our ritual: a study in its development
Bro. J. Mason Allan
It may come as a surprise to many Brethren to learn that our Craft Ritual, in
the form in which we know it to-day, does not date farther back than 1835 or
thereabouts. That does not mean, of course, that the elements of which it is
composed, or at least most of them, do not go back very far indeed, but it does
mean that we have no evidence that these elements were combined before that date
into the "peculiar system of morality veiled in allegory and illustrated by
symbol" with which we are familiar to-day. It will be our present purpose to
pass under review some early Masonic records and from them establish historical
facts on which the foregoing conclusion is based, and at the same time to
present some other considerations that may have a bearing upon the development
of our Ritual.
Most craftsmen believe, and believe correctly, that the Freemasonry of to-day
is, in a very real sense, the lineal descendant of the old Masons' Gild. In the
Middle Ages many trades had their Gilds, but the Masons' Gild differed from all
the others in two very important respects. In the first place, most tradesmen
carried on their vocations in fixed localities where they were all well known to
one another and to their employers. But the masons, because of the nature of
their work, were necessarily mobile-settled for a time while engaged on the
building of (say) a Cathedral or a Royal Palace, and when their work there was
completed travelling, sometimes a considerable distance, to the site of the next
building on which they would be employed. They were not so well known to one
another or to employers of labour, and when one professing to be a mason
presented himself at a building site seeking employment, it was necessary for
the employer not only to prove, by a practical test, that the man was capable of
skilled work, but also to be satisfied that he had been regularly received into
the Gild, a necessary condition of employment in those days. Hence the need for
such " test " questions as we find in the catechism part of the Edinburgh
Register House MS. (1696): "Some Questions that Masons used to put to those who
have the Word before they will acknowledge them."
In the second place, the masons alone had " charges " that were addressed to
apprentices when they were indentured to their masters. These are commonly
spoken of as "The Old Charges". The two oldest that have been preserved are "The
Regius Poem" (it is written in rhyme) believed to date from 1390, and the "Cooke
MS." about 1425. Another in the possession of the Grand Lodge of England is
dated 1583, and some others were written in the seventeenth century. Brothers
Pick and Knight, in their Pocket History of Freemasonry (page 28) say "Although
parallels may be found here and there, no other medieval body, whether craft,
religious or otherwise; is known to have possessed such documents." They also
say (page 166): "It is remarkable that Scotland produced no traditional history
such as England had from about 1400 in the Old Charges. The few copies
associated with Scotland are obviously copied from England, indeed one or two
naively require the Craftsman to be true to the King of England."
A short description of elements that are common to all or most of these Old
Charges will be of interest and are relevant to our present purpose. They all
open with a prayer which, as is to be expected at that period, is definitely
Christian in character, including an invocation of the Holy Trinity. Then
follows a "traditional history" of the Craft, which is in many respects
fantastic, but which contains some elements that are not unfamiliar to us
to-day. They deal with the seven liberal Arts and Sciences-Grammar, Rhetoric,
Logic, Arithmetic, Geometry, Music and Astronomy. These Arts and Sciences were
written on two pillars of stone-"the one stone was called marble, that cannot
burn with fire. The other was called Lateral (Le., brick or tile) that cannot
drown with water." That detail, with a slight modification and transposition,
will be familiar to many. And there are some students who believe that we have
here the original legend of "Two Pillars", a later version of which finds
embodiment in other Pillars that are alluded to in the Edinburgh Register House
MS., in all the eighteenth century catechisms, and in our present-day Rituals.
At this point several versions of the Old Charges require the Apprentice to take
an O.B. on the V.S.L. Then follow the "general" Charges, which relate not only
to the craft and its secrets, but also to general conduct. The Apprentice is
1. To be true to God and Holy Church;
2. To be a true liegeman to the King and his Council;
3. To be true to one another, and to do to others as he would that others
should do to him;
4. To keep the secrets of the craft;
5. Not to be a thief;
6. To be loyal to his master and to serve him for his profit and advantage;
7. To call masons fellows or brothers and no foul name, not to take a
fellows' wife violently, nor his daughter ungodly, nor his servant in villany;
8. To pay his way honestly, wherever he may go; and
9. To do no villany in any house where he may be entertained.
Then follow some "particular" Charges for Masters and Fellows; but these
relate entirely to the operative work of the craft. These details are given here
for three reasons:
(1) because in them we can recognise much that is in the ethical
instruction given in our modern Ritual;
(2) because the method of giving such a "Charge" is continued in the
Charges that are given to-day at the conclusion of the ceremonies of Entering,
Passing and Raising and also in the Charges read to the Master of a Lodge at
his installation; and
(3) because failure to read these Old Charges was one of the allegations
brought by the "Antients" against the "Moderns" which will be dealt with
Thus it can be clearly seen that any study of the development of our Ritual
must begin with the Old Charges and their contents.
In the days when masons followed the work from building site to building site, a
"lodge" would be formed at each site. This was probably discontinued gradually
as the erection of great buildings such as cathedrals, palaces or castles grew
less, and masons became more settled in towns where they were employed in more
ordinary building. Then they formed what Brother Douglas Knoop calls
"territorial lodges." The Schaw Statutes (1599) make mention of Lodges at
Edinburgh; Kilwinning and Stirling-and these three Lodges are still actively
working. Knoop and Jones, in The Genesis of Freemasonry (page 52) state that
"the only independent evidence of the ownership, or the use, of versions of the
MS. Constitutions" (i.e., the Old Charges) "by operative masons relates to
Lodges at Stirling, Melrose, Kilwinning, Aberdeen, Dumfries, Aitcheson's Haven,
Alnwick and Swallwell." Six of these eight Lodges were in Scotland; but it
is interesting to note that the Lodge of Edinburgh is not included. The other
two Lodges were in Northumberland, and both had a very close linkage,
masonically, with Scotland. (See The Genesis of Freemasonry, pages 221 and 222).
This list is given here to establish two points:
(1) that Lodges at that time were localised or "territorial", and
(2) that the Old Charges continued to be used after the Lodges were so
Pick and Knight, in their Pocket History (page 172) state that in England
"the operative Lodge is almost unknown"-(presumably they mean in a "territoria"
sense). When Elias Ashmole was admitted to the Lodge at Warrington in 1646, none
but non-operative masons were present.
It was no doubt after the settling of Lodges at fixed centres that non-operative
members began to be admitted. The earliest record of a non-operative being
present at a meeting of an operative Lodge is to be found in the Minutes of the
Lodge of Edinburgh for 8th June 1600, which were attested by all present,
including James Boswell of Auchenleck, an ancestor of the biographer of Dr
Johnson. Three others were admitted to the same Lodge in 1634 - twelve years
before the admission of Elias Ashmole to the Lodge at Warrington.
The seventeenth century may be regarded as the period when the transition from
"operative" to "speculative" got well under way. Influence in that direction no
doubt came from men like Ashmole and Sir Robert Moray, one of the Founders of
the Royal Society (who was admitted by the Lodge of Edinburgh at a meeting in
Newcastle on 20th May 1641), and possibly, indirectly, from others of similar
interests. Space does not permit of enlarging upon this matter; but one brief
quotation (which may later be found to have considerable relevance to our
present study) may be given from a well-known Masonic historian, Robert Freke
Gould. In his History of Freemasonry (Vol. II, page 138) he expresses the
opinion that "during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Kabalism and
Rosicrucianism profoundly influenced many secret societies in Europe; and
Freemasonry received no slight tinge from the Kabalistic pursuits of some of its
adherents at that time." Brother Gould, a doughty champion of the
principles of the "Authentic School" of Masonic historians, was exceedingly
cautious and careful in his scrutiny of evidence, and we may take it that he
would not have ventured to make such a categorical statement unless he was
satisfied that it was fully justified by the cumulative effect of all the
available evidence-no doubt in great measure "circumstantial". Such a statement
by such a man is worthy of the most serious consideration.
He is certainly supported in his statement by a still more learned student of
Masonic and cognate matters, who, however, approaches the subject from a
somewhat different angle, Brother A. E. Waite, who says: "It seems to me
quite certain that Kabalism has transmitted elements to our secret societies,
and it is not less certain that the men who elaborated our (Masonic) rituals had
some personal knowledge of the secret doctrine of the Kabalah." He was, of
course, referring to our modern Rituals.
Towards the end of the seventeenth century we come to the Edinburgh Register
House MS., which is the first of a series of catechisms which continued to
appear until well into the eighteenth century. Three of these - the Edinburgh
Register House MS. (1696), the Graham MS. (1726), and Masonry Dissected (1730) -
were dealt with in detail in an article on "The Five Points of Fellowship" in
the Grand Lodge of Scotland Year Book for 1959. Here it is proposed only to pick
out one or two points that are relevant to our immediate purpose.
These catechisms are not "ritual " as we now understand that word. They consist
of questions and answers which, however, refer back in specific terms to some
ceremony that had taken place previously. Of these ceremonies themselves we know
nothing except what may be inferred from the questions and answers. They were
probably very short and simple, restricted to the formal introduction of new
Apprentices and Fellows, and the communication of the Word and other Secrets.
That there was possibly no set form for this may be gathered from the narrative
portion of the Edinburgh Register House MS. There we read: "Then all the
masons present whisper among themselves the word, beginning with the youngest,
until it come to the master mason, who gives the word to the entered
Apprentice." In this short quotation there are two expressions that call
for comment as relevant to our present purpose: "the word" and "entered
The earliest known reference to the Mason Word is in "The Muses' Threnodie", a
metrical account of Perth and neighbourhood by Henry Adamson, published in
Edinburgh in 1638, which contains these lines:
"For we be brethren of the Rosie Crosse,
We have the Mason Word and second sight."
Brother Douglas Knoop, in The Genesis of Freemasonry (page 222) says that
"there is no evidence to show that the Mason Word was ever used among English
operative masons except possibly in the North." These last words would
cover such Lodges as those at Alnwick and Swallwell already mentioned. He also
says (page 223) that "various entries in Lodge records in the seventeenth
and eighteenth centuries refer to the Mason Word; those records, without
exception, refer to Scottish Lodges." And, finally, he says (page 224):
"The purpose of the Mason Word was to distinguish masons who were members of
their trade organisation from others who were not. The need for some secret
method of recognition arose from two conditions peculiar to Scotland, viz., the
possibility of employment open to cowans, and the existence of an industrial
grade without exact parallel in England, that of entered apprentice."
Apprentices who were bound to their masters by indenture did not require any
special mode of recognition. But when they had completed their indentured
service, they became "entered" apprentices - "journeymen" they would be called
to-day. The expression "entered apprentices" was not known in England until the
publication of the first Book of Constitution in 1723, which was compiled by
Rev. James Anderson, D.D. - a Scotsman!
In passing, it may be remarked that "Fellow of Craft" is also distinctively
Scottish. It appears in the Schaw Statutes (1599), but in England it was not
known until 1723; and there it is generally used without the "of" - i.e., "
Let us now revert to the Graham MS. (1726) which is of special importance for a
study of the development of our Ritual. This MS. makes very clear reference to
King Solomon and Hiram Abiff, and their respective parts in the building of the
Temple: " Four hundred and four score years after the Children of Israel
came out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon's reign over
Israel, that Solomon began to build the House of the Lord. . . . Now we read in
the 13th verse of the 7th chapter of the First Book of Kings that Solomon sent
and fetched Hiram out of Tyre, be being a widow's son of the Tribe of Naphtali,
and his father was a man of Tyre, a worker in brass. . . . And he came to King
Solomon and wrought all his work for him."
This is very familiar to us. But the MS. does not go on to give us the legend of
our Third Degree which has Hiram as its central figure. Instead, it does give
practically all the ingredients of that legend in a very different setting, with
a "traditional history" of which Noah was the central figure-which may be taken
as about 1,300 years before the building of King Solomon's Temple.
By the death of Noah some secret knowledge was lost. His three sons, Shem, Ham
and Japheth, went to their father's grave "to try if they could find anything
about him to lead them to the vertuable secrets which this famous preacher had."
But before they went they "had already agreed that if they did not find the very
thing itself, the first thing they found was to be to them as a secret . . ."
There we have the earliest reference to " substituted secrets ".
When they came to the grave they found "nothing but the dead body almost
consumed away". Because of its condition their first efforts to raise it failed.
But ultimately "they raised up the dead body, setting foot to foot, knee to
knee, breast to breast, cheek to cheek, and hand to back". In this old Noah
legend the MS. gives several other details that are almost identical with
elements in our Hiramic Legend. And also, incidentally, it contains some
dramatic details with which our modern Mark Degree has made us familiar.
The first record of the Hiramic Legend appears in Samuel Pritchard's Masonry
Dissected which was published in 1730 - four years after the date of the Graham
MS. The appearance, at dates so close to one another, of two legends so similar
in content but so vastly different in setting and in the periods to which they
are assigned by their respective "traditional histories", is very striking
indeed. In this connection Brothers Pick and Knight, in their Pocket History of
Freemasonry (page 70) say: "It is probable that, before the Craft finally
settled on the building of King Solomon's Temple, and the loss and recovery of
certain Knowledge, other prototypes were tried out, perhaps by small groups of
Masons in isolated parts of the country." We may agree, broadly, with what
is implied in this conjecture; but it raises two very interesting questions: (1)
who, at this period, constituted "the Craft" which ultimately decided in favour
of the Hiramic version - or, more briefly, who made the decision; and (2) did
they come to their decision deliberately after a consideration of the
experiments made with various prototypes? We shall have occasion to revert to
these questions at a later stage.
In 1717 the first Grand Lodge of England had been formed. Its jurisdiction was
at first confined to London and Westminster, but it gradually spread throughout
England, where many Lodges had long been functioning. There had also been many
Lodges actively operating in Ireland and Scotland. The Grand Lodge of Ireland
was formed in 1725 and the Grand Lodge of Scotland in 1736. These simple
historical facts are stated to introduce the next phase of our study in the
development of our Ritual.
According to Bernard Jones in The Freemason's Guide and Compendium (page 195)
Freemasons from Ireland and Scotland "were drifting into England and bringing
with them ideas which had grown up not on English soil, but which, nevertheless,
were very precious to those who held them. Grand Lodge was probably very
worried, somewhere about 1730, at the number of unaffiliated Masons coming
apparently from nowhere and claiming admission to their Lodges." In order to
make admission of such men to Lodges more difficult, Grand Lodge issued an order
to make certain changes in the methods of "proving" or testing, including the
transposition of the words of the First and Second Degrees; but not all Lodges
obeyed this order. Many Lodges in England had an appreciable proportion of
members of Irish origin, and no doubt many Scottish Masons also had migrated to
England; and the influence of these would tend towards the maintenance of the
older tradition and practice. In any case, the Lodges that were in opposition to
Grand Lodge on this or other grounds - most of which had never come under the
jurisdiction of Grand Lodge gradually grew together, and probably as early as
1739 a Committee had been formed to co-ordinate their activities, and the work
of that Committee culminated in the formation of a rival Grand Lodge in 1751.
Then ensued a long period of bitter rivalry between the two Grand Lodges until
their union in 1813. The history of this period is not only intrinsically
interesting to Masonic students, but it also provides much material that is
relevant to our present study.
The new Grand Lodge took the title of "The Most Antient and Honourable Society
of Free and Accepted Masons". They claimed that they had adhered to the Antient
Landmarks of the Order, from which the others had departed, and on this account
they became known as the "Antients ", while the older Grand Lodge were dubbed
the "Moderns "; and both these designations have been retained ever since.
Among the defections of which the "Antients" accused the "Modems", the following
may be noted as relevant to our present purpose:
1. That they had ceased to read the Old Charges at initiations, thus
abandoning a Landmark.
2. That they had de-Christianised Freemasonry. The Old Charges had been,
almost without exception, of a positively Christian character; but the first
of the Regulations that were embodied in Anderson's Constitutions of 1723
stated that "'tis now thought more expedient only to oblige them (i.e.,
the Freemasons) to that Religion to which all men agree, leaving their
particular opinions to themselves."
3. That they had transposed the modes of recognition of the First and
Second Degrees-as already indicated above.
4. That they omitted the Deacons from their Office-bearers.
5. That they had abandoned the esoteric ceremony of Installed Master.
6. That they had curtailed the ceremonies, and in particular had neglected
the " Lectures ", or catechisms, attached to each Degree.
The Grand Lodges of Ireland and Scotland had sympathised with those Lodges
who had resisted the changes ordered by the original Grand Lodge, and they
maintained very close and amicable relations with the new Grand Lodge when it
was formed in 1751. It may be of interest to note how close that relationship
was at the highest levels. In 1756 a former Grand Master of Ireland, the Earl of
Blessington, was elected Grand Master of the "Antients". He was succeeded, in
1760, by the Earl of Kellie, who was Grand Master Mason of Scotland in 1763-65.
The third Duke of Atholl was Grand Master of the "Antients" from 1771 to 1774
and Grand Master Mason of Scotland in 1773, so that he held both offices
simultaneously for a period. The same is true of the fourth Duke of Atholl, who
was Grand Master Mason of Scotland 1778-1779 and was Grand Master of the "Antients"
from 1774 till 1781 and again from 1791 till 1813. And in the period between
1781 and 1791 the Grand Master of the Antients was the Marquis of Antrim, who
was Grand Master of Ireland in 1773 and again in 1779. It may be of particular
interest to Scottish Masons to know that the Antients were known as "Atholl
Masons", and even the official Year Book of the United Grand Lodge of England
refers to the "Atholl or Antient Grand Lodge ". In 1813 the Duke of Atholl was
succeeded by H.R.H. the Duke of Kent, son of George III. Though the rivalry
between the two Grand Lodges in England was very acute, there were enlightened
Brethren in both bodies who realised the wrongness of this division and worked
to find a way towards union. Ultimately, on 26th October 1809, the "Modern"
Grand Lodge issued a Charter or Warrant to the "Lodge of Promulgation", so named
because it was formed "for the purpose of promulgating the ancient Land Marks of
the Society, and instructing the Craft in all matters and forms as may be
necessary to be known by them . . . " The work done by this Lodge represents the
beginning of a process that culminated, nearly forty years later, in the final
formulation of our modern Ritual as we know it to-day. The Lodge of
Promulgation, when they had completed the work allotted to them, reported back
to the "Moderns" Grand Lodge that they had "a confident persuasion of having
derived the most authentic information from the purest sources . . . as
henceforth to render all the Ceremonies of the Craft, in practice simple, in
effect impressive, and in all respects conformable to ancient practice." What
this amounted to in actual fact was that they accepted practically all the "Antient"
practices in matters on which there had been differences between the two bodies
with one notable exception, namely, that they tacitly accepted the position
reflected in the first Article in the Regulations incorporated in Anderson's
Constitutions of 1723, referred to above. The Lodge of Promulgation ceased to
function in 1811.
On the side of the "Antients", their Grand Lodge appointed a Committee in 1810
to explore the prospects of achieving union, and their report led to that Grand
Lodge deciding "that a Masonic Union, on principles equal and honourable to
both Grand Lodges, and preserving the Land Marks of the Antient Craft would, in
the opinion of this Grand Lodge, be expedient and advantageous to both."
The union of the two Grand Lodges was finally effected and ratified on 1st
December 1813. At that time the Duke of Sussex was Grand Master of the "Moderns"
and the Duke of Kent Grand Master of the "Antients". They were both brothers of
the Prince Regent, afterwards King George IV. On the motion of H.R.H. the Duke
of Kent, H.R.H. the Duke of Sussex was elected Grand Master of the United Grand
Lodge, and he was installed as such on St John the Evangelist's Day, 27th
December, 1813, and he continued to hold that office for thirty years.
On 7th December 1813, six days after the Union had been ratified, the "Lodge of
Reconciliation" was warranted. This Lodge was composed of well-known Brethren
from each Grand Lodge and its purpose was to "reconcile" the working of previous
"Modern" Lodges and previous "Antient" Lodges so as to ensure uniformity of
working in all the Lodges throughout England. They built on the foundation that
had been laid by the Lodge of Promulgation, and their method of procedure was to
give demonstrations at various centres which the Masters of Lodges were invited
to attend. They continued to function till 1816 and held twenty-six meetings.
There are detailed records of twenty meetings, and from these records,
considered in the light of subsequent history, and even though the Minutes make
no reference to "Lectures", it can be gathered that their demonstrations were
not so much the actual working of the Degrees as a detailed description of the
working given in the form of questions asked by the Master for the evening and
answered by the Wardens for the evening - different Brethren occupied these
chairs at each meeting. At nine of the twenty meetings referred to above the
Master's chair was occupied by the Rev. Samuel Hemming, D.D., who later compiled
the famous "Hemming Lectures" to which further reference will be made shortly.
After the Lodge of Reconciliation ceased to function in 1816 their work was
continued by "Lodges of Instruction", of which the most famous were the
"Stability Lodge of Instruction", formed in 1817, and the "Emulation Lodge of
Improvement", formed in 1823.
It will be relevant to our present purpose to give more details regarding this
method of giving instruction by means of the "Lectures". This method corresponds
exactly to the eighteenth century Catechisms which embody references back to
previous ceremonies, of which we otherwise know nothing, but of the nature of
which we can gather something from the questions and answers. Similarly the
early nineteenth century Lectures "refer back" to the ceremonies of the three
Degrees; and it may be assumed with confidence that as the Lectures were
developed by the Lodge of Reconciliation, the actual ceremonies were being
developed pari passu and gradually took more definite form. By 1816 Brother
Hemming had compiled Lectures on all three Degrees, and these comprised 256
questions and answers on the First Degree, 145 on the Second Degree and 78 on
the Third Degree. Ten years later a Minute of the Stability Lodge of
Instruction, dated 21st April 1826, reads as follows:- "The Rev. Dr Hemming was
invited to preside, when the Lecture (First Degree) was ably worked by the Rev.
Dr Samuel Hemming assisted by . . ." At the close, the grateful thanks of the
Lodge were tendered to Brother Hemming for presiding and "for the advantage they
enjoy in the possession of that Lecture which he has arranged with such skill
and talent as to stand unparalleled in the Masonic World." According to the
Minutes, also, the Lodge seems to have worked only the Lecture on the First
Degree until 28th September 1827, when that on the Second Degree is mentioned
for the first time; and that on the Third Degree is not mentioned until 7th
As already indicated, the Emulation Lodge of Improvement was not formed until
six years after the Stability Lodge of Instruction. Brother C. D. Rotch, in his
short treatise on The Lodge of Reconciliation 1813-1816, and its Influence on
Present-Day Ritual, says: "It is not easy to understand why the Stability and
Emulation Lodges of Improvement preferred to work by Lectures only until after
1830." This may be difficult to understand, but we must accept the fact, noting
that it applies to Emulation as well as to Stability. In the early days of the
Emulation Lodge of Improvement the dominating figure was Brother Peter Gilkes,
who, however, did not join it until two years after its formation. Brother
Gilkes was a very significant personality in English Masonic history of this
period. Regarding him, Brother Hiram Hallett in his short history of The Lodges
of Promulgation, Reconciliation, Stability and Emulation, says: "The Emulation
Lodge of Improvement bases all its claims for pre-eminence on the assumption
that they derive their Ritual from this famous Masonic instructor."
It may be relevant to give the following further quotation from Brother
Hallett: "When the method of imparting Masonic Instruction by means of Lectures
began it is impossible to say. About 1763 Lectures by William Hutchinson were
published; and in 1772 William Preston published his version. The ceremonies in
those days were short and simple; the Lectures were long and verbose . . . these
Lectures, however, containing all the essentials of the three degrees. It is not
now possible to state when the rehearsals of the ceremonies supplanted them."
The words "long and verbose" are no doubt true of Hutchinson and Preston, but
are scarcely so applicable to the eighteenth-century Catechisms or the
nineteenth century "Lectures".
The Emulation Ritual was first published by "A. Lewis" in 1838, but it may be
taken for granted that MS. copies were in circulation for some time before that.
It may also be taken for granted that the Stability Ritual had been completed
about the same time. Brother Rotch states that all the present-day Rituals,
except those of Ireland, Scotland and Bristol, may be said to be derived from
Stability and Emulation. As regards the Scottish Rituals, all those known to the
present writer, with one notable exception in the West of Scotland, show
extensive evidence of the influence of Emulation. For example, in the ceremony
of opening the Lodge, many Scottish Lodges reproduce questions and answers in
the Second Section of the First Degree Lecture; others retain the substance of
these but alter the wording; and some introduce questions that are not in the
Emulation Ritual but the substance of which is in the Emulation Lectures.
Throughout the ceremonies - even in those Lodges where the Third Degree is most
"dramatised" - there are many passages in which the language of Emulation is
exactly or approximately reproduced. In the Obligations the language is very
similar to Emulation, though in some rituals additional details are introduced.
And even in the "notable exception" referred to above, there are several phrases
that are characteristic of Emulation. These details are given here in support of
the view that, notwithstanding the variety of workings in Scotland, there is at
least a "hard core" in them all that is clearly the result of the "development"
which it has been our purpose to outline in this paper.
The time has come to summarise the result of our study so far, and to point to
some conclusions that may be drawn therefrom. We have seen that the first
complete Ritual was published in 1838. Before that, instruction was imparted by
means of "Lectures" in the form of question and answer, and, in the Stability
and Emulation Lodges at least, by that means only until 1830 or thereabouts. It
may be inferred, therefore, that the Ritual probably received its final form
between those dates - say about 1835. The Ritual of 1835, whether Stability,
Emulation, or other, is, in respect of scope, structure and "Landmarks",
essentially the same as our present-day rituals, notwithstanding the wide
variety of workings that characterise Scottish Freemasonry. In these respects of
scope, structure and Landmarks, it may be taken that all our Scottish Rituals
derive ultimately from the 1835 Ritual, though in other respects many of them
contain features that are indigenous to and characteristic of Scotland.
Conversely there are features in the 1835 Ritual that had their original sources
We have also seen that in all our present-day Rituals there are elements that
are to be found in very early Masonic MSS. and other writings. Among these are
the words B. and J. which we find in the Edinburgh Register House MS. and in
practically every eighteenth Catechism. We must also include here the Hiramic
Legend, which first appears in Masonry Dissected in 1730, but which appears to
have been decided upon after a "try-out" of the same theme in a very different
setting in the Noah legend as set forth in the Graham MS. (1726). But while the
Noah legend was rejected for this purpose, there are many other elements in the
Graham MS., including the idea of "substituted secrets", that still characterise
present-day Masonry. And a perusal of other eighteenth-century Catechisms will
reveal quite a number of significant details with which we are all familiar.
But there is also much in the 1835 Ritual that was entirely new. To take but one
example: the definition of Freemasonry as "A peculiar system of morality, veiled
in allegory and illustrated by symbol" appears in the First Section of the First
Degree "Lecture" - for the first time so far as the present writer is aware. And
many other similar examples could be given. But by far the most significant, and
entirely new, feature of the 1835 Ritual, was the wonderful way in which all the
material that had accumulated during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries
had been examined, and elements therefrom selectively chosen with insight and
discrimination, and built up into a "peculiar system" that is simply amazing in
its symmetry, self-consistency and completeness. The men who could compile such
a "system" were truly learned and expert Brethren. Let us consider what evidence
we can find in any modern Ritual that they were truly learned and expert.
1. They obviously had an intimate knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures; but
2. in the Hiramic Legend they departed, on a very essential point, from the
Scriptural record in order to bring the legend into line with the central
mythos of the Ancient Mystery cults - such as those of Osiris, Dionysus and
others - in which the neophyte is identified with the tutelary hero. So it can
be inferred that they had an intimate knowledge of these Ancient Mysteries.
3. It can also be assumed (though this is not explicitly indicated in the
Legend itself, but may be inferred from other intimations in the Ritual and
from various allusions in the eighteenth-century Catechisms) that they were
familiar with the supreme presentation of the same theme in the identification
of the Christian neophyte with Christ in His death and resurrection.
4. They were certainly deeply versed in the Hebrew Kaballah, though this
can only be recognised by those who are conversant with the Kaballah. But it
may be stated that points that can more reasonably be attributed to
Kaballistic origin than to any other source are - the three Pillars on which a
Lodge of Freemasons figuratively rests; the Path of the Candidate, in the
course of his initiations, between two Pillars, one on the left and the other
on the right; and, above all, the point from which a M.M. cannot err, which
the present writer regards as the most significant symbol in Freemasonry with
the exception of the T.G.L. If the Kaballistic association be adopted
tentatively as a working hypothesis, a craftsman versed in the Kaballah would
soon recognise not only that the whole framework of our system is Kaballistic,
but also that a great many details that otherwise appear to have little or no
particular point, acquire a very real significance.
5. A comparison of the T.G.L. as a composite symbol with corresponding
symbols in other systems will suggest that these learned Brethren had an
intimate knowledge of these other systems, or, more probably, had had a direct
personal experience of the spiritual realities that these symbols represent.
6. A final point will be more easily recognised by all. The compilers of
our system had an unparalleled knowledge of man's psychological and spiritual
nature and needs, and they sought, both by explicit instruction and under a
veil of symbolism, to show how these needs could be met.
It may be recognised that these qualities characterised those learned
Brethren who finally formulated the 1835 Ritual from the accumulated mass of
material they had at their disposal. But the question naturally arises: did they
characterise them only, or also those Brethren who selected and preserved,
during the preceding 150 years, the various elements that were incorporated into
the 1835 Ritual? We have seen that B. and J. are found in Masonry since at least
the end of the seventeenth century; and also that of other details to be found
at that time some (such as the F.P.O.F.) were retained but adapted to a
different setting. We have seen, too, that the Noah legend appears to have been
tried out, found to be inadequate, and rejected, while the Hiramic Legend was
adopted some time prior to 1730 and been retained ever since. It seems not
unreasonable to assume that the was made deliberately and that the elements
"tried out" were retained or rejected according to whether or not they were
adequate for an ultimate purpose that the selectors had in view. Can we form any
reasonable conjecture as to who these selectors might have been and who
preserved and transmitted the "selected" elements?
There is a long-standing tradition that the Rosicrucians had a considerable if
not a controlling influence in these matters, but this tradition has been
consistently rejected by writers of the "Authentic" school on the grounds that
there is no direct documentary evidence to support it. But it has to be borne in
mind that members of the Rosicrucian Fraternity have never at any time publicly
acknowledged such membership. This policy was at first adopted because it was a
necessary precaution in view of the exigencies of the time; and in practice it
has been perpetuated as an established tradition. There are, however, many
historical facts which, in their cumulative effect, provide a considerable body
of circumstantial evidence that suggests at least the possibility of such a
1. First there is their original manifesto, the Fama Fraternitatis R:.C:.,
which was published in Cassel in 1614. This clearly shows that their aims and
ideals were consonant with those of Freemasonry, that the Order was
essentially Christian, and that the Kaballah had a basic place in their system
2. The Fama was widely studied in England and in Scotland during the
seventeenth century. A manuscript translation, dated 1633, in the handwriting
of Sir David Lindsay, who was created first Earl of Balcarres, is still in the
library of the Earl of Crawford and Balcarres; and a small book by Archdeacon
J. B. Craven, D.D., on The Esoteric Studies of Robert Leighton, D. D., who was
Bishop of Dunblane from 1661 till 1672, states that the libraries of various
noble Houses in Scotland also contain books of that period pertaining to such
3. In 1652 there was published an English translation of the Fama by Thomas
Vaughan who, though he "denies" that he was a member of the Rosicrucian
Brotherhood, was nevertheless steeped in their teachings, as is evidenced by
his many other writings. There is, however, no evidence that he was a
Freemason, but he is known at least to have met Elias Ashmole.
4. The Order is known to have been active in Europe during the eighteenth
century, and there is very good reason to believe that it was then also active
in England. Godfrey Higgins, in his Anacalypsis, says that a College of the
Fraternity was still working in London in 1830. The continuity of the
Rosicrucian Brotherhood during that period suggests a possible channel by
which the results of successive generations of those concerned in the
"selection" of appropriate material could have been preserved and transmitted.
These facts and possible inferences therefrom do not "prove" any direct
connection between Rosicrucianism and Freemasonry; but if they are taken all
together, and if what is known of Rosicrucian teachings be correlated with what
is stated in this paper about the development of our Ritual between 1696 and
1835, it must surely be agreed that such a connection was at least possible, and
that Brother R. F. Gould could have had quite adequate grounds for his
statement, already quoted, that "during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries
Kabalism and Rosicrucianism profoundly influenced many secret societies in
Europe; and Freemasonry received no slight tinge from the Kaballistic pursuits
of some of its adherents at that time." In any case, one might ask those who
refuse to accept, even as a working hypothesis, the possibility of such a
connection, what alternative hypothesis they can offer that could more
adequately and reasonably account for the wonderful perfection of our "peculiar
system" - the completeness, the self-consistency, the symmetry, not only of the
broad framework, but also of all the details that are so skilfully wrought into
that framework. In any case, we are surely justified in exclaiming "O, wonderful
Masons! All Glory to the Most High!"
Extracted from The Year Book Grand Lodge of Scotland 1960
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