The Mystic Tie – Symbols and Symbolism

In this installment of Symbols & Symbolism, we look at a reading from Albert G. Mackey’s Encyclopedia of Freemasonry and from a piece from Joseph Fort Newton’s The Builder on the Mystic Tie. Defining this mysterious phrase is often troublesome as how does one define the ineffable or the unseen? Often times, to define the mysterious we resort to putting words to feelings, or expressions of a feeling, that still fall short of the what the meaning represents. Perhaps, in Mackey’s definition with help from Newton, we can find some help in putting feeling to this important symbol.

The Mystic Tie

Encyclopedia of Freemasonry

That sacred and inviolable bond which unites men of the most discordant opinions into one band of brothers, which gives but one language to men of all nations and one altar to men of all religions, is properly, from the mysterious influence it exerts, denominated the mystic tie; and Freemasons, because they alone are under its influence, or enjoy its benefits, are called “Brethren of the Mystic Tie.”

The expression was used by Brother Robert Burns in his farewell to the Brethren of Saint James Lodge, Tarbolton, Scotland in 1786.

RObert Burns and the Mystic Tie
Burns addressing Saint James Lodge

The full text of the poem/song reads:

Adieu! a heart-warm fond adieu;
Dear brothers of the mystic tie!
Ye favoured, enlighten’d few,
Companions of my social joy;
Tho’ I to foreign lands must hie,
Pursuing Fortune’s slidd’ry ba’;
With melting heart, and brimful eye,
I’ll mind you still, tho’ far awa.

Oft have I met your social band,
And spent the cheerful, festive night;
Oft, honour’d with supreme command,
Presided o’er the sons of light:
And by that hieroglyphic bright,
Which none but Craftsmen ever saw
Strong Mem’ry on my heart shall write
Those happy scenes, when far awa.

May Freedom, Harmony, and Love,
Unite you in the grand Design,
Beneath th’ Omniscient Eye above,
The glorious Architect Divine,
That you may keep th’ unerring line,
Still rising by the plummet’s law,
Till Order bright completely shine,
Shall be my pray’r when far awa.

And you, farewell! whose merits claim
Justly that highest badge to wear:
Heav’n bless your honour’d noble name,
To Masonry and Scotia dear!
A last request permit me here, –
When yearly ye assemble a’,
One round, I ask it with a tear,
To him, the Bard that’s far awa.


From The Builder

June, 1920
by Bro. Joseph Fort Newton

Joseph Fort Newton
Joseph Fort Newton

“The moral solidarity of mankind is dissolved. The danger is imminent that the end may be a war of all against all. Sects and parties are increasing; common estimates and ideals keep slipping away; we understand one another less and less; even voluntary associations, that form of unity peculiar to modern times, unite more in accomplishment than disposition, bring men together outwardly rather than in reality.”
These words, written by Rudolph Eucken in 1912, were like a star-shell over No Man’s Land, revealing the divided mind of the world, and they had a terrible fulfilment. The War, by its principle of violence, made no positive contribution to society, but only stirred up and brought to the surface what already existed. For both men and nations, it intensified tendencies already active, precipitated passions held in obscure solution, and brought into focus forces that had long been uneasily accumulating. It neither initiated nor changed the direction in which the world was moving, but it did quicken the pace, and, in quickening it, revealed it. That is why a haunting uneasiness possesses the minds of men today. Even when local disturbances subside and isolated disputes are settled, we still doubt whether a stable tranquility has returned or ever will return again. For these things are only symptoms of a profound and widespread mental ferment and moral restlessness.

The insight of Eucken goes further back and deeper down to the real root of the matter, divining the causes and logic of it all to be moral, spiritual, religious. For, if anything is made plain by history, it is that the mystic tie which holds humanity together in ordered and advancing life is moral and spiritual, and when that thread is cut anything may happen. From the beginning of the century the spiritual disintegration of the modern world, the breaking of the ties that bind together the fabric of civilization, had been observed and noted by many. Faith grew dim, moral sanctions were relaxed, and it was deemed clever and smart to talk lightly of those sanctities without which no society has long existed. Much of our literature has been intellectually Bolshevistic for thirty years, attacking the basis of marriage, of the home, of the church, of the state, as if the moral laws were only conventions, if not fictions. Verily we have our reward; we know now that when fools play with fire they get burned.

For a time, during the stress and strain and terror of the war, there seemed to be a re-knitting of the ties that bind men and nations together; but it was only seeming. It was the power of fear and force, not the power of faith. How unreal, how artificial it was is shown by the rapidity with which that amazing solidarity was demobilized, to be followed by a revival of class rancor, sectarian ardor, and a narrow, myopic nationalism. A world which, having sent young men to die by the thousands for magnanimous ideals, has already half forgotten them as it coolly and briskly resumes business at the old stand – such a world may be grieved, but it ought not to be astonished, at the revolt of both the minds and souls of men. Not that the immediate future will see a triumph of subversive schemes and radical ideas. If we follow an almost universal precedent we shall pass first through a period of luxury and extravagance, and there will he a momentary craving for the old social and religious orders, as in the years following the Napoleonic Wars. But this is not significant. It is merely the first reaction from the emotional strain and nervous tension of the war. This mood will soon spend itself, and then, at once, new forms, new forces, new demands will begin to arise which will sweep away much that has seemed precious and permanent in our lives.

Without a spiritual renewal, without a re-knitting of that “moral solidarity,” of which Eucken speaks so eloquently, – without the Mystic Tie – we may not hope for security and real progress. The truth is that we have been trying to build a human civilization on a materialistic foundation, and it cannot be done. No human community can long exist on such a basis. Russia has rendered incalculable service to humanity, by showing, with deadly consistency, how materialism issues into anarchy and animalism. Hear now a proof of this in the words of a spiritually-minded man who lived in the midst of it, watching the decay and destruction of his country. Eugene Troubetzkoy, Professor of Law in the University of Moscow, in the Hibbert Journal, for January 1920 (page 210), shows us what happens when the tie of spiritual faith and fellowship is broken. Here are words which he who runs may read:

Bolshevism is first and foremost the practical denial of the spiritual. They flatly refuse to admit the existence of any spiritual bond between man and man. For them economic and material interests constitute the only social nexus; they recognize no other. This is the source of their whole conception of human society. The love of country, for example, is a lying hypocritical pretense; for the national bond is a spiritual bond, and therefore wholly factitious. From their point of view the only real bond between men is the material – that is to say, the economic. Material interests divide men into classes, and they are the only divisions to be taken account of. Hence they recognize no Nations save the Rich and the Poor. As there is no other bond which can unite these two Nations into one social whole, their relations must be regulated exclusively by the zoological principle revealed in the struggle for existence.

The materialistic conception of society is the Bolshevist method of treating the family. Since there is no spiritual bond between the sexes, there can be no constant relation. The rule is therefore that men and women can change their partners as often as they wish. The authorities in certain districts have even proclaimed the ‘nationalization’ of women, that is, the abolition of any private and exclusive right to process a wife even for a limited period, on the ground that women are the property of all. The same children. A powerful current of opinion is urging that children must be taken from their parents in order that the State may give them an education on true materialistic lines. In certain communes some hundreds of children were ‘nationalized,’ that is, ‘taken from their parents and placed in public institutions.

There it is, showing us what the red logic of hell means when it works itself out in action, and what results follow when the Mystic Tie of spiritual faith and fellowship is cut. Political anarchy, social animalism, moral bedlam follow with mathematical certainty, and all the fine and holy things of life are thrown into the junk heap. Man has an animal inheritance – moods of ape and tiger mingle in him with divine dreams and thoughts that wander through eternity – and when the Divine is denied, he reverts to the law of the jungle, and the hard-won trophy of spiritual struggle and agony vanishes. What happens, happens again. The Bolsheviks are men of like passions as ourselves; they simply carry out with the fatal logic of fanaticism the dogma of materialism upon which we have been trying to base our modern civilization. If anyone thinks that what has taken place in Russia cannot happen in America, he knows little of history and less of human nature. The practical denial of the Divine dehumanizes humanity, and the rest follows as night follows day.

For that reason, if it should be a part of our religion to be patriotic, it must be a part of our patriotism to keep the light of spiritual faith aflame on the altars built by our fathers. Down in Wales, at a time when it seemed that revolution was inevitable, I asked a labor leader what bond held men together. He said:

All that holds these men back is the fact that they were trained in the Sunday-schools of these Welsh chapels years ago. That is all that keeps the spark from blowing up.

Within the last four years, ten thousand Sunday-schools have ceased to exist in America, and the end is not yet. Facts such as these, and others of like kind, make a thoughtful man wonder as to what the future will be. What confronts us is not specifically indifference to religion, but indifference to pretty well everything outside the circle of creature comfort and self-gratification. There are many exceptions, of course, but in the main it is true that society has as yet been able to persuade only a few of its members to be really interested in its higher concerns. By the same token, men who do care for what is finest in our national life must make use of every opportunity, every instrumentality, to keep alive the faith that makes men faithful, and the vision of the moral ideal that lights our human way toward the city of God.

There is no need to apply what has been said, least of all to men to whom the Mystic Tie is a reality, and who are bound together by it in a fraternity of spiritual Faith and Fellowship. In every degree of Freemasonry, we are taught – by art, drama and symbol – the moral basis of human society, its spiritual interpretation, and the necessity of a fraternal righteousness among men, without which manhood is rudimentary and intellectual culture is the slave of greed and passion. Of Lincoln it was said, that “his practical life was spiritual,” and by as much as Masonry builds men of like faith and fiber who, in private life and public service, keep a manhood neither bought nor sold, true of heart and unbefogged of mind, it is helping to weave that Mystic Tie that holds the republic together. The words of James Bryce, in The American Commonwealth (page 583), ought to be written and hung up in our hearts. If history teaches anything, it teaches us that hitherto civilized society has rested on religion.

It was religious zeal and religious conscience that led to the founding of the New England colonies two centuries and a half ago… Religion and conscience have been a constantly active force in the American Commonwealth ever since…

And the more democratic republics become…

…the more the masses grow conscious of their power, the more do they need to live not only by patriotism, but by reverence and self-control, and the more essential to their well-being are those sources from which reverence and self-control flow.

The full quote reads:

America is no doubt the country in which intellectual movements work most swiftly upon the masses and the country in which the loss of faith in the invisible might produce the completest revolution because it is the country where men have been least wont to revere anything in the visible world. Yet America seems as unlikely to drift from her ancient moorings as any country of the Old World. It was religious zeal and the religious conscience which led to the founding of the New England colonies two centuries and a half ago those colonies whose spirit has in such a large measure passed into the whole nation. Religion and conscience have been a constantly active force in the American commonwealth ever since not indeed strong enough to avert many moral and political evils yet at the worst times inspiring a minority with a courage and ardor by which moral and political evils have been held at bay and in the long run generally overcome.

It is an old saying that monarchies live by honor and republics by virtue. The more democratic republics become the more the masses grow conscious of their own power the more do they need to live not only by patriotism but by reverence and self control and the more essential to their well being are those sources whence reverence and self control flow.

More on Symbols and Symbolism.

Georgia – Sex, Lives and Fornication

georgia bans gay masonsFor the institution that proclaims no man speaks for Freemasonry, the Grand Lodge of Georgia (some 40,000 members strong) took a stand and made just such a proclamation. Their pronouncement, voted upon at a Grand Lodge session, was to proclaim that neither gay men not fornicators (people who have consensual sex out of wedlock) should be allowed admission to the fraternal institution.

The ironic thing is that it seems to be based on the application of an interpretation of the Moral Law which is a theme grasped closely by many who agree with this decision.

The original edict, in a document signed by the Grand Master of Georgia, states (under GEORGIA) Masonic Code 77-108 that:

Masonic Code Section 77-108 shall be hereby amended to add that: Homosexual activity with anyone is prohibited conduct subjecting the offender to Masonic discipline, so that Masonic Code Section 77-108 shall hereafter read as follows:

2015 Masonic Code Section 77-108, Adultery or Fornication

Adultery or fornication with anyone subjects the offender to discipline, but where the women in question is known by the offender to be the wife, widow, mother, daughter, or sister of a Master Mason, there is the added guilt of the breach of a Masonic obligation, and the want of chastity on her part does not excuse the offender. Homosexual activity with anyone subjects the offender to discipline. SO ORDERED and given under my hand and seal as Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons for the State of Georgia and under the seal of the said Grand Lodge, this 9th Day of September, 2015.

Signed:

Douglas W. McDonald Grand Master
Joseph W. Watson, Grand Secretary

Their entry in the October edition of the Georgia Masonic Messenger (the original link since removed, but viewable here: Masonic Messenger 10 2015 ), the official publication of the Grand Lodge of Georgia (on page 3) reads:

Masonic Code Section 71-102.1 authorizes the Grand Master to issue an Edict which would apply to a significant question or issue which may be enacted as Masonic Law by the Grand Lodge. Resting upon that authority, Edict 2015-1 was issued on September 8 declaring that a Freemason is obliged to obey the moral law and Almighty God, the Grand Architect of the Universe, the Father of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; that basic moral laws are not man-made Edicts or Decrees, but spring from the eternal justice and wisdom of Almighty God; Freemasons must constantly strive to keep their integrity intact, for it is our integrity that holds our way of life together, and when integrity is lost, all is lost; that good moral character is a pre-requisite for admission into Freemasonry and a strict observance of the moral law is essential for advancement and retention of good standing within the Fraternity; and the importance of the moral law as a fundamental principle of Freemasonry is exemplified by the fact that any act by one of its members involving a violation of the moral law is a Masonic offense, subjecting the offender to discipline; and that homosexuality is contrary to the moral law. The Edict concluded, Homosexual activity with anyone subjects the offender to discipline.” Let us not forget that Webster’s Dictionary defines “irreligious libertine”* as a person who shows a lack of religion and is morally or sexually unrestrained.

This seems to be heavily influenced by a religious rhetoric.

The argument to the text above is that it was specifically written for Georgia Freemasons and not the broader landscape of Freemasonry in other states or countries.

So, theoretically, it shouldn’t (and doesn’t) apply to anyone other than those with the misfortune of living in the state of Georgia. Yet, to make such an edict on what they see as moral or immoral activity casts a VERY long shadow on an institution that prides itself in claiming it “good men better” or spreading the light of brotherly love in an otherwise darkened world. Is this really an issue of violating some invisible or philosophically plastic moral law? Or is it a means to apply a quasi-religious edict onto a subject that was just recently accepted as the law of the land? Is that an allowable stance for an organization to make, especially when it espouses a zero tolerance for religious and political dialog? Or, is it just another form of discrimination meant to foster a “them versus us” issue as a futile attempt to stand head and shoulders in the ranks of society.

The issue of fornication is equally puzzling given we exist in a modern age where civil society has most of the morality laws under control. With that said, its apparently not enough. Whatever the reason, it’s wrong; it’s stupid and blight on anyone or anything associated with the fraternity. Who are they to put into word and rule their disdain for the personal lives of its immediate members and the broader member community around the world to exert defacto judgment on what they do and who with?

Georgia Masonry should be called to reconcile this and be put out of the fold. To NOT disown them is to say that this act of moral social engineering is acceptable and that Freemasonry, as a body, has lost its way.

*Consequently, irreligious libertine, isn’t in the on-line Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

Wisconson Masons donate life saving deliberators

On the other end of the spectrum, in the news, four local Masonic Lodges and the Wisconsin Masonic Foundation are among those who donated funds to supply local first responders, schools and other community organizations with AED (automated external defibrillator) devices.

Out of Waukesha, Wisconsin:

The Powerheart G5 AED is the first FDA-cleared AED to combine fully automatic shock delivery, fast shock times, and dual-language functionality to fight the leading cause of death in the United States: sudden cardiac arrest. (PRNewsFoto/Cardiac Science Corporation)

The Powerheart G5 AED is the first FDA-cleared AED to combine fully automatic shock delivery, fast shock times, and dual-language functionality to fight the leading cause of death in the United States: sudden cardiac arrest. (PRNewsFoto/Cardiac Science Corporation)

Saving the life of a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) victim is predicated on speed; the quicker the victim is treated with an automated external defibrillator (AED), the higher the likelihood of survival. In Lafayette County, one of the most rural parts of Wisconsin, officers are often first responders to SCA emergencies–a reality that has made AEDs a necessity while on patrol.

“Absolutely the biggest challenge in a rural environment is getting to a medical emergency in time,” said Lafayette County Sheriff Reg Gill. “With a volunteer EMS system, people need to get to an ambulance and then out to the call. As a result, patrol officers on the road are often the first responders, so we have AEDs in those patrol cars.”

This is why Cardiac Science, a global leader in AEDs, is proud to announce that theLafayette County Sheriff’s Office selected Powerheart G5 AEDs to help their patrol officers save lives. Lafayette County covers 640 square miles and a population just shy of 17,000 people.

Gill said the sheriff’s office will place the new AEDs in the jail, in the county courthouse, and in the three patrol cars that are out on the road during each shift. The Powerheart G5 units will replace existing AEDs.

“The new Powerheart G5 AED is proving extremely popular with law enforcement and other public safety first responders,” said Al Ford, Cardiac Science General Manager and Senior Vice President of Sales / Marketing. “The device is light enough to be easily portable in the field and tough enough to meet military standards. The fully automatic model of the G5 features RescueCoach™ instruction that guides a rescuer through CPR and AED use.”

Gill said that his office first became aware of the new Powerheart AEDs through a presentation at the quarterly meeting of the Badger State Sheriffs’ Association.
Funding for the new AEDs was provided by four local Masonic Lodges and the Wisconsin Masonic Foundation as part of the Wisconsin Freemasons’s ongoing support for AEDs for first responders, schools, and other community organizations. Additional funding for the Sheriff’s Office AEDs came from the Benton State Bank.

The Powerheart G5 was designed for ease of maintenance. It conducts daily, weekly, and monthly self-tests and has a highly visible indicator to confirm the device’s Rescue Ready® status. It comes with an 8-year warranty and a 4-year performance guarantee on its Intellisense® medical grade non-rechargeable batteries.

Henry Golden Boy Freemasons Tribute Edition Rifle

This seems a strange addition to the wide world of Masonic ephemera, especially given the recent news and press on guns and gun violence. But is would seem the world wants (needs) a vintage styled rifle branded with icons of the fraternity.

Henry Repeating Arms logo (PRNewsFoto/Henry Repeating Arms)

Henry Repeating Arms logo (PRNewsFoto/Henry Repeating Arms)

Out of Bayonne, New Jersey:

Henry Repeating Arms is pleased to introduce the newest rifle in its collection, The Henry Golden Boy Freemasons Tribute Edition. It recognizes the long history of this honorable fraternal order and rewards the work and dedication of Freemasons everywhere.

Freemasons Tribute 2The rifle is crafted with the highest attention to detail. The select American walnut stock depicts our first President in full Masonic regalia, with apron, trowel, and Warden’s column, standing on a “temple” floor in front of the Masonic staircase, in a painted tableau bordered by scrollwork in the same style as the receiver.

Freemasons Tribute rifleThe left side carries the famous compass and square retained from the earliest days of Freemasonry, the mason’s plumb and level, the letter “G” which stands for both God and Geometry, the All-Seeing Eye of God as the symbol of divine watchfulness, and the words BROTHERLY LOVE, RELIEF & TRUTH that the order considers its foundation, along with FAITH, HOPE, CHARITY, emphasized in a Mason’s First Point Ceremony, all in raised 24K gold relief against a background of classic floral engraving.

The Henry Golden Boy Freemasons Tribute Edition Rifle. Visit henryrifles.com to learn more. (PRNewsFoto/Henry Repeating Arms)

The Henry Golden Boy Freemasons Tribute Edition Rifle. Visit henryrifles.com to learn more. (PRNewsFoto/Henry Repeating Arms)

On the right side, black and white mosaic squares represent the floor of King Solomon’sTemple to illustrate “human life, checkered with good and evil.” Ascending stairs remind a member of the path to higher levels of Freemasonry, with another “G” at the top as the ultimate goal.

It’s built with the same smooth action that all rifles in Henry’s award-winning Golden Boy family are known for. This model features a nickel-plated finish and the receiver engravings are plated with 24K gold. The buttplate and barrel band are brass. The American Walnut stock is engraved and hand-painted.

Freemasons Tribute 3It features a fully adjustable semi-buckhorn rear sight with a reversible white diamond insert and brass beaded front sight. It includes a blued octagonal barrel and is drilled and tapped for easy scope mounting. Offered in caliber .22 S/L/LR, capacity is 16 rounds of 22 Long Rifle and as much as 21 rounds of 22 Short.

Anthony Imperato, President of Henry Repeating Arms explains, “Many of our customers are Freemasons and it’s an honor to pay tribute to them with this rifle. Freemasonry dates back to the early 1700s, with one of its most notable members being our first American president, George Washington. Open to all levels of society from cab driver to Congress, the Freemasons have included such names as country western singers Roy Acuff and Eddy Arnold, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, South Pole discoverer Roald Amundsen, hotelman John Jacob Astor, western star Gene Autry, comedian Richard Pryor, actor John Wayne, magician Harry Houdini, jazz legend Count Basie, America’s literary icon Mark Twain, and boxing great Sugar Ray Robinson. Truly an impressive group.”
Model H004MAS is available through licensed Henry dealers. MSRP $1200.00.

For more information and product images visit Freemasons Tribute Edition Rifle or call 201-858-4400.

To review the entire line of Henry rifles please order a free catalog by calling 800-504-4731.

Abracadabra – Symbols and Symbolism

Encyclopedia of FreemasonryIn this installment of Symbols and Symbolism, we look at the brief entry on the magical and mystical word know today as the word of prestidigitation. While over used in more modern times, the word itself is seen as a hex, an incantation or the lead up to the punch line of a parlor trick. Believed to be an Aramaic word, it’s suggested to have derived from the phrase “”I create as I speak.” Like so many words, it represents a vestigial memory cloaked in a syncretic mythology.

From Mackey’s Encyclopedia of Freemasonry:

Abracadabra

A term of incantation which was formerly worn about the neck as an amulet against several diseases, especially the tertian ague (known today as tertian malaria).

It was to be written on a triangular piece of parchment in the following form:

ABRACADABRA
ABRACADABR
ABRACADAB
ABRACADA
ABRACAD
ABRACA
ABRAC
ABRA
ABR
AB
A

It is said that it first occurs in the Carmen de Morbis et Remediis (The full text being called De Medicina Praecepta Saluberrima- Carmen de Morbis et Remediis) of Q . Serenus Sammonicus, a favorite of the Emperor Severus in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, and is generally supposed to be derived from the word abraxas (ΑΒΡΑΣΑΞ).

You can find the text of De Medicina Praecepta Saluberrima- Carmen de Morbis et Remediis here.

Freemasonry as it was Practiced During the American Civil War

freemasonry and the civil warOn November 6, 1860, prior to Abraham Lincoln’s election for United States President he declared that, “Government cannot endure half slave and half free.” He was referring to the common practice during those times, mostly within the southern states, of human slavery. However, these causes weren’t a full or primary cause of this war. If the Confederacy were successful in their efforts the Union, as being the United States would no longer be able to avail the benefits from those southern states with their productions, especially of cotton textiles and bountiful food crops without paying tariffs to a separate nation.

The American Civil War was started in 1861 and it ended in 1865. The Confederacy of the southern states prepared itself for war starting on February 4, 1861. It consisted of eleven states who aimed to secede from the Union and establish itself as a separate and independent country.

The war’s first battle was on April 1, 1861 at Fort Sumter in South Carolina. But it wasn’t until January 31, 1865, that the United States Congress abolished slavery by passing the 13th amendment to the United States Constitution.

On May 10, 1865 President Andrew Johnson officially ended the American Civil War after the surrender was declared at Appomattox, Virginia.

Thousands of lives were lost and many had been badly wounded and would suffer until their eventful death relieved their pains.

Estimates are that at least 110,070 were killed in battles or later  died from the wounds inflicted in battles, and another 199,790 or so from diseases that were attributed in some way due to that war.

However, these reported testaments of compassionate acts by the Freemasons show a brighter side of those four years of strife and the unusual ways of war; often fathers and sons fighting on opposite sides as were blood and fraternal brothers and friends was far too common. This allowed the “Light of Masonry” to shine brightly even during those troubling times.

During that Civil War, approximately 410.000 soldiers were interned in prison camps and it has been estimated that about 56,000 of them were Freemasons. There are recorded stories that indicate how these Masons were true to their Masonic obligations and to our Masonic teachings, even while performing their duties as military fighting men.  When they were confronted with a wounded and distressed brother, they did all they could to provide comfort and compassionate assistance. I’ll here cover just a few examples of those reports that demonstrate the kindness and concerns shown for their Masonic Brethren, in some cases for others without regard for which side they were fighting. The Masonic sign of distress was witnessed and responded to quite frequently during those troubling times.

Lt. Col. Homer Sprague, an 13th Connecticut Volunteer was taken prisoner. During a long march to the prison, Sprague became so exhausted that he collapsed into a ditch. A Confederate Officer allowed him to ride in the ambulance for the remainder of the journey. With some difficulty, he was able to climb into the vehicle. He there learned that the driver was also a Brother Mason.

This Brother said to Sprague,

As a Mason I will feed you to the very last crumbs of my food, but as a soldier I will fight you till the last drop of my blood.

Sprague replied,

I hardly know which to admire most, your generosity as a Mason or your spunk as a soldier.

Hunter McGuire

Hunter McGuire

In 1863 Hunter McGuire, a physician and commissioned officer in the Union Army, resigned his commission and enlisted in the Confederate Army as a Private. This was because while still serving within the Union Army and while trying to evade capture by Confederate forces, he tried to jump his horse over a fence. Both he and the horse went down and were captured. He gave the Masonic sign of distress. A Confederate officer recognized the sign and ordered a temporary cease fire while he and his horse were cared for. This event convinced him to resign his commission in the Union Army.

There was many times in which the Masons demonstrated compassion for the suffering of their Brother Masons. Union soldier John Copley with the 49th Infantry was captured by the Confederate troops and confined in a military prison camp. It was soon after his capture, that all of the Masons in the camp were gathered up and moved together into a separate barrack where, thanks to the Masons of the local area, they also had somewhat of a plentiful and better diet than did the other prisoners.

Being known as “The White Apron Men” as the Freemasons were often referred to in those days, were known to remain true to their Promises, they were allowed the liberty of roaming about the camp based solely on their word to not attempt escape. On one occasion a Mason was approached by a non-Mason who stated that he and his friend were very hungry, not having eaten in three days.

Without comment, he walked on, but in the afternoon he again spotted the man, and without saying a word to him, dropped a package at his feet. When the man opened it, he saw food and drink, plentiful enough for both he and his friend to nourish them.

After the war, one of those men wrote,

I was not a Mason during the war, but what I observed of the compassionate ways of the Masons, I was induced to join this beneficent order, and I was made a Mason in 1866.  I vowed to pattern my conduct by what I had there observed, especially of how they truly cared for each other.  Those Masons were treated with respect, and they were trusted based on their integrity of character.

He went on to say that it was just as well that he had not been a Mason at that time. Not being bound to such a promise, he was able to escape and made his way to safety.

These 3 stories are from the Heredom Series of books produced by the Scottish Rite Research Society.

officers in the civil warIn my web searches and from my private library, I also found several interesting accounts of Masonic compassion being demonstrated during that War.  One story was of an Alabama Artillery group, who were resting from a hard fought battle during the day prior that had lasted into to the late night hours, several being killed or wounded. After traveling to a field on the edge of a thicket of trees, they having assumed it to be a fairly safe place to rest and refresh them selves for the next battle.

The surviving men were exhausted and some fell into a deep sleep, while others engaged themselves in conversations, some inspecting their weapons and ammunition supplies, while yet others were attending the wounded.

A Corporal lay back against the trunk of an old pine tree, watching a flock of birds overhead while contemplating his thoughts of how he would prefer death, rather than being incarcerated in a Yankee prison camp, and at the same time admiring the Navy Colt pistol he had taken from the dead body of a Union Captain during the last battle.

He caught a glimpse of a reflection among the trees that he believed might a weapon.  Now being of the highest rank, since the Commissioned Officer had been killed in the last battle, he called out to the men, “To your guns boys, git ready.”

He silently prayed;

Thou Oh God, know our down sittings and our uprisings, and understand our thoughts from afar off, shield and defend us from the evil intent of our enemies.

He grimaced in pain as he arose from the scaly bark of that old pine tree. He had been wounded twice in previous battles, the first time by a painful flesh wound to a leg, and the other by a piece of shrapnel from an exploded shell that hit him in the chest, knocking from his feet. When he finally looked at the wound he saw a jagged gash extending from the nipple to the collar bone.

He refused a hospital stay, choosing to remain with his comrades and within his duties as a soldier.

The Corporal again patted the Colt pistol in his waist band with assurance that he would do better with it, rather than with a heavy rifle. As he arose he looked with pride at the Masonic ring his father, now his Masonic Brother, had presented to him when he was made a Master Mason.  He again called out to the troops, “Prepare for battle.”

He was suddenly confronted by a Yankee Lieutenant who from the tree line had noted what he perceived to be, a much weakened condition of the Corporal, and was apparently intent on capturing him alive if possible.  They were now bound together in a death grip, both men showing unbelievable strength.

There’s probably no greater human horror than to be locked together with a person whom you know will kill you, if you don’t kill him first. “To kill or be killed” was a simple and familiar saying; but to actually be in that situation gave it much more meaning.

He was struggling to get to the Colt pistol, but being so tightly bound body to body, it was impossible.  He somehow garnered a moment of extra strength, and as he pushed on the Lieutenant’s chest, he caught sight of a Masonic emblem, and without hesitation he muttered sounds into the ear of what he now believed to be a brother Mason. On the Lieutenant’s hearing the sounds, the death grip quickly became a brotherly embrace, both men now with tears in their eyes, for what could have resulted had not the discovery been made.

Another interesting story was of two opposing Generals, John Gordon of the Confederate Army and Francis Barlow of the Union Army.  During a raging battle, General Gordon was crossing the bloodied field of battle, where he came upon General Barlow who had just received what was assumed to be a mortal wound.  Even though the fierce battle was continuing all around them, Gordon took the time to show compassion for a fallen brother.  He gave Barlow a drink of water and inquired as to what he might do for him.  Barlow asked him to write a letter to his wife, which he dictated the words of his supposed, impending death.

Upon receipt of the letter his Lady traveled to retrieve his remains, but by then he had received medical care and was recovering to fight again. Several years later these two men met in Washington, D.C., both having assumed that the other had died during the war.

They enjoyed Masonic fellowship, sharing brotherly love and affection while remembering their many experiences. Their close friendship and brotherly love continued until death.

The practice of brotherly love, friendship and morality were also demonstrated in lesser famous military actions.  In 1863, gun boats including the Albatross, were shelling a small Military port near Mandeville, Louisiana. The Captain of the Albatross was J. E. Hart who had been made a Mason in a Lodge in New York. This Brother had been suffering with pain, fever and delirium for several days, and during that ongoing battle, to ease his misery, he shot himself in the head, taking his own life.

A friend and Masonic Brother assumed command, and with much grief for the loss, he under a flag of truce, went onto land among those troops they had just been shelling, to inquire of any Masons among the troops and in the town.  He asked them to assist him in the performing of Masonic Last Rites for a fallen brother.  And whether it would have been considered proper or not, they gave him a most impressive Masonic Funeral.  His remains were ceremoniously interned to their long home.

The Masons of the area placed a marker at the head of the grave, with the Masonic Square and Compasses most prominent, in honor of this departed Brother.

There are many reasons why freemasonry, more than any other fraternal organizations, has survived and thrived throughout the ages.  Our tenants and devotions to them have made this possible.  Our rules and customs have encourages us to show kindness and compassion for others, without expectations of anything in return.

The mental structure of which our Ancient and Honorable Craft is constructed, transcends all that would most likely cause a division among non-Masons.

We must live by our Masonic teachings and our values while looking to the inner goodness of a man, rather that that of the outer appearances, or any other distinctions. We must show love and compassion, assist the needy, lift up the downtrodden and spread Masonic love toward all of God’s people, without regards for ones religious faith, political leanings or any other personal differences that are of no business of our Fraternity, then we will have become the Masons we so desire to be.

These acts of brotherly love and compassion as mentioned herein, are just a few examples of how we Freemasons have demonstrated our devotions to the teachings of our Symbolic Craft, in wars as well as in times of peace.

May we, by use of the symbolism of the Masonic trowel, continue the spreading of that cement which units us into one common band of brothers and fellows, and may it some day become common among all good people throughout the world.  Let the love and caring we share as Masonic Brothers never cease; and may it always be most predominate.  May every moral and social virtue continue to bind us as a Masonic Fraternity of  friends and brothers, with a spirit of charity imbedded in our hearts, much so as it was so well demonstrated by our Masonic Brothers, during that Civil War.

May love and compassion continue be observed by we Masons for the world to see, and hopefully it will someday be emulated by all of mankind around the world.  And may these practices of love among mankind forever be observed.

Amen and so mote it be.

This piece comes to us from Brother W. B. Paul Weathers from Arizona. Br. Weathers was initiated, past and raised in the now defunct William Whiting Lodge in Holyoke, Massachusetts. He has been a member of Oasis Lodge #52 in Tucson, AZ for many years and is affiliated with the Grand Lodge of China (Valley of Taipei, Orient of Taiwan) under the Scottish Rite. He is a two term Past Master, Cryptic Mason/York Rite, member of the Scottish Rite Research Society, Eastern Star, Sabbar Shrine, High Twelve and the Sojourners. Active with the Grand Lodge of Arizona, Br. Weathers also manages a chest of medical assist devices for the elderly and needy and organizes a quarterly outing for Masonic widows and elderly couples.


 

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Clandestine Masons and Clandestine Freemasonry

Encyclopedia of FreemasonryIn this installment of Symbols & Symbolism we look at a reading from Albert G. Mackey’s Encyclopedia of Freemasonry on the meanings behind Clandestine, Clandestine Lodge and a Clandestine Freemason.

The video, deals with the first two subjects, the third is a subject of much contention creating clear vernacular delineation of what IS and what IS NOT considered by the various denominations of the fraternity.

You can find more installments of these educational pieces under Symbols & Symbolism, and on YouTube.

Clandestine

The ordinary meaning of this word is secret, hidden. The French word clandestin, from which it is derived, is defined by Boiste (Pierre-Claude-Victor BoisteDictionnaire universel de la langue française, first published in 1800) to be something:

fait en cachette et contre les lois.

Translated to mean – done in a hiding-place and against the laws (or, as translated by Google Translate – made secretly and against laws), which better suits the Masonic signification, which is illegal, not authorized. Irregular is often used for small departures from custom.

The Frontispiece to Noorthouck's 1784 Constitution.

The Frontispiece to Noorthouck’s 1784 Constitution.

Clandestine Lodge

A body of Masons uniting in a Lodge without the consent of a Grand Lodge, or, although originally legally constituted, continuing to work after its charter has been revoked, is styled a “Clandestine Lodge.” Neither Anderson nor Entick employ the word. It was first used in the Book of Constitutions in a note by Noortbouck, on page 239 of his edition (Constitutions, 1784). Irregular Lodge would be the better term.

Clandestine Mason

One made in or affiliated with a clandestine Lodge. With clandestine Lodges or Masons, regular Masons are forbidden to associate or converse on Masonic subjects.

In the Book of Constitutions, Noortbouck’s comments read, first under the Abstract of the Laws Relating to the General Fund of Charity

IV, page ii:

No person made a mason in a private or clandestine manner, for small or unworthy considerations, can act as a grand officer or as an officer of a private lodge, or can he partake of the general charity.

Interestingly, they tell us their reasons:

And then Under the Making of a Mason (page 394 and 395), ART V

A brother concerned in making masons clandestinely, shall not be allowed to visit any lodge till he has made due submission, even though the brothers so made may be allowed.

and, ART VIII, page 395:

Seeing that some brothers have been made lately in a clandestine manner, that is, in no regular lodge, nor by any authority or dispensation from the grand master, and for small and unworthy considerations, to the dishonor of the craft; the grand lodge decreed, that no person so made, nor any of those concerned in making him, shall be a grand officer, nor an officer of a particular lodge; nor shall partake of the general charity, should they ever be reduced to apply for it.

From a Short Talk Bulletin, Vol.XIII, No, 12, from 1935 says definitively (for that time) that,

Today the Masonic world is entirely agreed on what constitutes a clandestine body, or a clandestine Mason; the one is a Lodge or Grand Lodge unrecognized by other Grand Lodges, working without right, authority or legitimate descent; the other is a man “made a Mason” on such a clandestine body.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank You for the Declaration of Independence

Thank you for the Declaration of Independence.

Thank you for the strength, bravery, and dedication to fight so that I may have the opportunities I have today. I hope that I may live up to a fraction of the standard you set before me. I am in awe of your courage and your forethought for our freedom.

Happy 4th of July.

Should you need a little something to talk about over the holiday BBQ’s and the Firework celebrations, I wanted to share with you the role of Freemasonry and our Freedoms today.

Freemasonry may not have created the Declaration of Independence, but its principals of equality, brotherly love, and democracy influenced its very essence.

In the words of a few of our Founding Fathers:

Thomas_Paine

Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamities is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer! Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built on the ruins of the bowers of paradise. For were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform, and irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other lawgiver; but that not being the case, he finds it necessary to surrender up a part of his property to furnish means for the protection of the rest; and this he is induced to do by the same prudence which in every other case advises him out of two evils to choose the least. Wherefore, security being the true design and end of government, it unanswerably follows that whatever form thereof appears most likely to ensure it to us, with the least expense and greatest benefit, is preferable to all others.
Thomas Paine – Common Sense, February, 1776

“Gentlemen, All though it is not possible to foresee the consequences of human actions, yet it is nevertheless a duty we owe ourselves and posterity in all our public councils to decide in the best manner we are able and to trust the event to That Being who governs both causes and events, so as to bring about his own determinations.

Impressed with this sentiment, and at the same time fully convinced that our affairs will take a more favorable turn, The Congress have judged it necessary to dissolve all connection between Great Britain and the American Colonies, and to declare them free and independent States as you will perceive by the enclosed Declaration, which I am directed to transmit to you.”
John Hancock – Cover letter to the Declaration of Independence
Philadelphia, July 6, 1776

congress

In Masonic terms, only 9 of the 56 men who signed it were Freemasons.

They were:

William Ellery Rhode Island
Oct. 12 and/or Oct. 25 of 1748 St. John’s Lodge of Boston -First Lodge of Boston, 1748

Benjamin Franklin Pennsylvania
St. John’s Lodge of Philadelphia, 1731 – Grand Master of Pennsylvania, 1734

John Hancock Massachusetts
July 4, 1776 & Aug 2, 1776 became a Mason in Merchants Lodge No. 277 in Quebec, affiliated with Saint Andrew’s Lodge in Boston, 1762

Joseph Hewes or Howes North Carolina
Aug 2, 1776? Unanimity Lodge No. 7, visited in 1776, and buried with Masonic funeral honors

William Hooper North Carolina
Aug 2, 1776? Member of Hanover Lodge in Masonborough, N.C.

Thomas McKean Delaware
1781 listed as visitor to Perseverance Lodge in Harrisburg, PA

Robert Treat Paine Massachusetts
Aug 2, 1776? Attended Massachusetts Grand Lodge in 1759

Richard Stockton New Jersey
Aug 2, 1776? Charter Master of St. John’s Lodge in Princeton, 1765

George Walton Georgia
Aug 2, 1776? Solomon’s Lodge No. 1, in Savannah

William Whipple New Hampshire
Aug 2, 1776? St. John’s Lodge, Portsmouth, N.H., 1752

33 of the 74 men commissioned as Generals in the U.S. Continental Army were Freemasons, most notable:
Marquis de LaFayette, , Nathanael Greene, Israel Putnam, George Washington, and the turn coat Benedict Arnold.

And, 3 (of 13) Freemasons who were true patriots who risked everything for our nation’s freedom.  They are less known than most, but they contributed greatly to the creation and preservation of our country.

Bro. Samuel Nicholas: Commissioned by Congress to organize and train five companies of marine forces, skilled in the use of small and large firearms, to protect America’s ships at sea.  During the winter of 1776–77, his units provided for Washington’s small army, crossing the Delaware River at Trenton, fighting in the Battle of Princeton.  He is considered the first Commandant of the Marine Corps, exemplifying the Marine motto Semper Fidelis.

Bro. John Glover: Head the Marblehead Regiment, he successfully engaged the British at sea and, later, triumphed over severe odds to evacuate the desperate remnants of Washington’s army from Long Island to Manhattan.

Bro. John Peter Gabriel Muhlenburg: The Episcopal priest and ardent patriot who is quoted as saying int he closing of a sermon “There is a time for all things—a time to preach and a time to pray; but there is also a time to fight, and that time has now come.”  Then removing his clerical robes, revealing his Colonel’s uniform.

How we achieved our independence?

The final battle in the Revolutionary War was in 1781 at Yorktown, Virginia.

Washington learned that a French fleet was sailing toward North America and decided to plan a combined French and colonial attack against the British forces in Yorktown. The attack captured the British Army. The British could not get supplies by sea because of the French fleet and they could not retreat by land because of the French and colonial troops.

On October 17, 1781 the British Army surrendered. King George did not want it to be the last battle of the war, but Parliament decided that the loss was too costly. U.S. and British leaders signed the Treaty of Paris on September 3, 1783 which ended the war.

The full text reads:

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavored to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred. to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

— John Hancock

New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

Massachusetts:
John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Connecticut:
Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York:
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey:
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Pennsylvania:
Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Delaware:
Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Maryland:
Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Virginia:
George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina:
William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Georgia:
Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

Thank you to Paul M. Bessel’s website for the Masonic information.

Read about Masonic Presidents, or about other Notable Freemasons.

May the Great Architect of the Universe bless us all.

Mosaic Pavement or the Checkered Flooring

Encyclopedia of FreemasonryIn this installment of Symbols & Symbolism, we look at a reading from Albert G. Mackey’s Encyclopedia of Freemasonry and its Kindred Sciences on the symbolism behind the mosaic (or checkered) pavement, objects that, Mackey says, are “appropriately interpreted as symbols of the evil and good of human life”

You can read more installments of Mackey’s Encyclopedia under Symbols & Symbolism here on this site and video of these segments on YouTube.

Samuel Lee depiction of Solomons Temple

Samuel Lee depiction of Solomons Temple

Mosaic Pavement

Mosaic work consists properly of many little stones of different colors united together in patterns to imitate a painting. It was much practiced among the Romans who called it musivum opus whence the Italians get their musaico the French their mosaique and we our mosaic. The idea that the work is derived from the fact that Moses used a pavement of colored stones in the tabernacle has been long since exploded by etymologists. The Masonic tradition is that the floor of the Temple of Solomon was decorated with a Mosaic pavement of black and white stones. There is no historical evidence to substantiate this statement. Samuel Lee, however, in his diagram of the Temple, represents not only the floors of the building, but of all the outer courts, as covered with such a pavement (Lee’s Orbis miraculum; or, the Temple of Solomon Pourtrayed by Scripture-Light, London, 1659). The Masonic idea was perhaps first suggested by this passage in the Gospel of St. John, xix 13 “when Pilate, therefore, heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth and sat him down in the judgment-seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha.” The word here translated Pavement is in the original Lithostroton, the very word used by Pliny to denote a Mosaic pavement. The Greek word, as well as its equivalent, is used to denote a pavement formed of ornamental stones various colors precisely what is by a Mosaic pavement.

A 19th century depiction of the assembly of the Sanhedrin.

A 19th century depiction of the assembly of the Sanhedrin.

There was, therefore, a part of Temple which was decorated with a Mosaic pavement. The Talmud informs us that there was such a pavement in the conclave where the Grand Sanhedrin held its sessions.

By a little torsion of historical accuracy, the Masons have asserted that the ground-floor of the Temple was a Mosaic pavement and hence, as the Lodge is a representation of the Temple, that the floor of the Lodge should also be of the same pattern.

The Mosaic pavement is an old symbol of the Order. It is met within the earliest rituals of the last century. It is classed among the ornaments of the Lodge in combination with the indented tessel and the blazing star. Its parti-colored (showing different colors or tints) stones of black and have been readily and appropriately interpreted as symbols of the evil and good of human life.


 

References:

Samuel Lee (1625–1691)
An English Puritan academic and minister. Lee produced a “very English interpretation” for the design of Solomon’s Temple. Lee suggests that the “extremely elaborate Temple designs of earlier authors took their inspiration from the visionary temple of Ezekiel, which was never intended as a real temple to be built on earth.” The Illustration of Solomon’s Temple, as mentioned by Mackey, is from Orbis miraculum; or, the Temple of Solomon Pourtrayed by Scripture-LightLondon, 1659.

Lithostroton
A floor covering made from irregular variously colored small marble stones, not to be confused with the mosaic surface that was designed with the help of small, rectangular or almost square cubes (tessellae) made of terracotta, limestone or marble which were set into a bed of mortar and polished for foot traffic. 

John 19:13
When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). (NIV)

Help Wanted

Help wanted is an occasional missive from a visitor to Freemason Information. Frequently they arrive in our Contact Us mail box and ask a specific or unique question about some aspect of Freemasonry.

This note is from a visitor to the website named LeiLani who makes an inquiry regarding a Masonic Document she found at a local yard sale.

She writes:

My husband and I bought a document at a yard sale recently, just wanting the frame. I glanced at the certificate and thought it looked cool, then promptly forgot about it. Two weeks later I remembered to take it out and look at it. It was a 32° Prince of the Royal Secret certificate from Ohio, November 1945. I’ve researched both the recipient and the signers – the recipient was John Docherty of Cleveland, OH. The signers include Samuel H Baynard Jr., Melvin M Johnson and Louis H. Wieber, all 33°.

I’ve been able to track down comparable documents with one exception: Dr. Docherty’s photo is in an oval to the right side of the certificate. I’ve only seen one other example where that was the case. Do you have any idea what significance, if any, the photo inset makes on the document? Does it signify a copy, or something about the recipient’s social status?

I was able to decipher all but one of the names on this document and they were all significant personas in their time frame, with Baynard and Johnson playing key roles in the Freemasons during the first half of the 20th century. I’ve searched every term I can think of on Google and drawing a blank. By the way, I offered to give the certificate to the Freemasons’ group where the certificate originated and got zero response, so now it’s just tracking down the details for my own sake.

As a crowd-sourced site, feel free to respond to LeiLani in the comments below.