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FREEMASONRY AS IT WAS AND AS IT SHOULD BE FOR ALL TIME
by R. F. Elring
In these days of modern rush and impatience, when the portals of Masonry are opened wide for the reception of candidates, and when quantity rather than quality appears to be the ruling desire in some sections, it may benefit us all to examine more closely into the teachings of Masonry. Probably few brethren have opportunity to read the Ancient Constitutions, Charges, etc., and the great majority may not be aware that much of what is written or printed is contrary to Masonic law. In Masonic controversy, especially relative to the Scottish Rite, it is not uncommon to notice the use of vilification and slander, coupled with falsehood, and we quote from the old laws, which are binding upon all Masons, as laid down in "Lockwood's Masonic Law and Practice."
"The old York Constitutions of 926," define the duties of a Mason as follows: "A Mason shall not be obliged to work after the sun has set in. the west. Nor shall he decry the work of a brother or fellow, but shall deal honestly and truly by him, under a penalty of not less than ten pounds. No man shall be false to the Craft, or entertain a prejudice against his Master or Fellows. He shall be true to his Master, and a just mediator in all disputes or quarrels. If a Mason live amiss, or slander his brother, so as to bring the Craft to shame, he shall have no further maintenance among the brethren, but shall be summoned to the next Grand Lodge; and if he refuse to appear, he shall be expelled."
"The Constitutions of Edward III. - 1327-1377," says: "That for the future, at the making or admission of a brother, the constitutions and the charges shall be read." Referring to Lodges, they say: "That at such congregations it shall be required, whether any Master or Fellow has broke any of the articles agreed to. And if the offender, being duly cited to appear, prove rebel, and will not attend, then the Lodge shall determine against him that he shall forswear (or renounce) his Masonry, and shall no more use this Craft," etc.
"The Regulations of 1863" show; "That no person hereafter who shall be accepted a Freemason shall be admitted into any Lodge or assembly, until he has brought a certificate of the time and place of his acceptance from the Lodge that accepted him," etc.
"The Ancient Installation Charges of James II. - 1685-'88," 9 say: "Ye shall be true to one another, that is to say, every Mason of the Craft that is Mason allowed, ye shall do to him as ye would be done unto yourself. .'. .'. .'. .'. .'. Ye shall call all Masons your fellows, or your brethren, and no other name. Ye shall not take your Fellow's wife in villainy, nor deflower his daughter or servant, nor put him to disworship."
"The Ancient Charges at Makings" say: "And that none shall slander another behind his back to make him lose his good name. That no Fellow in the house or abroad answer another ungodly or reprovably without a cause. That every Mason receive and cherish strange Fellows, when they come over the country," etc.
"The Charges of a Freemason," recognized by all regular Masons, compiled by Dr. Anderson, and "To be read at the making of New Brethren, or when the Master shall order it," say: "All preferment among Masons is grounded upon real worth and personal merit only; that so the lords may be well served, the brethren not put to shame, nor the Royal Craft despised: Therefore no Master or Warden is chosen by seniority, but for his merit. The Craftsmen are to avoid all ill language, and to call each other by no disobliging name, but Brother or Fellow. None shall discover envy at the prosperity of a brother, nor supplant him, or put him out of his work, if he be capable to finish the same. You are to salute one another in a courteous manner, as you will be instructed, calling each other Brother. You are to act as becomes a moral and wise man. You are cautiously to examine" (a strange Brother.) "But if you discover him to be a true and genuine brother, you are to respect him accordingly; and if he is in want, you must relieve him, if you can, or else direct him how he may be relieved. Finally. All these Charges you are to observe, also those that shall be communicated to you in another way; cultivating Brotherly Love, the foundation and cape-stone, the cement and glory of this ancient Fraternity, avoiding all wrangling and quarreling, all slander and backbiting, nor permitting others to slander any honest brother, but defending his character, and doing him all good offices, as far as is consistent with your honor and safety," etc.
The Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons is composed of three degrees. There is no other Masonry, and no Grand Lodge has lawful authority to recognize the Scottish Rite, or any other organizations, as Masonic. Mackey states in his Encyclopedia: "A Chapter of Royal Arch Masons, for instance, is not, and cannot be recognized as a Masonic body, by a Lodge of Master Masons. 'They hear them so to be, but they do not know them so to be,' by any of the modes of recognition known to masonry. "
"Masonic Jurisprudence and Symbolism as interpreted by Grand Lodge decisions" in England, dated October, 1908, shows: "Another point in connection with the lodge-room needs attention. If there be but one Masonic Hall in town, and many of the further degrees are worked, the walls are to be found decorated with the handsomely-framed warrants of Mark, Templars, Rose Croix, Royal Order of Scotland, etc., etc., along with the warrants, also framed, of all the Craft Lodges working there. Masonic decency, as well as a sense of the Masonic unities, would seem to suggest that all these alien warrants should be taken down - at all events, whilst a Craft Lodge is working - by virtue of the warrant of a Grand Lodge, which has explicitly declined to recognize any of them."
Under the heading "Extraneous Orders and Degrees" the same authority shows: "June 1872. - It was alleged that certain clerks in the Grand Secretary's office were in the habit of transacting business in connection with the Ancient and Accepted Rite, The following resolution was therefore adopted by Grand Lodge: 'That, whilst this Grand Lodge recognizes the private right of every brother to belong to any extraneous Masonic organization he may choose, it as firmly forbids, now and at any future time, all brethren, while engaged as salaried officials under this Grand Lodge, to mix themselves up in any way with such bodies as the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, the Rites of Mizraim and Memphis, the spurious Orders of Rome and Constantine, the schismatic body styling itself the Grand Mark Lodge of England, or any other exterior Masonic organization whatever, (even that of the Order of Knights Templar, which is alone recognized by the Articles of Union,) under the pain of immediate dismissal from employment by this Grand Lodge.' This order still remains in force, but is practically inoperative, owing to a more enlightened conception of the exterior organizations referred to."
Some American Grand Lodges have changed the wording of the Tyler's oath for the purpose of preventing Master Masons in good standing from visiting Lodges under their jurisdiction if they are Scottish Rite Masons of some obedience not recognized by them. The Tyler's oath as printed in the above named authority on English Grand Lodge law is as follows:
I, A. B., do hereby and hereon solemnly and sincerely swear that I have been regularly initiated, etc., in a just and regularly constituted lodge of M. M., and that I do not stand suspended or expelled, and know of no reason why I should not hold Masonic communication with my brethren."
No Grand Lodge possesses lawful power to change the above, and in regard to visitation, the same authority states: "It should be understood clearly that, welcome or unwelcome, every Freemason has an inalienable right to visit any and every Lodge he pleases."
In legislating for the support and protection of certain Scottish Rite bodies, some of our American Grand Lodges even went so far as to enact retrospective laws, and to expel Master Masons from all the rights and privileges of Masonry in accordance with these retrospective laws. Relative to such legislation Mackey, in his "Masonic Jurisprudence," states:
"The legislation of every Grand Lodge must be prospective, and not retrospective in its action. To make an ex post facto law, would be to violate the principles of justice which lie at the very foundation of the system."
Mackey also states in his "Lexicon of Freemasonry" as follows: "To attempt to alter or remove these sacred landmarks, by which we examine and prove a brother's claim to share in our privileges, is one of the most heinous offences that a Mason can commit."
The following is quoted from the "Articles of Union between the two Grand Lodges of England. In Grand Lodge, this first day of December, A. D. 1813. Ratified and Confirmed, and the Seal of the Grand Lodge affixed,"
"II. It is declared and pronounced, that pure Ancient, Masonry consists of three degrees, and no more: Viz., those of the Entered Apprentice, the Fellow Craft and the Master Mason (including the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch.) 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 Orders.
"Ill. There shall be the most perfect unity of obligation, of discipline, of working the Lodges, of making, passing, and raising, instructing and clothing brothers; so that but one pure, unsullied system, according to the genuine landmarks, laws, and traditions of the Craft, shall be maintained, upheld, and practiced, throughout the Masonic world, from the day and date of the said Union until time shall be no more.
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Last modified: March 22, 2014