The Altar of Incense by Mike Lawrence

Within the Tabernacle, there were six main objects. The Ark of the Covenant was placed in the Holy of  Holies and shielded by a veil. In the next chamber was the Altar of Incense, the Menorah, the seven branched lamp stand and the Table of Shewbread. The Altar of Burnt Offerings and the Brazen Laver for ritual washing, were situated in the outer courtyard.

jesus-in-the-tabernacle-10-638 (3)

Here we look at the Altar or Golden Altar of Incense. The biblical description can be found in Exodus 30.

1 Moreover, you shall make an altar as a place for burning incense; you shall make it of acacia wood. 

2 Its length shall be a cubit, and its width a cubit, it shall be square, and its height shall be two cubits; its horns shall be of one piece with it. 

3 You shall overlay it with pure gold, its top and its sides all around, and its horns; and you shall make a gold molding all around for it. 

4 You shall make two gold rings for it under its molding; you shall make them on its two side walls—on opposite sides—and they shall be holders for poles with which to carry it. 

5 You shall make the poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. 

6 You shall put this altar in front of the veil that is near the ark of the testimony, in front of the mercy seat that is over the ark of the testimony, where I will meet with you. 

7 Aaron shall burn fragrant incense on it; he shall burn it every morning when he trims the lamps. 

8 When Aaron trims the lamps at twilight, he shall burn incense. There shall be perpetual incense before the Lord throughout your generations. 

God commanded that incense be burnt on the golden altar every morning and evening  to be left burning continually throughout the day and night as a pleasing aroma to the Lord. The incense was made of an equal part of four precious spices stacte, onycha, galbanum and frankincense and was considered holy.

Exodus 30

34 And the LORD said unto Moses, Take unto thee sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum; these sweet spices with pure frankincense: of each shall there be a like weight:”

Golden-Altar-of-Incense (2)

Below is an article by Ex Comp. T M Greensill which gives a more concise explanation and deeper insight into the Altar.

The provenance of the altar of incense used in our present Chapters is undoubted: it is defined in Exodus 30: 1-2:

1) And thou shalt make an altar to burn incense upon: of shittim wood shalt thou make it.

2) A cubit shall be the length thereof, and a cubit the breadth thereof; foursquare shall it be: and two cubits shall be the height thereof: the horns thereof shall be of the same.

This was the first altar of incense erected by Moses in the wilderness of Sinai – a double cube.

The Bible contains several other references to altars of incense; some two hundred years later, in II Chronicles 26:16, where Uzziah went into the Temple and himself burnt incense upon it:

16) But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: for he transgressed against the LORD his God, and went into the temple of the LORD to burn incense upon the altar of incense.

Such an act was considered unseemly, even for a king, as it was the traditional preserve of the priestly caste to perform this sacred duty. Uzziah’s subsequent leprosy was directly attributed to his act of profanity.

Uzziah’s successor, Ahaz, became a heretic and burnt incense to the Assyrian gods, thus defiling both the altar and the Temple. Such blasphemy was only atoned by his successor, King Hezekiah , cleansing the Temple and causing the altars of incense to be cast into the brook of Kidron.

In ancient times the altar of incense was within the Holy of Holies, the Tabernacle, probably being placed to the west of the Ark of the Covenant. As I am sure you are aware, the incense was symbolic, not only of paying homage to the deity, but also that the rising of the perfume in the air symbolized the passage of the prayers of the faithful, through the ether, even to the very presence of God himself.

The incense itself, being made from the resin exuded from the trunk of the pine and cedar, was believed to save the faithful from corruption and to provide a substitute for burnt offerings; the latter being burnt on altars situated outside the Temple.

The altar of Moses was of shittim wood, nowadays considered to be acacia wood, and completely covered with gold. This altar travelled with the Children of Israel during their wanderings in the desert.

The altar of incense in King Solomon’s Temple was of a heavier wood, cedar, and was also overlaid with gold, but the altar found by the Sojourners was of white marble and described in the Mystical Lecture as, “…in the form of an altar of incense…”

The significant difference in the materials used underlines the great transition from the rigors of the wilderness of Sinai to the opulence of Solomon’s Temple.

The position of the altar in our present chapters is probably not the same as in the Operative and early Speculative Lodges of the 18th century. There are indications that in those days the altar was in the center of the squared pavement and we still have evidence of the use of the Craft squared pavement as it is perpetuated in the present Supreme Grand Chapter certificate. The reason for the change in position may well be associated with the adoption of the Chapter floor cloth which gives a perspective view of the floor as it would have been seen by the Sojourner when looking down into the vault.

The doubled cube of our present altar, whilst of great masonic significance, seems to have had little symbolism in Biblical terms although the Sanctum Sanctorum was specifically built in the form of a cube, the perfect figure in solid geometry, which has many symbolic connotations. In one version of the address for the presentation of the Supreme Grand Chapter certificate we find traces of the inner symbolism of the doubled cube in the following words:

“From earliest times the doubled cube was a venerated symbol representing immensity of space, extending from the base of the earth, represented by the bottom square of the doubled cube, even to the very zenith of the heavens, represented by the top square.”

The symbolism of the doubled cube can be taken a stage further. The bottom cube representing the rough-hewn ashlar of the Entered Apprentice, being in itself symbolic of worldly man, still uncouth in the spiritual ideals of Freemasonry, being engrossed in the material aspects of living and still expecting material benefits from his labours. The upper cube represents the polishing which has been achieved by obedience to the moral code of the Order and its perfect shape to the minimizing of his ego by bending to the will of the Great Architect of the Universe. The beginning of man’s spiritual journey is symbolized in the upper cube when he becomes aware of the first groping’s towards the non-material, represented by the heavens-the unknown.

On the top of the altar found in the vault was a “plate of gold’”. I submit that this phrase was not meant in its present connotation – that of a flat dish, but rather that it was ‘plated’ with gold. It is probable that whilst the previous altars of incense were overlaid with gold to give them the necessary dignity and safety, that the altar found in the vault being of white marble did not need such embellishment, except the top.

The characters and words on the top of the altar are explained in some to the most beautiful phraseology found in Freemasonry and much has been written on their significance. Let me therefore confine myself to the geometrical figures.

Although some of the symbolism of the circle and triangle is found in the Mystical Lecture, I suggest that their meanings go far deeper in ancient symbolism; a field which was undoubtedly known and explored by many of the early Speculative masons who had so much influence on the fashioning of the ceremony so that it was ultimately to blossom into the brilliance which we now know.

The circle symbolizes the ‘flux of creation’, of God manifest in creation and also the eternal movement of a non-static universe. It not only represents eternity but also Cyclic time, the time of the Universe, where time is no longer measured in our mortal, linear time-scale which must necessarily have a beginning and an end. In Cyclic time the end is the beginning and there is timelessness. Our mortal linear time shackles man, who must obey it, yet it is only relative to our mortal lives. Cyclic time as not relative to earth and is self-perpetuating.

To the Chinese, the circle represents the heavens which, in some respects, the ancients considered the unknown, the incomprehensible. In most Eastern religions the circle symbolizes Enlightenment, that ultimate state when mere man appreciates the Unknowable.

The triangle represents the number ‘3’, the mystic number, and its symbolism goes back to the Egyptians and possibly beyond. The Triad to which the Craft mason was introduced through the ‘Three Great Lights’ and many other series of ‘threes’ is, in the Royal Arch, elevated to a far greater height where it becomes the core of the ceremony and ultimately the repository of the second Word. In nearly all of the ancient religions the Triad was revered in some form: as Heaven, Man and Earth; as Osiris, Isis and Horus by the Egyptians and as the Three Aspects of the Deity in many others. The equilateral triangle is the accepted symbol of completion.

Although the combination of the square, circle and triangle is mentioned in the Mystical Lecture there is, of necessity, only a short explanation of what must have been one of the most powerful combinations of symbols known to the ancient world. The important symbolism of the square is not even mentioned. This omission can scarcely be attributed to an aversion by our early companions to the square as the Craft squared pavement was used by them and, in fact, is still found in use in many old chapters. It seems quite possible that the ensigns were set around the four sides of the pavement. Was this omission of an explanation of this powerful combination of symbols caused by some feeling that the inner meaning should be made known only to the elite? Certainly, this combination was known to Elias Ashmole and his friends who were privy to the work of contemporary alchemists.

These early alchemists were not, as popular tradition has it, mere chemists attempting to change base metals into gold; many were erudite men, philosophers and mystics who were trying to find the answer to life’s ‘Great Riddle’. The search for the Philosopher’s Stone, the Rebis – from the Latin res bina, meaning dual or double matter, it is the end product of the alchemical magnum opus or great work, was the quest for regaining the Mystical Centre where the ‘Two would become One’ in the Hermetic Androgyne. To such men the square, circle and triangle was the complete symbol and as such was given by the great 17th century alchemist, Michael Maier, a great friend of Ashmole, who expressed it so cryptically in his Scrutinium Chymicum:

“Make a circle out of a man and a women, From which a quadrangular figure arises with equal sides, Divide from it a triangle, which is in contact with all sides of a round sphere, Then the Stone shall come into existence, If such a thing is not immediately clear to your mind, Then learn that you will understand everything, if you understand the theory of Geometry.”

If we take this combination of the square, circle and triangle and consider them in masonic terms, then, with the exception of the words, they represent the ultimate symbolism of the ceremony and I submit might be expressed thus: The square symbolises Earth, God manifest in creation; its straight lines depicting Man, the only living thing which acts in the Linear, indicating that Man is bound by Linear time. Yet the unique spirituality of Man enables him to look to the Unknown-the Heavens, symbolised by the circle. The circle represents Cyclic time where and ending (death) is a beginning (birth). Beyond the circle, and mystically far beyond it, is the equilateral triangle, the symbol of completion – the completion we all seek, when we become one with the Great All.

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The Additional Degrees By Bernard Jones With additional information supplied by Mike Lawrence

Organised speculative masonry had not long emerged into the dim light of the early eighteenth century and begun to see itself as a system of three Craft degrees before Brethren were tempted to add ceremonies which sought to explain and extend those they already had. The lively, fertile mind of the French mason, who had received speculative masonry from England and was to return it with many elaborations, was soon at work devising rites, which, when introduced to the freemasons of Great Britain (as degrees of allegedly Scottish origin, it is thought) were welcomed in many quarters as amplifications of the ancient ceremonies with which they were now familiar.

It may help to restate very briefly the suggested explanation of how it came about that the earlier and more important of these innovations came to be widely accepted. Some of the innovations were of considerable interest, told an attractive story, exemplified a highly developed symbolism, or reintroduced a definitely Christian motif.

Royal & Seclect

Curiously, they were given the warmest encouragement by those who one might have thought would have been the most obstinate in refusing to have anything to do with them, for whereas the Premier Grand Lodge officially looked askance at this particular kind of innovation and continued to do so all through the eighteenth century, the “Antients”, who derided their opponents as being “Moderns”, were-paradoxically enough – the chief agents in the spread of the invented degrees.

Such authorities as W. J. Songhurst and J. Heron Lepper agree on this point. “I see in every British Knight Templar or Chevalier Rose Croix”, says the second of these writers, “a probable scion of “Antient” craft masonry.”

The additional degrees are often called the “higher degrees”, but the term seems hardly fair to “pure, ancient masonry.” The “highest” degrees must always remain those which authentic masonic history proves to be the oldest. They are the three Craft degrees. Other degrees may be designated by higher numbers, but in no sense other than, in some cases, that of a more highly developed symbolism, can they be said to be higher a statement which does not in any way detract from their value or beauty.

RAM_Logo-298x300

The Grand Lodges of England and of all English-speaking countries acknowledge the Craft degrees and, to a varying extent, Royal Arch masonry and Mark masonry. All other degrees are “additional” or “side” degrees, and among them the Rose Croix and the Knights Templar occupy honoured and exceptional places.

It would be unfair to conceal that there have been masonic students of great merit who would not agree with this judgment. For example, J. E. S. Tuckett contributed to A.Q.C., vol. xxxii, a learned paper inquiring into the development of the separate exclusive degrees, and in the course of it he expounded the theory that these degrees were founded on freemasonry’s pre-1717 “store of legend, tradition and symbolism of wide extent”, of which from 1717 the Grand Lodge, selecting only a portion of this store, gradually evolved the three Craft degrees and the Royal Arch. His views, highly controversial, received little support.

KTP

Experienced Brethren, whose opinions matter, agree that the better known and more important of the additional degrees possess special and peculiar value, and that in them is much that serves to throw a revealing light upon the symbolic content of the fundamental Craft degrees. But the words of W. J. Hughan in his small but valued work The English Rite should not be forgotten. He says:

“It is much to be regretted that after a lapse of over a hundred and fifty years [he was writing in, say, 1884] the inordinate craving to amplify, distort, and sometimes misrepresent the beautiful ceremonies of the Craft, which were, doubtless, in part adapted and continued from the older organization, has not yet exhausted itself.”

It will be understood that it is no part of the purpose of this chapter to enter into detailed explanation or discussion of the additional degrees. Instead is appended a list (by no means exhaustive) based upon one in C. Walton Rippon’s paper in the Transactions of the Merseyside Association for Masonic Research (vol. viii (1930), with addition information from Mike Lawrence.

A & A Rite

Each Order has its own entry criteria based on one or more of the following: 1) Belief in the Trinity, 2) Subscribing member of other specified Orders, 3) By invitation only.

(Note: The list is as complete as I could prepare at this time and the following Orders are compatible with the United Grand Lodge of England. I would be grateful for any amendments, corrections or additional Orders practised outside the English Constitution under other jurisdictions. Mike Lawrence)

The Holy Royal Arch

The Order of Mark Master Masons

The Ancient and Honourable Fraternity of Royal Ark Mariners

The Order of the Allied Masonic Degrees

  • St Lawrence the Martyr
  • Knight of Constantinople
  • Grand Tilers of King Solomon
  • Red Cross of Babylon
  • Grand High Priest

The Order of the Secret Monitor

  • Secret Monitor
  • Prince
  • Supreme Ruler

The Order of the Scarlet Cord

The Royal and Select Masters

  • Select Master
  • Royal Master
  • Most Excellent Master
  • Super Excellent Master
  • Thrice Illustrious Master Degree (The Order of the Silver Trowel)

The Ancient and Accepted Rite

  • 1o-3o Craft Degrees
  • 4o Secret Master
  • 5o Perfect Master
  • 6o Intimate Secretary
  • 7o Provost and judge
  • 8o Intendant of the Buildings
  • 9o Elect of Nine
  • 10o Elect of Fifteen
  • 11o Sublime Elect
  • 12o Grand Master Architect
  • 13o Royal Arch (of Enoch)
  • 14o Scotch Knight of Perfection
  • 15o Knight of the Sword or of the East
  • 16o Prince of Jerusalem
  • 17o Knight of the East and West
  • 18o Knight of the Pelican and Eagle and Sovereign Prince Rose Croix of H.R.D.M.
  • 19o Grand Pontiff
  • 20o Venerable Grand Master
  • 21o Patriarch Noachite
  • 22o Prince of Libanus
  • 23o Chief of the Tabernacle
  • 24o Prince of the Tabernacle
  • 25o Knight of the Brazen Serpent
  • 26o Prince of Mercy
  • 27o Commander of the Temple
  • 28o Knight of the Sun
  • 29o Knight of St Andrew
  • 30o Grand Elected Knight K.H., Knight of the Black and White Eagle
  • 31o Grand Inspector Inquisitor Commander
  • 32o Sublime Prince of the Royal Secret
  • 33o Sovereign Grand Inspector General

The Masonic and Military Order of the Red Cross of Constantine and the Orders of the Holy Sepulchre and St John the Evangelist

  • Knight of the Red Cross of Constantine
  • Knight of the Holy Sepulchre
  • Knight of St John the Evangelist

The United Religious Military and Masonic Orders of the Temple and of St John of Jerusalem, Palestine, Rhodes and Malta

  • Knight Templar
  • Knight of St Paul or Mediterranean Pass
  • Knight of St John of Jerusalem, Palestine, Rhodes and Malta

The Holy Royal Arch Knight Templar Priests

The Order of the Holy Wisdom

The Royal Order of Scotland

  • The Heredon of Kilwinning
  • Knight of the Rosy Cross

The Rite of Baldwyn of Seven Degrees Time Immemorial at Bristol

  • Craft Degrees
  • Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch
  • Knights of the Nine Elected Masters
  • Scots Knights Grand Architect and Scots Knights of Kilwinning
  • Knights of the East, the Sword and Eagle
  • Knight of St John of Jerusalem, Palestine, Rhodes and Malta, and Knights Templar
  • Knights of the Rose Croix of Mount Carmel

The Worshipful Society of Free Masons, Rough Masons, Walkers, Slaters, Paviours, Plaisterer’s and Bricklayers

  • Io Indentured Apprentice
  • IIo Fellow of the Craft
  • IIIo Super-Fellow, Fitter & Marker
  • IVo Super-Fellow, Setter Erector
  • Vo Intendent, Overseer, Superintendent & Warden
  • VIo Passed Master
  • VIIo Passed Grand Master Mason

The Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia (S.R.I.A)

  • Io Zelator
  • IIo Theoricus
  • IIIo Practicus
  • IVo Philosophus
  • Vo Adeptus Minor
  • VIo Adeptus Major
  • VIIo Adeptus Exemtus
  • VIIIo Magister
  • IXo Magus

The August Order of Light

  • First Degree
  • Passing Degree
  • Second Degree

The Order of Eri

  • Man-at-Arms
  • Esquire
  • Knight

The Holy Order of Knights Beneficent of the Holy City

  • Scottish Master of St Andrew
  • Perfect Master of St Andrew
  • Squire Novice
  • Knight Beneficent of the Holy City

The Order of Knight Masons

  • Knight of the Sword
  • Knight of the East
  • Knight of the East and West

The Order of Athelstan

The Order of St Thomas of Acon

 

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“Hello! I must be going!” (or Sage advice for the more forgetful Freemason!) By Mike Lawrence

Considering the number of meetings, a moderately active Freemason might attend, it proves time and time again that other than his wife or partner, a well-kept diary proves to be the best companion he could ever wish to have.

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For example, being a member of a Lodge, Chapter and one other Degree would amount to possibly fifteen meetings per year. Then there are the Lodges of Rehearsal/Instructions which could add another thirty nights per year. Committee meetings, Ladies nights, Visits, Social or Charity events could easily add another twenty evenings, giving an approximate total of sixty-five nights out of a season which generally lasts about eight months.

For some very active Brethren, this number of commitments could be doubled, and I have met many a Brother whose Masonry takes up four or five nights per week.

Of course, a four-night per week Freemason is not necessarily a better Freemason than a one-night a month man. Freemasonry is a very personal matter and can build and develop the character and knowledge of the man who belongs to one Lodge, just as quick as his more active Brother. So, it’s not such a case of quantity, but quality that counts.

As for the moderately active Mason, you will regularly see flashes of his well-thumbed diary. You will notice as he desperately tries to maintain some sort of balance between his desire to attend his meetings, please his friends by visiting their Lodges and the more consequential aspects of his life which consist of the demands of his family, work and most important, his pocket.

It is not therefore uncommon for him to have the occasional lapse of memory or incorrect diary entry. Thus, despite the manifold Communications we may receive, the array of Committee minutes posted to us or the plethora of verbal invitations hastily scribbled down in our diaries. We undoubtedly will make the occasional mistake.

gytrr

Like the brother who texted me quietly as I sat at the Secretary’s table an hour into the ceremony to ask what time the meeting started.

Then there was Brother Organist, who I considered to be very keen for he arrived two hours before a meeting was due to start. I had just finished preparing the rooms for a meeting of a Rose Croix Chapter. He asked if it would be in order for him to practice the organ in preparation for the meeting. He was obviously oblivious to the unique and unmistakable lay out of the Red room and promptly started to play the most beautiful melodic, yet stirring music of the marches of Sousa and the Waltzes of Strauss.

In the meantime, having returned downstairs, the Brethren began to arrive and immediately began to question the music as this particular group has never had an organist. To our surprise and amusement, a face suddenly appeared at the door. It was Brother Organist dressed resplendently in the colourful regalia of a Royal Ark Mariner.

“I think I may be at the wrong meeting” he timidly explained.

The Princes being pleasantly entertained all smiled and concurred with the Brother and gently sent him on his way. I was later to discover that he was a day early for his meeting which was at a location several miles away.

On another occasion, a member of my Royal Arch Chapter suddenly appeared at a Lodge Committee meeting for which he was not a member. Surprised by his appearance I greeted him well as he explained that he was famished and asked me for the menu of the Festive Board after the meeting. To his utter shock and horror, I informed him that our Convocation had been the previous week and that he was in fact, seven days late. Poor chap; he had not only forgone his meal at home, but paid for a meal he had missed.

However, the prize for the earliest Brother in attendance must go to the chap who turned up on another evening prepared for Red Cross of Constantine Conclave, a full month early.

So Brethren, the moral of this story is “don’t delay.” To avoid disappointment or confusion, purchase a good diary or even a colour coded wall planner to co-ordinate your activities……Lest you end up as red-faced as brother organist!

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The Starting Point – (or so you think) Final Part – By Michael Lawrence

The second issue we need to address is Anderson’s account in the 1738 Constitution. This account is purely secondary knowledge as it would appear that he took no part in the formation of Grand Lodge or its early activities. Again I refer to Douglas Knoop and G.P.Jones;

“We think it possible that the statement near the end of the ‘historical’ section of the Constitutions of 1723, to the effect that several noblemen and gentlemen of the best rank with clergymen and learned scholars of most professions and denominations joined the Society during the Grand Mastership of the Duke of Montagu (1721-2) may refer to Anderson himself, among others.  This possibly is not incompatible with Anderson’s own account, according to which Grand Lodge in September 1721 (three months after Montagu’s installation), “finding fault with all the copies of the old Gothic Constitutions, order’d Brother James Anderson A.M. to digest the same in a new and better method”.1

Douglas knoop

DOUGLAS KNOOP, M.A., HON.A.R.I.B.A.

Professor of Economics in the University of Sheffield

P.M. Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No. 2076, London

So the points to be made from Part One, were 1) The first Grand Lodge did not have jurisdiction over all of England and Part Two, was 2) That Anderson’s account of its formation was second hand.

There are, as you may imagine, other issues concerning Anderson which relate to his past, Herbert Inman claims that;

Dr. James Anderson is said to have been appointed Chaplain of St. Paul’s Operative Lodge in London in 1710 (It has been suggested that this was the Lodge that met at the Goose and Gridiron Ale house in St. Paul’s Church Yard), and it has been alleged that he was expelled from the Society in 1715 (for some unknown misdemeanour)…and that he never became a Master Mason…”2

However, Anderson was the Master of Lodge No. 17, which according to Knoop & Jones3 has never been identified, but according to Gould4 however, of the nineteen lodges that attended the Quarterly Communications in 1727, No. 17 was the “Mag: Pye, against Bishopsgate Church”, although there appears to be no uniformity regarding lodge numbers, so this may not be the case.

Anderson’s character and credibility with regard to the enthusiasm shown in editing the 1723 and 1738 Constitutions can also be questioned further as Knoop & Jones explain:

“Although Anderson was only editor of the Book of Constitutions, and although it was issued with the approval of Grand Lodge, it was nevertheless his “sole property”, out of the sale of which he doubtless hoped to make a profit. In other words, Anderson owned the copyright. In February 1735, when the first edition of the Constitutions was exhausted, he sought the approval of Grand Lodge for the preparation of a new revised edition.

In February 1935, when seeking approval for a second edition, Anderson represented to Grand Lodge that a certain William Smith (in A Pocket Companion for Freemasons) had pirated a considerable part of his Constitutions, (to the prejudice of the said Dr. Anderson, it being his sole property”; Grand Lodge resolved that the master and Wardens of the Lodges should discourage their members from buying Smith’s books.”5

Therefore, before we even begin to discuss 1717 as the starting date, the confusion starts and all I have done is to demonstrate how even that year, which is acknowledged by the United Grand Lodge of England as our stating point, is not only dubious, but open to debate, along with the contents of the Books of Constitution, whose sale solely benefited one man of possibly doubtful character.

However, as we all need a starting point for our research, I am happy that the point has been set at 1717. Having said that, records suggest that Accepted Masonry was practised in England just prior to about 1600 and Non-Operative Masonry in Scotland just after.

Part Two Bibliography

1) Douglas Knoop and G.P.Jones, The Genesis of Freemasonry, published by Q.C. Correspondence Circle Ltd., 1978 edition, p.160

2) Herbert F. Inman, Masonic Problems and Queries, published by A. Lewis, 1947, p.19

3) Douglas Knoop and G.P.Jones, The Genesis of Freemasonry, published by Q.C. Correspondence Circle Ltd., 1978 edition, p.161

4) Robert Freke Gould, The History of Freemasonry, published by Thomas C. Jack, 1885 edition, p.383

5) Douglas Knoop and G.P.Jones, The Genesis of Freemasonry, published by Q.C. Correspondence Circle Ltd., 1978 edition, p.164

 

 

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The Starting Point – (or so you think) Part One of Two Articles – By Michael Lawrence

Freemasonry did not just appear in the year 1717. In fact, according to Robert Plot the famed English Naturalist and first keeper of the Asmolean Museum, in 1686, Freemasonry was being practiced throughout the Nation.

 “To these add the Customs relating to the County, whereof they have one, of admitting Men into the Society of Free-masons, that in the moorelands of this County seems to be of greater request, than any where else, though I find the Custom spread more of less all over the Nation;…”1

Robert Plot

Robert Plot 1640 – 1696, English Naturalist, first Professor of Chemistry at the University of Oxford, and the first keeper of the Ashmolean Museum

Yet despite this fact, we have inherited the date of our formation from the somewhat unreliable Constitutions of 1738, prepared and written by Dr. James Anderson. The late Lionel Vibert sums it up quite nicely when he explains:

“The Grand Lodge that was brought into existence in 1717 did not find it necessary to possess a Constitution of its own for some years. Exactly what went on between 1717 and 1721 we do not know; almost our only authority being the account given by Anderson in 1738 which is unreliable in many particulars.”2

According to Anderson’s Constitutions of 1738, this is his version of how the events that lead to that date took place, written retrospectively, nineteen years after that date:

“King George I enter’d London most magnificently on 20 Sept. 1714 and after the Rebellion was over A.D. 1716. the few Lodges at London finding themselves neglected by Sir Christopher Wren, thought fit to cement under a Grand Master as the Centre of Union and Harmony, viz. the lodges that met,

  1. At the Goose and Gridiron Ale-house in St. Paul’s Church-Yard.
  2. At the Crown Ale-house in Parker-Lane near Drury-Lane.
  3. At the Apple-Tree Tavern in Charles Street, Covent-Garden.
  4. At the Rummer and Grapes Tavern in Channel-Row, Westminster

They and some old Brothers met at the said Apple-Tree, and having put into the Chair the oldest Master Mason (now the Master of the Lodge) they constituted themselves a Grand Lodge pro Tempore in Due Form, and forthwith revived the Quarterly Communication of the Officers and Lodges (call’d Grand Lodge) resolv’d to hold the Annual Assembly and Feast, and then to chuse a Grand Master from among themselves, till they should have the honour of a Noble Brother at their Head.

Accordingly

On St. John Baptist’s Day, in the 3d Year of King George 1. A.D. 1717. the ASSEMBLY and Feast of the Free and accepted Masons was held at the foresaid Goose and Gridiron Ale-House.

Before Dinner, the oldest Master Mason (now Master of a Lodge) in the Chair, proposed a List of proper Candidates ; and Brethren by a Majority of Hands elected Mr. Anthony Sayer Gentleman, Grand Master of Masons, Capt. Joseph Elliot, Mr. Jacob Lamball Carpenter, Grand Wardens, who being forthwith invested with Badges of Office and Power by the said oldest Master, and install’d, was duly congratulated by the Assembly who pay’d him Homage.”3

Goose and gridiron

The Goose and Gridiron

There are however, two specific issues with the setting up of the first Grand Lodge and Anderson’s account that need to be examined closer. Douglas Knoop and G.P.Jones take up the story with regard to the first issue which concerns the jurisdiction of the first Grand Lodge;

“The events of 1716 and 1717 which led to the formation of Grand Lodge have been referred to as “a resuscitation of English Masonry” and as “the Revival”.  These descriptions are somewhat misleading; the events of 1716 and 1717 related not to English masonry in general, but masonry in London and Westminster in particular. There is nothing in the surviving accounts to suggest that the members of the Four Old Lodges had anything more in mind than a gathering or organisation of local lodges. Even six years later, in Anderson’s Constitutions of 1723 (but not, it should be noted, in those of 1738) the Charges were stated to be “for the use of the Lodges in London”, and the General Regulations “for the use of the Lodges in and about London and Westminster”. According to the MS. List of Lodges which was begun 25 November 1723, and entered on the first pages of the original minute book of Grand Lodge, the “regular constituted lodges” further afield were at Edgworth (Edgware), Acton and Richmond. The fact that Grand Lodge in 1723 and 1724 passed various resolutions concerning lodges “in or near London”, “within the Bills of Mortality” and “within ten mile o London”, indicates the restricted jurisdiction of Grand Lodge in those years.”4

So it is more than evident that the first Grand Lodge of England was in truth, the Grand Lodge of London and Westminster and as late as 19 December 1727, according to Gould, there was still only nineteen lodges that attended the Quarterly Communications.5 This later assertion that the first Grand Lodge was to become the Premier Grand Lodge of England never sat well with Freemasons across England, particularly in a speech delivered by Francis Drake of Yorkshire, in 1726 when he said;

“The Learned Author of the Antiquity of Masonry, annexed to which are our Constitution…that diligent Antiquary has traced out to us those many stupendous works of the Ancients, which were certainly, and without doubt, infinitely superior to the Moderns…the first Grand lodge ever held in England was in York.”6

Of course, York were not the only Freemasons upset by the stance of the self-styled Premier Grand Lodge of England and during that century, for during the decade 1779 – 1789, there were no less than four Grand Lodges operating in England.

  1. The premier Grand Lodge of England, 1717 – 1813
  2. The York Grand Lodge of all England, 1725 – 1792
  3. The Grand Lodge of England according to the Old Institutions, 1751 – 1813
  4. The Grand Lodge of England South of the River Trent, 1779 – 1789

 

Part One Bibliography

1) Robert Plot, The Natural History of Staffordshire, 1686, para.85,

2) Lionel Vibert, Anderson’s Constitutions of 1723, published by Kessinger Publishing’s, 1924, p.1, ISBN 0-7661-0073-1

3) James Anderson, The New Book of Constitutions of the Antient and Honourable Fraternity of the Free and Accepted Masons, 1738, p.109-110

4) Douglas Knoop and G.P.Jones, The Genesis of Freemasonry, published by Q.C. Correspondence Circle Ltd., 1978 edition, p.186-187

5) Robert Freke Gould, The History of Freemasonry, published by Thomas C. Jack, 1885 edition, p.383

6) Francis Drake, Grand Junior Warden, Grand Lodge of York, in a speech delivered that Grand Lodge at the Merchants Hall, York, 27 December 1726

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Aethelstan, Anglo-Saxon King of England

Very interesting article concerning the Masonic legend, Aethelstan.

The Freelance History Writer

King Aethelstan presenting a book to St. Cuthbert King Aethelstan presenting a book to St. Cuthbert

Aethelstan was the first King of Wessex to bring together all the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in England. He was well educated, very pious and a collector of saints relics and manuscripts. He was also a formidable warrior. We have considerably more information about Aethelstan’s reign than other Anglo-Saxon kings due to the survival of many charters dating from his time as king and there are references to Aethelstan in foreign sources.

Aethelstan was born sometime between 893 and 895 AD. His father was King Edward the Elder, the oldest son of King Alfred the Great. His mother was named Ecgwynn and very little is known about her. There is no record of Edward and Ecgwynn being married and Aethelstan’s legitimacy was questioned during his lifetime. It is possible they were married in secret but she did live at court. She also had…

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A SHORT OUTLINE OF ARCHITECTURAL MASONRY (Part 4 of 4)

First Published in 1950

By Bernard E Jones

Past Assistant Grand Director of Ceremonies

 English Gothic

English Gothic Architecture

The twelfth century had opened up the way for the coming of the Gothic style, but there is no sharp and precise date at which one style succeeded another. A change of style took half a century or more to establish itself. In general, the Romanesque or Norman style changed in the second half of the twelfth century to the Early English or Gothic style, of which the Decorated period was from the second half of the thirteenth century until late in the fourteenth century. The Perpendicular style of Gothic came from the Decorated style in the fourteenth century, went right through the fifteenth century with some changes, and continued into the sixteenth.

Evidence as to how England achieved its Gothic style is conflicting. Some people think that Gothic was but the maturing of the English Romanesque style, but obviously it was something much more than that. It is safer to regard English Gothic as the strongly Anglicised rendering of a great architectural movement which swept over Western Europe and reached England via the western and northern provinces of France. It was architecture with pointed arches, and succeeded the architecture of round arches, the chief influence leading to the introduction of the pointed arch being undoubtedly the discovery of a method of building vaulting over wide and often uneven spaces.

“The architecture of every people is an essential part of its history” it has been said. English Gothic is a thoroughly national style despite the fact that it was inspired from abroad, and has been labelled “more perfect, more pure, more systematic, better proportioned, more consistent, than the Gothic of any other country.”

The Norman Conquest, by bringing about the mingling of two different peoples, was the great historic fact influencing the development of English Gothic. It must be remembered that by about 1150 roughly one-third of what now constitutes France was under English rule, and that Normandy was architecturally part of England from soon after the Conquest until late in the twelfth century. From the Continent came a deep sense of religion, a higher culture, a far greater skill in architectural construction, than the Saxons had enjoyed; by the end of the twelfth century this fact and the still greater one that the Saxons and Normans were in course of becoming one people-the English people must have made inevitable a more individual growth from the old Norman-Romanesque. But G. M. Trevelyan makes clear that “the birth and general acceptance” of the English language and the happy blending of Saxon and French words into “English tongue” which “all understanden” did not come until Chaucer’s lifetime (1340-1400). It was then that “the English people first clearly appear as a racial and cultural unit.”

The Crusades at the end of the eleventh century appear to have contributed something to the architecture of France and England, for in their long and tedious travels through Europe the Crusaders must have stored up many impressions to be remembered and applied on their return home.

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Lancet Window

By the turn of the twelfth century we see the early stage of Gothic in the simple lancet arch, to which were added, as the style evolved, clustered pillars, window mullions, and tracery, which, in the opinion of many architects, produced “a degree of perfection and refinement never before dreamt of.”

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Tracery

“The Gothic columns, with their simple moulded capitals, carried the mind back from our provincial cathedrals to the Parthenon at Athens” says Professor Banister Fletcher. Gothic had those beautifully proportioned columns, with their dignified capitals, it had in particular, the pointed arch and the ribbed vaulting of the roof; and often externally the flying buttress to give strength to the walls and carry the weight and thrust of the roof.

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Ribbed Vault Ceiling

The Gothic arch was a great step forward in technical design. The reduction of side-thrust on pillars and walls meant that the pillars could be slighter and the walls thinner, less expensive, and much better built, for the old thick walls had often been mere casings of good masonry filled in with rubble and mortar. Externally the style could be distinguished not only by its narrow lancet-shaped pointed windows, but by the bold buttresses to take some of the thrust, the light pinnacles and spires, the acute pitch of the roof.

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Flying Buttresses

Improvement in technical design making for the growing use of vaulting over large and often unusual spaces helped the introduction of the pointed arch. Vaulting is the great pride of the Gothic masons, as in Norwich and Durham Cathedrals-the rib vaulting of worked stone as distinct from the rough barrel vaults of earlier days. True, the Normans had invented the vaulting, but their knowledge of construction was not always sufficient to provide properly for the outward (destructive) thrusts, and as a result many examples must have disappeared. Gothic architecture of the later (Perpendicular) period glories in its open timber roofs, many fine examples of which are to be found in the old Norfolk churches.

The Gothic period was remarkable for its building activity; cathedrals, castles, churches, were built in numbers, and no other period in English history can vie with it. Of all countries, says Professor Simpson, England is the most remarkable for the number, variety, and beauty of its parish churches. The whole of England was dotted with villages, and each had its own church, whereas in France, Germany, and other countries villages were few and far apart, and the people, for safety, were forced within walled cities.

It was in this great period that freemasonry had its true foundation. Gould, a conservative assessor of masonic history, believes that “in all lodge constituent elements and appointments, the track is broad and direct to a Gothic origin.” Another historic fact was to play its part, an unfortunate one. In 1349 came the Black Death, the terrible plague that destroyed nearly half the population and had its serious consequences in every phase of national and domestic life; the shortage of labour and high prices of food led to the operatives trying to get higher wages, but legislation kept wages within very restricted limits. Much building work was still proceeding in the seventy years following 1450 some of the finest of England’s churches were built-but by the middle of the sixteenth century the Gothic style of architecture was dying. It is true that even to the end of that century we get here and there a Gothic building and many Gothic details, but by 1600 the great medieval period known as Gothic had reached its close.

The marked similarity in style in the Gothic architecture of all the Western European countries, including England, has prompted the idea that the masons in all the countries concerned must have been guided by a secret principle handed down from one generation to another. It is this similarity that has lent plausibility to the legend of the organised bands of travelling masons, armed with Papal authority, passing from one country to another, building churches here, there, and everywhere, and into all of them pouring their own spirit of design and introducing their own exclusive secrets of construction. In later pages will be shown how much this legend is worth, but in the meantime it will merely be pointed out that some architectural writers have advanced the attractive theory that the monastic schools of masonry founded in Normandy sent forth, at the behest of kings, nobles, and great churchmen, many clever Master Masons, who took charge, artistic and practical, of the erection of a number of the most notable buildings in England, and that, inevitably, these graduates, all of the same school, produced buildings having strong family likenesses. The English, perhaps more than any

other people in the world, had and have a genius for absorbing any new and foreign influence reaching their shores. Thus, all over Western Europe buildings were conforming to a ‘Gothic’ style; here, in this country, there was Gothic with a difference, an English difference.

 The Successor to English Gothic

The Reformation in the sixteenth century strongly influenced Gothic and ensured its death, but the style had lost some of its purity following the reign of Henry VII when it started to introduce Italian features. In course of time Gothic developed into the Elizabethan style of mixed Gothic and Italian, and then into what we know now as the Renaissance: a style less natural, or, rather, less national, than the Gothic, but extremely graceful, reproducing something of the old classic spirit of the Greek and Roman architecture; a style of much interest to the architectural but less to the masonic student. The work of England’s great architect Sir Christopher Wren was largely based on the Gothic, to which, however, he added from his own genius the classic lightness and elegance which transformed it into a style which can best be described as, Wren.

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