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PROPAGATION AND EVOLUTION OF MASONRY
by Herman Gruber and Transcribed by Bobie Jo M. Bilz
Be advised this article has been excerpted from the Catholic Encyclopedia, copyright 1913 by the Encyclopedia Press, Inc. Electronic version 1998 by New Advent, Inc.
The members of the Grand Lodge formed in 1717 by the union of four old lodges, were till 1721 few in number and inferior in quality. The entrance of several members of the Royal Society and of the nobility changed the situation. Since 1721 it has spread over Europe (Gould, "History", II, 284 sq.). This rapid propagation was chiefly due to the spirit of the age which, tiring of religious quarrels, restive under ecclesiastical authority and discontented with existing social conditions, turned for enlightenment and relief to the ancient mysteries and sought, by uniting men of kindred tendencies, to reconstruct society on a purely human basis. In this situation Freemasonry with its vagueness and elasticity, seemed to many an excellent remedy. To meet the needs of different countries and classes of society, the original system (1717-23) underwent more or less profound modifications. In 1717, contrary to Gould (Concise History, 309), only one simple ceremony of admission or one degree seems to have been in use (A. Q. C., X, 127 sqq.; XI, 47 sqq.; XVI, 27 sqq.); in 1723 two appear as recognized by the Grand Lodge of England: "Entered Apprentice" and "Fellow Craft or Master". The three degree system, first practised about 1725, became universal and official only after 1730 (Gould, "Conc. Hist., 272; 310- 17). The symbols and ritualistic forms, as they were practised from 1717 till the introduction of further degrees after 1738, together with the "Old Charges" of 1723 or 1738, are considered as the original pure Freemasonry. A fourth, the "Royal Arch" degree (ibid., 280) in use at least since 1740, is first mentioned in 1743, and though extraneous to the system of pure and ancient Masonry (ibid., 318) is most characteristic of the later Anglo-Saxon Masonry. In 1751 a rival Grand Lodge of England "according to the Old Institutions" was established, and through the activity of its Grand Secretary, Lawrence Dermott, soon surpassed the Grand Lodge of 1717. The members of this Grand Lodge are known by the designation of "Ancient Masons". They are also called "York Masons" with reference, not to the ephemeral Grand Lodge of all England in York, mentioned in 1726 and revived in 1761, but to the pretended first Grand Lodge of England assembled in 926 at York (Handbuch, 3rd ed., I, 24 sqq.; II, 559 sqq.). They finally obtained control, the United Grand Lodge of England adopting in 1813 their ritualistic forms.
In its religious spirit Anglo-Saxon Masonry after 1730 undoubtedly retrograded towards biblical Christian orthodoxy (Chr., 1906, II, 19 sq.; 1884, II, 306). This movement is attested by the Christianization of the rituals and by the popularity of the works of Hutchinson, Preston, and Oliver with Anglo-American Masons. It is principally due to the conservatism of English-speaking society in religious matters, to the influence of ecclesiastical members and to the institution of "lodge chaplains" mentioned in English records since 1733 (A. Q. C., XI, 43). The reform brought by the articles of union between the two Grand Lodges of England (1 December, 1813) consisted above all in the restoration of the unsectarian character, in accordance with which all allusions to a particular (Christian) religion must be omitted in lodge proceedings. It was further decreed "there shall be the most perfect unity of obligation of discipline, or working . . . according to the genuine landmarks, laws and traditions . . . throughout the masonic world, from the day and date of the said union (1 December, 1813) until time shall be no more" (Preston, "Illustrations", 296 seq.). In taking this action the United Grand Lodge overrated its authority. Its decree was complied with, to a certain extent, in the United States, where Masonry, first introduced about 1730, followed in general the stages of Masonic evolution in the mother country.
The title of Mother-Grand Lodge of the United States was the object of a long and ardent controversy between the Grand Lodges of Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. The prevailing opinion at present is, that from time immemorial, i.e., prior to Grand Lodge warrants (Chr., 1887, II, 313), there existed in Philadelphia a regular lodge with records dating from 1731 (Drummond., "Chr.", 1884, II, 227; 1887, I, 163; II, 178; Gould, "Concise History", 413). In 1734 Benjamin Franklin published an edition of the English "Book of Constitutions". The principal agents of the modern Grand Lodge of England in the United States were Coxe and Price. Several lodges were chartered by the Grand Lodge of Scotland. After 1758, especially during the War of Independence, 1773-83, most of the lodges passed over to the "Ancients". The union of the two systems in England (1813) was followed by a similar union in America. The actual form of the American rite since then practised is chiefly due to Webb (1771-1819), and to Cross (1783-1861).
In France and Germany, at the beginning Masonry was practised according to the English ritual (Prichard, "Masonry Dissected", 1730); but so-called "Scottish" Masonry soon arose. Only nobles being then reputed admissible in good society as fully qualified members, the Masonic gentlemen's society was interpreted as society of Gentilshommes, i.e., of noblemen or at least of men ennobled or knighted by their very admission into the order, which according to the old English ritual still in use, is "more honourable than the Golden Fleece, or the Star or Garter or any other Order under the Sun". The pretended association of Masonry with the orders of the warlike knights and of the religious was far more acceptable than the idea of development out of stone-cutters' guilds. Hence an oration delivered by the Scottish Chevalier Ramsay before the Grand Lodge of France in 1737 and inserted by Tierce into his first French edition of the "Book of Constitutions" (1743) as an "oration of the Grand Master", was epoch-making (Gould, "Concise History", 274 sq., 357 sq.; Boos, 174 sq.). In this oration Masonry was dated from "the close association of the order with the Knights of St. John in Jerusalem" during the Crusades; and the "old lodges of Scotland" were said to have preserved this genuine Masonry, lost by the English. Soon after 1750, however, as occult sciences were ascribed to the Templars, their system was readily adaptable to all kinds of Rosicrucian purposes and to such practices as alchemy, magic, cabbala, spiritism, and necromancy. The suppression of the order with the story of the Grand Master James Molay and its pretended revival in Masonry, reproduced in the Hiram legend, representing the fall and the resurrection of the just or the suppression and the restoration of the natural rights of man, fitted in admirably with both Christian and revolutionary high grade systems. The principal Templar systems of the eighteenth century were the system of the "Strict Observance", organized by the swindler Rosa and propagated by the enthusiast von Hundt; and the Swedish system, made up of French and Scottish degrees in Sweden.
In both systems obedience to unknown superiors was promised. The supreme head of these Templar systems, which were rivals to each other, was falsely supposed to be the Jacobite Pretender, Charles Edward, who himself declared in 1777, that he had never been a Mason (Handbuch, 2nd ed., II, 100). Almost all the lodges of Germany, Austria, Hungary, Poland, and Russia were, in the second half of the eighteenth century, involved in the struggle between these two systems. In the lodges of France and other countries (Abafi, I, 132) the admission of women to lodge meetings occasioned a scandalous immorality (Boos, 170, 183 sqq., 191). The revolutionary spirit manifested itself early in French Masonry. Already in 1746 in the book "La Franc-Maçonnerie, écrasée", an experienced ex-Mason, who, when a Mason, had visited many lodges in France and England, and consulted high Masons in official position, described as the true Masonic programme a programme which, according to Boos, the historian of Freemasonry (p. 192), in an astonishing degree coincides with the programme of the great French Revolution of 1789. In 1776 this revolutionary spirit was brought into Germany by Weisshaupt through a conspiratory system, which soon spread throughout the country (see ILLUMINATI, and Boos, 303). Charles Augustus of Saxe-Weimar, Duke Ernest of Gotha, Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick, Goethe, Herder, Pestalozzi, etc., are mentioned as members of this order of the Illuminati. Very few of the members, however, were initiated into the higher degrees. The French Illuminati included Condorcet, the Duke of Orleans, Mirabeau, and Sieyès (Robertson, "Chr.", 1907, II, 95; see also Engel, "Gesch. des Illuminatenordens", 1906). After the Congress of Wilhelmsbade (1782) reforms were made both in Germany and in France. The principal German reformers, L. Schröder (Hamburg) and I. A. Fessler, tried to restore the original simplicity and purity. The system of Schröder is actually practised by the Grand Lodge of Hamburg, and a modified system (Schröder-Fessler) by the Grand Lodge Royal York (Berlin) and most lodges of the Grand Lodge of Bayreuth and Dresden. The Grand Lodges of Frankfort-on-the-Main and Darmstadt practice an eclectic system on the basis of the English ritual (Bauhütte, 1908, 337 sqq.). Except the Grand Lodge Royal York, which has Scottish "Inner Orients" and an "Innermost Orient", the others repudiate high degrees. The largest Grand Lodge of Germany, the National (Berlin), practises a rectified Scottish (Strict Observance) system of seven degrees and the "Landes Grossloge" and Swedish system of nine degrees. The same system is practised by the Grand Lodge of Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. These two systems still declare Masonry a Christian institution and with the Grand Lodge Royal York refuse to initiate Jews. Findel states that the principal reason is to prevent Masonry from being dominated by a people whose strong racial attachments are incompatible with the unsectarian character of the institution (Sign., 1898, 100; 1901, 63 sqq.; 1902, 39; 1905, 6).
The principal system in the United States (Charleston, South Carolina) is the so-called Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, organized in 1801 on the basis of the French Scottish Rite of perfection, which was established by the Council of the Emperors of the East and West (Paris, 1758). This system, which was propagated throughout the world, may be considered as the revolutionary type of the French Templar Masonry, fighting for the natural rights of man against religious and political despotisms, symbolized by the papal tiara and a royal crown. It strives to exert a preponderant influence on the other Masonic bodies, wherever it is established. This influence is insured to it in the Grand Orient systems of Latin countries; it is felt even in Britain and Canada, where the supreme chiefs of craft Masonry are also, as a rule, prominent members of the Supreme Councils of the Scottish Rite. There are at the present time (1908) twenty-six universally recognized Supreme Councils of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite: U. S. of America: Southern Jurisdiction (Washington), established in 1801; Northern Jurisdiction (Boston), 1813; Argentine Republic (Buenos Aires), 1858; Belgium (Brussels), 1817; Brazil (Rio de Janeiro), 1829; Chile (Santiago), 1870; Colon, for West India Islands (Havana), 1879; Columbia (Cartagena); Dominican Republic (S. Domingo); England (London), 1845; Egypt (Cairo), 1878; France (Paris), 1804; Greece (Athens), 1872; Guatemala (for Central American), 1870; Ireland (Dublin), 1826; Italy (Florence), 1858; Mexico (1868); Paraguay (Asuncion); Peru (Lima), 1830; Portugal (Lisbon), 1869; Scotland (Edinburgh), 1846; Spain (Madrid), 1811; Switzerland (Lausanne), 1873; Uruguay (Montevideo); Venezuela (Caracas). Supreme Councils not universally recognized exist in Hungary, Luxemburg, Naples, Palermo, Rome, Turkey. The founders of the rite, to give it a great splendour, invented the fable that Frederick II, King of Prussia, was its true founder, and this fable upon the authority of Pike and Mackey is still maintained as probable in the last edition of Mackey's "Encyclopedia" (1908), 292 sq.
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