That is a great question, Brother. I just called the Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Montana and received permission to post this article which first appeared in the Montana Freemason Magazine, March 2012, copyright GL Montana and author. This might provide some additional food for thought.
SOME MASONIC MYTHS AND MISCONCEPTIONS
ave you ever heard someone say, â€œNobody really knows when Masonry began,â€
or â€œNo-one knows who wrote our Masonic rituals, and where?â€
r have you heard (this one seems to be a more recent, in-our-lifetime, phenomena), â€œThe allegory or symbolism in Masonry can mean whatever you want it to mean,â€
and â€œWe donâ€™t know what the emblems mean?â€
robably you have heard someone claim that, â€œFreemasonry uses the symbols of the ancient Egyptians or Phoenicians,â€
or that â€œThe Knights Templar discovered secrets beneath King Solomonâ€™s Temple, and, after being disbanded, they joined the medieval stonemasons, whose traditions we preserve?â€
f any of the above statements seem familiar to you, have you ever asked on what facts they stand? Letâ€™s see if we can determine anything at all factual regarding those six statements, and, if found, consider what those facts may mean.
Modern, Grand Lodge Era Freemasonry began at a London Tavern in 1717. Perhaps that isnâ€™t old enough for you. (300 years isnâ€™t enough?!) I hear you saying, â€œBut we have minutes from a Lodge in Scotland from 1598. We have the â€˜oldest Masonic document,â€™ the Regius MS, from about 1390.â€ I ask you: Were the Masons of that
time practicing what we
onsider this: prior to the early 1700â€™s, it seems that there were only two ceremonies - not three - one of which, the Masterâ€™s Part, seems to have been very less widely known. So, no â€œthree degreesâ€ for the men of 1598. Also, the Old Charges â€“ the collection of documents to which the Regius MS belongs â€“ are agreed to have been one of the main focuses in the ceremony of admission through the beginning of the 1700â€™s. A copy of them acted like a modern Charter/Warrant/Dispensation. The story they tell is of a series of widely divergent times, places, and people, with King Solomon and his Temple getting a brief treatment. If King Solomon, and the building of his Temple, were not
the primary story-telling device pre-Revival of 1717, and if there werenâ€™t even three degrees widely known (at least one Lodge in the 1750â€™s still hadnâ€™t been aware of the division into three Degrees!), shouldnâ€™t we instead ask â€œwhen did our
typeâ€ of Speculative Masonry begin? It seems fair to note that â€œsomething different happenedâ€ after the Revival of 1717. At least, for the Masonry that we practice now. Go ahead, look it all up
I think that we have a pretty good idea who wrote much of our Masonic ritual, and where. You know that section in our Monitors during the Second Degree, about Geometry, that says, â€œBy Geometry, we may curiously trace Nature..?â€ That was first delivered by a Bro. named Charles Leslie, a writer, at the founding of his Lodge in Scotland, in 1741. We know the name of the Lodge, the date; records exist of him visiting other Lodges. â€œAlright,â€ you say, â€œbut thatâ€™s just one thing.â€ Let us consider the Apron Lecture in the First Degree. You know, the one about how, â€œIt may be, in the coming years, upon your head...?â€ That was written by Bro. Robert F. Stobo in New York City. Stobo belonged to a Lodge in Brooklyn, among others, and wrote that in the 1870â€™s. Whole parts of the Installation Ceremony were written by Brothers Calcott and Hutchinson, in the 1760â€™s and 1770â€™s respectively. The Prayer at Initiation (â€œâ€¦and be a true and faithful Brother among usâ€) is derived from one first printed in 1730 in Ireland by Bro. Pennell, and part of that also ended up in the Opening Prayer. The First Degree Charge ("Ancient, as having existed/subsisted from time immemorialâ€¦â€ depending on which is given) is derived from one first printed in 1735 by Bro. Smith, also in Ireland. Go ahead, look them up
k, so thatâ€™s fine,â€ I hear you saying now, â€œbut those Old Charges, thereâ€™s no way anybody could know who wrote them or where they derived their
sources.â€ Perhaps. Or, perhaps we do know. The â€œoldest Masonic document,â€ the Regius? Parts of it are taken from â€œInstructions for Parish Priests,â€ written about 1382 by John Mirk, a canon from Lilleshall Abbey. Other parts come from â€œUrbanitatis,â€ (parts of which were printed in â€œThe Babyâ€™s Book,â€) and is a selection on proper â€œurbaneâ€ manners. The â€œsecond oldestâ€ Masonic document, the Cooke MS (possibly of 1420-ish), also takes whole sections from other works, notably the Polychronicon, a popular medieval encyclopedia written by Ranulf Higden. These are just some of the selections. So, I think it is very fair to say that we actually do have a pretty good idea of who wrote much of our Masonic ritual. Go ahead, look it up
The Masonic ritual does NOT â€œmean whatever you
want it to mean.â€ This one ties in closely with the Fourth Statement
, that â€œnobody knowsâ€ what the emblems mean. Both also have some links with â€œrelativism,â€ a parasite on critical thinking.
et us consult our Masonic emblems and ask them what they might mean. â€œThe Lambskin Apron is an emblem of innocence.â€ Huh. Well, does that seem at all vague to you? Does that seem like it is open to a whole lot of interpretation? It is an emblem of innocence. You know: purity. Sounds pretty straight-forward to me. â€œBut thatâ€™s only one emblem,â€ you say. Fine, I grant you that. Letâ€™s examine some others. A square, which has an application to an actual stonemason, is, in Masonry, an emblem of true morality, virtue. Hmm. Well, letâ€™s look at some other working tools. We are taught that the twenty four inch gauge teaches us to wisely use our time; that the plumb teaches us to walk uprightly; that the level reminds us that we are all on the same level (and that though we rise up and may walk upright like the plumb, we will all be leveled again, in Death); the common gavel teaches us to remove the vices from ourselvesâ€¦ and on and on. What about the emblems in the Third Degree, then? The Pot of Incense â€œis an emblem of a pure heart;â€ It is not, â€œan emblem of some mystic from 3,000 years ago,â€ it is not, well, anything else
. The Beehive is an emblem of industry. Working together. Several workers, building together, inside
of a structure and hidden from outside
eyes - like a lodge. That sure doesnâ€™t seem hard to grasp. These, and the other ones in our Lectures, are the only ones that we teach. And they are pretty plain-spoken in telling us what they mean. Go ahead, look them up.
o, when someone says â€œwe donâ€™t knowâ€ what the symbols mean, perhaps what is meant is, â€œI, myself
, do not know what they mean,â€ which is not at all the same. You can lead a horse to water, and a Mason to Masonic meetings, but you canâ€™t make it drink, or him learn. When a man says that the symbols are open to interpretations and that they can mean â€œwhatever you
want them to mean,â€ he is saying that he
canâ€™t be bothered to accept the meanings that they already have
, and again, that is not at all the same.
Freemasonry does NOT use the symbols of the ancient Egyptians, Phoenicians, Pythagoreans, or anybody else. It already has a theme: that of actual stone masons. The symbols are chosen to â€œimprint on the mind.â€ A common illustration may suffice:
he â€œall-seeing-eyeâ€ is often a starting point for some men to reach into their top hat and pull out an Egyptian rabbit. â€œWell, the Egyptians had the Eye of Horus or Ra.â€ Or, some point to other
religions and cultures and, by stacking up every single possible instance of the use of that
symbol, seek to demonstrate some syncretic mystical melting pot of symbolism that Freemasonry supposedly preserves. Let us put on our thinking caps, and do some critical thinking.
he Book of Constitutions, guarded by the Tylerâ€™s Sword, says that we should have Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Actions. Thatâ€™s pretty straight-forward. Think rightly, speak rightly, do rightly. The All-Seeing-Eye says that ALTHOUGH our Thoughts, Words, and Actions might be hidden from the eye of man(kind)â€¦.
that all-seeing-eye pervades the innermost recesses of the human heart. Remember the Pot of Incense from earlier? It is an emblem of a Pure Heart, which is always an acceptable sacrifice to the deity. Therefore, our
Masonic â€œall-seeing-eyeâ€ isnâ€™t an emblem of any specific culture or religion, but of the Deity, able to look into our hearts. Even though your Thoughts, Words, and Actions may be hidden from the eye of MANâ€¦ etc. This does not open the door into every other culture that used an eye.
nother common mistake is found in the 47th Problem of Euclid, â€œan invention of our ancient friend and brother, the great Pythagoras.â€ Firstly, it was actually Archimedes who famously issued that phrase, Eureka, which we attribute to Pythagoras in our Lecture on the 47th Problem. Go ahead, look it up
. But, and most importantly, the entire digression into Euclid, Pythagoras, or even Archimedes, entirely misses the point, which is summed up by the final sentence: â€œIt [the 47th Problem] teaches Masons to be general lovers of the arts and sciences.â€ That sentence tells us all that we need to know, at least for immediate purposes, about that emblem â€“ what the emblem teaches us
. So, again, there is no mystery there. It is not â€œwhatever you want it to be,â€ and it isnâ€™t that â€œnobody knowsâ€ what it means. The 47th Problem of Euclid teaches us to be lovers of the arts and sciences; it does not teach us to draw comparisons with other myths and stories around those men. Go ahead, look it up.
There is an ongoing belief among a few Masons that Freemasonry began at King Solomonâ€™s Temple. In light of the forgoing, I hardly think King Solomonâ€™s Temple to have been the predominant feature in Masonry several hundred years ago. However, letâ€™s, like above, use some critical thinking and see what we can deduce.
hilosophy â€“ Western Philosophy, specifically, but even generally â€“ did not quite exist as such thousands upon thousands of years ago. And that matters because a Speculative Mason is a philosophical
Mason â€“ one Masonic in spirit, but not usually in every day profession. To speculate here is to philosophize. Philosophy is the medium that Freemasonry uses, and philosophy did not exist as such at the time of King Solomon (assuming he and his famous Temple existed, which not all biblical scholars are agreed upon). Thales is considered the first â€œ Ancient philosopher,â€ and among the Greeks, using the methods that we now find so common, philosophy did not really come about until the revolutionary thought of Socrates.
ut, setting aside all of philosophy â€“ pretty much setting aside all Speculative
Freemasonry â€“ letâ€™s ask ourselves: Did Solomon speak English? Did he pay dues? Wear an apron? (And if so, what shape? The length and general shape of aprons has changed significantly!) Where did he and his buddies, Hiram, and Hiram, and his other Brother, sit in the Lodge? East, West, and South. Right? Wrong. The arrangement of officers at the Revival of 1717 had the Master in East, but both Wardens in the West â€“ the Northwest and the Southwest. One of the many competing Grand Lodges in England, the â€œAncientsâ€ Grand Lodge, favored the East, West, and South. If your Lodge officers sit in this position, thank the Ancients.
o: no philosophy, no English, no dues (and paid to whom?) no apron, and no sitting in the East, West, and Southâ€¦ surely he, King Solomon knew all of our Due Guards and Signs, then, right? Err, well, remember above: there were probably NOT three distinct degrees more than 300 years ago, let alone around 3,000 years ago. But, let us, for the sake of argument, consider the Due Guards and signs â€“ and let us pretend that all three â€“ wait, donâ€™t we also have Grand Hailing Signs, and Public Grand Honors, and Private Grand Honors andâ€¦ well, letâ€™s stick to the three degrees. Many of those who favor the Masonic syncretism and relativism path will look at, for example, the Due Guard of a Fellowcraft and say, â€œThat sign has been given by ancient Egyptian rulers thousands of years ago. It was given by other cultures,â€ and then point to a picture of an Egyptian pharaoh giving what appears to be the Fellowcraft Due Guard, and so on. It is given as â€œevidenceâ€ that Masonry is old, and derived from some â€œunderground streamâ€ of ancient mysticism, because, well, those examples given are old. Laying aside the fact that logic does NOT tell us that, â€œbecause those examples are old, and our sign looks like those examples, ergo, our signs must be old and from those examples,â€ let us consider this fact: our Due Guards and Signs were changed in America in 1843.
ait, what?! Go ahead, look it up.
t was at the Baltimore Convention, and hereâ€™s what one of the leading figures of that assembly had to say about making the change, â€œI had the honor to be a member of the Committee, and to report the amendments and the lectures as amended, to the Convention. This I did without alterations from the original; and these are now in my possession. They are mostly verbal, few in number, and not material in their results. The only change of consequence was in the due guards of the second and third degrees, which were changed and made to conform to that of the first degree in position and explanation. This was analogically correct.â€ Soâ€¦ you mean to tell us, Bro. Moore, that you just changed the modes of recognition? Yep. Hmm, well, at least they didnâ€™t change anything else
at that Conventionâ€¦. Unless, maybe, they did?! Bro. Moore, you reversed the three â€œmovableâ€ and the three â€œimmovableâ€ jewels in the EA Lecture - surely you guys have a good reason, right? Mooreâ€™s answer: â€œâ€¦the decision of the Convention, which we believe now to be the general practice of the country. We are free to admit we do not attach much importance to the reasoning; nor do we think it very essential whether the first or the last three be considered the immovable Jewels.â€ Hmm, fantastic answer, sir.
here were plenty of other changes at that Convention. But, laying those
aside for a moment, just consider that Montana jettisoned its previous â€œesotericâ€ ritual in the 1880â€™s, for one given by Rob Morris in his illegal cipher, the Mnemonics â€“ thatâ€™s right, the same Bro. Morris who had been banned from self-promoting in several states twenty years earlier, including Montana. So, when we ask â€œwhich Masonry that King Solomon was supposed to be practicing
,â€ we can open up that field pretty widely. Which jewels did King Solomon consider â€œmovable,â€ and what did his Fellowcraft Due Guard look like? â€“ certainly not like that supposed ancient Egyptian example. Well, go ahead, look all of that up for yourself
oâ€¦ if King Solomon (if he existed) didnâ€™t practice what we think of as Speculative Masonry, and if King Solomon wasnâ€™t even the leading character in the Old Chargesâ€¦ what, exactly, did the Knights Templar supposedly find and then transmit to stone masons?
inally, in that regard, look up â€œRamsayâ€™s Oration,â€ and then ask yourself when
the Knights Templar may have entered popular Masonic consciousness. Really, go ahead, look that one up, too.
hich brings us back to the question: when did our
type of Masonry really take off?
ll of this should get you to thinking, and, in thnking, asking yourself more questions.
ave you ever heard it claimed that Freemasonry has some relationship to generic, vaguely defined, â€œmysticism?â€ Or that it uses things from the Kabbalah, or Sufism, or Gnosticism, or alchemy? Or preserves a secret bloodline of Jesus? If you have â€“ and even if you havenâ€™t, be aware that all of this, and more, has been claimed by Masons, and is out there â€“ go ahead, do yourself a favor and look this all up
Go ahead, look me up
: (406) 442-7774, BroDan@GrandLodgeMontana.org
Tell me what you