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W. Finch, Canterbury


Finch seems to have fallen from favor and is accused of having financial motives for his 'Treatise.' Nonetheless his Treatise is interesting as one of the early masonic catechisms. There were many 'degree peddlars' and expositors in the earlier days of the Craft, to whom, with a certain degree of 'Thanks' we owe our knowledge of some of the catechismal Work, of which we would not otherwise have knowledge.

I believe that AQC has written about Finch and his 'Treatise' [e.g. vol. LV].


Albert G. Mackey discusses him in his Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry, in such glowing terms as:

"Finch, William. A Masonic charlatan, who flourished at the end of the last and the beginning of the present century [sic]. FInch was a tailor in Canterbury, who, having been expelled for misconduct by the Grand Lodge, commenced a system of practical Masonry on his own account, and opened a Lodge in his house, where he undertook to initiate candidates and to give instructions in Masonry. He published a great number of pamphlets, many of them in cipher of his own, which he pretended were for the instruction of the Fraternity. 

Finch found many dupes, and made a great deal of money. But having on one occasion been sued by an engraver named Smith, for money due for printing his plates, Finch pleaded an offset of money due by Smith for initiation and instruction in Masonry. Smith brought the Grand Secretary and other distinguished Masons into court, who testified that Finch was an imposter. In consequence of this exposure, Finch lost credit with the community, and, sinking into obscurity, died sometime after, in abject poverty."


R. W. Bro. Gary L. Heinmiller




The Following remarks on the transliteration of the Finch Ritual may be of interest:


1. The Codes used by Finch in his cipher Ritual have been given by Bro. F. M. Rickard in his Paper on "William Finch," in Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, Vol. LV. p. 241, and less completely in Mackey's Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, art. "Finch". They are completely inadequate, however, when it comes to words that are indicated by initial letters only, or by dots or dashes. I have therefore filled in these blanks by reference to the corresponding passages in Browne's Master-Key (2nd Ed. 1802), the current Emulation Lectures (A. Lewis, 1919), and an almost identical Ritual Working -- the Vancouver MS. -- now in the possession of Western Gate Lodge, B.C.R., Vancouver, B. C.





3 S 7 hrwsaeew you first p . . . . . . . to be . . . . . 2, Bro. S.W. where was you first p. .p. .d to be made a Mason,
What are the emblems of F----- F----- and Z, What are the emblems of Freedom, Fervency and Zeal
Why ayuosw l . . r . . . . the 4 in so conspicuous a manner, Why was you led round the L. in so conspicuous a manner,


2. The incompleted transliteration, indicated by dots and initials in the second column above, is explained by the practise carried out in the Emulation Lectures, where certain significant words are so treated, to "hele and conceal" where required. Similar initials and blank spaces have been preserved throughout this transliteration, wherever the same words appear in Emulation so treated. They should present no difficulty to the "industrious craftsman".


3. Uncertain passages as well as interpolations are indicated by double parentheses ((like this)) or by square brackets [like this]. In some instances, the source of the suggested equivalent is given.





By this I presume y . . ar . a M----, By this I presume you are a Mason,
So take, etc. So taken [ and accepted among Brother and Fellows.Emulation
On what, On what,
. .t . . .p---- of a . . . . . or some s---- i---- etc. On the P. of [ a sword ] or some S. I. [ extended to my n. l. b. -- Browne ].
Consisting of how many S . . . . , . . . , . . . . . ,. . . . . . . , or . . . . . . . . . . . Consisting of how many S . . . s, [ Three, five, sevenor eleven. -- Vancouver ].


4. Single parentheses are as in the original (like this), except in the case of obvious explanatory interpolations or corrections. Omitted letters or words have been filled in, and are indicated by square brackets in the customary manner. Typographical errors, however, or errors in spelling, have been preserved as in the original.


Alexander Horne

San Francisco, 1956.




This reset edition varies from the dittoed copy used as the source for this edition because:


1.  The ditto ink was too faded and blurred to be reproduced by other than resetting the type, also the paper was very aged and mottled with ditto ink.


2.  The format has been streamlined with more legible text, justified margins, section headings and such other 'computer age' enhancements as would assist the reader and/or researcher.


The original MS. has been faithfully reproduced to include grammatical, punctuation and spelling errors. Long passages have been broken at such points as colons and semicolons to assist the reader in comprehending the material. The Masonic world abounds in variations of the Ritual, each one helps to shed a little light on the overall theme of the allegory concealed within. Masonry is more than a social or beneficent organization. Deeply concealed within the 'Ritual' are ageless Teachings and Truth, awaiting the those dedicated few who would, with a True Heart, Knock.


This Ritual is said to represent a working used by Wm. Finch, and to some extent by others, around the turn of the century (ca 1802).  Among the many elements within this work are three entire ‘Sections’ comprising no less than 69 Questions and Answers given over to a very minute analysis and description of the Temple (KST), its location, its architectural features, and its appurtenances. (King Solomon’s Temple in the Masonic Tradition, pgs. 139 & 140,  by Alex Horne [the ‘transliterator’ of this Ritual], The Aquarian Press, 1972.)


G. L. H.

Liverpool, New York

December 1995

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