WHAT ARE THE ANCIENT LANDMARKS OF THE ORDER?
Published in Selected Papers, Vol.1,
United Masters Lodge, No. 167, Auckland, New Zealand
To date there has been a great deal of remarks made about
landmarks, and I hope you will enjoy this short essay by our Masonic
Brothers from New Zealand given back on the 5th July 1912 on this exact
subject. At the same time he explains his thought n a total of 25
W. Bro. Josiah Martin says:
The question which I propose to examine this evening, What are the Ancient
Landmarks of the Order? has been before us on our notice paper for some
months past; it is a subject of the deepest interest to the Craft, and one
that clamours for special attention from all those Lodges which have devoted
themselves particularly to research.
The neophyte in masonry is confronted on his initiation by a demand for
proof of his FIDELITY to the Constitutions of the fraternity, of his
adherence to certain established customs, and to certain "ancient landmarks"
of the Order, which no brother has yet been able satisfactorily to number or
The Master of the Lodge is called upon to guard these unknown landmarks
against encroachment, and to forbid any deviation from the ancient customs,
laws and regulations of the Order. And ere he takes the chair as Master
Elect he is called upon expressly to declare that it is not in the power of
any man or body of men to make innovation in the body of Freemasonry.
It is customary to take these ancient landmarks very much for granted, and
to avoid any discussion on the subject in the Lodge for fear of
transgressing some one or other of these cryptic Masonic Laws. But this is
the age of the searchlight, and we must be prepared to admit its penetrating
ray even to the exposition of the rites and ceremonies hitherto held with so
much Masonic secrecy. A mysterious virtue is supposed to reside in the form
of words rather than in the true spirit of Masonry, which reveals itself
only to the patient student of its mysteries.
The routine "business" of a Lodge becomes reduced to the repetition of the
formulae used in connection with the three degrees. This discourages the
introduction of any subject, and perpetuates many points in the Tracing
Board Lectures, etc., which are open to grave objection. With the fear of
transgression, innovation, and omission constantly reminding him of the
penalty of his ob., the initiate is taught to be cautions against he
introduction of anything that might disturb the harmony of our proceedings,
or lead to the discussion and possible revelation of occult signs and potent
It is generally supposed, among the officers of the Lodge, that a certain
little manual includes in its pages all that is needed for a Mason to know,
and that its voice speaks with the language of unimpeachable authority. If
the "address and charges" can be recited without a mistake according to this
book, the Master will be congratulated and the ceremony will be pronounced a
success. This book is not the V.S.L., nor the Book of Constitutions, nor an
"Ancient Landmark," but a pocket mentor which claims to represent the
infallible authority that governs our rites and decides our destiny.
The tendency of this book-system of Masonry is to weaken the cause we have
at heart. Personally I have met many worthy brethren who have lost their
enthusiasm for Freemasonry because they can find nothing in our ceremonies
but a parrot-like repetition of words from a book. We know of good men and
true who are disappointed to find themselves left behind in the states of
Masonic progress, because they could not memorise the pages of ritual with
the same facility as some of the more ready speakers who had been selected
for position above their heads.
Defining ancient landmarks Bro. Speth, of the Quatuor Coronati Lodge, says
"Landmarks are immemorial usages and fundamental principles of the Craft,
and are unchangeable."
"Truth is, nothing is more difficult than defining a landmark."
"We all admit that they exist, but no two thinkers will agree as to what
The Master who undertakes that there shall be no deviation from the ancient
landmarks determines by the use of the square in the Craftsman's hand to act
upon the true and only test of right.
Drummond says: "There are no landmarks because no two men agree as to what
they are, and no enumeration of them has been made."
What is a Masonic Landmark? This Bro. A. L. Poignant defines as "Something
which is a fundamental part of Freemasonry, and which cannot be altered
without destroying the identity of Freemasonry."
It is consequently impossible to enumerate the landmarks of Freemasonry in
the Book of Constitutions. If the landmarks were enumerated then Freemasonry
would not be Freemasonry, viz., a peculiar system of morality veiled in
allegory and illustrated by symbols.
To our repeated enquiry "What are the Landmarks of Freemasonry?" Bro.
Poignant gives a positive definitions:-
"Every TENET of the Craft is a landmark, but no allegory or symbol teaching
or indicting such a tenet is one."
"No allegory or symbol, however important, is of itself a landmark, though
what it teaches may be one."
And in a recent number (A.Q.C., vol. XXIV, part 2) the worthy brother has
collated from Mackey TWENTY-FIVE LANDMARKS which have been recognized by
some American authors as embracing the whole series.
The name of Brother Whytehead will probably be known to some of our brethren
here in Auckland, for he was present in the Lodge when I was initiated some
forty years ago; he was highly respected as a Past Master of Lodge Quatuor
Coronati. He puts the argument into these words:
"Our own Lodge, the Quatuor Coronati, has sprung into existence, not as a
meteor, but as a permanent landmark, guiding the Masonic mariner on his way
to the haven of knowledge."
The text of Bro. Whytehead's remarks is very forceful and beautiful:
Freemasonry is a beacon-light guiding the wanderer as the compass guides the
sailor, and directs the worthy Mason on the "points" which allow no
With these twenty-five definitions having failed to satisfy our requirements
as a code of laws, we feel that we can breathe with a little more freedom,
relieved form possible penalties for infringement of these formidable
enactments. Yet we cannot part with this list without challenging the
opinion of Brother Poignant. We are prepared to hold to the observance of at
least two of them as our most conspicious landmarks.
(No. 19) The BELIEF in God as the G.A.O.T.U. may be disallowed, but we are
relieved to note that the EXISTENCE of God is most emphatically admitted to
be the landmark of greatest importance.
(No. 20) BELIEF in the Resurrection is not permitted to rank as a landmark
as a form of belief, while the FACT of Resurrection is admitted to be also
one of the greatest importance.
These two tenets, or landmarks, we are determined to maintain, and we think
that the difficulty of the word "belief" will be overlooked, and that the
FACT, of not the Belief, will also be admitted as one of the greatest
landmarks which bind us together.
We have said that this is the age of the searchlight, and the searchlight is
turned upon our system just as it is on matters connected with Church
worship or municipal affairs; this is also an age of scientific research.
You may ask what has that to do with the landmarks of Freemasonry? Surely it
has all to do with it; for during the ceremonies of the various degrees we
have to acknowledge and declare that there is a veil shrouding the mystery
of life which we seek here to penetrate, illuminated by the light from the
landmark of No. 19 - the existence of GOD.
The Freemason is given the invitation to extend his researches into the
hidden mysteries of nature and science. What grander scope than this to
verify the existence of the G.A.O.T.U., in the hidden mysteries of nature
and science! This is not all; Freemasonry demands of its adherents to follow
their investigation even to the Throne of God Himself.
You cannot have a wider or more promising field for research in any
department of human knowledge.
In the mystic symbol of the Second Degree this mystery is revealed. So,
there is nothing to be said against the spirit of research in Freemasonry,
positively no restriction upon the search for the presence of the G.A.O.T.U.
in the glorious works of nature which invite our investigation.
Our Third Degree advances us further along this path of knowledge. It tells
us that the gates of heavenly science are open to our search for truth, even
though the say be through the very gates of death. You are all familiar with
the symbol in the Third Degree which depicts an O.G.; what is the meaning of
that and the emblems of mortality? Is it not to assure us that through the
mystic portal we may pass from Death into Life, from our toilsome labours to
the glorious light of Eternity.
There is a general and laudable desire to secure perfect uniformity in
working the ceremonies of the various degrees, but in this Dominion there
are several Constitutions governing the Craft, and each of them has liberty
to frame its own form of words and signs of recognition. This prevents that
perfect uniformity which is so much desired by Masters of Masonry.
The United Masters Lodge, as a Lodge of Research, is best qualified to
discover these differences, and endeavour to harmonise the methods, and to
prove that there is more in Masonry than adherence to ritual.
Above all these forms, we look to this Lodge to reveal to us the true spirit
of Masonry - the meaning of the message which Freemasonry brings to mankind.
Bro. L. M. Mackenzie, Editor of the "Royal Masonic Cyclopedia," has given to
us the clearest and most complete list of landmarks of the Order, viz., 25,
1.- "The Modes of Recognition." These cannot be landmarks. They each have
their symbolic meaning, which may teach something that is a landmark, that
is all. Supposing, for the sake of argument, that they have no such meaning,
then they must have been arbitrarily chosen by the originators of our Order,
whoever they were. The modes of recognition, in either of these cases,
cannot now be altered; but that is because of the universality and
cosmopolitan character of Freemasonry, which makes it impossible to make a
change of such a nature with its consequence of widespread confusion and
inconvenience. The fact that the modes of recognition vary under different
Grand lodges, which in spite of that are recognized by the Grand Lodge of
England, tends further to prove that they are not landmarks.
2.- "The Division of Symbolic Masonry into Three Degrees." This only
concerns the manner of imparting the teachings of the system of morality,
and can therefore not be a landmark.
3.- "The Legend of the Third Degree", being an allegory, is therefore not
per se a landmark.
4.- "The government of the Fraternity in each country by a presiding officer
called a Grand Master", is not a landmark either, as the whole organisation
of the fraternity is symbolical, and the Grand Master, as such, is
symbolical of the principal tenet of the system of morality. If this
symbolism is not admitted it reduces the matter to one of expediency, s
having been found needful or necessary for the proper organization and
regulation of the Order.
The prerogatives of the Grand Master, viz:-
5.- "To preside in any Lodge or assembly of the Craft at any time and
anywhere within his jurisdiction."
6.- "To grant dispensation for conferring Degrees at irregular times," i.e.
with less than four weeks' interval.
7.- "To grant dispensations for opening and holding Lodges."
8.- "To make Masons at sight."
These fall, with No. 4, as pertaining to the Grand Master.
9.- "The necessity for Freemasons to gather together in Lodges." Neither can
this be a landmark; the Lodge - the word being taken either in the meaning
of the room where the brethren congregate, or of the Body of individuals of
which it is composed ~ is symbolical and therefore not a landmark. A
Freemason who is not attached to any Lodge may lose some of his Masonic
privileges, but he remains a Freemason in the proper sense of the word, as
long as he holds to the teachings of the Craft, while a man, however much he
is attached to Lodges, is not a Freemason in the same sense of the word
unless she properly knows, understands, and to the best of his ability
practices what our glorious system teaches.
10.- "The government of the Craft when so congregated in a Lodge by a Master
and two Wardens."
11.- "The necessity of every lodge, when congregated, to be duly tyled."
These are both symbolical, and therefore not landmarks.
12.- "The right of every Mason to be represented in all general meetings of
the Craft, and to instruct his representatives."
13.- "The right of every Mason to appeal to the Grand Lodge from the
decisions of his own Lodge."
14.- "The right of every Mason to visit and sit in every regular Lodge."
15.- "The right, or rather the duty of providing an unknown Brother, or one
who cannot be duly vouched for before admission."
16.- "The right of non-interference between Lodges."
17.- "Every Mason shall be amenable to the Laws, etc., of the Masonic
jurisdiction in which he resides, and this although he may not be a member
of any Lodge."
All these concern the proper regulation and government of the Fraternity,
and therefore cannot be landmarks. They are also to a certain extent
symbolical, like the whole organisation.
18.- "Every candidate must be free-born, of mature age, and unmutilated."
This restriction is chiefly of historical interest, but also symbolical, and
therefore no landmark.
19.- "A belief in the existence of God as the G.A.O.T.U."
This is not a landmark, but the "existence of GOD" most emphatically is one.
If this existence could be disproved Freemasonry would lose its hold and
disappear, even though the belief remained in some hearts, just as the
mysteries of olden times degenerated, decayed, and were lost when Monotheism
had disproved their fundamental tenets, although the belief in the gods to
whom they were dedicated remained in the minds of people long after that.
BELIEF IN THE EXISTENCE OF GOD: This is to my mind stands out as
pre-eminently the landmark and teaching of our Order.
20.- "A belief in the Resurrection to a future life."
The "belief" is no landmark, but "resurrection" is.
21.- A Book of the Law shall be an indispensable part of the Lodge
This paragraph is certainly true and incontestable, but the V.S.L. is, with
the rest of the Lodge furniture, symbolical, and therefore not a landmark as
we have defined the term, any more than a map of a country, however accurate
and necessary for the traveler who seeks its aid in his exploration, can
pretend actually to be that country; although a map shows the landmarks of a
country it is not a landmark. The V.S.L. is said to be one of the greatest
emblematical lights in Freemasonry; certainly the most important one, but
still classed with the other lights as "emblematical". These symbols throw
light on the landmarks of Freemasonry, but they are not landmarks.
The question whether another Book of the Law than the Bible is admissible in
a Masonic Lodge is a subject in itself, and must depend on how far its
precepts are in accordance with the teachings of the Craft; the question is
irrelevant to this enquiry.
22.- "The Equality of all Masons" is not a landmark, but a symbol. Neither
is 23.- "The secrecy of the Institution" one, but an administrative
precaution against corruption and adulteration. In former days, before Grand
Lodge was formed, it was also necessary for safeguarding the members of the
Freemasonry was, and is, the essence of liberty of thought, and time was
when such liberty was discountenanced by authorities and the advocates
thereof even subjected to persecution. The liberty of thought is to-day the
chief reason why the Roman Catholic Church has placed the Order under its
ban. Even now the Craft would undoubtedly suffer by having its secrets
unlawfully divulged or improperly obtained; but nobody can maintain that any
tenet or tenets of Masonry would be altered by the bare fact of their being
generally known. Some of them would probably in the course of time be
corrupted, and that is a reason why secrecy is enjoined.
24.- "The foundation of a Speculative Science upon an Operative Art, and a
symbolic use and explanation of the terms of that Art for purposes of
religious or moral teaching."
This is only a definition, and therefore no landmark. Besides, how does
speaking thus of the "foundation" of Masonry compare with the statement that
it is founded on the purest principles of piety and virtue? The last one -
25.- "The unchangeability of all these essential principles and landmarks"
is sin the nature of a description of the qualities of all landmarks, and
not a separate one.
We have now seen that not one of the twenty-five enumerated can pass the
test we have imposed. But now another question requires an answer, viz.:
Have we any cause, apart from the logical meaning of the words in the phrase
"Landmarks of Freemasonry", to say that this conclusion is correct, when it
evidently does not agree with the meaning of the word "landmarks," adopted
by the present Book of Constitutions, and also by the Lodge of Promulgation
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