Monthly Archives: January 2018

Bad Craftsmen always blame their tools! By Mike Lawrence

A defence against those brethren that consider our ritual cumbersome and archaic.

Masonic_books

I don’t know how many times I have heard brethren absolve themselves from poor ritual delivery by claiming that it is archaic, repetitive and boring.  Then come the other excuses that those claimants make which suggest that our new initiates leave because of it.  This is closely followed by the debate that it causes the meetings to go on to long.

Well my friends, I must vehemently contest such complaints with the riposte that so many of our problems lie in the disorganisation of our DC’s, the unnecessary matters emanating from the Secretaries table and the monotone verbiage of some of our W.M.’s.

If you then couple this with the difficulty that many brethren face when trying to repeat verbatim, each ceremonial part and the subsequent poor presentation we have to suffer, it all goes to set us up for immediate failure.

Like so many, I am not adverse to the review or reform of any of our practices, but the claims by some about our ritual are by no means unusual, but neither are they insurmountable.  It fact, if we all took Freemasonry a little more serious, we would solve so many of the problems highlighted.

For example, it is neither rare nor uncommon for mature brethren to nod off during any proceedings, but this is not due to the ritual.  I have witnessed this during church services, theatres, cinemas, seminars, etc.

It is not through boredom, lack of attention, nor medical condition, just that which dictates that elderly people rest more frequent than their younger counterparts.  However, when younger brethren sleep during the ceremony it is generally through inebriation, total lack of interest and little or no understanding of what is going on.

Shutting one’s eyes during a ceremony to concentrate does not constitute sleeping and I know several brethren who, as they progress through the offices of the lodge, use this method to learn the ritual by repeating it in their heads the words along with whatever officer is speaking.

The problem is that very few brethren choose to learn no more about this noble science than that which is contained in their little ritual book.  This means that many brethren hear and repeat words and phrases, and carry out actions that they have no idea where they originated.

Yes! It may be said that much of the ritual which we practice today may be two hundred years old, but ask yourself this – Where did it originate?  What you will find is that so much of it predates not only the 1813 Union, but  also the 1717 formation of Grand Lodge.  In fact, much of it originates from the Old MS Charges of which some dated from c.1390.

If only lodges would use the Lodge of Instruction to do exactly that. Instruct!  Each lodge should be able to provide their candidate with a comprehensive reading list and study programme of instruction and training of which the net result would enliven all that we do.

That is where we let the new initiates down, we send them home that evening with no more than a Book of Constitutions, a copy of the lodge bye-laws and a list of second degree questions of which they have little or no knowledge about.

With regard to the lengthy Installation ceremony, all proceedings can be modified slightly without detracting from the ethos of the event.  All good DC’s with the co-operation of Lodge officers and Past Masters should be able perform a crisp ceremony with good continuity and succinct presentation.  The key lies in the Lodge of Rehearsal.  Such a ceremony warrants several rehearsals to ensure perfection.  Unfortunately, many Past Masters asked to perform certain parts of the ceremony, consider that attendance at rehearsals are beneath them.

While on the subject of ritual delivery, it is facetious to suggest, as many do, that it is no more than an admirable piece of theatre.  If that is the belief, then surely most of us should perhaps conduct ourselves like actors and put more effort into leaning our lines.  It’s a churlish suggestion, although I would propose that a dialogue coach would not go amiss.

When a brother stumbles mid-sentence, we are never short of rude brethren who try to correct him, often times so loud that it causes embarrassment to all. That behaviour also undermines that appointed officer who normally carries out that particular role as discreet as possible and generally by previous arrangement or signal.

As so many brethren are intimidated by the activities of learning and delivering the ritual, we obviously let our brethren down by not providing good teaching, training and learning methods, and this I consider should be another priority.

Minutes of the previous meeting, along with a brief report from the Almoner and Charity Steward could be sent prior to the meeting along with the summons.  This would reduce the business from the secretaries table and other officers who often believe that after two hours of Masonic ceremony, brethren cannot wait to hear from them.  I always get the impression that so many brethren need their ‘five-minutes’ of fame.

It is the inverted snobbery and pomposity of senior brethren, and all lodges have them, that is slowly affecting the membership of the Craft.  Having said that, we must also acknowledge that all age-old institutions are currently being affected by numbers joining, Freemasonry being no exception to this.

The improvement of our ceremonies lies in the hands of our past-Masters, to coach, encourage and train officers and members.  It also rests upon us all to maintain standards of decorum and dignity and to conduct ourselves with solemnity while in open lodge.  Also that we ‘put-in’ 110% in learning any assignment we may be asked to carry out and to earnestly seek help if needs be, otherwise we should gracefully decline.  There is nothing more embarrassing to a candidate than to see a brother struggling to deliver a piece of ill-learnt ritual.  How selfish we can be sometimes.

Having said that, we have all heard well rehearsed ritual. I recall the time when one brother was so enthusiastic with his delivery of the second degree tracing board lecture that those present felt sure he was about to let the Ephramites win!

Joking aside, if ritual needs be read for clearer understanding and accuracy then so be it, but please lets not blame it, alter it or modernise it just because we ourselves cannot deliver it with the respect, the learning and the understanding it demands.

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The Temple and the Masonic Tradition By Mike Lawrence

Freemasons’ meeting places have traditionally been known as Temples, and although this is rather an archaic word, many still argue that its retention in our vocabulary is justified for three reasons. The first being that it is a reasonable name to apply to an institution and a place where the Great Architect of the Universe, is venerated. Secondly, as a continuing reference to King Solomon’ s Temple, the story of which has exercised such a considerable influence on Masonic ritual, symbolism and teaching. Thirdly, the Lodge room itself, is representative, during the ceremonies, of King Solomon’s Temple. The Worshipful Masters Chair affectionately known as the Chair of King Solomon.

However, there are those that consider the very term ‘Temple’, evokes thoughts of Freemasons making daily propitiations to an unseen Deity by way of worship, offerings and sacrifices. Therefore, one can find as many brethren in favour of the term, as against it. But that is a matter for personal choice and not the subject of this paper.

Our subject is the Temple of King Solomon and the Masonic tradition.

king-solomon-temple

It was during the nomadic period of the Israelites, that the focus of their devotions was centered on the tabernacle, a portable tent which was erected and dismantled during their wanderings. When erected, it housed among other things, the Ark of the Covenant which represented the presence of God.

When David finally settled in Jerusalem, he wanted it to become the center of the people’s religious life, so he ordered the Ark to be brought into the city to be given a permanent home in a building, i.e. a temple or house of God.

David’s plans met with opposition from the prophet Nathan who announced that God never needed a temple when the tribes were wandering in the desert and he did not need one now and with regard to the building of a house to God, God in fact would establish a house of David, a dynasty from which the Messiah would come. But Gods refusal was only temporary; it was because David was not a suitable person to build a temple because he was a warrior king with blood on his hands, he was only allowed to choose the site for the building, the honour of building the temple would belong to his son, Solomon.

Just north of Jerusalem, was a higher and taller summit known as Zion which belonged to a Jebusite named Araunah. During a plague which killed seventy thousand people in three days, an angel appeared to David and stood on the threshing floor of Araunah, which was at the summit of the mount. David quickly recognised the fact that as well as using the threshing floors to separate the chaff from the wheat, the Jebusites used their threshing floors for prophetic divination, worship and appeasement of their storm god Baal. David therefore decided he must build an altar there and by paying for the land, the altar, and the oxen to be sacrificed, he would in fact ensure that the sacrifice would be without obligation to anyone but “Yahweh”, his God. From that point on, the site of the Temple was clearly marked out.

This piece of land where the Jebusites made sacrifices to the God Baal, now became the place where the Holy of Holies would be built, that innermost sanctum of the Temple on that great rock, which can still be seen today in the Dome of the Rock on Temple Mount.

Dome on the Rock

Muslims say it was this same spot where Mohammed ascended on his Night Journey to Paradise. Orthodox Jews claim it was where Abraham was commanded to sacrifice his son Isaac. It was also the place also where David ultimately brought the Ark of the Covenant.

Over the next few years, David consolidated his position. Having already combined the kingdoms of Judah and Israel, roughly where Israel stands today, he also subdued the kingdoms of Edom and Moab in the east and Damascus in the north.  Today the areas of western Jordan, southern Lebanon, and central Syria were all once part of David’s empire but are now, countries in their own right.

King Solomon also extended the city of Jerusalem to include the holy mount and began a large and ambitious building program which included a palace complex, for his huge harem of 700 princesses, the 300 concubines, who were gifts from foreign rulers and a grand palace for his Egyptian wife. He built a large armory, a judgement hall and on the ancient threshing floor which once belonged to the old Jebusite, Araunah, he built the Temple.

Building the temple was no mean feat and the Bible tells us that Solomon ordered 30,000 Israelites to be divided into three groups of 10,000 and working in shifts they cut timber in Lebanon for a month, and then worked for two months in Jerusalem, while another 80,000 were sent into the mountains to quarry stone for the foundations as a further 70,000 porters carried the stone to the site.

Building

There were 3,300 supervisors overseeing the building work. The construction which began in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign, took seven years and five months to complete which would have been from about the spring of 958 BC to the autumn of 951 BC. The internal dimensions have been estimated to be no more than, 120ft by 30ft, and possibly having an Oriental appearance, shewing Phoenician or Egyptian influences.

It was constructed on lines which we would find very strange today, as it was not a building where priests and laity met together for worship. On the contrary, the Temple courts were all that the laity would ever see, not even the King himself could advance further than the porch or vestibule.

The Middle Chamber, (or shall we say the nave) contained the Altar of Incense, and was reserved for the offices of the priests, whilst the windowless Sanctum Sanctorum was a place which even the High Priest himself could enter but once a year.

Of all the work carried out in the Temple, nothing was more remarkable than the enormous basin known as the Sea of Bronze and the two huge bronze pillars named Jachin and Boaz. In those days, casting on such a large scale was both difficult and technically advanced and the man sent by King Hiram to carry out the work was described as being “filled with wisdom and understanding” and “a widow’s son”, better known to us in the Masonic setting as Hiram Abiff.

Although we never pretend that our traditional history of the fate of Hiram is anything but allegorical, it is good to be reassured that our story is built around a historical character, and one who furnished an essential link between the Scriptures and the Masonic craft, and was capable of being regarded as the central focus around whom our ceremony of Raising could be constructed.

Ultimately, some 400 years later this wonderful building laid waste and looted by Nebuchadnezzar who made the people captive. It was eventually restored by Zerubbabel but by this time the Ark of the Covenant had disappeared.

After many vicissitudes, this Temple in its turn was finally demolished by Herod who was hated by Jews for his pro-Roman attitude, he sought to regain their favour by rearing an even mightier edifice in Graeco-Roman style. This last Temple had but a short span of existence and in the great Jewish insurrection of AD 70, it was completely destroyed by the Roman armies.

Thus, the only remaining fragment now known to man of these successive buildings is part of the huge stone retaining wall which formerly banked up the Temple platform from the valley on the West, known as the ‘Wailing Wall’.

Wailing Wall

We can speculate as to the origins of that other part of our ceremonial based on the Temple structure, that of the Middle Chamber. It would have been quite reasonable during the period before dedication whilst building operations proceeded, for part of the structure to have been temporarily used as a wages office and this might well have been that portion of the main building just inside the porchway later to be reserved for the offices of the priests. However, this seems doubtful when considering the sheer volume of the workforce, the size of that vestibule, the winding staircase and the Middle Chamber itself.

But regardless of this, it adds to the colorful story of our ritual.

On the matter of the two Great Pillars, archeological research lends itself firmly in support of the view that there were two great free-standing columns, and moreover that our Masonic names are not only correct historically, but more or less correct in their interpretation, for though the writings on the one began with something like ‘God will establish thy throne for ever’, whilst those on the other begun with ‘ In the strength of God shall the King rejoice’.

I think we understand that whilst some of our mental and visionary conceptions of the Temple now appears to be misconceived and based on misunderstandings, at the same time many of our earlier doubts about the validity of Old Testament references have in great measure been resolved, and it is on these evidences that the main substance of our masonic tradition was founded.

While archeological research has improved our historical and theological knowledge and thrown more light on the Jerusalem Temple, nothing has transpired in the least to threaten our confidence in the allegorical and symbolical uses we make of it for our mutual moral benefit, or to make us think of abandoning any element of the progressive science of Freemasonry, to which we as brethren owe so much.

Based on an article by W. Bro.  The   Reverend Canon J. R. Prophet P.D.G.Chap.

 

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Pillars and Columns within Freemasonry. Part Two of Two. By Mike Lawrence

Section six – Architectural Styles of the Pillars

The five orders of Architecture were identified as early as 1562, in a book by Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola, who wrote about classical architecture. The book identifies the five orders as Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian and Composite with each part subdivided into other parts, all illustrating the styles of the colonnade arcade, arcade with pedestal, individual pedestal, entablatures and capitals.

Joseph Gwilt in The Encyclopaedia of Architecture explains the term ‘order’, thus:

“An Order in architecture is a certain assemblage of parts subject to uniform established proportions, regulated by the office that each part has to perform”

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The origin of the five Orders are thus.

  • The Doric order originated on the mainland and western Greece and is the simplest of the orders.
  • The Ionic order came from eastern Greece and its origins are entwined with the little known, Aeolic order.
  • The Corinthian order is the most ornate of the Greek orders and is characterized by the slender fluted column with ornate capitals decorated with two rows of acanthus leaves and four scrolls.

It was the Romans that adapted all the Greek orders and  developed two other orders which were modifications of the Greek orders, but they were not named or formalised as  Tuscan and Composite,  until the Renaissance period. Therefore, the Tuscan order was a very plain design, with a plain shaft, and a simple capital, base, and frieze and the Composite order is a mixed order, combining the volutes of the Ionic with the leaves of the Corinthian order.

Section Seven – The Origins of Pillars

Prior to the discovery of the Arch, it was primitive man that discovered the fundamental building principle of the upright and lintel, that is, the use of two upright posts supporting a beam or lintel. This made it possible to add doorways and windows and is found in early buildings all over the world.

The Egyptians, seeing the principal of the post and lintel, translated it into great columns supporting entablatures. The Greeks following suit used the same to form for their classical colonnades in such buildings like the Parthenon. The Chinese adapted a roof structure of decreasing posts and lintels piled on top of each other to support wide eaves of their roofs The Japanese used post and lintels to form the gateways to their temples.

temple-of-karnak

The Temple at Karnak

Section eight – Ritual Anomalies

a) In the explanation of the Second-Degree Tracing Board we are told the following:

“Those Pillars were further adorned with two spherical balls on which were delineated maps of the celestial and terrestrial globes, pointing out Masonry Universal.”

I have three problems with this statement:

1)  In 1 Kings 7:41 we read that: “The two pillars, and the two bowls of the chapiters that were on the top of the two pillars; and the two networks, to cover the two bowls of the chapiters which were upon the top of the pillars;”. The Volume of Sacred Law explains that the “spherical balls” were in fact “bowls”.

2) The second issue is that there were maps of the celestial and terrestrial globes delineated on those balls. Of course, there were no known such maps when King Solomon’s Temple was build.

3) The third point is that Masonry at that time was not universal and did not exist.

b) When we speak of King Solomon’s Temple in the Second Degree, we refer to a Pillar that is situated on the right. This takes its rise from:

2 Chronicles 3:17 “And he reared up the pillars before the temple, one on the right hand, and the other on the left; and called the name of that on the right hand Jachin, and the name of that on the left Boaz.”

1 Kings 7:21 “And he set up the pillars in the porch of the temple: and he set up the right pillar, and called the name thereof Jachin: and he set up the left pillar, and called the name thereof Boaz.”

Both verses are taken from the King James Version.

The ritual goes on explain that the right-hand Pillar “…was so named after Jachin the Assistant High Priest who officiated at its dedication.” However, the fact remains that it was not named after him and he did not officiate at the dedication of the Temple.

c) From the Explanation of the Second Degree Tracing Board, we are told in relation to those two great pillars that, “They were formed hollow, the better to serve as archives to Masonry, for therein were deposited the constitutional rolls.”

As you know there was no Freemasonry (as the Lecture implies) in those days and certainly no Constitutional Rolls.

Which all goes to show, our Traditional History is not historically accurate, but written to highlight salient points of our discipline.

Section nine – Humour

I recall one evening when a well-established Past Master, was called upon to present a recently Raised Master Mason with his Grand Lodge Certificate.  As you are aware, there is a no formal ceremony for the presentation, however there are guidelines on specific details to be included.

The brother was received enthusiastically and proceeded to display his remarkable knowledge of the origin and design of the certificate. As usual he had us all spellbound and he proceeded to the section that explains the three pillars, he went on: “…the outstanding feature of the design is, as you will notice, three pillars, each with its corresponding base. The one in the centre, like the Worshipful Master’s pillar in the Lodge, is of the Ionic Order adopted by Masons as an emblem of Wisdom and has reference to Solomon, King of Israel, and his wisdom in building, completing and dedicating the Temple at Jerusalem to God’s service.

The pillar on the left, like that of the Senior Warden’s, is of the Doric Order, emblematical of strength, such as the strength of Hiram, King of Tyre in supporting King Solomon with men and material.

The right-hand pillar, like the pillar of the Junior Warden, is of the Corinthian Order, the emblem of beauty…” at that point the brother halted, looked to the South, directed his comments to the Junior Warden and remarked, “…although I don’t know what happened in Brother Jones case” and calmly continued the presentation.

Needless to say, a loud ripple of laughter when thriugh the Lodge.

Section ten – Conclusion

I do not pretend that these two articles are exhaustive, and I have no doubt that with further research one could find lots more information. I also cannot confirm whether there is an inference to the Kabbalah.

The usages, traditions and practices Freemasonry are taken from many cultures, however, from that point on they are referred to in the Masonic sense only, and not used to symbolise the same as their earlier use may have implied. They are employed to accentuate salient points of our discipline and do not refer, imply, or associate themselves with past cultures of civilizations.

This is why many have confused Freemasonry with earlier cultures and  practices, which has tended to give Freemasonry a much earlier origin, that it actually has.

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Pillars and Columns within Freemasonry. Part one of a two part article. By Bro. Michael Lawrence

I found a question on a Masonic site recently in relation to the three pillars that support the Lodge. This was the question:

“Is it true that the three pillars of Freemasonry and the Tree of Life in the Kabbalah are related?”

Followed by this illustration:

blog

There are several types of columns and pillars, referred to in Masonic teaching, here are some of the findings of my research.

Section One – The Pillars of Enoch

In Masonic lore, the outer Pillars of the Temple are often referred to as the “Pillars of Enoch”. Enoch, being aware that Adam predicted “that the world was to be destroyed at one time by the force of fire, and at another time by the violence and quantity of water.” (Flavius Josephus Antiquities, 1.2:3) Therefore fearing the principles of the Liberal Arts and Sciences might be lost, his son Seth caused two pillars to be made, the one of brick, the other of stone, (various other documents refer to other materials being used) they inscribed their discoveries on them both, this was in case the pillar of brick should be destroyed by the flood, the pillar of stone might remain, and exhibit those discoveries to mankind. The story of the Pillars became enshrined in Masonic teachings through the second earliest Masonic MS.

“…knowing of that vengeance, that God would send, whether it should be by fire, or by water, the brethren had it not by a manner of a prophecy that God would send there, therefore they wrote their sciences on the two pillars of stone, and some men say that they wrote in the stones all the seven sciences, but as they had in their minds that a vengeance should come. And so it was that God sent vengeance so that there came such a flood that all the world was drowned, and all men were dead therein, save eight persons…and many years after this flood, as the chronicle telleth, these two pillars were found…” The Matthew Cooke Manuscript c.1450 (Modern Translation)

Section Two – The Pillars at the porch way or entrance to the Temple of King Solomon

In an article entitled, The History of the Two Pillars, W. L. Fawcette says:

“The tradition of the Freemasons in regard to the two pillars, which are a prominent emblem of their Craft, is, that they represent the pillars Jachin and Boaz, which Hiram of Tyre made for Solomon, and set one on either side of the entrance to the Temple, to commemorate the pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night which guided the Israelite’s in their forty years wanderings in the wilderness.”

Our ritual explains in respect of the two Pillars:

“They were set up as a memorial to the children of Israel of that miraculous pillar of fire and cloud which had two wonderful effects. The fire gave light to the Israelite’s during their escape from their Egyptian bondage, and the cloud proved darkness to Pharaoh and his followers when they attempted to overtake them. King Solomon ordered them to be placed at the entrance of the Temple, as the most proper and conspicuous situation for the children of Israel to have the happy deliverance of their forefathers continually before their eyes in going to and returning from Divine worship”.

Whatever significance the Hebrews may have attached to these pillars, there is good reason for believing that they received the material emblem from the Tyrians at the time of the building of the Temple. The Scriptures give a detailed account of the dimensions and designs of the pillars, (2 Kings 7 and 2 Chronicles 3) but are silent as to their significance; and there is nothing in the whole Scriptural account of them to forbid the conclusion that the ideas symbolised by them were as much Tyrian as Jewish.

Tyre had been a rich and prosperous city for over two hundred years, when Solomon undertook the building of the Temple. The Tyrians had been skilled in architecture and other arts to a degree that implied a high state of mental culture, while the Hebrews were yet nomadic tribes living in tents. The tabernacle was only a tent, and in this first Hebrew endeavour to give it a more enduring structure of wood and stone, Solomon naturally appealed to the greater skill of the subjects of the friendly Hiram, King of Tyre.

When the Hebrews began to build the Temple, they ceased their wanderings, they became permanently established, and, as a memorial of this fact, they embodied in the architectural design of the Temple, a symbol which, by the Tyrians and many other nations descended from the ancient Aryan stock, was considered emblematic of a divine leadership that had conducted them to a new and permanent home; this was the true significance of the two pillars.

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Section Three – The symbol of the “broken column”

We learn that under the Hebrews, columns or pillars were used metaphorically to signify Princes or Nobles, as if they were the pillars of a state. In Psalm 6:3 we read, “If the foundations be destroyed what can the righteous do?” meaning in the original, “when the columns are overthrown, that is, when the firm supporters of what is right and good have perished.”

Isaiah 14:10 reads “…her (Egypt’s) columns are broken down, that is, the nobles of her state.”

Thus, in Freemasonry, the broken column, which is not that common in the English Masonic system, is the emblem of the fall of one of the chief supporters of the Craft. The use of the column or pillars as a monument erected over a tomb was a very ancient custom, and was a very significant symbol of the character and spirit of the person interred.

Section Four – The Pillars that support the Lodge

The Lodge is supported by three great pillars, which are called Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty.

Wisdom, illustrated by the Ionic column and found at the Worship Masters station in the East, helps contrive and conduct us in all our undertakings.

Strength, illustrated by the Doric column and found at the Senior Wardens station in the West, helps support us in all our difficulties.

Beauty, illustrated by the Corinthian column and found at the Junior Wardens station in the South, helps adorn the inward man.

Therefore, the Universe is the Temple of the Deity whom we serve; Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty are about His throne as pillars of His works, for His Wisdom is infinite, His Strength omnipotent, and Beauty shines through the whole of the creation in symmetry and order.

The Pillars of the Porch in a Masonic temple

Section Five – The Names of the two great Pillars

You have heard the names of the two great Pillars that stood at the porch way or entrance of King Solomon’s Temple.

2 Chronicles 3:17 “And he reared up the pillars before the temple, one on the right hand, and the other on the left; and called the name of that on the right hand Jachin, and the name of that on the left Boaz.”

1 Kings 7:21 “And he set up the pillars in the porch of the temple: and he set up the right pillar, and called the name thereof Jachin: and he set up the left pillar, and called the name thereof Boaz.”

In Masonic teaching, we learn we learn that the import of both names being “In Strength” and “To Establish” respectively. This conforms to the writings of Flavius Josephus who wrote in the 1st Century A.D. that Boaz means “In Him Strength or In It Strength” and Jachin means “He Will establish or It will establish” (Antiquities of the Jews). Masonic teaching also advises us that when conjoined, the words mean “Stability”, for God said, “In strength I will establish this mine house to stand firm for ever”. However, nowhere in any version of the bible do we read God using these words. The nearest we can get to the phrase is found in 1 Chronicles, 17:12 which says:

“He shall build me an house, and I will stablish his throne for ever.”

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