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The History Of Freemasonry
Albert G. Mackey 33°
PART I. - PREHISTORIC MASONRY
Volumes / This Copy]
Mackey's Preface ..................................... iv. to xi.
Introduction ………………………………………….. ?? /
Tradition and History in Masonry.......................... 1
The Legendary History of Freemasonry. .................... 10
The Old Manuscripts ..................................... 13
The Legend of the Craft.................................. 18
The Halliwell Poem and the Legend........................ 25
The Origin of the Halliwell Poem.......................... 33 /
The Legend, the Germ of History........................... 36 /
The Origin of Geometry................................... 40 /
The Legend of Lamech's Sons and the Pillars................ 44
The Legend of Hermes.................................... 50
The Tower of Babel....................................... 53
The Legend of Nimrod.................................... 63
The Legend of Euclid..................................... 67
The Legend of the Temple................................. 73
The Extension of the Art into Other Countries............... 83
The Legend of Charles Martel and Namus Grecus........... 85
The Legend of St. Alban.................................. 90 /
The York Legend......................................... 95 /
Summary of the Legend of the Craft........................ 111 /
The Andersonian Theory .................................. 117 /
The Prestonian Theory.................................... 124 /
The Hutchinsonian Theory................................ 128 /
The Oliverian Theory..................................... 143 /
The Temple Legend....................................... 151 /
The Legend of the Dionysiac Artificers...................... 166 /
Freemasonry and the Ancient Mysteries..................... 174 /
Druidism and Freemasonry ................................ 99 /
Freemasonry and the Crusades............................. 217 /
29. - The
Story of the Scottish Templars......................... 255
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Albert Gallatin Mackey................................ Frontispiece
Inner Chamber..................................... Vignette Title
Craft before King Solomon.............................. 28 / 35
Operative Masons of the Tenth Century......................... 60 / 79
Anthony Sayer ............................................... 108 / 105
Passes of the Jordan....................................... 140 / 134
Monument of the Third Degree................................. 172 / 162
Coxe ................................................. 204 / 194
Meeting on the Coast of Joppa............................. 236 / 228
Strasburg Cathedral .......................................... 252 / 259
ITS LEGENDS AND TRADITIONS
ITS CHRONOLOGICAL HISTORY
BY ALBERT GALLATIN MACKEY, M.D., 33°
THE HISTORY OF THE
SYMBOLISM OF FREEMASONRY
ANCIENT AND ACCEPTED SCOTTISH RITE
ROYAL ORDER OF SCOTLAND
BY WILLIAM R. SINGLETON, 33°
BY WILLIAM JAMES HUGHAN
ENGLAND - P\S\G\W\
OF EGYPT, ETC.
THE MASONIC HISTORY COMPANY
NEW YORK AND LONDON
comprehensive a title as the one selected for the present work would be a vain
assumption if the author's object was not really to embrace in a series of
studies the whole cycle of Masonic history and science. Anything short of this
would not entitle the work to be called THE HISTORY OF FREEMASONRY.
Freemasonry as a society of long standing, has of course its history, and the
age of the institution has necessarily led to the mixing in this history of
authentic facts and of mere traditions or legends.
thus led in the very beginning of our labors to divide our historical studies
into two classes. The one embraces the Legendary History of Freemasonry, and
the other its authentic annals.
Legendary History of Freemasonry will constitute the subject of the first of
the five parts into which this work is divided. It embraces all that narrative
of the rise and progress of the institution, which beginning with the
connection with it of the antediluvian patriarchs, ends in ascribing its
modern condition to the patronage of Prince Edwin and the assembly at York.
narrative, which in the I5th and up to the end of the I7th century, claimed
and received the implicit faith of the Craft, which in the I8th century was
repeated and emendated by the leading writers of the institution, and which
even in the 19th century has had its advocates among the learned and its
credence among the unlearned of the Craft, has only recently and by a new
school been placed in its true position of an apocryphal story.
yet though apocryphal, this traditionary story of Freemasonry which has been
called the Legend of the Craft, or by some the Legend of the Guild, is not to
be rejected as an idle fable. On the contrary, the object of the present work
has been to show that these Masonic legends contain the germs of an
historical, mingled often with a symbolic, idea, and that divested of certain
evanescences in the shape of anachronisms, or of unauthenticated statements,
these Masonic legends often, nay almost always, present in their simple form a
true philosophic spirit.
establish this principle in the literature of Freemasonry, to divest the
legends of the Craft of the false value given to them as portions of authentic
history by blind credulity, and to protect them from the equally false
estimate that has been bestowed upon them by the excessive incredulity of
unphilosophic sceptics, who view them only as idle fables without more meaning
than what they attach to monkish legends-in one word, to place the Legendary
History of Freemasonry in the just position which it should occupy but has
never yet occupied, is the object of the labors expended in the composition of
the first part of this work.
second part of the work will pass out of the field of myth and legend and be
devoted to the authentic or recorded history of Freemasonry.
Rejecting as wholly untenable and unsupported by historical evidence, the
various hypotheses of the origin of the institution in the Pagan mysteries, in
the Temple of Solomon, or in the Crusades, an attempt has been made to trace
its birth to the Roman Colleges of Artificers, which present us with an almost
identical organization of builders and architects. Following the progress of
the Roman Masons of the Colleges, through their visits to the different
provinces of the Empire, where they went, accompanying the legions in their
victorious excursions, we will find that the art of building was communicated
by them to the Italians, the Spaniards, the Gauls, and the Britons.
this way the knowledge of Operative Masonry and its practice in guilds,
sodalities, and confraternities was preserved by these peoples after the
extinction of the Roman Empire.
next find this sodality emerging in the 10th century from Lombardy, and under
the name of "Traveling Freemasons,” perambulating all Europe and
re-establishing confraternities of Stonemasons in Germany, France, England,
Scotland, and other countries.
narrative of the progress of this fraternity of builders from Como, which was
evidently an outshoot from the ancient Roman Colleges, is treated with great
particularity, because without the aid of any mythical or legendary
instrumentality we are thus enabled to connect it continuously with the modern
system of Operative Masonry.
merging of Operative into Speculative Masonry in the beginning of the 18th
century is an historical incident based on the most authentic records. Its
details, derived from records of whose genuineness there never has been a
doubt, will complete and perfect the history of Freemasonry from its rise to
its present condition.
we may imagine the growth of that magnificent tree, beneath whose
wide-spreading branches the fraternity now recline. In the far remote reign of
Numa, the philosophic and religious king of Rome (or if his personality be
doubted by the disciples of Niebuhr), in the times represented by his name, we
find the germ of the institution in those organized confraternities of
craftsmen, whom history records as flourishing with varying success and
popularity through the times of the Kingdom, the Republic, and the Empire of
seeds of a co-operative association of builders, based on the principles of
fraternity, were carried with the legions of Rome into the various provinces
that had been conquered by the soldiers of the Empire, and as colonies of
Romans were there established, the Latin language, the manners and customs of
the Roman people and their skill in the arts were introduced among the
these arts, the most important was that of architecture, and by means of
monuments still remaining, as well as other historical evidences, we are
enabled to follow the gradual growth of the operative societies out of the
Roman guilds and then that of the speculative institution out of the operative
hypothesis sought to be sustained in investigating the history of Freemasonry,
in the present work, may be succinctly stated as follows:
Operative Masonry is the basis on which Speculative Freemasonry is
founded-that is to say, the lodges of Freemasons of the present day are the
successors of the lodges of Operative Masons which existed all over Europe
during the Middle Ages and up to the beginning of the 18th century.
the Operative Masonry that gave birth to the modern speculative order was not
the mere craft or trade or art of building. The men who practiced it were not
mere cutters and layers of stone. There were large numbers of workmen who
belonged to a lower class of the trade or profession, who were never looked
upon with any respect, with whom companionship was denied, and who were
employed only in subordinate positions. These men were called cowans, rough
layers, foreigners or similar titles intimating degradation of class and
inferiority of skill.
relation can be traced between the Operative Masons of this class and the
Speculative Masons, who have represented Freemasonry since the beginning of
the 18th century. The Operative Masons, between whom and the modern Freemasons
there is a relation of succession, were a higher class of artists. They were
possessed of secrets connected with peculiar skill in their craft. But above
all, they were distinguished for the adoption of what might, in our modern
phrase, be called the co-operative principle in the practice of their Craft.
Perhaps it may more properly be called, a principle of sodality. It was shown
in the formation of a company, a society, a guild, a corporation, or a
confraternity, call it by what name you please, in which there was an
association of skill, of labor, and of interests. This principle has been
called the guild spirit, and it is this spirit which constitutes the essential
characteristic of the Masonic institution.
propose to establish a chain of historical continuity, which shall extend from
the first appearance of any association in which the origin of modern
Freemasonry is sought to be found, to the present day, when the institution
has assumed its well-recognized form, there are two elements which must be
well marked in every link of the chain.
first place, there must be an operative element. Freemasonry can be traced
only to an association of builders or architects. Every ceremony in the
ritual, every symbol in the philosophy of Speculative Freemasonry,
indicates-nay, positively proves - that it has been derived from and is
closely connected with the art of building. The first Freemasons were
builders, they could have been nothing else. To seek for them in a mystical,
religious association as the ancient pagan Mysteries, or in an institution of
chivalry as in the Knights of the Crusades would be a vain and unprofitable
task. As well might one look for the birthplace of the eagle in the egg of the
crow as to attempt to trace the origin of Freemasonry to anything other than
an association of builders.
second place there must be a guild spirit. The builders who have come together
must not have associated temporarily for the mere purpose of accomplishing a
certain task, each man wholly independent of the others, and arbitrarily
exercising only his own skill. There must be a permanent organization, a
community of interest, a division of labor, a spirit of fraternity, an
organization looking beyond the present moment. A certain number of Masons,
brought together to construct an edifice, who after its construction would be
ready to disperse, each Mason on his own footing to seek fresh employment
under new masters and with new companions, could never, under such
circumstances, be concentrated into such organizations as would, in the lapse
of time, give rise to the lodges of modern Speculative Freemasons.
hypothesis, then, which is advanced in the present work and on which its
authentic historical part is constructed, is that there was from the earliest
days of Rome an organization of workmen under the name of the Collegium
Arlificum, or Collegium Fabrorum, that is, the College of Artificers, or the
College of Workmen. That this college consisted of builders and architects,
that it was regularly organized into an association, which was marked with all
the peculiarities that afterward distinguished the guilds or incorporations of
the Middle Ages. That this college, flourishing greatly under the later
empire, sent its members, imbued with the skill in architecture and the spirit
of confraternity which they had acquired in the home organization, into the
various provinces which the Roman legions penetrated and conquered. And,
finally, that in all these provinces, but principally in Northern Italy, in
Gaul, and in Britain, they established similar colleges or associations, in
which they imparted to the natives their knowledge of the art of building and
impressed them with their spirit of fraternal co-operation in labor.
these colleges of workmen sprang in the course of time, and after the fall of
the empire and the transition of the provinces into independent and sovereign
states, organizations of builders, of masons and architects, who in Italy
assumed the name and title of Traveling Freemasons, in Gaul that of the
Mestrice des Masons, in Germany that of the Steinmetzen, in England that of
the Guilds and Companies, and in Scotland that of the Lodges and
Incorporations. All these were associations of builders and architects, who
were bound together by regulations which were very similar to and evidently
derived from those by which the Roman Colleges had been governed, with others
suggested by change of conditions and circumstances.
associations, though mainly made up of professional work men, sometimes
admitted, as the Roman Colleges had done, nonprofessionals, men of wealth,
distinction, or learning into their ranks as honorary members.
the close of the 17th century the number of these nonprofessional members was
greatly increased, which fact must have produced a gradual and growing
influence on the organizations.
Finally, during the second decade of the 18th century, these non-professional
members completely changed the character of the Masonic organizations known at
that time under the name of Lodges. The operative element was entirely
eliminated from them, and the Lodges became no longer companies of builders,
but fraternities of speculative philosophers.
new institution of Speculative Freemasonry retained no other connection with
or relation to the operative organization, than the memory of its descent, and
the preservation of the technical language and the tools of the art, all of
which were, however, subjected to new and symbolic interpretations.
transition of the operative into the speculative organizations occurred in
London in the year 1717, at which time the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted
Masons was established.
England the change passed over into other countries and Lodges were everywhere
instituted under the authority of the Grand Lodge of London. The history of
Freemasonry from that time is to be found in the recorded annals of the
various Lodges and Grand Lodges which sprung up in the course of time from the
parent stem, the common mother of all the speculative Lodges of the world.
Scotland might seem at first to be an exception to this cosmopolitan
maternity, but though the growth of the speculative out of the operative
element was there apparently an independent act of transition, yet it cannot
be denied that the influence of the English society was deeply felt in the
sister kingdom and exhibited especially in the adoption of the three degrees,
in the organization of the Grand Lodge on a similar model, and in the
establishment of the office of Grand Master, a title of entirely modern and
is the plan of the history that has been pursued in the present work, a plan
which materially and essentially differs from that of any preceding writer.
Iconoclasts have composed monographs in which they have attacked particular
fallacies and denounced special forgeries, but the history of Masonry as a
whole has not before been written with the same spirit of candor that has been
or should always be exercised in the composition of history.
Doubtless the well-settled and carefully nourished prejudices of some will be
shocked by any attempt to expose the fallacies and falsehoods which have too
long tarnished the annals of Freemasonry. But such an attempt cannot, if it be
successfully pursued, but command the approval of all who believe with Cicero
that history is "the witness of time, the light of truth, and the life of
ALBERT G. MACKEY, M.D.
the institutions which have been established for the purpose of improving the
condition of mankind, Freemasonry stands preeminent in usefulness as it is in
age. Its origin is lost in the abyss of unexplored antiquity. No historical
records, no traditionary accounts, can with certainty point out the precise
time, the place, or the particular manner of its commencement. While some have
endeavored to discover its footsteps amongst the master builders and artists
engaged in the construction of the first Jewish temple, others have attempted
to trace it to the Eleusinian mysteries, which are said to have taught the
immortality of the soul and the other sublime truths of natural religion. Some
again have ascribed its rise to the sainted heroes of the Crusades; while
others have endeavored to penetrate the mysteries of the Druids, and to
discover its origin amongst the wise men of that institution.
-De Witt Clinton
fraternal order of Free and Accepted Masons, or the Freemasons, is a secret
society, yet its influence and effect on Western society have been great. Many
of the Founding Fathers of the United States-George Washington, Thomas
Jefferson, John Hancock, Benjamin Franklin, and Paul Revere-were Masons. Simon
Bolivar, the great freedom fighter of South America, and Giuseppe Garibaldi,
Italy's distinguished patriot, were also members, as were the great writers
Voltaire and Goethe, and the composers Franz Joseph Haydn and Amadeus Mozart.
However, the order's ultimate purpose has always been shrouded in the
self-imposed mystery that surrounds the organization as well as the wild
conjecture about it that arose from the fear of the ignorant. Accusations that
the Freemasons have cultivated the occult sciences-particularly alchemy,
astrology, and ceremonial magic-have pursued the order throughout its history.
While, without a doubt, some branches of the organization have endeavored to
explore the realms of esotericism, it was merely a means to an end, not an end
out of chaos is the famous motto of the Freemasons. It means the occasion of
rising beyond one's aimless animal nature and attaining a higher plane of
existence. To learn the way to that plane, to follow the proper paths, and to
continue the journey and complete the wondrous voyage to a higher self and the
unity of the whole, are the ultimate goals of a Freemason.
mythology and symbolism of Freemasonry is very rich and complex. As the age of
the society is unknown, its history blends facts with traditions and legends.
Until the end of the seventeenth century, these apocryphal stories of
Freemasonry-called the Legend of the Craft, or the Legend of the Guild-were
believed with implicit faith by its members. The object of this book, Albert
Gallatin Mackey's The History of Freemasonry: Its Legendary Origins, is to
present a complete survey of the mythical and allegorical narratives of
Freemasonry and to show that these Masonic legends contain the germs of
historical truth often mingled with a symbolic idea, and almost always reflect
in their unadorned form the true philosophic spirit of the Order.
scholars today believe the origins of modern Freemasonry can be traced to
ancient Rome, where an organization of workmen formed under the name of the
Collegium Artificum, or Collegium Fabrorum-the College of Artificers, or the
College of Workmen. This brotherhood consisted of builders and architects and
was the prototype of the guilds and incorporations of the Middle Ages. The
college flourished under the Roman empire, which sent its members, endowed
with skill in architecture and the spirit of confraternity, to the various
provinces that the Romans had conquered. In all these provinces, but
principally in Northern Italy, Gaul, and Britain, they established similar
colleges or associations, in which they transmitted to the native inhabitants
their knowledge of the art of building and impressed them with their spirit of
fraternal cooperation in labor.
the fall of the empire and the transition of the provinces into independent
and sovereign states, these colleges of workmen evolved into organizations of
builders-masons and architects-who in Italy assumed the name of Traveling
Freemasons, in Gaul that of the Mestrice des Marons, in Germany that of the
Steinmetzen, in England that of the Guilds and Companies, and in Scotland that
of the Lodges and Incorporations. These associations of builders and
architects were bound together by regulations very similar to and evidently
derived from those that governed the Roman Colleges, with other rules
suggested by change of conditions and circumstances.
associations, though mainly made up of professional workmen, sometimes
admitted nonprofessionals-men of wealth, distinction, or learning-into their
ranks as honorary members. At the end of the seventeenth century the number of
these nonprofessional members greatly increased, and by the early eighteenth
century they had completely changed the character of the Masonic
organizations, known at that time as Lodges. The operative element-the
practical application of the rules of architecture to the construction of
public and private edifices-was entirely eliminated, and the Lodges were no
longer companies of builders, but fraternities of speculative philosophers.
The new institution of Speculative Freemasonry retained no relation to the
practical purposes of operative Freemasonry other than the memory of its
descent and the retention of its technical language and the tools of the art.
These, however, were subjected to new and symbolic interpretations, adapted to
the worship of God as the Grand Architect of the universe.
transition from the operative to the speculative form of Masonry was complete
by the year 1717, when the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons was
established in London. From England the change passed over to other Lodges as
Freemasonry spread to the United States, South America, and throughout the
rest of the world. In The History of Freemasonry: Its Legendary Origins you
will find the lore and mythology that is the philosophical and ritual
foundation upon which Freemasonry is built and from which its three great
principles-brotherly love, charity, and truth-have evolved. Albert Gallatin
Mackey is an excellent guide through this compelling exploration of the
Masonic tradition. Included are excerpts from many rare and hard-to-find
original manuscripts sacred to the Masons-including the Halliwell Poem, the
oldest Masonic document in existence, dating from the late fourteenth to the
middle fifteenth century-and a learned discussion of the origin, significance,
and meaning of these works. Mackey recounts the various stories that explore
Freemasonry's origins, ranging from its beginnings with Abraham, the Old
Testament patriarch, to the builders of the Tower of Babel, to King Solomon
and the builders of the Temple of Jerusalem. He also explores the possible
associations of the Freemasons with the Knights Templars of the Crusades, the
Druids, the Rosicrucians, and the Assassins-a secret Muslim sect. Throughout,
this erudite and illuminating book investigates the subject with detail and
Gallatin Mackey was born on March 12, 1807, in Charleston, South Carolina. He
was the youngest son of Dr. John Mackey, a physician, editor, and teacher, who
also published the periodical The Investigator from 1812 to 1817. After
teaching for a time, Albert Mackey followed in his father's footsteps and
attended the South Carolina Medical College, Charleston, from which he
graduated in 1832. He practiced medicine in Charleston and became a teacher at
the Medical College, but in 1854 his growing interest in Freemasonry impelled
him to give up his practice and devote his energies to his Masonic activities.
eventually became the grand secretary of the Grand Lodge, grand high priest of
the Grand Chapter, grand master of the Grand Council, and general grand high
priest of the General Grand Chapter of the United States. The last decade of
his life was spent in Washington, D.C., where he devoted himself to the
continuance of his work as secretary general of the Supreme Council of the
33rd Degree. He died on June 20, 1881, at Old Point Comfort, Virginia.
Mackey attained high official positions in the Masonic order, he is remembered
today for his writings on Freemasonry. In 1849 he established The Southern and
Western Masonic Miscellany, a weekly magazine, and in 1858-60 he published
"Quarterly," which he dedicated to the same interests. He was also the author
of many books on Freemasonry. His first book was A Lexicon of Freemasonry
(1845), followed by The Mystic Tie (1849), The Ahiman Rezon, or Book
of Constitutions of the Grand Lodge of South Carolina (1852),
Principles of Masonic Law (1856), The Book of the Chapter (1858),
A Text Book of Masonic Jurisprudence (1859), History of Freemasonry in
South Carolina (1861), Manual of the Lodge (1862), Cryptic Masonry
(1867), Mackey's Masonic Ritualist (1869), The Symbolism of Freemasonry
(1869), Encyclopedia of Freemasonry (1874), and Masonic
Parliamentary Law ( 1875). He was working on the present volume, The
History of Freemasonry, when he died. Many of Mackey's books, particularly
the Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, are considered among the most authoritative
and definitive works on the subject.
TRADITION AND HISTORY IN MASONRY
study of Freemasonry there are two kinds of statements which are presented to
the mind of the inquiring scholar, which are sometimes concurrent, but much
oftener conflicting, in their character.
are the historical and the traditional, each of which appertains to
Freemasonry as we may consider it in a different aspect.
historical statement relates to the Institution as we look at it from an
exoteric or public point of view; the traditional refers only to its esoteric
or secret character.
long as its traditional legends are confined to the ritual of the Order, they
are not appropriate subjects of historical inquiry. They have been invented by
the makers of the rituals for symbolic purposes connected with the forms of
initiation. Out of these myths of Speculative Masonry its philosophy has been
developed; and, as they are really to be considered as merely the expansion of
a philosophic or speculative idea, they can not properly be posited in the
category of historical narratives.
the published works of those who have written on the origin and progress of
Masonry, from its beginning to the present time, the legendary or traditional
has too much been mingled with the historical element. The effect of this
course has been, on adversely prejudiced minds, to weaken all claims of the
Institution to an historical existence. The doctrine of "false in one thing,
false in all," has been rigidly applied, and those statements of the Masonic
historian which are really authentic have been doubted or rejected, because in
other portions of his narrative he has been too credulous.
Borrowing the technical language of archoeology, I should say that the history
of Masonry (1) may be divided into two periods ‑ prehistoric and the historic.
The former is traditional, the latter documentary. Each of these divisions
must, in any historical inquiry, be clearly defined. There is also another
division, into esoteric and exoteric history. The first is exclusively within
the arcana of the Order, and can not, as I have said, be the subject of
historical investigation. The second properly comes within the sphere of
historical study, and is subjected to all the laws of historical criticism.
we are treating of Freemasonry as one of the social organizations of the world
‑ as one of those institutions which are the results of civilization, and
which have sprung up in the progress of society; and, finally, when we are
considering what are the influences that the varying conditions of that
society have produced upon it, and what influences it has reciprocally
produced upon these varying conditions ‑ we are then engaged in the solution
of a historical problem, and we must pursue the inquiry in a historical method
and not otherwise. We must discard all speculation, because history deals only
were treating the history of a nation, we should assert nothing of it as
historical that could not be traced to and be verified by its written records.
All that is conjectured of the events that may have occurred in the earlier
period of such a nation, of which there is no record in contemporaneous or
immediately subsequent times, is properly thrown into the dim era of the
prehistoric ago It forms no part of the authentic history of the nation, and
can be dignified, at its highest value, with the title of historical
speculation only, which claims no other credence than that which its
plausibility or its probability commands.
the possibility or the probability that a certain event may have occurred in
the early days of a nation's existence, but of which event there is no record,
will be great or little, as dependent on certain other events which bear upon
it, and which come within the era of its records. The event may have been
possible, but not probable, and then but very little or no importance would be
the progress of this work I shall use the terms Masonry and Freemasonry
without discrimination, except on special, and at the time specified,
to it, and it would at once be relegated to the category of myths. Or it may
have been both possible and highly probable, and we may be then permitted to
speculate upon it as something that had exerted an influence upon the
primitive character or the subsequent progress of the nation. But, even then,
it would not altogether lose its mythical character. Whatever we might
predicate of it would only be a plausible speculation. It would not be
history, for that deals not in what may have been, but only in that which
actually has been.
progress in these latter days of what are called the exact sciences has led,
by the force of example and analogy, to a more critical examination of the
facts, or, rather, the so‑called facts, of history.
Voltaire said, in his Life of Charles XII of Sweden that "incredulity is the
foundation of history." Years passed before the axiom in all its force was
accepted by the learned. But at length it has been adopted as the rule of all
historical criticism. To be credulous is now to be unphilosophical, and
scholars accept nothing as history that can not be demonstrated with almost
Niebuhr began by shattering all faith in the story of Rhea Sylvia, of Romulus
and Remus, and of the maternal wolf, which, with many other incidents of the
early Roman annals, were consigned by him to the region of the mythical.
later times, the patriotic heart of Switzerland has been made to mourn by the
discovery that the story of William Tell, and of the apple which he shot from
the head of his son, is nothing but a medioeval fable which was to be found in
a great many other countries, and the circumstances of which, everywhere
varying in details, still point to a common origin in some early symbolic
thus that many narratives, once accepted as veracious, have been, by careful
criticism, eliminated from the domain of history; and such works as
Goldsmith's Histories of Greece ana Rome are no longer deemed fitting
text‑books for schools, where nothing but truth should be taught.
same rules of critical analysis which are pursued in the separation of what is
true from what is false in the history of a nation should be applied to the
determination of the character of all statements in Masonic history. This
course, however, has, unhappily, not been generally pursued. Many of its
legends are unquestionably founded, as I shall endeavor hereafter to show, on
a historical basis; but quite as many, if not more, are made up out of a
mixture of truth and fiction, the distinctive boundaries of which it is
difficult to define; while a still greater number are altogether mythical,
with no appreciable element of truth in their composition. And yet for nearly
two centuries, all of these three classes of Masonic legendary lore have been
accepted by the great body of the Fraternity, without any discrimination, as
faithful narratives of undoubted truthfulness.
this liberal acceptation of the false for the true, and this ready recognition
of fables as authentic nauatives whereby imaginative writers have been
encouraged to plunge into the realms of absurdity instead of confining
themselves to the domain of legitimate history, that have cast an air of
romance over all that has hitherto been written about Freemasonry. Unjustly,
but very naturally, scholars have been inclined to reject all our legends in
every part as fabulous, because they found in some the elements of fiction.
on the other hand, the absurdities of legend‑makers, and the credulity of
legend‑readers, have, by a healthy reaction, given rise to a school of
iconoclasts (to whom there will soon be occasion to refer), which sprang up
from a laudable desire to conform the principles of criticism which are to
govern all investigations into Masonic history to the rules which control
profane writers in the examination of the history of nations.
examples of the legends of Masonry which have tempted the credulity of many
and excited the skepticism of others, those almost universally accepted
legends may be cited which attribute the organization of Freemasonry in its
present form to the era of King Solomon's temple ‑ the story of Prince Edwin
and the Grand Lodge congregated by him at the city of York in the 10th century
‑ and the theory that the three symbolic degrees were instituted as Masonic
grades at a period very long anterior to the beginning of the 18th century.
statements, still believed in by all Masons who have not made the history of
the Order an especial study, were, until recently, received by prominent
scholars as veracious narratives. Even Dr. Oliver, one of the most learned as
well as the most prolific of Masonic authors, has, in his numerous works,
recognized them as historic truths without a word of protest or a sign of
doubt, except, perhaps, with reference to the third legend above mentioned, of
which he says, with a cautious qualification, that he has "some doubts whether
the Master's degree, as now given, can be traced three centuries backwards."
now comes a new school of Masonic students, to whom, borrowing a word formerly
used in the history of religious strifes, has been given the name of
"iconoclasts." The word is a good one. The old iconoclasts, or image‑breakers
of the 8th century, demolished the images and defaced the pictures which they
found in the churches, induced by erroneous but conscientious views, because
they thought that the people were mistaking the shadow for the substance, and
were worshipping the image or the picture instead of the Divine Being whom it
these Masonic iconoclasts, with better views, are proceeding to destroy, by
hard, incisive criticism, the intellectual images which the old, unlettered
Masons had constructed for their veneration. They are pulling to pieces the
myths and legends, whose fallacies and absurdities had so long cast a cloud
upon what ought to be the clear sky of Masonic history. But they have tempered
their zeal with a knowledge and a moderation that were unknown to the
iconoclasts of religion. These shattered the images and scattered the
fragments to the four winds of heaven, or they burnt the picture so that not
even a remnant of the canvas was left. Whatever there was of beauty in the
work of the sculptor or painter was forever destroyed. Every sentiment of
zesthetic art was overcome by the virulence of religious fanaticism. Had the
destructive labors of these iconoclasts been universal and long continued, no
foundation would have been left for building that science of Christian
symbolism, which in this day has been so interesting and so instructive to the
have the Masonic iconoclasts performed their task of critical reformation.
They have shattered nothing; they have destroyed nothing. When in the course
of their investigations into true Masonic history, they encounter a myth or a
legend, replete, ap‑
"Dissertation on the State of Masonry in the Eighteenth Century." (2) Thus the
Emperor Leo, the Isaurian, caused all images and pictures to be removed from
the churches and publicly burnt ‑ an act of vandalism not surpassed by that
Saracen despot who (if the story be true) ruthlessly committed the books of
the Alexandrian library to the flames as fuel for the public baths.
parently, with absurdities or contradictions, they do not consign it to
oblivion as something unworthy of consideration, but they dissect it into its
various parts; they analyze it with critical acumen; they separate the chaff
from the wheat; they accept the portion that is confirmed by other and
collateral testimony as a legitimate contribution to history; what is
undoubtedly fictitious they receive as a myth, and either reject it altogether
as an unmeaning addition to a legend, or give it an interpretation as the
expression of some symbolic idea which is itself of value in a historical
point of view.
lamented archaeologist, Mr. George Smith, late of the British Museum, in
speaking of the cuneiform inscriptions excavated in Mesopotamia, and the
legends which they have preserved of the old Babylonian empire, said: (1)
"With regard to the supernatural element introduced into the story, it is
similar in nature to many such additions to historical narratives, especially
in the East; but I would not reject those events which may have happened,
because, in order to illustrate a current belief, or add to the romance of the
story, the writer has introduced the supernatural."
on this very principle that the iconoclastic Masonic writers, such as Hughan
and Woodford, are pursuing their researches into the early history of
Freemasonry. They do not reject those events related in the old legends, which
have certainly happened, because in them they find also mythical narratives.
They do not yield to the tendency which George Smith says is now too general,
"to repudiate the earlier part of history, because of its evident inaccuracies
and the marvelous element generally combined with it." (2) It is in this way,
and in this way only, that early Masonic history can be rightly written. Made
up, as it has been for centuries past, of a commingled tissue of historical
narrative and legendary invention, it has been heretofore read without
judicious discrimination. Either the traditional account has been wholly
accepted as historical, or it has been wholly rejected as fabulous, and thus,
in either case, numerous errors have been the consequence.
example of the error which inevitably results from pursuing either of these
methods of interpretation, one of which may be distinguished as the school of
gross credulity, and the other as that of great skepticism, let us take the
legend of the Temple origin of
Chaldean Account of Genesis," p. 302. (2) Ibidem.
Masonry ‑ that is to say, the legend which places the organization of the
Institution at the time of the building of the temple at Jerusalem.
the former of these schools implicitly receives the whole legend as true in
all its details, and recognizes King Solomon as the first Grand Master, with
Hiram of Tyre and Hiram as his Wardens, who, with him, presided over the
Craft, divided into three degrees, the initiation into which was the same as
that practiced in the lodges of the present day, or at least not very unlike
Dr. Anderson, who was the first to publicly promulgate this legend and the
theory founded on it, says, in the second edition of his "Constitutions," that
Hiram Abif, "in Solomon's absence, filled the chair as Deputy Grand Master,
and, in his presence, was the Senior Grand Warden"; (1) and, again, that
"Solomon partitioned the Fellow Crafts into certain lodges, with a Master and
Wardens in each"; (2) and, lastly, that "Solomon was Grand Master of all
Masons at Jerusalem. King Hiram was Grand Master at Tyre, and Hiram Abif had
been Master of Work." (3) The modern rituals have made some change in these
details, but we evidently see here the original source of the legend as it is
now generally believed by the Fraternity.
Indeed, so firmly convinced of its truth are the believers in this legend,
that the brand of heterodoxy is placed by them on all who deny or doubt it.
contrary, the disciples of the latter school, whose skepticism is as excessive
as is the credulity of the former, reject as fabulous everything that tends to
connect Freemasonry with the Solomonic temple. To the King of Israel they
refuse all honor, and they contemptuously repudiate the theory that he was a
Masonic dignitary, or even a Freemason at all. One of these Pyrrhonists has
gone so far as to defile the memory of the Jewish monarch with unnecessary and
Between these two parties, each of which is misdirected by an intemperate
zeal, come the iconoclasts ‑ impartial inquirers, who calmly and
dispassionately seek for truth only. These disavow, it is true, the
authenticity of the Temple legend in its present form. They deny that there is
any proof which a historian could, by applying the just canons of criticism,
admit as competent evidence, that Freemasonry was organized at the building of
the temple of Solomon,
Anderson, "Constitutions," 2d ed., chap. iii., p. 12. (2) Ibid., p. 13 (3)
Ibid., p. 15
hence they look for its origin at some other period and under different
they do not reject the myth connected with the temple as being wholly unworthy
of consideration. On the contrary, they respect this legend as having a
symbolic significance, whose value can not be overestimated. They trace its
rise in the Old Constitutions; they find it plainly alluded to in the Legend
of the Craft; and they follow it in its full development in the modern
rituals. They thus recognize the influence that the story of the temple and
its builders has exerted on the internal construction of the Order, and hence
they feel no disposition to treat it, notwithstanding its historical
inaccuracy, with contumely.
Knowing what an important part the legends and symbols of Freemasonry have
performed in the progress of the Institution, and how much its philosophic
system is indebted to them for all that is peculiar to itself, they devote
their literary energies, not to the expurgation of this or any other myth or
legend, but to the investigation of the questions how and when it arose, and
what is its real significance as a symbol, or what foundation as a narrative
it may have in history. And thus they are enabled to add important items to
the mass of true Masonic history which they have been accumulating.
short, the theory of the iconoclastic school is that truth and authenticity
must always, and in the first place, be sought; that nothing must be accepted
as historical which has not the internal and external evidences of historical
verity, and that in treating the legends of Masonry ‑ of almost every one of
which it may be said, "Se non vero, e ben trovato" ‑ if it is not true, it is
well invented ‑ we are not to reject them as altogether fabulous, but as
having some hidden and occult meaning, which, as in the case of all other
symbols, we must diligently seek to discover. But if it be found that the
legend has no symbolic significance, but is simply the distortion of a
historical fact, we must carefully eliminate the fabulous increment, and leave
the body of truth to which it had been added, to have its just value.
was the method pursued by the philosophers of antiquity; and Plato,
Anaxagoras, and Cicero explained the absurdities of the ancient mythologists
by an allegorical mode of interpretation.
this school I have for years been strongly attached, and in the composition of
this work I shall adopt its principles. I do not fear that the claims of
Freemasonry to a time‑honored existence will be injured by any historical
criticism, although the era in which it had its birth may not be admitted to
be as remote as that assigned to it by Anderson or Oliver.
Iconoclastic criticism can not depreciate, but will rather elevate, the
character of the Institution. It will relieve it of absurdities, will often
explain the cause of anachronisms, will purify the fabulous element, and
confine it within the strict domain of history.
a common reproach against the great Niebuhr that he had overthrown the whole
fabric of early Roman history, and yet Dr. Arnold, the most competent of
critics, has said of him that he had built up much more than he had destroyed,
and fixed much that modern skepticism had rejected as fabulous on firmer
Following such a method as that pursued by the most learned of modern
historians, it will be necessary, for a faithful and comprehensible
investigation of the history of Masonry, to discriminate between the two
periods into which it is naturally divided,
HISTORIC embraces the period within which we have authentic documents in
reference to the existence of the Order, and will be considered in the second
part of this book.
PREHISTORIC embraces the period within which we have no authentic memorials,
and when we have to depend wholly on legends and traditions.
legendary history of Masonry will, therefore, be commenced in the next
LEGENDARY HISTORY OF FREEMASONRY
history of every ancient nation there is a prehistoric and a historic period.
prehistoric period is that which has no records to prove the truth of the
events that have been attributed to it. It is made up of myths and legends,
founded ‑ some of them, in all probability ‑ on a distortion of historical
facts, and some of them indebted entirely to imagination for their invention.
historic period is that which begins with the narration of events which are
supported by documents, either contemporary with the events or so recently
posterior to them as to have nearly all the validity of contemporary evidence.
Just such a division of periods as this we find in the history of Freemasonry.
prehistoric period, more commonly styled the legendary history, embraces the
supposed history of the rise and progress of the Institution in remote times,
and details events said to have occurred, but which have no proof of their
occurrence other than that of oral tradition, unsupported by that sort of
documentary evidence which is essentially necessary to give a reliable
character to an historical statement.
historic period of Freemasonry commences with the time when written or printed
records furnish the necessary testimony that the events narrated did actually
treating of the history of nations, scholars have found great difficulty in
precisely defining the point of separation between the prehistoric and the
historic periods. As in natural history, it is almost impossible to define the
exact line of demarkation between any two consecutive classes of the kingdoms
of nature so as to distinguish the highest species of a vegetable from the
lowest of an animal organization, so in political history it is difficult to
tell when the prehistoric period ends and the historic begins.
Freemasonry we meet with the same embarrassment, and this embarrassment is
increased according; to the different standpoints from which we view the
adopt the theory (as has been done by a few writers too iconoclastic in their
views) that Speculative Masonry never was anything but that which its present
organization presents, with Grand Lodges, Grand Masters, and a ritual of
distinct degrees, then we are compelled to place the commencement of the
historic era at that period which has been called the Revival in the second
decade of the 18th century.
with more liberal views, we entertain the opinion that Speculative Masonry was
founded on, and is the offspring of, the Operative system of the Stonemasons,
then we must extend our researches to at least the Middle Ages, where we shall
find abundant documentary evidence of the existence and character of the
Operative parent to which the Freemasonry of the present day, by a well‑marked
transition, has succeeded.
Connecting the written history of the Operative Masons with that of its
speculative offshoot, we have an authentic and continuous history that will
carry us back to a period many centuries anterior to the time of the so‑called
Revival in the year 1717.
were writing a history of Speculative Masonry merely, I should find myself
restricted to an era, somewhere in the 17th century, when there is documentary
evidence to show that the transition period began, and when the speculative
obtruded into the Operative system.
I am really writing a history of Freemasonry, of which the Operative and the
Speculative systems are divisions, intimately connected, I am constrained to
go farther, and to investigate the rise and the progress of the Operative art
as the precursor and the founder of the Speculative science.
authentic details of the condition of Operative Masonry in the Middle Ages, of
its connection, if it had any, with other organizations, and its transmutation
at a later period into Speculative Masonry, will constitute the historic
narrative of Freemasonry.
prehistoric narrative will be found in the myths and legends which were,
unfortunately, for a long time accepted by the great body of the Craft as a
true history, but which, though still credited by many, are yet placed by most
modern Masonic scholars in their proper category.
legends, some of which are preserved in the rituals, and some are becoming
almost obsolete, have a common foundation in that traditional narrative which
is known as the Legend of the Craft, (1) and which must first be understood
before we can with satisfaction attempt to study the legendary history of the
this legend is of such length and of so much importance that it demands for
its consideration a separate and distinct chapter.
no means, intend to advance the proposition that all the myths and legends now
taught in the Lodges, or preserved in the works of Masonic writers, are to be
found in the Legend of the Craft, but only the most important ‑ those that are
still recognized by the more credulous portion of the Fraternity as genuine
and authentic narratives ‑ receive their first notice in the Legend of the
Craft, although they are indebted for their present, fuller form, to a
development or enlargement, subsequently made in the course of the
construction of the modern ritual.
The Rev. Bro. Woodford calls it the "Legend of the Guild." But I prefer the
title here used, because it does not lead to embarrassing questions as to the
relation of the mediaeval Guilds to Freemasonry.
ANDERSON tells us, in the second edition of the Book of Constitutions, that in
the year 1719, "at some private Lodges several very valuable manuscripts
concerning the Fraternity, their Lodges, Regulations, Charges, Secrets, and
Usages, were too hastily burnt by some scrupulous Brothers, that these papers
might not fall into strange hands." (1)
Fortunately, this destruction was not universal. The manuscripts to which
Anderson alludes were undoubtedly those Old Constitutions of the Operative
Masons, several copies of which, that had escaped the holocaust described by
him, have since been discovered in the British Museum, in old libraries, or in
the archives of Lodges, and have been published by those who have discovered
are the documents which have received the title of "Old Records," "Old
Charges," or "Old Constitutions." Their general character is the same. Indeed,
there is so much similarity, and almost identity, in their contents as to
warrant the presumption that they are copies of some earlier document not yet
earliest of these documents is a manuscript poem, entitled the Constitutiones
artis geometriae, secundum Eucleydem, which is preserved in the British
Museum, and which was published in 1840 by Mr. Halliwell, in his Early History
of Freemasonry in England. The date of this manuscript is supposed to be about
the year 1390. A second and enlarged edition was published in 1844.
next of the English manuscripts is that which was published
Anderson's " Constitutions," 1738, P. 111 (2) Among these writers we must not
omit to mention Bro. William James Hughan, facile princeps of all Masonic
antiquarians, who made, in 1872, a valuable contribution to this literature,
under the title of "The Old Charges of the British Freemasons," the value of
which is enhanced by the learned Preface of Bro. A.F.A. Woodford.
1861 by Bro. Matthew Cooke from the original in the British Museum, and which
was once the property of Mrs. Caroline Baker, from whom it was purchased in
1859 by the Curators of the Museum. The date of this manuscript is supposed to
be about 1490.
the English Masonic antiquarians concur in the opinion that this manuscript is
next in antiquity to the Halliwell poem, though there is a difference of about
one hundred years in their respective dates. It is, however, mere guesswork to
say that there were not other manuscripts in the intervening period. But as
none have been discovered, they must be considered as non‑existent, and it is
impossible even to conjecture, from any groundwork on which we can stand,
whether, if such manuscripts did ever exist, they partook more of the features
of the Halliwell or of the Cooke document, or whether they presented the form
of a gradual transmission from the one to the other.
Cooke MS. is far more elaborate in its arrangement and its details than the
Halliwell, and contains the Legend of the Craft in a more extended form.
absence of any other earlier document of the same kind, it must be considered
as the matrix, as it were, in which that Legend, in the form in which it
appears in all the later manuscripts, was moulded.
year 1815, Mr. James Dowland published, in the Gentleman's Magazine, (1) the
copy of an old manuscript which had lately come into his possession, and which
he described as being "written on a long roll of parchment, in a very clear
hand, apparently early in the 17th century, and very probably is copied from a
manuscript of an earlier date." Although not as old as the Halliwell and Cooke
MSS., it is deemed of very great value, because it comes next to them in date,
and is apparently the first of that series of later manuscripts, so many of
which have, within the past few years, been recovered. It is evidently based
on the Cooke MS., though not an exact copy of it. But the later manuscripts
comprising that series, at the head of which it stands, so much resemble it in
details, and even in phraseology, that they must either have been copies made
from it, or, what is far more probable, copies of some older and common
original, of which it also is a copy.
Gentleman's Magazine, vol. 85, P. 489, May, 1815.
original manuscript which was used by Dowland for the publication in the
Gentleman's Magazine is lost, or can not now be found. But Mr. Woodford and
other competent authorities ascribe the year 1550 as being about its date.
Several other manuscript Constitutions, whose dates vary from the middle of
the 16th to the beginning of the 18th century, have since been discovered and
published, principally by the industrious labors of Brothers Hughan and
Woodford in England, and Brother Lyon in Scotland.
following list gives the titles and conjectural dates of the most important of
these manuscripts: (1)
Halliwell MS............. supposed, 1390.
MS................. " 1490.
Dowland MS. ............. " 1500.
Landsdowne MS........ ” 1560.
MS., No. 1..........
Harleian MS., NO. 2054...
Grand Lodge MS...........
Sloane MS., NO. 3848.....
certain, 1646. Sloane MS., NO. 3323.....
Harleian MS., No. 1942...
supposed, 1660. Aitcheson‑Haven MS. .....
certain, 1666. Edinburgh‑Kilwinning MS.. supposed, 1670. York MS., No. 5
York MS., No. 6..........
Lodge of Antiquity MS....
certain, 1686. York MS., No. 2..........
York MS., No. 4..........
these manuscripts begin, except the Halliwell poem, with an invocation to the
Trinity. Then follows a descant on the seven liberal arts and sciences, of
which the fifth, or Geometry, is said to be Masonry. This is succeeded by a
traditional history of Masonry, from the days of Lamech to the reign of King
Athelstan of England. The manuscripts conclude with a series of "charges," or
regulations, for the government of the Craft while they were of a purely
operative character. (1) I have relied on the excellent authority of Rev.
A.F.A. Woodford for the dates. See Hoghan's "Old Charges of the British
Freemasons," p. xii.
traditional history which constitutes the first part of these "Old Records" is
replete with historical inaccuracies, with anachronisms, and even with
absurdities. And yet it is valuable, because it forms the germ of that system
of Masonic history which was afterward developed by such writers as Anderson,
Preston, and Oliver, and from whose errors the iconoclasts of the present day
are successfully striving to free the Institution, so as to give its history a
more rational and methodic form.
traditional history is presented to us in all the manuscripts, in an identity
of form, or, at least, with very slight verbal differences. These differences
are, indeed, so slight that they suggest the strong probability of a common
source for all these documents, either in the oral teaching of the older
Masons, or in some earlier record that has not yet been recovered. The
tradition seems always to have secured the unhesitating belief of the
Fraternity as a true relation of the origin and the progress of Masonry, and
hence it has received the title of the Legend of the Craft.
the zealous care with which many manuscripts containing this legend were
destroyed in 1719 by "scrupulous brothers" who were opposed to its
publication, we might believe that it formed a part of the esoteric
instructions of the Guild of Operative Masons. If so, it lost this secret
character by the publication of Roberts's edition of the "Constitutions" in
earlier German and French Masonic records, such as the Ordenung dey
Steinmetzen at Strasburg in 1462, and the Reglements sur les Arts et Metiers
at Paris in the 12th century, there is no appearance of this legend. But it
does not follow from this that no such legend existed among the French and
German Masons. Indeed, as it is well known that early English Operative
Masonry was derived from the continent, it is natural to suppose that the
continental Masons brought the legend into England.
is, besides, internal evidence in the English manuscripts of both French and
German interpolations. The reference in the Legend to Charles Martel connects
it with the French Masonry of the 12th century, and the invocation to the
"Four Crowned Martyrs" (1) in the Halliwell MS. is undoubtedly of German
Die heiligen Vier gekronten, "Ordenung der Steinmetz, zu Strasburg, 1459," and
in all the other German Constitutions, (2) Findel thinks that this invocation
to the Four Crowned Martyrs " must be regarded as a most decided proof of the
identity of the German and English Stonemasons, and of their having one common
parentage." ("Geschichte der Frei Maurerei." Lyon's translation, p. 31.)
Woodford does not concur with this view, but I think without good reason.
importance of this Legend in the influence that it exerted for a long period
on the Craft as the accredited history of the Institution makes it
indispensably necessary that it should form a part of any work that professes
to treat of the history of Masonry.
this purpose I have selected the Dowland MS., because it is admitted to be the
oldest of those that assumed that general form which was followed in all the
subsequent manuscripts, between which and it there is no substantial
LEGEND OF THE CRAFT
might of the Father of Kings, (1) with the wisdome of his glorious Son,
through the grace of the goodness of the Holy Ghost, there bene three persons
in one Godheade, be with us at our beginninge, and give us grace so to governe
us here in this mortall life liveinge, that we may come to his kingdome that
never shall have endinje. Amen.
Bretheren and Followes: Our purpose is to tell you how and in what manner this
worthy science of Masonrye was begunne, and afterwards how it was favoured by
worthy Kings and Princes, and by many other worshippfull men. And also to
those that be willings, wee will declare the charge that belongeth to any true
Mason to keepe for in good faith. And yee have good heede thereto; it is well
worthy to be well kept for a worthy craft and a curious science.
there be Seaven liberall Sciences, of the which seaven it is one of them. And
the names of the Seaven Seyences bene these: First is Grammere, and it
teacheth man to speake truly and write truly. And the second is Rhethoricke;
and teacheth a man to speake faire in subtill termes. And the third is
Dialectyke; and teacheth a man for to discern or know truth from false. And
the fourth is Arithmeticke; and that teacheth a man for to recken and to
accompte all manner of numbers. And the fifth is called Geometrie; and that
teacheth mett and measure of earth and of all other things; of the which
science is called Masonrye. And the sixth science is called Musicke; and that
teacheth a man of songe and voice, of tongue and orgaine, harpe and trompe.
And the seaventh science is called Ashonomye; and that teacheth a man the
the Landsdowne, and most of the other MSS., the formula is "the Father of the
Heavens," or "of Heaven."
sunn, moone and starts. These be the Seaven liberall Sciences, the which bene
all founded by one Science, that is to say Geometric. And this may a man
prove, that the science of the work is founded by Geometric, for Geometrie
teacheth a man mett and measure, ponderation and weight, of all manner of
things on earth, for there is no man that worketh any science, but he worketh
by some mett or measure, nor no man that buyeth or selleth, but he buyeth or
selleth by some measure or by some weight, and all these is Geometric. And
these use merchants and all craftsmen, and all other of the Seaven Sciences,
and in especiall the plowman and tillers of all manner of grounds, graynes,
vynes, flowers and setters of other fruits; for Grammere or Retricke, neither
Astronomie nor none of all the other Seaven Sciences can no manner find mett
nor measure without Geometric. Wherefore methinketh that the science of
Geometrie is most worthy, and that findeth (1) all other.
that these worthy Sciences were first begunne, I shall you tell. Before Noye's
flood, there was a man called Lameche, as it is written in the Byble in the
iiijth chapter of Genesis; and this Lameche had two wives, and the one height
Ada, and that other height Sella; by his first wife Ada he gott two sons, and
that one Jabell and thother Tuball, and by that other wife Sella he got a son
and a daughter. And these four children founden the beginning of all sciences
in the world. And this elder son Jabell found the science of Geometric, and he
departed flocks of sheep and lambs in the field, and first wrought house of
stone and tree, (2) as is noted in the chapter above said. And his brother
Tuball found the science of musicke, songe of tonge, harp and orgaine. And the
third brother, Tuball Cain, found smithcraft of gold, silver, copper, iron and
steele; and the daughter found the craft of Weavinge. And these children knew
well that God would take vengeance for synn, either by fire or by water;
wherefore they writt their science that they had found in two pillars of
stone, that they might be found after Noye's flood. And that one stone was
marble, for that would not burn with fire; and
Used in its primitive Anglo‑Saxon meaning of "to invent, to devise." Geometry
invented or devised all the other sciences. (2) This is an instance of the
inaccuracy of these old records in historical lore. So far from Jabal being
the first who "wrought house of stone and tree," he was the originator of the
nomadic life, in which such buildings are never used. He invented tents, made
most probably of skins, to be the temporary residence of a pastoral people,
led by the exigency of a want of food to remove their flocks from time to time
to new pastures.
other stone was clepped laterns, (1) and would not drown in noe water.
intent is to tell you trulie how and in what manner these stones were found
that these sciences were written in. The great Hermarynes, that was Cuby's
son, the which Cub was Sem's son, that was Noy's son. This Hermarynes
afterwards was called Harmes, the father of wise men; he found one of the two
pillars of stone, and found the science written there, and he taught it to
other men. And at the making of the Tower of Babylon there was Masonrye first
made much of. And the Kinge of Babylon that height Nemrothe, (2) was a mason
himself; and loved well the science, and it is said with masters of histories.
And when the City of Nyneve and other cities of the East should be made,
Nemrothe, the King of Babylon, sent thither three score Masons at the rogation
of the King of Nyneve, his cosen. And when he sent them forth, he gave them a
charge on this manner. That they should be true each of them to other, and
that they should love truly together, and that they should serve their lord
truly for their pay; soe that the master may have worshipp and all that long
to him. And other moe charges he gave them. And this was the first time that
ever Masons had any charge of his science.
"Moreover when Abraham and Sara his wife went into Egipt, there he taught the
Seaven Sciences to the Egiptians; and he had a worthy scoller that height
Ewclyde, (3) and he learned right well and was a master of all the vij
Sciences liberall. And in his days it befell that the lord and the estates of
the realme had soe many sonns that they had gotten, some by their wives and
some by other ladyes of the realme; for that land is a hott land and a
plentious of generacion. And they had not competent livelode to find with
their children, wherefor they made much care, and then the king of the land
made a great Counsell and a Parliament, to witt, how they might find their
children honestly as gentlemen; and they could find no manner of good way. And
then they did crye through all the realme, if there were any man that informe
them, that he should come to them, and he should be soe rewarded for his
travail, that he should hold him pleased.
This word is a corruption of the Latin "later," brick. (2) Nimrod. (3) Bro.
Matthew Cooke, in his Notes to the MS. which he was the first to publish, and
which thence bears his name, protests against being held responsible for the
chronology which makes Abraham and Euclid contemporaries. It will hereafter be
seen that this legend of Euclid is merely a symbol.
that this crye was made, then came this worthy clarke Ewclyde and said to the
king and all his great lords, 'If yee will take me your children to governe,
and to teach them one of the Seaven Scyences, wherewith they may live honestly
as gentlemen should, under a condition, that yee will grant me and them a
commission that I may have power to rule them after the manner that the
science ought to be ruled.' And that the kinge and all his Counsell granted to
him anone and sealed their commission. And then this worthy Doctor tooke to
him these lord's sonns, and taught theat the scyence of Geometrie in practice,
for to work in stones all manner of worthy worke that belongeth to buildinge
churches, temples, castells, towres, and mannors, and all other manner of
buildings; and he gave them a charge in this manner.
first was that they should be true to the Kynge, and to the Lord that they
owe. And that they should love well together and be true each one to other.
And that they should call each other his fellowe or else brother and not by
servant nor his knave, nor none other foul name. And that they should deserve
their pale of the lord or of the master that they serve. And that they should
ordaine the wisest of them to be master of the worke and nether for love nor
great lynneage, ne riches ne for no favour to lett another that hath little
conning for to be master of the lord's worke, wherethrough the lord should be
evill served and they ashamed. And also that they should call their governors
of the worke, Master, in the time that they worke with him. And other many moe
charges that longe to tell. And to all these charges he made them to sweare a
great oath that men used in that time; and ordayned them for reasonable wages,
that they might live honestly by. And also that they should come and semble
together every yeare once, how they might worke best to serve the lord for his
profitt and to their own worshipp; and to correct within themselves him that
had trespassed against the science. And thus was the seyence grounded there;
and that worthy Mr. Ewclyde gave it the name of Geometrie. And now it is
called through all this land, Masonrys.
longe after, (1) when the children of Israell were coming into the land of
Beheast, (2) that is now called amongst us, the country of
Since then long after‑long after that time. (2) The Land of Promise, or the
Promised Land. "Beheste Promissio," says the Promptorium Parvulorum.
Kinge David began the Temple that they called Templum D'ni, and it is named
with us the Temple of Jerusalem. And the same Kinge David loved Masons well
and cherished them much, and gave them good pale. And he gave the charges and
the manners as he had learned of Egipt given by Ewclyde, and other charges moe
that ye shall heare afterward. And after the decease of Kinge David, Solomon,
that was David's sonn, performed out the Temple that his father begonne; and
sent after Masons into divers countries and of divers lands; and gathered them
together, so that he had fourscore thousand workers of stone, and were all
named Masons. And he chose out of them three thousand that were ordayned to be
masters and governors of his worke. And furthermore there was a Kinge of
another region that men called Iram, (1) and he loved well Kinge Solomon and
he gave him tymber to his worke. And he had a sonn that height Aynon, (2) and
he was a Master of Geometric, and was chief Master of all his Masons, and was
Master of all his gravings and carvinge, and of all manner of Masonrye that
longed to the Temple; and this is witnessed by the Bible, in libro Regum, the
third chapter. And this Solomon confirmed both charges and the manners that
his father had given to Masons. And thus was that worthy Science of Masonrye
confirmed in the country of Jerusalem, and in many other kingdoms.
"Curious craftsmen walked about full wide into divers countryes, some because
of learning more craft and cunning, and some to teach them that had but little
cunnynge. And soe it befell that there was one curious Mason that height
Maymus Grecus,' that had been at the making of Solomon's Temple, and he came
into France, and there he taught the science of Masonrye to men of France. And
there was one of the Regal line of France that height Charles Martell; (4) and
he was a man that loved well such a science, and drew to this Maymus Grecus
that is above‑said, and learned of him the science, and tooke upon him the
charges and manners; and afterwards by the
is scarcely necessary to explain that this is meant for Hiram. (2) The true
origin and meaning of this name, for which some of the modern Speculative
Masons have substituted Hiram, Abiff, and others Adoniram, will be hereafter
discussed. (3) This name has been a Sphinxian enigma which many a Masonic
CEdipos has failed to solve. I shall recur to it in a subsequent page. (4) The
introduction of this monarch into the Legend leads us to an inquiry into an
interesting period of French Masonic history that will be hereafter discussed.
of God, he was elect to be Kinge of Fraunce. And when he was in his estate, he
tooke Masons, and did helpe to make men Masons that were none; and set them to
worke, and gave them both the charge and the manners and good pale, as he had
learned of other Masons; and confirmed them a charter from yeare to yeare, to
hold their semble when they would; and cherished them right much; and thus
came this science into Fraunce.
"England in all this season stood voyd, as for any charge of Masonrye unto St
Adbones (1) tyme. And in his days the King of England that was a Pagan, he did
wall the towne about, that is called Sainct Albones. And Sainct Albones was a
worthy Knight and stewart with the Kinge of his household, and had governance
of the realme, and also of the makinge of the town walls; and loved well
Masons and cheished them much. And he made their paie right good, standing as
the realme did; for he gave them ij.s. vjd. a weeke and iij.d. to their
nonesynches. (2) And before that time, through all this land, a Mason tooke
but a penny a day and his meate, till Sainct Albones amended it, and gave them
a chartour of the Kinge and his Counsell for to hold a general councell, and
gave it the name of Assemble; and thereat he was himselfe, and helped to make
Masons and gave them charges as you shall heare afterward.
soon after the decease of Sainct Albone, there came divers wars into the
realme of England of divers Nations soe that the good rule of Masonrye was
destroyed unto the tyme of Kinge Athelstone's days that was a worthy Kinge of
England and brought this land into good rest and peace; and builded many great
works of Abbyes and Toures, and other many divers buildings; and loved well
Masons. And he had a sonne that height Edwinne, and he loved Masons much more
than his father did. And he was a great practiser in Geometric; and he drew
him much to talke and to commune with Masons, and to learn of them science;
and afterwards for love that he had to Masons, and to the science, he was made
Mason, and he gatt of the Kinge his father, a Chartour and Commission to hold
every yeare (1) St. Alban, the protomartyr of England. Of his connection with
the Legend, more hereafter. (2) A corruption of the old English word noonshun,
from which comes our modern luncheon. It meant the refreshment taken at noon,
when laborers desist from work to shun the heat. It may here mean food or
subsistence in general. St. Alban gave his Masons two shillings a week and
three pence for their daily food. (See Nonesynches in ,Mackey's "
Encyclopzedia of Freemasonry.")
an Assemble, wher that ever they would, within the realme of England; and to
correct within themselves defaults and trespasses that were done within the
science. And he held himselfs an Assemble at Yorke, (1) and these he made
Masons, and gave them charges, and taught them the manners, and commanded that
rule to be kept ever after, and tooke then the chartour and commission to
keepe, and made ordinance that it should be renewed from kinge to kinge.
when the Assemble was gathered he made a cry that all old Masons and young
that had any writeinge or understanding of the charges and the manners that
were made before in this land, or in any other, that they should show them
forth. And when it was proved, there were founden some in French, and some in
Greek, and some in English and some in other languages; and the intent of them
all was founden all one. And he did make a booke thereof, and how the science
was founded. And he himselfe bad and commanded that it should be readd or
tould, when that any Mason should be made for to give him his charge. And fro
that day into this tyme manners of Masons have been kept in that form as well
as men might governe it. And furthermore divers Assembles have beene put and
ordayned certain charges by the best advice of Masters and fellows."
follow the charges that are thus said to have been enacted at York and at
other General Assemblies, but which properly constitute no part of the Legend,
at least no part connected with the legendary details of the rise and progress
of the Institution. The Legend ends with the account of the holding of an
Assembly at York, and other subsequent ones, for the purpose of enacting laws
for the government of the Order.
This part of the Legend which refers to Prince Edwin and the Assembly at York
is so important that it demands and will receive a future comprehensive
HALLIWELL POEM AND THE LEGEND
is one manuscript which differs so much from all the others in its form and in
its contents as to afford the strongest internal evidence that it is derived
from a source entirely different from that which gave origin to the other and
allude to what is known to Masonic anti‑quaries as the Halliwell MS. As this
is admitted to be the oldest Masonic document extant, and as some very
important conclusions in respect to the early history of the Craft are about
to be deduced from it, a detailed account of it will not be deemed
work was first published in 1840 by Mr. James Orchard Halliwell, under the
title of "A Poem on the Constitutions of Masonry," (1) from the original
manuscript in the King's Library of the British Museum. Mr. Halliwell, who
subsequently adopted the name of Phillips, is not a member of the Brotherhood,
and Woodford appropriately remarks that "it is somewhat curious that to
Grandidier and Halliwell, both non‑Masons, Freemasonry owes the impetus given
at separate epochs to the study of its archaeology and history." (2)
Halliwell says that the manuscipt formerly belonged to Charles Theyer, a
well‑known collector of the 17th century. It is undoubtedly the oldest Masonic
MS. extant. Messrs. Bond and Egerton of the British Museum consider its date
to be about the middle of the 15th century. Kloss (3) thinks that it was
written between the years 1427 and 1445. Dr. Oliver (4) maintains that it is a
transcript of the Book of Constitutions adopted by the General Assembly, held
a brochure entitled "The Early History of Freemasonry in England." A later
improved edition was published in 1844. (2) In Kenning's "Encyclopeadia," voc.
Halliwell. (3) "Die Freimaur in ihrer wahren Bedentung." S. 12. (4) American
Quart. Rev. of Freemasonry, vol. i., p. 547.
year 926, at the City of York. Halliwell himself places the date of the MS. at
1390. Woodford (1) concurs in this opinion. I am inclined to think that this
is the true date of its transcription.
manuscript is in rhymed verse, and consists of 794 lines. At the head of the
poem is the inscription: "Hic incipiunt constitluciones artis gemetria,
secundum Euclydem." The language is more archaic than that of Wicliffe's
version of the Bible, which was written toward the end of the 14th century,
but approaches very nearly to that of the Chronicles of Robert of Gloucester,
the date of which was at the beginning of the same century. Therefore, if we
admit that the date of 1390, attributed by Halliwell and Woodford to the
transcription in the British Museum, is correct, we may, I think, judging by
the language, safely assign to the original the date of about 1300. Further
back than this, philology will not permit us to go.
1‑86 of this MS. contain the history of the origin of geometry, or Masonry,
and the story of Euclid is given at length, much like that which is in the
Legend of the Craft. But no other parts of that Legend are referred to, except
the portion which records the introduction of Masonry into England. From the
narrative of the establishment of Masonry in Egypt by Euclid, the poem passes
immediately to the time when the "craft com unto Englond." Here the legendary
story of King Athelstan and the Assembly called by him is given, with this
variation from the common Legend, that there is no mention of the city of
York, where the Assembly is said to have been held, nor of Prince Edwin, who
87 ‑ 470 contain the regulations which were adopted at that Assembly, divided
into fifteen articles and the same number of points. There is a very great
resemblance, substantially, between these regulations and the charges
contained in the subsequent or second set of Manuscript Constitutions. But the
regulations in the Halliwell poem are given at greater length, with more
particularity and generally accompanied with an explanation or reason for the
an interpolation, to be referred to hereafter, the poem proceeds under the
title of "Ars quatuor coronatorum," The Art of
Preface to Hughan's "Old Charges," p. vii.
Four Crowned Ones, a title never applied to Masonry in the later and purely
English manuscripts. We have first an invocation to God and the Virgin, and
then the Legend of the Four Crowned Martyrs, which ends on line 534.
this Legend of the Four Crowned Martyrs (1) ‑ die Vier Gekronten ‑ is found in
none of the purely English manuscripts, but is of German origin, and peculiar
to the German Steinmetzen or Stone Masons of the Middle Ages. Its introduction
in this manuscript is an evidence of the German origin of the document, and,
as Findel (2) says, "must be regarded as a most decided proof of the identity
of the German and English Stone Masons, and of their having one common
details of this Legend close at the 534th line, and the poem then proceeds to
give a small and imperfect portion of what is known in our later manuscripts
as the Legend of the Craft.
persuaded that all this part of the poem has been dislocated from its proper
place, and that in the original the lines from 535 to 576 formed a portion of
the Legend of the Craft, as it must have been inserted in the introductory
part of the second manuscript. I think so, first, because in all other
manuscripts the Legend forms the exordium and precedes the charges; secondly,
because it has no proper connection with or sequence to the Legend of the Four
Crowned Martyrs which precedes it, and which terminates on the 354th line; and
lastly, because it is evidently an interruption of the religious instructions
which are taken up on line 577, and which naturally follow line 534. The
writer having extolled the Christian steadfastness and piety of the four
martyrs whose feast he tells us is on the eighth day after Allhalloween,
proceeds on line 576 to admonish his readers to avoid pride and covetousness
and to practice virtue. There is here a regular and natural connection, which,
however, would be interrupted by the insertion between the two clauses of an
imperfect portion of a legend which has reference to the very beginning of the
history of Masonry. Hence I conclude that all that part of the Legend which
described the events that were connected with Noah's Flood and the Tower of
Babel is an interpolation, and belongs to another manuscript and to another
See the full details of this Legend in Mackey's "Encyclopeadia of
Freemasonry," art. Four Crowned Martyrs. (2) "History of Freemasonry," Lyon's
Trans., p. 31.
fact, the copyist had two manuscripts before him, and he transcribed sometimes
from one and sometimes from the other, apparently with but little judgment,
or, rather, he copied the whole of one and then interpolated it with extracts
from the other without respect to any congruity of subjects.
rest of the poem is occupied with instructions as to behavior when in church,
when in the company of one's superiors, and when present at the celebration of
the mass. The whole ends with what we find in no other manuscript, the now
familiar Masonic formula, "Amen, so mote it be."
471 furnishes, I think, internal evidence that the poem was originally
composed of two distinct works, written, in all probability, by two different
persons, but in the copy which we now have, combined in one by the compiler or
copyist. Mr. Woodford also is of the opinion that there are two distinct
poems, although the fact had not attracted the attention of Halliwell. The
former gentleman says that "it seems to be in truth two legends, and not only
one." This is evident, from the fact that this second part is prefaced by the
title, "Alia ordinacio artis gemetriae," that is, "Another Constitution of the
art of geometry." This title would indicate that what followed was a different
Ordinacio or Constitution and taken from a different manuscript. Besides, line
471, which is the beginning of the other or second Constitution, does not fall
into its proper place in following line 470, but is appropriately a
continuation of line 74. To make this evident, I copy lines 70‑74 from the
poem, and follow them by lines 471‑474, whence it will be seen that the latter
lines are an appropriate and natural continuation of the former.
70. He sende about ynto the londe
After alle the masonus of the crafte,
come to hym ful evene stragfte
For to amende these defaultys alle
good counsel gef it hyt mytgh falle.
They ordent ther a semble to be y‑holde
Every yer, whersever they wolde
To amende the defautes, gef any where fonde
Amonge the craft withynne the londe.
second manuscipt seems to have been copied from line 471, as far as line 496.
There, I suppose, the charges or regulations to have followed, which having
been given from the first manuscript the copyist omitted, as a needless
repetition, but went on immediately with the "ars quatuor coronatorum." This
ended at line 534. It is now evident that he went back to a preceding part of
the second manuscript and copied the early account of Masonry from line 535 to
576. The bare reading of these lines will convince the reader that they are
not in their proper place, and must have formed a part of the beginning of the
577 appropriately follows line 534, when the interpolation is left out, and
then the transcription is correctly made to the end of the poem. The first
manuscript was apparently copied correctly, with the exception of the two
interpolations from the second MS. There is a doubt whether the Legend of the
Crowned Martyrs belonged to the first or to the second poem. If to the first,
then we have the whole of the first poem, and of the second only the
interpolations. This is, however, a mere conjecture without positive proof.
Yet it is very probable.
whole, the view I am inclined to take of this manuscript is as follows:
There were two original manuscripts, out of which the copyist made a careless
first MS. began with line 1 and went on to the end at line 794. But this is
only conjectural. It may have ended, or rather the copying ceased, at line
the conjecture just advanced be correct, then from a second MS. the copyist
made interpolations, in the following way.
beginning of the second MS. is lost. But from very near the commencement,
which probably described the antediluvian tradition of Lamech, the copyist had
selected a portion which begins with line 535 and ends at line 576. He had
previously interpolated the lines from 471 to 496.
have, then, the whole of the first manuscript, from the 1st line to the 794th,
with the addition of two interpolations from the second, consisting only of 68
lines, namely: from line 471 to 496, and from line 535 to 576.
first manuscript is deficient in any references to antediluvian Masonry, but
begins with the foundation of Masonry in Egypt, as its title imports. This
deficiency was, in part, supplied by the second interpolation (535‑596). This
part begins with the building of Babel. But it is evident from the words,
"many years after," that there was a preceding part to this manuscript that
has not been copied. The "many years after" refer to some details that had
been previously made. The account of the Seven Sciences, found in all later
manuscripts, is not given in the first poem. It is inserted in this from the
of the poem in the form we now have it, the parts copied from the second MS.
consist only of 68 lines, which have been interpolated in two places into the
first MS. ‑ namely, lines 471 ‑ 496, and lines 535‑576; and these have been
dislocated from their proper places. All the rest of the poem constitutes the
original first manuscript. If I hesitate at all in coming to the positive
conclusion that the first and last parts of the poem were composed by the same
author, it is because the latter is written in a slightly different metre.
This, therefore, leaves the question where the first poem ends and where the
second begins, still open to discussion.
variations which exist between the Halliwell poem, or, rather, poems, and
other Masonic manuscripts of later date, are very important, because they
indicate a difference of origin, and, by the points of difference, suggest
several questions as to the early progress of Masonry in England.
form of the Halliwell MS. differs entirely from that of the others. The latter
are in prose, while the former is in verse. The language, too, of the
Halliwell MS. is far more antiquated than that of the other manuscripts,
showing that it was written in an earlier stage of the English tongue. It
belongs to the Early English which succeeded the Anglo‑Saxon. The other
manuscripts were written at a later period of the language.
Halliwell MS. is evidently a Roman Catholic production, and was written when
the religion of Rome prevailed in England. The later manuscripts are all
Protestant in their character, and must have been written after the middle of
the 16th century, at least, when Protestantism was introduced into that
country by Edward VI. and by Queen Elizabeth. (1)
different religious character of the two sets of manuscripts
Edward VI. reigned from 1547‑1553; Elizabeth reigned from 1558‑1603; the
interval was occupied by the Roman Catholic reign of Mary. But the archaic
style of the "Halliwell MS." forbids any theory of its having been written
during that intermediate period.
very patent. We see ecclesiastical influence very strongly manifested in the
Halliwell MS. So marked is this that Mr. Halliwell supposes that it was
written by a priest, which, I think, is not impossible, although not for the
reason he assigns, which is founded on his incorrect translation of a single
the Roman Catholic character of the poem is proven by lines 593‑692, which are
occupied in directions how the mass is to be heard; and, so ample are these
directions as to the ritual observance of this part of the Roman Catholic
worship, that it is very probable that they were written by a priest.
subsequent manuscripts we find no such allusions. Freemasonry, when these
documents were written, was Christian in its character, but it was Protestant
Christianity. The invocation with which each one begins is to the Trinity of
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; but no mention is made, as in the Halliwell MS.
of the Virgin and the saints. The only reference to the Church is in the first
charge, which is, "that you shall be a true man to God and the holy Church,
and that you use no heresy nor error by your understanding or teaching of
discreet men" ‑ a charge that would be eminently fitting for a Protestant
referring to the first charge adopted after the revival in 1717 by the Grand
Lodge of England, we find that then, for the first time, the sectarian
character was abandoned, and the toleration of a universal religion adopted.
it is said in that charge: "Though in ancient times Ma‑
philological note may, here, be not uninteresting. Mr. Halliwell, in support
of his assertion that the writer of the poem was a priest, quotes line 629:
"And, when the Gospel me rede schal" ‑ where he evidently supposes that me was
used instead of I, and that the line was to be translated‑ "when I shall read
the Gospel." But in none of the old manuscripts is the flagrant blunder
committed of using the accusative me in place of the nominative Y or I. The
fact is, that the Anglo‑Saxon man, signifying one, or they, like the French on
in "on dit," as "man dyde," one or they did, or it was done, gave way in Early
English to me, used in the same sense. Examples of this may be found in the
writers who lived about the time of the composition of the "Halliwell MS." A
few may suffice. In the Ayenbite of Inwyt is the following line: "Ine the
ydele wordes me zeneyeth ine vif maneres," that is, "In the idle word one
sinneth in five ways." Again, in Robert of Gloucester's Chronicle are these
phrases "By this tale me may yse," i.e.: "By this tale may be seen," Story of
Lear, line 183. And best me may to hem truste," i.e.: "And they may be
trustedliest," ib., 1. 184. "The stude that he was at yslawe me cleputh yet
Morgan," i.e.: "The place where he was slain is called Morgan still," ib., 1.
213. And the line in the Halliwell poem, which Mr. Halliwell supposed to mean,
"And when I shall read the Gospel," properly translated, is, " And when the
Gospel shall be read." It furnishes, therefore, no proof that the writer was a
were charged in every country to be of the religion of that country or nation,
whatever it was, yet 'tis now thought more expedient only to oblige them to
that religion in which all men agree, leaving their particular opinions to
comparing the religious views expressed in the oldest Masonic Constitution of
the 14th century, with those set forth in the later ones of the 16th and 17th,
and again with those laid down in the charge of 1717, we find an exact record
of the transitions which from time to time took place in the religious aspect
of Freemasonry in England and in some other countries.
first it was Roman Catholic in its character, and under ecclesiastical
after the Reformation, rejecting the doctrines of Rome and the influence of
the priesthood, it retained its Christian character, but became Protestant in
its peculiar views.
Lastly, at the time of the so‑called Revival, in the beginning of the 18th
century, when Speculative Masonry assumed that form which it has ever since
retained, it abandoned its sectarian character, and adopted a cosmopolitan and
tolerant rule, which required of its members, as a religious test, only a
belief in God.
Anderson's " Constitutions," 1st ed, 1723, P. 50.
ORIGIN OF THE HALLIWELL POEM
these facts concerning the gradual changes in the religious character of the
Institution, which by a collation of the old manuscripts we are enabled to
derive from the Legend of the Craft, are corroborated by contemporaneous
historical documents, as will be hereafter seen, and thus the "Legend,"
notwithstanding the many absurdities and anachronisms which deface it, becomes
really valuable as an historical document.
this is not all. In comparing the Halliwell poem with the later manuscripts,
we not only find unmistakable internal evidence that they have a different
origin, but we learn what that origin is.
Halliwell poem comes to us from the Stonemasons of Germany. It is not,
perhaps, an exact copy of any hitherto undiscovered German document, but its
author must have been greatly imbued with the peculiar thoughts and principles
of the German "Steinmetzen" of the Middle Ages.
proof of this is very palpable to any one who will carefully read the
Halliwell poem, and compare its idea of the rise and progress of Geometry with
that exhibited in the later manuscript Constitutions.
latter trace the science, as it is always called, from Lamech to Nimrod, who
"found" or invented the Craft of Masonry at the building of the Tower of
Babel, and then to Euclid, who established it in Egypt, whence it was brought
by the Israelites into Judea, and there again established by David and
Solomon, at the building of the Temple. Thence, by a wonderful anachronism it
was brought into France by one Namus Grecus, who had been a workman at the
Temple, and who organized the Science in France under the auspices of Charles
Martel. From France it was carried to England in the time of St. Alban. After
a long interruption in consequence of the Danish and Saxon wars, it finally
took permanent root at York, where Prince Edwin called an Assembly, and gave
the Masons their charges under the authority of a Charter granted by King
will be observed that nowhere in this later Legend is there any reference to
Germany as a country in which Masonry existed. On the contrary, the Masonry of
England is supposed to have been derived from France, and due honor is paid to
Charles Martel as the founder of the Order in that kingdom.
we may rationally conclude that the Legend of the Craft was modified by the
influence of the French Masons, who, as history informs us, were brought over
into England at an early period.
this respect, authentic history and the Legend coincide, and the one
corroborates the other.
Different from all this is the Legend of the Halliwell poem, the internal
evidence clearly showing a Germanic origin, or at least a Germanic influence.
The Rev. Bro. Woodford objects to this view, because, as he says, "the Legend
was then common to both countries." But with all due respect, I can not but
look upon this argument as a sort of petitio principi. The very question to be
determined is, whether this community of belief, if it existed at that time,
did not owe its origin to an importation from Germany. It is certain that in
none of the later English manuscripts is there any allusion to the Four
Crowned Martyrs, who were the recognized patrons of German Operative Masonry.
variations of the Halliwell poem from the later manuscripts are as follows: It
omits all reference to Lamech and his sons, but passing rapidly over the
events at the Tower of Babel, the building of which it ascribes to
Nebuchadnezzar, it begins (if we except a few lines interpolated in the middle
of the poem) with the Legend of Euclid and the establishment of Masonry by him
is no mention of King Solomon's Temple, whereas the history of the building of
that edifice, as a Masonic labor, constitutes an important part of all the
Legend of the Four Crowned Martyrs, concerning whom all the later manuscripts
are silent, is given at some length, and they are described as "gode masonus
as on erthe schul go." These were the tutelar saints of the German Operative
Masons of the Middle Ages, but there is no evidence that they were ever
adopted as such by the English brotherhood.
is no allusion in the Halliwell poem to Charles Martel, and to the account of
the introduction of Masonry into England from France, during his reign, which
forms a prominent part of all the later manuscripts.
Neither is there any notice of the Masonry in England during the time of St.
Alban, but the poem attributes its entrance into that country to King
Lastly, while the later manuscripts record the calling of the Assembly at the
city of York by Prince Edwin, the Halliwell makes no mention of York as the
place where the Assembly was called, nor of Edwin as presiding over it. This
fact demolishes the theory of Dr. Oliver, that the Halliwell poem is a copy of
the so‑called Old York Constitutions.
all these considerations, I think that we are justified in assigning to the
Halliwell poem and to the other later manuscripts two different sources. The
former is of Germanic, and the latter of French origin. They agree, however,
in a general resemblance, diversified only in the details. This suggests the
idea of a common belief, upon which, as a foundation, two different structures
have been erected.
LEGEND, THE GERM OF HISTORY
Legend of the Craft, as it has been given in the fourth chapter of this work
from the exemplar in the Dowland MS., appears to have been accepted for
centuries by the body of the Fraternity as a truthful history. Even at the
present day, this Legend is exerting an influence in the formation of various
parts of the ritual. This influence has even been extended to the adoption of
historical views of the rise and progress of the Institution, which have, in
reality, no other foundation than the statements which are contained in the
these reasons, the Legend of the Craft is of great importance and value to the
student of Masonic history, notwithstanding the absurdities, anachronisms, and
unsupported theories in which it abounds.
Accepting it simply as a document which for so long a period claimed and
received the implicit faith of the Fraternity whose history it professed to
give ‑ a faith not yet altogether dead ‑ it is worthy of our consideration
whether we can not, by a careful examination of its general spirit and tenor,
irrespective of the bare narrative which it contains, discover some key to the
true origin and character of that old and extensive brotherhood of which it is
the earliest record.
think that we shall find in it the germ of many truths, and the interpretation
of several historic facts concerning which it makes important suggestions.
first place, it must be remarked that we have no way of determining the
precise period when this Legend was first composed, nor when it was first
accepted by the Craft as a history of the Institution. The earliest written
record that has been discovered among English Masons bears a date which is
certainly not later than about the end of the 14th century. But this by no
means proves that no earlier exemplar ever existed, of which the
Constitutions, which have so far been brought to light, may only be copies.
contrary, we have abundant reason to believe that all the Old Records which
have been published are, with the exception of the Halliwell MS., in fact
derived from some original text which however, has hitherto escaped the
indefatigable researches of the investigators. If, for instance, we take the
Sloane MS., No. 3,848, the assumed date of which is A.D. 1646, and the
Harleian MS., NO. 2,054, the date of which is supposed to be A.D. 1650, and if
we carefully collate the one with the other, we must come to the conclusion
either that the latter was copied from the former, or that both were copied
from some carlier record, for whose exhumation from the shelves of the British
Museum, or from the archives of some old Lodge, we may still confidently hope.
resemblances in language and ideas, and the similarity of arrangement that are
found in both documents, very clearly indicate a common origin, while the
occasional verbal discrepancies can be safely attributed to the carelessness
of an inexpert copyist. Brother Hughan, (1) who is high authority, styles the
Harleian, from its close resemblance, "an indifferent copy" of the Sloane. The
Rev. A.F.A. Woodford, (2) who assigns the earlier date of 1625 to the original
Harleian, says it "is nearly a verbatim copy of Dowland's form, slightly
later, and must have been transcribed either from an early, and almost
contemporary, copy of Dowland's, or it is really a copy of Dowland's itself."
These opinions by experts strengthen the view I have advanced, that there was
a common origin for all of these manuscripts.
continue the collation of the manuscripts of later date, as far, even, as the
Papworth, which is supposed to have been transcribed about the year 1714, the
same family likeness will be found in all. It is true, that in the
transcription of the later manuscripts ‑ those, for example, that were copied
toward the end of the 17th and the beginning of the 18th centuries ‑ the
language has been improved, some few archaisms have been avoided, and more
recent words substituted for them. Scriptural names have been sometimes spelt
with a greater respect for correct orthography, and a feeble
"Old Charges of the Brit. Freemasons," p. 8. (2) Preface to Hughan's "Old
Charges," p. xi.
attempt has been made to give a modern complexion to the document. But in all
of them there is the same misspelling of words, the same violations of the
rules of grammar, the same arrangement of the narrative, and a preservation
and repetition of all the statements, apocryphal and authentic, which are to
b)e found in the earliest exemplars.
said that the Legend of the Craft, as set forth in the later manuscripts, was
for centuries accepted by the Operative Masons of England, with all its
absurdities of anachronism, as a veritable history of the rise and progress of
Masonry from the earliest times, and that the influence of this belief is
still felt among the Speculative Masons of the present day, and that it has
imbued the modern rituals with its views.
fact gives to this Legend an importance and a value irrespective of its
character as a mere Legend. And its value will be greatly enhanced if we are
able to show that, notwithstanding the myths with which it abounds, the Legend
of the Craft really contains the germ of historical truth. It is, indeed, an
historical myth ‑ one of that species of myths so common in the mythology of
antiquity, which has a foundation in historical truth, with the admixture of a
certain amount of fiction in the introduction of personages and circumstances,
that are either not historical, or are not historically treated. Indeed, it
may be considered as almost rising into the higher class of historical myths,
in which the historical and truthful greatly predominate over the fictitious.
contemplation of the Legend of the Mediaeval Masons from this point of view,
it would be well if we should govern ourselves by the profound thought of Max
Muller, (2) who says, in writing on a cognate subject, that "everything is
true, natural, significant, if we enter with a reverent spirit into the
meaning of ancient art and ancient language. Everything becomes false,
miraculous, and unmeaning, if we interpret the deep and mighty words of the
seers of old in the shallow and feeble sense of modern chroniclers."
Examined in the light of this sentiment, which teaches us to look upon the
language of the myth, or Legend, as containing a deeper meaning than that
which is expressed upon its face, we shall
For a classification of myths into the historical myth and the mythical
history, see the author's treatise on the "Symbolism of Freemasonry," P‑ 347.
(2) "Science of Language," 2d series, p. 578.
in the Legend of the Craft many points of historical reference, and, where not
historical, then symbolical, which will divest it of much of what has been
called its absurdities.
to an examination of the Legend in this philosophic spirit that I now invite
the reader. Let it be understood that I direct my attention to the Legend
contained in the later manuscripts, such as the Dowland, Harleian, Sloane,
etc., of which a copy has been given in preceding pages of this work, and that
reference is made only, as occasion may require to the Halliwell MS. for
comparison or explanation. This is done because the Legend of the later
manuscripts is undoubtedly the one which was adopted by the English Masons,
while that of the Halliwell MS. appears to have been of exotic growth, which
never took any extensive root in the soil of English Masonry.
subsequent chapters devoted to this subject, which may be viewed as
Commentaries on the Legend of the Craft, I shall investigate the signification
of the various subordinate Legends into which it is divided.
ORIGIN OF GEOMETRY
manuscript begins with an invocation to the Trinity. This invocation is almost
identical with that which prefaces the Harleian, the Sloane, the Landsdowne,
and, indeed, all the other manuscripts, except the Halliwell and the Cooke.
From this fact we may justly infer that there was a common exemplar, an "editio
princeps," whence each of these manuscripts was copied. The very slight verbal
variations, such as "Father of Kings" in the Dowland, which is "Father of
Heaven" in the others, will not affect this conclusion, for they may be fairly
attributed to the carelessness of copyists. The reference to the Trinity in
all these invocations is also a conclusive proof of the Christian character of
the building corporations of the Middle Ages ‑ a proof that is corroborated by
historical evidences. As I have already shown, in the German Constitutions of
the Stone‑masons, the invocation is "In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy
Ghost, in the name of the blessed Virgin Mary, and also in honor of the Four
Crowned Martyrs " ‑ an invocation that shows the Roman Catholic spirit of the
German Regulations; while the omission of all reference to the Virgin and the
Martyrs gives a Protestant character to the English manuscripts.
follows a descant on the seven liberal arts and sciences, the nature and
intention of each of which is briefly described. In all of the manuscripts,
even in the earliest ‑ the Halliwell ‑ will we find the same reference to
them, and, almost literally, the same description. It is not surprising that
these sciences should occupy so prominent a place in the Old Constitutions, as
making the very foundation of Masonry, when we reflect that an equal
prominence was given to them in the Middle Ages as comprehending the whole
body of human knowledge. Thus Mosheim (1) tells us that in the 11th century
"Ecclesiast. Hist. XI. Cent.," part ii., chap. i.
taught in the greatest part of the schools; and Holinshed, who wrote in the
16th century, says that they composed a part of the curriculum that was taught
in the universities. Speculative Masonry continues to this day to pay an
homage to these seven sciences, and has adopted them among its important
symbols in the second degree. The connection sought to be established in the
old manuscripts between them and Masonry, would seem to indicate the existence
of a laudable ambition among the Operative Masons of the Middle Ages to
elevate the character of their Craft above the ordinary standard of workmen ‑
an elevation that, history informs us, was actually effected, the Freemasons
of the Guild holding themselves and being held by others as of higher rank and
greater acquirements than were the rough Masons who did not belong to the
corporation of builders.
manuscript continues by a declaration that Geometry and Masonry are idendcal.
Thus, in enumerating and defining the seven liberal arts and sciences,
Geometry is placed as the fifth, "the which science," says the Legend, "is
called Masonrys." (1)
this doctrine that Geometry and Masonry are identical sciences, has been held
from the time of the earliest records to the present day by all the Operative
Masons who preceded the 18th century, as well as by the Speculative Masons
after that period.
ritual of the Fellow Craft's degree used ever since, at least from the middle
of the last century, the candidate is informed that "Masonry and Geometry are
synonymous terms." The Lodge‑room, wherever Speculative Masonry has extended,
shows, by the presence of the hieroglyphic letter in the East, that the
doctrine is still maintained.
Gadicke, the author of a German Lexicon of Freemasonry, says, that as Geometry
is among the mathematical sciences the one which has the most especial
reference to architecture, we can, therefore, under the name of Geometry,
understand the whole art of Freemasonry.
Hutchinson, speaking of the letter G, says that it denotes Geometry, and
declares that as a symbol it has always been used by artificers ‑ that is,
architects ‑ and by Masons. (2)
Dowland MS. The Halliwell poem expresses the same idea in different words:
these lordys prayers they counterfetyd gemetry, And gaf hyt the name of
Masonry." (Lines 23, 24.)
"Spirit of Freemasonry," lect. Viii., P. 92, 2d edit.
modern ritual maintains this legendary idea of the close connection that
exists between Geometry and Masonry, and tells us that the former is the basis
on which the latter, as a superstructure, is erected. Hence we find that
Masonry has adopted mathematical figures, such as angles, squares, triangles,
circles, and especially the 47th proposition of Euclid, as prominent symbols.
this idea of the infusion of Geometry into Masonry as a prevailing element ‑
the idea that is suggested in the Legend ‑ was so thoroughly recognized, that
in the 18th century a Speculative Mason was designated as a "Geometrical
have found this idea of Geometry as the fundamental science of Masonry, set
forth in the Legend of the Craft. It will be well to see how it was developed
in the Middle Ages, in the authentic history of the Craft. Thus we shall have
discovered another link in the chain which unites the myths of the Legend with
the true history of the Institution.
Operative Masons of the Middle Ages, who are said to have derived the
knowledge of their art as well as their organization as a Guild of Builders
from the Architects of Lombardy, who were the first to assume the title of
"Freemasons," were in the possession of secrets which enabled them everywhere
to construct the edifices on which they were engaged according to the same
principles, and to keep up, even in the most distant countries, a
correspondence, so that every member was made acquainted with the most minute
improvement in the art which had been discovered by any other. (1) One of
these secrets was the knowledge of the science of symbolism, (2) and the other
was the application of the principles of Geometry to the art of building.
certain," says Mr. Paley, (3) "that Geometry lent its aid in the planning and
designing of buildings"; and he adds that "probably the equilateral triangle
was the basis of most formations."
geometrical symbols found in the ritual of modern Freemasonry may be
considered as the debris of the geometrical secrets of the Mediaeval Masons,
which are now admitted to be lost. (4) As
Hope, " Historical Essay on Architecture." (2) M. Maury ("Essai sur les
Legendes Pieures du Moyen‑Aye") gives many instances of the application of
symbolism by these builders to the construction of churches. (3) "Manual of
Gothic Architecture," P. 78. (4) Lord Lindsay, "Sketches of the History of
Christian Art," ii., 14.
founded their operative art on the knowledge of Geometry, and as the secrets
of which they boasted as distinguishing them from the "rough Masons" of the
same period consisted in an application of the principles of that science to
the construction of edifices, it is not surprising that in their traditional
history they should have so identified architecture with Geometry, and that
with their own art of building, as to speak of Geometry and Masonry as
synonymous terms. "The fifth science," says the Dowland MS., is "called
Geometry, . . . the which science is called Masonrye." Remembering the
tendency of all men to aggrandize their own pursuits, it is not surprising
that the Mediaeval Masons should have believed and said that "there is no
handycraft that is wrought by man's hand but it is wrought by Geometry."
this descant in the old manuscripts on the identity of Geometry and Masonry,
the Legend of the Craft expresses a sentiment the existence of which is
supported by the authentic evidence of contemporaneous history.
LEGEND OF LAMECH'S SONS AND THE PILLARS
traditional history of Masonry now begins, in the Legend of the Craft, with an
account of the three sons of Lamech, to whom is attributed the discovery of
all sciences. But the most interesting part of the Legend is that in which the
story is told of two pillars erected by them, and on which they had inscribed
the discoveries they had made, so that after the impending destruction of the
world the knowledge which they had attained might be communicated to the post‑diluvian
story is not mentioned in the Bible, but is first related by Josephus in the
also [the posterity of Seth] were the inventors of that peculiar sort of
wisdom which is concerned with the heavenly bodies and their order. And that
their inventions might not be lost before they were sufficiently known, upon
Adam's prediction that the world was to be destroyed at one time by the force
of fire, and at another time by the violence and quantity of water, they made
two pillars, the one of brick, the other of stone; they inscribed their
discoveries on them both, that in case the pillar of brick should be destroyed
by the flood, the pillar of stone might remain and exhibit those discoveies to
mankind, and also inform them that there was another pillar of brick erected
by them. Now this remains in the land of Siriad to this day." (1)
Although this traditional narrative has received scarcely any estimation from
scholars, and Josephus has been accused either of incredible audacity or
frivolous credulity," (2) still it has formed the
Josephus, "Antiquities of the Jews," B.I., ch. ii., Whiston's trans. (2) "
Incredibili audacia aut futili credulitate usus est," is the language of
Hornius in his "Geographia Vetus." But Owen ("Theologomena," lib. iv., c. ii.,
6), although inclined to doubt the story, thinks it not impossible if we
suppose hieroglyphics like those of the Egyptians to have been used for the
inscriptions, instead of letters.
foundation on which the Masonic Legend of the pillars has been erected. But in
passing from the Jewish historian to the Legend‑ maker of the Craft, the form
of the story has been materially altered. In Josephus the construction of the
pillars is attributed to the posterity of Seth; in the Legend, to the children
of Lamech. Whence was this important alteration derived ?
Dowland and all subsequent manuscripts cite the fourth chapter of Genesis as
authority for the Legend. But in Genesis no mention is made of these pillars.
But in the Cooke MS., which is of an earlier date, we can trace the true
source of the Legend in its Masonic form, which could not be done until that
manuscript was published.
Cooke MS. has been accorded the date of 1490. It differs materially in form
and substance from the Halliwell MS., which preceded it by at least a century,
and is the first of the Old Constitutions in which anything like the present
form of the Legend appears.
way in which the Legend of Lamech is treated by it, enables us to dicover the
true source whence this part of the Legend of the Craft was derived.
must be remarked, in the first place, that the Halliwell poem, the earliest of
the old manuscripts, the date of which is not later than the close of the 14th
century, contains no allusion to this Legend of Lamech and his children. The
Cooke MS. is the first one in which we find the details. The Cooke MS. is
assigned, as has been before said, to the end of the 15th century, about the
year 1490. In it the Legend of the pillars is given (from line 253 to 284) in
the following words:
these iii brotheryn [the sons of Lamech] aforesayd, had knowlyche that God
wold take vengans for synne other by fyre or watir, and they had greter care
how they myght do to saue the sciens that they founde, and they toke her
[their] consell to gedyr and by all her [their] witts they seyde that were ij
manner of stonn of suche virtu that the one wolde neuer brenne [burn] and that
stonn is called marbyll and that other stonn that woll not synke in watir, and
that stone is namyd laterus, (1) and so they deuysyd to wryte all the sciens
that they had Found (2) in this ij stonys if that god wolde
From the Latin "later," a brick. (2) It is to be regretted that in nearly all
the recent printed copies of the old manuscripts, the editors have substituted
the double ff for the capital F which is in the original. The scribes or
amanuenses of the Middle Ages were fond of employing capital letters often
when there was really no use for them, but they never indulged in the folly of
unnecessarily doubling initial letters. What the modern editors of the
manuscripts have mistaken for a double ff was really the ff or ff the capital
F of the scribes. This is not of much importance, but even in small things it
is well to be accurate. Bro. Hughan, in his edition of the "Old Charges," is,
as we might expect, generally correct in this particular. But sometimes,
perhaps inadvertently, he has printed the double instead of the capital
vengeans by fyre that the marbyll scholde not brenne. And yf god sende
vengeans by watir that the other scholde not droune, and so they prayed her
elder brother jobell that wold make ij pillers of these ij stones, that is to
sey of marbill and of laterus, and that he wolde write in the ij pylers alle
the sciens and crafts that alle they had founde, and so he did."
Comparing this Legend with the passage that has been cited from Josephus, it
is evident that the Legend‑maker had not derived his story from the Jewish
historian. The latter attributes the building of the pillars to the children
of Seth, while the former assigns it to the children of Lamech. How are we to
explain this change in the form of the Legend ? We can only solve the problem
by reference to a work almost contemporary with the legendist.
Ranulph Higden, a Benedictine monk of St. Werburg's Abbey, in Chester, who
died in the latter half of the 14th century, wrote a Universal history,
completed to his own times, under the title of Polychronicon.
Polychronicon was written in the Latin language, but was translated into
English by Sir John Trevisa. This translation, with several verbal
alterations, was published in London by William Caxton in 1482, about ten
years before the date of the Cooke MS. With this work, the compiler of the
Legend in the Cooke MS. appears to have been familiar. He cites it repeatedly
as authority for his statements.
he says: "Ye schal understonde that amonge all the craftys of the world of
mannes crafte Masonry hath the most notabilite and moste parte of this sciens
Gemetry as his notid and seyd in storiall as in the bybyll and in the master
of stories. And in policronico a cronycle prynted."
the Legend of Lamech's children is thus given in Caxton's edition of the
translation of Higden's Polychronicon: (1)
Book 11., ch. v.
Adams fyrste sone begate Enoch, he gate Irad, he gate Manayell, he gate
Matusale, he gate Lameth. This Lameth toke twey wyves, Ada and Sella, and gate
tweyne sons on Ada. Iabeh that was fader of them that woned in tentes and in
pauylons. And Tuball that was fader of organystre and of harpers. And Lameth
gate on Sella Tubal cayn that was a smith worchyng with hamer, and his sister
Noema, she found fyrst weuynge crafte.
"Josephus. Jabell ordayned fyrste flockes of beestes and marks to know one
from another. And departed kyddes from lam bes and yonge from the olde. Peir s
Tubalcayn founde fyrst smythes crafte. Tuball had grete lykynge to here the
hareers sowne. And soo he vsed them moche in the accords of melodys, but he
was not finder of the instruments of musyke. For they were founde longe
reader will at once perceive whence the composer of the Legend in the Cooke
MS. derived his information about the family of Lamech. And it will be equally
plain that the subsequent writers of the Old Constitutions took the general
tone of their Legend from this manuscript.
Polychronicon, after attributing the discovery of music to Pythagoras,
proceeds to descant upon the wickedness of mankind immediately after the time
of Seth, and repeats the biblical story of the intermarriage of the sons of
God and the daughters of men, which he explains as signifying the sons of Seth
and the daughters of Cain. Then follows the following passage
"Josephus. That tyme men wyste as Adam and sayde, that they sholde be
destroyed by fyre or elles by water. Therefore bookes that they hadde made by
grete trauaille and studys, he closed them in two grete pylers made of marbill
and of brent tyle. In a pyler of marbill for water and in a pyler of tyle for
fyre. For it should be sauved by that maner to helpe of mankynde. Men sayth
that the pyler of stone escaped the floods, and yet is in Syrya."
we find the origin of the story of the two pillars as related in the Legend of
the Craft. But how can we account for the change of the constructors of these
pillars from the children of Seth, as stated in Josephus, and from him in the
Polychronicon, to the children of Lamech, as it is given in the Legend ?
phrase "That tyme men wyste," or "at that time men knew," with which Trevisa
begins his translation of that part of Higden's work, he undoubtedly referred
to the "tyme" contemporary with the children of Seth, of whom he had
immediately before been speaking. But the writer of the Legend engaged in
recounting the narrative of the invention of the sciences by the children of
Lamech, and thus having his attention closely directed to the doings of that
family, inadvertently, as I suppose, passed over or omitted to notice the
passage concerning the descendants of Seth, which had been interposed by the
author of the Polychronicon, and his eye, catching the account of the pillars
a little farther on, he applied the expression, "that tyme," not to the
descendants of Seth, but to the children of Lamech, and thus gave the Masonic
version of the Legend.
called this ascription of the pillars to the children of Lamech a "Masonic
version," because it is now contained only in the Legend of the Craft, those
who do not reject the story altogether as a myth, preferring the account given
in fact, the error of misinterpreting Josephus occurred long before the Legend
of the Craft was written, and was committed by one of the most learned men of
Isidore, Bishop of Seville, who died in the year 636, was the author of many
works in the Latin language, on theology, philosophy, history, and philology.
Among other books written by him was a Chronicon, or Chronicle, in which the
following passage occurs, where he is treating of Lamech:
the year of the world 1642, Lamech being 190 years old, begat Noah, who, in
the five hundredth year of his age, is commanded by the Divine oracle to build
the Ark. In these times, as Josephus relates, those men knowing that they
would be destroyed either by fire or water, inscribed their knowledge upon two
columns made of brick and of stone, so that the memory of those things which
they had wisely discovered might not be lost. Of these columns the stone one
is said to have escaped the Flood and to be still remaining in Syria." (1)
very evident that in some way the learned Bishop of Seville had misunderstood
the passage of Josephus, and that to him the sons of Lamech are indebted for
the honor of being considered the con‑
"Opera Isidori," ed. Matriti, 1778, tom. i., p. 125.
structors of the pillars. The phrase "his temporibus," in these times, clearly
refers to the times of Lamech.
doubtful whether the author of the Legend of the Craft was acquainted with the
works of Isidore, or had read this passage. His Etymologies are repeatedly
cited in the Cooke manuscript, but it is through Higden, whose Polychronicon
contains many quotations from the Libri Etymologiarum of the Spanish Bishop
and Saint. But I prefer to assume that the Legend‑maker got his ideas from the
Polychronicon in the method that I have described.
last century a new Legend was introduced into Masonry, in which the building
of these pillars was ascribed to Enoch. But this Legend, which is supposed to
have been the invention of the Chevalier Ramsay, is altogether modern, and has
no connection with the Legend of the Craft.
borrowing the story of the antediluvian pillars from Josephus, through the
Polychronicon, though they have made some confusion in narrating the
incidents, the Old Operative Masons were simply incorporating into their
Legend of the Craft a myth which had been universal among the nations of
antiquity, for all of them had their memorial columns. Sesostris, the great
Egyptian king and conqueror, sometimes called Sethos, or Seth, and who,
Whiston think, has been confounded by Josephus with the Adamic Seth, erected
pillars in all the counties which he conquered as monuments of his victories.
Polychronicon, with which we see that the old Masons were familiar, had told
them that Zoroastres, King of Bactria, had inscribed the seven liberal arts
and sciences on fourteen pillars, seven of brass and seven of brick. Hercules
was said to have placed at the Straits of Gades two pillars, to show to
posterity how far he had extended his conquests.
conclusion, it should be observed that the story of the pillars as inserted in
the Legend of the Craft has exerted no influence on the modern rituals of
Freemasonry, and is never referred to in any of the ceremonies of Ancient
Craft Masonry. The more recent Legend of the pillars of Enoch belongs
exclusively to the higher and more modern degrees. The only pillars that are
alluded to in the primitive degrees are those of Solomon's temple. But these
develop so important a portion of the symbolism of the Institution as to
demand our future consideration in a subsequent part of this work.
LEGEND OF HERMES
next part of the Legend of the Craft which claims our attention is that which
relates to Hermes, who is said to have discovered one of the pillars erected
by the sons of Lamech, and to have communicated the sciences inscribed on it
to mankind. This may, for distinction, be called "The Legend of Hermes."
name has suffered cruel distortion from the hands of the copyists in the
different manuscripts. In the Dowland MS. it is Hermarynes; in the Landsdowne,
Herminerus; in the York, Hermarines; in the Sloane, 3,848, Hermines and
Hermenes, who "was afterwards called Hermes"; and worst and most intolerable
of all, it is in the Harleian, Hermaxmes. But they all evidently refer to the
celebrated Hermes Trismegistus, or the thrice great Hermes. The Cooke MS.,
from which the story in the later manuscripts is derived, spells the name
correctly, and adds, on the authority of the Polychronicon, that while Hermes
found one of the pillars, Pythagoras discovered the other. Pythagoras is not
mentioned in any of the later manuscripts, and we first find him referred to
as a founder in Masonry in the questionable manuscript of Leland, which fact
will, perhaps, furnish another argument against the genuineness of that
Hermes, the Legend is not altogether without some historical support although
the story is in the Legend mythical, but of that character which pertains to
the historical myth.
reputed to be the son of Taut or Thoth, whom the Egyptians deified, and placed
his image beside those of Osiris and Isis. To him they attributed the
invention of letters, as well as of all the sciences, and they esteemed him as
the founder of their religious rites.
says, in a note on a passage of Sanchoniathon, (1) that "Thoth was an Egyptian
deity of the second order. The Graeco‑ Roman mythology identified him with
Hermes or Mercury. He was reputed to be the inventor of writing, the patron
deity of learning, the scribe of the gods, in which capacity he is represented
signing the sentences on the souls of the dead." Some recent writers have
supposed that Hermes was the symbol of Divine Intelligence and the primitive
type of Plato's "Logos." Manetho, the Egyptian priest, as quoted by Syncellus,
distinguishes three beings who were callcd Hermes by the Egyptians. The first,
or Hermes Trismegistus, had, before the deluge, inscribed the history of all
the sciences on pillars; the second, the son of Agathodemon, translated the
precepts of the first; and the third, who is supposed to be synonymous with
Thoth, was the counsellor of Osiris and Isis. But these three were in later
ages confounded and fused into one, known as Hermes Trismegistus. He was
always understood by the philosophers to symbolize the birth, the progress,
and the perfection of human sciences. He was thus considered as a type of the
Supreme Being. Through him man was elevated and put into communication with
Egyptians attributed to him the composition of 36,525 books on all kinds of
knowledge. (2) But this mythical fecundity of authorship has been explained as
referring to the whole scientific and religious encyclopoedia collected by the
Egyptian priests and preserved in their temples.
the title of Hermetic books, several works falsely attributed to Hermes, but
written, most probably, by the Neo‑Platonists, are still extant, and were
deemed to be of great authority up to the 16th century. (3)
a tradition very generally accepted in former times that this Hermes engraved
his knowledge of the sciences on tables of pillars of stone, which were
afterward copied into books.
Manetho attributes to him the invention of stylae, or pillars, on which were
inscribed the principles of the sciences. And Jamblichus
Cory's "Ancient Fragments," edited by E. Richmond Hodges, Lond., 1876, p. 3.
(2) Jamblichus, citing Selencos, "de Mysteries," segm. viii., c. 1. (3) Rousse,
Dictionnaire in voc. The principal of these is the "Poemander," or of the
Divine Power and Wisdom.
that when Plato and Pythagoras had read the inscriptions on these columns they
formed their philosophy. (1)
was, in fact, an Egyptian legislator and priest. Thirty‑ six books on
philosophy and theology, and six on medicine, are said to have been written by
him, but they are all lost, if they ever existed. The question, indeed, of his
own existence has been regarded by modern scholars as extremely mythical. The
Alchemists, however, adopted him as their patron. Hence Alchemy is called the
Hermetic science, and hence we get Hermetic Masonry and Hermetic Rites.
time of the composition of the Legend of the Craft, the opinion that Hermes
was the inventor of all the sciences, and among them, of course, Geometry and
Architecture, was universally accepted as true, even by the learned. It is
not, therefore, singular that the old Masons, who must have been familiar with
the Hermetic myth, received it as something worthy to be incorporated into the
early history of the Craft, nor that they should have adopted him, as they did
Euclid, as one of the founders of the science of Masonry.
idea must, however have sprung up in the 15th century, as it is first broached
in the Cook MS. And it was, in all probability, of English origin, since there
is no allusion to it in the Halliwell poem.
next important point that occurs in the Legend of the Craft is its reference
to the Tower of Babel, and this will, therefore, be the subject of the next
Juxta antiquas Mercurii columnas, quas Plato
quondam, et Pythagoras cum lectitas‑sent, philosophism constituerunt.
Jamblichus, " de Mysteries," segm. i., c. 2.
TOWER OF BABEL
the legend of Hermes, the story of the Tower of Babel appears in the Halliwell
poem, which shows, if my theory of the origin of that poem be correct, that
the Legend was not confined at an early period to the English Masons. In the
second of the two poems, which I have heretofore said are united in one
manuscript, the legend of Babel, or Babylon, is thus given: (1)
mow hen as y do rede, That many years after, for gret drede, That Noee's flod
was alle y‑ronne, (2) The tower of Bebyloine was begonne, Also playne werk of
lyme and ston, As any mon schulde toke uppon, Seven myle the heyghte shadweth
the sonne. King Nabugodonosor let hyt make To gret strenthe for monus (3) sake
Thaygh such a flod agayne schulde come, Over the werke hyt schulde not nome,
(4) For they hadde so hye pride, with strange bost, Aile that werke therfore
was y‑lost ; An angele smot hem so with dyvcres speechs, That never won wyste
what other schuld reche." (5)
statements of this Halliwell Legend are very meagre, nor is it possible to say
with any certainty whence the writer derived his details. From neither the
Book of Genesis, nor Berosus, nor Josephus could he have derived the
information which has given its peculiar form to the legend. The anachronism
of making Nebuchadnezzar, who lived about sixteen centuries after the event,
the builder of the
Lines 535‑550. (2) Rain ‑ Ang. ‑Sax. rinan, to rain ‑ That Noah's flood would
still rain. (3) Men's sake. (4) Get ‑ should not get over the work ‑ cover it.
is worthy of notice. It would appear that the writer of the poem had a general
acquaintance with the well‑known tradition of Babel, and that in loosely
giving an account of it, he had confused the time and place of the erection
and the supposed name of the builder. At all events, the subsequent Masonic
not accept the Halliwell writer as authority, or, more probably, were wholly
unacquainted with his poem. It did not exert any influence over the subsequent
next time that the Babel legend appears is in the Cooke MS., written at least
a century after the Halliwell. The legend, as there given, is in the following
is writen in the bibull Genesis, Cap. I mo wo [how] that Cam, Noe's sone, gate
Nembrothe, and he wax a myghty man apon the erthe, and he wax a stronge man,
like a Gyant, and he was a grete kyng, and the bygynyng of his kyngdom was
[the] trew kyngdom of Babilon and Arach and Archad and Calan (1) and the lond
of Sennare. And this same Cam (2) he gan the towre of babilon, and he taught
to his werkemen the craft of mesurie, (3) and he had with him mony masonys mo
than x1. thousand, and he louyd and chereshed them well, and hit is wryten in
Policronicon and in the master of stories and in other stories rno, and this a
part wytnes [the] bybull in the same x. chapter where he seyth that asure [Assur]
was nye kynne to Nembrothe (4) gede [went] owt of the londe of Senare, and he
bylded the City Nunyve and Plateas and other mo. Thus he seyeth, 'De terra
illa et de Sennare egressus est Asure et edifiiavit Nunyven et Plateas
civitates et Cale et Iesu quoque inter Nunyven et haec est Civitas Magna.'
wolde [requires] that we schold telle opunly how and in what manner that the
charges of masoncraft was fyrst foundyd and ho gaf [who gave] fyrste the name
to hit of masonri. And ye schyll knaw well that hit [is] told and writen in
Policronicon and in Methodus episcopus and Martyrus that Asur that was a
The names of cities. (2) The word Nembroth had been first written in the
manuscript, then erased, and the "Cam" (for Ham) inserted. But this correction
is itself incorrect and incongruous with the rest of the legend. (3) Mesuri‑measure.
The author of the manuscript had previously maintained that measure and
geometry were identical. So here "the craft of mesuri" means the craft of
geometry, and geometry was always supposed to be the same as Masonry. (4) Cam
originally written, then erased and Membrothe inserted.
Sennare, sende to Nembroth the kyng to sende hym masons and workemen of crafte
that myght helpe hym to make his Cite that he was in wyll to make. And
Nembroth sende hym xxx C. (3,000) of masons. And whan they scholde go and [he]
sende hem forth he callyd hem by for hym [before him] and seyd to hem, ye must
go to my cosyn Asure to helpe hym to bilde a cyte, but loke that ye be well
governyd, and I shall give you a charge profitable for you and me. . .
they resceyved the charge of him that was here [their] maister and here lordq,
and went forth to Asure and bilde the cite of Nunyve in the country of Plateas
and other cites mo, that men call Cale and lesen that is a gret cite bi twene
Cale and Nunyve. And in this manner the craft of masonry was fyrst preferryd
[brought forward] and chargyd for a sciens."
next meet with the Legend in the later manuscripts, in a form differing but
little from that of the Cooke MS. The Dowland, which is the earliest of these
manuscript Constitutions, and the date of which is supposed to be about the
year 1550, has already been printed in this work. But for the convenience of
the reader, in comparing the three forms of the Legend, so much of it as
refers to the Babel legend is again inserted. It is in these words, which, it
may be remarked, are very closely followed by all the subsequent manuscipts up
to the beginning of the 18th century:
the makinge of the Tower of Babylon, there was Masonrye first made much of.
And the Kinge of Babylon that height Nemrothe was a mason himselfe, and loved
well the science as it is said with masters of histories. And when the City of
Ninyve and other citties of the East should be made, Nemrothe the Kinge of
Babylon sent thither three score masons at the rogation of the Kinge of Nyneve,
his cosen. And when he sent them forth he gave them a charge in this manner. .
. . And this was the first tyme that ever Masons had any charge of his
comparing the three forms of the Babylonish legend, which have here been
cited, namely, as given in the Halliwell, the Cooke, and the Dowland MSS., we
shall readily detect that there was a gradual growth of the details until the
legend eventually took the shape which for a long time was accepted by the
Halliwell poem the legend is very brief, and by its abrupt termination would
impress the opinion upon the reader that Masonry had no part in the building
of the Tower of Babel, the only effect of which was to produce a confusion of
languages and the dispersion of mankind. It was only "many years after" that
the "craft of geometry," or Masonry, was taught by Euclid. In fact, the whole
tendency of the Halliwell legend is to trace the origin of Masonry to Euclid
and the Egyptians. In his account of the Tower of Babel, the writer of the
Halliwell poem seems to have been indebted only to the Scriptural narrative,
although he has confounded Nebuchadnezzar, the repairer of Babylon, with
Nimrod, its original founder.
the writer of the Cooke MS. took his details of the legend from another
source. Only a few years before the composition of this manuscript, Caxton had
published, and thus placed in the hands of the English Masons, Trevisa's
translation of Ranulph Higden's Polychronicon, or Universal History. Of this
book, rich in materials for legendary composition the writer of the Cooke MS.
readily availed himself. This he honestly acknowledges in several places. And
although he quotes as other authorities Herodotus, Josephus, and Methodius, it
is very evident that he knows nothing of these historians except from the
citations from them made by the monk Higden in the Polychronicon.
English Masons were probably already acquainted with the legend in the
imperfect form in which it is given in the Halliwell poem. But for the shape
which it assumed from the time of the composition of the Cooke MS., and which
was adopted in the Dowland and all the later manuscripts, the Craft were, I
think, undoubtedly indebted to the Polychronicon of the Monk of Chester,
through its translation by Trevisa and its publication by Caxton.
are two other forms of the Babylonian legend, of later date, which must be
read before we can thoroughly understand the growth of that legend.
1723 Anderson published, by authority of the Grand Lodge of England, the
Constitutions of the Free‑Masons. Dr. Anderson was, no doubt, in possession
of, or had access to, many sources of information in the way of old
manuscripts which have sincc been lost, and with these, assisted in some
measure by his own inventive genius, he has extended the brief Legend of the
Craft to 34 quarto pages. But as this work was of an official character, and
was written and published under the sanction of the Grand Lodge, and freely
distributed among the Lodges and Masons of the time, the form of the Legend
adopted by him was accepted by the Fraternity for a very long period as
authentic. The Andersonian legend of the Tower of Babel molded, therefore, the
belief of the English Craft for at least the whole of the 18th century.
giving any citations from the Andersonian version of the legend, it will be
necessary to refer to another copy of the Old Constitutions.
Krause, the author of a learned Masonic work, entitled The Three Oldest
Documents of the Brotherhood of Freemasons, published in that work in 1810 a
German translation of a document which he calls the York Constitutions. (1)
this document Krause goves the following account. He says that Bro. Schneider,
of Altenberg, had written communication from Bro. Bottger, who stated that in
the year 1799 he had seen at London a copy of the York Constitutions in a very
old manuscript, consisting of 107 leaves in large folio, almost one‑third of
which he had been unable to read, because it was written in the early English
language, and hence he was forced to employ a learned Englishman as an
interpreter. Schneider made diligent inquiries after this manuscript, and
eventually received a certified Latin translation, made in 1806, from which,
in 1808, he composed a German version.
document Krause supposes to be a genuine exemplar of the Constitutions enacted
at York in 926. The original manuscript has, however, never been found; it is
not referred to in any of the records of the old Grand Lodge of York, and
seems to have remained in mysterious obscurity until seen in 1799 by this Bro.
Bottger while on a visit to London.
these reasons, Findel deems it a spurious document. Bro. Woodford, than whom
there is none more competent to judge of questions of this kind, does not
assent to this opinion, but, having his doubts, thinks the matter should
remain in abeyance for the present. Bro. Hughan, another accomplished critic,
believes that it is probably a compilation of the early part of the last
the reader shall have collated the extracts about to be given from Anderson's
Constitutions and the Krause MS., he will, I think, concur with me, that
either Anderson had seen the latter
"Die drei altesten Kunsturkunden der Freimaurerbruderschaft," vol. iii., P. 5.
manuscript, or that the author of it had been familiar with the work of
Anderson. The general similarity of ideas, the collocation of certain words,
and the use of particular phrases, must lead to the conclusion that one of the
two writers was acquainted with the production of the other. Which was the
earlier one is not easily determined, nor is it important, since they were
almost contemporaneous documents, and, therefore, they both show what was the
form assumed by the legend in the early part of the 18th century. (1)
Anderson version of the Babylon legend is as follows: (2)
101 years after the Flood we find a vast number of 'em [the offspring of the
sons of Noah], if not the whole race of Noah, in the vale of Shinar, employed
in building a city and large tower, in order to make themselves a name and to
prevent their dispersion. And tho' they carried on the work to a monstrous
height, and by their vanity provoked God to confound their devices, by
confounding their speech, which occasioned their dispersion; yet their skill
in Masonry is not the less to be celebrated, having spent above 53 years in
that prodigious work, and upon their dispersion carried the mighty knowledge
with them into distant parts, where they found the good use of it in the
settlement of their kingdoms, commonwealths, and dynasties. And tho'
afterwards it was lost in most parts of the earth it was especially preserved
in Shinar and Assyria, where Nimrod, the founder of that monarchy, after the
dispersion built many splendid cities, as Ereck, Accad and Calneh in Shinar,
from whence afterwards he went forth into Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth,
Calch, and Rhesin.
these parts, upon the Tigris and the Euphrates, afterwards flourished many
learned Priests and Mathematicians, known by the names of Chaldees and Magi,
who preserved the good science, Geometry, as the kings and great men
encouraged the Royal Art."
Krause MS., or the reputed York Constitutions, gives the Babylonian legend as
The oftener I read this document, and the more I reflect on its internal
evidence, the more I become convinced that it was written after the first
edition of Anderson's "Constitutions," and, perhaps, after the second. Indeed,
I am almost prepared to assign any part of the 18th century for the date of
its composition. (2) "Constitutions," 1st edition, p. 3. (3) See it in
Hughan's "Old Charges of the British Freemasons," p.80. It must be remembered
that it is there an English version of the German which had been translated
from a Latin translation of the original old English ‑ ut dicitur. I have
corrected a few errors in the translation in the "Old Charges" by a collation
with the German of Krause.
generations after Noah, his descendants, proud of their knowledge, built on a
plain, in the land of Shinar, a great city and a high tower of lime, stones,
and wood, in order that they might dwell together, under the laws which their
ancestor, Noah, had made known, and that the names of Noah's descendants might
be preserved for all time. This arrogance, however, did not please the Lord in
heaven, the lover of humility, therefore he caused a confusion of their speech
before the tower was finished, and scattered them in many uninhabited lands,
whither they brought with them their laws and arts, and then founded kingdoms
and principalities, as the Holy Books often testify. Nimrod, in particular,
built a town of considerable size; but Noah's son, Shem, remained in Ur, in
the land of the Chaldeans, and propagated a knowledge of all the arts and
sciences abroad, and taught also Peleg, Serug, Nahor, Terah, and Abraham, the
last of whom knew all the sciences, and had knowledge, and continued to
instruct the sons of free‑born men, whence afterwards the numerous learned
priests and mathematicians who have been known under the name of the wise
have now five different documents presenting three different forms of the
Legend of the Tower of Babel: 1. The Halliwell poem. This Legend briefly
recounts the facts of the building of the tower and the subsequent
interruption of the work by the confusion of tongues and the dispersion of the
builders. By an anachronism, Nebuchadnezzar is designated as the monarch who
directed the construction. Not a word is said about the Institution of Masonry
at that time. In fact, the theory of the Halliwell MS. seems rather to be that
Masonry was, "many years after," taught for the first time in Egypt by Euclid.
form of the Legend was never accepted by the Operative Masons of the Guild,
certainly not after the end of the 15th century.
Cooke and later manuscripts. This form of the Legend ascribes the origin of
Masonry to the era of the building of the tower. Nimrod is made the Grand
Master and makes the first charge ‑ that is, frames the first Constitution
that the Masons ever had. Asshur, the son of Shem, is also represented as a
great Mason, the builder of the city of Nineveh, and to whom Nimrod sent
workmen to assist him. From Babylon, Masonry was carried next into Egypt.
form of the Legend, first presented in the Cooke MS., and followed almost
literally in the Dowland and all the succeeding manuscript Constitutions,
seems to have embodied the prevailing belief of the Fraternity until about the
end of the 17th or the beginning of the 18th century.
Andersonian and the York Constitutions. In these the form of the Legend is
greatly improved. The idea that Masonry was first established with appropriate
laws at the Tower of Babel under the supeintendence of Nimrod is still
preserved. But Asshur no longer appears as a builder of cities, assisted by
"his cosen," but is transformed, and correctly too, into the kingdom of
Assyria, where Nimrod himself built Nineveh and other cities. And the next
appearance of Masonry is said to be, not in Egypt, as in the preceding
manuscripts, but is said to have been propagated after the dispersion by the
Magi in the land of the Chaldeans.
form of the Legend prevailed during perhaps the whole of the 18th century. It
became the settled conviction of the Masons of that period that Masonry was
instituted at the Tower of Babel by Nimrod and thence propagated to the
in Smith's Use and Abuse of Freemasonry, (1) published in 1783, it is said
that after the Flood the Masons were first called Noachidvae, and afterwords
sages or wise men, Chaldeans, etc. And Northouck, who, in 1784, by order of
the Grand Lodge, published an edition of the Constitutions far superior to
that of Anderson, says (2) that Nimrod founded the empire of Babylon, and that
"under him flourished those learned mathematicians whose successors were
styled Magi, or wise men."
about the end of the last century, or, perhaps, still later, about the
beginning of the present, this legendary account of the origin of Freemasonry
began to be repudiated, and another one, in contradiction of the old
manuscripts, was substituted for it.
Masonry was no longer believed to have originated at the Tower of Babel; the
Temple of Jerusalem was considered as the place of its birth; and Solomon and
not Nimrod was called the "first Grand Master."
Accepting this Legend, as we do the other Legends of Masonry, which, in the
language of Oliver, (3) "are entitled to consideration, though their
authenticity may be denied and their aid rejected," we
Op. Cit., P. 29. (2) Op. Cii., p. 11. (3) "Historical Landmarks," vol. i.,
lect. i., p. 53.
that at the present day the Babylonish legend has assumed the present form.
the Flood there was a system of religious instruction which, from the
resemblance of its legendary and symbolic character to that of Freemasonry,
has been called by some authors "antediluvian Masonry." This system was
preserved by Noah, and after the deluge was communicated by him to his
immediate descendants. This system was lost at the time of the dispersion of
mankind, and corrupted by the pagans in their Mysteries. But subsequently it
was purified, and Freemasonry, as we now have it, was organized by the King of
Israel at the time of the building of the temple.
idea is well exemplified in the American ritual, which was, we have every
reason to believe, invented about the end of the last century.
this ritual, much of which is, however, being lost or becoming obsolete, from
the necessary imperfections of oral transmission, the aspirant is supposed to
represent one who is travelling from the intellectual blindness of the profane
world into the brightness of Masonry, in whose arena he expects to find the
light and truth, the search for which is represented by his initiation. This
symbolic journey is supposed to begin at the Tower of Babel, where, in the
language of the ritual "language was confounded and Masonry lost," and to
terminate at the Temple of Solomon, where "language was restored and Masonry
according to this latest form of the Legend, the Tower of Babel is degraded
from the prominent place which was given to it in the older forms as the
birth‑place of Masonry, and becomes simply the symbol of the darkness and
ignorance of the profane world as contradistinguished from the light and
knowledge to be derived from an initiation into the system of Speculative
the old Masons who framed the Legend of the Craft were conforming more than
these modern ritualists to the truth of history when they assigned to Babylon
the glory of being the original source of the sciences. So far from its being
a place of intellectual darkness, we learn from the cuneiform inscriptions
that the Ancient Babylonians and their copyists, the Assyrians, were in
possession of a wonderful literature. From the ruins of Babylon, Nineveh, and
other ancient cities of the plain of Shinar tablets of terra cotta have been
excavated, inscribed with legends in cuneiform characters.
interpretation of this once unknown alphabet and language has yielded to the
genius and the labors of such scholars as Grotefend, Botta, Layard and
the fragments found at Kouyunjik, the modern Arabic name for the site of
Nineveh, the late Mr. George Smith conjectured that there were in the Royal
Library at Nineveh over ten thousand inscribed tablets, including almost every
subject in ancient literature, all of which literature was borrowed by the
Assyrians from Babylonian sources. (1)
Speaking of this literature, Smith says that "at an early period in Babylonian
history a great literary development took place, and numerous works were
produced which embodied the prevailing myths, religion, and science of that
day. Written, many of them, in a noble style of poetry, and appealing to the
strongest feelings of the people on one side, or registering the highest
efforts of their science on the other, these texts became the standards for
Babylonian literature, and later generations were content to copy these
writings instead of making new works for themselves." (2)
see, therefore, that the Masons of the present day are wrong when they make
Babel or Babylon the symbol of intellectual darkness, and suppose that there
the light of Masonry was for a time extinguished, to be re‑illumined only at
the Temple of Solomon.
again, the Legend of the Craft vindicates its character, and correctly clothes
an historical fact in symbolic language, when it portrays Babylonia, which was
undoubtedly the fountain of all Semitic science and architecture, as also the
birth‑place of Operative Masonry.
"Chaldean Account of Genesis," P. 21. (2) Ibid.,
LEGEND OF NIMROD
universal sentiment of the Masons of the present day is to confer upon
Solomon, King of Israel, the honor of being their "first Grand Master." But
the Legend of the Craft had long before, though there was a tradition of the
temple extant, bestowed, at least by implication, that title upon Nimrod, the
King of Babylonia and Assyria. It had attributed the first organization of a
fraternity of craftsmen to him, in saying that he gave a charge to the workmen
whom he sent to asist the King of Nineveh in building his cities. That is to
say, he framed for them a Constitution, and, in the words of the Legend, "this
was the first tyme that ever Masons had any charge of his science." It was the
first time that the Craft were organized into a fraternity working under a
Constitution or body of laws; and as Nimrod was the autocratic maker of these
laws, it results as a necessary consequence, that their first legislator,
legislating with dictatorial and unrestricted sovereign power, was also their
first Grand Master.
view of the early history of Masonry, presented to us by the Legend of the
Craft, which differs so much from the modern opinion, although it has almost
become obsolete, is worthy of at least a passing consideration.
was this Nimrod, who held so exalted a position in the eyes of the old
legendists, and why had they assigned to him a rank and power which modern
Craftsmen have thought to belong more justly to the King of Israel?
answers to these questions will be an appropriate commentary on that part of
the Legend of the Craft which contains the story of this old Assyrian monarch.
estimation of the character of Nimrod which has been almost universally
entertained by the ancients as well as the moderns, obtains no support from
the brief account of him contained in the Book of Genesis.
Josephus portrays him as a tyrant in his government of his people,
vainglorious of his great power, a despiser and hater of God, and instigated
by this feeling, the builder of a tower through which he would avenge himself
on God for having destroyed the world.
this view of the character of Nimrod, Josephus was in an probability indebted
to the legends of the orientalists, which had clustered around the name of
Nimrod, just as in ancient times legends always did cluster around great and
in the ancient chronicles he was represented as of gigantic stature, ten or
twelve cubits in height. To him was attributed the invention of idolatry, and
he is said to have returned to Chaldea after the destruction of the Tower of
Babel, and to have persuaded the inhabitants to become fire‑worshippers. He
built a large furnace and commanded that all who refused the idolatrous
worship should be cast into it. Among his victims were Abraham or Abram, the
patriarch, and his father Terah. The latter was consumed, but the former by
the interposition of a miracle came out unhurt. It is hardly necessary to say
that such legends are altogether mythical and of no historical value.
Scriptural account of Nimrod is a very brief and unsatisfactory one. It is
begat Nimrod; he began to be a mighty one in the earth. He was a mighty hunter
before the Lord; wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before
the Lord. And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad,
and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. Out of that land went forth Ashur and
builded Nineveh, and the city Rehoboth, and Calah, and Resen between Nineveh
and Calah: the same is a great city." (1)
most learned commentators have differed as regards the translation of the 11th
verse. The Septuagint, the Vulgate, Luther's and our own recognized version
say‑ "Out of that land went forth Ashur, and builded Nineveh." Higden, in the
Polychronicon, which I have already said was the source of the Masonic Legend,
adopts the same version. And the Cooke and the later manuscripts assign the
building of Nineveh and the other cities of Assyria to Ashur, the son of Shem,
and the kinsman of Nimrod, who assisted
Genesis x. 8‑12.
with workmen. Such was the legend until the beginning of the 18th century.
the best modern Hebrew scholars, such as Borhart, Le Clerc, Gesenius, and a
great many others, insist that Ashur is not the name of a person, but of a
country, and that the passage should be rendered: "Out of that land he
(Nimrod) went forth to Assyria and builded Nineveh, and the city Rehoboth, and
Calah, and Resen, between Nineveh and Calah." This is the form of the legend
that was adopted by Dr. Anderson and by the author of the Krause document, and
after the publication of Anderson's work it took the place of the older form.
Craft have in both forms of the legend recognized Nimrod as a great Mason, nor
have the vituperations of Josephus and the scandalous legends of the
orientalists had the slightest effect on their apparent estimation of that
mighty monarch, the founder of nations and the builder of cities.
now, in the latter part of the 19th century, comes a learned scholar, (1) well
acquainted with the language of the ancient Babylonians and Assyrians, and
with the complicated cuneiform alphabet in which it is clothed, and visiting
the remains of the ruined cities which Nimrod had built, finds the fragments
of twelve tablets which contain the history of a Babylonian monarch to whom he
gave the provisional name of Izdubar and whom he identified with Nimrod. If
this identification be correct, and there is certainly strong internal
evidence in favor of it, we have in these tablets a somewhat connected
narrative of the exploits of the proto‑monarch of Babylon, which places his
character in a more favorable light than that which had hitherto been received
as the popular belief founded on the statement of Josephus and the oriental
Izdubar legends, as Mr. Smith has called the inscriptions on these tablets,
represent Nimrod as a mighty leader, a man of great prowess in war and in
hunting, and who by his ability and valor had united many of the petty
kingdoms into which the whole of the valley of the Euphrates was at that time
divided, and thus established the first empire in Asia. (2) He was, in fact,
the hero of the ancient
The late George Smith, of the British Museum, the author of "Assyrian
Discoveries," of the "Chaldean Account of Genesis," and many other writings in
which he has eNen the learned result of his investigations of the cuneiform
inscriptions. (2) Smith, "Chaldean Account of Genesis," p. 174.
Babylonians, and therefore it was only natural that they should consecrate the
memory of him who as a powerful and beneficent king had first given them that
unity which secured their prosperity as a nation. (1)
now refer to the Legend of the Craft, we shall find that the old Masonic
legendist, although of course he had never seen nor heard of the discoveries
contained in the cuneiform inscriptions, had rejected the traditional estimate
of Nimrod's character, as well as the supposed results of the destruction of
the Tower of Babel, and had wisely selected Babylon as the first seat and
Nimrod (whoever may have been meant by that name) as the founder of the
sciences, and especially of architecture.
this there is a conformity of the legendary account with the facts of history,
not usual with legendists.
must give," says Canon Rawlinson, "the Babylonians credit for a genius and a
grandeur of conception rarely surpassed, which led them to employ the labor
whereof they had the command, in works of so imposing a character. With only
'brick for stone,' and at first only 'slime for mortar,' they constructed
edifices of so vast a size that they still remain, at the present day, among
the most enormous ruins in the world, impressing the beholder at once with awe
Legend of the Craft continually confounds Masonry, Geometry, and Architecture,
or rather uses them as synonymous and convertible terms. It is not, therefore,
surprising that it should have selected Babylon as the birth‑place, and Nimrod
as the founder of what they called "the science." The introduction of his name
into the Legend, may be attributed, says the Rev. Bro. Woodford, (3) "to an
old assumption that rulers were patrons of the building sodalities." I rather
imagine that the idea may be traced to the fact that Nimrod was supposed to be
a patron of architecture and the buider of a great number of cities. The
mediaeval Operative Masons were always ready to accept any distinguished
architect or builder as a patron and member of the Craft. Thus the history of
Masonry compiled by Dr. Anderson, out of the Old Records, is nothing but a
history of architecture, and almost every king, prelate, or nobleman who had
erected a palace, a church, or a castle, is called a distinguished Freemason
and a patron of the Institution.
Smith, ib., p. 294. (2) In Smith's "Dict. of the
Bible," voce, Babel. (3) Kenning's " Encyclopaedia," in voce Nimrod.
LEGEND OF EUCLID
disposed of the establishment of Masonry in Babylon, the Legend of the Craft
next proceeds by a rapid transition to narrate the history of its introduction
into Egypt. This Egyptian episode, which in reference to the principal action
in it has been called the "Legend of Euclid," is found in all the old
forms the opening feature of the Halliwell poem, being in that document the
beginning of the history of Masonry; it is told with circumstantial minuteness
in the Cooke MS., and is apparently copied from that into all the later
manuscripts, where the important details are essentially the same, although we
find a few circumstances related in some which are omitted in others.
Divesting the narrative of the archaic language of the manuscripts, the legend
may be given as follows:
on a time, to use the story‑teller's style, Abraham and his wife went to
Egypt. Now Abraham was very learned in all the seven arts and sciences, and
was accompanied by Euclid, who was his scholar, and to whom he had imparted
his knowledge. At that time the lords or rich men of Egypt were in sore
distress, because having a very numerous progeny of sons, for whom they could
find no occupation, they knew not how they could obtain for them a livelihood.
this strait they held a council and made proclamation that if any one could
suggest a remedy, he should lay his plans before them, when he should be
this Euclid presented himself and offered to supply these sons with an honest
means of living, by teaching them the science of Geometry, provided they
should be placed by their fathers under his exclusive control, so that he
might have the power of ruling them according to the laws of the Craft.
this proposition the Egyptian nobles gladly consented, and granted Euclid all
the power that he had asked, and secured the grant to him by a sealed
then instructed them in the practical part of Geometry, and taught them how to
erect churches, castles, towers, and all other kinds of buildings in stone. He
also gave them a code of laws for their government.
did Euclid found in the land of Egypt the science which he named Geometry, but
which has ever since been called Masonry.
said that while all the manuscripts agree in the prominent circumstances of
this legend, there are in some of them a few discrepancies as to some of the
the Halliwell poem makes no allusion to Abraham, but imputes the founding of
Masonry to Euclid alone, and it will be remembered that the title of that poem
is, "The Constitutions of the art of Geometry according to Euclid."
Cooke MS. is far more full in details than either the Halliwell poem or the
manuscripts that succeeded it. It says that Abraham taught Geometry to the
Egyptians, and that Euclid was his scholar. But a few lines after, quoting St.
Isidore as its authority, it says that Euclid was one of the first founders of
Geometry, and that in his time there was an inundation of the Nile, and he
taught them to make dykes and walls to restrain the water, and measured the
land by means of Geometry, and divided it among the inhabitants, so that every
man could enclose his own property with ditches and walls. In consequence of
this the land became fertile, and the population increased to such a degree,
that there was found a difficulty in finding for all employment that would
enable them to live. Whereupon the nobles gave the government of their
children to Euclid, who taught them the art of Geometry, so called because he
had with its aid measured the land, (1) when he built the walls and ditches to
separate each one's possession.
needles repetitions and confusion of details in the Cooke MS. show that the
author had derived the information on which he constructed his legend from
various sources ‑ partly from the authority of St. Isidore, as he is quoted in
Higden's Polychronicon, and partly from the tradition of the Craft.
Geometry from the Greek ge land and metron measure.
later manuscripts have copied the details of the Legend as contained in the
Cooke codex, but with many omissions, so as to give it the form in which it
was known to the Craft in the 16th and 17th centuries.
the Dowland MS., whose date is supposed to be about 1550, gives the story
almost exactly as it is in the Halliwell poem, except that it adds Abraham and
Sarah as dramatis persona, making it in this respect coincide with the Cooke
MS., and probably with the form of the original Legend.
this it is followed by the York, No. 1 (1600), the Grand Lodge (1632), the
Sloane (1646), the Lodge of Hope (1680), the Alnwick (1701), and even the
Papworth MS., as late as 1714.
Landsdowne MS. (1560), and the Antiquity (1686), have the Legend in a very
imperfect form, and either did not copy or greatly curtailed the Dowland MS.,
as they but slightly refer to Egypt and to Euclid, and not at all to Abraham.
the reputation for great learning which the legendists have given to Abraham,
although the Bible dwells only on his piety, they found their authority in
Josephus, as well as in Isidore.
Josephus says that among the Egyptians he was esteemed as a very wise man, and
that besides reforming their customs, he taught them arithmetic and astronomy.
evident, as has been already noticed, that the Legend of the Craft has been
indebted for much of its materials to the Antiquities of Josephus, and the
Etymologies of St. Isidore, and the Polychronicon of Ranulph Higden ‑ the
first two at second hand, in all probability through the citations of those
works which are mdde in the third.
Krause MS., which is said to have been translated from the English into the
Latin, and afterward into German, and published by Dr. Krause, (1) gives the
Legend in an entirely different form.
Notwithstanding that I have declared my belief that this document is spurious
with a date of not earlier than the second decade, or more probably toward the
middle of the 18th century, yet, as an indication of the growth and the change
of the Legend at that period, it will be worth while to compare its form with
that in the
"Die drei altesten Kunsturkunden," iii., 59 ‑ 113.
manuscripts, at least so far as relates to the Egyptian episode, which is in
the following words:
"Abraham was skilled in all the sciences and continued to teach them to the
sons of the freeborn, whence afterwards came the many learned priests and
mathematicians who were known by the name of the Chaldean Magi. Afterwards,
Abraham continued to propagate these sciences and arts when he came to Egypt,
and found there, especially in Hermes, so apt a scholar, that the latter was
at length called the Trismegistus of the sciences, for he was at the same time
priest and natural philosopher in Egypt; and through him and a scholar of his
the Egyptians received the first good laws and all the sciences in which
Abraham had instructed him. Afterwards Euclid collected the principal sciences
and called them Geometry. But the Greeks and Romans called them altogether
in consequence of the confusion of languages, the laws and arts and sciences
could not formerly be propagated until the people had learned to make
comprehensible by signs that which they could not understand by words.
Wherefore, Mizraim, the son of Cham, brought the custom of making himself
understood by signs with him into Egypt, when he colonized a valley of the
Nile. This art was afterwards extended into all distant lands, but only the
signs that are given by the hands have remained in architecture; for the signs
by figures are as yet known to but few.
Egypt the overflowings of the Nile afforded an opportunity to use the art of
measurement, which had been introduced by Mizraim, and to build bridges and
walls as a protection against the water. They used burnt stone and wood and
earth for these purposes. Therefore when the heathen kings had become
acquainted with this, they were compelled to prepare stone and lime and bricks
and there‑with to erect buildings, by which, through God's will, however, they
became only the more expeienced artists and were so celebrated that their art
spread as far as Persia."
reader compares this legend of the Krause manuscript with that which is given
by Dr. Anderson in the first edition of his Constitutions, he will be
constrained to admit that both documents are derived from the same source, or
that one of them is an abridged or an expository copy of the other. It is
evident that the statement in Anderson is merely a synopsis of that more
detailed narrative contained in the Krause Legend, or that it is an expansion
of the statement in the first edition of the Constitutions.
Krause MS. was written before Anderson compiled his history, it could not have
been long anterior, and must have been composed between 1714, the date of the
Papworth MS., which contains the Legend in its mediaeval form, and 1723, when
Anderson published his work.
this period the Masons sought to modify the old Legend of the Craft, so as to
deprive it of its apparent absurdities, and to omit its anachronisms so as to
give it the appearance of an authentic historical narrative.
Instead, therefore, of having the date of 926, which has been ascribed to it
by Dr. Krause, his manuscript is, as Bro. Hughan thinks it, "a compilation of
the early part of the last century." It is, however, important, as I have
said, because it shows how the old Legend was improved and divested of its
certainly a very absurd anachronism to make Euclid the contemporary of
Abraham, who lived more than two thousand years before him. Nor is it less
absurd to suppose that Euclid invented Masonry in Egypt, whence it was carried
to India, and practiced by King Solomon, since the great geometrician did not
flourish until six centuries and a half after the construction of the Temple.
Considered, then, as an historical narrative, the Legend of Euclid is a
failure. And yet it has its value as the symbolical development of certain
prominent points in this Legend being, of course, those on which the old
believers of it most strenuously dwelt, are: 1. That Geometry is the
groundwork of Masonry; 2. That Euclid was the most distinguished of all
geometricians; and, 3. That the esoteric method of teaching this as well as
all the other sciences which was pursued by the priests of Egypt, was very
analogous to that which was adopted by the Operative Masons of the Middle
Ages, in imparting to their disciples the geometric and architectural secrets,
which constituted what they called the Mystery of the Craft.
Legend, in fact, symbolizes the well‑recognized fact, that in Egypt, in early
times ‑ of which there is no historical objection to make Abraham the
contemporary ‑ there was a very intimate connection between the science of
Geometry and the religious system of the Egyptians; that this religious system
embraced also all scientific instruction; that this instruction was secret,
and communicated only after an initiation, (1) and that in that way there was
a striking analogy between the Egyptian system and that of the mediaeval
Masons. And this fact of an analogy, the latter sought to embody in the
apparent form of an historical narrative, but really in the spirit of a
considered, the Legend of the Craft, in its episode of Euclid and his
marvelous doings in the land of Egypt, is divested of its absurdity, and it is
brought somewhat nearer to the limits of historical verity than the too
literal reader would be disposed to admit.
Kendrick confirms this statement in his Ancient
Egypt," where he says: "When we read of foreigners (in Egypt) being obliged to
submit to painful and tedious ceremonies of initiation, it was not that they
might learn the secret meaning of the rites of Osiris, or Isis, but that they
might partake of the knowledge of astronomy, physick, geometry, and
theology."‑(Vol. i., p. 383.)
LEGEND OF THE TEMPLE
this account of the exploits of Abraham and his scholar Euclid, and of the
invention of Geometry, or Masonry in Egypt, the Legend of the Craft proceeds,
by a rapid stride, to the narrative of the introduction of the art into Judea,
or as it is called in all of them, "the land of behest," or the land of
it is said to have been principally used by King Solomon, in the construction
of the temple at Jerusalem. The general details connected with the building of
this edifice, and the assistance given to the King of Israel, by Hiram, King
of Tyre, are related with sufficient historical accuracy, and were probably
derived either directly or at second hand, through the Polychronicon, from the
first Book of Kings, which, in fact, is referred to in all the manuscripts as
a source of information. (1)
assumption that Freemasonry, as it now exists, was organized at the Temple of
Solomon, although almost universally accepted by Masons who have not made
Masonry, a historical study but who derive their ideas of the Institution from
the mythical teachings of the ritual, has been utterly rejected by the greater
part of the recent school of iconoclasts, who investigate the history of
Freemasonry by the same methods which they would pursue in the examination of
any other historical subject.
fact, however, remains, that in the Legend of the Craft the Temple is
prominently and definitely referred to as a place where Masons congregated in
great numbers, and where Masonry was confirmed or established, and whence it
traveled into other countries. (2)
it is said in the Bible, in the third book of Kings," are the words of the
Cooke MS. In the canon of Scripture as then used, the two books of Samuel were
called the first and second of Kings. The third book of Kings was then the
first according to the present canon. (2) "And thus was that worthy Science of
Masonry confirmed in the country of Jerusalem, and in many other kingdoms."‑Dowland
Considering the Legend of the Craft as merely a narrative of the rise and
progress of architecture in its connection with a peculiar architectural
association, it was natural that in such a narrative some reference should be
made to one of the most splendid specimens of ancient architectural art that
the ancient world had exhibited. And since this Temple was, by its prominence
in the ritual of Jewish worship, intimately connected with both the Jewish and
Christian religions, we shall be still less surprised that an association not
only so religious, but even ecclesiastical as mediaeval Masonry was, should
have considered this sacred edifice as one of the cradles of its Institution.
we find the Temple of Jerusalem occupying a place in the Legend of the Craft
which it has retained, with many enlargements, to the present day.
there is a difference in the aspect in which this subject of the Temple is to
be viewed, as we follow the progress of the Order in its transition from an
Operative to a Speculative Institution.
Originally referred to by the legendists as a purely historical fact, whose
details were derived from Scripture, and connected by a sort of esprit du
corps, with the progress of their own association, it was retained during and
after the development of the Order into a Speculative character, because it
seemed to be the very best foundation on which the religious symbolism of that
Order could be erected.
notwithstanding that the masses of the Institution, learned as well as
unlearned, continue to accept the historical character of this part of the
Legend, the Temple is chiefly to be considered in a symbolic point of view. It
is in this aspect that we must regard it, and in so doing we shall relieve the
Legend of another charge of absurdity. It is true that we are unable now to
determine how much of true history and how much of symbolism were contemplated
by the authors of the Legend, when they introduced the Temple of Jerusalem
into that document as a part of their traditional narrative. But there is a
doubt, and we can not now positively assert that the mediaeval Freemasons had
not some impression of a symbolic idea when they incorporated it into their
Temple might, indeed, from its prominence in the ritual, be almost called the
characteristic symbol of Speculative Masonry. The whole system of Masonic
Symbolism is not only founded on the Temple of Jerusalem, but the Temple idea
so thoroughly permeates it that an inseparable connection is firmly
established, so that if the Temple symbol were obliterated and eliminated from
the system of Freemasonry ‑ if that system were purged of all the legends and
myths that refer to the building of the Solomonic Temple, and to the events
that are supposed to have then and there occurred, we should have nothing
remaining by which to recognize and identify Speculative Masonry, as the
successor of the Operative System of the Middle Ages. The history of the Roman
Empire with no account of Julius Caesar, or of Pompey, or that of the French
Revolution, with no allusion to Louis XVI., or to Robespierre, would present
just as mutilated a narrative as Freemasonry would, were all reference to the
Temple of Solomon omitted.
Seeing, then, the importance of this symbol, it is proper and will be
interesting to trace it back through the various exemplars of the Legend of
the Craft contained in the Old Constitutions, because it is to that Legend
that modern Freemasonry owes the suggestion at least, if not the present
arrangement and formulae of this important symbol.
oldest Constitution that we have, the one known as the Halliwell MS., whose
date is supposed not to be later than the end of the 14th century, there is
not the least allusion to the Temple of Solomon, which is another reason why I
ascribe to that document, as I have before said, an origin different from that
of the other and later manuscripts.
word temple occurs but once in the entire poem, and then it is used to
designate a Christian church or place of worship. (1) But in the Cooke MS.,
written, as it is estimated, about a century afterward, there are ample
references to the Solomonic Temple, and the statement made in the Legend of
the Craft is for the first time enunciated.
this, there is not a Constitution written in which the same narrative is not
repeated. There does not appear in any of them, from the Landsdowne MS. in
1560 to the Papworth in 1701, any enlargement of the narrative or any
development of new occur‑
"He made the bothe halle and eke bowre, And hye temhuls of gret honoure, To
sport hym yn bothe day and nighth, And to worschepe hys God with all hys myght."
Each of them dilates, in almost the same words, upon the Temple of Solomon as
connected with Masonry in many words, and gives elaborate details of the
construction of the edifice, of the number of Masons employed, how they were
occupied in performing other works of Masonry, and, finally, how one of them
left Jerusalem and extended the art into other countries. We thus see that up
to the end of the 17th century the Legend of the Craft in all its essential
details continued to be accepted as traditionary history.
beginning of the 18th century the Legend began to assume a nearer resemblance
to its present form. The document already referred to as the Krause MS., and
which Dr. Krause too hastily supposed was a copy of the original York
Constitutions of 926, is really, as I have heretofore shown, a production of
the early part of the 18th century. In this document the Legend is given in
the following words:
"Although, by architecture great and excellent buildings had already been
everywhere constructed, they all remained far behind the holy Temple, which
the wise King Solomon caused to be erected in Jerusalem, to the honor of the
true God, where he employed an uncommonly large number of workmen, as we find
in the Holy Scriptures; and King Hiram of Tyre also added a number to them.
these assistants who were sent was King Hiram's most skilful architect, a
widow's son, whose name was Hiram Abif, and who afterwards made the most
exquisite arrangements and furnished the most costly works, all of which are
described in the Holy Scriptures. The whole of these workmen were, with King
Solomon's approval, divided into certain classes, and thus at this great
building was first founded a worthy Society of Architects."
Whether the author of the Krause MS. had copied from Anderson, or Anderson
from him, or both from some other document which is no longer extant, is a
question that has already been discussed. But the description of the Temple
and its connection with the history of Masonry, are given by Dr. Anderson with
much of the features of the Krause form of the Legend, except that the details
are more copious. Now, what was taught concerning the Temple by Anderson in
his History contained in the first edition of the Constitutions, although
afterward polished and perfected by Preston and other ritual makers, is
substantially the same as that which is taught at the present day in all the
Therefore, notwithstanding that Dr. Krause asserts, (1) that "the Temple of
Solomon is no symbol, certainly not a prominent one of the English system," I
am constrained to believe that it was one of the prominent symbols alluded to
in the Mediaeval Legend, and that the symbol of the Temple upon which so much
of the symbolism of Modern Speculative Masonry depends, was, in fact,
suggested to the revivalists by the narrative contained in the Legend of the
Whether the Operative Masons of the Middle Ages, who seem to have accepted
this Legend as authentic history, had also, underlying the narrative, a
symbolic interpretation of the Temple and of certain incidents that are said
to have occurred in the course of its erection, as referring to this life and
the resurrection to a future one, or whether that interpretation was in
existence at the time when the Legend of the Craft was invented, and was
subsequently lost sight of, only to be recovered in the beginning of the 18th
century, are questions that will be more appropriately discussed in succeeding
pages of this work, when the subject of the myths and symbols of Freemasonry
is under consideration.
is evident that between the narrative in the Legend concerning the Temple,
with its three builders, the Kings of Israel and Tyre, and Solomon's Master of
the Works, and the symbolism of Modern Speculative Masonry in allusion to the
same building and the same personages, there has been a close, consecutive
again, we find that the Legend of the Craft is of value in reference to the
light which it throws on the progress of Masonic science and symbolism, which
otherwise it would not possess, if it were to be considered as a mere mythical
narrative without any influence on history.
concluding this subject, it will be necessary to refer to the name of the
chief builder of the Temple, and whose name has undergone that corruption in
all the manuscripts to which all proper names have been subjected in those
course, it is known, from the testimony of Scripture, that the real name and
title of this person, as used in reference to King Solomon and himself, was
Hiram Abif, that is, "his father Hiram." (2)
"Die drei altesten Kunsturkunden," vol. i., p. 155, note 41. (2) When the King
of Tyre speaks of him, it is as Hiram Abi that is, "My
Hiram," 2 Chron‑ ii. 13‑
Hebrew appellative is found for the first time in Masonic documents in
Anderson's Constitutions, and in the Krause MS., both being of the date of the
early part of the 18th century. Previous to that period we find him variously
called in all the Old Manuscripts, from the Dowland in 1550 to the Alnwick in
1701, Aman, Amon, Aynone, Aynon, Anon, and Ajuon.
of what word are these a corruption? (1)
Cooke MS. does not give any name, but only says, that "the King's son of Tyre
was Solomon's Master Mason." All the other and succeeding manuscripts, without
exception, admit this relation. Thus the Dowland, in which it is followed by
all the others, says that King Hiram "had a son that was called AYNON, and he
was a Master of Geometry, and was chief Master of all Solomon's Masons."
idea was thus established that this man was of royal dignity, the son of a
King, and that he was also a ruler of the Craft.
the Hebrew word Adon denotes a lord, a prince, a ruler or master.
in short, a title of dignity. In the Book of Kings we meet with Adoniram, who
was one of the principal officers of King Solomon, and who during the
construction of the Temple, performed an important part as the chief or
superintendent of the levy of thirty thousand laborers who worked on Mount
old Masons may have confounded this person with Hiram from the similarity of
the terminational syllables. The modern Continental Masons committed the same
error when they established the Rite of Adonhiram or Adoniram, and gave to
Hiram Abif the title of Adon Hiram, or the Lord or Master Hiram. If the Old
Masons did this, then it is evident that they abbreviated the full namc and
called him Adon.
am more inclined to believe that the author of the first or original old
manuscript, of which all the rest are copies, called the chief builder of
Solomon Adon, Lord and Master, in allusion to his supposed princely rank and
his high position as the chief builder or Master of the Works at the Temple.
The Papworth MS., whose supposed date is 1714, rejects all these words and
calls him Benaim, which is a misspelling of Bonaim, builders, and that a
grammatical error for Boneh, the Builder. The writer had evidently got an
inkling of the new form which the Legend was beginning to assume. Anderson, it
will be recollected, speaks of the " Bonai, or builders in stone."
corruption from Adon to Aynon, or Amon, or even Ajuon, is not greater than
what occurs in other names in these manuscripts, as where Hermes is transmuted
into Hermarines, and Euclid into Englet. Indeed the copyists of these
mediaeval documents appear to have had a Gallic facility in corrupting the
orthography of all foreign names, very often almost totally destroying their
the real meaning of Hiram Abif, either as a historic or symbolic character,
that topic will be thoroughly considered in another part of this work, when
the subject of Masonic Symbols comes to be considered.
topic of the corruption of the name in the old manuscripts, and its true
signification, will again be treated when I come to investigate the " Legend
of Hiram Abif."
Legend of the Temple could not be appropriately completed without a reference
to Solomon, King of Israel, and some inquiry as to how he became indebted for
the important place he has held in mediaeval Freemasonry.
popularity of King Solomon among the Eastern nations is a familiar fact, known
not only to Oriental scholars, but even to those whose knowledge on the
subject is confined to what they have learned from their youthful reading of
the Arabian Nights' Entertainments. Among the Arabians and the Persians, the
King of Israel was esteemed as a great magician, whose power over the genii
and other supernatural beings was derived from his possession of the Omnific
Name, by the use of which he accomplished all his wonderful works, the said
name being inscribed on his signet ring.
not singular seeing the communication which took place before and after the
Crusades between the East and the West, that the wise son of David should have
enjoyed an equal popularity among the poets and romancers of the Middle Ages.
among them the character that he sustains is not that of a great magician, so
much as that of a learned philosopher. Whenever a Norman romancer or a
Provencal minstrel composed a religious morality, a pious declamation, or a
popular proverb, it was the name of Solomon that was often selected to "point
the moral or adorn the tale."
the Orientalists, whose tendencies were always toward the mystical, the
mediaeval writers most probably derived their opinion of the King of Israel,
from the account of him and of his writings in the Bible. Now, there he is
peculiarly distinguished as a proverbialist.
Proverbs are the earliest outspoken thought of the people, and they precede,
in every nation, all other forms of literature. It was therefore to be
expected, that at the awakening of learning in the Middle Ages, the romancers
would be fascinated by the proverbial philosophy of King Solomon, rather than
by his magical science, on which the Eastern fabulists had more fondly dwelt.
Legrand D'Aussy, in his valuable work On the Fables and Romances of the 12th
and 13th Centuries, gives two interesting specimens from old manuscripts, of
the use made by their writers of the traditional reputation of King Solomon.
first of these is a romance called "The Judgment of Solomon." It is something
like the Jewish story of the two mothers. But here the persons upon whom the
judgment is to be passed are two sons of the Prince of Soissons. The claim
advanced was for a partition of the property. To determine who was better
entitled to be the heir, by the reverence he might exhibit for the memory of
his father, Solomon required each to prove his knightly dexterity by
transfixing a mark with his lance, and that mark was to be the body of his
dead father. The elder readily complied with the odious condition. The younger
indignantly refused. To him Solomon decreed the heritage.
here how ready these romancers of the Middle Ages were to invent a narrative
and fit it into the life of their favorite Solomon. The makers of the Masonic
Legend of the Craft, who were their contemporaries, promptly followed their
example. There is in that Legend, as we have seen, some anachronisms, but none
more absurd than that which makes a Prince of Soissons, who could not have
been earlier than the time of Clovis, in the 6th century, the contemporary of
a Jewish monarch who lived at least sixteen centuries before Soissons was
known as a kingdom.
shows us the spirit of the age and how Legends were fabricated.
thus prepared to form a judgment of the Masonic myths.
Middle Ages also attributed to King Solomon a very familiar acquaintance with
the science of astrology. In so doing they by no means borrowed the Oriental
idea that he was a great magician; for astrology formed no part of Eastern
occult magic. The mediaeval astrologer was deemed a man of learning, just as
at this day is the astronomer. Astrology was, in fact, the astronomy of the
Solomon's astrological knowledge was therefore only a part of that great
learning for which he had the reputation.
collection of unpublished Fabliaux et Contes, edited by M. Meon, is a poem
entitled, "Le Lunaire que Salemon fist"; that is, "The Lunary which Solomon
lunary or lunarium was a table made by astrologers to indicate the influence
exerted by the moon on human affairs.
poem, which consists of 910 lines, written in the old French or Norman
language, contains directions for the conduct of life, telling what is to be
done or what omitted on every day of the month. The concluding lines assign,
without hesitation, the authorship to Solomon, while it pays the mediaeval
tribute to his character:
is ended the lesson
by the good King Solomon, To whom in his life God gave
and honor and learning, More than to any other born
begotten of woman."
canonical book of Proverbs gave the writers of the Middle Ages occasion to
have an exalted opinion of Solomon as a maker of those pithy sayings ‑ a
characteristic of his genius of which the Orientals seem to have been
the most remarkable works of mediaeval literature is a poem by the Comte de
Bretagne, entitled "Proverbs of Marcol and Solomon."
Marcol is represented as a commentator, or rather, perhaps, a rival of King
Solomon. The work is a poem divided into stanzas of six lines each. The first
three lines contain a proverb of Solomon; the next three another proverb on
the same subject, and in response, by Marcol.
is another mediaeval poem in the collection of M. Meon, entitled "Of Marco and
Solomon." The responsive style is the same as that of the Comte de Bretagne,
but the one hundred and thirty‑seven proverbs which it contains are all new.
still more apposite to the present inquiry is the fact that among the
medioeval writers Solomon bore the reputation of an artisan of consummate
skill. He was like the Volund or Wieland of the Scandinavian and Teutonic
myths ‑ the traditional smith who fabricated the decorations of chambers, the
caparison of war‑horses, and the swords and lances of cavaliers. In the poems
of the Middle Ages whenever it becomes necessary to speak of any of these
things as having been made with exquisite and surpassing skill, it is said to
be "the work of Solomon" ‑ l'uevre Salemon.
enough has been said to show that King Solomon was as familiar to the
romancers of the Middle Ages as he was to the Jews of Palestine or to the
Orientalists of Arabia and Persia. Philip de Thuan, who, in the 12th century,
wrote his Besliary, a sort of natural history spiritualized, says that by
Solomon was signified any wise man ‑ Sacez par Salemuon sage gent entendum.
about the same time that these fable‑makers and song‑writers of the 12th,
13th, and 14th centuries were composing these stories about King Solomon, the
makers of the Masonic Legend of the Craft were inventing their myths about the
same monarch and the Temple which he erected.
is a concurrence of time which suggests that possibly the popularity of King
Solomon with the romancers of the Middle Ages made the incorporation of his
name in the Masonic Legend less difficult to those who framed that mythical
might, indeed, be led to suspect that the use of Solomon in their Legends and
traditions was first suggested to the Stonemasons and to the cognate
associations, such as the "Compagnons de la Tour" of France, from the frequent
references to it by the contemporary romancers.
the subsequent myths connected with Solomon as the head of the association of
Masons at the Temple were, at a much later period, borrowed, in great part,
from the Talmudists, and have no place among the song‑writers and fabulists of
the Middle Ages.
EXTENSION OF THE ART INTO OTHER COUNTRIES
Legend of The Craft next proceeds to narrate how Masonry was extended "into
divers countryes," some of the Masons traveling to increase their knowledge of
their art, and others to extend that which they already possessed.
subject is very briefly treated in the different manuscripts. The Halliwell
poem says nothing of the progressive march of Masonry except that it details
almost as an episode the persecution of the "Four Crowned Martyrs" as
Christian Masons, in the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, and we should
almost be led to infer from the tenor of the poem that Masonry was introduced
directly into England from Egypt.
Cooke MS. simply says that from Egypt Masonry "went from land to land and from
kingdom to kingdom," until it got to England.
later manuscripts are a little more definite, although still brief. They
merely tell us that skillful craftsmen largely traveled into various
countries, some that they might acquire more knowledge and skill, and others
to teach those who had but little skill.
is certainly nothing that is mythical or fabulous in this statement.
authentic history of architecture concurs in the statement that at an early
period the various counties of Europe were perambulated by bodies of builders
in search of employment in the construction of religious and other edifices.
The name, indeed, of "Travelling Freemasons" which was bestowed upon them, is
familiar in architectural historical works. (1)
Indeed, as Mr. George Godwin says, "There are few points in the Middle Ages
more pleasing, to look back upon than the existence
See Hope's " Historical Essay on Architecture."
associated Masons; they I are the bright spot in the general darkness of that
period, the patch of verdure when all around is barren." (1)
this interesting subject will be more fully discussed in another part of this
work, when we come to treat of the authentic history of Masonry.
portion of the Legend can not be said to belong to the prehistoric period.
sufficient, for the present, to have shown that in this part, as elsewhere,
the Legend of the Craft is not a merely fictitious narrative, but that the
general statement of the extension of Freemasonry throughout Europe at an
early period is confirmed by historical evidence.
examining the Legend of the Craft, it will be found to trace the extension of
Masonry through its successive stages of progress from Babylon and Assyria to
Egypt, from Egypt to Judea, from Judea to France, and from France to England.
Accepting Masonry and the art of building as synonymous terms, this line of
progress will not be very adverse, with some necessary modifications, to that
assumed to be correct by writers on architecture. But, as I have just said,
the consideration of this subject belongs not to the prehistoric, but to the
historic period of the Society.
"The Builder," vol. ix., p. 463.
LEGEND OF CHARLES MARTEL AND NAMUS GRECUS
Legend, now approaching the domain of authentic history, but still retaining
its traditional character, proceeds to narrate, but in a very few words, the
entrance of Masonry into France.
account is given in the following language in the Dowland manuscript.
soe it befell that there was one curious Mason that height MAYMUS GRECUS, that
had been at the making of Solomon's temple, and he came into France, and there
he taught the science of Masonrys to men of France.
there was one of the Regal lyne of Fraunce, that height CHARLES MARTELL; and
he was a man that loved well such a science, and drew to this MAYMUS GRECUS
that is above said, and learned of him the science, and tooke upon him the
charges and manners; and afterwards, by the grace of God, he was elect to be
Kinge of France. And whan he was in his estate, he tooke Masons and did helpe
to make men Masons that were none; and he set them to worke, and gave them
both the charge and the manners and good pale, as he had learned of other
Masons; and confirmed them a Charter from yeare to yeare, to holde their
semble wher they would; and cherished them right much; and thus came the
science into France."
Legend is repeated, almost word for word, in all the later manuscripts up to
the year 1714.
not even alluded to in the earliest of all the manuscripts ‑ the Halliwell
poem ‑ which is another proof that that document is of German origin.
Cooke MS. has the Legend in the following words:
ther was a worthye kyng in Frauns, that was clepyd Carolus secundus that ys to
sey Charlys the secunde. And this Charlys was elyte [elected] kyng of Frauns
by the grace of God and by lynage [lineage] also. And sume men sey that he was
elite [elected] by fortune the whiche is fals as by cronycle he was of the
kynges blode Royal.
this same kyng Charlys was a mason bifor that he was kyng. And after that he
was kyng he lovyd masons and cherschid them and gaf them chargys and mannerys
at his devise the whiche sum ben yet used in fraunce and he ordeynyd that they
scholde have a semly [assembly] onys in the yere and come and speke togedyr
and for to be rculed by masters and felows of thynges amysse." (1)
absence of all allusion to Namus Grecus (a personage who will directly occupy
our attention) in the Cooke document is worthy of notice.
Dr. Anderson was putting the Legend of the Craft into a modern shape, he also
omitted any reference to Namus Grecus but he preserved the spirit of the
Legend, so far as to say, that according to the old records of Masons, Charles
Martel "sent over several expert craftsmen and learned architects into England
at the desire of the Saxon kings." (2)
think it will be proved, when in the course of this work the authentic history
of Masonry comes to be treated, that the statement in the Legend of the Craft
in relation to the condition of the art in France during the administration of
Charles Martel is simply a historical fact. In claiming for the "Hammerer" the
title of King of France, while he assumed only the humble rank of Duke of the
Franks and Mayor of the Palace, the legendists have only committed a
historical error of which more experienced writers might be guilty.
introduction of the name of Namus Grecus, an unknown Mason, who is described
as being the contemporary of both Solomon and of Charles Martel, is certainly
an apparent anachronism that requires explanation.
Namus Grecus has been a veritable sphinx to Masonic antiquaries, and no
CEdipus has yet appeared who could resolve the riddle. Without assuming the
sagacity of the ancient expounder of enigmas, I can only offer a suggestion
for what it may be considered worth.
suppose Grecuis to be merely an appellative indicating the fact that this
personage was a Greek. Now, the knowledge of his exist‑
Cooke MS., lines 576 ‑ 601.
"Constitutions," ed. 1723, p. 30,.
at the court of Charles Martel was most probably derived by the English
legendist from a German or French source, because the Legend of the Craft is
candid in admitting that the English Masons had collected the writings and
charges from other countries. Prince Edwin is said to have made a proclamation
that any Masons who "had any writing or understanding of the charges and the
manners that were made before in this land [England] or in any other, that
they should shew them forth." And there were found "some in French, some in
Greek, some in English, and some in other languages."
if the account and the name of this Greek architect had been taken from the
German, the text would most probably have been "ein Maurer Namens Grecus"; or,
if from the French, it would have been "un Macon nomme Grecus." The English
legendist would, probably, mistake the words Namens Grecus, or nomme Grecus,
each of which means "he was named Grecus," or, literally, "a Mason by the name
of Grecus," for the full name, and write him down as Namus Grecus. The Maymus
in the Dowland MS. is evidently a clerical error. In the other manuscripts it
is Namus. The corrected reading, then, would be ‑ "there was a Mason named (or
called) a Greek."
not be scd that it is not probable that any legendist would have fallen into
such an error when we remember how many others as great, if not greater, have
been perpetrated in these Old Records. See, for instance, in these manuscripts
such orthographical mistakes as Hermarines for Hermes, and Englet for Euclid;
to say nothing of the rather ridiculous blunder in the Leland MS., where
Pythagore, the French form of Pythagoras, has suffered transmutation into
Peter Gower. So it is not at all unlikely that Namens Grecus, or nomme Grecus,
should be changed into Namus Grecus.
original Legend, in all probability meant to say merely that in the time of
Charles Martel, a Greek artist, who had been to Jerusalem, introduced the
principles of Byzantine architecture into France.
history attests that in the 8th century there was an influx of Grecian
architects and artificers into Southern and Western Europe, in consequence of
persecutions that were inflicted on them by the Byzantine Emperors. The
Legend, therefore, indulges in no spirit of fiction in referring to the advent
in France, at that period, of one of these architects.
also a historical fact that Charles the Great of France was a liberal
encourager of the arts and sciences, and that he especially promoted the
cultivation of architecture on the Byzantine or Greek model in his dominions.
Oliver, in the second edition of the Constitutions, repeats the Legend with a
slight variation. He says that "Ethelbert, King of Mercia, and general
monarch, sent to Charles Martel, the Right Worshipful Grand Master of France
(father of King Pippin), who had been educated by Brother Nimus Graecus, he
sent over from France (about A.D. 710) some expert Masons to teach the Saxons
those laws and usages of the ancient fraternity, that had been happily
preserved from the havock of the Goths."
Pritchard, in his Masonry Dissected, gives, upon what authority I know not,
the Legend in the following form:
"communicated the art and mystery of Masonry to Hiram, the Master Mason
concerned in the building of Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem, where was an
excellent and curious Mason, whose name was Mannon Grecus, who taught the art
of Masonry to one Carolus Marcil in France, who was afterwards elected King of
this change of the name to Mannon Grecus, Krause suggests a derivation as
follows: In using this name he thinks that Pritchard intended to refer to the
celebrated scholastic philosopher Mannon, or Nannon, who was probably
celebrated in his time for his proficiency in the language and literature of
Greece. Nannon lived in the reign of Charles the Bold, and was the successor
of Erigena in the direction of the schools of France.
think the derivation of the name offered by Dr. Krause is wholly untenable
though ingenious, for it depends upon a name not found in any of the old
manuscripts, and besides, the philosopher did not live in the time of Charles
Martel, but long afterward.
Between his derivation and mine, the reader may select, and probably will be
inclined to reject both.
as the Legend regards Charles Martel as the patron of architecture or Masonry
in France, one observation remains to be made.
there has been an error of the legendists in attributing to Charles Martel the
honor that really belonged to his successor, Charles the Great, it is not
surprising when we consider how great was the ignorance of the science of
chronology that prevaded in those days.
However, it must be remarked, that at the present day the French Masonic
writers speak of Charles Martel as the founder of Masonry in France.
error of making the Greek architect a contemporary both of Solomon and of
Charles Martel is one which may be explained, either as the expression of a
symbolic idea, alluding to the close connection that had existed between
Oriental and Byzantine architecture, or may be excused as an instance of
blundering chronology for which the spirit of the age, more than the writer of
the Legend, is to be blamed. This objection will not, however, lie if we
assume that Namus Grecus meant simply a Greek architect.
this whole subject is so closely connected with the authentic history of
Masonry, having really passed out of the prehistoric period, that it claims a
future and more elaborate consideration in its proper place.
LEGEND OF ST. ALBAN
Legend of the Craft now proceeds to narrate the history of the introduction of
Masonry into England, in the time of St. Alban, who lived in the 3d century.
Legend referring to the protomartyr of England is not mentioned in the
Halliwell poem, but is first found in the Cooke MS., in the following words:
"And sone after that come seynt Adhabell into Englond, and he convertyd seynt
Albon to cristendome. And seynt Albon lovyd well masons, and he gaf hem fyrst
her charges and maners fyrst in Englond. And he ordeyned convenyent (1) to pay
for their travayle." (2)
later manuscripts say nothing of St. Adhabell, and it is not until we get to
the Krause MS. in the beginning of the 18th century, that we find any mention
of St. Amphibalus, who is described in that document as having been the
teacher of St. Alban. But St. Amphibalus, of which the Adhabell of the Cooke
MS. is undoubtedly a corruption, is so apocryphal a personage, that I am
rejoiced that the later legendists have not thought proper to follow the Cooke
document and give him a place in the Legend.
fact, amphibalum was the ecclesiastical name of a cloak, worn by priests of
the Romish Church over their other vestments. (3) It was a vestment
ecclesiastically transmuted into a saint, as the hand‑
Cooke translates this "convenient times," supplying the second word.
more correct word is suitable or proper, which is an old meaning of
convenient. "He ordained suitable pay for their labor," and this agrees with
the Iater manuscripts which impress the fact that St. Alban "made their pay
right good." (2) Cooke MS., lines 602 ‑ 611. (3) It is significant that among
the spurious relics sent, when fearing the Danish invasion, in the reign of
Edward the Confessor, by the Abbot of St. Albans, to the monks of Ely, was a
very rough, shagged old coat, which it was said had been usually worn by St.
kerchief on which Christ left the image of His face when, as it is said, it
was handed to Him on His way to Calvary, by a pious Jewess, became from the
Greco‑Latin vera icon, "the true image," converted into St. Veronica. The
Masonic are not the only legendists who draw deeply on our credulity.
Alban, ecclesiastical history furnishes only the following meager details, and
even of these some are apocryphal, or at least lack the stamp of authenticity.
born (so runs the tradition) in the 3d century, in Hertfordshire, England,
near the town of Verulanium. Going to Rome, he served for seven years as a
soldier under the Emperor Diocletian. He then returned with a companion and
preceptor Amphibalus, to Britain, and betook himself to Verulanium. When the
persecutions of the Christians commenced in Britain, Amphibalus was sought
for, as one who had apostatized to the new religion; but as he could not be
found, St. Alban voluntarily presented himself to the judge, and after
undergoing torture was imprisoned. Soon after this, the retreat of Amphibalus
having been discovered, both he and St. Alban suffered death for being
centuries after his martyrdom, Offa, King of the Mercians, erected a monastery
at Holmehurst, the hill where he was buried, and soon after the town of St.
Albans arose in its vicinity.
the Christian religion became predominant in England, the Church paid great
honors to the memory of the protomartyr. A chapel was erected over his grave
which, according to the Venerable Bede, was of admirable workmanship.
Masonic Legend contains details which are not furnished by the religious one.
According to it, St. Alban was the steward of the household of Carausius, he
who had revolted from the Emperor Maximilian, and usurped the sovereignty of
England. Carausius employed him in building the town walls. St. Alban, thus
receiving the superintendence of the Craft, treated them with great kindness,
increased their pay, and gave them a charter to hold a general assembly. He
assisted them in making Masons, and framed for them a constitution ‑ for such
is the meaning of the phrase, "gave them charges."
there is sufficient historical evidence to show that architecture was
introduced into England by the Roman artificers, who followed, as was their
usage, the Roman legions, habilitated themselves in the conquered colonies,
and engaged in the construction not only of camps and fortifications, but also
when peace was restored in the building of temples and even private edifices.
Architectural ruins and Latin inscriptions, which still remain in many parts
of Britain, attest the labors and the skill of these Roman artists, and
sustain the statement of the Legend, that Masonry, which, it must be
remembered, is, in the Old Records, only a synonym of architecture, was
introduced into England during the period of its Roman colonization.
the specific statement that St. Alban was the patron of Masons, that he
exercised the government of a chief over the Craft, and improved their
condition by augmenting their wages, we may explain this as the expression of
a symbolical idea, in which history is not altogether falsified, but only its
dates and personages confused.
Carausius, the Legend does not mention by name. It simply refers to some King
of England, of whose household St. Alban was the steward.
Carausius assumed the imperial purple in the year in which St. Alban suffered
martyrdom. The error of making him the patron of St. Alban is not, therefore,
to be attributed to the legendist, but to Dr. Anderson, who first perpetrated
this chronological blunder in the second edition of his Constitutions. And
though he states that "this is asserted by all the old copies of the
Constitutions," we fail to find it in any that are now extant.
"Legend of St. Alban," as it has been called, is worthy of a farther
foundation of this symbolical narrative was first laid by the writer of the
Cooke MS., or, rather, copied by him from the tradition existing among the
Craft at that time. Its form was subsequently modified and the details
extended in the Dowland MS., for tradition always grows in the progress of
time. This form and these details were preserved in all the succeeding
manuscript Constitutions, until they were still further altered and enlarged
by Anderson, Preston, and other Masonic historians of the last century.
the gratuitous accretions of these later writers we have no concern in any
attempted explanation of the actual signification of the Legend.
true form and spirit are to be found only in the Dowland MS. of the middle of
the 16th century, and in those which
Anderson, "Constitutions," 2d edit., p. 57.
copied from it, up to the Papworth, at the beginning of the 18th.
these, and not to anything written after the period of the Revival, we must
direct our attention.
Admitting that on the conquest of England by the Roman power, the architects
who had accompanied the victorious legions introduced into the conquered
colony their architectural skill, it is very likely that some master workmen
among them had been more celebrated than others for their skill, and, indeed,
it is naturally to be supposed that to such skillful builders the control of
the Craft must have been confided. Whether there were one or more of these
chief architects, St. Alban, if not actually one of them, was, by the lapse of
time and the not unusual process by which legendary or oral accretions are
superimposed on a plain historical fact, adopted by the legendists as their
representative. Who was the principal patron of the Architects or Masons
during the time of the colonization of England by the Romans, is not so
material as is the fact that architecture, with other branches of
civilization, was introduced at that era into the island by its conquerors.
is an historical fact, and in this point the Legend of the Craft agrees with
is also an historical fact that when, by the pressure of the Northern hordes
of barbarians upon Rome, it was found necessary to withdraw all the legions
from the various colonies which they protected from exterior enemies and
restrained from interior insurrection, the arts and sciences, and among them
architecture, began to decline in England. The natives, with the few Roman
colonists who had permanently settled among them, were left to defend
themselves from the incursions of the Picts on the north, and the Danish and
Saxon pirates in the east and south. The arts of civilization suffered a
depression in the tumult of war. Science can not flourish amid the clang and
clash of arms. This depression and suspension of all architectural progress in
England, which continued for some centuries, is thus expressed in the quaint
language of the Legend:
soone after the decease of Saint Albone, there came divers wars into the
realme of England of divers Nations, soe that the good rule of Masonrye was
destroyed unto the tyme of Kinge Athelstone's days."
is far more of history than of fiction in this part of the Legend.
next point of the Legend of the Craft to which our attention is to be
directed, is that which relates to the organization of Masonry at the city of
York, in the 10th century. This part of the Legend is of far more importance
than any of those which have been considered. The prehistoric here verges so
closely upon the historic period, that the true narrative of the rise and
progress of Masonry can not be justly understood until each of these
prehistoric and historic elements has been carefully relegated to its
appropriate period. This will constitute the subject matter of the next
suppression of all architectural art and enterprise having lasted for so long
a period in Britain, the Legend of the Craft next proceeds to account for its
revival in the 10th century and in the reign of Athelstan, whose son Edwin
called a meeting, or General Assembly, of the Masons at York in the year 926,
and there revived the Institution, giving to the Craft a new code of laws.
it is impossible to attach to this portion of the Legend, absolutely and
without any reservation, the taint of fiction. The convocation of the Craft of
England at the city of York, in the year 926, has been accepted by both the
Operative Masons who preceded the Revival, and by the Speculatives who
succeeded them, up to the present day, as a historical fact that did not admit
of dispute. The two classes of Legends ‑ the one represented by the Halliwell
poem, and the other by the later manuscripts ‑ concur in giving the same
statement. The Cooke MS., which holds an intermediate place between the two,
also contains it. But the Halliwell and the Cooke MSS., which are of older
date, give more fully the details of what may be called this revival of
English Masonry. Thoroughly to understand the subject, it will be necessary to
collate the three accounts given in the three different sets of manuscripts.
Halliwell poem, whose conjectural date is about 1390, contains the account in
the following words. I will first give it, relieved of its archaisms, for the
convenience of the reader inexpert in early English, and then follow with a
quotation of the original language:
craft came into England, as I tell you, in the time of good King Athelstane's
reign. He made them both hall and also chamber, and lofty churches of great
honour, to recreate him in both day and night and to worship his God with all
his strength. 'This good lord loved this craft full well, and purposed to
strengthen it in every part, on account of several defects which he discovered
in the craft. He sent about into the land after all the masons of the craft to
come straight to him, to amend all these defects by good counsel, if it could
be done. Then he permitted an assembly to be made of various lords according
to their rank, dukes, earls, and barons also, knights, squires, and many more,
and the great burgesses of that city, they were all there in their degree;
these were there, each one in every way to make laws for the society of these
masons. There they sought by their wisdom how they might govern it.
they invented fifteen articles, and there they made fifteen points." (1) The
original is as follows:
craft com ynto England as y you say, Yn tyme of good kynge Athelston's day; He
made the both halle and eke boure, And hye templus of gret honoure, To sportyn
hym yn bothe day and nyghth, And to worschepe his God with alle hys myghth.
Thys goode lorde loved thys craft ful wel, And purposud to strenthyn hyt ever
del, For dyvers defautys that yn the craft he fonde; He sende aboute ynto the
londe After alle the masonus of the crafte To come to hym ful evene strayfte,
For to amende these defaultys alle By good counsel gef hyt mygth falle. A
semble thenne he cowthe let make Of dyvers lordis in here state Dukys, erlys
and barnes also, Knygthys, sqwyers and mony mo, And the grete burges of that
syte, They were ther alle yn here degre; These were there uchon algate, To
ordeyne for these masonus estate, Ther they sowgton ly here wytte How they
mygthyn governe hytte Fyftene artyculus they there sowgton, And fyftene
poyntys ther they wrogton."
hundred years afterward we find the Legend, in the Cooke MS., as follows:
after that was a worthy kynge in Englond that was callyd
Halliwell MS., lines 61‑87.
Grand Master of Speculative Masons 1717
Athelstone, and his yongest sone lovyd well the sciens of Gemetry, and he vont
well that handcraft had the practyke of Gemetry so well as masons, wherefore
he drew him to consell and lernyd [the] practyke of that sciens to his
speculatyfe. (1) For of speculatyfe he was a master, and he lovyd well masonry
and masons. And he bicome a mason hymselfe. And he gaf hem [gave them] charges
and names (2) as it is now usyd in Englond and in other countries. And he
ordeyned that they schulde have resonabull pay. And purchesed [obtained] a fre
patent of the kyng that they schulde make a sembly when they saw resonably
tyme a [to] cume togedir to her [their] counsell of the whiche charges, manors
& semble as is write and taught in the boke of our charges wherefor I leve it
at this tyme." (3)
subsequent part of the manuscript, which appears to have been taken from the
aforesaid "boke of charges," with some additional details, are the following
that, many yeris, in the tyme of Kyng Adhelstane, wiche was sum tyme kynge of
Englonde, bi his counsell and other gret loritys of the lond by comyn [common]
assent for grete defaut y‑fennde [found] among masons thei ordeyend a certayne
reule amongys hem [them]. On [one] tyme of the yere or in iii yere as nede
were to the kyng and gret loritys of the londe and all the comente
[community], fro provynce to provynce and fro countre to countre congregacions
schulde be made by maisters, of all maisters masons and felaus in the forsayd
art. And so at such congregacions, they that be made masters schold be
examined of the articuls after written & be ransacked [examined] whether they
be abull and kunnyng to the profyte of the loritys hem to serve [to serve
them] and to the honour of the forsayd art." (4)
years afterward we find this Legend repeated in the Dowland MS., but with some
important variations. This Legend has already been given in the Legend of the
Craft, but for the convenience of immediate comparison with the preceding
documents it will be well to repeat it here. It is in the following words:
soone after the decease of Saint Albone there came divers
Cooke calls particular attention to this word as of much significative import.
I think it simply means that the king added a practical knowledge of Masonry
or architecture to his former merely speculative or theoretical acquaintance
with the art. (2) This is evidently an error of the pen for maners, i.e.,
usages. (3) Cooke MS., lines 611‑642. (4) Cooke MS., lines 693‑719.
into the realme of England of divers Nations, soe that the good rule of
Masonrye was destroyed unto the tyme of Kinge Athelstones days that was a
worthy Kinge of England, and brought this land into good rest and peace and
builded many great works of Abbyes and Towres and other many divers buildings
and loved well Masons. And he had a Sonn that height Edwinne, and he loved
Masons much more than his father did. And he was a great practiser in
Geometry, and he drew him much to talke and to commune with Masons and to
learne of them science, and afterwards for love that he had to Masons and to
the science he was made Mason, (1) and he gatt of the Kinge his father a
Chartour and Commission to hold every yeare once an Assemble wher that ever
they would within the realme of England, and to correct within themselves
defaults and trespasses that were done within the science.
held himselfe an Assemble at Yorke, and there he made Masons and gave them
charges and taught them the manners, and commanded that rule to be kept ever
after. And tooke them the Chartour and Commission to keepe and made ordinance
that it should be renewed from kinge to kinge. "And when the Assemble was
gathered he made a cry that all old Masons and young, that had any writeings
or understanding of the charges and the manners that were made before in this
land, or in any other, that they should shew them forth. And when it was
proved there was founden some in Frenche and some in Greek and some in English
and some in other languages; and the intent of them all was founden all one.
And he did make a booke thereof, and how the science was founded. And he
himselfe bad and commanded that it should be readd or tould, when that any
Mason should be made, for to give him his Charge. And fro that day into this
tyme manners of Masons have beene kept in that forme as well as men might
governe it. And furthermore divers Assembles have beene put and ordayned
certain charges by the best advice of Masters and Fellowes."
will be remarked that in neither of the two oldest manuscripts,
The next MS. in date, the Landsdowne, names the place where he was made as
Windsor. This statement is not found in any of the other manuscripts except
the Antiquity MS. It may here be observed that nothing more clearly proves the
great carelessness of the transcribers of these manuscripts than the fact that
although they must have all been familiar with the name of Edwin, one of them
spells it Ladrian, and another Hoderine.
Halliwell and the Cooke, is there any mention of Prince Edwin, or of the city
of York. For the omission I shall hereafter attempt to account.
that of the lauer I agree with Bro. Woodford, that as the fact of the Assembly
is stated in all the later traditions, and as a city is mentioned whose
burgesses were present, we may fairly, understand both of the oldest
manuscripts also to refer to York. (1) At all events, their silence as to the
place affords no sufficient evidence that it was not York, as opposed to the
positive declaration of the later manuscripts that it was.
see, then, that all the old Legends assert expressly, or by implication, that
York was the city where the first General Masonic Assembly was held in
England, and that it was summoned under the authority of King Athelstan.
next point in which all the later manuscripts, except the Harleian, (2) agree
is, that the Assembly was called by Prince Edwin, the King's son.
Legend does not here most certainly agree with history, for there is no record
that Athelstan had any son. He had, however, a brother of that name, who died
two years before him.
the Elder, the son of Alfred the Great, died in the year 925, leaving several
legitimate sons and one natural one, Athelstan. The latter, who was the eldest
of the sons of Edward, obtained the throne, notwithstanding the stain on his
birth, in consequence of his age, which better fitted him to govern at a time
when the kingdom was engaged in foreign and domestic wars.
historians concur in attributing to Athelstan the character of a just and wise
sovereign, and of a sagacious statesman. It has been said of him that he was
the most able and active of the ancient princes of England.
his grandfather, the great Alfred, commenced in his efforts to consolidate the
petty monarchies into which the land was divided, into one powerful kingdom,
Athelstan, by his energy, his political wisdom, and his military prowess, was
enabled to perfect, so that he has been justly called the first monarch of all
Although engaged duhng his whole reign in numerous wars, he
"On the Connection of York with the History of Freemasonry in England." By A.F.
Woodford, A.M., in Hughan's " Masonic Sketches and Reprints," p. 168. (2) The
Harleian MS makes no mention of Prince Edwin, but attributes the organization
of Masonry at York to King Athelstan himself.
not neglect a cultivation of the employments of peace, and encouraged by a
liberal patronage the arts and especially architecture.
only stain upon his character is the charge that having suspected his brother
Edwin of being engaged in a conspiracy against his throne, he caused that
prince to be drowned. Notwithstanding the efforts of Preston to disprove this
charge, the concurrent testimony of all the old chroniclers afford no room to
doubt its truth. But if anything could atone for this cruel act of state
policy, it would be the bitter anguish and remorse of conscience which led the
perpetrator to endure a severe penance of seven years.
Edwin, the Saxon historians make no mention, except when they speak of his
untimely death. If we may judge of his character from this silence, we must
believe that he was not endued with any brilliant qualities of mind, nor
distinguished by the performance of any important act.
the half‑brothers of Athelstan, the legitimate children of Edward the Elder,
Edmund seems to have been his favorite. He kept him by his side on
battle‑fields, lived single for his sake, and when he died in 941, left to him
the succession to the throne.
there is another Edwin of prominent character in the annals of Saxon England,
to whom attention has been directed in connection with this Legend, as having
the best claim to be called the founder or reviver of English Masonry.
Edwin, King of Northumbria, it may be said, that in his narrow sphere, as the
monarch of a kingdom of narrow dimensions, he was but little inferior in
abilities or virtues to Athelstan.
time of his birth, in 590, Northumbria was divided into two kingdoms, that of
Bernicia, north of the Humber, and that of the Deira, on the south of the same
river. Of the former, Ethelfrith was King, and of the latter, Ella, the father
died in 593, and was succeeded by Edwin an infant of three years of age.
after, Ethelfrith invaded the possessions of Edwin, and attached them by
usurpation to his own domains.
was sent to Wales, whence when he grew older he was obliged to flee, and
passed many years in exile, principally at the Court of Redwald, King of East
Anglia. By the assistance of this monarch he was enabled to make war upon his
old enemy, Ethelfrith, who, having been slain in battle, and his sons having
fled into Scotland, Edwin not only regained his own throne, but that of the
usurper also, and in the year 617 became the King of Northumbria, of which the
city of York was made the capital. Edwin was originally a pagan, but his mind
was of a contemplative turn, and this made him, says Turner, more intellectual
than any of the Saxon Kings who had preceded him. He was thus led to a
rational consideration of the doctrines of Christianity, which he finally
accepted, and was publicly baptized at York, on Easter day, in the year 627.
The ceremony was publicly performed in the Church of St. Peter the Apostle,
which he had caused to be hastily constructed of wood, for the purposes of
divine service, during the time that he was undergoing the religious
instructions preliminary to his receiving the sacrament.
soon as he was baptized, he built, says Bede, under the direction of Paulinus,
his religious instructor and bishop, in the same place, a much larger and
nobler church of stone.
the reign of Edwin, and of his successors in the same century, ecclesiastical
architecture greatly flourished, and many large churches were built. Edwin was
slain in battle in 633, having reigned for seventeen years.
Venerable Bede gives us the best testimony we could desire as to the character
of Edwin as ruler, when he tells us that in all of his dominions there was
such perfect peace that a woman with a newborn babe might walk from sea to sea
without receiving any harm. Another incident that he relates is significant of
Edwin's care and consideration for the comforts of his people. Where there
were springs of water near the highways, he caused posts to be fixed with
drinking vessels attached to them for the convenience of travelers. By such
acts, and others of a higher character, by his encouragement of the arts, and
his strict administration of justice, he secured the love of his subjects.
much of history was necessary that the reader might understand the argument in
reference to the true meaning of the York Legend, now to be discussed.
versions of the Legend given by Anderson and Preston, the honor of organizing
Masonry and calling a General Assembly is attributed to Edwin the brother, and
not to Edwin the son of Athelstan. These versions are, however, of no value as
historical documents, because they are merely enlarged copies of the original
the Roberts Constitutions, printed in 1722, and which was claimed to have been
copied from a manuscript about five hundred years old, but without any proof
(as the original has never been recovered), the name of Edwin is altogether
omitted, and Athelstan himself is said to have been the reviver of the
institution. The language of this manuscript, as published by J. Roberts, is
as follows: (1)
began to build many Abbies, Monasteries, and other religious houses, as also
Castles and divers Fortresses for defence of his realm. He loved Masons more
than his father; he greatly study'd Geometry, and sent into many lands for men
expert in the science. He gave them a very large charter to hold a yearly
assembly, and power to correct offenders in the said science; and the king
himself caused a General Assembly of all Masons in his realm, at York, and
there were made many Masons, and gave them a deep charge for observation of
all such articles as belonged unto Masonry and delivered them the said Charter
omission of all reference to Prince Edwin, the Harleian and Roberts
manuscripts agree with that of Halliwell.
is a passage in the Harleian and Roberts MSS. that is worthy of notice. All
the recent manuscripts which speak of Edwin as the procurer of the Charter,
say that "he loved Masons much more than his father did" ‑ meaning Athelstan.
But the Harleian and Roberts MSS., speaking of King Athelstan, use the same
language, but with a different reference, and say of King Athelstan, that "he
loved idasons more than his father " ‑ meaning King Edward, whose son
of the two statements, that of the Harleian and Roberts MSS. is much more
conformable to history than the other. Athelstan was a lover of Masons, for he
was a great patron of architecture, and many public buildings were erected
during his reign. But it is not recorded in history that Prince Edwin
exhibited any such attachment to Masonry or Architecture as is attributed to
him in the old records, certainly not an attachment equal to that of Athelstan.
On the contrary, Edward, the son of Alfred and the father of Athelstan, was
not distinguished during his reign for any marked patronage of
The book was republished by Spencer in 1870. The Roberts "Constitutions" and
the Harleian MS. No. 1942, are evidently copies from the same original, if not
one from the other. The story of Athelstan is, of course, identical in both,
and the citation might as well have been made from either.
arts, and especially of architecture; and it is, therefore, certain that his
son Athelstan exhibited a greater love to Masons or Architects than he did.
there arises a suspicion that the Legend was originally framed in the form
presented to us by the Halliwell poem, and copied apparently by the writers of
the Harleian and Roberts MSS., and that the insertion of the name of Prince
Edwin was an afterthought of the copiers of the more recent manuscripts, and
that this insertion of Edwin's name, and the error of making him a son of
Athelstan, arose from a confusion of the mythical Edwin with a different
personage, the earlier Edwin, who was King of Northumbria.
also be added that the son of Athelstan is not called Edwin in all of the
recent manuscripts. In one Sloane MS. he is called Ladrian, in another Hegme,
and in the Lodge of Hope MS. Hoderine. This fact might indicate that there was
some confusion and disagreement in putting the name of Prince Edwin into the
Legend. But I will not press this point, because I am rather inclined to
attribute these discrepancies to the proverbial carelessness of the
transcribers of these manuscripts.
then, are we to account for this introduction of an apparently mythical
personage into the narrative, by which the plausibility of the Legend is
seriously affected ?
Anderson, and after him Preston, attempts to get out of the difficulty by
calling Edwin the brother, and not the son, of Athelstan. It is true that
Athelstan did have a younger brother named Edwin, whom some historians have
charged him with putting to death. And in so far the Legend might not be
considered as incompatible with history. But as all the manuscripts which have
to this day been recovered which speak of Edwin call him the king's son and
not his brother, notwithstanding the contrary statement of Anderson, (1) I
prefer another explanation, although it involves the charge of anachronism.
annals of English history record a royal Edwin, whose de
Anderson says in the second edition of the "Book of Constitutions" that in all
the Old Constitutions it is written Prince Edwin, the king's brother ‑ a
statement that is at once refuted by a reference to all the manuscripts from
the Dowland to the Papworth, where the word is always son. So much for the
authority of the old writers on Masonic history.
to the arts and sciences, whose wise statesmanship, and whose patronage of
architecture, must have entitled him to the respect and the affection of the
early English Masons. Edwin, King of Northumbria, one of the seven kingdoms
into which England was divided during the Anglo‑Saxon heptarchy, died in 633,
after a reign of sixteen years, which was distinguished for the reforms which
he accomplished, for the wise laws which he enacted and enforced, for the
introduction of Christianity into his kingdom, and for the improvement which
he emeacd in the moral, social, and intellectual condition of his subjects.
When be ascended the throne the northern metropolis of the Anglican Church had
been placed at York, where it still remains. The king patronized Paulinus, the
bishop, and presented him with a residence and with other possessions in that
city. Much of this has already been said, but it will bear repetition.
this Edwin, and not to the brother of Athelstan, modern Masonic archaeologists
have supposed that the Legend of the Craft refers.
this opinion is not altogether a new one. More than a century and a half ago
it seems to have prevailed as a tradition among the Masons of the northern
part of England. For in 1726, in an address delivered before the Grand Lodge
of York by its Junior Grand Warden, Francis Drake, he speaks of it as being
well known and recognized, in the following words:
know we can boast that the first Grand Lodge ever held in England was held in
this city [York]; where Edwin, the first Christian King of the Northumbers,
about the six hundredth year after Christ, and who laid the foundation of our
Cathedral, (1) sat as Grand Master."
A.F.A. Woodford, a profound Masonic archaeologist, accepts this explanation,
and finds a confirmation in the facts that the town of Derventio, now Auldby,
six miles from York, the supposed seat of the pseudo‑Edwin, was also the chief
seat and residence of Edwin, King of Northumbria, and that the buildings, said
in one of the manuscripts to have been erected by the false Edwin, were really
erected, as is known from history, by the Northumbrian Edwim
think that with these proofs, the inquirer will have little or no
Bede (L. 2., C. 13) and Rapin (P. 246) both confirm this statement that the
foundations of the York Cathedral, or Minster, were laid in the reign of
hesitation in accepting this version of the Legend, and will recognize the
fact that the writers of the later manuscripts fell into an error in
substituting Edwin, the son (as they called him, but really the brother) of
Athelstan, for Edwin, the King of Northumbria.
true that the difference of dates presents a difficulty, there being about
three hundred years between the reigns of Edwin of Northumbria, and Athelstan
of England. But that difficulty, I think, may be overcome by the following
theory which I advance on the subject:
earlier series of manuscripts, of which the Halliwell poem is an exemplar,
and, perhaps, also the Harleian and the Roberts MSS., (1) make no mention of
Edwin, but assign the revival of Masonry in the 10th century to King Athelstan.
more recent manuscripts, of which the Dowland is the earliest, introduce
Prince Edwin into the Legend and ascribe to him the honor of having obtained
from Athelstan a charter, and of having held an Assembly at York.
are, then, two forms of the Legend, which, for the sake of distinction, may be
designated as the older and the later. The older Legend makes Athelstan the
reviver of Masonry in England, and says nothing at all of Edwin. The later
takes this honor from Athelstan and gives it to Prince Edwin, who is called
part about Edwin is, then, an addition to the older legend, and was
interpolated into it by the later legendists, as will be evidently seen if the
following extract from the Dowland MS. be read, and all the words there
printed in italics be omitted. So read, the passage will conform very
substantially with the corresponding one in the Roberts MS., which was
undoubtedly a copy from some older manuscript which contained the legend in
its primitive form, wherein there is no mention of Prince Edwin.
is the extract to be amended by the omission of words in italics:
good rule of Masonry was destroyed unto the tyme of Kinge Athelstone dayes
that was a worthy Kinge of England, and brought this land into good rest and
peace; and builded many great works of Abbyes and Towres, and other many
divers buildings and loved well Masons.
had a sonn that height Edwinne, and
The fact that the Legend in the Roberts "Constitutions" agrees in this respect
with the older legend, and differs from that in all the recent manuscripts,
gives some color to the claim that it was copied from a manuscript five
hundred years old.
loved Masons much more than his father did. And he was a great practiser in
Geometry; and he drew him much to talke and to commune with Masons, and to
learne of them science; and afterward for love that he had to Masons and to
the science he was made a Mason and he gatt (1) [ie., he gave] of the Kinge
his father a Charter and commission to hold every year once an Assemble, wher
that ever they would, within the realme of England; and to correct within
themselves defaults and trespasses that were done within the science. And he
held himselfe an Assemble at Yorke, and there he made Masons, and gave them
charges, and taught them the manners, and commanded that rule to be kept ever
after, and tooke then the Chartour and Commission to keepe, and made ordinance
that it should be renewed from Kinge to Kinge."
elimination of only thirteen words relieves us at once of all difficulty, and
brings the Legend into precise accord with the tradition of the older
eliminated it asserts:
That King Athelstan was a great patron of the arts of civilization‑ "he
brought the land into rest and peace." This statement is sustained by the
facts of history.
paid especial attention to architecture and the art of building, and adorned
his country with abbeys, towns (towers is a clerical error), and many other
edifices. History confirms this also.
was more interested in, and gave a greater patronage to, architecture than his
father and predecessor, Edward ‑ another historical fact.
gave to the Masons or Architects a charter as a guild, and called an assembly
of the Craft at York. This last statement is altogether traditional.
Historians are silent on the subject, just as they are on the organization of
a Grand Lodge in 1717. The mere silence of historians as to the formation of a
guild of craftsmen or a private society is no proof that such guild or society
was not formed. The truth of the statement that King Athelstan caused an
assembly of Masons to be held in the year 926 at the city of York, depends
This word is used in the sense of given or granted, in an undoubted historical
document, Athelstan's charter to the town of Beverly.
I, the Kynge Adelston, Has gaten and given to St. John Of Beverlae, etc."
on a tradition, which has, however, until recently, been accepted by the whole
Masonic world as an undoubted truth.
that the city of York was the place where an assembly was convened by
Athelstan in the year 926 is rendered very improbable when we refer to the
concurrent events of history at that period of time.
Athelstan ascended the throne. At that time Sigtryg was the reigning King of
Northumbria, which formed no part of the dominions of Athelstan. To Sigtryg,
who had but very recently been converted from Paganism to Christianity,
Athelstan gave his sister in marriage. But the Northumbrian king having
apostatized, his brother‑in‑law resolved to dethrone him, and prepared to
invade his kingdom. Sigtryg having died in the meantime, his sons fled, one
into Ireland and the other into Scotland, and Athelstan annexed Northumbria to
his own dominions.
occurred in the year 926, and it is not likely that while pursuing the sons of
Sigtryg, one of whom had escaped from his captors and taken refuge in the city
of York, whose citizens he vainly sought to enlist in his favor, Athelstan
would have selected that period of conflict, and a city within his
newly‑acquired territory, instead of his own capital, for the time and place
of holding an assembly of Masons.
highly improbable that he did, but yet it is not absolutely impossible.
tradition may be correct as to York, but, if so, then the time should be
advanced, by, a few years, to that happy period when Athelstan had restored
the land "into good rest and peace."
the important question is, whether this tradition is mythical or historical,
whether it is a fiction or a truth. Conjectural criticism applied to the
theory of probabilities alone can aid us in solving this problem.
therefore, that there is nothing in the personal character of Athelstan,
nothing in the recorded history of his reign, nothing in the well‑known manner
in which he exercised his royal authority and governed his realm, that forbids
the probability that the actions attributed to him in the Legend of the Craft
actually took place.
his grandfather, the great Alfred, as his pattern, he was liberal in all his
ideas, patronized learning, erected many churches, monasteries, and other
edifices of importance throughout his dominions, encouraged the translation of
the Scriptures into Anglo‑Saxon, and, what is of great value to the present
question, gave charters to many guilds or operative companies as well as to
several municipalities. Especially is it known from historical records that in
the reign of Athelstan the frith‑gildan, free guilds or sodalities, were
incorporated by law. From these subsequently arose the craft‑guilds or
associations for the establishment of fraternal relations and mutual aid, into
which, at the present day, the trade companies of England are divided.
would be nothing improbable in any narrative which should assert that he
extended his protection to the operative Masons, of whose art we know that he
availed himself in the construction of the numerous public and religious
edifices which he was engaged in erecting. It is even more than plausible to
suppose that the Masons were among the sodalities to whom he granted charters
or acts of incorporation.
the Rev. Bro. Woodford, whose opinion as a Masonic archaeologist is of great
value, I am disposed to accept a tradition venerable for its antiquity and for
so long a period believed in by the craft as an historical record in so far as
relates to the obtaining of a charter from Athelstan and the holding of an
assembly. "I see no reason, therefore," he says, "to reject so old a tradition
that under Athelstan the operative Masons obtained his patronage and met in
General Assembly." (1)
Admitting the fact of Athelstan's patronage and of the Assembly at some place,
we next encounter the difficulty of explaining the interpolation of what may
be called the episode of Prince Edwin.
already shown that there can be no doubt that the framers of the later legend
had confounded the brother, whom they, by a mistake, had called the son of
Athelstan, with a preceding king of the same name, that is, with Edwin, King
of Northumbria, who, in the 7th century, did what the pseudo‑Edwin is supposed
to have done in the 10th. That is to say, he patronized the Masons of his
time, introduced the art of building into his kingdom, and probably held an
Assembly at York, which was his capital city.
suppose that the earlier Masons of the south of England, who framed the first
Legend of ihe Crafl, such as is presented to
"The Connection of York with the History of Freemasonry in England,"
inserted in Hughan's " Unpublished Records of the Craft," p. 168.
the old poem, first published by Mr. Halliwell in 1840, and also in the
Harleian manuscript and in the one printed by Roberts in 1722, were
unacquainted with the legend of Edwin of Northumbria, although, if we may
believe Bro. Drake, it was a well‑known tradition in the north of England. The
earlier legends of the south, therefore, gave the honor of patronizing the
Masons and holding an Assembly at York in 926 to Athelstan alone. This was,
therefore, the primitive Legend of the Craft among the Masons of London and
the southern part of the kingdom.
time these southern Masons became, in consequence of increased intercourse,
cognizant of the tradition that King Edwin of Northumbria had also patronized
the Masons of his kingdom, but at an earlier period. The two traditions were,
of course, at first kept distinct.
was, perhaps, a reluctance among the Masons of the south to diminish the
claims of Athelstan as the first reviver, after St. Alban, of Masonry in
England, and to give the precedence to a monarch who lived three hundred years
before in the northern part of the island.
reluctance, added to the confusion to which all oral tradition is obnoxious,
coupled with the fact that there was an Edwin, who was a near relation of
Athelson, resulted in the substitution of this later Edwin for the true one.
took years to do this ‑ the reluctance continuing, the confusion of the
traditions increasing, until at last the southern Masons, altogether losing
sight of the Northumbrian tradition as distinct from that of Athelstan,
combined the two traditions into one, and, with the carelessness or ignorance
of chronology so common in that age, and especially among uncultured
craftsmen, substituted Edwin, the brother of Athelstan, (1) for Edwin, the
King of Northumbria, and thus formed a new Legend of the Craft such as it was
perpetuated by Anderson, and after him by Preston, and which has lasted to the
Therefore, eliminating from the narrative the story of Edwin, as it is told in
the recent Legend, and accepting it as referring to Edwin of Northumbria, and
as told in the tradition peculiar to the Masons of the northern part of
England, we reach the conclusion that there were originally two traditions,
one extant in the northern
the same carelessness or ignorance are we to attribute the legendary error of
making Edwin the son of Athelstan.
of England and the other in the southern part. The former Legend ascribed the
revival of Masonry in England to Edwin, King of Northumbria in the 7th
century, and the latter to Athelstan, King of England in the 10th. There being
little communication in those days between the two parts of the kingdom, the
traditions remained distinct.
some subsequent period, not earlier than the middle of the 10th century, or
the era of the Reformation, (1) the southern Masons became acquainted with the
true Legend of the York Masons, and incorporated it into their own Legend,
confounding, however the two Edwins, either from ignorance, or more probably,
from a reluctance to surrender the preeminence they had hitherto given to
Athelstan as the first reviver of Masonry in England.
arrive, then, at the conclusion, that if there was an Assembly at York it was
convened by Edwin, King of Northumbria, who revived Masonry in the northern
part of England in the 7th century; and that its decayed prosperity was
restored by Athelstan in the 10th century, not by the holding of an Assembly
at the city of York, but by his general patronage of the arts, and especially
architecture, and by the charters of incorporation which he freely granted to
various guilds or sodalities of workmen.
these explanations, we are now prepared to review and to summarize the Legend
of the Craft, not in the light of a series of absurd fictions, as too many
have been inclined to consider it, but as an historical narrative, related in
quaint language, not always grammatical, and containing several errors of
chronology, misspelling of names, and confusion of persons, such as were
common and might be expected in manuscripts written in that uncultured age,
and by the uneducated craftsmen to whom we owe these old manuscripts.
assign this era because the Halliwell poem, which is the exemplar of the older
Legend, is evidently Roman Catholic in character, while the Dowland, and all
subsequent manuscripts which contain the later Legend, are Protestant, all
allusions to the Virgin, the saints, and crowned martyrs being omitted.
SUMMARY OF THE LEGEND OF THE CRAFT
Legend of ihe Craft, as it is presented to us in what I have called the later
manuscripts, that is to say, the Dowland and those that follow it up to the
Papworth, begins with a descant on the seven liberal arts and sciences. (1) I
have already shown that among the schoolmen contemporary with the legendists
these seven arts and sciences were considered, in the curriculum of education,
not so much as the foundation, but as the finished edifice of all human
learning. The Legend naturally partook of the spirit of the age in which it
was invented. But especially did the Masons refer to these sciences, and make
a description of them, the preface, as it were, to the story that they were
about to relate, because the principal of these sciences was geometry, and
this they held to be synonymous with Masonry.
the intimate connection between geometry and architecture, as practiced by the
Operative Freemasons of the Middle Ages, is well known, since the secrets, of
which these Freemasons were supposed to be in possession, consisted almost
solely in an application of the principles of the science of geometry to the
art of building.
Legend next procccds to narrate certain circumstances connected with the
children of Lamech. These details are said in the Legend to have been derived
from the Book of Genesis but were probably taken at second‑hand from the
Polychronicon, or universal history of the monk Higden, of Chester. This part
of the legend, which is not otherwise
connected with the Masonic narrative, appears to have been introduced for the
sake of an allusion to the pillars on which the sons of Lamech are said to
have inscribed an account of the sciences which they had discovered, so that
The Halliwell poem, although it differs from the later manuscripts in so many
particulars, agrees with them in giving a descant on the arts and sciences.
knowledge of them might not be lost in consequence of the destruction of the
world which they apprehended.
story of the inscribed pillars was a tradition of every people, narrated, with
variations, by every historian and implicitly believed by the multitude. The
legendists of Masonry got the account from Josephus, perhaps through Higden,
but altered it to suit the spirit of their own narrative.
next told that Hermes discovered one of these pillars and was, from the
information that it contained, enabled to restore the knomiedge of the
sciences, and especially of Masonry, to the post‑diluvian world.
was a tribute of the legendists to the universally accepted opinion of the
ancients, who venerated the "thrice great Hermes" as the mythical founder of
all science and philosophy. We are next told that Nimrod, "the mighty hunter
before the Lord," availed himself of the wisdom that had been recovered by
Hermes. He was distinguished for his architectural works and first gave
importance to the art of Masonry at the building of the Tower of Babel. The
Legend attributes to Nimrod the creation of the Masons into an organized body
and he was the first who gave them a constitution or laws for their
government. Masonry, according to the legendary account, was founded in
Babylon, whence it passed over to the rest of the world.
this we find simply a recognition of the historical opinion that Chaldea was
the birthplace of knowledge and that the Chaldean sages were the primitive
teachers of Asia and Europe. The modern discoveries of the cuneiform
inscriptions show that the Masonic legendists had, at a venture, obtained a
more correct idea of the true character of Nimrod than that which had been
hitherto entertained, founded on the brief allusion to him in Genesis and the
disparaging account of him in the Antiquities of Josephus.
monastic legends had made Abraham a contemporary of Nimrod, and the Book of
Genesis had described the visit of the patriarch and his wife to the land of
Egypt. Combining these two statements, the idea was suggested to the
legendists that Abraham had carried into Egypt the knowledge which he had
acquired from the Chaldeans and taught it to the inhabitants.
it is stated that Egypt was, after Babylonia, the place where the arts and
sciences were first cultivated and thence disseminated to other countries.
Among these arts and sciences geometry, which we have seen was always
connected in the Masonic mind with architecture, held a prominent place. He
who taught it to the Egyptians was typically represented by the name of
Euclid, because the old Masons were familiar with the fact that he was then
esteemed, as he still is, as the greatest of geometricians and almost the
inventor of the science.
Accepting the allusion to Euclid, not as an historical anachronism, but rather
as the expression of a symbolic idea, we can scarcely class the legendary
statement of the condition of learning in Egypt as a pure and unadulterated
fiction. It is an undoubted fact that Egypt was the primeval land whence
science and learning flowed into Southern Europe and Western Asia. Neither can
it be disputed that civilization had there ripened into maturity long before
Greece or Rome were known. It is moreover conceded that the ancient Mysteries
whence Masonry has derived, not its organization, but a portion of its science
of symbolism, received its birth in the land of the Nile, and that the
Mysteries of Osiris and Isis were the prototypes of all the mystical
initiations which were celebrated in Asia and in Southern Europe. They have
even been claimed, though I think incorrectly, as the origin of those in Gaul,
in Britain, and in Scandinavia. By a rapid transition, the Legend passes from
the establishment of Masonry or architecture (for it must be remembered that
in legendary acceptation the two words are synonymous) to its appearance in
judea, the "Land of Behest," where, under the patronage and direction of King
Solomon the Temple of Jerusalem was constructed. All that is said in this
portion of the Legend purports to be taken from the scriptural account of the
same transaction and must have the same historical value.
the error committed in the name and designation of him who is now familiarly
known to Freemasons as Hiram Abif, a sufficient explanation has been given in
a preceding chapter.
next have an account of the travels of these Masons or architects who built
the Temple into various countries, to acquire additional knowledge and
expeience, and to disseminate the principles of their art.
carelessness of chronology, to which I have already adverted, so peculiar to
the general illiteracy of the age, has led the legendists to connect this
diffusion of architecture among the various civilized countries of the world
with the Tyrian and Jewish Masons; but the wanderings of that body of builders
known as the "Traveling Freemasons" of the Middle Ages, through all the
kingdoms of Europe, and their labors in the construction of cathedrals,
monasteries, and other public edifices are matters of historical record. Thus
the historical idea is well preserved in the Legend of a body of artists who
wandered over Europe, and were employed in the construction of cathedrals,
monasteries, and other public edifices.
Legend next recounts the introduction of architecture into France, and the
influence exerted upon it by Grecian architects, who brought with them into
that kingdom the principles of Byzantine art. These are facts which are
sustained by history. The prominence given to France above Spain or Italy or
Germany is, I think, merely another proof that the Legend was of French origin
or was constructed under French influence.
account of the condition of Masonry or architecture among the Britains in the
time of St. Alban, or the 4th century, is simply a legendary version of the
history of the introduction of the art of building into England during the
Roman domination by the "Collegia Artificum" or Roman Colleges of Artificers,
who accompanied the victorious legions when they vanquished Hesperia, Gaul,
and Britain, and colonized as they vanquished them.
decay of architecture in Britain after the Roman armies had abandoned that
country to protect the Empire from the incursions of the northern hordes of
barbarians, in consequence of which Britain was left in an unprotected state,
and was speedily involved in wars with the Picts, the Danes, and other
enemies, is next narrated in the Legend, and is its version of an historical
also historically true that in the 7th century peace was restored to the
northern parts of the island, and that Edwin, King of Northumbria, of which
the city of York was the capital, revived the arts of civilization, gave his
patronage to architecture, and caused many public buildings, among others the
Cathedral of York, to be built. All of this is told in the Legend, although,
by an error for which I have already accounted, Edwin, the Northumbrian king,
was in the later Legend confounded with the brother of Athelstan. The second
decay of architecture in England, in consequence of the invasions of the
Danes, and the intestine as well as foreign wars which desolated the kingdom
until the reign of Athelstan, in the early part of the 10th century, when
entire peace was restored, is briefly alluded to in the Legend, therein
conforming to the history of that troublous period.
consequence of the restoration of peace, the Legend records the revival of
Masonry or architecture in the 10th century, under the reign of Athelstan, who
called the Craft together and gave them a charter. I have already discussed
this point and shown that the narrative of the Legend presents nothing
improbable or incredible but that it is easily to be reconciled with the facts
of contemporary history. We have only to reconcile the two forms of the Legend
by asserting that Edwin of Northumbria revived Masonry in an Assembly convened
by him at York, and that Athelstan restored its decayed prosperity by his
general patronage, and by charters which he gave to the Guilds or corporations
Passing, in this summary method over the principal occuuences related in this
Legend of the Craft, we relieve it from the charge of gross puerility, which
has been urged against it, even by some Masonic writers who have viewed it in
a spirit of immature criticism. We find that its statements are not the
offspring of a fertile imagination or the crude inventions of sheer ignorance,
but that, on the contrary, they really have a support in what was at the time
accepted as authentic history, and whose authenticity can not, even now, be
disproved or denied.
Dissected as it has here been by the canons of philosophical criticism, the
Legend of the Craft is no longer to be deemed a fable or myth, but
historical narrative related in the quaint language and in the quainter spirit
of the age in which it was written.
after the revival of Freemasonry in the beginning of the 18th century, this
Legend, for the most part misunderstood, served as a fundamental basis on
which were erected, first by Anderson and then by other writers who followed
him, expanded narratives of the rise and progress of Masonry, in which the
symbolic ideas or the mythical suggestions of the ancient "Legend" were often
developed and enlarged into statements for the most part entirely fabulous.
this way, these writers, who were educated and even learned men, have
introduced not so much any new legends, but rather theories founded on a
legend, by which they have traced the origin and the progress of the
institution in narratives without historic authenticity and sometimes
contradictory to historic truth.
mode in which these theories have been attempted to be supported by the
citation of assumed facts have caused them to take, to some extent, the form
of legends. But to distinguish them from the pure Legends which existed before
the 18th century, I have preferred to call them theories.
chief tendency has been, by the use of unauthenticated statements, to confuse
the true history of the Order. And yet they have secured so prominent a place
in its literature and have exerted so much influence on modern Masonic ideas,
that they must be reviewed and analyzed at length, in order that the reader
may have a complete understanding of the legendary history of the institution.
For of that legendary, history these theories, founded as they are on assumed
traditions, constitute a part.
having priority in date, the theory of Dr. Anderson will be the first to claim
Legend or theory of Dr. Anderson is detailed first in the edition of the Book
of Constitutions which was edited by him and published in the year 1723, and
was then more extensively developed in the subsequent edition of the same work
published in 1738.
Anderson was acquainted with the more recent Legend of the Craft, and very
fully cites it from a manuscript or Record of Freemasons, written in the reign
of Edward IV, that is, toward the end of the 15th century. If Anderson's
quotations from this manuscript are correct, it must be one of those that has
been lost and not yet recovered. For among some other events not mentioned in
the manuscripts that are now extant, he states that the charges and laws of
the Freemasons had been seen and perused by Henry VI. and his council, and had
been approved by them.
does not appear to have met with any of the earlier manuscripts, such as those
of Halliwell and Roberts, which contain the Legend in its older form, for he
makes no use of the Legend of Euclid, passing over the services of that
geometrician lightly, as the later manuscripts do, (1) and not ascribing to
him the origin of the Order in Egypt, which theory is the peculiar
characteristic of the older Legend.
out of the later Legend and from whatever manuscripts containing it to which
he had access, Anderson has formed a Legend of his own. In this he has added
many things of his own creation and given a more detailed narrative, if not a
more correct one, than that contained in the Legend of the Craft.
Anderson's Legend, or theory, of the rise and progress of Ma‑
the slight mention that he makes of Euclid, Anderson has observed the true
chronology and placed him in the era of Ptolemy Lagus, 300 years B.C.
as it is contained in the first edition of the Book of Constitutions, was for
a long time accepted by the Craft as a true history of the Order, and it has
exercised a very remarkable influence in the framing of other theories on this
subject which from time to time have been produced by subsequent writers.
student, therefore, who is engaged in the investigation of the legendary
history of Masonry, this Andersonian Legend is of great importance. While the
Legend of the Craft in its pure form was very little known to the great body
of Masonic writers and students until the manuscripts containing this Legend
in its various forms were made common to the Masonic public by the labors of
Halliwell, Cooke, and, above all, by Hughan and his earnest collaborators in
Masonic archoeology, the Legend of Anderson was accessible and familiar to
all, and for a century and a half was deemed an authentic history, and even at
the present day is accepted by some over‑credulous and not well‑informed
Masons as a real narrative of the rise and progress of Masonry.
Anderson, in his history of the origin of Masonry, mindful of the French
proverb, to "commencer par la commencement," begins by attributing to Adam a
knowledge of Geometry as the foundation of Masonry and Architecture, words
which throughout his Legend he uses as synonymous terms.
arts he taught to his sons, and Cain especially practiced them by building a
city. Seth also was equally acquainted with them and taught them to his
offspring. Hence the antediluvian world was well acquainted with Masonry, (1)
and erected many curious works until the time of Noah, who built the Ark by
the principles of Geometry and the rules of Masonry.
and his three sons, who were all Masons, brought with them to the new world
the traditions and arts of the antediluvians. Noah is therefore deemed the
founder of Masonry in the post‑diluvian world, and hence Anderson called a
Mason a "true Noachida" or Noachite, a term used to the present day.
descendants of Noah exercised their skill in Masonry in the attempted erection
of the Tower of Babel, but were confounded in their speech and dispersed into
various countries, whereby the
Oliver has readily accepted this theory of an antediluvian Masonry and written
several very learned and indeed interesting works on the subject.
knowledge of Masonry was lost. (1) It was however, preserved in Shinar and
Assyria, where Nimrod built many cities.
those parts afterward flourished many priests and mathematicians under the
name of Chaldees and Magi, who preserved the science of Geometry or Masonry,
and thence the science and the art (2) were transmitted to later ages and
distant climes. Mitzraim, the second son of Ham, carried Masonry into Egypt,
where the overflowing of the banks of the Nile caused an improvement in
Geometry, and consequently brought Masonry much into request.
Masonry was introduced into the Land of Canaan by the descendants of the
youngest son of Ham, and into Europe, as he supposes, by the posterity of
Japhet, although we know nothing of their works.
posterity of Shem also cultivated the art of Masonry, and Abraham, the head of
one branch of that family, having thus obtained his knowledge of Geometry and
the kindred sciences, communicated that knowledge to the Egyptians and
transmitted it to his descendants, the Israelites. When, therefore, they made
their exodus from Egypt the Israelites were "a whole kingdom of Masons," and
while in the wilderness were often assembled by their Grand Master Moses into
"a regular and general Lodge."
taking possession of Canaan, the Israelites found the old inhabitants were
versed in Masonry, which, however, their conquerors greatly improved, for the
splendor of the finest structures in Tyre and Sidon was greatly surpassed by
the magnificence of the Temple erected by King Solomon in Jerusalem. In the
construction of this edifice, Solomon was assisted by the Masons and
carpenters of Hiram, King of Tyre, and especially by the King of Tyre's
namesake Hiram or Huram, to whom, in a note, Anderson gives the name of Hiram
Abif, which name he has ever since retained among the Craft."
This part of the Legend has been preserved in the American rituals, wherein
the candidate is said to come "from the lofty Tower of Babel, where language
was confounded and Masonry lost," and to be proceeding "to the threshing‑floor
of Orneu the Jebusite (the Temple of Solomon) where language was restored and
the science is meant geometry, and by the art architecture ‑ a distinction
preserved in the Middle Ages; and the combination of them into "Geometrical
Masonry," constitute the Mystery of the Freemasons of that period.
the first edition of this Legend, Anderson makes no allusion to the death of
Hiram Abif during the building of the Temple. He mentions, however, in the
second edition of the "Constitutions" published fifteen years afterward. But
this does not absolutely prove that he was at the time unacquainted with the
tradition, but he may have thought it too esoteric for public record, for he
says, in the very place where he should have referred to it, that he has left
" what must not and cannot be communicated in writing."
Anderson gives in this Legend the first detailed account of the Temple of
Solomon that is to be found in any Masonic work. It is, however, only an
appropriation of that contained in the Books of Kings and Chronicles, with
some statements for which he was probably indebted to his own invention. It
has exerted a considerable influence upon other Legends subsequently framed,
and especially upon all the rituals, and indeed upon all the modern ideas of
speculative Masons. (1)
the construction of the Temple, the Masons who had been engaged in it
dispersed into Syria, Mesopotamia, Assyria, Chaldea, Babylonia, Media, Persia,
Arabia, Africa, Lesser Asia, Greece, and other parts of Europe, where they
taught the art to many eminent persons, and kings, princes, and potentates
became Grand Masters, each in his own territory.
Legend then passes on to Nebuchadnezzar, whom it calls a Grand Master, and
asserts that he received much improvement in Masonry from the Jewish captives
whom he brought to Babylon after he had destroyed that city and its Temple.
Afterward Cyrus constituted Zerubbabel the leader of the Jews, who, being
released from their captivity, returned to Jerusalem and built the second
Palestine, and after the erection of the Temple, Masonry was carried into
Greece, and arrived at its height during the Jewish captivity, and in the time
of Thales Milesius, the philosopher, and his pupil, Pythagoras, who was the
author of the 47th Proposition of Euclid, which "is the foundation of all
Masonry," Pythagoras traveled into Egypt and Babylon, and acquired much
knowledge from the priests and the Magi,
he dispensed in Greece and Italy on his return. (2)
Legend now speaks, parenthetically as it were, of the prog‑
The peculiar details of the doctrine of Anderson have not been always
respected. For instance, it is a very prevalent opinion among the Craft at
this day, that there was a Master Mason's Lodge at the Temple, over which
Solomon presided as Master and the two Hirams as Wardens, a theory which is
not supported by Anderson, who says that King Solomon was Grand Master of the
Lodge at Jerusalem, King Hiram Grand Master of that at Tyre, and Hiram Abif
Master of Work. Const., 1st ed., P. 14.
was probably this part of the Andersonian Legend which gave rise to a similar
statement made in the spurious production known as the Leland MS.
of Masonry in Asia Minor, and of the labors of Euclid in Egypt, in the reign
of Ptolemy Lagus, in the methodical digestion of Geometry into a science.
next dwells upon the great improvement of Masonry in Greece, whose Masons
arrived at the same degree of skill and magnificence as their teachers the
Asiatics and Egyptians.
Sicily, from Greece, from Egypt and Asia, Masonry was introduced into Rome,
which soon became the center of learning, and disseminated the knowledge of
Masonry among the nations which it conquered.
Emperor Augustus became the Grand Master of the Lodge at Rome, and established
the Augustan style of architecture. During the prosperous condition of the
Roman Empire, Masonry was carefully propagated to the remotest regions of the
world, and a Lodge erected in almost every Roman garrison.
upon the declension of the empire, when the Roman garrisons were drawn away
from Britain, the Angles and lower Saxons, who had been invited by the ancient
Britons to come over and help them against the Scots and Picts, at length
subdued the southern part of England, where Masonry had been introduced by the
Romans, and the art then fell into decay.
the Anglo‑Saxons recovered their freedom in the 8th century Masonry was
revived, and at the desire of the Saxon kings, Charles Martel, King of France,
sent over several expert craftsmen, so that Gothic, architecture was again
encouraged during the Heptarchy.
many invasions of the Danes caused the destruction of numerous records, but
did not, to any great extent, interrupt the work, although the methods
introduced by the Roman builders were lost.
when war ceased and peace was proclaimed by the Norman conquest, Gothic
Masonry was restored and encouraged by William the Conqueror and his son
William Rufus, who built Westminster Hall. And notwithstanding the wars that
subsequently occurred, and the contentions of the Barons, Masonry never ceased
to maintain its position in England. In the year 1362, Edward III. had an
officer called the King's Freemason, or General Surveyor of his buildings,
whose name was Henry Yvele, and who erected many public buildings.
Anderson now repeats the Legend of the Craft, with the story of Athelstan and
his son Edwin, taking it, with an evident modification of the language, from a
record of Freemasons, which he says was written in the reign of Edward IV.
This record adds, as he says, that the charges and laws therein contained had
been seen and approved by Henry VI and the lords of his council, who must
therefore, to enable them to make such a review, have been incorporated with
the Freemasons. In consequence of this, the act passed by Parliament when the
King was in his infancy, forbidding the yearly congregations of Masons in
their General Assemblies, was never enforced after the King had arrived at
manhood, and had perused the regulations contained in that old record.
Kings of Scotland also encouraged Masonry from the earliest times down to the
union of the crowns, and granted to the Scottish Masons the prerogative of
having a fixed Grand Master and Grand Warden. (1)
Elizabeth discouraged Masonry, and neglected it during her whole reign. She
sent a commission to York to break up the Annual Assembly, but the members of
the commission, having been admitted into the Lodge, made so favorable a
report to the Queen, of the Fraternity, that she no longer opposed the Masons,
but tolerated them, altbough she gave them no encouragement. Her successor,
James I., was, however, a patron of Masonry, and greatly revived the art and
restored the Roman architecture, employing Inigo Jones as his architect, under
whom was Nicholas Stone as his Master Mason.
Charles I. was also a Mason, and patronized the art whose successful progress
was unhappily diverted by the civil wars and the death of the king.
after the restoration of the royal family, Masonry was again revived by
Charles II., who was a great encourager of the craftsmen, and hence is
supposed to have been a Freemason.
reign of James II., Masonry not being duly cultivated, the London Lodges "much
dwindled into ignorance."
the accession of William, that monarch "who by most is reckoned as a
Freemason," greatly revived the art, and showed himself a patron of Masonry.
From this it appears that Anderson was acquainted with the claim of the St.
Clairs of Roslin to the hereditary Grand Mastership of Scotland, a point that
has recently been disputed.
good example was followed by Queen Anne, who ordered fifty new churches to be
erected in London and its suburbs, and also by George I., her successor.
an allusion to the opinion that the religious and military Orders of
knighthood in the Middle Ages had borrowed many of their solemn usages from
the Freemasons, (1) the Legend here ends.
perusal of this Legend, it will be found that it is in fact, except in the
latter portions, which are semi‑historical, only a running commentary on the
later Legend of the Craft, embracing all that is said therein and adding other
statements, partly derived from history and partly, perhaps, from the author's
second edition of the Constitutions goes more fully over the same ground, but
is written in the form rather of a history than of a legend, and a review of
it is not, therefore, necessary or appropriate in this part of the present
work which is solely devoted to the Legends of the Order.
this second edition of Anderson's work, there are undoubtedly many things
which will be repudiated by the skeptical student of Masonic history, and many
which, if not at once denied, require proof to substantiate them. But with all
its errors, this work of Anderson is replete with facts that make it
interesting and instructive, and it earns for the author a grateful tribute
for his labors in behalf of the literature of Masonry at so early a period
after its revival.
will be seen hereafter that the Chevalier Ramsay greatly developed this brief
allusion of Anderson, and out of it worked his theory of the Templar origin of
Legend given by Preston in his Illustrations of Masonry, which details the
origin and early progress of the Institution, is more valuable and more
interesting than that of Anderson, because it is more succinct, and although
founded like it on the Legend of the Craft, it treats each detail with an
appearance of historical accuracy that almost removes from the narrative the
legendary character which, after all, really attaches to it.
accepting the Legend of the Craft as the basis of his story, Preston rejects,
or at least omits to mention, all the earlier part of it, and begins his story
with the supposed introduction of Masonry into England.
Commencing with a reference to the Druids, who, he says, it has been
suggested, derived their system of government from Pythagoras he thinks that
there is no doubt that the science of Masonry was not unknown to them. Yet he
does not say that there was an affinity between their rites and those of the
Freemasons, which, as an open question, he leaves everyone to determine for
Masonry, according to this theory, was certainly first introduced into England
at the time of its conquest by Julius Caesar, who, with several of the Roman
generals that succeeded him, were patrons and protectors of the Craft.
fraternity were engaged in the creation of walls, forts, bridges, cities,
temples, and other stately edifices, and their Lodges or Conventions were
Obstructed by the wars which broke out between the Romans and the natives,
Masonry was at length revived in the time of the Emperor Carausius. He, having
shaken off the Roman yoke, sought to improve his country in the civil arts,
and brought into his dominions the best workmen and artificers from all parts.
Among the first class of his favourites he enroled the Masons, for whose
tenets he professed the highest veneration, and appointed his steward, Albanus,
the superintendent of their Assemblies. He gave them a charter, and commanded
Albanus to preside over them in person as Grand Master.
assisted in the initiation of many persons into the mysteries of the Order.
some expert brethren arrived from France and formed a Lodge under the
direction of Bennet, Abbot of Wirral, who was soon afterward appointed by
Kenred, King of Mercia, inspector of the Lodges and general superintendent of
Masonry was in a low state during the Heptarchy, but in 856 it was revived
under St. Swithin, who was employed by Ethelwolf, the Saxon king, to repair
some pious houses; and it gradually improved until the reign of Alfred, who
was its zealous protector and who maintained a
of workmen in repairing the desolations of the Danes.
reign of Edward, his successor, the Masons continued to hold their Lodges
under the sanction of Ethred, his sister's husband, and Ethelward, his
Athelstan succeeded his father in 924 and appointed his brother Edwin, patron
of Masons. The latter procured a charter from Athelstan for the Masons to meet
annually in communication at York where the first Grand Lodge of England was
formed in 926, at which Edwin presided as Grand Master. The Legend of the
Craft, in reference to the collection of old writings, is here repeated.
death of Edwin, Athelstan undertook in person the direction of the Lodges, and
under his sanction the art of Masonry was propagated in peace and security.
death of Athelstan, the Masons dispersed and continued in a very unsettled
state until the reign of Edgar, in 960, when they were again collected by St.
Dunstan, but did not meet with permanent encouragement.
fifty years after Edgar's death Masonry remained in a low condition, but was
revived in 1041 under the patronage of Edward the Confessor, who appointed
Leofric, Earl of Coventry, to superintend the Craft,
William the Conqueror, who acquired the crown in 1066, appointed Gundulph,
Bishop of Rochester, and Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Shrewsbury, joint
patrons of the Masons. The labours of the fraternity were employed, during the
reign of William Rufus, in the construction of various edifices.
Lodges continued to assemble under Henry I. and Stephen. In the reign of the
latter, Gilbert de Clare, Marquis of Pembroke, presided over the Lodges.
reign of Henry II., the Grand Master of the Knights Templars employed the
Craft in 1135 in building their Temple. Masonry continued under the patronage
of this Order until 1199, when John succeeded to the throne and Peter de
Colechurch was appointed Grand Master. Peter de Rupibus succeeded him, and
Masonry continued to flourish during this and the following reign.
Preston's traditionary narrative, or his theory founded on Legends, may be
considered as ending here.
rest of his work assumes a purely historical form, although many of his
statements need for authenticity the support of other authorities.
will be subjects of consideration when we come to the next part of this work.
At present, before dismissing the theory of Preston, a few comments are
required which have been suggested by portions of the narrative.
the Legend of Carausius, to whom Preston ascribes the patronage of the British
craft in the latter part of the 3d century, it must be remarked that it was
first made known to the fraternity by Dr. Anderson in the 2d edition of his
Constitutions. He says that the tradition is contained in all the old
Constitutions and was firmly believed by the old English Masons. But the fact
is that it is to be found in none of the old records that have as yet been
discovered. They speak only of a king who patronized St. Alban and who made
him the steward of his household and his Master of Works. Anderson designated
this until then unnamed king as Carausius, forgetting that the Saint was
martyred in the same year that the monarch assumed the throne. This was a
strange error to be committed by one who had made genealogy his special study
and had written a voluminous work on the subject of royal successions.
Anderson, Preston appears to have borrowed the Legend, developing it into a
minuter narrative, by the insertion of several additional circumstances, a
prerogative which the compilers of Masonic as well as monastic Legends have
always thought proper to exercise.
advent of French Masons into England toward the end of the 7th century,
brought thither by the Abbot Bennet or Benedict, which is recorded by Preston,
is undoubtedly an historical fact. Lacroix says that England from the 7th
century had called to it the best workmen among the French Masons, the Maitres
Venerable Bede, who was contemporary with that period, says that the famous
Abbot Benedictus Biscopius (the Bennet of Preston) went over to France in 675
to engage workmen to build his church, and brought them over to England for
Richard of Cirencester makes the same statement. He says that "Bennet
collected Masons (coementarios) and all kinds of industrious artisans from
Rome, Italy, France, and other countries where he could find them, and,
bringing them to England, employed them in his works."
Preston is, however, in error as to the reign in which this event occurred.
or rather Coenred, did not succeed as King of Mercia until 704, and the Abbot
Benedict had died the year before. Our Masonic writers of the last century,
like their predecessors, the Legendists, when giving the substance of a
statement, were very apt to get confused in their dates.
Legend of the "weeping St. Swithin," to whom Preston ascribes the revival of
Masonry in the middle of the 9th century, it may be remarked that as to the
character of the Saint as a celebrated architect, the Legend is supported by
the testimony of the Anglo‑Saxon chroniclers.
of Wendover, who is followed by Matthew of Westminster, records his custom of
personally superintending the workmen when engaged in the construction of any
building, "that his presence might stimulate them to diligence in their
the consideration of the condition of Masonry at that period, in England,
belongs rather to the historical than to the legendary portion of this work.
whole, it may be said of Preston that he has made a considerable improvement
on Anderson in his method of treating the early progress of Masonry. Still his
narrative contains so many assumptions which are not proved to be facts, that
his theory must, like that of his predecessor, be still considered as founded
on legends rather than on authentic history.
theory advanced by Bro. William Hutchinson as to the origin and the progress
of Freemasonry, in his treatise, first published in the year 1775 and entitled
The Spirit of Masonry, is so complicated and sometimes apparently so
contradictory in its statements, as to require, for a due comprehension of his
views, not only a careful perusal, but even an exhaustive study of the work
alluded to. After such a study I think that I am able to present to the reader
a collect summary of the opinions on the rise and progress of the Order which
were entertained by this learned scholar.
be said, by way of preface to this review, that however we may dissent from
the conclusions of Hutchinson, he is entitled to our utmost respect for his
scholarly attainments. To the study of the history and the philosophy of
Masonry he brought a fund of antiquarian research, in which he had previously
been engaged in the examination of the ecclesiastical antiquities of the
province of Durham. Of all the Masonic writers of the 18th century, Hutchinson
was undoubtedly the most learned. And yet the theory that he has propounded as
to the origin of the Masonic Institution is altogether untenable and indeed,
in many of its details, absurd.
the opinions entertained by Hutchinson concerning the origin of Freemasonry,
the most heterodox is that which denies its descent from and its connection,
at any period, with an operative society. "It is our opinion," he says, "that
Masons in the present state of Masonry were never a body of architects.... We
ground a judgment of the nature of our profession on our ceremonials and
flatter ourselves every Mason will be convinced that they have not relation to
building and architecture, but are emblematical and imply moral and spiritual
and religious tenets." (1)
Spirit of Masonry," lect. xiii., p. 131.
PASSES OF THE JORDAN
another place, while admitting that there were in former times builders of
cities, towers, temples, and fortifications, he doubts "that the artificers
were formed into bodies ruled by their own proper laws and knowing mysteries
and secrets which were kept from the world." (1)
he admits, as we will see hereafter, that Masonry existed at the Temple of
Solomon, that it was there organized in what he calls the second stage of its
progress, and that the builders of the edifice were Masons, one would
naturally imagine that Hutchinson would here encounter an insuperable
objection to his theory, which entirely disconnects Masonry and architecture.
But he attempts to obviate this difficulty by supposing that the principles of
Freemasonry had, before the commencement of the undertaking, been communicated
by King Solomon to "the sages and religious men amongst his people," (2) and
that these "chosen ones of Solomon, as a pious and holy duty conducted the
work." Their labours as builders were simply incidental and they were no more
to be regarded by reason of this duty as architects by profession, than were
Abel, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and David by reason of the building of
their altars, which were, like the Temple, works of piety and devotion. (3)
theory, in which all connection between operative and speculative Masonry is
completely dissevered, and in which, in fact, the former is entirely ignored,
is peculiar to Hutchinson. No other writer, no matter to what source he may
have attributed the original rise of speculative Masonry, has denied that
there was some period in the history of its progress when it was more or less
intimately connected with the operative art. While, therefore, it is plain
that the opinion of Hutchinson is in opposition to that of all other Masonic
writers, it is equally evident that it contradicts all the well established
facts of history.
besides these opinions concerning the non‑operative character of the
Institution, Hutchinson has been scarcely less peculiar in his other views in
respect to the rise and progress of Freemasonry and its relations to other
associations of antiquity.
"Spirit of Masonry," lect. x., p. 107. (2) Hutchinson's language is here
somewhat confused, but it seems that this is the only rational interpretation
that can be given to it. (3) "Spirit of Masonry," lect. x., p. 108.
Hutchinsonian theory may indeed be regarded as especially and exclusively his
own. It is therefore worthy of consideration and review, rather in reference
to the novelty of his ideas than in respect to anything of great value in the
pseudo‑historical statements that he has advanced.
prominent thought of Hutchinson in developing his theory is that Masonry in
its progress from the earliest times of antiquity to the present day has been
divided into three stages, respectively represented by the three ancient Craft
does not give a very lucid or satisfactory explanation of the reasons which
induced him to connect each of these "stages of progress" with one of the
symbolical degrees, and indeed the connection appears to be based upon a
rather fanciful hypothesis.
three stages into which he divides the progress of Masonry from its birth
onwards to modern times are distinguished from each other, and distinctively
marked by the code of religious ethics professed and taught by each. The first
stage, which is represented by the Entered Apprentice degree, commences with
Adam and the Garden of Eden and extends to the time of Moses.
religious code taught in this first stage of Masonry was confined to a
"knowledge of the God of Nature and that acceptable service wherewith He was
well pleased." (2)
Adam, while in a state of innocence, this knowledge was imparted, as well as
that of all the science and learning which existed in the earliest ages of the
our first parent fell, although he lost his innocence, he still retained the
memory of all that he had been taught while in the Garden of Eden. This very
retention was, indeed, a portion of the punishment incurred for his
however, enabled him to communicate to his children the sciences which he had
comprehended in Eden, and the knowledge that he had acquired of Nature and the
God of Nature. By them these lessons were transmitted to their descendants as
the cornerstone and foundation of Masonry, whose teachings at that early
is known to the world, but more particularly to the brethren, that there are
three degrees of Masons ‑ Apprentices, Craftsmen, and Masters; their
initiation, and the several advancements from the order of Apprentices, will
necessarily lead us to observations in these distinct channels" ‑ "spirit of
Masonry," lect. i., p. 6. (2) "Spirit of Masonry," lect. i., p. 6.
consisted of a belief in the God of Nature and a knowledge of the sciences as
they had been transmitted by Adam to his posterity. This system appears to
have been very nearly the same as that afterward called by Dr. Oliver the
"Pure Freemasonry of Antiquity."
the descendants of Adam did not, however, retain this purity and simplicity of
dogma. After the deluge, when mankind became separated, the lessons which had
been taught by the antediluvians fell into confusion and oblivion and were
corrupted by many peoples, so that the service of the true God, which had been
taught in the pure Masonry of the first men, was defiled by idolatry. These
seceders from the pure Adamic Masonry formed institutions of their own, and
degenerated, as the first deviation from the simple worship of the God of
Nature, into the errors of Sabaism, or the adoration of the Sun, Moon, and
Stars. They adopted symbols and allegories with which to teach esoterically
their false doctrines. The earliest of these seceders were the Egyptians,
whose priests secreted the mysteries of their religion from the multitude by
symbols and hieroglyphics that were comprehensible to the members of their own
order only. A similar system was adopted by the priests of Greece and Rome
when they established their peculiar Mysteries. These examples of conveying
truth by symbolic methods of teaching were wisely followed by the Masons for
the purpose of concealing their own mysteries.
this we naturally make the deduction, although Hutchinson does not expressly
say so, that, according to his theory, Masonry was at that early period merely
a religious profession " whose principles, maxims, language, learning, and
religion were derived from Eden, from the patriarchs, and from the sages of
the East," and that the symbolism which now forms so essential an element of
the system was not an original characteristic of it, but was borrowed, at a
later period, from the mystical and religious associations of the pagans. (1)
Long after, Mr. Grote, in his "History of Greece," spoke of an hypothesis of
an ancient and highly instructed body of priests having their origin either in
Egypt or the East, who communicated to the rude and barbarous Greeks
religious, physical, and historical knowledge under the veil of symbols. The
same current of thought appears to have been suggested to the Masonic writer
and to the historian of Greece, but each has directed it in a different way ‑
one to the history of the Pagan nations, the other to that of Masonry.
according to the theory of Hutchinson, was the "first stage" in the progress
of Masonry represented by the Entered Apprentice degree, and which consisted
simply of a belief in and a worship of the true God as the doctrine was taught
by Adam and the patriarchs. It was a system of religious principles, with few
rites and ceremonies and fewer symbols.
second stage in the progress of Masonry, which Hutchinson supposes to be
represented by the Fellow Craft degree, commences at the era of Moses and
extends through the whole period of the Jewish history to the advent of
Christianity. According to the theory of Hutchinson, the Jewish lawgiver was,
of course in possession of the pure Masonry of the patriarchs which
constituted the first stage of the institution, but was enabled to extend its
ethical and religious principles in consequence of the instructions in
relation to God and the duties of man which he had himself received by an
immediate revelation. In other words, Masonry in its first stage was
cosmopolitan in its religious teachings, requiring only a belief in the God of
Nature as he had been revealed to Adam and his immediate descendants, but in
the second stage, as inaugurated by Moses, that universal belief was exchanged
for one in the Deity as He had made himself known on Mount Sinai. That is to
say, the second or Mosaic stage of Masonry became judaic in its profession.
another respect Masonry in its second stage assumed a different form from that
which had marked its primitive state. Moses, from his peculiar education, was
well acquainted with the rites, the ceremonies, the hieroglyphs, and the
symbols used by the Egyptian priesthood.
of these he introduced into Masonry, and thus began that system which, coming
originally from the Egyptians and subsequently augmented by derivations from
the Druids, the Essenes, the Pythagoreans, and other mystical associations, at
last was developed into that science of symbolism which now constitutes so
important and essential a characteristic of modern Freemasonry.
third change in the form of Masonry, which took place in its Mosaic or Judaic
stage, was the introduction of the operative art of building among its
disciples. Instances of this occurred in the days of Moses, when Aholiab,
Bezaleel, and other Masons were engaged in the construction of the Tabernacle,
and subsequently in the time of Solomon, when that monarch occupied his Masons
in the erection of the Temple.
as has already been shown in a preceding part of this chapter, Hutchinson does
not conclude from these facts that Masonry was ever connected in its origin
with "builders, architects, or mechanics." The occupation of these Masons as
builders was entirely accidental, and did not at all interfere with or
supersede their character as members of a purely speculative association.
may be as well to give, at this point, in his own words, his explanation of
the manner in which the Masons became, on certain occasions, builders, and,
whence arose in modern times the erroneous idea that the Masonic profession
consisted of architects. (1)
presume," he says, "that the name of Mason in this society doth not denote
that the rise or origin of such society was solely from builders, architects,
or mechanics; at the times in which Moses ordained the setting up of the
sanctuary, and when Solomon was about to build the Temple at Jerusalem, they
selected from out of the people those men who were enlightened with the true
faith, and, being full of wisdom and religious fervour, were found proper to
conduct these works of piety. It was on those occasions that our predecessors
appeared to the world as architects and were formed into a body, under
salutary rules, for the government of those who were employed in these great
works, since which period builders have adopted the name of Masons, as an
honourary distinction and title to their profession. I am induced to believe
the name of Mason has its derivation front a language in which it implies some
indication or distinction of the nature of the society, and
it has not its relation to architects." (2)
Masonry was not organized at the Temple of Solomon, as is believed by those
who adopt the Temple theory, but yet that building occupies, according to the
views of Hutchinson, an important place in the history of the institution. It
was erected during the second stage of the progress of Masonry not, as we must
infer from the language of our author, by the heathen operatives of Tyre, but
solely by Israelitish Masons; or, if assisted by any, it was only by
proselytes who on or before their initiation had accepted the Jewish faith.
a subsequent lecture (xiii.) he attempts, in an historical argument, to show
that the guild of Masons incorporated in the reign of Henry V., and the laws
concerning "congregations and confederacies of Masons," passed in the
succeeding reign, had no reference whatever to the speculative society. (2)
"Spirit of Masonry," lect. i., p. 2. In another place in this work the
etymological ideas of Hutchinson and other writers will be duly investigated.
language of Hutchinson is on this point somewhat obscure, yet I think that it
admits only of the interpretation which has been given He says: "As the sons
of Aaron alone were admitted to the holy office and to the sacrificial rites,
so none but devotees were admitted to this labour (on the temple). On this
stage we see those religious who had received the truth and the light of
understanding as possessed by the first men, embodied as artificers and
engaged in this holy work as architects." (1)
more explicit is the following statement, made in a subsequent part of the
work: "Solomon was truly the executor of that plan which was revealed to him
from above; he called forth the sages and religious men amongst his people to
perform the work; he classed them according to their rank in their religious
profession, as the priests of the Temple were stationed in the solemn rites
and ceremonies instituted there.... The chosen ones of Solomon, as a pious and
holy duty, conducted the work." (2)
Solomon did not, therefore, organize, as has very commonly been believed, a
system of Masonry by the aid of his Tyrian workmen, and especially Hiram Abif,
who has always been designated by the Craft as his "Chief Builder," but he
practiced and transmitted to his descendants the primitive Masonry derived
from Adam and modified into its sectarian Jewish form by Moses. The Masonry of
Solomon, like that of the great lawgiver of the Israelites, was essentially
Judaic in its religious ethics. It was but a continuation of that second stage
of Masonry which, as I have already said, lasted, according to the
Hutchinsonian theory, until the era of Christianity.
the wisdom and power of Solomon had attracted to him the attention of the
neighbouring nations, and the splendour of the edifice which he had erected
extended his fame and won the admiration of the most distant parts of the
world, so that his name and his artificers became the wonder of mankind, and
the works of the latter excited their emulation. Hence the Masons of Solomon
were dispersed from Jerusalem into various lands, where they superintended the
architectural labours of other princes, converted infidels, initiated foreign
mysteries, and thus extended the order over the distant quarters of the known
"Spirit of Masonry," lect. vii., p. 86.
Ibid., lect. x., p. 108. (3) I have employed in this paragraph the very
language of Hutchinson. However mythical the statements therein contained may
be deemed by the iconoclasts, there can be no doubt that they were accepted by
the learned author as undeniably historical.
we see that, according to the theory of Hutchinson, King Solomon, although not
the founder of Masonry at the Temple and not our first Grand Master, as he has
been called, was the first to propagate the association into foreign
countries. Until his time, it had been confined to the Jewish descendants of
next or third stage of the progress of Masonry, represented by the Master's
degree, commenced at the advent of Christianity. As Hutchinson in his
description of the two preceding progressive classes of Masons had assigned to
the first, as represented by the Apprentices, only the knowledge of the God of
Nature as it prevailed in the earliest ages of the world, and to the second,
as represented by the Fellow Crafts, the further knowledge of God as revealed
in the Mosaic Legation, so to this third stage, as represented by Master
Masons, he had assigned the complete and perfect knowledge of God as revealed
in the Christian dispensation.
Masonry is thus made by him to assume in this third stage of its progressive
growth a purely Christian character.
introduction of rites and ceremonies under the Jewish law, which had been
derived from the neighbouring heathen nations, had clouded and obscured the
service of God, and consequently corrupted the second stage of Masonry as
established by Moses and followed by Solomon. God, perceiving the ruin which
was overwhelming mankind by this pollution of His ordinances and laws, devised
a new scheme for redeeming His creatures from the errors into which they had
fallen. And this scheme was typified in the Third or Master's stage in the
progressive course of Masonry.
the Master's degree is, in this theory, exclusively a Christian invention; the
legend receives a purely Christian interpretation, and the allegory of Hiram
Abif is made to refer to the death or abolition of the Jewish law and the
establishment of the new dispensation under Jesus Christ.
citations from the language of Hutchinson will place this theory very clearly
before the reader. (1)
death and burial of the Master Builder, and the consequent loss of the true
Word, are thus applied to the Christian dispensation. "Piety, which had
planned the Temple at Jerusalem, was expunged. (2)
They are taken from "Spirit of Masonry," lect. ix.
The Master is slain.
reverence and adoration due to the Divinity was buried in the filth and
rubbish of the world. (1) Persecution had dispersed the few who retained their
obedience, (2) and the name of the true God was almost lost and forgotten
among men. (3)
this situation it might well be said That the guide to Heaven was lost and the
Master of the works of righteousness was smitten.'" (4)
"True religion was fled. 'Those who sought her through the wisdom of the
ancients were not able to raise her; she eluded the grasp, and their polluted
hands were stretched forth in vain for her restoration.'" (5)
Finally he explains the allegory of the Third degree as directly referring to
Christ, in the following words: "The great Father of All, commiserating the
miseries of the world, sent His only Son, who was innocence (6) itself, to
teach the doctrine of salvation, by whom man was raised from the death of sin
unto the life of righteousness; from the tomb of corruption unto the chambers
of hope; from the darkness of despair to the celestial beams of faith." And
finally, that there may be no doubt of his theory that the third degree was
altogether Christian in its origin and design, he explicitly says: "Thus the
Master Mason represents a man under the Christian doctrine saved from the
grave of iniquity and raised to the faith of salvation. As the great
testimonial that we are risen from the state of corruption, we bear the emblem
of the Holy Trinity as the insignia of our vows and of the origin of the
Master's order." (7)
christianization of the Third or Master's degree, that is, the interpretation
of its symbols as referring to Christ and to Christian
Burial and concealment in the rubbish of the Temple first, and then in an
obscure grave. (2) The confusion and consternation of the Craft. (3) The
Master's word is lost. (4) In the 18th century it was supposed, by an
incorrect translation of the Hebrew, that the substitute word signified "The
Master is smitten." Dr. Oliver adopted that interpretation. (5) By "the wisdom
of the ancients" is meant the two preceding stages of Masonry represented, as
we have seen, by the Apprentices and the Fellow Craft. In the allegory of
Hiram, the knowledge of each of these degrees is unsuccessfully applied to
effect the raising. (6) Acacia. The Greek word akakia means innocence. Hence
in the succeeding paragraph he calls Masons "true Acacians." (7) "Spirit of
Masonry," lect. ix., p. 100.
dogmas, is not peculiar to nor original with Hutchinson. It was the accepted
doctrine of almost all his contemporaries, and several of the rituals of the
18th century contain unmistakable traces of it. It was not, indeed, until the
revisal of the lectures by Dr. Hemming; in 1813, that all references in them
to Christianity were expunged. Even as late as the middle of the 19th century,
Dr. Oliver had explicitly declared that if he had not been fully convinced
that Freemasonry is a system of Christian ethics ‑ that it contributes its aid
to point the way to the Grand Lodge above, through the Cross of Christ ‑ he
should never have been found among the number of its advocates. (1)
Notwithstanding that the Grand Lodge of England had authoritatively declared,
in the year 1723, that Masonry required a belief only in that religion in
which all men agree, (2) the tendency among all our early writers after the
revival of 1717 was to Christianize the institution.
interpretation of the symbols of Freemasonry from a Christian point of view
was, therefore, at the period when Hutchinson advanced his theory, neither
novel to the Craft nor peculiar to him.
peculiarity and novelty of his doctrine consisted not in its Christian
interpretation of the symbols, but in the view that he has taken of the origin
and historical value of the legend of the Third degree.
least from the time of Anderson and Desaguliers, the legend of Hiram Abif had
been accepted by the Craft as an historical statement of an event that had
actually occurred. Even the most skeptical writers of the present day receive
it as a myth which possibly has been founded upon events that have been
distorted in their passage down the stream of tradition.
neither of these views appears to have been entertained by Hutchinson. We look
in vain throughout his work for any reference to the legend as connected with
Hiram Abif. In his lecture on "The Temple at Jerusalem," in which he gives the
details of the labors of Solomon in the construction of that edifice, the name
of Hiram does not once occur, except in the extracts that he makes from the
Book of Kings and the Antiquities of Josephus. Indeed,
"Antiquities of Masonry," chap. vi., p. i66, note. (2) "Book of
Constitutions," 1st ed., "Charges of a Freemason," I.
must infer that he did not recognize Hiram Abif as a Mason, for he expressly
says that all the Masons at the Temple were Israelites and believers in the
subsequent lecture, on "The Secrecy of Masons," he, in fact, undervalues Hiram
Abif as an architect, and says that he does not doubt that "Hiram's knowledge
was in the business of a statuary and painter, and that he made graven images
of stone and wood and molten images in metals," thus placing him in a
subordinate position, and completely ignoring the rank given to him in all the
Masonic rituals, as the equal and colleague of Solomon and the Master Builder
of the Temple. (1)
is nowhere to be found in the work of Hutchinson any reference,
however remote, to the circumstances of the death and raising of the "Widow's
Son." He must have been acquainted with the legend, since it was preserved and
taught in the lodges that he visited. But he speaks, in the most general
terms, of the third degree as symbolizing the corruption and death of
religion, and the moral resurrection of man in the new or Christian doctrine.
believed in the truth of his own theory ‑ and we are bound to suppose that he
did ‑ then he could not but have looked upon the details of the Master's
legend as absolutely false, for the legend and the theory can in no way be
rightly understand the language of Hutchinson, which, it must be admitted, is
sometimes confused and the ideas are not plainly expressed, he denies the
existence of the third degree at the Temple.
edifice was built, according to his theory, within the period of the second
stage of the progress of Masonry. Now, that stage, which was inaugurated by
Moses, was represented by the Fellow Craft's degree. It was not until the
coming of Christ that the Master's degree with its rites and ceremonies came
into existence, in the third stage of the progress of Masonry, which was
represented by that degree. Indeed, in the following passage he explicitly
makes that statement.
ceremonies now known to Masons prove that the testimonials and insignia of the
Master's order, in the present state of
Hutchinson bas here ventured on a truth which, however, none of his successors
have accepted. See hereafter the chapter in this work on "The Legend of Hiram
Abif," in which I bave advanced and endeavored to sustain the same view of the
character of this celebrated artist.
Masonry, were devised within the ages of Christianity; and we are confident
there are not any records in being, in any nation or in any language, which
can show them to be pertinent to any other system or give them greater
not explain this language with any respect for consistency and for the meaning
of the words except by adopting the following explanation of the Hutchinsonian
theory. At the building of the Temple, the Masonry then prevailing, which was
the second or Fellow Crafts stage, was merely a system of religious ethics in
which the doctrines of the Jewish faith, as revealed to Moses, had been
superimposed upon the simple creed of the Patriarchs, which had constituted
the first or Apprentice's stage of the institution. There was at that time no
knowledge of the legend of Hiram Abif, which was a myth subsequently
introduced in the Third or Master's stage of the progress of the Order. It was
not until after the advent of Jesus Christ, "within the ages of Christianity,"
that the death and raising of the Master Builder was devised as a mythical
symbol to constitute what Hutchinson calls "the testimonials and insignia of
the Master's order."
myth or legend thus fabricated was to be used as a symbol of the change which
took place in the religious system of Masonry when the third stage of its
progress was inaugurated by the invention of the Master's degree.
again Hutchinson differs from all the writers who preceded or who have
followed him. The orthodox doctrine of all those who have given a Christian
interpretation to the legend of the Third Degree is that it is the narrative
of events which actually occurred at the building of the Temple of Solomon,
and that it was afterward, on the advent of Christianity, adopted as a symbol
whereby the death and raising of Hiram Abif were considered as a type of the
sufferings and death, the resurrection and ascension, of Christ.
words of Hutchinson give expression to any such idea. With him the legend of
Hiram the Builder is simply an allegory, invented at a much later period than
that in which the events it details are supposed to have occurred, for the
purpose of symbolizing
"Spirit of Masonry," lect. x., p. 1,062. It is "passing strange" that a man of
Hutchinson's learning should, in this passage, have appeared to be oblivious
of the mythical character of the ancient Mysteries.
death and burial of the Jewish law with the Masonry which it had corrupted,
and the resurrection of this defunct Masonry in a new and perfect form under
the Christian dispensation.
is the Hutchinsonian theory of the origin and progress of Masonry.
sui generis ‑ peculiar to Hutchinson ‑ and has been advanced or maintained by
no other Masonic writer before or since. It may be summarized in a very few
Masonry was first taught by Adam, after the fall, to his descendants, and
continued through the patriarchal age. It consisted of a simple code of
ethics, teaching only a belief in the God of Nature. It was the Masonry of the
was enlarged by Moses and confirmed by Solomon, and thus lasted until the era
of Christ. To its expanded code of ethics was added a number of symbols
derived from the Egyptian priesthood. Its religion consisted in a belief in
God as he had been revealed to the Jewish nation. It was the Masonry of the
Masonry of this second stage becoming valueless in consequence of the
corruption of the Jewish law, it was therefore abolished and the third stage
was established in its place. This third stage was formed by the teachings of
Christ, and the religion it inculcates is that which was revealed by Him. It
is the Masonry of the Master Mason.
Hence the three stages of Masonry present three forms of religion: first, the
Patriarchal; second, the Jewish; third, the Christian.
Masonry, having thus reached its ultimate stage of progress, has continued in
this last form to the present day. And now Hutchinson proceeds to advance his
theory as to its introduction and growth in England. He had already accounted
for its extension into other quarters of the world in consequence of the
dispersion and travels of King Solomon's Masons, after the completion of the
Temple. He thinks that during the first stage of Masonry ‑ the Patriarchal ‑
its principles were taught and practiced by the Druids. They received them
from the Phoenicians, who visited England for trading purposes in very remote
antiquity. The second stage ‑ the Judaic ‑ was with its ceremonials introduced
among them by the Masons of Solomon, after the building of the Temple, but at
what precise period he can not determine. The third and perfect form, as
developed in the third stage, must have been adopted upon the conversion of
the Druidical worshippers to Christianity, having been introduced into
England, as we should infer, by the Christian missionaries who came from Rome
into that country.
Hutchinson denies that there was ever any connection between the Operative and
the Speculative Masons, he admits that among the former there might have been
a few of the latter. He accounts for this fact in the following manner:
Christianity had become the popular religion of England, the ecclesiastics
employed themselves in founding religious houses and in building churches.
From the duty of assisting in this pious work, no man of whatever rank or
profession was exempted. There were also a set of men called "holy werk folk,"
to whom were assigned certain lands which they held by the tenure of
repairing, building, or defending churches and sepulchers, for which labors
they were released from all feudal and military services. These men were
stone‑cutters and builders, and might, he thinks, have been Speculative
Masons, and were probably selected from that body. "These men," he says, "come
the nearest to a similitude of Solomon's Masons, and the title of Free and
Accepted Masons, of any degree of architects we have gained any knowledge of."
But he professes his ignorance whether their initiation was attended with
peculiar ceremonies or by what laws they were regulated. That they had any
connection with the Speculative Order whose origin from Adam he had been
tracing, is denied.
Finally, he attributes the moral precepts of the Masonry of the present day to
the school of Pythagoras and to the Basilideans, a sect of Christians who
flourished in the 2d century. For this opinion, so far as relates to
Pythagoras, he is indebted to the celebrated Leland manuscript, of whose
genuineness he had not the slightest doubt.
precepts and the Egyptian symbols introduced by Moses with Jewish additions
constitute the system of modern Masonry, which has, however, been perfected by
a Christian doctrine.
is the theory of Hutchinson as to the origin and progress of Speculative
Masonry. That it has been accepted as a whole by no other writer, is not
surprising, as it not only is not supported by the facts of history, but is
actually contradicted by every Masonic document that is extant.
indeed, a mere body of myths, which are not clad with the slightest garment of
yet there are here and there some glimmerings of truth, such as the
appropriation of his real character to Hiram Abif, and the allusions to the
"holy werk folk," as showing a connection between Operative and Speculative
Masonry, which, though not pushed far enough by Hutchinson, may afford
valuable suggestions, if extended, to the searcher after historic truth in
commendation of the Rev. Dr. Oliver as a learned and prolific writer on
Freemasonry, too much can not be said. His name must ever be clarum et
venerabile among the Craft. To the study of the history and the philosophy of
the Institution he brought a store of scholarly acquirements, and a
familiarity with ancient and modern literature which had been possessed by no
Masonic author who had preceded him. Even Hutchinson, who certainly occupied
the central and most elevated point in the circle of Masonic students and
investigators who flourished in the 18th century must yield the palm for
erudition to him whose knowledge of books was encyclopedical.
numerous works on Freemasonry, of which it is difficult to specify the most
important, the most learned, or the most interesting, Dr. Oliver has raised
the Institution of Masonry to a point of elevation which it had never before
reached, and to which its most ardent admirers had never aspired to promote
loved it for its social tendencies, for he was genial in his inclination and
in his habits, and he cherished its principles of brotherly love, for his
heart was as expanded as his mind. But he taught that within its chain of
union there was a fund of ethics and philosophy, and a beautiful science of
symbolism by which its ethics was developed to the initiated, which awakened
scholars to the contemplation of the fact never before so completely
demonstrated, that Speculative Masonry claimed and was entitled to a prominent
place among the systems of human philosophy.
longer could men say that Freemasonry was merely a club of good fellows.
Oliver had proved that it was a school of inquirers after truth.
longer could they charge that its only design was the cultivation of kindly
feelings and the enjoyment of good cheer. He had shown that it was engaged in
the communication to its disciples of abstruse doctrines of religion and
philosophy in a method by which it surpassed every other human scheme for
imparting such knowledge.
notwithstanding this eulogium, every word of which is merited by its subject,
and not one word of which would I erase, it must be confessed that there were
two defects in his character that materially affect the value of his authority
as an historian.
was, that as a clergyman of the Church of England he was controlled by that
clerical espirit du corps which sought to make every opinion subservient to
his peculiar sectarian views. Thus, he gave to every symbol, every myth, and
every allegory the interpretation of a theologian rather than of a
other defect, a far more important one, was the indulgence in an excessive
credulity, which led him to accept the errors of tradition as the truths of
history. In reading one of his narratives, it is often difficult to separate
the two elements. He so glosses the sober facts of history with the fanciful
coloring of legendary lore, that the reader finds himself involved in an
inextricable web of authentic history intermixed with unsupported tradition,
where he finds it impossible to discern the true from the fabulous.
canon of criticism laid by Voltaire, that all historic certainty that does not
amount to a mathematical demonstration is merely extreme probability, is far
too rigorous. There are many facts that depend only on contemporaneous
testimony to which no more precise demonstration is applied, and which yet
leave the strong impression of certainty on the mind. But here, as in all
other things, there is a medium ‑ a measure of moderation ‑ and it would have
been well if Dr. Oliver had observed it. But not having done so, his theory is
founded not simply on the Legend of the Craft, of which he takes but little
account, but on obscure legends and traditions derived by him, in the course
of his multifarious reading, sometimes from rabbinical and sometimes from
unknown sources. (1)
divides the legends of Masonry into two classes, neither of which embraces the
incredible. He says that "many of them are founded in fact, and capable of
unquestionable proof, whilst others are based on Jewish traditions, and
consequently invested with probability, while they equally inculcate and
enforce the most solemn and important truths" ‑ "Historical Landmarks," vol. i.,
theoretical views of Oliver as to the origin and progress of Masonry from a
legendary point of view are so scattered in his various works that it is
difficult to follow them in a chronological order. This is especially the case
with the legends that relate to the periods subsequent to the building of the
Temple at Jerusalem. Up to that era, the theory is enunciated in his
Antiquities of Freemasonry, upon which I shall principally depend in this
condensation. It was, it is true, written in the earlier part of his life, and
was his first contribution to the literature of Masonry, but he has not in any
of his subsequent writings modified the views he there entertained. This work
may therefore be considered, as far as it goes, as an authoritative exposition
of his theory. His Historical Landmarks, the most learned and most interesting
of his works, if we except, perhaps, his History of Initiation, will furnish
many commentaries on what he has advanced in his Antiquities, but as it is
principally devoted to an inquiry into the origin and interpretation of the
symbols and allegories of Masonry, we can not obtain from its pages a
connected view of his theory.
Preston had introduced his history of Masonry by the assertion that its
foundations might be traced "from the commencement of the world." Dr. Oliver
is not content with so remote an origin, but claims, on the authority of
Masonic traditions, that the science "existed before the creation of this
globe, and was diffused amidst the numerous systems with which the grand
empyreum of universal space is furnished." (1)
he supposes that the globes constituting the universe were inhabited long
before the earth was peopled, and that these inhabitants must have repossessed
a system of ethics founded on the belief in God, which he says is nothing else
but Speculative Masonry, we may regard this opinion as merely tantamount to
the expression that truth is eternal.
Passing by this empyreal notion as a mere metaphysical idea, let us begin with
Oliver's theory of the mundane origin of the science of Masonry.
in the Garden of Eden, Adam was taught that science which is now termed
Masonry. (2) After his fall, he forfeited the gift of inspiration, but
certainly retained a recollection of those degrees
"Antiquities," Period I., ch. ii., P. 26. (2) Oliver, " Antiquities," I., ii.,
knowledge which are within the compass of human capacity, and among them that
speculative science now known as Freemasonry. (1)
in the course of time, he communicated to his children. Of these children,
Seth and his descendants preserved and cultivated the principles of Masonry
which had been received from Adam, but Cain and his progeny perverted and
finally abandoned it. However, before his complete secession, the latter, with
some of his descendants, reduced the knowledge he had received from Adam to
practice, and built a city which he called Hanoch. The children of Lamech, the
sixth in descent from Cain, also retained some faint remains of Masonry, which
they exerted for the benefit of mankind.
in this way that Dr. Oliver attempts to reconcile the story of the children of
Lamech, as detailed in the Legend of the Craft, with his theory, which really
ousts Cain and all his descendants from the pale of Masonry. The sons of
Lamech were Masons, but their Masonry had been greatly corrupted.
Oliver makes the usual division of Masonry into Operative and Speculative. The
former continued to be used by the Cainites after they had lost all
pretensions to the latter, and the first practical application of the art was
by them in the building of the city of Hanoch, or, as it is called in Genesis,
Masonry was divided, as to its history, into two distinct streams, that of the
Operative and that of the Speculative; the former cultivated by the
descendants of Cain, the latter by those of Seth. It does not, however, appear
that the Operative branch was altogether neglected by the Sethites, but was
only made subordinate to their Speculative science, while the latter was
entirely neglected by the Cainites, who devoted themselves exclusively to the
Operative art. Finally they abandoned it and were lost in the corruptions of
their race, which led to their destruction in the flood.
Speculative stream, however, flowed on uninterruptedly to the time of Noah.
Oliver does not hesitate to say that Seth, "associating himself with the most
virtuous men of his age, they formed lodges and discussed the great principles
of Masonry," and were called by their contemporaries the "Sons of Light."
continued to preside over the Craft until the time of
Oliver, " Antiquities," I., ii., 40.
when he appointed that patriarch as his successor and Grand Superintendent.
as Grand Master, practiced Masonry with such effect that God vouchsafed to
reveal to him some peculiar mysteries, among which was the sacred WORD, which
continues to this day to form an important portion of Masonic speculation, and
for the preservation of which from the impending destruction of the world he
constructed a subterranean edifice in which he concealed the sacred treasure.
He also erected two pillars, one of brass and one of stone, on which he
engraved the elements of the liberal sciences, including Masonry. (2) Enoch
then resigned the government of the Craft to Lamech, who afterward surrendered
it to Noah, in whose hands it remained until the occurrence of the flood.
is Oliver's legendary narrative of the progress of Masonry from the creation
to the flood. The Craft were organized into lodges and were governed during
that long period by only five Grand Masters ‑ Adam, Seth, Enoch, Lamech, and
Institution existing at that time he gives the appropriate title of
"Antediluvian Masonry," and also that of "Primitive Masonry."
character he says that it had but few symbols or ceremonies, and was indeed
nothing else but a system of morals or pure religion. Its great object was to
preserve and cherish the promise of a Messiah.
renewal of the world by the subsidence of the waters of the deluge, it was
found that though Enoch's pillar of brass had given way before the torrent of
destruction, the pillar of stone had been preserved, and by this means the
knowledge of the state of Masonry before the flood was transmitted to
sons of Noah, all of whom had been taught the pure system of Masonry by their
father, Shem and his descendants alone preserved it.
and Japhet leaving; dispersed into Airica and Europe, their descendants became
idolaters and lost the true principles
Anderson gives the direction of the Craft, after Seth, successively to Enoch,
Kainan, Mahalaleel, and Jared, whom Enoch succeeded. Const. 2d edit., p. 3.
(2) This legend of the vault of Enoch was not known to the mediaeval Masons.
It forms, therefore, no part of the ritual of Ancient Craft Masonry. It is an
invention of a later period, and is recognized only by the more modern "high
degrees." The form of the legend as known to Anderson in 1722 was that he
erected pillars on which the science of Masonry was inscribed.
Masonry, which consisted in the worship of the one true God. The descendants
of Japhet not only fell from the worship of God and embraced the adoration of
idols, but they corrupted the form of Masonry by the establishment on its
basis of a system of secret rites which are known in history as the
secession of the children of Japhet from the true system which their ancestor
had received from Noah, has been called by Dr. Oliver "Spurious Freemasonry,"
while that practiced by the descendants of Shem he styles "Pure Freemasonry."
these two divisions the Spurious Freemasons were more distinguished for their
cultivation of the Operative art, while the Pure Freemasons, although not
entirely neglectful of Operative Masonry, particularly devoted themselves to
the preservation of the truths of the Speculative science.
communicated the secrets of Pure Freemasonry to Abraham, through whose
descendants they were transmitted to Moses, who had, however, been previously
initiated into the Spurious Masonry of the Egyptians.
Masonry, which had suffered a decay during the captivity of the Israelites in
Egypt, was revived in the wilderness by Moses, who held a General Assembly,
and, as the first act of the reorganized Institution, erected the Tabernacle.
this time Masonry was almost exclusively confined to the Jewish nation, and
was propagated through its judges, priests, and kings to the time of Solomon.
Solomon was about to erect the Temple at Jerusalem, he called to his
assistance the artists of Tyre, who were disciples of the Spurious Masonry and
were skillful architects, as members of the Dionysiac fraternity of
this association of the Tyrian Masons of the spurious order with the Jewish
workmen who practiced the pure system, the two classes were united, and King
Solomon reorganized the system of Freemasonry as it now exists.
the subsequent extension of Masonry throughout the world and its establishment
in England, Dr. Oliver adopts the legendary histories of both Anderson and
Preston, accepting as genuine every mythical narrative and every manuscript.
From the Leland manuscript he quotes as if he were citing an authority
universally admitted to be authentic.
Receiving the narrative of the General Assembly which was called at York by
Prince Edwin as an event of whose occurrence there can be no possible doubt,
he claims that the Halliwell poem is a veritable copy of the Constitutions
enacted by that Assembly.
subject of the religious character of Freemasonry, Dr. Oliver in the main
agrees with Hutchinson, that it is a Christian Institution, and that all its
myths and symbols have a Christian interpretation. He differs from Hutchinson
in this, that instead of limiting the introduction of the Christian element to
the time of Christ, he supposes it to have existed in it, from the earliest
times. Even the Masonry of the patriarchs he believes to have been based upon
the doctrine of a promised Messiah.
his views will be best expressed in his own language, in a passage contained
in the concluding pages of his Historical Landmarks: "The conclusion is
therefore obvious. If the lectures of Freemasonry refer only to events which
preceded the advent of Christ, and if those events consist exclusively of
admitted types of the Great Deliverer, who was preordained to become a
voluntary sacitce for the salvation of mankind, it will clearly follow that
the Order was originally instituted in accordance with the true principles of
the Christian religion; and in all its consecutive steps bears an unerring
testimony to the truth of the facts and of their typical reference to the
founder of our faith."
said, still more emphatically, in a preceding part of the same work, that
"Freemasonry contains scarcely a single ceremony, symbol, or historical
narration which does not apply to this glorious consummation of the divine
economy of the Creator towards his erring creatures"; by which economy he, of
course, means the Christian dispensation and the Christian scheme of
the multifarious essays in which he has treated the subject Dr. Oliver meant
to announce the proposition that in the very earliest ages of the world there
prevailed certain religious truths of vast importance to the welfare and
happiness of mankind, which had been communicated either by direct inspiration
or in some other mode, and which have been traditionally transmitted to the
present day, which truths principally consisted in an assertion of a belief in
God and in a future life, such a proposition will hardly meet with a denial.
he also meant to contend that the transmission of these truths to posterity
and to the present age was committed to and preserved by an order of men, an
association, or a society whose form and features have been retained in the
Freemasonry of the present day, it will, I imagine, be admitted that such a
proposition is wholly untenable. And yet this appears to be the theory that
was entertained by this learned but too credulous scholar.
Temple Legend is a name that I give to that legend or tradition which traces
the origin of Freemasonry as an organized institution to the Temple of Solomon
and to the builders, Jewish and Tyrian, who were employed in the construction
of that edifice.
is the legend that is now almost universally accepted by the great niass of
the Masonic fraternity. Perhaps nine out of ten of the Freemasons of the
present day ‑ that is to say, all those who receive tradition with the
undoubting faith that should be given to history only ‑ conscientiously
believe that Freemasonry, as we now see it, organized into lodges and degrees,
with Grand Masters, Masters, and Wardens, with the same ritual observances,
was first devised by Solomon, King of Israel, and assumed its position as a
secret society during the period when that monarch was engaged in the
construction of the Temple on Mount Moriah. (1)
theory is not a new one. It was probably at first suggested by the passage in
the Legend of the Craft which briefly describes the building of the Temple and
the confirmation by Solomon of the charges which his father David had given to
can be no doubt from this passage in the Legend that the Temple of Solomon
occupied a prominent place in the ideas of the mediaeval Masons. How much use
they made of it in their esoteric ceremonies we, of course, are unable to
learn. It is, however,
a sermon by the Rev. A.N. Keigwin, at the dedication of the Masonic Temple in
Philadelphia (1873), we find the following passage: "Historically, Masonry
dates from the building of the Temple of Solomon.
at the present day disputes this claim." I cite this out of hundreds of
similar passages in other writers, to show how universal among such educated
Masons is the belief in the Temple theory. It is, in fact, very true that only
those scholars who have made the history of the Order an especial study have
any doubts upon the subject.
significant coincidence, if nothing more, that there was a somewhat similar
legend among the "Compagnons de la Tour," those mystical associations of
workmen who sprang up in France about the 12th century, and who are supposed
to have been an offshoot of dissatisfied journeymen from the body of
oppressive Masters, who at that period constituted the ruling power of the
corporate guilds of operative Masons and other crafts.
traditions of this society in reference to the Temple of Solomon are
calculated to throw much light on the ideas which prevailed among the Masons
in respect to the same subject, and as the Temple legends of the "Compagnons"
are better known to us than those of the mediaeval operative Masons, and
finally, as it is not at all unlikely that the ideas of the former were
derived from those of the latter, it will not be inexpedient to take a brief
view of the Temple legend of the Compagnonage.
Compagnons de la Tour have three different legends, each of which traces the
association back to the Temple of Solomon, through three different founders,
which causes the Compagnonage to be divided into three distinct and,
unfortunately, hostile associations. These are the Children of Solomon, the
Children of Maitre Jacques, and the Children of Pere Soubise.
Children of Solomon assert that they were associated into a brotherhood by
King Solomon himself at the building of the Temple.
Children of Maitre Jacques and those of Pere Soubise declare that both of
these workmen were employed at the Temple, and after its completion went
together to Gaul, where they taught the arts which they had learned at
tradition of Maitre Jacques is particularly interesting. He is said to have
been the son of a celebrated architect named Jacquain, who was one of the
chief Masters of Solomon and a colleague of Hiram Abif.
the age of fifteen he was employed as a stone‑cutter. He traveled through
Greece, where he acquired a knowledge of architecture and sculpture. He then
went to Egypt and thence to Jerusalem, where, being engaged in the
construction of the Temple, he fabricated two pillars with such consummate
skill that he was at once received as a Master of the Craft.
The reader will remember the story in the "Legend of the Craft" of one Namus
Grecus, who came from Jerusalem and from the Temple in the time of Charles
Martel and propagated Masonry in France.
not necessary to pursue the legend of the French Compagnonage any further.
Sufficient has been told to show that they traced their origin to the Temple
of Solomon and that the legend referred, to events connected with that
as these traveling journeymen (for thus may we translate their French title)
are known to have separated themselves in the 12th century from the
corporations of Master Workmen in consequence of the narrow and oppressive
policy of these bodies, making what in modern times would be called a "
strike," it is reasonable to suppose that they carted Nvkh them into their new
and independent organization many of the customs, ceremonies, and traditions
which they had learned from the main body or Master's guilds of which they
were an offshoot. Therefore, although we have not been able to find any legend
or tradition of the medioeval operative Masons which traced their origin to
the Temple of Solomon, yet as we find such a tradition prevailing among an
association of workmen who, as we know, were at one time identified with the
Operative Masons and seceded from them on a question of policy, we have a
reasonable right to believe that the legend of the Compagnons de la Tour, or
Traveling journeymen, which traced their origin to the Temple of Solomon, was
derived by them from the Corporations of Masters or Guilds of Operative
Masons, among whom it was an accepted tradition.
therefore we have in this way the foundation for a reasonable belief that the
Legend of the Temple origin of Masonry is older than the era of the Revival in
the beginning of the 18th century, and that it had been a recognized doctrine
among the operative Masons of the Middle Ages.
absence of the Legend in any formal detail from all the old manuscripts does
not prove that there was no such Legend, for being of an esoteric character,
it may, from conscientious motives, or in obedience to some regulation, never
have been committed to writing.
is, however, a mere supposition and can not in any way interfere with
deductions drawn from positive data in reference to the Legend of the Third
Degree. There may have been a Temple Legend, and yet the details narrated in
it may have been very incomplete and not have included the events related in
the former Legend.
first reference in the old records to the Temple of Solomon as connected with
the origin of Freemasonry is to be found in the Cooke MS. and is in the
tyme that the children of isrl dwellid in Egypte they lernyd the craft of
masonry. And afterward they were driven, out of Egypte they come into the lond
of bihest (promise) and is now callyd Jerl'm (Jerusalem) and it was ocupied
and chsrgys yholde. And the makyng of Salomonis tempull that kyng David began.
Kyng David lovyd well masons and he gaf hem rygt nye as thay be nowe. And at
the makyng of the temple in Salomonis tyme as hit is seyd in the bibull in the
iij boke of Regum in teicio Regum capito quinto (i Kings, Cap. 5) That Salomon
had iiii score thowsand masons at his werko. And the kyngis sone of Tyry was
his master mason, And (in) other cronyclos hit is seyd and in olde bokys of
masonry that Salomon confirmed the chargys that David his fadir had geve to
masons. And Salomon hymself taught hem here (their) maners (customs) but
lityll differans fro the maners that now ben usyd. And fro thens this worthy
sciens was brought into Fraunce and into many other regions." (1)
Dowland MS., whose supposed date is some fifty or sixty years later than the
Cooke, gives substantially the same Legend, but with the additional
circumstances, that David learned the charges that he gave, from Egypt, where
they had been made by Euclid; that he added other charges to these; that
Solomon sent into various countries for Masons, whom he gathered together;
that the name of the King of Tyre was Iram, and that of his son, who was
Solomon's chief Master, was Aynon; and finally that he was a Master of
Geometry and of carving and graving.
this brief narrative, the first edition of which dates back as far as the
close of the 15th century, we see the germs of the fuller Legend which
prevails among the Craft at the present day. That there was an organization of
Masons with "Charges and Manners," that is, laws and customs at the building
of the Temple of Jerusalem, and that King Solomon was assisted in the work by
the King of Tyre and by a skillful artist who had been sent to him by Hiram,
are the two most important points in the theory of the Temple origin of
Masonry, and both are explicitly stated in these early legends. We next find
the Legend repeated, but with more
Cooke MS., lines 539 ‑ 575.
elaborate details, most of which, however, are taken from the Book of Kings as
referred to in the Legend of the Craft by Anderson, in the first edition of
the Constitutions, and with a few additional particulars in the second edition
of the same work.
Preston, the next important Masonic writer after Anderson, does not indeed
relate or refer to the Legend in any part of his Illustrations of Masonry, but
the theory that Masonry found its origin at the Temple is to be deduced from
the historical traditions contained in the third lecture of the Prestonian
system, from which Webb derived it, and has perpetuated it among American
Masons to the present day.
Hutchinson, who followed Preston, although, as has been seen, he inclined to a
remoter origin of the Order, repeatedly refers in his spirit of Masonry, and
especially in his Sixth Lecture, to the Temple of Solomon as the place where
"the true craftsmen were proved in their work," and where Solomon
distinguished them into different ranks, giving to each appropriate signs and
secret tokens, and organized them for the first time into an association of
builders, the predecessors of the Masons being previous to that time sages
who, though acquainted with the principles of geometry and architecture, were
engaged solely in philosophical speculations. In this way Hutchinson gave the
weight of his influence in favor of the Legend which ascribed the origin of
operative and speculative Masonry to Solomon and to his Temple, although his
views on this subject differ from those of other writers.
Oliver, one of the latest and the most prolific of the legendary writers,
although in his own theory he seeks to trace the origin of Freemasonry to a
much more remote antiquity, yet speaks so much in detail in most of his works,
but principally in his Antiquities and in his Historical Landmarks, of the
system which was for the first time organized at the building of the Solomonic
Temple, that most readers who do not closely peruse his writings and carefully
scan his views are under the impression that he had fully adopted the Legend
of the Temple origin, and hence his authority has been lent to the popular
Existing, as may be supposed from the analogy of a similar legend of the
Compagnons de la Tour, among the craftsmen of the Middle Ages; transmitted to
the Revival era of the beginning of the 18th century, and since then taught in
all the rituals and sustained by the best Masonic writers up to a recent
period, this Legend of the Temple origin of Freemasonry, or, in plainer words,
the theory that Freemasonry received at the time of the building of the Temple
of Jerusalem that form and organization which it holds at the present day, has
been and continues to be a dogma of faith implicitly believed by the masses of
well, therefore, that we should now see what precisely is the form and
substance of this popular Legend. As received at the present day by the body
of the Craft, it may be stated as follows:
Solomon was about to commence the building of his Temple, his own people not
being expert or experienced architects, he applied to his friend Hiram, the
monarch of the neighboring kingdom of Tyre, for assistance. Hiram, in
complying with his request, sent to him a numerous body of workmen, and at
their head a distinguished artist called, as a mark of distinction, Hiram Abif,
(1) equivalent to the title, "Hiram his father," who is described as "a
cunning man endued with understanding."
Solomon then proceeded to organize the institution into a form, which has been
adopted as the model of that which exists at the present day in every country
where Freemasonry exists. The Legend that contains the classification of the
workmen at the Temple, which has been adopted in the rituals of modern
Masonry, is delved partly from Scipture and partly from tradition. An
examination of it will not be inappropriate.
are two accounts, slightly conflicting, in the Scriptural narrative. In the
Second Book of Chronicles, chapter ii., verses 17 and 18, are the following
Solomon numbered all the strangers that were in the land of Israel, after the
number wherewith David his father had numbered them, and there were found an
hundred and fifty thousand and three thousand and six hundred.
he set three score and ten thousand of them to be bearers of burdens and four
score thousand to be hewers in the mountains and three thousand six hundred
overseers to set the people at work."
same numerical details are given in the second verse of the
Hiram Abif a more detailed account will be given when we come to consider the
legend connected with him.
chapter. Again in the First Book of Kings, chapter v., verses 13 and 14, it is
King Solomon raised a levy out of all Israel; and the levy was thirty thousand
he sent them to Lebanon, ten thousand a month by courses; a month they were in
Lebanon, and two months at home: and Adoniram was over the levy."
Legend of the Craft this enumeration was not strictly adhered to.
Cooke MS. says that there were "four score thousand masons at work," out of
whom three thousand were chosen as Masters of the work.
Landsdowne MS. says that the number of Masons was twenty‑four thousand. But
this number must have been a clerical error of the copyist in which he is
followed only by the Antiquity MS. All the other manuscripts agree with the
Dowland and make the number of Masons eighty thousand, including the three
thousand overseers or Masters of the Work.
statement does not accord with that which is in the Book of Kings nor with
that in Chronicles, and yet it is all that the Legend of the Craft furnishes.
Anderson, who was the first author after the Revival who made an enumeration
and classification of the workmen at the Temple, abandoned the Legend
altogether and made up his account from the Bible. This he published in the
first edition of the Constitutions and tempered it with some traditional
information, whence derived I do not know. But it is on this classification by
Anderson that all the rituals that have been in use since his time are framed.
Hence he may justly be considered as the author of the Legend of the Workmen
at the Temple; for notwithstanding the historical element which it contains,
derived from Scripture, there are so many traditional interpolations that it
properly assumes a legendary character.
Anderson's account is that there were employed on the building three thousand
six hundred Master Masons, to conduct the work according to Solomon's
directions; eighty thousand hewers of stone in the mountains who he says were
Fellow Craftsmen, and seventy thousand laborers who were not Masons, besides
the levy of thirty thousand who worked under the superintendence of Adoniram,
making in all one hundred and eighty‑three thousand six hundred. For this
great number, Anderson says Solomon was "much obliged" to Hiram, King of Tyre,
who sent his Masons and carpenters to Jerusalem.
this immense number of builders and laborers, Anderson says that King Solomon
presided as Grand Master at Jerusalem, King Hiram in the same capacity at Tyre,
and Hiram Abif was the Master of Work.
Fifteen years afterward, Anderson, in the second edition of his Constitutions
somewhat modified these views and added certain other particulars. He promotes
Hiram Abif from the position of Magister Operis or Master of the Work, to that
of Deputy Grand Master in Solomon's absence and to that of Senior Grand Warden
in his presence. He also says:
"Solomon partitioned the Fellow Crafts into certain Lodges with a Master and
Wardens in each; that they might receive commands in a regular
manner, might take care of their tools and jewels, might be paid every week,
and be duly fed and clothed, etc., and the Fellow Crafts took care of their
succession by educating Entered Apprentices." (1)
Anderson adds in a marginal note that his authority for this statement is "the
traditions of old Masons, who talk much of these things."
such a tradition ever existed, it is now lost, for it can not be found in any
of the old manuscripts which are the record of the Masonic traditions. It is
admitted that similar usages were practiced by the Operative Masons of the
Middle Ages, but we have no historical authority, nor even legendary, outside
of Anderson's work, for tracing them to the Temple of Jerusalem.
these materials the ritualists have manufactured a Legend; which exists in all
the Masonic rituals and which must have been constructed in London, at a very
early period after the Revival, to have secured such an universal acceptance
among all the nations who derived their Masonry from the Grand Lodge of
England. The Legend of the Temple origin of Masonry, as generally accepted by
the Craft at the present day, is that there were one hundred and fifty‑three
thousand, three hundred workmen employed in the construction of the Temple.
Three thousand three hundred of these were overseers, who were among as well
as over the Craft, but who at
Constitutions," 2d edit., p. 13.
completion of the Temple were promoted to the rank of Master Masons. The
remaining workmen were divided into eighty thousand Fellow Crafts and seventy
thousand Entered Apprentices.
Grand Masters presided over the large number of workmen, namely, Solomon, King
of Israel; Hiram, King of Tyre, and Hiram Abif. These were the only persons
who at the building of the Temple were Master Masons and in possession of the
secrets of the Third Degree.
statement in the ritual is that the workmen were divided into Lodges.
Lodge of Master Masons, for there could be only one of that degree, consisted
of three members; the Lodges of Fellow Crafts, of which there must have been
sixteen thousand, was composed of five members each; and the Lodges of Entered
Apprentices, of which there must have been ten thousand, was composed of seven
this statement has neither historical authority nor logical possibility to
support it, it must be considered, as it undoubtedly was originally intended
to be considered, merely as a reference to the symbolic character of those
sacred numbers in Masonry ‑ three, five, and seven. In the same spirit of
symbolic reference the steps of the winding stairs leading to the middle
chamber were divided into a series of three, five, and seven, with the
addition in the English ritual of nine and eleven. All of this is, therefore,
to be rejected from the class of legends and referred to that of symbols.
Viewing then this Legend or theory of the origin of Masonry at the Temple,
tracing it from the almost nude state in which it is presented in the Legend
of the Craft through the extraneous clothing which was added by Anderson and I
suppose by Desaguliers, to the state of tinsel ornamentation in which it
appears in the modern ritual, we will come to the following conclusion:
Legend of ihe Craft we find only the following statement: That King Solomon
was assisted in the building of the Temple by the King of Tyre, who sent him
materials for the edifice and a skillful artist, on whose name scarcely any
two of them agree, and whom Solomon appointed as his Master of the Work; that
Solomon invited Masons from all lands and having collected them together at
Jerusalem, organized them into a body by giving them a system of laws and
customs for their government.
most of these facts are sustained by the historical authority of the Books of
Kings and Chronicles, and those that are not have the support of extreme
Solomon, King of Israel, built a Temple in Jerusalem is an historical fact
that can not be doubted or denied. Richard Carlile, it is true, says, "My
historical researches have taught me that that which has been called Solomon's
Temple never existed upon earth; that a nation of people called Israelites
never existed upon earth, and that the supposed history of the Israelites and
their Temple is nothing more than an allegory." (1)
the measure of the moral and mental stature of Carlile has long been taken,
and even among the most skeptical critics he remains alone in his irrational
Doubtless there are Oriental exaggerations in respect to the amount of money
expended and the number of workmen employed on the building, which have been
overestimated. But the simple, naked fact that King Solomon built a temple
remains uncontradicted, and is as historically true and undoubted as that of
the construction of any other public edifice in antiquity.
equally historical that the King of Tyre gave assistance to Solomon in
carrying out his design. However fiercely the skeptics may have attacked
certain portions of the Bible, the Books of Kings and Chronicles have been
placed upon the footing of other ancient historical records and subjeated to
the same canons of criticism.
are distinctly told that Hiram, King of Tyre, "sent masons and carpenters to
David to build him a house; " (2) we learn subsequently that the same Hiram
(some say his son) was equally friendly with Solomon, and although there is no
distinct mention either in Kings or Chronicles that he sent workmen to
Jerusalem, (3) except his namesake, the artificer, yet we may infer that he
did so, from the friendship of the two kings, from the need of Solomon for
expert workmen, and from the fact which we learn from the First Book of Kings,
that the stones for the edifice were hewn by " Solomon's builders and Hiram's
builders and the Giblim." The authorized version, on what authority I know
not, translates this word "Giblim" as "stone‑squarers." They were, however,
Manual of Freemasons," Part I, p. 4.
Chronicles, xiv., i.
are told in i Kings, v., and it is repeated in 2 Chron., ii., that Hiram sent
his workmen to Lebanon to cut down trees. The timber they were to carry to
Joppa, where Solomon was to receive it, and, presumably, the workmen were to
return to the forest.
MONUMENT OF THE THIRD DEGREE
city of Gebal, called by the Greeks, Byblos, which was the principal seat of
the worship and the mysteries of Adonis. The inhabitants were celebrated for
their skill in stone‑carving and in shipbuilding.
we see that there were, according to the Scriptural account, three classes of
Masons engaged at the building of the Temple. First there were the workmen of
Solomon: these were of the "four score thousand hewers in the mountains " (1)
who were taken by Solomon from "the strangers that were in the land of Israel"
(2) ‑ men whom Dr. Adam Clarke supposes to have been not pure Israelites, but
proselytes to the Jewish religion so far as to renounce idolatry and to keep
the precepts of Noah. But we must believe that among these four score thounnd
snangers mtre to be enumerated the workmen who came from Tyre, or there will
be no place allotted to them in the distribution in the First Book of Kings.
The three thousand three hundred who were "over the work," are said to have
been chief officers of Solomon and therefore Israelites, and the remaining
seventy thousand were mere laborers or bearers of burden ‑ a class for whom
Solomon need not have been indebted to the King of Tyre.
Secondly, there were the workmen of Hiram, King of Tyre. These I have already
said were probably, and indeed necessarily, included in the number of four
score thousand strangers or foreigners. The words in the original are amoshim
gherim, men who are foreigners, for Gesenius defines the word gherim, to be
"sojourners, strangers, foreigners, men living out of their country." (3)
Thirdly, we have the Giblim, the inhabitants of the city of Gebal in
Phoenicia, who came to Jerusalem, invited there by Solomon, to assist in the
construction of the Temple, and who must also be reckoned among the four score
the Legend of the Craft is justified in saying; that Solomon "sent after
Masons into divers countries and of divers landes," and that he had "four
score workers of stone and were all named Masons." For these were the
foreigners or sojourners, whom he found in Jerusalem, many of whom had
probably come there on his invitation, and the Tyrians who had been sent to
him by King Hiram, and the Phoenicians, whom he had called out of Gebal on
account of their well‑known skill in stone‑cutting. And all of these
Kings, v., 15.
Chron. ii., 17.
Lexicon, in voce.
amounted to eighty thousand, the number stated in the Books of Kings and
Chronicles, and just the number mentioned in the Legend of the Craft.
will be seen that the Legend of the Craft takes no notice of the levy of
thirty thousand who worked under Adoniram on Mount Lebanon, nor of the seventy
thousand who were employed as bearers of burdens. As the former were merely
wood‑cutters and the latter common laborers, the Legend does not class them
among the Masons, any more than it does the three thousand three hundred who
were, according to the Biblical account, officers of the court of Solomon, who
were appointed merely to overlook the Masons and to see that they worked
faithfully; perhaps also to pay them their wages, or to distribute their food,
and to supervise generally their conduct.
this, the Legend of the Craft differs entirely from the modern rituals, which
have included all these classes, and therefore reckon that at the building of
the Temple there were one hundred and fifty‑three thousand three hundred
Masons, instead of eighty‑thousand. The Legend is certainly more in accord
with the authority of the Bible than are the rituals.
Legend of the Craft is also justified in saying that Solomon organized these
Masons into what might be called a guild, that is, a society or corporation,
(1) by giving them "charges and manners" ‑ in other words, a code of laws and
regulations. On this question the Bible account is silent, but it amounts to
an extreme probability, the nearest approximation to historical evidence, that
there must bave been some regulations enacted for the government of so large a
number of workmen. It is also equally probable that to avoid confusion these
workmen must have been divided into sections, or what, in modern parlance,
would be called "gangs," engaged in various parts of the building and in
different employments. There must have been a higher and more skillful class
occupied in directing the works of these several sections; there must have
been others less skillful and yet competent to discharge the duties of
stone‑cutters and layers, and there must have been another and still inferior
class who were only acquiring the rudiments of the profession.
Founded on these enident propositions, Anderson made his
The Latin original of the Krause MS. calls it "Societas architedonica" ‑ an
division of the workmen at the Temple into the three classes of Master Masons,
Fellow Crafts, and Entered Apprentices. But he abandoned the Legend in calling
the three thousand six hundred officers of King Solomon Master Masons, and
making the whole number, exclusive of the seventy thousand laborers and the
thirty thousand wood‑cutters on Mount Lebanon, eighty‑three thousand, and
afterward stating that there were one hundred and eighty‑three thousand Masons
in all ‑ a contradiction of his own previous statement as well as of the
Legend of the Craft which states the whole number of Masons to have been
modern ritual may, however, be considered as having adopted the Temple of
Jerusalem as a type of that abstruse symbol of a spiritual temple, which
forms, as will be hereafter seen, one of the most important and most
interesting symbolic lessons on which the philosophy of Speculative Masonry
depends. But viewing it as an historical statement, it is devoid of all claims
to credence. The facts stated in the ritual are an outgrowth of those
contained in the Legend of the Craft which it has greatly altered by
unauthorized additions, and it is in entire contradiction to those given in
the Books of Kings and Chronicles.
claim that Freemasonry took its origin at the building of the Temple is
without any historical authority. The Legend of the Craft, upon which, to be
consistent, all Masonic rituals should be founded, assigns its oigin equally
to two other periods ‑ to that of the building of the Tower of Babel, when
Nimrod was Grand Master, and to Egypt under the geometrician Euclid. Why the
Temple of Solomon was exclusively selected by the modern Masons as the
incunabulum of their Order can be only conjecturally accounted for.
not unwilling to believe, for reasons that have been already assigned, that
the Operative or Stone Masons of the Middle Ages had some tradition or Legend
of the origin of the Institution at the Temple of Solomon. If so, I am
inclined to attribute their selection of this in preference to any other
stately edifice of antiquity to these reasons.
mediaeval Masons were, as an association of builders, most intimately
connected with the ecclesiastics of that age. Their principal home at one time
was in the monasteries, they worked under the immediate patronage and
supervision of bishops and abbots, and were chiefly engaged in the
construction of cathedrals and other religious edifices. Private houses at
that early period were mostly built of wood, and the building of them was the
business of carpenters. The treow‑wyr‑hta, literally the tree‑workman, in
modern phrase the carpenter, was one of the most important handicrafts of the
early Anglo‑Saxons. He was the builder of their ships as well as of their
houses, and the trade is frequently spoken of in ancient Saxon documents. He
was constantly employed in the construction of vessels for the carrying on of
trade, or the erection of dwellings for the residences of the people.
stone‑masons was exclusively entrusted the nobler vocation of building
Imbued, from their connection with the priests as well as from their peculiar
employment, with religious sentiments, they naturally looked for the type of
the great cathedrals which they were erecting, not to Pagan temples, however
splendid might be their architecture, but rather to that Jewish cathedral
which had been consecrated on Mount Moriah to the worship of the true God.
Hence the brief notice of that building in the Legend of the Craft was either
the suggestion of that esoteric Legend of the Temple which has not, from its
necessarily oral character, been handed down to us, or if the written Legend
was posterior in time to the oral one, then it was a brief record of it.
do not believe that this lost Legend of the stone‑masons was ever intended to
be historical. It was simply a symbol to illustrate the idea that the Temple
at Jerusalem was the type of all Christian cathedrals.
symbolic Legend, which I suppose to have existed among the stone‑masons of the
Middle Ages, was probably lost before the revival of Masonry in the year 1717.
Anderson therefore framed a new Legend out of the Legend of the Craft, the
Scriptural account, and his own invention.
this Andersonian Legend, simple in the first edition of the Constitutions, but
considerably expanded in the second, the modern ritualists have framed another
Legend, which in many important details differs from Anderson's, from the
Legend of the Craft, and from the account in the Bible.
is the Legend now accepted and believed by the great body of the Craft to be
historically true. That it has no claim to historical credence is evident from
the fact that it is, in its most important details, unauthorized, and in fact
contradicted by the Scriptural account, which is the only authentic memorial
that we have of the transactions that took place at the building of the
moreover, the long period that elapsed between the building of the Temple, a
thousand years before the Christian era, and the time, not earlier than the 3d
century after Christ, during which we have no traces of the existence of such
an architectural association connected with Jewish Masons and transmitted from
them to the Christian architects, presents an extensive lacuna which must be
filled by authentic records, before we can be enabled, as scholars
investigating truth, to consent to the theory that the Freemasons of the
present day are, by uninterrupted successions, the representatives of the
Masons who wrought at King Solomon's Temple.
Legend of the ritual is, in fact, a symbol ‑ but a very important and a very
interesting one, and as such will be fully discussed when the subject of
Masonic symbols comes to be treated in a subsequent part of this work.
LEGEND OF THE DIONYSIAC ARTIFICERS
approach a very interesting topic in the legendary history of Masonry. The
reader has already seen in the last chapter that the Masons of the kingdom of
Tyre were invited to join with the Jewish builders in the
construction of the Temple. Who these Tyrian Masons were, what was their
character, whence they came, and what was the influence exerted by them on the
Jewish workmen with whom they were united in a common labor, are questions
which can only be solved by a reference to what may be called the Legend of
the Dionysiac Artificers.
Legend was entirely unknown to the old Masons of the Middle Ages.
is no reference to it in any of the manuscripts, The brief allusion to the
Dionysiacs of Asia Minor in Robison's anti‑Masonic work does not necessarily
connect them with the Masons of King Solomon. (1)
first writer who appears to have started the theory that the Masons sent by
King Hiram to the King of Israel were members of the Dionysiac
fraternity, is Sir David Brewster, who presented the Legend under the guise of
an historic statement in the History of Freemasonry, published in the
beginning of this century, and the authorship of which, although it was
actually written by him, has been falsely attributed to Alexander Lawrie, the
bookseller of Edinburgh and at the time the Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge
of Scotland. Brewster may therefore, I think, be fairly considered as the
original framer of the Legend.
origin of the mystical and architectural society which Brew‑
"Proofs of a Conspiracy," P. 20.
closely connects with the Masons of the Temple may be given in almost his own
Between 1055 and 1044 years before Christ, or something more than half a
century anterior to the building of the Temple, the inhabitants of Attica,
complaining of the narrowness of their territory and the unfruitfulness of the
soil, went in quest of more extensive and fertile settlements. Being joined by
a number of the inhabitants of the surrounding provinces of Greece, they
sailed to Asia Minor and drove out the inhabitants of that portion of the
western coast from Phoccea in the north to Miletus in the south. To this
narrow strip of land they gave the name of Ionia, because the greatest number
of the adventurers were natives of that Grecian state. After partly subduing
and partly expelling the original inhabitants, they built several towns, of
which one of the principal was Teos.
to this emigration the Greeks had made considerable progress in the arts and
sciences, which the adventurers carried with them into their new territory,
and they introduced into Ionia the Mysteries of Pallas and Dionysus, before
they had become corrupted by the licentiousness of the Athenians.
Especially popular, not only in Ioca but throughout Asia Minor, were the
Mysteries of Dionysus, the Roman Bacchus. In these, as in all the religious
Mysteries of antiquity, there was a funereal legend.
Dionysiac Mysteries the legend of initiation recounted or represented the
death of the demigod Dionysus, the search for and discovery of his body, and
his subsequent restoration to life.
initiations the candidate was made to represent in his own person, the events
connected with the slaying of the hero‑god. After a variety of preparatory
ceremonies, intended to call forth all his fortitude and courage, the aphanism
or mystical death of Dionysus ‑ torn to pieces by the Titans ‑ was presented
in a dramatic form and followed by the confinement or burial of the candidate,
as the representative of Dionysus in the pastos, couch, or coffin, all of
which constituted the first part of the ceremony of initiation. Then began the
search for the remains of Dionysus, which was continued amid scenes of the
greatest confusion and tumult, until at last, the search having been
successful, the morning was turned to joy, light suc‑
Lawrie's "History of Freemasonry," 1st edit., P. 27.
to darkness, and the candidate was invested with the knowledge of the secret
doctrine of the Mysteries ‑ the belief in the existence of one God and a
future and immortal state. (1)
these Mysteries of Dionysus were very intimately connected with a society of
architects. As this association, according to the Legend which we are now
considering, had much to do with the organization of Masonry at the Solomonic
Temple, it is necessary to take a brief notice of its origin and character.
an historical fact that at the time of the building of the Temple at
Jerusalem, there existed at Tyre as well as in other peas of Asia Minor an
association known as the Dionysian Architects, because they joined to the
practice of operative architecture the observance of the religious rites of
the Dionysiac Mysteries.
been already stated that the priests of Dionysus had devoted themselves to the
study and the practice of architecture, and about one thousand years before
the Christian era, or at the time that King Solomon began the construction of
the Temple at Jerusalem, had emigrated from Greece and established themselves
as a society or fraternity of builders in Asia Minor, and devoted themselves
to the construction of temples and other public edifices. (2)
who then reigned over the kingdom of Tyre, and who from his cultivation of the
sciences has been styled the Augustus of his age, is said to have patronized
these religious builders, and to have employed them in the magnificent works
by which he adorned and strengthened his capital.
internal government and the usages of this association were very similar to
those exhibited by the Masonic society in the present day, and which the
legendary theory supposes to have prevailed among the builders of the
fraternity was divided into communities called synoeciae, (3) having houses or
dwellings in common, which might well be com‑ (1) Le meurtre de Bacchus mis a
mort et dechire en pieces par les Titans, et son retour a la vie, ont ete le
sujet d'explications allegoriques tout‑a‑fait analogues a celles que l'on a
donnees de l'enlevement de Proserpine et du meurtre d'Osiris. ‑ Sylvestre de
Tracy in Sainte‑Croix's "Recherches sur les Mysteres du Paganisme" T. ii., p.
86. (2) Chandler says "the Dionysiasts were artificers or contractors for the
Asiatic theaters, and were incorporated and settled at Teos, under the Kings
of Pergamum." ‑ "Travels in Asia Minor," vol. i., ch. xxviii., p. 123. [This
was at a later period than the era of the Temple] (3) "Antiquitates Asiaticae
Christianam Acram Antecedentes," p. 139.
to the Masonic Lodges of the present day. Their plans of meeting were also
called in Greek koina, which signifies communities, and each received a
distinctive name, just as our Lodges do. Thus Chishull speaks in his account
of the prechristian antiquities of Asia of a koinon ton Attaliston, or a
"community of the Attalistae," so called, most probably in honor of King
Attalus, who was their patron.(1)
was an annual festival, like the General Assembly or Grand Lodge of the
Masons, which was held with great pomp and ceremony. Chandler says (but he
speaks of a later period, when they were settled at Teos) that it was the
custom of their synod to bold yearly a General Assembly, at which they
sacrificed to the gods and poured out libations to their deceased benefactors.
They likewise celebrated games in honor of Bacchus, when the crowns which had
been bestowed by any of the communities as rewards of merit were announced by
heralds, and the wearers of them were applauded by the other members. These
meetings, he adds, were solemnized with great pomp and festivity. (2)
same traveler mentions a long decree made by one of the communities in honor
of its magistrates, which he found inscribed on a slab in a Turkish
burying‑ground. The thanks of the community with a crown of olives are given
as a recompense to these officers for their great liberality and trouble while
in office; and to perpetuate their memory and to excite an emulation of their
merit, it is besides enacted that the decrees be engraved, but at their
expense, "so desirable," says Chandler, "was the testimony to the individuals
and so frugal the usage in bestowing it." (3)
course as an architectural association the Dionysiacs used many of the
implements employed by Operative Masons, and as a secret brotherhood they had
a system of signs and tokens by which any one of the members could make
himself known to the others. Professor Robison, who may be accepted on this
point as authority, admits that they were "distinguished from the uninitiated
or profane inhabitants by the science which they possessed and by many private
signs and tokens by which they recognized each other. (4)
Rollin's "Universal History" places Attalus in the rank of those princes who
loved and patronized letters and the arts. (2) Chandler, "Travels in Asia
Minor," vol. i., ch. xxx., P. 126. (3) Ibid., vol. i., ch. xxviii., p. 124.
"Proofs of a Conspiracy," p. 20.
of the koina or separate communities into which they were divided was under
the direction of officers corresponding to a Master and Wardens. (1)
Masonic principle of charity was practiced among them and the opulent members
were bound to provide for the wants and necessities of their poorer brethren.
Legend which connects these architects with the building of the Temple at
Jerusalem, assumes that Hiram Abif was a member of this secret association.
Although the Scriptural narrative is adverse to this theory, since it states
that he was simply a worker in metals and precious stones, yet we may
reconcile it with possibility by supposing that such craftsmen were admitted
into the association of the Dionysiacs because their decorative art was
necessary for the completion and perfection of the temples and public
buildings which they constructed.
is, however, merely conjectural.
Legend, now connecting itself in part with history, proceeds to state that
when Solomon was about to build a temple to Jehovah, he made his intention
known to his friend and ally, Hiram, King of Tyre, and because he was well
aware of the architectural skill of the Tyrian Dionysiacs, he besought that
monarch's assistance to enable him to carry his pious design into execution.
Hiram complied with his request and sent him the necessary workmen, who by
their skill and expeience might supply the mechanical deficiencies and
ignorance of the Israelites.
the body of builders he sent this Hiram Abif, who as "a curious and cunning
workman," highly recommended by his patron, was entrusted by King Solomon with
the superintendence of the construction and placed at the head of both the
Tyrian and Jewish craftsmen as the chief builder and principal conductor of
this distinguished artist, on account of the large influence which his
position gave him and the exalted personal virtues which are traditionally
supposed to have characterized him, is to be attributed, according to the
Legend, the intimate union of two peoples so dissimilar in manners and so
antagonized in religion as the Jews and the Tyrians, which resulted in the
organization of the Institution of Freemasonry.
Supposing Hiram Abif, as the Legend does, to have been con‑
Brewster in Lawrie's "History," P. 29.
with the Dionysiac fraternity, we may also suppose that he could not have been
a very humble or inconspicuous member, if we may
of his rank in the society, from the amount of talent which he is said to have
possessed, and from the elevated position that he held in the alleabns and at
the court of the King of Tyre.
must therefore have been very familiar with all the ceremonial usages of the
Dionysiac artificers and must have enjoyed a long expeience of the advantages
derived from the government and discipline which they practiced in the
erection of the many sacred edifices which they had constructed. A portion of
these ceremonial usages and of this discipline he would naturally be inclined
to introduce among the workmen at Jerusalem. He therefore united them in a
society, similar in many respects to that of the Dionysiac artificers. He
inculcated lessons of charity and brotherly love; he established a ceremony of
initiation to test experimentally the worth and fortitude of the candidate;
adopted secret methods of recognition; and impressed the obligations of duty
and the principles of morality by means of symbols and allegories. Just at
this point a difficulty must have arisen in reconciling the pagan symbolic
instruction of the Tyrians with the religious notions of the Jews, which,
however, the Legend ingeniously overcomes.
most prominent symbol of Speculative Masonry, that, indeed, on which the whole
of the ethical instructions is founded, is contained in the lesson of
resurrection to a future life as developed in the allegorical Legend of the
Pagan Mysteries, of which the Dionysia were a part, this doctrine was also
illustrated by an allegorical legend. In the Mysteries of Dionysus which were
practiced by the Tyrian architects the legend related to the death and
subsequent resuscitation of Bacchus or Dionysus.
would have been utterly impossible to have introduced such a legend as the
basis of any instructions to be communicated to Jewish initiates. Any allusion
to the mythological fables of their Gentile neighbors would have been equally
offensive to the taste and repugnant to the religious prejudices of a nation
educated from generation to generation in the worship of a Divine Being, who,
they had been taught, was jealous of his prerogatives, and who had made
himself known to their ancestors as the JEHOVAH, the only God of time present,
past, and future.
difficulty of obtaining a legend on which the dogma of the Third Degree might
be founded was obviated by substituting Hiram Abif, after his death (at which
time only the system could have been perfected), in the place of Dionysus. The
lesson taught in the Mysteries practiced by the Dionysiac artificers was thus
translated into the Masonic initiation, the form of the symbolism remaining
the same, but the circumstances of the legend necessarily varying.
this union of the Dionysiacs with the Jewish workmen and the introduction of
their mystical organization, the Masonic Order assumed at the building of the
Temple that purely speculative form connected with the operative which it has
ever since retained.
its Jewish element it derived its religious character as a pure theism. From
its Tyrian element it borrowed its peculiar mystical character and its system
of symbolism, which so much assimilated it to the ancient Pagan Mysteries,
that a Legend has been framed (to be hereafter considered) which traces its
origin directly to those secret associations of antiquity.
the completion of the Temple, the workmen, invested with all the secrets which
had been promised in their initiation, and thus becoming Master Masons,
dispersed, that they might be enabled to extend their knowledge and to renew
their labors in other lands.
is the Legend which seeks to attribute the present form of Freemasonry to the
connection of the Dionysiac artisans of Tyre with the Jewish workmen at the
building of the Temple. So much of the Legend as relates to the existence of a
building sodality at Tyre (leaving out the question whether they were or were
not Dionysiacs), some of whose members went to Jerusalem to assist in the
construction of the Solomonic Temple, may, I think, be accepted as
were the real influences exerted by them on the Jewish people, is a question
whose answer finds no place in the realm of history, but must be relegated to
the doubtful domain of conjecture. Brewster has descibed the Dionyiacs as they
existed in about the 3d century before Christ, and after their incorporation
by King Attalus, as if they maintained the same condition in the reign of
Hiram of Tyre seven hundred years before. For this statement there is no
warrant in any historical record.
supposition that the Dionysiacs of Tyre and those of Teos were identical in
organization, is simply a theory based on a mere assumption. It is, however,
certain that they who adopt the legendary theory that Freemasonry was fast
organized at the Temple of Solomon, will find much to sustain their theory in
the Legend of the Dionysiac Artificers.
equally certain that those who deny the Temple theory will have to reject the
Dionysic, for the two are too closely connected to be arbitrarily dissevered.
laying the subject of Freemasonry altogether aside, and considering the
connection of the Tyrians and the Jews at the Temple as a mere historical
question, it would present a very interesting study of history to determine
what were the results of that connection, if there were any way of solving it
except by mere conjecture.
subsequent history of the association of Dionysiac Architects forms no part of
the Legend which has just been recited; but it may be interesting to trace
their progress. About seven hundred years after the building of the Temple at
Jerusalem, they are said to have been incorporated by the King of Pergamum, an
ancient province of Mysia, as a society exclusively engaged in the erection of
public buildings such as theaters and temples. They settled at Teos, an Ionian
city, on the coast of Asia Minor, where, notwithstanding its intestine
troubles, they remained for several centuries. Among the works accomplished by
them were a magnificent theater and a splendid temple of Dionysus, some ruins
of which still remain.
proving turbulent and seditious they were at length expelled from Teos and
removed to the city of Ephesus. Thence they were transferred by King Attalus
to the town of Myonessus. The Teians having sent an embassy to Rome to request
that the Myonessians should not be permitted to fortify their city, the
Dionysiacs removed to Lebedos, about fifteen miles from Teos, where they were
5th century of the Christian era the Emperor Theodosius abolished all mystical
associations, but the Dionysiacs are said to have continued their existence
until the time of the Crusades, when they passed over into Europe and were
merged in the association of builders known as the Travelling Freemasons of
the Middle Ages. This latter part of the narrative is, I think, merely
legendary or traditional, and will find no support in authentic history. It is
however, an historical study to be examined hereafter.
FREEMASONRY AND THE ANCIENT MYSTERIES
theory which ascribes the origin of Freemasonry as a secret society to the
Pagan Mysteries of the ancient world, and which derives the most important
part of its ritual and the legend of its Third Degree from the initiation
practiced in these religious organizations, necessarily connects itself with
the Legend of the Temple origin of the Institution, because we can only link
the initiation in the Mysteries with that of Freemasonry by supposing that the
one was in some way engrafted on the other, at the time of the building of the
Temple and the union of the Jewish and Tyrian workmen.
before we can properly appreciate the theory which associates Freemasonry with
the Pagan Mysteries, we must make ourselves acquainted with the nature and the
design as well as with something of the history of those mystical societies.
all the nations of antiquity in which refinement and culture had given an
elevated tone to the religious sentiment, there existed two systerns of
worship, a public and a private one. "Each of the pagan Gods," says Warburton,
"had (besides the public and open) a secret worship paid unto him, to which
none were admitted but those who had been selected by preparatory ceremonies,
secret worship was called the MYSTERIES." (1)
public worship was founded on the superstitious polytheism whose numerous gods
and goddesses were debased in character and vicious in conduct.
Incentive to virtue could not be derived from their example, which furnished
rather excuses for vice.
Eunuchus of Terenie, when Choerea is meditating the seduction of the virgin
Pamphila, he refers to the similar act of Jupiter,
"Divine Legation of Moses," B.I., sect. iv., p. 193.
a shower of gold had corrupted Danae, and he exclaims, "If a god, who by his
thunders shakes the whole universe, could commit this crime, shall not I, a
mere mortal, do so also?" (1) Plautus, Euripides and other Greek and Roman
dramatists and poets repeatedly used the same argument in defense of the views
of their heroes, so that it became a settled principle of the ancient
vicious example of the gods thus became an insuperable obstacle to a life of
purity and holiness. (2)
assurance of a future life of compensation constituted no part of the popular
poets, it is true, indulged in romantic descriptions of an Elysium and a
Tartarus, but their views were uncertain and unsatisfactory, as to any
specific doctrine of immortality, and were embodied in the saying of Ovid (3)
that of the four elements which constituted the human organization, "the earth
covers the flesh; the shade flits around the tomb; the spirit seeks the
did the poet express the prevalent idea that the composite man returned after
death to the various primordial elements of which he had been originally
such a dim and shadowy hypothesis there was no incentive for life, no
consolation in death.
hence Alger, to whom the world has been indebted for a most exhaustive
treatise on the popular beliefs of all nations, ancient and modern, on the
subject of the future life, has after a full and critical examination of the
question, come to the following conclusion:
the ancient Greek in general, death was a sad doom.
he lost a friend, he sighed a melancholy farewell after him to the faded shore
Summoned himself, he departed with a lingering look at the sun and a tearful
adieu to the bright day and the green earth.
Roman death was a grim reality.
meet it himself he girded up his loins with artificial firmness.
its ravages among his friends, he wailed in anguished abandonment.
dying vision there was indeed a future, but shapes of distrust and shadow
stood upon its disconsolate borders; and
quem Deum, qui templa caeli summa sonitu concutit; Ego homuncio boc non
facerem ? ‑Act iii, sc. 5 (2) Warburton, "Divine Legation," B. II., sect. iv.
Terra tegit carnem; tumulum circumvolat umbra; orcus habet manes; spiritus
the prospect had no horror, he still shrank from the poppied gloom."
each nation advanced in refinement and intellectual culture the priests, the
poets, and the philosophers (2) aspired to a higher thought and cherished the
longing for and inculcated the consoling doctrine of an immortality, not to be
spent in shadowy and inert forms of existence, but in perpetual enjoyment, as
a compensation for the ills of life.
necessary result of the growth of such pure and elevated notions must have
been a contempt and condemnation of the absurditics of polytheism.
this was the popular religion it was readily perceived that any open attempt
to overthrow it and to advance, publicly, opinions so antagonistic to it would
be highly impolitic and dangerous.
Whenever any religion, whether true or false, becomes the religion of a
people, whoever opposes it, or ridicules it, or seeks to subvert it, is sure
to be denounced by popular fanaticism and to be punished by popular
Socrates was doomed to drink the poisoned bowl on the charge that he taught
the Athenian youth not to worship the gods who are worshipped by the state,
but new and unknown deities.
was suspended from the cross because he inculcated doctrines which, however
pure, were novel and obnoxious to the old religion of his Jewish countrymen.
new religious truths among the Pagan peoples were therefore concealed from
common inspection and taught only in secret societies, admission to which was
obtained only through the ordeal of a painful initiation, and the doctrines
were further concealed under the veil of symbols whose true meaning the
initiated only could understand.
truth," says Clemens of Alexandria, "was taught involved in enigmas, symbols,
allegories, metaphors, and tropes and figures." (3)
secret associations in which the principles of a new and
"Critical History of the Doctrine of a Future Life," p. 196.
Many of the philosophers were, however, skeptics.
Stoics, for instance, and they were the leading sect, denied the survival of
the soul after the death of the body; or, if any of them conceded its
survival, they attributed to it only a temporary duration before it is
dissolved and absorbed into the universe.
("Troades," I., 397) says "there is nothing after death, and death itself is
nothing." Post mortem nihil, est ipsague mors nihil.
lib. v., p. 658.
theology were taught have received in history the name of the MYSTERIES.
country had its own Mysteries peculiar to itself.
Egypt were those of Osiris and Isis; in Samothrace those of the Cabiri; in
Greece they celebrated at Eleusis, near Athens, the Mysteries of Demeter; in
Syria of Adonis; in Phoenicia of Dionysus; and in Persia those of Mithras,
which were the last to perish after the advent of Christianity and the
overthrow of polytheism.
Mysteries, although they differed in name and in some of the details of
initiation, were essentially alike in general form and design.
end as well as nature," says Warburton, "was the same in all: to teach the
doctrine of a future state."
Alger says: "The implications of the indirect evidence, the leanings and
guidings of all the incidental clews now left us as to the real aim and
purport of the Mysteries, combine to assure us that their chief teaching was a
doctrine of a future life in which there should be rewards and punishments."
Taylor, the Platonist, than whom no better modern authority on this subject
could be cited, says that "the initiated were instructed in the doctrine of a
state of future rewards and punishments," (3) and that the greater Mysteries
"obscurely intimated, by mystic and splendid visions, the felicity of the soul
both here and hereafter, when purified from the defilements of a material
nature and constantly elevated to the realities of intellectual vision." (4)
the ancient writers who were contemporary with these associations, and must
have been familiar with their character, concur in the opinion that their
design was to teach the doctrine of a future life of compensation.
says, "Happy the man who descends beneath the hollow earth having beheld these
knows the end, he knows the divine origin of life."
Sophocles says that "they are thrice happy who descend to the shades below,
after having beheld these rites; for they alone have life in Hades, while all
others suffer there every kind of evil."
"Divine Legation," B.I., sect. iv., p. 194.
Hist. of the Doctrine of a Future Life," p. 454.
"Dissertation on the Eleusinian and Bacchic Mysteries" apud Pamphleteer, vol.
viii, P. 40.
Ibid., p. 53.
lastly, Isocrates dcclares that "those who have been initiated in the
Mysteries of Ceres entertain better hopes both as to the end of life and the
whole of futurity."
then evident from all authorities that the great end and design of the
initiation into these Mysteries was to teach the aspirant the doctrine of a
future life ‑ not that aimless, uncertain, and shadowy one portrayed by the
poas and doubtfully consented to by the people, but that pure and rational
state of immortal existence in which the soul is purified from the dross of
the body and elevated to eternal life.
was, in short, much the same in its spirit as the Christian and Masonic
doctrine of the resurrection.
this lesson was communicated in the Mysteries in a peculiar form, which has in
fact given rise to the theory we are now considering that they were the
antetype and original source of Speculative Masonry.
were all dramatic in their ceremonies; each one exhibited in a series of
scenic representations the adventures of some god or hero; the attacks upon
him by his enemies; his death at their hands; his descent into Hades or the
grave, and his final resurrection to renewed life as a mortal, or his
apotheosis as a god.
only important difference between these various Mysteries was, that there was
to each one a diffcrent and peculiar god or hero, whose death and resurrection
or apotheosis constituted the subject of the drama, and gave to its scenes the
changes which were dependent on the adventures of him who was its main
in Samothrace, where the Mysteries of the Cabiri were celebrated, it was Atys,
the lover of Cybele, who was slain and restored; in Egypt it was Osiris whose
death and resurrection were represented; in Greece it was Dionysus, and in
all of these the material points of the plot and the religious design of the
sacred drama were identical.
dramatic form and the scenic representation of the allegory were everywhere
dramatic form of the initiatory rites in the Mysteries ‑ this acted allegory
in which the doctrine of the resurrection was shadowed forth by the visible
representation of some fictitious event ‑ was, as the learned Dr. Dollinger
(1) has justly observed, "eminently calculated to take a powerful hold on the
imagination and the heart,
Jew and Gentile," I., p. 136, Darnell's Translation.
excite in the spectators alternately conflicting sentiments of terror and
calmness, of sorrow and fear and hope."
Mysteries were a secret society, whose members were separated from the rest of
the people by a ceremony of initiation, there resulted from this form of
organization, as a necessary means of defense and of isolation, a solemn
obligation of secrecy, with severe penalties for its violation, and certain
modes of recognition known only to those who had been instructed in them.
was what might be called a progressive order of degrees, for the neophyte was
not at once upon his initiation invested with a knowledge of the deepest
arcana of the religious system.
the Mysteries were divided into two classes called the Lesser and the Greater
Mysteries, and in addition there was a preliminary ceremony, which was only
preparatory to the Mysteries proper.
that there was in the process of reception a system of three steps, which
those who are fond of tracing analogies between the ancient and the modern
initiations are prone to call degrees.
brief review of these three steps of progress in the Mysteries will give the
reader a very definite idea of the nature of this ancient system in which so
many writers have thought that they had found the incunabulum of modern
Freemasonry, and will enable him to appreciate at their just value the
analogies which these writers have found, as they suppose, between the two
first step was called the Lusiration, or purification by water.
the neophyte was ready to be received into any of the ancient Mysteries, he
was carried into the temple or other place appropriated to the ceremony of
initiation, and there underwent a thorough cleansing of the body by water.
This was the preparation for reception into the Lesser Mysteries and was
symbolic of that purification of the heart that was absolutely necessary to
prepare the aspirant for admission to a knowledge of and participation in the
sacred lessons which were to be subsequently communicated to him.
been sought to find in this preparatory ceremony an analogy to the first
degree of Masonry. Such an analogy certainly exists, as will here after be
shown, but the theory that the Apprentice's degree was derived from and
suggested by the ceremony of Lustration in the Mysteries is wholly untenable,
because this ceremony was not peculiar to the Mysteries.
ablution, lustration, or cleansing by water, as a religious rite was practiced
among all the ancient nations.
especially was it observed among the Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans.
the Hebrews the lustration was a preliminary ceremony to every act of
expiation or sin‑offering.
the Jewish prophets continually refer to the ablution of the body with water
as a symbol of the purification of the heart.
the Greeks lustration was always connected with their sacrifices.
consisted in the sprinkling of water by means of an olive or a laurel branch.
the Romans, the ceremony was more common than among the Greeks.
used not only to expiate crime, but also to secure the blessing of the Gods.
fields were lustrated before the corn was put into the ground; colonies when
they were first established, and armies before they proceeded to battle.
end of every fifth year, the whole people were thus purified by a general
Everywhere the rite was connected with the performance of sacrifice and with
the idea of a moral purification.
next step in the ceremonies of the ancient Mysteries was called the
here that the dramatic allegory was performed and the myth or fictitious
history on which the peculiar Mystery was founded was developed.
neophyte personated the supposed events of the life, the sufferings, and the
death of the god or hero to whom the Mystery was dedicated, or he had them
brought in vivid representation before him.
ceremonies constituted a symbolic instruction in the initia ‑ the beginnings ‑
of the religious system which it was the object of the Mysteries to teach.
ceremonies of initiation were performed partly in the Lesser, but more
especially and more fully in the Greater Mysteries, of which they were the
first part, and where only the allegory of death was enacted.
Lesser Mysteries, which were introductory to the Greater, have been supposed
by the theorists who maintain the connection between the Mysteries and
Freemasonry to be analogous to the Fellow Craft's degree of the latter
may be some ground for this comparison in a rather inexact way, for although
the Lesser Mysteries were to some extent public, yet as they were, as Clemens
of Alexandria (1) says, a certain groundwork of instruction and preparation
for the things that were to follow, they might perhaps be considered as
analogous to the Fellow Craft's degree.
v., p. 424.
third and last of the progressive steps or grades in the Mysteries was
the ultimate object of the system.
also called the autopsy, from a Greek word which signifies seeing with one's
the complete and finished communication to the neophyte of the great secret of
the Mysteries; the secret for the preservation of which the system of
initiation had been invented, and which, during the whole course of that
initiation, had been symbolically shadowed forth.
communication of this secret, which was in fact the explanation of the secret
doctrine, for the inculcation of which the Mysteries in every country had been
instituted, was made in the most sacred and private place of the temple or
place of initiation.
autopsy or Perfection of the Mysteries concluded the whole system, the
maintainers of the doctrine that Freemasonry finds its origin in the Mysteries
have compared this last step in the ancient initiation to the Master's degree.
the analogy between the two as a consummation of the secret doctrine is less
patent in the third degree, as it now exists, than it was before the
disseverance from it of the Royal Arch, accepting, however, the Master's
degree as it was constituted in the earlier part of the 18th century, the
analogies between that and the last stage of the Mysteries are certainly very
interesting, although not sufficient to prove the origin of the modern from
the ancient systems.
But of this more hereafter.
view of the organization of the Pagan Mysteries would not be complete without
some reference to the dramatized allegory which constituted so important a
part of the ceremony of initiation, and in connection with which their
relation to Freemasonry has been most carnestly urged.
been already said that the Mysteries were originally invented for the purpose
of teaching two great religious truths, which were unknown to, or at least not
recognized, in the popular faith.
were the unity of God and the immortality of the soul in a future life.
former, although illustrated at every point by expressed symbols, such, for
instance, as the all‑seeing eye, the eye of the universe, and the image of the
Deity, was not allegorized, but taught as an abstract doctrine at the time of
the autopsy or the close of the grade of Perfection.
other truth, the dogma of a future life, and of a resurrection from death to
immortality, was communicated by an allegory which was dramatized in much the
same way in each of the Mysteries, although, of course, in each nation the
person and the events which made up the allegory were different.
interpretation was, however, always the same.
Egypt was the first country of antiquity to receive the germs of civilization,
it is there that the first Mysteries are supposed to have been invented. (1)
And although the Eleusinian Mysteries, which were introduced into Greece long
after the invention of the Osiriac in Egypt, were more popular among the
ancients, yet the Egyptian initiation exhibits more purely and more
expressively the symbolic idea which was to be developed in the interpretation
of its allegory.
shall therefore select the Osiriac, which was the most important of the
Egyptian Mysteries, as the exemplar from which an idea may be obtained of the
character of all the other Mysteries of paganism.
the writers of antiquity, such as Plutarch, Diodorus Siculus, and Herodotus,
state that the Egyptian Mysteries of Osiris, Isis, and Horus were the model of
all the other systems of initiation which were subsequently established among
the different peoples of the Old World.
Indeed, the ancients held that the Demeter of the Greeks was identical with
the Isis of the Egyptians, and Dionysus with Osiris.
adventures were certainly very similar.
place of Osiris in Egyptian history is unknown to us.
fragments of Sanchoniathon speak of Isiris, the brother of Chna or Canaan; in
the lists of Manetho, he is made the fifth king under the dynasty of the
demigods, being conjoined with Isis; but as the four preceding kings are named
as Hephoestus, Helios, Agathodomon and Kronos, the whole is evidently a mere
mythological fable, and we have as far to seek as ever.
Herodotus is not more satisfactory, for he says that Osiris and Isis were two
great deities of the Egyptians.
however, in his Mythology thinks that he was the same as Mizraim, the son of
Clam, and grandson of Noah.
Cumberland concurs in this and adds that Cham was the first king of Egypt,
that Osiris was a title appropriated by him, signifying Prince, and that Isis
was simply Ishah, his wife.
Lastly, Diodorus Siculus says that he was Menes, the first King of Egypt.
later writers have sought to identify Osiris and Isis with the
The first and original Mysteries of which we have any account were those of
Isis and Osiris in Egypt, from whence they were derived by the Greeks. ‑
Warburton, "Divine Legation," I., p. 194. Diodorus says the same thing in the
first book of his "History," I., xxxvii.
and Isi of India.
is certainly a great deal of etymological plausibility in this last
ubiquitous character of Osiris as a personality among the ancients is best
shown in an epigram of Ausonius, wherein it is said that in Greece, at Eleusis,
he was called Bacchus; the Egyptians thought that he was Osiris, the Mysians
of Asia Minor named him Phanceus or Apollo; the Indians supposed that he was
Dionysus; the sacred rites of the Romans called him Liber; and the Arabians,
the only thing that is of any interest to us in this connection is that Osiris
was the hero of the earliest of the Mysteries, and that his death and
apotheosis ‑ his change from a mortal king to an immortal God ‑ symbolized the
doctrine of a future life.
historical character was that of a mild and beneficent sovereign, who had
introduced the arts of civilization among his subjects, and had then traveled
for three years for the purpose of extending them into other nations, leaving
the government of his kingdom, during his absence, to his wife Isis.
According to the legend, his brother Typhon had been a rival claimant for the
throne, and his defeat had engendered a feeling of ill‑will.
the absence of Osiris, he, therefore, formed a secret conspiracy with some of
his adherents to usurp the throne.
return of Osiris from his travels he was invited by Typhon to a banquet,
ostensibly given in his honor, at which all the conspirators were present.
the feast Typhon produced a chest, inlaid with gold, and promised to present
it to that person of the company, whose body, upon trial, would be found most
exactly to fit it.
tried the experiment, but as soon as he had laid himself in the chest, Typhon
closed and nailed down the lid.
chest was then thrown into the river Nile, whence it floated into the sea,
and, after being for some time tossed upon the waves, it was finally cast
ashore at the town of Byblos, in Phoenicia, and left at the foot of a Tamarisk
the wife of Osiris, over‑
Ogygia me Bacchum vacat; Osisin Egyptus putat; Mysi Phaiiacem nominant;
Dionuson Indi existimant Romana sacra Liberum Arabica gens Adoneum.
whelmed with grief for the loss of lher husband, commenced a search for the
body, being accompanied by her son, Anubis, and his nurse, Nepthe.
many adventures Isis arrived on the shores of Phoenicia and in the nethborhood
of Byblos, where she at length discovered the body at the foot of the Tamarisk
returned with it to Egypt. It was received by the people with great
demonstrations of joy, and it was proclaimed that Osiris had risen from the
dead and had become a god.
sufferings of Osiris, his death, his resurrection, and his subsequent office
as judge of the dead in a future state, constituted the fundamental principles
of the Egyptian religion.
taught the secret doctrine of a future life, and initiation into the mysteries
of Osiris was initiation into the rites of the religion of Egypt.
rites were conducted by the priests, and into them many sages from other
countries especially from Greece, such as Herodotus, Plutarch, and Pythagoras,
this way it is supposed that the principles and general form of the Mysteries
were conveyed into other countries, although they everywhere varied in the
most important of the Mysteries besides the Egyptian were those of Mithras in
Persia, of Atys or of the Cabiri in Thrace, of Adonis in Syria, and of
Dionysus in Greece.
extended even beyond the then more civilized parts of the world into the
northern regions of Europe, where were practiced the Scandinavian rites of the
Norsemen and the Druidical Mysteries of Gaul and Britain, though these were
probably derived more directly from a primitive Aryan source.
wherever they existed we find in them a remarkable unity of design and a
similarity of ceremonies from which we are compelled to deduce a common
origin, while the purity of the doctrines which they taught evidently show
that this common origin was not to be sought in the popular theology.
of the Mysteries the ceremonies of initiation were of a funereal character.
allegorized in a dramatic form the sufferings, the death, and the resurrection
of some god or hero.
was a death, most generally by violence, (1) to symbolize, as certain
Thus Clemens of Alexandria describes the legend or allegory of the Cabiri
Mysteries as the sacred mystery of a brother slain by his brethren, "frater
trucidatus a fratribus."
interpreters of the Mysteries have supposed, the strife of certain
antagonistic powers in nature, such as life and death, virtue and vice, light
and darkness, or summer and winter.
person thus slain was represented in the allegorical drama by the candidate.
the death followed the disappearance of the body, called by the Greeks the
aphanism, and the consequent search for it.
search for the body, in which all the initiates joined, constituted what Faber
calls "the doleful part," and was
succeeded by its discovery, which was known as the heuresis. (1) This was
accompanied by the greatest demonstrations of joy.
candidate was afterward instructed in the apporheta, or secret dogmas of the
of the Pagan Mysteries this dramatic form of an allegory was preserved, and we
may readily see in the groans and lamentations on the death of the god or hero
and the disappearance of the body a symbol of the death of man, and in the
subsequent rejoicings at his discovery and restoration, a symbol of the
restoration of the spirit to eternal life.
view of the purity of the lessons taught in the Mysteries and their
inculcation of the elevated dogmas of the unity of God and the immortality of
the soul, it is not surprising to read the encomiums passed upon them by the
philosophers of antiquity.
reader, if he has carefully considercd the allegorical drama which was
represented in the ancient Mysteries, and compared it with the drama which
constitutes the principal portion of the initiation in Freemasonry, will be at
no loss to account for the reasons which have led so many writers to attribute
the origin of the Masonic system to these mystical associations of antiquity.
been a favorite theory with several German, French, and British scholars to
trace the origin of Freemasonry to the Mysteries of Paganism, while others,
repudiating the idea that the modern association should have sprung from them,
still find analogies so remarkable between the two systems as to lead them to
suppose that the Mysteries were an offshoot from the pure Freemasonry of the
opinion there is not the slightest foundation in historical
"Concerning Adonis, whom some call Osiris, there are two things remarkable:
aphanismos, the death or loss of Adonis; and heuresis, the finding of him
again." ‑ Godevyn in "Moses and Aaron," lib. iV., C. 2.
evidence to support either theory, although I admit the existence of many
analogies between the two systems, which can, however, be easily explained
without admitting any connection in the way of origin and descent between
theory that the Mysteries were an offshoot or imitation of the pure
patriarchal Freemasonry, Hutchinson and Oliver are the most distinguished
Hutchinson strongly contends for the direct derivation of Freemasonry from
Adam, through the line of the patriarchs to Moses and Solomon, he does not
deny that it borrowed much from the initiations and symbols of the Pagans.
he unhesitatingly says, that "there is no doubt that our ceremonies and
Mysteries were derived from the rites, ceremonies, and institutions of the
ancients, and some of them from the remotest ages."
lest the purity of the genuine patriarchal Masonry should be polluted by
borrowing its ceremonies from such an impure source, he subsequently
describes, in that indefinite manner which was the peculiarity of his style,
the separation of a purer class from the debasement of the popular religion,
wherein he evidently alludes to the Mysteries.
he says :
the corruption and ignorance of after ages, those hallowed places (2) were
polluted with idolatry; the unenlightened mind mistook the type for the
original, and could not discern the light from darkness; the sacred groves and
hills became the objects of enthusiastic bigotry and superstition; the
devotees bowed down to the oaken log and the graven image as being divine.
preserved themselves from the corruptions of the times, and we find those
sages and select men to whom were committed, and who retained, the light of
understanding and truth, unpolluted with the sins of the world, under the
denomination of Magi among the Persians; wise men, soothsayers, and
astrologers among the Chaldeans; philosophers among the Greeks and Romans;
Brahmins among the Indians; Druids and bards among the Britons; and with the
people of God, Solomon shone forth in the fullness of human wisdom." (3)
Oliver expresses almost the same views, but more explicitly.
"Spirit of Masonry," lect. ii., p. 15.
"The highest hills and lowest valleys." (3) "Spirit of Masonry," lect. iv., p.
was, I think, the first to advance the theory that two systems of Masonry had
come down the course of time, both derived from a common source, which he
called the Pure and the Spurious Freemasonry of antiquity ‑ the former
descending without interruption from the Patriarchs, and especially from Noah,
and which system was the progenitor of that which is now practiced, and the
latter, being a schism, as it were, from the former, and impure and corrupted
in its principles, and preserved in the Pagan Mysteries.
admits, however, that there were certain analogies between the two in their
symbols and allegories.
own language on this subject, which is as follows, leaves no doubt of the
nature of his views.
note to his History of Initiation, an elaborate and learned work on certain of
these Mysteries, he says:
have denominated the surreptitious initiations earth‑born, in
contradistinction to the purity of Freemasonry, which was certainly derived
from above; and to those who contend that Masonry is nothing more than a
miserable relic of the idolatrous Mysteries (vide. Fab. Pag.
vol. iii., p. 190), I would reply, in the words of an inspired apostle, 'Doth
a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig
tree bear olive berries or a vine figs? So can no fountain both yield salt
water and fresh.
wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, full of mercy and
good fruits' (James iii. 11, 12, 17). I wish to be distinct and intelligible
on this point, as some misapprehensions are afloat respecting the immediate
object of my former volume of Signs and Symbols; and I have been told that the
arguments there used afford an indirect sanction to the opinion that Masonry
is derived from the Mysteries.
answer to this charge, if it requires one, I only need reply to the general
tenor of that volume, and to declare explicitly my firm opinion, founded on
intense study and abstruse research, that the science which we now denominate
Speculative Masonry, was coeval, at least, with the creation of our globe, and
the far‑famed Mysteries of idolatry were a subsequent institution founded on
similar principles, with the design of conveying unity and permanence to the
false worship, which it otherwise could never have acquired." (1)
not know of any other prominent Masonic writer who en‑
"History of Initiation," lect. i., p. 13, notes.
tertains the theory of the common origin but diverse descent of the Mysteries
and Freemasonry, although there are many who, subscribing with implicit faith
to the teachings of Dr. Oliver as a Masonic historian, necessarily give their
assent to his opinion on this subject.
is another class of Masonic scholars who have advanced the theory that the
Speculative Freemasonry of the present day is derived directly from and is a
legitimate successor of the Mysteries of antiquity.
found this theory on the very many and striking analogies that are to be found
in the organization, the design, and the symbols of the two systems, and which
they claim can only be explained on the theory that the one is an offshoot
from the other.
Abbe Robin was, perhaps, the first writer who advanced this idea in a distinct
work on the Ancient and Modern Initiations, (1) published in 1780, he traces
the origin of the ancient systems of initiation to that early period when
wicked men, urged by the terror of guilt, sought among the virtuous for
intercessors with the Deity.
latter, he says, retired into solitary places to avoid the contagion of the
growing corruption, and devoted themselves to a life of contemplation and to
the cultivation of the arts and sciences.
order to associate with them in their labors and functions only such as had
sufficient merit and capacity, they appointed strict courses of trial and
he thinks, must have been the source of the initiations which distinguished
the celebrated Mysteries of antiquity.
Magi of Chaldea, the Brahmins and Gymnosophists of India, the Priests of
Egypt, and the Druids of Gaul and Britain thus lived in sequestered places and
obtained great reputation by their discoveries in astronomy, chemistry, and
mechanics, by the purity of their morals, and by their knowledge of the
science of legislation.
in these schools, says the abbe, that the first sages and legislators of
antiquity were formed, where the doctrines taught were the unity of God and
the immortality of the soul, and it was from these Mysteries that the
exuberant fancy of the Greeks drew much of their mythology.
these ancient initiations he deduces the orders of Chivalry which sprang into
existence in the Middle Ages,
sur les Initiations Anciennes et Modernes."
certain branches of these, he thinks, produced the institution of Freemasonry.
theory of the Abbe Robin therefore traces the institution of Masonry to the
ancient Mysteries, but in an indirect way, through the orders of Chivalry.
might therefore more correctly be classed among those who maintain the
doctrine of the Templar origin of Freemasonry.
is Alexander Lenoir, the French archaeologist, who has attempted in the most
explicit and comprehensive manner to establish the doctrine of the direct
descent of Freemasonry from the ancient Mysteries, and especially from the
year 1814 he published an elaborate work on this subject. (1) In this he
begins by affirming that we cannot expect to find in the Egyptian and Greek
initiations those modes of recognition which are used by the Freemasons of the
present day, because these methods, which are only conventional and had been
orally communicated under the obligation of secrecy, can not be known to us,
for they could not have been transmitted through the lapse of ages.
Omitting, therefore, all reference to these as matters of no real importance,
he confines himself to a comparison of the Masonic with the ancient rites of
this view he comes to the conclusion that Freemasonry in all the points that
it essentially comprehends is in direct relation with the Mysteries of the
ancient world, and that hence, abstracting certain particular usages practiced
by the modern Freemasons, it is evident that Freemasonry in no respect differs
from the ancient initiations of the Egyptians and the Greeks.
theory has been embraced by nearly all the French Masonic writers except
Rebold, who traces Masonry to the Roman Colleges of Artificers.
Unfortunately for the general acceptance of this theory, M. Lenoir has in the
first place drawn his comparisons from the system of ceremonies of initiation
which are practiced in the lodges of France, and especially from the "proofs
and trials" of the Entered Apprentice's degree.
the tedious ceremonies and painful trials of the candidate as they are
practiced in the French Rite constitute no part of the original English
Masonry whence the French Masonry derives its existence, and were adopted as a
"La Franche‑Maconnerie rendue a sa veritable origins," etc.
Alexander Lenoir. Paris, 1814.
after the establishment of the Order in France by the Grand Lodge of England.
agan, the Egyptian initiations, with which they have been compared by Lenoir,
were not those which were actually practiced by the priests of Egypt, or at
least we have no authentic proof of that fact, but were most probably
suggested by the imaginative details given by the Abbe Terrasson in his
romance entitled Sethas, in which he pretends to portray the initiation of an
truth is that Lenoir and those writers who have followed him and adopted his
theopt have not instituted a comparison between the original ceremonies of
Masonic initiation and those of the ancient Mysteries, but merely a comparison
between a recent system of ceremonies, certainly not earlier than the middle
of the last century, and a fictitious system indebted for its birth to the
inventive genius of a French abbe, and first promulgated in a work published
by him in the year 1731.
well might Mr. Turner or any other writer on Anglo‑Saxon history have cited,
as authentic materials for his description of the customs of the Anglo‑Saxon,
the romantic incidents given by Sir Walter Scott in his novel of Ivanhoe.
all the references of the voyages of an Entered Apprentice in a French Lodge
to the similar voyages of an Aspirant in the Mysteries of Osiris or Isis
become nothing more than "the baseless fabric of a vision," which must fade
and dissolve like an "insubstantial pageant" when submitted to the crucial
test of authentic historical investigation. (1)
Rev. Mr. King, the author of a very interesting treatise on the Gnostics, (2)
has advanced a theory much more plausible than either of those to which I have
maintains that some of the Pagan Mysteries, especially those of Mithras, which
had been instituted in Persia, extended beyond the period of the advent of
Christianity, and that their doctrines and usages were adopted by the secret
societies which existed at an early period in Europe and
"Many of the explanations given as to the ceremonies used in Egyptian
initiations are modern inventions, abounding in absurdities and purely
imaginary." ‑ Tho. Pryer, "On the study of Masonic Antiquities," in
Freemasons' Quarterly Review, 1847, p. 262. Wilkinson was of the same opinion.
"Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians," vol. i.
"The Gnostics and their Remains, Ancient and Mediaeval." By C.W.
M.A., London, 1865, p. 47 et seq.
finally assumed the form of Freemasonry.
said that this theory is a plausible one.
so because its salient points are sustained by historical evidence.
for instance, a fact that some of the Mysteries of Paganism were practiced in
Europe long after the commencement of the Christian era.
afforded a constant topic of denunciation to the fathers of the church, who
feared and attacked what they supposed to be their idolatrous tendencies.
not until the middle of the 5th century that they were proscribed by an edict
of the Emperor Theodosius.
edict of proscription is not necessarily nor always followed by an immediate
abolition of the thing proscribed.
public celebration of the Mysteries must, of course, have ceased at once when
such celebration had been declared unlawful.
private and secret observance of them may have continued, and probably did
continue, for an indefinite time, perhaps even to as late a period as the end
of the 5th or the beginning of the 6th century.
Mosheim tells us that in the 4th century, notwithstanding the zeal and
severity of the Christian emperors, there still remained in several places,
and especially in the remoter provinces, temples and religious rites
consecrated to the Pagan deities; that rites instituted in honor of them were,
in the 5th century, celebrated with the utmost freedom and impunity in the
western empire; and that even in the 6th century remains of the Pagan worship
were to be found among the learned and the officers of state. (1)
all this time it is known that secret associations, such as the Roman Colleges
of Artificers, existed in Europe, and that from them ultimately sprang up the
organizations of Builders, which, with Como in Lombardy as their center,
spread over Europe in the Middle Ages, and whose members, under the recognized
name of Traveling Freemasons, were the founders of Gothic architecture.
is no forced or unnatural succession from them to the Guilds of Operative
Masons, who undoubtedly gave rise, about the end of the 17th or the beginning
of the 18th century, to the Speculative Order or the Free and Accepted Masons,
which is the organization that exists at the present day.
Mosheim, "Ecclesiast. History," Maelaine's Translation, vol. i., pp. 251, 332,
is, therefore, nothing absolutely untenable in the theory that the Mithraic
Mysteries which prevailed in Europe until the 5th or perhaps the 6th century
may have impressed some influence on the ritual, form, and character of the
association of early Builders, and that this influence may have extended to
the Traveling Freemasons, the Operative Guilds, and finally to the Free and
Accepted Masons, since it can not be proved that there was not an
uninterrupted chain of succession between these various organizations.
theory of Mr. King can not, therefore, be summarily rejected.
not be altogether true, but it has so many elements of truth about it that it
claims our serious consideration.
after all, we may find a sufficient explanation of the analogy which
undoubtedly exists between the rites of the ancient Mysteries and those of the
modern Freemasons in the natural tendency of the human mind to develop its
ideas in the same way when these ideas are suggested by the same or similar
fact that both institutions have taught the same lessons by the same method of
instruction may be attributed not to a direct and uninterrupted succession of
organizations, each one a link of a long chain leading consequentially to
another but rather to a natural and usual coincidence of human thought.
believers in the lineal and direct descent of Freemasonry from the ancient
Mysteries have of course discovered, or thought that they had discovered, the
most striking and wonderful analogies between the internal organizations of
the two institutions.
the most credulous of these theorists have not hesitated to compare the
Hierophant, or the Explainer of the sacred rites in the Mysteries, with the
Worshipful Master in a Masonic Lodge, nor to style the Dadouchos, or
Torch‑Bearer, and the Hieroceryx, or Herald of the Mysteries, Wardens, nor to
assign to the Epibomos, or Altar‑Server, the title and duties of a Deacon.
there are analogies, and that many of them are very curious can not be denied,
but I shall attempt, before leaving; this subject, to explain the reason of
their existence in a more rational way than by tracing the modern as a
succession from the ancient system.
Deputized Grand Master in North American Colonies 1730
analogies existing between the ancient Mysteries and Freemasonry, upon which
the theory of the descent of the one from the other has been based, consist in
the facts that both were secret societies, that both taught the same doctrine
of a future life, and that both made use of symbols and allegories and a
dramatic form of instruction. But these analogies do not necessarily support
the doctrine of descent, but may be otherwise satisfactorily explained.
Whether the belief in a personal immortality was communicated to the first man
by a divine revelation, and subsequently lost as the intellectual state of
future generations declined into a degraded state of religious conceptions; or
whether the prehistoric man, created but little superior to the wild beast
with whom he daily contended for dominion with insufficient weapons, was at
first without any conception of his future, until it had by chance dawned upon
some more elevated intellect and by him been communicated to his fellows as a
consoling doctrine, afterward to be lost, and then in the course of time to be
again recovered, but not to be universally accepted by grosser minds, are
questions into which we need not enter here.
sufficient to know that there has been no period in the world's history,
however dark, in which some rays of this doctrine have not been thrown upon
the general gloom. The belief in a future life and an immortal destiny has
always been so inseparably connected with elevated notions of God that the
deep and reverent thinkers in all ages have necessarily subscribed to its
truth. It has inspired the verses of poets and tempered and directed the
discussions of philosophers.
both the Mysteries of the ancients and the Freemasonry of the moderns were
religious institutions, the conceptions of the true nature of God which they
taught to their disciples must of course have involved the ideas of a future
life, for the one doctrine is a necessary consequence of the other. To seek,
therefore, in this analogy the proof of a descent of the modern from the
ancient institution is to advance an utterly fallacious argument.
the secret character of the two institutions, the argument is equally
untenable. Under the benighted rule of Pagan idolatry the doctrine of a future
life was not the popular belief. Yet there were also some who aspired to a
higher thought ‑ philosophers like Socrates and Plato, who nourished with
earnest longing the hope of immortality. Now, it was by such men that the
Mysteries were originally organized, and it was for instruction in such a
doctrine that they were instituted. But opposed as this doctrine was to the
general current of popular thought, it became, necessarily and defensively,
esoteric and exclusive. And hence we derive the reason for the secret
character of the Mysteries. "They were kept secret," says Warburton, "from a
necessity of teaching the initiated some things improper to be communicated to
all." (1) The learned bishop assigns another reason, which he sustains with
the authority of ancient writers, for this secrecy. "Nothing," he says,
"excites our curiosity like that which retires from our observation, and seems
to forbid our search." (2)
Synesius, who lived in the 4th century, before the Mysteries were wholly
abolished, says that they owed the veneration in which they were held to a
popular ignorance of their nature. (3)
Clemens of Alexandria, referring to the secrecy of the Mysteries, accounts for
it, among other reasons, because the truth seen through a veil appears greater
and more venerable. (4)
Freemasonry also teaches the doctrine of a future life. But although there was
no necessity, as in the Pagan Mysteries, to conceal this doctrine from the
populace; yet there is, for the reasons that have just been assigned, a
proneness in the human heart, which has always existed, to clothe the most
sacred subjects with the veil of mystery. It was this spirit that caused Jesus
to speak to the Jewish multitudes in parables whose meaning his disciples,
like initiates, were to comprehend, but which would be unintelligible to the
people, so that "seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not
Mysteries and Freemasonry were both secret societies, not necessarily because
the one was the legitimate successor of the other, but because both were human
institutions and because both partook of the same human tendency to conceal
what was sacred from the unhallowed eyes and cars of the profane.
this way may be explained the andogy between the two institutions which arises
from their secret character and their esoteric method of instruction.
symbolic form of imparting the doctrines is another analogy, which may be
when once the esoteric or secret system was determined on, or involuntarily
adopted by the force of those tendencies to which I have referred, it was but
natural that the secret instruction should be communicated by a method of
symbolism, because in all ages symbols have been the cipher by which
"Div. Legat.," I., p. 201.
Ibid., I., P. 200.
associations of every character have restricted the knowledge which they
imparted to their initiates only.
in the Mysteries, the essential doctrine of a resurrection from death to
eternal life was always taught in a dramatic form. There was a drama in which
the aspirant or candidate for initiation represented, or there was visibly
pictured to him, the death by violence and then the resuscitation or
apotheosis ‑ the resurrection to life and immortality of some god or hero, in
whose honor the peculiar mystery was founded. Hence in all the Mysteries there
were the thanatos, the death or slaying of the victim; the aphanism, the
concealment or burial of the body by the slayers; and the heuresis, the
finding of the body by the initiates. This drama, from the character of the
plot, began with mourning and ended with joy.
traditional "heureka," sometimes attributed to Pythagoras when he discovered
the forty‑seventh problem, and sometimes to Archimedes when he accidentally
learned the principle of specific gravity, was nightly repeated to the
initiates when, at the termination of the drama of the Mysteries, they had
found the hidden body of the Master.
the recognized fact that this mode of inculcating a religious or a
philosophical idea by a dramatic representation was constantly practiced in
the ancient world, for the purpose of more permanently impressing the
conception, would naturally lead to its adoption by all associations wbere the
same lesson was to be taught as that which was the subject of the Mysteries.
The tendency to dramatize an allegory is universal, because the method of
dramatization is the most expedient and has been proved to be the most
successful. The drama of the third or Master's degree of Freemasonry is, as
respects the subject and the development of the plot and the conduct of the
scenes, the same as the drama of the apcient Mysteries. There is the same
thanalos, or death; the same aphanism, or concealment of the body, and the
same heuresis, or discovery of it. The drama of the Master's degree begins in
sorrow and ends in joy. Everything is so similar that we at once recognize an
analogy between Freemasonry and the ancient Mysteries; but it has already been
explained that this analogy is the result of natural causes, and by no means
infers a descent of the modern from the ancient institution.
Another analogy between the Mysteries and Freemasonry is the division of both
into steps, classes, or degrees ‑ call them what you may ‑ which is to be
found in both.
arrangement of the Masonic system into three degrees certainly bears a
resemblance to the distribution of the Mysteries into the three steps of
Preparation, Initiation, and Perfection which have been heretofore described.
this analogy, remarkable as it may at first view appear, is really an
accidental one, which in no way shows an historical connection between the two
every system of instruction, whether open or secret, there must be a gradual
and not an immediate attainment of that which is intended to be imparted.
ancient adage that "no one suddenly becomes wicked" might with equal truth be
read that "no one suddenly becomes learned." There must be a series of gradual
approaches to the ultimate point in every pursuit of knowledge, like the
advancing parallels of a besieging army in its efforts to attain possession of
a beleaguered city.
the ladder, with its various steps, has from the earliest times been accepted
as a symbol of moral or intellectual progress from an inferior to a superior
this progress from the simplest to the most profound arena of initiation ‑
from the inception to the full accomplishment of the instruction whereby the
mind was to be gradually purged of many errors, by preparatory steps, before
it could bear the full blaze of truth ‑ both the Mysteries and Freemasonry
have obeyed a common law of intellectual growth, independently of any
connection of the one with the other institution.
fact that there existed in both institutions secret modes of recognition
presents another analogy. It is known that in the Mysteries, as in
Freemasonry, there was a solemn obligation of secrecy, with penalties for its
violation, which referred to certain methods of recognition known only to the
this may safely be attributed to the fact that such peculiarities are and
always will be the necessary adjuncts of any secret organization, whether
religious, social, or political.
every secret society isolated from the rest of mankind, we must find, as a
natural outgrowth of its secrecy and as a necessary means of defense and
isolation, an obligation of secrecy and methods of recognition.
such analogies it is, therefore, scarcely worth while to dilate.
then, I have traced the analogies between the ancient Mysteries and modern
Freemasonry in the following points of resemblance.
Preparation, which in the Mysteries was called the Lustration.
the first step in the Mysteries, and is the Entered Apprentice's degree in
both systems the candidate was purified for the reception of truth by washing.
it was a physical abultion; in the other a moral cleansing; but in both the
symbolic idea was the same.
Iniliation, which in the ancient system was partly in the Lesser Mysteries,
but more especially in the Greater.
Masonry it is partly in the Fellow Craft's, but more especially in the
Perfection, which in the Mysteries was the communication to the aspirant of
the true dogma ‑ the great secret symbolized by the fnitialion.
Freemasonry it is the same.
dogma communicated in both is, in fact, identical.
Perfection came in the Mysteries at the end of the Greater Mysteries.
Masonry it is communicated at the close of the Master's degree.
Mysteries the communication was made in the saceeum or holiest place.
Masonry it is made in the Master's Lodge, which is said to represent the holy
of holies of the Temple.
secret character of both institutions.
use of symbols.
dramatic form of the initiation.
division of both systems into degrees or steps.
the adoption by both of secret methods of recognition.
analogies, it must be admitted, are very striking, and, if considered merely
as coincidences, must be acknowledged to be very singular.
not, therefore, surprising that scholars have found it difficult to resolve
the following problem:
modern Freemasonry a lineal and uninterrupted successor of the ancient
Mysteries, the succession being transmitted through the Mithraic initiations
which existed in the 5th and 6th centuries; or is the fact of the analogies
between the two systems to be attributed to the coincidence of a natural
process of human thought, common to all minds and showing its development in
myself, I can only arrive at what I think is a logical conclusion; that if
both the Mysteries and Freemasonry have taught the same lessons by the same
method of instruction, this has arisen not from a succession of organizations,
each one a link of a long chain of historical sequences leading directly to
another, until Hiram is simply substituted for Osiris, but rather from those
usual and natural coincidences of human thought which are to be found in every
age and among all peoples.
however, hardly to be denied that the founders of the Speculative system of
Masonry, in forming their ritual, especially of the third degree, derived many
suggestions as to the form and character of their funereal legend from the
rites of the ancient initiations.
how long after Freemasonry had an organized existence this funereal legend was
devised, is a question that must hereafter be entitled to mature
DRUIDISM AND FREEMASONRY
PRESTON, in commencing his history of Masonry in England, asserts that there
are convincing proofs that the science of Masonry was not unknown to the early
Britons even before the time of the invasion of the Romans.
he suggests the probability that the Druids retained among them many usages
similar to those of Masons; but he candidly admits that this is a mere
Hutchinson thinks it probable that many of the rites and institutions of the
Druids were retained in forming the ceremonies of the Masonic society. (2)
who knew, by the way, as little of Masonry as he did of the religion of the
Druids, dogmatically asserts that "Masonry is the remains of the religion of
the ancient Druids, who, like the Magi of Persia and the priests of Heliopolis
in Egypt, were priests of the sun." (3)
learned Faber, a much more competent authority than Paine, expresses the
opinion that the Druidical Bards "are probably the real founders of English
Godfrey Higgins, whose inventive genius, fertile imagination, and excessive
credulity render his great work, the Anacalypsis, altogether unreliable, says
that he has "no doubt that the Masons were Druids, Culidei, or Chaldea, and
Oliver, it is true, denies that the Masons of the present day were derived
from the Druids.
thinks that the latter were a branch of what he calls the Spurious
Freemasonry, which was a secession from the Pure Freemasonry of the
finds many analogies in the rites and symbols of the two institu‑
"Illustrations of Masonry," B. IV., sec. i., p. 121, Oliver's ed.
Spirit of Masonry," lect. iii., p. 41.
"Essay on Freemasonry," p. 6.
"Pagan Idolatry." (5) "Anacalypsis," vol. i., p. 718.
which indicate their common origin from a primitive system, namely, the
ancient Mysteries of the Pagans.
theory of those who find a connection either in analogy or by succession
between the Druids and the Freemasons accounts for this connection by
supposing that the Druids derived their system either from Pythagoras or from
the ancient Mysteries through the Phoenicians, who visited Britain at an early
period for commercial purposes.
before we can profitably discuss the relations of Druidism to Freemasonry, or
be prepared to determine whether there were any relations whatever between the
two, it will be necessary to give a brief sketch of the history and character
of the former.
is a topic which, irrespective of any Masonic reference, is not devoid of
the institutions of antiquity, there is none with which we are less acquainted
than that of the Druidism of Britain and Gaul. The investigations of recent
archaeologists have tended to cast much doubt on the speculations of the
antiquaries of the 17th and 18th centuries.
Stokely, for instance, one of the most learned of those who have sought to
establish out of the stone monuments of England a connected history of
Druidism, has been said by Ferguson, in his work on Rude Stone Monuments, to
have been indebted more to a prolific imagination than to authentic facts for
the theory which he has sought to establish.
scepticism of Ferguson is, however, not less objectionable in a critical
inquiry than the credulity of Stokely.
is evidently a middle way between them.
Ferguson can not deny the existence of Druids in Gaul and Britain, since the
fact is stated by Caesar.
supposes that there were two distinct races in the island; the original
inhabitants, who were of Turanian origin, and, being more uncivilized, were
driven by the other race, who were Celts, into the fastnesses of the Welsh
hills long before the Roman invasion.
the former he thinks that the religion of Druidism, consisting of tree and
serpent worship, may have been practiced.
accounts for the error of the classical writers in describing the priests of
the latter race as Druids by attributing it to the confounding of the two
races by the "uncritical Romans." (1)
"Tree and Serpent Worship," P. 29.
recently a bold and very sceptical theory has been advanced by Dr.
Goldziher, in his work on Mythology Among the Hebrews, (1) which aims at a
total annihilation of Druidism as a system of secret initiation among the
ancient Britons (whose Druidism was only a national religion), and attributes
its invention to the modern Welsh, who created it for the purpose of elevating
and strengthening their own nationality in their rivalry with the English.
Cymri of Wales, becoming alive to the opposition in nationality between
themselves and the English, felt the need of finding a justification of this
opposition in the oldest prehistoric times.
then first suggested to them that they were descendants of the ancient,
renowned Celtic nation; and to keep alive this Celtic national pride they
introduced an institution of New Druids, a sort of secret society like the
New Druids, like the old ones, taught a sort of national religion, which,
however, the people having long become Christian and preserved no independent
national traditions, they had mostly to invent themselves. Thus arose the
so‑called Celtic mythology of the god Hu and the goddess Ceridolu (Ceridwen),
etc. ‑ mere poetical fictions which never lived in popular belief."
questions involved in this difference of opinion are as yet not critically
decided, and I shall therefore content myself with giving the views of the
history and religion of the Druids as they have been generally received and
believed, without confusing the subject with the contending speculations which
have been fostered by the credulity or the imagination of one side and
impugned by the scepticism of the other.
Druids, which word signifies magicians, (2) were the priests of the religion
of the ancient Britons, among whom they exercised almost unlimited influence
presided over and directed the education of the youths; they decided without
appeal all judicial controversies; they were exempted from all taxes and legal
impositions; and whoever refused to submit to their decisions on any question
was subjected to excommunication, by which he was forbidden access to the
altars or the performance of religious
Ably translated from the German by Mr. Russell Martineau, of the British
Museum, with valuable additions.
the passage quoted, see p 252.
Anglo‑Saxon dry is a magician; and drycroft, magic.
and was debarred from all intercourse with his relatives, his friends, or his
no superstition was ever more terrible than that of the priest‑ridden Britons.
Druids were under the chief authority of an Archdruid, which office was for
life, but originally elective.
were divided into three orders, the highest being the Druids, below which were
the Pro heis and the Pates or Bards.
held an annual assembly, at which litigated questions were decided and new
laws were made or old ones abrogated.
held also four quarterly meetings, on the days of the equinoxes and the
permitted none of their doctrines or ceremonies to be committed to common
writing, but used a cipher for their concealment.
Caesar says, consisted of the letters of the Greek alphabet; a statement by no
means probable, since it would infer a knowledge by them of the Greek
language, of which we have no evidence.
opinion of Toland is more plausible ‑ that the characters used were those of
the Irish Ogum alphabet.
James Ware, who wrote in Latin, about the middle of the 17th century, a work
on the Antiquities of Ireland, says that "the ancient Irish, besides the
vulgar characters, used also various occult or artificial forms of writing,
called Ogum, in which they wrote their secrets;" and he adds that he himself
was in possession of an ancient book or parchment filled with these
places of worship were, according to the contemporaneous authority of Caesar
and Tacitus, in sacred groves.
Stokely and other antiquaries of his school suppose that the megalithic
monuments found in Britain, such as at Stonehenge and Avebury, were Druidical
temples, but Ferguson denies this, and asserts that "there is no passage in
any classical author which connects the Druids either directly or indirectly
with any stone temples or stones of any sort." (2) The question remains
unadjudicated, but the position taken by Ferguson seems to be supported by
better archaeological evidence.
worship, like that of the ancient Mysteries, was accompanied by a secret
doctrines were communicated only to the initiated, who were strictly forbidden
to expose them to the profane.
were the precise forms of this initiation it is impossible to
Hibern.," cap. 2.
"Rude Stone Monuments," p. 206
Druids themselves, wedded to their oral system of instruction, have left no
Dr. Oliver, depending on inferences that he has drawn from the Welsh triads,
from the poem of the ancient bard Taleisin, and some other Cambrian
authorities, aided by the inventive genius of his own imagination, has
afforded us a very minute, if not altogether accurate, detail of these
initiatory ceremonies. The account is entirely too long for reproduction, but
a condensed view of it will not be uninteresting. (1)
Previous to admission to the first degree, or that of the Vates, the candidate
was submitted to a careful preparation, which in especial cases extended to
the long period of twenty years.
ceremony of initiation began by placing the candidate in the pastos, chest or
coffin, in which he remained enclosed for three days, to represent death, and
was liberated or restored to life on the third day. (2)
sanctuary being now prepared for the business of initiation, the Druids are
duly arranged, being appropriately clothed and crowned with ivy.
candidate, representing a blind man, is then introduced while a hymn to the
Sun is being chanted.
placed under the care of an officer whose duty it is to receive him in the
land of rest, and he is directed to kindle the fire under the cauldron of
Ceridwen, the Druidical goddess.
pageant is then formed, and the candidate makes a circumambulation of nine
times around the sanctuary, in circles from east to west by the south.
procession is first slow and amid a death‑like silence; at length the pace is
increased into a rapid and furious motion, accompanied with the tumultuous
clang of musical instruments and the screams of harsh and dissonant voices
reciting in verse the praises of those heroes who were brave in war, courteous
in peace, and patrons of religion. (3)
sacred ceremony was followed by the administration of an oath of secrecy,
violation of which could be expiated only by death.
succeeded a series of ceremonies in which, by means of masks, the candidate
was made to assume the character of various animals, such as the dog, the
deer, the mare, the cock, etc. (4)
according to Oliver, concluded the first part of the cere‑
"History of Initiation," lect. viii., p. 199 et seq.
Ibid., p. 201.
this ceremony represented a death and resurrection is altogether conjectural.
Ibid., p. 204.
Ibid., P. 205.
second part began with striking the candidate a violent blow on the head with
an oar, and a pitchy darkness immediately ensued, which was soon changed into
a blaze of light which illuminated the whole area of the shrine.
sudden transition from darkness to light was intended to shadow forth the same
transition which Noah experienced on emerging from the gloom of the ark to the
brightness of the renovated world. (1)
it is contended that the Druids were Arkite worshippers ‑ a concession by
Oliver to the theories of Faber and Bryant.
light was then withdrawn and the candidate was again involved in chaotic
darkness. The most dismal howlings, shrieks, and lamentations salute his
the figurative death of Noah, typified by his confinement in the ark, was
commemorated with every external mark of sorrow.
Alarmed at the discordant noises, the candidate naturally sought to escape,
but this was rendered impossible, for wherever he turned he was opposed by
dogs who pursued him.
length the gigantic goddess Ceridwen seized him and bore him by main force to
the mythological sea which represented the flood of waters over which Noah
he is supposed to have remained for a year in the character of Arawn, or Noah.
(2) The same appalling sounds continued, until at length, having emerged from
the stream, the darkness was removed and the candidate found himself
surrounded by the most brilliant coruscations of light.
change produced in the attendants corresponding emotions, which were expressed
by shouts and loud paeans that testified their rejoicings at the resuscitation
of their god. (3)
aspirant was then presented to the Archdruid, who explained to him the design
of the mysteries and imparted some portion of the secret knowledge of
Druidism, and recommended to him the practice of fortitude, which was
considered as one of the leading traits of perfection.
the performance of these painful ceremonies, the first degree of initiation
into the Druidical Mysteries was concluded.
second degree, where the trials appear, from Oliver's
"History of Initiation," p. 208.
This detention of a year in the waters of the deluge was, I presume, like the
fourteen days of interment in the Master Mason's degree, which period passes
in the space of a few minutes ‑ only a symbolic idea.
"History of Initiation," p. 211
description, to have been of a less severe character, the candidate underwent
lustration, or a typical ablution, which was followed by his enlightenment.
now instructed in the morality of the order; taught that souls are immortal
and must live in a future state; solemnly enjoined to the performance of
divine worship and the practice of virtue; and was invested with some of the
badges of Druidism.
these was the crystal, the unequivocal test of his initiation.
crystal, or talisman against danger, was manufactured exclusively by the
Druids, and its colour varied in the three degrees.
first it was green, in the second blue, and in the third white.
one presented to the aspirant was a combination of these colours. (1)
the second degree very few advanced.
third was conferred only on persons of rank and consequence, and in it the
aspirant passed through still more arduous ceremonies of purification.
candidate was committed to secluded solitude for a period of nine months,
which time was devoted to reflection and to the study of the sciences, so that
he might be prepared more fully to understand the sacred truths in which he
was about to be instructed.
again submitted to a symbolic death and regeneration, by ceremonies different
from those of the first degree.
then supposed to represent a new‑born infant, and, being placed in a coracle
or boat, was committed to the mercy of the waters.
candidate, says Oliver, was actually set adrift in the open sea, and was
obliged to depend on his own address and presence of mind to reach the
opposite shore in safety. (2)
was done at night, and this nocturnal expedition, which sometimes cost the
candidate his life, was the closing act of his initiation.
he refuse to undertake it, he was contemptuously rejected and pronounced
unworthy of a participation in the honours to which he aspired and for which
he was forever afterward ineligible.
he courageously entered on the voyage and landed safely, he was triumphantly
received by the Archdruid and his companions.
recognized as a Druid, and became eligible for any ecclesiastical, civil or
whole circle of human science was open to his investigation; the knowledge of
divine things was communicated without reserve; he was now en‑
"History of Initiation," p. 212.
Ibid., p. 216.
to perform the mysterious rites of worship, and had his understanding enriched
with an elaborate system of morality." (1)
little is known of the religion of the Druids, on which these ceremonies are
supposed to be founded, and concerning that little the opinions of the learned
those institutions," says Toland, "which are thought to be irrecoverably lost,
one is that of the Druids; of which the learned have hitherto known nothing
but by some fragments concerning them out of the Greek and Roman authors." (2)
Hence the views relating to their true worship have been almost as various as
the writers who have discussed them.
Caesar, who derived his knowledge of the Druids, imperfect as it was, from the
contemporary priests of Gaul, says that they worshipped as their chief god
Mercury, whom they considered as the inventor of all the arts, and after him
Apollo, Mars, Jupiter, and Minerva. (3) But the Romans had a habit of applying
to all the gods or idols of foreign nations the names and qualities of the
deities of their own mythology.
his statement will scarcely amount to more than that the Druids worshipped a
variety of gods.
Davies, who, notwithstanding his national prejudices and prepossessions, is,
from his learning, an authority not to be contemned, concurs in the view of
Caesar so far as to say that "it is an historical fact, that the mythology and
the rites of the Druids were the same, in substance, with those of the Greeks
and Romans and of other nations which came under their observation." (4)
Dionysius the Geographer, another writer of the Augustan age, says that the
rites of Bacchus were celebrated in Britain, (5) and Strabo, on the authority
of Artemidorus, who wrote a century before Christ, asserts that in an island
close to Britain (probably the isle of Mona, where the Druids held their
principal seat) Ceres and Proserpine were venerated with rites similar to
those of Samothracia. (6)
Bryant, who traced all the ancient religions, principally on the basis of
etymology, to traditions of the deluge and the worship of
Oliver, "History of Initiation," P. 217.
"History of the Druids," in miscellaneous works, vol. i., p. 6.
"De Bello Gallico." (4) "Mythology and Rites of the British Druids," p. 89 (5)
"Perieget," v., 565.