Holy Royal Arch…Whence Come You? A four part article By Mike Lawrence Part Three

The second Temple, known to us as the third or Grand and Royal Lodge, was reconstructed and stood between 516 BC and 70 AD. During this time, it was the centre of Jewish worship, which focused on the sacrifices known as the Korbanot. In Judaism, the Korban is any of a variety of sacrificial offerings described and commanded in the Totah. King Solomon’s Temple was destroyed in 586 BC when the Jews were exiled during the Babylonian captivity. Construction of a new temple was begun in 535 and completed in 516, with its dedication in 515. As described in the Book of Ezra, rebuilding of the Temple was authorised by Cyrus the Great and ratified by Darius the Great. The Romans destroyed Jerusalem and its second Temple on August 4th 70 AD, ending the Great Jewish revolt that began in 66 AD.

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The story in our ritual which relates to the discovery of the vault, probably takes its rise from any number of contemporary books that were available at the time when the ritual was being formulated. For example, we already know that the many of the Craft ritual phrases and certain usages can be found in the works of Shakespeare, Bunyon, Milton, Bronte, and some of the comtemporary pracitices of the time, so it would figure that Royal Arch ritual would contain phrases, practices or other things that were common or available at the time.

Thus, we read of The Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, born 364 AD, translated and published in 1669 in a book entitled, “Solomon’s Temple Spiritualised.” The book records that the Roman Emperor, Julian the Apostate, ordered the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem, during the course of which a cave was discovered by a workman who was lowered by rope into the vault. He discovered a perfect square and, in its centre, a column upon which was found a book wrapped in fine linen cloth. The first words being “In the beginning was the word” The book was the entire Gospel of St John. This verse incidentally played a very important part in the early Holy Royal Arch ceremony but was dropped during the 1835 ritual revision.

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QCCC member Harry Mendoza, also tells us that references to the discovery of a law-book during repair work that was being carried out on the Temple can be found in 2 Kings, Chapter 22 and 2 Chronicles, Chapter 34. This book mentioned, many commentators identify as Deuteronomy, the fifth book of the Bible, and which both record Hilkiah the priest finding the book of the law that the Lord had given Moses.

Robert McCoy’s “A Dictionary of Freemasonry”, a late 19th century publication also records the early finding of a vault in the ruins at Yucatan, where the explorer recorded the following: “The only way of descending was to tie a rope around the body and be lowered by the Indians…”

Therfore, as you can see, it is not beyond the realms of anyone’s imagination to understand where the allegorical story originated.

But this idea of taking an existing story to accentuate salient points of our discipline or to highlight its meaning should in no way detract from the important message of the Holy Royal Arch. It all degrees in Freemasonry, traditional histories were written for that very purpose and have little or no historical accuracy and it still pains me to this day when exponents of our ritual sincerely and honestly believe that all Masonry is based on historical fact.

This I think is an indictment on our society and clear evidence of our failure to educate our people by allowing them to continue to serve in ignorance rather than provide proficient instructors and accurately presented resources. Strong words I know, but I stand by my view.

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So, having now established some of the basic facts about the Holy Royal Arch, i.e. where we are and what we are doing, perhaps a simplified recap will put things into a better perspective. So here are ten questions:

1) Where are we?

2) Where did we come from?

3) Who allowed us to come back to Jerusalem?

4) Who are we?

5) Who sits at the head of the Sanhedrin?

6) Who are they assisted by?

7) What did Cyrus give us permission to do?

8) What did we do to help the reconstruction?

9) What did they discover?

10) What was the reward for the industry and fidelity of the workmen?

Answers:

1) In Jerusalem!

2) Babylon, the captivity now being over!

3) Cyrus, the King of Persia!

4) The Grand Sanhedrin!

5) Zerubbabel, Haggai and Joshua!

6) Ezra and Nehemiah!

7) To rebuild the Temple at Jerusalem

8) We hired three workmen to clear the ground in order to receive the foundations. They made a discovery of great importance which they immediately conveyed back to us.

9) The name of the True and Living God Most High! Which was lost through the untimely death of Hiram Abiff.

10) They were made members of the Grand Sanhedrin!

We complete the story of the Holy Royal Arch in the next and final part of the Article.

 

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Holy Royal Arch…Whence Come You? A four part article by Mike Lawrence Part Two

In part two, we take a brief look at the main characters of our drama.

Zerubbabel, was the grandson of Jehoiachin, penultimate King of  Judah. He led the first band of Jews, numbering 42,360, who returned from the Babylonian captivity in the first year of Cyrus, King of Persia. It was also Zerubbabel that laid the foundation of the second Temple in Jerusalem the next year. Muslim historian, Ya’qubi attributed the recovery of the Torah and the Books of the Prophets to him instead of Ezra. Little else is known about him.

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Haggai, was one of the twelve minor prophets and the author of the Book of Haggai. He was the first of three prophets (with Zechariah, his contemporary, and Malachi, who lived about one hundred years later). His ministry belonged to the period of Jewish history which began after the return from captivity in Babylon. We are told that when the work of rebuilding the temple had been put to a stop through the intrigues of the Samaritaina and having been suspended for eighteen years, the work was resumed through the efforts of Haggai and Zechariah who exhorted the people, which roused them from their lethargy.

 Joshua, the son of Josedech and the first High Priest of the second Temple, should not be confused with that other Joshua who succeeded Moses as the leader of the Israelites and who we will all remember from the second degree, prayed fervently to the Lord to continue the light of day. Sadly, I can find no further details other than our own allegorical association with Zerubbabel and Haggai.

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Ezra, the “scribe” led the second body of exiles that returned from Babylon to Jerusalem and was author of the book of Scripture which bears his name. He was the son, or perhaps grandson, of Seraiah. All we know of his personal history is contained in the last four chapters of his book. We also learn that in the seventh year of the reign of  he obtained leave to go up to Jerusalem and to take with him a company of Israelites. The King manifested great interest in Ezra’s undertaking, granting him “all his request” and loading him with gifts for the house of God, being the Second Temple, whose construction had now commenced. Again we must not confuse Scribe Ezra with, the priest of the same name that returned with those to Jerusalem under Zerubbabel.

 Nehemiah, the son of Hachaliah was probably of the tribe of Judah and was one of the “Jews of the dispersion”. In his youth he was appointed to the important office of royal cup-bearer at the palace of Shushan. Like Ezra, the King Artaxerxes Longimanus, seemed to have been on terms of friendly familiarity with him, for after Nehemiah had heard of the mournful and desolate condition of the Holy City, he was filled with sadness of heart. At length, we learn the King observed his sadness of countenance and asked the reason. Nehemiah explained it all to the King and obtained his permission to go up to Jerusalem and there to act as Governor of Judea. He went up in the spring of 446 BC (eleven years after Ezra), with a strong escort supplied by the King. On his arrival he set himself to survey the city, and to form a plan for its restoration; a plan which he carried out with great skill and energy, so that it was completed in about six months. We are told that he resembled Ezra in his fiery zeal, in his active spirit of enterprise, and in the piety of his life, but he was of a fiercer mood and he had less patience with transgressors. He was a man of action rather than a man of thought, and more inclined to use force than persuasion.

The three Sojourners are representative of the workmen needed to rebuild the second Temple and humbly wished to participate in the great and glorious undertaking. They were nobly born of the House of Judah, but due to the lateness of their application they were tasked to prepare the ground for the foundations which they cheerfully accepted.

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Those are the characters or main players in our ritual drama and it were they that formed part of the Grand Sanhedrin, which as I previously explained is what the lodge room represents during the Exaltation ceremony of the Holy Royal Arch, and we, as Companions of that Order, are also part of that ruling council.

The Great Sanhedrin, which is what the Convocation is representative of, was an assembly of Jewish judges who constituted the Supreme Court and legislative body of ancient Israel. In total there were 71 Sanhedrin members. During the period of the second Temple in Jerusalem, prior to its destruction in 70 AD, the Great Sanhedrin would meet in the Hall of Hewn Stones in the Temple during the day, except before festivals and Shabbat.

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Now the objective of the ritual authors was to restore to Freemasonry the true secrets of a Master Mason, lost as we know, by the allegorical death of one of the brightest characters in Masonry, Hiram Abiff. In order to repair that loss, another allegorical story was prepared, its origin we will discuss a little later, but the vehicle for such a message was the building of the second Temple in Jerusalem.

In part three we look at the where the theme of the ritual may have taken its rise and recap with some simple questions and answers.

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Holy Royal Arch…Whence Come You? A four part article by Mike Lawrence Part One

Being a basic down to earth explanation of the Holy Royal Arch set up – where we are, what we are doing and who are the characters we are representing, plus a revealing  insight in to how, but for the tenacity of a few Irish Freemasons, the Holy Royal Arch may have been lost forever.

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On the night of our raising to the sublime degree of a Master Mason, we are immediately instructed that we must wait a full 28 days before we are eligible to join the Holy Royal Arch in order to receive the completion of that degree, which according to our regulations, concludes all aspects of what is considered “Pure Antient Masonry”.

Of course, we all understand that technically under the English Constitution all other degrees are not considered “Pure Antient Masonry” and therefore not duly part our Masonic system. However, my subject today is not other Degrees or as many brethren wrongly call them “higher degrees”, but rather that ceremony that firstly, no way resembles Freemasonry’s three-degree system, secondly, is not essential for one’s progression in the Craft or thirdly, is not actually called a degree, yet it is deemed the completion of one’s Masonic journey.

That subject is of course the Holy Royal Arch.

Pitching a lecture at a level of understanding to suit everyone’s intellect is impossible, if only from the point of view that we all came into the Chapter at different times, have held different Offices and are at different levels of understanding. Therefore, I shall start at the lowest common denominator and work from there. If that offends any Companion, then I apologise, however, it is and always has been my belief that the messages to be learnt from our ritual are simple, and in my many years of lecturing, I have avoided deep intellectual and complicated topics, leaving that to one’s own personal study plan.

So, for the moment, please forget the Historical, Mystical and Symbolical lectures, forget what’s emblematical, reverential and fiducial and let’s get right down to basics.

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To begin with, let us look at the Drama of the ritual, which is set in Jerusalem, immediately after the return from the Babylonian captivity, when Zerubbabel is preparing to rebuild the city and the Temple. The Chapter represents the Grand Sanhedrin whose deliberations are interrupted by the arrival of three Sojourners from Babylon who ask to be permitted to assist in the rebuilding work. They are instructed to clear the ground of Solomon’s former Temple in order to receive the foundations for the new Temple. In doing so they discover a hidden vault, which they break open and enter, inside the Principle Sojourner discovers a scroll, which is the lost volume of the sacred law and a pedestal on which is inscribed the name of the Most High, which as biblical history tells us, was never uttered and therefore its true pronunciation was lost. Additionally, we find the names of the three Grand Masters. They immediately report their discoveries to the Sanhedrim and are instantly rewarded by being constituted members of the Chapter.

However, like the Craft, the story is purely allegorical, as historically; the three Principals and Scribes could not have been in Jerusalem at the same time. Interestingly in Ireland and many Grand Chapters in America, the legend is not that used in England and Scotland, but is concerned with the repair of Solomon’s Temple under Josiah, but the intent of the ritual is the same, which is to lead the companion, without transgressing the bounds of religion, to contemplate the nature of, and his relationship with, his God whatever his religion may be.

Looking closer at the ritualistic theme we know that in the Craft, the Lodge Room and Officers are representative of the Operative Masons of old and the ritual deals with the legendary building of the first Temple at Jerusalem and the imparting of a series of instructions which culminates with the workman receiving a series of signs, tokens and words, which he is given as a reward for his industry and as a test of his fidelity. Although only using substituted secrets in the third degree, the Craft rituals sit comfortably as being complete.

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The role of the Holy Royal Arch is to repair that loss and so complete the legend and the setting of the drama, concerns the building of the second Temple after the return from the Babylonian captivity.

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The Babylonian Captivity or Babylonian exile, is the name typically given to the deportation and exile of the Jews from the ancient Kingdon of Judah to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar during the 6th Century BC. This event coincided with the destruction of the first Temple of Jerusalem.

After the overthrow of Babylon by the Persian Empire in 537 BC, the Persian ruler, Cyrus the Great, gave the Jews permission to return to their native land, and more than 40,000 are said to have availed themselves of the privilege, as noted in the Biblical accounts of Jehoiakim, Ezra and Nehemiah. Unlike the Babylonians or Assyrians, the Persians had a different political philosophy of managing conquered territories and under their rule they allowed local personages to be put into power to govern the local populace.

The actual return of the first forty thousand exiles was led by Zerubbabel followed by a second group of about six thousand organised by Ezra. This second body of exiles had been invested with royal powers and succeeded after great difficulties in helping to establish the post-exilic Jewish community.

In part two, we will take a brief look at the main characters of our drama.

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Is the Mark Degree older than the Craft Degrees? A four-part article by Mike Lawrence. Part Four

To conclude the article, I began with the question “Is the Mark Degree older than the Craft Degrees?” and I first looked at the start of the squared stone building industry in England in the early Middle Ages. This was followed by a look at the organisation of Masons in England and Scotland in the high and late Middle Ages. I then moved to that period what modern day Masonic historian’s call the “transition” which is in fact, the reasons that made men, who were not involved in the building trade or craft want to become non-working or Accepted mason and join a lodge alongside working masons.

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So, to answer the original question, I think we may apply the following scenario, first put by Revd. Barker Cryer:

“There is a realisation amongst Masons that ritual material once possessing infinite mystical value had at some time been discarded from some old practices and suddenly revived and expanded into a rite purporting to restore the genuine secrets”

Can we apply this to Mark Masonry?

The first record we have of Mark Masonry in England is on 1st September 1769 at the Royal Arch Chapter No. 257 when certain brethren were made Mark Masons, after which they chose their mark.

Obviously for there to be a ceremony on that night would certainly indicate a ritual of some kind was used which logic dictates would have been introduced before that date. We know that there is an occasional reference to the term “mark” in several earlier documents, but the same goes for “arch”, but they are not necessarily used in the context with which we understand Mark or Holy Royal Arch to be, so sadly this does not indicate a full separate degree or ritual being practiced earlier than 1769.

The re-introduction of assigning marks could be considered as a once discarded practice, but the Mark ceremony does not have the same antiquity and therfore cannot be.

So, the answer to the first scenario is, NO!

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Secondly, the Revd. Barker Cryer says:

“One of the peculiarities of ritual growth is that customs discarded from the ritual or ignored through lack of understanding in one place surprisingly turns up in another at a much later date.”

This could apply to Mark Masonry as the use of marks, the discarding of spoilt stones and the name Adoniram, pre-date Craft practices, but this does not necessarily prove a direct unbroken chain or link beyond the Craft. After all, much of the Craft system is evident in Mark Masonry, the giving of tokens, signs and words, the administration set up, the position of some of the Officers and the use of the lodge room, which as we know was a late 18th century innovation. Lately, the Mark Degree did developed an independent Lodge room, but this was not prior to the development of the Craft Lodge room.

So, we could partly answer yes to the second scenario, but not with any conviction as we still have no further clues to the antiquity of the Mark Degree, nor that it was ever an independent order.

The final point to make is that we must not confuse the use of mason’s marks and their antiquity, particularly as they have been found on the earliest of squared stone buildings, as being the basis for an independent Mark Degree. Marks were used by all trades to identify the producer or maker or the origin of the piece of work and in this case, given to all qualified stone masons who were not, at that time, known as Mark Masons.

There may even have been a short ceremony involved in the choosing of a mark at the end of an Apprenticeship, but end of Apprenticeship rituals (being one of fun, frivolity and initiation into the trade generally at the expense of the newly qualified individual) was by no means exclusive to Masons. I am sure so many of the more mature Freemasons, will recall from your youth, before the advent of Health and Safety, the things that were done to blood the newly qualified Apprentice on the completion of his indentures.

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It was the French that had a great fondness for religious and chivalric ceremony and this is evident by the development of hundreds of Masonic, non-Masonic and quasi-Masonic degrees which are held by the Grand College of Rites and which included such rituals as:

The Egyptian Rite                    The Rite of Memphis

The Order of Dervishes           The Rite of Mizraim

The Martinist Order                The Early Grand Rite of Scotland

Then we have:

The Rite of Memphis Mark     The Travelling Mark

The French Mark                     The Black Mark

The Ragon Mark

Therefore, many of the Degrees which have, these days, attached themselves under the Masonic banner were developed in France in the early 18th century and their antiquity, which appears to have been lost in the midst of time, in truth date back no further than that.

So whether we like it or not, we are left with the knowledge that as our Craft Ritual bears little resemblance to pre-1717 practices, particularly as most of the its ritual, dress and surroundings etc., were innovations developed many years after, so I believe Mark has that same distinction.

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Mark Masonry is not older than the Craft Masonry, it is not a direct or closer link to Operative Masonry, nor as it is often described “a completion of the Second Degree”, nor is it actually officially recognized within the Grand Lodge of England, as being “pure and antient masonry.”

However, like the Craft, knowledge of its past and its development should never detract from this most beautiful and friendly Degree or the deep spiritual message it contains, neither should it go unacknowledged the great role played and the work carried out by the Mark Benevolent Fund.

For more information about the Mark Masonry please visit:

https://markmasonshall.org/orders/mark-master-mason

https://markmasonshall.org/mbf-home/mark-benevolent-fund

<ends>

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Is the Mark Degree older than the Craft Degrees? A four-part article by Mike Lawrence. Part Three

To begin the third section, I will just touch briefly on the subject of assemblies. Surviving records do seem to indicate that not only were there some kind of organisation for masons, but that the organisation covered a much larger area which seems directly opposed to the town based “Craft Gilds” or Mysteries.

We certainly find records of the minstrels, who like the itinerant masons had to wander about the country to find work, were subject to wide territorial jurisdictions.  Certainly, John of Gaunt established a court at Tutbury in 1381 to enact laws for minstrels and to determine controversies affecting them which covered five neighboring counties.

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It is not therefore implausible to consider that masons may have had a similar system and that is exactly what the Regius MS seems to indicate. The Cook MS also refers to annual or triennial congregations of Masters and Fellows which were said to have been established by Athelstan. That Stone workers and Freemasons had customs is not in doubt as we find in the building accounts of Sandgate Castle in 1539, a jurat or member of a municipal body was paid his expenses while riding to communicate with the Controller or Master of the Works “…concerning the use and customs of freemasons and hewers…”

So just to recap where we are at the moment, firstly we took a look the start of the squared stone building industry in England and then we looked at the development of the organisation of Masons.

Now we need to examine that period which modern day Masonic historian’s call the “transition” which is in fact, the reasons that made men, who were not involved in the building trade or craft, want to become non-operative or Accepted masons and to join a lodge or working masons.

The end of the late middles ages was a period of outstanding importance in the history of the building trade, because it was marked with four great events or movements: the dissolution of the monasteries, the Renaissance, the Reformation and the opening up of the New World.

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Following the dissolution of the monasteries, Henry VIII gave gifts of monastic lands and estates to his friends and supporters.  As you know many of the buildings were razed and in many cases the materials used to build fine residences for these Lords, Earls and Barons.

The effects of the Reformation caused the decline in the importance of the Church, particularly as an employer, coupled with the Renaissance which saw the emergence of planning and design being carried out by gentleman or scholars not Master Masons. Its more immediate effect during the Renaissance was the change in architectural styles which saw the introduction of the more classical style. The Reformation introduced new employers as the religious building program slowed considerably and the emphasis moved to the building of Palaces, Stately homes and municipal or official buildings.

The effects on the building industry of opening up the new world were also calamitous and the great influx of the new trade in materials, precious metals and various other commodities led to a redistribution of existing wealth. These “Nouveau riche” who became known as the “Gentry” caused considerable expansion in private building, a change in the employment conditions of masons and as you would expect, a change in the old-time customs and usages.

The Reformation with its movement from Roman Catholicism to Protestantism had already reduced the status of the cathedral craftsman and the sudden great rise in prices for which there was not a proportionate rise in wages, left masons impoverished, but stimulated building activity by the lowering of wages and real building costs.

Collectively, this led to major changes in the industry ranging from, as explained, the introduction of gentleman architects, to the masons loss of status and that once great industry with its usages, customs, practices and legends, was now in decline as new employers, who imposed new conditions, took the place of Church and Crown.

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In his exposure “Masonry Dissected” published in 1730, Samuel Pritchard quotes the catechetical question, “What do you learn by being a Gentleman Mason?” Answer: “Secresy, Morality and Goodfellowship.”

And it is to Gentleman or Accepted mason that we now look, not the Speculative Mason as this term was not properly introduced into our Masonic speak until about 1757.

But we must ask: “What induced gentlemen to join a lodge?”

In a similar sense, religious historians have the same dilemma seeking to explain why men became Quakers or Methodists while others remained in the mainstream Church of England. Some might argue it was an accident, for example being in the right place at the right time.

No doubt George Fox or John Wesley had great persuasive testimonies which effected people’s beliefs, other may have joined because of a family connection, following in father’s footsteps for example. However, the trouble with Masonry is why would men join a body whose fundamentals were in part, secret at the time of joining, and whose rites and secrets were not known until he had bound himself by an oath.

In the 17th century more than any other period, men were definitely preoccupied with the pursuit of secrets we have for example: Alchemy, Astrology, Rosicrucianism, the biblical Apocalypse, to name but four. However, 18th century poet Goronwy Owen expected his membership would help himto find the “hidden wisdom of the ancient druids”, while William Stukeley states in his autobiography that “curiosity led him to be initiated into the mysteries of masonry, suspecting it to be the remains of the mysteries of the ancients.” So, if curiosity was one reason we have at least three others.

The first suggests they had an interest in Architecture and we have already learnt how Master Masons now became gentleman architects, while in the 1723 Constitutions Anderson himself commented on the Gothic style saying it was “a barbarous product of the Dark Ages” and praised the various Italian architects of the Palladian style.

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In in York, antiquary Francis Drake and his contemporary Edward Oakley, both leading Freemasons of the 1720’s commented on the giving of lectures on architecture and geometry in the lodge. In fact, Drake claimed that in London lodges and other parts of the kingdom, lectures on the same were given at every meeting.

Evidence of one such lecture delivered in 1723 by Dr. William Stukeley still survives in the British museum and is entitled, “The Roman Amphitheatre at Dorchester” While other contemporary lodge minutes tell us that at the Old King’s Arms Lodge, Master Martin Clare read part of the “Architecture of Palladio”  “to which the Society were very attentive.” Similarly, George Payne presented a lecture about the “Manner of Building in Persia.”

So even if we consider that Drakes assertion that lectures “on the same were given at every meeting” were an exaggeration, his remarks do at least suggest that architecture played a somewhat small part in the early Grand Lodge meetings. This is somewhat confirmed as late as 1735 when William Smith in his book “A Pocket Companion for Freemasonry” stresses the importance of a knowledge of architecture by Freemasons.

The second reason might have been an interest in the antiquity of Freemasonry like Sir William Dugdale who believed that Freemasonry derived from a company of Italian masons in the time of Henry III who was commissioned by the Pope to travel across Europe building cathedrals and churches. Elias Ashmole, whose third wife was the daughter of Dugdale and a name to whom you are all familiar with collected much historical material pertaining to the building of Winsor castle. While Randle Holme clearly states in his famous work, “Accademie of Armory” of 1688, “I cannot but honor the Fellowship of the Masons because of its antiquity…”

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The third reason was of course was the desire for convivial company and apart from the dining clubs and fraternities I mention in my Cornwallis Lecture of 2009 there were other such as:

The Order of Jeopardy,

The Friends of Awakening Nature

The Order of Noah

The Society of Bucks

The Jerusalem Sols

The Salamanders

So there is in fact little doubt that during this period of time, “conviviality” appears to have been a prominent characteristic of lodges and in 1722, Freemasons had the dubious honor of being included in the English version of “The Praise of Drunkenness” which obviously prompted the previously mentioned Francis Drake of York to declare in a speech, “…the pernicious custom of drinking…which we of our nation too much indulge…I wish I could not say that I have frequently observed in our own Most Amicable Brotherhood.”.

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This ends the third part.

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Is the Mark Degree older than the Craft Degrees? A four-part article by Mike Lawrence – Part Two

We commence the second part of this article with a look at the term ‘Lodge’. A word often found in old manuscripts and spelt in a variety of ways for example: logia, logge, loygge, luge, ludge, a word derived from old French Gallic, meaning hut and which appears to have been used both in England and Scotland in three different senses:

A) In both countries, the term lodge was used to designate a mason’s workshop that was generally erected in connection with all building operations. Hence, we read in the Vale Royal Abbey building accounts of 1278, that carpenters were paid to erect lodges. The same goes for masons’ lodges and workshops at Catterick Bridge in 1421, Kirby Muxloe Castle in 1481. Then we have details of repairs to masons’ lodges at Beaumaris Castle in 1330 and Westminster Abbey in 1413.

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The lodge was in fact a workshop where masons cut, dressed and carved stone and it would be fair to say that they would also have taken their permitted breaks within its walls, as at the lodge attached to York Minster in 1370 and St Giles, Edinburgh in 1491. It is also most likely that within its walls, questions affecting the masons trade were discussed along with difficulties experienced during work, techniques, grievances and without doubt, superstitions, fables and stories passed down from the beginning of English squared stone building. We must bear in mind that the Regius MS c.1390 and the Matthew Cooke MS c.1450, our earliest MS contain both charges and the legendary history of the craft.

B) In both countries, the term lodge was often used to describe a group of masons working together on the same building operation. Thus we find references to them at York in 1352 which refers to by-laws and ordinances, Canterbury in1429 which refers to its members as the “masons of the Lodge“, Aberdeen in 1481 which refers to conditions of employment and Edinburgh in 1491 which refers to written statements of old established customs. In effect, it is highly probable that the lodges were in fact much older than the respective dates shown which is only the earliest traceable evidence and not necessarily the start or formation dates.

C) In Scotland, the word Lodge was also used to describe an organised body of masons associated with a particular town or district. In the Schaw Statues of 1598 &1599 we read that “Edinburgh shall be the first principle lodge and Kilwinning the second.” From the St. Clair Charters of 1601 & 1628 we learn of other territorial lodges at St. Andrews, Dundee and Glasgow to name but three. These lodges carried out certain official duties of a trade nature including the regulation of Apprentices, keeping records of the reception and entry of Apprentices, the admission of Fellow Crafts and assigning marks to members. Other duties included settling disputes between Masters and their servants, ensuring no cowans were employed, ensuring Masters did not employ Apprentices or Journeymen of other Masters, collecting funds by way of fees and fines, relief of the distressed, feasting at the expense of the candidate and conferring the Mason Word on qualified members.

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But the organizational set up in both England and Scotland were different. Scotland had “Incorporations”. Very briefly, these existed in certain Scottish burghs for the ruling and governing of particular crafts. Established under what is called the “seals of cause”, they were rules and statutes made by the craftsmen and approved by the municipality. Part of the role of the Incorporations was to protect the public or consumer by seeing that the work was properly carried out by authorised and qualified craftsmen to an good quality level.

In England there were “Craft Gilds”. Surprisingly, the term “Craft Gild” was an invention by 19th century historians who used it to distinguish a particular type of medieval municipal organisation which was concerned, like the Incorporations, with industrial trade regulation and quality, from that other municipal organisation, the “Merchant Gild” which was more concerned with the trading of goods for the whole town.

In medieval documents the organisation which we call a “Craft Gild” is described as a fellowship or mystery, the term has nothing to do with secrets or mysteries of ancient mythology as has long been believed, but the mystery of the craftsman’s trade or his skill, which he long considered his ‘secrets’ and which he would only pass on to an accredited apprentice.

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However, since the beginning of the belief that there is a transitional link between stone/operative masons and non-operative or accepted masons, Masonic writers have wrongly devoted considerable space and time to the stone workers fraternities and their mysteries by mistakenly overlooking the fact that the secrets and mysteries of an artisan was his professional skill and not ritualized secrets or mysteries from an ancient civilization.

In essence, there is little evidence to prove that a mason’s fraternity of this kind existed at all in London before the13th or 14th centuries. For example, the names of those elected and sworn in, in 1328 from the various Mysteries in London to represent the government of these organisations included no masons whatsoever. But things change and in 1356, the introduction to the “Regulations for the Trade of Masons” state that, “unlike other trades, Masons had not been regulated in due manner by the folks of the trade” actually implying that there were no craft guilds or mysteries up to that date. However, it was another twenty years later in 1376, that we find the first specific reference to a permanent organisation of masons in London, when four masons were elected to the Common Council to represent the Mystery and the probability is that an organization for masons was established sometime between 1356 and 1376.

There is some belief that mason’s organisations existed in towns like Chester and Newcastle, because of the evidence we have that masons participated and performed miracle plays in those towns. The trade regulations in the “York Memorandum Book” of 1376 to 1419, contains details of over forty trades, but no reference to masons, and the same is for Coventry. In Chester there is evidence of the participation in such plays appears in the late 16th century, while at Newcastle a Masons Company was incorporated in 1581 with certain duties which included the presentation of a Corpus Christi play. However, we do find specific mention of wallers, bricklayes, daubers and slaters who were granted Charters under Henry VI 1422-1471.

From the Ordinances of 1481 and 1521 it is clear that we have the London Masons Company, a medieval fraternity or mystery with an oligarchy formed or forming within it, as had happened in many other trades.

Interestingly we note here that “foreigns” or non-freemen were not allowed to be employed, while freemen are available. Restrictions were placed on apprentices, one allotted per member and two for liverymen or those that had twice been wardens. Restrictions on the employment of “foreigns” or non-freemen applied up to 1666, when the rebuilding of London, after the great fire, changed the monopolies once held by the mason’s trade.

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One of the problems relating to the mason’s trade which one might have considered part of their “ordinances and records” might concern the control or issue of mason’s marks. The Blacksmiths, helmet makers, bladesmiths and braziers of London were all subject to regulation by way of the maker’s marks, but certainly in London no provision regulating the use of marks has been traced in the Masons ordinances, nor has any book survived in the archives, although masons marks can be found on the earlier built Westminster Abbey.

Having said that, documents dated 1452 do in fact refer to marks and we are told: “A fellow who has learned the work may appear before his Master and, on exhibiting proof of his skill, the Master may award him a mark…and…the master shall within 14 days of his becoming a Fellow, deliver to the new craftsman his mark.”

End of part two.

 

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Is the Mark Degree older than the Craft Degrees? A four-part article by Mike Lawrence – Part One

Being a review of the long-held belief that the Mark Degree, more than any other, appears to be connected to or resembles operative masonry and therefore predates the Craft in its practice.

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For over twenty-five years I have been researching, writing and lecturing on the subject of Freemasonry. During my time of study, I have purposely stayed within the confines of realistic fact, actual records and authors that are generally regarded as bona fide Masonic historians and not sensationalists. Many of these authors to whom I refer are now dead, but their aims were to promote Masonic knowledge for knowledge sake, not purely for monetary gain.

Therefore, as boring as it may sound, I have never allowed and do not submit myself to read 90% of Masonic publications both old and new, that took or continues to take Freemasonry into the realms of pure fantasy, romantic hypothesis and sheer speculation, and which are and always have been, detrimental to the craft. I guess we cannot blame these authors for writing such things as our first “Books of Constitution” (1723 & 1738), which were sanctioned by Grand Lodge, were no more than historical works of fiction.

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These as we know, were freely exported to America, translated into French and German and as masonry is universal, probably reached every corner of the world. Ultimately, these innocent books infiltrated all Masonic belief, indoctrinated scores of Masonic writers and underpinned the belief that Freemasonry was something that it was not. I personally believe it was the cleverest unintentional hoax of all time.

Incidentally, the copyright of these two “Books of Constitution” belonged to James Anderson, and although as explained sanctioned by Grand Lodge, he was the sole financial beneficiary. In fact, in 1735, when a certain book entitled, “A Pocket Companion for Freemasonry” was published by William Smith, Anderson not only persuaded Grand Lodge to allow him to produce a second copy of his work, particularly as copies of the first edition were now exhausted, but encouraged Grand Lodge to resolve that the Masters and Wardens of the Lodges should discourage their members from buying Smiths book.

But this article is not about Dr. James Anderson, but rather to examine the question:

“Is the Mark Degree older than the Craft Degrees?”

Born from the assumption that brethren who are advanced to the rank of a Mark Master Mason make, soon after their admission, which is that the Mark Degree, more than any other, would appear to be connected to or resemble Operative Masonry, and therefore predate the Craft. Of course, by Operative Masonry I mean that class or fraternity of men that by their skills during the Middle Ages built those wonderful cathedrals and churches which have stood against all odds and in many cases defied the laws of gravity and continue to grace England’s skyline to this very day. Therefore, we can honestly say that in the whole Masonic system, no Degree seems to lay claim to having a greater antiquity than the Mark Degree as it appears to connect or forge links between the modern day system and the much older operative system?

Let us begin by looking at the start of the squared stone building industry in England in the early Middle Ages. Early medieval buildings in Britain consisted mainly of wood and clay (wattle and daub); therefore, the artisans engaged in these buildings were general carpenters and daubers, not masons. In fact, both Britons and Scots were unfamiliar with stone building which involved the use of squared stone and mortar.

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It was probably the Church that introduced the art and it was evident from early in our history that craftsmen from abroad had to be brought to England to do any form of squared stone work. For example, in 674, Benedict Biscop brought craftsmen from Gaul to help build a stone church, in the Roman style, at Wearmouth Abbey. In 709, St. Wilfred, according to a 12th century chronicler, brought masons from Rome to build his church. Further records by Bede in the 7th century, make references to stone churches in Lastingham and Lincoln.

Now there is little doubt that once this art of building and carving was introduced some knowledge was acquired by native artisans, but the likely hood that early building work was performed by local masons, as their own specialist occupation is probably untrue, as their main occupation was connected with agriculture, as in England, stone working during the first millennium was more a by-occupation of farming.

At that time the French were more architecturally advanced than the English, and it took the Norman Conquest before we begin to see the substitution of stone, for wood and clay. In was the Norman influence that led to the development of stone building in this country which started almost immediately after the invasion of 1066 with the building of, cathedrals and castles, followed by abbeys and priories.

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The use of stone and brick in domestic architecture was a later development still, at first used only for chimneys. In was not until the 17th century that they were commonly used in house building.

So the first records we have of a group of stone cutters being brought together as a group or brotherhood was at the building of Magdeburg cathedral in Germany in 1211. This coincides with Milners “History of Winchester” which tells us that in 1211, Bishop Lucy established a company of workman to further the building of the cathedral.

The erection of abbeys, priories, cathedrals, churches and castles implies that the Church and the Crown were the principle employers of masons and this had a profound effect on the organisation of the industry. For example, the typical medieval artisan was his own master, he owned or purchased his own material, worked it with the assistance of an apprentice or journeyman and sold what he had produced. It was his own business.

However, the medieval mason was, by design, a wage earner, who was employed by an agent acting on behalf of the church or crown for whom the building was being erected. Occasionally called a contractor, or in some cases an independent small-scale employer who specialised in supplying rough-dressed stone, ashlars, and moldings.

Records show us that in general medieval building sites had a “Clerk of the Works” who would oversee the financial operation and the “Master of the works” who would oversee the technical side and in many cases prepare the plans and drawings. There were generally two or three types of stone-workers employed on the work and these were:

1) Hewers or Freemasons, who dressed the stones with mallet and chisel.  The superior craftsmen belonging to this category and were able to elaborately carve and shape stone.  They were also occasionally employed as setters. Their work was mainly carried out on site.

2) Layers or Roughmasons, who laid ashlars. They often roughly dressed stones with an axe or scappling hammer and also laid finished stone, these could work on site if laying or at the quarry.

3) Quarriers, who mainly uncovered the stones, split and broke them and in some cases carried out some rough hewing or dressing with broaching axes and obviously worked at the quarry.

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As a final note to this section, work on a medieval building site stopped during the winter months which was generally around November through to March and the majority of those employed where either dismissed or suspended. This was because the mortar used was subject to low temperatures, frosts and snow. Having said that, Freemasons who were responsible for caving and shaping often continued their work throughout the winter in their site hut.

So, this ends the first section which sets out to show how the stone building industry first started in England and how this trades’ employment conditions were quite different from most other trades. Next, we look at the organisation of Masons in England and Scotland in the high Middle Ages.

Approximate Historical Periods

Dark Ages                                                            4th – 7th Century

Early Middle Ages                                            8th – 10th Century

High Middles Ages                                           11th – 13th Century

Late Middle Ages                                             14th – 15th Century

Medieval Period                                               5th – 16th Century

The Reformation                                              1517 – 1648

The Renaissance                                              14th – 17th Century

Opening up of the New World                    16th Century

 

End of part one

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