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A ROYAL ARK MARINER HISTORY
by WBro George Woolmer, OAM, MEd, GLb
Did you attend the lecture titled 'If This Is Not Noah's Ark, Then What Is It?' given by Dr A. S. Roberts at P.A.C. on 1 Apr 92? I did, and I was convinced that there is an ancient Ark-like craft on the side of Mt Ararat. Its there, it's buried structure has been echosounded, and the Turkish Government is taking it seriously. Its Gopher Wood was identified as Pecky Pine. As to its actual history I have to admit that I have no idea.
However, let us turn to the more conventional Masonic Mariner's history - about which little has been written.
The story of Noah and his Ark is in both Genesis and the Babylonian account, found on clay tablets and titled "The Gilgamesh Epic" - the Hebrews may have got their story from the Babylonians during the Second Captivity.
All the early operative Masonic charges refer to Noah and the Flood, and from the Cooke MS (c. 1410-50.) on, these are to Noah finding two pillars (sometimes in a secret vault) inscribed with the seven liberal arts and sciences.
The constitutions (Anderson's of 1727) of the first Grand Lodge, and Graham's MS of 1726, make great play on Noah and his sons, called Noachidae - which Mackey (604) says also refers to Freemasons - because of their role in bringing knowledge (Handfield-Jones:16) across the disaster of the Flood. This emphasis - now buried - was before the death of Hiram Abiff became the core of the Masonic legend - so it must have been considered important.
Ceremonies including or based on Noah were no doubt worked prior to the first Grand Lodge inventing itself, but there appears to be no reliable record. We do know, however, that Thomas Dunkerly, that well-known Mason who concentrated on getting odd degrees better established, worked the Mariners, or something like it, at Portsmouth. This was about 1780 (Richardson:45), although some, including Handfield-Jones (19), claim that the evidence is not good enough. Dunkerly, however, kept on, and was described as Grand Commander (Richardson:48) in 1794.
There is a record of the degree being conferred in Cornwall about 1780 (Richardson:47). It was certainly worked in 1790, as an AQC paper shows (Handfield-Jones:20), and the famous Baldwyn Encampment (K.Ts) at Bristol was working it before 1800.
After the union of the 'Ancients' and 'Moderns' into one Grand Lodge in 1813, the Duke of Sussex, the new Grand Master, actively suppressed all the 'Further Orders'. Remote lodges, however, kept them alive, sometimes secretly, and rituals were recorded. It was not until the death of Sussex, however, that they could again surface. In 1870 Bro. John Dorrington (Richardson:50) at Bow, claiming to be the emerged 'Grand Commander of the Order of Ancient Mariners', publicly restored Dunkerly's old Grand Lodge.
The relatively new - and unique - Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons took the Order under its control -'protection' (Hadfield-Jones:23) - in 1871. Thereafter - although as a degree only - it grew apace.
I must add, however, that I consider that Freemasonry is deeply allegorical - much more so than most of us realise -and that there is more behind this degree than the conventional English Masonic historians (whom I consider work from too narrow a base) would have us believe. If you have read Baigent's "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail" and his "The Temple and the Lodge", you may have worked out what I'm talking about.
Suffice to say that there is incontrovertible evidence that the mighty Knight Templar fleet escaped France when, in 1312, both the French king and the Pope, driven by envy and greed, destroyed the Templar Order and burnt its Grand Master, Jaques de Molay. The Templar fleet, with most of the Templar treasure, however, disappeared. It in fact sailed to Scotland, where a Templar seat was set up at Kilwinning - need more be said? To this, I think - and the ultra-secret society that had formed the Templars - we must look for speculative Freemasonry's origins.
I think, further, that the Mariner's degree is basically a deliberate - and veiled (of course) - memorial to that great sea escape.
But thats another paper.
Baigent, M. & Leigh, R.: The Temple and the Lodge, Cope, London, 1989.
Baigent, M. et al.: The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, Corgi, London, 1983.
Handfield-Jones, R.: The Royal Ark Mariner Degree Its Origin and History, Grand Mark Lodge,
'If This Is Not Noah's Ark - Then What Is It?', Ark Search, Sans Souci, NSW, 1992.
Richardson, S.: 'The Degree of Royal Ark Mariner', in Trans. Manchester Ass. for Masonic
Research LX1 1969.
Since writing this paper, for the Bon Accord RA Mariners 48 SAC, I have read sufficient evidence to now reject the 'If it is not Noah's Ark, then what is it' material as the propaganda of a Christian Creation fundamentalist group. There is no doubt of its source. See, for example, Telling Lies For God, and Ark Wars: God v Ian.
Further, Professor Pilmer infers that Mr AS Roberts' 'doctorate' is from an institution not acceptable to mainstream educational institutions. For example on p 178 he mentions "Another memorable creationist lecture by 'Dr' Allen Roberts was in Sydney." (This section details witnessed and experienced physical 'treatment' of scientists attending ). My error was to believe someone whom I thought was delivering straight scientific fact; in short, the whole Ark exercise was, according to Professor Pilmer, "creation 'science' " humbug, or "pseudo-scientific nonsense".
Of course, I had always wondered why the scientific, archaeological, historical, religious and media people had not descended on the 'find' in hordes. Now, even Blind Freddy can see why.
This in no way detracts from the power of the original Jewish story and, of course, has no bearing on the other material here presented.
Pilmer, M: Telling Lies For God, Random House, Sydney, 1994.
Zeller, F & Smart, N: Ark Wars: God v Ian, The Advertiser, Adelaide, 29 Nov 96.
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