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LANDMARKS, LANDMARKS? LANDMARKS!
by Bro. A. Gerald Gibbs, P.M. (80-05-10)
To those Brethren who would undertake, or who have already undertaken to sift through the numerous statements and postulations concerning Masonic Landmarks, allow the writer to offer the warmest of empathetic understanding one Mason could offer another, For this researcher, what began as a calm inquiry, has resulted in one of the more turbulent decision making processes of his Masonic career.
Instead of finding straight-forward answers for what he believed were straight-forward questions, he found a Pandora's Box, which when opened, released those hobgoblins which serve to confuse, frustrate, divert, and divide. As one may have surmised from the title, this Pandora's Box was filled with Landmarks ... Landmarks! ... Landmarks? LANDMARKS everywhere!
Even in our ceremonies, in our literature, and even unto the Masonic philosophical applications which form an integral part of our daily lives! In this jurisdiction, all Master Masons are enjoined to pay heed to certain charges taken directly from the Constitution of the Grand Lodge of Alberta, concerning among other things, Landmarks.
In the First Degree, the candidate is charged: "Your fidelity-must be exemplified by a strict observance of the Constitution of the Fraternity by adhering to the ancient landmarks of the Order." Likewise, in the Second Degree, each Brother is informed that as a Craftsman, he will be " ... under the superintendence of an experienced Master who will guard the landmarks against encroachment."
In the Third Degree, each Brother is admonished that "The ancient landmarks of the Order you are to preserve sacred and inviolable ... " Even during the ceremony of installation, as prescribed in the Ceremony for Investing the officers of a Lodge, as authorized by our Grand Lodge, we hear the Worshipful Master-Elect openly state that he will conscientiously undertake the duties of Master of the Lodge and give his consent to one of the qualifications, namely that he is "..well skilled in the ancient charges, regulations, and landmarks."
Surely, many a Brother who assented to these charges did so on a basis of trust, that these landmarks would be revealed to him by his more enlightened Brethren in future Lodge meetings. Is it, not stated in the General Charge of our installation ceremony that "Our meetings are intended to cultivate and enlighten the mind ...."
(Alas, it may not be so in every case.) Landmarks ... Landmarks! ... Landmarks? We are charged that there are indeed landmarks. But, where are they to be found? Further, what are they ... if and when they are found? And why has the pursuit of these enigmatical landmarks been such an onerous task for those Brethren who seek a more definitive statement concerning their Masonic import. Perhaps it would be best to begin with a dictionary definition of the term "Landmark."
Thorndike's Dictionary defines a Landmark as: "1. something familiar or easily seen, used as a guide, 2. an important fact or event, namely the telephone, telegraph, and radio are landmarks in communications. 3. a stone or other object that marks the boundary 1. Alberta, Grand Lodge of, Constitution, p. 106 2. Ibid, p. 108 3. Ibid, p. 109 4. Alberta, The Grand Lodge of, Ceremony for Investing .., p. 6 5. Ibid, p. 35 of a piece of land."
These definitions seem straightforward enough. However, when applied to Masonic import, the term "Landmark" assumes a much more significant and mystical relationship. The outstanding Masonic scholar, Brother Harry Carr, states in his book
The Freemason at Work that Masonically the term (Landmark) requires a stricter definition ..." and that The best writers-on the subject are unanimous on two essential points; (a) A landmark must have existed from the 'time whereof the memory of man runneth not to the contrary.' (b) A landmark is an element in the form or essence of the Society of such importance that Freemasonry would no longer be Freemasonry if it were removed."
Brother Carr further states that; "If these two qualifications are used strictly to test whether certain practices, systems, principles or regulations can be admitted as landmarks it will be found that there are in fact very few items that will pass this rigid test."
Well, perhaps Brother Carr's observations may be significant. But applied to what? It might be timely here to briefly, review some of the historical literature which attempts to account for the absence of a universal acceptance of landmarks among Masons, past and present.
In his book Freemason's Guide and Compendium, Bernard E. Jones observes that since Biblical days the Ancient Landmarks have been unalterable. He states "In Proverbs xxii, 28, is the injunction; 'Remove not the ancient landmark which thy fathers have set,' and in Deuteronomy xxvii, 17, the malediction: 'Cursed be he that removeth his neighbour's landmark. And all the people shall say, Amen."
In his very fine paper on MASONIC LANDMARKS, Brother W.E. Bright succinctly enumerates an updated historical summary of Landmarks: The first recorded reference to Masonic Landmarks is in the General Regulations adopted by the Premier Grand Lodge in 1723. The 39th General Regulatfon, which is synonymous with Article 3 of our present Constitution, provided "Every Annual Grand Lodge has an inherent power and authority to make new regulations, or to alter these, for the real benefit of this Ancient Fraternity; provided always that the old Landmarks be carefully preserved", etc.
That was the only use of the term and there is no intimation of what the old Land-Marks might include. The amended regulations of 1738 provided for the amending or making of new regulations "still preserving the old Land-Marks." In 1774, William Preston in his "Illustrations of Masonry" made several allusions to Land-Marks, but the more he wrote, the less clear his ideas appeared. There are several other written references to Landmarks from that time through to 1850, when the landmarkers started trying to define and enumerate Masonic Landmarks.
The second half of the 19th century started with an almost pyrotechnic display of Landmarks. The first attempt by any Grand Lodge to ascertain what Landmarks were was made by the Grand Lodge of Missouri.
Thorndike-Barnhart, . . . Dictionary, p. 446 (7) Carr, The Freemason at Work, p. 263 (8) Carr, loc.cit. Jones, Compendium .... p. 332 in 1850 by the appointment of a committee, headed by Dr. J. W. S. Mitchell, to prepare a report on Landmarks. In January, 1856 the Grand Lodge of Minnesota adopted a new constitution of which Section 8 contained a list of 26 Landmarks. In June, 1856, Rob Morris of Kentucky published a list of 27 Landmarks. Dr. Mackey was third in inventing Landmarks and published a list of 25 in 1858.
These first three lists were followed by various other lists of landmarks which, between the years 1864 and 1923 covered nearly one hundred and twenty-five other landmarks. In the Grand Lodges of the United States, five adopted Mackey's list; three indefinitely recognize the Charges of 1723; nine adopted lists of their own, all different; and seventeen have not committed themselves on the subject.
According to Coil's Masonic Encyclopedia no Grand Lodge outside the United States has ever adopted any Landmarks, except an occasional disconnected remark that a certain thing is a Landmark. The definitions of what a Masonic Landmark is, are as many and varied as the lists that have been published and adopted.
Coil's Encyclopedia lists 41 definitions, all different, and they vary from that of Rob Morris, "those fixed tenets by which the limits of Freemasonry may be known and preserved" to that of W. B. Hextall, "The old Landmarks were, in fact, the secrets which existed amongst the Operative Masons in the days when they supplied the membership of the Craft."
Summarizing these 41 definitions - 12 emphasize antiquity; 9 emphasize universality, and 13 emphasize unchangeability. Also eleven consider that Landmarks are essential principles of the order - three call them established custom; two declare them laws; three call them unwritten laws; four say the secrets and ceremonies are Landmarks; two suggest that Landmarks deny specific identification, and five are either sceptical or deny the existence of Landmarks. What more confusion can we have?
According to Henry Wilson Coil, in his work Coil's Masonic Encyclopedia, the blame for most of this confusion lies directly with William Preston. Coil states that ... The assertion that landmarks are immutable, unchanging, and everlasting arose out of William Preston's distortion of the resolution of the Grand Lodge in 1723 by simply quoting part thereof.
The resolution stated that no man or body of men could make alterations or innovations in the Body of Masonry without the consent of the Grand Lodge, and Preston merely lopped off the final qualification which implied that the Grand Lodge could make or authorize the making of changes and innovations, and it has done so, as have others. Nothing human is infallible or everlasting and claiming that Freemasonry has exceeded that limitation is disrespectful of Deity.
It is noteworthy that the Worshipful Master-Elect must assent to the Ancient Charge prior to his taking the Obligation as Master of the Lodge - which states: "You admit that it is not in the power of any man or body of men to make innovations in the body of Masonry."
10. Bright, "Masonic Landmarks", Grand Lodge Bulletin, p. 25 11. Coil, Masonic Encyclopedia, p. 365 12. Alberta, The Grand Lodge of, Ceremony for Investing ..., p. 9 The so-called Ancient Landmarks of Masonry as formulated by an American, Brother Albert Mackey (1807-1881), represent an interesting attempt to identify those regulations, customs, and principles, and to call them Ancient Landmarks.
However, many do not meet the two major criteria previously stated by Carr in (a) and (b) above. Carr's analyses of a few of Mackey's Landmarks are examined here with comments to illustrate the pitfalls. His observations are as follows: Mackey's No. 1. 'The modes of recognition. They admit of no variation ...' These cannot be landmarks. Several of the most important of them did not make their appearance in the Craft until the 18th century. Mackey's No. 2. 'The division of symbolic Masonry into three degrees ....' The trigradal system did not emerge until some time between 1711 and 1725.
Prior to this period there is no evidence of anything more than two degrees. Mackey's No. 3. 'The legend of the Third Degree ...'The earliest evidence of this legend concerns Noah, not Hiram Abif. There is good evidence for the F.P.O.F. in 1696, as a part of the then second degree (for Master or fellow-craft) and the legend in one of its early forms may have been in existence at that time, but there is no evidence of it in the ritual until 1726. Mackey's No. 4. 'The government of the Fraternity by a presiding Officer called a Grand Master who is elected . . .
' The first Grand Lodge was founded in 1717. There was no Grand Master of masons before that time. This item is a very proper regulation in the Book of Constitution, but it cannot be a landmark. Mackey's Nos. 5,6,7,8. Various prerogatives of the Grand Master, but all of them are, in fact, privileges vested in him by the Grand Lodge over which he presides. They are regulations, or customs, not landmarks. Mackey's No. 9. 'The necessity of Masons to congregate in Lodges.
This extremely interesting item may well be a landmark, but if we try to go back to 'time immemorial' practice, the operative masons seem to have had the right to congregate for Lodge purposes when any five or six of them came together anywhere. Nowadays, however, the mode of congregation for Lodge purposes as governed by regulations. Mackey's No. 10. 'The government of the Craft in a (Lodge) by a Master and two Wardens..,...' Another doubtful landmark.
There was a time when the Lodge was governed by the Master and one Warden. Several of Mackey's landmarks deal with the rights of individual masons, rights which are all governed nowadays by regulations and some of them are certainly not of time immemorial status.
It would seem that if we are to continue to work universally together in perfect unanimity and concord, each one of us must choose those Landmarks that are Masonically meaningful to him, which conform to his own more intimate personal perceptions. One might be tempted to view things within the Lodge which he considers to be indispensable ingredients, which must be found in any constituted, consecrated, regular and well-governed Lodge.
He might also view the practical applica- Carr, op.cit., pp. 264-265 tions of those Masonic principles which govern his daily life. All these things a Brother might be tempted to consider as Masonic Landmarks. In this writer's opinion, these should not be considered Landmarks. They are, in fact, Landmark Decisions incorporated into the fabric of the Craft as we know it.
At present one can concur only with three major postulations of Ancient Landmarks: 1. A belief in a Supreme Being; 2. A belief in the Fatherhood of God (and its corollary The Brotherhood of Man); 3. A belief in the Immortality of the Soul. To this writer, these are, have been, and always shall be Landmarks. They are what our Masonic scholar-emeritus, M.W. Brother Samuel H. Hardin states when he draws the analogy between Masonic Landmarks and the "Bony Cover."
He postulates that "We can feel the Landmarks even as we can 'feel' the bones in our bodies; just as bones can perform their function even when we cannot see them, so with the Landmarks, the 'bony' framework of our Craft."
There are, however, "Landmarks of Freemasons" which one may view as being distinct from the three Masonic Landmarks previously enumerated. Again, there is no harm in viewing those LANDMARK DECISIONS of our illustrious Brethren as Landmarks of Freemasons, in order that interested Brethren, who might feel the need to categorize those recognizable characters (which each of us construe as those indelible characteristics of a regular Masonic Lodge), those Landmarks of Freemasons that must be present and whose absence would cause them to view that practice of Freemasonry to be irregular, and therefore, illegal or clandestine.
For example, some of those Landmark Decisions of Freemasons that would be recognized as Landmark Decisions, without the least desire to be dogmatic, and further, could not be considered close-ended, would be (to name just a few): 1. That a Volume of the Sacred Law be present, opened on an altar when the Lodge is at labour; 2. Secrecy - This implies the modes of recognition and the business of Masons transacted within the Lodge; 3. The system of morality which is mainly taught in our Lodges be precept, example, and exhortation, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols; 4. The petitioner must be a man, freeborn and of mature age; 5. Those objects of furniture, clothing, etc., specified in the Constitution of Grand Lodge.
Many, many more of these types of Landmarks may be added as one sees fit. "The Landmarks of Freemasons", as this writer has termed them, being Landmark Decisions of Masons, may be accepted or rejected by any Brother in gratifying his own feelings and the depths of his needs to know.
A quotation from Axel J.A. Poignant's work in Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, Vol. 24, shall conclude the thoughts contained in this paper: (14) Hardin, "The Landmarks of Freemasonry", 21st Annual... p.25 An allegory or symbol that teaches or indicates is not a landmark; further . . . a landmark must be part and parcel of the freemason's peculiar system of morality, and not of the allegory that veils and of the symbols that illustrate it. The TEACHING OR THE MEANING which the allegories convey imy be a landmark.(15) 15 Poignant, "The Landmarks", A.Q.C. Vol. 24
BIBLIOGRAPHY Alberta, Grand Lodge of, Constitution of the Grand Lodge of Alberta, Calgary; 1969/1980 Alberta, The Grand Lodge of, Ceremony for investing the Officers of a Lodge, Calgary; 1973 Bright, Walter E., "Masonic Landmarks", Grand Lodge Bulletin, Vol. 30, No. 7, Edmonton; March, 1965 Carr, Harry, The Freemason at Work, London: Burgess & Son, 1976 Coil, Henry W., Coil's Masonic Encyclopedia, New York: Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Company, 1961 Hardin, Samuel H., "The Landmarks of Freemasonry", 21st Annual Inter-Provincial Conference of the Officers of the Four Western Masonic Jurisdictions, 1961 Jones, Bernard E., Freemasons' Guide and Compendium, London: George G. Harrap & Company, 1950 Poignant, Axel J. A., "The Landmarks", Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, Vol. 24, London; Quatuor Coronate Lodge No. 2076, 1911 Thorndike-Barnhart, Comprehensive Desk Dictionary, New York; Doubleday & Co. Inc., 1952
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