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The Mason Word – Part Six of Six

THE MASON WORD

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Bro. DOUGLAS KNOOP, M.A.

P.M. Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No. 2076

 The Prestonian Lecture for 1938

 Prepared in this format by Bro. Mike Lawrence

In part six we cover:

13) Twofold Origin of masonic Ceremonies

14) The Trinity College, Dublin MS

15) Influence of the Mason Word on Masonic Ceremonies.

 13) Twofold Origin of masonic Ceremonies

Nothing shows more clearly the twofold origin of masonic ceremonies than the oath set out in Sloane MS. 3329, by which the candidate swore to keep secret “the mason word and everything therein contained” and truly to observe “the Charges in the Constitution“. This confirms the Aberdeen practice, to which reference has already been made, that on the occasion when the Mason Word was communicated to an apprentice, a version of the MS. Constitutions of Masonry was read to him. At the end of another version of the MS. Constitutions of Masonry, known as the Harris No. 1 MS., which dates from the second half of the seventeenth century, there is a note referring to the secrets which must never be committed to writing, and the manner of communicating them. (I The Harris No. 1 MS. is printed in The Freemasons’ Chronicle, 30th December, 1922. The note is printed in Poole’s Old Charges, p. 23, as follows:‑Then let the prson wch is to be made a Mason chuse out of the Lodge any one Mason who is to instruct him in those Secrets wch must never be committed to Writeing which Mason he must alway Call his Tutor then let the Tutor take him into another Room and shew him all the whole Mistery that at his return he may Exercise with the rest of his fellow Masons.)

There is no evidence to show whether in the seventeenth century this MS. was used by operative masons or by “accepted” or “adopted” masons; but I am inclined to think it was the latter. That “accepted” or “adopted” masons in the later part of the seventeenth century did have secret signs and words is borne out by the contemporary statement of John Aubrey, the antiquary, who wrote in the second half of the century that members of the Fraternity of adopted masons were known to one another by certain signs and watchwords, and that the manner of their adoption was very formal and with an oath of secrecy. (John Aubrey (1624‑97), Natural History of Wiltshire, first printed in 1847)

It is confirmed also by a rough memorandum (Transcript and photographic reproduction in Coulthurst and Lawson, A.Q.C., Av., 69, and facing 74.)  referring to the several signs and words of a freemason, written by Randle Holme III. on a scrap of paper, now bound up with B. M. Harleian MS. 2054, close to the version of the MS. Constitutions of Masonry copied by him, with which it is thought to be connected, (This opinion, expressed by W. H. Rylands in the Masonic Magazine, January, 1882, is shared by Coulthurst and Lawson, A.Q.C., xlv.) both documents probably being associated with a Lodge of Freemasons held at Chester about the middle of the seventeenth century. That such signs and words were derived from the Mason Word of the operatives is strongly suggested by the fact that when Dr. Desaguliers, the prominent speculative mason, desired to visit the purely operative Lodge of Edinburgh in 1721, he was found “duly qualified in all points of masonry” and received as a brother. (Murray Lyon, 160, 161)

 14) The Trinity College, Dublin MS

On the subject of the connection between operative and speculative masonry, I wish finally to draw attention to the Trinity College, Dublin MS. (T.C.D. MS., 1, 4, 18. It is printed in the Transactions of the Lodge of Research, No. CC, Dublin, for 1924, also in Knoop, Jones and Hamer, The Early Masonic Catechisms, 2nd ed., pp. 69, 70. (Ist ed., pp. 63/4).) This bears the date 1711 in an endorsement, (I have seen only a photostat of the MS., but Dr. J. Gilbart Smyly, Librarian of Trinity College, Dublin, informs me that the endorsement is in the same hand and ink as the document itself, and that in his opinion there can be no doubt of the accuracy of the date.) and resembles the Edinburgh Register House, Graham, and Sloane MSS. in that it consists of a series of test questions and answers, together with a memorandum about signs and words.

Like the Edinburgh Register House MS., it appears to be a mason’s aide memoire; on the other hand, it is less operative in character, and may very possibly represent a link between the operative masonry of the seventeenth century and the speculative masonry of the eighteenth century. In support of this suggestion, three points may be noted:

(i) The endorsement on the MS. is “Free Masonry Feb: 1711”, though the term “Free Masonry” was rarely applied to the operative art, even in England.

(ii) Whereas operative masonry, so far as the Mason Word was concerned, apparently recognized only two classes of masons, viz., either entered apprentices and fellowcrafts, or fellowcrafts and masters, this MS. distinguishes three classes, viz., entered apprentices, fellow craftsmen, and masters, each with its own secrets. It is the earliest‑known MS. to make such a distinction. The probability is that during the early part of the eighteenth century, before Grand Lodges were formed and firmly established, a trigradal system developed gradually and independently in different parts of the country, by a division of the original entered apprentice ceremony, to form what ultimately became the First and Second Degree ceremonies. Brother Lionel Vibert, in his Prestonian Lecture for 1925 (The Development of the Trigradal System. See also his paper, “The Second Degree: A Theory”, A.Q.C., xxxix.) discussed this development, which he suggested took place in London about 1725. The reference in the Graham MS. of 1726 to being “entered, passed and raised and conformed by 3 severall Lodges” implies that three distinct ceremonies existed by 1726 in that district (probably the North of England) to which the Graham MS. belonged. It may quite well be that three distinct ceremonies existed there at an earlier date. Just as the surviving MSS. show considerable differences in the test questions and answers, and in the signs and words, so they indicate differences in the number of ceremonies. The Edinburgh Register House and Sloane MSS. refer to two ceremonies, the Trinity College, Dublin and Graham MSS. to three. Such differences are not astonishing, as no uniformity should be looked for before Grand Lodges were firmly established and capable of exercising a unifying influence.

(iii) The history of the document suggests the possibility that the MS. had a non‑operative origin. The manuscript is contained in one of the volumes of collected papers of Sir Thomas Molyneux (1661‑1733), a famous Dublin doctor and scientist and, in the opinion of Dr. J. Gilbart Smyly, Librarian of Trinity College, Dublin, (Expressed in a letter written to me, 23rd November, 1937, in reply to certain questions.) was quite possibly written by Molyneux. As the earliest reference to a Lodge of Freemasons in Ireland relates to Trinity College, Dublin, in 1688, (Lepper and Crossle, History of the Grand Lodge . . . of Ireland, 36. The late Bro. Chetwode Crawley discovered this reference to Irish masonry in a Trinity College, Dublin manuscript (T.C.D. MS. I, 5, 1), a Tripos [i.e. satirical speech] at the commencements of the University of Dublin, 11th July, 1688. He announced his discovery in his Introduction to Sadler’s Masonic Reprints and Revelations. Dr. J. Gilbart Smyly informs me that it has been published in full by Dr. John Barrett in an Essay on the earlier part of the Life of Swift, and in Jonathan Swift, Works, edited by Sir W. Scott, vol. vi., pp. 226‑60.) it is conceivable that there was a Lodge in Dublin in 1711, although no reference to freemasonry in Ireland in the first two decades of the eighteenth century can be traced. (3 Lepper and Crossle, 41)  If such a Lodge existed, Molyneux may well have belonged to it.

15) Influence of the Mason Word on Masonic Ceremonies

Whether or not the Trinity College, Dublin MS. represents a first link in one line of evolution of operative into speculative masonry, I am satisfied that the nucleus of the present First and Third Degree ceremonies can clearly be traced back to the somewhat crude usages and phrases associated before the end of the seventeenth century with the giving of the Mason Word. It apparently grew under speculative influence during the eighteenth century, until it developed into complete ceremonies. This was probably brought about partly by elaborating the content of the ceremonies, partly by embellishing the wording of the ritual, partly by laying more stress on some matters, such as the fidelity of Hiram in refusing to betray the secrets of a master mason, and less stress on others, such as the attempt to obtain a secret from a dead body, and partly by dropping or modifying operative rules and regulations, and developing instead moral teachings, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.

The process of expansion and evolution apparently went on right through the eighteenth century. I have no intention, however, of attempting to trace that development, a subject to which Bro. Vibert devoted considerable attention in his Prestonian Lecture. I shall content myself with observing that a great elaboration must have taken place by the last quarter of the eighteenth century, when William Preston, in successive editions of his Illustrations of Masonry, wrote his commentary on the then existing masonic ritual.

It was probably not until after the union of the two Grand Lodges in 1813 that our ceremonies attained to something approximating to their present form. By that time the influence exercised by the Mason Word had receded so much into the background as to be in danger of being entirely overlooked. My endeavour this evening has been to give it the recognition which, in my opinion, it deserves.

 

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The Mason Word – Part Five of Six

THE MASON WORD

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Bro. DOUGLAS KNOOP, M.A.

P.M. Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No. 2076

The Prestonian Lecture for 1938

Prepared in this format by Bro. Mike Lawrence

In part five we cover:

11) The Mason Word

12) The Age of the Mason Word

 11) The Mason Word

Both the Noah and the Hiram stories show that those engaged in the search did not find “the very thing itself”, or “the word”, for which they were looking, and that they had consequently to content themselves with substitutes.

This suggests the possibility that there was a genuine secret somewhere in the background, which might conceivably be THE Mason Word, to which no kind of direct reference appears to be made in any of the MSS. It is doubtless very tempting, on the strength of such hints as can be gathered from the limited material available and by reading between the lines, to conjecture what THE Mason Word was, and who shared a knowledge of it, always assuming that there was such a word.

As the MS. Constitutions of Masonry and the manuscripts which we have more particularly in mind this evening, all refer, directly or indirectly, to Jewish history, there would appear to be a presumption that THE Mason Word was connected in some way with the Scriptures, and it is conceivable, in view of the complete silence on the subject of the MSS., that it was the Name of God, which according to Jewish tradition was never to be pronounced.

If this was so, THE Mason Word was very possibly communicated amongst masons solely by means of a sign. In support of this very tentative surmise, it may be pointed out that the idea of a dread Demogorgon who was not to be named, occurs in sixteenth and seventeenth century literature both in Scotland and England, as can be illustrated from the writings of Sir David Lindsay (14901555), (Sir David Lindsay, Works, ed. D. Hamer, L, 266 [Monarche, i., 2253], and III., 331, where the matter is fully discussed)  Spenser (1552‑99), (Spenser, Faerie Queene, L, xxxvii., 7‑9, refers to Gorgon as the deity whose name may not be used)  Milton (1608‑74) (Milton, Paradise Lost, 11. 959) and Dryden (1631‑1700). (Dryden’s rendering of The Flower and the Leaf, in Poems, Oxford ed., p. 333)

Fascinating though such speculations may be, I mention the possibility of THE Mason Word only to show that it has not been overlooked. My object this evening is the much more prosaic task of attempting to give an account of the Mason Word as an operative institution, and to use such matter‑of‑fact evidence as is available, to construct a picture of the institution and the conditions governing its operation.

In this connection it must be borne in mind that the Mason Word was something of great practical importance to Scottish operative masons; so much so, that early in the eighteenth century one Lodge actually went to law to secure the right to give the Mason Word. (The Lodge of the Yourneymen Masons, Edinburgh (Murray Lyon, ch. xvi., and Seggie and Turnbull, Annals of the Lodge of journeymen Masons, No. 8, ch. i.).) It was part of the machinery for preventing unqualified masons from working in the burghs, and corresponded to the steps taken by the London Masons’ Company to preserve their monopoly of trade in the City. (The London Mason in the Seventeenth Century, 10.)

There was, however, this important difference: the London regulations aimed at restraining, if not entirely preventing, “foreign” masons, i.e. masons who were not freemen of the city, from carrying on their trade in London, whereas the object of the Mason Word was to check so‑called “cowans” (Cowan: One who builds dry stone walls‑applied derogatorily to one who does the work of a mason, but has not been regularly apprenticed or bred to the trade…. In 1705 Mother Kilwinning Lodge defined the Cowan as a Mason “without the word” (O.E.D.).) from doing the work of qualified masons. I know of no evidence to show that the Mason Word was in use amongst English operative masons, and think it quite possible that it was through the non‑operative members of Scottish Lodges that English “accepted” or “adopted” masons first became acquainted with the subject.

 12) The Age of the Mason Word

Although it is almost certain that the area to which the Mason Word applied was Scotland, its age as an institution is more problematical: there is mention of it in seventeenth century minute books of certain Scottish operative lodges; (Murray Lyon, 22) the earliest‑known printed reference to it occurs in Henry Adamson’s The Muses’ Threnodie, a metrical account of Perth and its neighbourhood, published in Edinburgh in 1638: (Henry Adamson, a Master of Arts and well‑known citizen of Perth, was very possibly a non‑operative member of the Lodge of Scoon and Perth, No. 3 (Crawford Smith, 41, 42).) “We have the Mason Word and second sight”. This clearly implies that the Mason Word was a well-established institution in Scotland by 1638. If, as appears likely, it was a privilege associated with the termination of an apprenticeship, or the admission to a fellowship, it might be as old as the system of apprenticeship. In London that system dates from the early thirteenth century, and outside London from the late thirteenth century, but no reference to a mason’s apprentice in England and Wales has been traced before the end of the fourteenth century.’ (The Medieval Mason, 160, 161)

How early the apprenticeship of masons developed in Scotland, I am unable to say, but as the Seal of Cause of 1475, which regulated the trades of the Masons and Wrights in Edinburgh, (Murray Lyon, 248)  provided for a seven years’ apprenticeship, it is possible that the Mason Word as an institution in Scotland goes back to the fifteenth century.

In England the earliest‑known printed reference occurs in 1672 in Andrew Marvell’s Rehearsal Transprosed, part i. : “As those that have the Mason’s word secretly discern one another”. (Grosart’s edition of Marvell’s Works, vol. iii., p. 55, quoted in Misc. Lat., N.S., xvii., 134)

I am disposed to think that the scope of the Mason Word gradually grew; I have already suggested that the imparting of secret methods of recognition to entered apprentices was probably a new development at some date prior to 1598; I am also inclined to think that an elaboration of the secrets imparted to fellowcrafts took place during the seventeenth century.

In Scotland in 1696, to judge by the Edinburgh Register House MS., before a candidate could be admitted to the fellowship, all apprentices had to retire, doubtless because the candidate, after being instructed outside by the youngest master, had to re‑enter the company, make the master’s sign, and advance and put himself into the “posture” to receive the word, which was given him by the Master, together with the grip. In 1598, the Schaw Statutes, which were to be observed by all master masons in Scotland, provided that two entered apprentices, in addition to six masters or fellows, should be present at the admission of a fellow, which implies that the admission at the end of the sixteenth century must have been different from what it was at the end of the seventeenth, as the master’s sign could not be made, nor the posture assumed, in the presence of two entered apprentices, though a word might have been communicated in a whisper. The presumption, therefore, is that there was no “pasture” in 1598, and if, as seems likely, the “posture” implied the “five points of fellowship”, then it follows that the “five points”, together with the story explaining them, were probably not associated with the Mason Word in 1598.

The practices connected with the communication of the Mason Word probably changed quite as much during the seventeenth century as did masonic ceremonies during the eighteenth, a matter to which I shall refer shortly. As a possible explanation of seventeenth century development, I would tentatively suggest that the five points of fellowship may have been introduced from witchcraft or folklore, without any explanation being given in the first instance, Scottish working men at that period being not unacquainted with such practices. In the second half of the century, to judge by the dates of most of the surviving Scottish versions of the MS. Constitutions of Masonry,  the Scottish lodges adopted the Old Charges and caused them to be read to the entered apprentices at their admission. (Miller, 21)

It is not inconceivable that in order to provide the fellowcrafts with some kind of corresponding history, and perhaps to supply an explanation of the “five points” for the benefit of the increasing number of non‑operative masons, (e.g. at Aberdeen in 1670 the non‑operatives largely outnumbered the operatives (ibid., 23).) a story was elaborated. This was possibly done, in part at least, by the utilization of existing traditions. The Noah story, with its distinctly necromantic flavour, would doubtless be formulated first; the Hiram story, further removed from witchcraft, but, in its oldest‑known form, very similar in its motifs to the Noah story, would follow later. In each case, a very minor character in the legendary history of the MS. Constitutions of Masonry was made the principal figure of the story.

That the secrets and “five points of fellowship”, communicated to fellowcrafts or masters, were a relatively late development, is also suggested by the fact that the so‑called Master’s Part (the prototype of the present Third Degree ceremony) was worked but little, if at all, in England at the time of the formation of Grand Lodge in 1717, or for some years afterwards. (Hughan, Origin of the English Rite (1925), 38 folg.)  It is, therefore, possible that just as a knowledge of the MS. Constitutions of Masonry was probably introduced from England into Scotland during the earlier part of the seventeenth century, (Vibert, “The Early Freemasonry of England and Scotland”, A.Q.C., xliii., 208) after the union of the two Crowns, or possibly during the reign of Elizabeth so a knowledge of the Mason Word may have been introduced from Scotland into England about the same period, before the elaboration of the ceremony associated with the giving of the Mason Word had taken place.

Thus many masons in England in the later seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries might be acquainted only with the older secrets and practices which in Scotland by that date had come to be associated with the giving of the Mason Word to entered apprentices, and might be ignorant of the newer and more carefully guarded and elaborate secrets restricted to fellowcrafts or masters.

On the other hand, if we are right in assuming that Sloane MS. 3329 was in the first instance derived from English sources, the master’s word was known to some masons in England as early as circa 1700. It may be noted, also, that although the Sloane MS., like the Edinburgh Register House MS., recognizes a twofold series of secrets, the Sloane MS. associates them with (i) fellowcrafts and (ii) masters, whereas the Edinburgh MS. associates them with (i) entered apprentices and (ii) fellowcrafts or masters. As already indicated, there are grounds for thinking that originally the Mason Word was communicated only to fellowcrafts, and it may be that whilst in Scotland the old secrets came ultimately to be communicated to entered apprentices and new secrets to fellowcrafts or masters, in England the old secrets were retained for communication to fellows and new ones were given to masters.

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The Mason Word – Part Four of Six

THE MASON WORD

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Bro. DOUGLAS KNOOP, M.A.

P.M. Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No. 2076

 The Prestonian Lecture for 1938

Prepared in this format by Bro. Mike Lawrence

In part four we cover:

9) The possible origin of the Noah and Hiram Stories

10) The Sloane MS. 3329

9) The possible origin of the Noah and Hiram Stories

The marked similarities between the Noah story and the Hiram story, in its oldest known form, are very striking; both have the same main motif, the attempt to obtain a secret from a dead body, and both have the same subsidiary motif‑the intention, to provide a substituted secret, failing the discovery of a genuine one. Where either story originally came from, or how it became associated with masonry, is unknown.

It is, however, possible that the Noah story had some connection with the narrative, in Genesis, ix., 21‑27, of the shaming of Noah, to which it is in some respects parallel. In Genesis, Noah was asleep; in the Graham MS. story he was dead; but the exposure of his person in the former story, and the exhumation of his body in the latter, both offended against the respect due to a progenitor. In Genesis, Ham was the chief offender, on which account his progeny was cursed, and he is perhaps also to be regarded as the ringleader in the original of the Graham MS. story.

The stories of Noah and Hiram call to mind the fact that in Biblical instances of the miraculous restoration of life, the prophet or apostle lay full length upon the body and breathed into its face. Three cases are cited in the Bible, namely, those of Elijah, who raised the widow’s son from death (1 Kings, xvii., 17‑23), of Elisha, who raised the son of the Shunammite woman (2 Kings, iv., 34‑35), and of St. Paul, who raised a young man named Eutychus (Acts, xx., 9‑12).

In the second case the process is described in detail:

34. And he [Elisha] went up, and lay upon the child, and put his mouth upon his mouth, and his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands: and he stretched himself upon the child; and the flesh of the child waxed warm.

35. Then he returned, and walked in the house to and fro; and went up, and stretched himself upon him; and the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes.

Here complete coincidence between living and dead was established twice, first by placing mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes and hands to hands, and secondly, by stretching at full length upon the body. It is thus not impossible that the original stories of Noah and Hiram may have been those of attempts to restore these men to life, because their secrets had died with them.

The Biblical examples show that the idea of complete coincidence of living and dead was to restore the dead to life. This would develop into necromantic practices, and in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the idea would survive only as necromancy. (Necromancy: the pretended art of revealing future events, etc., by means of communication with the dead (O.E.D.).)

It would seem not inconceivable that one story was modelled on the other, and that the original story rested on an old tradition connecting Ham, son of Noah, with magic and the black arts. The disinterment of Noah was clearly an act of necromancy, and it is therefore pertinent to note that Ham, son of Noah, is connected in medieval tradition, if not with necromancy in its narrower sense, at any rate with the black arts. (cf. Vincent de Beauvais, Speculum Historiale, book ii, chap. Ci.)

The tradition associating Ham with necromancy survived as late as the sixteenth century, when it was found in an English work, Reginald Scot, Discoverie of Witchcraft (1586). (In this book (ed. Montague Summers, p. 222) it is said of the devil Gaap, or Tap, that “certaine necromancers . . . offered sacrifices and burnt‑offerings unto him and to call him up they exercised an art saieng that Salomon the wise made it, which is false; for it was rather Cham, the sonne of Noah who after the floud began first to invocate wicked spirits”.) It may further be noted that the five points of fellowship, suggesting as they do that two bodies were made to coincide, presumably with the object of the knowledge possessed by one passing to the other, also savour of popular superstition, and they support the possibility that the origin of the story must be sought in witchcraft or folklore. The fact that the Mason Word was linked by at least two seventeenth century Scottish writers, Henry Adamson and Robert Kirk, with the subject of second sight, conceivably points to the same conclusion. (Thus (i.) Henry Adamson (The Muses’ Threnodie, Edinburgh, 1638) says: “We have the mason word and second sight”. (ii.) When Rev. R. Kirk dined in October, 1689, with Dr. Stillingfleet, Bishop‑elect of Worcester, the conversation turned on second sight. In the midst of the record of that conversation occurs the sentence: “The Dr. called the Mason word a Rabbinical mystery, where I discovered somewhat of it” (R. Kirk, London in 1689‑90, printed in Trans. Lond. and Mid. Arch. Soc. N.S. VII. (1933), 139). (iii.) R. Kirk in The Secret Commonwealth (1933 ed., 107‑8) enumerates five curiosities in Scotland “not much observed to be elsewhere”: (a) The Brounies, (b) The Mason Word, (c) Second Sight, (d) Charmes, (e) A being Proof of Lead, Iron and Silver. Whether this association is a mere coincidence, or whether it implies some kind of connection and, if so, what, there is no evidence to show.)

 10) The Sloane MS. 3329

Yet one other manuscript relating to the Mason Word, namely, Sloane MS. 3329,(This British Museum MS. consists of a double sheet, written on three and a half sides, bound up in a large volume, on the fly‑leaf of which Sir Hans Sloane has written: “Loose papers of mine concerning curiosities”.) calls for attention. This tract is headed “A Narrative of the Freemasons word and signes”, and differs in character from the Edinburgh Register House MS. and the Graham MS., as it does not appear to be a mason’s aide mimoire, but a collection of notes on the Mason Word, apparently gathered by the writer from various sources. It contains:

(i) an account of a dozen signs by which an operative mason could make himself known to a fellow mason.

(ii) a description of a fellowcraft’s grip and of a master’s grip, the latter in two forms.

(iii) two series of questions and answers, resembling those of the Edinburgh Register House and Graham MS.

(iv) a brief reference to the master’s word, mahabyn and the method of communicating it.

(v) an oath.

Mahabyn is very possibly a variant of matchpin, which is given as the master’s word in the Trinity College, Dublin MS.

The fact that the signs and words are associated in the Sloane MS. with operative freemasons, strongly suggests an immediate English source for the document, the word “freemason” being unknown in Scotland as a trade designation; the reference to “interprintices” [entered apprentices] and fellowcrafts, on the other hand, points to an ultimate Scottish origin, as these terms were used only in Scotland in operative masonry; the word “attenders” [intenders], which occurs in the oath, also suggests Scottish origin, as the practice of appointing intenders to be responsible for teaching entered apprentices (Intender, intendar: occurs in this sense in the Laws and Statutes of the Lodge of Aberdeen, 1670, and in the Schaw Statutes, 1598, as well as in the Minutes of the Aitchison’s Haven Lodge. Craigie, Dict. Older Scottish Tongue, defines Attender, Attendar, “One who attends on another, or to some duty”.)

did not extend to England, so far as I am aware. The use of the expression “this is bose or hollow” also suggests a Scottish origin. (See Wright, English Dialect Dictionary, under boss; also Craigie, op. cit., which gives bos, boys, bose, bois, adj., hollow, concave, perhaps from bos, boce, etc., etc., a leather bottle for liquids.) Dr. Schofield, of the British Museum Manuscripts Department, who recently examined the manuscript, gives the date as circa 1700.

As we know from the Edinburgh Register House MS. that a master’s word and sign existed at least as early as 1696, there is nothing in the document which makes this date improbable, (The late Brother J. Walter Hobbs stated some years ago that the earliest instance he had been able to trace of certain words which occur in the oath, namely “without any manner of equivocation or mentall reservation”, was in the Sovereign’s Accession Oath as revised by Parliament for use on the accession of James II. in 1685 (A.Q.C., xxxvii., 36), which suggests, if it does no more, that the Sloane MS. is not earlier than 1685. On the other hand, Brother Poole (ibid., 8) refers to the suggestion made by Findel [History of Freemasonry (1869), 118 n.], which he regards as not altogether impossible, that the Sloane MS. was among the papers Plot had before him when compiling his History of Staffordshire (1686). The grounds for making the suggestion are: (i.) that no earlier document is known especially mentioning that a Brother must come down, even “from the top of a steeple”, and answer a sign, and (ii.) that in at least one place the Plot account agrees practically verbatim with the Sloane M.S.) though the distinction drawn between the terms “fellowcraft” and “master” is not found in Scotland at such an early date. The five points of fellowship, as such, are not mentioned in the Sloane MS., but the method of communicating the master’s word, as described there, embodies four of the points.

 

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The Mason Word – Part Three of Six

THE MASON WORD

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Bro. DOUGLAS KNOOP, M.A.

P.M. Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No. 2076

The Prestonian Lecture for 1938

 Prepared in this format by Bro. Mike Lawrence

 

In part three we cover:

5) Relative age of the two ceremonies

6) The Five Points of Fellowship

7) The Graham MS. and the Noah Story

8) Prichard’s Masonry Dissected and the Hiram Story

 

5) Relative age of the two ceremonies.

Regarding the second question, the considerations I have just mentioned suggest the conclusion that the giving of the Mason Word originally concerned fellowcrafts only, and that the participation in it of entered apprentices was a later development. When such development took place is uncertain; very possibly it occurred when the category of entered apprentices, intermediate between apprentices and fellowcrafts, was first established, probably at some date prior to 1598. It doubtless represented an attempt to limit the number of potential masters, which rather suggests that it originated in the sixteenth century, a period when many gilds tended to develop restrictive policies.

The Minutes of Aitchison’s Haven Lodge (R. E. Wallace‑James, “The Minute Book of the Aitchison’s Haven Lodge, 1598‑1764,” A.Q.C., xxiv.)  show that as early as 1598, when a new entered apprentice was admitted, he chose two entered apprentices as his intenders and instructors, and when a new fellowcraft was admitted he chose two fellowcrafts as his intenders and instructors. If these intenders corresponded to the “youngest mason” and the “youngest master” of the Edinburgh Register House MS., who taught the candidates the signs and postures, then it may well be that there were two sets of secrets in 1598, and that it was these which the intenders imparted to the newly admitted entered apprentices and fellowcrafts respectively.

On the other hand, it must be noted that, whereas the Schaw Statutes of 1598 required the name and mark of every fellowcraft or master to be booked (there being no corresponding stipulation concerning the entered apprentice, who presumably had no mark), at Aberdeen in 1670 the names and marks of entered apprentices, as well as those of fellowcrafts, were recorded in the Mark Book. This suggests that the entered apprentice of 1670 enjoyed more privileges than his predecessor of 1598, but does not preclude the latter from having enjoyed some privileges.

If the giving of the Mason Word originally concerned fellowcrafts only, as I am inclined to think, the question at once arises whether the secrets and ceremony appertaining to apprentices were new, or whether they were those previously given to fellowcrafts. The words of entry, being common to apprentices and fellowcrafts, apart from the omission of a reference to the “common judge”, were almost certainly old, and the same is probably true of the test questions and answers. I think it not unlikely that any signs and words were also old, and that it was the fellowcrafts who had been provided with new and more elaborate methods of recognition. To explain why I incline to this view, it is necessary to examine more closely what is known about the Mason Word in relation to fe1lowcrafts.

 6) The Five Points of Fellowship

As previously mentioned, the Edinburgh Register House MS. tells little about the giving of the Mason Word to fellowcrafts, but the last question and answer clearly show that the person to be “admitted a member of fellowship” was made acquainted with what are called the five points of the fellowship, viz., foot to foot, head to head, heart to heart, hand to hand and ear to ear.

Further light, however, is thrown on the subject by the recently discovered Graham MS., which bears the date 1726. (This is named after the writer, Thomas Graham, and belonged to the Rev. H. I. Robinson, Londesborough Rectory, York, who first drew attention to it when he was initiated in 1936. He has since presented it to the Eboracum Lodge, York. A photographic reproduction, with introduction by Bro. Poole, appears in A.Q.C., vol. 1. (1937).)

7) The Graham MS. and the Noah Story

The Graham MS. appears to be the same type of document as the Edinburgh Register House MS., namely, a mason’s aide memoire, although it bears quite a different heading, viz., “The whole Institutions of free Masonry opened and proved by the best of tradition and still some reference to scripture”.

It consists of two parts, the first an examination, along somewhat similar lines to the Edinburgh MS., the second, an exposition, in the form of a “lecture”, of legendary matter, chiefly concerning Noah, Bezaleel and King Solomon, which bears little resemblance to the events recorded in the historical section of the MS. Constitutions of Masonry.

Before referring more fully to the legendary matter, I should state that the Graham MS. concludes with a cryptic reference to masons’ secrets, and an enumeration of what are called “five points off free Masons fellowshipe which is foot to foot, knee to knee, breast to breast, cheeck to cheeck and hand to Back”.

The reference to freemasons’ secrets reads thus :

So all [i.e. King Solomon’s Temple] Being ffinised then was the secrets of ffree Masonry ordered a right as is now and will be to the E End of the world for such as do rightly understand it‑in 3 parts, in refferance to the blesed trinity who made all things yet in 13 brenches, in refferance to Christ and his 12 apostles which is as ffollows; aword ffor adeveine, (A devine: ? a Divinity) Six ffor the clargey, and 6 ffor the ffellow craft.

The “three parts” conceivably refer to the three Degrees, which, as I shall attempt to show later, probably existed by 1726. I have no suggestions to offer regarding the “13 branches”, which, near the end of the MS., are set out thus:

 Your first is

your second is             your third is

……….                                    ………..

your twelfth is                         your thirteenth is

More important for our present purpose is the enumeration of the “five points of free Masons fellowshipe”, as the occurrence of the same five points in the legendary matter relating to Noah doubtless provides one possible explanation of their origin. The rather gruesome story is briefly as follows:

Noah’s three sons, desirous of finding something about him to lead them to the valuable secret which their father had possessed, for all things needful for the new world were in the Ark with Noah, went to Noah’s grave, agreeing beforehand that if they did not find the very thing itself, the first thing they found was to be to them as a secret. They found nothing in the grave except the dead body; when the finger was gripped it came away, and so with the wrist and the elbow. They then reared up the dead body, supporting it by setting foot to foot, knee to knee, breast to breast, cheek to cheek and hand to back. Thereupon “one said here is yet marrow in this bone and the second said but a dry bone and the third said it stinketh.2 So they agreed to give it a name as it is known to freemasonry to this day”. (It stinketh: possibly descendant of medieval and sixteenth century satires on relics. cf. The Four P P, ptd. ? 1545, of John Heywood (1497‑1580), in which the Pardoner offers the Apothecary the “blessed jaw‑bone” of All Hallows, and bids him kiss it devoutedly. The Apothecary does so and recoils with disgust. “…me‑thinketh That All Hallows’ breath stinketh.)

The bone, being the first thing found, must presumably have some significance. Whether the phrase “marrow in this bone” is significant is not so certain. It may be noted that the word marrow, in addition to its ordinary meaning, had certainly another, and possibly a symbolic meaning, for Scottish masons. It was used in Northern Middle English, and in Scotland down to the nineteenth century, to denote “partner”, “fellow”, “mate”, and it is not uncommon in that sense in sixteenth and seventeenth century Scottish building accounts. (e.g. “Item to Thom Crauford and his m[ar]rowis for 343 feet ashlar ú5 17s. 10d.” Edinburgh Register House, Master of Works Accounts, vol. iv., fo. 7, Holyrood House, 1535‑36.)  “Here is yet marrow in this bone” may thus have been a reminder that fellowship was of the essence of masonry. It is also possible that “marrow in this bone” may have been intended to serve as a mnemonic.

 8) Prichard’s Masonry Dissected and the Hiram Story

Another possible explanation of the five points of fellowship is provided by a story relating to Hiram, of which the oldest‑known form is that in Prichard’s Masonry Dissected, first published in 1730. (Masonic Reprints XII, Lodge of Research, Leicester, 1929)

According to this version of the story, three masons murdered Hiram, King Solomon’s master of the works at the building of the Temple, in an attempt to extort from him the secrets of a master mason. On his being missed, fifteen fellowcrafts were ordered to search for him, and they agreed that if they did not find the word in or about him, the first word should be the master’s word.

Ultimately his body was found under a covering of green moss, (The statement that the body was found “under a covering of green moss” may be compared with the statement in the Edinburgh. Register House MS. that the key of the Lodge is hidden “under a perpend esler and a green divot”) and King Solomon ordered that it should be taken up and decently buried. When they took him by the forefinger the skin came off, whereupon they took a firmer grip of his hand and raised him by the five points of fellowship, viz., hand to hand, foot to foot, cheek to cheek, knee to knee and hand to back.

 

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The Mason Word – Part Two of Six

THE MASON WORD

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Bro. DOUGLAS KNOOP, M.A.

P.M. Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No. 2076

 The Prestonian Lecture for 1938

Prepared in this format by Bro. Mike Lawrence

In part two we cover:

3)Two Distinct Ceremonies in 1696

4) Entered Apprentices and their Secrets

3) Two Distinct Ceremonies in 1696

Reverting to our MS., it may be noted that at the conclusion of what may be described as the ceremony, the word was circulated amongst those present and was finally given to the candidate by the Master. These signs and words were those of an entered apprentice, and, as the MS. points out, there were others belonging to a master mason or fellowcraft, which were imparted as follows:

First, all apprentices were ordered out of the company and none suffered to stay but masters. Then “he who is to be admitted a member of fellowship” knelt and took an oath of secrecy, after which he went out with the youngest master to learn “the posture and signes of fellowship”. On returning, he made the master’s sign and said the former words of entry, but leaving out the “common judge”; the masons then whispered the word among themselves, and finally the master gave him the word and the grip.

There is nothing in the MS. as to the nature of the master’s sign, word or grip, though some indications are given regarding the apprentice’s secrets.

The fact that in 1696 there were two distinct ceremonies, if they may be so described, one applying to entered apprentices and one to fellowcrafts or masters, raises two questions: first, who were the entered apprentices, and secondly, whether or not both ceremonies were equally old?

 4) Entered Apprentices and their Secrets

The object of obtaining the Mason Word was presumably to acquire a method of recognition, and thereby secure certain advantages in the matter of employment, and possibly of relief. (Murray Lyon, 28, and Miller, 30. It may be noted that masons were not the only craftsmen to possess a “word”. The squaremen, i.e. wrights, and possibly members of other building crafts, received the “squaremen word” (Murray Lyon, 23). O.E.D. defines squareman as “A carpenter, stone cutter or other workman who regularly uses a square for adjusting or testing his work”, and notes its earliest occurrence as 1790. Actually, one of the signatories of the so‑called St. Clair charter of 1628 describes himself as “deakin of squaemen”. (Murray Lyon, 68).

Ordinary apprentices were not free to seek work independently of the masters to whom they were bound, (In London in the seventeenth century apprentices sometimes worked apart from their masters, but probably only on jobs to which they had been sent by them (Knoop and Jones, The London Mason in the Seventeenth Century, 64, 65). and would therefore have no need of secret methods of recognition. Nor would they require relief, since their masters maintained them. The apprentice who was given the Mason Word could not, therefore, have been an ordinary apprentice. The explanation probably lies in the fact that in Scotland in the seventeenth century, and possibly earlier, apprentices and entered apprentices apparently formed two distinct classes or grades, (A Minute of the Aitchison’s Haven Lodge, dated 27th December, 1655 (A.Q.C., xxiv., 41), records that apprentices were not to be made entered apprentices under the sum of twelve pounds Scots.) the entered apprentices hardly being apprentices at all in the ordinary sense of the word, but rather journeymen ex‑apprentices.

In Scotland, the Schaw Statutes of 1598 (Printed in Murray Lyon, 9, and Knoop and Jones, The Medieval Mason, 258.)  provided that an apprentice must be bound for at least seven years, and that, except by special permission, a further period of seven years must elapse before he could be made a fellowcraft. During this second term of seven years, (Cases of masons serving double apprenticeships occurred in England in the seventeenth century. Thus Richard Varney of Islip, stonemason, examined in the Chancellor’s Court at Oxford, 26th April, 1681, stated that “he served his father (though he was his eldest son) more than a double apprenticeship”; John Saunders of Denton, stonemason, stated, on the same occasion, that he had served his father a double apprenticeship. (Abstract (very kindly lent to G. P. Jones and myself by the Rev. H. E. Salter) of papers labelled “1681 M” in the Oxford University Archives.] These double apprenticeships, however, were hardly analogous to the Scottish practice of apprenticeship and entered apprenticeship.) or less, as the case might be, the ex‑apprentice was apparently an entered apprentice, and normally worked as a journeyman for a master, though the Schaw Statutes did permit an entered apprentice to undertake a limited amount of work on his own account.

That this general ordinance applied locally is shown by the Mutual Agreement of 1658, which regulated the affairs of the Lodge of Perth. (Crawford Smith, chap. v.)  This provided that no entered apprentice should leave his master or masters to take any work or task work above 40s. Scots. Further, it was expressly provided that he was not to take an apprentice.

At Kilwinning in 1659, two fellowcrafts and one entered apprentice out of each quarter, together with the Deacon and Warden, were appointed to meet each year at Ayr to deal with transgressors. (Minute of the Lodge, dated 20th December, 1659, quoted in R. Wylie, History of the Mother Lodge, Kilwinning, 2nd ed., 60.)

At Melrose, the entered apprentices were parties to the Mutual Agreement of 1675, which regulated the affairs of the Lodge. (Printed in W. F. Vernon, History of Freemasonry in Roxburghshire and Selkirkshire, 13.)

At Aberdeen in 1670 the Laws and Statutes of the Lodge show that entered apprentices received the benefit of the Mason Word at their entry, (There is nothing in the Edinburgh Register House MS. to indicate when the entered apprentice received the benefit of the Mason Word. It merely refers to “the person to take the word”) and that they became eligible for the fellowship three years later; further, the Mark Book of the Lodge shows that each entered apprentice had his mark (See page from Mark Book reproduced in Miller, facing p. 28) and the same was the case at Dumfries in 1687. Regulation of the Lodge of Dumfries, approved 2nd June, 1687, printed in J. Smith, History of the Old Lodge of Dumfries, (The use of marks on work to enable the craftsman to be identified was not peculiar to masons. In London the Helmet‑makers, Blacksmiths, Bladesmiths and Brasiers used them (Riley, Memorials of London, 238, 361, 569, 626).)

The Schaw Statutes of 1598 provided that no master or fellowcraft should be received, except in the presence of six masters and two entered apprentices, and the early Minutes of the Lodge of Edinburgh prove that this requirement was observed. (Murray Lyon, 79.)

This evidence shows clearly that entered apprentices in Scotland had a real, if subordinate share in the government of the craft, and in its privileges. Their position can be compared with that occupied by the Yeomanry in the London Masons’ Company. It is inconceivable that either in London or in Scotland the ordinary apprentice had any say in the management of the craft, or that he enjoyed any privileges; his was purely a position of servitude until the period for which he was bound had expired.

Thereupon, in London he might be made a freeman and become part of the Yeomanry of the Masons’ Company; (Actually rather fewer than 50 per cent. of the apprentices bound in London took up their freedom (The London Mason in the Seventeenth Century, 63).)  in Scotland he became an entered apprentice and received the benefit of the Mason Word. In due course, a yeoman in London might be accepted into the Livery, and an entered apprentice in Scotland might be received as a master or fellowcraft (In London there was no prescribed minimum period, and very occasionally an apprentice was made a freeman, and accepted into the Livery, on the same day, e.g. Edward Strong, jun., in 1698 (The London Mason in the Seventeenth Century, 45 n). In Scotland, although the Schaw Statutes contemplated an entered apprenticeship of seven years, except by special permission, the period at Aberdeen in 1670 was three years. At Glasgow, in the early seventeenth century, the usual period appears to have been two years, to judge by the following: It would appear from the Minutes [of the Incorporation of Masons], 9th February, 1613, and 5th February, 1617, that nine years was the customary endurance of an Apprenticeship, viz., seven years to learn the trade and two for meat and fee (Cruikshank, Sketch of the Incorporation of Masons and the Lodge of Glasgow St. John, 63).)

There was however, an important difference: the former promotion was the exception rather than the rule; (The Quarterage Book of the Masons’ Company shows that in 1663 there were 45 members of the Livery, including assistants, as compared with 143 members of the Yeomanry; in 1677 the corresponding figures were 71 and 162 (ibid., 8, 9).) the latter promotion, so far as one can tell, was the rule rather than the exception. (That there were exceptions is shown by the fact that, in Edinburgh in the seventeenth century, it was not unusual for entered apprentices on the expiry of their entered apprenticeship to seek employment as journeymen, without having been admitted as fellowcraft (Murray Lyon, 28).)

A rather better analogy is provided by the London carpenters who, under an Ordinance of 1607, (Jupp and Pocock, Historical Account of the Worshipful Company of Carpenters, 423) were forbidden to have an apprentice until they had been “free” three years and had served at least one year with a freeman of the Company.

So far as I am aware, the term entered apprentice occurs in operative masonry only in Scotland. It is commonly held that the entered apprentice was so called “because entered in the Lodge books” (Kenning’s Cyclopedia of Freemasonry, 201)  but this cannot be regarded as a complete explanation. The Schaw Statutes of 1598 distinguished between (i) “receiving” an apprentice and (ii) “entering” an apprentice; “receiving” apparently took place at the outset of his career, and “entering” at some later, but unspecified, date, presumably at the expiration of seven years’ servitude.

The Statutes further provided that the name of the apprentice and the date of his “receiving” should be booked, and that, in due course, the date of his “entering” should be booked. Thus “entering” could hardly have meant simply that his name was entered in a book, as that had also been done when he was “received”. It related, more probably, to his admission or entry into the ranks of the time‑expired or fully qualified apprentices. The term “entered apprentice” occurs in the forms “enterprentice” (Trinity College, Dublin MS). and “interprintice”. ( Sloane MS., 3329)  Enter and inter are both Scottish forms of entire, so that the term may have denoted entire apprentice, i.e. complete or fully qualified apprentice.

Three pieces of evidence may be cited in support of this opinion. First, a Minute of the Aitchison’s Haven Lodge, dated 2nd January, 1600, records that Andrew Patten was “enterit prenteis to John Crafurd his maister”; (A.Q.C., xxiv., 36)  as a Minute of 7th June, 1599, records that Andrew Patten had served six years of his apprenticeship at that date, (ibid., 35) it follows that he had served about seven years when he was entered. Secondly, a Minute of the Lodge of Edinburgh, dated 3rd February, 1601, records that Andrew Hamilton, apprentice to John Watt, was “enterit … as past prenteis to the said Johnne War his m aiste]r”. (Murray Lyon, 79)  This clearly shows that Andrew Hamilton had served his time before being “entered”. Thirdly, Article XIV. of the Regius MS. requires “. . . if that the master a prentice have, Entirely then that he him teach.” If originally an apprentice was entered as an entire apprentice, confusion between entered and entire might easily have led to entire apprentice being changed to entered apprentice.

The secrets communicated to entered apprentices were probably not the essential ones, but means of recognition, safeguarded with less caution than the principal secrets and regarded partly as a joke. The possession of such secrets doubtless carried with it fewer privileges.

The first two conclusions are suggested by a study of the Edinburgh Register House MS.

(i) This shows that a good deal of horseplay was associated with the imparting of the entered apprentice secrets. Thus the oath was to be administered only “after a great many ceremonies to frighten” the candidate; when outside with the youngest mason, the candidate was to be frightened “with 1,000 ridicolous postures and grimmaces” before being given the sign, postures and words of entry; after rejoining the company he was to “make a ridiculous bow” and “put off his hat after a very foolish manner”. This horseplay may be compared with the practices common at the admission of freshmen to universities in medieval and later times, (R. S. Rait, Life in the Medieval University, chap. vi.) or with the tests imposed upon newcomers to the Hanseatic factory at Bergen. (Helen Zinunern, The Hansa Towns, 144‑47) That something of this horseplay was liable to be introduced into the early speculative Lodges is clearly implied by one of the by‑laws of the Lodge constituted at the Maid’s Head, Norwich, in May, 1724, which reads: “6. That no ridiculous trick be played with any person when he is admitted”. (G. W. Daynes, A.Q.C., xxxvii., 38) These by‑laws are stated to have been “recommended by our Worthy Bro Dr Desaguliers” [Grand Master in 1719 and Deputy Grand Master in 1722‑23 and 1725], and may be regarded as reflecting the desire of the recently formed Grand Lodge to suppress such horseplay. On the other hand, no corresponding fooling is mentioned in the Edinburgh Register House MS. in connection with being “admitted a member of fellowship”.

(ii) It is very noticeable, as previously mentioned, that whereas the MS. gives various indications as to the nature of the entered apprentice’s secrets, it preserves a complete silence regarding those of the fellowcraft or master.

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The Mason Word – Part One of Six

THE MASON WORD

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Bro. DOUGLAS KNOOP, M.A.

P.M. Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No. 2076

The Prestonian Lecture for 1938

 Prepared in this format by Bro. Mike Lawrence

In part one we cover:

1) The Mason Word more than a mere word

2) The Edinburgh Register House MS.

The subject which I have chosen for my Prestonian Lecture is the Mason Word, and the customs and usages associated with its communication, about which all too little is at present known. What little is known, however, suggests that this operative forerunner of our speculative rites probably throws more light on the origins of our present ceremonies than do those early Craft regulations and medieval histories of masonry, commonly known as the MS. Constitutions of Masonry, or, more familiarly, as the Old Charges.

The MS. Constitutions present a wider field for investigation, as approximately one hundred different versions of them, ranging in date from the late fourteenth to the early nineteenth century, are known, and they have naturally been studied in considerable detail. (See, e.g., Hughan, Old Charges of British Freemasons, 1st ed., 1870; rev. 2nd ed., 1895; Gould, Commentary on the Regius Poem, Q.C.A., i. (1889); Speth, Commentary on the Cooke MS., Q.C.A., ii. (1890); Poole, The Old Charges, 1924, and The Old Charges in the Eighteenth Century, Prestonian Lecture for 1933; Poole and Worts The “Yorkshire” Old Charges of Masons, 1935; Knoop, Jones and Hamer, The Two Earliest Masonic MSS. (the Regius and Cooke MSS.), 1938.)

My field tonight is much narrower, as the principal materials on which I rely for my study of the Mason Word consist only of five late seventeenth or early eighteenth century manuscripts. Two of these, the Edinburgh Register House MS. (1696) and the Chetwode Crawley MS. (c. 1700), ( Discovered at the beginning of the century [Hughan, A.Q.C., xvii. (1904), 91, 92], this MS. is now in the possession of the Grand Lodge of Ireland. A transcript appears in the Masonic Reprints of the Lodge of Research, No. 2429, Leicester. Its contents have subsequently proved to be practically the same as those of the Edinburgh Register House MS., except that the two parts are transposed.)are practically identical, apart from verbal variations and points of spelling and punctuation, with the all‑important exception that the former is endorsed with a date.

Thus the information is mainly derived from four documents, the Edinburgh Register House MS. (1696), the Graham MS. (1726), the Trinity College, Dublin MS. (1711), and the Sloane MS. 3329 (c. 1700). The last has been known for many years, (It is quoted in the English edition of Findel’s History of Freemasonry, published in 1865.) but its importance has recently been greatly enhanced by the discovery of the first two. Jointly these MSS. constitute a most valuable source of information about early masonic ceremonies, and I am glad to avail myself of the opportunity afforded by my appointment as Prestonian Lecturer to draw the attention of the Brethren to some of the significance of these four documents.

At the outset I desire to acknowledge my indebtedness to various masonic students, and especially to Bro. the Rev. Herbert Poole, who has made such a close study of the Old Charges and of contemporary Masonic MSS. (See more especially “Masonic Ritual and Secrets before 1717”, A.Q.C., xxxvii. (1924); and “The Graham Manuscript”, A.Q.C., 1, (1937). I enjoy one definite advantage over earlier writers approaching the same problem; thanks to the recent discovery of the Edinburgh Register House MS., endorsed 1696, I have escaped their difficulties regarding the probable dates of the Sloane and Chetwode Crawley MSS. The handwriting of these two MSS. pointed to circa 1700; so did the fact that the Chetwode Crawley MS. contained, almost verbatim, the words of the so‑called “Haughfoot Minute” of 1702 (Poole, A.Q.C., xxxvii., 7). The MSS., however, refer to two ceremonies, whereas many masonic students maintained that there was only one prior to 1723. This conflict of external and internal evidence led to much doubt about the probable dates. Now that we know for certain that there were two distinct ceremonies at least as early as 1696, there need be no hesitation in accepting 1700 as the approximate date of these two MSS.) It was his recent paper on the Graham MS. which first caused me to turn my attention to the various MSS. forming the basis of my lecture this evening.

1) The Mason Word more than just a mere word

The justification for stressing the importance of the Mason Word as a factor in the development of masonic ceremonies lies in the fact that it consisted of something substantially more than a mere word. Thus the Rev. Robert Kirk, Minister of Aberfoyle, writing in 1691, (The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies, 3rd ed., 1933, 108.)  says the Mason Word “is like a Rabbinical Tradition, in way of comment on Jachin and Boaz, the two Pillars erected in Solomon’s Temple (I. Kings, 7, 21), with one Addition of some secret Signe delyvered from Hand to Hand, by which they know and become familiar one with another”.

A letter of 1697 states that “The Laird[s] of Roslin … are obliged to receive the mason’s word which is a secret signall masons have thro’out the world to know one another by. They alledge ’tis as old as since Babel, when they could not understand one another and they conversed by signs. Others would have it no older than Solomon. However it is, he that hath it will bring his brother mason to him without calling to him or your perceiving of the signe” . (Hist. MSS. Com., Portland MSS., ii., 56. For particulars about the Lairds of Roslin, a branch of the St. Clair family, and their claim to be protectors and patrons of the Craft in Scotland, see Murray Lyon, History of the Lodge of Edinburgh (Mary’s Chapel), No. 1, Tercentenary Edition, 64‑72.)

2) The Edinburgh Register House MS.

The Edinburgh Register House MS., (Edinburgh Register House, Miscellaneous Papers, No. 52. A photographic reproduction appears in A.Q.C., xliii. (1930). 153‑5, and a transcript in the Trans. of the Manchester Assoc. for Masonic Research, xxii. (1932), 143, in each case with an introduction by Bro. J. Mason Allan.) a document discovered about 1930 among the records in the Historical Department of the Register House, Edinburgh, is considerably more informative. It is endorsed “Some Questiones Anent the mason word 1696” and consists of two parts, the first headed “Some Questiones That Masons use to put to those who have ye word before they will acknowledge them”, and the second “The forme of giveing the mason word”.

The test questions relate partly to the conditions of admittance and partly to matters with which nobody could be acquainted without previous instruction. As the MS. provides answers to all the questions, and states that they have to be answered exactly, it is obvious that the necessary instruction regarding all the questions must have been given to a candidate either at his admission or subsequently.

As the questions and answers are not very long, I propose to read them in full, (To facilitate reading, the various abbreviations used in the MS. for “question” and “answer” have been made uniform, the punctuation has been modernized, and such sentences as appear to be instructions have been printed in italics.) in order to give the Brethren a first‑hand acquaintance with the kind of Examination to be found in all the manuscripts with which we have to do this evening:

Q. 1: Are you a mason?                  Ans. : Yes.

Q. 2: How shall I know it?                Ans.: You shall know it in time and place convenient. Remark the fors[ai]d answer is only to be made when there is company present who are not masons. But if there be no such company by, you should answer by signes, tokens and other points of my entrie.

Q. 3 : What is the first point ?         Ans. : Tell me the first point ile tell you the second. The first is to heill ( Heill, hele, heal: to hide, conceal, to keep secret (O.E.D.).  and conceall; second, under no less pain, which is then cutting of your throat. For you most make that sign when you say that.

Q. 4: Where wes you entered?        Ans. : At the honourable lodge.

Q. 5: What makes a true and perfect lodge ?           Ans. : Seven masters, five entered apprentices, A dayes journey from a burroughs town, without bark of dog or crow of cock. (cf. Laws and Statutes of the Lodge of Aberdeen, 1670, rule iii., “that no lodge be holden within a dwelling house wher ther is people living in it but in the open fieldes except it be ill weather, and then let ther be a house chosen that no person shall heir nor sie ws”; and rule v., “that all entering prentises be entered in our antient outfield Lodge in the mearnes in the parish of negg at the scounces at the poynt of the ness” (Miller, Notes on the Early History and Records of the Lodge, Aberdeen, 59, 63).

Q. 6 : Does no less make a true and perfect lodge?             Ans. : Yes, five masons and three entered apprentices, &c.

Q. 7: Does no less?                         Ans. : The more the merrier, the fewer the better chear.

Q. 8 : What is the name of your lodge?       Ans. : Kilwinning.

Q. 9 : How stands your lodge ?       Ans.: East and west as the temple of Jerusalem.

Q. 10: Where wes the first lodge?   Ans. : In the porch of Solomons Temple.

Q. 11: Are there any lights in your lodge?               Ans.: Yes, three‑the north east, s w, and eastern passage. The one denotes the maste[r] mason, the other the warden. The third the setter croft.

Q. 12: Are there any jewells in your lodge?            Ans.: Yes, three Perpend (Perpend, parpen 1. a stone which passes through a wall from side to side, having two smooth vertical faces (O.E.D.).) Esler [ashlar], a square pavement, and a broad ovall. (Broad ovall: ? broached ornel. Broached: worked with a chisel (O.E.D.). Ornel, urnall, urnell: a kind of soft white building stone (O.E.D.). The terms “Parpeincoins”, “pament”, and “urnell” figure in the Rochester Castle Building Account, 1368 (Arch. Cant., ii., 114).

Q. 13: Where shall I find the key of your lodge?    Yes [?Ans.:] Three foot and an half from the lodge door under a perpend esler and a green divot. But under the lap of my liver where all my secrets of my heart lie.

Q. 14: Which is the key of your lodge?      Ans. : a weel hung tongue.

Q. 15: Where lies the key?           Ans. : In the bone box.

After the masons have examined you by all or some of these Questions and that you have answered them exactly and mad the signes, they will acknowledge you, but not as a master mason or fellow croft, but only as as [ ? an] apprentice, soe they will say I see you have been in the kitchine, but I know not if you have been in the hall.        Ans.: I have been in the hall as weel as in the kitchine.

Q. 1: Are you a fellow craft?          Ans. : Yes.

Q. 2 : How many points of the fellowship are ther ?           Ans. : fyve, viz., foot to foot, Knee to Kn[ee], Heart to Heart, Hand to Hand, and ear to ear. Then make the sign of fellowship and shake hand and you will be acknowledged a true mason. The words are in the 1 of the Kings Ch 7, v 21, and in 2 Chr: ch 3 verse last.

The conclusion of the examination shows, first, that the fellowcraft or master mason (which were equivalent terms in Scotland at this period) had secrets distinct from those of an entered apprentice; and secondly, that only the fellowcraft was acquainted with what are called “the five points of the fellowship”. Further reference will be made to these two matters shortly.

“The form of giving the mason word” is a series of instructions to those admitting “the person to take the word”, and indicates in a general way what was to be said to him and what he was to say. After he had taken an oath of secrecy, in which he swore not to reveal by word or writing any part of what he should see or hear, nor to draw it with the point of a sword, or any other instrument, upon the snow or sand, he was to go out with the youngest mason from whom he was to learn “the signe and the postures and words of his entrie”.

He then rejoined the company and said the words of his entry, which I shall now read: (To facilitate reading, the punctuation has been modernized, and such sentences as appear to be instructions have been printed in italics.)

Here come I, the youngest and last entered apprentice, As I am sworn by God and St. Jhon, by the square and compass and common judge,(In mining, a judge is a staff used to measure the depth of holes (O.E.D.). Amongst masons, it probably referred to the virga geometricalis, or measuring rod, with which the foundation or ground plan of a building was marked out. (See Note by Knoop and Jones on “Latlaying the Groundwork”, Misc. Lat., September, 1937). Pictures of medieval masons sometimes show them with a square, a compass and a measuring rod, as in Libergier’s tomb slab in Rheims Cathedral (Coulton, Art and the Reformation, 140).  to attend my masters service at the honourable lodge, from munday in the morning till saturday at night and to keep the keyes therof, under no less pain then haveing my tongue cut out under my chin, and of being buried within the flood mark, where no man shall know; then he makes the sign, again with drawing his hand under his chin alongst his throat, which denotes that it be cut out in caise he break his word.(These words of entry may be compared with those still used at an old practice of the Scoon and Perth Lodge No. 3, called the Baptism, which is performed at the time of refreshment. The Master, taking a little whisky and water in his hand, pours it on the head of the newly made apprentice, who repeats after the Master these words: “Here comes I the youngest and last made mason willing to do my Master’s bidding from Monday morning to Saturday night…… There is a reference in the Lodge minutes of 22nd January, 1741, to washing the newly admitted apprentice’s head, and the likelihood is that the practice goes back to operative days (Crawford Smith, History of the Ancient Masonic Lodge of Scoon and Perth, 101).

This shows that, whatever other objects the formal admission might have, it served to emphasize the duties which the entered apprentice owed to his master.

In at least one Scottish operative lodge in 1670, namely, the Lodge of Aberdeen, the entered apprentice, in addition to receiving the Mason Word at his entry, had read to him the “Mason Charter”, which was the version of the Old Charges now described as the Aberdeen MS., and also the Laws and Statutes of the Lodge. (See quotation from the Mark Book of the Lodge, in Miller, 21. The Charter and the Statutes of 1670 are printed in the Appendices to that book.) As the reading of these two documents would require the best part of an hour, the proceedings at the admission of an entered apprentice, if the Aberdeen practice was at all general, (In addition to the Lodge of Aberdeen, the Lodges of Aitchison’s Haven, Kilwinning, Melrose, Stirling and Dumfries all appear to have possessed versions of the Old Charges dating from the second half of the seventeenth century (Poole, Old Charges. 15‑17). must have been considerably longer than a perusal of the Edinburgh Register House MS. would suggest.

In part two we cover:

3)Two Distinct Ceremonies in 1696

4) Entered Apprentices and their Secrets

 

 

 

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The Development of the Trigradal System – Part 6 of 6

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By Bro. Lionel Vibert, P.A.G.D.C.

The Prestonian Lecture for 1925

Prepared in this format by Bro. Mike Lawrence

The course of events seems to be that the operative Gild custom was to admit the apprentice by a simple oath, but to make the apprentice out of his indentures a freeman and full member of the Gild by a ceremony which included the imparting of the all‑important secret means of recognition, the conferring of the mark and a moral lecture, and concluding with a feast. The Speculatives made these two occasions into one; they would proceed at once on admission to full membership. They also elaborated the actual ceremony considerably, but it is hopeless now to attempt to dissect out what is in fact accretion due to speculative influence and what is genuine survival from the days of the first cathedral builders.

But in the Master’s Part we are confronted with a ceremony of an entirely different character. We have in the first place a narrative, the story of the murder of the builder; in the second the teaching of a great religious truth, not one, however, that was at any time the special property of builders; and we also have an entirely distinct form of greeting, the five points of fellowship.

It seems to be the case that legends of the murder of a builder, which are widespread in folklore, are to be explained as survivals or reminiscences of original completion sacrifices, sacrifices of a human being with the object of giving the newly completed edifice a soul or a protecting demon; and an individual so intimately connected with the building as its architect would be likely to be selected as peculiarly appropriate for such a sacrifice.

It is probable that building communities generally have had such stories, and we find in fact that in France one has at a very early date crystallised into the narrative of the murder of Maître Jacques, the Master who brought the craft itself from Palestine to France. The existence of similar legends in our own country is attested by stories such as that of the Roslyn Pillar. Palestine and King Solomon’s Temple did not form part of our original legend. But they had been adopted at all events by the 15th, and it would appear that during the 16th and 17th centuries the scribes who copied the various versions of our Old Charges had scruples as to writing the name of Hiram the builder, and substituted Anon or Amon or the like for it.

As had been pointed out by W. Bro. Morris Rosenbaum, the double name Hiram Abif was found in the three first English Bibles of 1535 and the following years, but it disappeared from the Great Bible which superseded them in 1539. In 1723 it would, in the ordinary course, have been known only to Hebrew scholars. Yet it is clear that the craft was familiar with it in that year, and this appears to involve that it had come down as a tradition in the Lodges.

Again the explanation we give of MACH is one that cannot be justified philologically; no Hebrew scholar would arrive at such an interpretation independently. But the word actually occurs in the Bible as the name of a captain of the host. Now to the Geneva Bible of 1580 there was appended a concordance in which the Hebrew names were explained, and in that we read that this word means, among other things, “the smiting of the builder”.

The only plausible interpretation of this fact seems to be that the compiler has met with this meaning in some circle to which he belonged, and inserted it on that ground regardless of the philological question. These various considerations make it difficult to avoid the conclusion that there was not merely a murder legend among the Craft in this country from a very early date, but that for two centuries at least it had been definitely a Hiramic Legend. And as such it was the peculiar property of the Masters; and the ceremonies connected with it, whatever they may have been, constituted the Master’s Pan.

Now, the culmination of the five points of fellowship is the whispering of certain words and they refer to the narrative. But they are today explained in a way that is obviously unsatisfactory. We raise the Candidate from a figurative tomb by their means, which is very well; but what we recite as the narrative is a manifest incongruity. Nevertheless it is in Prichard, so that the mistake, as I suppose we may call it, is one of long standing.

Now the Compagnonnage have two elaborate forms of greeting very similar to each other and to our five points of fellowship and in each, words are whispered. One is gone through between the compagnons at funerals. The true state of affairs appears to me to be that just as the Masters had a special ceremony of a distinct type, they also had an elaborate form of greeting and salutation, with which the newly made Master was received.

The Fellow had his simple grip, part of the means of recognition, and we may be fairly certain that the various forms of it that we meet with today as we proceed in the Order, are but variations of late introduction. But the Masters used the five points of fellowship an essential part of which was the communicating of certain words.

But what was the function of this special ceremony in pre‑Grand Lodge days? By the Gild it was no doubt associated with the Master of the Work; and the Masters of the Gild were men of definite standing and authority. But the speculative Craft in the 17th century was in a different position. The language of Ashmole suggests that he was never more than a Fellow and took only one degree. But the phraseology of the Dublin Tripos of 1688 with its reference to being freemasonized the new way is very suggestive of a special speculative ceremony, and this may have been a Master’s Part.

It would appear as though prior to 1721 there was very little occasion for the ceremony and little use made of it. Stukeley writes: “We had great difficulty to find members enough to perform the ceremony”; and this was in London on January 6th, 1721. He can hardly be referring to the ordinary acceptance. Moreover, it is to be noted that from an allusion in a MS. of 1714 we know that certain features of the ceremony were related to what is today our Installation. What appears to have happened is that in 1721, with the introduction of the hitherto undreamt of feature of new Lodges, Masters were necessarily required for them.

The Master’s Part accordingly became of great importance. The Installed Master was given certain portions of the working, but the Part itself was still the pre‑requisite for the holding of the office. There is undoubtedly a contemporary confusion in the terminology which it is not easy to unravel, but when in 1723 Anderson speaks of making Masters and Fellows only in Grand Lodge he is, as we have already seen, referring not to two degrees, but to the Master’s Part alone.

We are now in a position to assess, at all events roughly, the material brought forward to the Grand Lodge which was to form the basis of all that is contained in our ceremonies today.

In the first place: A body of symbolism and teachings based on architecture, working tools, and other material emblems; representing an apprentice admission and the fellow admission of the operative craftsmen greatly elaborated, but fused into one ceremony of admission or Acceptance in the speculative period that preceded Grand Lodge. This was split up in 1725 to form our present First and Second Degrees, and their subsequent history and development has already been described. Parts of the operative material, such as the conferring the mark, were preserved in Scotland but laid aside in England.

Secondly: A murder legend of great antiquity associated at some date undetermined with King Solomon’s Temple and Hiram Abif; and a peculiar form of greeting including the whispering of words referring to the legend. Both these are restricted to Masters and they came forward as the Master’s Part, but one small detail may have been detached from the ceremony in 1721 to meet the requirements of the new office of Installed Master. This Master’s Part is our Third Degree today. But just when it took the actual form in which we now have it is not ascertainable; it underwent a process of modification to which I have already alluded, which continued right up to the time of the Lodge of Reconciliation.

In this analysis of our wonderful system I have, of necessity, proceeded from the known to the unknown, and much must unavoidably be, and remain, matter of hypothesis and opinion. I fully realise that my various hypothetical suggestions invite criticism; if they do not survive it will be because they do not deserve to. But I shall be at one with my critics if I conclude in the words of that worthy old Master, to whose generous provision of more than a century ago, the very delivery of this lecture is due: “He who has studied our teachings in a regular progress from the commencement of the First to the conclusion of the Third degree must have amassed an ample store of knowledge, and will reflect with pleasure on the good effects of his past diligence and attention.” 

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The Development of the Trigradal System – Part 5 of 6

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By Bro. Lionel Vibert, P.A.G.D.C.

The Prestonian Lecture for 1925

Prepared in this format by Bro. Mike Lawrence

The Gild which from the first inception of Gothic architecture kept the secrets of the construction of that art as its monopoly must have always been distinct from any other Craft Gild in three material points.

In the first place the usual system was that in each large town there was for each Craft a permanent local Gild, a Gild independent of any other Gilds of the same Craft existing elsewhere in the country. But the work of the freemasons lay outside the towns and, moreover, they were never in any given locality more than the few years required to construct the particular work that had brought them together there. Their organisation must therefore at a very early date have assumed the form of a single Fraternity for the whole Kingdom, with local associations in each locality in which Gothic building was in progress, and these bodies met in the workroom which from its very first appearance in the records is always styled the Lodge. And between Lodge and Lodge the brethren travelled, proving themselves by secret means of recognition; they also convened periodical meetings of the whole craft over large areas for the business of the Fraternity. All this organisation is quite unknown in any other trade in the country.

In the second place the Freemasons alone among Craft Gilds had not merely the consciousness of their own antiquity that would necessarily follow from the very fact that the cathedrals and abbeys built by their predecessors centuries earlier were still there for all men to see, but they had given that feeling concrete form and possessed a regular history of the Order. This, when we first come across it, is to the effect that Masonry was founded in Egypt by Euclid the worthy clerk, that it came to England, and that there, after many years, Athelstan reformed it. In exactly the same way the corresponding association of the building crafts in France, the Compagnonnage, had their legend that Solomon founded their Craft at the Temple, that a certain Maitre Jacques brought them to France, and that a personage known as Pere Soubise organised them in that country.

In the third place, since all the artistic life of the community centered round its church, and all the learning was confined to the ecclesiastic and the monk, the art of the builder of Gothic was the one craft of the period which offered to intellectual men something worthy of investigation. We read accordingly, at a very early date, of persons who, having acquired some theoretical knowledge of the subject, came to the masons to study its practical applications, and these people are already in the 15th century called speculatives. When first they were admitted to be members of the craft we cannot say, but they seem to be suggested in the 13th century, and we can appreciate that they would make their appearance very early indeed in the history of the Gild. The very existence of our Freemasonry today depends on the circumstance that the Gild from its earliest days extended its privileges and communicated its secrets to men who were not masons by profession. The history of the Craft is the history of a body into which a continually increasing number of these speculative members gained admission. We have from the 13th to the 17th century, then, a working trade gild with its own legends and ceremonies, but to it is introduced an element which keeps it in touch with every new development in thought, every accession to knowledge in the country as it arises. And we can appreciate how the ceremonial, in the hands of this speculative element, would tend to take on a deeper and deeper symbolic, moral and philosophic character, and tend to lose its original direct connection with the affairs of a purely operative fraternity.

We next have, from the time of James I or so, a profession that is moribund, but a society that keeps alive because of its non‑operative members, whose aims are now frankly philosophical and ethical, and all trace of actual contact with the trade of building is fast disappearing. It is this society which in 1716 forms the Grand Lodge and then tells us that Freemasonry, despite its external appearance and its terminology, is no longer a trade organisation, but purely and simply a system of morality.

Now, the various influences to which this Fraternity was subjected throughout its career, through its speculative members, have only to be stated, and it will at once be obvious that there must have been constantly at work an irresistible impulse towards accretion, the taking in of further symbols, the further elaboration of the ceremonies, the emphasising of what was eventually to become the principal function of the Fraternity, the teaching of moral duties and truths, to the entire disregard of technical knowledge or skill. We can review these influences very rapidly.

We begin with the Crusades, and we know that architects from Western Europe actually worked in Palestine, and the local knowledge they acquired had a marked influence on contemporary Gothic. Next we have the development of the study of Hebrew and Hebrew literature that heralded the Renaissance; we have for a period that terminates in 1453 a constant intercourse with France and French building fraternities; we have during the days of the Hanseatic League a fairly constant intercourse with Flanders and Lower Germany, where the Vehmgerichte were still flourishing as late as the 16th century; we have next the first appearance of the Bible in English, which took place in 1535; we have from about 1614 onwards the individual philosophers who styled themselves Rosicrucians and Hermeticists, who were still to the fore in the next century and some of whom definitely were Freemasons; we have from 1685, the date of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, Huguenot refugees from France; and finally we have right into the days of Grand Lodge itself the political and civil dissensions between the Jacobites and the Hanoverians. All through the centuries there are lesser influences also constantly at work, bringing us learning of one sort or another from Spain or Italy or the East; what  wonder  then that in our system today enthusiasts have traced analogies and claimed identities with every philosophy or religion ever known to civilization or before it.

And yet, while the results of the process are now before us in our Lodges, and the true historical explanation of it seems to be fairly clear, we cannot in fact date our first adoption of any single symbol or interpretation. We do not know in detail what was brought forward into Grand Lodge by the Four Old Lodges and the old masons of 1717, and the two exposures that precede Prichard are so obviously fragmentary that nothing can be founded on them. But the general character of the Admission or Acceptance is fairly clear, and it is preserved in our First and Second Degrees today. They are concerned with the things of this world; the secret means of recognition are an essential part of them, as also the obligation taken in open Lodge; they teach secrecy, obedience, loyalty, and the duty of educating oneself. They moralise the ordinary working tools; their symbols are the two pillars, the porch or entrance, the winding stairway, the middle chamber, the stream of water, the rough and perfect ashlars, and the admission to light. Some of this suggests Rosicrucian ideas, but in some of it we seem to see a reminiscence of the very earliest craft lodge workroom. But it is all available, if not in that lodge room itself, at least in one or other of the sources of possible influence I have detailed.

There is, however, one feature of the ceremonies which can hardly have found a place in the original Gild observances, and that is the penalties. They have their counterpart in actual treason and Admiralty Court punishments of the days of the Tudors and earlier; and the Vehmgerichte were a secret tribunal that did in fact hang and stab its victims.

 

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The Development of the Trigradal System – Part 4 of 6

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By Bro. Lionel Vibert, P.A.G.D.C.

The Prestonian Lecture for 1925

Prepared in this format by Bro. Mike Lawrence

At a later date we meet with a constructive degree, introduced to give brethren the qualification then required for the Royal Arch in exactly the same way, I submit, the genesis of the Fellow Craft degree was that it was a constructive degree, introduced to enable the Private Lodges to give their own members the necessary qualification for their Master’s Chair; without involving a recourse to Grand Lodge.

The qualification was that he was to be among the Fellow‑Craft; this is the phrase of Anderson in 1723, at a date when no such degree was in existence. The law of the day was that the Master’s Part was only to be conferred in Grand Lodge. The solution of the difficulty is readily arrived at. We shall in our Lodges confer a chair degree, and we shall call it Fellow‑Craft, and in order to avoid any suggestion of trespassing on Grand Lodge’s province we shall construct it exclusively from material available to us in the existing Acceptance, or associated with it.

The degree itself complies absolutely with this description of what it was necessary it should consist of if it was to serve its purpose. It does not appear that originally it had so much as a separate obligation of its own. It was simply a chair degree arrived at by repeating the Entered Apprentice degree and emphasising one of the two words already associated with it, so that inevitably in a very short time each degree took exclusive possession of one of the two words.

Other differences were introduced as time went on, but with regard to the names we still talk of their conjoint signification; we still re‑assemble the emblems which were in 1725 disrupted to suit the purposes of the Private Lodges of the period. And we can, I think, assume that there was not at this stage either in the Fellow Craft or in the Master’s Part, now become the Third Degree, any introduction of entirely new material.

Had there been any such innovation we may be quite certain not only that the old masons would have been up in arms, but that Grand Lodge would have made it a pretext for condemning the new departure. There was apparently some discontent and we can see the reasons for it, but there was as yet no suggestion of any disunion, nor do we get any accusation of departing from old customs until Grand Lodge itself changes the order of the words in the first two degrees after 1730.

In course of time the Second Degree gained in character and in incident. But it was long before the Third Degree arrived at the position that it now holds in the system.

So late as 1752 it was not required as a step to any rank or promotion, for we find in that year that the first Prov. G.M. of Cornwall was installed, and the Brother who presided on the occasion was only a Fellow‑Craft. At the present day there is nowhere in the Book of Constitutions any direction that the Master of a Lodge or any holder of Grand Rank, except the Tyler and two other officers, shall be a Master Mason. For years, therefore, it was merely a luxury, but fortunately one that gradually became increasingly popular. What happened was that the degree was only conferred for special reasons at special Lodges of Masters summoned by the W.M.

An ordinary Lodge had every right to confer the degree but it would only do so very occasionally. Not all the members took the degree. And as a necessary consequence in a number of Lodges they were unable to work the ceremony, and we find as early as 1738 eleven Lodges in London specifically described as Master’s Lodges.

This does not mean that they alone might work the degree; but it does imply that they specialised in it and apparently conferred it for the benefit of other Lodges who were not familiar with the working of it (Hughan, Origin of the English Rite, page 53). It is not till 1738 that we find the distinction made of speaking of the admission to the Master’s Part as raising. But in course of time the Lodges generally took over the degree and by a natural process it became the rule to select the Master from the brethren with the higher qualification. Preston says: “From this class of the Order the Rulers of the Craft are selected,” and exposures of the years just before the Union say in terms that the first qualification for the office of Master is that he be regularly and lawfully raised. This still suggests that he was only raised when it became a question of having the qualification, because Preston also remarks “The Third Class (i.e., M.M.) is restricted to a selected few,” but we may, I think, take it that by the Union it was the usual practice to take the degree.

The course of development then, apart from any reasons for it, is that in 1721 Grand Lodge recognised two degrees, an Acceptance and a Master’s Part, and that from 1725 there were three, a new degree being dovetailed in. The Master’s Part is the true predecessor of the Third Degree today. The 1723 exposure has the phrase: “I know the Master’s Part full well, as honest Maughbin will you tell.” The allusion is one we can still appreciate, and it involves the inference that the Master’s Part was concerned with the Hiramic Legend. We are often told that both legend and degree were constructed in the early years of Grand Lodge presumably therefore in or before 1721.

But it is to me, at all events, difficult of acceptance that so drastic an innovation‑for such it would assuredly have been‑was not only permitted but was endorsed by the Antients when, in 1751, they came to restore the old systems and remove the alterations introduced by the Premier Grand Lodge. Not only do the minutes of Haughfoot and Kelso, of 1702, unmistakably indicate two degrees, but we have the records of the London Acception which show in 1635 members paying for admission, and making a second payment to become masters. I think we can assert unhesitatingly that the Master’s Part, and therefore the Hiramic Legend, antedates the Grand Lodge era.

Let us therefore move the enquiry yet one more stage further back and endeavour to ascertain what can be said as to the Craft when the Lodge was still the workroom of a gild of working masons, engaged on some great cathedral or abbey of medieval England, and by what process it gathered together that wonderful accumulation of legend, symbolic morality and philosophy that was surely already part of the system when the first Grand Lodge assembled at the Apple Tree in Charles Street, Covent Garden.

 

 

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The Development of the Trigradal System – Part 3 of 6

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By Bro. Lionel Vibert, P.A.G.D.C.

The Prestonian Lecture for 1925

Prepared in this format by Bro. Mike Lawrence

 A consideration of the phraseology used by Anderson in Regulation XIII, and by the Grand Lodge two years later, when they repealed the rule there laid down as to the Master’s Part, makes it certain that when Anderson drew up the Regulations of 1723 there were only two degrees.

There was the admission or acceptance, which made the candidate an apprentice, or as the phrase now became, Entered Apprentice. There was a further degree, the Master’s Part, which conferred on the candidate the rank of Fellow and Master. In order to qualify to be a Master of a Lodge the brother had to be “among the Fellow Craft”.

Of the nature of this further degree in 1723 we have no evidence; the disclosure that was printed in the Flying Post in that year merely refers to the further degree, by the title ‘entered Fellow’, and says that the two test questions are: to an Entered Apprentice, “Have you been in the Kitchen?” and to the Entered Fellow,  “Have you been in the Hall?” These are not framed like test questions, since a simple affirmative is a sufficient answer to either, nor can they be said to give us much information.

It is equally certain that by February, 1725, there were three degrees being worked. We have it definitely on record than an Association which called itself Philo‑Musicae et Architecturae Societas was founded on February 1725, by eight persons, masons, four of whom are recorded in the minute‑book as having been regularly passed Masters in the Lodge at the Queen’s Head in Hollis Street. And, the record goes on: “Before we founded this Society a Lodge was held, consisting of Masters sufficient for that purpose, in order to pass Charles Cotton, Esqr., Mr. Papillon Ball, and Mr. Thomas Marshall, Fellow Crafts.” Here are three degrees clearly indicated. What then is the history of the period in which this momentous change took place? The part of it that is material to our enquiry can be reconstructed with some degree of certainty.

In 1721 Grand Master Payne read over in Grand Lodge a new set of Articles to be observed. The text of these has not come down to us; what we have in their place is the Regulations propounded by Anderson in 1723, which are admittedly a revision of them and also contain additional matter. But we can form a fairly clear idea of the problem for which Payne was legislating.

We know that after a period of no particular distinction and no great increase in numbers the Craft suddenly leapt into popularity and the inevitable result was that the Four Lodges which at this time, with an undetermined number of unattached brethren (St. John’s Masons as they were called), alone constituted Grand Lodge, could not absorb the people who now clamoured for admission.

The question then arose whether it was possible to form new Lodges. To us this is no problem at all; we see it done every week. But it was in 1721 an entirely new departure on the part of Grand Lodge; we must recognise that it was quite definitely an arguable matter with much to be said on the side of the Old Lodges. It is, however, quite clear that from the meeting of June, 1721, Grand Lodge recognised the necessity for new Lodges and legislated for them.

We know the dates of most of those that were now constituted. But the power to form new lodges was narrowly restricted. It was the prerogative of Grand Lodge alone, and each had to be constituted by the Grand Master, if not in person then by a formally authorised deputy. The fact of its having been constituted was notified to all the other lodges, its first Master having been approved by the Grand Master and installed by him on the occasion of the constitution.

And it would seem that that was not the only way in which Grand Lodge kept control over the new accessions. The Master had to be among the Fellows. Grand Lodge now directed that the degree of Fellow and Master could be conferred in Grand Lodge alone. This perhaps did not matter as far as the new Lodges were concerned. It meant in practice that Grand Lodge retained in its own hands all the patronage, since it could if it chose prevent any particular brother in a new Lodge becoming qualified for the Chair. But even if the Degree itself was only now invented, the rule operated to infringe the privileges of the old Lodges. And it was the law of the Craft for at all events four years. We have no record of Grand Lodge actually conferring the degree; but that proves nothing.

But we can, I think, appreciate that in any case the old Lodges would be by no means in sympathy with this piece of legislation. Now it is just while the law stands thus that we find a new degree comes into existence, and it comes in between the Acceptance or Admission and the Master’s Part. Moreover it is, as a consideration of it today at once shows us, not in any way connected with the Third Degree of a later date, but is in every way complementary to the First Degree, the original Admission. In the 1723 exposure the candidate is made to say: “An enterd mason I have been, ‑ and ‑ I have seen,” while the Grand Mystery of Freemasons Discovered, of 1724, speaks of the first of two names as the Universal Word. Prichard’s account of these has already been referred to. Tubal Kain repeats it in 1777. So that it would seem that the new degree appropriated one word of two, both of which had originally been given to the candidate in the admission ceremony, and that this usage persisted for half a century and more.

The rule as to the new Lodge being constituted by the Grand Master or his Deputy was soon found unworkable. The Craft expanded in a way that its rulers had not foreseen, and when there were Lodges coming into existence at Bath, Bristol, Norwich, Chichester, Carmarthen, Portsmouth, and Congleton in Cheshire, as was the case in 1724, the directions as to Constitution had necessarily to be modified. The business of constituting new Lodges was now entrusted to deputations and the Brethren selected were usually local members of the Grand Lodge.

But with regard to the rule that restricted the conferring of the Master’s Part, Grand Lodge took an entirely different course. Instead of delegating its powers in this respect also, which is what we would have expected, it repealed the legislation absolutely on 27th November, 1725. By so doing it purported to restore to all Lodges, new and old alike, the privilege that had been the rule before 1721, that namely of selecting their own Masters. But the concession was an empty one, for while the law still was that the Master must be among the Fellow‑Craft, that was now complied with by his having taken the new intermediate degree that went by that name.

The Third Degree, as it can now be styled, was in fact all but superfluous. It conferred some amount of dignity no doubt, but while not now necessary for the mastership of the private Lodge, it was not as yet a pre‑requisite for any post in Grand Lodge, and indeed ran no small risk of passing entirely out of existence. In 1730 we read: “There is not one Mason in an Hundred that will be at the Expence to pass the Master’s Part.” We have here, I suggest, the key to the reason for the introduction of the Fellow Craft Degree.

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