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THE FREEMASON AT WORK
BY HARRY CARR
With All Good Wishes
THE FREEMASON AT WORK
(Secretary and Editor 1961 - 1973) of the
Coronati Lodge, No. 2076, London
2429, 6226, 7464
Member of 236, 2429, 2911, 3931, 7998, 8227
Fellow of the
American Lodge of Research, N.Y., Honorary Member of
Ohio Lodge of
Research, Masonic Research Lodge of Connecticut,
d'Honnecourt, No. 81 Paris (France),
Cambridge, Mass., Arts and Crafts Lodge, No. 1017, Illinois,
Meier Lodge of Research, No. 281, Seattle, Washington,
of Oregon, No. 198, Portland,
of Education and Research, Victoria, B.C.
P.A.G.D.C. Grand Lodge of Iran
© Harry Carr
Published in Great Britain in 1976
revised edition 1981
(Masonic Publishers) Ltd Terminal House, Shepperton, Surrey
members of the Ian Allan Group, and printed
by Ian Allan
Printing Ltd at their works at
in Runnymede, England
ISBN 0 85318
The Freemason at Work - 6th revised edition
By R.W.Bro. Sir Lionel Brett, P.Dist.G.M.,
THOSE who hold that good wine
needs no bush may feel that a Foreword to this book is superfluous. There is
some force in this view for the generation of readers who have known Bro.
Harry Carr in person or by reputation, and grown accustomed to a regular flow
of articles under his name, but Masonic books have a way of surviving in lodge
book‑shelves long after they have gone out of print, and it seems certain that
this one will be read, quoted and discussed by generations who have not had
those advantages. A Foreword will justify itself if it helps future
generations to put Bro. Carr in his proper class as a trustworthy guide, and
this Foreword may be regarded as addressed to them.
The United Grand Lodge of England makes little provision for
organized Masonic instruction. Every member receives a copy of the Book of
Constitutions, but apart from the annual Prestonian Lectures the rest is left
to the efforts of lodges or individuals. The novice with an inquiring mind
will not be content for long with a printed ritual and will demand further
information, whether on the practice in lodge, or on the form of the
after‑proceedings, or on some aspect of the history of operative or
speculative Freemasonry. If he consults an individual, he will be fortunate to
find a Preceptor or other informant as well equipped all round as Bro. Carr.
If he turns to a book, there are a number in print which he can profitably
study, but he may not always know where to look for an answer to his
particular question. The distinguishing feature of this book is that it deals
with questions that were actually exercising brethren over a period of twelve
Bro. Carr describes the genesis of the book in his Introduction.
It was largely thanks to him that the material it contains came to be included
in the Summonses and Transactions of a lodge formed by and for erudite
scholars, and the variety of his Masonic experience made him exceptionally
well qualified to provide the material. As Deputy Preceptor and later
Preceptor of a Lodge of Instruction for many years he was in close touch with
the needs of brethren at the start of their Masonic careers. As a member of
the Board of General Purposes of
Lodge he had direct experience of the administration of the affairs of the
governing body of English Freemasonry. He first showed his interest in Masonic
research in 1936, and his election to full member‑ship of the Quatuor Coronati
Lodge in 1953 is proof of the standing he already enjoyed as a Masonic
Over the years Bro. Carr has made many contributions to Masonic
literature, both as author and editor. During the period when he was Secretary
of the Quatuor Coronati Lodge and Editor of its Transactions his publications
in AQC included full‑scale papers presented to the Lodge and articles of
varying length in Miscellanea Latomorum and `Papers and Essays' as well as
answers to Queries. They all display the same pattern: facts first;
conclusions, if any, later; and no concessions to those who prefer myth to
The queries Bro. Carr was asked to deal with vary greatly in
complexity as well as in subject‑matter. Where a pure issue of fact is
concerned the answer may be accepted as authoritative. Where someone has put
the insoluble question, why a particular expression is used in the ceremonies,
Bro. Carr's historical exposition provides as satisfactory an answer as the
case admits; he might have cited what Justice Holmes said in an analogous case
- 'The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience.' Where the
question involves expressing a preference between two or more possible
solutions, Bro. Carr has not been afraid to follow a statement of the relevant
facts with an expression of his own opinion, but he has not done so
dogmatically, or claimed to have said the last word. Bro. Carr's opinion on
any Masonic question must carry weight, but he would certainly not wish anyone
to adopt it merely on the authority of his name, and the most important thing
is that he provides material for informed discussion.
The reader a hundred years hence may confidently take it that on
the matters it deals with this book accurately shows the state of Masonic
knowledge, and the opinions that an unusually well informed Free‑mason could
reasonably hold, at the time of its publication, and it is a great privilege
to be associated with the book, if only in the ancillary capacity of writer of
FOREWORD by R.W.Bro. Sir Lionel Brett, P.Dist.G.M. Nigeria
of Illustrations and Diagrams
Bright Morning Star
Compasses and the Grand Master
proves a slip
two Words for the M.M.?
Apprentice and Entered Apprentice
Titles of the United Grand Lodge of England
Every Brother has had his due
Arms of the Grand Lodge. London Masons' Company.
The first Grand Lodge,
1717-1813. Antients' Grand
Lodge, 1751-1813. The United
L.F. across the Lodge
Raising and lowering the Wardens' Columns
Orientation of the Bible and of the Square and Compasses
The Points of Fellowship
The second part of the `Threefold Sign'
Divided loyalties? The Sovereign; place of residence;
Squaring the lodge
The Winding Stairs
Penalties in the Obligations
Confirming minutes and voting; the manner observed
The St. John's Card
For particular subjects please
use the Index
Masonic ritual in England and U.S.A.
The Bible in Masonic literature and in the lodge. When
lodges take on a formal setting?
Duly constituted, regularly assembled and properly dedi-
The Secretary's annual subscription
What is the age of the Third Degree?
Dues Cards; Grand Lodge Certificates; Clearance Certi-
Architecture in Masonry
Questions after raising
Public Grand Honours
Breast, hand, and badge
Lewis; Lewises and the `Tenue-Blanche'
The points of my entrance
Cowans; cowans and intruders
Declaring all offices vacant
Replacement of deceased officers
Deacons as `Floor-officers'
Three steps and the first regular step
St. Barbara as a Patron Saint of the Masons
Sponsoring a new lodge
Fellowcrafts and the `Middle Chamber'
The Master's hat
Visiting of lodges by `unattached' Brethren
The network over the Pillars
Will you be off or from?
London Grand Rank
The knob or button on a P.M.'s Collar
The Ladder and its symbols in the first Tracing Board
Symbolism and removal of gloves
The Risings; their purpose; modern practice
For particular subjects please
use the Index
Masonic Fire: Craft Fire; silent Fire
Holiness to the Lord
Wearing two Collars
The Lion's Paw or Eagle's Claw
The left-hand Pillar
The valley of Jehoshaphat
Aprons; flap up, corner up
Signs given seated
What do we put on the V.S.L?
Three, five and seven years old
Origin of the word `Skirret'. Why is it not depicted the
The Queen and the Craft
Calling off; in which Degree?
Sir Winston Spencer Churchill
William Preston and the Prestonian Lectures
The Hiramic legend as a drama. Illogicalities in the Third
Orientation of the letter G
With gratitude to our Master ...
The origin of the Collar
The Working Tools
Crossing the feet
The Master's Light
Masonic After-proceedings; Table & Toasting practices
London area. Seating. Receiving the W.M.
The Gavel. Taking Wine. The Toast List and
Sepulchre or sepulture?
The W.M.'s Sign during Obligations
Deacons as messengers
The exposures. How can we accept such evidence? The French exposures
particular subjects please use the Index
Titles during initiation
Crossing the wands
Opening and closing in the Name of the GAOTU
The opening and closing odes
This `Glimmering Ray'
The Loyal Toast
The altar of incense; a double cube
Lettering and halving
The Light of a Master Mason
Masonic and Biblical dates and chronology
Who invented B.C., and A.D.?
Due examination of visitors
The name `Hiram Abif'
`Time Immemorial' lodges
The Great Lights and the Lesser Lights
The Lesser Lights, Sun, Moon and Master. Which is
Instruction and improvement of Craftsmen; why only
So mote it be
Your respective columns; vouching within the lodge
The `half-letter' or `split-letter' system
Using the V.S.L. at Lodge of Instruction
The lodge on Holy Ground
The meaning of the word `Passing'
Unrecognized Grand Lodges
Pillars of brass or bronze?
The length of my cable-tow; a cable's length from the
Compass or compasses
Guttural, Pectoral, Manual, Pedestal
The 24-inch gauge and the decimal system: as a `working
Correct seating in lodge
The Charge to the Initiate
Monarchs themselves have been promoters of the art
particular subjects please use the Index
The point within a circle
The `Five Platonic Bodies' and the Royal Arch
Composition of the Board of General Purposes: Provincial
Naming of lodges
Corn, Wine, Oil and Salt in the Consecration
Progress in placing the Candidates. Turning the Candidate
Fidelity, Fidelity, Fidelity: the Sn. of Fidelity; the Sn. of
Correct sequence of the Loyal Toast
Wardens' tests in the Second Degree and on the Winding
Landmarks: tenets and principles
Is symbolism a Landmark?
The consent and co-operation of the other two
Money and metallic substances
The attendance (signature) book
The Tyler's Toast
Globes on the Pillars: maps, celestial and terrestrial
The priest who assisted at the dedication of the Temple
Freemasonry and the Roman Catholic Church
When to produce the warrant
The evolution of the Installation ceremony and ritual
Salutations after Installation
The long Closing
The Square and Compasses and the Points
Presentation of gloves
The chequered carpet and indented border
Tassels on the carpet
Hebrew inscriptions on Tracing Boards of the Third Degree
Hele, conceal . . .
The 47th proposition on the Past Master's Jewel
Ecclesiastes XII and the Third Degree
Opening a lodge: symbolism, if any
Symbolism of the Inner Guard
particular subjects please use the Index
Symbolism: interpretation and limitations
The Grand Pursuivant
The V.S.L. in our ceremonies
Orators in Freemasonry
Must all three chairs be occupied throughout the Craft
Questions before Passing and Raising. Who may stay to
U.S.A. lodges working in the Third Degree
The Wardens' columns; a pair or part of a set of three?
Admission of candidates in the Second Degree
The assistance of the Square
The Hailing Sign; when did it appear?
At, on, with, or in, the centre
Saluting the Grand Officers, and others
Position of the rough and smooth ashlars
The Immediate Past Master's Chair
The star-spangled canopy in Freemasonry
Do hereby and hereon . . .
The grave; its dimensions and location
Forty and two thousand
The Due Guard
Tests of merit and ability
Inaccuracies in the ritual
Why leave the East and go to the West?
Ravenous or ravening?
The earliest records of conferment of E.A., F.C., and
When to turn the Tracing Board
H.R.H., The late Duke of Windsor, 18941972
Tying the Aprons; strings at front or back?
The Junior Warden as `ostensible Steward'
The National Anthem and the Closing Ode
Salute in passing
Formal investiture of officers
The Chisel and its symbolism
Absent Brethren; the nine-o'clock Toast
For particular subjects please
use the Index
Solomon and his Temple in the Masonic system
Presentation to the Board of Installed Masters
Visitors' greetings to the Master
Overloading the ceremonies
The family tree of the Craft, Royal Arch, and Mark
Knocks when calling the Tyler
The preliminary step to `entrusting' and `communication'
The I.P.M.'s salutes in closing after each Degree
Masonic statistics. How many lodges, Grand Lodges,
The Origin of the Points of Fellowship
List of Illustrations and
Frontispiece: The Author
Quatuor Coronati (from the Isabella Missal, c. 1500)
Grand Master's Jewel
of the London Masons' Company
of the Antients' Grand Lodge
of the United Grand Lodge
across the Lodge
Tracing Board of the 2°; winding stairs anti-clockwise
symbols on 1 ° Tracing Board by Bro. Esmond Jefferies
including the Key
Aprons, flap up, corner up
Seating at Table
Illustration of the M.M. Degree (French) 1745
circle of swords, 1745
Floor-drawing of the Third Degree; Le Macon Demasque, 1751
Pillars with `bowls', not `globes'
Tracing Board of the 3°, with Hebrew inscription
of the Grand Pursuivant
For particular subjects please
use the Index
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
London Grand Rank
A. & A.S.R.: Ancient and
Accepted Leics.: The Leicester Lodge of Scottish
Research, No. 2429
Antients: The Grand Lodge of L. of I.: Lodge
England according to the
Old L. of R.: Lodge of Research
Miller, A.L.: Notes on Hist. . . . of
Ars Quatuor Coronatorum. the Lodge of
Aberdeen. . . (1919)
(Transactions of the Quatuor
Misc. Lat.: Miscellanea Latomorun:
M.M.: Master Mason
Assistant Moderns: The
Board of General Purposes M.W.: Most Worshipful
C.: Book of Constitutions Ob.: Obligation
I.M.: Board of Installed O.E.D.: The Oxford English
Brethren O.T.: The
Candidate P.: Past
Catechisme: Le Catechisme des Pen. Sn.: Penal Sign
p.g.: pass grip
Correspondence Circle (of the P.M.: Past Master
Claret: The Ceremonies of Initiation, Prov.: Provincial
Passing and Raising . . .
1838, etc. p w: password
Director of Ceremonies Q.: Question
Degree Q. and A.
Question and Answer
Demasque: Le Macon Demasque, Q.C.: Quatuor Coronati
Antigrapha (Masonic Reprints)
District Grand R.A.: Royal Arch
English Constitution R.W.: Right
The Early French Exposures, S.C.: Scottish Constitution
The Early Masonic Cate- Secret: Le Secret des
chisms, by Knoop, Jones
and Macons, 1742
Hamer, 2nd edn., 1963
E.R.H.MS.: The Edinburgh Register T.D.K.: Three Distinct
House MS., 1696
L'Ordre des Francs-Macons
F.P.O.F.: Five Points of Fellowship Trahi, 1745
Grand U.G.L.: United
Grand Lodge of
Grand Master Vernon, W.F.:
Hist. of Free-
masonry in the Province of
Roxburgh . . .
B.: Jachin and Boaz . . . 1762 V.S.L.: Volume of the Sacred Law
King Solomon's Temple
THE origins of this book are,
in fact, a part of the history of the Quatuor Coronati Lodge and it is fitting
that I begin by paying a richly deserved tribute to my predecessor in office,
the late Bro. John Dashwood. He had been appointed Secretary of the Lodge and
Editor of its Trans‑actions in 1952, at a time when the membership of the
Correspondence Circle had reached its supposed peak, around 3,000, and the
production of the annual volumes had fallen several years in arrears.
By slimming the volumes severely during the next few years, he
managed to catch up on arrears of publication. In 1960, the Lodge Standing
Committee was compelled to deal with its most urgent problem, i.e., a
substantial increase in income, necessitating a rapid expansion in the
membership of the Correspondence Circle, which was practically its only source
As a very junior Past Master of the Lodge, I had been arguing for
some time that we were concentrating on scholarly material in the Transactions
which could only be appreciated by the select few, and I urged that we should
bring into our publications a few simple Lectures, Questions and Answers,
etc., that would be suitable for `the boys at Lodge of Instruction'. This
suggestion caused some dismay at first, and there were murmurings about `the
lowering of standards'. I protested that the new material would be in addition
to our main work, so that it would not in any way affect the quality of the
Transactions, but would simply make them attractive to a completely new field
John Dashwood sympathized with my views and eventually the
opposition was won over. For the proposed addition to the volumes, it was
resolved to revive Miscellanea Latomorum, a Masonic magazine which had ceased
publication in 1950. The copyright belonged to the Quatuor Coronati Lodge. In
its new form, as an eight‑page pamphlet, it would be sent annually to all
members without extra charge. The first issue contained a short paper by Bro.
John Rylands on `The Ancient Landmarks', followed by fifteen questions,
including some that were very abstruse. Only eight of them were answered,
leaving seven that necessarily remained in limbo until the next year's volume!
As to `lowered standards', it is amusing to note that the first issue was
inserted in the Transactions as a separate pamphlet, to ensure that its
contents would not contaminate the main volume with which it was posted! The
results were far better than we dared to hope, and the end of that year showed
a satisfying increase in membership and funds. Unfortunately Bro. Dashwood did
not live to enjoy the fruits of his labours. He went into hospital in May
1961, and died after a very brief illness. There was no successor ready to
replace him, and after a few months' trial period (doing the editorial work at
home, at night and week‑ends) I retired from business in September 1961, to
become Secretary and Editor, and to start on the happiest and most productive
twelve years in a long and busy lifetime.
Uneasy and diffident, because I had had no preliminary training
for the work, it was an incident in the first week of that trial period that
determined me to accept the office and to make a success of it. In one day's
post there were two letters, one from Alaska asking for guidance on the
correct procedure for balloting in lodge and the other was from Australia
requesting a ruling on a piece of `floor‑work'. I knew, of course, that there
were members of the Correspondence Circle in many parts of the world; but two
questions in one day from places almost as far apart as it was possible to be,
made me realize suddenly how important our educational programme could become
if it was handled properly. From that day onwards the Questions and Answers
for the new venture became a major concern. But, in future, the items selected
for publication were to be of the highest popular appeal, on subjects that
would stimulate discussion and prove both instructive and entertaining,
especially to those Brethren who know little or nothing of the background of
Freemasonry beyond what they have seen or heard in lodge.
As part of the same programme, the Lodge Summonses were enlarged
from two pages to four, the additional space being used for shorter Questions
and Answers. As the Summonses were posted six times a year, it was hoped that
they would help to maintain a closer contact with the Brethren for whom they
The first version of Misc. Lat., produced under my supervision,
was bound in with AQC, Vol. 74, and contained four short Lectures designed for
use in lodge, with a block of Questions, Answers and Notes, twenty‑eight pages
in all, under a new heading `THE SUPPLEMENT'. It created something of a
sensation; clearly we had opened up a Masonic gold‑mine! Soon, we were
averaging more than 1,000 new members each
1973 the membership of the Correspondence Circle was 12,440.
Eventually letters began to come in, urging us to publish the
whole collection of Questions and Answers in book form. As author of nearly
all the answers, I was eager to fulfil these requests, but that could not be
done at once. Because of our rapid expansion and limited staff, much of the
material had been written under pressure, with the printers waiting for every
page. The Answers, especially in the Lodge Summonses, had often been skimped
because of limited space and, after publication, many of the items had brought
comments from readers, raising points of high interest that deserved to be
included in a `collected edition'.
Although the original material was already in print, it was clear
that a great deal of editorial work would need to be done to prepare it for
the new publication; but that had to wait until my retirement from office.
Here are the results, the fruits of twelve years work.
QUESTIONS AND THEIR TREATMENT
The questions that come to us
at Q.C. deal, almost invariably, with matters on which there is no Grand Lodge
ruling, or on which the printed rituals and their rubrics afford little or no
explanation. They fall mainly into two classes:
Those which ask for the
meaning and purpose of a specific item of ritual or procedure, or how and why
Those which describe two different versions of ritual or procedure
and ask `Which is correct?'
I believe the historical approach is the most rewarding, i.e., tracing the
item in question from its earliest appearance, and following its development
and changes up to the time when our ritual and procedures were more‑or‑less
standardized in the early 1800s. When, as often happens, no definite
conclusion is possible, this method sets out the information that may lead to
a probable answer and, at the very least, it gives the enquirer a wider
knowledge and a better understanding of the problems that are involved.
Because the printed pieces were intended for a world‑wide
circulation, my answers always tried to give a little more than the questioner
had asked. I make no apology for that, since we had strong encouragement from
our readers, and the regular yearly figures of increasing member‑ship were
ample proof of a steadily growing demand for our work.
Among the questions that are
not easily answered, are those that ask for explanations of incidents and
details in the Craft legends and allegories, in which the enquirers treat each
item as though it is proven fact, supported by Holy Writ! I remember the day,
more than forty years ago, when a Grand Officer - looking me straight in the
eye - assured me that Moses was a Grand Master! My grounding in Old Testament
refuted this utterly, but I was a young Master Mason and one does not shatter
a man's illusions lightly. In dealing with questions of this kind, it is
imperative to separate legend from fact; the difficulty lies only in framing
the answers so that they do no hurt or damage.
Inevitably, there are questions on esoteric matters of ritual and
procedure that cannot be discussed in print and those are often of the highest
interest. In such cases, the only practicable course is to go back to the
earliest version of the item in question, tracing its development throughout
the centuries, but stopping short at the final standardization and changes
that were made in the 19th century, when most of the forms in use today were
established. This does not answer the question, it only points the way so that
the enquirer may be enabled to find the answer for himself. I must, therefore,
repeat a warning which has been given on many similar occasions: In dealing
with certain ritual and procedural matters, the reader's attention is
particularly directed to the fact that the articles in this volume quote from
documents of the 14th‑18th centuries, and that the details that are described
belong only to the dates that are assigned to them. They take no account of
the changes and standardization that took place in the 19th century, and it is
emphasized that, except in a few innocuous cases, they do not describe - or
attempt to describe - present‑day practices.
Finally, the articles in this book were never intended to be the
last word on those subjects. They are simply a collection of careful answers,
at an elementary level (often only my own opinion) on the queries and problems
that arise in the lodge room, from Brethren who are eager for a better
understanding of the things that they say and do in the course of their
Masonic duties. That explains the title, `The Freemason at Work'. It is hoped
that the whole collection will furnish an ample choice of subjects for
discussion in lodges and Study Groups, and bring new pleasures to Brethren who
enjoy their Masonry.
work of this kind, the Index is as important as the book itself. For every
reader in pursuit of a particular theme, it will be invaluable. All the
Questions are numbered for easy reference, but for the reader in search of a
particular theme or subject, the Index will be the most speedy guide.
copyright reasons, the present volume contains only my own work, supplemented
in many instances by quotations from other writers with their permission, and
with due acknowledgment.
Recognized lodges, Study Groups and individual Brethren have full permission
to make use of the contents, but none of the articles may be reproduced or
published without written permission from the author.
this opportunity to express my indebtedness to the Librarians of Grand Lodge
and their Assistants during the past twenty years, for their generous and
unstinted help at all times and, especially, to the present Librarian, Bro. T.
O. Haunch. My thanks also to Bro. Roy A. Wells, my successor in office and to
Bro. Colin F. W. Dyer who furnished valuable additions to several of the
answers, which are gratefully acknowledged here and in the text. I am
particularly indebted to Bro. Frederick Smyth for the very comprehensive Index
and to R.W.Bro. Sir Lionel Brett for his kindness in writing the Foreword to
the book and for his ready help in Latin and other editorial problems during
the years. Lastly, my thanks to the Board of General Purposes of the United
Grand Lodge of England for their kind permission to quote from the
Constitutions and other official documents and from rare manuscripts in the
Grand Lodge Library.
THE FREEMASON AT WORK
THE QUATUOR CORONATI
What does the name `Quatuor Coronati' mean?
The Latin words mean `the four crowned ones' and allude to the Christian
Church's Festival of the Four Crowned Martyrs, which is celebrated on 8
There are numerous versions of the legend of the Sancti Quatuor
Coronati, all very much alike, though they differ considerably in important
details such as their nationality, their number, and even their names.
The story, in brief outline, is that in A.D. 302 four
stone‑carvers and their apprentice were ordered by the Emperor Diocletian to
carve a statue of Aesculapius, which, since they were secretly Christians,
they evaded doing. For disobedience to the Emperor's commands they were put to
death on 8 November. During the year 304 Diocletian ordered that all Roman
soldiers should burn incense before a statue of the same god, when four who
were Christians refused to do so, for which they were beaten to death. This
was also said to have been on 8 November, though two years later than the
Melchiades, who was Pope from A.D. 310 to 314, ordained that these
two sets of four and five martyrs were to be commemorated on
2 THE FREEMASON AT
8, under the single name of Quatuor Coronati. The Sacramentary of Pope
Gregory, two hundred years later, confirmed that date and Pope Honorius built
a church in their honour in the seventh century. They are to be found to this
day, depicted in sculpture and painting, in many mediaeval and later churches
The Saints are referred to in the earliest known version of the
Old Charges, the Regius MS., which is dated c. 1390 and there is good evidence
that they were venerated by English masons, notably in an ordinance of the
London masons, dated 1481 and still preserved in the Guildhall archives, which
prescribed that ... every freeman of the Craft shall attend at Christ‑Church [Aldgate]
on the Feast of the Quatuor Coronati, to hear Mass, under a penalty of 12
The founders of our Lodge, nine in number, of whom four were
soldiers, chose Quatuor Coronati as the name of the Lodge and November 8 has
been the date of the annual Festival and Installation meeting since its
BRIGHT MORNING STAR
When we are exhorted, in the Third Degree, to lift our eyes to that bright
morning star, whose rising brings peace and salvation . . .' are we referring
to a particular star, or is this pure symbolism?
The various aspects of this problem may be best envisaged, perhaps, from the
following quotations, beginning with some extracts from Miscellanea Latomorum,
(Series ii) Vol. 31, pp. 1 - 4:
It is argued that this
reference to `that bright Morning Star' is an allusion to the Founder of
Christianity, and as such should never have been included in, or retained in,
the ritual of an Association professing entire freedom from denominational
creed or dogma, outside of the simple basic belief in the existence of a
Supreme Being. This attitude has unfortunately been bolstered up by a frequent
misquotation of the wording, the phrase `whose rising brings peace and
tranquillity' being often rendered as `peace and salvation', which is
erroneous and decidedly mischievous. [N.B. Emulation, Stability and Logic use
the word `salvation'; Exeter says `tranquillity'.]
As a symbol, the Morning Star
is indeed most appropriate to the ceremonial incident just previously enacted;
so apt, in fact, that it may be confidently asserted that no other symbol
could be found which would so perfectly fit the circumstances of the case.
Astronomically the Morning Star is the herald of the dawning of a new day,
just as its opposite, the Evening Star, presages the coming of night. The
latter foretells the dying of another day; the approach of the time when man
can no longer work; when darkness covers the face of the earth. Darkness has
ever been associated with
THE FREEMASON AT WORK
evil, and in its sombre,
unknown possibilities is a fitting emblem of death. On the other hand, the
rising Morning Star brings joy and gladness with its promise of yet another
day, of light once more, in which man may work and renew his association with
his fellow‑man in business or in pleasure. In short, with the new‑born day,
man rises to a new life. What more fitting symbol, then, than this of the
promise of new life after death - of the immortality of the soul.
The late Dr. E. H. Cartwright, in his Commentary on the
Freemasonic Ritual, (2nd edn., 1973, p. 186), wrote, with customary
`That bright morning star'. It
should, of course be `that bright and morning star', the phrase being a
quotation from The Revelation, xxii, 16. The reference is definitely to Christ
and is a relic of the time when the Craft was purely Christian. The allusion
apparently escaped the notice of the revisers at the Union, when Christian
references generally were excised. Some hold that, as we are not now
exclusively Christian, but admit Jews, Moslems and others who, though
monotheists, are not Christians, this reference should be deleted, as others
of a like nature have been. If the phrase be objected to, the Revised Ritual
provides an appropriate alternative rendering, namely, `and lift our eyes to
Him in whose hands are the issues of life and death, and to whose mercy we
trust for the fulfilment of His gracious promises of Peace and Salvation to
the faithful etc.' My own view is that the reference to the `Bright Morning
Star' would be quite inexplicable if we read it in an astronomical sense, to
imply that a particular star can bring peace, or tranquillity, or salvation,
to man‑kind. As a Christian reference, moreover, this passage must cause
embarrassment to Brethren who are not of that Faith and in two of my Lodges
(of mainly Jewish Brethren) where this point arose, we now use the following:
... and lift our eyes to Him whose Divine Word brings Peace and Salvation to
the faithful, etc.
This form of wording has two great advantages:
provides a definite meaning to the passage instead of an ambiguous one.
2. It is
in full accord with Masonic teaching and respects the religious beliefs of all
THE COMPASSES AND THE
Why are the Compasses said to belong to the Grand Master?
Early official documents, i.e., the Books of Constitutions and the Grand Lodge
Minutes, afford no information on this point. Jewels are
4 THE FREEMASON AT
in the Constitutions from 1738 onwards and frequently in the Grand Lodge
Minutes from 1727 onwards, but the Grand Master's Jewel was not described in
detail until the 1815 B. of C. It was to be of `gold or gilt' and made up as
The compasses extended to
45°!, with the segment of a circle at the points and a gold plate included, on
which is to be engraven an irradiated eye within a triangle.
The Grand Master's Jewel
By courtesy of the Board of
the triangle is also irradiated. It should be noted, however, that from 1815
onwards the Jewel contains several items in addition to the compasses.
The only hint, in a more‑or‑less official publication, suggesting
that the compasses belong to the Grand Master, appears in the frontispiece to
the first Book of Constitutions, 1723, which shows the Duke of Montagu handing
a pair of compasses and a scroll to his successor, the Duke of Wharton, and
there are no other tools in the picture. It would be unsafe to draw any firm
conclusions from this item, because there are several documents from this
period which show that the compasses belonged to the Master, not to the Grand
Master. The earliest of these is the Dumfries No. 4 MS., c. 17101
(i.e. seven years before the election of the first Grand Master):
See p. 5, footnote 1.
THE FREEMASON AT WORK
would you know your master if you saw him?
what way would ye know him?
by his habit
what couller is his habit?
yellow & blew meaning the compass wc is bras & Iron Very crude,
but twenty years later the same theme appeared in better detail in a newspaper
exposure, now generally known as The Mystery of Free‑Masonry, 17301:
How was the Master cloathed?
In a Yellow Jacket and Blue Pair of Breeches.*
The Master is not otherwise cloathed than common; the Question and Answer are
only emblematical, the Yellow Jacket, the Compasses, and the Blue Breeches,
the Steel Points.
Two months later, in October 1730, Prichard, in his Masonry
Dissected, repeated this Q. and A., almost word for word, omitting only the
first half of the N.B., i.e., he discarded the emblematical suggestion,
thereby implying that the compasses were indeed part of the Master's regalia.
Elsewhere, however, he had a note that the Master, at the opening of a Lodge,
had `the Square about his neck'. The Wilkinson MS., c. 1727, agreed with
Prichard on the compasses but omitted the reference to the Square.
In 1745, a popular French exposure, L'Ordre des Francs‑Masons
Trahi, in which the catechism was substantially based on Prichard, dealt more
fully with the same question:
Have you seen the Grand Master? [= the W.M.]
How is he clothed?
In gold & blue. Or rather; In a yellow jacket, with blue stockings.
This does not mean that the Grand Master is dressed like that: but
the yellow jacket signifies the head and the upper‑part of the Compasses,
which the Grand Master wears at the bottom of his Cordon, & which are made of
gold, or at least gilt; & the blue stockings, the two points of the Compasses,
which are of iron or steel. That is what they mean also, when they refer to
the gold & blue.
The title `Grand Master' was used quite loosely, in this text and
in French practice at that period, to mean the Worshipful Master and the
context of this quotation proves this beyond doubt.
It was not until the last quarter of the 18th century that the
earliest English texts began to say that the compasses belonged to the Grand
Master. The first of these was probably William Preston's version, in
Reproduced in The Early Masonic Catechisms, 2nd edn. (1963) pub]. by the
Quatuor Coronati Lodge, London.
6 THE FREEMASON AT
`First Lecture of Free Masonry' (which was reproduced by Bro. P. R. James, in
AQC 82, pp. 104 - 149):
Why are the compasses
restricted to the Grand Master? The compasses are appropriated to Master
Masons [sic] because it is the chief instrument used in the delineation of
their plans and from this class all genuine designs originate. . . . As an
emblem of dignity and excellence the compasses are pendent to the breast of
the Grand Master to mark the superiority of character he bears amongst Masons.
(See AQC 82, p. 138)
Preston wrote with his
customary verbosity and his reference to Master Masons is rather confusing.
The date of this version is uncertain, probably around 1790 - 1800. Later
writers were more specific. Browne's Master Key (2nd ed.) appeared, mainly in
cipher, in 1802:
Why the Compasses to the Grand
Master in particular? The Compasses being the chief instrument made use of in
all plans and designs in Geometry, they are appropriated to the Grand Master
as a mark of his distinction... .
Richard Carlile, in the Republican, 15 July 1825, wrote:
The compasses belong to the
Grand Master in particular, and the square to the whole craft.
Claret, 1838, also dealt with this question, and his answer has
become standard in most modern versions of the Craft Lectures:
That being the chief
instrument made use of in the formation of all Architectural plans and
designs, is peculiarly appropriated to the Grand Master, as an emblem of his
dignity, he being the chief head and ruler of the craft.
Nowadays, a reference to the Jewels illustrated in the Book of
Constitutions will show that the Compasses form a part of the Jewel of all the
1. The Grand Master
2. Past Grand Master
3. Pro Grand Master
4. Past Pro Grand Master
5. Deputy Grand Master
6. Assistant Grand Master
7. Prov. or Dist. Grand
Master 8. Past Prov. or Dist. Grand Master
9. Grand Inspector
10. Past Grand Inspector
PROVES A SLIP
`It proves a slip'. How did those words arise?
Those words are the last relic of something that was a distinct feature of all
early versions of the third degree. If one were challenged today to describe
the lessons of the third degree in three words, most Brethren would say `Death
and Resurrection', and they would be right;
THE FREEMASON AT WORK
originally there were three themes, not two, and all our early versions of the
third degree confirm three themes, `Death, Decay and Resurrection'. Any
Brother who has a compost heap in his garden will see the significance of this
Eventually, the decay theme was polished out of our English
ritual, but `the slip' which is directly related to that theme remains as a
re‑minder of the degree in its early days.
The first appearance of `the slip' in a Masonic context was in
Samuel Prichard's Masonry Dissected, of 1730. That was the first exposure
claiming to describe a system of three degrees and it contained the earliest
known version of a Hiramic legend. Prichard's exposure was framed entirely in
the form of Question and Answer and the main body of his legend appears in the
replies to only two questions.
Many other and better versions have appeared since 1730, but
Masonry Dissected (though it gives no hint of a long time‑lag which might have
caused decay) was the first to mention `the slip' and to indicate that the
cause was decay. The words occur in a footnote to the so‑called `Five Points
N.B. When Hiram
was taken up, they took him by the Fore‑fingers, and the Skin came off which
is called the Slip; .. .
The next oldest version of the third degree was published in Le
Catechisme des Francs‑Masons, in 1744, by a celebrated French journalist,
Louis Travenol. It was much more detailed than Prichard's piece, and full of
interesting items that had never appeared before. In the course of the story
we learn that nine days had passed when Solomon ordered a search, which also
occupied a `considerable time'. Then, following the discovery of the corpse,
. . . One of them took hold of
it by one finger, & the finger came away in his hand: he took him at once by
another [finger], with the same result, & when, taking him by the wrist it
came away from his arm . . . he called out Macbenac, which signifies among the
Free‑Masons, the flesh falls from the bones.... 1
Travenol's version was pirated in L'Ordre des Francs‑Masons Trahi, but there
were a few improvements:
... the flesh falls from the
bones or the corpse is rotten [or decayed] 2
The English exposure Three
Distinct Knocks, of 1760, used the words `almost rotten to the bone', but
before the end of the 18th century the
Early French Exposures, pp. 97‑8.
2 E.F.E., p. 258.
8 THE FREEMASON AT
theme seems to have gone out of use in England, so that `the slip', in word
and action, remains as the last hint of the story as it ran in its original
form. But the decay theme is not completely lost; several ritual workings, in
French, German, and other jurisdictions, still retain it as part of their
One more document must be quoted here, because it has particularly
important implications. The Graham MS., of 1726, is a unique version of
catechism plus religious interpretation, followed by a collection of legends
relating to various biblical characters, in which each story has a kind of
Masonic twist. One of the legends tells how three sobs went to their father's
for to try if they could find
anything about him ffor to Lead them to the vertuable secret which this
famieous preacher had. . . . Now these 3 men had allready agreed that if that
if they did not ffind the very thing it self that the first thing that they
found was to be to them as a secret . . . so came to the Grave finding nothing
save the dead body all most consumed away takeing a greip at a flinger it came
away so from Joynt to Joynt so to the wrest so to the Elbow so they R Reared
up the dead body and suported it setting ffoot to ffoot knee to knee Breast to
breast Cheeck to cheeck and hand to back and cryed out help o ffather . . . so
one said here is yet marow in this bone and the second said but a dry bone and
the third said it stinketh so they agreed for to give it a name as is known to
free masonry to this day. . . . (E.M.C., pp. 92‑3).
The decay theme again, but the important point about this version
is that the `famieous preacher' in the grave was not H.A., but Noah, and the
three sons were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. The appearance of this legend in 1726,
full four years before the earliest H.A. version by Prichard, implies, beyond
doubt, that the Hiramic legend did not come down from Heaven all ready‑made as
we know it today; it was one of at least two (and possibly three) streams of
legend which were adapted and tailored to form the main theme of the third
degree of those days.
WHY TWO WORDS FOR
At a certain stage in the M.M. degree two words are uttered by the W.M. Why
There is ample evidence, from c. 1700 onwards, that only one word was
conferred originally, though it appears in vastly different spellings and
pronunciations. The earliest known version, in the Sloane MS., of c. 1700,
certainly belongs to the period when only two degrees were
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and, in the study of the evolution of the ritual, it is extremely interesting
to find a feature of the original second degree making its appearance,
ultimately, in the third.
At the end of 1725 there were already four different versions of
the word in existence (two in manuscript and two in print) and before 1763 no
fewer than eight versions had appeared in England alone. Whatever they were
originally, by the time we find them in our early documents it would be fair
to describe them as non‑words, because they do not belong to any known
language. As examples of debasement, Sloane gives the word(s) as Maha - Byn,
half in one ear and half in the other; it was apparently used in those days as
a test word, the first half requiring the answer `Byn'. Other early versions
were `Matchpin', 1711, and `Magbo and Boe', 1725.
It is generally agreed that the words were probably of Hebrew
origin (in which case each of them would be a combination of two words, i.e.,
verb and noun); but from the time of their first appearance, either in MS. or
print, they were already so debased, through ignorance or carelessness, that
it is impossible to say how they were written or pronounced in their original
There are various printed exposures of 1760, 1762 and later, which
suggest that the word was pronounced differently by adherents of the rival
Grand Lodges, i.e., that the `Moderns' used a form ending in a CH, CK, or K
sound, while the `Antients' used a form which finished with an N sound. This
would seem to be a generalization that must be discounted, because there were
three N versions in c. 1700, 1711 and 1723 respectively, decades before the
Antients' Grand Lodge was founded.
Whether or not the rival Grand Lodges kept strictly to those forms
(and we have to take note of the MS. catechisms and the printed exposures
simply because there were no official pronouncements), the available evidence
suggests that those were the two main forms in use in the English lodges
throughout the 18th century.
Soon after the Lodge of Promulgation was erected (in 1809) to
pre‑pare the way for the union of the two Grand Lodges, this point came into
question while dealing with the form of `Closing the Lodge in the Third
Degree', when the word is to be spoken aloud; but which word? It must have
been a difficult problem, even for the distinguished members of that `Moderns'
body, partly because none of them could be certain that the form to which they
were accustomed was correct, but also because it was necessary to make
allowance for the form in use by
THE FREEMASON AT WORK
the `Antients'. This predicament gave rise to a Resolution that
they made on 16 February 1810, which is a model of wisdom and tolerance:
... but that Masters of Lodges
shall be informed that such of them as may be inclined to prefer another known
method of communicating the s [sic.? secrets] in the closing ceremony will be
at liberty to direct it so if they should think proper to do so. (AQC 23, p.
The special Lodge of
Promulgation was a Moderns' body, but one of its members, Bro. Bonnor, was
acknowledged to have an accurate knowledge of the Antients' ritual, and it is
possible that this resolution was framed out of respect for the rival body, or
because no compromise was possible.
Many of us must have heard some of the extraordinary
pronunciations given to those `Words' in our present‑day Lodges, and I am
inclined to believe that the alternate forms were approved simply because
nobody could be sure which of them, if any, was correct.
APPRENTICE AND ENTERED
As used in Freemasonry today, are the terms Apprentice and Entered Apprentice
Under Art. ii of the Articles of Union, it was `... declared and pronounced
that pure Ancient Masonry consists of three degrees, and no more; Vizt. those
of the Entered Apprentice, the Fellow Craft . . .', etc. Strictly speaking,
therefore, the only title for the first grade in the Craft nowadays is Entered
Apprentice, and the title Apprentice could only stand as an abbreviation.
It is necessary to go back to early operative practice to explain
the real difference between the two terms. Apprentices were usually indentured
to their Masters for seven years, and in Scotland there is evidence that the
Masters undertook to `enter their apprentices' in the Lodge during that
period. 1 In Edinburgh, it was the rule that all apprentices had to
be `booked' in the town's Register of Apprentices, at the beginning of their
indentures. The Register survives from 1583 and shows that the `bookings'
recorded the names of the apprentice and his father, the father's trade and
place of residence, the name, trade and residence of the master, the date of
the `booking' and (rarely) the actual date of the indentures - if there had
been any delay in the `booking'.
1 See `Apprenticeship in England and Scotland up to
1700', by H. Carr, AQC 69, pp. 57/8, 67/8); also `The Mason and the Burgh',
THE FREEMASON AT WORK
These carefully detailed
municipal records become valuable indeed when, from 1599 onwards, there are
minutes for the Lodge of Edinburgh (Mary's Chapel), in which it is possible to
identify more than a hundred apprentices and to check the dates when they were
admitted into the Lodge as `entered apprentice'. This usually happened some
two to three years after the beginning of their indentures, and that marked
the beginning of their career within the Lodge.
They would normally pass F.C. about seven years after they were
made E.A., or roughly ten years from the commencement of their training. If
for any reason they failed to pass F.C., they retained their Lodge status as
E.A., even after their term of service had finished and they were already
working as journeymen.
The Edinburgh system of introducing the apprentice into the Lodge
during his apprenticeship did not exist in 1475, when the Masons and Wrights
Incorporation [= Gild] was founded, but it was already fully established in
1598 when the earliest surviving Lodge minutes begin. The two to three‑year
time lag between `booking' and E.A. may have been longer in other places.
Unfortunately, it is only Edinburgh that still possesses the dual
town‑and‑Lodge records, that enable us to verify their practice.
It is curious that the term `entered apprentice' does not appear
in English documents until the 1720s.
THE TITLES OF THE UNITED GRAND LODGE OF ENGLAND
What is the official title of the Grand Lodge of England? Here in the U.S.A.
our Grand Lodges are F. & A.M., or A.F. & A.M., and this carries on down to
the local Lodges. My own Lodge is commonly known as St. John's Lodge, No. 17,
A.F. & A.M., yet I can find no reference to the full titles of Lodges
operating under English jurisdiction. I find many references to the United
Grand Lodge, but the United Grand Lodge of what?
The United Grand Lodge was erected in 1813 by a union of the so‑called
Antients' and Moderns' Grand Lodges under the Articles of Union, a lengthy
document which outlined the conditions agreed for the government of the new
body. The Articles were signed on 25 November 1813, and ratified by both Grand
Lodges meeting independently six days later. Article vi declared that:
12 THE FREEMASON AT
Grand Incorporated Lodge shall ... be opened ... under the stile and title of
the United Grand Lodge of Ancient Freemasons of England.
On 27 December 1813, a Grand Assembly of Freemasons was held to
give effect to the union, and the new organization was duly proclaimed under
The first Book of Constitutions to be published after the union
appeared in 1815, and the General Regulations were headed by a brief statement
which gave a new title to the Grand Lodge: THE public interests of the
fraternity are managed by a general representation of all private lodges on
record, together with the present and past grand officers, and the grand
master at their head. This collective body is stiled the UNITED GRAND LODGE OF
ANTIENT FREE AND ACCEPTED MASONS OF ENGLAND .. .
The earlier title, incorporating the expression `Antient
Freemasons of England' (but with the word `Antient' spelt with a `t' instead
of a `c'), appeared in the printed record of Grand Lodge proceedings of March,
May, June and September 1814, the word Free‑Mason having a hyphen in May, June
and September. It reappeared with a hyphen in the record of an Especial Grand
Lodge in February 1815.
In May 1814, the Duke of Sussex was proclaimed as Grand Master of
the United Grand Lodge of `Antient Free‑Masons of England', and in December
1814, he was proclaimed as G.M. of the United Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and
Accepted Masons of England.
The reasons for the changes in nomenclature at this period are not
apparent, but it must be inferred that the change from the expression `Ancient
Freemasons' of 1813 to the `Antient Free and Accepted Masons' of 1815 was
deliberate - a change which has been preserved in all subsequent editions of
the Book of Constitutions to the present day. (Extracts from Notes compiled by
Bro. W. Ivor Grantham.) Strictly speaking, all English Lodges should add the
A.F. & A.M. to their titles, but the practice is extremely rare.
EVERY BROTHER HAS HAD HIS DUE
What is the real meaning of the Senior Warden's words in closing the lodge,
`... to see that every Brother had had his due.'?
This is an archaic survival, almost meaningless today. Yet the principle upon
which it is based is one of the oldest in the English Craft,
THE FREEMASON AT
origins are to be found in our earliest operative documents, the Old Charges,
or MS. Constitutions, which afford useful information on the management of
large‑scale building works in the 14th and 15th centuries.
To appreciate the full significance of these words, we may forget
the lodge for the present, and go to the site where the works were in
progress. In those days, the Warden (and there was only one Warden) was a kind
of senior charge‑hand, or overseer. Nowadays, we might call him a
`progress‑chaser' and it was a part of his duties to ensure that nothing
disturbed the smooth progress of the work.
If a dispute arose between any of the masons in his charge, he had
to mediate and try to settle it on the spot and with absolute fairness, so
that `every Brother had his due'. If the trouble was too difficult to be
settled at once, he had to fix what was called a `loveday', which was a day
appointed for the amicable settlement of disputes; but meanwhile, everyone had
to get on with his work. The regulations specified that the 'loveday' was to
be held on a `holy day', not a working day, so that the works would not suffer
to the employer's detriment. (Cooke MS., c. 1400, Point vi.) The same text, at
Point viii continues: ... if it befall him for to be warden under his master
that he be true mene [= mediator] between his master and his fellows and that
he be busy in the absence of his master to the honour of his master and profit
of the lord [= employer] that he serves.l The Regius MS., c. 1390, does not
mention the warden in this con‑text, but speaks of one who has taken a
position of responsibility under his master:
A true mediator thou must need
To thy master and thy fellows
Do truly all [good?] that thou
To both parties, and that is
good right. 1
The same theme runs regularly
through many of the old Constitutions, requiring the wardens to preserve
harmony amongst the men under their care, by mediating fairly in any dispute
that might arise, and thereby ensuring `that every Brother had his due'.
Finally, there are many versions of these words in our modern
rituals, including one which runs `... to pay the men their wages and see that
every Brother has had . . .'. A careful examination of the texts
From The Two Earliest Masonic MSS., pp. 122‑5. By Knoop, Jones and Hamer.
Quotations word for word, but in modern spelling.
14 THE FREEMASON AT
with the Warden's duties show that wages have nothing to do with this
9. ARMS OF THE GRAND LODGE
What is the origin of the Arms of the United Grand Lodge of England?
The modern Arms are directly descended from three separate bodies, and their
story begins in the 14th century, more than 300 years before the first Grand
Lodge was founded.
LONDON MASONS' COMPANY
There are records at Guildhall
in London which show that the Masons' Company was in existence in 1375. It was
the first English Gild of the Mason trade and, in 1376, it elected
representatives of the trade to serve on the Common Council, which was the
organ of city government, proof of its status as one of the important city
The exact date of its foundation is unknown, but the roots of the
Fellowship of Masons in England go back much further than that, to the year
1356, when twelve skilled master masons came before the Mayor and Aldermen at
Guildhall, in London, to settle a demarcation dispute, and to draw up a code
of trade regulations, because their trade had not, until then, `been regulated
in due manner, by the government of folks of their trade, in such form as
other trades' were.
This was the true beginning of mason trade organization in
England, which gave rise to the `Hole Crafte & Felawship of Masons', later the
London Masons' Company.
In 1472 it was given a Grant of Arms, which marked the highest
form of official recognition of the Craft as one of the City Companies. The
text of the Grant (with a few Anglo‑Norman words rendered in modern English)
runs as follows:
To all Noblemen and gentlemen
these present Letters hearing or seeing, William Hawkeslove, otherwise called
Clarenceux King‑ of Arms of the South Marches of England, sends humble and due
Recommendation as appertaineth.
For so much as the `Hole
Crafte and Felawship of Masons' heartily moved to exercise and use gentle and
commendable guidance in such laudable manner and form as may best appear unto
the gentry, by the Which they shall move with God's grace to attain unto
honour and worship, have desired and prayed me, the said King of Arms, that I,
by the power and
THE FREEMASON AT WORK
Arms of the Masons Company as
stamped on the covers of the
MS. Account and Court Books.
authority and by the King's
good grace to me in that behalf committed should devise A Cognisance of Arms
for the said Craft and fellowship which they and their successors might boldly
and dutifully occupy, challenge and enjoy for ever more, without any prejudice
or rebuke of any estate or gentlemen of this Realm. At the instance and
request of whom, I, the said King of Arms, taking respect and consideration
unto the goodly intent and disposition of the said Craft and fellowship, have
devised for them and their successors the Arms following, that is to say,
A field of Sable, a Chevron of
Silver, 1 grailed, three Castles of the same, garnished with doors
and windows of the field,
In the Chevron, a Compass of
Black, which Arms, I of my said power and authority, have appointed, given and
granted to, and for, the said Craft and fellowship and their successors. And
by these my present Letters, appoint, give and grant unto them the same, To
have, challenge, occupy and enjoy, without any prejudice, or impeachment, for
whereof, I, the said King of Arms, to these presents have set my seal of Arms,
with my sign Manual.
Given at London,
the year of the Reign of King Edward the fourth, after the Conquest the xijth.
Clarenceux Kings of Arms
1 Note: it is a chevron, not a square.
16 THE FREEMASON AT
This document gives us the earliest description of the design in
black and silver, and, since 1472, the Arms reappear regularly - with
occasional minor modification - in all sorts of Masonic documents. Many of the
earliest versions of the MS. Constitutions, or Old Charges, from the 16th
century onwards have the Arms emblazoned at their head. They are depicted in
Stow's Survey of London, 1633, and we find them on tombstones, stained glass
windows, and in architectural decoration, all over England. They are also
depicted in the frieze of Arms of the City Companies which decorate the walls
of Guildhall in London.
The original Grant contained no motto, and the earliest record of
a motto attached to the Arms appears on the tomb of William Kerwin, dated
1594, in St. Helen's Church, Bishopsgate. It reads:
`God Is Our Guide'
Company, indeed, has no authorized motto, but since the early 17th century, it
appears to have used the words:
`In The Lord Is All Our Trust'
OF THE FIRST GRAND LODGE 1717‑1813
There is evidence that the
premier Grand Lodge, founded in 1717, began to use the Masons' Company's Arms
soon after its foundation, though the early minute books are silent on this
subject. In 1729‑30, Thomas, 8th Duke of Norfolk, became Grand Master and,
during his term of office, he presented to the Grand Lodge the Sword of State
which is now borne in procession in Grand Lodge. Its silver‑gilt hilt and
mountings and the scabbard were made in 1730 by George Moody, the Royal
Armourer, who was the first Sword‑bearer of Grand Lodge, and the scabbard
bears, inter alia, a reproduction of the Arms of the Masons' Company.
Despite the absence of any official record of the Arms being
adopted by the Moderns' Grand Lodge, it was certainly using the `Three
Castles, Chevron and Compass' as the central theme of its Seal before 1813,
and a less ornate version as its `Office Seal'. Both are illustrated in
Gould's History, 1951 edn., vol. II, fac. p. 275.
OF THE `ANTIENTS' GRAND LODGE 1751‑1813
Ancient and Honourable Society of Free and Accepted Masons according to the
Old Institutions was founded in London in July 1751. At that time it consisted
of only six Lodges with a total membership of
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eighty Brethren. They were mainly artisans, tailors, shoemakers and painters
`of an honest Character but in low Circumstances'; many of them were
immigrants from Ireland or of Irish extraction.
In 1752, Laurence Dermott became their Grand Secretary and he held
that office until 1771 when he became Deputy Grand Master. He was already Past
Master of a Dublin Lodge and a recent immigrant from Ireland, originally a
journeyman painter, but later a successful wine merchant. A man of some
education and a born leader, he compiled Ahiman Rezon, the first Book of
Constitutions of the new Grand Lodge and published it in 1756. Boasting always
of their adherence to the `old System free from innovation' they soon became
known as the `Antients' and they thrived.
Arms of the Antients' Grand
The Arms of the Antients made their first appearance as the
frontispiece to the 1764 edition of Ahiman Rezon, in which Dermott
explained their origin at length:
18 THE FREEMASON AT
N.B. The free
masons arms in the upper part of the frontis piece of this book, was found in
the collection of the famous and learned hebrewist, architect and brother,
Rabi Jacob Jehudah Leon. This gentleman . . . built a model of Solomon's
temple . . . This model was exhibited to public view ... at Paris and Vienna,
and afterwards in London, ... At the same time ... (he) . . . published a
description of the tabernacle and the temple,:. . I had the pleasure of
perusing and examining both these curiosities. The arms are emblazoned thus,
quarterly per squares, counterchanged Vert. In the first quarter Azure a lyon
rampant Or, in the second quarter Or, an ox passant sable; in the third
quarter Or, a man with hands erect, proper robed, crimson and ermin; in the
fourth quarter Azure, an eagle displayed Or. Crest, the holy ark of the
covenant, proper, supported by Cherubims. Motto, Kodes la Adonai, i.e.,
Holiness to the Lord.
... Spencer says,
the Cherubims had the face of a man, the wings of an eagle, the back and mane
of a lion, and the feet of a calf.
... Ezekiel says,
. . . a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle.
... Bochart says,
that they represented the nature and ministry of angels, by the lion's form is
signified their strength, generosity and majesty; by that of the ox, their
constancy and assiduity in executing the commands of God; by their human shape
their humanity and kindness; and by that of the eagle, their agility and
It seems probable that Rabbi Leon had indeed sketched designs more
or less related to this one which Dermott had adapted, but Leon cannot have
designed the Motto, which was printed in faulty Hebrew.
The Masonic significance of the design (apart from the
working‑tools at its foot) is closely related to the Royal Arch, and this was
emphasized by Dermott's closing words on the subject: As these were the arms
of the masons that built the tabernacle and the temple, there is not the least
doubt of their being the proper arms of the ... fraternity of free and
accepted masons, and the continual practice, formalities and tradition, in all
regular lodges, from the lowest degree to the most high, i.e., The Holy Royal
Arch, confirms the truth hereof.
OF THE UNITED GRAND LODGE
After 1751, the Antients' and
Moderns' Grand Lodges existed side by side, not always without display of
intense rivalry. In the late 1700s, however, there were many prominent Masons
who held high rank in both bodies and in the early 1800s efforts were being
made, behind the scenes, to effect a union. Eventually, and with the help of
three Royal Brothers, all sons of George III, the negotiations proved
successful and the Union took place in December 1813.
The Arms of the United Grand Lodge of England were a combination
of the Arms of the Antients and Moderns, preserving the best features
THE FREEMASON AT
Arms of the United Grand Lodge
By courtesy of the Board of
and the Hebrew inscription was corrected. In 1919, the shield was enhanced by
a wide border bearing eight lions, suggesting the Arms of England and marking
the long association of King Edward VII and many other members of the Royal
Family with the Craft.
10. L.F. ACROSS THE LODGE
Why do we tell the Candidate in the First Deg. to `Place your left foot
across the Lodge and your r . . . f . . ., etc., heel to heel,' with similar
but reverse procedure in the second? They seem to be awkward postures for the
Cand. while he listens to the W.M.'s exhortation.
This is a survival from the time (probably before 1813) when it was customary
to have the rough and smooth ashlars on the floor of the
20 THE FREEMASON AT
the N.E. and S.E. corners, and not on the Wardens' pedestals, where they
usually lie nowadays.
At the proper moment the Cand. was required to place his feet so
that they formed a square on two sides of the ashlar, thus:
The S.E. corner
The ashlars in the N.E. and
S.E. corners, as shown in our sketch, are still to be seen there in many of
our old English lodges, but rather rarely in London, where we have succumbed
to modern customs. The postures, however, are still in use in most English
lodges (not in all of them) even when the ashlars rest on the Wardens'
The reason for the postures is, undoubtedly, purely symbolical and
it can best be explained in the words of a writer (Fort Newton, I believe) who
said that we enter the Craft in order `to build spiritual Temples within
ourselves'. When we stand at the N.E. or S.E. corners to hear the exhortation
from the W.M., we are participating in the dedication of our own spiritual
There appears to be no satisfactory explanation for the awkward
posture. It could be avoided, of course, if the Cand. stands facing E., or if
the W.M. comes on to the floor for the exhortation.
It has been suggested that in earlier times, the N.E. and S.E.
positions were at the immediate right and left of the W.M., so that the
Candidates standing at those positions would have been more comfortably placed
than they are today. The fact is that most of these procedures are inherited
practices and we tend to preserve them, even when the reasons that gave rise
to them are lost in the mists of time.
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11. RAISING AND LOWERING THE WARDENS' COLUMNS
Why do the Wardens in a Craft Lodge raise and lower their Columns? The usual
explanations in the Lectures, etc., seem trivial, in view of the importance
many Brethren seem to place on the Columns being moved at the right time and
placed in the right position.
To find an acceptable answer to this question, we have to go back to early
ritual. There was a time in 18th century English practice when both Wardens
stood (or sat) in the West; this is confirmed by a passage in Masonry
Where stands your Wardens?
In the West.
Incidentally there are several Masonic jurisdictions in Europe
which retain this ancient practice; but some time between 1730 and 1760 there
is evidence that the J.W. had moved to the South, as shown in Three Distinct
Knocks, 1760, and J. & B., 1762, both using identical words: Mas. Who doth the
Pillar of Beauty represent? Ans. The Junior Warden in the South.
The business of raising and lowering the Wardens' Columns made its
first appearance in England in Three Distinct Knocks, in which we have the
earliest description of the procedure for `Calling Off' from labour to
refreshment and `Calling On'. The `Call‑Off' procedure was as follows:
The Master whispers to the
senior Deacon at his Right‑hand, and says, 'tis my Will and Pleasure that this
Lodge is called off from Work to Refreshment during Pleasure; then the senior
Deacon carries it to the senior Warden, and whispers the same Words in his
Ear, and he whispers it in the Ear of the junior Deacon at his Right‑hand, and
he carries it to the junior Warden and whispers the same to him, who declares
it with a loud Voice, and says it is our Master's Will and Pleasure, that this
Lodge is called from Work to Refreshment, during Pleasure;
At this point we find the
earliest description of the raising and lowering of the columns and the reason
for this procedure.
then he sets up
his Column, and the senior lays his down; for the Care of the Lodge is in the
Hands of the junior Warden while they are at Refreshment.
N.B. The senior
and junior Warden have each of them a Column in their Hand, about Twenty
Inches long, which represents the Two Columns of the Porch at Solomon's
Temple, BOAZ and JACHIN.
J. & B.
gives almost identical details throughout.
22 THE FREEMASON AT
Unfortunately, apart from the exposures, there are very few
Masonic writings that deal with the subject of the Wardens' Columns during the
18th and early 19th centuries. Preston, in several editions of his
Illustrations, 1792‑1804, in the section dealing with Installation, allocates
the Columns to the Deacons [sic]. It is not until the 1804 edition that he
speaks of the raising of the Columns, and then only in a footnote, as follows:
When the work of Masonry in
the lodge is carrying on, the Column of the Senior Deacon is raised; when the
lodge is at refreshment the Column of the Junior Deacon is raised. [There is
no mention of `lowering'.]
in the Investiture of the Deacons, Preston had said:
Those columns, the badges of
your office, I entrust to your care .. .
Knowing, as we do, that the Columns had belonged to the Wardens
since 1760, at least, and that many of the Craft lodges did not appoint
Deacons at all, Preston's remarks in the extracts above, seem to suggest that
he was attempting an innovation (in which he was certainly unsuccessful).
The next evidence on the subject comes from the Minutes of the
Lodge of Promulgation, which show that in their work on the Craft ritual in
readiness for the union of the two rival Grand Lodges, they considered `the
arrangements of the Wardens' Columns' on 26 January 1810, but they did not
record their decision. We know, however, that most of our present‑day
practices date back to the procedures which that Lodge recommended and which
were subsequently adopted' - with occasional amendments - and prescribed by
its successor, the Lodge of Reconciliation. It is thus virtually certain that
our modern working in relation to the raising and lowering of the Columns was
then adopted, following the 1760 pattern, not only for `Calling Off and On'
but also for Opening and Closing generally.
Up to this point we have been dealing with facts; but on the
specific questions as to why the Columns are raised and lowered, or why the
care of the Lodge is the responsibility of the J.W. while the Brethren refresh
themselves, we must resort to speculation.
In the operative system, c. 1400, when the Lodge was a workshop
and before Lodge furniture was standardized, there was only one Warden. His
duty was to keep the work going smoothly, to serve as a mediator in disputes
and to see that `every brother had his due'. We have documentary evidence of
this in the Regius and Cooke MSS of c. 1390 and c. 1410, and this idea
apparently persisted into the Speculative system
THE FREEMASON AT
S.W.'s duty in 1730 now included closing the Lodge and `paying the men their
But in the Speculative system there were two Wardens, with the
Senior, by ancient tradition, in charge of the Lodge (or the Brn.) while at
work. It seems likely that in order to find a corresponding job for the J.W.,
he was put in charge of the Lodge (or the Brn.) while at refreshment.
There was no mention of Wardens' Columns, or procedures relating
to them, in the exposures of 1730 or earlier. We may assume therefore that
they were a more or less recent introduction in the period between 1730 and
1760, that the `raising and lowering' procedures came into practice at about
the same time and were subsequently authorized at the Union in 1813.
The 1760 explanation is still in use today. It may seem
inadequate, but that is invariably the case with such problems as `one up and
one down', left‑foot, right‑foot', left‑knee, right‑knee', etc., because each
interpretation has to give a satisfactory explanation for a particular
procedure and for the reverse of that procedure, which is virtually
impossible. The only satisfying explanation in this case is the simplest of
all, i.e., the procedure was laid down to mark a distinction between the Lodge
when open, and when it is closed or `Called Off'.
During the 18th century, there is ample evidence that much of the
Lodge work was conducted at table, punctuated by `Toasts' and drinking, while
the Lodge was still Open. If the Lodge was `Called Off', while a meal (as
distinct from liquid refreshment) was to be taken, and the Brethren remained
in their seats at table, then some signal - recognizable at a glance - would
have to be shown, to indicate whether the Lodge was at work, or at
refreshment. (I am indebted to Bro. Colin Dyer for this final paragraph, which
emphasizes the practical reasons for Columns up, and down.)
12. ORIENTATION OF THE BIBLE AND OF THE SQUARE AND COMPASSES
Should the Bible be placed so that it can be read by the W.M., or the
This question would not arise in Ireland, Scotland, U.S.A., or in the many
jurisdictions which have their Altars at a distance from the W.M., usually in
the middle of the lodge. In such cases the V.S.L. is
24 THE FREEMASON AT
arranged to face the Candidate, i.e., so that it can be read from the West.
In English Masonic practice, however, the Master's pedestal is, in
most cases, the Altar, so that when a Candidate is taking his Obligation, both
are near enough to the Holy Book to be able to read it; hence the question.
In all regular Masonic jurisdictions the V.S.L. is an essential
part of the lodge while it is in session; but in English practice there is no
official rule as to which way it should be turned. My own view is that it does
not matter at all which way the Bible is facing on a night when the Brethren
are listening to a lecture, or when the lodge is conducting business without a
Candidate. But on a night when a Candidate is to be obligated, the question
becomes vastly more important.
Under English Masonic law, our lodges are required to provide for
each Candidate that particular version of Holy Writ which belongs to his
faith. The precise words are extremely interesting and will bear repetition:
4. The Bible, referred to by
Freemasons as the Volume of the Sacred Law, is always open in the Lodges.
Every Candidate is required to take his Obligation on that book or on the
Volume which is held by his particular creed to impart sanctity to an oath or
promise taken upon it.' (Aims and Relationships of the Craft, 1949)
A similar regulation, adopted
in 1929, is still in force, although it omits the alternative:
3. That all Initiates shall
take their Obligation on or in full view of the open Volume of the Sacred Law,
by which is meant the revelation from above which is binding on the conscience
of the particular individual who is being initiated.'
(Basic Principles For Grand
Lodge Recognition, 1929.)
This means that for a Jew we
must provide an Old Testament; for a Mohammedan, a Koran; for a Hindu, a
Bhagvada Gita, etc., etc. It might well happen that a Mohammedan or a Hindu,
to avoid embarrassment, would say `Don't worry; a New Testament will do just
as well'. If we allowed that, we would be compounding a Masonic felony! We are
bound to obligate him on the Holy Book which is sacred to his faith. In the
best sense of the words it will be his Book and there can be no doubt that,
for the Obligations, at least, the Book should be so arranged that he can
easily recognize and read it.
1 Author's italics.
THE FREEMASON AT WORK
For those who would like to
have an official example as a check on their own practice, in our own Grand
Lodge of England the V.S.L. is always opened facing westwards, with the points
of the Compasses towards the foot of the page.
It may be interesting at this point to observe the procedure in
two other jurisdictions:
Bro. G. L. Austin, Local
Secretary for Q.C. in New Zealand, writes: In the New Zealand Ritual there is
a rubric instructing that the Volume shall be placed `... so as to be read
from the E ', i.e., it faces the W.M. It is the custom of the
Lodges in this Constitution to present to each newly raised Candidate a copy
of the V.S.L. This copy measures about 6 in. x 4 in. It is placed between the
large Volume and the Candidate in all three Degrees, and most Masters place it
so that it may be read from the W., i.e., by the Candidate. He uses the same
Volume for each Degree and seals his Ob. on the small Book, which is presented
to him after Raising.
Bro. R. E. Parkinson writes:
In Ireland the V.S.L. rests on the Altar in the middle of the Lodge Room, and
it is placed so as to be read by the Candidate. In the Grand Lodge Room in
Dublin, and in some old Lodges (including my own, No. 367, in Downpatrick),
each of the principal officers also has a copy on his pedestal, and one of
these should always be open, i.e., as the J.W. declares the Lodge open he
closes his copy: the S.W. and W.M. in turn open theirs. Similarly, at closing,
the J.W. opens his copy, and the S.W. and W.M. close theirs in turn.
There is another aspect of the use of the V.S.L. which may have a
bearing on our problem. A number of our old documents contain de‑tails of the
manner in which the Obligation was administered. In many of the Old Charges,
we find an instruction, often in Latin, which runs:
Then one of the Seniors holds
the book and he or they [that are to be admitted] put their hands upon the
book while the Charges ought to be read.
(Translated from the Thorp MS., c. 1629, AQC, Vol. 11,
The Beaumont MS., c.
1690, precedes this instruction with a heading:
The Mannor of
taking an Oath att the Making free Masons.
But the Old Charges do not say which way the `book' was
The Edinburgh Register House MS., 1696, and its two sister
texts, furnish different details:
Imprimis you are to take the
person to take the word [i.e., the Mason Word] upon his knees and after a
great many ceremonies to frighten him you make him take up the bible and
laying his right hand on it you are to conjure him to sec[r]ecie . . .
[followed by the form of the oath].
26 THE FREEMASON AT
It is clear that the Candidate lifted the Bible, holding it in or
on his left hand, with his right hand upon it and it would seem safe to assume
that he held the Book so that he could read it, not upside‑down.
Yet another method is described in Prichard's Masonry Dissected,
1730. The catechism indicates that the Candidate was shewn `how to walk up (by
three steps) to the Master' and the Candidate's posture for the Obligation is
described as follows:
With my bare‑bended Knee and
Body within the Square, the Compass extended to my naked Left Breast, my naked
Right Hand on the Holy Bible; there I took the Obligation .. .
The Mason's Confession (published in 1755‑6, but claiming to
de‑scribe the ceremony of c. 1727) gives an unusual posture:
... the open compasses pointed
to his breast, and his bare elbow on the Bible with his hand lifted up; and he
swears .. .
Later, in the same text, we find:
After the oath, a word in the
scriptures was shewed me, which, said one, is the mason‑word. The word is in I
Kings vii. 21 .. .
Since the Candidate was invited to read the passage, we may fairly
conclude that the V.S.L. was placed facing him.
It has been suggested that in the earlier years of Speculative
Masonry under the premier Grand Lodge, the Bible on the Master's pedestal
would be arranged to face him, as `the source of light and instruction', and
that the Antients generally administered the Obligation in the West, with the
Bible resting between the Candidate's hands. Both practices were certainly in
use, but there are two important and influential exposures which show that
there was no such clear‑cut distinction.
Three Distinct Knocks, 1760, which claimed to describe the
practice of the Antients, contained a diagram showing that the Candidate took
his Obligation facing the Master, but standing just one pace in front of the
S.W. in the West, and the posture is described in excellent detail, as
... my left Knee bare bent, my
Body upright, my right Foot forming a Square, my naked right Hand upon the
Holy Bible, with the Square and Compass thereon, my Left‑Hand supporting the
same; .. .
It is virtually certain that in this posture, in the West and away
from the Master's pedestal, the V.S.L. was held by the Candidate so that he
could read it.
J. & B. was first published in 1762, claiming to represent
Moderns' practice, but on this point the rival procedures are word‑for‑word
THE FREEMASON AT
documents were exposures, not official publications, and despite their
apparent uniformity there can be no doubt that other forms were in use. The
best evidence for this is in Wm. Preston's First Lecture of Free Masonry,
which describes the body and knee positions as in Three Distinct Knocks, but
right hand voluntarily laid on
the Holy Law, left hand either supporting the Law [i.e., the V.S.L.] or
holding the compasses in the form of a square and one point extended at the n
. . . . 1 . . . b . . .
(AQC, Vol. 82, p. 125.)
Preston's First Lecture is the
only version I have been able to trace which gives full sanction to both forms
and shows that both were in general use.
Browne's Master Key, 1802, had the left hand supporting the
Compasses, and that posture seems to have been adopted at the union of the
Grand Lodges; but no regulation was made as to the orientation of the V.S.L.,
and there is not a single document that affords instruction on that point.
These notes are not intended to conflict with established
practice, or with any particular working that contains a ruling on the
subject. Unfortunately, most of our modern workings fail to provide any such
One final note; whichever way the Bible faces, the Compass points
must always be towards the foot of the page. Otherwise, something is
13. THE POINTS OF FELLOWSHIP
Are the Points of Fellowship of operative or speculative origin? Did they
have any kind of symbolic explanation when they first appeared?
The Points of Fellowship make their first appearance in Masonic documents in
1696, some twenty years before the creation of the first Grand Lodge and long
before there is any real evidence of Speculative Freemasonry. They appear
during the next thirty‑five years in a number of documents from different
parts of Britain, suggesting that they were widely known among masons long
before the date of the first version, 1696.
There is a particular attraction in trying to trace the old
practices of the Craft, not merely for their antiquity, but because it is so
28 THE FREEMASON AT
to see how far they differed from modern procedures and to notice,
occasionally, their close resemblance.
The `Points' are described for the first time in the Edinburgh
Register House MS., in a section which relates to the ceremony for the `master
mason or fellow craft', which was the second degree in the two‑degree system,
at a time when only two degrees were known to the Craft. The text at one stage
speaks of `... the posture [in which] he is to receive the word . . .'
Elsewhere, there are two questions:
1. Are you a fellow craft?
2. How many points of the fellowship are ther?
fyve viz. foot to foot Knee to Kn[ee] Heart to Heart, Hand to Hand and ear to
ear .. .
There are six texts in all, from 1696 to c. 1727, which have the
five Points in exactly the same detail as those described above, but the last
of them, `A Mason's Confession', which claims to record the practice in a
Scottish operative lodge in 1727, begins `Hand to Hand . . .' and two of them
speak of `proper Points' without any mention of Points of Fellowship.
There are, moreover, two texts in which the procedure consists of
six Points, instead of five, i.e., The `Mason's Examination', which was the
first printed exposure, published in a London newspaper in 1723:
How many Points be there in Fellowship?
Six; Foot to Foot, Knee to Knee, Hand to Hand, Ear to Ear, Tongue to Tongue,
Heart to Heart.
Grand Mystery Laid Open,
a folio broadsheet, printed in 1726, speaks of six `Spiritual Signs':
What are these Signs, The
first is Foot to Foot, the second is Knee to Knee, the third is Breast to
Breast, the fourth is Hand to Back, the fifth is Cheek to Cheek, the sixth is
Face to Face.
The Graham MS., 1726, does not mention Points of
Fellowship, but in its description of the raising of Noah (the earliest
raising in a Masonic context) it lists five items, including the `hand to
... and suported it [the
corpse] setting ffoot to ffoot knee to knee Breast to breast Cheeck to cheeck
and hand to back . . .
In addition to all these versions, there are three early
descriptions of postures which seem to be related to the Points of Fellowship,
though it is obvious that the writers were ignorant of precise details:
THE FREEMASON AT WORK
Standing close With their
Breasts to each other the inside of each others right Ancle Joynts the masters
grip by their right hands and the top of their Left hand fingers thurst
[thrust?] close on ye small of each others Backbone ... till they whisper , .
(Sloane MS. 3329, c. 1700.)
The Trinity College, Dublin,
MS. dated 1711, contains the shortest and most amusing version, described as
`The Masters sign':
Squeese the Master by ye back
bone, put your knee between his, & say ..
The third of these postures is a much more complex affair. It
appears in the `Mason's Examination', of 1723, which, as noted above, also
contains a `six Points' version:
To know a Mason privately, you
place your Right Heel to his Right Instep, put your Right Arm over his Left,
and your Left under his Right, and then make a Square with your middle Finger,
from his Left Shoulder to the middle of his Back, and so down to his Breeches.
One further version of the Points must be included here, from
Samuel Prichard's Masonry Dissected, 1730, because it was then, for the first
time, embodied in the third degree and directly linked with a Hiramic legend:
Hand to Hand, Foot to Foot, Cheek to Cheek, Knee to Knee, and Hand in Back.
As to the question of explanation of the Points, the late Bro.
Douglas Knoop, in his Prestonian Lecture on `The Mason Word', discussed
possible sources and cited three Biblical examples `of miraculous restoration
to life . . . by . . . complete coincidence between the living and dead';
[Elijah, in 1 Kings, xvii, 17 - 23; Elisha, in 2 Kings, iv, 34 - 35; St. Paul,
Acts, xx, 9 - 12]. He concluded:
It is thus not impossible that
the original stories of Noah and Hiram may have been those of attempts to
restore these men to life, because their secrets had died with them. (See
Collected Prestonian Lectures, pp. 255/6. Pub]. by the Q.C. Lodge, 1965.)
It is strange that none of the
early texts up to 1730 contains a single word of explanation of the Points and
this applies equally to the Graham MS., 1726, and Masonry Dissected, 1730, in
both of which the Points were linked to legends. It was not until the 1760s,
when a whole new stream of English exposures began to appear, that we find
explanations attached to each of the Points. They are reproduced here as the
earliest known version, from Three Distinct Knocks, which appeared in 1760:
Mas[ter] ... Pray will you
Ans. 1st. Hand in
Hand is, that I always will put forth my Hand to serve a Brother as far as
lies in my power.
30 THE FREEMASON AT
2d. Foot to Foot
is, that I will never be afraid to go a Foot out of my way to serve a Brother.
3d. Knee to Knee
is, that when I kneel down to Prayers, I ought never to forget to pray for my
Brother as well as myself.
4th. Breast to
Breast, is to show I will keep my Brother's secrets as my own.
5th. The Left‑hand supporting
the Back, is that I will always be willing to support a Brother as far as lies
in my power.
We are fortunate in being able to compare these ancient practices
of nearly 300 years ago with our modern procedures. They were certainly of
operative origin, but their speculative symbolism arose in the 18th century.
14. THE SECOND PART OF THE THREEFOLD SIGN
Is it the Sn. of Prayer or Perseverance? I believe that the vast majority of
modern rituals use the term `perseverance', though it is difficult to see why
that word was adopted.
In Exodus xvii, v. 8 - 13, we have the source to which the sign is most
frequently attributed. The story tells of the Israelites in battle with the
Amalekites, on the road to the Promised Land. Moses climbed to the top of the
hill looking down on the battle, and `when Moses held up his hand . . . Israel
prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed'. Later, both his
hands were supported until victory was won and, although the word `prayer' is
not mentioned during this incident, there is little doubt that the posture,
one hand or two, was a posture of prayer.
In the description of the origins of this particular sign, there
are several English rituals which refer to the sun standing still and
continuing the `light of day' etc. The rubrics in these rituals usually refer
this incident, correctly, to Joshua, x, v. 6 - 14; but it is difficult to see
in what way it is related to the sign. A careful reading of the text shows
that Joshua spoke, or prayed, to God, and he [Joshua] commanded the sun `to
stand still', i.e., to continue the light of day etc. There is positively no
mention of a sign, and no hint that he made any kind of sign.
A third famous case of hands lifted in prayer is in I Kings viii,
v. 22, when Solomon `spread forth his hands toward heaven' at the dedication
of his Temple, and again in v. 54, when he arose `from kneeling on his knees
with his hands spread up to heaven'. There is no clue to the idea of
`perseverance' in any of these cases.
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Many of the Provincial
workings do not use the word `perseverance' as the distinctive name of the
sign in question, but call it the Sn. of Prayer, and the emergence of the sign
is a problem in itself. There is an unusual note in `A Mason's Confession'
(published in 1755 - 6, but claiming to describe the practices of c. 1727)
which describes the Candidate's posture for the E.A. Obligation thus:
... the open compasses pointed
to his breast, and his bare elbow on the Bible with his hand lifted up;
This seems to be a confusion
of two separate procedures, and it must be emphasized that a rather curious
sign which appears at a later stage in the text is not the sign in question,
nor is it named. (See E.M.C., pp. 100, 102.) The second part of the Threefold
Sign seems to have been quite late in coming into general practice, and the
earliest details I can find in our ritual documents are in Three Distinct
Knocks, 1760, and J. & B., 1762. Both texts indicate that it formed part of
the F.C. Candidate's posture while taking his Obligation, and later in the
ceremony he was entrusted with that part of the sign, though it did not yet
have its distinctive name.
Preston, in his Second Lecture of Free Masonry, was almost
certainly describing pre‑union practice when he used that sign as part of the
Candidate's posture, and in the subsequent catechism, he used the word
`perseverance', a title which probably came into use in the last two decades
of the 18th century. The Shadbolt MS. has `perseverance' as the name of the
sign. That text is now accepted as an early record of post‑union practice,
representing the ritual and procedures after the Lodge of Reconciliation had
made its final revisions.
Cartwright dealt with the title `Perseverance' at length (in his
Commentary on the Freemasonic Ritual, pp. 170 - 1); he believed that the
Emulation school introduced it in order to distinguish that sign from what
they call the Sn. of Prayer (i.e. the S. of F. with the thumb closed). We know
now that this was incorrect, because that name was already in use long before
the Emulation Lodge of Improvement came into existence, in 1823.
The customary definitions of `perseverance', i.e. `steadfast
pursuit of an aim' and `tenacious assiduity or endeavour' are very
appropriate, and they are supported by extracts from Preston's Second Lecture,
First Section, Clauses I and III. In the preliminaries to the Candidate's
admission for the F.C. Degree, (Cl. I) he is announced in a very long speech,
THE FREEMASON AT WORK
A Bro. Mason who
has been initiated into the First Degree of the Order, has behaved well,
served faithfully and is desirous of becoming more expert ...; that he, being
regularly proposed and approved by the Master . . . as a candidate for
preferment, honoured by them with the Test of Merit, properly prepared by
Craftsmen and comes of his own free will humbly to solicit, not to demand. the
secrets and privileges of the Second Degree as a reward for his past industry.
(Several phrases have been shown here in italics, only to draw
attention to Preston's emphasis on assiduity).
Later, in Cl. III, relating to
the entrusting, the text runs:
What is the first secret?
It is the three‑fold sign.
Give the first
part. Gives it [i.e. the Pen. Sn.]
To what does it allude?
To the penalty of the
Give the second
part. Gives it [i.e. the S. of F.]
To what does it refer?
To the fidelity of a
Give me the third
part. Gives it.
To what does it
To the perseverance of a
AQC, Vol. 83, pp. 202, 205.)
These two passages from
Preston's Lecture, when taken together, show that the word `perseverance',
which later became one of the names of that sign, was directly related to the
Candidate's behaviour, service, zeal and industry, so that the conferment of
the F.C. Degree was in fact a reward for `Perseverance'.
It seems a pity that these passages have disappeared from our
modern versions of the Lecture, and nowadays we describe the supposed Biblical
source of the sign, without adequate explanation of its name and meaning.
Finally, the $64,000 question, which was not posed in this
instance. Should the hand, when seen from the front, be seen flat, or
edgewise? This question arises constantly, especially from Brethren who have
witnessed both forms. Once again, there is no official ruling, and the
innumerable printed versions of the ritual afford no information on this
point. It is not possible, therefore, to determine that either version is
correct, or incorrect.
Dr. Cartwright held that `without doubt' the flat position was the
original, and he supported it with a quotation from the Bristol working, in
which the Master directs that the hand should be held p . . m to the f . . .
t. The Bristol working has never been published by any authorizing
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the instruction is an oral one; but the Bristol ritual is certainly one of the
oldest versions in continuous use in England, and on that ground alone it must
command attention. Many, if not most of the Provincial lodges follow Bristol
fashion; the London lodges generally show the hand edgewise, which Dr.
Cartwright described as an innovation.
As a Preceptor, I have taught the `edgewise' position for many
years, because my Mother Lodge inherited that practice, but I firmly believe
that the Bristol usage is much older, and probably more `correct'.
15. DIVIDED LOYALTIES?
THE SOVEREIGN PLACE OF
RESIDENCE - NATIVE LAND
The Charge in the First Degree under New South Wales Constitution has two
(possibly conflicting) principles expressed in one sentence:
... You are to pay obedience
to the laws of any country or state which may, even for a time, become your
place of residence, or afford you its protection; and, above all, let me
especially charge you never to forget the allegiance due to the ruler of your
native land, remembering that nature has implanted in your breast a sacred and
indissoluble attachment to the country whence you derived your birth and
Thus, on the one hand the Candidate is required to be a lawful
citizen of his place of residence and on the other to remember the allegiance
due to his native land and its ruler. Could you give me some guidance on the
emergence of the `lawful citizen' principle and the `infant nurture - native
The Mason's duty to be a law‑abiding citizen is drawn directly from Anderson's
Charge II of the `Charges of a Free‑Mason' under the heading Of the Civil,
MAGISTRATE supreme and subordinate, and with only minor modifications it
appears under the same headings in the English Book of Constitutions to this
A Mason is a peaceable Subject
to the Civil Powers, wherever he resides or works, and is never to be
concern'd in Plots and Conspiracies against the Peace and Welfare of the
Nation nor behave himself undutifully to inferior Magistrates . .
(Anderson's B. of C., 1723.
In the State, a
Mason is to behave as a peaceable and dutiful Subject, conforming cheerfully
to the Government under which he lives . . .
(Smith's Pocket Companion, 1735 `Charge to
. . . new Brethren'.)
34 THE FREEMASON AT
... He is cheerfully to conform to every lawful authority .. .
C., U.G.L. of England, p. 4, 1970.)
As to the question on loyalty
and duty to your native land, loyalty to the King is one of the oldest
injunctions in the Craft. The earliest surviving version of the Old Charges,
the Regius MS. of c. 1390, prescribed (word for word in modern spelling):
And to his liege lord the King
To be true to him over all
The Cooke MS. of c. 1410:
... and they shall be true to
the King of England and the realm .. .
and loyalty to the King, without treason or treachery, is
prescribed in every version of the Old Charges - often as part of the
candidate's composite obligation of loyalty to the King, his Masters and
I suggest it was the Cooke MS., c. 1410, which first drew
attention to the mason's duty to his native land with its reference to the
`King of England and the realm . . .' and Anderson implied much the same in
his reference to the `Welfare of the Nation . . .' quoted above.
It was Preston in his 1796 Illustrations who added to the `loyalty
to sovereign and country' the new idea:
... yielding obedience to the
laws which afford you protection, and never forgetting the attachment you owe
to the spot where you first drew breath .. .
In his 1801 edition, Preston rearranged his words without
... never forgetting the
attachment you owe to the place of your nativity, or the allegiance due to the
sovereign and protectors of that spot.
The 1804 English edition and the 1st American edition published in
that year had the same wording as in 1801. Likewise the 1821 edition, which
was published three years after Preston's death, and Dr. Oliver's editions of
1829 and 1840 retained those words unchanged.
The change to our present wording seems to have made its first
appearance in print in Richard Carlile's exposure, The Republican, dated
Friday, 8 July 1825:
... and, above all, by never
losing sight of the allegiance due to the Sovereign of your native land: ever
remembering that nature has implanted in your breast a sacred and indissoluble
attachment to that country, from which you derived your infant birth and
nurture . . .
When this question was first posed to me in 1962, it dealt
specifically with possible conflict of loyalties and the examples then quoted
included Englishmen resident in America during the War of Independence, or
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residing in any country that might be at war with their native land. I found
that difficult to answer, since the early versions of our Charges and later
Masonic Regulations etc., apparently did not envisage emigration.
If I dare to answer now with a little more confidence than before,
it is only because I am quite sure that in such a conflict of loyalties the
Mason's duty must be first of all to the land in which he resides and which
`affords him protection'.
16. SQUARING THE LODGE
In our working, we square the lodge; but I have visited lodges in which that
is not done. Why do we square the lodge?
It is almost certain that the practice arose unintentionally. In the early
1730s, the `lodge', i.e. the Tracing Board, was drawn on the floor, usually
within a border, or else the `floor‑cloth' (then just coming into use) was
rolled out in the middle of the floor. In the small tavern rooms which were
the principal places of meeting there cannot have been much space left for
traversing the lodge and, if the `drawing' or `floor‑cloth' was to be
protected, a certain amount of squaring was inevitable. Of course, it was not
the `heel‑clicking' type of precise squaring, but simply a natural caution to
avoid disturbing or spoiling the design.
There is a minute, dated 1734, of the Old King's Arms Lodge, now
No. 28, which mentions `the Foot Cloth made use of at the Initiation of new
members', but the earliest pictures of `floor‑cloths' in use, are dated 1744,
and they show fairly large designs laid out to cover most of the floor of a
small lodge room, with all the Brethren grouped around. Looking at those
engravings, one can see that squaring was almost obligatory. (See illustration
on p. ii.) The earliest record I can find describing perambulations round the
`floor‑cloth' is in Reception d'un Frey‑Macon, 1737, which says that the
... made to take three tours
in the Chamber, around a space marked on the Floor, where . . . at the two
sides of this space they have also drawn in crayon a great J. & a great B. . .
(E.F.E., p. 6.)
Most workings nowadays square
the Lodge, clockwise, during the ceremonies, but the exaggerated squaring,
which requires all movements to be made clockwise round the floor of the Lodge
and forbids crossing
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diagonally even during ordinary business, probably arose in the mid‑1800s. The
word exaggerated is used deliberately here, because the practice is often
carried to extremes, which are a waste of valuable time.
I cite only one example; there are many more:
In English Lodges the
Secretary sits on the N. side of the Lodge, facing the J.W. in the S. The S.D.
sits in the N.E. corner and, after the minutes have been read and confirmed,
it is his duty to collect the Minute‑book from the Secretary's desk, some ten
feet away (anti‑clockwise), and take it to the W.M. for signature. Then, to
take the book back to the Secretary and return to his own place. All perfectly
neat and simple; but in lodges that worship the clockwise procedure, this
would not be permitted. The S.D. must cross the lodge from N.E. to S.E., then
down to the J.W. in the South, then cross again, South to North, to take the
book from the Secretary's table and lastly, with the book, to the W.M. After
the W.M. has signed the Minutes, the S.D. is still only ten or twelve feet
away from the Secretary's table, but he is not allowed to walk there
anti‑clockwise; he must do the whole tour again!The S.D. may look like a demi‑god
and march like a guardsman, but the whole business is still tedious and a
waste of time.
The practice of squaring is wholly admirable, because it adds much
to the dignity of the ceremonies, so long as it is not carried to extremes.
17. THE WINDING STAIRS
In Craft Masonry all movements are made clockwise, `with the sun', but in the
Second Degree, the five steps up the Winding Stairs are made anti‑clockwise.
There is an exaggeration in this question, which demands comment. The
clockwise procedure is custom, not law, even in those Lodges where clockwise
movements have become a fetish.
In English Lodges, the Altar is in the East, forming a pedestal in
front of the W.M. When the Candidate in the Second Degree is led up to it to
take his Obligation, he is supposedly copying our ancient Brethren who went
into the Temple by an entrance on the south side and made their way, by a
Winding Stair, to the `middle chamber', whose precise location is not
specified. But the majority of English workings relating to those steps start
the Candidate at the N.E., and lead him to the Altar in the East. In plain
fact, we are not even trying to copy the supposed ancient practice, and the
two procedures cannot be reconciled.
I have never seen an interpretation of the `Winding Stairs' in
K.S.T. which proves that they rose clockwise or anti‑clockwise, and although
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38 THE FREEMASON AT
customs in such matters should not be changed lightly, the objection to the
anti‑clockwise approach would be removed if the Cand. were to begin his
journey from a point in the middle of the floor, travelling clockwise towards
the Altar. This procedure is practised in many over‑seas jurisdictions,
especially in those which have their Altar in the centre of the lodge.
This question is closely connected with the illustrations of the
Wind‑ ing Stair on the Tracing Boards. A glance at the illustrations in
Dring's famous paper on Tracing Boards (AQC 29) shows the vast majority of the
Winding Stairs spring from left to right, i.e., anti‑clockwise. But Figures
25, 34, 36 and 56 all show the stairs springing clockwise, from right to left.
This is a problem that must have troubled many of the artists who designed the
Boards, as well as the students who followed them, and the relevant verses in
I Kings, vi, 5‑10, do not throw any light on this point.
Reverting to the clockwise fetish; it probably had its origins in
two quite separate sources:
1. An interest in the
movements of the sun (its rising, its meridian, and its setting) to be found
in many of our earliest versions of the ritual. These themes continue in our
ritual to this day and they certainly gave rise to our modern clockwise
2. The custom of `Drawing the Lodge' which led to the practice of
`squaring', as described in the preceding answer.
In the course of time, these two practices merged quite naturally,
and our modern ceremonies are all the better for this degree of uniformity
which is so much admired by our visitors from overseas.
18. PENALTIES IN THE OBLIGATIONS
What is the background to the penalties in the Obligations? Everyone knows
that they were never inflicted, but they must terrify the Candidates. Can
anything be done about them?
The question, as framed above, is a composite of questions and comments
received, following the publication in AQC Vol. 74, (1961), pp. 129‑133, of a
paper by the present writer, `The Obligation and its place in the ritual',
which traced the evolution of the mason's Obligation, from the earliest hint
of its existence, in c. 1390, down to 1730. A footnote to that paper made
reference to some well‑founded criticism of the Craft in relation to the
penalties, and applauding some useful
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modifications, then recently introduced in Scotland with permission of their
Grand Lodge. A number of comments came in, as usual, but the paper - which was
not intended to be more than a historical account of the Obligation - did not
arouse any unusual notice.
I shall try to deal, first, with the background to the penalties
and then with the steps that have been taken by the United Grand Lodge of
England in this matter.
It is not possible to discuss the penalties here in detail. They
were apparently borrowed from treason penalties that were current in England
in the 14th and 15th centuries and they seem to have been of rather late
introduction into the Craft ritual. The earliest ritual documents, for
example, 1696 - c.1710, indicate that there was a penalty (or penal sn.,) for
the E.A., but no others are mentioned. The Dumfries No. 4 MS., c. 1710, adds
several others, but it is not until 1730 that we find three lots of penalties
all embodied in the E.A. Obligation.
Thirty years later, in 1760, we have the earliest examples of
exposures containing separate Obligations for each degree, each of them with
the penalties of their time.
There is no shred of evidence that the penalties were ever
inflicted, though the Craft has often been attacked on the wholly unfounded
assumption that they were.
As to what can be done about them, a great deal has been done in
recent years, and that story - so far as English practice is concerned - forms
an interesting stage in the history of our ritual.
The most interesting comment on the `Obligation' paper noted
above, was in a letter dated 1 September 1962, from the Grand Master of the
Grand Lodge of Quebec, M.W. Bro. B. V. Atkinson, and it was reproduced in the
Q.C. Lodge Summons for October 1962: Apropos of your comments on the
Obligation and its place in the Ritual [AQC 74, p. 133], I thought you might
be interested in a development in respect of the penalties, as adopted by our
Grand Lodge at its meeting in June last. [See extract below.] You will note
that we have placed the physical and real penalties in proper relation to each
other, without eliminating the former from the obligation. Herein we are
following what I believe is the practice under the Irish Constitution.
I am extremely pleased that we have adopted this change in
wording, for I have felt for a long time that calling on the name of God, and
binding a solemn obligation in the terms of the physical penalty on the pages
of the Holy Bible, was nothing less than sacrilege.
I note that Scotland, too, has dealt with this matter, and
basically on the same premises, though in a somewhat different manner.
40 THE FREEMASON AT
[Extract relating to the E.A.]
These several points I
solemnly swear to observe, without evasion, equivocation, or mental
reservation of any kind, and, while bearing in mind the ancient symbolic
penalty of etc., etc. (here the I.G. impresses the symbolic penalty in the
usual way), binding myself under the real penalty on the violation of any of
them, of being branded a wilfully perjured individual, void of all moral
worth, and totally unfit . . . etc.
[Note, the F.C. and the M.M.
are instructed in similar fashion.]
Many years later, I heard that
in 1955, in response to an invitation from R.W. Bro. Sir Ernest Cooper, then
President of the Board of General Purposes, the Committee of the Emulation
Lodge of Improvement had submitted drafts of several different forms in which
the Obligations might be revised, but the Board did not recommend any action
and there was no mention of the matter in the Grand Lodge Proceedings. It
seemed as though the subject had died a natural death.
About a year after the publication of my own paper on `The
Obligation . . .' we had a visit at Q.C. headquarters from one of our much
respected and senior Past Masters, Bro. J. R. Rylands, of Wakefield, Yorks. He
came into my office, threw a paper on my desk, and smiling, said, `There you
are, Harry, and I dare you to print it'. I glanced at the title, `The Masonic
Penalties' and skimmed a few paragraphs and said, `I'll not only print it; I
am going to get you the biggest audience any Q.C. paper ever had'. A date was
fixed for the delivery of the paper in the Q.C. Lodge, 3 January 1964, and a
letter was sent to the Grand Secretary asking permission for advance proofs to
be sent to every member of the Board of General Purposes and to all the
Provincial Grand Masters.
Permission was granted and, in due course, copies were posted to
all those distinguished Brethren, with a special invitation to each of them to
attend the January meeting but, in case they were unable to be present, to
send their comments on the paper, which would be printed in full, with all the
comments, in the 1964 volume of AQC.
The synopsis of the paper could not fail to attract the attention
of every Freemason and it gives a very good idea of the author's approach to a
difficult and delicate subject:
Synopsis to `The Masonic
Penalties' by Bro. J. R. Rylands: Open to criticism; The legal position; Their
unreality; Penalties on the V.S.L.; Their `antiquity'; Their raison d'etre;
Their present place in the ritual; Symbolic significance; Practices elsewhere;
The Q.C. meeting on 3 January 1964 was one of the best‑attended
and most exciting within living memory. It was, as always, a distinguished
THE FREEMASON AT
gathering, honoured on this occasion by the presence of three Provincial Grand
Masters and three members of the Board of General Purposes. Despite
ill‑health, Bro. John Rylands attended and read the paper him‑self; his fine
resonant voice and expert delivery were additional high‑lights to that
memorable evening. The verbal comments that followed the paper were sufficient
to show a deep gulf in opinions, which ranged from the traditional die‑hard
view that the penalties must not be touched, to the opposite extreme, urging
their total abolition.
Written comments began to pour in. The original paper was quite a
short piece of only 4000 words. The comments, which included valuable
contributions from twelve Provincial Grand Masters, totalled 36,000 words! The
paper had become a best‑seller and it was actually reprinted three times
before it appeared in its final form, in AQC Vol. 77. Several attempts had
been made during the preceding decade to promote official action on the
penalties, but, for one reason or another, they had all come to nothing. Bro.
Rylands had designed his paper to side‑track former difficulties, and to lay
the points at issue before a world‑wide Masonic audience.
Precise details of the events of the next few months are not
available, but there was a major development in Grand Lodge, at the Quarterly
Communication on 10 June 1964, when the M.W. Grand Master announced, before
the close of business, that R.W. Bro. Bishop Herbert, Provincial Grand Master
for Norfolk, wished to address Grand Lodge `on a matter which has for some
time been exercising both his mind and the minds of other experienced Masons'.
The subject was the Masonic Penalties.
Bishop Herbert began his address with a generous tribute to the
manner in which the Quatuor Coronati Lodge had very well illustrated the many
aspects of the subject in its proceedings, and he gave notice that he was
going to move a Resolution at a future Communication of the Grand Lodge. He
then outlined the religious and ethical problems that were involved in the
penalties, especially from the point of view of a Candidate for Initiation
being called upon, `suddenly, without warning, . . . to repeat certain
statements about penalties which give him a moral shock . . .'. Underlining
his theme that the prime objection to the penalties was `a moral one, and,
therefore deserving of our sympathy' he continued:
I think that almost all of us
would welcome a removal of this cause of stumbling which is, incidentally, as
we know well, also a potent weapon in the hands of the adversary.
42 THE FREEMASON AT
He then explained, briefly, his own objections to any drastic
changes, which might cause controversy in the Craft, and suggested that a
small alteration of only a few words would have the desired effect, to which
change he would (in his Resolution) ask the Grand Lodge to give its approval
as a permissive variation. He read the details of the proposed change, to be
used in each of the three degrees, as follows:
In place of the words `under
no less a penalty on the violation of any of them than that of having' the
words `ever bearing in mind the ancient penalty on the violation of them, that
The attendance that day was an average one, 1136 in all, because
the subject of the Bishop's address was not on the Paper of Business and his
speech, being simply advance notice of a future Resolution, could not be
discussed that day. But the effect on the Brethren was electrifying, because
this was no longer an academic question, but would be of immediate importance
to all the 7000 lodges under English Constitution.
It proved impracticable for the Resolution to be put and discussed
at the Quarterly Communication in September, because the majority of the
English lodges having been in recess during the summer months, there had been
no time for proper discussion, and at the Bishop's re‑quest it was deferred
till 9 December 1964.
There was a `packed house' attendance in Grand Lodge on that day,
over 2100 in all (against an average of 1300). Every seat was occupied;
Brethren were sitting on the stairs and standing in the gangways. Some 200 or
more Brethren were left standing in the ante‑room outside the Grand Temple,
because there was no more room inside, and the main doors were left open so
that they could hear the debate.
The M.W. Grand Master, the Rt. Hon. the Earl of Scarbrough, K.G.,
was in the Chair and, after preliminary business had been completed, he opened
the Penalties Debate by outlining the order of procedure that he proposed to
follow, indicating that after the leaders on the Resolution and on several
Amendments had spoken, there were several members of Grand Lodge who had
notified the Grand Secretary of their desire to speak, and they would be
called in turn. After this, every Brother who wished to speak, would be given
an opportunity to do so.
R.W. Bro. Bishop Herbert, in opening the discussion, said it was
not necessary for him to repeat his former arguments, and he described, very
briefly, the scope and limitations of his Resolution. He noted wide
differences of views on the subject, ranging from those who found the
penalties wholly repugnant, to those who insisted that not one word should be
moved or altered. For the latter, he said that the Resolution
THE FREEMASON AT
intended for them and they need pay no attention to it. For all others who
found serious objections to it, for whatever reason, he emphasized that the
proposed changes of only a few words would re‑move a serious moral problem,
leaving the penalties in the Obligation simply by way of allusion to them, but
effectively excluding them from `what the candidate so solemnly swears to'. He
added that there would be some necessary consequential amendments, which could
be settled easily, since they would not involve any questions of principle.
Finally, for those who might feel that the Resolution did not go far enough,
he said `It's the first bite that counts'.
In the capacity of Secretary - Editor of the Q.C. Lodge, the
present writer had been invited, some days before, to second the Resolution
and his approach was from a different angle. Speaking of the fortunate
situation of the Craft in England, where it is virtually immune from the
scourge of anti‑Masonry which has plagued the Freemasons in so many countries
in Europe and the Americas, he urged that `we dare not withhold from the Grand
Lodge the ability to move in defence of the Craft, at a time when we all have
to be on our guard'. He also asked that the adjective `ancient' in the
Bishop's Resolution, which might imply that the penalties had actually been
used in the Craft in olden times, should be altered to `traditional'; Bishop
Herbert had already agreed to this change.
The first Amendment, relating to a legal question of authority,
was proposed by the Grand Registrar, seconded by his Deputy, and carried; it
did not affect the objects of the Resolution.
An Amendment was then put by Bro. Lt.‑Col. J. W. Chitty, M.B.E.,
P.S.G.D., who proposed that if the accepted wording was to be altered, the
alternative should be:
under a penalty no less than
that of death, ever bearing in mind the ancient symbolic penalty of .. .
This was seconded; but among all the points that were discussed
that day, this was the only instance of a desire to strengthen the standard
wording; when a vote was taken, it was defeated by a large majority.
The debate continued for over two hours, covering literally every
aspect of the subject. One noteworthy point was made in the suggestion that
the whole matter should be referred to a committee, to be appointed by the
Board of General Purposes `to consider to what extent it is possible to delete
from the Ritual the various references to physical penal‑ties in the three
Degrees, and to make appropriate recommendations to
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Lodge . . .'. The proposal found a seconder, but the President of the Board of
General Purposes rose to say that
never in the long course of
its history has the Board of General Purposes touched Ritual in any shape or
form . . . [and that he could find] . . . no authority in the Book of
Constitutions whereby the Board of General Purposes can be compelled to accept
responsibility for Ritual.
The proposal was defeated and the debate continued. There were
six‑teen speakers in all and when it became obvious that everyone who wished
to speak had spoken and that all points had been covered, the M.W.G.M., before
putting the Resolution, added a few words himself on the understanding that
the whole question was a matter of conscience and that he did not want to
influence anyone. He then described how often, in his travels in England and
abroad, Brethren had approached him of their own accord to say that `they
wished something could be done about the penalties'. Then, with a few closing
words, he put the Resolution and it was carried by an overwhelming majority.
Within the space of a few weeks the representatives of Emulation,
Logic and Stability workings had examined the consequential amendments and
agreed on the forms which were to be recommended for adoption (thereby
avoiding the probability of hundreds of different `home‑made' versions). They
were published in leaflet form and some 100,000 copies were distributed to
lodges and individual Brethren by the Q.C. Lodge alone.
Another by‑product of the `Permissive Changes' was the
establishment, almost immediately, of governing bodies for three extremely
popular versions of the Ritual, namely, Taylor's, Universal, and West End,
which had never previously enjoyed the advantage of having a controlling
authority. All three of them subsequently published `Authorized Versions' of
Writing now, some ten years after those events, it would have been
pleasant to record that the `Permissive Changes' have been widely adopted, but
the truth is that we do not know. A large number of lodges, out of the 1700 in
the London area, have certainly adopted the changes, but it seems likely that
they represent only a fraction of the whole.
In the Provinces, it is impossible to gauge the extent of their
adoption. One finds them being worked in all sorts of Lodges, large and small,
in cities and in villages. Generally, one might expect that they would follow
the views of their Provincial Grand Masters and there are one or two Provinces
in which every lodge has adopted the changes, but there seems to be no overall
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If they have not found a wider
acceptance, it is almost certainly be‑cause of official reluctance to
prescribe the changes and there must be many Brethren today who wish that the
Grand Lodge had ordered the changes instead of making them purely optional.
[This report of the Penalties Debate is largely based on the Grand Lodge
Proceedings for 9 December 1964, in which all the speeches were reported in
19. CONFIRMING MINUTES AND VOTING THE
MANNER OBSERVED AMONG MASONS
What is the significance of the right hand stretched out at length, palm
downwards, when voting for the confirmation of minutes, as being `the manner
observed among Masons'?
After discussion with several learned Brethren, I am still not sure of the
answer. It is probably an act of ratification and, as such, it may bear some
relationship to the position of the R.H. during the Ob. In that case I suggest
that the outstretched hand alone is not enough, but that the thumb should be
forming a square. We are taught that `... all squares, levels, etc.... are
true and proper signs . . . etc.', and the early eighteenth century catechisms
indicate that `squares' and similar moreor‑less unobtrusive modes of
recognition were quite common practice (even to the point of writing the
superscription of a letter in the form of a square).
So far as I know, the outstretched hand is customary all over
England and in the Commonwealth.
But the problem has a different aspect if we distinguish between
con‑firming the minutes and voting in general. A regulation of the Grand Lodge
on 6 April 1736 prescribed that the mode of voting should be by `holding up
one hand', and those same words appear in Rule 59 of our present‑day Book of
Constitutions. Clearly the regulation requires that the hand should be held
up, not outstretched, and if we assume, as we must, that the Grand Lodge
adheres to its own regulations, then `holding up one hand' has been, for more
than two centuries, `the manner observed among Masons'. Yet, it must be
admitted that even in Grand Lodge, when confirming the minutes and for
ordinary voting, the vast majority of Brethren use the outstretched hand.
46 THE FREEMASON AT
20. THE ST. JOHN'S
The St. John's Card - what does it mean and how did it arise?
It was introduced in Q.C. Lodge originally as a kind of annual greeting‑card
from the W.M. and Officers to all the members of the Lodge and Correspondence
Circle. It was always dated 27 December, i.e., St. John's Day in Winter, and
bound in the annual volume of Transactions (Ars Quatuor Coronatorum).
At its first appearance, in 1887, it consisted of an octavo card,
printed in shades of rust, beige and blue, showing a well‑known picture of the
four Crowned Martyrs, with some other Masonic symbols. The `Card' also
contained a letter of greetings from the W.M. surveying the achievements of
the Lodge during its first year. This was followed by a list of names and
addresses of all members of the Lodge and the C.C., covering some nine pages,
and a separate letter from the Secretary explaining the list and giving a
four‑page list of Abbreviations used for the ranks and titles of the members.
With the passing years, the artistic quality of the coloured
`Cards' (never of a high standard) grew steadily worse, and in 1896 they were
mercifully abandoned, a quiet monochrome design being adopted in their place.
This ran for several years until 1901, when the Card was set up without
Meanwhile, the actual lists of members had grown steadily larger;
in 1912 (Vol. 25) the St. John's Card occupied 107 full‑size pages of the
Transactions. The cost of printing the lists must have been an intolerable
burden by this time, but it was not until December 1919 that the Lodge was
forced to economize, and in Vol. 32, for the first time, the St. John's Card
listed only those who had joined the Lodge during the preceding year. It was
abandoned after Vol. 86 (1973) as an economy measure.
One word of warning about the St. John's Cards. The early volumes
of the Transactions are exceedingly rare, and as collector's pieces they are
fairly expensive. It is therefore worth noting that although the St. John's
Cards are of no particular value to the Masonic student, the volumes, from the
booksellers' and collectors' point of view, are considered faulty and
incomplete if they lack the Cards.
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21. MASONIC RITUAL IN ENGLAND AND
What is the custom in England in regard to the distribution and maintenance
of the standard forms of Masonic ritual? There are many variations of practice
in the U.S.A. and we would like to know how you compare.
The United Grand Lodge of England does not publish, nor does it give its
authorization to any specific form of ritual, either written, printed or
spoken. For several years prior to the Union of the two rival Grand Lodges, in
1813, efforts were being made behind the scenes to bring them together. In
1809, the premier Grand Lodge (Moderns) took a major step in that direction by
the formation of the Lodge of Promulgation, 1809 - 1811; its membership
consisted of seven senior Grand Officers of the year, with a number of elected
Brethren who were all deemed expert in ritual matters. Their task was to study
the landmarks and esoteric practices, and to recommend the changes that were
to be made in bringing the ritual to a form that would be acceptable to both
On 7 December 1813, twenty days before the Union, the Lodge of
Reconciliation was warranted by the Moderns, and a similar body was erected on
the same day (by Dispensation) for the Antients. At the Union on 27 December
1813, the two bodies combined, their main duty being to teach and demonstrate
the ceremonies which had been officially adopted. Apart from the Grand Master
and other senior officers of the two Grand Lodges, the main membership now
consisted of eighteen experts in the ritual and procedures, i.e., nine
appointed by each side.
Surviving post‑union documents indicate that the Reconciliation
ritual was not identical with the Promulgation recommendations; some changes
had been made, but no official copy of the newly‑approved forms was issued.
The Lodge of Reconciliation gave a series of demonstrations in London to large
audiences representing London and Provincial Lodges, and it closed down in
Several of its expert members then undertook to demonstrate the
new forms to Lodges in the London area, and in visits to the Provinces. This
was, of course, a very slow process, and, considering that no official version
had been issued as a basis for instruction, the numerous `workings' in use all
over England today have achieved a truly remark‑able degree of
standardization. There are, indeed, a few differences in
48 THE FREEMASON AT
in the manner of communicating the signs, and some marked variations in the
`words' of the third degree.
In the north and west of England there are occasionally wider
variations, largely due to the retention of ancient practices, e.g., `The
Bristol Working', but, with these exceptions, it may be said that the standard
of uniformity is very high, especially so when we remember that the Grand
Lodge does not interfere in these matters and exercises no official control.
The first post‑Union ritual to appear in print was `An Exposure of
Freemasonry', by Richard Carlile, who was the printer and publisher of a
weekly magazine, The Republican. He was a colourful character, a Freethinker
and a great fighter for the freedom of the press. He had, above all, no
respect for persons, and he served several terms of imprisonment for printing
`scandalous, impious, blasphemous and profane libels'. His ritual of the Craft
degrees, with Lectures and his own commentaries, appeared in consecutive
weekly parts of The Republican, beginning on 8 July 1825, at a time when he
was still in prison. The text of his exposure was extremely interesting, but
the series as a whole was a scurrilous attack on Freemasonry. His ritual,
shorn of its anti‑Masonic material, was published as The Manual of Freemasonry
in 1831, 1836 and 1843, and it had a ready sale.
The first `respectable' post‑Union ritual was published by George
Claret in 1838, without official approval, of course. He had attended at least
six meetings of the Lodge of Reconciliation and had served as Candidate for
the third degree at one of those demonstrations. Claret's Ritual (121 pages,
12mo.) was printed in clear language, with dashes and dots to indicate words
and letters that were necessarily omitted. His book achieved numerous editions
and it was undoubtedly the ancestor of most of the `little blue books' in use
in Britain today.
The two formularies which claim pride of place as being nearest to
the forms adopted in 1813 are known as Emulation and Stability, and these,
with many more modern versions, have appeared in print, all readily obtainable
by Masons (and often by non‑Masons) at the Craft outfitters. The Emulation
Ritual, approved by its governing body, the Emulation Lodge of Improvement,
was not published until 1969, though there were many unauthorized versions
during the preceding century which claimed to be in accordance with strict
In the late 19th century and in more recent times the opinion was
widely held that Emulation working was favoured by the Grand Lodge. This
impression may have arisen because it is certainly one of the
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forms that had its own governing body since 1823, but neither this nor any
other working has any kind of official authorization. All are printed in plain
language, with omissions at the appropriate points, and they usually exhibit
only minor differences phrasing and rubrication. Maintenance of the `standard
forms' is achieved largely by means of Lodges of Instruction which meet,
usually once a week, for rehearsal purposes.
The Grand Lodge view in regard to ritual practices is not
expressed precisely in the Book of Constitutions; indeed, the word `ritual'
does not appear there. Rule 155, however, runs:
The members present at any
Lodge duly summoned have an undoubted right to regulate their own proceedings,
provided they are consistent with the general laws and regulations of the
Regulation, as it stands, is somewhat obscure in regard to ritual practice,
but its relevance was clarified in the Year Book, under Decisions of the Board
of General Purposes on Points of Procedure:
Is a Master entitled to decide what ritual shall be practised during his year
Rule 155, B. of C., lays it down that the majority of a Lodge shall regulate
The question was altered in the Year Book for 1966, so that it now
Is the Master entitled to decide what procedure shall be practised
during his year of office? [My italics.]
answer remains the same. In effect, ritual in the English lodges is treated,
to all intents and purposes,, as a purely domestic matter, although the Grand
Lodge would undoubtedly intervene in the event of any undesirable innovations.
For the benefit of Brethren who are unacquainted with comparable
practices in the U.S.A., the following notes are added.
The various Grand Lodges differ widely in their approach to the
methods of instruction and dissemination. In Pennsylvania and California, all
printed or MS. rituals are forbidden and instruction is purely from `mouth to
ear'. The would‑be officer of a Lodge must attend at rehearsal until he
attains proficiency by ear. In most jurisdictions, however, printed rituals
(and so‑called monitors) are permitted, being published by authority of the
Grand Lodges and, of course, officially recognized. These productions vary
considerably. A few, like our English rituals, are in plain language, with
gaps. Others are in a two‑letter code, i.e., the first two letters of every
THE FREEMASON AT WORK
in a one‑letter code, i.e., the first letter of each word, and, needless to
say, these codes present great difficulties to the untrained eye and ear.
Another code, rather easier to read, usually gives the two or three main
consonants of each word, e.g., wt for what. Several jurisdictions use this
together with a kind of geometrical cipher, terrifying at first glance, though
not nearly so difficult as it appears to be.
The Grand Lodge of Kansas prints a ritual containing most of the
material in code and, in addition, distributes a monitor which contains
verbatim much of the lectures and Scriptures, and this seems to be the
practice of several of the Grand Lodges.
Uniformity of practice is ensured by the appointment of `Grand
Lecturers', each in charge of a `manageable' group of Lodges. In England we
might, perhaps, describe them as `Grand Preceptors', be‑cause their main duty
is not to give lectures, but to supervise the Lodges under their care and
ensure that they do not deviate from the official working. This they do by
means of `Exemplifications', i.e., full‑scale dress rehearsals in which all
the officers of the Lodges participate. Occasionally the officers of a whole
`District' (varying from five to fifteen Lodges) will take part in an
Exemplification, the first team doing a portion of the ceremony, and, after
comments and corrections from the Grand Lecturer, the next team continues
where the others left off.
Section 355 of the Regulations under the Grand Lodge of
Massachusetts may be quoted as an example of normal procedure:
It shall be the duty of each
District Deputy Grand Master to convene the Lodges of his District at least
once in two years for the purpose of holding a District Exemplification of the
work and lectures under the supervision of one of the Grand Lecturers, unless
excused, for cause, by the Grand Master.
It is noteworthy that in many jurisdictions the Grand Lecturers
are `compensated' for their services from funds provided by their Grand Lodges
and by the Lodges under their supervision.
If uniformity of ritual practice is to be deemed a desirable end
in itself, the methods adopted by the Masonic authorities in the U.S.A. to
preserve their own particular forms are extremely effective. If uniformity is
considered as a safeguard against the individual Lodges indulging in a riot of
modified `workings' that might easily lead to the introduction of all sorts of
undesirable practices, then the zeal for uniformity would also seem to be
In England, however, despite the generally high degree of
standardization, the studious visitor to Lodges will often find stress laid on
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particular word, or phrase or action; or he will see some little piece of
time‑honoured procedure conducted in a manner entirely different from that in
his own Lodge. It is these variations which give a kind of local colour and
character to the work that is always interesting and often admirable, and
there can be little doubt that these are the best arguments against
BIBLE IN MASONIC LITERATURE AND IN THE LODGE
WHEN DID THE LODGES TAKE ON A
When did the word `Bible' first appear in Masonic literature? When did the
Bible first appear in a Masonic lodge; the name and location of the said
lodge? When did Masonic lodges first take on a formal setting, as distinct
from informal gatherings or assemblies of masons?
If you insist on the word `Bible', its first appearance in a Masonic context
seems to be in the later 1600s.
No part of the Bible was printed in English until 1525, and the
first complete Bible in English was not printed until 1535. At this date,
therefore, one would hardly expect to find the Bible in general use any‑where
outside a Church or Monastery, or in a really wealthy household, and this may
well explain the absence of early references to the Bible in our oldest
Many versions of the MS. Constitutions or Old Charges contain
instructions, usually in Latin, prescribing the form of administering the
oath. The earliest of these instructions appears in the Grand Lodge No. 1 MS.,
dated 1583. It begins:
Tunc unus ex Seniorbus tenerit
and the passage may be translated: Then one of the elders holds out a book and
he or they (that are to be sworn) shall place their hands upon it and the
following precepts shall be read.
Here the book might mean the `Book of Charges' (i.e., the copy of
the Constitutions), but the word `book' is ambiguous, and a doubt remains.
In many of the later cases the reference to the book may safely be
assumed to refer to the V.S.L., e.g., the Harleian MS. No. 1942, which is
another version of the Old Charges belonging to the second half of
THE FREEMASON AT WORK
the seventeenth century. It contains a form of the masons' oath of
secrecy, in which the final words show clearly that the Holy Book was used for
this purpose: `... soe helpe me god and the holy contents of this booke'.
Possibly the first clear reference to the Bible in this connection
appears in the Colne No. 1 MS., dated c. 1685:
Heare followeth the worthy and
godly Oath of Masons. One of the eldest taking the Bible shall hould it forth
that he or the(y) which are to bee maid Masones, may Impoase and lay thear
Right hand upon it and then the Charge shall bee read.
Charges, 1895, p. 72.)
The oldest Lodge Minutes in
Scotland begin in 1598; they belonged to the now‑dormant Lodge of Aitchison's
Haven. Those of the Lodge of Edinburgh (Mary's Chapel), No. 1, begin in 1599;
Lodge Mother Kilwinning, No. 0, in 1642, etc. All these ancient Lodge records,
and many others, have been published, but a careful check of the earlier
minutes reveals no hint of a Bible as part of the Lodge equipment. The same
applies to the oldest English Lodge records (Alnwick, 1701, and Swalwell,
Yet, having regard to the deeply religious character of those
days, it is probable that from the time when printed copies became readily
available, the Bible was amongst the most constant items of Lodge equipment.
At Lodge Mother Kilwinning, the minutes in 1646 record that Fellows were `sworne
to ye standart of ye said lodge ad vitam', and the Deacon swore his oath `de
It is almost certain that a Bible would have been used, yet the
earliest record of the purchase of a Bible was in 1766, when the Lodge ordered
`two song books' as well! (Carr, Lodge Mother Kilwinning No. 0, pp. 35, 257.)
An inventory of equipment of
the Lodge of Peebles in 1726 shows: `One Bible, the Constitutions of the Laws
of the Haill Lodges in London', etc. (Lyon, Hist. L. of Edinburgh, p. 83.)
A schedule of property of the
Old Dundee Lodge, Wapping, London, in December, 1744, records: `A Bible . . .
[valued at] 15.0'. Another was presented to the Lodge in 1749. (Heiron, The
Old Dundee Lodge, p. 23.)
The Minutes of the Lodge of
Antiquity, No. 2, for November, 1759, report that one of the members `could
not provide a proper Bible for ye Use of this Lodge . . . for less than 40/‑,
and ye Lodge ordered him to provide one and not to exceed that sum'. (W. H.
Rylands, Records of the Lodge of Antiquity, vol. i, p. 203.)
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But, of course, these random
notes only appear in those cases where the lodge Clerks or Secretaries thought
fit to record them, and very little early evidence has survived.
For the most interesting descriptions of the use of the Bible
amongst Masons we have to go outside the normal lodge records, examining
instead the early aides‑memoire and exposures which claim to describe the
admission‑procedures of their times, and in these sources there is ample
Edinburgh Register House MS.,
The Forme of
Giveing the Mason Word
Imprimis you are to take the
person to take the word upon his knees, and after a great many ceremonies to
frighten him you make him take up the bible and laying his right hand on it
you are to conjure him to sec(r)ecie .. .
(Knoop, Jones &
Hamer, The Early Masonic Catechisms, p. 33.)
The Chetwode Crawley MS., c.
you are to put the person, who is to get the word, upon his knees; And, after
a great many Ceremonies, to frighten him, yow make him take up the Bible; and,
laying his right hand upon it . . .
(Ibid., p. 35.)
A Mason's Confession, 1755‑6,
describing Scots procedure in c. 1727.
[From the candidate's
preparation for the Obligation.] ... and his bare elbow on the Bible with his
hand lifted up ... (Ibid., p. 94.)
The Mystery of Freemasonry,
What was you doing while the Oath was tendering?
I was kneeling bare‑knee'd betwixt the Bible and the Square, taking the
solemn Oath of a Mason.
(Ibid., p. 106.)
Masonry Dissected, 1730, by
[From the preparation for the
Obligation.] ... my naked Right Hand on the Holy Bible; there I took the
Obligation (or Oath) of a Mason.
(Ibid., p. 111.)
Most difficult of all the
questions is that relating to the Lodges adopting a `formal setting', because,
in the early days especially, so much of our knowledge is based upon
inference. For example, among the earliest lodge minutes still in existence is
a brief note, dated 27 November 1599, in the minutes of the Lodge of
Edinburgh, ordaining that all Wardens (equivalent to the Masters of Lodges)
were to be chosen on St. John's Day. This implies a high degree of formality,
because it not merely prescribed the chief meeting‑day for the Scottish
Lodges, but also the principal item of business that was to be transacted.
The records of admission of members of the `London Masons'
Company', and others, into the Acception (which was a Mason Lodge that had
evolved as a kind of off‑shoot or branch of a masonic trade
54 THE FREEMASON AT
organization) may be cited here. The early notes relating to the Acception in
1621, 1631, 1650, etc., are void of any evidence of `formal setting'. Yet,
when we consider the parentage of the Acception, i.e., an ancient Livery
Company that had existed since 1375, it is fairly certain that some real
degree of formality was already embodied in their procedure.
The early Clerks, or Lodge Secretaries, in writing up their
minutes, tended to give only the bare facts of the work done, without
descriptive detail or elaboration, and that is our main difficulty. Yet, even
in the bare records that survive, we can discern the beginnings of
`formality'. Perhaps the best early example, for our purpose, is in the
Minutes of Lodge Mother Kilwinning, which reveal the pattern of the meetings:
(1) `Court lawfully affirmed'
(i.e., the Lodge constituted and opened).
(2) Roll‑call. Absentees fined.
(3) Admission of Entered Apprentices or Fellows of Craft.
(4) Election of Officers (at the Annual Meetings).
(5) Collection of fees, fines.
(6) The Lodge in judgment (as a Court) against offenders.
(7) Money‑lending to members (upon security).
This pattern of procedure repeats itself fairly regularly from the
1640s onwards. The routine, furnishings and equipment may have been very
rough‑and‑ready, but it was from ancient Lodges like this one that the old
traditions stemmed, and when they began to acquire their special character,
with richer symbolism and furnishings, these were the Lodges that laid the
pattern of `work' which later spread all over the world.
[For descriptions of Lodge furnishings and equipment, and for
details of the actual procedure of the ceremonies, all of which may well be
regarded as evidence of formality, useful information can be drawn from two
essays in AQC Vol. 75, `Pillars & Globes, etc.' and `Initiation Two Hundred
Years Ago'. The former is based largely upon Lodge records and inventories;
the latter is based on the eighteenth century exposures.]
DULY CONSTITUTED, REGULARLY
ASSEMBLED AND PROPERLY
`Duly constituted, regularly assembled and properly dedicated.' What do those
words mean, precisely?
These words are from the first sentence of the M.M. Obligation and it is
rather strange to see that the words `duly constituted' do not appear in the
corresponding sentence for the E.A. and F.C.
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E.A. . . . regularly assembled
and properly dedicated .. .
F.C. . . . regularly held, assembled and properly dedicated .. .
It is difficult to find a logical explanation for the omission of
the `duly constituted' from those two degrees, because it is obvious that no
lodge would have the power to confer the degrees unless it had been duly
constituted. One is driven to the conclusion that in this instance - as in so
many other cases - the variations were introduced simply to draw distinctions
between the degrees. Now, to the questions:
of Constitutions (Rule 97) requires that `Every new lodge shall be solemnly
constituted, according to antient usage, by the Grand Master or by some other
Grand Officer or Master or Past Master of a Lodge appointed to act for him'.
The act of constitution is pronounced by the Consecrating Officer at the end
of the ceremony, when he says: In the name of the United Grand Lodge of
England and by command of the M.W. The Grand Master, I constitute and form
you, my good Brethren, into a Lodge of Antient, Free and Accepted Masons under
the name or style of the . . . Lodge, No... .
is made `regular' by the Seal of the Grand Lodge on its Warrant. The word
`assembled' involves several other points, some of which are governed by the
Book of Constitutions.
A lodge is `regularly assembled' when it meets at the place and on
the dates specified in its By‑laws, and with a proper quorum, of course. These
are the main requirements, but, surprisingly, the quorum is not defined in the
Book of Constitutions. Many of us are familiar with the passage in our
(English) Lecture on the Second Tracing Board, which runs `Three rule a Lodge,
five hold a Lodge, seven or more make it perfect . . .', but neither those
words, nor any similar directive is to be found in the B. of C. The official
ruling on this subject is in the `Points of Procedure' (i.e., rulings of the
Board of General Purposes) issued in Information For The Guidance Of Members
Of The Craft:
1. How many Brethren must be
present before a Lodge can be opened or a degree worked?
Five (excluding the Tyler and
the candidate for the degree in question): two must be members of the Lodge
and one an Installed Master (see Rule 119 B. of C.)
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2. How many Installed Masters
must be present before a Board can be opened? Three (excluding the Master
Elect and the Tyler).
Consecration Ceremony our Lodges (under English Constitution) are dedicated
`To God and His service . . . also to the memory of the Royal Solomon ..
24. THE SECRETARY'S ANNUAL SUBSCRIPTION
Rule 104 of the Book of Constitutions permits a Lodge, by its By‑laws, to
exempt its Secretary from paying the Annual Subscription while he serves in
that office, his services being deemed equivalent to the appropriate sum. Is
this a very ancient practice?
In its present form, the regulation quoted above is comparatively new It was
introduced in 1940 as part of the rule prescribing the Officers of a Lodge.
Before this date there was no mention of the subject under that heading, but
in 1827 one of the regulations, under the heading `Fund of Benevolence',
shows, by implication, that secretarial exemption from payment of subscription
was then quite customary:
Secretaries who are by their
lodges exempted from the payment of sub‑ scription shall not thereby be
disqualified from obtaining assistance from the fund .. .
and this regulation reappeared regularly in the Constitutions from
1827 to 1873. In the 1884 edition of the B. of Const., Rule 235 (under the
heading of `Board of Benevolence') said nothing about non‑paying Secretaries
being eligible for benefits, but categorically defined their status in regard
to this exemption:
235. Secretaries who, by the
by‑laws of their lodges, are exempted from the payment of subscription, shall
be considered in all respects as regular subscribing members of their lodges,
their services being equivalent to subscription, provided their dues to the
Grand Lodge have been paid.
The oldest Craft regulation governing the appointment of lodge
secretaries is contained in the Schaw Statutes, dated 28 December 1599,
addressed primarily to the Lodge of Kilwinning, although most of its
provisions applied equally to all the Lodges in Scotland. The statute required
the senior officers of the lodge to `elect, choose and constitute ane famous
notar' (i.e., a reputable notary or lawyer) to act as `clerk and
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and he was to be responsible for drawing up all indentures and other documents
relating to apprenticeship, as well as all other records belonging to the
Lodge, so that no document was recognized as valid unless it had been `made by
the said clerk and subscribed with his hand'. The Clerk in those days had a
modest income from his services; a Kilwinning regulation of December 1643,
provided that every apprentice at his `booking' in the Lodge, was to pay 40
pence (Scots money) to the Clerk. A regulation at Dunblane in December 1703,
also enacted that prentices' indentures were to be written by the Clerk, and
that they were to `pay him therefor'.
The Lodge of Aberdeen regulations dated 27 December 1670, did not
specify any such fees, but they afford useful indication as to the status of
the Clerk: A Clerk is to be chosen everie yeire because wee allow no sallarie
to him, it is only a piece of preferment.
It is evident that there was no uniformity of practice, but there
can be little doubt that the fine collection of early Scottish Lodge minutes
that have survived to this day would have been lost to us but for the old
regulations relating to the appointment of Clerks.
Early English Lodge minutes are very scarce, and of those that
survive there are few that afford evidence on the Secretary's Dues. The oldest
minutes of the Lodge at the Queen's Arms, St. Paul's Church Yard (now Lodge of
Antiquity, No. 2), go back to 1736, but the first mention of the election of a
Secretary is in July 1737, when John Howes was `chose'. The minutes for that
day show that he paid his dues, and he paid them again a year later.
The records of the Lodge of Probity (now No. 61), Halifax, show
that the Secretary paid his dues in 1762 and 1776, and the By‑laws of the
Lodge dated 1767 make no mention of exemption.
The By‑laws of the Lodge of the Nine Muses, now No. 235, in 1807,
and those of the Lodge of Antiquity in 1819, use precisely the same words on
The annual Subscription of
each Member of the Lodge (Secretary excepted) shall be . . ., etc.
This identity of expression is the more remarkable because the
former was an Antients' Lodge, and its By‑laws ante‑date the Union of the
rival Grand Lodges; the latter was a Moderns' Lodge, `time immemorial', and
the particular regulation quoted here was dated six years after the Union.
58 THE FREEMASON AT
WHAT IS THE AGE OF THE THIRD DEGREE?
What is the earliest reference to the division of Freemasonry into three
The precise answer to this question depends on the significance of the word
`degrees'. It may well mean the grades, i.e. the different levels of status
within the framework or organization of operative masonry. In this sense, it
is certain that there were three `grades', apprentice, fellow, and master,
very well established in the mason trade in c. 1390, and perhaps a hundred
In modern Masonic usage, the word `degrees' relates to the actual
ceremonies of admission into the Craft. In this sense, which is presumably the
point of the question, the full set of three degrees did not make its
appearance in Masonic practice until the third decade of the 18th century,
full 300 years later than the earlier `grades' usage.
Unfortunately, it is impossible to say exactly when the
three‑degree system came into practice. To answer that question with
reasonable clarity, we have to go back to the beginnings. If we could find
actual documents by which we might prove the nature of the earliest ceremony
of admission into the Craft, it seems certain that we should find there was
only one degree in the 1400s and it must have been for the fellow‑craft, i.e.,
for the fully trained mason. There is a great deal of legal and other
documentary evidence showing that, at that period, apprentices were the
chattels of their masters and in those circumstances it is impossible that
they can have had any status within the lodge. It was probably in the early
1500s that the two‑degree system came into practice with the evolution of a
ceremony for the apprentice which made him an `entered apprentice' on his
entry into the lodge. In 1599, we have lodge minutes (in Scotland) confirming
this and showing the existence of a two‑degree system, the first for the
entered apprentice and the second for the fellow craft.
In 1696, we have the first of a set of three texts describing the
ritual, all indicating that the second and highest degree then being worked in
Scottish lodges was for the `master or fellow craft'. Within the lodge, both
were of equal status, i.e., fully trained masons. Outside the lodge the master
could be an employer, but the F.C. was an employee. Although this was Scottish
practice, there is useful evidence that a somewhat similar situation applied
in England at the time when the first Grand Lodge was founded in 1717, i.e.,
only two degrees; and
THE FREEMASON AT
in the 1723 Book of Constitutions confirms that the second or senior degree of
those days was `Master and Fellow‑Craft'.
Several of the earliest ritual texts, 1696 - c.1714, confirm that
the basic elements of that second degree consisted of an Oath or Obligation,
an undescribed sign, and `fyve points of fellowship' accompanied by an
unspecified word. Thus, it can be proved that certain elements of what
subsequently became the third degree were originally embodied in the second
degree of the two‑degree system. It can also be shown, from the same documents
in conjunction with some later texts, that the three‑degree system was
achieved by splitting the first degree into first and second, thereby
promoting the original second degree into third place.
Having outlined the manner of its development, the search for `the
age' of the third degree involves certain difficulties, because, while we know
the dates of the earliest surviving records of its conferment, there are at
least two texts which suggest that it may have been known, or practised,
before those dates.
The first of these is the Trinity College Dublin MS., dated 1711.
It consists of a brief catechism, followed by a paragraph that might be
described as a catalogue of the Masons' words and signs, allocating specific
words and signs to the `Masters', the `fellow craftsman', and the `Enterprentice'.
The so‑called `Masters sign' is recognizable as a very debased version of the
F.P.O.F., accompanied by a word - also much debased. Of course, this cannot be
accepted as proof of three degrees in practice, but it certainly furnishes the
supposedly esoteric material of three grades in 1711, full fourteen or fifteen
years before the earliest actual records of the conferment of the third
Another hint of a three‑degree system appears in `A Mason's
Examination', the first printed exposure, which was published in a London
newspaper in 1723. It contains a much enlarged catechism and a piece of
doggerel rhyme which certainly seems to imply a threefold division of the
Masons' secrets, though the details are not particularly impressive:
An enter'd Mason I have been,
Boaz and Jachin I have seen;
A Fellow I was sworn most
And know the Astler, Diamond,
I know the Master's Part full
As honest Maughbin will you
(E.M.C., pp. 72‑3.)
This text, like that of 1711,
cannot be accepted as proof of three degrees in practice, but when we attempt
to date the advent of the third degree, both texts have to be taken into
THE FREEMASON AT WORK
The earliest record of a third degree actually being conferred
comes, rather surprisingly, not from a lodge, but from the minutes of a London
society of gentlemen who were lovers of music and architecture, the Philo‑Musicae
et Architecturae Societas Apollini. Their story is an entertaining piece of
English Masonic history.
The Musical Society was founded in February 1725 by eight
Free‑masons whose quality may be judged from the fact that each of them had
his coat of arms emblazoned on one of the opening pages of the minute book.
Seven of them were members of a lodge that met at the Queen's Head Tavern,
`near Temple Barr', only a few hundred yards from the present Freemasons'
Hall. These men loved their Masonry and, in the course of an elaborate code of
regulations, one of their rules was `That no Person be admitted as a Visitor
unless he be a Free Mason'. Their regulations did not prescribe Freemasonry as
a qualification for membership, but it was their custom, if an elected
Candidate was not already a Brother, to initiate him as a Mason before
receiving him into their Society.
A complete analysis of the Musical Society's minutes would be
unnecessary in this brief essay and it will suffice for our purpose if we
follow the career of only one of the founders, Charles Cotton Esq. The
preliminary pages of the minute book furnish the Masonic details for several
of the founders and we read that on 22 December 1724 `Charles Cotton Esqr was
made a Mason by the said Grand Master', His Grace the Duke of Richmond, who
had `constituted', i.e., opened the Lodge on that day, presumably acting as
W.M. About two months later, on 18 February 1725, the same record continues:
And before We Founded This Society A Lodge was held Consisting of Masters
Sufficient for that purpose In Order to pass Charles Cotton Esqr [and two
others] Fellow Crafts In the Performance of which Mr. William Gulston acted As
Senior Warden Immediately after which Vizt the 18th Day of February A.D. 1724
[old style, i.e., 1725] He the said Mr Willm Gulston was Chosen President of
the Said Society .. .
It must be emphasized that these records of the Lodge meetings on
22 December 1724 and 18 February 1725 belong to the period `before We Founded
This Society', i.e., they are notes about two perfectly regular Lodge meetings
at which Charles Cotton was `made a Mason' and `passed' F.C. The next record
that concerns us is an actual minute of the Musical Society: The 12th day of
May 1725 - Our Beloved Brothers & Directors of this Right Worshipfull Societye
whose Names are here Underwritten (Viz.)
Brother Charles Cotton Esqe.
Brothr Papillon Ball
Were regularly passed Masters
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There, in a nutshell, is the
earliest record of the conferment of the third degree, but it had taken place
in a Musical Society, not in a lodge, and Masonically it was obviously
irregular! The proceedings attracted the attention of Grand Lodge and on 16
December 1725 the Society's minutes record the receipt of a letter from Bro.
George Payne, Junior Grand Warden, enclosing a letter from the Duke of
Richmond, Grand Master
... in which he Erroneously
insists on and Assumes to himself a Pretended Authority to call Our Rt
Worpfull and Highly Esteem'd Society to an account for making Masons
irregularly .. .
The Duke's letter was deemed impolite, because it had not been
addressed directly to the Society and it was ordered `That the Said Letters do
lye on the Table', i.e., they were ignored. The last minute of the Society is
dated 23 March 1727 and apparently it disappeared soon afterwards.
Gould, in a fine study of the records of this society (AQC, Vol.
16), while conceding that at face‑value they certainly indicate the practice
of the third degree, showed that they were open to wide interpretation, and he
came to the conclusion that they do not necessarily prove that the third
degree was being conferred. For a variety of reasons, unsuitable for inclusion
in this short note, I cannot agree with this conclusion, and I believe that,
in regard to this point at least, the records may be construed quite safely at
their face‑value. This is supported by the fact that incontestable records of
the third degree in practice make their appearance within the next few years,
starting in 1726.
The earliest Lodge record of a third degree belongs to Scotland.
Lodge Dumbarton Kilwinning (No. 18, S.C.) was founded in 1726 and the minutes
for 29 January 1726 state that there were present the Grand Master (i.e., the
W.M.), with seven M.M.s, six F.C.s and three E.A.s. At the next meeting, on 25
... Gabrael Porterfield who
appeared in the January meeting as a Fellow Craft, was unanimously admitted
and received a Master of the Fraternity and renewed his oath and gave in his
entry money .. .
On 27 December 1728, Lodge Greenock Kilwinning (now No. 12, S.C.)
prescribed separate fees for entering, passing, and raising.
In England it is noticeable that Masons were quite satisfied to be
merely `made masons', taking only the first grade, or the first and second
together. This custom, combined with the scarcity of Lodge minutes, makes it
difficult to trace early records of the third degree being conferred in an
English Lodge. As an example, in the Lodge of Antiquity
62 THE FREEMASON AT
before 1717) the earliest mention of the third degree is in April 1737, in a
minute which states that `Richard Reddall paid 5/‑ ... for passing Master . .
.'. In the same Lodge, in October 1739, it was .. Voted that the following
Brethren be Raised Masters, vizt . . .' [six names], and at the Old Dundee
Lodge, London, which was in existence in 1722, the earliest record of the
third degree is in 1748.
To sum up; it would be safe to say that the age of the third
degree goes back, in Scotland, to a time in the middle or late 1600s, when
some of its essential elements formed a part of the senior degree in the
two‑degree system, the degree for `Master and Fellow Craft'. The same would
apply to England in c. 1700, as confirmed by the Sloane MS. There is a
possibility that the three degree system was already known (in Ireland?) in
1711 and in England in 1723. It was certainly worked in London in May 1725 by
the members of the Musical Society, who had doubtless acquired it from their
`mother' Lodge at the Queen's Head, in 1724. The three degree system was
certainly in practice in Scotland from 1726 onwards and by the end of 1730,
after the publication of Prichard's Masonry Dissected, it must have been
widely known in England, though its adoption was rather slow.
So much for the documentary evidence and dates of the various
stages in the evolution of the three‑degree system. But it is important to
emphasize that the Hiramic Legend did not come into the ritual all ready‑made
as we know it today. The modern Legend contains elements of at least two (and
perhaps three) separate streams of legend, as is shown in the earliest record
of a `raising' in the Graham MS., 1726.1
DUES CARDS - GRAND LODGE CERTIFICATES AND CLEARANCE CERTIFICATES
What are Dues Cards and why are they forbidden to be used in Lodges under the
Grand Lodge of England?
A Dues Card is a Lodge Certificate of membership, issued annually and much
used in the United States and other Masonic jurisdictions overseas. It
certifies that the holder is a member of his particular Lodge and has paid his
Dues for the year ending . . . The cards are usually about the size of a
railway season‑ticket (approx. 3 x 22 inches), often
See Q. 4, p. 8, above; also Carr, `The Relationship Between the Craft and the
Royal Arch', AQC 86.
THE FREEMASON AT WORK
on special cheque‑paper that is not easily copied. The card must always bear
the owner's signature and in many jurisdictions it will also bear his
photograph. They are indeed a handy means of identification, but open to
abuses. In England, except for the various Certificates under Rule 175,
outlined below, no Private Lodge is allowed to grant a Certificate of any kind
to a Brother; that is why Dues Cards are banned.
For the benefit of readers
overseas, I must explain that the nearest equivalent, in England, to the Dues
Card, is the Grand Lodge Certificate, an official document which certifies
that the Brother named therein was regularly Initiated in the . . . Lodge No.
. . . on . . . [date], duly Passed and Raised, and Registered in the books of
the Grand Lodge. The modern design, first issued in 1819, is headed by the
Arms of the M.W. Grand Master and the text is set out in the spaces between
Three Pillars standing on a chequered floor, on which Masonic Tools and
Emblems are displayed. The Certificate, when completed, will bear the owner's
specimen signature, and this, together with a receipt for the annual Dues,
would be accepted to establish `regularity' and `good standing'.
Some of our modern rituals, e.g., Universal, Benefactum, New
London, etc., include a formal `Address on the Presentation of the G.L.
Certificate'. There are many versions and as they are easily obtainable it is
not necessary to print it here.
of Lodge `Clearance' Certificates is governed by Rule 175, B. of C. They are
of two kinds:
(a) A Certificate issued to a
member of a Lodge, stating that he is a member and (if such be the case) that
he is not indebted to the Lodge.
(b) A Certificate issued to a
former member of a Lodge, giving the date and circumstances of his resignation
or exclusion. It must also state whether he was at that time indebted to the
Lodge, and if so, whether and at what time such indebtedness was discharged by
The opening lines of the regulation make it perfectly clear that
the Lodge shall grant such a Certificate to a Brother whenever required by him
in each of the above cases, and that is the answer to the question.
It is easy to imagine circumstances which might compel a Brother
to ask for more than one certificate under these headings, e.g. he might be
joining several lodges, and a Certificate issued on a given date might
64 THE FREEMASON AT
be out of
date and therefore useless shortly after issue. So the Rule is quite clear;
Certificates must be granted when required.
There is, however, the possibility that a Certificate might be put
to some improper use. If there is any such fear, the Lodge Secretary, whose
duty it is to issue the Certificate, should delay long enough to obtain
guidance from the Grand Secretary (or the Prov. or Dist. Grand Secretary).
27. ARCHITECTURE IN MASONRY
Could you let me have some information of general interest on the subject of
`Architecture of Masonry'?
If we take the accepted definition of architecture as the study of the
science, or art, of building, then the Architecture of Masonry would
comprehend every development of the building craft since mankind ceased to
live in caves. In the period of `operative masonry', say, up to the late
1600s, the masons earned their livelihood in that craft, and their interest in
architecture is no more surprising than the tailors' interest in clothes.
After a period of transition, which started apparently in the
early 1600s, the character of the craft began to change very rapidly, and in
the early years of the 1700s (say, from c. 1700 to c. 1740) the changes had so
far accelerated that the lodges had lost all interest in the trade and
trade‑control, and had become social and benevolent societies, still
practising the old ceremonies, but with a substantial membership of gentlemen
and tradesmen who did not belong to the Craft and had no interest in it. These
were the non‑operative lodges which later acquired the speculative teachings
and principles which are the basis of modern Freemasonry.
This period, c. 1700 to c. 1740, coincides very closely with the
beginnings of what soon became generally known as the `Grand Tour'. In those
days it was part of the basic education for young men of culture to travel the
principal cities of Europe, thereby promoting their appreciation of the arts
in general and architecture in particular. There is useful evidence, in this
same period, that Freemasons were also taking a lively interest in
architecture. The following are a few items that spring readily to mind:
first Book of Constitutions, by Dr. James Anderson, published in 1723,
contained a so‑called historical introduction of some forty‑eight pages,
designed to show how the great men of all time were interested in
THE FREEMASON AT
part of this introduction would have been wasted if Anderson had not been sure
of his readers' interest in the subject, and, incidentally, he showed his own
preferences for the `Augustan Stile', for Palladio and Inigo Jones.
1725, a Masonic musical and architectural society was founded in London and
its minutes have already been discussed briefly (on pp. 60 - 1, above). The
opening pages of the minute book contain a dissertation on the Seven Liberal
Arts, and especially Geometry, Music and Architecture. The following is a
short extract, which is apt to our present enquiry:
Musick and Architecture, the
Happy produce of Geometry, have such Affinity, they Justly may be Stil'd TWIN
SISTERS, and Inseperable; Constituting a perfect Harmony by Just Rules, Due
Proportion, & Exact Symmetry, without which neither can arrive to any Degree
A Structure form'd
according to the Nice Rules of Architecture, having all its parts dispos'd in
a perfect & pleasing Harmony, Surprizes the Eye at every different View,
Elates our Fancy's to Sublime Thoughts, & Imprints on our Imaginations Vast
3. On 4
October 1723, the famous antiquary, Dr. William Stukeley, read a `Discourse on
the Roman Amphitheater at Dorchester' to the Lodge at the Fountain Tavern, in
the Strand, London. This is the earliest record of its kind that has survived,
but there must have been many more.
Calvert, in his History of the Old King's Arms Lodge, (pp. 13 and 75)
re‑corded that on 1 August 1737 the Lodge passed a Resolution amending By‑law
viii so as to give Masters the right to order that `a portion of Andrea
Palladio's Architecture' be read at each meeting, instead of the By‑laws or
Constitutions. Palladio's `First Book' had been recently presented to the
Lodge, but the Lodge purchased the three remaining Books in 1739.
The King's Arms Lectures ranged very widely, over such subjects as
Optics, Fermentation, Muscles, Magnetism, Watch‑making, Welding, Truth,
Friend‑ship, etc., etc. Bro. W. K. Firminger's survey of their Lectures from
1732 to 1743 (AQC, Vol. 45, pp. 254 - 9) shows five evenings devoted to
The Requirements of an
Military Architecture (1733)
Civil Architecture (1733)
Rise and Progress of
Architecture in Britain (1735)
Architecture and Masonry
Presumably these were all in addition to the readings from Palladio.
T. O. Haunch (in AQC, Vol. 77, p. 135) speaks of Batty Langley, a celebrated
18th century author of numerous works on Architecture, and he notes among the
subscribers to The Builder's Compleat Chest‑Book, 1737, the `Sun Lodge of Free
and Accepted Masons, in St. Paul's Church‑Yard', and the `Talbot Lodge of Free
and Accepted Masons, at Stourbridge'.
C. D. Rotch, in his History of the Lodge of Friendship, No. 6, furnished a
list of the twenty‑eight Lectures given in the Lodge at the Shakespear's Head
from 1738 to 1743. No fewer than eleven of these were on branches of building
and architecture, including eight readings from Palladio, on Chimneys, on
Roads and Streets, on Staircases, on Temples, on Decorum of Buildings, and on
the Management of Foundations, etc.
THE FREEMASON AT WORK
Here we have ample evidence of a genuine interest in architecture,
and it is noticeable, too, that within a few years after the formation of the
first Grand Lodge, our ancient brethren were already putting into practice the
idea of `a daily advancement'. In the circumstances, it is not surprising that
the `Five Noble Orders of Architecture' have found a permanent place in the
`Explanation of the [Second Degree] Tracing Board', and in the Lectures.
28. QUESTIONS AFTER RAISING
The `Questions after Raising' are printed in some Rituals (though not in
Emulation). When should these questions be put?
For reasons which will soon be apparent, it is difficult to say when the
`Questions after Raising' should be put. They are a collection of some
seventeen Questions and Answers, drawn mainly from sections of the `Third
Lecture of Freemasonry', and there are several versions, all very much alike,
but not identical. Because of their general origin in the Third Lecture, they
may be said to date back to the late 18th or early 19th century; but, as a
block of selected questions to be used specifically as Questions after
Raising, I believe that their earliest provable use was soon after the Union
of the Grand Lodges.
The Lodge of Reconciliation was warranted in 1813, mainly to
establish and demonstrate the ritual of the Craft Degrees, which they did, and
their work on the degrees was finally demonstrated in Grand Lodge on 16 May
1816, and approved, after minor alterations in the third degree, on 5 June
The minutes of 4 August 1814 contain the first note relating to a
Candidate who `was after proper examination passed in due form to the second
degree'. Several of the following minutes record that Brethren were passed or
raised after `due examination', or words to that effect.
On 6 September 1814, the W.M., Dr. Hemming, wrote to the Grand
Master reporting the work that had been done on the Openings and Closings in
all three degrees, `and the ceremonies of making passing and raising, together
with a brief test or examination in each degree ...'. This may have included
an examination after raising, but we cannot be certain of that at this stage.
During 1814 several second and third degrees were conferred
without any mention of examinations, but at the meeting on 22 September 1814
the minutes record them again. There is no hint of an intermediate
THE FREEMASON AT
The examinations were apparently part of the degree which was being conferred.
The earliest minute relating to the examination of a Candidate
after raising occurs on 8 December 1814:
Bror. John Milward
was passed in due form to the third degree or that of a M.M.
The necessary examination was
then gone thro' as to the qualification of being admitted to office.
There are two similar minutes in the later records of procedure
following the raising ceremonies:
[On 10 December 1814.] The
Examination necessary previous to receiving Office was then gone through.
[On 12 December
1814.] The further examination for Office was then made.
this there were a number of meetings at which the third degree was performed
without any examination after raising, and it is not clear whether the
practice had been abandoned or if the Secretary had merely failed to record
it. (AQC 23, pp. 267‑269. Author's italics.)
Thus, the examinations after
raising were designed to determine the Master Mason's qualifications for
office, but the particular office is not stated, and we cannot be sure whether
this examination of the M.M. as a preliminary for office was invented by the
Lodge of Reconciliation, or was based on an earlier tradition.
If we go back in search of possible sources for this examination,
there are several documents that appear to be helpful. In the earliest
description of the Installation ceremony (in Anderson's Constitutions of
1723), at a time when the three‑degree system was not yet established, the
first item of procedure runs:
... the Grand Master shall ask
his Deputy if he has examin'd them [i.e., the Master‑designate and the
Wardens] and finds the Candidate Master well skill'd in the noble Science .. .
More than fifty years later, long after the trigradal system was
firmly established, Preston, in his Illustrations of Masonry, 1775, and in his
later editions, opened the Installation ceremony with almost identical words,
except that the Wardens were not mentioned in this context. There is no
evidence of a standard set of questions for this 'examination' until 1814 and
I have not been able to find any Lodge minutes before or after 1814 that
confirm this kind of examination of prospective Masters and Wardens. It seems
likely, therefore, that the practice had not been adopted widely, and that the
Lodge of Reconciliation was
THE FREEMASON AT WORK
bring it back. Certainly, the wording of the 1814 minutes seems to imply the
existence of a well‑known set of questions, and we may fairly deduce that they
were the earliest form of the `Questions after Raising'.
Although the `Questions after Raising' had made their first
appearance in 1814 in an official body, the Lodge of Reconciliation, when we
study the documents relating to the Installation ceremony and its
stabilization in 1827, there is no evidence (in Grand Lodge or Private Lodge
records) of the `Questions' having been retained for that purpose. It is a
pity that we have no similar form of examination for prospective Officers
QUESTIONS AS A TEST FOR VISITORS
The first appearance, in
print, of a set of Questions after Raising, seems to have been in the Perfect
Ceremonies, 1874, where they had an entirely different purpose. They are
Test Questions of the M.M.
Put to a M.M. who goes as a
A catechism of this kind would make an excellent test for
visitors, though rather severe for a stranger unaware of what was in store for
him. That may have been the reason for the removal of the sub‑heading in the
later editions, which continued to appear regularly, without any explanation
of their purpose. This was one of the most popular rituals from 1870 to 1970
and it claimed, without authority, to represent Emulation practice. The same
set of Q. & A. appeared under the same heading in various editions of The
Lectures of the Three Degrees, also claiming to be `in strict accordance with
Emulation Working', but still without any hint of when the test was to be
The Test Questions do not appear in the four best known workings
in the London area, Taylor's, Universal, West End, and the 1969 authorized
edition of Emulation. This may suggest that they are virtually unused, or
unknown, in the rest of England, but that is not so. The following note from
Bro. Colin F. W. Dyer, Secretary of the Emulation Lodge of Improvement, is an
interesting comment on the situation:
During negotiations in about
1970 concerning the withdrawal from publication in England of The Perfect
Ceremonies, on the issue of the present Emulation Ritual book, a number of
objections were received to the fact that the new Emulation book did not
include these Test Questions, as
THE FREEMASON AT
they were used. The objections
came mostly from the N.W. of England and from one or two places overseas.
Clearly, the Test Questions are still in use in some places and we
return to the main questions, when and why?
PRELIMINARY TO THE ROYAL ARCH
from the abandoned test for visiting Master Masons, the earliest ritual I have
found that explains the purpose of the Test Questions and the manner in which
they are used, is the Sheffield Ritual, as practised by the Britannia Lodge,
No. 139, which was constituted in 1761. (The date of the ritual would be
rather later than that.) At the end of the explanation of the Working Tools of
the Third Degree, which is the end of the ceremony in most Craft workings, the
W.M. in the Sheffield working continues without a break:
Bro. - , a month must elapse
before you can be exalted to the degree of Royal Arch Mason, a Chapter of
which is attached to this Lodge. In the meantime it will be necessary for you
to make yourself acquainted with the answers to certain questions, which for
your instruction I will put to my S.D., who will give the proper answers.
There follows a set of eleven Q. & A., which are, in effect, a
condensed version of the sets of Test Questions, but with an explanation of
Another Provincial ritual, printed for the Lodge of Friendship,
No. 202, Plymouth (warranted in 1771) has a lengthy `Charge in the Third
Degree', followed immediately by the introductory passage almost word‑for‑word
as at Sheffield, above, with a set of ten
Q. & A.,
in which the F.P.O.F. are moralized at somewhat greater length than in the
It is hardly necessary to emphasize that both texts link these
questions directly with the qualification for the Royal Arch Degree, and they
are `demonstrated' by the W.M. and S.D., in both cases as part of the Raising
ceremony, the Candidate playing no part in them, except as a listener:
moreover, there is no such heading as `Test Questions after Raising', because
they are actually at the end of the Raising.
I am reliably informed that there are several Royal Arch Chapters
which require the Test Questions after Raising to be answered before
Exaltation, and it seems possible that the use of the Q. & A. in this manner
may be a relic from the time when the R.A. was regarded as a fourth Degree.
The Sheffield and Plymouth rituals described here certainly lend support to
THE FREEMASON AT WORK
PRESENTATION OF THE GRAND LODGE CERTIFICATE
There are two comparatively
modern rituals that use the `Test Questions of the M.M. Degree' for an
entirely different purpose, in no way connected with the Royal Arch. The Logic
Ritual, in its edition of 1899, and again in its revised Coronation edition,
1937, included the Test Questions, without any explanation of their purpose,
but the Logic Ritual, Revised Edition, 1972, added a sub‑title to that
Prior to Presentation of
benefit of our readers overseas, this refers to the Grand Lodge Certificate,
which is presented to every Master Mason shortly after he has been raised. It
is an ornamental parchment, headed by the Arms of the Grand Master, and it
certifies that the holder has been regularly Initiated, Passed and Raised in
the . . . Lodge, No all duly recorded in the Grand Lodge Register. It
requires the holder's signature, for purposes of identification, and for that
reason the signature must never vary. The presentation of the Certificate is
prefaced by a brief address explaining its origin, purpose and symbolism, the
ceremony usually being performed by a senior P.M. of the Lodge, or a visiting
Another working, The
Benefactum Ritual, which was specially compiled for the Benefactum Lodge, No.
5231, London, in the 1930s, by the late Bro. R. H. B. Cawdron, also prints the
`Test Questions of a Master Freemason' as a preliminary to its `Address on the
Presentation of a Master Freemason's Grand Lodge Certificate'. The Test
Questions are answered by the Candidate while the Lodge is Open in the Third
Degree and the Certificate is presented later, in the First Degree, during the
`First Rising', after the Report on the Proceedings of the Grand Lodge has
This practice, providing as it does, a useful additional lesson
for the Candidate on the essentials of the Third Degree, is obviously
praise‑worthy, but it is all‑too‑rarely witnessed in the English Lodges.
Generally, we are content to pass our Candidates to the Second Degree after
answering only eleven questions; to the Third, after only nine questions, and
although the test for Master Masons may be in use for various purposes in some
parts of England, the Grand Lodge does not prescribe it and its existence is
To sum up, there appear to be four distinct uses for the
`Questions after Raising':
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1. As a
preliminary for Office in the Lodge. (No longer practised.)
2. As a
test for Visitors.
3. As a
preliminary to the Royal Arch.
4. As a
preliminary to the presentation of the Grand Lodge Certificate.
It is interesting to compare our procedure with that which is
followed in most of the U.S.A. jurisdictions, where the Candidate must pass
his `Proficiency Test' in the M.M. Degree before he actually becomes a member
of the Lodge.
There, the examinations between degrees constitute a complete
resume of the preceding ceremony, in Question and Answer, and they require a
memorized repetition of the Obligation, too. This would be a sufficiently
difficult test even if the texts were supplied to the Candidates in clear
language. But the whole procedure is made infinitely more difficult in the
numerous cases where these inordinately long Question Cards are printed in the
ciphers which are customary in the U.S.A.
The following extracts from a recent letter from the Grand
Secretary for Rhode Island, R.W.Bro.
Cole, will serve to explain the procedure:
In Rhode Island the Senior or
Junior Deacon acts as Teacher or Instructor for the whole of the year that he
holds the office. Candidates are examined in open Lodge on their proficiency
after each degree.
hold enough rehearsals until they are satisfied. This generally occurs between
the Stated Communication dates [i.e., Regular Meetings]. The questions
propounded, and the answers, are both given from memory.
speaking, there are more than one candidate to be examined, and they take
turns answering the questions - but all give the obligation together. The
candidates being found satisfactorily proficient, after being examined in the
Master Mason Degree in open Lodge, then are eligible to sign the register and
become members of the Lodge, in this Jurisdiction. [My italics. H.C.]
The General Laws of the Grand
Lodge of Iowa also reflect the importance attached to the proficiency test
following the Third Degree:
Section 168. (Amended in
... A Master Mason must become
proficient in the Third Degree before he can vote, hold office or demit from
his lodge, or before he can be permitted to petition for degrees for
membership in such Masonic bodies as are recognized . . . by this Grand Lodge.
A brother who has
not passed his examination in the third degree is not eligible to sit on a
committee whether it be of investigation or otherwise.
Until a Master
Mason has been examined, and his proficiency entered of record, he has no
right to object to a person being made a mason.
THE FREEMASON AT WORK
A final example from the Book of Constitutions of the Grand Lodge
... no candidate shall be in
good standing in the Lodge to which he is elected until he has signed the
By‑Laws, and he shall not be permitted to sign the By‑Laws until he shall have
attained suitable proficiency, and shall have received the required
instruction, in all three degrees.
This jurisdiction has seventy Q. and A. for the E.A., thirty‑nine
for the F.C., forty‑nine for the M.M. Rhode Island has nearly as many!
Undoubtedly the system has
great advantages, for it ensures that the brethren acquire a useful knowledge
of the nature and contents of the ceremonies, and a better understanding of
their symbolism and principles, before they may enjoy all the privileges of
29. PUBLIC GRAND HONOURS
One frequently reads in old minutes that `the Grand Honours were given', when
ladies and non‑Masons are known to have been present. Is anything known of the
nature of these Grand Honours?
The following is extracted from the Constitutions & Ceremonies of the Grand
Lodge of California, 10th Edn. (1923), a copy of which was recently presented
to the Q.C. Library by Bro. O. E. Wightman, of Vallejo, California, U.S.A.
The public Grand
Honors of Masonry are given thus: Cross the arms upon the breast, the left arm
outermost, the hands being open and palms inward; then raise them above the
head, the palms of the hands striking each other; and then let them fall
sharply upon the thighs, the head being bowed. This will be thrice done at
funerals and the action will be accompanied with the following ejaculation:
`The will of God is accomplished - So mote it be - Amen'. The private Grand
Honors are the signs of the several degrees given in a manner and upon
occasions known only to Master Masons.
Mackey, in his Encyclopedia, edition of 1921, describes the public
Grand Honours exactly as given above, but the procedure has been changed since
that time, and Bro. Wightman writes:
I, personally, have never seen
the public Gr. Honors as described above. They are given nowadays as follows:
Extend the left hand in front of the body at about chest height, palm up, and
on the call `The brothers will join with me in giving the public grand honors
of Masonry by three times three', strike (in unison with the leader) the left
hand with the right, at the third stroke reverse the position of the hands so
that the right is now the lower one, strike the right with the left three
times, reverse again so that the hands
THE FREEMASON AT
are in the original position,
strike the left with the right three times, making nine times in all. The
honors are always given standing.
I haven't been too
successful in tracing when they were changed, but the consensus of several
Past Masters is that the change came about in 1936. I do know that they were
given as they are now in the jurisdiction of the State of Illinois, because I
saw them given at the laying of a school corner‑stone long before I ever
thought of becoming a Master Mason .. .
The `Public Grand
Honors' are just that - given in public where honors are to be bestowed, at
public installations, cornerstone layings, and all occasions where anybody can
We add a note, below, from Bro. T. O. Haunch. His final paragraph
indicates that the American practices described above were certainly known in
England during the nineteenth century.
This expression occurs also in the ceremony to be observed at a Masonic
Funeral given in Preston's Illustrations of Masonry.
Preston seems to
draw a distinction between `Grand Honours' to be given in that part of the
ceremony taking place in the lodge opened in the Third Degree at the
deceased's house, and the `usual honours' given in public at the graveside.
With regard to
other public use of `Grand Honours' as referred to in the original Query,
could not this have been the equivalent of `firing'? In lengthy nineteenth
century newspaper accounts of masonic banquets at which non‑masons and ladies
were often present (the latter as spectators!), one finds references to `masonic
honours', `masonic firing', etc., after toasts. It is possible also that
`firing' was to be observed by non‑masons at functions other than banquets.
It is only necessary to add that although `Public Grand Honours'
may have been common in England in Preston's day, no such practices would be
permitted in public nowadays.
30. BREAST, HAND, BADGE
What is the origin and symbolism of the F.C.'s `Breast, Hand, Badge', and why
was it discarded in favour of the present sign, except during the Installation
The B.H.B. procedure in the Installation is a salutation; it is not a sign
and there is no evidence that it was ever used as a substitute for the F.C.
sign. That sign was described in two of our oldest ritual documents, dated c.
1700 and 1711. In those days it only partially resembled our modern F.C. sign,
which is a much expanded version.
The salutation to which you refer made its first appearance in
print in the 1760s, when it was described as The Fellow‑Craft's `Clap'. It
74 THE FREEMASON AT
was probably used as part of the `Toasting' routine, though it may
also have been used as a `salutation' at the `Instalment of a Master'. It
seems that the procedure was never standardized and there are several
different versions in use in England to this day. It may therefore be
interesting to compare the usage of the 1760s with the practice in your own
Lodge. I quote from Three Distinct Knocks, 1760; J. & B., 1762, is almost
... holding your Left‑hand up,
keeping it square; then clap with your Right‑hand and Left together, and from
thence strike your Left‑Breast with your Right‑hand; then strike your Apron,
and your Right‑foot going at the same Time. This is done altogether as one
Clap .. .
Why in the Installation and not elsewhere? I suggest that it is
because the F.C. was, from time immemorial, the essential degree during
Installation. Masters were chosen `from the Fellow Craft' in the days when
only two degrees were known, and long before the Installation Ceremony had
come into general practice, and to this day the M.Elect takes his M.Elect's
Obligation in the F.C. Degree.
As to symbolism, I suggest that the Craftsmen are pledging their
Hearts (i.e., their thoughts) and their Hands (i.e., their actions) for the
welfare of the Craft (i.e., the Badge = Apron). This is my own view; I have
never seen an expert interpretation.
CORRECT SEQUENCE OF THE BREAST, HAND, BADGE
What is the correct sequence of the 'B - H - B' as given for the salutation
of the newly installed W.M.? In my Lodge, where we work Emulation with some
alterations, the practice has arisen of describing the salute as H . . . t, A
. . . n, and Glove. This is different to the normal sequence and it seems as
though the original working has been changed at some time. Will you please
In response to enquiries made on this matter, I find that the sequence
`Heart, Apron and Glove' (virtually unknown in London) is the general practice
throughout the West Riding of Yorkshire. This serves to strengthen my
long‑held theory that the further one goes away from London the more
likelihood there is of finding old practices that have somehow survived and
continue to make our procedures far more interesting than they would be under
The vast majority of the Lodges I have visited use the 'B - H - B'
sequence, finishing up with the hand on the Apron. In one provincial Lodge I
distinctly remember seeing an unusual sequence which ran H - B - and B - ,
i.e., starting at the top and working downwards, still
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with the hand on the Apron; this is the practice in the Province of Bristol.
We have already found three different sequences in the course of
this and the preceding note and a moment's thought will show that there are
six possible variations. Over the length and breadth of England there is
little doubt that one might find every possible version in use, but no‑body
can say that any particular procedure is `correct' and that others are wrong.
The sequence which you have described finishes in mid‑air and I
suggest that this seems to be rather an unattractive and uncomfortable
procedure. For that reason alone I dislike it. Incidentally your Lodge is
supposed to be working `Emulation, with some alterations', but you do not
follow their ruling in this case, which is `b., h. bdge'. One likes to see old
`local' practices preserved and this human failing of introducing
`alterations' is perhaps a very natural one; it certainly happens in many
other workings too. But it can become dangerous, because it feeds on itself
and, once started, there seems to be no limit.
Finally, on the question of `correct sequence', in 1827, the M.W.
Grand Master, H.R.H. The Duke of Sussex, set up a special `Lodge or Board of
Installed Masters', to revise and standardize the Installation ceremony, which
had not been stabilized at the time of the Union of the Grand Lodges in 1813.
There is a single‑page minute in the Grand Lodge Library, dated 24 February
1827, which gives a much‑abbreviated summary of their work. The portion
relevant to our present question reads:
Sal: 5 Br: ha: Ba;
should be the final word on the subject, but there are so many variations
still in use today as to raise a doubt whether this ruling was ever
promulgated outside London.
When did gauntlets come into use in the Craft, and have they any symbolical
significance? (I do not refer to the gloves worn by operative masons in the
course of their work.)
The word `gauntlet' has undergone several stages of meaning. The O.E.D., for
its earliest definition, c. 1420, says:
THE FREEMASON AT WORK
A glove worn as part of mediaeval armour, usually made of leather,
covered with plates of steel.
Later: In recent use, a stout glove covering part of the arm as
well as the hand, used in driving or riding, fencing .. .
In modern usage, it becomes `The part of a glove, intended to
cover the wrist', but it is still a part of the glove, not a separate piece of
In our modern Masonic usage we may safely regard gauntlets as a
legacy from early operative times, because the operative masons all wore
sturdy gauntlets as a necessary part of their protective clothing.
The frontispiece to Anderson's Constitutions, 1723, shows a Tyler
(?) carrying aprons and a pair of gauntlet gloves, and a hundred years later
gauntlets were still a part of the gloves. There is a portrait of William
Williams, Provincial Grand Master for Dorset, 1812‑1839, which shows him
wearing a gauntlet attached to the glove, the glove being white, and the
gauntlet of much the same colour as in use today.
Rural Philanthropic Lodge, No. 291, owns a set of gauntlets, all
of white linen (now much discoloured), bearing emblems of the various offices,
and made to tie round the wrist with tapes.
In an old Lodge at Blandford, the members all wore white leather
gloves with gauntlet extensions, like modern motoring gloves. The gauntlets,
originally, had no special significance, i.e., in the eighteenth century days,
when almost all gloves for dress occasions were made with gauntlets, any
member of a Lodge would have worn such gloves as a matter of course.
The Lodge of Unanimity and Sincerity, No. 261, on 24 September
1817, required the Treasurer `to provide Gloves and Gauntlets for each member
of the Lodge conformable to the pattern pair approved of by the Provincial
Grand Master . . .' Note: They were to be provided for each member; this was a
voluntary adoption of a fashion proposed by the Prov. G.M., and it had no
Grand Lodge authorization.
Gauntlets did not become prescribed Regalia until 1884, when the
Book of Constitutions added a new paragraph to the list of Regalia, under the
heading `Gauntlets'. It prescribed garter‑blue for Grand, Past Grand,
Provincial and District Grand Officers, as obligatory, but for Private Lodges,
`... gauntlets of light blue silk with silver embroidery may be worn by the
Officers . . .'. In June 1971, the Grand Lodge resolved that gauntlets are no
longer obligatory for Grand Officers wearing full dress regalia; they are also
optional for Officers of Private Lodges.
THE FREEMASON AT
Finally, gloves as such have a
range of symbolical meanings, but the loose gauntlets are regalia, and they
have no special symbolical significance.
What is the definition and origin of the Masonic term `Lewis', and what are
his privileges, if any?
Lewis: `An iron contrivance for raising heavy blocks of stone' (O.E.D.).
Three metal parts (i.e., two wedge‑shaped side pieces and a straight central
piece), which are set into a prepared hole in a stone. When bolted into
position the metal parts form a dovetail grip inside the stone, and a metal
eye or shackle, attached at the exposed end, enables the block to be easily
The origin of the term `lewis' is obscure. It appears in mediaeval
architectural usage as lowes and lowys, but several notable authorities have
examined the possibility that our form is derived from the French word louve
[= she‑wolf] and louveteau [= wolf‑cub], both of which can be traced in French
usage in 1611 and 1676, where they have the same architectural meaning as the
English word `lewis'.
It is perhaps more than a mere coincidence that the word louveteau
appears in French Masonic usage, in the 1740s, to describe the son of a Mason,
at about the same time as the English word `Lewis' acquires a similar
The above is a very brief summary of the points in question. For a
more detailed study, see The Wilkinson MS. (pp. 40‑45), by Knoop, Jones and
Hamer, and The Freemasons' Guide and Compendium (pp. 414‑419), by Bernard E.
In Speculative Masonic usage, `A Lewis is the uninitiated son of a
Mason' (Bd. of Gen. Purposes; Points of Procedure), and the word has had this
meaning in the Craft since 1738, if not earlier.
There is a fuller definition in an official directive, issued by
the Grand Lodge (Enquiry Office) and it is also very explicit on the
privileges of a Lewis:
A Lewis is the uninitiated son
of a Mason, irrespective of the date of his birth, i.e., it matters not
whether he was born before or after his father became a Mason.
A Lewis has no
special privileges other than should there be more than one candidate on the
day of his initiation he can claim to be the senior for the purpose of the
ceremony. He cannot claim precedence over candidates
78 THE FREEMASON AT
previously to himself and must take his place in the usual rotation on any
waiting list of applicants that there may be.
LEWISES & THE `TENUE BLANCHE'
(A note from Bro. Walter F.
Knight, New York, U.S.A.)
The notes on the word Lewis in
the Mar. 1963 Summons were of particular interest as I am a member of La
Sincerite Lodge No. 373 (N.Y., U.S.A.), a French Lodge formed in 1805. We
recognize the son of a Brother officially (when requested by the Brother) by
receiving the son in Lodge during a very impressive ceremony we like to call a
Baptism. The reception may be during a regular meeting but generally it is
done in a tenue blanche (i.e., an untiled assembly, which non‑Masons and
ladies may attend) to which the mother and other guests are invited. The
louveton has no other rights in our lodge than those mentioned in your Lodge
communication. We do open a savings account for him, to be paid out to him at
age 21, again at a tenue blanche, unless he has become a brother himself, when
it would be presented to him during his official reception. At present there
are three louvetons listed in our roster; the newest addition was in 1962 when
I was Master of the Lodge. The louveton was nine months of age and took the
whole thing in with great gusto.
33. DARKNESS VISIBLE
What is the origin of the phrase `darkness visible'?
It appears in Milton's Paradise Lost (Bk. 1, 1. 63):
A dungeon horrible on all
As one great furnace flam'd,
yet from those flames
No light, but rather darkness
Serv'd only to discover sights
of woe .. .
This great work was begun in 1658, when Milton was already blind,
and the sombre gloom of these lines may well be contrasted with the many
beautiful passages in which the poet was able to conjure up his visions of
light, in words which seem to acquire a greater strength and majesty because
of the perpetual darkness in which he lived.
The same phrase, `darkness visible', was used, far less
effectively, by Alexander Pope, in the Dunciad (Bk. iv, 1, 3), and by Gilbert
White, in his Natural History of Selborne (Letter xxvi).
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34. THE POINTS OF MY ENTRANCE
What is the origin and meaning of `the points of my entrance'? Why do those
words appear in the course of the examination of the E.A., before he is passed
to the Second Degree? The `points of entrance' are mentioned in answer to one
of the `Questions Leading to the Second Degree', but the answer seems to be
vague, or incomplete; if this is a survival of early ritual, have we lost
something en route?
These are three questions that underline a defect in our `proficiency test'
for the E.A. The `points of entrance' arise in the vast majority of English
workings, but for the benefit of Brethren (mainly overseas) to whom they may
be unknown, I quote the relevant Question and Answer. The W.M. asks the
How do you demonstrate the proof of your being a Freemason to others?
By Sns., Tns., and the perfect points of my entrance.
None of the modern rituals offers any definition of the `points of
entrance' and that part of the answer remains unexplained; hence the regular
flow of questions on this subject. The modern explanation does appear in the
course of five Q. and A. in the `First Lecture, First Section' which is only
rarely heard nowadays and it would be fair to say that, even there, the
explanation is far from clear or complete.
The `points of entrance' are a
part of the earliest known ritual belonging to the Craft and they made their
first appearance in the Edinburgh Register House MS., 1696, which contains the
oldest description of the E.A. ceremony, with the catechism that followed it,
under the heading:
SOME QUESTIONES THAT MASONS
USE TO PUT TO THOSE WHO HAVE YE WORD BEFORE THEY WILL ACKNOWLEDGE THEM
questions were probably rehearsed after the E.A. admission ceremony. The first
questions in the E.R.H. MS. run:
Are you a mason.
How shall I know it?
you shall know it in time and place convenient.
A note follows this answer and it contains a kind of warning:
Remark the forsd
answer is only to be made when there is company present who are not masons.
But if there be no such company by, you should answer by signes tokens and
other points of my entrie
THE FREEMASON AT WORK
It is clear, therefore, that these test Questions were designed
for use both inside and outside the lodge. The `points of entry' were to be
discussed only among Masons and (as we shall see when we deal with the next
question) they could provide a very adequate test of whether a stranger was,
or was not, a Mason.
There is, moreover, a mass of evidence to show that the questions
involving the `points of entry' were widely used in England and Scotland at
that period. They appear in almost identical terms in the Chetwode Crawley
MS., c. 1700, and in the Kevan MS., c. 1714, both sister texts to the E.R.H.
MS.. quoted above, and all of Scottish origin. The earliest version that shows
English influence is the Sloane MS., c. 1700, a vastly different text, but on
the `points of entrance', its answers are very similar to the Scottish texts:
(Questn!) are you a
(Answer) yes I am a freemason
(Q) how shall I know that
(A) by perfect signes and
tokens and the first poynts of my Enterance
As regards origins, the test
questions relating to the `points of entrance' can be traced back in Craft
usage to late operative times; they were widely known in England and Scotland
in c. 1700, and probably a hundred years before that.
MEANING OF THE POINTS OF ENTRANCE
course of the century that followed the appearance of the `points' in our
early ritual documents their meaning was altered considerably, as a result of
natural expansion and interpretation of the ritual. Here, our main concern is
what they meant at their first appearance and for that purpose we must examine
the third question in the set of three relating to the test. The E.R.H. MS.
and its sister‑texts continue with the questions, as follows:
3. What is the first point?
Tell me the first point ile tell you the second,
The remainder of this sentence
seems to be an instruction on the procedure that is to be followed:
. . ., The first is to heill
and conceall, second, under no less pain [= penalty], which is then cutting of
your throat, For you most make that sign when you say that
The Sloane MS. uses much the
same materials at this stage, but there are some changes:
THE FREEMASON AT
(Q) which is the first signe
or token shew me the first and I will shew you the second
(A) the first is heal and
Conceal or Conceal and keep secrett by no less paine than cutting my tongue
from my throat
The `points of entrance'
appear again (in a debased version) in the Dumfries No. 4 MS., c. 1710, in the
Trinity College, Dublin MS., 1711, and in the `Mason's Examination', the first
newspaper exposure, dated 1723, but in these three texts, as in Sloane above,
there is no reference to making any particular sign.
It is noteworthy that in all seven of the earliest ritual texts,
quoted above, the `points' always appear at the very beginning of the
catechisms, and this may well be taken as evidence of the importance attaching
to them. They reappear regularly in all nine subsequent exposures up to c.
1740, in somewhat abbreviated form and without reference to an accompanying
The instructional answers to Q. 2 and Q. 3 in the three Scottish
texts confirm that the `points of entry' consisted of the cautionary
catch‑phrase, `heal and conceal', together with an examination on the modes of
recognition of those days, plus `other points' which were not specified. The
object of this little group of Q. and A., was to give Candidates a ready means
of identifying themselves as Masons; also, to teach them how to interrogate
anyone, outside the lodge, who might claim to be a Mason. If a man, under
examination, was able to produce the requisite sign or token, that might
normally have been sufficient to satisfy the questioner. If any doubts
remained, the examiner would presumably ask about the `other points' o f
entrance. Yet, apart from the catch‑phrase `heal and conceal' our texts are
completely silent on the `other points'. It seems likely that there could have
been several optional questions, relevant to the initiation, that might have
been added, but there is no evidence, at this stage, of a standard form of
further questions, or of any further explanation of what the `points of
entrance' really were.
The precise nature of those `other points' remains a matter of
pure speculation. Almost certainly they embodied items of procedure in the
admission ceremony which could not have been known to anyone out‑side the
Craft. This view is confirmed in one of the best of the early French
exposures, 1745, where the `perfect Points of my Entrance' are rendered as
`the circumstances of my Reception'. (E.F.E., p. 259.)
In c. 1727, the Wilkinson MS.,
contained a new Q. and A. following immediately after its answer to Q. 2:
THE FREEMASON AT WORK
by Signs, tokens, & perfect Poynts of Entrance
What are Signs
All Square, Levells & perpendiculars
Dissected, 1730, in answer to the same question, says:
All Squares, Angles and Perpendiculars.1
As a definition of `Signs', it
seems likely that these answers are directly related to the `points of
entrance', in which case they represent the earliest attempt to explain them.
Several of the earlier texts had indicated that `squares', in one form or
another, may have been used as modes of recognition, but the two full answers
given here are the earliest known versions of the words which form a
preliminary to our modern method of entrusting the E.A.
There were no new revelations of English ritual between 1730 and
1760; when the English exposures begin to appear again in a steady stream from
1760 onwards, the questions on the `points of entrance' seem to have gone out
of use and there is no longer any trace of them in the documents of that time.
The `points', after what may
have been a long period of neglect, came back into use in the last quarter of
the 18th century. That was the time when the great interpreters of the ritual,
Wellins Calcott, William Hutchinson and, notably, William Preston, had begun
their work and it is in Preston's `Lecture of the First Degree' that we find
what appears to be the first real attempt to enumerate and explain the `points
First Degree, Section I,
Are you a Mason?
I am so taken and received by
Brn. and Fellows.
How do you know yourself to be a Mason?
By the regularity of my
initiation, by repeated trials and approbations and by my readiness to undergo
the same when duly called on.
How do you make yourself known
as a Mason to others?
By signs, by tokens and by
perfect points of entrance.
What are signs? .. .
What are tokens? .. .
Give the perfect points of entrance.
These are secrets I am bound to conceal.
What is their number?
They are innumerable but three
are generally known.
the English texts mentioned hitherto are reproduced in Early Masonic
Catechisms, 2nd edition, 1963, publ. by the Q.C. Lodge.
THE FREEMASON AT
Name those three.
reciprocally I have no objection.
Off - at - on
Why are they called perfect
Because they include the whole
ceremony of initiation.
What does the first include?
The ceremony of preparation.
What does the second include?
The ceremony of admission.
What does the third include?
The ceremony of the
The opening questions confirm
that the `points of entrance' were intended to serve a Mason as a ready means
of identification. The catchword answer `Off ‑ at ‑ on' would present problems
to anyone who was unable to enlarge on them, or explain them; but the three
answers that follow those words state that they relate to three parts of the
ceremony, `preparation, admission and obligation'. This suggests that there
might have been further questions on those three themes.
There is an extended version of the same Lecture, by William
Preston, which has three different answers following the `Off ‑ at ‑ on', as
In respect to apparel.
The door of the Lodge
The 1*** k*** b***
These three answers supplement
the somewhat obscure references to `preparation, admission and obligation' in
a most useful manner, especially when we combine them, thus:
The ceremony of preparation -
In respect to apparel
The . . . ceremony of
admission - [At] The door of the Lodge
The ceremony of the obligation
- [On] The 1*** k*** b***
answers presented in this form leave no doubt as to Preston's views on `the
points of entrance'. They may also throw light on another question that has
arisen frequently on the word `entrance' in relation to
Quoted from AQC, Vol. 82, pp. 117 - 18, in which the late Bro. P. R. James
produced an invaluable synthesis of Preston's `First Lecture of Free Masonry'
from manuscripts and prints in the Grand Lodge Library.
Bro. James listed it as the `F' version. (ibid p. 118)
84 THE FREEMASON AT
the `points'. Does it mean the precise moment of entrance into the
Lodge, or does it relate to the whole ceremony of admission? The latter is
clearly implied in Preston's threefold answer. If all his questions and
answers (in the extracts quoted above) had survived into our present‑ day
ritual, the question would not arise, but there have been several changes in
the interpretation of the `Off - at - on' since Preston's day.
John Browne, in his Master Key, 1798, was completely different:
Of, At, and On.
Of, At, and On what?
Of my own free will and accord, At the door of the L***e, and On the point of
a sharp I********* extended to my n**** I*** b*****.
Finch, A Masonic Treatise, 1802 gives:
Of my free will, At the door of the L, and ON the point of a s[****] or some
Carlile, in the Republican, 15 July 1825, gave the same answers as
in Preston's extended version, i.e., `In respect to apparel' etc.
Claret's answers (in 1838) were like those in Browne's Master Key,
1798, with the word `presented' in place of `extended'.
The Perfect Ceremonies, 1872, followed Claret precisely and,
although the questions leading up to the final answer vary slightly, the
answer is as given in most of the `workings' which use the Q. and A.
`Lectures' today. It is evident that at some stage between Preston in c. 1780
- 90 and Browne in 1798, there was a substantial change in the interpretation
of the `points of entrance'. Preston's definitions indicated that he equated
`entrance' with the whole ceremony of admission into the Craft, i.e.,
preparation, the moment of entrance, and the moment of taking the obligation.
Browne's interpretation - in use today - finishes at the moment when the
Candidate is about to pass through the door of the Lodge.
I am inclined to believe that when Preston produced (or perhaps
reproduced) the three‑point interpretation of the `points of entrance', the
intention was to give the Candidate, within the span of a single catchword
phrase, a reference to three incidents that would prove - quite apart from
word and sign - that he had undergone a `perfect' and proper initiation. It
may appear that we have neglected the word `perfect' in the `perfect points of
my entrance' and it seems possible that the word `perfect' belongs directly to
the three points outlined by Preston. It might also refer to three in the
sense of `the perfect number', though one hesitates to engage in this kind of
THE FREEMASON AT
THE POINTS APPEAR IN THE E.A. EXAMINATION BEFORE PASSING?
Originally, as shown above,
they formed part of the catechism within the E.A. ceremony and they were
clearly designed for test purposes. When the Passwords came into use in the
first half of the 18th century, there is ample evidence that they were
conferred during the E.A. and F.C. ceremonies, to furnish candidates with an
additional safeguard, either in proving themselves or in testing strangers. In
effect, the Candidate, in those early days, received during each degree what
later became a separate intermediate ceremony of Test Questions and
Entrusting, as a preliminary to the next degree.
The questions leading to the next degree, i.e. the `proficiency
tests' were not standardized, and were apparently not in general use until
after the union of the rival Grand Lodges. The earliest official record I have
been able to trace of our modern procedure of the separate inter‑mediate
ceremony before the next degree, is in the minutes of the Lodge of
Promulgation, which was created in 1809 to prepare the ground for the Union.
On 9 February 1810, Bro. Robson, acting as candidate for the second degree
... having answered the
questions put to him satisfactorily, was invited by the R.W.M. to repair to
the extremity of the East, where, unobserved by the rest of the Lodge, he at
the Master's command was entrusted by the W. Past Master with .. .
which the appropriate ceremony was performed. (AQC, Vol. 23, pp. 41/2.) One
week later, the Lodge of Promulgation resolved that this procedure should be
followed in future (but on this occasion they were dealing with the third
So the answer to this question is that the practice of examining
the E.A. on the `points of Entrance' immediately before the second degree
became official at the Union, though it may have been in use, in some cases,
before that time.
WE LOST SOMETHING EN ROUTE?
As to whether we have lost
something en route, that is rather difficult to answer. If we are justified in
assuming that the `other points of entrie' in 1696 implied items that might
have led to further (unspecified) test questions, then apparently we have lost
something since 1696. Indeed, it may well be that Preston's `Off - At -
On' was an attempt to fill the
THE FREEMASON AT WORK
even in his day there seems to have been some real doubt as to how the
`catchword' answer should be interpreted, i.e., with two distinct `Preston'
versions and an entirely different one from Browne in 1798.
Nowadays, Browne's version seems to be widely favoured in those
`Workings' which use the 'Lectures'; but the `Off - At - On' has
disappeared from the Questions, etc., leading to the Second Degree, which
contain a mention of `the perfect points of my entrance' without the least
attempt to explain them; and that is a great pity.
What are `cowans' and why were they excluded from the Craft?
The O.E.D. definition is: `One who builds dry stone walls (i.e., with‑out
mortar); a dry‑stone‑diker; applied derogatorily to one who does the work of a
mason, but who has not been regularly apprenticed or bred to the trade'.
Cowan is an essentially Scottish trade term, and it belongs to the
time when lodges, as trade‑controlling bodies, put restrictions against the
employment of cowans, in order to protect the fully‑trained men of the Craft
from competition by unskilled labour. The earliest official ban against cowans
appeared in the Schaw Statutes in 1598:
Item, that no master or fellow
of craft receive any cowans to work in his society or company nor send any of
his servants to work with cowans, under the penalty of twenty pounds so often
any person offends hereunder.
The first record of a breach of this rule is the oldest surviving
minute of the Lodge of Edinburgh (Mary's Chapel) dated 31 July 1599; [word for
word, in modern spelling]:
George Patoun, mason, granted
and confessed that he had offended against the Deacon and Masters for placing
of a cowan to work at a chimney‑head for two days and a half .. .
He made `humble submission' offering to pay whatever fine might be
imposed. Having regard to `his estait' the offence was pardoned, but with a
strict warning to all future offenders. The minutes suggest that the Edinburgh
masons were very well behaved in this respect, perhaps because of the limited
and clearly‑defined area under the control of the Lodge. At Kilwinning, where
the Lodge had jurisdiction over a very wide territory, with consequent
difficulties of proper supervision, a large number of breaches were recorded
and substantial fines were paid
THE FREEMASON AT
case. Cowans also appear regularly in the minutes of several other old
Nevertheless, there are several records for Edinburgh Castle, in
1616 and 1626, where cowans were permitted to work, apparently on certain
special duties and when no masons were employed in the same weeks. Some of
these unspecified jobs must have been exceptional, because `One cowan received
16s. 8d. a day, one 13s., one 12s., one 10s., and two 6s., as compared with a
mason's normal rate of 12s. a day on the same building operations. (Knoop and
Jones, The Scottish Mason and the Mason Word, pp. 28‑9. Manchester Univ.
In the Burgh of the Canongate,
adjoining Edinburgh, cowans were able to attain to a higher status and the
minutes of the Incorporation of Wrights, Coopers and Masons &c. show how
readily the ban against cowans could be lifted when trade conditions (or local
circumstances) permitted. On 27 May 1636, John McCoull was admitted to the
Freedom `during his lyftyme to work as a cowan any work with stone and clay
only and without lime'. For this privilege, he was to pay ú4 a year to the
Craft or the boxmaster (i.e. treasurer) in four instalments, with a doubled
fine if he failed to pay. On 30 May 1649 Williame Reull was admitted
... during his lifetime to
work as a cowan any work with stone and clay only without lime except only to
cast with lime timber doors cheeks and timber windows and clay chimney heads .
. . within the Canongate and whole Regality of Broughton .. .
Reull was to pay £6 a year, again in four instalments and with
doubled penalties for any failure. There are altogether some fifteen records
of `cowaners' admitted to work in the Canongate, including several men from
neighbouring areas, and several records of penalties levied for infringement
of the rules when they dared to undertake work that was not permitted to them.
(A. A. A. Murray, `Freeman and Cowan with Special Reference to the Records of
Lodge Canongate Kilwinning'. AQC, Vol. 21, pp. 198‑9.) In 1705, the minutes of
Lodge Mother Kilwinning indicate that although there were still some
restrictions, the employment of cowans was occasionally to be permitted in the
territory under its jurisdiction, but always depending on the availability of
labour. The Lodge resolved:
... that no man shall employ a
cowan, which is to say without the word [i.e., the Mason word] to work; if
there be one mason to be found within fifteen miles he is not to employ a
cowan under the penalty of forty shillings, Scots.
(Author's italics; all quotations word‑for‑word but in modern
THE FREEMASON AT WORK
`Cowans and Intruders' or `Cowans and Eavesdroppers'. When was the wording
changed and which is correct?
There is no evidence that the words were ever changed and the question of
which is correct does not really arise, because the words are used
synonymously, despite their widely different meanings. The O.E.D. traces the
use of the word `eavesdropper' in the Borough Records of Nottingham as early
as 1487, and it means `One who listens secretly to conversation'. The same
authority quotes the word `entrewder' (= intruder) in an Act of Henry VIII, in
1534. So far as the Craft is concerned, to intrude means `to thrust oneself in
without warrant or leave; to enter or come where one is uninvited or
In our modern practice, both words are used. In the `Opening'
ceremony, most workings speak of `intruders', but in the Investiture of the
Tyler, Stability, Logic, Universal, West End, and most of the other widely
used versions prefer `eavesdroppers'. Emulation, however, speaks of
`intruders' in both places.
Instead of asking `which is correct?' it seems that we may arrive
at a better solution if we try to ascertain which word is more appropriate to
the circumstances of the Craft. For example, a cowan, in operative times, was
certainly an intruder - from the trade point of view; he could not have
learned very much of the trade if he merely listened under the eaves. In
Speculative Masonry, it is likely that the eaves‑dropper, the secret listener,
would be the greater source of danger. So it is not surprising, perhaps, that
when the relevant words begin to appear in our ritual documents, c. 1710‑1730,
the eavesdropper forms come first.
The first hint of that word in the ritual is in the Dumfries No. 4
MS. of c. 1710, where there is a question:
`is ye house cleen' [i.e., is
the room tiled?], and if the answer is `it is dropie or ill‑thatched . . . you
are to be sillent'. The word `dropie', here, is part of the word
In `A Mason's Confession' of c. 1727, there is a note to one of
... the secrets of the Lodge
are hid from the drop; that is, from the unentered prentice, or any others not
of their society, whom they call drops.
The earliest appearance of our `cowans and eavesdroppers' is in
Prichard's Masonry Dissected, 1730:
THE FREEMASON AT WORK
Where stands the Junior Enter'd 'Prentice?
In the North.
What is his Business?
To keep off all Cowans and Evesdroppers.
Another question followed, implying that our Brethren in those
days were very willing to let the punishment fit the crime:
If a Cowan (or Listner) is catch'd, how is he to be punished?
To be plac'd under the Eves of the Houses (in rainy Weather) till the Water
runs in at his Shoulders and out at his Shoos.
Incidentally, the phrase `cowans and intruders' does not appear in
our ritual until the late 1700s.
36. DECLARING ALL OFFICES VACANT
One often hears the outgoing Master, at the beginning of the Installation
ceremony, `... declare all offices vacant'. Is this correct?
One would hesitate to describe a purely local Masonic procedure that is not
governed by the Book of Constitutions as being correct or incorrect, but it
seems that the W.M. has no such powers. It is his right and his duty to
appoint the Officers, but he has no right to remove them, or to declare the
offices vacant (except in the special conditions governed by Rule 120 of the
B. of C., when he must lay `... a complaint before the Lodge ...').
As a matter of convenience, the Wardens and other Officers at an
Installation meeting may vacate their seats or hand over their Collars a few
minutes before the new Officers are appointed, but the Officers, like the W.M.,
are appointed for the ensuing year, and their tenure of office terminates at
the moment when their successors are appointed. For these reasons, the W.M.
should not `declare all offices vacant'.
Another point arises in this connection. During the Investiture
one often hears the new Master announce: `Bro. A.B. . . . appointing you my
Senior Warden' (or any other office). The officers are officers of the Lodge,
not of the Master, and it always seems to me, simply out of politeness, or a
proper respect for my colleagues, that the word `my' is out of place in this
Against this view, it could be argued that Rule 104 of the current
Book of Constitutions speaks of `the Master and his two Wardens' and the first
B. of C., in 1723, also referred to `the Master and his Wardens' and several
modern English rituals use the same words. Of course one S L
THE FREEMASON AT WORK
quarrel with these authorities, but I can never suppress a feeling of
embarrassment when I hear the expression `my Senior Warden' etc., because of
the somehow patronizing sense of ownership which it conveys. These are purely
personal views, but I believe that the only Brethren who really have the right
to use the word `my' in this connexion are those eminent Grand Officers, e.g.,
Grand Masters, Princes of the Blood Royal, etc. who are empowered, by the B.
of C., to appoint a Deputy; needless to say, they invariably speak of `The
37. REPLACEMENT OF DECEASED OFFICERS
When an Officer dies, should the W.M. appoint an acting‑officer to finish the
year? I have been told that the deceased Officer's name should remain on the
Lodge Summons as the holder of the office, while the acting officer discharges
the duties until the next Installation.
Dealing, first of all, with the list of Officers printed on Lodge Summonses,
it is not generally known, perhaps, that such lists are purely optional and
there are hundreds of Lodges that never print a complete list. Many give only
the name of the W.M., with the names and addresses of the Treasurer and
As to the main question; under English Constitution the Officers
of the Lodge are divided into two classes, i.e., Regular Officers who must be
appointed or elected; they form the minimum team and the list of Officers
would be legally incomplete without them. Three of these, the W.M., Treasurer
and Tyler are elected. The Master, at his discretion, may also appoint a
number of Additional Officers, but these are not obligatory. Rule 104 (a) of
the B. of C., runs:
The regular Officers of a
Lodge shall be the Master and his two Wardens, a Treasurer, a Secretary, two
Deacons, an Inner Guard and a Tyler. The Master may also appoint as additional
officers a Chaplain, a Director of Ceremonies, an Assistant Director of
Ceremonies, a Charity Steward, an Almoner, an Organist, an Assistant Secretary
and a Steward or Stewards but no others. No Brother can hold more than one
regular office in the Lodge at one and the same time, but the Master may
appoint a Brother who is holding a regular office to one additional office
When a Regular officer dies, it is the W.M.'s duty to replace him
as soon as possible. In the case of the Treasurer, it is essential for the
signing of the documents, etc. In the case of Secretary, it is essential , not
merely for the business of the Lodge, but also to maintain proper contact with
THE FREEMASON AT
Lodge. Of course, an `acting secretary' might complete the year's work equally
well, but the Office carries heavy responsibilities; it must be filled and the
new holder automatically becomes a regular Officer. All this is plain
common‑sense, but Rule 121 of the B. of C. covers the question and leaves no
room for doubt:
If a vacancy shall occur in a
regular office other than that of Master, such office shall be filled for the
remainder of the year by the election or appointment (according to the normal
method of filling the office) of a member not serving a regular office in the
Lodge at the time the vacancy occurred. If an election be required, due notice
thereof shall appear on the summons.
As regards Additional officers, the W.M. might invite a Brother to
`act', but an acting officer is neither a Regular officer nor an Additional
officer, so that he would have no real status. Indeed, the B. of C. makes no
provision for acting officers. In effect, an acting officer is simply a
deputy, discharging a duty temporarily, in the absence of the Brother for whom
Finally, the idea that two men cannot be appointed to the same
Office in one year, and that the first (deceased) officer remains the
`official' holder until the next election, is plain nonsense.
38. DEACONS AS `FLOOR OFFICERS'
When did Deacons become `Floor‑Officers' in the Lodge, discharging their
The principal duty associated with the office of Deacon nowadays, i.e., the
conducting of Candidates during the ceremonies, was originally discharged by
the Wardens of the Lodge. In the first well‑detailed description of the
ceremonies, Prichard's Masonry Dissected, 1730, it is evident that the J.W.
received the Candidate (as the I.G. does today) and, after some kind of
perambulation, the Cand. was handed over to the S.W., who `presented' him and
showed him how to advance towards the Master by three steps.
This work was an exposure and there is no proof that the procedure
described in it was correct, but it finds support in later documents of the
Le Secret des Francs‑Masons, of 1742, gives a useful description
of the `floor‑work' in the admission ceremony of that period, and in this
text, after the report, the W.M. orders the Cand. to be admitted
92 THE FREEMASON AT
`... and the Wardens [Surveillants] place themselves on either
side of him to conduct him'.
Another French exposure, L'Ordre des Francs‑Masons Trahi, 1745,
gives interesting details of the Wardens' duties in the M.M. degree. `One man
alone keeps guard inside the door of the Lodge, with a drawn sword in each
hand'. After the report, etc., the Second Warden (i.e., the J.W.) goes to the
Guard, takes one sword from him and admits the Cand., with the sword pointing
to his L.B. After three perambulations at sword‑point, the Cand. is placed
facing the W.M. and flanked by the Wardens. The J.W. strikes `... three times
three on the shoulder of the First Warden [the S.W.], passing his hand behind
the Candidate ...', and the ceremony proceeds.
Several of the later English exposures of the 1760s show that the
Wardens were discharging the duties which we associate nowadays with the
Deacons, and under the first Grand Lodge, the Moderns, the office of Deacon
was extremely rare, though not altogether unknown. The 1743 minutes of the
Royal Oak Lodge, Chester, record the election of a Master's Deacon and a
Warden's Deacon, and they were regularly appointed until 1758, when they were
superseded by Senior and Junior Stewards. (Misc. Lat., vol. 23, p. 114.)
Deacons were known in Bristol in 1758 and were appointed for the first time in
the Lodge of Probity, Halifax, now No. 61, on 24 June 1763. Deacons were
recorded at Darlington, No. 263, and at Barnard Castle, No. 406, in 1772, both
Moderns' Lodges. (Ibid.) Two Deacons were also mentioned in the minutes of the
Lodge of Antiquity in December, 1778.
Bro. Waples, of Sunderland, has sent a note quoting the By‑Laws of
the Marquis of Granby Lodge, No. 124, in 1775, where it was ordered that two
E.A.s be appointed annually. The senior, seated in the N.E., was to carry `messuages'
from the Master to the S.W. The junior was to stand inside the door, to
welcome strange Brethren and `to carry messuages from the Right Worshipful to
the Tyler'. There is no mention of their performing any Deacon's duties in the
course of the ceremonies, but probably, in 1775, they did.
The appointment of Stewards was fairly common, and there is reason
to believe that it was customary for them to discharge the duties of the
modern Deacons. A further note from Bro. Waples mentions that, at the Swalwell
Lodge, Durham, in 1734, the Officers included S.W., J.W., and also `Senior
Deacon (or Steward), Junior Deacon (or Steward)', and two Deacons were
appointed in 1732, but, he says, there was no further mention of Deacons in
their records until 1818.
THE FREEMASON AT
There appears to be no trace
of any early eighteenth century appointments of Deacons as floor officers in
Scotland. There, it was customary to appoint Stewards, usually two or more,
and occasional references to Stewards' wands suggest that their duties were
not confined to refreshment.
The early references to the appointment of Deacons in the modern
sense seem to come most consistently from Ireland. They are named in the
famous St. John's Day procession at Youghal in January, 1743‑4. They appear in
the 1744 minutes of the Lodge of Lurgan, and in Dassigny's funeral
processional in the following year.
Dermott, the Grand Secretary of the Antients, stated that he had
served the offices of J.D. and S.D. (as well as the Wardens' offices) prior to
his Installation as Master of No. 26 in Ireland in 1746, and it was probably
from Ireland that the Antients' Grand Lodge adopted the practice of appointing
Deacons. They are mentioned in the Antients' minutes in July, 1753, and in the
records of Lodge No. 37, Antients, in 1754, and their appointment was a
regular feature of Antient practice.
On 13 December 1809, the Lodge of Promulgation, in preparation for
the Union of the rival Grand Lodges, resolved `... that Deacons (being proved
on due investigation to be not only Ancient but useful and necessary Officers)
be recommended'. This was only one of several measures for standardization
that were taken at that time, and a nice example of the effect of this new
regulation on the Moderns' lodges appears in the minutes of the Old Dundee
Lodge, No. 18, dated 8 February 1810: `The Master reported that 2 New Officers
are necessary to carry the new alterations into effect, and they are to be
named "Deacons" and the R.W. Master then appointed . . .' a S.D. and a J.D.,
and he then ordered jewels for them in the old design, i.e., Mercury, the
messenger of the gods, not the modern `Dove and olive branch'.
39. THREE STEPS AND
THE FIRST REGULAR STEP
What is the origin and significance of the Three Steps and the First Regular
The use of three steps in the course of the ceremonies, or for advancing to
the W.M. or to the Altar, is very old practice, but the manner in which the
steps were taken is not described in the early texts. In the
94 THE FREEMASON AT
Mystery of Free‑Masons Discover'd, of 1724, and in its twin, the Institution
of Free Masons, of c. 1725, there is a question:
How many Steps belong to a right Mason?
two documents have nothing more on the subject.
A Mason's Confession, which is supposed to represent lodge
practice of c. 1727 (but was published in 1755‑6), speaks of three chalk lines
drawn on the lodge floor, and reproduces a rough diagram showing the lines
with a set of three right‑angles, indicating that the `advance' was by three
steps, the feet being placed in the form of a right‑angle at each step, and,
if the diagram is to be trusted, it seems that the Candidate advanced
sideways, i.e., with his left shoulder towards the W.M., but, although the
steps are described very clearly, they are not explained in any way.
The Wilkinson MS., c. 1727, and Prichard's Masonry Dissected,
1730, both mention that the Candidates of their day took three steps towards
the Master, as a preliminary to the Obligation.
Thus it seems fairly certain that the three steps were in use
before 1730, and although we do not know how many there were for each degree,
or how they were taken, it would appear that only three steps were known.
By this time a certain amount of symbolism was already making its
appearance in the ritual and it seems rather strange that the significance of
the steps was never explained.
In 1745 the European exposures, French and German, give good
evidence that the steps in the third degree had been expanded into something
approaching modern practice and they are shown in diagram as three zig‑zag
steps. Note, there were then only three steps, but they still remained without
verbal or written explanation or symbolism.
An English exposure of 1760, Three Distinct Knocks, which is
sup‑posed to represent the practice of the Antients, indicates that their
Cands. took only one step in the 1!, two in the 2! and three in the 3!, and
this may indeed have been Antient practice, but we cannot be certain. Laurence
Dermott, their Grand Secretary, in the 1778 edition of Ahiman Rezon (their
Book of Constitutions), derided the various steps used by the Moderns, and, if
we read between the lines of his criticism, it looks as though Moderns'
practice in this respect was by this time approaching our present‑day custom.
After many years'
observations on those ingenious methods of walking up to a brother &c., I
conclude, that the first was invented by a Man
THE FREEMASON AT
grievously afflicted with the
Sciatica. The Second by a Sailor, much accus‑ tomed to the rolling of a Ship.
And the third by a man, who for recreation or through excess of strong
liquors, was wont to dance the drunken Peasant.
1778 Edn., Footnote to p. xxxviii.)
Dermott, of course, was being
malicious, but two noteworthy points emerge from all this. First, that the
Moderns' Grand Lodge, the older foundation, had adopted substantial changes in
practice. Secondly, that practices were by no means uniform in regard to the
The extraordinary thing is that even at this late date there seems
to have been no explanation or symbolism attaching to the various methods of
`advancing', and this leads to the conclusion that any interpretation offered
on this point nowadays is a comparatively modern introduction.
John Coustos, in his confession to the Inquisition at Lisbon in
1742, spoke of three steps (and seven steps), the first of them always `heel
to heel', and apparently they were all `heel to heel'. The modern practice of
a particular place for the R.H. seems to have been unknown in the eighteenth
The Pilgrim Lodge, No. 238, London, take only three steps in all
degrees, and this serves to emphasize that the variations in practice that
existed in the eighteenth century still exist to this day.
FIRST REGULAR STEP
The step (feet forming a
square) goes back to c. 1700. In the Sloane MS. of that date, we find:
Another signe is
placing their right heell to the inside of their left in forme of a square so
walk a few steps backward and forward and at every third step make a Little
Stand placeing their feet Squre as aforesd.
Are we safe in drawing a distinction between `heel to heel' and
`inside of their left [heel]'? Undoubtedly, the step, however it was made, was
already a means of recognition, and in the next thirty years or so we begin to
find evidence of three steps. In 1730 there were still three steps prior to
the Obligation and entrusting. In the 1760s the E.A. was `taught' to take only
one step as a preliminary to the Obligation and the entrusting that followed
it. The F.C. took two steps, and the M.M. took first the one E.A. step, then
the two F.C. steps, and finally three M.M. steps. Note: all these steps were
before the Obligation. There is no record, so far as I know, of additional
steps before the entrusting.
In Browne's Master Key, of 1802 (one of the last major works on
ritual to appear before the Union in 1813), the E.A. advanced `by three
regular steps' to the Master for the Obligation, and no step is mentioned
96 THE FREEMASON AT
`entrusting'. The three steps are symbolically explained as follows:
What do they morally teach us?
Upright lives and well squared
Later, in the N.E., the Candidate stood with his feet forming a
square, symbol of `a just and upright man and Mason'.
I quote these only to show how practices were developing during
the eighteenth century. They were standardized at the Union. On the symbology,
I have little to offer, because none of the early records explains the
symbolism of the steps. We work that out for ourselves (the simpler the
better), and Browne's explanation, above, is certainly adequate.
40. ST. BARBARA AS A PATRON SAINT OF MASONS
What is the supposed connection between St. Barbara and the Masons?
Reference was made in AQC, Vol. 75, p. 77, to Santa Barbara as a Patroness of
the Masons' Guild at Rotterdam, c. 1491, and some doubt was evinced as to the
reason why the Masons should have consecrated a chapel to her.
Saint Barbara was a virgin martyr who died c. 235. She was a Saint
of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Eastern Churches, and the place of her
death is uncertain, being variously given as Heliopolis, a town in Tuscany,
and Nicomedia, Bithynia. Her father, a heathen, on discovering that she
professed Christianity, had her tortured and beheaded by order of the prefect
of the province, and the father himself carried out the final act of the
Retribution was swift, and he was struck by lightning on his way
home. This seems to be the reason why she was adopted as a patron Saint in
thunderstorms, and as protectress of artillerymen and miners. Her immediate
connection with masons and the mason craft would have seemed to be rather
vague, but we are indebted to Bro. Gault MacGowan, of Heidelberg, who points
out that St. Barbara was invoked for protection against lightning. In the days
before the invention of lightning‑conductors, many fine buildings were
destroyed by lightning, and this explains why the operative masons sued for
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When lightning‑conductors came into general use her assistance was
no longer required, and she gradually disappeared from the list of Saints
associated with the mason craft.
41. SPONSORING A NEW LODGE
Why is it necessary for those wishing to form a new lodge to obtain the
recommendation of an existing one?
The first and obvious answer to this question is, of course, that the Book of
Constitutions so requires it. Rule 94, which lays down the procedure for
petitioning for a warrant to hold a new lodge, states:
... To every such petition
must be added a recommendation, signed in open Lodge, by the Master and
Wardens of a regular Lodge under the Grand Lodge .. .
In seeking, however, the reason behind this regulation, one might
meet question with question. Why is it necessary for a candidate for
Freemasonry to have sponsors? The analogy is not perfect: the candidate is a
stranger to the Craft, whereas a new lodge is formed of brethren already
within it; but the uncontrolled formation of new lodges would be just as
undesirable as a too free and unguarded recommendation of candidates for
initiation. We charge the candidate, after his initiation, to exemplify his
fidelity by, among other things, `refraining from recommending . . . unless .
. . he will ultimately reflect honour on your choice'. Is it not just as
important that we should guard against a new lodge being brought into being
unless we are assured that there is a need for it, and we have strong grounds
for believing that the brethren who seek to form it do so from the highest
Masonic motives and are worthy of our support? Otherwise we are indirectly
surrendering our trust and, perhaps, even sowing the seeds of decay from
It is possible that without any control over the formation of new
lodges, and without a procedure for scrutinizing the initial make‑up of a
lodge, and for sponsoring it if found worthy - without this guarantee we might
open the door to undesirable elements and disunity might arise. New lodges
might be formed, for instance, by groups of brethren disgruntled at some
grievance, real or imaginary, against their own lodges. Taking the argument a
step further, if the grievance was against higher authority, the position
might conceivably be reached where rival grand lodges might come into being,
just as they did in the past for this very reason (e.g., the `Wigan Grand
98 THE FREEMASON AT
It is only prudent, therefore, that the petition for a warrant
must be accompanied by this recommendation from an existing regular lodge (and
also by the observations of the Provincial or District Grand Master in the
regions outside the London area).
Perhaps an instance of what happened in Halifax, Yorkshire, two
centuries ago, will give point to what has been said above. The Bacchus Lodge,
meeting there, `had a doubtful reputation . . .' It had been warranted by the
Moderns in 1769, on the recommendation of `two very respectable Lodges in
London'. The Brethren of the existing Halifax Lodge had grave doubts about the
founders of the new Lodge, and went so far as to describe them in a letter to
Grand Lodge as `a number of loose fellows'. It appears from what eventually
came to light that certain frequenters of the Bacchus Inn, some of whom were
Masons, had determined to form a Lodge as the basis of a secret society of
coiners and counterfeiters, and no doubt plied their criminal but profitable
activities behind tyled doors and under the obligations of Masonry.
... They kept up
appearances remarkably well; they sent up regular Charity subscriptions to
London - as they could well afford to do - and no doubt attended such masonic
functions of a semi‑public character as could be made to serve their purpose.
counterfeiters were ultimately caught and justice dealt out to them; a number
of the Brethren were sentenced to transportation for life.
(AQC, Vol. 56, pp. 251‑2.)
The Lodge itself was erased
from the List in 1783.
Whilst agreeing that such an affair could not happen today - or so
we trust! - the lesson remains.
One last point which might be made is that Freemasonry is not
alone in requiring the backing of an existing group for the formation of a new
one. Other organizations and societies, religious and secular, require the new
offshoot to be sponsored by a parent body, and this is, after all, a very
natural process of propagation and regeneration.
We are indebted to Bro. T. O. Haunch for the answer, above, to
this question. It may be useful, however, to add that the rule requiring that
the petition for a new Lodge should be recommended by the Master and Wardens
of a sponsoring Lodge is of comparatively modern introduction. It is certain
that no such requirement existed in the operative Lodges in Britain, because
there was no governing body to exercise that kind of control.
In 1598, William Schaw, Master of Works to the Crown of Scotland
and Warden General of the Mason Craft, issued a code of regulations,
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Schaw Statutes', which may be taken as the first official attempt at some kind
of nation‑wide control of the Craft in Scotland. (No comparable regulations
are known for England.) They were `to be observed by all master masons within
this realm' and, although they contained some twenty‑two regulations relating
to Lodge and trade practices, and the word `lodge' is mentioned in five of
them, the only rule relating to the Lodge itself was one requiring the
Masters, i.e., Master Masons, to vote and choose a Warden (i.e., presiding
officer or master) each year, whose name was to be notified to the Warden
General. The Lodges in those days were self‑governing bodies, formed by
inherent right, and there was no hint as yet of Petition, or Recommendation,
or Warrant, as necessary preliminaries to their formation.
In England, Dr. Anderson's Book of Constitutions, 1723, provided
the first code of regulations for the then recently established Grand Lodge.
It contained a section describing the `Manner of constituting a New Lodge',
but that dealt only with the ceremony, and with the Officers who were
empowered to conduct it. In Rule viii, however, there was a requirement that
if any Brothers separated themselves from their Lodge they must immediately
or else they must obtain the
Grand‑Master's Warrant to join in forming a new Lodge.
This was the first English rule requiring the Warrant as a
prerequisite to the formation of a new Lodge.
New Lodges were now coming into existence quite frequently, but
there were still no rules relating to formal Petition or Recommendation. The
first indication of the necessity for some kind of approval or recommendation
for the establishment of a new Lodge is implicit in the Grand Lodge minutes of
June 1741, when it was resolved
That no new Lodge should for
the future be Constituted within the Bills of Mortality [i.e., the parishes in
a given area in and around London] with‑out the Consent of the Brethren
assembled in Quarterly Communication first obtained for that purpose.
Six months later, on 12 January 1742, an objection was raised to
the new rule, on the grounds that it was `derogatory to the Prerogative of the
Rt Worshipful the G:M.', but upon the Grand Master
Expressing his satisfaction of
the Expediency of that Law The same was on the Question put Agreed to.
The rival Grand Lodge, the Antients', was founded in 1751 and a
very comprehensive code of `Rules and Orders' was `agreed and settled' on 17
July 1751. Their 8th Regulation was the first Masonic law in
100 THE FREEMASON AT WORK
England that embodied the three requirements, Petition,
Attestation (or Recommendation) and Warrant:
NO Admission or Warrant shall
be granted to any Brothers to hold a Lodge until such time they have first
form'd a Lodge of Ancient Masons and sitt Regularly in a Credible House and
then to Apply by Petition and such Petition to be Attested by the Masters of
three Regular Lodges who shall make a Proper Report of them.
There seems to be no record of a similar regulation in the
practice of the premier Grand Lodge. In the first edition of his Illustrations
of Masonry, 1772, William Preston devoted a chapter to `The Manner of
Constituting a Lodge . . .', in which he printed a form of Petition, and
This petition, being properly
signed, and recommended by three Masters of regular Lodges, must be delivered
to the Grand Secretary .. .
It may be assumed that `recommendation by three Masters of Lodges'
was being practised in Moderns' Lodges by this time.
Following the union of the rival Grand Lodges in 1813, the new
Book of Constitutions of the United Grand Lodge was published in 1815. The
section headed `Of Constituting a New Lodge' began:
EVERY application for a
warrant to hold a new lodge must be by petition to the grand master . . . The
petition must be recommended by the officers of some regular lodge and be
transmitted to the grand secretary .. .
The `three Lodge' or `three Masters' requirement had disappeared;
the officers of one regular lodge were now sufficient for the recommendation;
but the rule in its present form prescribing that the recommendation must be
signed in open Lodge by the Master and Wardens did not come into existence
until 3 December 1913.
42. THE BEEHIVE
What is the significance of the beehive in Freemasonry?
The date of its introduction into Masonic symbolism is obscure. In a Masonic
skit, `A Letter from the Grand Mistress . . .' dated 1724, and attributed
erroneously to Jonathan Swift, we find:
A Bee hath in all Ages and
Nations been the Grand Hieroglyphick of Masonry, because it excels all other
living Creatures in the Contrivance and Commodiousness of its Habitation . . .
(E.M.C., p. 233).
The text rambles and the remaining references to the beehive have
neither literary merit nor Masonic interest.
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The beehive was always an
emblem of industry, and it appears often in the second half of the eighteenth
century on Tracing Boards, Lodge certificates, jewels, glass and pottery.
The Lodge of Emulation, No. 21 (founded in 1723), has had the
beehive as its emblem for nearly 200 years at least, and it is depicted on
drinking vessels presented to the Lodge in 1776, and on their firing‑glasses
of the same period.
Dring, in his great study of the evolution of the Tracing Boards (AQC
29), reproduced a large number of pictures of early Lodge `Cloths' and Boards,
and the beehive appears regularly in almost every set. By the time it had
achieved such a degree of prominence in Lodge symbolism, there can be no doubt
that it was also being featured in the explanatory work, or Lectures, and the
eighteenth century ritual of the Royal Cumberland Lodge, No. 41, Bath,
contains the following in its Third Degree Lecture:
The Beehive teaches us that we
are born into the world rational and intelligent beings, so ought we also to
be industrious ones, and not stand idly by or gaze with listless indifference
on even the meanest of our fellow creatures in a state of distress if it is in
our power to help them without detriment to ourselves or connections; the
constant practice of this virtue is enjoined on all created beings, from the
highest seraph in heaven to the meanest reptile that crawls in the dust.
(From G. W. Bullamore, `The Beehive and Freemasonry', AQC, Vol.
36, p. 222.)
At the Union of the rival
Grand Lodges in 1813, many of the old symbols that had formerly adorned the
Tracing Boards were abandoned; among them were the Hour‑glass, the Scythe, the
Ark and the Beehive. The explanation of these symbols disappeared from English
practice. But many modern American rituals, which owe their origins to English
pre‑Union sources, have preserved the explanations that we discarded. To cite
only one example, the Royal Cumberland quotation, above, appears almost
word‑for‑word in the third degree Trestle‑Board published by the Grand Lodge
of Massachusetts in 1928.
The symbols listed here, including the beehive, owe their survival
in the American `monitorial' workings to Thomas Smith Webb, a prominent
Masonic ritualist and lecturer (b. 1771; d. 1819), who may well be described
as the William Preston of American Masonry. He was still a young man in his
early twenties when he became acquainted with John Hanmer, an Englishman, well
versed in English ritual and especially in Preston's system. With Hanmer's
help, Webb published the first edition of The Freemason's Monitor: or
Illustrations of Masonry,
102 THE FREEMASON AT WORK
Its main section was a substantial reproduction of Preston's Illustrations,
although Webb forgot to mention that. There were at least six further editions
in Webb's lifetime, all `enlarged and improved', and the work became very
popular. The edition of 1802 contained his interpretation of the symbolism of
the beehive and it is probably the most widely known explanation in use today.
It is reproduced here, in full:
THE BEE HIVE
Is an emblem of industry, and
recommends the practice of that virtue to all created beings, from the highest
seraph in heaven, to the lowest reptile of the dust. It teaches us, that as we
came into the world rational and intelligent beings, so we should ever be
industrious ones; never sitting down con‑tented while our fellow‑creatures
around us are in want, when it is in our power to relieve them, without
inconvenience to ourselves.
When we take a
survey of nature, we view man, in his infancy, more helpless and indigent than
the brutal creation: he lies languishing for days, months, and years, totally
incapable of providing sustenance for himself, of guarding against the attack
of the wild beasts of the field, or sheltering himself from the inclemencies
of the weather. It might have pleased the Great Creator of heaven and earth,
to have made man independent of all other beings; but, as dependence is one of
the strongest bands [sic] of society, mankind were made dependent on each
other for protection and security, as they thereby enjoy better opportunities
of fulfilling the duties of reciprocal love and friendship. Thus was man
formed for social and active life, the noblest part of the work of God; and he
that will so demean himself, as not to be endeavouring to add to the common
stock of know‑ledge and understanding, may be deemed a drone in the hive of
nature, a useless member of society, and unworthy our protection as masons.
There is something of a mystery here. In England, despite the
numerous appearances of the beehive in 18th century Masonic Jewels,
Certificates, Tracing Boards, and furnishings, it has proved impossible to
trace any relics of 18th century ritual or commentary relating to the bee, or
the beehive as Masonic symbols, except the extract quoted above from the Third
Degree Lecture used in the Royal Cumberland Lodge, No. 41. That Lodge was in
existence in 1733 and it would not be surprising to find isolated items of
early ritual practices surviving there; but Bro. P. R. James, who was a member
of that Lodge for many years (and whose scholarly work on Preston's Lectures
commands the highest respect), held that the `beehive note' in the English
Lecture was 19th century material. It is quite clearly related to Webb's `Bee
Hive' and the problem is whether Royal Cumberland borrowed from Webb, or was
it originally English material - adopted and elaborated by Webb?
Another point of interest is
the question of which degree contained the beehive? In the early English T.B.s
it invariably appears in the first,
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sometimes in a `combined' first and second. In the Royal Cumber‑land working
it appeared in the third Lecture, and the Massachusetts working states that
all the symbols listed above, including the beehive, belong to the third
43. FELLOWCRAFTS AND THE MIDDLE CHAMBER
The Lecture on the Second Tracing Board states that `... the F.C.s received
their wages in the Middle Chamber of King Solomon's Temple'. Later, we are
told that it contained `certain Hebrew characters', from which we may assume
that the Chamber must have been completed.
If the men to be paid were actually engaged on the building of the
Temple, where were they paid while the room was being built, or before the
work had begun on that portion of the building?
I appreciate the questioner's difficulty, but it is impossible to provide a
satisfactory factual answer to a question that arises from the statements made
in a legend. The description of the Middle Chamber in 1 Kings VI, verse 8, is
not at all clear and, wherever F.C.s were paid when that room was built, they
were paid elsewhere before that time, but the Old Testament affords no
information on this point.
There are, however, several other interesting problems that arise
out of the Lecture on the Second T.B. We all accept that Solomon built the
Temple and, as already indicated, the Biblical accounts in Kings and
Chronicles are so complicated that they furnish endless difficulties in
themselves. To make matters worse, the compilers of the ritual overlaid and
embroidered the original story with masses of invented detail. No doubt they
meant well; they were simply trying to arrange various items of ritual and
procedure against a Biblical background, creating a kind of Masonic allegory:
but allegory, in this case, is a very polite euphemism.
To understand how much embroidery was added, one needs to compare
the relevant details in the Lecture on the Second Tracing Board with the story
as given in 1 Kings, chapters V to VII, and II Chronicles, chapters II to IV.
In fairness to the later expounders and embellishers who were certainly
responsible for some of the subsequent 'improvements', the prime culprit in
this case was Samuel Prichard, who
THE FREEMASON AT WORK
published in his Masonry Dissected, 1730, the first exposure of a
three‑degree system, which contained the earliest known version of the Fellow
Craft's Degree in that system. (E.M.C., pp. 165‑7.) The F.C. `ceremony' is
presented in the course of some thirty‑three Questions and Answers, which
probably represent the essentials of the ritual of their day, but without any
details of `floorwork' or procedure. The brief synopsis that follows will
suffice to show that, despite numerous changes in the intervening years, it is
the direct source of much of the Middle Chamber material in use today.
In the course of his answers the Candidate (in 1730) said that he
was made F.C. `For the sake of the Letter G' which means `Geometry, or the
fifth Science'. He travelled `East and West' and worked `in the Building of
the Temple'. There, `he received his Wages . . .' in the middle Chamber. He
came there `By a winding Pair of Stairs, Seven or more'. When he `came to the
Door of the middle Chamber . . . he saw a Warden' who demanded `Three Things'
. . . i.e., `Sign, Token and a Word'. [Described in detail.] When he `came
into the middle' [of the middle Chamber?] he saw the `Resemblance of the
Letter G' which denotes `The Grand Architect and Contriver of the Universe, or
He that was taken up to the top of the Pinnacle of the Holy Temple' [i.e.,
It is noteworthy that in this version the letter G had at least
two meanings, i.e., Geometry and the Grand Architect . . . of the Universe. We
cannot but wonder at the mentality of the ritual compiler who believed that
the Middle Chamber in Solomon's Temple could have contained a symbolic
reference to Christ, several hundred years B.C. Unfortunately there are no
means of ascertaining where Prichard obtained his material, or whether he
wrote some of it himself.
The study of Prichard's catechism also reveals some confusion
arising from a series of questions which embody two completely separate
(a) The making or passing of a
F.C., with the symbolism of the G for Geometry, which was its earliest
(b) The legendary place of the
F.C. in the construction of the Temple, i.e., work, wages, and admission to
the Middle Chamber.
The following Q. and A. are all from Prichard's second degree, but
they are tabulated to show the line of argument as to the two themes:
THE FREEMASON AT WORK
`PASSING' theme The `WORK‑WAGES' symbolical
Why was you made a Fellow‑ Q. Did you ever work?
Yes, in the building of the
For the sake of the Letter G. Temple.
What does that G denote? Q. Where did you receive
the fifth Science. Wages?
would take this to be part A. In the middle Chamber.
of the `early‑type'
catechism, [Several other questions relating
relating to the actual cere‑
to the Porch, Pillars, their
mony. But see how it links
up, later, with the Q. and A.
Q. When you came into the middle
in the next column.]
[Chamber], what did you see?
The Resemblance of the Letter G.
[Several Q. and A. have been
note that the G now has a new
Who doth that G denote? .. .
. . . The Grand Architect and Contriver of the Universe, or He that was
taken up to the ..
. Pinnacle .. .
The Q. and A. in the right‑hand column may be taken as the
beginnings of Speculative expansion on the beauty and meaning of the Temple;
here are the various `strands' of the material which ultimately became the
Lecture on the Second T.B. None of our early documents made any attempt to
separate the two themes. The `G' for Geometry disappeared from modern
workings. Within the Middle Chamber (in English practice) it became the four
letters of the Tetragrammaton, J.H.V.H., or their Hebrew equivalents and
nowadays we have two Wardens on guard at the Winding Stairs, with two tests,
instead of only one Warden and one test, as in Prichard's day.
One further example of the zeal with which our ritual compilers
embellished their materials may be taken from William Preston's `Second
Lecture of Free Masonry':
Where did our Brn. go to
receive their wages?
The E.A. in the Outer Chamber,
the F.C. in the Middle Chamber, the Master in the Inner Chamber of the Temple.
(AQC, Vol. 83, p. 203.)
and inner chambers were mercifully abandoned toward the end of the 18th
century; Browne, in his Master Key, 1802, retained only the middle one. So, we
are able to see how the ritual grows.
THE FREEMASON AT WORK
44. THE MASTER'S
In ancient practice, where the Master wore a hat, did he enter the lodge
hatted, or did he ceremonially don the hat when the lodge was declared open
and remove it when the lodge was closed, or `untiled'?
2. Is there any ground for
associating `hat practices' with operative masonry, or were they introduced in
the speculative period?
3. Is there any evidence to
support the suggestion that hat practices are linked with the slang word
`tile' = hat; i.e., that the Master symbolized the lodge, and that, when he
was hatted, this meant that the lodge was tiled? 4. Are there any other
explanations of hat practices?
The answers to your questions must be made with reservations, because there
is no authoritative evidence for any of the procedures under discussion, i.e.,
there is no mention in Grand Lodge minutes, or Regulations, of any `hat
customs', so that practically our only information is from unofficial (and
sometimes unreliable) documents.
The following is a brief survey of some of the `hat' evidence
bearing on your questions:
(a) In the Bristol and Bath
area, records of a Foundation Stone ceremony, Dedication of a Masonic Hall,
and at a funeral, at all of which the Brethren were required to wear cocked
hats. To this day the W.M.s under the Prov. G. Lodge of Bristol all wear a
kind of cocked hat on entering and retiring from the Lodge, but not during the
Lodge session. (See AQC, Vol. 74, pp. 154‑5.)
(b) Calliope, an English
eighteenth century song‑book, has an illustration to a Masonic song, dated
1738. It depicts a group of seven Masons in the costume of that day, three of
them being the W.M. and Wardens, wearing their aprons and jewels. They stand
round a table with three lighted candles on it, and the Letter G is displayed
above, i.e., it is a lodge‑room. All seven have wine‑glasses in their hands.
None of them wears a hat, and no hats are visible.
frontispiece of Hiram, an English exposure of 1765, illustrates an Initiation
ceremony. The plate exists in two states - one with the Candidate, the other
without. In both plates, only the W.M. wears a tricorn hat.
(d) In the
well‑known series of English `Palser Prints', 1809‑1812, illustrating the
ceremonies, the W.M. wears a hat in some pictures and is hatless in others.
Palser's work was based on some of the French Assemblee prints of c. 1745
(noted below), but presumably he was depicting English practices, for the
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(e) The Ordre des
Francs‑Masons Trahi, a famous French exposure of 1745, contains two well‑known
pictures of the first and third degrees in progress. In each case, all the Brn.,
excepting the Candidate, are wearing hats. (See illustrations, pp. 190, 195.)
(f) In the Assembles des
Francs Masons, a very interesting series of prints dated c. 1745, there is one
which depicts the Ob. in an Initiation ceremony. Only the W.M. wears a tricorn.
All others are hatless. (See illustration on p. ii.)
(g) In the same Assemblee
series relating to the third degree, one print shows the W.M. with hat, and
another without. All other Brn. are hatless.
From the evidence adduced above, it may be stated firmly that even
in those places where hats were worn there was no uniformity of practice, and
that is why it is impossible `to lay down the law' or even to answer all
questions on the subject with any degree of certainty. Nevertheless, the
following may be helpful:
Q.1 Where the W.M. alone or
all the Brn. wore hats, it is probable that they were worn throughout the
meetings. It is not good argument to cite modern practices in an attempt to
deduce ancient customs, but the present‑day practice in U.S.A. may be
relevant. Only the W.M. wears a hat throughout the meeting, and he removes it
only during Prayers, Obligations and when welcoming visitors. In the Pilgrim
Lodge, No. 238 (a German‑speaking Lodge in London), all present wear hats
throughout the meeting, except the Candidates, and hats are only removed at
the moments when the Name of God is mentioned. (See also the Bristol custom in
(a) above, which dates back to the late eighteenth century.)
Q.2 There is no evidence for
the wearing of hats in operative practice.
Q.3 There cannot be any
association between the slang word `tile' and the Tyling of the Lodge. The
O.E.D. date, 1823, for the slang word, would preclude any link with practices
which were common in 1738, 1745, etc., as shown above.
Q.4 The Pilgrim Lodge
practice, based on the Schroeder (German) ritual of c. 1790, makes the hat a
symbol of freedom or equality, and the Cand. is hatless until the end of his
ceremony, when his hat is formally returned to him. The Lodge adopted this
ritual in c. 1850.
In all those cases where the W.M. alone wears the hat, the
symbolism is clearly reversed, because the hat, in those cases, is a symbol of
leader‑ship, rule or power.
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45. ON MASONIC
Could you give us any information on the origin of Masonic visiting?
The practice of visiting is one of the oldest customs in the Craft, dating
back to the earliest days of operative Masonry. Practically every version of
our Old Charges, from 1583 onwards, contains a rule on the subject. The
following is from the Beaumont MS., of 1690 (I quote this version because the
English is easy to read, but all the texts are very much alike on this point):
And also yt every Mason
receive and cherish every strang[e] Mason when they come to their country and
sett them to Worke as the mannor is ... if he have mould stones in ye place,
he shall sett him a fortnight at least to worke & give him his pay, & if he
have no stones he shall refresh him wth mony to ye next Lodg.
In effect, every lodge attached to a large building job became a
visiting centre for masons in search of employment, in the sure knowledge that
they would find work, if available, or else get hospitality and help towards
their next call.
Later, when operative trade‑controls began to break down, the
lodges gradually acquired the character of social and benevolent clubs, and
now the visiting took on a more convivial aspect.
It is interesting to see that the newly‑erected Grand Lodge, in
the first Book of Constitutions, 1723, made a regulation strongly advocating
the practice of inter‑lodge visiting:
[Reg.] XI. All particular
Lodges are to observe the same Usages as much as possible; in order to which,
and for cultivating a good Understanding among Free‑Masons, some Members out
of every Lodge shall be deputed to visit the other Lodges as often as shall be
As late as 1919, the Constitutions still contained Rule 149,
almost in the same terms as the above, but the modern rule `enjoined' only the
Master and Wardens to visit.
In the early eighteenth century we begin to find lodge minutes and
occasional by‑laws and regulations governing the custom of visiting, and it is
from these old records that we trace how most of our modern practices have
The proper precautions regarding visitors to lodges must have been
rather slack in the early years of the Grand Lodge, and with the publication,
in 1730, of Prichard's famous exposure, Masonry Dissected, Grand Lodge was
compelled to take action. The minute of 15 December
THE FREEMASON AT WORK
the first official step towards a proper control of visiting, and it was also
the first official regulation relating to the present‑day Signature Book:
Proposed till otherwise
Ordered by the Grand Lodge, that no Person whatsoever should be admitted into
Lodges unless some Member of the Lodge then present would vouch for such
visiting Brothers being a regular Mason, and the Member's name to be entred
against the Visitor's Name in the Lodge Book, which Proposal was unanimously
A nice example of the manner in which this regulation was observed
appears in the By‑Laws of the Lodge held at the `Shakespear's head in little
Marlborough Street St. James' (now the Lodge of Friendship, No. 6):
Ordain'd Augt. 7, 1736.. .
To prevent at all
Times ye Admission of Persons not Masons, into ye Lodge, no Visitor shall be
admitted, unless some one of ye Brethren present is able to avouch yt . . . he
is a worthy Brother, or unless such ample Satisfaction be by him giv'n to
those Deputed to receive him, as shall put that Matter beyond all Dispute. The
so recommending Bror, shall withdraw and see if he do personally know any
Visitor thus offering before he can be admitted into ye Lodge. He must
certifie it to the Brethren present and then, with Leave from ye Chair, he may
In the Lodge of Antiquity (now No. 2), in 1736, a minute records
that there were five visitors, who paid one shilling each for their evening's
entertainment. Three of them were from `named lodges', and two are recorded as
`St. Johns', i.e., they were unattached Masons.
At the Lodge at the Swan and Rummer, in Finch Lane, London, there
was a By‑Law in 1726 requiring all visitors to pay one shilling, and the names
of their lodges were to be entered in the Lodge Book, `... the Better to give
us an opportunity of Returning their visits'. This is probably one of the
earliest records of the practice of a regular exchange of visits, a custom
which became extremely popular later on.
In the same code of By‑Laws there is record of the W.M. having the
right to invite two guests (gratis?) on Initiation nights, and the Wardens
were allowed one guest apiece. (Records of the L. of Antiquity, No. 2, vol. i,
p. 41.) At the Old King's Arms Lodge, No. 28, the W.M. read a letter on 17
November 1735, announcing a general `Invitation from the Stewards Lodge',
which gave the dates of their four meetings annually, `... where the Visit of
the Master Masons belonging to this Society [i.e., to Lodge No. 28] would be
always acceptable'. At the same Lodge, in 1743, the Dining Fee was fixed at
2s. 6d. and members were allowed to introduce
110 THE FREEMASON AT WORK
Brother belonging to a regular Lodge on paying 2s. 6d.... Apparently, this was
only the price of the dinner, because the subscription for a visitor was
raised (at the same time) from 1s. to 2s., which doubtless paid for more
The minutes of the Lodge of Emulation, No. 21, show that the
practice of `Public Visits' (i.e., exchange visiting) had developed quite
strongly in the last quarter of the eighteenth century:
March 9th, 1778.
... proposed that a Public
Visit be return'd in form to the Tuscan Lodge, which was agreed to
The record of a return visit six weeks later shows that the
visitors comprised a full team, `Masters, Wardens, and Officers of the Tuscan
Lodge'. Emulation had some wealthy men amongst its members, and the visitor's
fee was fixed, in 1809, at 10s. 6d., which was a lot of money in those days. A
more realistic minute appears in the records of the Union Lodge, No. 52,
Norwich, in May 1810, when it was resolved that . . visiting Brethren be
charged the price of a Bottle of Wine'. This was more akin to the old Scottish
lodge custom of `paying the club', which involved each man present
contributing a fixed amount at the beginning of the evening's entertainment or
sharing the cost equally at the end.
46. VISITING OF LODGES BY `UNATTACHED' BRETHREN
There seems to be some ambiguity in Rule 127 (ii) in the Book of
Constitutions as to the rights of visiting pertaining to an unattached
Brother. Does it mean that a Brother who resigns from his Lodge may visit only
one Lodge once, or any Lodge once?
The rule is actually quite clear but, perhaps because it seems to be
over‑generous, there is a tendency to misinterpret it. Rule 127 (i) deals with
Brethren excluded under rules 148 or 181. A Brother so excluded is barred from
attending any Lodge or Lodge of Instruction until he again becomes a
subscribing member of a Lodge.
B. of C. Rule 127
(ii) In any other case [i.e.
if he simply resigns from his Lodge or Lodges] he shall not be permitted to
attend any one Lodge more than once until he a g a i n becomes a subscribing
member of a Lodge .. .
THE FREEMASON AT
This means he may visit any or
every Lodge under English Constitution once, and once only; but he must sign
the Attendance‑book appending the word `unattached', and giving the name and
number of the Lodge of which he was last a subscribing member.
47. THE NETWORK OVER THE PILLARS
The explanations of the Second Tracing Board in many different workings
describe the Pillars enriched with network, lily‑work, etc. Later they say:
They [i.e. the Pillars] were
considered finished when the network or canopy was thrown over them.
Two questions arise out of this passage:
does the final word `them' refer to?
(a) The two pillars complete,
in toto, or
(b) The globes with which the
pillars were adorned?
the two references to network relate to the same thing or to different things?
In replying to this, will you consider the Biblical references, and also the
suggestion (in the Trans. of the Leics. L. of Research, 1956 - 7, p. 39) that
they were simply designed as protection against birds?
Your questions are more difficult than you imagine. But, first, let it be
clear that the ritual quotation is not Biblical; it is a piece of ritual
embroidery expressing only the ideas of the author of that part of the ritual.
It follows that we are not bound to explain the Biblical text to suit the
quotation, but only according to the words of Holy Writ.
Unfortunately, the latter are somewhat obscure and the renderings
into English are not always precise. The relevant passages are in I Kings,
VII, verses 17 - 20, 41, 42, and in Jeremiah LII, verses 22, 23. I have
already indicated (in the article on `Pillars and Globes', etc., AQC 75, pp.
206 - 7) that we cannot be entirely sure, from the text, whether the pillars
were surmounted only with bowl‑shaped chapiters, or whether they had
additional bowls or globes above the chapiters. Generally, I believe that the
accepted view is that the pillars were surmounted by two `features', (a)
chapiters, and (b) `globes or bowls'. (The reasons for reopening this part of
the problem will appear below.)
Now let us turn to your Q.2.
There was only one kind of `Network' (which should not be confused with the
seven festoons of `chains' on
112 THE FREEMASON AT WORK
pillar). What the `Networks' were intended for is a puzzle, but Hebrew
scholars, ancient and modern, are agreed that their purpose was decorative;
there is no suggestion of a utilitarian purpose. (I have seen them drawn as
rigid metal `grilles', such as might be used to protect a jeweller's window!)
The Hebrew word has several meanings, all suggestive of `interlacing', i.e.,
network, lattice‑work, grille or grating, chequer‑work or mesh. Rashi and
Kimchi, two famous medieval commentators, agreed that the chequer‑work was
formed `like palm‑branches', implying a kind of angular mesh or trellis‑work;
and the Geneva Bible speaks of `grates', suggesting flat, rigid grilles. Rashi
adds that they were `shaped like a ball', which also implies a rigid grille
designed to enclose the globe completely.
Dr. Herz, the late Chief Rabbi, who was a great scholar, stated in
his commentary that `the capitals were decorated with tracery', and he
identifies the `Networks' with tracery. The Geneva Bible (I Kings, vii, 17)
says `Hee made grates like networke, . . .' and shows an illustration of one
of the pillars surmounted by a globe, which is covered with inter‑laced metal
strap‑work or chequer‑work, so as to appear almost as though the patterns had
been carved in low relief. This would seem to agree with Rashi's idea of a net
or grille fitting closely over the `globe'.
Now you may see why I reopened the `bowls or globes' question at
the beginning of this long and complex problem. The nature of the `Networks'
would depend very much on the objects they were intended to cover. If the
crown of the pillar was a bowl, it could be covered with a rigid grate, or a
pliable `Network'. If it was a globe, any kind of rigid grille would have had
to be attached, either to the pillar or to the globe itself; but a pliable
mesh might have been used without any such fixing.1
I do not believe anyone can be
sure of the answer to these questions. My own view is that the `Networks' were
of some sort of pliable mesh, and this is largely based on the details of the
rows of pomegranate decorations which were attached to them. I think we are
all agreed that the `Networks' or `grilles', whatever they were, were designed
only as a decoration for the upper part of the pillars, and that they did not
cover the pillars down to the ground. The Leicester suggestion, that the
`Networks' were simply a protection from birds, may be a valid one, but I am
inclined to doubt it.
1 See `Nets' hanging from `Bowls' in illustration on p.
THE FREEMASON AT
48. WILL YOU BE OFF OR FROM?
`Will you be off or from?' Is this a test‑question or a `catch‑question'?
This is not a catch‑question. It is a question in what is known, in Scottish
working, as the `short method' of passing or raising the Lodge from one degree
to another. Let us assume that the Lodge is in the first degree and the next
item of business is `to pass Brother N. to the Second Degree'.
The Master orders
the Lodge to be proved tyled in the usual manner, and the Brethren all stand
to order `while the Lodge is being passed'. The Master then asks the Senior
Warden: `Will you be off or from?' The S.W. replies: `From' (if the Lodge is
going up to the degree). The Master then says: `From what to what?' The S.W.
says: `From the Degree of E.A. to that of Fellowcraft'. The Master then says:
`By virtue of the Authority vested in me as Master of this Lodge, I declare it
closed in the E.A. Degree' (gives knocks of E.A. Degree) `and opened in the
Degree of Fellowcraft' (gives knocks of F.C. Degree). And that is that! Very
simple and very quick - as opposed to all the usual questions about squares,
etc. NoTE: If the Lodge is coming down, the S.W. will answer 'Off 'instead of
`From' - to be followed, of course, by the Master asking: `Off what to what?
This method of getting the
Lodge up and down from one degree to another is quite popular and is much used
by the Scottish country Lodges. It is also used in all Lodges when coming down
from M.M. at the end of a raising - unless there is no more Business, when the
Lodge is closed finally on the third (by the Wardens giving the substituted
secrets, etc.). The Scottish working also allows the Lodge being finally
closed on the second.
When this question came in, in 1963, I was under the impression
that the `Off or From' was purely Scottish practice. I therefore sent it to
Bro. G. S. Draffen, M.B.E., then S.G.W. of the Grand Lodge of Scot‑land. He,
very kindly, furnished the answer printed above, which, I hasten to add, is
perfectly correct. Scottish influence in Craft customs has always been so
strong that one would expect to find similar practices in use overseas and
soon after the Summons was issued, a number of letters came in, from Brethren
in England and overseas, pointing out that the answer was incomplete. In
particular, a note that the `Short Method' is used in Derbyshire started me on
a search for early English usage. I found that it was in print, in the two
most important English exposures of the 1760s, when it was used in the course
of testing Candidates and Visitors, but not as a `Short Method' of raising or
THE FREEMASON AT WORK
from one degree to another. The following is from the Master's Part Catechism,
in Three Distinct Knocks, 1760:
Mas. Will you be of [sic] or
Mas. From what, Brother?
Ans. From an enter'd
Apprentice to a Fellow‑Craft.
Mas. Pass, Brother.
This was followed by the (then customary) P.G. and P.W. leading to
the 2! and further questions embodying the Tn. and Wd. of the F.C. The same
text also contained a chapter describing the examination of a visitor `at the
Door of a Free‑Mason's Lodge', in which the `Of or From' appears twice, once
with the word `Of and once as `Off'.
In Ireland, Scotland, certain Canadian jurisdictions, California,
Texas, and doubtless in many other places too, the question `Will you be off
or from?' is still used as part of the `Entrusting' and subsequent testing of
candidates, i.e., for passing from the grip of one degree to the one
immediately above, and also from the pass‑grips to the second and third to the
proper grips of these degrees. The interrogator poses the question, `Will you
be off or from?' and the interrogated always answers, `From'. The former then
says, `From what to what?' and the latter replies, for example, `FROM the grip
of an E.A. Mason to the pass‑grip of a F.C. Mason', or `From the pass‑grip of
a F.C. Mason to the grip of the same', or `From the grip of a F.C. Mason to
the pass‑grip of a M.M.', etc., etc., as the case may be. The answer to the
original question is never `Off'.
Bro. J. Pendrill, Prov. G. Secretary, Warwicks., writes to say
that the `Off or From' questions are also used in Scotland for testing
visitors to Lodges.
Bro. B. Kelham, Secretary of Lodge No. 278, Gibraltar, says that
the questions are also used in Derbyshire, and possibly in other English
Provinces, as the `Short Method of Raising (or Reducing) the Lodge'.
Bro. C. R. J. Donnithorne, Dist. G. Secretary of the District
Grand Lodge of the Far East, writes from Hong Kong:
In Scottish Lodges here it is
the Junior Warden who gives the answers when the Lodge is `going up' from
first to second degree and `coming down' again. The Senior Warden replies to
the questions when moving to the third degree and coming down again. Lodges
here also close finally in the third degree in the manner mentioned in your
notice, and this means that `any other business' after the conferment of a
degree is always dealt with before the degree working.
THE FREEMASON AT
49. LONDON GRAND RANK
I have to propose a Toast to the `Holders of London Grand Rank'. Could you
please give me some factual information on the subject?
It began on 4 December 1907, when, as reported in the Grand Lodge
Proceedings, the Grand Master, H.R.H. Prince Arthur, Duke of Con‑naught,
. . that special merit on the
part of London Brethren is not and can‑not at present be adequately recognized
in the Metropolis as it is in the respective Provinces and Districts, is
desirous that power should be given to confer upon a certain number of Past
Masters of London Lodges a distinction for long and meritorious service,
equivalent to what is known as Provincial or District Grand Rank.'
At first, there was to be a
limit of 150 awards annually; nowadays there are approximately 600 per annum.
At its inception the distinction was known as London Rank, and the first
awards were made in 1908.
It was not until June, 1939, that the title was altered so as to
bring it into line with Provincial honours, and the new title became `London
Grank Rank', but without any actual change in its status.
The distinction is awarded `for long and meritorious services' to
a London Lodge. Recommendations can come only from London Lodges, and all Past
Masters, of and in the Lodge, must be invited to the nominating meeting, or
Selection Committee, which is specially convened for that purpose. A Brother
must be a P.M. of five years standing before he is eligible for
There are some 1700 Lodges in the London area, and, on average,
one Lodge in every three is invited to nominate a P.M. Thus, every London
Lodge has the opportunity to nominate a Brother at roughly three‑year
It is a reward to the recipient for services rendered, and,
indirectly, to the recommending Lodge. Those modest Brethren who say they do
not know what it is, or why they received it, ought to know better, or they
should be quietly ashamed of their ignorance.
L.G.R. is rank without Office; the recipient has no duties to
perform in connection with his new rank, but he has responsibilities, because
he was selected by his Lodge for that honour - responsibilities to serve, to
guide, to help and advise.
The London Grand Rank Association is the organization through
which the holders of L.G.R. exercise their corporate functions as a society of
responsible members of the Craft. The L.G.R.A. is not an
THE FREEMASON AT WORK
body, though its usefulness is recognized and esteemed by the authorities of
the Grand Lodge. But the holders of L.G.R. join it voluntarily; they are not
obliged to join.
In the London area, L.G.R. has precedence over Provincial or
District Grand Rank, but L.G.R. has no special status in the Provinces, where
the holder rates simply as a P.M.
Provincial Grand Rank (or Office) takes its proper seniority only
in its own Province, i.e., a Prov. G. Officer of Essex is, strictly speaking,
only a P.M. when visiting a Lodge in Kent, though he would, of course, receive
the usual courtesies.
What is the `symbolism' or purpose of the three rosettes on the M.M. apron?
The rosettes originally must have been pure decoration, and there are
numerous early 18th century illustrations, etc., which show rosettes used
purely in that form. With the standardization of the regalia at the Union, the
two rosettes were adopted for the F.C. apron, and three rosettes for the M.M.
It is, of course, possible to draw a symbolism from all this, but my own
opinion is that the rosettes are used exactly in the same way as two or three
`stripes' are used in the Army.
51. THE KNOB, OR BUTTON, ON A P.M.'S COLLAR
The projecting knob or button on a P.M.'s Collar; does it represent the
For those readers who are unfamiliar with our regalia, it should be explained
that under English Constitution the Master and Officers of the Lodge wear
collars of light blue ribbon, four inches wide. They are shaped to fit snugly
on the shoulders and they come down to a V at the front. There is a vertical
seam at the join, where the ribbon forms the V, and that is usually covered by
a strip of silver braid with a dome‑shaped braid button at the centre. The
Past Master's collar is the same, but it has a central band of silver braid a
quarter of an inch wide all round the collar, finishing at the centre front,
under the button.
The Beehive, depicted on many of the early Tracing Boards, had
virtually disappeared from English usage at the time of the Union in
THE FREEMASON AT
domed button was never intended to represent the Beehive, but was probably
designed as a convenient means of hiding the raw ends of the braid that meet
on the seam of the collar.
There is useful evidence that the dome button was not introduced
until some time after the standardization of regalia in the Book of
Constitutions of 1815. Before that date, there are numerous portraits of
prominent 18th century Masons wearing collars of ribbon or cloth, with a metal
or braid ring encircling the front of the collar, or stitched to it, thereby
providing a loop or hook, from which the jewels were suspended. In these
portraits there is no trace of a button, either flat or domed.
52. THE LADDER AND ITS SYMBOLS IN
FIRST TRACING BOARD
Can you give me any information concerning the symbols on the Ladder in the
First Tracing Board. Should there be only three, or seven symbols, and how
many rungs in the Ladder?
The emblems on the `Jacob's Ladder' in the First T.B. are by no means
uniform, and it is fairly certain they are mid or late eighteenth century
introductions, because there is no trace of them in the earlier rituals. An
examination of the early T.B.s on which the emblems appear shows several
points of interest: (1) On Craft T.Bs., the Ladders are sometimes drawn with
only three rungs, but they are usually longer, and some have three extra thick
rungs, representing the three religious virtues. Most of the well known
designs show the Ladders with their heads disappearing in the clouds. The
Ladder, however, is not purely a Craft symbol; it is to be found in several of
the additional degrees.
The story of Jacob's dream and `the Ladder, the top of which
reached to the Heavens' appears in the Lecture on the First Tracing Board and
in the Fourth Section of the First Lecture, where the Ladder is said to have
`many staves or rounds, which point out as many moral virtues; but three
principal ones, which are, Faith, Hope and Charity'.
Those three virtues are described and interpreted at length, and
we are told that the Ladder rests on the V.S.L. (as it does in most
illustrations of the First T.B.) because
... by the doctrines contained
in that Holy Book, we are taught to believe in the dispensation of Divine
Providence; which belief strengthens our Faith, and enables us to ascend the
first step . . .
THE FREEMASON AT WORK
early designs indicated the three virtues, Faith, Hope and Charity, by the
initial letters, F., H., and C., between the rungs. Bro. T. O. Haunch (in AQC,
Vol. 75, pp. 190, 194) believes that the initial letters came first and that
Josiah Bowring, a famous designer of Tracing Boards, c. 1785‑1830, introduced
three female figures to re‑place them. They appear in many Tracing Boards
nowadays, the first holding a Bible, the second with an Anchor, and the third
with children nestling at her skirts.
Several drawings of the 1870s and later omit the figures, but show
a Cross, an Anchor, and a Chalice with a pointing Hand. Presumably the Chalice
and Hand are meant to represent Charity, but they are probably illustrations
of a piece of religious mythology, depicting the Holy Grail which was snatched
up to Heaven by God's Hand.
There are many different versions of the symbols and their
arrangement, but most of the Boards that contain the three figures also depict
the angels of Jacob's dream, ascending and descending the Ladder.
seven virtues were to be symbolized, I assume that the additional four would
be the Cardinal Virtues, and although I have examined a great number of early
T.B.s I cannot recall any in which the four Cardinal Virtues are symbolized in
addition to the other three.
from the three virtues, there is one more symbol which appears regularly on or
near the Ladder, and that is the `Key'. Bowring, for very good reason, showed
it hanging from one of the rungs. It is one of the old symbols of Masonry, and
it is mentioned in our earliest ritual documents, i.e., the Edinburgh Register
House MS., 1696, and its sister texts:
Which is the key of your lodge
a weel hung tongue
Many of the early texts
expanded the `Key - Tongue' symbolism, saying that it was lodged in `the bone
box' (i.e., the mouth) and that it is the key to the Mason's secrets. But one
of the best answers on this point is in the Sloane MS., c. 1700, which was the
earliest ritual document that contained the words `the tongue of good report',
which have survived in our ritual to this day:
wt is the Keys of your Lodge Doore made of?
it is not made of Wood Stone Iron or steel or any sort of mettle but the
tongue of a good report behind a brothers back as well as before his face.
THE FREEMASON AT
THE FREEMASON AT WORK
53. SYMBOLISM AND REMOVAL OF GLOVES
Does the wearing of White Gloves have a symbolic meaning? Opinions seem to
vary as to whether they should be removed, by W.M., Wardens and Candidates for
communicating the `tokens' and when taking the Obligations. Is this a matter
in which opinions may rightly differ, or is one way or the other irregular?
It would not be difficult to find a whole series of reasons for the removal
of one or both gloves at particular stages in the ceremonies, but the Grand
Lodge regulation is quite specific on this point: As laid down by the Grand
Lodge in June 1950, it is left to the discretion of the Master of each Lodge
to decide, after considering the interests of the members generally, whether
to request that they be worn.
(a) The Board considers that when such a request is made it should
cover all present, and not, as sometimes occurs, the Officers only.
(b) The Board recommends the Grand Lodge to rule that if gloves
are worn they should be worn at all times except
(i) By candidates for the
(ii) By the Master
Elect when actually taking his Obligations on the V.S.L.
Gloves would thus not be removed by the Master (or Wardens or
temporary occupant of their Chairs or by any Brother assisting them) in the
course of entrusting or examining candidates, or when investing Officers.
(c) The Board sees no objection to Entered Apprentices and Fellow
Crafts wearing gloves when not actually being passed or raised. (Extract from
Report of Board of General Purposes adopted 10 June 1964.) White gloves are
worn in most of the Lodges under English Constitution, but it is the W.M. who
decides this, and the note `White Gloves' is usually printed on the Lodge
Summons. As to the removal of gloves, the rulings under paragraph (b) above,
give a clear answer: gloves are not to be worn by candidates for all three
degrees, and must be removed by the Master Elect when taking his Obligations.
There is evidence for the antiquity of the candidate's ungloved hand in one of
the earliest descriptions of the `posture' during the Obligation, in
Prichard's Masonry Dissected, 1730, where the Candidates speaks of `... my
naked Right Hand on the Holy Bible ...'.
As to symbolism, I am inclined to believe that gloves came into
Speculative usage, like the aprons, as a direct heritage from operative
practice, both aprons and gloves being essential items in a mason's working
apparel. This would suggest that the prime symbolism of gloves
THE FREEMASON AT
aprons) is to emphasize the operative origins of Speculative Masonry.
Gloves have had a wide ranging symbolism since the middle ages, in
legal, military, and liturgical use. Our custom of wearing white gloves, as
with our aprons of white lambskin, is probably associated with the idea of
purity. (See also Q. 147, p. 319.)
What is the derivation and purpose of the words spoken by the W.M. on the
Risings, when he asks if `... any brother has aught to propose for the good of
Freemasonry in general . . .', etc.?
Essentially, the Risings are a part of the formalities of Closing the lodge,
and it is in that portion of lodge‑work that we should look for early evidence
of the procedure. Formal `Opening' and `Closing' of the lodge was established
in the Continental lodges c. 1742‑1760, and did not make its appearance (in
print) in English practice until the 1760s.
Le Macon Demasque, a French exposure of 1751, in its description
of the preliminaries before closing the lodge, states that the Master,
addressing the Warden, asked:
has no one . . . any
representations to make upon the matters in which we have worked? Speak
These words were incorporated in the first English translation of
that work, Solomon in all his Glory, 1766, and this is the earliest evidence I
have been able to trace of anything approaching the purpose of the Risings.
But, apart from this, there seems to be no evidence in early eighteenth
century practice of anything resembling the Risings. Nor can I trace any hint
of such procedure in the important later works of Preston, Browne, etc.
Preston, for example, has a brief chapter on the `Ceremony of opening and
closing a Lodge', which must have been established procedure at that time
(1775), but there is no trace of any‑thing resembling the Risings. Nor is
there anything on the subject in Browne's Master Key, 1798, where the full
ritual and procedural detail would lead us to expect some indications of
I am, therefore, of the opinion that Risings were probably
introduced at the Union of the Grand Lodges, 1813, or soon afterwards, as a
result of the work of the Lodge of Reconciliation.
THE FREEMASON AT WORK
PURPOSE OF THE RISINGS
I believe they were linked, in
some way, with the Senior Warden's duty `to see that every Brother has had his
due' - itself a link with the Old Charges. (See AQC, Vol. 74, p. 151.) The
Risings were designed, primarily, to ensure that every Brother in the lodge
would have a proper opportunity of making proposals, or initiating discussion,
on matters of interest to the lodge and the craft.
Why three Risings? The threefold Risings are to be compared, in
origin, to the threefold proclamation of the new W.M., or to public
proclamations which were thrice repeated in order to ensure that they were
heard by all.
This necessarily leads to the conclusion that the threefold
Risings were not at first intended as three separate opportunities for three
different types of communication, which is the present‑day practice.
RISINGS IN MODERN PRACTICE
The wording of the formula in
which the W.M. asks `... if any Brother has aught to propose . . .' seems to
imply that every Brother has the right to answer, i.e., the First Rising was
not originally reserved to the lodge Secretary for reading communications from
the Grand Lodge, as it is nowadays.
Clearly, a standardization of practice in regard to the Risings
must be a great advantage and, although they are not mentioned in the Book of
Constitutions, or in the Points of Procedure in the Masonic Year Book, the
Grand Lodge does, in fact, recommend the following procedure:
1. First Rising -
Communications from the Grand Lodge.
2. Second Rising - Propositions for new and joining members;
notices of motion.
3. Third Rising - General
communications; apologies for absence, and other matters properly raised by
members of the lodge.
First Rising - As No. 1 above.
Second Rising - Communications from the Prov. Grand Lodge.
Third Rising - A combination
of Nos. 2 and 3 above.
Emergency meetings. The Risings are omitted at emergency meetings
because lodges are not empowered to deal with any business other than that
printed on the lodge summons.
THE FREEMASON AT WORK
`Emulation' working. Is it the original or the oldest form now worked in
England? Is it the form now practised by the majority of Lodges in England?
Are figures available on this point?
Emulation is one of the oldest post‑Union workings. It may well be the
oldest, but in view of rival claims and in the absence of complete proof, this
question cannot be answered with certainty.
There are two points about Emulation that seem to put it into a
class of its own:
(a) As a Lodge of Instruction,
it goes back to 1823, with continuous existence since then.
(b) It is today the best
organized of all the `named' rituals, having had a governing body to `protect'
it throughout its history, and in that respect, I believe, it far outstrips
all other `named' forms.
Bro. C. F. W. Dyer, in his Emulation - A Ritual To Remember, which
is the standard history of the Emulation Lodge of Improvement, published in
connection with its sesqui‑centennial in 1973, shows that the founders
experienced difficulties in its formation, because Lodges of Instruction at
that time had to be sponsored by a Lodge. The Emulation founders had decided
that their Lodge of Instruction was to be for Master Masons only (as it is
today), and the Lodges which were invited to act as sponsor were not ready to
accept that restriction. Eventually, the Emulation Lodge of Instruction was
sponsored, on 27 November 1823, by the Lodge of Hope, then No. 7, whose
Master, Joseph Dennis, was one of Emulation's original members.
Is Emulation `the original or oldest form now worked in England?'
It is certainly one of the oldest, but it would be impossible to say whether
it is the `original'. As Bro. Dyer explains:
No official record has ever
been found of the Lodge of Reconciliation Ritual that was approved by the
Grand Lodge. (op. cit. p. 22.)
Emulation is probably as near
to the forms then prescribed as any of the workings surviving from that
period. Its principal virtue is that it has enjoyed a proper continuity of
control of its forms ever since its foundation.
Are figures available? Outside the London area, our Grand Lodge
does not keep records of the particular forms of ritual worked by all the
Lodges on its Roll; hence no figures for each working are available.
124 THE FREEMASON AT WORK
We tend to think in terms of the older and best known versions,
Emulation, Stability, Bristol, Oxford, Humber, Taylor's, Logic, Universal,
West End, etc., etc., but there are countless other forms. Emulation has
achieved a widespread popularity and has played a great part as the basis for
many workings that have stemmed from it. Perhaps the best answer to this
question is from the dust jacket of Bro. Dyer's book:
The work of well over half the
lodges under the English Constitution and the standard work of several
overseas Constitutions is based on the Emulation method.
During the past century there have been printed rituals which
claimed (or were believed) to represent the Emulation working, `but none of
these has had any authorization from the Emulation Lodge of Improvement',
which has firmly resisted the temptation to compile, sponsor, or authorize a
change, and it now seems to the Committee that reasons once cogent have
progressively become less so. They feel that the time has arrived when a
change of policy may be of advantage to those Lodges which prefer to work the
Emulation system of ritual. This book is the result.
These words are from Bro. Oskar Klagge's Introduction to the
Emulation Ritual, published in 1969, the first officially authorized edition
`Compiled by and published with the approval of the Committee of the Emulation
Lodge of Improvement' and, despite the many publications that appeared in the
second half of the 19th century claiming to give the Lectures `As taught in .
. . the Emulation Lodge of Improvement' (e.g. The Perfect Ceremonies, The
Lectures of the Three Degrees, etc.), the first version of the Lectures
authorized by the governing body of Emulation did not appear in print until
1975. (See Dyer, Emulation, A Ritual to Remember, 1973, pp. 76‑7, 108‑9,
56. MASONIC `FIRE'
What is the origin and the correct method of Masonic `Fire' after toasts?
The `Fire' seems to have been adapted from the military custom of firing guns
or muskets after toasts. The records of the Preston Gild Merchant describe an
annual procession by the Mayor, with an escort of soldiers and representatives
of the Trade Companies, to each of the
THE FREEMASON AT WORK
gates, at which toasts were drunk, each health being followed by a `volley of
shott from the musketiers attending'. One of the earliest descriptions of
Masonic `Fire' appears in Le Secret des Francs‑Masons, a French exposure of
1742, from which the following extracts are drawn:
All the terms they use in
drinking are borrowed from the Artillery .. . The Bottle is called Barrel . .
. Wine is called red Powder, & [Water] white Powder . . . The Routine which
they observe in drinking does not permit the use of glasses, for there would
not be a whole glass left after they had finished: they use only goblets,
which they call Cannon. When they drink in ceremony, the order is given: Take
your Powder; everybody rises, & the Worshipful says: Charge. Then each of them
fills his goblet. The commands follow: Present Arms: Take Aim. Fire. Grand
Fire. . . . On the first they stretch their hands to the goblet; on the
second, they raise them as though presenting arms, & on the last, they drink .
. . they all watch the Worshipful so that they keep perfect time throughout.
When taking up their goblets they carry them forwards a little at first, then
to the left breast & across to the right: then, in three movements, they
replace their goblets on the Table clap their hands three times & every member
cries out three times Vivat . there is no Military Academy where the drill is
performed with greater exactitude, precision, pomp, & majesty . . . you will
see no Stragglers... . The noise as they place their goblets on the table is
quite considerable .. . a clear & uniform stroke, hard enough to shatter any
but the strongest vessels .. .
Many different versions of the `Fire' appeared in print in the
following centuries and there is still enormous variety in present‑day English
procedure. Moreover, there is no authority that would justify the description
of any particular procedure as `correct'. In the London area, where there are
some 1700 lodges, the `Fire' forms a series of seven triads, their rhythm
being set by the W.M. (or the Brother giving the toast) as he calls the
P...,L.. ,R..;P.. ,L..
One, Two, [Gavel = Three].2
1 - 2 - 3; 1 - 2 - 3; 1 - 2 - 3.
Finally, in answer to many correspondents who have asked `Why must
the dining‑room be tyled during the Firing‑routine?', it is perhaps necessary
to explain that the modern P.L.R. is only a kind of airy triangle drawn with
the finger‑tip, but it was not always thus. Despite the numerous variations
that have appeared since those days, the careful reader may find the answer in
the quotation from 1742, above.
Early French Exposures, pp. 62‑3. Publ. by the Q.C. Lodge; it contains a
collection of twelve of the earliest texts, all in English translation.
2 Up to
this point, the W.M. has been speaking; now the assembled Brethren take over,
by clapping `three times three'.
126 THE FREEMASON AT WORK
KNOCKS IN CRAFT `FIRE'
What is the significance of the twenty‑one knocks in Craft Fire and why are
they usually given in the time (or rhythm) of the F.C. knocks?
They are not twenty‑one `knocks'. The first three sets of P.L.R. were ab
origine signs, or a substitute for signs. The next three `moves' (usually
given as `One, Two, Bang!') are merely rhythm‑makers, rather like a starter's
gun. Whatever the preliminaries were and are, the actual knocks, in firing,
are the `three times three' at the end, whether they are made by hand‑claps or
with firing glasses.
But it is almost impossible to explain all the different versions
of the `Fire' in this way. Outside London, many curious variations are
practised. In one of our Midlands' Provinces they start with `P.L.R. Bang!'
thrice repeated, and then continue with the `One, Two', etc., as above.
One Australian visitor to Q.C. Lodge demonstrated five different
versions practised in his country, each with its own peculiar name and
purpose, and several of them requiring a good deal of physical agility. But
the `Three times three' appears to be the standard practice, generally used
wherever the Craft `Fire' is given.
I can find no trace of the F.C. rhythm being used; so far as I am
aware, only the E.A. knocks are used, at great or lesser speed, according to
taste, or to local custom.
I have indeed noticed that the `caller' sometimes announces the
P.L.R. with a pause at the wrong moment, which would seem to suggest the F.C.
rhythm, but I believe this is simply a quirk of the `caller'. It would surely
be improper to give the `Fire' in the F.C. rhythm, when E.A.s are likely to be
present at Table.
`SILENT FIRE'‑WHEN AND WHY IS IT USED?
This is usually given in the normal rhythm, but, instead of `clapping', the
right hand taps lightly on the left forearm. Our Grand Lodge has no `official'
view or ruling on the practice, which appears to be largely a matter of local
In some places it is used at the end of a toast to `Absent
Brethren'; elsewhere, as a salute to `Departed Brethren'. I discussed the
question with Bro. E. Newton, formerly Assistant Librarian of the Grand Lodge,
and we have both seen the `Silent Fire' used for both purposes.
His view is that the Fire, when given properly, is intended as a
hearty, enthusiastic (and noisy) salute, and should be given with the proper
THE FREEMASON AT
`Silent Fire' is a contradiction in terms, an anomaly, and it is perhaps just
as well that the practice is gradually dying out.
With all due deference to old established customs, I agree readily
with this view.
IS THE `FIRE' OMITTED?
Is it correct to omit the `Fire' when there is no responder to a toast?
I know that this omission is usual in certain Provinces and in some Lodges,
but the question `correct or not' does not really apply. Apart from the
general prohibition, when non‑Masons or ladies are present, the `Fire' is a
matter of custom, not law, and local customs should be respected. The
following notes are therefore no more than my personal views, based mainly on
Regardless of whether there is a responder to the toast, or not,
with the one exception noted under `Silent Fire', above, I can find no reason
for omitting the `Fire'. The `Fire' is the completion of the toast and, by
long‑standing custom, it is actually a part of the honours accorded to whoever
is the subject of the toast. There are numerous long lists of Masonic toasts
(going back more than 200 years) including many to the ladies, all of which
were drunk, with `Fire', thus transforming them into Masonic toasts.
57. HOLINESS TO THE LORD
What is the translation and significance of the words inscribed around the `Porchway'
of the Third Degree Tracing Board?
For the sake of many thousands of Brethren who have never seen the words you
refer to, and are wondering what all this means, I must point out that they do
not appear in the majority of Third Degree Tracing Boards. There is, however,
one design which does usually incorporate `the words' nowadays, though they
did not appear in the artist's original sketches.
The Grand Lodge Library possesses two very similar Third Degree
T.B. designs in colour, both by John Harris, one dated 1820 and the other
1825. Each of them displays, in the centre of the `coffin' outline, a
black‑and‑white chequered pavement leading to an arched porch with its
curtains slightly parted to reveal the Sanctum Sanctorum. The semi‑circular
arch in both sketches is purely ornamental, i.e., there are no words on it.
(One of these designs is illustrated in AQC 75, p. 196.)
THE FREEMASON AT WORK
Harris was a famous facsimilist in his day, a painter of
miniatures and an architectural draughtsman. Soon after his initiation in
1818, he began to draw, engrave and publish designs for Tracing Boards. His
work became deservedly popular and a set of three, submitted in a competition
in 1845, were officially adopted by the Emulation Lodge of Improvement, and
are in use to this day.
In the 1870s, when printed rituals began to make their appearance
with some regularity, they usually contained pictures of the Tracing Boards,
in engraved line drawings, and it is in the Text Book of Free‑masonry, 1870,
and in editions of the Perfect Ceremonies from c. 1870 onwards, that we find
the Third Degree T.B., based directly on a composite of Harris's two boards of
1820 and 1825, but now drawn with `the words' in very defective Hebrew
characters, but fortunately recognizable. Whether Harris was responsible for
their introduction is uncertain.
The words, when you find them, are in Hebrew (i.e., reading from
right to left), Kodesh la‑Adonai, and are translated `Holiness to the Lord'.
They are the same two words which form the Hebrew motto above the Ark of the
Covenant in the coat‑of‑arms of the United Grand Lodge. (See illustration on
p. 19 above.) The words would be invisible in any normal vest‑pocket ritual,
and, in fact, there are very few of the large printed rituals that show them.
I have been unable to trace a single version of the ritual in which the words
are mentioned or explained in such a manner as to demand their being included
in the Illustration of the 3rd T.B.
The modern T.B.s in use in our Grand Lodge Temples do not show the
words, and I examined many really old Boards in the store‑rooms of the Grand
Lodge Museum, without success. It is obvious that `the words' are not an
essential part of the Third T.B., and we may accept their inclusion in the
Harris design as a simple piece of artistic exuberance, either by Harris
himself, or by some later `improver'.
As to the question of symbolism, I would suggest you read Exodus,
Chap. xxviii, vv. 36‑38, which describe how Moses was commanded to prepare a
plate of gold, with those two words engraved upon it, to be worn `... upon the
forefront of the mitre . . .' of the High Priest. This is one of the instances
in which the symbolism is explained in clear and unmistakable language: `...
it shall be always upon his forehead, that they [the children of Israel] may
be accepted before the Lord'. In this sense every Mason symbolically wears the
badge of `Holiness to the Lord'.
THE FREEMASON AT
58. WEARING TWO COLLARS
In Lodge, a Brother should wear the regalia of the highest Craft rank that he
holds. If appointed to carry out an office in the Lodge, should he wear the
collar of that office over the other collar?
The general answer is Yes, especially for an `appointed or elected' office
where the Brother will serve in that office for a whole year. For example, a
Grand Officer serving his Lodge as Treasurer or Secretary, would wear the
light‑blue collar above his dark‑blue. Even in the case of a Grand Officer
deputizing temporarily for an absent Officer, e.g., acting as Deacon, he
should wear the Deacon's collar over his own dark‑blue. This is the procedure
recommended by our Grand Lodge and it applies equally to Provincial and
District Grand Officers and to holders of London Grand Rank.
An exception arises when the W.M. vacates the Chair to enable a
Past Master, or a Brother of higher rank, to conduct a ceremony. The rule is
that the W.M. retains his collar and `the P.M. must be clothed according to
his rank'. (See, `Points of Procedure - Board of General Purposes' in the 1974
Year Book, p. 833.) In the English Installation ceremony, it is customary to
invite three senior Brethren to act as S.W., J.W., and I.G., during a portion
of the work. I believe that there is no need for those three Brn. to wear the
collars of their temporary offices, and in my experience, that is the general
practice, probably because the collars are required so soon afterwards, for
the Investiture of Officers. But I would not press this view against
established Lodge custom, or where it conflicts with the rubric of a
In recent years, there seems to be a growing practice, where two
collars would be called for, of wearing only the senior collar, but with two
jewels; or wearing one collar with the jewel which should be worn with a
different collar, e.g., a Provincial Grand Chaplain's jewel on the collar of a
Past Asst. Grand Chaplain. My own view is that these practices are to be
Why are we forbidden to solicit Candidates? How did the rule arise? Is there
a distinction to be drawn between `solicitation' and improper solicitation?
THE FREEMASON AT WORK
Let us first be clear about the rule. There is no rule on the subject of
soliciting, either in the Book of Constitutions or in the Points of Procedure
listed in the Grand Lodge Year Book. The prohibition against the soliciting of
Candidates is implicit in two documents which the Candidate must sign before
his Initiation. The first is in the Candidate's portion of the Proposal Form,
in which he declares: My application is entirely voluntary.
The second appears in Rule 162 of the Book of Constitutions, which
prescribes the form of Declaration that must be signed by every Candidate
before his Initiation:
I . . ., being a free man, and
of the full age of twenty‑one years, do declare that, unbiassed by the
improper. solicitation of friends, 1 and uninfluenced by mercenary
or other unworthy motive, I do freely and voluntarily offer myself a candidate
There is no `rule' and, therefore, no specific penalty. The ban
against soliciting arises out of this requirement that the Candidate shall
declare that he comes voluntarily and without improper solicitation. The words
in italics above are the crux of the answer to the first question.
How did the `rule' arise? It cannot have been old operative
practice. When a lad was bound apprentice, probably by (or to) his father, it
may be assumed that there was no improper solicitation. When he ultimately
took his freedom, that was certainly voluntary, and all the information we
have relating to oaths, in the Old Charges and in craft Gild practice, show
that they were simple oaths of fidelity to the appropriate authorities, i.e.,
the King, the Master, the Craft, the Gild, or the municipality. But for
operative masons, so long as a lad was apprenticed, he would automatically
join the lodge to become E.A., and then F.C. or Master, because these were
essential stages in his trade career. The questions of voluntary application
or improper solicitation simply did not enter into the operative system.
Early non‑operative and speculative records are curiously silent
on these matters; there is no evidence on them in the early exposures, or in
any of our oldest lodge minutes. There is, however, some possibility that the
`rule' had its roots in the clandestine and improper admissions of Masons,
which became a serious problem in England in the 1730s. Even so, there is no
textual evidence of a ban against improper solicitation, either in the 1723 or
the 1738 Constitutions, or in any of the English exposures of that era.
1 Author's italics throughout this piece.
THE FREEMASON AT
In trying to trace the source
of our present regulation on voluntary application and improper solicitation
it is essential to view the two ideas as one, which indeed they are, the
latter being a natural though strict corollary to the insistence on `voluntary
application'; and our earliest evidence on the subject is concerned with this
voluntary approach. It appears first in a Q. and A. in the Wilkinson MS., c.
How Came you to be Made a Mason
By my own Desire & ye Recomendatn of a friend
A better example appeared in a
French exposure, known as the Herault Letter, of 1737, which was reprinted in
several English translations at that period. I quote from the opening lines,
with my own free translation:
Reception d'un Frey‑Macon [The
Herault Letter], 1737
Recipiendaire est conduit par The Candidate is
Proposeur (qui devient son the Proposer (who
dans une Chambre (de la Sponsor) into one of the Rooms of
it n'y a pas de Lumiere; the Lodge where there is
La on lui
demande s'il a la Voca‑ There he is asked if he has
etre Recu. tion [i.e., a
calling] to be Received.
The crux of the matter lies in the word vocation, or calling,
i.e., a personal and almost spiritual inner desire to join the Craft. The
question was considered so important in 1737 - 8 that it was actually repeated
twice more, inside the Lodge, before the Candidate took his Obligation, and
always with this same word, Vocation.
In the period 1738 to 1745 there was a spate of exposures printed
in France and Germany, exhibiting the rapid expansion of the ceremonies at
that time. To avoid overloading these notes with too much repetition I will
merely summarize by saying that, apart from a few trivial publications which
were mere catchpennies, every one of the Continental exposures that described
the Initiation reproduced this same question (or one in similar terms), and
there is no doubt at all that this was the origin of our own well‑known phrase
`of my own free will and accord'.
No useful new exposures were published in England between 1730 and
1760; only a long series of re‑issues of Prichard's work of 1730, and this gap
in our English documents makes the foreign productions doubly interesting.
But, starting in 1760 we have the first of a whole new series of English
exposures, all containing a great deal of Prichard's and earlier material, but
all exhibiting some of the expansions that had come into practice in the
THE FREEMASON AT WORK
The first, and one of the best of the series, was Three Distinct
Knocks, published in 1760. The preliminaries to Initiation are not described
very well in this text, and the first item that has a bearing on our study
appears in the opening words of the Obligation, where we read (for the first
time, in print):
I ... Of my own free Will and
Accord .. .
J. & B., one of the most
popular works in the whole series (it was reprinted many times), was first
published in 1762. It contains much more detail, and after the opening
ceremony the Candidate
... proposed last Lodge‑Night
. . . is in another Room, which is totally dark;
Wardens come to prepare him and he is
`then asked whether he is
conscious of having the Vocation necessary to be received?'
The admission procedure is
described in detail, and after three perambulations the Master asks the
`Whether you have a desire to
become a Mason? And if it is of your own free Will and Choice?'
Obligation begins, `I - A.B., of my own Free Will and Accord ..
Mahhabone and Hiram, both of 1766, are almost word‑for‑word
identical with the above. Shibboleth, of 1765, shows a new variation:
Having obtained from him [the
Candidate] a frank declaration of his desire of being a Mason .. .
This is the earliest use of the word `declaration' in this
connection; the Obligation begins, `I, C.D., of my own voluntary choice ..
From 1772 until the early years of the nineteenth century the
out‑standing figure in the study and literature of Masonic philosophy and
ritual was William Preston, and the next evidence on the development of these
themes of `voluntary application' and `improper solicitation' comes from
Preston's Illustrations of Masonry, first published in 1772, a work which was
greatly enlarged and frequently reprinted in many editions from 1775 onwards.
In the 1772 edition we find (so far as I am aware) the first
version of the Declaration which is required to be made by every Candidate
nowadays, and which is prescribed in our Rule 162 of the B. of C. I quote only
the first few lines of Preston's version:
To be subscribed, or assented
to, by every Candidate for Masonry previous to his Initiation.
THE FREEMASON AT
'I. A.B. do seriously declare,
upon my honor, that unbiassed by friends and 'uninfluenced by mercenary
motives, I freely and voluntarily offer myself a 'candidate for the mysteries
of masonry; ' (1772 edn., pp. 210‑211.)
Preston's 1775 edition did not
mention a signed declaration:
A Declaration to be assented
to by every Candidate, previous to his being proposed.
Do you seriously
declare, upon your honour, before these gentlemen The Stewards of the Lodge,
that unbiassed by friends and uninfluenced by mercenary motives, you freely
and voluntarily offer yourself .. .
(1775 edn., p. 59.)
It is possible that the signed
declaration was already in use by this time, but it was not prescribed in the
contemporary Constitutions. The first B. of C. of the United Grand Lodge was
published in 1815, and there we have the earliest version of the Declaration,
as an Official requirement; this is the earliest version which contains the
words `improper solicitation':
I, . . . being free by birth,
1 and of the full age of twenty‑one years, do declare that, unbiassed by
the improper solicitation of friends, and uninfluenced by mercenary or other
unworthy motive, I freely and voluntary 2 offer myself a candidate
for the mysteries of masonry.
(B. of C., 1815, pp. 90‑91.)
And so we come to the last of
our questions: Is there a distinction to be drawn between solicitation and
"improper solicitation"?' This is a most difficult question, largely because
the answers will usually depend entirely upon the particular circumstances of
Assuming that some close friend, or a relative, were to open the
subject and express some interest it would be quite proper to tell him all
that may be told and to give him a leaflet 3 describing the Craft
and its objects. In the case of a really suitable person, the next
conversation might easily contain an element of `solicitation', especially if
he were to say, `Do you think I ought to join?' Broadly, I am convinced that
unless a man has expressed a proper interest in the Craft, asking the kind of
questions fully indicative of his interest, any suggestion that he ought to
join would be improper solicitation.
1 The present version says `... being a free man ...'.
2 The word appears thus in one of our copies in the Q.C.
library. Misspellings in the Constitutions are rare; this word should be, of
3 e.g., The G.L. of Scotland pamphlet, `The Candidate',
in AQC, Vol. 76, p. 121 or Bro. John Dashwood's paper, `What shall we tell the
THE FREEMASON AT WORK
As a piece of general guidance, I suggest three rules to be
1. The prospective Candidate
must have opened the discussion himself.
2. Do not make it easy for
him. After he has read and heard all the information that you may properly
give him, do not offer to propose him until you have full evidence of his
interest and intention.
3. If you have the slightest
grounds to suspect his reasons for wanting to join the Craft, any kind of help
would be `improper solicitation'.
These rules, used as guiding principles, should be a sufficient
safe‑guard, and I trust that the foregoing may indicate my views on the
distinction between proper and `improper' solicitation. I believe that such a
distinction can and may be drawn, and this view is confirmed by Bro. the Rev.
J. T. Lawrence in his Masonic Jurisprudence (1912 edn., p. 148).
One final note, which may serve to show how far Masonic ideas can
differ. I am informed, by a well‑known Masonic writer and student, that in the
American State of Vermont it is customary for groups of Brethren to hold
`Invitation Evenings', when selected local business‑men and professional‑men,
all non‑Masons, are invited to attend Lectures on Freemasonry and its objects,
followed by dinner or refreshment, at which the guests can meet and talk to
some of the Masons in their locality.
The motives may be wholly praiseworthy, the proceedings and their
environment may be completely dignified and respectable, yet, to our English
way of thinking, this must surely be the most flagrant kind of `improper
60. BIBLE OPENINGS
Can you tell me what are the proper page‑openings for the V.S.L. in the three
degrees, and are there any official rules on the subject?
Customs vary considerably in different parts of the country, and the
following notes are designed to show some of the best‑known procedures. I have
added a brief note, in each case, indicating the essential Masonic
significance of the passages quoted.
The earliest French exposure of the ceremonies, Reception d'un
Frey‑Macon, states that the E.A. took his Obligation with his right hand on
the Gospel of St. John, and this is confirmed by the next‑oldest French
version, Le Secret des Francs‑Mapons, of 1742. Several later documents
THE FREEMASON AT
period indicate that the V.S.L. was usually opened at St. John, i, v. 1, `In
the beginning was the Word ..
Three Distinct Knocks, an English exposure of 1760, gave different
pages for all three degrees:
1° The Second Epistle of Peter
(with its references to brotherly kindness and charity).
2° The story from Judges, xii, of the test of the Ephraimites.
3° I Kings, chap. vii. The final details of Solomon's Pillars.
Cartwright, in his Commentary on the Freemasonic Ritual, cites the
procedure in old Yorkshire Lodges where the following is customary:
1° Psalm 133. `Behold how good
. . . it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.'
2° Amos, vii, v. 7. `... the
Lord stood upon a wall made by a plumbline, with a plumbline in his hand.'
3° Ecclesiastes, xii. `Then
the dust shall return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto
God who gave it.'
The Bristol working is unusual
in that the Master actually quotes - during the three Opening Cermonies - the
texts from the pages on which the V.S.L. has to be opened, i.e.:
1° Ruth, ii, v. 19. The story
of Ruth and Boaz.
2!° Judges, xii, vv. 5, 6. The test of the Ephraimites.
3° Gen., iv, v. 22. The birth
of Jabal and Jubal, who are mentioned in the Old Charges, from c. 1400
Of course, there is no official Grand Lodge ruling on this
question, and few of the `named' rituals prescribe any particular
page‑openings for the three degrees.
Cartwright states that the Perfect Ceremonies, in their editions
from 1918 onwards, specify II Chron., chap vi, as a standard `opening' for all
degrees; it deals with Solomon's prayer at the consecration of the Temple.
Generally, Cartwright agrees with the widespread practice in English Lodges,
where a haphazard opening of the V.S.L. suffices, but if a particular page is
to stay open through all degrees, he favours II Chron., ii, which is
prescribed in the English Ritual. That passage deals with the preliminaries to
the building of the Temple, and of Solomon's first embassage to Hiram, King of
Tyre, asking for timber, etc., and a `man cunning to work in gold, and in
silver, and in brass . . .', etc.
A German correspondent writes to say that many Lodges in his
country use the following:
For the 1°:John, i, 1. `In the
beginning was the Word
For the 2°: Matt. xxii, 39.
`Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself'
For the 3°: II Chron. vi.
Solomon's dedication of the Temple.
THE FREEMASON AT WORK
My own favourite passage is in I Kings, vii, vv. 13‑21, which
deals with the design, casting, erection and naming of the pillars.
61. THE LION'S PAW OR EAGLE'S CLAW
What is the origin and the symbolism of the `Lion's Paw' or the `Eagle's
Whenever this kind of question crops up, I always like to look at the
earliest‑known rituals to see how the words appeared there. We have, in fact,
several early descriptions of the F.P.O.F. from 1696 on‑wards, also the
`story' of a raising, dated 1726, and the first description of the Third
Degree in 1730. The procedure you mention does not appear in any of the
earliest texts, but a form of it does appear in the 1730 version, though
without any reference to lions or eagles:
... spreading the Right Hand
and placing the middle Finger to the Wrist, clasping the Fore‑finger and the
Fourth to the Sides of the Wrist .. .
(E.M.C., p. 169.) This is from Prichard's Masonry Dissected, dated
1730, the earliest description of the actual procedure of a `Raising
It is not necessary for me to emphasize that our procedure is
different nowadays, and even in modern practice there are numerous variations,
so that one would hesitate to assert that a particular manner of executing the
movement is `correct'! I do not believe, moreover, that there is any symbolism
attached to the G . . .; it was made different from the others to suit a
special purpose, and it is, of course, particularly suitable for the `lifting'
The earliest use of the word `Claw' that I am able to trace in
describing this particular grip comes from Le Catechisme des Francs‑Masons, a
French exposure of 1744, which gives a particularly good account of the 3! as
it was in those days. In the description of the actual raising it says (my
Then he takes him by the
wrist, applying his four fingers separated & bent claw‑fashion at the joint of
the wrist, above the palm of the other's hand, his thumb between the thumb and
index [finger] of the Candidate ... & holding him by this claw‑grip, he orders
him ... (E.F.E., p. 103.)
Note that, even here, there is
no mention of Lion's‑Paw or Eagle's Claw, and although some modern rituals
describe the grip in those terms, I have never been able to trace either of
those titles in the earlier eighteenth century rituals.
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In London Lodges, the Lion's
Paw and Eagle's Claw are virtually unknown; these curiosities of nomenclature
seem to belong to particular localities, and flourish there, often far from
London headquarters. After a search I found the Lion's Paw in at least one
version of Scottish ritual, and both terms in use in an English Lodge, i.e.,
the Lodge of Friendship No. 202, Plymouth. There, at the proper moment, the
... there yet remains a third
method, known as the Lion's Paw or Eagle's Claw, which is by taking a .. .
Apparently this refers to one particular G . . . that has two titles.
62. A MODERNIZED RITUAL?
In order to facilitate understanding of meaning, it has been thought well to
translate the Bible into English that is `as clear and natural to the modern
reader as the subject matter will allow'. Would not similar benefits arise
from the re‑writing of our ritual in twentieth century English?
There is no true analogy here between the Bible and the Masonic ritual. The
former, in its original Hebrew, is full of complex passages which had to be
interpreted even for those to whom Hebrew was their native tongue. And the
interpretations, in many instances, show quite extraordinary variations. (As
an example, the architectural drawings of Solomon's Temple, all based on the
same `technical' descriptions in the Old Testament.) When, after a while, the
Bible became the Holy Book for a large part of the civilized world, it had to
be translated, and with some truly excellent results, but the various
interpretations still remain.
With the ritual we do not have the same problems. More than 99 per
cent of it is in simple and beautiful English, and practically all of it is
readily comprehensible even to simple folk. I agree that there are perhaps two
or three passages which would lend themselves to further interpretation (a
notable example is the speech at `the grave', but even this lovely piece can
be readily understood, and a little thought will reveal most of its inner
The standard rituals have, of course, been translated into many
anguages, but I doubt if a modernized version is really needed, and,
personally, I would oppose its adoption. We would lose far too much and gain
little or nothing.
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Reluctantly, it must be admitted that there are several passages
(especially in the Lectures) that I would like to see removed entirely. They
are mainly items of miscellaneous detail that have no symbolical or
allegorical value, i.e., mere verbal padding that add nothing to our teachings
and simply cause doubt or confusion. (See `Inaccuracies in the Ritual', Q.
178, p. 368.)
63. THE LEFT‑HAND PILLAR
The October, 1944, issue of the Masonic Record contains an illustration of
King Solomon's Temple, showing the J. Pillar at left of the Porch, when viewed
looking towards the building. This appears to contradict the customary ritual
explanation which places B. on the left. Which is correct?
It would be difficult to answer this question without numerous quotations
from Old Testament which, taken together, indicate that the left‑hand' and
`right‑hand' pillars are to be understood as though they are being described
by someone standing inside the Temple, looking out towards the entrance in the
East. Perhaps the simplest explanation is Whiston's note, in his edition of
Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book VIII, Chap. iii, Section 4. I quote
first the passage from Josephus, followed by Whiston's note:
the one of these pillars he
set at the entrance of the porch on the right hand, and called it Jachin, and
the other at the left hand, and called it Booz (sic]
Here Josephus gives us a key
to his own language, of right and left hand in the tabernacle and temple, that
by the right hand he means what is against our left, when we suppose ourselves
going up from the east gates of the courts towards the . . . temple, and so
vice versa; whence it follows that the pillar Jachin, on the right hand of the
temple, was on the south against our left hand, and Booz on the north against
our right hand.
Thus the Masonic Record is correct; our ritual is at fault, only
because it lacks the very necessary explanation.
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64. THE VALLEY OF
In answer to one of the questions in the Fifth Section, First Lecture, a
reference is made to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. This place is mentioned twice
in the Bible (Joel, iii, vv. 2 and 12), but the context gives no indication as
to why this particular site may have been selected for mention in the Masonic
ritual. Can you explain?
The strong emphasis on isolation and solitude as a necessary feature in the
situation of the Lodge, is reflected in the `Laws and Statutes' of the Lodge
of Aberdeen, 1670:
... Wee ordaine lykwayes that
no lodge be holden within a dwelling house wher ther is people living in it
but in the open fieldes except it be ill weather, and then Let ther be a house
chosen that no person shall heir nor seews...
The idea of Masons meeting in the open air, but yet in some quiet
secret place, is to be found in our earliest Masonic catechisms e.g., the
Edinburgh Register House MS., 1696, Chetwode Crawley MS., c. 1700, and Kevan
MS., c. 1714, all speak of:
A dayes Journey from a
burroughs town without bark of dog or crow of cock.
Sloane MS., c. 1700, and Dumfries No. 4 MS., c. 1710, use similar
phrases, but none of these earliest texts mentions the valley of Jehoshaphat.
The first Masonic reference to that specific place is in `A Mason's
Examination', of 1723, and by coincidence that was the very first printed
exposure, i.e., it was published in a newspaper, for entertainment, profit, or
spite. I quote the relevant question and answer:
Where was you made? A. In the Valley of Jehoshaphat, behind a
Rush‑bush, where a Dog was never heard to bark, or Cock to crow, or elsewhere.
The answer (to which you refer) in our modern Lecture, is almost a
paraphrase of the corresponding passage in Masonry Dissected, 1730:
... the highest Hill or lowest
Vale, or in the Vale of Jehosaphat, or any other secret Place. [E.M.C., p.
From this time onwards the
place‑name appears quite regularly in the eighteenth century exposures, and it
is certain that these words formed a part of the ritual before the Union of
the Grand Lodges in 1813.
All this confirms ancient practice and the desire for solitude,
but it does not explain the `valley of Jehoshaphat', which still remains a
problem. The name Jehoshaphat means `whom Jehovah judges' (i.e., whose
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cause He pleads) and the valley of that name, according to the
Book of Joel, is where the Almighty `will gather all the nations' and
especially the `heathen', who have scattered His people, Israel, and driven
them from their land.
Hastings's Dictionary of the Bible says that in Moslem and Jewish
tradition it was the valley east of Jerusalem, the scene of the Last Judgement.
`It was a place of burial in pre‑exilic times', and, by implication, a quiet,
65. APRONS: FLAP UP, CORNER UP, ETC.
In many jurisdictions the E.A. Apron is worn with the flap up. Some Lodges
have a practice of turning up the corner of the apron. Is there any symbolic
significance in these matters, and why did the practices arise?
In non‑operative or speculative Masonry these practices owe their origin to
the time when all Freemasons wore a plain white apron, so that the `flap up',
or `corner up', was used to indicate the Masonic grade of the wearer. Two of
the early exposures, A Mason's Examination, of 1723, and Prichard's Masonry
Dissected, of 1730, both mention the apron given to the Candidate, but make no
reference to distinctive ways of wearing it - for the different grades of
The earliest documents that offer information on the subject are
the French exposures. Le Catechisme dcs Francs‑Masons, of 1744, says:
`Fellow‑crafts wear the apron "point up", while Masters allow the flap to
fall.' The English exposure, Solomon in all his Glory, published in 1768, is a
translation of Le Macon Demasque, 1751, and it says that the Apprentice ties
his apron with `the flap on the inside'. The F.C. is entitled to wear the flap
outside `and fixed to one of my waistcoat buttons' (i.e., flap up) . . . the
Master is `at liberty to let it fall down'. Here, within a space of seven
years, we find new details of the E.A. method of wearing the apron. Both texts
are agreed that F.C.s wear the `flap up' and M.M.s wear `flap down'.
We may assume that in England variations persisted throughout the
eighteenth century, until aprons were standardized after the Union, and many
examples of early aprons are to be found (e.g., in the Grand Lodge Museum)
with a button‑hole in the flap. With the introduction of two rosettes for the
F.C. and three for the M.M., there was no longer the
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any other means of distinguishing the grade of the wearer, but the `point up'
for the E.A. has persisted in many cases to this day.
In some jurisdictions, however, it is still customary for all
Brethren and visitors to a Lodge to wear a plain white apron. Only the
Officers wear decorated aprons in those countries, and there the need remains
for some means of distinguishing the grade of the wearer. I quote first from a
letter from Bro. Conrad Hahn, Secretary of the Masonic Service Association of
In answer to your questions
about aprons and apron‑wearing in the States: every initiate receives his
personal white lambskin apron (without any decoration or distinguishing mark)
when he is initiated. He carries it home, puts it away carefully, and leaves
it there until his death. It is then brought out and put on his body and
interred with him. At lodge he wears a cloth apron (usually all white, but
sometimes embordered in blue, and sometimes bearing the lodge name and number
on the flap) taken from a supply of such aprons furnished by the lodge and
kept in a pile near the Tiler's station.
In Connecticut, where I hold Masonic membership, we are taught to
wear the apron as follows:
E.A. `with the bib (flap)
F.C. `with the bib
turned down, and the left‑hand corner of the apron brought up and tucked in'.
M.M. `with the bib
turned down, and the apron spread'.
Bro. Dwight W. Robb confirms similar practice in Massachusetts for
the E.A. and M.M., but there the F.C. wears the 'flap up' and the right‑hand
corner of the apron tucked into the string at the waist.
Lodges under the Grand Lodge of Scotland also use the plain white
apron, and their practices are described in the following note from Bro.
George Draffen of Newington, M.B.E., R.W. Depute Grand Master of the Grand
Lodge of Scotland:
It is impossible to say what
percentage of the Scottish Lodges use what, for want of a better term, I shall
refer to as the `English System', and what number use the old Scottish custom.
At a guess, I'd say that the bulk of the country Lodges use the old system and
most, but not all, of the City Lodges use the English system. (The regulations
allow for the English system by laying down sealed patterns of aprons for
Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and M.M.) In those Lodges where the old
custom is still in use, the practice is to wear the apron in the E.A. Degree
with the flap UP, covering the chest. The apron is plain white and, when worn
with the flap UP, presents the appearance of a square with a semi‑circle on
one side. (Note: The flap on all Scottish aprons is semi‑circular in shape and
NOT triangular as in England.) In the F.C. Degree the flap is still up, but
the lower left‑hand corner (left‑hand as viewed from the wearer's point of
view) is tucked up and held in position by the
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apron‑string. The shape now is
a triangle with a semi‑circular shape on one side.
In the M.M.
Degree, both corners are tucked up, but so that the bottom of the apron has a
little short flat bit between the turn‑ups. The shape now is meant to be
reminiscent of a coffin!
Bro. I. H. Peters, of Loge
Rosa Alba, Eindhoven, Holland, furnishes details of present‑day practice under
the Grand East of the Nether‑lands. The Candidate gets his own apron for all
three Degrees, and it is the normal Lodge apron, i.e., edged with the Lodge `colours'.
(Each of the Dutch Lodges, as in Scotland, has its own distinctive colours.)
The E.A. wears his apron with the flap tucked inside, i.e., invisible. The F.C.
wears his apron with the flap `point up'; the M.M. wears it with the flap
From our correspondents listed above, I have quoted only four
current variations; of course, there must be many more.
The Scottish practice of the 3! apron resembling a coffin is
perhaps the only instance in which some sort of symbolism is involved. In all
other cases the practices are simply to distinguish the grade of the wearer
and nothing more.