Symbolical Masonry, by H.L. Haywood, , at sacred-texts.com
"Unto the divine light of the holy altar, from the outer darkness of ignorance, through the shadow of our earth life, winds the beautiful path of initiation."
The question is often asked, How old is Masonry and where did it begin? The answer must depend entirely on one's definition of the word. If by that term one means a Freemason in the modern sense, who is a member of a subordinate lodge operating under the authority of a Grand Lodge and practising the rites of Symbolical Masonry, then Freemasonry came into existence in London in 1717. But this present day Craft is in historical continuity with lodges or guilds of Masons who in earlier days engaged in the tasks of actual building: if the word Freemason is to be extended to those brethren then we may say that Freemasonry came into existence in the twelfth century along with Gothic architecture and that its cradle was very probably the northwestern corner of France. But if the word Freemason is to be applied to any secret society that makes use, or has made use, of some of our symbols or signs, then Freemasonry goes a long way back into history, because there were organisations among the Græco-Roman peoples, two or three thousand years ago, that had much in common with ours: and it is certain that the ancient Egyptians made use of several of the symbols or emblems that we are accustomed to because we find them in "The Book of the Dead," and in other Egyptian memorials. If Freemasonry is given the widest possible sense of being merely a secret fraternity
then it has existed in many parts of the world for thousands and thousands of years, because primitive tribes have made use of such organisations through an untold period of time.
All over the world at present, and throughout the world in the past, there have been existing all manner of secret societies which in many of their characteristics are so much like our own that writers at various and sundry times have been led to attribute to almost every one of the more important of them some connection with Freemasonry; and in many cases have sought to derive Freemasonry from them. This makes for a great deal of confusion of thought and leads men into very absurd positions as to what Freemasonry really is and what Freemasonry ought to do. A student can easily avoid this confusion if he begins his studies with the known facts of the now existing Fraternity and works his way back, step by step, and with scholarly care and accuracy, as far as ascertainable facts can carry him. The student who pursues this method will soon find that our Craft in its earlier days borrowed from, or derived many things from, or was otherwise connected in many ways with, other organisations: having an historical connection with Freemasonry these organisations properly come within the scope of Masonic history and research, whereas all other secret societies that have no such historical connection are of merely curious interest.
If we can judge by the practices of primitive tribes that now exist, and by the evidences of archæology, we are safe in assuming that long before the dawn of history men organised themselves into secret societies each of which had its headquarters or lodge building, produced ceremonies of initiation, carried on a religious cult, maintained law and order, made war, and so forth. A great deal of speculation is now rife concerning such
primitive societies, and many very strange theories are being erected upon the basis of what little we know concerning this subject: a beginner in this field will be wisely advised if he is very cautious about accepting these speculations, because as a matter of fact we yet have learned very little, comparatively speaking at least, concerning primitive secret societies.
The first great secret organisations in history of which very much is known were the religious cults in the Græco-Roman world,—Egypt, Rome, Greece, etc., etc.,—which were known as the Ancient Mysteries. These powerful fraternities had very many things in common with our own Craft. Except in few instances men only were eligible to membership; they met in tiled lodge-rooms; employed ceremonies of initiation; collected fees and dues; divided their memberships into grades; etc.
One of the most typical of these Ancient Mysteries was Mithraism. It is believed that Mithra was originally an Aryan sun-god who, after passing through many transformations of form and attribute, was at last introduced into the Roman Empire. By that time he had become a saviour-god who had left his home in heaven to become a human being for a time in order to effect the salvation of the world: it was believed that after his death he ascended to his former place in heaven, there to judge the dead and to keep watch over his followers on earth. These followers were supposed to constitute a great army of militant worshippers who, after the fashion of Mohammedan devotees of present-day Islam, were to conquer the world for Mithra, who was heralded as the god of light making everlasting war on the god of darkness. The meeting place of the cult was known as a Mithræum. Men only were admitted to this membership, and they were obliged to undergo a severe ceremonial of initiation, in some respects strikingly like the
drama of our Third Degree. The other Ancient Mysteries were in essentials similar to Mithraism and all of them anticipated in many ways, sometimes startlingly, the rites and customs of modern Freemasonry. The analogies are in many instances so close that some careful students believe that our own Fraternity is lineally descended from the Ancient Mysteries. This hypothesis is intelligible and one that commends itself in many ways, but as yet it has been impossible to establish all the links in the long chain of evolution.
At the time the Ancient Mysteries were flourishing in the Græco-Roman world another form of organisation became very common which also anticipated in many very striking ways our own lodges. I refer to the Roman Collegia. From a very early date all the trades and crafts among the Romans were very closely organised in every community; the bakers, the butchers, the carpenters, the shoemakers, painters, etc., etc., had each their own collegium, which was organised according to imperial law, and used as a kind of social and benefit club by its members. It is supposed that most of these collegia originated as burial societies to enable the usually impoverished workman to have the respectable burial for himself and for the members of his family which every Roman much desired. As time went on these collegia passed more and more under the control of the Imperial Government until it came to pass that by the time of the barbarian invasions the Emperors were making use of them as the most perfect means of controlling the hordes and masses of labouring people in their dominion. Each collegium met in its own lodge room; had its own constitutions and by-laws; admitted to membership men only and by means of initiatory services; had a common chest, wardens, masters, etc., etc.
The collegiate form of trade organisation was so very
common in the ancient world that it is most probable it existed in the Near East when Hiram, King of Tyre, built for Solomon, King of Israel, the world-famous Temple at Jerusalem. In his exceedingly curious and very interesting book called "The Dionysian Artificers," Da Costa has argued that the collegia which constructed this Temple were dedicated to Dionysus and were, therefore, called Dionysian Artificers. Some Masonic scholars agree with Da Costa in his hypothesis, while others impatiently scout the whole theory. Be that as it may, it is most probable that Solomon's Temple, which has become both the head and centre of our system of Masonic symbolism, was built by men organised after the fashion of the Roman collegia.
What became of all these collegia when the barbarians destroyed the Roman Empire? The question is one about which there has been endless debate, and it is probable that it will be a very long time, if ever, before historians have satisfied themselves that they know the truth in the premises. Some believe that the collegia were utterly destroyed; others that they survived in Byzantium, there to act as the seeds out of which later developed Byzantine civilisation; others that some of the collegia passed over to England and there became the centres out of which developed English mediæval civilisation; others believe that the collegia became transformed into various church organisations. Among all these various historical speculations there is one that holds for us students of Masonic history a peculiar interest. I refer to what is known as the Comacine theory.
In the celebrated book called "The Cathedral Builders," a woman, Mrs. Baxter, under the pen name of "Leader Scott," first brought this theory to the serious attention of Masonic scholars; she was followed by Brother W. R. Ravenscroft who has published codicils to her
theory at two various times in The Builder, the journal of the National Masonic Research Society. According to this Comacine theory certain collegia of architects took refuge from the barbarian invasions in the easily defended territory immediately around Lake Como in the northern part of Italy, and there for two or three hundred years, by means of carefully training the youths, preserved alive the old methods and secrets of the builders. As the barbarians themselves became settled in communities and began to feel the need of walls, bridges, highways and buildings, these Comacine masters, as they came to be called, sent out their skilled workmen here and there to superintend the new activities and to organise schools in which boys could be taught the rudiments of the trade. In this wise the Comacine masters served as a bridge over which something of the old Roman civilisation passed into the mediaeval world. From their own communities, which acted as the centre, the art of architecture, along with its auxiliary arts, passed into other parts of Europe, to Germany, to the Netherlands, to France, to Spain, and also to England. The Comacine masters were organised into lodges, each with its own officials and its own meeting place, with rites, ceremonies, pass-words, signs and trade secrets.
All this according to Leader Scott. The hypothesis is plausible and there is much by way of evidence to prove its validity, but as yet the majority of careful students have refused to accept it, and that because some of its most fundamental positions have not been substantiated. R. F. Gould, the greatest of Masonic historians, described the whole Comacine theory as a vision hanging in the air. Whether it be that he is right in his position or that they who hold to the Comacine theory have the truth on their side, the fact remains, that every careful student of
[paragraph continues] Masonic history must familiarise himself with, and somehow come to terms with, this theory.
It is the consensus of opinion among the best equipped modern Masonic historians that the history of the Craft, properly so-called, began with the advent of Gothic architecture. This style of building was such a revolutionary change as compared with the Romanesque which preceded it that new conditions were created and profound changes were wrought in the habits and customs of the workingmen that had Gothic buildings in charge. Under the new conditions of their labour those guilds began such practices and forms of organisations as led, after a number of centuries of evolution, to the development of modern Freemasonry.
A Romanesque building was very simple in principle. It consisted of a flat roof laid across four walls: if this roof was pitched or arched the walls were thickened in order to take up the side thrust. If the buildings were made large and the roofs high, then it was necessary to make the walls of such great thickness that the buildings had the appearance of military fortresses; and since these walls served to buttress the roof it was impossible to cut very large windows in them lest they be too much weakened and the buildings collapse. As a result of this condition the general character of Romanesque buildings was one of squatness, heaviness and of gloomy interiors. In the twelfth century, and either in England or in northwestern France, the builders discovered a new principle that enabled them completely to transform their structures. Instead of the round arch of the older style, they took up the use of pointed arches, which enabled them to raise their roofs to any desired height, and they learned how to take care of the thrust of these arches by means of flying buttresses. In the course of time this system became so well articulated and so consistent that the
skeleton of the building became a thing in itself and capable of standing alone, like the framework of a machine, so that walls were no longer necessary to serve for buttress purposes. Therefore, the builders began to leave out the walls as much as possible and to substitute for them stained glass windows. The thrusts from the pointed arches that were not taken up by the flying buttresses were cared for on the interior of the building by slender pillars and piers. This made these great structures capable of housing thousands of persons at once, and yet gave to them airiness, grace and ease, and such harmony of line and colour as later on led Goethe to describe Gothic architecture as "frozen music."
The principles and methods of Gothic were applied to bridges, walls, domestic structures, to art, ornamentation, dress, and even to household utensils, but of all the manifestations of it the most magnificent and enduring were the cathedrals; and, owing to the devastation of war, in which the cathedrals were ever held more or less inviolable, they are all that is left to us of an art that at one time spread over the whole of Europe and of England. These cathedrals were complicated structures that required for their erection rare skill, knowledge difficult to acquire, and a compact organisation of men. It is believed that in the course of time the guilds of workmen who had the cathedrals in charge were given, in recognition of the unique character of their labours, certain privileges and immunities. Not many cathedrals were built, and such as were undertaken were very naturally placed in the larger centres of population. Since comparatively few men were skilled enough to work at such structures it was necessary to move the guilds about from place to place to such points as they were needed. This set the cathedral building guilds sharply apart from the other guilds of that time, each one of the latter of
which was stationary and forbidden by law to practise its trade outside of the incorporated limits of its own community. Some writers believe that the builders, or Masons (the two words mean the same), who belonged to the cathedral building guilds came at last to be known as "Freemasons" in virtue of the fact that their guilds were permitted to move about from place to place and free from most of the local restrictions under which other guilds were compelled to operate. If this theory is true, we may say that Freemasonry strictly so-called began with these cathedral builders and not with the ordinary guild mason, or local builder. There is much debate now going on about this whole subject, and it is very necessary that one move with caution and that one make these statements not as utterances of known fact but as tentative hypotheses, more or less substantiated by evidence but not yet clearly proved.
Whatever may be correct of the guilds of Freemasons we may feel quite certain that their practices were in many important respects very much like the guilds existing everywhere about them. Upon undertaking a new work they would begin by erecting a temporary building to serve as their lodge-room, work-room, store-room, etc. In this temporary building they would hold their lodge meetings. They were governed by a master, and wardens, and they probably had secretaries, treasurers, constitutions and by-laws. When a youth was taken into the Craft, he was vouched for by some Master Mason and received, upon entering the lodge, the obligation of an apprentice. He was then indentured to a Master Mason, who was to serve as a sponsor; his name was entered in the book of the lodge, and he was then for a period of seven years set to work to learn the various secrets of his trade. His time of apprenticeship over, he was brought again into the lodge and given his obligation as a Fellow of the
[paragraph continues] Craft, or Master Mason (the two terms signifying the same thing at that time), and he henceforth did a master's work, received a master's wages, was free to travel in search of employment, and was taught how to prove himself a Master Mason wherever he might go. It is supposed that through the teaching of apprentices their traditions and their various other usages, these Freemasons gradually came to use their tools and building secrets as emblems and symbols whereby to instruct their members in thinking and in moral conduct. Also it is known that these guilds possessed traditional histories of the Craft, and it is supposed that such histories were either read or recited to a candidate at the time of his initiation. In the course of time these traditional histories or legends, along with charges and regulations, were written down in manuscript form and thereby preserved. Many of these ancient documents are now in existence and are known as "Ancient Charges" or "Ancient Constitutions." The oldest existing copy has been dated at 1390.
Gothic architecture began in the twelfth century, reached its apogee in the thirteenth century, and began its period of decline in the fifteenth century. There were many reasons for this decline, the most important of which were civil war and the advent of Puritanism: this applied particularly to England, to which country the present historical sketch must confine itself for a time. When cathedrals were no longer erected a great many of the old cathedral building guilds passed out of existence, but a few of them continued their activities by taking up domestic architecture, especially for the landed gentry, the aristocracy of England at that time. To what extent the now transformed guilds maintained their old customs it is difficult to say because records are lacking; but we know that such as continued to exist remained very jealous of their traditions and very loyal to their landmarks.
There was one exception to this, however, and it is a matter very essential to this story. After the lodges had come to be comparatively weak in number and membership, and after they had been working for many years in close contact with the rich and learned class, they began to admit to their membership men who had no thought of becoming actual builders at all but who developed an interest in this ancient Craft because of its old traditions and its rich symbolisms.
This acceptance of non-operative, or speculative, Masons began in the latter part of the sixteenth century but became much more common in the following century. A certain Boswell was initiated as a speculative Mason in Scotland in 1598, the first event of such a character in the records of Masonry. But either a great many men had been so admitted and left no record, or the custom of admitting speculative members grew with great rapidity, for there was a speculative lodge in full working order in London in 1631. When Elias Ashmole was initiated at Warrington in 1646 his lodge was almost wholly speculative. During the seventeenth century the Fraternity in England was made up of a membership in which operatives and non-operatives mixed together: a few lodges were wholly non-operative; some of them were wholly operative; and many of them were divided between the two. Each of these lodges was wholly self-governed and owed no allegiance to any body higher than itself; but each and all had in common the old traditions and usages so that a man could pass from one to another and easily make himself known wherever he went. This is not to say that there were no important differences among these lodges, because there were: it means that during the period of transition the Masonic bodies continued in the practice of their ancient customs to such an extent as to maintain their identity through the years.
It is believed that during this period of transition a number of influences were admitted into the Craft which were not at all of operative origin and had never been felt by the Craft at the time when it was engaged in actual building. There are few documents in existence to guide us in untangling the clues of history during that period, so we must be very cautious in consequence: but the internal evidence seems to show very clearly that these influences were powerful and in the sequel had a revolutionary effect on the Craft.
Among these non-operative influences the Kabbala must be mentioned as one of the most important. The word itself means "that which has been accepted as authority," and was the name given by Jewish mystics to a body of occult Jewish literature that appears to have come into existence among Spanish Jews in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. These books are among the most difficult to read in the world, and they are full of ideas and terms that now seem very bizarre, but in their own period they appealed powerfully to the imagination of mediæval thinkers, most of whom were devoted to theological and metaphysical speculation. When Reuchlin, the great German who shared with Martin Luther the leadership of the Protestant revolution, made his impassioned plea in behalf of the Jews, he brought this strange old literature to the attention of the intellectual world of Europe and gave it such currency that for a time the kabbalistic writings were on the study tables of almost every theologian. The framework of the Kabbala was a kind of theosophy expressed by means of a system of symbolism which centred about King Solomon's Temple. Inasmuch as there are things in the Masonic rituals which appear to be identical with many of the old kabbalistic symbols, and since the Kabbala was very influential in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, it
is a reasonable supposition that it had a certain influence on Freemasonry during the years in which that society was undergoing a transformation.
There were many other streams of occultism flowing in the same period and there is little doubt but that influences from many of them found their way into the speculations of the Masons of that time. Space does not here make it possible to go into these matters in detail. I have mentioned them as suggestions for lines of Masonic study upon the part of the student who may undertake to follow the chapters in this book: they will serve to remind him that many and various influences were at work among the scattered and independent lodges in England during the seventeenth century, and that at the beginning of the eighteenth century Masonic lodges were scattered here and there through England, Ireland and Scotland; it is impossible to guess how many were in existence at the time, but it is probable that there were not very many; and it is still more probable that there was a considerable diversity of custom and usage among them. In Scotland it came to pass in some localities that a man could make a Mason of another merely by giving him the so-called "Mason's Word." Irish lodges differed radically from those that existed in England.
But the time for the great awakening had come and the first gleams of a new day brightened the horizon in the year 1716 when certain members of a few lodges in or about London "thought fit to cement under a Grand Master as the centre of Union and Harmony." How many of these "Old Lodges" were concerned we do not know, but Dr. James Anderson, a Presbyterian minister, whose story of the period is "the only official account we possess of the foundations of the Grand Lodge of England, and of the first six years of its history," gives us the names of four, those that met in the following places:
2. The Crown Ale-House.
3. The Apple-Tree Tavern.
4. Rummer and Grapes Tavern.
To quote Anderson, whose "The New Book of Constitutions" was issued in 1738:
"They and some other old Brothers met at the said Apple-Tree, and having put into the chair the oldest Master Mason (now the Master of a Lodge) they constituted themselves a Grand Lodge Pro Tempore in due form, and forthwith revived the Quarterly Communication of the Officers of Lodges (called the GRAND LODGE) resolv’d to hold the Annual Assembly and Feast and then to chuse a Grand Master from among themselves, till they should have the Honour of a Noble Brother at their Head.
"Accordingly, on St. John Baptist's Day in the 3d year of King George I, A.D. 1717, the ASSEMBLY and Feast of the Free and Accepted Masons was held at the aforesaid Goose and Gridiron Ale-House.
"Before Dinner, the oldest Master Mason (now the Master of a Lodge) in the chair, proposed a List of proper Candidates; and the Brethren by a Majority of Hands elected Mr. Anthony Sayer, Gentleman, Grand Master of Masons (Mr. Jacob Lamball, Carpenter, Capt. Joseph Elliott, Grand Wardens) who being forthwith invested with the badges of Office and Power by the said oldest Master, and install’d was duly congratulated by the Assembly who paid him the Homage.
"Sayer, Grand Master, commanded the Masters and Wardens of Lodges to meet the Grand Officers every Quarter in Communication, at the Place that he should appoint in the Summons sent by the Tyler."
George Payne became Grand Master in 1718 and "caused several old copies of the Gothic [i.e., manuscripts]
[paragraph continues] Constitutions" to be "produced and collated," a fact which shows that they earnestly desired to adhere to the old traditions. Rev. J. T. Dasaguliers was elected Grand Master in 1719, and George Payne received a second term in 1720. During the year several manuscripts—copies of the old Constitutions, probably—were burned "by some scrupulous Brothers, that these papers might not fall into strange Hands." In 1721 Grand Lodge elected to the Grand Mastership, John, Duke of Montagu, "the first of a long and unbroken line of noble Grand Masters—and the society rose at a single bound into notice and esteem." So popular did the Order become that the learned Dr. Stukely, writing January 6, 1721, complained that "immediately upon that it took a run and ran itself out of breath through the folly of the members."
At first the Grand Lodge, the formation of which is above described, claimed no jurisdiction except over London and its immediate environs; but it was possessed of such vitality that there was nothing to stay its growth everywhither. In 1721 twelve lodges were represented at the Quarterly Communications; by 1723 the number had increased to thirty. Gradually lodges outside London came into the jurisdiction and the Grand Lodge itself chartered new organisations here and there, one of which was the lodge in Madrid in 1728, the first on foreign soil.
But the growing authority of the Grand Lodge at London was not unchallenged. In 1725 the old Lodge at York began to call itself a Grand Lodge. In 1729 Irish Masons instituted a Grand Lodge of their own; and the Scottish followed in 1736. Moreover, rivals sprang up in England itself, so that at one time there were no fewer than four bodies operating as Grand Lodges and claiming full sovereignty as such.
Upon the very rapid growth of Freemasonry in and
about London a number of imitative societies sprang into existence in order to capitalise the increasing prestige of the Freemasonry or else to appeal to the eighteenth century love of fun by caricaturing it. The majority of those societies have passed out of existence—the Gormogons, the Bucks, etc.—but one of them, the Order of Odd Fellows, survives until this day. Also a great many individuals who wished to take advantage of the social life of the Fraternity soon began to secure the pass-words and grips by dishonest methods: and at the same time, and in order to pander to such individuals, a number of exposés were published. In consequence of all this the Grand Lodge found itself very much embarrassed by cowans and eavesdroppers and in order to rid itself of this nuisance and to enable regular Masons to detect the cheats and frauds, the Grand Lodge authorised certain changes in the work. When this occurred a number of the older brethren set up an outcry and alleged that this new Grand Lodge was violating the ancient landmarks and making itself guilty of innovations in the body of Masonry. It is supposed that as a result of this resentment against change certain of the independent lodges that had never affiliated with the Grand Lodge gradually grew together and at last undertook to form a Grand Lodge of their own. It may be that this is not the authentic account of how this new Grand Lodge came into existence, but a majority of latter-day Masonic scholars are of the opinion that this account is the most probable. At any rate a new Grand Lodge came into existence in 1751. Henry Sadler has shown that it and its subordinate lodges were in close communication with Irish lodges and the Irish Grand Lodge, where no innovations had been permitted or found necessary.
This new Grand Lodge came into existence in 1751, thirty-four years after the organisation of the first, or
[paragraph continues] Mother Grand Lodge. Owing to the fact that the 1751 organisation undertook to adhere more closely to what its members believed to be the ancient usages than their rival they began to call themselves the "Ancient" Grand Lodge, and they dubbed the older body the "Modern" Grand Lodge. The Ancient Grand Lodge was fortunate in securing a most able man, Laurence Dermott, to serve as secretary for thirty years and who, during that time, proved himself a man possessed of extraordinary abilities as a leader. Dermott adopted the expedient of army lodges whereby a man in military services could be inducted into the Fraternity and this in itself added power to the Ancients, or Atholl Masons as they also came to be called, owing to the fact that the Duke of Atholl became Grand Master. It is supposed also that Dermott made use of that work which afterwards became embodied in the Royal Arch as a means of inducing prospective candidates to unite with the bodies under his Grand Lodge.
For a long time there was constant strife between the two camps but by the first decade of the nineteenth century overtures began to be made by one Grand Lodge to another, joint committees were formed, and the spirit of Masonic unity began to win its way. In 1813 a great Lodge of Reconciliation was held at which 640 lodges of the Moderns were represented and 359 of the Ancients. The two old Grand Lodges passed out of existence and in their place came the United Grand Lodge of England. From that famous assembly Freemasonry emerged, cleansed from all its feuds, united and triumphant.
Meanwhile, Freemasonry had been established on this continent and soon took root here and developed with surprising vigour. Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Charleston, were among the earliest centres of Masonic activity: there has been a great deal of rivalry among
the champions of these communities to determine priority in date, but the subject is too complicated to permit me to enter into it at this place. Comparatively little is known of the activity of the Craft prior to the Revolutionary War, but it would appear that the lodges were social in character. It has been proved by our historians that much of the passion for independence was generated among Masonic lodges, as in the lodges that met in the Green Dragon Tavern at Boston where the Boston tea-party was planned, and from which, it is supposed, it was executed. Dr. Joseph Warren was a member of a lodge which met in that Tavern. The most important event in the Freemasonry of those days was the initiation of George Washington, who was made a Mason in Fredericksburg Lodge No. 4, in Fredericksburg, Va., on the fourth of November, 1752. Later in life he became the first Master of what is now known as Washington-Alexandria Lodge, Alexandria, Va. Hundreds of other patriots and military leaders became members of the Craft, and they with their lodges carried on so much patriotic activity during the war that it is almost not an exaggeration to say that the Revolution would not have been won by the patriots had it not been for Freemasonry. The spirit and principles of Freemasonry had been written into the Declaration of Independence, and they were also embodied in the Constitution, which became the organic law of the new Republic.
As a result of the prestige it gained for itself in Revolutionary times the Craft flourished exceedingly. Some of our historians believe that it flourished more than was good for itself, because its influence became a temptation to politicians to enter its ranks, some of them, in order to further their own aims. Owing to this fact, and owing also to the general revival of a type of religion that condemned secret societies, there grew up a sentiment opposed
to the Fraternity. This finally culminated in the Anti-Masonic craze. Anti-Masonry, as a definite movement, sprang into existence in 1826 with the mysterious disappearance of William Morgan, a printer of Batavia, New York, who undertook to print an exposé of the Masonic work. What became of Morgan has never been ascertained, but enemies of the Craft immediately fastened responsibility for the man's murder or abduction upon the local Masonic lodge: in a short time scheming politicians, among whom Thurlow Weed was a leader, fanned the flames in their own interest, and soon an Anti-Masonic political party came into existence. A number of religious denominations joined hands with the politicians in a determined effort to destroy Freemasonry. For a few years it looked as if they might succeed. Hundreds of lodges went out of existence, several Grand Lodges suspended activities or surrendered their charters. There came a time when men had to be Masons in secret or else in many communities were obliged to suffer obloquy because of bearing that name.
A typical example of the disastrous ravages of the Anti-Masonic furore is furnished by the experience of the Grand Lodge of New York. The proceedings of that Grand Lodge for 1860 contain a paragraph that presents in the most vivid manner the extent of the havoc:
"At the commencement of the present century there were 91 lodges, with a membership of about 5,000, in a population of 588,603. This was the era of Livingston, Morton, Hoffman, Astor, Jay and Van Wyck. In 1810 the lodges had increased to 172, with a membership of 8,600, in a population of 961,888. In 1820 there were 295 lodges (numbered to 128) and a membership of 15,000, in a population of 1,312,812. This decade witnessed the tornado [Anti-Masonry] which swept over the
states, so that in 1830 the number of lodges, which in 1825 had run up to 480, with a membership of over 20,000 was but 82, and a reliable membership scarcely exceeding 3,000, in a population of 1,918,131. In 1840 the institution began to exhibit symptoms of resuscitation, and brethren awakened from the blight and persecution of the ten preceding years as from a terrible dream. The number of lodges then was 79–22 in New York, and 27 in fourteen counties west of the Hudson River, with but about 5,000 members, in a population of 2,428,921. The increase was slow, but steady, to the year 1850, when there were 172 lodges in the three Grand Lodges then existing, with about 12,000 members, and the population of the State then was 3,097,304. At the present time (1860) there are 432 working lodges (numbered to 477) and a membership of 30,000, and the population is computed at about 4,000,000. It will thus be seen that the ratio was in 1800, 1 to every 117 inhabitants; in 1810, 1 to 111; in 1820, 1 to 91; 1825, 1 to 80; 1830, 1 to 637; 1840, 1 to 485; 1850, 1 to 258, and in 1860, 1 to 133; and it should be borne in mind that there are computed to be in the state 5,000 unaffiliated Masons, who are recognised as such, making the ratio now to be 1 to every 114 inhabitants—a state of prosperity fully equalling that of the best days of the Fraternity."
No sooner was the Anti-Masonic movement abated than the Civil War came on and cut the Fraternity in two in the same way that it divided the nation. Grand Lodges were among the most vigorous agencies on both sides of the Mason and Dixon's line to stem the tide of blood and after the conflict had come brethren in both camps displayed many remarkable examples of fraternalism; but even so the internecine strife was almost as disastrous in its own way as the Anti-Masonic movement
had been. Bitterness and jealousy were engendered and all manner of sectional feelings aroused.
After the Civil War the Fraternity entered a new phase, altogether different in many respects from what it had ever been before. It became more secret than ever, almost secretive, in fact, so that Masons jealously guarded from public knowledge even their most perfunctory activities. To a large extent lodges fell under the control of the older men: Masonry became interpreted as a moral and religious institution so that Grand Lodge proceedings of that period read like the minutes of church conventions; in many quarters the ritual became accepted as literal history and many of the most influential Masons began to believe that that history, incredible and unknown to historians, was Freemasonry's secret.
We are now (1923) entering a new era in which it is very evident that Freemasonry is undergoing another profound inward transformation. One of the evidences of this is found in the fact that the average age of members has become less and less so that Freemasonry may be said to be almost a young man's institution. Accompanying this has been a growth so phenomenal that many of the older heads have looked with some alarm upon it. In 1920 there were in the United States 2,042,706 Master Masons; 551,689 Royal Arch Masons; 173,381 Mark Masons, and 275,989 Knights Templars. No such membership as this has ever been known in the Fraternity before, and it appears that the end is not yet, because everywhere new lodges are coming into existence and new temples are being erected, some of them, such as the great structure in Detroit, of such magnificent proportions as to attract the attention of the world. Along with this growth there has come a new spirit of enterprise and activity: like the churches, Masonic lodges have become possessed of a social conscience, and Masons feel that the
magnificent power generated in such a Fraternity should be harnessed up to the work of the world. This new life has already made itself felt inside Masonic circles by the organisation of a great number of new auxiliary bodies, some of which have already become national forces. Nor has the mind of Masonry been asleep during this time. There was a time when Masonic scholarship belonged to a school of thought long outgrown in other circles, so that the carelessness and gullibility of Masonic writers had become almost proverbial. But in the beginning of the last quarter of the nineteenth century a new movement began to make itself felt. In this country its leaders were Albert Pike, Dr. Albert Mackey, Henry Josiah Drummund, Theodore Sutton Parvin, and their colleagues. This intellectual renaissance appeared with greater power in England, which may still justly claim to be the motherland of Masonic scholarship. In r886 the Lodge Quatuor Coronati was established in order to become an academy of Masonic scholars, every member of which had to qualify himself in general scholarship as well as in Masonic studies. The Quatuor Coronati Lodge has flourished beyond the most sanguine expectations of its founders and in the last thirty-six years has made a record that will probably set the standards of Masonic research for generations to come. Its transactions, called Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, have grown to be a great encyclopædia of all matters pertaining to the Craft and absolutely indispensable to every serious Masonic student. The end of all this growth is not yet, and no man can see what it is going to be. Perhaps it will never have an end: perhaps the Fraternity will grow from power to power until it has become a great public institution standing in the midst of the world to teach the human race how good and blessed a thing it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.
Freemasonry is in its very nature profoundly religious, but it is not a church, for, though it is friendly to all churches that preach the Fatherhood of God, the Brotherhood of Man, and the Immortality of the Soul, it teaches no theological dogmas of its own. It is not a political organisation, whatever its enemies may allege, though it is vitally interested in the public life of the land and never sleeps in its efforts to keep American governmental life as pure as possible. It preaches no programme or reform, but nevertheless lends itself to every effort made to lift the burdens of life from the common people, and it evermore holds before its membership the high ideals of service and of mutual helpfulness. It is a great body of picked men who are bound together by sacred and serious obligations to assist each other, by means of fraternity, and through the teaching instrumentalities of ritual, to build in each man and in society at large a communal life which is not inadequately described as a Holy Temple of Human Souls.
Such, in brief, is the story of Freemasonry. What a story it is! It began in a far foretime in a few tiny rivulets of brotherly effort; these united into a current that swept with healing waters across the pagan centuries; many tributaries augmented its stream during the Middle Ages; and in modern times it has become a mighty river which sweeps on irresistibly. And now, if I may venture to change the figure, its halls are homes of light and life; therein men may learn how to live the life that is life indeed. Well may one unclasp his shoes and uncover his head as he enters a Masonic lodge; a symbolism white with an unutterable age is there, and voices eloquent with an old, old music, and a wisdom drawn from the thought and travail of a thousand generations!