The Masonic Trowel

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Born in lvaldorf, Germany, July 17, 1763, left an orphan as a boy, Astor came to New York City to join a brother, working his way, and arrived in 1784. He was founder of the American fur trade, a founder of the Territory of Oregon where Astoria is named after him, was in the "fur wars " with Indians and with Canadian trappers, was pioneer and founder of the American trade with China, as a real estate dealer was a founder of Greater New York, was founder of the Astor Library, was the largest financial backer of the War of 1812, and in his will left $400,000 for building the Astor Library, equivalent to one million at present money values. He was one of the first founders of Holland Lodge, No. 8; and was Worshipful Master in 1798. From June 6, 1798, to .June 25, 1801, he was Grand Treasurer of the Grand Lodge; the books which he wrote out in his own copper-plate hand are still in the vaults of Masonic Hall, New York City.

The word astrotogy is not a true term because it always has been ambiguous, meaning one thing in one country or period of time, another thing in some other country or time, and one contradicting the other. The nearest to any acceptable definition is to say that there has never been astrology, there have been astrologies,' these astrologies among themselves vary from a form of astromical book-keeping practiced in China for calendar purposes, to the pseudo-religion which, to judge from the newsstands, has become a flourishing and also a financially profitable cult in America. As a further complication, at one or two periods in the late Middle Ages the word astrology was a synonym for astronomy. As a generalization it may be said that any particular astrology will teach the notion that a star is not what an astronomer says it is but is something more or something other; sueh as, that it is a god (or goddess !), or a saint, or an angel, or a fate, or possesses magical powers, etc. ; and that what it is, or some attribute it possesses, has some direct influence on men.
There is nowhere any trace of evidence to show that at any time astrology has been accepted by Freemasonry, or taught by it, or is one of the elements in the Ritual. If the mere mention of the skies, or the sun, or moon, etc., were to be considered to be astrology, then each and every man is an astrologist; so is each and every astronomer, every maker of calendars, almost every poet, the majority of composers of music, and many historians. The sun and moon are conspicuous in the Ritual, but not with any astrologie meanings. For five or six centuries it was a "custom " of the Craft to work from sunrise to sunset, and usually contracts would set two lengths of work days for the year, the midpoint of one set falling on St. John the Baptist's Day when the daylight was longest, one on the Evangelist's Day when it was shortest ; and the moon represented the night; this old "custom" very probably was the origin of the two Masonie symbols of the Sun and the Moon.
Amateur Masonie occultists have attempted to connect Masonry with the zodiac, one of the conspicuous features of astrologies ; but here again there is no one zodiac, but many zodiacs throughout the world. The idea of a zodiac itself is one of the largest hoaxes with which men have ever befuddled themselves, and could never have been true to facts. The discovery of dark stars of great magnitude; that what in ancient times was taken for one star was two or more or even a whole galaxy; and the discovery of the precession of the equinoxes, has made the zodiac meaningless. It is a toy of the mind. There is nothing of the zodiac in the present Masonic Ritual ; there was never a mention of it in the oldest Speculative Lodges ; in Medieval times it was a heresy, and Operative Freemasons would have abhorred the thought of it.
It can safely be laid down as a law of the Fraternity that anything and everything in the Ritual is understandable and knowable by any normal man, and nothing in it calls for erudition ; it could not be otherwise where so many millions are admitted to membership. When the Candidate is told that if he finds anything puzzling he can consult well-informed Brethren it is presupposed that in any Lodge there will be such Brethren. This principle, which also is a practice, disposes at a stroke the notion that there has ever been in the Craft any form of occultism which calls for erudition, or for adepts specially trained, or for a kind of knowledge not available to the rank and file of ordinary Masons. Astrology, in its present-day American form, is self-confessedly not open to common knowledge but is understandable only by experts, who for that reason charge a fee for the use of their supposedly erudite knowledge ; and it shares that practice with the majority of other forms of occultism.

On Page 110 is given a quotation from the Roberts MS. to the effect that Athelstan (King in England, 924-940) was a great lover of Masonry and gave Masons their Charter. In other versions of the Old Charges it is said that Athelstan made his son Prince Edwin Patron, or head, of the Masons. Scholars have not accepted the historicity of this tradition because of difliculties and self-contradictions in the text itself, because there is no supporting evidence in chronicles of the Tenth Century, and also because they have not believed that Masonry was as widely developed at the time as the Old Charges presuppose, or that Athelstan himself took any interest in the Craft. As regards the first two difficulties they continue in force, and make it hard to take seriously the confused or garbled accounts in the versions of the Old Charges; but as regards the last-named difliculty, that Athelstan himself had no interest in the Craft, there are data to show that the Old Charges have the support of historical evidence.
In his History of the Norman Conquest Prof. Henry A. Freeman (Vol. I ; page 190) writes: "Among the Laws of Athelstan none are more remarkable than those which deal with the intemal affairs of London and with the regulation of her earliest commercial corporations." These laws are given in Thorpe's Laws and Institutes; Vol. I; page 228. They show that London was being built up, with walls, bridges, churches and many new buildings, and that King Athelstan took a large personal interest in the building, and that among his laws were regulations for the builders. Athelstan must also have had an equally active interest in the builders at York, always a great architectural center and a free city from time immemorial ; in Vol. V, page 316, Prof. Freeman says, "The men of York had their Hanse-house." A hansa was a gild (hence "Hanseatic League'') and if the crafts in York had a building of their own, it means that they were strong and well organized, the Masons among them. Even more striking is Prof. Freeman's account of Exeter. This had been a Welsh city, or town, at least partly so. Athelstan removed the Welsh and rebuilt it as an English town, "surrounded by a wall of dressed stone." He helped to lay out the city, and supervised its building, which would include the supervision of its builders.
These data prove that Athelstan was both practically and intellectually interested in the arts of building and took an active part in its practice, not only once but in three cities ; and to that extent they give some foundation to the tradition embedded in the Old Charges.
See The History of the Norman Conquest in England, and its Resutts, by Henry A. Freeman; six volumes; Oxford ; 1873 ; revised American Edition.

Plato wove a brief story about a Lost Continent of Atlantis into one of his Dialogs, and Homer (or "Homer") has hints of a somewhat similar legend in his Odyssey; from so slender a source was developed a long-lasting tale of a continent in the Atlantic, somewhere west of the Straits of Gibraltar, once covered with civilization, which sank suddenly under the waves. Soundings over the whole bed of the Atlantic Ocean have never encountered a submerged continent ;
geographers have dismissed the possibility that there ever was one, and geologists won't admit that a ccntinent could sink. Long before Plato the Hebrews (see Book of Isaiah) talked often, and almost rhapsodieally, about Tarshish, a busy, populous place very far away, even farther away than Isaiah's "isles of the sea," but no geographer had ever found it. Also, the ubiquitous Phoenicians, and the Egyptians as well, had a similar tradition; once an Egyptian expedition set out in search of it. These two latter traditions, plus Plato's myth, hung in the air for eenturies, tantalizing geographers and inspiring a huge occult and esoteric literature---even Conan Doyle wrote two tales on the theme, in one about a lost continent under the sea, in the other, about one far up on a mountainous plateau.
Lewis Spence, a specialist in occult history and geography, wrote The Problem of Atlantis (William Rider & Sons; London; 1925), and Atlantis in America (Ernest Benn; London; 1925). The latter surprised Americans but did not convert them. The multiplication of Atlantis' continued; James Churchward published his The Lost Continent of Mu; and somebody discovered another, not far from Guadalcanal, in the Soutwest Pacific, called by the queer but romantic name of Lemuria, probably suggested by the animal called the Lemur. This multiplication of the Lost Atlantis was welcomed by men who had never believed in even one of them; it confirmed them in their unbelief.
While this multiplication of Lost Continents proceeded, areheologists in Greece, the Near East, and Egypt were uneovering unbelievably large masses of inscriptions and documents, among which (though only a fraction of them have been translated and analyzed) were a number of mentions of Atlantis, or clues to it. By assembling and correlating these data scholars have shown that in all likelihood Atlantis was in reality an island off the coast of southern Spain, east a little way from Gibraltar, which was a trading center for the eastern Mediterranean, to which came ships from Britain and far-off Norway, and caravan routes from western Europe. The bed under the water between this island and the mainland rose, it ceased to be a "continent'' (the word was often used to mean a large island) ; Atlantis disappeared not by sinking beneath the sea but by rising above it.
If it is be true---and there is every reason to believe that it is. - how ironical that Atlantis tums out to have been not a mystery of the sea but of the land ! and that instaed of being the center of a web of far-ranging sea toutes, it was the terminus of a system of land routes !
But if a man should bemoan the loss of a legend of a golden and glittering continent which sank into the ocean, along with old stories, and poesies, and symbolisms, he can more than recover those losses if he will tum to the old roads, or trails; they are veridic and historic ; their story is known; and that story is far more freighted with the richness of true tales, and marvels, and poesies, and symbolisms than ever was the mythic Atlantis. These old trails, or roads, or ways are the poetry of ancient geography. They also were one of the supreme symbols to ancient man for his religions, so many of which were described as The Way, or The Road, or The Gate. There was the great Amber Road which wandered down from the Baltic through the Black Forests of Germany and across France until it branched, and one branch came on down to Atlantis; over it slow mule caravans brought amber, which for centuries was more desired than gold. There were the two great Silk Trails, or Silk Roads, over which camel and horse caravans brought bales of silk into the west from far-off China. There was the tremendous Road of the Turcomans, over which one branch of our Sanskrit-speaking ancestors made their slow progress across to Afghanistan, and then down into India, leaving behind them, after the Way had been followed for centuries, hundreds of caves filled with wall paintings, and rich with libraries of old manuscripts.
Here in the United States was one of the most remarkable of the old roads, the Turquoise Trail (the stone originally was called The Turkish Stone, whence its beautiful name) which wound over the western deserts from Los Cerillos, near Santa Fe, in what is now New Mexieo, out to the coast to the bay where San Diego now stands. It was trodden by so many Indians for so many centuries that their moccasins wore it deep into the rock, so that sections of it still are easily visible from an aeroplane.
The Trail itself always was neutral ground, and any traveler on it could pass without danger through strange places or warring tribes; the myths, and legends, and symbolisms of it run like a subterranean river through the ceremonies of the South-westem Indians.

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