The Builder Magazine
January 1915 - Volume 1 -
NATIONAL MASONIC RESEARCH SOCIETY
BY JOSEPH FORT NEWTON
UNDER the sign of the Square
and Compasses--emblems as eloquent as they are ancient --"The Builder" takes
up its labors for the advancement of Freemasonry, with malice toward no man,
no party, no church, but with a sincere and hearty good will toward all its
fellow-workers in the search for truth and the service of humanity. Obviously
it is fitting, in this initial issue, that a statement be made as to the
Society of which this journal is a spokesman, its purpose, its spirit, its
ideals, and the designs on its Trestle-Board.
So enthusiastic, so
remarkable indeed has been the response from all over the country to the
suggested organization of a National Masonic Research Society, that there is
no longer any doubt that such a movement is needed and that it has a fruitful
and far-reaching service to render to the Order. Surely he is a poor prophet,
and no poet at all, who does not see that this Society, as now organized and
working, can easily be made a factor of moment in the life and progress of
Masonry in all its rites and activities, and if we give ourselves to it with
earnestness, the day of its founding will be looked back upon as one of the
significant dates in the recent history of the Craft.
Some things need to be set
down plainly, by way of preface, in behalf of a frank and full understanding.
Let it be said once for all that this movement has back of it no motive of
personal aggrandizement, much less of pecuniary profit. Instead of trying to
make money out of Masonry, the founders of this Society are putting time,
money and energy into it, thinking little and caring less of any returns other
than to find the truth and tell it. They have no axe to grind, no vanity to
vent, no fad to air. Were it possible, they would prefer to remain unnamed,
and be known only by their work--like the old cathedral builders, whose labors
live but whose names are lost. Their solitary aim is to diffuse Masonic light
and understanding, and thus to extend the influence and power of this the
greatest order of men upon earth.
That is to say, they refuse
to think of Masonry as a mere collection of social and faintly beneficent
clubs, and they regard such a view of it as a pitiful apostasy from the faith
of our fathers. They believe that Masonry is a form of the Divine life upon
earth, an order of men initiated, sworn and trained to make righteousness,
sweet reasonableness and the will of God prevail. They see in it latent powers
and possibilities as yet unguessed, still less realized--a great liberalizing
and humanizing fraternity, whose mission it is to soften prejudice, to refine
thought and sympathy and service, and so help to prepare the race for a nobler
manhood and a juster and more merciful social order. Hence their honorable
ambition for its service, not only by interpreting it to the world at large,
but by broadening and deepening the interest of Masons themselves in the
faith, philosophy, history and practical aims of the fraternity. Surely such a
labor may well appeal to men who would fain serve their fellows, and do a
little good before they die.
Instead of being a private
enterprise, this movement has the official sanction and blessing of the Grand
Lodge of Iowa, and is in fact an outgrowth of the labors of that Grand body in
training its young men to be intelligent and capable Masons. What the
endorsement of such a plan by the Grand Lodge of Iowa means in the Masonic
world, is at once evident, as witness these words by Sir Chetwode Crawley, of
whose distinguished services to Masonic scholarship in England no student
needs to be told:
"Let me begin by expressing
my deep satisfaction that the Grand Lodge of Iowa has extended its sanction to
Masonic Research by the appointment of so influential and capable a committee
as that indicated in your letter. The adoption of such a plan by any Grand
Lodge would have secured warm approval from all Brethren concerned for the
welfare of the Craft, but there is a peculiar fitness in its adoption by the
Grand Lodge of Iowa. For more than a generation, we have been accustomed to
see the Grand Lodge of Iowa leading the van in the cultivation of the
literature of Freemasonry."
Those words speak a high and
sincere tribute, but it is richly deserved and abundantly justified by the
record. Seventy-five years ago the Library of the Grand Lodge of Iowa--perhaps
the greatest of its kind in the world--was founded by the late Theodore Sutton
Parvin, whose long and busy life was devoted, with an industry only equalled
by his great ability, to the cause of Masonic light and learning. Today that
noble library stands as his monument and memorial, its doors open and its
fabulous treasures accessible to all who seek further light in Masonry. Having
so splendid a tradition and so inspiring an example, it is only natural that
Iowa Masons should make their library the center of enthusiasm and activity
for the education of the Craft, whereof detailed report may be read in the
proceedings of their Grand Lodge. More recently, by force of necessity, new
emphasis has been added to the study side of Masonry, and the reason is not
far to seek.
Time was, and not so long
ago, when it required courage for a man to be a Mason. Feeling against the
Order was intense, often fanatical, and its innocent secrets were imagined by
the ignorant or malicious to hide some dark design. How different it is now,
when the Order is everywhere held in honor, and justly so, for the benignity
of its spirit and the nobility of its principles. No wonder its temple gates
are thronged with elect young men, eager to enter its ancient fellowship. But
those young men must know what Masonry is, whence it came, what it cost in the
sacrifice of brave men, and what it is trying to do in the world. Otherwise
they cannot realize in what a benign tradition they stand, much less be able
to give a reason for their faith. Every argument in favor of any kind of
education has equal force in behalf of the education of young Masons in the
truths of Masonry. So and only so can they ever hope to know what the ritual
really means, and what high and haunting beauties lie hidden in the of all
Finding in this necessity an
open door of opportunity, the Grand Lodge of Iowa set about, through its
Committee on Masonic Research, to work out a well-planned practical program of
method, testing it by facts and results. By natural logic, the fruits of that
labor suggested a National movement toward the same end, which has now taken
form in this Society. While it thus had its origin in Iowa, as the result of
actual experience, it is no longer confined to Iowa, but invites the interest
and aid of every Grand Lodge in the country, and of Masonic students of every
rank and rite, offering them in this journal a medium for closer fellowship
and a forum of frank, free and fraternal discussion of every possible aspect
There is no need that any one
make argument to prove that such a movement as this is Masonic; it is in
accord with the oldest traditions of the Order we turn to the "Old
Charges"--the title deeds of Masonry, and a part of its earliest ritual--we
learn that the Craft-lodges of the olden time were in fact schools, in which
young men studied not only the technical laws of building, but the Seven
Sciences and the history and symbolism of the Order as well. Apprentices were
selected as much for their mental capacity as for bodily agility, and such as
betrayed no aptitude for the intellectual aims of the Craft were allowed to go
back to the Guilds and work as "rough masons." No young man, during his term
as an Apprentice, was permitted to keep late hours, unless he did so in study,
"which shall be deemed a sufficient excuse," as an old Charge relates.
Truth to tell, we have much
yet to learn from the old Craft-masonry, and especially in the matter of
training young Masons. For one thing, they recited a brief history of the
Craft to the candidate at the time of his initiation as an Entered Apprentice,
not leaving him bewildered, as we too often do, knowing nothing of a truly
great and heroic history. No doubt the history so recited--as we have it in
the "Old Charges" was sometimes fantastic and far from the fact. None the
less, the principle was right, and had that wise custom been continued there
would have been less occasion for Gould to say, what is only too true, that
Masons know less about the history of their own order than the men of any
other fraternity. Harking back to that old and wise custom, the Grand Lodge of
Iowa has had a brief story and interpretation of Masonry written, a copy of
which is to be given to each of its initiates on the night of his raising.
Masonic research, as we now
use the phrase, may almost be said to have begun with Findel, albeit good work
had been done before his day. Still, his "History of Masonry" was one of the
very first books of the right kind, and it did much to put the Craft in the
path of authentic learning. Others followed, both abroad and in this
country--Pike, Fort, Mackey, Drummond, Parvin, to name but a few among us--and
their work, which met with little response, was nobly prophetic. An example in
point was the brief but brilliant career of the "American Review of
Freemasonry," edited by Mackey. It began in 1858, ran two years, and died for
lack of adequate support. In his valedictory, Dr. Mackey said:
"It was an experiment,
commenced with a view of ascertaining how far a Masonic magazine of a very
elevated character would be sustained by the craft in this country. For two
years this experiment has been made, and it is plain that the "Quarterly" was
in advance of the Masonic age. Doubtless it was supported better than such a
work would have been twenty years ago, but not so well as a similar one will
be ten years hence, for the literary character of the order is improving. The
editor feels some satisfaction in believing that that work, during its brief
existence, has done no little in hastening that improvement."
Truly that was a brave
optimism, as befitted a pioneer, and its vision has been fulfilled by the
facts. By the same token, we who live in a day made better by the labors of
such men dare not be less courageous, lest we be found unworthy of our
fathers. The men who wrote for the "Review" have now passed to where, beyond
these voices, there is peace, but their work remains. One has only to open its
yellow pages to read the articles of Pike on the Mysteries, and the essays of
Mackey on Symbolism--which afterwards formed the chapters of his book in
exposition of the "Symbolism of Freemasonry"--written in style which may well
be a model of lucidity. Those men did not fail; they were sowers who did their
work and trusted the far off harvest of years. Remembering their faith, their
sacrifice, their high devotion, we would build on their foundations, linking
the past with a greater tomorrow.
We inherit the past; we
create the future. Since the days of the "Review" much has been done,
especially by the great Research Lodges of England, and most of all by the
Quatuor Coronati Lodge of London, to whose labors we owe an incalculable debt.
As in religious scholarship, so in Masonry, the Higher Criticism has come and
done its much needed work, testing documents, sifting evidence, unearthing
buried treasure, and applying to Masonry the approved methods of historical
study. Of necessity, the voluminous processes of this long investigation are
known only to the diligent student who has had the time and taste to follow
its revealing labors--just as in the field of Biblical Criticism the real
results achieved are locked up, for the most part, in huge volumes read by
only a few.
Here the National Research
Society may render a vital service to the Order, not only by encouraging
further original investigation, but also, and not one whit less important, by
interpreting to the Craft at large the net results of Masonic scholarship.
What Renan called "the grand curiosity" must never be allowed to sleep, and
this Society will do all within its power to extend the area of knowledge,
bringing new facts to light wherever they are to be found. The field is rich.
The labor is fascinating. What has been done only reveals how much remains to
be done, while it shows us how to go about it. At the same time, the humblest
member of the craft, toiling in office and shop, at the forge and on the farm,
is entitled to know the best that has been thought and the latest fact
discovered by the greatest Masonic scholar. Therefore, this Society seeks to
unite the work of the investigator with that of the interpreter, and to that
end it proposes:
First, the publication of a
journal devoted to the study and interpretation of the history, philosophy,
symbolism and purposes of the various rites, orders and degrees of
Second, the publication, from
time to time, of books, pamphlets and lectures on Masonic subjects, and the
collection, preservation and indexing of all material of value to Masonic
Third, the arrangement and
publication of courses of Masonic study for lodges, or groups of students; the
promotion and supervision, when it is desired, of meetings of Masons for
Masonic study and discussion; and, ultimately, the foundation and maintenance
of a bureau of Masonic lectures.
Fourth, the compilation of
lists of names of Masonic students interested in different lines of Masonic
study or activity, for the stimulation and guidance of Masonic
intercourse--and, it may be added, for the aid of Masonic journals when
special articles are desired.
Fifth, the collection and
circulation of data bearing upon distinct Masonic activities, such as plans
and specifications for different kinds of Masonic buildings; systems for
financing of Masonic projects; the results of practical experience upon
various phases of Masonic charity, and the like.
Sixth, the foundation and
management of funds for the financial aid of Masonic students in special
fields of Masonic research; in the form of a Fellowship, it may be, whereby a
young man - say, of the Acacia Fraternity--trained for such studies in a
university, may be set at work on some period or problem in Masonic history,
and thus render a permanent service to the Craft. By endowing a Fellowship in
the Society, a man of wealth, who has long had it in mind to do something for
Masonry, can leave a living legacy which will go on doing good after he has
Having thus indicated in what
ways the Society seeks to serve Freemasonry, it may not be amiss to point out
how the Order can make the Society effective for the high end for which it was
founded. First of all, every Mason who becomes a member of the Society adds,
by so much, to its usefulness and power. The time has come when every Grand
Lodge should have a Committee on Masonic Research--or Masonic Education, if
they choose so to name it--and such committees. by co-operating with this
Society, may have access to every resource at its command. Also, the various
groups of Masonic students, of which there are many in different parts of the
country, ought by all means to work with the Society, making use of its
journal not only for mutual instruction and inspiration, but the better to
share the results of their researches with all the Craft.
Such is the spirit and ideal
of this Society, and if to realize it all at once is denied us, surely it
means much to set it before us, working the while to make it come true.
Manifestly, here is a practical program which, if worked out, will mean a new
era in the history of Freemasonry, opening avenues of opportunity and
enterprise to which no one can set a limit. It differs from other undertakings
of a like kind chiefly in that, instead of being confined to a few, it seeks
to enlist the whole fraternity, uniting scattered efforts in behalf of Masonic
education into a magnificent movement for the advance of the Order which has
no other purpose than the present and future upbuilding of humanity.
Finally, it only remains for
ye editor to state, from his point of view, what the spirit and policy of "The
Builder" should be. As its name indicates, this journal for the Masonic
student--like the Society which it represents--is by its very genius
constructive, and in no sense iconoclastic, its sole object being to build up,
never to tear down. Anybody can destroy. Even a cow can trample a lily which
the warm earth, the fertilizing sun, and the soft witchery of summer air have
united to grow. Speaking for himself, the editor holds it to be self-evident
that the only way to overthrow error and unreason is to tell the simple
truth--tell it simply, vividly, without fear and without resting, in love of
God and love of man. Other way to victory there is none, and there never will
Masonry is Friendship, and if
its benign influence is to prevail upon earth, it must labor in a spirit of
will toward all men, seeking not to destroy its enemies, but to win them to
the light and dignity of the truth. Nothing is gained by denunciation.
Everything is ruined by hate. Love is the one mighty Builder, and they toil in
vain who build upon any other foundation. Our task is to let in the light, let
in all the light, let the light all the way in, assured that when the light of
Truth shines darkness will disappear--and with it, all the vile and slimy
things that hide within its shadows. There is no might like the might of
Truth, and once the temple of Masonry is made to stand in the sunlight where
all men can see its beauty, it will command the homage of all who love their
Therefore, "The Builder" will
be positive, but not dogmatic; open minded, but never indifferent; considerate
of all, but absolutely uncompromising in respect of the principles of
Freemasonry--seeking the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
Critical it must be, since criticism, as Arnold defined it, is appreciation,
estimate, "co-operation in the search for truth." Those who write for these
pages may expect to have their theories put to the test of reason and fact in
the open forum of debate, which is what the seeker after truth most desires.
Let the discussion be frank, free and thorough; all that the editor asks is
that it be fraternal in spirit, each one keeping an open mind and a kind heart
toward all his comrades in the great quest.
For the rest, the editor asks
pardon for having taken so much time and space, but it seemed appropriate to
exhibit in some detail the designs of the Society, the faith in which it is
founded, and the spirit in which it works. Hereafter, his duty will be much
like that of a toastmaster--presiding over the feast, introducing the
speakers, with occasional interludes of comment- his one desire being to
encourage a spirit of fraternal fellowship and intellectual hospitality, of
genial, joyous good will which, since the far off days of the old "Regius
Poem," has been the reigning genius wherever Masons meet.
St. John the Divine and Notre
Dame de Rheims.
BY MAY PRESTON SLOSSON.
I watch the patient masons in
the sun Building a House to God upon the hill That overhangs the city; just
begun The toil of years--the care--the loving skill.
Another minster lifted arch
and spire By patient builders wrought in futile trust. The Iron Eagle dropt a
plume of fire-- And all its beauty is a heap of dust ! -The Independent.
PHILOSOPHY OF MASONRY
Five Lectures Delivered under
the Auspices of the Grand Master of Massachusetts, Masonic Temple, Boston
By Brother Roscoe Pound,
Professor of Jurisprudence in Harvard University
PHILOSOPHERS are by no means
agreed with respect to the scope and subject matter of philosophy. Nor are
Masonic scholars at one with respect to the scope and purpose of Freemasonry.
Hence one may not expect to define and delimit Masonic philosophy according to
the easy method of Dickens' editor who wrote upon Chinese metaphysics by
reading in the Encyclopedia upon China and upon metaphysics and combining his
information. It is enough to say at the outset that in the sense in which
philosophers of Masonry have used the term, philosophy is the science of
fundamentals. Possibly it would be more correct to think of the philosophy of
Masonry as organized Masonic knowledge--as a system of Masonic knowledge. But
there has come to be a well-defined branch of Masonic learning which has to do
with certain fundamental questions; and these fundamental questions may be
called the problems of Masonic philosophy, since that branch of Masonic
learning which treats of them has been called commonly the philosophy of
Masonry. These fundamental questions are three:
1. What is the nature and
purpose of Masonry as an institution? For what does it exist? What does it
seek to do? Of course for the philosopher this involves also and chiefly the
questions, what ought Masonry to be? For what ought it to exist? What ought it
to seek as its end?
2. What is- and this involves
what should be-the relation of Masonry to other human institutions, especially
to those directed toward similar ends? What is its place in a rational scheme
of human activities?
3. What are the fundamental
principles by which Masonry is governed in attaining the end it seeks? This
again, to the philosopher, involves the question what those principles ought
Four eminent Masonic scholars
have essayed to answer these questions and in so doing have given us four
systems of Masonic philosophy, namely, William Preston, Karl Christian
Friedrich Krause, George Oliver and Albert Pike. Of these four systems of
Masonic philosophy, two, if I may put it so, are intellectual systems. They
appeal to and are based upon reason only. These two are the system of Preston
and that of Krause. The other two are, if I may put it that way, spiritual
systems. They do not flow from the rationalism of the eighteenth century but
spring instead from a reaction toward the mystic ideas of the hermetic
philosophers in the seventeenth century. As I shall try to show here-after,
this is characteristic of each, though much more marked in one.
Summarily, then, we have four
systems of Masonic philosophy. Two are intellectual systems: First that of
Preston, whose key word is Knowledge; second, that of Krause, whose key word
is Morals. Two are spiritual systems: First that of Oliver, whose key word is
Tradition; and second, that of Pike, whose key word is Symbolism.
Comparing the two
intellectual systems of Masonic philosophy, the intrinsic importance of
Preston's is much less than that of Krause's. Krause's philosophy of Masonry
has a very high value in and of itself. On the other hand the chief interest
in Preston's philosophy of Masonry, apart from his historical position among
Masonic philosophers, is to be found in the circumstance that his philosophy
is the philosophy of our American lectures and hence is the only one with
which the average American Mason acquires any familiarity.
Preston was not, like Krause,
a man in advance of his time who taught his own time and the future. He was
thoroughly a child of his time. Hence to understand his writings we must know
the man and the time. Accordingly I shall divide this discourse into three
parts: (1) The man, (2) the time, (3) Preston's philosophy of Masonry as a
product of the two.
1. First, then, the man.
William Preston was born at Edinburgh on August 7,1742. His father was a
writer to the signet or solicitor-- the lower branch of the legal
profession--and seems to have been a man of some education and ability. At any
rate he sent William to the high school at Edinburgh, the caliber of which in
those days may be judged from the circumstance that the boy entered it at six-
-though he was thought very precocious. At school he made some progress in
Latin and even began Greek. But all this was at an early age. His father died
while William was a mere boy and he was taken out of school, apparently before
he was twelve years old. His father had left him to the care of Thomas
Ruddiman, a well-known linguist and he became the latter's clerk. Later
Ruddiman apprenticed William to his brother who was a printer, so that Preston
learned the printer's trade as a boy of fourteen or fifteen. On the death of
his patron (apparently having nothing by inheritance from his father) Preston
went into the printing shop as an apprentice and worked there as a journeyman
until 1762. In that year, with the consent of the master to whom he had been
apprenticed, he went to London. He was only eighteen years old, but carried a
letter to the king's printer, and so found employment at once. He remained in
the employ of the latter during substantially the whole remaining period of
Preston's abilities showed
themselves in the printing shop from the beginning. He not merely set up the
matter at which he worked but he contrived in some way to read it and to think
about it. From setting up the great variety of matter which came to the king's
printer he acquired a notable literary style and became known to the authors
whose books and writings he helped to set up as a judge of style and as a
critic. Accordingly he was made proof reader and corrector for the press and
worked as such during the greater part of his career. He did work of this sort
on the writings of Gibbon, Hume, Robertson and authors of that rank, and
presentation copies of the works of these authors, which were found among
Preston's effects at his death, attest the value which they put upon the
labors of the printer.
Preston had no more than come
of age when he was made a Mason in a lodge of Scotchmen in London. This lodge
had attempted to get a warrant from the Grand Lodge of Scotland, but that body
very properly refused to invade London, and the Scotch petitioners turned to
the Grand Lodge of Ancients, by whom they were chartered. Thus Preston was
made in the system of his great rival, Dermott, just as the latter was at
first affiliated with a regular or modern lodge. According to the English
usage, which permits simultaneous membership in several lodges, Preston
presently became a member of a lodge subordinate to the older Grand Lodge.
Something here converted him, and he persuaded the lodge in which he had been
raised to secede from the Ancients and to be reconstituted by the so-called
Moderns. Thus he cast his lot definitely with the latter and soon became their
most redoubtal champion. Be it remembered that the Preston who did all this
was a young man of twenty-three and a journeyman printer.
At the age of twenty-five he
became master of the newly constituted lodge, and as such conceived it his
duty to make a thorough study of the Masonic institution. His own words are
"When I first had the honor
to be elected master of a lodge, I thought it proper to inform myself fully of
the general rules of the society, that I might be able to fulfill my own duty
and officially enforce obedience in others. The methods which I adopted with
this view excited in some of superficial knowledge an absolute dislike of what
they considered as innovations, and in others, who were better informed, a
jealousy of preeminence which the principles of Masonry ought have checked.
Notwithstanding these discouragements, however, I persevered in my intention."
Indeed one cannot wonder that
the pretenses of this journeyman printer of twenty-five were scouted by older
Masons. But for the present Preston had to contend with nothing more than
shakings of the head. Unlike the scholarly, philosophical, imperturbable,
academic Krause, Preston was a fighter. Probably his confident dogmatism,
which shows itself throughout his lectures, his aggressiveness and his
ambition made more enemies than the supposed innovations involved in his
Masonic research. Moreover we must not forget that he had to overcome three
very serious obstacles namely, dependence for his daily bread upon a trade at
which he worked twelve hours a day, youth, and recent connection with the
fraternity. That Preston was not persecuted at this stage of his career and
that he succeeded in taking the lead as he did is a complete testimony to his
Preston had three great
qualifications for the work he undertook: (1) Indefatigable diligence, whereby
he found time and means to read everything that bore on Masonry after twelve
hours of work at his trade daily, six days in the week; (2) a marvelous
memory, which no detail of his reading ever escaped; and (3) a great power of
making friends and of enlisting their enthusiastic co-operation. He utilized
this last resource abundantly, corresponding diligently all with well-informed
Masons abroad and taking advantage of every opportunity to interview Masons at
home. The results of this communication with all the prominent Masons of his
time are to be seen in his lectures.
It was a bold but most timely
step when this youthful master of a new lodge determined to rewrite or rather
to write the lectures of Craft Masonry. The old charges had been read to the
initiate originally, and from this there had grown up a practice of orally
expounding their contents and commenting upon the important points. To turn
this into a system of fixed lectures and give them a definite place in the
ritual was a much-needed step in the development of the work. But it was so
distinctly a step that the ease with which it was achieved is quite as
striking as the result itself.
When Preston began the
composition of his lectures, he organized a sort of club, composed of his
friends, for the purpose of listening to him and criticising him. This club
was wont to meet twice a week in order to pass on, criticise and learn the
lecture as Preston conceived it. Finally in 1772, after seven years, he
interested the grand lodge officers in his work and delivered an oration,
which appears in the first edition of his Illustrations of Masonry, before a
meeting of eminent Masons including the principal grand officers. After
delivery of the oration, he expounded his system to the meeting. His hearers
approved the lectures, and, though official sanction was not given
immediately, the result was to give them a standing which insured their
ultimate success. His disciples began now to go about from lodge to lodge
delivering his lectures and to come back to the weekly meetings with
criticisms and suggestions. Thus by 1774 his system was complete. He then
instituted a regular school of instruction, which obtained the sanction of the
Grand Lodge and thus diffused his lectures throughout England. This made him
the most prominent Mason of the time, so that he was elected to the famous
Lodge of Antiquity, one of the four old lodges of 1717, and the one which
claimed Sir Christopher Wren for a past master. He was soon elected master of
this lodge and continued such for many years, giving the lodge a pre-eminent
place in English Masonry which it has kept ever since.
Preston's Masonic career,
however, was not one of unbroken triumph. In 1779 his views as to Masonic
history and Masonic jurisprudence brought him into conflict with the Grand
Lodge. It is hard to get at the exact facts in the mass of controversial
writing which this dispute brought forth. Fairly stated, they seem to have
been about as follows:
The Grand Lodge had a rule
against lodges going in public processions. The Lodge of Antiquity determined
on St. John's Day, 1777, to go in a body to St. Dunstan's church, a few steps
only from the lodge room. Some of the members protested against this as being
in conflict with the rule of the Grand Lodge, and in consequence only ten
attended. These ten clothed themselves in the vestry of the church, sat in the
same pew during the service and sermon, and then walked across the street to
the lodge room in their gloves and aprons. This action gave rise to a debate
in the lodge at its next meeting, and in the debate Preston expressed the
opinion that the Lodge of Antiquity, which was older than the Grand Lodge and
had participated in its formation, had certain inherent privileges, and that
it had never lost its right to go in procession as it had done in 1694 before
there was any Grand Lodge. Thus far the controversy may remind us of the
recent differences between Bro. Pitts and the Grand Lodge authorities in
Michigan. But the authority of Grand Lodges was too recent at that time to
make it expedient to overlook such doctrine when announced by the first
Masonic scholar of the day. Hence, for maintaining this opinion, Preston was
expelled by the Grand Lodge, and in consequence the Lodge of Antiquity severed
its connection with the Grand Lodge of Moderns and entered into relations with
the revived Grand Lodge at York. The breach was not healed till 1787.
Upon settlement of the
controversy with the Grand Lodge of Moderns, Preston, restored to all his
honors and dignities, at once resumed his Masonic activities. Among other
things, he organized a society of Masonic scholars, the first of its kind. It
was known as the Order of the Harodim and included the most distinguished
Masons of the time. Preston taught his lectures in this society, and through
it they came to America, where they are the foundation of our Craft lectures.
Unhappily at the Union in England in 1813 his lectures were displaced by those
of Hemming, which critics concur in pronouncing much inferior. But Preston was
ill at the time and seems to have taken no part whatever in the negotiations
that led to the Union nor in the Union itself. He died in 1818, at the age of
76, after a lingering illness. A diligent and frugal life had enabled him to
lay by some money and he was able to leave 800 pounds for Masonic uses, 500
pounds to the Freemason's charity for orphans--for which, left an orphan
himself before the age of twelve, he had a natural sympathy-- and 300 pounds
to endow the so-called Prestonian lecture--an annual lecture in Preston's
words verbatim by a lecturer appointed by the Grand Lodge. This lecture is
still kept up and serves to remind us that Preston was the first to insist on
the minute verbal accuracy which is now a feature of our lectures. It should
be noted also that in addition to his lectures, Preston's book, Illustrations
of Masonry, has had great influence. It went through some twenty editions in
England, four or five in America, and two in Germany.
So much for the man.
Now as to the time.
characteristics of the first three quarters of the eighteenth century in
England are of importance for an understanding of Preston's philosophy of
Masonry: (1) It was a period of mental quiescence; (2) both in England and
elsewhere it was a period of formal over-refinement; (3) it was the so-called
age of reason, when the intellect was taken to be self-sufficient and men were
sure that knowledge was a panacea.
1. In contrast with the
seventeenth century, the eighteenth century was a period of quiescence.
Society had ceased to be in a state of furious ebullition, nor was there a
conflict of manifestly irreconcilable ideas as in the time just gone by. On
the surface there was harmony. True, as the events of the end of the century
showed, it was a harmony of compromise rather than of reconciliation--a truce,
not a peace. But men ceased for a time to quarrel over fundamentals and turned
their attention to details and to form. A common theological philosophy was
accepted by men who denounced each other heartily for comparatively trivial
differences of opinion. In politics, Whig and Tory had become little more than
names, and both parties agreed to accept, with little modification, the body
of doctrine afterwards known as the principles of the English Revolution.
Political ideas were fixed. Men conceived of a social compact from which every
detail of social and political rights and duties might be deduced by abstract
reasoning and believed that it was possible in this way to work out a model
code for the legislator, a touchstone of sound law for the judge and an
infallible guide to private conduct for the individual. In literature and in
art there was a like acquiescence in accepted canons. A certain supposed
classical style was assumed to be the final and the only permissible mode of
expression. In other words acquiescence was the dominant tendency and finality
was the dominant idea. For example, Blackstone, a true representative of the
century, thought complacently of the legal system of his time, with its heavy
load of archaisms, almost ripe for the legislative reform movement of the next
generation, as substantially perfect. Nothing, so he thought, was left for the
completion of five hundred years of legal development but to patch up a few
trivial details. In the same spirit of finality the framers of our bills of
rights undertook to lay out legal and political charts for all time. Indeed
the absolute legal philosophy of our text books which has made so much trouble
for the social reformers of yesterday and of today, speaks from the eighteenth
century. In this spirit of finality, with this same confidence that his time
had the key to reason and could pronounce once for all for every time, for
every place and for every people, Preston framed the dogmatic discourses which
we are content to take as the lectures of Freemasonry.
2. For the modern world, the
eighteenth century was par excellence the period of formalism. It was the
period of formal over-refinement in every department of human activity. It was
the age of formal verse and heroic diction, of a classical school in art which
lost sight of the spirit in reproducing the forms of antiquity, of elaborate
and involved court etiquette, of formal diplomacy, of the Red Tape and
Circumlocution Office in every portion of administration, of formal military
tactics in which efficiency in the field yielded to the exigencies of parade
and soldiers went into the field dressed for the ball room. Our insistence
upon letter perfect, phonographic reproduction of the ritual comes from this
period, and Preston fastened that idea upon our lectures, perhaps for all
3. The third circumstance,
that the eighteenth century was the era of purely intellectualist philosophy
naturally determined Preston's philosophy of Masonry. At that time reason was
the central idea of all philosophical thought. Knowledge was regarded as the
universal solvent. Hence when Preston found in his old lectures that among
other things Masonry was a body of knowledge and discovered in the old charges
a history of knowledge and of its transmission from antiquity, it was
inevitable that he make knowledge the central point of his system. How
thoroughly he did this is apparent today in our American Fellowcraft lecture,
which, with all the abridgments to which it has been subjected, is still
essentially Prestonian. Time does not suffice to read Preston in his original
rhetorical prolixity. But a few examples from Webb's version, which at these
points is only an abridgment, will serve to make the point. The quotations are
from a Webb monitor, but have been compared in each case with an authentic
version of Preston.
"The Globes are two
artificial spherical bodies, on the convex surface of which are represented
the countries, seas, and various parts of the earth, the face of the heavens,
the planetary revolutions, and other particulars.
"The sphere, with the parts
of the earth delineated on its surface, is called the Terrestrial Globe; and
that with the constellations, and other heavenly bodies, the Celestial Globe.
"The principal use of the
Globes, besides serving as maps to distinguish the outward parts of the earth,
and the situation of the fixed stars, is to illustrate and explain the
phenomena arising from the annual revolution and the diurnal rotation of the
earth around its own axis. They are the noblest instruments for improving the
mind, and giving it the most distinct idea of any problem or proposition, as
well as enabling it to solve the same."
It has often been pointed out
that these globe on the pillars are pure anachronisms. They are due to
Preston's desire to make the Masonic lectures teach astronomy, which just then
was the dominant science.
Note particularly the
purpose, as the lecture sets it forth expressly: "for improving the mind and
for giving it the most distinct idea of any problem or proposition as well as
enabling it to solve the same."
In other words, these globes
are not symbolic, they are not designed for moral improvement. They rest upon
the pillars, grotesquely out of place, simply and solely to teach the lodge
the elements of geography and astronomy.
We must remember that
Preston, who worked twelve hours a day setting type or reading proof, would
look on this very differently from the Mason of today. What are commonplaces
of science now were by no means general property then. To him the teaching of
the globes was a perfectly serious matter.
Turn to the solemn
disquisition on architecture in our Fellowcraft lecture. As we give it, it is
unadulterated Preston, but happily it is often much abridged. You know how it
runs, how it describes each order in detail, gives the proportions, tells what
was the model, appends an artistic critique, and sets forth the legend of the
invention of the Corinthian order by Callimachus. The foundation for all this
is in the old charges. But in Preston's hands it has become simply a treatise
on architecture. The Mason who listened to it repeatedly would become a
learned man. He would know what an educated man ought to know about the orders
In the same way he gives us
an abridgment of Euclid:
"Geometry treats of the
powers and properties of magnitudes in general, where length, breadth and
thickness are considered, from a point to a line, from a line to a
superficies, and from a superficies to a solid. A point is a dimensionless
figure, or an indivisible part of space. A line is a point continued, and a
figure of one capacity, namely, length. A superficies is a figure of two
dimensions, namely, length and breadth. A solid is a figure of three
dimensions, namely, length, breadth and thickness."
But enough of this. You see
the design. By making the lectures epitomes of all the great branches of
learning, the Masonic Lodge may be made a school in which all men, before the
days of public schools and wide-open universities, might acquire knowledge, by
which alone they could achieve all things. If all men had knowledge, so
Preston thought, all human, all social problems would be solved. With
knowledge on which to proceed deductively, human reason would obviate the need
of government and of force and an era of perfection would be at hand. But
those were the days of endowed schools which were not for the many. The
priceless solvent, knowledge, was out of reach of the common run of men who
most needed it. Hence to Preston, first and above all else the Masonic order
existed to propagate and diffuse knowledge. To this end, therefore, he seized
upon the opportunity afforded by the lectures and sought by means of them to
develop in an intelligent whole all the knowledge of his day.
Now that knowledge has become
too vast to be comprised in any one scheme and too protean to be formulated as
to any of its details even for the brief life of a modern text, the defects of
such a scheme are obvious enough. That this was Preston's conception, may be
shown abundantly from his lectures. For instance:
"Smelling is that sense by
which we distinguish odors, the various kinds of which convey different
opinions to the mind. Animal and vegetable bodies, and, indeed, most other
bodies, while exposed to the air, continually send forth effluvia of vast
subtilty, as well in the state of life and growth, as in the state of
fermentation and putrefaction. These effluvia, being drawn into the nostrils
along with the air, are the means by which all bodies are smelled."
This bit of
eighteenth-century physics, which makes us smile today, is still gravely
recited in many of our lodges as if it had some real or some symbolic
importance. It means simply that Preston was endeavoring to write a primer of
physiology and of physics.
He states his theory
expressly in these words:
"On the mind all our
knowledge must depend; what, therefore, can be a more proper subject for the
investigation of Masons ? By anatomical dissection and observation we become
acquainted with the body; but it is by the anatomy of the mind alone we
discover its powers and principles."
That is: All knowledge
depends upon the mind. Hence the Mason should study the mind as the instrument
of acquiring knowledge, the one thing needful.
Today this seems a narrow and
inadequate conception. But the basis of such a philosophy of Masonry is
perfectly clear if we remember the man and the time. We must think of these
lectures as the work of a printer, the son of an educated father, but taken
from school before he was twelve and condemned to pick up what he could from
the manuscripts he set up in the shop or by tireless labor at night after a
full day's work. We must think of them as the work of a laborer, chiefly
self-educated, associated with the great literati of the time whom he came to
know through preparing their manuscripts for the press and reading their
proofs, and so filled with their enthusiasm for enlightenment in what men
thought the age of reason. We must think of them as the work of one imbued
with the cardinal notions of the time--intellectualism, the all-sufficiency of
reason, the absolute need of knowledge as the basis on which reason proceeds,
How, then, does Preston
answer the three problems of Masonic philosophy ?
1. For what does Masonry
exist? What is the end and purpose of the order ? Preston would answer: To
diffuse light, that is, to spread knowledge among men. This, he might say, is
the proximate end. He might agree with Krause that the ultimate purpose is to
perfect men--to make them better, wiser and consequently happier. But the
means of achieving this perfection, he would say, is general diffusion of
knowledge. Hence, he would say, above all things Masonry exists to promote
knowledge; the Mason ought first of all to cultivate his mind, he ought to
study the liberal arts and sciences; he ought to become a learned man.
2. What is the relation of
Masonry to other human activities ? Preston does not answer this question
directly anywhere in his writings. But we may gather that he would have said
something like this: The state seeks to make men better and happier by
preserving order. The church seeks this end by cultivating the moral person
and by holding in the background supernatural sanctions. Masonry endeavors to
make men better and happier by teaching them and by diffusing knowledge among
them. This, bear in mind, was before education of the masses had become a
function of the state.
3. How does Masonry seek to
achieve its purposes? What are the principles by which it is governed in
attaining its end ?
Preston answers that both by
symbols and by lectures the Mason is (first) admonished to study and to
acquire learning and (second) actually taught a complete system of organized
knowledge. We have his own words for both of these ideas. As to the first, in
his system both lectures and charges reiterate it. For example: "The study of
the liberal arts, that valuable branch of education which tends so effectually
to polish and adorn the mind is earnestly recommended to your consideration."
Again, notice how he dwells upon the advantages of each art as he expounds it:
"Grammar teaches the proper
arrangement of words according to the idiom or dialect of any particular
people, and that excellency of pronunciation which enables us to speak or
write a language with accuracy, agreeably to reason and correct usage.
Rhetoric teaches us to speak copiously and fluently on any subject, not merely
with propriety alone, but with all the advantages of force and elegance,
wisely contriving to captivate the hearer by strength of argument and beauty
of expression, whether it be to entreat and exhort, to admonish or applaud."
As to the second proposition,
one example will suffice:
"Tools and implements of
architecture are selected by the fraternity to imprint on the memory wise and
In other words the purpose
even of the symbols is to teach wise and serious truths. The word serious here
is significant. It is palpably a hit at those of his brethren who were
inclined to be mystics and to dabble in what Preston regarded as the empty
jargon of the hermetic philosophers.
Finally, to show his estimate
of what he was doing and hence what, in his view, Masonic lectures should be,
he says himself of his Fellowcraft lecture: "This lecture contains a regular
system of science [note that science then meant knowledge] demonstrated on the
clearest principles and established on the firmest foundation."
One need not say that we
cannot accept the Prestonian philosophy of Masonry as sufficient for the
Masons of today. Much less can we accept the details or even the general
framework of his ambitious scheme to expound all knowledge and set forth a
complete outline of a liberal education in three lectures. We need not wonder
that Masonic philosophy has made so little headway in Anglo-American Masonry
when we reflect that this is what we have been brought up on and that it is
all that most Masons ever hear of. It comes with an official sanction that
seems to preclude inquiry, and we forget the purpose of it in its obsolete
details. But I suspect we do Preston a great injustice in thus preserving the
literal terms of the lectures at the expense of their fundamental idea. In his
day they did teach-- today they do not. Suppose today a man of Preston's
tireless diligence attempted a new set of lectures which should unify
knowledge and present its essentials so that the ordinary man could comprehend
them. To use Preston's words, suppose lectures were written, as a result of
seven years of labor, and the co-operation of a society of critics, which set
forth a regular system of modern knowledge demonstrated on the clearest
principles and established on the firmest foundation. Suppose, if you will,
that this were confined simply to knowledge of Masonry. Would not Preston's
real idea (in an age of public schools) be more truly carried than by our
present lip service, and would not his central notion of the lodge as a center
of light vindicate itself by its results?
Let me give two examples. In
Preston's day, there was a general need, from which Preston had suffered, of
popular education--of providing the means whereby the common man could acquire
knowledge in general. Today there is no less general need of a special kind of
knowledge. Society is divided sharply into classes that understand each other
none too well and hence are getting wholly out of sympathy. What nobler
Masonic lecture could there be than one which took up the fundamenta of social
science and undertook to spread a sound knowledge of it among all Masons ?
Suppose such a lecture was composed, as Preston's lectures were, was tried on
by delivery in lodge after lodge, as his were, and after criticism and
recasting as a result of years of labor, was taught to all our masters. Would
not our lodges diffuse a real light in the community and take a great step
forward in their work of making for human perfection?
Again, in spite of what is
happening for the moment upon the Continent, this is an era of universality
and internationality. The thinking world is tending strongly to insist upon
breaking over narrow local boundaries and upon looking at things from a
world-wide point of view. Art, science, economics, labor and fraternal
organizations, and even sport are tending to become international. The growing
frequency of international congresses and conferences upon all manner of
subjects emphasizes this breaking of local political bonds. The sociological
movement, the world over, is causing men to take a broader and more humane
view, is causing them to think more of society and hence more of the
world-society, is causing them to focus their vision less upon the individual,
and hence less upon the individual locality.
In this world-wide movement
toward universality Masons ought to take the lead. But how much does the busy
Mason know, much less think, of the movement for internationality or even the
pacificist movement which has been going forward all about him ? Yet every
Mason ought to know these things and ought to take them to heart. Every lodge
ought to be a center of light from which men go forth filled with new ideas of
social justice, cosmopolitan justice and internationality.
Preston of course was
wrong--knowledge is not the sole end of Masonry. But in another way Preston
was right. Knowledge is one end--at least one proximate end--and it is not the
least of those by which human perfection shall be attained. Preston's mistakes
were the mistakes of his century--the mistake of faith in the finality of what
was known to that era, and the mistake of regarding correct formal
presentation as the one sound method of instruction. But what shall be said of
the greater mistake we make today, when we go on reciting his lectures--shorn
and abridged till they mean nothing to the hearer--and gravely presenting them
as a system of Masonic knowledge ? Bear in mind, he thought of them as
presenting a general scheme of knowledge, not as a system of purely Masonic
information. If we were governed by his spirit, understood the root idea of
his philosophy and had but half his zeal and diligence, surely we could make
our lectures and through them our lodges a real force in society. Here indeed,
we should encounter the precisians and formalists of whom lodges have always
been full, and should be charged with innovation. But Preston was called an
innovator. And he was one in the sense that he put new lectures in the place
of the old reading of the Gothic constitutions. Preston encountered the same
precisians and the same formalists and wrote our lectures in their despite. I
hate to think that all initiative is gone from our order and that no new
Preston will arise to take up his conception of Knowledge as an end of the
fraternity and present to the Masons of today the knowledge which they ought
By the author of "Poems of
When I was a king and a
A mason proved and skilled,
I cleared me ground for a
Such as a king should build.
I decreed and dug down to my
Presently, under the silt,
I came on the wreck of a
Such as a king had built. -Kipling.
A part of a builder's
Is digging in ruins of old,
And his findings, in rapid
Equip him with merits untold,
For the builder who never
The work of the centuries
Is the builder who never
Construction most certain to
Far back before history's
Did ever their stories relate
Or the sayings of eminent
Their quota of learning
We find over lands without
Where human achievements were
Their ruins profusely
The sites where the race had
And the study of long hidden
Induces the mind to concede
That their mystical system
Our own very closely indeed.
And the builders of old, laid
Of ethical value so rare
That their teaching of mystic
With Masonry closely compare.
And we find them in cities
When civilization's decay
O'er the work of the builder
With ruthless demolishing
In the temples of Indian ages
And far on the banks of the
Where the work and the study
Their wonderful stories
And remote from all eastern
Of all known connection
In old Mexico's ancient
They find the same symbols
'Tis the soul of the Master
All lands in the universe
With His children of nature
From light of the old to the
--Lewis A. McConnell.
FRATERNITY AND MASONIC RESEARCH
BY FRANCIS W. SHEPARDSON,
FORMER GRAND PRESIDENT.
THE Acacia Fraternity
is a society of college men who are Master Masons. It is not a Masonic body in
the ordinary acceptation of that expression. It is not a side degree. It
claims no antiquity. It seeks no recognition
to which its inherent worth does not entitle it. It is exactly like any one of
the thirty odd Greek letter fraternities which flourish in American colleges,
except for the fundamental requirement for membership that one who is
considered must be a member in good standing in some regularly authorized
lodge of Master Masons. Membership comes from within by invitation. Candidates
do not petition. Those students who have the good fortune to be offered
membership pride themselves on the triple selection thus indicated, the
selection from the great mass of high school students for the privilege of
college education, the selection from the citizenship of their home
communities for the rights and benefits of Masonry, and the selection for the
social and intellectual joys of Acacia fraternity life.
The fraternity was founded at the University of
Michigan, being incorporated on May 12, 1904. It was the outgrowth of a
Masonic club at the University which had existed since 1894. It now has
twenty-four Chapters, well distributed over the country. They are necessarily
in the larger institutions where the number of Master Masons in attendance
furnishes sufficient material for energetic existence. Most of these Chapters
maintain Chapter houses in which the members make their home, several of these
houses being owned by the local organization, but the majority being rented.
The fraternity has an excellent standing among similar college societies. It
is a recognized member of the national Inter-Fraternity Conference. It shares
generally the privileges of local conferences of representatives of like
organizations. During its ten years of life it has won much approval from
college authorities because of its high average ranking in scholarship. As a
member must be at least twenty-one years of age, and as, in many places, those
who wear its badge are advanced students, there is a realization of the value
of scholarship and right conduct which the younger members of other societies
sometimes lack. The result has been that Acacia is highly regarded by the
college administration wherever it has a Chapter.
From the beginning much stress has been laid upon the social
life in the Chapter home. Much has been done to cement college friendships,
stronger than the ordinary, perhaps, because of the Masonic tie. The Chapter
houses breathe the atmosphere of sentimental affection. Group pictures of the
members are found on the walls. Pennants tell of the other institutions where
the fraternity has its branches. Individual portraits proclaim some one of
exceptional interest or influence. Through Acacia, then, many a college Mason
has had his
years of study made happier because of close fraternal ties. After ten years
of life Acacia is marked by many of the sentimental characteristics which have
made college fraternity Chapters powerful organizations.
But there has never been a time when through the
Acacia fraternity membership there was not a strong desire to be of some
service to the mother institution out of which it sprung. A substantial
periodical, the Journal of Acacia, has been a helpful influence. It has
published many articles on Masonic history and philosophy for the
enlightenment and instruction of members. It has printed bibliographies and
suggestions for Masonic study. It has urged members constantly to maintain
their lively interest in the lodges, notwithstanding the immediate and
pressing demands of the class-room and tine allurements of library and
laboratory. Two or three definite results of such a sustained campaign of
Masonic education are apparent.
There have been developed some splendid degree
teams. The Acacia members comprising these have sought always to be letter
perfect in the rendition of the ritual. In a good many lodges their aid in
degree work has been received with enthusiastic praise. They have encouraged
mass visitation of neighboring lodges and so the college boys have been
brought into closer relationship with local craftsmen and have had their
circle of acquaintanceship much enlarged Naturally they have been careful
watchers of the ritualistic work and have profited by the errors made by less
eager officers. If Acacia has done nothing more, it has greatly stimulated the
Masonic interest of its own membership.
A natural sequence of this feature of the
fraternity's activity has been that Acacians generally have ranged themselves
on the side of those reformers who desire to remove from the accepted work
those errors in grammar and faulty constructions in English which always grate
upon the ears of one who has had the benefit of a training of the schools.
They have attempted nothing iconoclastic, but in quiet ways have given their
influence in favor of revisions certain to bring improvement to a time-honored
ritual. And in seeking for the reasons for familiar shortcomings in the
accepted work, they have been led into the attractive field of Masonic
A powerful influence in this direction has been
exerted by Professor Roscoe Pound of Harvard Law School. He became a member of
Acacia at the University of Nebraska. For a time he was a member of the
faculty of law in the University of Chicago. He was one of the first to
recognize the possibilities for Masonrv in this organization of eager and
enthusiastic college men. He has devoted much time and attention to a series
of lectures on Masonic history and philosophy which he has given freely, with
great sacrifice of valuable hours, before Acacia Chapters and college Masonic
clubs. His marvelous capacity for research and his exceptional ability in
instruction has made of each of these lectures a wonderful stimulus to his
hearers. He has planted the desire for Masonic research in many a student. He
has guided the first readings of those who sought from him the way to the
truth. His earnest pupils are found in more than one Acacia Chapter.
In a narrower field similar work has been done by
professors Chester N. Gould and Charles Chandler of the University of Chicago.
Teachers in an institution which maintains a large summer session they have
exerted a stimulating influence upon college Masons from many parts of the
country. Each is a keen student and lover of deep research and they have given
to the fraternity the full benefit of their rich resources of mind obtained by
thorough investigation of the hidden things of Masonry.
The Acacians in other parts of the country nave
had the advantage of like encouragement from Masons of eminence who have been
elected to honorary membership, or who, as faculty members, have been
impressed with the opportunity of lecturing to such exceptional audiences as
are furnished by college men, to whom the habit of research becomes almost a
second nature. Without attempting to discriminate among members of this type,
mention may be made especially perhaps of the late Lewis Cass Goodrich of
Michigan, Joseph R. Wilson of Pennsylvania, William Homan of New York, and A.
K. Wilson of Kansas. These mature men, well known Masonic workers, gave Acacia
an impetus in the direction of Masonic research whose full effect cannot be
realized for years to come. Perhaps it is enough to say that their helpful
influence has been a powerful force in the first decade of the history of this
I look to Acacia for some splendid Masonic workers
in the higher ranks of the great mother order. I expect to see the history and
philosophy of Masonry made far more familiar in the lodges because of the
inspiration given by those who have shared the privileges of Acacia Chapter
life. The fraternity is young as yet. It is now in its eleventh year. It has
just elected as its Grand President an enthusiastic Mason, Mr. George E.
Frazer, of the administrative staff of the University Illinois. He is deeply
interested in Masonic research. He has done much to stimulate support of the
movement represented by this journal. I firmly believe that the Masonic order
is to be greatly helped by this fraternity, not only in the quickening of the
life of local lodges throughout the United States, but, notably, in the years
to come, through the development of men of fine educational training who will
find delight in delving into the storied past that they may interpret to
others the beauties and the strength of the Masonic institution.
BY FRANK HIGGINS, F.R.N.S.,
PRESIDENT OF THE MAGIAN SOCIETY, ETC.
WITH reference to all those
things which come within the various provinces of the seven liberal arts and
sciences, Masonry occupies an extremely anomalous position. The theory of the
Craft we all know. From one degree to another, we have paraded before us,
assumptions of all knowledge, human and Divine. We are supposed to be the
custodians of a mysterious arcana descended to us from remote ages, which must
be hedged about with safeguards and pledges, which could not be more exacting,
if they constituted a system of defense for the fabled treasures of Golconda,
Yet there is not a Masonic
student, among those hold enough to proclaim that there is at least a
substratum of truth at the bottom of these pretensions, who does not find
himself continually in the minority, among a vast army of brethren, who refuse
to contemplate anything in the ritual of Masonry, transcending an agreeable
series of moral platitudes, collated within a comparatively modern period for
the unmixed purpose of "making Masons."
The degrees of the Craft are,
in this respect, very much like those honorary titles conferred by
Universities upon benefactors, who, had they actually elected to shine in the
domains of Law, Arts, Letters or Sciences, suggested by their alphabetical
dignities, instead of Coal, Iron or Commerce would never have figured in the
history of pedagogics as patrons of learning.
In consideration of the
hugely preponderating part played by at least the presumption of Science in
its construction, one might imagine that Masonry would have long since
specially attracted to itself an unusual quota of scientific men, men of the
schools, competent through plediliction and training to give extension to the
manifold hints of our ritual. But with notable exceptions, this has not proven
The chief among Masonic
students, whose reputations for more or less scientific research into the
latent meanings of Masonic allusions, have become classic in the Craft, have
been gifted amateurs, who have no reputation outside of our exclusive ranks.
Such science as has been brought to the support of Masonry has been purely
accidental. Owing to the nature of our institution, we are unable to turn for
guidance to the very men who could most and best enlighten us. We may take no,
however learned, scientist into Masonic confidence and invite him to diagnose
a landmark, having a pointed scientific application, for the benefit of the
craft, unless he is a member thereof and the conflict between Science and
Religion has, since the organization of the modern speculative craft, given
rise to a special reason which has closed its doors to many of the very men
who could have been most depended on to enlighten it.
For these and other reasons
Masonic symbolism has remained for several centuries in the hands of brethren
who, however lovable and amiable their personal characters, or however they
have adorned the Craft by their personal virtues, have been the last men in
the world to perceive either its origin or its tendencies on the purely
intellectual plane. The progress of true Masonic enlightenment has therefore
been slower than that of any branch of human contemplation open to
examination, dissection and suggestion from unbiased scholars.
Brilliant as have been the
many scholarly Protestant Divines who have given lustre to Masonry by their
high qualities as men and Masons, the majority of these have been content to
regard the numerous scriptural allusions and parallels introduced to
attention, from the literal and unquestioning attitude of sectarian orthodoxy.
Thus it has remained for a future age to reveal many things, which might have
been discovered and brought to light years ago, if there had been systematic
search. The true story of humanity's struggle toward the light during the past
twenty centuries of the Christian era has yet to be written. It involves
elements which numerous historians have approached closely enough, but which
they have never been able to grasp, because of fundamental error in view
For nigh upon two thousand
years, the true nature and meanings of the ancient mysteries upon which modern
Masonry has erected her symbolic Temple, have remained in the grasp and
custody of an institution, equally founded upon them, which has employed every
artifice of sophistry to conceal and every instrument of physical repression
to guard from the assaults of the curious. The history of this conflict is the
history of "Heresy," concerning which we will sum the whole in one all
The entire totality of the
various historical heresies which are recorded as having been subdued at one
and another age of the Church, have been simply outcroppings of one and the
same original gnosis, under different names, until the translations of the
Bible into vulgar tongues, produced a new variety of schism, shifting the
controversial premises from the original ground, which dealt with the
Mysteries alone, to questions of historicity and literal interpretations of an
inassailable Scripture, all sense of the cabalistic character of which had
been hopelessly lost.
The battle of the last two
centuries has raged altogether around questions affecting the total or partial
authenticity of the Biblical narrative taken as a record of human history
rendered infallible by Divine interference. Its uncompromising literal
interpretations, the strict Puritan sense, have given rise to a long line of
splendidly intellectual, but less misguided than unguided materialists, whose
violent attitudes, in opposition to so called "revealed" religion, were
provoked by the stubborn and uncompromising defense of sticklers for the
historical veracity of a thousand physically impossible and completely
unnatural narratives. That these narratives might have a concealed sense and
convey the spiritual lessons of the "ancient mysteries" of their derivation,
no more flashed across the minds of men like Voltaire, Thomas Paine, or to
come down to our own day, Robert G. Ingersoll, than over those of Martin
Luther or John Calvin.
To recapitulate the
influences which have resulted in the gradual readjustment of the situation,
rescuing us from the danger of a sullen and uncompromising conflict between
the grossest and most blasphemous negation of Divinity and a blind Credence,
in the exercise of which man must stand ready to surrender every prompting of
reason or God-given common sense, would be to largely recapitulate the work
which has been slowly and painfully accomplished within the ranks of the
Masonic craft since the emergency of speculative Masonry from its underground
crypt, under the liberal institutions of Protestant England, Germany, and
later, of Republican France.
Scholarly Masons, who are
duly qualified, did fail to recognize likenesses between Masonic terminologies
and traditions of the Ancient Mysteries preserved in the Greek classics and in
the allusions of early alchemistic and "magical" writings. This led to an
examination of innumerable hints contained in the homilies of the early
fathers, concerning the mysteries, both Pagan and Christian, of the early days
of the Church. Like putting together, bit by bit, the pieces of an enormous
"cut out" puzzle, fragment after fragment has been brought together and joined
to the main body
The labors of the Abbe
Constant, known best by his pen name of Eliphaz Levi, did more than anything
else to acquaint the western mind with the precise nature of spiritual
mysteries and ancient methods of concealment, in his exposition of the long,
jealously guarded Jewish Kabbalah. Upon this imperfect beginning have been
based the Masonic writings of the venerable Albert Pike and from the same
inspiration and greatly amplified by independent research, the published works
of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, with whose theosophical conclusions we shall
not, however, concern ourselves. They have, however, had great influence over
subsequent Masonic writers-like Dr. Buck and the Rev. Charles H. Vail.
The labor of Oriental
Students has thrown open to the world the treasure houses of ancient Zend,
Sanscrit and Arabic literature, which have supplied the connecting links in
the great story of the inception of an age old scientific gnosis, materially
set forth to the western world in the philosophies of the ancient students of
Eastern lore, Aristotle, Plato and Pythagoras. The work of the Assyrologists
and Egyptologists has furnished other links to the chain, extending our vision
and broadening its range, until we are brought face to face with a wonderful,
new and magnificently supported conclusion--that the significant symbolism of
this great institution of ours, was indeed selected at some remote period of
human history and handed down for the express purpose of discovering to us the
origin of man's highest spiritual contemplations, and to enable us like the
fathers of our race to climb otherwise inaccessable heights and view our
Creator "face to face."
The consensus of all that has
been discovered in this respect develops the fact that, way back in the dawn
of history, probably long before it, there originated at some point on earth's
surface, (indications which point to Northern India are not lacking) a
curiously interlocking geometrical, mathematical and astronomical gnosis. From
purely natural experiments was derived a conception of the three hundred and
sixty degrees of the circle, triangle and quadrangular equations, by means of
squares (the Mosaic pavement) and the equilateral triangle, the Alphabet and
the Decimal system. Adding the factors of the perceptible phenomena of the
Universe, the mutual relations of divers geometrical figures of equal
quantities and the elements of organic generation, mainly as phallicism, a
great system, intended to account for the wonders of Nature, was devised,
credited to the One; Absolute Mind ruling the Universe and placed under the
government of the College of primitive scientists, to which later ages gave
the name of the Magi.
The only difference between
elementary Masonry and Theosophy, is the assumption by the latter that the
most spiritual of those men achieved successive reincarnations on increasing
scales of Divine inspiration and possession, which led them, in the course of
time, to become the founders of the world's greatest religions, and has
perpetuated their conscious personalities, even to our own day, under the
generic title of "the Masters." Both are children of the legendary "Secret
As a point of departure for
the assumption of a special science of Masonic Archaeology, we are, while
prepared to allow the most complete liberty of thought with regard to historic
cities and anthropomorphic conceptions, compelled to assume that wherever the
knowledge and attributes of God have been demonstrated by means of the Square
and Compasses, for the purpose of awakening the spiritual sense latent in all
mankind, there existed Masonry. With this single proposition in view, there is
not an acre of earth's surface, at one time or another trodden by the foot of
intelligent man, which does not furnish its countless mute testimonies to the
existence and cultivation of the primordial gnosis, of which we speak, passed
from race to race and land to land.
It does not consist in
structural architectural remains alone, but in geometrical symbolisms and
decorative ornaments, in which the proportions of edifices, the shape and
dimensions of stones, the decorative features of Temples and supposed Idols,
especially the Pyramidal forms of Egypt and America, are made, by the
translations of their geometrical angles and proportions into mathematical
quantities, to give the precise length of the Solar year, the period of the
precession of the Equinoxes, the period of human gestation, important
planetary cycles and other great natural facts. The expression of these same
quantities and formulae in the letters of the ancient alphabets, represented
by their numbers, compose the various sacred names of diverse scriptures of
humanity, so that we rest stupefied before the astounding fact, that the
greatest message of our own Great light has yet to be read through Masonic
eyes, by the light of the Ages past.
Masonic Archaeology is no
chimera, nor product of an exalted imagination. It can be read, character by
character, on countless objects in the Museums of every country in the world,
possessing such, on the facades of and in the proportions of ancient Temples,
from Delphi to Delhi, from Athens to Ang-Kor. The ancient monuments of Mexico
are supercharged with it and the evidences that this gnosis was the faith and
practice of the ancient, aboriginal inhabitants of these United States are
It stares the craft in the
face from every corner of lodge and Chapter, and every word, letter, syllable
and character thereof is stamped with God's own signature, the ineffable
The London times, in its
issue of October 30th, has a most interesting sketch and appreciation of
Genral Joffre, the Commander-in-Chief of the French armies - a simple man,
quiet, efficient, who does his duty and does not talk about it. Incidentally,
the writer tells us that General Joffree is an enthusiastic Freemason - a fact
which will give an added interest to his achievements as a soldier of the
BY G. W. BAIRD, P.G.M.,
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
It was the good fortune of
the writer to see the great obelisk called Cleopatra's needle, as it stood at
Alexandria and also to witness the "opening of a house" in Pompeii. The two
Monoliths known as Cleopatra's needles had been brought to Alexandria in the
time of the Caesars. They were originally in front of the University at
Heliopolis, that great school where Moses, the law giver, was once a student.
How long they were in Heliopolis no one knows, nor it is known when they were
carved or erected.
One of these magnificent
monuments was given to England, and the other to the United States. The latter
was brought to this country by Brother Lieutenant Commander H. H. Gorringe, U.
S. N., the entire expense of which was borne by the late Mr. William H.
Vanderbilt, of New York.
When Gorringe lifted the
monument, for the purpose of shipping it, he was surprised to find, under its
base, so many symbols which seemed clearly Masonic. The Grand Lodge of Masons
in Egypt, among whom there was a number of Egyptologists and Archaeologists,
sent a committee of its best men, at the request of Gorringe, to examine these
emblems and give an opinion. They were unanimous in the opinion that the
emblems were Masonic, and gave the following definitions. Gorringe had a
drawing made, not only to show the emblems and their relative positions, but
for use in replacing them when the shaft should be erected at New York.
A. A polished cube, of
syenite. B. Polished square, of syenite. C. Rough and irregular block of
syenite. D. Hard lime stone with trowel cemented to its surface. E. Soft lime
stone, very white and entirely from spots. F. Axis stone, with figures. G. A
marked stone. H. Corner stone, found under east angle of lower steps.
The block C was believed to
be the rough ashler; A the perfect ashler; the square B is very distinct, and
has been so identified with Masonry, in all ages, that its presence added
The Committee thought the
stone, with figures, resembling snakes, was emblematic of Wisdom. They thought
the "axis stone" represented the trestle-board and the marked stone bore the
mark of a Mark Master. The two implements, the trowel and the lead plummet,
are emblematic of Freemasonry; the white stone is the symbol of purity, as we
have always understood it.
A French Archaeologist, in
New York, was the only person to question the opinion of the Egyptologists,
but as he was not a Mason, Gorringe thought he was not competent to be a
The Obelisk was brought to
New York and erected in Central Park, where it now stands. The corner stone
was laid with Masonic ceremonies on the 2d of October, 1880, and the emblems
were replaced exactly as they had been found at Alexandria.
In the National Museum, at
Naples, there is an equally remarkable evidence, which was discovered in the
ruins of Pompeii, in 1896. The writer is indebted to the late Brother S. G.
Hilborn, then a member of Congress from California, for a picture of this
"find" which is here reproduced in a photograph.
It is a mosaic table top, or
altar top, which was situated in the center of a rectangular room, exactly as
Masonic Altars have ever been erected in lodge rooms. The workmanship is
excellent, and the coloring, when the discovery was made, was bright and
fresh, but has probably faded some, as all the Pompeii colors have done. Mural
paintings, so many of which have been found in those ruins, have all suffered
the same fate.
This beautiful mosaic, which
is believed to be the top of the altar, shows a large square, above deaths
head, with a plumb line from the angle of the square to the middle point of
the crown of the head. From each arm of the square there is suspended a robe;
one was scarlet, the other purple, which are distinctive colors used in the
Royal Arch degree. Below the chin of the head is a butterfly, beautifully
colored, and under the butterfly is a circle, that Masonic emblem of Diety,
without beginning or end.
In addition to this there
were found, in the same room, several articles inherent in Blue and in Royal
Arch Masonry, a little urn, which is believed to be the pot of manna, a
setting maul, a trowel, a spade, a small chest, thought to be an imitation of
the ark of the covenant, and small staff, thought to be phallus. These
evidences, potent as they are, are confirmed by the inscription over the door
of the house, which is DIOGENE SEN, which means Diogenes the Mason.
The writer gives these facts
as to the Pompeii find, as he received them from Brother Hilborn. We have not
been in Pompeii since 1878, when with General Grant, but the existence of the
altar top may be verified by a visit to the museum at Naples.
The evidence, to an
enthusiast, is convincing; to the writer they seem every bit as good, maybe
better, than the evidence which Rome has accepted and propagated as to the
NOTE --(See Vibert's
"Freemasonry before the existence of Grand Lodges" for a different viewpoint
regarding the Pompeii Mosaic.)
Translated from the German of
G.E. Lessing (1778) by Louis Block,
Past Grand Master of Masons
[Gotthold Ephriam Lessing,
the father of German literature--"the forerunner of the philosophers, and
whose criticisms supplied the place of poetry"--was born at Kamenz, in Upper
Lusatia, in 1729, and died in 1781, at Woefenbutal, where he was librarian to
the Duke of Brunswick. He was a great genius, and like so many of his kind
suffered poverty and hardship, but held to his ideal to the end. He was
initiated in a Lodge at Hamburg, and found in Masonry the breadth and beauty
which his mind craved, as well as the consolation he needed after the death of
his wife and child. Up to that time, 1777, he had given himself chiefly to
drama and criticism, and his "Laokoon" remains to this day the classic protest
against the confusion of the arts. (See "The New Laokoon," by Irving Babbitt)
But his great sorrow remade the man, and turned his thoughts to the deeper
problems of life and its meaning. While these questions were tugging at his
soul, he wrote "Nathan the Wise"--a poem worthy of such a tragic birth, and
probably impossible without it--in which much of his deepest thought is set to
music. In "The Education of the Human Race" he stated his final faith, and the
spiritual process by which he was led to it. It was during his last years that
he wrote "Ernst and Falk: Five conversations for Freemasons"--a gem of purest
ray, and a treasure forever to the Order which he loved. Lessing loved Masonry
for its tolerance--not the easy tolerance which lets error be as good as
truth, because it is indifferent; but such tolerance as he taught in "Nathan
the Wise," which sees that truth is greater than all creeds, deeper than all
dogmas, and that in its presence we are all one in our littleness. "Ernst and
Falk" has been twice translated into English, but never with more insight and
feeling than by Brother Block, whose version will give a new interest to one
of the rarest and finest little classics of Freemasonry.--The Editor] First
Ernst--What are you thinking
E.--But you are so quiet.
F.--For that reason, who
thinks while he enjoys ? And I am enjoying
this refreshing morning.
E.--You are right, and you
would have been justified in asking me
my own question.
F.--If I had been thinking
about something I would have spoken
about it. There is nothing
about which one cannot think aloud with
F.--Have you enjoyed enough
this lovely morning--if anything occurs
to you, speak. Nothing comes
E.--That's good! It occurs to
me that I have long wanted to ask you
E.--Is it true, friend, that
you are a Freemason!
F.--The question is one that
E.--Truly! Yet give me a
straighter answer. Are you a Freemason?
F.--I believe I am.
E.--The answer is one that is
not quite sure of its subject.
F.--O yes! I am fairly
certain about my subject.
E.--Then you must well know
why and when and where and by whom you
F.--That I know above all,
but that is not saying so much.
E.--Is it not?
F.--Who does not accept and
who is not accepted ?
F.--I believe I am a
Freemason; not so much because I was accepted
by older Masons in a lawful
lodge, but because I see and know what
and why Mason is, when and
where it has been, how and by what it is
furthered or hindered.
E.--And yet you express
yourself doubtfully--I believe I am one!
F.--To this expression I am
now accustomed. Not indeed because I
lack personal conviction but
because I do not care to place myself
squarely in another's way.
E.--You answer me like a
F.--Stranger or friend !
E.--You have been accepted,
you know all--
F.--Others have been also
accepted, and believe they know.
E.--Could you then have been
accepted without knowing what you know
F.--Because many who accept
do not know themselves and the few who
know cannot tell it.
E.--And could you then know
what you know, without having been
F.--Why not ? Freemasonry is
nothing arbitrary, nothing
dispensable, but something
necessary that is grounded in man's
being and in human society.
Consequently one would come to it as
well by his own reflection as
by being led to it by another.
E.--Freemasonry is nothing
arbitrary ? Has it not words and signs
and customs which might all
be otherwise and consequently are
F.--That it has. But these
words and these signs and these customs
are not Freemasonry.
E.--Freemasonry is nothing
dispensable. What then did men do before
Freemasonry ever was?
F.--Freemasonry always was.
E.--Well, what is it then,
this necessary, this indispensable
F.--As I have already given
you to understand--something that even
those who know it cannot
E.--Therefore a nothing.
F.--Do not overstep yourself.
E.--That of which I have an
idea, that I can also express in words.
F.--Not always and least
often so that others get from my words the
same idea that I have of it.
E.--Well, if not wholly the
same, then still one nearly like it.
F.--The near idea would here
be useless or dangerous. Useless if it
did not hold enough, and
dangerous if it held the least bit too
that the Freemasons themselves who know
the secret of their order
cannot tell it in words, how then do they
make the order grow ?
F.--By deeds. They allow such
youths and men as they deem worthy of
their society to surmise and
conjecture their deeds--to see them as
far as they can be seen;
these find a zest in them and do like
E.--Deeds? Deeds of the
Freemasons? I know none other than their
speeches and songs which are
usually better printed than thought or
F.--That they have in common
with many other speeches and songs.
E.--Or shall I take as their
deeds those of which they boast in
these speeches and songs?
F.--Suppose they do not alone
boast of them?
E.--And what do they then
boast about? Only those things that one
expects from every good man--
from every upright citizen. They are
so friendly, so benevolent,
so obedient, so full of patriotism !
F.--Is that then nothing?
E.--Nothing--to set them
apart from other men ! Who ought not to be
E.--Who has not motive and
opportunity enough aside from
Freemasonry to be these ?
F.--But who in it and through
it has one motive more.
E.--Talk not to me of the
number of motives! 'Twere better to give
one single motive all
possible intensive power! The number of such
motives is like the number of
wheels in a machine. The more wheels
the more unreliable.
F.--I cannot deny that.
E.--And what kind of a one
motive more ! One that disparages and
makes suspicious all others
in order to hold out itself as the
strongest and best !
F.--Friend, be fair!
Hyperbole the quid-pro-qua of those empty
speeches and songs!
Pattern-work! Apprentice work !
E.--That is to say: Brother
Orator is a chatterer.
F.--That is but to say: The
things that Brother Orator prizes in
Freemasonry are clearly not
in deeds. For Brother Orator is at
least no babbler, and deeds
speak for themselves.
E.--Now I see at what you're
aiming. Why didn't they occur to me at
once, these deeds, these
eloquent deeds ? Almost I might call them
screaming deeds. Not enough,
that the Freemasons should support one
another, support one another
most powerfully, for that would be but
the essential peculiarity of
every band. What do they not do for
the whole people of every
state to which they belong?
F.--For example? That I may
know whether you are on the right
E.--For example, the
Freemasons in Stockholm: Did they not erect a
great foundling hospital ?
F.--So only the Freemasons in
Stockholm have shown themselves
active in another
E.--In what other?
F.--In some other I mean.
E.--And the Freemasons in
Dresden who furnished poor young girls
with work, gave them lace and
embroidery to make, so that the
foundling hospital might be
F.--Earnest ! You know better
when I remind you of your name.
E.--In all seriousness then.
And the Freemasons in Braunschweig,
who gave poor, capable boys
lessons in arithmetic.
F.--Why not ?
E.--And the Freemasons in
Berlin who supported Basedow's
F.--What's that you're
saying? The Philanthropic Institute ! The
Freemasons supported it ? Who
foisted that on you ?
E.--The newspapers trumpeted
F.--The newspapers ! For that
I must have Basedow's own written
statement, and I must be sure
that such statement was not directed
against the Freemasons in
Berlin, but was directed against
Freemasons in general.
E.--What's that? Don't you
approve of Basedow's institution ?
F.--I not? Who can approve of
it more ?
E.--Then you would not
begrudge him this support?
F.--Begrudge ? Who could wish
him more of all good than I ?
E.--Now then, you are
incomprehensible to me.
F.--I well believe it. In
that I am wrong. For even the Freemasons
can do a thing, and yet not
do it as Freemasons.
E.--And is that true of all
their other good deeds ?
F.--Perhaps. Perhaps all of
these good deeds you have recited to me
are (to serve myself with a
scholastic expression for brevity's
sake) only their deeds ad
E.--What do you mean ?
F.--Only their deeds that
come before the eyes of the people--only
deeds that are done so that
they may come before the popular eye.
E.--In order to enjoy
attention and favor?
F.--It might well be.
E.--But what of their real
deeds then ? You are silent ?
F.--As tho' I had not already
answered you? Their real deeds are
E.--Aha ! Therefore also not
to be told in words ?
F.--Not so. Only this much
can and dare I tell you: The real deeds
of Freemasonry are so great,
so far reaching, that many centuries
may go by before one can say:
That is what they did! At the same
time they have done all the
good that is in the world, mark well,
in the world. And they go
forth to work at all the good that will
yet be in the world.
E.--Go to ! You are hoaxing
F.--Surely not. But see,
there goes a butterfly I must have. It is
from the wolf's-milk
caterpillar-- Briefly I will tell you yet this
much: The real effort of
Freemasonry is toward making unnecessary
in a large measure, all that
we are commonly accustomed to call
E.--And are still also good
F.--There are no better.
Think over it for awhile will be back
E.--Good deeds that aim to
make good deeds unnecessary? That is a
puzzle. And I'll not trouble
self over a puzzle. Rather will I lie
meanwhile under a tree and
watch the ants.
"IN A NOOK
WITH A BOOK"
BECAUSE Masonry touches life on many sides, and
has journeyed so far adown the years - gathering stones from many fields go
wherewith to build its House of Truth - it has an interest in many kinds of
books. Therefore, from time to time we shall make note of such books as have
to do directly or indirectly with the history and aims of the order, and
occasionally with those great books which should be the concern of all who
World-shaping is the word to describe "The Golden
Bough," by J.C. Frazer, begun some thirty years ago and now completed in ten
large volumes. (Macmillan Co., New York.) Surely this is one of the great
literary achievements of the race. There is nothing to compare with it,
except, perhaps, the "Decline and Fall of Rome," by Gibbon, or the colossal
output of Voltaire. It is a study of the origin of religion carried on over
all the world, through the literature of all the centuries, through the
traditions, customs, rites and folklore of the ages found in books or in
aboriginal environments. It is hardly too much to say that these volumes
contain the largest amount of widespread learning of any work produced in the
English-speaking world, and it will be difficult to find in any language a
study which can vie with it in thoroughness of research and skill of
Strangely enough, this monumental work began with
a study of what seems, at first sight, only a curiosity of custom-the custom,
that is, whereby the ancient Priest of Aricia, near Lake Alba, held his office
on condition that he would fight any competitor for it to the death who
succeeded in plucking from a sacred oak in the Grove of Nemi a golden bough.
Macaulay speaks of this custom in one of his "Lays of Rome," and the problems
suggested by it to Dr. Frazer were: Why did the old priest have to be slain by
the new one before he could be inducted into office; why was he called the
King of the Grove; why need he be slain at all; and above all, why did his
successor have to pluck the golden bough ? Such inquiries led the searcher far
afield, and the result is a mass of facts which will have to be reckoned with
in the future, and may upset theology quite as radically as "The Origin of
Species" did biology fifty years ago.
A wonderful book, this, which properly reviewed
would easily make a volume. What a picture we have here of that strange, weird
creature, man, terrible in his heights and depths, blend of dirt and deity; so
absurd-and, oh, so pathetic-in his facing of the mystery of life and the
world; yet sublime even in his superstitions. It takes us back into the old
dim abysm of time to the very origin of thinking, and the birth of music,
worship and art. We visit the cradle of the gods in the morning of time.
Religion has its beginning, so this writer holds, in what we stall magic. Man
found himself here, and he could only live by working, but things happened to
make his efforts go awry. Animals escaped from his traps, waves swamped his
boats, winds toppled trees on him, enemies ravaged his fields. Thinking that
wind and wave and fire were manifestations of invisible powers, he set about
to conciliate, to propitiate those powers-hence his religion of magic.
There was nothing wrong with magic save that it
reasoned wrongly from insufficient facts. Something happened, and then another
thing good or evil followed, and man connected the two, trying the while to do
the things which brought the good sequences and to avoid the things which
brought the bad ones. There was a time, Frazer thinks, when man did not even
trace the cause of birth to the relation between the sexes. Similarly, if a
rabbit crossed his path when he went to hunt and he had no luck, he blamed it
on the rabbit. If some one glared at him when he was cutting a tree and the
tree fell and hurt him, he remembered the evil eye. After this manner there
grew up customs arid superstitions now almost unintelligible-as, for example,
cannibalism. None the less, cannibalism had a reason, if so it may be called,
which was that, if one ate a powerful enemy he had slain, he absorbed the
power and courage of his enemy and became, by so much, a stronger, braver man.
Numberless glimpses of this kind we get of-the early, groping, timid, fearful
life of man, halfbeast and half-child - stories beautiful in their horror, and
horrible even in their beauty.
Happily, one need not accept the theory of Frazer
to enjoy this journey back into a time so far gone that only fragments of its
thought and faith and fear remain, like fossils in a rock. He holds, what some
of us do not believe, that man was ever a materialist. Far from it. Instead,
we see even at the lowest much that is not of dead matter; much not of the
brute. We see man looking out and up, as if called to do so by something not
himself; something within seeking union with Another whose call he heard in
the voices of the winds. Indeed, Frazer in his mighty labor has builded more
wisely, more spiritually than he knew; and by showing the old backward and
abysm of time out of which man has climbed, he reveals to what heights we have
attained. Looking at his facts from a point of view other than his own, we the
more appreciate the grave and haunting eloquence of his closing words:
"The temple of the sylvan goddess, indeed, has
vanished, and the King of the Wood no longer stands sentinel over the Golden
Bough. But Nemi's woods are still green, and as the sunset fades above them in
the west there comes to us, borne on the swell of the wind, the sound of the
church bells of Aricia ringing the Angelus. Ave Maria ! Sweet and solemn the
chime from out the distant town and die lingeringly away across the wide
Campagnan marshes. Ave Maria !"
* * *
Truth to tell, even while Frazer was writing his
wonderful book, his theory was being assailed - and, some of us think,
successfully - by Lyall, Jevons, Andrew Lang and others. Its basic defect was
that it found the origin of religion in the reasoning faculties, forgetting,
apparently, the deeper region of the emotions. Most certainly the true order
of things was and is, first, Reality, then Feeling, and finally an effort to
rationalize the contents of reality as revealed in feeling. Magic was logic,
albeit erroneous, yet logic trying to connect cause and result. No one faculty
or set of faculties must be credited with the creation of religion; it is the
response of the whole of man to the total appeal of life
Such is the position of E. S. Hartland in his most
delightful and valuable work, "Ritual and Belief" - a work of peculiar
interest to Masons, if for no other reason, for its philosophy of the origin
and uses of Ritual. (Scribner's Sons, New York.) According to this admirable
scholar and psychologist, ritual had its origin in the craving for movement
and dramatic excitement - perhaps in play, as when the Hottentots danced all
night in the moonlight, invoking her aid with wild gesture and song. Born of
the impulse to action, it liberated emotion; the emotion, in its turn, was
intensified by its collective expression; and so the action becarne a custom,
and gathered meaning. Later, it would serve also for the expression of ideas,
one of which was that just as dramatic action influenced human relations, so,
somehow, it might influence external nature - hence magic. Long eras of
evolution passed before belief became definite and cogent.
Of course, there is much else in this brilliant
book, but this point is indicated for the reason that it needs to be
considered by the members of an order in which Ritual has so large a part.
First, it shows that ritual is native to man, and a necessity of his nature,
liberating emotions unutterable in words. Second, that ritual comes,
naturally, if not inevitably, to have magical meaning and power, and leads to
the easy belief that when a sentiment has been expressed dramatically, that is
enough. No one need be told that this has all along been the danger - aye, the
curse - of organized religion, in that too many men think that when they have
observed certain rites they have fulfilled their moral obligations, the
religious emotion finding expression in ritual rather than in character and
the doing of good. It is hardly less a danger of Masonry, against which we
must be always on guard, lest the very purpose of the order be made of no
effect. Third, as thought deepens and broadens, ritual must receive the
reconsecration of nobler ideas, and become the medium through which those
ideas are expressed. Ritual, if not thus enriched by growing thought, is apt
to become an empty routine bereft alike of beauty and power.
* * *
Sixteen years ago Archdeacon Cheetham published his Hulsean
Lectures on "The Mysteries, Pagan and Christian," and they had a wide reading.
Since that time - or, to be more accurate, very recently - the debate has
become more acute as to how far, and what ways, St. Paul was influenced by the
Mystery cults, and the results of the late course of research, led by Cumont
and Reitzenstein, are summed up by Dr. A. A. Kennedy in his "St. Paul and the
Mystery Religions." It is a timely book and an able one, having a fine
precision of scholarship, a conscience for facts, and a wholesome skepticism
of theorizing. In a field where similarities of language and affinities of
thought have been pushed too far, such a sane and critical work is welcome.
St. Paul knew of the Mysteries; he uses some of their technical terms, but
that he was greatly influenced by them in his thinking, is not true. Of late
an attempt has been made to show that not only the theology of St. Paul, but
the whole primitive Christian creed and cult, was simply the old Mystery
religion revamped, but the effort fails. The value of this volume to Masons is
that it states briefly and lucidly what is known of the Mysteries which our
order perpetuates, in some fashion,
Without any boast, it is believed that this
initial issue of "The Builder" will commend itself to the intelligent
confidence of the Order, as showing the high level on which the Research
Society begins its work. Nor will that level be lowered by one jot or tittle,
its effort being to unite liberty of thought and scholarly accuracy with
simplicity and lucidity of style, the better to serve the Craft for whom it
Surely the lectures by Prof. Pound on "The
Philosophy of Masonry" are memorable in many ways, furnishing leadership and
inspiration for those who seek to think things through in quest of the reason
for Masonry, its faith, and its ideals. The remaining lectures in the series
have to do with Krause, Oliver and Pike, with a final study of Masonry in the
light of present-day philosophy, entitled "A Twentieth Century Masonic
Philosophy." These lectures will be widely read, as they should be, alike for
their own merit and for the distinction of their author; and we are happy to
announce that they will be issued in permanent form as the first book put
forth by the Society.
Looking forward, we are soon to present a very
valuable article on Masonry as interpreted by Goethe and Lessing, by Dr. Paul
Carus, editor of "The Open Court" and the "Monist," which will serve as an
admirable accompaniment to the translation of "Ernst and Falk," by Brother
Block. Going farther back, we have in hand the "Regensburg Stonemasons'
Regulations," bearing date of 1459, which will throw new light on certain
aspects of ancient Craft-masonry in Germany. Among other articles of unusual
interest will be an essay on the founding of Masonry in America, by Brother
Melvin M. Johnson, Grand Master of Masons in Massachusetts, which will contain
new material of great value.
Also, ye editor hopes, in the not distant future,
to begin a series of papers which he ventures to present as chapters of a
possible biography and study of Albert Pike. It is indeed strange that there
is no adequate account of that master genius of Masonry, who found the
Scottish Rite in a log cabin and left it in a temple. Scholar, jurist, orator,
thinker, citizen, he was a Mason to whom the world was a temple, a poet to
whom the world was a song. These papers have been in mind for years, and not a
little material has been gathered, but the editor will welcome reminiscences,
letters, incidents, documents of any kind bearing on Pike; and, after using
them, will carefully return them, when so desired, to those who send them.
Speaking of Pike, recalls Mackey, Fort, Drummond,
and other pioneers in the field of Masonic Research, sketches of whom, at once
sympathetic and critical, will be welcomed by "The Builder." Gould rendered a
real service to the Order with his series of essays on "Masonic Celebrities"
years ago, and we need a similar record of great Masons in America, especially
those who labored to advance Masonic learning. If some brother in South
Carolina will recall Dr. Mackey, and show him to us in habit as he lived, with
an estimate of his labors in behalf of the Order, the whole Fraternity will be
grateful. So also George F. Fort whose "Early History and Antiquities of
Freemasonry" is one of the most brilliant books in our literature.
Once more let it be said that the pages of "The
Builder" are open to the Craft, of every rite and jurisdiction, inviting
discussion of every aspect of Masonry - its history, philosophy, symbolism,
ritual, and practical problems. Lectures, old documents, study programs,
biographical sketches, any kind of information of value to the Craft in any of
its activities, will be welcomed. No one need hesitate to offer any
suggestion, for "The Builder" exists only to serve Freemasonry; and should
there be any Brother who imagines that it has any other motive than that
confessed in the Foreword, well, we have a sure way of dealing with him,
guaranteed never to fail:
"He drew a circle that shut
Heretic, rebel, a thing to
But love and I had the wit to
We drew a circle that took
Recently there was unveiled in New York City a
statue of Edwin Booth, erected in Gramercy Park, near The Players, the famous
club founded by Booth. It was designed by E. T. Quinn - who also wrought the
bust of Edgar Allan Poe, in Poe Park - and shows the great actor in a
characteristic attitude as Hamlet; the part which he was born to play, and in
which temperament, personality and art so blended that he did not merely act
Hamlet, but was Hamlet. He revealed once more that great gentleman doing his
gentlest, bravest and noblest with a sad smile and a gay humor in a world not
simply complicated, wicked, absurd, and tiresome, but also ghostly. Booth was
an ardent Mason, and he it was who said that of all great tragedies, the drama
of the Third Degree of Masonry stood out in his mind as the simplest and most
profound. His brethren everywhere will rejoice in this memorial, the more so
for that the art of an actor dies with him.