By Carl H.
Reproduced by permission of
Brother Joe Ohlandt
The printed version of this book is available at
Similarities exist in all the
degrees of Ancient Craft Masonry. Each has an entry, a reception, a
circumambulation, an obligation, a bringing to light. Each discovers certain
symbols to the initiate and, in demonstration and in lecture, gives him the
key by which he may unlock the door behind which he will find their meaning.
In its Second Section the
Sublime Degree departs from the familiar. Instead of being concerned with
moral principles and exhortations, as is the first degree, or with
architecture and learning, as is the second, it answers the cry of Job,
"If a man die, shall he live again?"
The degree delves into the
deepest recesses of a man's nature. While it leads the initiate into the
Sanctum Sanctorum of the Temple, it probes the Holy of Holies of his heart.
As a whole the degree is
symbolical of that old age by the wisdom of which "we may enjoy the happy
reflections consequent on a well-spent life, and die in the hope of a glorious
But it is much more than that.
It is at once the universal and yearning question of man throughout all ages
and its answer. To teaches no creed, no dogma, no religion; only that there is
a hope of Immortality; there is a Great Architect by whose mercy we may live
again, leaving to each brother his choice of interpretations by which he may
read the Great Beyond.
It teaches of the power - and
the powerlessness - of evil. For those who are happy in a belief in the
resurrection of the physical body, the Sublime Degree has comfort. For those
whose hope is in the raising only of that spiritual body of which Paul taught,
the degree assures of all the longing heart can wish.
When the lesson of the greatest
hope and the dearest wish of all mankind is made manifest, the Sublime Degree
turns to this life and this brotherhood, and in the symbolism of the Lion, the
exposition of the Five Points of Fellowship, the means by which a Mason may
claim all that a man may from his brother, and the Word, ties together the
Hiramic Legend and daily living in a manner which no thoughtful man may see
and hear without a thrill, a way at once awe-inspiring and heartening,
terrible but beautiful, sternly uncompromising yet strangely comforting.
It is because the degree is all
this - and more, much more, which cannot be put into words - that it means so
much to those of whom it becomes a part. The ceremony is not of the earth,
earthy, but of that land of the inner life, that home of the spirit where each
man thinks the secret thoughts he tells never - never.
Pull the flower to pieces;
remain the petals, a perfume, but no rose. Play the symphony, isolated note by
note; sound is heard, but no music. Every word Milton wrote is in the
dictionary but great poems may not there be found.
So of any written account of
this degree; we may write of its symbols, analyze its legend, tell of its
meaning, but we pronounce but words without a rhyme, make a flower of wax, a
song muted. The best we may do is to point out a path up the high mountain of
spiritual experience which is the Sublime Degree, that he who climbs may see
it with a new view - and clearer eyes.
NOW THY CREATOR . . ."
Of all the quotations,
allusions, facts, and names taken from the Great Light and made a part of the
Masonic ritual none has a more secure place in the hearts of the brethren than
the first seven verses from Ecclesiastes xii:
Remember now thy Creator in the
days of thy Youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when
thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them. While the sun, or the light, or
the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain:
In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men
shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those
that look out of the windows be darkened, and the doors shall be shut in the
streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the
voice of the bird, and all the daughters of musick shall be brought low: Also
when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the
way, when the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a
burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the
mourners go about the streets: Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the
golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel
broken at the cistern. Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and
the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.
Of the two favorite
interpretations of Biblical commentators one makes this dramatic passage a
description of old age and senile decay; the other, a reference to the seldom
experienced and much feared thunderstorm in Palestine.
The first gives advice to
remember the Creator before the eyes begin to go blind, the hands begin to
tremble, the legs to weaken, the teeth to drop out; before the old man is
frightened at every little sound, even the voice of a bird, before his voice
ceases to be musical; before "the almond tree shall flourish" - that
is, the hair whiten like the almond tree in bloom - and so tiny a weight as
that of a grasshopper be burdensome; before the silver cord (spinal marrow) be
loosed or the golden bowl (heart) be broken and so on.
Whether or not the writer of
this passage possessed a sufficient knowledge of anatomy to refer to the
spinal cord, heart, internal organs, and brain as the "silver cord,"
the "golden bowl," the "pitcher," and the
"wheel," is problematical. The storm interpretation is not open to
such an objection; the little mills with which women ground corn would soon
cease in the face of the feared thunder; the women in the houses would draw
away from the windows and shut them and also the doors, but there is some
difficulty in fitting the grasshopper and the almond tree into this analogy.
Read it how you will, the
majestic and awe-inspiring poetry rings here the solemn warning with a shake
of the heart and a shiver up the back.... Remember now thy Creator . . . now,
before the fearsome storms of life, or the decay of old age is upon you; wait
not until "fears are in the way" to cry for help to the Almighty.
Delay not until toothless, sightless, white-haired age asks for help from on
high because there is no help left on earth! Remember now thy Creator, while
limbs are strong and desire ardent, while life pulses redly and the world is
all before . . .
No man thinks of his Master
Mason's degree but hears again in his heart at least the beginning and ending
of this sermon in poetry: "Remember now thy Creator, in the days of thy
youth; . . . then shall the dust return to the earth as it was and the spirit
shall return unto God who gave it " The solemn strokes on the bell which
is Ecclesiastes and the heart-gripping drama of the Legend of Hiram Abif are
never to be known apart by him who has met them together.
Learned students have attempted
to fix the date - as if dates mattered! - when the Hiramic Legend first made
its appearance in Freemasonry. Their conclusions are more negative than
positive, and none has gone behind the fact that in one form or another the
Hiramic Legend is among the oldest as it is among the dearest myths of the
human race. One may agree that documentary evidence does not put the legend of
the martyred master workman into the third degree prior to 1725 and still see
in it a recasting of the race-old drama of man's hope for immortality.
A dozen or more suggestions have
been made by Masonic students as to what the legend means. Some take it
literally even though the Old Testament says nothing of the death of that
Hiram which Solomon fetched out of Tyre who "wrought all his work."
Others believe it is another way of telling the story of Isis and Osiris -
itself a legend which could hardly have been foisted on the people full born
from the brain of some clever priest but must have been an heritage from the
Hyksos, or even earlier inhabitants of Egypt. Fancifully, some see in it a
modern version of the death of Abel at the hands of Cain, and of course
thousands visualize it as the death and resurrection of the Man of Galilee.
Search the Great Light; you will
find no account of the tragedy of Hiram Abif. You will learn of Hiram, or
Huram. If you delve deeply enough in Hebrew you will learn that "Abif"
means "his father" which may indicate another Hiram, a son. Modern
scholarship translates Hiram Abif as "Hiram, my father" meaning a
Hiram looked up to, venerated, given a title of honour, as the father of a
tribe, the father of an art, the father of the sacred vessels of the Temple.
But of the Three, the tragedy, and the Lost Word, the Old Testament is silent.
Nor will you find in secular
history any account of the drama of Hiram. For its truth you must delve into
the myths and legends and fairy stories in which the race has half concealed,
half revealed, those truths which do not bear telling in plain words.
Is there a Santa Claus? For six
years old there is. For his elders Santa Claus is a means of telling a
beautiful truth in terms which six years old can understand. Is the legend
"true"? What is meant by "true" ? If the translation of
"true" is "historically accurate," obviously neither Santa
Claus nor Hiram Abif is "true." But if "true" means
"containing a great truth," then both the myth of the Yuletide Saint
and the Legend of the Master Builder are true in the most real sense.
Raised to the Sublime Degree,
many men see in the living, the dying and the raising of the Master only a
literal drama, designed to teach the virtues of fortitude and inflexible
fidelity. For those whose ears hear only the melody and are deaf to harmonies,
for those whose eyes are so blinded by the sunset as not to see the colors,
this is good enough.
Yet any literal interpretation
of the legend and our ceremony which exemplifies it misses its heart.
The Legend of Hiram Abif is at
once the tragedy and the hope of man; it is virtue struck down by error, evil,
and sin, and raised again by truth, goodness, and mercy. It is the story of
the resurrection of that "which bears the nearest affinity to that
supreme intelligence which pervades all nature." It is the answer to Job.
It is at once the beginning of the even more sacred legend - of that which was
lost - and the assurance that at long last he who seeks shall find.
How long is a rope? A silly
question! It can be answered, presumably, if one can find one end and measure
it to the other. Suppose the rope has only one end? Sillier and sillier! But
if two ends are true of a rope, are they true of space and time and eternity?
If time has a beginning, it has an ending. If space commences somewhere, there
also will be its end to be found. If eternity has a beginning, it is not
Here is the shock, the surprise,
and the glory of the third degree. It presents us with eternity in the midst
of life. It pushes back the confines of our little dimensions, our tiny
measurements of time, our small comprehension of space and shows us that we
enter eternity at neither birth nor death. We have always been in eternity if
we are in it at all. Hiram Abif was gathered to his fathers when the
selfishness and sin of misguided men struck him down. But they were powerless
against the Paw of the Lion and the might of Freemasonry. Each of us is born,
lives his short life and, wearing his little white apron, is laid where our
forefathers have gone before us. The drama of the third degree assures us that
the life from birth to death and including both is but an episode, a single
note in the great symphony.
The Hiramic Legend is the glory
of Freemasonry; the search for that which was lost is the glory of life.
Never may we find it here. You
shall gaze through microscope and telescope and catch no sight of its shadow.
You shall travel in many lands and far and see it not. You shall listen to all
the words of all the tongues which all men have ever spoken and will speak -
the Lost Word is not heard. Were it but a word, how easy to invent another!
But it is not a word, but The Word, the great secret, the unknowableness which
the Great Architect sets before his children, a will o' the wisp to follow, a
pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Never here is it to be found, but the
search for it is the reason for life.
The Sublime Degree teaches that
in another life it may be found.
That is why it is the Sublime
In the Entered Apprentice's and
Fellowcraft's degrees the altar is the place of obligation. Here in due form
the initiate takes upon himself those duties and offers those promises which
make of the candidate an Entered Apprentice, which pass the Entered Apprentice
to the degree of Fellowcraft.
In the Master Mason's degree the
altar is more - much more. It now becomes the Masonic Holy of Holies, which
the Great Light teaches us was the center and heart of both the Tabernacle in
the Wilderness and the Temple of Solomon. In the Holy of Holies was the Ark of
the Covenant, over which the Shekinah, the very spirit of God Himself, glowed
in a radiance too bright for mortal eyes.
Let him who reads remember the
Rite of Discalceation as it was in the preceding degrees and compare it with
that practised here. As he reflects on the symbolism of the altar in the
Sublime Degree, he will understand why it is different. Exodus iii, 4 and 5
... God called unto him out of
the midst of the bush and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I. And he
said, Draw not nigh hither; put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place
whereon thou standest is holy ground.
In the East the worshipper
removes his shoes that the Temple be not defiled. The Rite of Discalceation
does not proclaim that the Masonic initiate will defile the Temple of
Freemasonry, but that he is thus made to recognize that "the place
whereon thou standest is holy ground" - a place not to be approached as
are other places, but one into which one walks as set forth in the prayer
book, "reverently, discreetly advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of
Some things may not be written;
not so much that it is forbidden as that they are not to be expressed in
words. Kneeling before the altar of the Great Architect of the Universe to
offer petition for himself, alone with his Maker, the Freemason is himself a
symbol of that strange relationship which all feel and none may speak; that
oneness with infinity by which he whose heart is quickened may understand - as
much as it may be understood - the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of
The lion is one of Freemasonry's
most powerful and potent symbols both in the Lion of the Tribe of Judah and
the paw of the lion.
Judah was symbolized as a lion
in his father's deathbed blessing. The lion was upon the standard of the large
and powerful tribe of Judah. "Lion of the Tribe of Judah" was one of
Solomon's titles. Christian interpretation of the phrase springs from
Revelation (v, 5), Behold, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Root of David,
hath prevailed to open the book and to loose the seven seals thereof.
The idea of a resurrection is
curiously interwoven with the lion. In the Twelfth Century, one Philip de
Thaun stated: "Know that the lioness, if she bring forth a dead cub, she
holds her cub and the lion arrives; he goes about and cries, till it revives
on the third day."
Thus the strong lion of Judah
The gates of cruel death being broken
Arose on the third day
At the loud sounding voice of the father. (1)
But the lion was connected with
the idea of resurrection long before the Man of Galilee walked upon the earth.
In ancient Egypt as we learn from the stone carvings on the ruins of temples a
lion raised Osiris from a dead level to a living perpendicular by a grip of
his paw; the carvings show a figure standing behind the altar, observing the
raising of the dead, with its left arm uplifted and forming the angle of a
The Lion of the Tribe of Judah,
considered as signifying a coming redeemer who would spring from the tribe, or
meaning the King of Israel who built the Temple, or symbolizing the Christ,
must not be confused with the mode of recognition so inextricably mingled with
the Sublime Degree, teaching of a resurrection and a future life.
Unquestionably the Israelites
absorbed much of Egyptian belief during the Captivity, which may account both
for the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, and our own use of the paw.
The Five Points of Fellowship
contain the essence of the doctrine of brotherhood.
In the Old Constitutions as
explained in the Halliwell or Regius manuscript are fifteen regulations called
points. The old verse runs:
Fifteen artyculus there they
And fifteen poyntys there they wrogton.
Phillip's New World of Words,
published in 1706 defines point as "a head or chief matter." An
operative Mason "points" the wall by filling in the chinks left in
laying bricks or stone, thus completing the structure.
Our Five Points of Fellowship
are not allied to these, except as they are reflected in the word
"points." We also find this relationship in the Perfect Points of
Entrance, once called Principal Points.
A change was made in the
symbolism of the Five Points in 1843, at the Baltimore Masonic Convention.
Prior to that time the Five Points were symbolized by hand, foot, knee,
breast, and back. After 1843 the hand was omitted and the mouth and ear tacked
on as the fifth. Mackey believed that "The omission of the first and the
insertion of the last are innovations and the enumeration given ... is the old
and genuine one which was originally taught in England by Preston and in this
country by Webb."
Such curiosities of ritual
changes, though interesting, are more for the antiquarian than the average
lodge member. Most of us are more concerned with a practical explanation of
the Five Points as they have been taught for more than a hundred years.
A man goes on foot a short
distance by preference; for a longer journey he boards a street car, rides in
an automobile, engages passage on a railroad or courses through the air in a
plane. Service to our brethren on foot does not imply any special virtue in
that means of transportation. The word expresses the willingness of him who
would serve to go at inconvenience and with difficulty, if necessary.
We assist our brethren when we
can; also we serve them. The two terms are not interchangeable. We cannot
assist a brother without serving, but we may serve him without assisting him.
A wholly negative action may be a service; suppose we have a just claim
against him and because of our fraternal relations we postpone pressing it.
That is true service, but not active assistance, such as we might render if we
gave or loaned money.
How far should we go on foot to
render service? Nothing is said in the ritual but the cable tow is elsewhere
used as a measure of length. Our own conception of brotherhood must say how
far we travel to help our brother. To petition at the altar of the Great
Architect of the Universe before engaging in any great or important
undertaking is sound Masonic doctrine. We name the welfare of our brethren in
our petitions because we love them; knowing our own need of their prayers, we
realize their need of ours.
Anciently it was written
Laborare est orare - to labor is to pray. If indeed labor is prayer, then to
pray for our brethren we may labor for them, which at once clarifies the
Second Point and makes it a practical, everyday, do-it-now admonition. To work
for our brother's welfare is in the most brotherly manner to petition the Most
High for him.
We often associate something
less than proper with the idea of a secret. "He has a secret in his
life"; "he is secretive"; "he says one thing but in his
secret heart he thinks another" seem to connote some degree of guilt with
what is secret. We keep our brother's secrets, guilty or innocent, but let us
not assume that every secret is of a guilty variety. He may have a secret
ambition, a secret joy, a secret hope - if he confide these to us, is our
teaching merely to refuse to tell them or to keep them in the fine old sense
of that word - to hold, to guard, to preserve? The Tiler stands watch and ward
not to keep the door from others, but to see that none uses it improperly.
Thus are we to keep the secret joys and ambitions of our brother close in our
hearts until he wants them known, but also, by sympathy and understanding,
help him to maintain them. "Do you stumble and fall, my brother? My hand
is stretched out to prevent. Do you need aid? My hand is yours - use it. It is
your hand for the time being. My strength is united to yours. You are not
alone in your struggle - I stand with you on the Fourth of the Five Points and
as your need may be, so, Deo volente, will be my strength for you."
So must we speak when the need
comes. It makes no difference in what way our brother stumbles; it may be
mentally; it may be spiritually; it may be materially; it may be morally. No
exceptions are noted in our teachings. We are not told to stretch forth the
hand in aid if, and perhaps, and but! Not for us to judge, to condemn, to
admonish ... for us only to put forth our strength unto our falling brother at
his need without question and without stint.
For of such is the Kingdom of
More sins are committed in the
name of the Fifth of the Five Points than in the name of Liberty! Too often we
offer counsel when it is not advice but help that is needed. Too often we
admonish of motes within our brother's eye when our own vision is blinded by
Reread here Amos vii in the
"In the midst of my people
Israel" - not in the faraway land; not across the river; not up on the
mountain top, but in the midst of them, close to them, an intimate personal
individual plumb line! So are we to admonish our brother; not by the plumb,
the square, the level we are each taught to carry in our hearts, but by his
plumb, his square, his level. If he build true by his own tools, we have no
right to judge him by ours. He may differ from us in opinion; he may be
Republican where we are Democrat, Methodist where we are Baptist,
Protectionist where we are Free Trade - we must not judge him by the plumb
line of our own beliefs. When we see a brave man shrinking, a virtuous man
abandonings himself to vice, a good man acting as a criminal - then is his
building faulty judged by his own plumb line, and we may heed the Fifth of the
Five Points and counsel and advise him to swing back true to his own working
tools. So considered, these teachings of Masonry, concerned wholly with the
relations of brother to brother become a broad and beautiful band of blue -
the blue of the Blue Lodge - the true blue of brotherhood.
In the Entered Apprentice's
Degree we learn of Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty.
In the Fellowcraft's Degree we
hear of the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian Columns.
In the Master Mason's Degree we
hear again of the Three Grand Pillars.
In each degree as we progress
more and more toward the East from whence comes Masonic Light we discover more
interesting meanings of the supports of a lodge. It would take pages where
here are but paragraphs even to list the references to wisdom in the Great
Light, the word occurs in the Bible two hundred and twenty-four times! For
Masons, however, perhaps the most illuminating passages regarding wisdom come
from Proverbs (ii 2; iii 13, 14; viii 11). Solomon said:
Incline thine ear unto wisdom and apply thine heart to understanding. Happy is
the man that findeth wisdom and the man that getteth understanding. For the
merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver and the gain
thereof than fine gold. For wisdom is better than rubbies and all the things
that may be desired are not to be compared to it.
Knowledge is cognizance of
facts. Wisdom is the strength of mind to apply its knowledge. A Mason may know
every word of our ritual from the beginning of the Entered Apprentice's Degree
to the final words of the Sublime Degree of Master Mason and still have no
wisdom, Masonic or otherwise. Many a great leader of the Craft has been a
stumbling, halting ritualist, yet possessed in abundance a Masonic wisdom
which made him a power for good among the brethren. Knowledge comes from
study; wisdom from experience and reflection. Knowledge may be the possession
of the criminal, the wastrel, the "irreligious libertine," and the
atheist. Wisdom comes only to the wise, and the wise are ever good. The first
of the Three Grand Pillars which support our Institution should be to every
Mason a symbol of the real need to become wise with the goodness of Masonry,
skilled in the arts of brotherhood, learned in the way to the hearts of his
brethren. If he know not and ask, "How may I gain Masonic wisdom?"
let him find the answer not in the ritual, important though it is; not in form
and ceremony, beautiful though they are with the strength of repetition and
age - let him look to the Five Points of Fellowship, for there is the key to
all real wisdom concerning the brotherhood of man.
The second of our Grand Pillars,
without which nothing endures, even when contrived by wisdom and adorned by
beauty, we know in two forms in our daily lives. First, the strength which
lies in action power, might - the strength of the arm, the engine the army.
Second, that other, subtler strength which is not the less strong for being
passive the strength of the foundation which endures, the strength of the
principles my which we live, individually, collectively, nationally -
Masonically, It is the second form of strength with which the Speculative
Mason is concerned. Freemasons build no temporal buildings. We do lay the
cornerstone of the public building in the Northeast Corner, but the action is
symbolic, not practical. The operative Mason who sets the stone for the Grand
Master would place it as strongly in the building without our ceremony as with
it. Our building is with the strength which endures in hearts and minds rather
than that which makes the sundry "materials of which an edifice is
composed" to do man's will. The Freemason constructs only the spiritual
building; his stone is his mind, mentally chipped by the common gavel to a
perfect ashlar. The strength by which he establishes his kingdom is not a
strength of iron but a strength of will; his pillars support not a wall to
keep out cowans and eavesdroppers but a character proof against the intrusion
of "the vices and superfluities of life."
Beauty is represented in a
Masonic lodge by the Corinthian column, most beautiful of the ancient orders
of architecture; by the Junior Warden who observes the sun at meridian when
the day is most beautiful; by Hiram Abif, who beautified and adorned the
Temple. We are taught that it is as necessary that beauty adorn all great and
important undertakings as that wisdom contrive or strength support them. In
the story of Solomon's Temple in the Great Light we find detailed descriptions
of what was evidently, to those who went into details of its construction, the
most beautiful building possible for the engineering skill, the wealth and the
conception of the people of Israel. Artists dispute and philosophers differ
about what is beauty. All of us have our individual conceptions of what
constitutes it. As no two men are agreed as to what is beautiful in a material
sense, the Masonic conception of beauty cannot be of material beauty. Its
symbol of beauty - the sun at meridian - is actually too blinding to see. If
we think the sun beautiful, it is for what it does for us, rather than for
what it is.
The Masonic Pillar of Beauty,
then, must be the symbol of an inward loveliness, a beauty of the mind, of the
heart; a beauty of the spirit. Our Corinthian column is to us not merely the
support of a building but that which upholds a character. Our Junior Warden
represents not only the beauty of the sun at meridian, but the illumination by
which a life is made beautiful. Hiram Abif is to us not only an exemplary
character but an ideal to follow, a tradition to be preserved, a glory for
which we may strive. A man may keep every law, go to church three times on a
Sunday, belong to our Order, subscribe to every charity and still be mean of
spirit, unhappy to live with, selfish, inconsiderate, disagreeable. Such an
one has not learned the inward meaning of the Pillar of Beauty. He has never
stood symbolically in the South. For him the sun at meridian is but the orb of
day at high noon and nothing more.
But for the real Mason, who
takes lessons of the Three Grand Pillars to heart, beauty is as much a lamp to
live by as are wisdom and strength. He finds beauty in his fellow man because
his inner self is beautiful. His house not made with hands is glorious before
heaven, not because in imitation of Solomon he "overlaid also the house,
the beams, the post and the walls thereof and the doors thereof, with
gold" but because it is made of those stones which endure before the
Great Architect - unselfishness, and kindness, and consideration, and charity,
and a giving spirit; of brotherhood genuine because it springs from the heart.
For these things endure. Material things pass away. The Temple of Solomon is
but a memory. Scattered the stones, stolen the gold and silver, destroyed the
lovely vessels cast by Hiram Abif. But the memory, like the history of the
beauty and the glory which was Solomon, abide unto this day. So shall it be
with our house not built with hands, so be it we build with the beauty which
THE BOOK OF
CONSTITUTIONS, GUARDED BY THE TILER'S SWORD
Before the door of all lodges
stands a Tiler "with a drawn sword in his hand." Customarily it is a
straight blade; such a shining shaft of steel as was carried by knights of
olden time. According to Mackey it should have a snake-like shape in allusion
to the "Flaming sword which was placed at the east of the Garden of Eden
which turned every way to keep the way of the tree of life."
"The Book of Constitutions, guarded by the Tiler's sword," is a
comparatively modern symbol; its introduction has been traced to Webb, about
It reminds us to be "ever
watchful and guarded in our words and actions, particularly when before the
enemies of Masonry, ever bearing in remembrance those truly Masonic virtues,
silence and circumspection." But the Book of Constitutions is not a
secret work. It was first ordered printed by the Mother Grand Lodge, and a few
original copies as well as uncounted reprints of the Old Charges and the
General Regulations of 1723 are in existence to be seen by Mason and profane
alike. Obviously neither silence nor circumspection regarding this particular
Masonic volume is necessary. Some read into Webb's symbol the thought that it
expresses the guardianship of constitutional government by the Masonic
Fraternity but this seems rather far-fetched. It is easier to think that the
Tiler's sword admonishes us to brook no changes in our ancient landmarks, to
be guarded lest our words and actions bring the foundation book of Masonic law
into disrepute before the enemies of Masonry, applying to the Book of
Constitutions as well as to the secrets of Freemasonry "those truly
Masonic virtues, silence and circumspection." The second edition of
Anderson's Constitutions sets forth that in 1731 the Grand Master, the Duke of
Norfolk, presented to the Grand Lodge of England
the old trusty sword of Gustavus
Adolphus, king of Sweden, that was worn next by his successor in war, the
brave Bernard, Duke of Saxe-Weimar, with both their names on the blade, which
the Grand Master had ordered Brother George Moody (the king's sword cutler) to
adorn richly with the arms of Norfolk in silver on the scabbard, in order to
be the Grand Master's sword of state in the future.
Early prints of lodge meetings
on the Continent show the sword in use in the ceremonies; in this country the
sword was never worn in the lodge room even during that era when a sword was
as much a necessary article of a gentleman's dress as shoes or gloves. It was
deemed then as now incompatible with meeting upon the level. Either as a
weapon which made its possessor stronger than the man who was unarmed, or as a
badge of rank, the sword has no place in the lodge, except that it is usually
presented to the Tiler in the lodge at opening. It is almost universal for the
Tiler to request military men in uniform to leave their swords without the
lodge before entering. This custom, comparatively little known in this country
because few military men in times of peace go to lodge in full uniform, was
often broken during the war when soldiers clanked up and down lodge rooms with
their arms at their sides. But it is as Masonically inconsistent to wear a
sword in lodge as to appear therein without an apron.
The Tiler's sword is wholly
symbolic; whether it was always so is a matter lost in the mists which shroud
ancient history. The Tiler of the operative lodge may well have been armed
with a sword for actual defense against the cowan, who wanted the word and the
secret of the square without the necessity of serving a long period as an
Apprentice and labouring to produce a satisfactory Master's Piece. The modern
Tiler keeps off the cowan and the eavesdropper by the simple process of
refusing to admit those he does not know; if they still desire to enter the
tiled door, they must either be vouched for or request a committee. The
Tiler's sword is but the emblem of his authority, as the gavel is the symbol
of that possessed by the Master.
No symbol in Freemasonry but is
less than the idea symbolized. The Volume of the Sacred Law, the letter
"G," the Square, the Compasses, all symbolize ideas infinitely
greater than paper and ink, a letter formed of electric lights or carved from
wood, a working tool of metal. The Tiler's sword has a much greater
significance than its use as a defense against invasion of privacy. The
eavesdropper from without is no longer feared. The real eavesdropper is the
innocent profane who is told more than he should by the too enthusiastic
Mason. In the monitorial charge to the Entered Apprentice we hear,
"neither are you to suffer your zeal for the Institution to lead you into
argument with those who, through ignorance may ridicule it." The
admonition of the Book of Constitutions guarded by the Tiler's sword applies
Constructively if not actively
every profane who learns more than he should of esoteric Masonic work is an
Let us, then, all wear a Tiler's
sword in our hearts; let us set the seal of silence and circumspection upon
our tongues; let us guard the West Gate from the cowan as loyally as the Tiler
guards his door.
Only by such use of the sword do
we carry out its symbolism. To Masons the sword is an emblem of power and
authority, never of blood or wounds or battle or death. Only when thought of
in this way is it consistent with the rest of the symbols of our gentle Craft,
winning obedience to the mandates of the Tiler by brotherly love, an
infinitely stronger power than strength of arm, point of weapon or bright and
This is one of the oldest and
most widespread symbols denoting God. We find it in Egypt, in India, and in
the Old Testament. The Open Eye of Egypt represented Osiris. In India Siva is
represented by an eye. In the Old Testament we read of the "eyes of
Omniscience and omnipresence are
rather forbidding words; the All-Seeing Eye expresses in familiar syllables a
thought easily comprehended by ignorant and wise alike. The conception of a
sleepless Eye which sees not only material but spiritual things; which watches
not only externals but the "inmost recesses of the human heart" has
that pictorial and imaginative appeal which visualizes to the most
matter-of-fact the power and the universality of the Great Architect.
We are taught of it as the
"All-Seeing Eye whom the sun, moon, and stars obey and under whose
watchful care even comets perform their stupendous revolutions." In this
astronomical reference is a potent argument for extreme care in the
transmission of ritual unchanged from mouth to ear and the necessity of
curbing well-intentioned brethren who wish to "improve" the ritual.
The word "revolution,"
printed in the earliest Webb monitors, fixes the astronomical references as
comparatively modern conceptions. Tycho Brahe, progenitor of the modern maker
and user of fine instruments among astronomers, whose discoveries have left an
indelible impress on astronomy, did not consider comets as orbital bodies.
Galileo thought them "emanations of the atmosphere." Not until the
Seventeenth Century was well under way did a few daring spirits suggest that
these celestial portents of evil, these terrible heavenly demons which had
inspired terror in the hearts of men for uncounted generations, were actually
parts of the solar system, and that many if not most of them were periodic,
returning again and again; in other words, that they revoked about the sun.
Obviously this passage of our
ritual cannot have come down to us by a word-of-mouth transmission from an
epoch earlier than that in which men first believed that a comet was not an
augury of evil but a part of the solar system, a body which engaged not in
irresponsible evolutions but law-controlled revolutions. Here the change of a
single letter would destroy an approximate date-fixing reference.
PROBLEM OF EUCLID
Except the All-Seeing Eye, this
emblem contains more real food for thought than any other in the lecture of
the Sublime Degree. Yet the 47th problem of Euclid generally gets less
attention and certainly less understanding than all the rest. The paragraph
relating to Pythagoras in our lecture is condensed from one in the Thomas
Smith Webb Monitor which appeared at the close of the Eighteenth Century.
Unabbreviated, it reads:
The 47th problem of Euclid was
an invention of our ancient friend and brother, the great Pythagoras, who, in
his travels through Asia, Africa, and Europe, was initiated into several
orders of priesthood, and raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason. This
wise philosopher enriched his mind abundantly in a general knowledge of
things, and more especially in Geometry, or Masonry. On this subject he drew
out many problems and theorems, and, among the most distinguished, he erected
this, when, in the joy of his heart, he exclaimed Eureka, in the Greek
language signifying, "I have found it," and upon the discovery of
which he is said to have sacrificed a hecatomb. It teaches Masons to be
general lovers of the arts and sciences.
In a sense that Pythagoras was a
learned man, a leader, a teacher, a founder of a school, a wise man who saw
God in Nature and in number, be was a "friend and brother." That be
was "initiated into several orders of priesthood" is history. That
he was "raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason" is an
impossibility, as the third degree as we know it is not more than three
hundred years old at the very outside. Pythagoras travelled but probably his
wanderings were confined to the countries bordering the Mediterranean. He did
go to Egypt, but it is doubtful that he got much farther into Asia than Asia
Minor. He did indeed "enrich his mind abundantly" in many matters
and particularly in mathematics. That he was the first to "erect"
the 47th problem is possible but not proved; at least he worked with it so
much that it is sometimes called "the Pythagorean problem." If he
did discover it, he might have exclaimed "Eureka," but that he
sacrificed a hecatomb - a hundred head of cattle - is entirely out of
character, since the Pythagoreans were vegetarians and reverenced all animal
In Pythagoras' day (586-506
B.C.) the 47th problem was not so called. It remained for Euclid of Alexandria
two hundred years later to write his books of geometry, of which the 47th and
48th problems form the end of the first. Either Pythagoras did discover the
Pythagorean problem, or if it was known prior to his time, it was used by him,
so that Euclid, recording in writing the science of geometry as it was then
known, merely availed himself of the mathematical knowledge of his era. At the
close of his first book Euclid states the 47th problem - and its correlative
48th - as follows:
(47th) In every right angle
triangle the square on the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares on
the other two sides.
(48th) If the square described
on one of the sides of a triangle is equal to the square described on the
other sides, then the angle contained by these two sides is a right angle.
This sounds more complicated
than it is. Of all people Masons should know what a square is: a right angle,
the fourth of a circle, an angle of ninety degrees. For the benefit of those
who have forgotten their school days, the "hypotenuse" is the line
which makes a right angle into a triangle by connecting the ends of the two
lines which form it.
For illustrative purposes let us
consider that the familiar Masonic square has one arm six inches long and one
arm eight inches long. A square erected on the six-inch arm will contain
square inches to the number of six times six, or thirty-six square inches. The
square erected on the eight-inch arm will contain square inches to the number
of eight times eight, or sixty-four. The sum of sixty-four and thirty-six
square inches is one hundred square inches.
According to the 47th problem
the square which can be erected upon the hypotenuse, or line joining the six-
and eight-inch arms of the square, should contain exactly one hundred square
inches. The only square which can contain one hundred square inches has
ten-inch sides, since ten, and no other number, is the square root of one
This is provable, mathematically, but it is also demonstrable with an actual
square. The curious need only lay off a line six inches long, at right angles
to a line eight inches long, connect the free ends by a line (the hypotenuse)
and measure the length of that line to be convinced - it is, indeed, ten
This is the famous 47th problem. It is the root of all geometry. It is behind
the discovery of every mathematical unknown from two known factors. It is the
very cornerstone of mathematics.
The engineer who tunnels from
both sides through a mountain uses it to get his two shafts to meet in the
center. The surveyor who wants to know how high a mountain may be ascertains
the answer through the 47th problem. The astronomer who calculates the
distance of the sun, the moon, the planets, and who fixes "the duration
of times and seasons, years, and cycles," depends upon the 47th problem
for his results. The navigator travelling the trackless seas uses the 47th
problem in determining his latitude, his longitude, and his true time.
Eclipses are predicted, tides are specified as to height and time of
occurrence, land is surveyed, roads run, shafts dug, bridges built, with the
47th problem to show the way.
It is difficult to show why it
is true; easy to demonstrate that it is true. Why is two added to two always
four and never five or three? Only because we call the product of two added to
two by the name of "four." If we expressed the conception of "fourness"
by some other name, then two plus two would be that other name. But the truth
would be the same, regardless of the name.
So it is with the 47th problem
of Euclid. The sum of the squares of the sides of any right angle triangle -
no matter what their dimensions - always exactly equals the square of the line
connecting their ends - the hypotenuse. One line may be a few inches long, the
other several miles long; the problem invariably works out both by actual
measurement upon the earth and by mathematical demonstration.
It is impossible for us to
conceive a place in the universe where two added to two produces five and not
four. We cannot conceive of a world, no matter how far distant among the
stars, where the 47th problem is not a true fact, meaning absolute - not
dependent upon time or place or world or even universe. Truth, we are taught,
is a divine attribute and as such is coincident with Divinity, omnipresent.
It is in this sense that the
47th problem "teaches Masons to be general lovers of the arts and
sciences." With the 47th problem man reaches out into the universe,
measures distances of the greatest magnitude, describes the whole framework
and handiwork of nature. With it he calculates the orbits and the positions of
those numberless worlds about us, and reduces the chaos of ignorance to the
law and order of intelligent appreciation of the cosmos. With it he instructs
his fellow-Masons that the great book of Nature is to be read through a
Considered thus, the
"invention of our ancient friend and brother, the great Pythagoras,"
becomes one of the most impressive, as it is one of the most important, of the
emblems of all Freemasonry, since it is a symbol of the power, the wisdom and
the goodness of the Great Architect of the Universe.
He who understands the truth behind the 47th problem sees a new meaning to the
reception of a Fellowcraft and understands better why a square teaches
morality and is dedicated to the Master.
If the All-Seeing Eye is the
most ancient and the 47th Problem of Euclid the grandest of the emblems of the
Master Mason's Degree, the Sprig of Acacia holds the greatest comfort. Not
even the Anchor and Ark as symbols of hope speak to Masons as does the simple
sprig of evergreen "which once marked the temporary resting place of the
Acacia was a symbol long before
Freemasonry existed. It is the shittim wood of the Old Testament, the erica or
tamarisk at the foot of which the body of the dead Osiris was cast ashore so
that, when found, it would rise again.
The Jews have always considered
shittim a sacred wood; a symbol of life. Logs of it used in houses sprout long
after the tree is destroyed that the beam be made. Everyone is familiar with
the evergreen which does not seem to die in cold weather, as do less hardy
trees which shed their leaves and sleep through the winter.
Shittim wood was used to
construct the table of shewbread, the Tabernacle, the Ark of the Covenant, the
sacred furniture of the Temple. Of its boughs, so it has been said, was woven
the crown of thorns which the Nazarene wore ...
But if Freemasonry did not make
it a symbol, we adopted it as symbolic of our own special Rite and beliefs.
Acacia marked the spot where lay
all that was mortal of the Widow's Son. Raised from a dead level to a living
perpendicular in the very shade of the acacia, how should the plant not stand
for immortality, a life to come, the most blessed hope of man?
In the stately prayer in the
Master Mason's Degree we hear, "For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut
down, that it will sprout again -" Later we learn of man who "cometh
forth as a flower and is cut down" by the scythe of time which gathers
him "to the land where his fathers have gone before him."
Where is that land?
Uncounted millions have asked.
Freemasonry's reply is that glorious immortality symbolized by the Sprig of
Acacia. Its reality is attested by every hope of every man born of woman since
the first infant cried the birth cry.
The Sprig of Acacia has another
equally beautiful implication, besides that of certainty of spiritual
survival. "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of
things not seen." The Sprig of Acacia is not only the emblem of a future
life but of faith.
It matters little what faith
that it. It is the existence of some faith which is important; the certainty
of things not seen. The Mason may be Methodist, Baptist, Spiritualist,
Universalist, Unitarian, Trinitarian, Mohammedan, or Brahmin! He may believe
in the orthodox future life of golden streets and milk and honey; his faith
may send him to a whole realm of seven planets which with the esoteric
Buddhist he must visit in turn; he may believe in the successive planes of
Spiritualism or the Nirvana of the Orient - the Sprig of Acacia is at once a
symbol of the immortality taught by his faith and of the faith itself.
We cannot prove immortality any
more than we can prove God. Proof is the result of logic, and logic is a
process of the mind. Faith is the product of a process of the heart. We cannot
reason ourselves into or out of love; we cannot reason ourselves into or out
The Sprig of Acacia proves
nothing - nor tries to. It means everything to him who has the faith. It is
Freemasonry's attestation to her children of the certainty with which she
regards her trinity of truths:
There is no Plan without a
That Which Was Lost will at long last be found.
Divine life which is ours can no more die than can Divinity.
The phraseology is the author's.
The teachings are Freemasonry's. Their symbol is the little green sprig which
Freemasons drop with their tears on the body of a deceased brother in full
faith that - where and how we presume not to say, leaving it wholly to the Eye
which sees and the Everlasting Arms which enfold - he, even as we, shall live
THE LAWS OF
Master Masons are obligated to
abide by the laws, resolutions, and edicts of the Grand Lodge, the bylaws of
the particular lodges of which they are members, and to maintain and support
the Landmarks and the ancient usages and customs of the Fraternity.
The written laws, based on the
General Regulations and the Old Charges first printed in 1723, are the
Constitution and by-laws of the Grand Lodge, its resolutions, regulations, and
edicts, and the by-laws of the particular lodge. The Ancient Landmarks are
written in some jurisdictions; in others they are a part of the unwritten law.
The General Regulations as set
forth in Anderson's Constitutions were adopted shortly after the formation of
the Mother Grand Lodge in England. Unquestionably they embodied the laws of
Masonry as they were known to the four old lodges which formed the first Grand
Lodge and hence have the respectability of antiquity.
In general the Old Charges are
concerned with the relations of the individual brother to his lodge and his
brethren; the General Regulations with the conduct of the Craft as a whole.
The General Regulations permit their own alteration by Grand Lodge - the Old
Charges do not.
Many civil laws are provided
with measures of enforcement and penalties for infringement. Masonic law knows
but four penalties: reprimand, definite suspension, indefinite suspension, and
expulsion. These penalties for serious infractions of Masonic law may be
ordered after a Masonic trial and a verdict of guilty, but mercy is much more
a part of Masonic than of civil law. Infractions of Masonic law resulting in
trial and punishment are rare, compared to the number of Masons, the vast
majority of whom are so willing to obey the laws that enforcement is seldom
There is no universality of
Masonic law in all jurisdictions. Different latitudes, characters of people,
ideas, have all left their marks upon the enactments of our forty-nine Grand
Lodges. In the majority of essentials they are one: in some particulars they
hold divergent views. Most Grand Lodges adhere to the spirit of the Old
Charges, and - so far as modern conditions permit - to the sense of the
Masons desiring to understand
the laws by which the Craft is governed and the legal standards by which Grand
Lodge measures its laws, resolutions, and edicts should read both the Old
Charges and the General Regulations of 1723. The last (thirty-ninth) of these
General Regulations reads, "Every Annual Grand Lodge has an inherent
Power and Authority to make new Regulations, or to alter these, for the real
benefit of this Ancient Fraternity; provided always that the old Landmarks be
carefully preserv'd," etc.
The old landmarks or the Ancient
Landmarks as we usually term them are thus those foundations of the law of
Masonry which are not subject to change. Had the Mother Grand Lodge formulated
the Ancient Landmarks, it would have saved much trouble and confusion for
Grand Lodges which came after. Apparently the unwritten law of Masonry - the
common law - was so well understood and practiced then that it was not thought
necessary to codify it.
Masons customarily observe a
great body of unwritten law; our ancient usages and customs which are not
specified in print. But the Landmarks have been reduced to print and made a
part of the written law in many jurisdictions.
The Landmarks bear the same
relation to Masonic law in general as the provisions of Magna Carta bear to
modern constitutional law. Just as Magna Carta specified some of the inherent
rights of men which all governments should respect, so the Landmarks
crystallize the inherent characteristic fundamentals which make Freemasonry,
and without which the Institution would be something else.
Mackey states that the Landmarks
1. The modes of recognition.
2. The division of symbolic
Masonry into three degrees.
3. The legend of the third
4. The government of the
Fraternity by a Grand Master.
5. The prerogative of the
Grand Master to preside over every assembly of the Craft.
6. The prerogative of the
Grand Master to grant dispensation for conferring degrees at irregular
7. The prerogative of the
Grand Master to give Dispensations for opening and holding lodges.
8. The prerogative of the
Grand Master to make Masons at sight.
9. The necessity for Masons to
congregate in lodges.
10. The government of the
Craft when congregated in a lodge, by a Master and two Wardens.
11. The necessity that every
lodge, when congregated, should be duly tiled.
12. The right of every Mason
to be represented in all general meetings of the Craft.
13. The right of every Mason
to appeal from his brethren, in lodge convened, to the Grand Master.
14. The right of every Mason
to visit and sit in every regular lodge.
15. That no visitor, unknown
to the brethren present or some one of them as a Mason, can enter a lodge
without first passing an examination according to ancient usage.
16. No lodge can interfere
with the business of another lodge.
17. Every Freemason is
amenable to the laws and regulations of the Masonic jurisdiction in which
18. A candidate for initiation
must be a man, free-born, unmutilated and of mature age.
19. A belief in the existence
of God as the Grand Architect of the Universe.
20. Belief in a resurrection
to a future life.
21. A "Book of the
Law" constitutes an indispensable part of the furniture of every
22. The equality of all
23. The secrecy of the
24. The foundation of a
Speculative science upon an operative art.
25. These landmarks can never
Compare these with the Landmarks
as formulated by a committee and adopted by the Grand Lodge of New Jersey in
1. Belief in God as the Great
Architect and Supreme Ruler of the Universe.
2. The acceptance of the
revealed Word of God as the rule and guide for our faith and practice, and
its visible presence in every lodge.
3. The Grand Master is elected
by the Craft, and holds office until his successor is duly installed. He
is the ruler of the Craft and is, of right, the presiding officer of every
assemblage of Masons as such. He may, within his jurisdiction, convene a
lodge at any time or place and do Masonic work therein; may create lodges
by his warrant, and arrest the warrant of any lodge. He may suspend,
during his pleasure, the operation of any rule or regulation of Masonry
not a "Landmark." He may suspend the installed officers of any
lodge and reinstate them at pleasure, and is not answerable for his acts
as Grand Master. He may deputize any brother to do any act in his absence
which he himself might do if present.
4. A Masonic lodge must have a
Master and two Wardens, and when convened for Masonic work must be duly
5. No person can be made a
Mason unless he be a man free-born, of mature and discreet age, of good
character and reputation and having no maim or defect in his body that may
render him incapable of kerning the art or of being advanced to the
several degrees, nor unless he apply for admission without solicitation
and take upon himself the Masonic obligations. Nor can he be admitted to
membership in a Masonic lodge except upon a secret ballot by the brethren
of that lodge.
6. Masons, as such, are equal;
possess the right to visit every lodge or assembly of Masons where their
presence will not disturb the peace and harmony of the same, and to appeal
to the General Assembly of Masons, or its substitute, the Grand Lodge,
whenever aggrieved by any act of a lodge.
7. The Master of a lodge,
before his election as such, must have served as a Warden. He and the
Wardens are elected by the members of the lodge, but hold their offices by
virtue of the warrant of the Grand Master, until their successors have
qualified. They are his representatives in the lodge, and are not,
therefore, responsible to the lodge for their official acts, nor can they
be tried or disciplined by the lodge during their term of office.
8. Every Mason, for Masonic
purposes, is subject to the jurisdiction of the lodge within whose
Jurisdiction he resides.
9. The legend of the third
degree; the means of recognition; the methods of conferring degrees; the
obligations of those degrees and the ballot of every brother are and must
continue to be inviolably secret.
10. Ancient Craft Masonry
includes only the Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft, and Master Mason
With these as a foundation, the
Old Charges for precedent, the first General Regulations for organic law,
Grand Lodges write and adopt their constitutions and by-laws and particular
lodges write and adopt their by-laws, which are usually subject to approval by
Grand Lodge, a Grand Lodge Committee, or the Grand Master. Grand Masters, ad
interim, issue edicts and make decisions; often these are later incorporated
by the Grand Lodge into the written law of the jurisdiction. All of these
together, except where they conflict (as some of the early General Regulations
necessarily conflict with later enactments made to supersede them) form the
legal structure of Freemasonry.
Undeniably it is much looser than
the similar body of law for the government of a nation. If Masonic law were
interpreted wholly by the letter - as is necessarily the case in civil law -
the government of the Craft might often be as loose as its statutes. But as a
matter of fact the Craft is well governed. Its ancient usages and customs so
soon win their way into the hearts of new brethren that there is a great
resistance to any attempt to change the old order, unless necessity shows that
it is inescapable. Masons much prefer to whisper good counsel to an erring
brother than to subject him to Masonic trial.
POWER OF THE
A Master Mason has rights,
duties, and privileges unknown to the Entered Apprentice or Fellowcraft. He is
part of a lodge; he is invested with all the powers of a full-fledged member
of the Ancient Craft. His vote is as powerful as that of the oldest member;
his black cube as potent to keep an applicant out of the lodge as that of the
Any Master Mason has the
undoubted right to cast a black cube against any applicant. It is his duty to
cast it if he knows something about the applicant which would prevent him from
becoming a good Mason, a useful member of the lodge. It may be his duty to
cast it without such knowledge; if the applicant is one with whom any Master
Mason cannot associate in lodge in peace and harmony, he should be excluded.
But the Master Mason should consider well and think tolerantly and
broad-mindedly of his "peace and harmony."
If a single black cube is in the
ballot box, the applicant is rejected. (1)
(1) In most jurisdictions a
single black cube in the ballot box requires the ballot to be taken again
immediately to avoid the possibility of a mistake. If the black cube reappears
the second time the applicant is rejected.
This rejection does more than
refuse the applicant the degrees. It creates a lodge jurisdiction over the
petitioner. He may not apply to another lodge for the degrees refused him by
this one without first securing a waiver of jurisdiction. (1) He may not again
apply even to the lodge which rejected him until after a certain statutory
period - usually six months. When his application is again received and
brought up for ballot, the fact that he previously applied and was rejected is
stated to the lodge.
The casting of a black cube not
only rejects for the degrees but puts a certain disability upon the applicant
which he is powerless to remove.
The brother who casts a ballot
wields a tremendous power. Like most powers it can be used well or ill. It may
work harm or good not only upon him upon whom it is used but to him who uses
it. Unlike many great powers put into the hands of men this one is not subject
to review or control by any human agency. No king, prince, potentate; no law,
custom or regulation; no Masonic brother or officer can interfere with a
brother's use of his power.
For no one knows who uses the
black cube. No one knows why one is cast. The individual brother and his God
The very absence of any responsibility to man or authority is one reason why
the power should be used with intelligence and only when after solemn
self-inquiry the reason behind its use is found to be Masonic. The black cube
is the great protection of the Fraternity; it permits the brother who does not
desire to make public his secret knowledge
to use that knowledge for the benefit of the Craft. It gives to all members
the right to say who shall not become members of their lodge family. But at
the same time it puts to the test the Masonic heart and the personal honesty
of every brother present. The black cube is a thorough test of our
understanding of the Masonic teaching of the cardinal virtue Justice, which
"enables us to render to every man his just due without
distinction." We are taught of justice that "it should be the
invariable practice of every Mason never to deviate from the minutest
Justice to the lodge requires us
to cast the black cube on an applicant we believe to be unfit. Justice to
ourselves requires that we cast the black cube on the application of the man
we believe would destroy the harmony of our lodge. Justice to the applicant
requires that no black cube be cast for little or mean reasons. Justice to
justice requires that we think carefully, deliberate slowly, and act
cautiously. No man will know what we do; no eye will see save that All-Seeing
Eye which penetrates the innermost recesses of our hearts.
A well-used black cube goes into
the ballot box. Ill used, it drops into the heart and blackens it.
One of the privileges - and one
of the responsibilities - of the Master Mason is that of vouching for a
To vouch for a Mason is
Masonically to say to the brother to whom one introduces him who is vouched
for: "I know that Brother A. is a Master Mason."
By implication it means (1) that
the brother vouching has sat in open lodge with the brother vouched for, or
(2) that the brother vouching has subjected the brother vouched for to a
strict trial and due examination.
In most jurisdictions no brother
may undertake a private examination of any man representing himself as a
brother without the orders of the Worshipful Master of his lodge, or of the
Grand Master. The Worshipful Master is solely responsible for the proper
purging of his lodge and therefore has the right to decide who is and who is
not competent to examine a visitor.
The number of men who have never
taken the degrees who try to get into Masonic lodges is very small.
Nevertheless there have been, are, and doubtless will be such men; men without
principle or honor; eavesdroppers who have beard what was not intended for
Far more dangerous than the
eavesdropper is the cowan. In these modern days the cowan is the man who has
been legally raised but who bas been dropped N.P.D. or suspended or expelled
after trial; or he is an Entered Apprentice or a Fellowcraft whose further
advancement has been stopped for cause.
If such an one be evilly
disposed he may - and has been known to - forge a good standing card to use as
credentials. Or he may find a lost card and assume the identity of the name
signed upon it. Some brethren are so unwise as to keep their good standing
cards from year to year as an interesting collection. If such a collection be
stolen it may be the innocent means of letting loose upon the Fraternity a
whole flock of designing cowans, since dates upon such cards are changed with
little difficulty. It is an excellent Masonic rule to destroy last year's card
as soon as this year's card is received. Loss of a current card should be
immediately reported to the Grand Secretary, as well as the Master of the
lodge. A card should be signed as soon as received.
No avouchment may be accepted
from an Entered Apprentice or a Fellowcraft. A brother of the first or second
degree may be absolutely sure that all those in the lodge in which he took his
degrees were Master Masons, but not being a Master Mason he cannot possess
lawful Masonic information about Master Masons. Neither is he competent to
vouch to a Tiler for any Entered Apprentice or Fellowcraft he remembers as in
lodge with him as a Mason of the degree in which the lodge was then open. The
right to vouch is strictly a Master Mason's right; no brother of the first or
second degree possesses it.
Vouching for a brother is a
solemn undertaking. Before the lodge the voucher puts his Masonic credit
against the credibility of the brother he vouches for. No squeamishness of
feeling should ever interfere. A Master Mason should not vouch for his blood
brother even if morally sure his brother is a Mason unless he has lawful
No one should ever feel offended
because a brother will not vouch for him. A. may remember having sat in lodge
with B., yet B. may have forgotten that they sat together in lodge. If B.
refuses to vouch for A., A. should be happy that B. is so careful a Mason, not
offended that B. does not remember or because "he doesn't trust me."
The lodge is more important than
the brother. The sanctity of the tiled door is greater than the feelings of
the individual. The Masonic honor of the brother doing the vouching should be
of far greater worth to him than any consideration of expediency.
The entire matter may be covered
in one small commandment: "Never vouch unless you have lawful Masonic
CHARACTER OF A MASTER MASON
The moral aspects of a Mason's
character are foreshadowed in the Entered Apprentice's Degree. He who lives by
Brotherly Love, Relief, Truth, Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence, and Justice is
a moral man in the best meaning of that much-abused word.
A Master Mason has a public as
well as a Masonic character; he must be a citizen before he can be a
Freemason. All his reputation as a Master Mason, all the teachings of
integrity and fidelity, all the magnificent examples of firmness and fortitude
in trial and danger - even in the Valley of the Shadow - which a man has been
taught as a Master Mason are concerned in supporting with dignity his
character as a citizen.
Politics are never discussed in
Masonic lodges. This law, so well known and obeyed that it is not written in
most Grand Lodge Constitutions or lodge by-laws, comes down to us from the Old
Charges. In the lodge we meet upon the level and part upon the square. We are
not Democrats, Republicans, Socialists, Progressives, but Masons. No lodge may
take any political action; to do so would be to draw upon it the immediate
censure of the Grand Master and the Grand Lodge.
But these prohibitions do not
mean that Masons should not study political economy; even as a lodge Masons
may listen to talks upon the science of government which is a
"political" matter if the word is used in its broad acceptation.
Every good citizen is expected
to obey the law, uphold the Constitution and the government, do his duty in
jury service, go to the polls and vote, bear arms when called to the colors,
pay his just share of taxes, take an intelligent interest in the government,
his party and political economy, support the public schools, reverence and
honor the flag, keep the peace, serve nation, state, county, and town when
called to leadership and so to live that his neighbors are happier for his
When the citizen becomes a Mason
he adds to these moral obligations his pledged word, his sacred honour, his
character as it is seen naked of God, that he will do certain things and
refrain from doing other things. All of these pledges involve not only his
duty as a man but as a citizen.
The newly raised Master Mason is
bidden to "support the dignity of your character on every occasion."
The Master Mason should be a better citizen than the non-Mason because he has
been better taught and has pledged his sacred honor.
In the world of business the
employer usually sets the wage for which the workman must labour. The employer
is governed partly by the law of supply and demand, partly by his own cupidity
or generosity. The wage he pays may be to some extent fixed by labour unions;
only occasionally must be pay whatever the workman demands. Usually he pays as
little as he can for as much as he can get.
In the Masonic world all this is
different. A Master's wages are as large as he wants them to be! He can ask
any wage he will and get it if he is willing to work for it. No labour union
sets the scale; the law of supply and demand does not operate; neither
cupidity nor generosity is involved. The only question asked is, "Can you
earn the wages you ask?"
A Master's wages are paid in
coin of the heart, not of the mint. They are earned by what a Mason does with
his mind, not his hands. In operative days a Freemason set so many stones and
received each man his penny. In Speculative Freemasonry a Master builds into
his spiritual temple as many perfect ashlars as he can and receives for his
labour uncounted coins of happiness, satisfaction, knowledge, understanding
and spiritual uplift.
In operative days a Mason's
earning power was circumscribed by his strength and his skill. In Speculative
Masonry a Mason's earning power is circumscribed only by his wit and his
desire. He may read these little books, receive his penny, and be satisfied.
Or he may see them for what they are: only an introduction, a gateway, a sign
pointing out the path and read and study and ponder until he has earned not
one but a handful of pennies, each penny a thought, each thought a blessing,
making life easier to live.
Archaeologists dig through the
ruins of a city to uncover a forgotten one below. Push the spade in deeper and
below the forgotten city is yet another, older, different, twice forgotten of
men. City buried under city, patiently uncovered by the student's excavating
tools - such are the symbols of Freemasonry.
Dig through the outer shell and
find a meaning; cut down through that meaning and find another; under it if
you dig deeply enough you may find a third, a fourth - who shall say how many
The Master Mason builds. Before
he builds he digs a foundation. Let him who would receive all that Freemasonry
has to give dig deeply into the symbolism, the history, the philosophy, the
jurisprudence and the spiritual meanings of the Ancient Craft.
So, and only so, will he become
a real Freemason - free to travel in foreign countries and receive Master's
So mote it be.
COMES TO THE NEW WORLD
Space here forbids telling even
in outline of the spread of Freemasonry into other lands. The interested
student may read the fascinating story for himself in many excellent histories
of Freemasonry. Here we must confine ourselves to a very short sketch of the
coming of Freemasonry to America - a subject the beginnings of which are
clouded in legend, veiled in tradition and misty in lack of records.
The first native born American Mason is generally conceded to have been
Jonathan Belcher, who was made a Mason in England in 1704.
In June, 1730, the Duke of Norfolk, Grand Master of the Mother Grand Lodge,
appointed Daniel Coxe, of New Jersey, the first Provincial Grand Master in
Johnson (1) says "There has
appeared no evidence, however, that he exercised this deputation."
McGregor (2) says: "I was
fortunately able to find a letter written by Daniel Coxe to James Alexander,
dated from Trenton, N.J., July 31, 1730, thus definitely determining his (Coxe's)
On April 13, 1733, a deputation
was issued to Henry Price as "Provincial Grand Master of New England and
Dominions and Territories thereunto belonging."
If Coxe never exercised his
authority under his deputation, then Henry Price was, as most historians
claim, the father of Freemasonry in America.
If Coxe did exercise his
authority under his deputation, then he deserves that honor.
Both McGregor and Johnson are
(1) Melvin M. Johnson, Past
Grand Master of Massachusetts. His learned and comprehensive The Beginnings of
Freemasonry in America is exhaustive and complete.
(2) The late David McGregor,
Historian of the Grand Lodge of New Jersey was a student of tireless energy
and resource, with a profound knowledge not only of early Freemasonry in New
Jersey and Pennsylvania but of early Colonial history in general.
research workers of scholarly
ability. Brethren in New Jersey and Pennsylvania almost universally agree with
McGregor; brethren in New England in general and Massachusetts in particular
agree with Johnson. Into the merits of this friendly controversy and the
claims of two great Grand Jurisdictions this sketch cannot go. Perhaps we
shall do well to await the "further light" of future historical
After all, to most of us it
matters little! Freemasonry came to the Colonies in the early third of the
Eighteenth Century and spread and grew, made its own place in the hearts of
the Colonists and played a mighty if quiet part in the stirring events which
were to sever the Thirteen Colonies from the motherland and to form the United
without charters or warrants met in the Colonies at undetermined dates prior
to the first known regular and duly constituted lodge which was the
"First Lodge in Boston," July 30, 1733. Johnson states (Beginnings
of Freemasonry in America):
Regular authority was granted
for the establishment of duly constituted Freemasonry in New England in 1733;
in all North America in 1734; in South America in 1735; in South Carolina,
Georgia, and New Hampshire in 1735 or 1736; in the West Indies and New York in
1737; in Antigua and Nova Scotia in 1737-38; in Jamaica and St. Christopher in
1739; in the Barbados in 1739-40; in Bermuda, 1742; in Newfoundland, 1746; in
San Domingo, 1748; and in Rhode Island, 1749.
By the close of the first half
of the century not less than forty lodges had sprung from the Provincial Grand
Lodge in Boston. Others had been warranted direct from London.
Newton states (Modern Masonry) :
In point of priority, then, the
following lodges have precedence in the history of regularly constituted
lodges in America: the Lodge of Boston in 1733; the Lodge at Montserrat
second, in 1734; the Lodge of Philadelphia in 1734-35; the Lodge in Savannah,
Georgia, and the Lodge in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1735; the Lodge in
Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in 1736; and so on as the list lengthened. The
earliest American by-laws or regulations of a lodge were adopted in 1733, but
no mention is made of any degrees. Masons were either "made" or
"admitted" and nothing more until 1736, when for the first time the
degree of Fellowcraft is named. Not until three years later, however, do we
find such an entry as the following, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire: "Capt.
Andrew Tombes was made a Mason and raised to a Fellowcraft." The records
of Tun Tavern Lodge, of Philadelphia, in 1749, use the words
"entered," "passed," and "raised" as we use them
The Masonic Monthly 1864
AT the summit of Ancient Free and Accepted Masonry
stands the third, or Master Mason's Degree. There is no
higher degree, legitimately so called. Whatever other
degrees, styled Masonic, the ingenuity of man may have
invented, they can lay no claim to superiority over the third or
Master Mason's Degree conferred in the Blue Lodge. None
of them can compare with it for antiquity or universality. The
numerous additions which have been made to the body of
Freemasonry on this continent and in some European
countries, are comparatively modern institutions, and are
only Masonic by virtue of their association with and
foundation on the Master Mason's Lodge. They are merely
so many wheels within a wheel; are simply the keys which
give admission from one association of Master Masons into
other and interior associations of Master Masons.
Whatever of ancient Masonry may be met with in the
Chapter, there is abundant evidence that it has been sep-
arated, perhaps unwisely, from symbolic Masonry. The
Encampments of the Knightly Degrees, the societies working under the Scottish Rite, the Rite of Mizraim, of Memphis, or
by whatever other name these degree systems may be known, add nothing to Freemasonry pure and simple. They
give it no direct support. They grow up along side of the Masonic Institution, deriving nourishment from it, are
essentially parasitical, and too frequently, the undue
importance they have assumed, and the dissensions they
have created and fostered have well nigh sapped the life
from large branches of the parent stem. They may contain
much to please the fancy, or supply the reasonable want of
many minds, much which maybe adapted to certain localities
or to the cherished notions or opinions of certain classes of
men embraced within the folds of the Masonic Fraternity, but
not one of these systems is calculated to attain to that
universality to which Freemasonry proper aspires. They are
in no particular adapted to the whole, but only to portions of
the great human family, and are incapable themselves of
fulfilling the entire mission of Masonry on earth. In fact they
make no pretense of possessing that distinctive attribute of
Freemasonry - universality.
Such Masons as wish to see the religious element more
distinctly displayed than in the symbolic lodges find their
desire gratified in the Royal Arch system. Those who are
pleased with the semi-military constitution, and chivalric
features of the Encampment will find all they seek in the
Orders of Masonic Knighthood. Such again as desire to
investigate the Apocrypha of Ancient Accepted Masonry,
and the distinctions of high degrees may realize their aspir-
ations in the Lodge of Perfection and the Consistory. While
those who have Coptic predilections, may find mystery
sufficient in the mystic chambers where the Memphisian rites
are practiced. - Still the only conclusion to which the
thoughtful Freemason can arrive is, that in the foremost rank
of true Freemasonry stands the third, or Master Mason's
Degree, and that all which is essential in the system may be
found within the Blue Lodge.
Formerly lodges consisted entirely of Masons of the second, or Fellow Craft's degree. In process of time the Apprentice's
degree was introduced as probationary for applicants for fellowship in the Order, and preparatory therefor. The pillars
of Wisdom and Strength being thus already represented; the degree of Master Mason, representing the pillar of Beauty,
and combining in itself the marks of Wisdom and Strength, was introduced to complete the structure.
As the Entered Apprentice represents youth, and the Fellow
Craft manhood, so the Master Mason is representative of
age, with its ripened experience and mellowness. The third
degree also symbolizes Hiram Abiff, "the widow's son," the
Architect and beautifyer of the Temple, who fills so important
a space in the legend of Masonry; and also the third or
principal round of the theological ladder, Faith, Hope and
Charity - "but the greatest of these is Charity, for Faith may
be lost in sight, Hope ends in fruition, but Charity extends
beyond the grave, to the boundless realms of eternity."
The Master Mason's degree is the cap-stone of our system,
and the completion of the Royal Arch. Hence the implement
of our Craft more particularly adopted as a jewel of the third
degree, is the Trowel, which is used by "operative Masons to
spread the cement which unites the building into one
common mass; but we, as Free and Accepted Masons, are
taught to use it for the more noble and glorious purpose of
spreading the cement of brotherly love and affection - that
cement which unites us into one sacred band, or society of
friends and brothers, among whom no contention should
ever exist, save that noble contention, or rather emulation, of
who best can work and best agree."
In the Entered Apprentice's degree the foundation of a
Masonic life is laid in morality; in the degree of Fellow Craft
the system is made conformable to the teachings and
influences of speculative science; while in the blaster
Mason's degree, the lessons of morality and science are
combined in a perfected system, which is nearly akin to, if
not religion itself.
There is Freedom among the Apprentices, Equality among
the Craft, and Fraternity among Master Masons, - Fraternity
which will yet prove the great healer of the many ills to which
Humanity is heir. As Master Masons let us therefore stand
erect, fully conscious of the high dignity of our calling, and
impressed with the lofty and generous mission of
Freemasonry, let us take up the various implements of our
Craft and faithfully ply our vocation.