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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.

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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.

 

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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I Greet You Well! By Mike LAWRENCE

Cover Pic

All profits go direct to the TLC Appeal http://tlcappeal.org/

£14.99 from http://www.lewismasonic.co.uk/i-greet-you-well-.htm

 This book contains twelve easy to read lectures packed with all manner of Masonic facts and information. Read at home to establish a good Masonic knowledge base or present to the Lodge on nights when you are without a candidate. Time tested and performed many times by the author, these thought provoking, fascinating talks will definitely incite discussion as they explore many of our more popular subjects by explaining the origin of some of our traditions and exploding the myths and legends of others.

With over 60 illustrations and ranging from 20 to 25 minutes in duration, the lectures were primarily designed to suit Freemasons of all levels of understanding and rank.

With titles including: Stealing History – Surviving History – Those Twenty Nine Words – English Accepted Masonry versus Scottish Non-Operative Masonry and Why the Knights Templar were not the Founders or the Custodians of the Secrets of Freemasonry; there is something for everyone.

 

£14.99 from http://www.lewismasonic.co.uk/i-greet-you-well-.htm

 

All profits go direct to the TLC Appeal http://tlcappeal.org/

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The Christian origin of Freemasonry By Michael Lawrence

A short paper dispelling the suggestion that our ritual is of Jewish origin.

I was very interested to read the following statement found recently on a Masonic Facebook page to which I subscribe, it was followed by the question, “What is your opinion?”

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Old Gothic Constitutions 1390 – 1690

From the earliest of recognised English Masonic documents, i.e. the Regius Poem c.1390 and the Matthew Cooke MS, c.1450, which were in fact, Trade Documents written for the control and behaviour of Operative Masons, there is a distinct Christian emphasis. This emphasis is repeated in all the later documents generically called the “Old Gothic Constitutions”, which are of a similar nature, This pre-reformation Trinitarian influence which is Catholic in its inference, is soundly and securely based on the religion of the realm at that time, which was Christian.

An example being the Invocation or Opening prayer in each document, which always runs along these lines:

“The might of the Father of Heaven, with the wisdom of the glorious Son, through the grace and goodness of the Holy Ghost, that be three persons in one Godhead, be with us at out beginning, and give us grace so to govern us here in our living that we may come to His Bliss that never shall have ending. Amen.”

Certainly, no Jewish influence there.

The following link may be helpful.

http://www.masoniclibrary.org.au/research/list-lectures/86-gothic-constitutions.html

Having made that statement, an important point to make relates to the Edict of Expulsion. In 1290, Edward 1, issued the edict expelling all Jews from the Kingdom of England. The edict remained in force for the rest of the Middle Ages. The edict was not an isolated incident but the result of over 200 years of persecution of the Jews in England. It is generally accepted that the Middle Ages ran for about 1000 years, approximately from the fall of the Western Roman Empire, to the rise of the Ottoman Empire.

Therefore, initially we can dispute the original statement on two counts because:

1) The Jewish people were expelled from England at that time.

2) The Operative Masons were erecting Cathedrals to the Glory of a Christian God.

So we can say that there was no Jewish influence within these documents and as there is no suggestion or even direction by any of the writers, that the contents should remain secret. I therefore propose that there is no hidden Jewish message found in the same.

Early Masonic Exposures, 1696 – 1730

The main foundation of early ritual in England is based on a group of three Scottish documents dated between 1696 and 1714, written out laboriously by hand and possibly used as a guide or aides-memoir. They are:

 1) The Edinburgh Register House MS, 1696 – Found in 1930, in the Old Register House, Edinburgh, among a number of papers transferred there in 1808 and was in no way related to any of the papers or records which it was stored with.

2) The Chetwode Crawley MS, c.1700 – Found in a collection of volumes purchased as a lot, c.1900, from a second-hand book collector.

3) The Kevan MS, c.1714 – Found in 1954, among a collection of old legal documents belonging to a firm of Solicitors practising in Berwickshire.

The problem with these MS is that without validation, they can only be seen as interesting or curious artefacts of a bygone age. However, by a very rare stroke of luck, an interesting discovery led students to the possibility of validating the previously three mentioned documents.

Haughfoot, was a hamlet near Stow, Galashiels, in the Scottish Lowlands and at the end of the 17th century, it consisted mainly of a staging post for horses and carriages and would have been the most unlikely place for a Lodge to be established as the region consisted mainly of gentry and local land owners, not stone works or masons. But it was in fact, the place where Scotland’s first wholly non-operative Lodge was founded, on 22nd December 1702 and here’s the twist of fate, it would appear that at the commencement of that Lodge, the ceremonies were written in the first several pages of the Lodge minute book to the extent that the last twenty-nine words of the ceremony commenced at the top of a new page and at the completion of the written ritual text we find the following words:

 “The same day”

Indicating that the ritual text was written and completed before the first meeting of the Lodge which was held on the same day.

These four documents agree closely with eleven others, generically known as the “Early Masonic Exposures” and continue the exact same pre-reformation Christian influence.

Dr James Anderson

It was during the Grand Mastership of the Duke of Montagu that when “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” (Douglas Knoop and G.P.Jones, The Genesis of Freemasonry, published by Q.C. Correspondence Circle Ltd., 1978 edition, p.160)

One unforeseen problem which also occurred is taken up by Wallace Mcleod in the 1986 Prestonian lecture.

“…At the Annual Festival on 24 June 1718, when the Grand Lodge was one year old, the new Grand Master, George Payne, “desired any brethren to bring to the Grand lodge any old Writings and Records concerning Masons and Masonry in other to shew the Usages of antient Times; And this Year several old copies of the Gothic Constitutions were produced and collated.”

                Even in those early days there were reticent Masons who did not choose to risk disclosure. In a narrative of the incident Anderson wrote, “This Year, at some private Lodges, several very valuable Manuscripts…concerning the Fraternity, their Lodges, Regulations, Charges, Secrets and Usages…were too hastily burnt by some scrupulous Brothers, that those Papers might not fall into strange hands.”

It is generally agreed however, that of the few London lodges that formed part of George Paynes Grand Lodge at that time, between them they would only have held a small amount of texts or paperwork regarding “the Fraternity, their Lodges, Regulations, Charges, Secrets and Usages”.

How valuable to the Craft from an historic stand point they might have been, we shall never know, but the general consensus is that they were more probably one, or possibly two copies of the Gothic Constitutions that were destroyed which in any case would have been hand written reproductions of existing copies.

The main object of Andersons role was to bring some sort of order to the current manuscripts available to him at that time and in doing so he produced the first Book of Constitution, 1723. Anderson, being a Presbyterian Minister his Constitutions were influenced in that manner.

Presbyterian theology typically emphasizes the sovereignty of God, the authority of the Scriptures and the necessity of Grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Its roots lie in the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century.

Anderson, refined the basic Christian influence of the existing documents and produced the following statement:

Concerning GOD and RELIGION.

A Mason is obliged by his Tenure, to obey the moral law; and if he rightly understands the Art, he will never be a stupid ATHEIST, nor an irreligious LIBERTINE. But though in ancient Times Masons were charged in every Country to be of the Religion of that Country or Nation, whatever it was, yet ’tis now thought more expedient only to oblige them to that Religion in which all Men agree, leaving their particular Opinions to themselves; that is, to be good Men and true, or Men of Honor and Honesty, by whatever Denominations or Persuasions they may be distinguished ; whereby Masonry becomes the Center of Union, and the Means of conciliating true Friendship among Persons that must have remained at a perpetual Distance.

Freemasonry therefore became Deistic, that being the belief in the existence of a supreme being, specifically of a creator who does not intervene in the universe, like that of Natural Religion, which is based on reason rather than divine revelation. It is a system of advocating or emphasizing morality. Morality being one of the founding principles Freemasonry was founded upon.

This now took Freemasonry away from that pre-reformation or Catholic ethos, and all but began the process of de-Christianisation.

Conclusion

The reason why people have give traction to the opening statement,  is because in order to tell the Masonic story and illustrate the message of fidelity, the vehicle chosen was the building of King Solomon’s Temple, but that does not make the story Jewish.

Stories, passwords, quotations and various inferences, were all taken from Christian Bibles, not the Talmud, especially the message of the Third Degree, which has caused some Jewish lodges to make the following change to the ritual:

From – “…lift our eyes to that bright Star, (inferring Jesus. See Revelations 22:16) whose rising brings peace and salvation…”

To – “…and lift our eyes to Him whose divine Words brings Peace and Salvation to the faithful…”

The purpose being the Jewish creed does not recognise the Christian belief that Jesus is their Saviour,

The stories and scriptures of the Old Testament were alogorically used to illuminate salient points of our discipline and no more.

Therefore our Freemasonry is founded on the simple premise, i.e. that we have a belief in a Supreme Being, not what religion or creed we follow and that is why we must be:

“…good Men and true, Men of Honor and Honesty, by whatever Denominations or Persuasions we may be distinguished; whereby Masonry becomes the Center of Union, and the Means of conciliating true Friendship among Persons that must have remained at a perpetual Distance.”

Therefore the suggestion that our ritual was influenced by Judaism is incorrect, as is the general belief that Freemasonry in general, is Christian. Our society in multi-denominational, and long so may it remain so.

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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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PILLARS AND GLOBES, COLUMNS AND CANDLESTICKS – Part 1 of 4

PILLARS AND GLOBES, COLUMNS AND CANDLESTICKS Part 1 of 4

 By

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Bro. Harry Carr

In the Quatuor Coronati Lodge summons, dated 22 December 1961, there was a brief note relating to the Wardens’ Columns which attracted considerable attention and comment. As author of the note, and Secretary of the Lodge, I had to answer a number of letters on that subject and on several other topics closely allied to it. During the course of this work it became obvious that there is much confusion on the subject of Pillars, Globes, Columns and Candlesticks, on the dates and stages of their introduction into Craft usage, and most of all, perhaps, on the curious way in which some of these items (which originally had places in the ritual, or furnishings, in their own right) are now made to serve a dual purpose, thereby adding to the confusion as to their origins.

There are, apparently, two main reasons for these difficulties. First, we have grown so accustomed to seeing our present‑day Lodges all more or less uniformly furnished that we accept the furnishings and their symbolism without question. Secondly, the Lectures on the Tracing Boards are given rarely nowadays so that Brethren are unfamiliar with the subject, or with the problems that are involved.

This essay was compiled, therefore, not with the intention of answering all the questions that arise, if indeed that were possible, but in order to separate the various threads which are now so badly entangled.

As these various items appear in our modern procedure, there is an extraordinary mixture of ritual‑references with odd items of furniture, some of which had a purely practical origin, while others were purely symbolical. I have tried to deal with each of these features separately, showing, as far as possible, their first introduction into the Craft, and tracing the various stages through which they passed into our present usage.

THE PILLARS

 Extract from the Lecture on the Second Tracing Board: “… the two great pillars which were placed in the porchway entrance on the south side . . . they were formed hollow, the better to serve as archives to Freemasonry, for therein were deposited the constitutional Rolls . . .These pillars were adorned with two chapiters . . . [and] … with two spheres on which were delineated maps of the celestial and terrestrial globes, pointing out ‘Masonry universal’.”

THE FIRST TWO PILLARS IN CRAFT TRADITION

The two earliest pillars in the literature of the Craft are those described in the legendary history which forms part of the Cooke MS c1410, and many later versions of the Old Charges. The story goes that they were made by the four children of Lamech, in readiness for the feared destruction of the world by fire or flood. One of the pillars was made of marble, the other of lacerus (ie lateres or burnt brick) because the first ‘would not burn’ and the other ‘would not drown’. They were intended as a means of preserving ‘all the sciences that they had found’, which they had carved or engraved on the two pillars.

This legend dates back to the early apocryphal writings, and in the course of centuries a number of variations arose in which the story of the indestructible pillars remained fairly constant, although their erection was attributed to different heroes. Thus, Josephus ascribed them to Seth, while another apocryphal version says they were built by Enoch.  For some reason, not readily explained, the early MS Constitutions favour the children of Lamech as the principals in this ancient legend, which was embodied in the texts to show how all the then‑known sciences were preserved for mankind by this early piece of practical mason work.

The Old Charges were designed primarily to display the antiquity and high importance of the Craft, and it is highly significant that Solomon’s two pillars do not appear in the early versions. David and Solomon are named among a long list of biblical and historical characters who ‘. . . loved masons well . . .’, and gave or confirmed ‘their charges’, but Solomon’s Temple receives only a casual mention, and the pillars are not mentioned at all. It seems fairly certain, therefore, that in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries Solomon’s two pillars had no special significance for the mason craft.  For an excellent survey of pre‑Christian and other early versions and variations of this legend, see Knoop, Jones and Hamer, The Two Earliest Masonic MSS, pp 39‑44 and 162‑63.

SOLOMON’S PILLARS IN THE RITUAL

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The first appearance of Solomon’s pillars in the Craft ritual is in the Edinburgh Register House MS, 1696, in a catechism associated with the ‘Mason Word’ ceremonies.

The earliest‑known reference to the ‘Mason Word’ appears in 1637, in a diary‑entry made by the Earl of Rothes, and although no kind of ceremony is described in that record, it is reasonable to assume that the ‘Mason Word’ ceremonies were already known and practised at that date. The Edinburgh Register House MS is the oldest surviving document which describes the actual procedure of the ceremonies. The text is in two parts. One section, headed ‘The Forme of Giveing the Mason Word’, describes the rather rough and ready procedure for the admission of an entered apprentice, including ceremonies to frighten the candidate, an oath, a form of ‘greeting’, and certain verbal and physical modes of recognition. There is also a separate and similar procedure for the ‘master mason or fellow craft’. (Only two degrees were known at that time.) The second part of this text is a catechism of some seventeen questions and answers, fifteen for the EA and a further two for the master or FC. It is probable that these questions, with the obligation, entrusting and greeting, represent the whole of the ‘spoken‑work’ of the ceremonies at that time.

The questions are of two kinds:

(a) Test questions for the purpose of recognition.

(b) Informative questions for the purpose of instruction and explanation.

Among these we find the first faint hints of the beginning of Masonic symbolism. A question in the catechism of 1696, and in six of the texts that followed soon after, runs:

  1. Where was the first lodge?
  2. In the porch of Solomon’s Temple.

Now, the Edinburgh Register House MS is a complete text; no part of it has been lost or obliterated during the 290 years or so since it was written, in 1696. In fact, there are several related texts belonging to the next twenty years, which amply demonstrate its completeness. It is therefore noteworthy that in this whole group of texts the two earlier pillars, built by the children of Lamech, have virtually disappeared. Barely a hint of them remains in any of the ritual documents from 1696 onwards.

The Dumfries No 4 MS c1710, is a version of the Old Charges which has been greatly enlarged by a collection of ritual questions and answers, with many items of religious interpretation. In its first part, it has the expected reference to the four children of Lamech and their two pillars, but towards the end of the catechism the pillars are mentioned again:

  1. Where [was] the noble art or science found when it was lost?
  2. It was found in two pillars of stone the one would not sink the other would not burn.

This is followed by a long passage of religious interpretation saying that Solomon named his own two pillars in reference to ‘ye two churches of ye Jews & gentiles . . .’ That need not concern us here, but Solomon’s pillars are not normally mentioned in the Old Charges, and the appearance of both sets of pillars in the two parts of the Dumfries MS, suggests that when the ceremonies were shaped to contain Solomon’s J and B, the earlier `indestructible’ pair were abandoned.

There is, in fact, no evidence that they had ever formed any part of the admission ceremonies, but we know very little about the ceremonies in their earliest forms. It seems fairly certain, however, that Solomon’s pillars had achieved a really important place in the Craft ritual in the early 1600s.

Soon after their first mention in the early ritual‑texts these two pillars became a regular part of the ‘furnishings’ of the lodge, and it is possible to trace them from their earliest introduction up to their present place in the lodge‑room, as follows:

(1) Their first appearance as part of a question in the catechism, with much additional evidence that they then had some esoteric significance. The early catechisms are particularly interesting in this respect, because they indicate that both of Solomon’s Pillar names belonged at one time to the EA ceremony.

(2) They were drawn on the floor of the lodge in chalk and charcoal, forming part of the earliest versions of our modern ‘Tracing Boards’. In December, 1733, the minutes of the Old King’s Arms Lodge, No 28, record the first step towards the purchase of a ‘Floor Cloth’. (A QC, vol lxii, p 236.) ‘Drawings’ on the floor of the lodge are recorded in the minutes of the Old Dundee Lodge, No 18, from 1748 onwards. The Herault Letter of 1737 describes the ‘Drawing’, and the later French exposures, from 1744 onwards, contain excellent engravings showing both pillars (marked J and B) on the combined EA and FC floor‑drawing.

(3) Between c1760 and 1765 several English exposures of the period indicate that the Wardens each had a column representing one of the Pillars, as part of his personal equipment in the lodge. The following extract is typical: ‘The senior and junior Warden have each of them a Column in their Hand, about Twenty Inches long, which represents the two Columns of the Porch at Solomon’s Temple, Boaz and Jachin. The Senior is Boaz, or Strength. The Junior is Jachin, or to establish.’ (From Three Distinct Knocks, 1760)

(4) Finally, the two pillars appear as handsome pieces of furniture, perhaps four to eight feet high, standing usually at the western end of the lodge room. The earliest descriptions of the lay‑out of the lodge in the 1700s show both Wardens in the west, facing the Master. The two pillars were generally placed near them, forming a kind of portal, so that the candidates passed between them on their admission, a custom which exists in many lodges to this day.

This was perhaps the last development of all, though some of the wealthier lodges may have possessed such pillars at a comparatively early date. When we consider how many lodge rooms (especially in the provinces) still use pairs of large pillars, it is surprising that the eighteenth‑ and nineteenth‑century inventories make no mention of them. Probably this was because they were part of the equipment of Masonic Halls, so that they belonged to the landlords and not to the various lodges that used the rooms.

So we trace the two pillars from their first appearance as part of a question in the ritual through various stages of development until they became a prominent feature of lodge furniture.

But modern practices are not uniform in regard to the pillars; in London, for example, there are very few lodges which have the tall pillars, but they are always depicted on the second Tracing Board, and they appear in miniature on the Wardens’ pedestals.

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A tentative reconstruction of a “Standard Original” version of the Old Charges – Part 3 of 3

A tentative reconstruction of a “Standard Original” version of the Old Charges – Part 3 of 3

Taken from the 1986 Prestonian Lecture “The Old Charges”

Dr Wallace McLeod

By Dr. Wallace McLeod

 Part Sixteen – The Assembly at York

Assembly at york

And when this assembly was gathered together, he made a cry, that all old Masons and young that had any writing or understanding of the charges that were made before in this land or in any other, that they should shew them forth. And when it was proved, there were found some in French, some in Greek, some in English, and some in other languages, and the intent of them was found all one. And he made a book thereof, how the craft was founded; and commanded that it should be read or told when any Mason should be made, and so to give him his charge. And from that day until this time Masonry hath been kept in that form, as well as men might govern it. And furthermore at divers assemblies have been put and ordained certain charges more by the best advice of Masters and Fellows.

Part Seventeen – The Manner of taking the Oath

oath

Tunc unus ex senioribus teneat librum, ut ille vel illi ponant manus super librum et tunc praecepta debent legi. (Then one of the elders holds the book, as will he, and he must lay the hands upon the precepts of the book, and then ought to be read.)

Part Eighteen – The Admonition before the Charge

Oath taking

Every man that is a Mason take right good heed to these charges, If that you find yourself guilty in any of these, that you may amend you against God. And especially ye that are to be charged, take good heed that ye may keep these charges, For it is a great peril for a man to foreswear himself upon a Book.

Part Nineteen – The Charges General

untitled

  • The first charge is that ye shall be true men to God and the Holy Church; and that ye use no error nor heresy, by your understanding or by discreet or wise men’s teaching.
  • And also that ye shall be true liege men to the King without treason or falsehood; and that ye know no treason or treachery, but that ye amend it if ye may, or else warn the King or his council thereof.
  • And also that ye shall be true each on to another; that is to say, to every Master and Fellow of the Craft of masonry that be Masons allowed, ye shall do to them as ye would they should do to you.
  • And also that every Mason keep true counsel of lodge and of chamber, and all other counsel that ought to be kept by the way of Masonry.
  • And also that no Mason shall be a thief or thief’s friend, as far forth as he may know.
  • And also that ye shall be true to the lord and master that ye serve, and truly to see his profit and advantage.
  • And also you shall call Masons your Fellows or Brethren, and no other foul name; nor you shall take your Fellows wife in villainy, nor desire ungodly his daughter nor his servant.
  • And also that ye pay truly for your meat and drink where you go to board.
  • And also ye shall do no villainy in that house whereby the Craft may be slandered.

Part Twenty – The Charges Singular

imagesWAECN5RU

These be the charges in general that every Mason should hold, both Masters and Fellows. Rehearse I will now other charges singular for Masters and Fellows.

  • First, that no Master shall take upon him no lord’s work, nor no other mans work, but that he know himself able and cunning to perform the same, so that the Craft have no slander nor disworship, but that the lord may be well and truly served.
  • And also that no Master take no work but that he take it reasonably, so that the lord may be well and truly served with his own good, and the Master to live honestly and pay his fellows truly there pay, as the manner of the Craft asketh.
  • And also that no Master nor Fellow shall supplant other of their work; that is to say, if he have taken a work, or else stand Master of a lord’s work, he shall not put him out, except he be unable of cunning to end the work.
  • And also that no Master or Fellow take no apprentice to be allowed his apprentice, but for seven years; and that the apprentice be able of birth and limbs as he ought to be.
  • And also that no Master nor Fellow take no allowance to be made Mason, without the consent of his fellows, at the least five or six; and that he that shall be made Mason be able on all sides, that is to say, that he is freeborn and of good kindred, and no bondman, and that we have his right limbs, as a man ought to have.
  • And also that no Master nor Fellow take no lord’s work to task that was wont to go to journey.
  • And also that every Master shall give pay to his fellow but as he may deserve, so that he be not deceived by false workman.
  • And also that no Fellow slander another behind his back, to make him lose his good name or his worldly goods.
  • And also that no Fellow, within the lodge or without, mis-answer another ungodly without reasonable cause.
  • Also that every Mason shall reverence his elder, and put him to worship.
  • And also that no Mason play at hazard or at dice, nor no other unlawful games, whereby the Craft may be slandered.
  • And also that no Mason shal be no ribald in lechery, to make the Craft to be slandered.
  • And that no Fellow go into the town in the night time there is a lodge of Fellows, without a fellow with him, that may bear him witness that he was in honest places.
  • And also that every Master and Fellow shall come to the assembly if it be within fifty miles about him, if he have any warning, to stand there at the reward of Masters and Fellows.
  • And also that every Master and Fellow if they have trespassed shall stand at the reward of Masters and Fellows, to make them accord if they may; and if they not accord them, to go to the common law.
  • And also that no Master nor Fellow make no mould nor square nor rule to no layer.
  • And also that no Master nor Fellow set no layer, within the lodge nor without, to hew mould stones with with no mould of his own making.
  • And also that every Mason shall receive and cherish strange Fellows when they come over the country, and set them to work, as the manner is; that is to say, if they have mould stones in place, he shall set him a fortnight at the least on work, and give him pay; and if he have no stones for him, he shall refresh him with money to the next lodge.
  • And also that every Mason shall truly serve the lord for his pay; and truly make an end of your work, be it task or journey, if you may have your pay according as you ought to have.

Part Twenty-one – The Oath

imagesL6PX14LH

These charges that we have rehearsed, and all other that belong to masonry, ye shall keep, so help you God and Halidom, and by this Book to your power. Amen

Footnote:

I honestly believe that what Bro.Mcleod has achieved here is so underrated, so under published and so relevant to much of the origin of our ritual today that it should be one the “musts” on any new initiates reading list.

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A tentative reconstruction of a “Standard Original” version of the Old Charges – Part 2 of 3

A tentative reconstruction of a “Standard Original” version of the Old Charges

Taken from the 1986 Prestonian Lecture “The Old Charges”

Dr Wallace McLeod

By Dr. Wallace McLeod

Part Seven – Nimrod

Nimrod

And at the making of the Tower of Babylon, there was Masonry first made much of. And the King of Babylon, Nimrod, was a Mason himself and loved well the craft, as is said with the Master of Stories.  And when the city of Nineveh and other cities of the east should be made, Nimrod, the King of Babylon, sent thither sixty Masons at the rogation of the King of Nineveh his cousin. And when he sent the forth he gave them a charge on this manner: That they should be true each of them to other; and that they should love truly together; and that they should serve their lord truly for their pay, so that he might have worship for sending them to him. And other charges he gave them;  and this was the first time ever any mason had any charge of his Craft.

Part Eight – Euclid

Euclid

Moreover, when Abraham and Sara his wife went into Egypt, and there he taught the seven sciences to the Egyptians; And he had a worthy scholar that was Euclid, and he learned right well, and was master of all the seven sciences. And in his days it befell that the lords and estates of the realm had so many sons that they had gotten, some by their wives and some by other ladies of the realm, for that land is a hot land, and plenteous of generation, that they had no competent livelihood to find their children, wherefore they made much care. And when the King of the land made a great council and a parliament, to wit how they might find their children, and they could find no good way, And then they did cry throughout the realm, if there were any man that could inform them, that he should come unto them, and he should be well rewarded for his travel, that he should hold himself well pleased.

Part Ten – Euclid’s Charge

And he gave them a charge on this manner. The first was that they should be true to the King and to the lord that they served. And that they should love well together, and be true each one to other. And that they should call each other his fellow or else his Brother, and not servant nor his knave, nor none other foul name. And that they should truly deserve for their pay of the lord or master that they serve. And that they should ordain the wisest of them to be Master of the Work, and neither for love nor great lineage nor riches nor favour, to set another that have hath little cunning to be Master of the lord’s work, whereby the lord should be evil served and they ashamed. And also that they should call the governor of the work Master in the time that they work with him. And other many more charges that are too long to tell. And to all these charges he made them swear the great oath that men used at that time. And ordained for them reasonable pay that they might live honestly by. And also that they should come and assemble together every year once, how they might work best to serve their lord for his profit and their own worship. And to correct within themselves if they had trespassed. And thus the Craft grounded there. And that worthy clerk gave it the name of Geometry; and now it is called Masonry.

Part Eleven – David

King david

Thereupon long after, when the children of Israel were come into the land of Behest, that is now called amongst us the Country of Jerusalem, King David began the temple that is called Templum Domini (Temple of the Lord), and is named with us the temple of Jerusalem. And the same King David loved well Masons, and cherished them much, and gave them good pay. And he gave them the charges and manners as he had it out of Egypt, given by Euclid, and other charges more that ye shall hear afterwards.

Part Twelve – Solomon

King Solomon

And after the decease of King David, Solomon, that was son unto David, performed out the temple that his father had begun. And he sent after Masons of divers lands, and gathered them together, so that he had fourscore thousand workers of stone, and were all named Masons. And he had three thousand of them that were ordained to be Masters and Governors of his Work.

And there was a King of another region that men called Hiram, and he loved well King Solomon, and gave him timber to his work. And he had a son called Aynon, and he was master of Geometry, And was chief Master of all his Masons, and master of all his graving and carving, and of all other manner of Masonry that belonged to the temple.  And this Witnesseth the Bible, in Libro Regum tertio, caputulo quinto ( Book of Kings in the third time, in the fifth chapter).   And this same Solomon confirmed both charges and manners that his father had given to Masons. And thus was that worthy Craft of Masonry confirmed in the country of Jerusalem and in many other kingdoms.

Part Thirteen – Charles of France

charles Martell

Curious craftsmen walked about full wide into divers countries, some because of learning more craft, and some to teach their craft. And so it befell that there was a curious mason named Naymus Grecus, that had been at the making of Solomon’s temple. And he came into France, and there he taught the science of Masonry to men of France. And there was one of the royal line of France named Charles Martell. And he was a man that loved well such a craft, and drew to this Naymus Grecus abovesaid, and learned to him the Craft, and took upon him the charges and manners. And afterwards, by the Grace of God, he was elect to be King of France. And when he was in his estate he took many Masons, and did help to make men Masons that were none, and set them on work, and gave them both charges and manners, and good pay, as he had learned of other Masons; and confirmed them a charter from year to year, to hold their assembly, and cherished them much. And thus came the Craft into France.

Part Fourteen – St. Alban

St Alban

England in all this season stood void of any charge of Masonry, until the time of Saint Alban. And in his days, the King of England, that was a pagan, did wall the town about that is know called Saint Albans. And Saint Alban was a worthy knight, and was chief steward with the king, and had the governance of the realm, and also of the making of the town walls; And he loved well Masons, and cherished them much. And he made their pay right good, standing as the realm did then; For he gave them two shillings sixpence a week, and threepence to their nuncheons (refreshments). And before that time throughout all the land a Mason took but a penny a day and his meat, until saint Alban amended it. And gave them a charter of the king and his council for to hold a general council, and gave it the name of assembly; And there at he was himself; and helped to make Masons, and gave them charges, as you shall hear afterwards.

Part Fifteen – Athelstan and Edwin

Athelstan                      Edwin

Right soon after the decease of Saint Alban there came great wars into England of divers nations, So that the good rule of Masonry was destroyed until the time of King Athelstan, that was a worthy King in England, and brought the land into good rest and peace, and builded many great works of abbeys and castles and divers other buildings. And he loved well Masons, and he had a son that was Edwin, and he loved Masons much more than his father did.  And he was a great practiser in Geometry, wherefore he drew him much to commune and talk with Masons, and to learn of them the Craft. And afterward, for love that he had to Masons and to the Craft, he was made a mason. And he got of the King his father a charter and a commission, to hold every year once an assembly where they would within the realm, and to correct within themselves faults and trespasses that were done within the Craft. And he held himself an assembly at York; and there he made Masons, and gave them charges, and taught them manners, and commanded that rule to be holden ever after, and gave them the charter and commission to keep, and made an ordinance that it should be renewed from King to King.

 

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A tentative reconstruction of a “Standard Original” version of the Old Charges – Part 1 of 3

 

A tentative reconstruction of a “Standard Original” version of the Old Charges

Taken from the 1986 Prestonian Lecture “The Old Charges”

Dr Wallace McLeod

By Dr. Wallace McLeod

Introduction by Bro. Mike Lawrence

The Old Charges or Gothic Constitutions, to which they are occasionally referred, is the collective name given to a group of hand written (many being copied from even older versions) documents or old manuscripts, which were found mainly in England and dating from about 1390 A.D.  There over 110 copies of these old texts, approximately 75 were written before 1717, four date from about 1600, one from 1583, one from 1410 and one, as previously noted, from 1390.

They tend to fall into two categories, with the early versions written, it would appear, for the guidance and instruction of working stonemasons, and the later versions, several of which originate from Scotland and Ireland, which introduce a more ceremonial approach and produced probably to act as an aide memoire for the lodge or lodge Officers.

The early versions have a distinct working mason or operative theme about them and include a legendary history of the art of Geometry, which changes to Masonry, but not in the Masonic sense as we understand the term. However, Freemasons have adopted these documents as their own and many of the words and phrases are familiar to us and can be found in our modern-day ritual.

Finally, as to the historical accuracy of the earlier manuscripts, I can only refer to the words used by Robert Plot in his 1686 work entitled, The Natural History of Staffordshire, when he says in paragraph 88, regarding the author of the “scrole” to which he had been reading: “So very much out was the Compiler of this History of the craft of masonry, and so little skill had he in our Chronicles and Laws”.

This tradition of “enhancing” our history was carried on by no less than Dr. James Anderson himself, for during the Grand Mastership of the Duke of Montagu when “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” (Douglas Knoop and G.P.Jones, The Genesis of Freemasonry, published by Q.C. Correspondence Circle Ltd., 1978 edition, p.160)

Anderson did exactly that and had an absolute field day with the legendary history contained in these old manuscripts and that is more than evident by the fantastic fictional history he produced in the 1738 Book of Constitutions. In fact, by that date, he had secured the history so firmly that the Society of Free and Accepted Masons could now trace it origins from Adam to the 1717 revival.  Additionally, any English monarch or historical character that had in any manner patronised architects or masons was listed as a Grand Master or Grand Warden.

But a discourse on the accuracy of these, or subsequent manuscripts and papers is not called for here, but rather a clear and concise demonstration of how one might have been received into the stone mason’s trade in the fourteenth or fifteenth century.

Part One – The Invocation

The might of the Father of Heaven, with the wisdom of the glorious Son, through the grace and goodness of the Holy Ghost, that be three persons in one Godhead, be with us at our beginning, and give us grace so to govern us here in our living that we may come to His Bliss that never shall have ending. Amen.

Part Two – Purpose and Contents

Good Brethren and Fellows, our purpose is to tell you how and in what manner this worthy Craft of Masonry was begun, and afterwards how it was founded by worthy kings and princes, and many other worshipful men; And also to them that be here we will declare the charge that belongeth to every true mason to keep. For in good faith, an ye take heed thereto, it is well worthy to be kept for a worthy craft and a curious science.

Part Three – The Seven Liberal Sciences

Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences

For there be seven liberal sciences, of the which it is one of them, and the names of the seven sciences be these. The first is Grammar, that teacheth a man to speak truly and to write truly. The second is Rhetoric, that teacheth a man to speak fair and in subtle terms. The third is Dialectic, that teacheth a man to discern or know truth from falsehood. The forth is Arithmetic, that teacheth a man to reckon and account all manner of numbers. The fifth is Geometry, that teacheth a man mete and measure of the earth and all other things, of the which science is Masonry. The sixth is Music, that teacheth a man the craft of song, and voice of tongue, organ, harp and trumpet. The seventh is called Astronomy, that teacheth a man to know the course of the sun, moon and stars. 

Part Four – Geometry: The Fundamental Science

Geometry

These be the seven liberal sciences, the which seven be all found by one science, that is to say, Geometry. And thus may a man prove that all sciences of the world be found by Geometry. For it teacheth mete and measure, ponderation and weight, of all manner of things on earth. And there is no man that worketh any craft, but he worketh by some mete or measure; nor no man that buyeth or selleth, but by measure or weight, and all this is Geometry. And these merchants and craftsmen find all other of the seven sciences; and especially the ploughmen, and tillers of all manner of grain (both corn and seeds), vine planters, and setters of other fruits. For Grammar nor Rhetoric, nor Astronomy nor none of all the other sciences, can find a man measure or mete without Geometry. Wherefore me thinketh that science is most worthy that findeth all other.

Part Five – The Two Pillars

two pillars

How this worthy science was first begun I shall you tell.  Before Noah’s Flood there was a man that was called Lamech, as it is written in the Bible, in the fourth chapter of Genesis. And this Lamech had two wives, the one Ada and the other Stella. By his first wife Ada he got two sons, the one Jabel and the other Jubal. And by the other wife Stella he got a son and a daughter. And these four children found the beginning of all the crafts in the world. And his eldest son Jabel found the craft of Geometry; and he departed (divide or share) flocks of sheep, and lands in the field,  and first wrought a house of stone and tree, as it is noted in the chapter above said. And his brother Jubal found the craft of Music, song of tongue, harp, and organ. And the third brother Tubalcain found smith’s craft, of gold, silver, copper, iron, and steel. And the sister found the craft of weaving. And these children knew that God would take vengeance for sin, either by fire or water. Wherefore they wrote the sciences that they had found, in two pillars of stone, that they might be found after Noah’s Flood. And the one stone was marble, that would not burn with fire; and the other stone was called laterus, that would not drown in water.

Part Six – How the Pillars were found after the Flood

Our intent is to tell you truly how and in what manner these stones were found, that these sciences were written in. The great Hermarines, that was Chus’s son, the which Chus was son unto Shem, that was Noah’s son (the name Hermarines was afterwards called Hermes, the father of wise men), he found one of the two pillars of stone, and found the sciences written therein, and taught them to other man.

 

 

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