A Study in Change
To the reader
Quite recently I became the beneficiary of a small privately printed book titled “it is not in the power of any man.....” A Study in Change” by T.O. Haunch. M.A. Prestonian Lecturer 1972. This book has made such an impression on me that I have decided to share it with the International Masonic Community and in, order to do, my wife Peggy & I have typed the book to make it available to you all. One might say that was lot of work, however, a labour of Love is never too much work. My thoughts in sharing this with you at this time is that it is possible you may have a little extra time over the holidays to read and hopefully enjoy. To my knowledge, being privately printed in 1972 this is the only shareable form for this publication.
V.W. Bro Norman McEvoy
A STUDY IN CHANGE
by T.O Haunch. M.A.
Prestonian Lecture 1972
Assistant Librarian, United Grand Lodge of England
Past Master, Quatuor Coronati Lodge No 2076
Vernon Lodge No 1802 and Notts. Installed Masters Lodge No 3595.
It is , perhaps a slightly unhappy fact that the recorded history of the Grand Lodge of England, the first Minute Book commenced in 1723, opens with a suggestion of some disharmony—and in Grand Lodge itself.
The retiring Grand Master, the Duke of Wharton, frustrated in an attempt to have his own way over a certain matter, departed from Grand Lodge in a huff—-or, as it is put somewhat less colloquially in the Minutes for 24 June 1723;
“The late Grand Master went away from the meeting without any ceremony”
Earlier in the same meeting the authority for James Anderson’s Constitutions( the very first Book of Constitutions) had been called into question and Grand Lodge, without satisfactorily resolving that particular matter did, instead, proceed to pass a resolution which has continued to ring down the years ever since, and to whose substance every candidate for the Master’s Chair in one of our Lodges is still called upon to signify his submission.
“It is not in the Power ” Grand Lodge resolved “of any person or Body of men, to make any Alteration, or Innovation on the Body of Masonry without the consent of the Annual
To many who are unfamiliar with the “Summary of Antient Charges and Regulations to be read to a Master Elect, (an innovation, incidentally, introduced by the 1827 Book of Constitutions) it may appear significant that the eleventh clause of that summary omits the final phrase above
, “without the Consent first obtained of….Grand Lodge”.
This clause is therefore the mast, maybe, to which many a “no innovations” banner has been nailed over the years for there has been —and often still is— a tendency to cloak Freemasonry with an aura of sentimental reverence which is as uncritical as it is irrational.
It is to the brethren who may not perhaps have paused to think about it , but who have rather accepted that the system of Freemasonry has always been as it is now and like the laws of the Medes and the Persians “altereth not”, that this lecture is particularly addressed.
In it I hope to show that, as with any living thing, Freemasonry has been subject to a continuing process of alteration and innovation with a climatic date of 1813 at the Union of the two Grand Lodges.
THE FORMATION OF GRAND LODGE
In 1717 Grand Lodge was itself an innovation.
Independent lodges of free and accepted masons had existed before that date back into the 17th century, but they were uncoordinated and often short lived.
The four London lodges which held a meeting at the Apple Tree Tavern(1716-1717)and constituted themselves” a Grand Lodge pro Tempore” were not seeking to set up, at a stroke, a de facto autocratic system of government for the Craft.
Their purpose was merely
‘to cement together under a Grand Master as the Center of Union and Harmony’.
The principal officers of the few London lodges were to meet together quarterly in fraternal communications (in the event they did not do so for the first few years)
and once a year they would hold a Grand Assembly and Feast.
Outside these meetings Grand Lodge did not exist except as an abstraction represented by the persons of the Grand Master and his two Grand Wardens–the only Grand Officers originally.
It is doubtful whether the instigators of the idea saw anything more than a social purpose in the periodical getting together of the lodges in a general assembly or ‘grand lodge’.
If the latter was thought of a central controlling body it was one aspiring to strictly limited territorial jurisdiction only, namely, the Cities of London and Westminster and their immediate environs.
GRAND LODGE CUTS ITS TEETH
In six short years, however, matters had taken on a very different complexion.
By 1723 a Book of Constitutions had been published, Grand Lodge had appointed a Secretary for itself, had caused the regular recording of its proceedings to be commenced and had arrogated to itself sufficient authority to be able, in the first of its recorded minutes, to pass the resolution from which the title of this lecture is taken.
The brethren composing Grand Lodge at that date (1723) quite obviously did not regard Freemasonry as a complete system delivered, as it were, from heaven on tablets of stone and complete to the last detail.
Innovations and alterations could be (and in the event were) made in the ‘Body of Masonry’ but only with the prior consent of Grand Lodge.
And even then, it appears, the sort of changes immediately envisaged were those affecting the organisation and administration of the Craft,
rather than modifications in Freemasonry as a peculiar system of morality
“veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols”-which anyhow it was not at that date;
this development was to come later. We find no evidence for instance that the consent of Grand Lodge was necessary–or sought–for the fundamental change which was taking place at that time (the 1720s): the evolution of a structure of three degrees from one of two grades only.
Grand Lodge in any case could no more prevent this than it could enforce obedience to its own regulation that Apprentices were to receive the next –and then only other degree solely in Grand Lodge, and just as later in the century it could only frown upon,
but not stop the next ritual innovation, the rise of the Royal Arch and the proliferation of additional degrees.
THE THIRD DEGREE
The study of the development of masonic ritual from the seventeenth, through the eighteenth and into the early nineteenth centuries is by the very nature of the subject a difficult one.
From such little direct evidence as there is, and from what can be drawn by inference, it is apparent that it was very much a process of innovation and change reflecting the transition from operative masonry, by way of accepted Masonry, to speculative Freemasonry.
The advent of the Third Degree is a striking example of this process at work.
It was a free and accepted or speculative innovation to take the material of the old two degrees, Entered Apprentice’ and ‘Master and Fellow-Craft’, and rearrange and expand it into three: E.A., F.C. and ‘Master’s Part ‘(i.e. M.M.).
Yet, as I have already remarked, this three-degree system was coming into use in the lodges about, or very shortly after the time (1723) that Grand Lodge had passed its no innovations’ resolution.
The new arrangement did not take on immediately. An exposure of 1730
(The Mystery of Freemasonry) remarked that
‘”There is not one Mason in a Hundred that will be at the Expense to pass the Master’s Part except it be for Interest”.
As late as the middle of the century it had still not penetrated to Kelso in Scotland, for it was only in 1754 that the lodge there discovered á most essential defect of our Constitution’, namely.
“.that this lodge had attained only to the two Degrees of Apprentices and Fellow Crafts, and know nothing of the Master’s part, whereas all regular Lodges over the World are composed of at least the three Regular Degrees of Master, Fellow Craft, and Prentice”
The Constitutions of the Free-Masons, the first Book of Constitutions of the first Grand Lodge, was based on the old two-degree system.
Among the General Regulations we find this, for instance:
If the Deputy Grand Master be sick, or necessarily absent, the Grand Master may chuse any Fellow-Craft he pleases to be his Deputy pro tempore.’
Then again, in the ‘Manner of constituting a New Lodge'(the earliest official piece of ceremonial working we have) the Master and Wardens designate are described as
‘being yet among the Fellow-Craft’ and as the ceremony proceeds it is directed that the Deputy Grand Master “shall take the candidate ( i.e. the Master designate) from the fellows”
The resemblance between the Ceremony of Installation as practiced in English Lodges and this, its counterpart of two hundred and fifty years ago, will be obvious of the two are compared.
It explains , too, why today the presentation of the Master Elect takes place in the Second Degree; when this particular piece of ceremonial was devised there was none higher as the Third Degree was yet to come.
The fact that the Three-degree system was able to establish itself from the mid 1720s onwards, apparently without demur from the Grand Lodge, seems to lend support to the theory that it was developed by a re-arrangement and expansion of basic material which already existed in the two-degree system.
To this extent that it was not considered an innovation and therefore acceptable.
This view is strengthened when we compare the attitude of Grand Lodge in the latter half of the 18th Century to the next degree novelty which had by then made its appearance, the Royal Arch.
First, however, it is necessary for us to take a brief look at the relationship between the two rival Craft Systems which were working in England at that time;
That under the premier Grand Lodge of 1717, and that obtaining with its rival which came into being in 1751, the
“Grand Lodge of England according to the Old Institutions”, the so-called Antients Grand Lodge.
Freemasonry Antient and Modern
To us the difference between the two systems may now seem small and of little consequence, and certainly out of proportion to the unmasonic feelings they generated, but at the time much was made of them and not least by that leading protagonist and Grand Secretary of the Antients, Laurence Dermott.
In the Book of Constitutions which he compiled for that Grand Lodge, and to which he gave the curious title Ahiman Rezon,
he roundly condemned (2nd, 1764, and later editions) the whole system of what he called ‘modern masonry’
(thereby, incidentally, coining the nickname for the original Grand Lodge)
and charged it with having deviated greatly from the old landmarks. ‘The innovation’, he declared, ‘
“was made in the reign of George the first (1714-27) and the new form was delivered as orthodox to the present members.”
He went on to allege, in his typically disparaging way, that the founders of the premier Grand Lodge had invented what they could not remember of the original mode of working:
About the year 1717 some joyous companions, who had passed the degree of a craft (although very rusty) resolved to form a lodge for themselves, in order (by conversation) to recollect what had been formerly dictated to them, or if that should be found impracticable, to substitute something new, which might for the future pass for masonry amongst themselves.
At this meeting the question was asked, whether any person in the assembly knew the Master’s part, and being answered in the negative, it was resolved, nem. con. that the deficiency should be made up with a new composition, and what fragments of the old order found amongst them, should be immediately reformed and made more pliable to the humours of the people…
Dermott’s assertions may have a grain of distorted truth in them for, as we have already noted, the three Craft degrees were developed by a rearrangement of the existing motifs of the original two degrees and a filling-out with certain new material.
On the other hand Dermott’s own Grand Lodge worked the same three-degree system so that he was probably carping only about matters of detail on which we know the two Grand Lodges differed.
In this respect the most notable case in point related to the modes of recognition of the First and Second Degrees over which the premier Grand Lodge had made its most significant–and most ill-judged–innovation.
At some time in the 1730s the premier Grand Lodge, alarmed by the publicity which Freemasonry was attracting through so-called exposures and by the increase in the numbers of irregular Masons (the two things were probably cause and effect), adopted a series of measures ‘to be observed in their respective Lodges
“for their Security against all open and Secret Enemies to the Craft’.
Just how far these measures went is open to debate for the Minutes of Grand Lodge are understandably reticent on the subject.
Some concerned rules for visiting, but there seems little doubt that the major change was the transposition of certain words of recognition. This is apparent from the mid-18th century exposures and from the fact that certain continental systems which took their Freemasonry from England at that time still to this day retain the transposed arrangement, making inter visitation between Constitutions by E.As. and F.Cs. something of a difficulty.
This innovation was one of the sources of contention between the Antients and the Moderns. Dermott made an oblique reference to it in a typical skit describing Moderns lodges and, in particular, the drawing of the lodge done by the tyler on the floor of the meeting room. ‘Nor is it uncommon’, he wrote in Ahiman Rezon, ‘for a tyler to receive ten or twelve shillings for drawing two sign posts with chalk &c, and writing Jamaica rum upon one, and Barbados rum upon the other…’
The premier Grand Lodge having allowed itself the power to make this fundamental alteration equally found no difficulty some seventy or so years later in countermanding it in order to pave the way for the union of the two rival Grand Lodges. In 1809 it passed a resolution to enjoin the several Lodges
“to revert to the Ancient Land Marks of the Society” and so removed one of the greatest obstacles to a reconciliation.
THE ROYAL ARCH
The Antients were, as we have seen, quick to charge the Moderns with having made innovations in Masonry, but it was they who adopted and fostered the biggest innovation of all in 18th century Freemasonry, the Royal Arch, together with a series of ‘side’ degrees out of which have grown some of the present day additional degrees and orders of Freemasonry.
…The Royal Arch degree had made its appearance some time during the 1740s and the Antients Grand Lodge, under Dermott’s leadership, were quickly to become enthusiasts for it.
Their lodges worked this degree (and others) under the aegis of their Craft warrant and they did not admit the necessity of any separate authority or organisation for doing so.
The preamble to their
Rules and Regulations for the Government of Holy Royal Arch Chapters (1794)
led off with the statement
that Ancient Masonry consists of Four Degrees. The apprentice, the Fellow Craft…the Sublime Degree of Master, (and) The Holy Royal Arch’ and it continued: It follows, therefore, of course, that every Warranted Lodge possesses the Power of forming and holding Lodges in each of those several Degrees; the last of which, from its Pre-eminence, is denominated among Masons a Chapter.’
The premier Grand Lodge on the other hand did not recognise the Royal Arch as part of the original system of Freemasonry, although had it been so disposed it could presumably have done so within the power Grand Lodge had reserved to itself by the 1723
‘no innovations’ resolution.
It preferred however to remain completely apart from the Royal Arch and so a quite separate organisation came into existence in 1766 to control the degree among the Moderns –the Grand and Royal Chapter of the Royal Arch of Jerusalem.
The Grand Secretary at that time (Moderns), Samuel Spencer, went so far as to say in writing to a correspondent:’…
the Royal Arch is a Society which we do not acknowledge, and which we believe to have been invented to introduce innovations and to seduce the brethren from the true and original foundations which our ancestors laid down..
‘ In other words it was not an innovation which the premier Grand Lodge was prepared to accept into the ‘Body of Masonry’ in the way that, in the formative stage of its development, it had accepted the tri-gradal system which, as we have seen, was certainly not laid down by any who might be deemed to be the ancestors’ of the speculative Freemasons of the mid-18th century.
Nevertheless, in spite of the premier Grand Lodge’s non-recognition of the Royal Arch–and I use the neutral term’ non-recognition of’ in preference to opposition to’ as more nearly defining the attitude of Grand Lodge in the matter–the degree grew in popularity among the Moderns and indeed many of the leading figures in the premier Grand Lodge joined it.
They were not opposed to it, but they would not mix the Royal Arch with Craft Masonry in their Grand lodge nor allow their private lodges to do so–although here and there they occasionally did.
As it was put by a later Grand Secretary,(Moderns) James Heseltine (himself a Royal Arch Mason and a founder of the Grand Chapter) displaying a more tolerant outlook than his predecessor and one better reflecting the position taken up by Grand Lodge on the subject: ‘..
.the Royal Arch is a private and distinct society. It is a part of Masonry, but has no connection with Grand Lodge.’
Then again later, writing apropos the Royal Arch degree, he commented ‘…
its explanation of Freemasonry are very pleasing and instructive.’
This fundamental difference in their attitude to the Royal Arch by the Moderns and the Antients was one of the more important points at issue which had to be reconciled before a union between the two could be effected.
The compromise that in this instance did so was the statesmanlike concession by the premier Grand Lodge in 1813 that the Supreme Order of the Royal Arch was, after all, part of pure Antient Masonry, and the legal fiction by which it was acknowledged as
‘the Perfection of the Master’s Degree’, thus leaving intact the body of pure Antient Masonry as consisting of ‘three degrees and no more’.
An equivocation, perhaps, but one which, happily, was to prove a firm foundation for the United Grand Lodge.
THE NATURE OF EIGHTEENTH CENTURY FREEMASONRY
When one examines (as far as the evidence permits) the development of 18th century Freemasonry, its religious basis, the moral and symbolic content of its ritual, the form of its ceremonies, its social customs–what, in fact, is of the very essence of Freemasonry–one cannot escape the conclusion that there was a subtle but continuous process of innovation, alteration and expansion which could hardly have been envisaged by the framers of the ‘no innovations’ resolution of 1723 although the seed of one very fundamental change had been planted in that year.
The year 1723, as we know, saw the publication of the first Book of Constitutions.
It has been argued that the First Charge of a Freemason contained in the Constitutions, “Concerning God and Religion”, established the early speculative Freemasonry of Grand Lodge on a deistic basis.
It is by no means certain, however, that this was the intention of James Anderson, the Editor, or of the committee of 14 learned Brothers’ who were appointed to examine the manuscript.
It may have been no more than a reflection of the more tolerant attitude of the Age of Reason to divergent views of the basic and universal Christian religion of the country.
Be that as it may, and in spite of the fact that there are recorded instances from the 1720s onwards of men of the Jewish faith being admitted into the Craft, there is no doubt that English Freemasonry remained very definitely Christian throughout the 18th century and up to the watershed date of 1813, the Union of the two Grand Lodges.
Then in a whole series of innovations and alterations the United Grand Lodge gave a ‘new look’ to the system of Freemasonry by, among other things, de-Christianising its ritual, thus establishing it henceforward and quite unequivocally as ‘the centre of union between good men and true “irrespective of religion and mode of worship”
It was only to be expected that speculative Freemasonry should earlier have been developed on a Christian basis in a Christian country by the practising Christians who formed the great majority of its members.
The ritual and ceremonies embraced Christian forms and allusions.
The two Saints named John figured prominently in Masonic tradition; they were the Patrons of the Art, the two Grand Parallels in Masonry;
Unattached brethren were said to be from ‘the Lodge of St. John’; the feast days–
that of St. John the Baptist on the 24 June and of the Evangelist on the 27 December–were observed by Masons as the days of installation which in many cases took place every six months.
The installation meeting was called the Festival of St. John; in some places it still is–thus does tradition die hard.
The MS. Constitutions of the operative masons, the so-called Old Charges’, were prefaced by a Trinitarian prayer which Dermott took and reproduced in Ahiman Rezon as Á Prayer used amongst the primitive Christian Masons’.
He also incidentally, printed a theistic prayer stated to be used by Jewish Free-masons’, but in general the speculative Freemasons of the 18th century followed their operative ancestors and when prayers were required in their proceedings they quite naturally adopted or adapted the Christian forms to which they were used in their worship.
(As a matter of interest we may note that the Book of Constitutions of the
Grand Lodge of Ireland, which is descended indirectly from an Irish version of Ahiman Rezon, still gives a prayer for use in the Third Degree which is Christian and Trinitarian in character. On its certificates, too, this Grand Lodge is referred to as ‘The Most Worshipful Lodge of St. John’.)
When lodges started to adopt distinctive titles–(the first to do so was in 1730; Antients lodges seldom troubled; with the Moderns, and at first with the United Grand Lodge, it was usual but still optional;( from 1884 it was mandatory)–a great many took the name of a Christian saint. One has only to refer to Lane’s Masonic Records and the Masonic Year Book to note the numbers of lodges which have been and continue to be so named, thud underlining the strong connection there has always been between the Craft and the established religion of the country and its individual churches.
RITUAL, CEREMONIAL AND CUSTOM
The development of the Craft system in the 18th century and up to 1813 is the final chapter in the story of the transformation of free and accepted Masonry into speculative Freemasonry–of the change from a simple social and benevolent society with a picturesque ceremony of admission inherited in its essence from the operative masons, to an altogether more serious and high-minded means of demonstrating a pattern for living by means of allegory and symbols.
Freed from the shackles of its operative, purely trade restrictive purpose, and becoming fashionable and accepted at all levels of society, it was able to rise and expand on a more esoteric plane.
The fist stage in this process has already been referred to: the adaption of the system into three degrees and the clothing of the skeleton of these with additional material to fit them into the new pattern.
Thus at first the purpose–or perhaps merely the effect–was to add to the novelty and appeal of what was becoming a fashionable and growing institution by providing it with a dramatic content and with traditional ‘histories’ or explanations to suit its elements and motifs, old and new.
As far as can be judged from the sources available (and, for want of anything better, and unreliable as by their nature they must to some extent be, we have here to depend very heavily upon exposures)there appears at this stage to have been no attempt to draw moral lessons from Masonic traditions and emblems.
True, Samuel Prichard in one of the first of the exposures to be widely circulated, his Masonry Dissected of 1730, did include this exchange:
Q. What do you learn by being a Gentleman–Mason?
A. Secrecy, Morality and Good fellowship.
but he did not go on to develop this answer either here or elsewhere in the catechism.
The morality which a ‘Gentleman-Mason’ learned was probably that of the code of conduct of the Old Charges’ rather than that conveyed by ritual allegories and symbols.
In the 1740s however we begin to find scraps of evidence that symbolical explanations were being attached to certain features of the Ritual and Ceremonies.
These occur here and there on contemporary French exposures and in the statements extracted by the Portuguese Inquisition from the unfortunate John Coustos, who was tried and tortured as a result of his Masonic activities on Lisbon.
It seems, therefore that the expansion of Masonic symbolism as a means of expressing certain ethical teachings must have been taking place round about the middle of the 18th Century.
By then end of the 1760’s writers and lecturers were beginning to appear to expand and explain this new-found philosophy of Freemasonry and to develop its spiritual ideas and hidden meanings, culminating in the work of one who was to tower above them all and whose Masonic genius is annually commemorated by a lecture such as this , namely
There can be little doubt but that the work of these Masonic philosophers did much to give energy and direction to this aspect of Freemasonry.
What they did in their commentaries was to produce a great mass of didactic & homilectic material which, although not specifically designed with this purpose in mind, was in fact—or the best parts of it —-absorbed into the Lodge work, thus establishing the pattern familiar to us .
Reduced to their essentials, our Masonic ceremonies consist of certain forms or words and actions by which a man is made a Mason or advanced to another Degree.
These, the esoteric elements of our ceremonies, provide a rite which is complete in itself and all that is necessary to achieve its prime purpose.
But around the framework is then built an elaborate system of formalized addresses, exhortations, charges and the like, which lifts the whole onto a higher plane and expands and expounds (which the basic rite does not) the philosophical principles and tenets of Freemasonry.
We can understand how this, the great but gradual innovation of the latter half of the 18th Century, came about if we consider what we know of the working of the time.
The actual ceremonies were probably very brief, by modern standards—no more than the simple ritual procedures for making, passing & raising; the basic rite.
In fact. it was in the catechetical lectures, which at that time were worked as the brethren sat at a table, that the explanations, the moralizing and eulogising, the drawing out of allegory an symbolism , took place. This is still so, of course, but the Lectures are largely neglected since much of their teaching (or, at least. the less verbose parts of it) has been absorbed into the ceremonies, and because of the change in function of Lodges of Instruction, for these are now almost entirely mere Lodges of rehearsal and not, as they were well into the 19th Century, lodges giving instruction in Freemasonry by working the Lectures.
The coalescing of the basic rite and what might be termed the teaching and preaching part of Freemasonry came about as the ceremonial and the social and convivial aspects of lodge meetings became divorced into two separate and distinct activities.
This was one of the many changes which finally became universal as a result of the work of the Lodge of Reconciliation in 1815.
Whilst the Lectures were gone through as the brethren sat around a table, smoking and drinking and indulging in many toasts and charges, there was probably much room for individual ideas in matters of interpretation and symbolism.
The author of the exposure Three Distinct Knocks (1760) confirms this (despite his gibes) in a footnote appended to his version of the Fellow-Crafts Lecture or Reasons (
as he elsewhere calls a lecture) when he states:
Some Masters of Lodges will argue upon Reasons about the holy Vessels in the Temple and the Windows and Doors, the Length, Breadth and Height of every Thing in the Temple. Saying, why was it so and so. One will give one Reason; and another will give another Reason, and thus they will continue for Two or Three Hours in this Part and the Master-Part;. some give one Reason and some give another; thus you see that every
Mans Reason is not alike…
When the writings of the Masonic philosophers began to make their appearance they found favor by providing and popularising ready-made, but deeper interpretations which caught the imagination of the Masons of the day.
To take an example by way of illustration, one of the first of these publications was Wellins Calcott s A Candid Disquisition of the Principles and Practices of the Most Ancient and Honourable Society of Free and Accepted Masons, published in 1769.
The second part of this book has the subtitle The Duties of a Free-Mason, in several charges delivered in regular Lodges… It consists of some sixty or so pages of charges, addresses, prayers and so forth delivered on particular, named occasions.
This is what the author, Calcott, said in a Short Charge delivered by him in the Palladian Lodge(now No. 120), Herford, to a brother on his being installed in the Chair of that Lodge.
The language may not be unfamiliar, although not necessarily in precisely the same context.
Right Worshipful Sir,
By the unanimous voice of the members of the lodge, you are elected to the mastership thereof for the ensuing half-year;…
You have been too long standing, and are too good a member of our community, to require now any information in the duty of your office.
What you have seen praise-worthy in others, we doubt not you will imitate; and what you have seen defective, you will in yourself amend…
For a pattern of imitation, consider the great luminary of nature, which, rising in the east, regularly diffuses light and lustre to all within its circle.
In like manner it is your province, with due decorum, to spread and communicate light and instruction to the brethren in the lodge.
From the knowledge we already have of your zeal and abilities, we rest assured you will discharge the duties of this important station in such a manner, as will greatly redound to the honour of yourself, as well as of those members over whom you are elected to preside.
Other examples could be quoted from this and other authors where one finds phrases or sentiments unexpectedly standing out from the printed page with equal familiarity.
It is difficult, however, to assess whether these represent original source material or whether they are instances of a writer collating or paraphrasing something already well known to him.
Whichever way round it was, their appearance in print would nevertheless have the effect of standardising approaches and attitudes of mind if not of actual words.
This process by which the rudimentary degree system was expanded into fully-developed speculative Freemasonry has a faint analogy today in the desire of some brethren to expand and embellish lodge work still further by desiring standard formal addresses or ‘explanations’ where ad hoc informality would be more appropriate.
So new accretions grow quite unnecessarily on to ‘The Ritual’ to cover such occasions as the presentation of a Grand Lodge certificate, Hall Stone Jewel, or the Master’s 250th Anniversary collar jewel, ‘explanations’ of the apron and so on.
We may remember however that in their Freemasonry eighteenth-century brethren were only following the custom of the time, the Age of Formality, when almost any occasion was made the excuse for a sermon, address or discourse of one sort or another.
For instance, James Boswell on being received as a member of the Literary Club in 1773 recorded in his Journal: ‘Upon my entrance, Johnson placed himself behind a chair, on which he leaned as on a desk or pulpit, and with humorous formality gave me a charge, pointing out the conduct expected from me as a good member of this club.’
This procedure has a familiar ring to us although it must be stated at once that there is no evidence that Dr. Johnson was ever a member of the Craft although Boswell certainly was.
Apropos, this custom of a ‘charge’ being given to the new member of some organisation, we may remember that the MS. Constitutions of the operative masons are referred to as the ‘Old Charges’ simply because they contained a series of charges, read to a man on his being made a mason, giving rules and precepts for his conduct in his trade and in life, to which he was required to pledge his adherence.
1813–UNION AND RECONCILIATION
Reference has already been made more than once in the course of this Lecture to the coming together of the two Grand Lodges as the United Grand Lodge of England and to the year in which this took place.
1813,was a turning point in the development of English Freemasonry.
We have now reached the point where we may take a look at the effect of this great upheaval and reorganisation of the English Craft, a traumatic experience which sister constitutions were spared–a fact which accounts for some of the differences between English practice and theirs.
The story of the events leading up to the Union and how this was celebrated on the 27th day of December 1813 has been told many times over and need not be repeated here, for we are now more immediately concerned with the series of alterations and innovations which was its outcome.
The Articles of Union–the ‘peace treaty'(as it were) ratified and confirmed by the two Grand Lodges–
had provided for machinery ‘to promulgate and enjoin the pure and unsullied system, that perfect reconcilliation, unity of obligation, law, working, language, and dress, may be happily restored to the English Craft’ (Article XV).
This provision was put into effect by the warranting of the Lodge of Reconciliation which commenced work in 1814 and continued over the following two years until 1816
when “the several Ceremonies, &c’. recommended by the Lodge were approved and confirmed by Grand Lodge” (20 May, 5 June 1816).
Masonic scholars have now been arguing for many years as to how far the Lodge of Reconciliation went into detail in settling wording, and working, and what therefore was approved and confirmed by Grand Lodge.
The Minutes of the Lodge (which are preserved in the Grand Lodge Library) are very sketchy and unrevealing, but it does seem that the Lodge of Reconciliation may have concerned itself in the main with the broad outline or pattern of the ceremonies and only to have gone into precise detail on particular matters like the openings and closings, the obligations, passwords, methods of advancing and the like.
Be that as it may, the work of the Lodge was not accomplished without arousing opposition.
Six Antients lodges under the leadership of the Lodge of Fidelity (former Antients No, 2, now No. 3) set up a committee ‘ for the protecting safeguard of Ancient Masonry’ which embarked on a vigorous campaign against what were described as
” the Innovations attempted to be introduced by the Lodge of Reconciliation”.
The leaders were Bros. J.H. Goldsworthy of the Lodge of Fidelity
(who had originally been a member of the Lodge of Reconciliation until excluded therefrom for his ‘improper conduct’ in this affair)
and Bros. John Woodcock, Master of the Phoenix Lodge (now No. 173).
The activities of the protestors soon, and inevitably, resulted in their being arraigned before the newly-created Board of General Purposes, but they had the courage of their convictions. Woodcock in particular pulled no punches.
He refused to recognise the authority of the Board, “denying that Grand Lodge was itself properly constituted, the Articles of Union not having been observed’ and the Union therefore not yet complete.
He then went on to level at the Lodge of Reconciliation the accusation that the Lodge ‘
“had not done what they were directed by the Articles of Union and had altered all the Ceremonies and Language of Masonry and not left one Sentence standing”
But the Union, so long and earnestly worked for and so recently won, was not to be jeopardised by renewed divisions and disharmony.
The Board showed patience and the Lodge of Reconciliation a willingness to compromise.
The Board could have recommended–but did not–action under one of the Articles of Union (XVI) which gave Grand Lodge power ‘ to declare the Warrants to be forfeited, if the measures proposed shall be resisted’.
On its part the Lodge of Reconciliation, through its Master Samuel Hemming (in a report to the Grand Master, 11 February 1815),stated that
“In conformity to the wishes of some of the objectors the Lodge of Reconciliation have introduced a trifling variation in the business of the Second Degree, because they are most anxious that the general harmony of masonic arrangement should not be disturbed by a pertinacious adherence to mere forms, which are themselves of minor import.”
This was the crux of the matter; the Lodge was prepared to take the broader view for the general good of the Craft.
Although the organised anti-Reconciliation lobby stemmed from the Antients side
(which had tended all along to show itself as intransigent as the Moderns were prepared to be statesmanlike)
disquiet at the changes that were being made could not have been all one-sided.
The premier Grand Lodge had already made moves to bring itself into line with the Antients, and thus to prepare the way for the Union.
This was accomplished through the work of its own lodge specially warranted for the purpose, the Lodge of Promulgation which had worked from 1809 to 1811.
(One of its recommendations–an innovation incidentally, as far as Moderns lodges were concerned –was the introduction of deacons).
Moderns Masons had thus already felt the first stirrings of the wind of change which was to blow through the Craft at the Union.
Nevertheless there must have been many, too, among their ranks who found this disturbing and even unacceptable.
The Old Dundee Lodge(now No. 18), for instance, recorded a number of resignations about this time (1814-15) including that of a Past Master who wrote to say that he had ceased coming to meetings ‘in consequence of his not being of late as comfortable when he attended the Lodge (on account of the alterations in the Lodge) owing to the New System since the Union’.
The years after 1813 were unsettled ones for the English Craft when members fell away or were expelled and lodges erased, and although this may have been partly the result of economic conditions during the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, it was also to some extent a reflection of the dissatisfaction of the die-hards with the Union and its results.
Only the firm Grand Mastership of the Duke of Sussex steered the United Grand Lodge safely through these difficult and often stormy seas and brought it into calmer waters beyond.
It is easy to understand the feelings of brethren as they found the old order changing. Imagine the reaction today in the event–the highly unlikely event, we may be sure–
of the Grand Lodge deciding to issue an approved, standard ritual and requiring all lodges to conform.
The adherents of this or that ‘working’ would indeed be quick to protest and to defend their own favourite variant.
We may remember the excitement and controversy aroused on the two occasions in this century when Grand Lodge has moved from its traditional position of non-interference in such matters to discuss and legislate on ritual–and then only within particular, narrow fields.
The first in 1926, when the initial prohibition of the extended ceremony of Installation was wisely modified by a permissive compromise; and the second, in more recent years, over the optional variations in the obligations.
How much greater must have been the consternation among many brethren a century and half ago when, after years of bitterness and rivalry marked by a tenacity often verging on the fanatical to their own way of doing things, they found the Lodge of Reconciliation, backed by Grand Lodge, seeking to level out everything on to one common denominator of ritual and practice.
In point of fact the Lodge could not–and did not–succeed in doing this.
For the remoter country lodges the sending of representatives to London to witness the demonstration of the ceremonies was an expensive and difficult business.
Many did not even attempt to do so.
Furthermore, for the transmission of the ritual to lodges reliance had to be placed on that most fallible of instruments, the human memory.
The influence and effect of the work of the Lodge of Reconciliation over the country as a whole was therefore patchy and uncertain and this accounts for the many local variations which survive today.
That in the circumstances so much uniformity was achieved is surprising, but it was probably only arrived at over several decades as opposition and disgruntlement evaporated and the English Craft readjusted itself and settled down again.
The founding of general lodges of instruction such as Stability and Emulation no doubt accelerated the stabilising process, as did that innovation of the 19th century, the printed ritual.
The first of these was brought out by George Claret, a printer, in 1838–although not, it may be noted, without escaping the censure of Grand Lodge.
(It was not until 1870 that the first edition of the popular Perfect Ceremonies of Craft Masonry, purporting to give correct Emulation working, was published.)
ALTERATIONS AND INNOVATIONS AT THE UNION
The question which now naturally arises is what then were the alterations and innovations made in the English Craft at the time of the Union?
In broad terms they affected both of the aspects under which the system can be analysed.
The basic rite was co-ordinated so that the outline of and sequence of events in the ceremonies (the openings and closings, making, passing and raising)
followed a uniform and logical sequence.
The unifying of the monitorial content of the ritual, the didactic and homilectic elements woven around the basic rite, was apparently more a process of election and discarding (through the medium of the Lectures) from the mass of such material that had grown up since the middle of the 18th century as already described. A process, so to speak, of knocking off the superfluous knobs and excrescences.
In both respects what was innovation to some was probably established usage to others; of necessity there had to be a great deal of give and take.
It must have been to those prepared to take only the narrowest view that it seemed as though the ritual and ceremonies had been so altered that
‘not one Sentence’ had been ‘left standing’.
The fundamentals of the system of Freemasonry–that is what were and still are the essentials of the basic rite–remained unchanged.
This must be so, but if it were not self-evident proof is forthcoming from a conference of the Grand Masters of England, Ireland and Scotland which took place in London six months after the United Grand Lodge had come into being.
At this conference ‘
it was ascertained that the Three Grand Lodges were perfectly in unison in all the great and essential points of the Mystery & Craft according to the immemorial traditions and uninterrupted usage of ancient Masons and they recognized this unity in a fraternal Manner’.*
It is possible to gain some idea of the variations which must have existed in the English Craft by comparison with the workings in those other constitutions (the Irish, Scottish and, to some extent, American) which were not subjected to internal strife and the purgative experience of subsequent union as was Freemasonry in this country.
Further light can be thrown on the subject by an examination also of the position in Bristol which managed to remain the ‘odd man out’ and retain, in its affinity with Irish practice, its own unique working and system of degrees.
The basic rite is common to all; the variations arise in the language and in the ceremonial to a greater or lesser degree dramatic(or even melodramatic)
*Minutes of the grand Lodge of Ireland, 1 December 1814 (Author’s italics) used to enact it, and in the range and diversity of the allegory in which it is veiled and of the symbols by which it is illustrated.
American printed monitors and lodge manuals provide interesting evidence on these points, since they were derived in the first instance from English practice or publications originating here before 1813 they give an indication of the motifs and features which disappeared from English Craft Freemasonry at, or shortly after, the Union. They also, and incidentally, well illustrate the difference between the basic rite and the monitorial material with which it is embellished.
The former, if given at all, tends to be printed in these American publications in a highly abbreviated form or in code; the latter, consisting of exhortations, charges, addresses, explanations and the like, is printed in the clear, sometimes with engravings of the emblems and symbols involved.
Among these will be found many of those which appear times over on pre-1813 English jewels and regalia, Masonic pottery and porcelain, furniture, tracing boards, emblematic charts and certificates and so on, but which no longer figure in the English Craft Degrees.
To quote but a few examples by way of illustration: the Trowel, emblematically for the spreading of the cement of brotherly love and affection (still to be found in Bristol);
the Beehive, the emblem of industry whose example urges man to add to the common store of knowledge so that he does not become a drone in the hive of nature, a useless member of society; the Hour-glass and Scythe, emblems respectively of human life and of time, serving to remind us of the transitory nature of our existence here on earth; the Pot of Incense, an emblem of that most acceptable sacrifice, a pure heart; and many others.
Then there are sundry features such as the Middle Chamber Lecture with its homilies on the Five Noble Orders of Architecture and Five Senses of Human Nature–hearing, seeing, feeling, smelling and tasting–which originally appeared in print in Preston’s Illustrations of Masonry.
The Five Senses did not survive the Union in this country and the Five Noble Orders remain in the Ritual as a passing reference only
(they are still described more fully in the Craft Lectures).
It seems, then, that what the Lodge of Reconciliation aimed to do and what in large measure it succeeded in doing, was to cut through the thicket of the accretions of the years to get back to the heart of things and re-establish English Freemasonry on the basis of ‘pure Antient masonry’.
If in so doing much was discarded which we may now regard with somewhat nostalgic regret, we may also be thankful that the Craft degrees emerged from the Union as the firm lasting and (with the Royal Arch) the only basis of the English system.
THE 1815 BOOK OF CONSTITUTIONS
At the same time that the Lodge of Reconciliation was working to restore ‘unity of obligation, working (and) language’, attention was also being given, as required by the Articles of Union, to the subject of ‘law and dress’.
By the twenty-first ( and last) of the Articles of Union it had been agreed that
‘A revision shall be made of the rules and regulations now established and in force in the two Fraternities, and a code of laws…for the whole conduct of the Craft, shall be forthwith prepared and a new Book of Constitutions be composed and printed..”
When this eventually appeared in 1815 it was a complete departure from what had gone before, the creaking structure which had been built up over the years on Anderson’s Constitutions and the extraordinary hotchpotch of Ahiman Rezon which had done duty as a Book of Constitutions for the Antients Grand Lodge.
With the first Book of Constitutions of the new United Grand Lodge a serious attempt was made to codify the law and custom of English Freemasonry by gathering together under subject heads the regulations already in being (if appropriate) or such new ones as were required as a result of the Union.
The Book remained in force for a period of three years during which time members of the Craft were invited to offer comments and suggestions and in 1819 a revised edition appeared containing a number of important alterations in substance.
The 1815-19 Constitutions had many new features, mainly covering administration and procedural points which had previously only been dealt with inadequately or not at all.
Among them for example was a table of precedence of Grand Officers, more comprehensive than anything which had gone before and including a number of new offices the duties of which were detailed in new regulations; other new sections set out rules on such matters as Provincial and District Grand Lodges, the London District, and a number of newly created boards including a ‘Lodge’ to administer the Fund of Benevolence and (another innovation) the Board of General Purposes; a section on certificates appearing for the first time in 1815 was completely revised in 1819 to make it automatic for a Grand Lodge certificate to be issued to every member of the Craft–hitherto it had been optional, on request.
There was much else that was new but we are not immediately concerned with the detailed codification of Masonic law and matters of administration; of more interest to us in this present study are the regulations made to secure uniformity of dress.
REGALIA BEFORE AND AFTER THE UNION
One of the more extensive innovations of the 1815 Book of Constitutions
not substantially altered in 1819 concerned Masonic clothing.
Heretofore little or nothing precise had been ordained about this.
Although from quite early in its history Grand Lodge had occasionally made orders about regalia, these were concerned only with such details as the colour of the silk lining to aprons or of that of ‘ribbons'(i.e. collars) for jewels (in each case blue for Grand Officers, red for Grand Stewards, and white for all other brethren); the overall design of aprons and jewels was largely at the whim of the maker or wearer.
Just as in the latter years of the 18th century Masonic writers were being inspired to interpret in many ways the philosophy and symbolism of Freemasonry,
the makers of regalia from the professional to the home-made gave free rein to their imagination in the representation of its outward and visible signs and emblems.
The result was an astonishing variety of aprons and jewels numerous examples of which are to be seen today in Masonic museums and collections.
Aprons were often highly decorated with elaborate hand-drawn, printed, embroidered or appliqué’ designs
Jewels, apart from those of lodge officers (by no means as uniform and comprehensive as now) often took the form of medallions–thin plates of silver either engraved on the solid or intricately freeted with Masonic emblems.
Such medallions were for the most part worn by brethren, it seems, simply as personal adornment; quite often they were presentation pieces and occasionally they served as officers’ jewels. The exposure Three Distinct Knocks (6th edition, 1776) described them in this way:
These Medals are usually of Silver, and some have them highly finished and ornamented so as to be worth ten or twenty Guineas. They are suspended round the Neck with Ribbons of various Colours, and worn on their Public Days of Meeting, or Funeral Processions, &c. in Honour of the Craft. On the Reverse of these Medals it is usual to put the Owner’s Coat of Arms, or Cypher, or any other Device that the Owner fancies, and some even add to the Emblems other Fancy Things that bear some Analogy to Masonry.
Plenty of room there for innovation, it would appear.
The Regulations of the 1815 Book of Constitutions swept away all this by introducing a section entitled ‘ Of Regalia’ which for the first time laid down standard patterns for a complete range of aprons and jewels which were little different from those of to-day–
an innovation one hundred years after the founding of Grand Lodge which must surely make misplaced the ingenuity of those who see hidden meanings in everything Masonic, however practical and mundane, even to the tassels of our aprons.
An alteration made at this time in officers’ jewels was the changing of the deacons’ jewel from the previously generally used (but nowhere ordained ) figure of Mercury to a dove bearing an olive branch, but just why this change was made was not recorded nor has it ever been satisfactorily explained.
THE NINETEENTH CENTURY
With ‘perfect reconciliation’ and unity ‘happily restored to the English Craft’—
or nearly so– the years following 1815 consolidated the position and paved the way for the great expansion of the Order in this country in the later years of the 19th century,
The ‘no innovations’ principle (omitted from the Regulations in the 1815 Book of Constitutions but reinstated in the 1827 edition, as already noted, as one of the clauses in the ‘Summary of Antient Charges’) had only one further real test to face.
Not that the process of development did not continue after 1815, for it did, but within very much narrower limits as far as ritual and ceremonial were concerned.
The ceremonies of Installation and of Consecration are cases in point.
An attempt was made in 1827 to ‘tidy-up’ and standardise the ceremony of Installation, but with limited success since the work of the Lodge or Board of Installed Masters warranted for the purpose was promulgated to London lodges only.
The ceremony of Consecration on the other hand is an example of something new in post-Union practice–although not in theory for it was not unknown in the 18th century having been first described in Preston’s Illustrations of 1772.
There is indeed good reason to suppose that it may have been an innovation of that worthy founder of this, the Prestonian Lecture. However the ceremony appears to have been performed very little–if at all–in the late 18th and early 19 centuries.
A prayer of consecration or dedication was the most that might attend the formal constitution of a new lodge.
It was only from about the late 1830s or early 1840s onwards that the ceremony of Consecration as we know it (and derived essentially from the Preston model) really began to take on as an indispensable part of the ritual formulary for constituting a new lodge. So much so that we today speak of the Consecration of a new lodge rather than, as formerly, of its Constitution.
What was, it is to be hoped, the last great test of the innovatory powers of Grand Lodge came in the middle of the last century over the recognition of the Mark Degree when Grand Lodge found itself confronted by a similar situation to that which a century before had faced its predecessor, the premier Grand Lodge, over the Royal Arch.
The story is long and involved and need not detain us here for we are interested only in its outcome.
After much discussion and investigation by a special Committee set up for the purpose Grand Lodge adopted a resolution on 5 March 1856
( on the recommendation of the Committee) ‘
That the Degree of Mark Mason is not at variance with Craft Masonry, and that it be added thereto, under proper regulations.’
But this was not to be the end of the matter. At the next Quarterly Communication on 4 June 1856 when the Minutes of the previous meeting were put to Grand Lodge, a motion was proposed by Brother John Henderson (a Past President of the Board of General Purposes and Past Grand Registrar) that the portion relating to the Mark Degree be not confirmed. In an impassioned speech to Grand Lodge (reported in the Freemasons ‘Monthly Magazine, 1 July 1856):
He called upon Grand Lodge not to consent to any innovation on their present ceremonies, as, should they do so, the most disastrous consequences might result. If Grand Lodge were to consent to the proposed innovation, they would be laying the axe to their prosperity, and violating not only the letter but the spirit of their Masonic Union. He trusted the day would never arrive when Grand Lodge would give its sanction to so important an alteration in their laws and discipline as was then proposed. Indeed, he denied that they had the power to make so great a constitutional change as that of adding a new Degree to the Order. They were pledged against all false doctrines, all innovations on their landmarks, and he contended that man, nor body of men, could make such innovations as that now proposed without endangering the stability of the whole Institution.
Much discussion ensued but the matter was finally clinched when the Grand Master, the Earl of Zetland, declared (according to the same report) that ‘ seeing that the Book of Constitutions called upon all Masters to declare that no man, or body of men, could make innovation in the tenets of Freemasonry, and that by the Act of Union their Order was declared to consist of three degrees, and no more, he could not do otherwise than record his vote in favour of the non-confirmation of the minutes’.
The motion proposing this was then put and carried by a large majority.
The Mark Degree was not to be admitted part of pure Antient Masonry.
The result was that the separate organisation, The Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons, then came into being to control the Mark Degree in much the same way that a century previously the first Grand Chapter was formed because of the non-recognition of the Royal Arch by the premier Grand Lodge.
Masonic history had repeated itself and once again on this point of the definition of
‘pure Antient Masonry’.
By its decision over the Mark Degree Grand Lodge had finally divested itself of the wider power it had originally reserved to itself in 1723.
So today our Book of Constitutions defines the powers of Grand Lodge within the more limited field of organisation and administration.
‘The Grand Lodge’, states Rule 4, ‘possesses the supreme superintending authority, and alone has the inherent power of enacting laws and regulations for the government of the Craft, and altering, repealing, and abrogating them always taking care that the antient Landmarks of the Order be observed.’ There, in that last phrase, is the heart of the matter and the real ‘Body of Masonry ‘is seen to be ‘the antient Landmarks of the Order’–that corpus of the lore and custom of the Fraternity,
undefined and undefinable , which subjectively rather than objectively forms the ethos of Freemasonry.
We hear much today about permissiveness and we quite rightly see our Order as a bastion against the insidious nihilism which seeks to set aside accepted scales of values without offering anything in their place.
But this does not mean that in our approach to the Craft we need remain rigidly uncomprehending so that innovation comes to mean anything to which we are not accustomed or, worse still, something with which we merely do not happen to agree.
For we have seen how, over the years since the emergence of speculative Freemasonry and its growth as an organised Society, the ‘Body of Masonry’ did not remain unalterable.
Fundamental innovations there have been such as the three-degree system and the Royal Arch, alteration and additions in ritual and ceremonies as these grew in scope and significance, and changes without number in routine matters such as are inevitable in any developing organisation.
In 1813, after sixty years of dissension and division, English Freemasonry was given an opportunity to pause and take stock, to redefine and re-establish itself.
The processes of innovation, alteration and development that have given us our system of speculative Freemasonry were slowed down, almost halted; the challenge of 1856 showed they were virtually complete.
Grand Lodge had, in effect, acknowledged that not even it had any longer the power to make further innovations in the body of Masonry.
In a century and a quarter the wheel had come full circle.
Have a Wonderful Day & God Bless