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COMACINE THEORY, THE.
The article on Comacine Masters beginning on page 221 sets forth fairly and adequately the arguments in favor of the theory that the Magistri Comacimi were a school, or Compactly organized Brotherhood of Master Masons with a center and training school on Lake Como ; that this Comacine Brotherhood was the founder of Freemasonry, and that an unbroken continuity exists between it and the English Lodges out of which modern speculative Freemasonry arose. Mrs. Webster, writing under the name of Leader Scott, constructed this theory and published it in her Cathedral Builders, a work earnestly and competently written, supported by a wide knowledge of the literature; printed, bound, and illustrated magnificently.
Bro. Joseph Fort Newton epitomized the argument of her book in one chapter of his The Builders, and gave it a wide circulation because his book, "the Blue Lodge classic," had a large reading among American Masons. Bro. W. R.Rafenscroft followed this with two small books in which he restated or rehearsed Leader Scott's arguments with an audience of English Masons in mind (though he published much of his material in The Builder, Journal of the National Masonic Research Sosiety). With this presentation, so rapidly successfuI, and accompanied as it was by innumerable speeches in Lodge Rooms and articles in the Masonic press throughout EngIish-speaking Freemasonry, the Comacine Theory ceased to be a tentative and exploratory hypothesis constructed by one woman, and became a subject lor discussion by the whole Fraternity.
One of the extraordinary features of this Masonrywide presentation and of the almost enthusiastic popularizing of it was the failure of both the proponents of the argument and of the popularizers of it to see that they were asking the Fraternity to abandon wholly, and at one stroke, the great structure of Masonic history which had been built up slowly and laboriously from 1870 to 1920 by some two hundred or so of the most learned scholars the Craft had had or possibly ever can have. Beginning in the 1860's and 1870's Gould, Findel, Fort, Hughan, Crawley, Speth, Sadler, Lane, Lyon, the Rylands, E. H. Dring, etc., etc., had patiently pieced together evidences to show that Speculative Freemasonry had begun in England, that it was initiated by four or five Lodges in London out of some hundreds of Time Immemorial Lodges in England, Scotland and Ireland which had been at work during the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century ; and that these in turn were the descendants of Lodges of Operative Freemasons of which the history was very old, dating at least from the Twelfth Century.
They knew that Operative Freemasonry in general, as the art of architecture, was flourishing during those years throughout Europe, but they could find no traces on the Continent of that particular and almost singular special development among Operative Freemasons which gave rise to modern Speculative Freemasonry ; general Operative Freemasonry had been as much European as British, but speculalive Freemasonry from its first sma1I beginnings was English; and it was from England that it went across to the Continent in the 1720's. If Leader Scott's argument had been sound, if Speculative Freemasonry had originated not in England (as each copy of the Old Charges clearly showed) but had been founded and propagated by a school of Operative Masons at Lake Como in Italy, then Gould's History, Mackey's Hislory, the Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, and the body of English and American scholarship had made a vast, fatal, wholesale mistake, and the whole work would have to be done over again de novo.
l. There is nothing in the cathedrals, and other structures designed, constructed, and ornamented by the Medieval English Freemasons nor anything in the MSS., traditions, customs, rites, or symbols, or in the records of the oldest Lodges, which anywhere mentions the Comacine Masters, or looks backward toward Italy ; nor were the truths, ideas, symbols which were perpetuated by the Time Immemorial Lodges such as could have originated in Medieval northern Italy; they bear on them everywhere the stamp ol England.
Around and behind early Medieval Freemasonry in England lay the European milieu, the loug history of the Continent, and the traditions of Antiquity, of early Christianity, and the Bible; but the elements drawn from this enveloping background which appear in the first forms of Speculative Freemasonry were demonstrably never drawn at first hand, not even from the Bible, but were mediated to the Craft through the reports, and rumors, and traditions of such things as they had come to England. Moreover, the genius of Medieval Operative Freemasonry was that of the Gothic architecture ; whereas in Italy, and including Como, the Gothic was only half accepted, and was mixed with elements of alien styles imported from Greece and the Arabs (via Sicily).
2. Leader Scott defines the phrase Magistri Comacini as meaning Masters of Como; she then employs this word itself as a principal support of her argument, and takes it that wherever Magistri Comacini appears in the records it refers to the school at Como. Since the phrase appears first in the Fifth Century, and was in wide use in following centuries, and hence was in use many centuries before there was any architecture or architects at Lake Como, Magislri Comacini is not Masters of "Como" etymologically. In the Low Latin in use at the period of which Leader Scott writes co-maciones, frequently used, meant brothers, or gilds, of Masons, and hence could be applied to Masons anywhere; and Rivoira so applies it in the work referred to by Bro. Cauthorne in his paragraphs at page 221 of this Encyclopedia. Thus the Masons at any Italian center, at Florence, Pisa, Genoa, Venice, Rome, often were called como magistri. Moreover, Leader Scott takes it, or so to a reader it appears, that a schola was a school ; in the Low Latin just mentioned schola was a gild.
3. Although she did not appear to note it herself, Leader Scott constructs not one Comacine Theory but two:
a) She attempts to show that the "school at Como'' was the center from which the whole Lombardic style had originated and been directed This theory cannot be sustained on historical grounds. Moreover, it repeats a fallacy which characterizes European theories about Freemasonry of both its origin and its present organization: viz, that it had (and has) some one center of control, and that this alone explains why it maintained its unity (and still does) everywhere, and from age to age. Medieval Freemasonry (as now) never had a center but maintained its unity by its modes of recognition, the movement of workers from one place to another, the prevalence of a single architectural style, and-above other means-by its training of apprentices, each of whom received his knowledge of the art and his practices of the Fraternlty from a Master Mason who in turn had received the same from his own Inlender, and so on backwards.
b) Leader Scott's second Comacine Theory was that modern Speculative Freemasonry originated in her hypothetical school at Como. Rivoira says that this theory was not original with her, but was picked up by her from an Italian book which had never carried weight with Italian scholars; he himself dismisses the theory as not worth dÚtailed investigation.
NOTE. In private correspondence Bro. Lionel Vibert, and writing as Secretary of Quatuor Coronati Lodge, stated that he had dismissed the Comacine Theory after finding that Leader Scott had misused the name Magistri Comacini, a keystone in her arch ; Bro. Ravenscroft Wrote not long before his death that he wished he could recall his two brochures because he had "come to see that the Comacine Theory was without foundation."
In addition to books mentioned above see : Medieval Architecture, by Arthur Kingsley Porter: vol. I, page 134. The Calhedral Builders, by Leader Scott, was published by Sampson, Low, Marston & Co. ; London ; 80 illustrations; 435 pages. Lombardic Architecture, by G. T. Rivoira ; two volumes. The Gilds of Florence, by Edgcumbe Staley ; Methuen & Co. ; London ; 1906 ; 622 pages. (He has an interesting note about the Masons at Lincoln, England, as having had a social and religious fratemity in1313.) Arl and The Reformalion, by G. G. Coulton; ch. X. Medieval Ilaly, by H. B. Cotterill ; Geo. C. Harrap ; 1915. The Renaissance of lhe Twelflh Cenlury, by Charles Homer Haskins, Harvard University Press ; 1928. Meclieval Europe, by Lynn Thorndike; Geo. C. Harrap & Co.; London; 1920. A Hislory of Freemasonry, by H. L. Haywood and James E. Craig.
COMITY, LODGE AND GRAND LODGE.
I. INTERNAL COMITY
II. EXTERNAL COMITY
Contrary to a popular misunderstanding etymologists do not derive comity from such roots as co or com (as in co÷peration and committee) but from an old and littleused Latin word for friendliness, the means of friendliness, friendly relations.
The word belongs to the technical nomenclature of Freemasonry, and is one of the subjects in Masonic jurisprudence. It is the name for that set of means by which Masonic local bodies and Masonic Grand Bodies work in friendly co-operation with each other, within and among the recognized Rites. Comity is in two major divisions:
Internal, by which Lodges co÷perate with each other and with their Grand Lodge (or Chapters, Councils, etc.) within the same Grand Jurisdiction; Extemal, the means by which Grand Lodges (Grand Chapters, Grand Councils, etc.) co÷perate with other Grand Lodges, either at home or abroad.
I. INTERNAL COMITY
The means employed are in part departments or offices of Lodges and Grand Lodges, in part are voluntary activities initiated, encouraged, or sponsored by Lodges and Grand Lodges. Among these are : District Deputy systems; District Grand Lecturer Systems; Masonic periodicals; group or area assemblies of Lodges; "service committees" or departments for Masonic education, employment, and speakers bureaus, etc. The reception of visitors, the visiting of one Lodge by another, conferring of Degrees by courtesy, the right of demission (or dimission) are among the means of internal comity provided for in the Ancient Landmarks.
II. EXTERNAL COMITY
The complete system of External Comity is as yet in the making; thus far such methods as the following have been adopted .by each and every Grand Lodge or by a group of them: Official recognition of one Grand Lodge by another. The exchange of Grand Representatives. Foreign (or Fraternal) Correspondence Reports in Grand Lodge Proceedings. The visiting of a Grand Lodge by official representatives of another. Correspondence among Grand Masters and Grand Secretaries. Annual Conferences by Grand Masters, and by Grand Secretaries. Conferring of Courtesy Degrees. Demission or visiting from one Grand Jurisdiction to another. The Masonic Service Association, and similar voluntary service activities.
Periodicals of general circulation. Extra-Grand Jurisdictional services of Grand Lodge Libraries. Books, booklets, movies, etc., of one Grand Jurisdiction permitted for use in another. The sending of Masonic Committees and missions abroad. The exchange of Grand Lodge Proceedings. Etc., etc.
General agreement on some essentials of External Comity is still incomplete. Among these are : Specific conditions on which to grant official recognition to ther Grand Bodies. Grand Lodge responsibility for constituting and fostering Lodges in foreign countries not already under any Grand Lodge. The true and correct Grand Lodge procedure in other countries in cases where general Masonic organization has broken down but where there are some (at least) regular Masons and Lodges. (As in Italy in the 1930's.)
The attempt to set up a single General, or National, Grand Lodge which began during the Revolutionary War and was not abandoned until after the Civil War was predicated upon the known need for ways and means to enable thousands of American Masonic Bodies and Grand Bodies to work in unity and harmony, lest the American Craft become inellectual by breaking down into self-contained, isolated, mutually exclusive local groups. That need was real but as events have proved a single American Grand Lodge could not have been the satisfaction of it ; the body of means and methods which in purpose and practice comprise Comity are more extensive, more free, more adaptable, more satisfying, and more effectual than the means and methods of one Grand Lodge could have been. The system of Comity has given to American Freemasonry everything that a National Grand Lodge could have given to it; and it has given to it many things that a National Grand Lodge would have denied to it.
The Mother Grand Lodge of Speculative Freemasonry was set up in 1717 after it had been discussed by already-existing, self-constituted Lodges in London; though only four of them attended and elected the first Grand Master it is certain that others had consented and, as their actions proved, were ready to unite. In the beginning this Grand Lodge was for no purpose except to revive a general assembly, and to give the Lodges a center where they might occasionally meet. It was an act of comity. There was to be no new Freemasonry ; there was to be a means for the old Freemasonry to work more effectually.
There were many pre-1717 Lodges in England, Ireland, and Scotland; in Scotland alone there were more than 100 before 1700. When a new Lodge was formed (usually of seven or more) it was self-constituted by men who already were Masons, one from a Lodge in one place, another from a Lodge in another, and they thus had ties with other Lodges from the beginning. Each Lodge had a copy of the same old Charges that other Lodges possessed, or it had men in it who knew the essential portions by heart. A Lodge might assist a group to form a Lodge in a nearby community, help it during its formative period, and afterwards maintain close ties with it; these were daughter Lodges. Any Mason regularly made, possessed of the all-important modes of recognition, could visit in any Lodge. This was their comity, the means by which, befor a Grand Lodge system was devised, seperate and independent Lodges formed a single Fraternity.
CONSERVATOR MOVEMENT THE.
In 1860 M.░. W.░. Robert Morris established a secret society of Masons styled by him as The Conservator Movement, and its members were called Conservators. The purposes of this organization were stated by Morris with his characteristic prolixity in a secret circular which he mailed to Grand Masters, Grand Secretaries, Grand Lecturers, and other Grand Lodge leaders in the middle of 1860, and which he signed as "Chief Conservator." He set down ten objects :
To disseminate the Webb-Preston Work.
To "discountenance" innovations in the Ritual.
To establish national uniformity of "means of recognition," etc.
To establish "a School of Instruction in every Lodge.''
To train Masonic [Ritualistic] Lecturers.
To train Masons to pass examinations when visiting.
To strengthen "the ties that bind Masons generally together."
To detect and expose impostors. To hold conferences among Conservators themselves.
To "open the way for a more intimate communion between the Masons of Europe and America."
The recipient was asked to keep the circular ''strictly confidential" ;
To fill in answers to form questions ;
To sign on a dotted line; and to return the document to Morris in ten days. If a recipient expressed a desire to become a Conservator he received next "Comunication No. 2," also "strictly confidential." It set forth "The Seven Details or Features of the Plan" which were expected to govern the work of each Conservator:
1. The scheme was to be a closely-guarded secret among the few men in each Lodge who were active Conservators.
2. Each Conservator was to keep in close touch with the Chief Conservator, and carry out the latter's order. "A journal, styled The Conservator" was to be sent to each member of the organization.
3. The "great aim" was "National Harmony in the Work and Lectures on Symbolical Masonry." All forms of "Bastard" Work were to be opposed.
4. The "Conservator's Degree'' was to be conferred on each Conservator, "devised for the express purpose.
5. A Vice Chief Conservator was to be present at each Grand Communication of each and every Grand Lodge.
6. "We adopt the mode of disseminating the Work and Lectures which was adopted by the Grand Lodge of England in 1728 . . . "
7. "We require a ccntribution of Ten Dollars in advance from each Conservator .
During the years between 1860 and 1863 Morris issued his journal styled The Conservator some four or five times ; afterwards he addressed his followers through the pages of his magazine, The Voice of Masonry. The "society" was so loosely administered that Morris himself did not know how many were in it, but "guessed" that it may at one time have had 2,795 members. It transpired that the "mode of disseminating" as mentioned under "detail" number 6 was a printed cypher, a tiny book entitled Written Mnemonics Illustrated By Copious Examples From Moral Philosophy, Science, And Religion. The association was govemed by Morris himself according to "eight regulations."
The "era" of the association was to begin June 24, 1860, and last until June 24, 1865, at which latter date it would everywhere automatically cease to exist ; this period of 1826 days was described as the Conservator's Era, or C. E., and letters were to be dated according to it. A secret language, cabalistic signs, etc., were much used. Morrls officially declared the termination of the "Society" in the first issue of The Voice of Masonry after June 24, 1860. For the members of his association Morris prepared the "Conservator of Symbolic Masonry" Degree. There could be only one Conservator in each Lodge, but he could confer this Degree on any Master Mason deemed suitable by himself.
The Conservator Movement o.as thus a secret society. It had national and local officers ; its own constitution and rules; its oo'n modes of recognition and a secret language; and though it o.as to work in a Lodge and on a Lodge; a Lodge had no say about it, and no control over it. It had in efiect two general purposes : first, to establish a standard work uniform throughout the Grand Jurisdictions; second, to make the Webb-Preston Work that Standard version. Once they had discovered its existence and had become aware of its nature and purpoxes Grand Lodges began a determined eampaign to abolish the Movement.
It was intolerable to have a secret society at work within the Fraternity itself; it was for a Grand Lodge, not for a voluntary society of outsiders, to determine what its own Standard Work was to be; a Lodge could not permit one of its own members to have more authority than its own Master; nor was Morris himself able to prove that he, and he alone, possessed the Webb-Preston Work in its original form.
In 1866 Morris stated, as already noted, that at its height his association numbered 2,795 members, but it is probable that at least a thousand of these were inactive, or else were prevented by Lodge and Grand Lodge opposition from accomplishing their purposes; moreover Civil War conditions hampered them. The whole movement was quickly aborted and soon passed out of the memory of the American Craft.
NOTE. The most complete set of Conservator literature and correspondence, including a number of private letters from Morris, is in the vaults of the Iowa Grand Lodge Library, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The most complete published account is The Masonic Conservalors, by Ray V.Denslow; Grand Lodge of Missouri; St. Louis; 1931; cloth ; 132 pages. It contains a list of members Lodge by Lodge, and State by State.
CONSOLIDATION OF LODGES.
If in the same Masonic community two sister Lodges find that they are duplicating each other, or if one finds itself too weak to continue, either of two courses is followed in American practice. The weaker of the two Lodges can surrender its Charter, and its members can affiliate with the other Lodge. Or, the two Lodges can consolidate. A comparison of the forty-nine Codes of American Grand Jurisdictions shows that the Code of Iowa comes close to being perfectly typical of the rules governing consolidation as generally they are in use. The Iowa Code calls for a written ballot; for a majority decision; if the smaller of the two Lodges cannot assemble a quota the Grand Master and other members of Grand Lodge accompanying him can constitute one. (See Sections 188 and 190 of revised Masonic Code of Iowa.)
CONSTANTINE, THE CROSS OF.
The paragraph entitled Labarum on page 557 was based on Eusebius, the earliest of the chroniclers of the Christian Church, and the biographer of the Emperor Constantine. Since that paragraph was written a very large quantity of Greek (Koine) MSS. dating from the First to the Fifth Centuries have been recovered by archeologists, notably in the Fayum, once a prosperous Greek-speaking district in an irrigated tract on the Egyptian border. Since these were records written at the time their weight as evidence cannot be ignored.
These documents sustain Eusebius in general outline, but make the story of Constantine's use of the monogram much more complex. He did not originate it.
The legend of his vision rests on very insecure grounds, partly because though the Athanasians won control at the Council of Nicea, which Constantine had called, and had condemned the Arians as non-Christians, Constantine himself remained an Arian throughout his life until shortly before his death.
The original labarum was not so much a banner as a portrait on cloth, showing Constantines' head surrounded by a halo, which was probably designed to be carried as a substitute for his own presence. The halo and the monogram together may have denoted that he was head of the whole Christian world. An old legend has it that his mother, Queen Helen, was an English woman, and that she had discovered the true cross. Long after the death of Constantine the Bishop of Rome produced a document in which the Emperor had willed his headship of the Christian world to Rome; the authentieity of this "Donation of Constantine" was upheld by Rome for centuries. It is proved to have been a forgery, written to.o hundred years after Constantine; Roman Catholic scholars themselves are agreed on this. For a succinct account see last edition of Encyclopoedia Brilannica. For full details see Medieval Italy, a brilliant work, by H. B. Cotterill; London; Geo. C. Harrap; 1915.
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