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Masonic Law #4
by Ed Halpaus
"Law's are not invented. They grow out of circumstances." Azarias
"Custom, that unwritten law, by which the people keep even kings in awe." Charles Davenport
"Law's are the sovereigns of sovereigns." Louis XIV Masonic Law #4
I received an email question about articles I may have on the Landmarks. In looking back in my files I found the articles and I also found where I had begun an article or two on a Landmark and then forgot about it, so I picked one out and decided to finish it for this issue of Masonic Matters.
The other papers on Masonic Law and Landmarks can be found at www.mn-masons.org in the files for the TFS (3,5,& 7) issues. Since those are not filed by subject here are the issue numbers: 86, 87, 88, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 100, 101, 102, and 103. I have more of these laws to write about, and now that I'm reminded of them I might write a few more. I must admit that no matter how interesting jurisprudence is, I tend to wander away from it to other topics for articles.
Masonic Jurisprudence is a fascinating subject for some masonic students to study, and the best book I have found on the subject is Mackey's Jurisprudence of Freemasonry, by Brother Albert G. Mackey. The latest edition was edited by Brother Robert I. Clegg. Brother Clegg's notes in the revision are extremely helpful in creating better understanding of the various aspects of Jurisprudence.
In the commentary to the newest edition Brother Allen Roberts mentions that 13 Grand Lodges have adopted Mackey's list of Landmarks, 18 have no list in their books of constitutions, and 10 have their own list.
One of the Grand Lodges having its own list is the Grand Lodge of A.F. & A.M. of Minnesota. Brother Mackey compiled his list of Landmarks in 1858.
However, the Grand Lodge of Minnesota compiled its list of Masonic Laws in 1856; more than two years earlier.
Masonic Laws and Landmarks have much in common, as do the 'Old Charges' as written by Brother Anderson in the 1700's. If you're looking for some great pleasure in studying Freemasonry - the study of Jurisprudence, which will encompass Masonic Law, the Landmarks, the Old Charges, and the Old Manuscripts will provide you with a lifetime of study and enjoyment. It's been a long time since Brother Mackey delved into this study; maybe its time for another Mason to excel at it; that Mason could be you!
Minnesota Masonic Law #4
"That the rights and ceremonies,(which include the unwritten language,) of the true system of the Ancient York Rite, and which constitute a part of the body of Masonry, are immutable, and that it is not in the power of any man to make innovations therein, except when in Grand Lodge convened."
There is a lot packed into Masonic Law #4 here in Minnesota, and it makes it clear that Minnesota adheres to the Ancient York Rite, and not any other.
Another important part of tat law is that it is a law here in Minnesota and not a Landmark. Since it is a Masonic Law members of our Grand Lodge (sitting Masters & Wardens, or their proxies, and permanent members of the Grand Lodge as well as Grand Lodge officers) can propose legislation to be presented to the Grand Lodge for it to act on: That is the only way a Masonic Law can be changed, as opposed to a Landmark, which by its nature cannot be changed.
What seems curious to some Masons here in Minnesota is that the Middle Chamber Lecture mentions that the three steps allude to the three principle officers of the Lodge and also to the 'first three degrees of Masonry;' this sometimes will lead the candidate to later ask; what are the other degrees?
This can be problematic for some Masons because, while the question can be answered, care needs to be taken not to solicit the candidate to petition for "the degrees of any organization recognized by the Grand Lodge until he is a Master Mason."[i]
Masonic Law #4 has corollaries in Mackey's Landmarks; namely Landmark #2 and #17:
To mention Landmark #17 first, it says: "It is a Landmark that every Freemason is amenable to the laws and regulations of the Masonic jurisdiction in which he resides, and this although he may not be a member of any Lodges. Non-affiliation, which is, in fact, in itself a Masonic offense, does not exempt a Freemason from Masonic jurisdiction."
Landmark 17 tells a Mason, (whether or not a member of a jurisdiction in the state in which he lives, and if he is sojourning [visiting or traveling] in that jurisdiction,) that he is to obey the Masonic laws, rules, and regulations, of the Grand Lodge of the jurisdiction in which he is.
Landmark #17, it seems to me, supposes that a Mason will be a serious Mason who will make it a point to know what the Masonic Code of the Jurisdiction in which he resides, travels, or is a member. The Masonic Codes of the various Masonic Grand Jurisdictions is information that is freely provided to Masons for their study and edification. However, always acting as a good and true man, obeying all the laws of the community and the state, will help assure that a Mason will not violate a Masonic Code while he may be traveling through a jurisdiction.
Landmark #2 says: "The division of symbolic Freemasonry into three degrees is a landmark that has been better preserved than almost any other, although even here the mischievous spirit of innovation has left its traces, and by the disruption of its concluding portion from the third degree, a want of uniformity has been created in respect to the final teaching of the Master's order; and the Royal Arch of England, Ireland, Scotland, and America, and the 'high degrees' of France and Germany are all made to differ in the mode in which they lead the neophyte to the great consummation of all symbolic Freemasonry. In 1813, the Grand Lodge of England vindicated the ancient Landmark, by solemnly enacting that Ancient Craft Masonry consisted of the three degrees of Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason, including the Holy Royal Arch."
Brother Robert Clegg in his revision of Mackey in Mackey's Jurisprudence of Freemasonry,[ii] adds, regarding Landmark 2: "Usually, as in the above sentence, the quotation ends with the mention of the Royal Arch. However, it is important to remember that the original paragraph continues this; 'But this article is not intended to prevent any Lodge or chapter from holding a meeting in any of the degrees of the order of Chivalry, according to the constitutions of the said order."
In Landmark #2 is the phrase "lead the neophyte to the great consummation of all symbolic Freemasonry." The footnote by Brother Clegg tells us that that phrase is symbolic of the 'True Word, which is symbolic of Divine Truth, and is the great object of Freemasonry.'
"Wise people, even though all laws were abolished, would still lead the same life." Aristophanes
From the Great light of Masonry = "I will obey your law, for ever and ever." Psalm 119:44 NIV
Words to live by: "The good of the people is the greatest law." Marcus T. Cicero
[i] SECTION G6.03 Beside violation of Section C8.01, of the Constitution, the following specific acts shall be deemed unmasonic conduct and shall render the offender subject to discipline. (b) To ask or solicit an Entered Apprentice or Fellowcraft to apply for the degrees of any organization recognized by the Grand Lodge until he is a Master Mason.
[ii] Part of footnote 11 page 5 of Landmark #2
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Last modified: March 22, 2014