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What is the difference between AF&AM and F&AM Lodges?

by Roger M. Firestone

After the foundation of the first Grand Lodge in England in 1717, a rival Grand Lodge arose less than two decades later, calling itself the Antients (or Ancients), whereby it intended to assert greater authenticity than the rival "modern" Grand Lodge. The Antients were also known as the Athol Masons, from their first Grand Master, the Duke of Athol. Some authors (e.g., Carl Claudy) say the Antients were schismatic--i.e., had split off from the "modern" Grand Lodge; others (e.g., Allen Roberts) of more recent vintage say that the Antients were founded independently by Lodges deriving from Scottish and Irish traditions who were excluded by the English "moderns."

These competing English Grand Lodges, along with Grand Lodges established in Scotland and Ireland, issued charters for Lodges in the American colonies into the latter half of the 18th century, until the American Revolutionary War led to the ties between the colonies and the mother country being severed. Long after that event, in 1813 (when the two countries were again at war, in fact), the rival English Grand Lodges amalgamated to form the United Grand Lodge of England, which is the governing body of English Freemasonry to this day.

Meanwhile, in the new United States of America, Grand Lodges were organized separately in each state, some as offspring of Provincial Grand Lodges and some as self-declared independent Grand Lodges (e.g., Virginia). These Grand Lodges comprised Lodges whose charters had been issued by both the Antient and "modern" Grand Lodges in England (as well as a few Scottish and Irish constitution Lodges). The designation of whether a Grand Lodge was Free and Accepted or Ancient Free and Accepted was therefore almost an arbitrary choice, based perhaps on who had a bit more political power when the new Grand Lodge was formed.

In particular, one cannot conclude anything significant about the nature of the ritual used by a Grand Lodge as to its Antient or "modern" content, based only on the designation as F&AM or AF&AM. Many Grand Lodges use an amalgamation of the forms, and it would take detailed study (never having been done to my knowledge) to determine the precise provenance of each American Grand Lodge's ritual contents. It does appear that Pennsylvania may adhere most closely to the work of the Antients, while a northern tier of states, running from Connecticut through Minnesota and perhaps farther west, preserves the "modern" ritual most closely. In those states where a ritual cipher is permitted, which seems to be more a characteristic of the "moderns," the incorporation of changes to the ritual occur with much lower frequency (a fairly obvious observation). An example is the phrase "any be due," which is synonymously rendered "aught be due" in the apparently "modern" jurisdictions: The substitution of a common word ("any") for an archaic one ("aught") is a natural evolution of an oral tradition, while the reverse substitution virtually never occurs in oral transmission. The states with a printed ritual cipher have maintained "aught," while "any" has appeared in those states eschewing such written aids.

Incidentally, there are two jurisdictions which use neither F&AM nor AF&AM: The District of Columbia uses FAAM, and South Carolina uses AFM. Again, these are distinctions without any real difference.

Various suppositions are made about "four-letter" Lodges vs. "three-letter" Lodges and relationships to Prince Hall (PHA) Masonry and issues of recognition, but these are entirely unfounded.

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Last modified: March 22, 2014