warden, Mr. James Collier, Mr. Richard Sankey, Henry Littler, John Ellam, Richard Ellam and Hugh Brewer.
Such is the record, italics and all; and it has been shown, by hunting up the wills of the men present, that the members of the Warrington Lodge in 1646 were, nearly all of them – every one in fact, so far as is known — Accepted Masons. Thirty-five years pass before we discover the only other Masonic entries in the Diary, dated March, 1682, which read as follows:
About 5 p. m. I received a Summons to appear at a Lodge to be held the next day, at Masons Hall, London. Accordingly I went, and about Noone were admitted into the Fellowship of Free Masons, Sir. William Wilson, Knight, Capt Richard Borthwick, Mr. Will. Woodman, Mr. Wm. Grey, M. Samuell Taylor and Mr. William Wise.
I was the Senior Fellow among them (it being 35 years since I was admitted). There were present beside myselfe the Fellowes afternamed: [Then follows a list of names which conveys no information.] Wee all dyned at the halfe moone Taverne in Cheapside at a Noble Dinner prepared at the charge of the new-accepted Masons.
Space is given to those entries, not because they are very important, but because Ragon and others have actually held that Ashmole made Masonry – as if any one man made Masonry! ‘Tis surely strange, if this be true, that only two entries in his Diary refer to the order; but that does not disconcert the theorists who are so wedded to their idols as to have scant regard for facts. No, the circumstance that Ashmole was a Rosicrucian, an Alchemist, a delver into occult lore, is enough, the absence of any allusion to him thereafter only serving to confirm the fancy – the theory being that a few adepts, seeing Masonry about to crumble and decay, seized it, introduced their symbols into it, making it the mouthpiece of their high, albeit hidden, teaching. How fascinating! and yet how baseless in fact! There is no evidence that a Rosicrucian fraternity existed – save on paper, having been woven of a series of romances written as early as 1616, and ascribed to Andrea – until a later time; and even when it did take form, it was quite distinct from Masonry. Occultism, to be sure, is elusive, coming we know not whence, and hovering like a mist trailing over the hills. Still, we ought to be able to find in Masonry some trace of Rosicrucian influence, some hint of the lofty wisdom it is said to have added to the order; but no one has yet done so. Did all that high, Hermetic mysticism evaporate entirely, leaving not a wraith behind, going as mysteriously as it came to that far place which no mortal may explore? ( Those who wish to pursue this Quixotic quest will find the literature abundant and very interesting. For example, such essays as that by F. W. Brockbank in Manchester Association for Research, vol. i, 1909-10; and another by A. F. A. Woodford, A. Q. C., i, 28. Better still is the Real History of the Rosicrucians, by Waite (chap. xv), and for a complete and final explosion of all such fancies we have the great chapter in Gould’s History of Masonry (vol. ii, chap. xiii). It seems a pity that so much time and labor and learning had to be expended on theories so fragile, but it was necessary; and no man was better fitted for the study than Gould. Perhaps the present writer is unkind, or at least impatient; if so he humbly begs forgiveness; but after reading tomes of conjecture about the alleged Rosicrucian origin of Masonry, he is weary of the wide-eyed wonder of mystery-mongers about things that never were, and which would be of no value if they had been. (Read The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception, or Christian Occult Science, by Max Heindel, and be instructed in matters whereof no mortal knoweth.))
Howbeit, the fact to be noted is that, thus early – and earlier, for the Lodge had been in existence some time when Ashmole was initiated – the Warrington Lodge was made up of Accepted Masons. Of the ten men present in the London Lodge, mentioned in the second entry in the Diary, Ashmole was the senior, but he was not a member of the Masons’ Company, though the other nine were, and also two of the neophytes. No doubt this is the Lodge which Conder, the historian of the Company, has traced back to 1620, “and were the books of the Company prior to that date in existence, we should no doubt be able to trace the custom of receiving accepted members back to pre-reformation times.” ( The Hole Croft and Fellowship of Masons, by Edward Conder.) From an entry in the books of the Company, dated 1665, it appears that:
There was hanging up in the Hall a list of the Accepted Masons enclosed in a “faire frame, with a lock and key.” Why was this? No doubt the Accepted Masons, or those who were initiated into the esoteric aspect of the Company, did not include the whole Company, and this was a list of the “enlightened ones,” whose names were thus honored and kept on record, probably long after their decease. . . This we cannot say for certain, but we can say that as early as 1620, and inferentially very much earlier, there were certain members of the Masons’ Company and others who met from time to time to form a Lodge for the purpose of Speculative Masonry. (Ibid., Introduction.)
Conder also mentions a copy of the Old Charges, Gothic Constitutions, in the chest of the London Masons’ Company, known as The Book of the Constitutions of the Accepted Masons; and this he identifies with the Regius MS. Another witness during this period is Randle Holme, of Chester, whose references to the Craft in his Acadamie Armory, 1688, are of great value, for that he writes “as a member of that society called Free-masons.” The Harleian MS is in his handwriting, and on the next leaf there is a remarkable list of twenty-six names, including his own. It is the only list of the kind known in England and, and a careful examination of all the sources of information relative to the Chester men shows that nearly all of them were Accepted Masons. Later on we come to the Natural History of Staffordshire, by Dr. Plott, 1686, in which, though in an unfriendly manner, we are told many things about Craft usages and regtilations of that day. Lodges had to be formed of at least five members to make a quorum, gloves were presented to candidates, and a banquet following initiations was a custom. He states that there were several signs and passwords by which the members were able “to be known to one another all over the nation,” his faith in their effectiveness surpassing that of the most credulous in our day.
Still another striking record is found in The Natural History of Wiltshire, by John Aubrey, the MS of which in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, is dated 1686; and on the reverse side of folio 72 of this MS is the following note by Aubrey: “This day [May 18, 1681] is a great convention at St. Paul’s Church of the fraternity, of the free [then he crossed out the word Free and inserted Accepted] Masons where Sir Christopher Wren is to be adopted a Brother: and Sir Henry Goodric of ye Tower and divers others.” ( The Hole Croft and Fellowship of Masons, by Edward Conder.) From which we may infer that there were Assemblies before 1717, and that they were of sufficient importance to be known to a non-Mason. Other evidence might be adduced, but this is enough to show that Speculative Masonry, so far from being a novelty, was very old at the time when many suppose it was invented. With the great fire of London, in 1666, there came a renewed interest in Masonry, many who had abandoned it flocking to the capital to rebuild the city and especially the Cathedral of St. Paul. Old Lodges were revived, new ones were formed, and an effort was made to renew the old annual, or quarterly, Assemblies, while at the same time Accepted Masons increased both in numbers and in zeal.
Unfortunately, he has left no record, and the Parentalia, written by his son, helps us very little, containing nothing more than his theory that the order began with Gothic architecture. Ashmole, if we may trust his friend, Dr. Knipe, had planned to write a History of Masonry refuting the theory of Wren that Freemasonry took its rise from a Bull granted by the Pope, in the reign of Henry III, to some Italian architects, holding and rightly so, that the Bull “was comfirmatory only, and did not by any means create our fraternity, or even establish in this kingdom” (Life of Ashmole, by Camphell). This item makes still more absurd the idea that Ashmole himself created Masonry. whereas he was only a student of its antiquities. Wren was probably never an Operative Mason – though an architect – but he seems to have become an Accepted member of the fraternity in his last years, since his neglect of the order, due to his age, is given as on a reason for the organization of the first Grand Lodge.)
Now the crux of the whole matter as regards Accepted Masons lies in the answer to such questions as these: Why did soldiers, scholars, antiquarians, clergymen, lawyers, and even members of the nobility ask to be accepted as members of the order of Free- masons? Wherefore their interest in the order at all? What attracted them to it as far back as 1600, and earlier? What held them with increasing power and an ever- deepening interest? Why did they continue to enter the Lodges until they had the rule of them? There must have been something more in their motive than a simple desire for association, for they had their clubs, societies, and learned fellowships. Still less could a mere curiosity to learn certain signs and passwords have held such men for long, even in an age of quaint conceits in the matter of association and when architecture was affected as a fad. No, there is only one explanation: that these men saw in Masonry a deposit of the high and simple wisdom of old, preserved in tradition and taught in symbols – little understood, it may be, by many members of the order – and this it was that they sought to bring to light, turning history into allegory and legend into drama, and making it a teacher of wise and beautiful truth.
CHAPTER IV – Grand Lodge of England
The doctrines of Masonry are the most beautiful that it is possible to imagine. They breathe the simplicity of the earliest ages animated by the love of a martyred God. That word which the Puritans translated CHARITY, but which is really LOVE, is the key-stone which supports the entire edifice of this mystic science. Love one another, teach one another, help one another. That is all our doctrine, all our science, all our law. We have no narrow-minded prejudices; we do not debar from our society this sect or that sect; it is sufficient for us that a man worships God, no matter under what name or in what manner. Ah! rail against us bigoted and ignorant men, if you will. Those who listen to the truths which Masonry inculcates can readily forgive you. It is impossible to be a good Mason without being a good man. -WINWOOD READE The Veil of Isis
While praying in a little chapel one day, Francis of Assisi was exhorted by an old Byzantine crucifix: “Go now, and rebuild my Church, which is falling into ruins.” In sheer loyalty he had a lamp placed; then he saw his task in a larger way, and an artist has painted him carrying stones and mortar. Finally there burst upon him the full import of the allocution – that he himself was to be the corner-stone of a renewed and purified Church. Purse and prestige he flung to the winds, and went along the highways of Umbria calling men back from the rot of luxury to the ways of purity, pity, and gladness, his life at once a poem and a power, his faith a vision of the world as love and comradeship.
That is a perfect parable of the history of Masonry. Of old the working Masons built the great cathedrals, and we have seen them not only carrying stones, but drawing triangles, squares, and circles in such a manner as to show that they assigned to those figures high mystical meanings. But the real Home of the Soul cannot be built of brick and stone; it is a house not made with hands. Slowly it rises, fashioned of the thoughts, hopes, prayers, dreams, and righteous acts of devout and free men; built of their hunger for truth, their love of God, and their loyalty to one another. There came a day when the Masons, laying aside their stones, became workmen of another kind, not less builders than before, but using truths for tools and dramas for designs, uplifting such a temple as Watts dreamed of decorating with his visions of the August allegory of the evolution of man.
From every point of view, the organization of the Grand Lodge of England, in 1717, was a significant and far-reaching event. Not only did it divide the story of Masonry into before and after, giving a new date from which to reckon, but it was a way-mark in the intellectual and spiritual history of mankind. One has only to study that first Grand Lodge, the influences surrounding it, the men who composed it, the Constitutions adopted, and its spirit and purpose, to see that it was the beginning of a movement of profound meaning. When we see it in the setting of its age – as revealed, for example, in the Journals of Fox and Wesley, which from being religious time- tables broadened into detailed panoramic pictures of the period before, and that following, the Grand Lodge – the Assembly on 1717 becomes the more remarkable. Against such a background, when religion and morals seemed to reach the nadir of degradation, the men of that Assembly stand out as prophets of liberty of faith and righteousness of life. ( We should not forget that noble dynasty of large and liberal souls in the seventeenth century-John Hales, Chillingsworth, Whichcote, John Smith, Henry More, Jeremy Taylor – whose Liberty of Prophesying set the principle of toleration to stately strains of eloquence – Sir Thomas Browne, and Richard Baxter; saints, every one of them, finely-poised, sweet-tempered, repelled from all extremes alike, and walking the middle path of wisdom and charity. Milton, too, taught tolerance in a bigoted and bitter age (see Seventeenth Century Men of Latitude, B. A. George).
Some imagination is needed to realize the moral declension of that time, as it is portrayed – to use single example – in the sermon by the Bishop of Litchfield before the Society for the Reformation of Manners, in 1724. Lewdness, drunkenness, and degeneracy, he said, were well nigh universal, no class being free from the infection. Murders were common and foul, wanton and obscene books found so good a market as to encourage the publishing of them. Immorality of every kind was so hardened as to be defended, yes, justified on principle. The rich were debauched and indifferent; the poor were as miserable in their labor as they were coarse and cruel in their sport. Writing in 1713, Bishop Burnet said that those who came to be ordained as clergymen were “ignorant to a degree not to be comprehended by those who are not obliged to know it” Religion seemed dying or dead, and to mention the word provoked a laugh. Wesley, then only a lad, had not yet come with his magnificent and cleansing evangel. Empty formalism on one side, a dead polemical dogmatism on the other, bigotry, bitterness, intolerance, and interminable feud every where, no wonder Bishop Butler sat oppressed in his castle with hardly a hope surviving.
As for Masonry, it had fallen far and fallen low betimes, but with the revival following the great fire of London, in 1666, it had taken on new life and a bolder spirit, and was passing through a transition – or, rather, a transfiguration! For, when we compare the Masonry of, say, 1688 with that of 1723, we discover that much more than a revival had come to pass. Set the instructions of the Old Charges – not all of them, however, for even in earliest times some of them escaped the stamp of the Church ( For instance the Cooke MS, next to the oldest of all, as well as the W. Wstson and York No. 4 MSS. It is rather surprising, in view of the supremacy of the Church in those times, to find such evidence of what Dr. Mackey called the chief mission of primitive Masonry – the preservation of belief in the unity of God. These MSS did not succumb to the theology of the Church, and their invocations remind us more of the God of Isaiah than of the decrees of the Council of Nicaea.) – in respect of religion alongside the game article in the Constitutions of 1723, and the contrast is amazing. The old charge read: “The first charge is this, that you be true to God and Holy Church and use no error or heresy.” Hear now the charge in 1723:
A Mason is obliged by his Tenure, to obey the moral law; and if he rightly understands the Art, he will never be a stupid Atheist nor an irreligious Libertine. But though in ancient times Masons were charged in every Country to be of the religion of that Country or nation, whatever it was, yet it is now thought more expedient only to oblige them to that religion in which all men agree, leaving their particular Opinions to themselves: that is, to be Good men and True, or Men of Honor and Honesty, by whatever Denomination or Persuasion they may be distinguished; whereby Masonry becomes the Centre of Union and the Means of conciliating true Friendship among persons that must have remained at a perpetual distance.
If that statement had been written yesterday, it would be remarkable enough. But when we consider that it was set forth in 1723, amidst bitter sectarian rancor and intolerance unimaginable, it rises up as forever memorable in the history of men! The man who wrote that document, did we know his name, is entitled to be held till the end of time in the grateful and venerative memory of his race. The temper of the times was all for relentless partisanship, both in religion and in politics. The alternative offered in religion was an ecclesiastical tyranny, allowing a certain liberty of belief, or a doctrinal tyranny, allowing a slight liberty of worship; a sad choice in truth.. It is, then, to the everlasting honor of the century, that, in the midst of its clashing extremes, the Masons appeared with heads unbowed, abjuring both tyrannies and championing both liberties. ( It was, perhaps, a picture of the Masonic Lodges of that era that Toland drew in his Socratic Society, published in 1720, which however, he clothed in a vesture quite un- Grecian. At least, the symposia or brotherly feasts of his society, their give-and-take of questions and answers, their aversion to the rule of mere physical force, to compulsory religious belief, and to creed hatred, as well as their mild and tolerant disposition and their brotherly regard for one another, remind one of the spirit and habits of the Masons of that day.) Ecclesiastically and doctrinally they stood in the open, while Romanist and Protestant, Anglican and Puritan, Calvinist and Arminian waged bitter war, filling the air with angry maledictions. These men of latitude in a cramped age felt pent up alike by narrowness of ritual and by narrowness of creed, and they cried out for room and air, for liberty and charity!
Though differences of creed played no part in Masonry, nevertheless it held religion in high esteem, and was then, as now, the steadfast upholder of the only two articles of faith that never were invented by man – the existence of God and the immortality of the soul! Accordingly, every Lodge was opened and closed with prayer to the “Almighty Architect of the universe;” and when a Lodge of mourning met in memory of a brother fallen asleep, the formula was: “He has passed over into the eternal East,” – to that region whence cometh light and hope. Unsectarian in religion, the Masons were also non-partisan in politics: one principle being common to them all – love of country, respect for law and order, and the desire for human welfare. ( Now is as good a time as another to name certain curious theories which have been put forth to account for the origin of Masonry in general, and of the Organization of the Grand Lodge in particular. They are as follows: First, that it was all due to an imaginary Temple of Solomon described by Lord Bacon in a utopian romance called the New Atlantis; and this despite the fact that the temple in the Bacon story was not a house at all, but the name of an ideal state. Second, that the object of Freemasonry and the origin of the Third Degree was the restoration of Charles II to the throne of England; the idea being that the Masons, who called themselves “Sons of the Widow,” meant thereby to express their allegiance to the Queen. Third, that Freemasonry was founded by Oliver Cromwell – he of all men! – to defeat the royalists. Fourth, that Free-masons were derived from the order of the Knights Templars. Even Leasing once held this theory, but seems later to have given it up. Which one of these theories surpasses the others in absurdity, it would be hard to say. De Quincey explodes lodes them one by one with some detail in his “Inquiry into the Origin of the Free-masons,” to which he might also have added his own pet notion of the Rosicrucian origin of the order – it being only a little less fantastic than the rest (De Quincey’s Works, vol. xvi).) Upon that basis the first Grand Lodge was founded, and upon that basis Masonry rests today – holding that a unity of spirit is better than a uniformity of opinion, and that beyond the great and simple “religion in which all men agree” no dogma is worth a breach of charity.
With honorable pride in this tradition of spiritual faith and intellectual freedom, we are all the more eager to recite such facts as are known about the organization of the first Grand Lodge. How many Lodges of Masons existed in London at that time is a matter of conjecture, but there must have been a number. What bond, if any, united them, other than their esoteric secrets and customs, is equally unknown. Nor is there any record to tell us whether all the Lodges in and about London were invited to join in the movement. Unfortunately the minutes of the Grand Lodge only commence on June 24, 1723, and our only history of the events is that found in The New Book of Constitutions, by Dr. James Anderson, in 1738. However, if not an actor in the scene, he was in a position to know the facts from eye-witnesses, and his book was approved by the Grand Lodge itself. His account is so brief that it may be given as it stands:
King George I enter’d London most magnificently on 20 Sept. 1714. And after the Rebellion was over A. D. 1716, the few Lodges at London finding themselves neglected by Sir Christopher Wren, thought fit to cement under a Grand Master as the Centre of Union and Harmony, viz., the Lodges that met,
1. At the Goose and Gridiron Ale house in St. Paul’s Church Yard. 2. At the Croa’n Ale-house in Parker’s Lane near Drury Lane. 3. At the Apple-Tree Tavern in Charles-street, Covent-Garden. 4. At the Rummer and Grape Tavern in Channel-Row, Westminster.
They and some other old Brothers met at the said Apple-Tree, and having put into the chair the oldest Master Mason (now the Master of a Lodge) they constituted themselves a Grand Lodge pro Tempore in Due Form, and forthwith revived the Quarterly Communication of the Officers of Lodges (call’d the GRAND LODGE) resolv’d to hold the Annual Assembly and Feast, and then to chuse a Grand Master from among themselves, till they should have the Honor of a Noble Brother at their Head.
Accordingly, on St. John’s Baptist’s Day, in the 3d year of King George I, A. D. 1717, the ASSEMBLY and Feast of the Free and Accepted Masons was held at the foresaid Goose and Gridiron Ale-house.
Before Dinner, the oldest Master Mason (now the Master of a Lodge) in the Chair, proposed a List of proper Candidates; and the Brethren by a majority of Hands elected Mr. Anthony Sayer, Gentlemen, Grand Master of Masons (Mr. Jacob Lamball, Carpenter, Capt. Joseph Elliot, Grand Wardens) who being forthwith invested with the Badges of Office and Power by the said oldest Master and install’d, was duly congratulated by the Assembly who paid him the Homage.
Sayer, Grand Master, commanded the Masters and Wardens of Lodges to meet the Grand Officers every Quarter in Communication, at the Place that he should appoint in the Summons sent by the Tyler.
So reads the only record that has come down to us of the founding of the Grand Lodge of England. Preston and others have had no other authority than this passage for their descriptions of the Scene, albeit when Preston wrote, such facts as he added may have been learned from men still living. Who were present, beyond the three officers named, has so far eluded all research, and the only variation in the accounts is found in a rare old book called Multa Paucis, which asserts that six Lodges, not four, were represented. Looking at this record in the light of what we know of the Masonry of that period, a number of things are suggested:
First, so far from being a revolution, the organization of the Grand Lodge was a revival of the old quarterly and annual Assembly, born, doubtless, of a felt need of community of action for the welfare of the Craft. There was no idea of innovation, but, Anderson states in a note, “it should meet Quarterly according to ancient Usage,” tradition having by this time become authoritative in such matters. Hints of what the old usages were are given in the observance of St. John’s Day ( Of the Masonic feasts of St. John the Baptist and St John the Evangelist much has been written, and to little account In preChristian times, as we have 8een, the Roman Collegia were wont to adopt pagan deities as patrons. When Christianity came, the names of its saints – some of them enartyrs of the order of builders – were substituted for the old pagan godi. Why the two Saints John were chosen by Masons – rather than St Thomas, who was the patron saint of architecture – has never been made clear. At any rate, these two feasts, coming at the time of the sunmer and winter solstices, are in reality older than Christianity, being reminiscences of the old Light Religion in which Masonry had its origin.) as a feast, in the democracy of the order and its manner of voting by a show of hands, in its deference to the oldest Master Mason, its use of badges of office, ( The badge of office was a huge wbite apron, such as we see in Hobarth’s picture of the Night. The collar was of much the same shape as that at present in use, only shorter. When the color was changed to blue, and why, is uncertain, but probably not until 1813, when we begin to see both apron and collar edged with blue. (See chapter on “Clothing and Regalia,” in Things a Freemason Ought to Know, by J. W. Crowe.) In 1727 the officers of all private – or as we would say, subordinate – Lodges were ordered to wear “the jewels of Masonry hanging to a white apron.” In 1731 we find the Grand Master wearing gold or gilt jewels pendant to blue ribbons about the neck, and a white leather apron lined with blue silk.) its ceremony of installation, all in a lodge duly tyled.
Second, it is clear that, instead of being a deliberately planned effort to organize Masonry in general, the Grand Lodge was intended at first to affect only London and Westminster; ( This is clear from the book of Constitutions of 1723, which is said to he “for the use of Lodges in London.” Then follow the names of the Masters and Wardens of twenty Lodges, all in London. There was no thought at the time of imposing the authority of the Grand Lodge upon the country in general, much less upon the world. Its growth we shall sketch later. For an excellent article on “The Foundation of Modern Masonry,” by G. W. Speth, giving details of the organization of the Grand Lodge and its changes, see A. Q. C., ii, 86. If an elaborate account is wanted, it may be found in Gould’s History of Masonry, vol. iii.) the desire being to weld a link of closer fellowship and cooperation between the Lodges. While we do not know the names of the moving spirits – unless we may infef that the men elected to office were such – nothing is clearer than that the initiative came from the heart of the order itself, and was in no sense impoed upon it from without; and so great was the necessity for it that, when once started, link after link was added until it “put a girdle around the earth.”
Third, of the four Lodges ( History of the Four Lodges, by R. F. Gould. Apparently the Goose and Gridiron Lodge – No. 1 – is the only one of the four now in existence. After various changes of name it is now the Lodge of Antiquity, No. 2.) known to have taken part, only one – that meeting at the Rummer and Grape Tavern – had a majority of Accepted Masons in its membership; the other three being Operative Lodges, or largely so. Obviously, then, the movement was predominantly a movement of Operative Masons – or of men who had been Operative Masons – and not, as has been so often implied the design of men who simply made use of the remnants of operative Masonry the better to exploit some hidden philosophy. Yet it is worthy of note that the leading men of the craft in those early years were, nearly all of them, Accepted Masons and members of the Rummer and Grape Lodge. Besides Dr. Anderson, the historian, both George Payne and Dr. Desaguliers, the second and third Grand Masters, were of that Lodge. In 1721 the Duke of Montagu was elected to the chair, and thereafter members of the nobility sat in the East until it became the custom for the Prince of Wales to be Grand Master of Masons in England. ( Royal Masons, by O. W. Speth.)
Fourth, why did Masonry alone of all trades and professions live after its work was done, preserving not only its identity of organization, but its old emblems and usages, and transforming them into instruments of religion and righteousness? The cathedrals had long been finished or left incomplete; the spirit of Gothic architecture was dead and the style treated almost with contempt. The occupation of the Master Mason was gone, his place having been taken by the architect who, like Wren and Inigo Jones, was no longer a child of the Lodges as in the old days, but a man trained in books and by foreign travel. Why did not Freemasonry die, along with the Guilds, or else revert to some kind of trades-union? Surely here is the best possible proof that it had never been simply an order of architects building churches, but a moral and spiritual fellowship – the keeper of great symbols and a teacher of truths that never die. So and only so may anyone ever hope to explain the story of Masonry, and those who do not see this fact have no clue to its history, much less an understanding of its genius.
Of course these pages cannot recite in detail the history and growth of the Grand Lodge, but a few of the more salient events may be noted. As early as 1719 the Old Charges, or Gothic Constitutions, began to be collected and collated, a number having already been burned by scrupulous Masons to prevent their falling into strange hands. In 1721, Grand Master Montagu found fault with the Old Charges as being inadequate, and ordered Dr. Anderson to make a digest of them with a view to formulating a better set of regulations for the rule of the Lodges. Anderson obeyed – he seems to have been engaged in such a work already, and may have suggested the idea to the Grand Master – and committee of fourteen “learned brethren” was appointed to examine the MS and make report. They suggested a few amendments, and the book was ordered published by the Grand Master, appearing in the latter part of 1723. This first issue, however, did not contain the account of the organization of the Grand Lodge, which does not seem to have been added until the edition of 1738. How much Past Grand Master Payne had to do with this work is not certain, but the chief credit is due to Dr. Anderson, who deserves the perpetual gratitude of the order – the more so if he it was who wrote the article, already quoted, setting forth the religious attitude of the order. That article, by whomsoever written, is one of the great documents of mankind, and it would be an added joy to know that it was penned by a minister. ( From a meager sketch of Dr. Anderson in the Gentlemen’s Magazine, 1783, we learn that he was a native of Scotland – the place of his birth is not given – and that for many years he was minister of the Scots Presbyterian Church in Swallow Street, Piccadilly, and well known to the folk of that faith in London – called “Bishop” Anderson by his friends. He married the widow of an army officer, who bore him a son and a daughter. Although a learned man – compiler of a book of Royal Genealogies, which seems to have been his hobby – he was somewhat imprudent in business, having lost most of his property in 1720. Whether he was a Mason before coming to London is unknown, but he took a great part in the work of the Grand Lodge, entering it, apparently, in 1721. Toward the close of his life he suffered many misfortunes, but of what description we are not told. He died in 1739. Perhaps his learning was exaggerated by his Masonic eulogists, but he was a noble man and manifestly a useful one (Gould’s History of Masonry, vol. iii).) The Book of Constitution, which is still the groundwork of Masonry, has been printed in many editions, and is accessible to every one.
Another event in the story of the Grand Lodge, never to be forgotten, was a plan started in 1724 of raising funds of General Charity for distressed Masons. Proposed by the Earl of Dalkeith, it at once met with enthusiastic support, and it is a curious coincidence that one of the first to petition for relief was Anthony Sayer, first Grand Master. The minutes do not state whether he was relieved at that time, but we know that sums of money were voted to him in 1730, and again in 1741. This Board of Benevolence, as it came to be called, became very important, it being unanimously agreed in 1733 that all such business as could not be conveniently despatched by the Quarterly Communication should be referred to it. Also, that all Masters of Regular Lodges, together with all present, former, and future Grand Officers should be members of the Board. Later this Board was still further empowered to hear complaints and to report thereon to the Grand Lodge. Let it also be noted that in actual practice the Board of Charity gave free play to one of the most admirable principles of Masonry – helping the needy and unfortunate, whether within he order or without.
Once more we come to a much debated question, about which not a little has been written, and most of it wide of the mark – the question of the origin the Third Degree. Here again students have one hither and yon hunting in every cranny for the motif of this degree, and it would seem that their failure to find it would by this time have turned them back to the only place where they may ever hope to discover it – in Masonry itself. But no; they are bound to bring mystics, occultists, alchemists, Culdees or Cabalists – even the Vehmgerichte of Germany – into the making of Masonry some where, if only for the sake of glamor, and this is the last opportunity to do it. ( Having emphasized this point so repeatedly, the writer feels it just to himself to state his own position, lest he be thought a kind of materialist, or at least an enemy of mysticism. Not so. Instead, he has long been an humble student of the great mystics; they are his best friends – as witness his two little books, The Eternal Christ, and What Have the Saints to Teach Us? But mysticism is one thing, and mystification is another, and the former may he stated in this way:
First, by mysticism – only another word for spirituality – is meant our sense of an Unseen World, of our citizenship in it, of God and the soul, and of all the forms of life and beauty as symbols of things higher than themselves. That is to say, if a man has any religion at all that is not mere theory or form, he is a mystic; the difference between him and Plato or St. Francis being only a matter of genius and spiritual culture – between a boy whistling a tune and Beethoven writing music.
Second, since mysticism is native to the soul of man and the common experience of all who rise above the animal, it is not an exclusive possession of any set of adepts to be held as a secret Any man who bows in prayer, or lifts his thought heavenward, is an initiate into the eternal mysticism which is the strength and solace of human life.
Third, the old time Masons were religious men, and as such sharers in this great human experience of divine things, and did not need to go to Hidden Teachers to learn mysticism. They lived and worked in the light of it. It shone in their symbols, as it does in all symbols that have any meaning or beauty. It is, indeed, the soul of symbolism, every emblem being an effort to express a reality too great for words.
So, then, Masonry is mystical as music is mystical – like poetry, and love, and faith, and prayer, and all else that makes it worth our time to live; but its mysticism is sweet, sane, and natural, far from fantastic, and in nowise eerie, unreal, or unbalanced. Of course these words fail to describe it, as all words must, and it is therefore that Masonry uses parables, pictures, and symbols.) Willing to give due credit to Cabalists and Rosicrucians, the present writer rejects all such theories on the ground that there is no reason for thinking that they helped to make Masonry, much less any fact to prove it.
Hear now a review of the facts in the case. No one denies that the Temple of Solomon was much in the minds of men at the time of the organization of the Grand Lodge, and long before – as in the Bacon romance of the New Atlantis in 1597. ( Seventeenth Century Descriptions of Solomon’s Temple, by Prof. S. P. Johnston (A. Q. C., xii, 135).)
Broughton, Selden, Lightfoot, Walton, Lee, Prideaux, and other English writers were deeply interested in the Hebrew Temple, not, however, so much in its symbolical suggestion as in its form and construction – a model of which was brought to London by Judah Templo in the reign of Charles II. ( Transactions Jewish Historical Society of England, vol. ii.) It was much the same on the Continent, but so far from being a new topic of study and discussion, we may trace this interest in the Temple all through the Middle Ages. Nor was it peculiar to the Cabalists, at least not to such a degree that they must needs be brought in to account for the Biblical imagery and symbolism in Masonry. Indeed, it might with more reason be argued that Masonry explains the interest in the Temple than otherwise. For, as James Fergusson remarks – and there is no higher authority than the historian of architecture: “There is perhaps no building of the ancient world which has excited so much attention since the time of its destruction, as the Temple of Solomon built in Jerusalem, and its successor as built by Herod.
Throughout the Middle Ages it influenced to a considerable degree the forms of Christian churches, and its peculiarities were the watchwords and rallying points of associations of builders.” (Smith’s Dictionary Of the Bible, article “Temple.”) Clearly, the notion that interest in the Temple was new, and that, its symbolical meaning was imposed upon Masonry as something novel, falls flat.
But we are told that there is no hint of the Hiramic legend, still less any iutimation of a tragedy associated with the building of the Temple. No Hiramic legend! No hint of tragedy! Why, both were almost as old as the Temple itself, rabbinic legend affirming that “all the workmen were killed that they shoud not build another Temple devoted to idolatry, Hiram himself being translated to heaven like Enoch.” ( Jewish Encyclopedia, art “Freemasonry.” Also Builder’s Rites, G. W. Speth.) The Talmud has many variations of this legend. Where would one expect the legends of the Temple to be kept alive and be made use of in ceremonial, if not in a religious order of builders like the Masons? Is it surprising that we find so few references in later literature to what was thus held as a sacred secret? As we have seen, the legend of Hiram was kept as a profound secret until 1841 by the French Companionage, who almost certainly learned it from the Freemasons. Naturally it was never made a matter of record, but was transmitted by oral tradition within the order; and it was also natural, if not inevitable, that the legend of the master-artist of the Temple should be “the Master’s Part” among Masons who were temple builders. How else explain the veiled allusions to the name in the Old Charges as read to Entered Apprentices, if it was not a secret reserved for a higher rank of Mason? Why any disguise at all if it had no hidden meaning? Manifestly the motif of the Third Degree was purely Masonic, and we need not go outside the traditions of the order to account for it. ( In the Book of Constitution:, 1723, Dr. Anderson dilates at length on the building of the Temple – including a note on the meaning of the name Abif, which, it will be remembered, was not found in the Authorized Version of the Bible; and then he suddenly breaks off with the words: “But leaving what must not, indeed cannot, be communicated in Writing.” It is incredible that he thus introduced among Masons a name and legend unknown to them. Had he done would it have met with such instant and universal acceptance by Masons who stood for the ancient usages of the order?)
Not content to trace the evolution of Masonry, even so able a man as Albert Pike will have it that to a few men of intelligence who belonged to one of the four old lodges in 1717 “is to be ascribed the authorship of the Third Degree, and the introduction of Hermetic and other symbols into Masonry; that they framed the three degrees for the purpose of communicating their doctrines, veiled by thdr symbols, to those fitted to receive them, and gave to others trite moral explanations they could comprehend.” ( Letter to Gould “Touching Masonic Symbolism.”) ( Hermes and Plato, Edouard Schure.) How gracious of them to vouchsafe even trite explanations, but why frame a set of degrees to conceal what they wished to hide? This is the same idea of something alien imposed upon Masonry from without, with the added suggestion, novel indeed, that Masonry was organized to hide the truth, rather than to teach it. But did Masonry have to go outside its own history and tradition to learn Hermetic truths and symbols? Who was Hermes? Whether man or myth no one knows, but he was a great figure in the Egyptian Mysteries, and was called the Father of Wisdom. What was his wisdom? From such fragments of his lore as have floated down to us, impaired, it may be, but always vivid, we discover that his wisdom was only a high spiritual faith and morality taught in visions and rhapsodies, and using numbers as symbols. Was such wisdom new to Masonry? Had not Hermes himself been a hero of the order from the first, of whom we read in the Old Charges, in which he has a place of honor alongside Euclid and Pythagoras? Wherefore go elsewhere than to Masonry itself to trace the pure stream of Hermetic faith through the ages? Certainly the men of the Grand Lodge were adepts, but they were Masonic adepts seeking to bring the buried temple of Masonry to light and reveal it in a setting befitting its beauty, not cultists making use of it to exploit a private scheme of the universe.
Who were those “men of intelligence” to whom Pike ascribed the making of the Third Degree of Masonry? Tradition has fixed upon Desaguliers as the ritualist of the Grand Lodge, and Lyon speaks of him as “the pioneer and cofabricator of symbolical Masonry.” ( History of the Lodge of Edinburgh.) This, however, is an exaggeration, albeit Desaguliers was worthy of high eulogy, as were Anderson and Payne, who are said to have been his collaborators. ( Steinbrenner, following Findel, speaks of the Third Degree as if it were a pure invention, quoting a passage from Ahiman Rezon, by Lawrence Dermott, to prove it. He further states that Anderson and Desaguliers were “publicly accused of manufacturing the degree, which they never denied” (History of Masonry, chap. vii). But inasmuch as they were not accused of it until they had been many years in their graves, their silence is hardly to be wondered at Dr. Mackey styles Desaguliers “the Father of Modern Speculative Masonry,” and attributes to him, more than to any other one man, the present existence of the order as a living institution (Encyclopedia of Freemasony). Surely that is going too far, much as Desaguliers deserves to be honored by the order. Dr. J. T. Desaguliers was a French Protestant clergyman, whose family came to England following the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. He was graduated from Christ Church College, Oxford, in 1710, succeeding Keill as lecturer in Experimental Philosophy. He was especially learned in natural philosophy, mathematics, geometry, end optics, having lectured before the King on various occasions. He was very popular in the Grand Lodge, and his power as an orator made his manner of conferring a degree impressive – which may explain his having been accused of inventing the degrees. He was a loyal and able Mason, a student of the history and ritual of the order, and was elected as the third Grand Master of Mason. in England. Like Anderson, his later life is said to have been beclouded by poverty and sorrow, though some of the facts are in dispute (Gould’s History of Masonry vol. iii).) But the fact is that the Third Degree was not made; it grew – like the great cathedrals, no one of which can be ascribed to a single artist, but to an order of men working in unity of enterprise and aspiration. The process by which the old ritual, described in the Sloane MS, was divided and developed into three degrees between. 1717 and 1730 was so gradual, so imperceptible, that no exact date can be set; still less can it be attributed to any one or two men. From the minutes of the Musical Society we learn that the Lodge at the Queen’s Head in Hollis Street was using three distinct degrees in 1724. As early as 1727 we come upon the custom of setting apart a separate night for the Master’s Degree, the drama having evidently become more elaborate.
Further than this the Degree may not be discussed, except to say that the Masons, tiring of the endless quarrels of sects, turned for relief to the Ancient Mysteries as handed down in their traditions – the old, high, heroic faith in God, and in the soul of man as the one unconquerable thing upon this earth. If, as Aristotle said, it be the mission of tragedy to cleanse and exalt us, leaving us subdued with a sense of pity and hope and fortified against ill fortune, it is permitted us to add that in simplicity, depth, and power, in its grasp of the realities of the life of man, its portrayal of the stupidity of evil and the splendor of virtue, its revelation of that in our humanity which leads it to defy death, giving up everything, even life itself, rather than defame, defile, or betray its moral integrity, and in its prophecy of the victory of light over shadow, there is not another drama known among men like the Third Degree of Masonry.
Edwin Booth, a loyal Mason, and no mean judge of the essence of tragedy, left these words:
In all my research and study, in all my close analysis of the masterpieces of Shakespeare, in my earnest determination to make those plays appear real on the mimic stage, I have never, and nowhere, met tragedy so real, so sublime, so magnificent as the legend of Hiram. It is substance without shadow – the manifest destiny of life which requires no picture and scarcely a word to make a lasting impression upon all who can understand. To be a Worshipful Master, and to throw my whole soul into that work, with the candidate for my audience and the Lodge for my stage, would be a greater personal distinction than to receive the plaudits of people in the theaters of the world.
CHAPTER V – Universal Masonry
These signs and tokens are of no small value; they speak a universal language, and act as a passport to the attention and support of the initiated in all parts of the world. They cannot be lost so long as memory retains its power. Let the possessor of them be expatriated, ship-wrecked, or imprisoned; let him be stripped of everything he has got in the world; still these credentials remain and are available for use as circumstances require.
The great effects which they have produced are established by the most incontestable facts of history. They have stayed the uplifted hand of the destroyer; they have softened the asperities of the tyrant; they have mitigated the horrors of captivity; they have subdued the rancor of malevolence; and broken down the barriers of political animosity and sectarian alienation.
On the field of battle, in the solitude of the uncultivated forests, or in the busy haunts of the crowded city, they have made men of the most hostile feelings, and most distant religions, and the most diversified conditions, rush to the aid of each other, and feel a social joy and satisfaction that they have been able to afford relief to a brother Mason. – BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
HENCEFORTH the Masons of England were no longer a society of handicraftsmen, but an association of men of all orders and every vocation, as also of almost every creed, who met together on the broad basis of humanity, and recognized no standard of human worth other than morality, kindliness, and love of truth. They retained the symbolism of the old Operative Masonry, ( Operative Masonry, it should be remembered, was not entirely dead, nor did it all at once disappear. Indeed, it still exists in some form, and an interesting account of its forms, degrees, symbols, usages and traditions may be found in an article on “Operative Masonry,” by C. E. Stretton (Transactions Leicester Lodge of Research, 1909-10, 1911-12). The second of these volumes also contains an essay on “Operative Free-masons,” by Thomas Carr, with a list of lodges, and a study of their history, customs, and emblems – especially the Swastika. Speculative Masons are now said to be joining these Operative Lodges, seeking more light on what called the Lost Symbols of Masonry.) its language, its legends, its ritual, and its oral tradition. No longer did they build churches, but the spiritual temple of humanity; using the Square not to measure right angles of blocks, of stone, but for evening the inequalities of human character, nor the Compass any more to describe circles on a tracing-board, but to draw a Circle of goodwill around all mankind.
Howbeit, one generation of men, as Hume re-marks, does not go off the stage at once, and another succeed, like silkworms and butterflies. No more did this metamorphosis of Masonry, so to name it, take place suddenly or radically, as it has become the fashion to think. It was a slow process, and like every such period the Epoch of Transition was attended by many problems, uncertainties, and difficulties. Some of the Lodges, as we have noted, would never agree to admit Accepted Masons, so jealous were they of the ancient landmarks of the Craft. Even the Grand Lodge, albeit a revival of the old Assembly, was looked upon with suspicion by not a few, as tending toward undue centralization; and not without cause. From the first the Grand Master was given more power than was ever granted to the President of an ancient Assembly; of necessity so, perhaps, but it led to misunderstanding. Other influences added to the confusion, and at the same time emphasized the need of welding the order into a more coherent unity for its wider service to humanity.
There are hints to the effect that the new Masonry, if so it may be called, made very slow progress in the public favor at first, owing to the conditions just stated; and this despite the remark of Anderson in June, 1719: “Now several old Brothers that had neglected the Craft, visited the Lodges; some Noblemen were also made Brothers, and more new Lodges were constituted.” Stuckely, the antiquarian, tells us in his Diary under date of January, 1721 – at which time he was initiated – that he was the first person made a Mason in London for years, and that it was not easy to find men enough to perform the ceremony. Incidentally, he confides to us that he entered the order in search of the long hidden secrets of “the Ancient Mysteries.” No doubt he exaggerated in the matter of numbers, though it is possible that initiations were comparatively few at the time, the Lodges being recruited, for the most part, by the adhesion of old Masons, both Operative and Speculative; and among his friends he may have had some difficulty in finding men with an adequate knowledge of the ritual. But that there was any real difficulty in gathering together seven Masons in London is, on the face of it, absurd. Immediately thereafter, Stuckely records, Masonry “took a run, and ran itself out of breath through the folly of its members,” but he does not tell us what the folly was. The “run” referred to was almost certainly due to the acceptance by the Duke of Montagu of the Grand Mastership, which gave the order a prestige it had never had before; and it was also in the same year, 1721, that the old Constitutions of the Craft were revised.
Twelve Lodges attended the June quarterly communication of the Grand Lodge in 1721, sixteen in September, twenty in December, and by April, 1723, the number had grown to thirty. All these Lodges, be it noted, were in London, a fact amply justifying the optimism of Anderson in the last paragraph of the Book of Constitutions, issued in that year. So far the Grand Lodge had not extended its jurisdiction beyond London and Westminster, but the very next year, 1724, there were already nine Lodges in the provinces acknowledging its obedience, the first being the Lodge at the Queen’s Head, City of Bath. Within a few years Masonry extended its labors abroad, both on British and on foreign soil. The first Lodge on foreign soil was founded by the Duke of Wharton at Madrid, in 1728, and regularized the following year, by which time a Lodge had been established at the East India Arms, Bengal, and also at Gibraltar. It was not long before Lodges arose in many lands, founded by English Masons or by men who had received initiation in England; these Lodges, when sufficiently numerous, uniting under Grand Lodges – the old Lodge at York, that ancient Mecca of Masonry, had called itself a Grand Lodge as early as 1725. The Grand Lodge of Ireland was created in 1729, those of Scotland ( The Grand Lodges of Ireland and Scotland, it may be added, were self-constituted, without assistance of intervention from England in any form.)
and France in 1736; a Lodge at Hamburg in 1737, ( A deputation of the Hamburg Lodge initiated Frederick – afterwards Frederick the Great of Prussia – into the order of Masons at Brunswick, Augnst 14, 1738 (Frederick and his Times. by Campbell, History Of Frederick, by Carlyle, Findel’s History of Masonry). Other noblemen followed his example, and their zeal for the order gave a new date to the history of Masonry in Germany. When Frederick ascended the throne, in 1740, the Craft was honored, and it flourished in his kingdom. As to the interest of Frederick in the order in his later years, the facts are not clear, but that he remained its friend seems certain (Mackey, Encyclopedia). However, the Craft underwent many vicissitudes in Germany, a detailed account of which Findel recites (History of Masonry). Few realize through what frightful persecutions Masonry has passed in many lands, owing in part to its secrecy, but in larger part to its principle of civil and religious liberty. Whenever that story is told, as it surely will be, men everywhere will pay homage to the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons as friends of mankind.) though it was not patented until 1740; the Unity Lodge at Frankfort-on-the-Main in 1742, another at Vienna the same year; the Grand Lodge of the Three World-spheres at Berlin in 1744; and so on, until the order made its advent in Sweden, Switzerland, Russia, Italy, Spain, and Portugal.
Following the footsteps of Masonry from land to land is almost as difficult as tracing its early history, owing to the secrecy in which it enwrapped its movements. For example, in 1680 there came to South Carolina one John Moore, a native of England, who before the close of the century removed to Philadelphia, where, in 1703, he was Collector of the Port. In a letter written by him in 1715, he mentions having “spent a few evenings in festivity with my Masonic brethren.” This is the first vestige of Masonry in America, unless we accept as authentic a curious document in the early history of Rhode Island, as follows: “This ye [day and month obliterated] 1656, Wee mett att y House off Mordicai Campanell and after synagog gave Abram Moses the degrees of Maconrie.” On June 5, 1730, the first authority for the assembling of Free-masons in America was issued by the Duke of Norfolk, to Daniel Coxe, of New Jersey, appointing him Provincial Grand Master of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania; and three years later Henry Price, ( History of Freemasonry, by Hughan and Stillson, chapter on “Early American Masonic History.”) of Boston, was appointed to the same office for New England. But Masons had evidently been coming to the New World for years, for the two cases just cited date back of the Grand Lodge of 1717. (Establishment and Early History of Masonry in America,” by M. M. Johnson. The Builder, vol. i, pp. 111-114, 174-178; vol. ii, p.211.)
How soon Coxe acted on the authority given him is not certain, but the Pennsylvania Gazette, published by Benjamin Franklin, contains many references to Masonic affairs as early as July, 1730. Just when Franklin himself became interested in Masonry is not of record – he was initiated in 1730-31( Benjamin Franklin as a Free Mason, by J. F Sachse. Oddly enough, there is no mention of Masonry by Franklin in his Autobiography, or in any of his letters, with but two exceptions, so far aa known; which is the more remarkable when we look at his Masonic career in France during the later years of his life, where he was actively and intimately associated with the order, even advancing to the higher degrees. Never for a day did he abate by one jot his interest in the order, or his love for it.) – but he was a leader, at that day, of everything that would advance his adopted city; and the “Junto,” formed in 1725, often inaccurately called the Leathern-Apron Club, owed its origin to him. In a Masonic item in the Gazette of December 3, 1730, he refers to “several Lodges of Free-masons” in the Province, and on June 9, 1732, notes the organization of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, of which he was appointed a Warden, at the Sun Tavern, in Water Street. Two years later Franklin was elected Grand Master, and the same year published an edition of the Book of Constitutions – the first Masonic book issued in America.
Thus Masonry made an early advent into the new world, in which it has labored so nobly, helping to lay the foundations and building its own basic principles into The organic law of the greatest of all republics.
II - Returning to the Grand Lodge of England, we have now to make record of ridicule and opposition from without, and, alas, of disloyalty and discord within the order itself. With the publication of the Book of Constitutions, by Anderson, in 1723, the platform and principles of Masonry became matters of common knowledge, and its enemies were alert and vigilant. None are so blind as those who will not see, and not a few, unacquainted with the spirit of Masonry, or unable to grasp its principle of liberality and tolerance, affected to detect in its secrecy some dark political design; and this despite the noble charge in the Book of Constitutions enjoining politics from entering the lodge – a charge hardly less memorable than the article defining its attitude toward differing religious creeds, and which it be-hooves Masons to keep always in mind as both true and wise, especially in our day when effort is being made to inject the religious issue into politics:
In order to preserve peace and harmony no private piques or quarrels must be brought within the door of the Lodge, far less any quarrel about Religions or Nations or State- Policy, we being only, as Masons, of the Catholic Religion above mentioned (the religion in which all men agree); we are also of all Nations, Tongues, Kindreds and Languages, and are resolved against all Politics as what never yet conduced to the welfare of the Lodge, nor ever will. This charge has always been actively enjoined and observed; but especially ever since the Reformation in Britain or the dissent and secession of these Nations from the communion of Rome.
No sooner had these noble words been printed, ( This injunction was made doubly strong in the edition of the Book of Constitution, in 1738. For example: “no quarrels about nations, families, religion or politics must by any means or under any color or pretense whatever he bronght within the door of the lodge . . . Masons being of all nations upon the square, level and plumb; and like our predecessors in all ages, we are resolved against political disputes,” etc.) than there came to light a secret society calling itself the “truly Ancient Noble Order of the Gormogons,” alleged to have been instituted by Chin-Quaw Ky-Po, the first Emperor of China, many thousand years before Adam. Notice of a meeting of the order appeared in the Daily Post, September 3, 1723, in which it was stated, among other high-sounding declarations, that “no Mason will be received as a Member till he has renounced his noble order and been properly degraded.” Obviously, from this notice and others of like kind – all hinting at the secrets of the Lodges – the order was aping Masonry by way of parody with intent to destroy it, if possible, by ridicule. For all that, if we may believe the Saturday Post of October following, “many eminent Freemasons” had by that time “degraded themselves” and gone over to the Gormogons. Not “many” perhaps, but, alas, one eminent Mason at least, none other than a Past Grand Master, the Duke of Wharton, who, piqued at an act of the Grand Lodge, had turned against it. Erratic of mind, unstable of morals, having an inordinate lust for praise, and pilloried as a “fool” by Pope in his Moral Essays, he betrayed his fraternity – as, later, he turned traitor to his faith, his flag, and his native land!
Simultaneously with the announcement that many eminent Masons had “degraded themselves” – words most fitly chosen – and gone over to the Gormogons, there appeared a book called the Grand Mystery of Freemasons Discovered, and the cat was out of the bag. Everything was plain to the Masons, and if it had not been clear, the way in which the writer emphasized his hatred of the Jesuits would have told it all. It was a Jesuit ( Masons have sometimes been absurdly called “Protestant Jesuits, but the two orders are exactly opposite in spirit, principle, purpose, and method. All that they have in common is that they are both secret societies, which makes it plain that the opposition of the Latin church to Masonry is not on the ground of its being a secret order, else why sanction the Jesuits, to name no other? The difference has been stated in this way: Opposite poles these two societies are for each possesses precisely those qualities which the other lacks. The Jesuits are strongly centralized, the Freemasons only confederated. Jesuits are controlled by one man’s will, Freemasons are under majority rule. Jesuits bottom morality in expediency, Freemasons in regard for the well-being of mankind. Jesuits recognize only one creed, Freemasons hold in respect all honest convictions. Jesuits seek to break down individual independence, Freemasons to build it up,” (Mysteria, by Otto Henne Am Rhyn).) plot hatched in Rome to expose the secrets of Masonry, and making use of the dissolute and degenerate Mason for that purpose – tactics often enough used in the name of Jesus! Curiously enough, this was further made evident by the fact that the order ceased to exist in 1738, the year in which Clement XII published his Bull against the Masons. Thereupon the “ancient order of Gormogons” swallowed itself, and so disappeared – not, however, without one last, futile effort to achieve its ends. ( For a detailed account of the Duke of Wharton and the true history of the Gormogons, see an essay by R. F. Gould, in his “Masonic Celebrities” series (A. Q. C., viii, 144), and more recently, The Life and Writings of Philip, Duke of Wharton, by Lewis Melville.) Naturally this episode stirred the Masons deeply. It was denounced in burning words on the floor of the Grand Lodge, which took new caution to guard its rites from treachery and vandalism, in which respects it had not exercised due care, admitting men to the order who were unworthy of the honor.
There were those who thought that the power of Masonry lay in its secrecy; some think so still, not knowing that its real power lies in the sanctity of its truth, the simplicity of its faith, the sweetness of its spirit, and its service to mankind, and that if all its rites were made public today it would still hold the hearts of men. ( For a detailed account of the Duke of Wharton and the true history of the Gormogons, see an essay by R. F. Gould, in his “Masonic Celebrities” series (A. Q. C., viii, 144), and more recently, The Life and Writings of Philip, Duke of Wharton, by Lewis Melville.) Nevertheless, of alleged exposures there were many between 1724 and 1730, both anonymous and signed, and they made much ado, especially among men who were not Masons. It will be enough to name the most famous, as well as the most elaborate, of them all, Masonry Dissected, by Samuel Prichard, which ran through three editions in one month, October, 1730, and called out a noble Defence of Masonry, written, it is thought, by Anderson, but the present writer believes by Desaguliers. Others came later, such as Jachin and Boaz, the Three Distinct Knocks, and so forth. They had their day and ceased to be, having now only an antiquarian interest to those who would know the manners and customs of a far-off time. Instead of injuring the order, they really helped it, as such things usually do, by showing that there must be something to expose since so many were trying to do it. But Masonry went marching on, leaving them behind in the rubbish of things forgotten, as it does all its backstair spies and heel-snapping critics. ( A paper entitled “An Unrecorded Grand Lodge,” by Sadler (A. Q. C., vol. xviii, 69- 90), tells practically all that is known of this movement, which merged with the Grand Lodge of London in 1776.)
More serious by far was the series of schisms within the order which began in 1725, and ran on even into the next century. For the student they make the period very complex, calculated to bewilder the beginner; for when we read of four Grand Lodges in England, and for some years all of them running at once, and each one claiming to be the Grand Lodge of England, the confusion seems not a little confounded. Also, one Grand Lodge of a very limited territory, and few adherents, adopted the title of Grand Lodge of all England, while another which commenced in the middle of the century assumed the title of “The Ancients,” and dubbed the older and parent Grand Lodge “The Moderns.” Besides, there are traces of an unrecorded Grand body calling itself “The Supreme Grand Lodge,” as if each were trying to make up in name what was lacking in numbers. Strict search and due inquiry into the causes of these divisions would seem to show the following results:
First, there was a fear, not unjustified by facts, that the ancient democracy of the order had been infringed upon by certain acts of the Grand Lodge of 1717 – as, for example, giving to the Grand Master power to appoint the Wardens. (Nor was that all. In 1735 it was resolved in the Grand Lodge “that in the future all Grand Officers (except Grand Master) shall be selected out of that body” – meaning the past Grand Stewards. This act was amazing. Already the Craft had let go its power to elect the Wardens, and now the choice of the Grand Master was narrowed to the ranks of an oligarchy in its worst form – a queer outcome of Masonic equality. Three months later the Grand Stewards presented a memorial asking that they “might form themselves into a special lodge,” with special jewels, etc. Naturally this bred discontent and apprehension, and justly so.) Second, there was a tendency, due to the influence of some clergy-men active in the order, to give a distinctively Christi tinge to Masonry, first in their interpretations of its symbols, and later to the ritual Itself. This fact has not been enough emphasized by our historians, for it explains much. Third, there was the further fact that Masonry in Scotland differed from Masonry in England, in details at least, and the two did not all at once harmonize, each being rather tenacious of its usage and tradition. Fourth, in one instance, if no more, pride of locality and historic memories led to independent organization Fifth, there was the ever-present element of personal ambition with which all human societies, of whatever kind, must reckon at all times and places this side of heaven. Altogether, the situation was amply conducive to division, if not to explosion, and the wonder is that the schisms were so few.
Time out of mind the ancient city of York had been a seat of the Masonic Craft, tradition tracing it back to the days of Athelstan, in 926 A. D. Be that as it may, the Lodge minutes of York are the oldest in the country, and the relics of the Craft now preserved in that city entitle it to be called the Mecca of Masonry. Whether the old society was a Private or a Grand Lodge is not plain; but in 1725 it assumed the title of the “Grand Lodge of All England,” – feeling, it would seem, that its inherent right by virtue of antiquity had in some way been usurped by the Grand Lodge of London. After ten or fifteen years the minutes cease, but the records of other grand bodies speak of it as still working. In 1761 six of its surviving members revived the Grand Lodge, which continued with varying success until its final extinction in 1791, having only a few subordinate Lodges, chiefly in Yorkshire. Never antagonistic, it chose to remain independent, and its history is a noble tradition. York Masonry was acknowledged by all parties to be both ancient and orthodox, and even to this day, in England and over the seas, a certain mellow, magic charm clings to the city which was for so long a meeting place of Masons. ( Often we speak of “the York Rite,” as though it were the oldest and truest form of Masonry, but, while it serves to distinguish one branch of Masonry from another, it is not accurate; for, strictly speaking, there is no such thing as a York Rite. The name is more a tribute of reverence than a description of fact.)
Far more formidable was the schism of 1753, which had its origin, as is now thought, in a group of Irish Masons in London who were not recognized by the premier Grand Lodge. ( Masonic Facts and Fictions, by Henry Sadler.) ( Atholl Lodges, by F. R. Gould.) Whereupon they denounced the Grand Lodge, averring that it had adopted “new plans” and departed from the old landmarks, reverted, as they alleged, to the old forms, and set themselves up as Ancient Masons – bestowing upon their rivals the odious name of Moderns. Later the two were further distinguished from each other by the names of their respective Grand Masters, one called Prince of Wales’ Masons, the other the Atholl Masons. The great figure in the Atholl Grand body was Lawrence Dermott, to whose keen pen and indefatigable industry as its secretary for more than thirty years was due, in large measure, its success. In 1756 he published its first book of laws, entitled Ahiman Rezon, Or Help to a Brother, much of which was taken from the Irish Constitutions of 1751, by Pratt, and the rest from the Book of Constitutions, by Anderson – whom he did not fail to criticize with stinging satire, of which he was a master. Among other things, the office of Deacon seems to have had its origin with this body. Atholl Masons were presided over by the Masters of affiliated Lodges until 1756, when Lord Blessington, their first titled Grand Master, was induced to accept the honor – their warrants having been left blank betimes, awaiting the coming of a Nobleman to that office. Later the fourth Duke of Atholl was Grand Master at the same time of Scotland and of the Atholl Grand Lodge, the Grand Lodges of Scotland and Ireland being represented at his installation in London.
Irish Constitutions of 1751, by Pratt, and the rest from the Book of Constitutions, by Anderson – whom he did not fail to criticize with stinging satire, of which he was a master. Among other things, the office of Deacon seems to have had its origin with this body. Atholl Masons were presided over by the Masters of affiliated Lodges until 1756, when Lord Blessington, their first titled Grand Master, was induced to accept the honor – their warrants having been left blank betimes, awaiting the comning of a Nobleman to that office. Later the fourth Duke of Atholl was Grand Master at the same time of Scotland and of the Atholl Grand Lodge, the Grand Lodges of Scotland and Ireland being represented at his installation in London.
Still another schism, not serious but significant, came in 1778, led by William Preston, ( William Preston was born in Edinburgh in 1742 and came as a journeyman printer to London in 1760, where he made himself conversant with the history, laws, and rites of the Craft, being much in demand as a lecturer. He was a good speaker, and frequently addressed the Lodges of the city. After his blunder of seceding had been forgiven, he was honored with many offices, especially the Grand Secretaryship, which gave him time to pursue his studies. Later he wrote the Freemason’s Callender, an appendix to the Book of Constitutions, a History of Masonry, and, most famous of all, Illustrations of Masonry, which passed through a score of editions. Besides, he had much to do with the development of the Ritual.) who afterwards became a shining light in the order. On St. John’s Day, December 27, 1777, the Antiquity Lodge of London, of which Preston was Master – one of the four original Lodges forming the Grand Lodge – attended church in a body, to hear a sermon by its Chaplain. They robed in the vestry, and then marched into the church, but after the service they walked back to the Hall wearing their Masonic clothing. Difference of opinion arose as to the regularity of the act, Preston holding it to be valid, if for no other reason, by virtue of the inherent right of Antiquity Lodge itself. Three members objected to his ruling and appealed to the Grand Lodge, he foolishly striking their names off the Lodge roll for so doing. Eventually the Grand Lodge took the matter up, decided against Preston, and ordered the reinstatement of the three protesting members. At its next meeting the Antiquity Lodge voted not to comply with the order of the Grand Lodge, and, instead, to withdraw from that body and form an alliance with the “Old Grand Lodge of All England at York City,” as they called it. They were received by the York Grand Lodge, and soon thereafter obtained a constitution for a “Grand Lodge of England South of the Trent.” Although much vitality was shown at the outset, this body only constituted two subordinate Lodges, and ceased to exist. Having failed, in 1789 Preston and his friends recanted their folly, apologized to the Grand Lodge, reunited with the men whom they had expelled, and were received back into the fold; and so the matter ended.
These divisions, while they were in some ways unhappy, really made for the good of the order in the sequel – the activity of contending Grand Lodges, often keen, and at times bitter, promoting the spread of its principles to which all were alike loyal, and to the enrichment of its Ritual ( The history of the Ritual is most interesting, and should be written in more detail (History of Masonry, by Steinbrenner, chap. vii, “The Ritual”) An article giving a brief story of it appeared in the Masonic Monthy, of Boston, November, 1863 (reprinted in tho New England Craftsman, vol. vii, and still later in Bulletin of Iowa Masonic Library, vol. xv, April, 1914). Thu article is valuable as showing the growth of the Ritual – as much by subtraction as by addition – and especially the introduction into it of Christian imagery and interpretation, first by Martin Clare in 1732, and by Ducherley and Hutchinson later. One need only turn to The Spirit Masonry, by Hutchinson (1802), to see how far this tendency had gone when at last checked in 1813. At that time a committee made a careful comparative study of all rituals in use among Masons, and the ultimate result was the Preston-Webb lectures now generally in use in this country. (See a valuable article by Dr. Mackey on “The Lectures of Freemasonry,” American Quarterly Review, of Freemasonry, vol. ii, p. 297.) What a pity that this Review, died of too much excellence!) to which each contributed. Dermott, an able executive and audacious antagonist, had left no stone unturned to advance the interests of Atholl Masonry, inducing its Grand Lodge to grant warrants to army Lodges, which bore fruit in making Masons in every part of the world where the English army went. ( Military Lodges, by Gould; also Kipling’s poem, The Mother Lodge.) Howbeit, when that resourceful secretary and uncompromising fighter had gone to his long rest, a better mood began to make itself felt, and a desire to heal the feud and unite all the Grand Lodges – the way having been cleared, meanwhile, by the demise of the old York Grand Lodge and the “Grand Lodge South of the Trent.” Overtures to that end were made in 1802 without avail, but by 1809 committees were meeting and reporting on the “propriety and practicability of union.” Fraternal letters were exchanged, and at last a joint committee met, canvassed all differences, and found a way to heal the schism. ( Among the articles of union, it was agreed that Freemasonry should consist of the three symbolic degrees, “including the Holy Royal Arch.” The present study does not contemplate a detailed study of Capitular Masonry, which has its own history and historians (Origin of the English Rite, Hughan), except to say that it seems to have begun about 1738-40, the consensus of opinion differing as to whether it began in England or on the Continent (“Royal Arch Masonry,” by C. P. Noar, Manchester Lodge of Research, vol. iii, 1911-12). Lawrence Dermott, always alert, had it adopted by the Atholl Grand Lodge about thirty years before the Grand Lodge of England took it up in 1770-76, when Thomas Duckerley was appointed to arrange and introduce it. Dermott held it to be “the very essence of Masonry,” and he was not slow in using it as a club with which to belabor the Moderns; but he did not originate it, as some imagine, having received the degrees before he came to London, perhaps in an unsystemized form. Duckerley was accused of shifting the original Grand Masonic word from the Third Degree to the Royal Arch, and of substituting another in its stead. Enough to say that Royal Arch Masonry is authentic Masonry, being a further elaboration in drama, following the Third Degree, of the spirit and motif of old Craft Masonry (History of Freemasonry and Concordant Orders, by Hughan and Stillson).)
Union came at length, in a great Lodge of Reconciliation held in Freemason’s Hall, London, on St. John’s Day, December 27, 1813. It was a memorable and inspiring scene as the two Grand Lodges, so long estranged, filed into the Hall – delegates of 641 Modern and 359 Ancient or Atholl Lodges – so mixed as to be indistinguishable the one from the other. Both Grand Masters had seats of honor in the East. The hour was fraternal, each side willing to sacrifice prejudice in behalf of principles held by all in common, and all equally anxious to preserve the ancient landmarks of the Craft – a most significant fact being that the Atholl Masons had insisted that Masonry erase such distinctively Christian color as had crept into it, and return to its first platform. ( It is interesting to note that the writer of the article on “Masonry” in the Catholic Encyclopedia – an article admirable in many ways, and for the most part fair – makes much of this point, and rightly so, albeit his interpretation of it is altogether wrong. He imagines that the objection to Christian imagery in the ritual was due to enmity to Christianity. Not so. Masonry was not then, and has never at any time been, opposed to Christianity, or to any other religion. Far from it. But Christianity in those days – as, alas, too often now – was another name for a petty and bigoted sectarianism; and Masonry by its very genius was, and is, unsectarian. Many Masons then were devout Christians, as they are now – not a few clergymen – but the order itself is open to men of all faiths, Catholic and Protestant, Hebrew and Hindu, who confess faith in God; and so it will always remain if it is true to its principles and history.) Once united, free of feud, cleansed of rancor, and holding high its unsectarian, non- partisan flag, Masonry moved forward to her great ministry. If we would learn the lesson of those long dead schisms, we must be vigilant, correcting our judgments, improving our regulations, and cultivating that spirit of Love which is the fountain whence issue all our voluntary efforts for what is right and true: union in essential matters, liberty in everything unimportant and doubtful; Love always – one bond, one universal law, one fellowship in spirit and in truth!
Remains now to give a glimpse – and, alas, only a glimpse – of the growth and influence of Masonry in America; and a great story it is, needing many volumes to tell it aright. As we have seen, it came early to the shores of the New World, long before the name of our great republic had been uttered, and with its gospel of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity it helped to shape the institutions of this Continent. Down the Atlantic Coast, along the Great Lakes, into the wilderness of the Middle West and the forests of the far South – westward it marched as “the star of empire” led, setting up its altar on .remote frontiers, a symbol of civilization, of loyalty to law and order, of friendship with school-house and church. If history recorded the unseen influences which go to the making of a nation, those forces for good which never stop, never tarry, never tire, and of which our social order is the outward and visible sign, then might the real story of Masonry in America be told.
Instead of a dry chronicle, (As for the chronicle, the one indispensable book to the student of American Masonry is the History of Freemasonry and Concordant Orders, by W. J. Hughan and H. L. Stillson, aided by one of the ablest board of contributors ever assembled. It includes a history of Masonry in all its Rites in North, Central, and South America, with accurate accounts of the origin and growth of every Grand Lodge in the United States and British America; also admirable chapters on Early American Masonic History, the Morgan Excitement, Masonic Jurisprudence, and statistics up to date of 1891 – all carefully prepared and well written. Among other books too many to name, there are the History of Symbolic Masonry in the United States, by J. H. Drummond, and “The American Addenda” to Gould’s massive and magnificent History of Masonry, vol. iv. What the present pages seek is the spirit behind this forest of facts.) let us make effort to capture and portray the spirit of Masonry in American history, if so that all may see how this great order actually presided over the birth of the republic, with whose growth it has had so much to do. For example, no one need be told what patriotic memories cluster about the old Green Dragon Tavern in Boston, which Webster, speaking at Andover in 1823, called “the headquarters of the Revolution.” Even so, but it was also a Masonic Hall, in the “Long Room” of which the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts – an off-shoot of St. Andrew’s Lodge – was organized on St. John’s Day, 1767, with Joseph Warren, who afterwards fell at Bunker Hill, as Grand Master. There Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, Warren, Hancock, Otis and others met and passed resolutions, and then laid schemes to make them come true. There the Boston Tea Party was planned, and executed by Masons disguised as Mohawk Indians – not by the Lodge as such, but by a club formed within the Lodge, calling itself the Caucus Pro Bono Publico, of which Warren was the leading spirit, and in which, says Elliott, “the plans of the Sons of Liberty were matured.” As Henry Purkett used to say, he was present at the famous Tea Party as a spectator, and in disobedience to the order of the Master of the Lodge, who was actively present. ( For the full story, see “Reminiscences of the Green Dragon Tavern,” in Centennial Memorial of St. Andrew’s Lodge, 1870.)
As in Massachusetts, so throughout the Colonies – the Masons were everywhere active in behalf of a nation “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence, the following are known to have been members of the order: William Hooper, Benjamin Franklin, Matthew Thornton, William Whipple, John Hancock, Philip Livingston, Thomas Nelson; and no doubt others, if we had the Masonic records destroyed during the war. Indeed, it has been said that, with four men out of the room, the assembly could have been opened in form as a Masonic Lodge, on the Third Degree. Not only Washington, ( Washington, the Man and the Mason, by C. H. Callahan. Jackson, Polk, Fillmore, Buchanan, Johnson, Garfield, McKinley, Roosevelt, Taft, all were Masons. A long list may be found in Cyclopedia of Fraternities, by Stevens, article on “Freemasonry: Distinguished Americans.”) but nearly all of his generals, were Masons; such at least as Greene, Lee, Marion, Sullivan, Rufus and Israel Putnam, Edwards, Jackson, Gist, Baron Steuben, Baron De Kalb, and the Marquis de Lafayette who was made a Mason in one of the many military Lodges held in the Continental Army. ( Washington and his Masonic Compeers, by Randolph Hayden.) If the history of those old camp-lodges could be written, what a story it would tell. Not only did they initiate such men as Alexander Hamilton and John Marshall, the immortal Chief Justice, but they made the spirit of Masonry felt in “times that try men’s souls” ( Thomas Paine, whose words these are, though not a Mason, has left us an essay on The Origin of Freemasonry. Few men have ever been more unjustly and cruelly maligned than this great patriot, who was the first to utter the name “United States,” – a spirit passing through picket-lines, eluding sentinels, and softening the horrors of war. and who, instead of being a sceptic, believed in “the religion in which all men agree” – that is, in God, Duty, and the immortality of the soul.)
Laying aside their swords, these Masons helped to lay wide and deep the foundations of that liberty under the law which has made this nation, of a truth, “the last great hope of man.” Nor was it an accident, but a scene in accord with the fitness of things, that George Washington was sworn into office as the first President of the Republic by the Grand Master of New York, taking his oath on a Masonic Bible. It was a parable of the whole period. If the Magna Charta demanded rights which government can grant, Masonry from the first asserted those inalienable rights which man derives from God the rather of men. Never did this truth find sweeter voice than in the tones of the old Scotch fiddle on which Robert Burns, a Master Mason, sang, in lyric glee, of the sacredness of the soul, and the native dignity of humanity as the only basis of society and the state. That music went marching on, striding over continents and seas, until it found embodiment in the Constitution and laws of this nation, where today more than a million Masons are citizens.
How strange, then, that Masonry should have been made the victim of the most bitter and baseless persecution, for it was nothing else, in the annals of the Republic. Yet so it came to pass between 1826 and 1845, in connection with the Morgan ( William Morgan was a dissolute, nondescript printer in Batavia, New York, who, having failed in everything else, thought to make money by betraying the secrets of an order which his presence polluted. Foolishly misled, a few Masons had him arrested on a petty charge, got him out of the country, and apparently paid him to stay out. Had no attention been paid to his alleged exposure it would have fallen still-born from the press, like many another before it. Rumors of abduction started, then Morgan was said to have been thrown into Niagara River, whereas there is no proof that he was ever killed, much less murdered by Masons. Thurlow Weed and a pack of unscrupulous politicians took it up, and the rest was easy. One year later a body was found on the shore of Lake Ontario which Weed and the wife of Morgan identified – a year afterward! – she, no doubt, having been paid to do so; albeit the wife of a fisherman named Munroe identified the same body as that of her husband drowned a week or so before. No matter; as Weed said, “It’s good enough Morgan until after the election” – a characteristic remark, if we may judge by his own portrait as drawn in his Autobiography. Politically, he was capable of anything, if he could make it win, and here he saw a chance of stirring up every vile and slimy thing in human nature for sake of office. (See a splendid review of the whole matter in History of Masonry, by Hughan and Stillson, also by Could in vol. iv of his History.)) affair, of which so much has been written, and so little truth told. Alas, it was an evil hour when, as Galsworthy would say, “men just feel something big and religious, and go blind to justice, fact, and reason.” Although Lodges everywhere repudiated and denounced the crime, if crime it was, and the Governor of New York, himself a Mason, made every effort to detect and punish those involved, the fanaticism would not be stayed: the mob-mood ruled. An Anti-Masonic political party ( Cyclopedia of Fraternities, by Stevens, article, “Anti-Masonry,” gives detailed account with many interesting facts.) was formed, fed on frenzy, and the land was stirred from end to end. Even such a man as John Quincy Adams, of great credulity and strong prejudice, was drawn into the fray, and in a series of letters flayed Masonry as an enemy of society and a free state – forgetting that Washington, Franklin, Marshall, and Warren were members of the order! Meanwhile – and, verily, it was a mean while – Weed, Seward, Thaddeus Stevens, and others of their ilk, rode into power on the strength of it, as they had planned to do, defeating Henry Clay for President, because he was a Mason – and, incidentally, electing Andrew Jackson, another Mason! Let it be said that, if the Masons found it hard to keep within the Compass, they at least acted on the Square. Finally the fury spent itself, leaving the order purged of feeble men who were Masons only in form, and a revival of Masonry followed, slowly at first, and then with great rapidity.
No sooner had Masonry recovered from this ordeal than the dark clouds of Civil War covered the land like a pall – the saddest of all wars, dividing a nation one in arts and arms and historic memories, and leaving an entail of blood and fire and tears. Let it be forever remembered that, while churches were severed and states were seceding, the Masonic order remained unbroken in that wild and fateful hour. An effort was made to involve Masonry in the strife, but the wise counsel of its leaders, North and South, prevented the mixing of Masonry with politics; and while it could not avert the tragedy, it did much to mitigate the woe of it – building rainbow bridges of mercy and goodwill from army to army. Though passion may have strained, it could not break the tie of Masonic love, which found a ministry on red fields, among the sick, the wounded, and those in prison; and many a man in gray planted a Sprig of Acacia on the grave of a man who wore the blue. Some day the writer hopes to tell that story, or a part of it, and then men will under-stand what Masonry is, what it means, and what it can do to heal the hurts of humanity. ( Following the first day of the battle of Gettysburg, there was a Lodge meeting in town, and “Yanks” and “Johnny Rebs” met and mingled as friends under the Square and Compass. Where else could they have done so? (Tennessee Mason). When the Union army attacked Little Rock, Ark., the commanding officer, Thomas H. Benton – Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Iowa – threw a guard about the home of General Albert Pike, to protect his Masonic library. Marching through burning Richmond, a Union officer saw the familiar emblems over a hall. He put a guard about the Lodge room, and that night, together with a number of Confederate Masons, organized a society for the relief of widows and orphans left destitute by the war ( born, much less have written this book. That young soldier was my father! Volumes of such facts might be gathered in proof of the gracious ministry of Masonry in those awful years.)
Even so it has been, all through our national history, and today Masonry is worth more for the sanctity and safety of this republic than both its army and its navy. At every turn of events, when the rights of man have been threatened by enemies obvious or insidious, it has stood guard – its altar lights like signal fires along the heights of liberty, keeping watch. Not only in our own land, but everywhere over the broad earth, when men have thrown off the yoke of tyranny, whether political or spiritual, and demanded the rights that belong to manhood, they have found a friend in the Masonic order – as did Mazzini and Garibaldi in Italy. Nor must we be less alert and vigilant today when, free of danger of foes from without, our republic is imperiled by the negligence of indifference, the seduction of luxury, the machinations of politicians, and the shadow of a passion-clouded, impatient discontent, whose end is madness and folly; lest the most hallowed of all liberties be lost.
Love thou thy land, with love far-brought From out the storied past, and used Within the present, but transfused Through future time by power of thought.
Truly, the very existence of such a great historic fellowship in the quest and service of the Ideal is a fact eloquent beyond all words, and to be counted among the precious assets of humanity. Forming one vast society of free men, held together by voluntary obligations, it covers the whole globe from Egypt to India, from Italy to England, from America to Australia, and the isles of the sea; from London to Sidney, from Chicago to Calcutta. In all civilized lands, and among folk of every creed worthy of the name, Masonry is found – and everywhere it upholds all the redeeming ideals of humanity, making all good things better by its presence, like a stream underflowing a meadow. ( Cyclopedia of Fraternities, by Stevens (last edition), article, “Free Masonry,” pictures the extent of the order, with maps and diagrams showing its world-wide influence.) Also, wherever Masonry flourishes and is allowed to build freely after its divine design, liberty, justice, education, and true religion flourish; and where it is hindered, they suffer. Indeed, he who would reckon the spiritual possessions of the race, and estimate the forces that make for social beauty, national greatness, and human welfare, must take account of the genius of Masonry and its ministry to the higher life of the race.
Small wonder that such an order has won to its fellowship men of the first order of intellect, men of thought and action in many lands, and every walk and work of life: soldiers like Wellington, Blucher, and Garibaldi; philosophers like Krause, Fichte, and John Locke; patriots like Washington and Mazzini; writers like Walter Scott, Voltaire, Steele, Lessing, Tolstoi; poets like Goethe, Burns, Byron, Kipling, Pike; musicians like Haydn and Mozart – whose opera, The Magic Flute, has a Masonic motif; masters of drama like Forrest and Edwin Booth; editors such as Bowles, Prentice, Childs, Grady; ministers of many communions, from Bishop Potter to Robert Collyer; statesmen, philanthropists, educators, jurists, men of science – Masons many, ( Space does not permit a survey of the literature of Masonry, still less of Masonry in literature. (Findel has two fine chapters on the literature of the order, but he wrote, in 1865, History of Masonry.) For traces of Masonry in literature, there is the famous chapter in War and Peace, by Tolstoi; Mon Oncle Sosthenes, by Maupassant; Nathan the Wise, and Ernest and Falk, by Lessing; the Masonic poems of Goethe, and many hints in Wilhelm Meister; the writings of Herder (Classic Period of German Letters, Findel), The Lost Word, by Henry Van Dyke; and, of course, the poetry of Burns. Masonic phrases and allusions – often almost too revealing – are found all through the poems and stories of Kipling. Besides the poem The Mother Lodge, so much admired, there is The Widow of Windsor, such stories as With the Main Guard, The Winged Hats, Hal o’ the Draft, The City Walls, On the Great Wall, many examples in Kim, also in Traffics and Discoveries, Puck of Pook’s Hill, and, by no means least, The Man Who Would be King, one of the great short stories of the world.) whose names shine like stars in the great world’s crown of intellectual and spiritual glory. What other order has ever brought together men of such diverse type, temper, training, interest, and achievement, uniting them at an altar of prayer in the worship of God and the service of man?
For the rest, if by some art one could trace those invisible influences which move to and fro like shuttles in a loom, weaving the network of laws, reverences, sanctities which make the warp and woof of society – giving to statutes their dignity and power, to the gospel its opportunity, to the home its canopy of peace and beauty, to the young an enshrinement of inspiration, and to the old a mantle of protection; if one had such art, then he might tell the true story of Masonry. Older than any living religion, the most widespread of all orders of men, it toils for liberty, friendship, and righteousness; binding men with solemn vows to the right, uniting them upon the only basis upon which they can meet without reproach – like those fibers running through the glaciers, along which sunbeams journey, melting the frozen mass and sending it to the valleys below in streams of blessing. Other fibers are there, but none is more far- ramifying, none more tender, none more responsive to the Light than the mystical tie of Masonic love.
Truth will triumph. Justice will yet reign from sun to sun, victorious over cruelty and evil. Finally Love will rule the race, casting out fear, hatred, and all unkindness, and pity will heal the old hurt and heart-ache of humanity. There is nothing in history, dark as much of it is, against the ultimate fulfilment of the prophetic vision of Robert Burns – the Poet Laureate of Masonry:
Then let us pray, that come it may – As come it will, for a’ that – That man to man, the world o’er Shall brothers be, for a’ that.