The Masonic Trowel

... to spread the cement of brotherly love and affection, that cement which unites us into one sacred band or society of brothers, among whom no contention should ever exist, but that noble emulation of who can best work or best agree ...

[What is Freemasonry] [Leadership Development] [Education] [Masonic Talks] [Masonic Magazines Online]
Articles] [Masonic Books Online] [E-Books] [Library Of All Articles] [Masonic Blogs] [Links]
What is New] [Feedback]

 Masonic quotes by Brothers

Search Website For

Add To Favorites

Help Me Maintain OUR Website!!!!!!

List of Contributors

PDF This File

Print This Page

Email This Site To ...

Among the ancients every temple, altar, statue, or sacred place was dedicated to some divinity. The Romans, during the Republic, confided this duty to their consuls, praetors, censors, or other chief magistrates, and afterward to the emperors. According to the Papirian law, the regulations of a clan or group of Roman families, the dedication must have been authorized by a decree of the senate and the people, and the consent of the college of augurs. The ceremony consisted in surrounding the temple or object of dedication with garlands of flowers, whilst the vestal virgins poured on the exterior of the temple the lustral water. The dedication was completed by a formula of words uttered by the Pontiff, and the immolation of a victim, whose entrails were placed upon an altar of turf. The dedication of a temple was always a festival for the people, and was annually commemorated.
While the Pagans dedicated their temples to different deities—sometimes to the joint worship of several —the monotheistic Jews dedicated their religious edifices to the one supreme Jehovah. Thus, David dedicated with solemn ceremonies the altar which he erected on the threshing-floor of Ornan the Jebusite, after the cessation of the plague which had afflicted his people; and Calmet conjectures that he composed the thirtieth Psalm omthis occation. The Jews extended this ceremony of dedication even to their private houses, and Clarke tells us, in reference to a passage on this subject in be Book of Deuteronomy, house to God with prayer, praise, and thanksgiving; and this was done in order to secure the divine presence and blessing, for no pious or sensible man could imagine he could dwell safely in a house that was not under the immediate protection of God."
There is a noteworthy reproduction in the Symbolism of the Churches and Church Ornaments, a translation of the first book of the Rationale Divinorum Officorum written by William Durandus in the thirteenth century. Here we have the ritual of an ancient form of dedication. There is also quoted a brief but suggestive passage from Sugerius' book on the dedication of the Church of St. Denis:
Right early in the morning, archbishops and bishops archdeacons and abbots, and other venerable persons who had lived of their proper expense, bore themselves right bishopfully- and took their places on the platform raised for the consecration of the water, and placed between the sepulchers of the holy martyrs and S (the holy) Saviour's altar. Then might ye have seen and they who stood by saw, and that with great devotion, such a band of so venerable bishops, arrayed in their white robes, sparkling in their pontifical robes and precious orfreys, grasp their pastoral staves, call on God in holy exorcism pace around the consecrated enclosure, and perform the nuptials of the Great King with such care that it seemed as though the ceremony were performed by a chorus of angels not a band of men. The crowd, in overwhelming magnitude, rolled around to the door, and while the aforesaid Episcopal band were sprinkling the walls with hyssop, the king and his nobles drive them back, repress them, guard the portals.
Suger, or Sugerius, as the name is often Latinized, was born about 1081 A.D. and died on January 31, 1151. A Frenchman who has been deemed the foremost historian of his time, he was in his tenth year at school in the Priory of St. Denis near Paris. Later he became secretary to the Abbot of St. Denis, and after a sojourn at Rome succeeded to this office. At his death the Abbey possessed considerable property, including a new church of which he had written much, including the above item of interest in regard to the old ceremony of dedication.
According to the learned Selden, there was a distinction among the Jews between consecration and dedication, for sacred things were both consecrated and dedicated, while profane things, such as private dwelling-houses, were only dedicated. Dedication was, therefore, a less sacred ceremony than consecration. This distinction has also been preserved among Christians, many of whom, and, in the early ages, all, consecrated their churches to the worship of God, but dedicated them to, or placed them under, the especial patronage of some particular saint. A similar practise prevails in the Masonic Institution; and therefore, while we consecrate our Lodges "to the honor of God's glory," we dedicate them to the patrons of our Order.
Tradition informs us that Masonic Lodges were originally dedicated to King Solomon, because he was our first Most Excellent Grand Master. In the sixteenth century Saint John the Baptist seems to have been considered as the peculiar patron of Freemasonry; but subsequently this honor was divided between the two Saints John, the Baptist and the Evangelist; and modern Lodges, in the United States at least, are universally erected or consecrated to God, and dedicated to the Holy Saints John. In the Hemming lectures, adopted in 1813, at the time of the union of the two Grand Lodges of England, the dedication was changed from the Saints John to King Solomon, and this usage now prevails very generally in England where Lodges are dedicated to "God and His Service, also to the memory of the Royal Solomon, under chose auspices many of our Masonic mysteries had weir origin"; but the ancient dedication to the Saints John was never abandoned by American Lodges.
The formula in Webb which dedicates the Lodge to the memory of the Holy Saint John," was, undoubtedly, an inadvertence on the part of that lecturer, since in all his oral teachings Brother Mackey asserts he adhered to the more general system, and described a Lodge in his esoteric work as being "dedicated to the Holy Saints John." This is now the universal practice, and the language used by Webb becomes contradictory and absurd when compared with the fact that the festivals of both saints are equally celebrated by the Order, and that the 27th of December is not less a day of observance in the Order than the 24th of June.
In one old lecture of the eighteenth century, this dedication to the two Saints John is thus explained:
  • Q. Our Lodges being finished, furnished, and decorated with ornaments, furniture, and jewels, to whom were they consecrated?
  • A. To God.
  • Q. Thank you, Brother; and can you tell me to whom they were first dedicated?
  • A. To Noah, who was saved in the Ark.
  • Q. And by what name were the Masons then known?
  • A. They were called Noachidæ, Sasses, or Wise Men.
  • Q. To whom were the Lodges dedicated during the Mosaic Dispensation?
  • A. To Moses! the chosen of God, and Solomon, the an of David, king of Israel, who was an eminent patron of the Craft.
  • Q. And under what name were the Masons known during that period?
  • A. Under the name of Dionysias, Geometricians, or Masters in Israel.
  • Q. But as Solomon was a Jest, and died long before the promulgation of Christianity. to whom were they dedicated under the Christian Dispensation?
  • A. From Solomon the patronage of Masonry passed to Saint John the Baptist.
  • Q. And under what name were they known after the promulgation of Christianity?
  • A. Under the name of Essenes, Archaic s, or Freeze masons.
  • Q. Why were the Lodges dedicated to Saint John the Baptists
  • A. Because he was the forerunner of our Saviour, and, by preaching repentance and humiliation, drew the first parallel of the Gospel.
  • Q. Had Saint John the Baptist any equal?
  • A. He had; Saint John the Evangelist.
  • Q. Why is he said to be equal to the Baptist?
  • A. Because he finished by his learning what the other began by his zeal, and thus drew a second line parallel to the former- ever since which time Freemasons' Lodges in all Christian countries, have been dedicated to the one or the other, or both, of these worthy and worshipful men.
  • here is another old lecture, adopted into the Prestonian system, which still further developed
  • these reasons for the Johannite dedication, but with bight variations in some of the details. Brother

Mackey quotes it thus:
From the building of the first Temple at Jerusalem to the Babylonish captivity, Freemasons' Lodges were dedicated to King Solomon; from thence to the coming of the Messiah, they were dedicated to Zerubbabel, the builder of the second Temple, and from that time to the final destruction of the Temple by Titus, in the reign of Vespasian, they were dedicated to Saint John the Baptist; but owing to the many massacres and disorders which attended that memorable event, Freemasonry sunk very much into decay; many Lodges were entirely broken up, and but few could meet in sufficient numbers to constitute their legality; and at a general meeting of the Craft, held in the city of Benjamin, it was observed that the principal reason for the decline of Masonry was the want of a Grand Master to patronize it. They therefore deputed seven of their most eminent members to wait upon St. John the Evangelist, who was at that time Bishop of Ephesus, requesting him to take the office of Grand Master. He returned for answer, that though well stricken in years, being upwards of ninety, yet having been initiated into Masonry in the early part of his life, he would take upon himself the office. He thereby completed by his learning what the other Saint John effected by his zeal, and thus drew what Freemasons term a sine parallels ever since which time Freemasons Lodges in all Christian countries have been dedicated both to Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist.
So runs the tradition, but, as it lacks every claim to authenticity, a more philosophical reason may be assigned for this dedication to the two Saints John.
One of the earliest deviations from the pure religion of the Noachidae was distinguished by the introduction of sun worship. The sun, in the Egyptian mysteries, was symbolized by Osiris, the principal object of their rites, whose name, according to Plutarch and Macrobius, signified the prince and leader, the soul of the universe and the governor of the stars. Macrobius (Saturnalia, Book 1, chapter 18) says that the Egyptians worshipped the sun as the only divinity; and they represented him under various forms, according to the several phases, of his infancy at the winter solstice in December, his adolescence at the vernal equinox in March, his manhood at the summer solstice in June, and his old age at the autumnal equinox in September.
Among the Phoenicians, the sun was adored under the name of Adonis, and in Persia, under that of Mithras. In the Grecian mysteries, the orb of day was represented by one of the officers who superintended the ceremony of initiation; and in the Druidical rites his worship was introduced as the visible representative of the invisible, creative, and preservative principle of nature. In short, wherever the spurious Freemasonry existed, the adoration of, or, at least, a high respect for, the solar orb constituted a part of its system.
In Freemasonry, the sun is still retained as an important symbol. This fact must be familiar to every Freemason of any intelligence. It occupies, indeed, its appropriate position, simply as a symbol, but, nevertheless, it constitutes an essential part of the system. "As an emblem of God's power," says Hutchinson (Spirit of Masonry, Lecture IV, page 86), "His goodness, omnipresence, and eternity, the Lodge is adorned with the image of the sun, which he ordained to arise from the east and open the day; thereby calling forth the people of the earth to their worship and exercise in the walks of virtue."
"The government of a Mason's Lodge," says Oliver (Signs and Symbols of Freemasonry, pages 204), "is vested in three superior officers, who are seated in the East, West, and South, to represent the rising, setting, and meridian sun."
The sun, obedient to the all-seeing eye, is an emblem in the ritual of the Third Degree, and the sun displayed within an extended compass constitutes the jewel of the Past Master in the American system, and that of the Grand Master in the English.
But it is a needless task to cite authorities or multiply instances to prove how intimately the sun, as a symbol, is connected with the whole system of freemasonry.
It is then evident that the sun, either as an object of worship, or of symbolization, has always formed an important part of what has been called the two systems of Freemasonry, the Spurious and the Pure.
To the ancient sun worshipers, the movements of the heavenly bodies must have been something more than mere astronomical phenomena; they were the actions of the deities whom they adored, and hence were invested with the solemnity of a religious character. But, above allay the particular periods when the sun reached his greatest northern and southern declination, at the winter and summer solstices, by entering the zodiacal signs of Cancer and Capricorn, marked as they would be by the most evident effects on the seasons, and on the length of the days and nights, could not have passed unobserved. hut, on the contrary, must have occupied an important place in their ritual Now these important days fall respectively on the 21st of June and the 21st of December.
Hence, these solstitial periods were among the principal festivals observed by the Pagan nations. Du Pauw (Dissertations on Egyptians and Chinese in, page 159) remarks of the Egyptians, that "they had a fixed festival at each new moon; one at the summer, and one at the winter solstice, as well as the vernal and autumnal equinoxes "
The Druids always observed the festivals of midsummer and midwinter in June and December The former for a long time was celebrated by the Christian descendants of the Druids "The eve of Saint John the Baptist," says Chambers (information for the recopies Nose 89), "variously called Midsummer Eve, was formerly a time of high observance amongst the English, as it still is in Catholic countries. Bonfires were everywhere lighted, round which the people danced with joyful demonstrations, occasionally leaping through the flame.''
Godfrey Higgins (Celtic Druids, page 165) thus alludes to the celebration of the festival of midwinter he the ancient world:
The festival of the 25th of December was celebrated, by the Druids in Britain and Ireland, with great fires lighted on the tops of the hills.... On the 25th of December, at the first moment of the day, throughout all the ancient world, the birthday of the god Sol was celebrated. This was the moment when, after the supposed winter solstice and the lowest point of his degradation below our hemisphere he began to increase and gradually to ascend. At this moment. in all the ancient religions, his birthday was kept; from India to the Ultima Thule. these ceremonies partook of the same character: everywhere the god was feigned to he born, and his festival was celebrated with great rejoicings.
See, also, Dudley Writrht's Druidism, the Anctent Faith of Britain (page 24).
Our ancestors finding that the Church, according to its usage of purifying Pagan festivals by Christian application, had appropriated two days near those solstitial periods to the memory of two eminent saints, incorporated these festivals by the lapse of a few days into the Masonic calendar, and adopted these worthies as patrons of our Order. To this change, the earlier Christian Freemasons were the more persuaded by the peculiar character of these saints. Saint John the Baptist, by announcing the approach of Christ, and by the mystic ablution to which he subjected his proselytes, and which was afterward adopted in the ceremony of initiation into Christianity, might well be considered as the Grand Hierophant of the Church; while the mysterious and emblematic nature of the Apocalypse assimilated the mode of instruction adopted by Saint John the Evangelist to that practiced by the Fraternity.
We are thus led to the conclusion that the connection of the Saints John with the Masonic Institution is rather of a symbolic than of a historical character In dedicating our Lodges to them, we do not so much declare our belief that they were eminent members of the Order, as demonstrate our reverence for the great Architect of the Universe in the symbol of His most splendid creation, the great light of day.
In conclusion it may be observed that the ceremony of dedication is merely the enunciation of a form of words, and this having been done, the Lodge is thus, by the consecration and dedication, set apart as something sacred to the cultivation of the principles of Freemasonry, under that peculiar system which acknowledges the two Saints John as its patrons. Royal Arch Chapters are dedicated to Zerubbabel, Prince or Governor of Judah, and Commanderies of Knights Templar to Saint John the Almoner. Mark Lodges should be dedicated to Hiram the Builder; Past Masters to the Saints John, and Most Excellent Masters to King Solomon.
There are five dedications of the Temple of Jerusalem which are recorded in Jewish history:
  • 1. The dedication of the Solomonic Temple, 1004 B.C.
  • 2. The dedication in the time of Hezekiah, when it was purified from the abominations of Ahaz, 726 B.C.
  • 3. The dedication of Zerubbabel's Temple, 513 B.C.
  • 4. The dedication of the Temple when it was purified after Judas Maccabaeus had driven out the Syrians, 161 B.C.
  • 5. The dedication of Herod's Temple. 22 B.C.

The fourth of these is still celebrated by the Jews in their Feast of the Dedication. The first only is connected with the Masonic ritual, and is commemorated in the Most Excellent Master's Degree of the American Rite as the Celebration of the Capstone. This dedication was made by King Solomon in the blear of the World 3000, and lasted eight days, commencing in the month of Tisri, 15th day, during the Feast of Tabernacles. The dedication of the Temple is called. in the English system of Lectures, the third grand offering which consecrates the floor of a Mason s Lodge. The same Lectures contain a tradition that on that occasion King Solomon assembled the nine Deputy Gland Masters in the holy place, from which all natural light had been carefully excluded, and which only received the artificial light which emanated from the east, west, and south, and there made the necessary arrangements. The legend must be considered as a myth; but the inimitable prayer and in vocation which were offered up by King Solomon on e occasion are recorded in the eighth chapter of the first Book of Kings, which contains the Scriptural fount of the dedication.

See Back.
"The definitions of Freemasonry," says Oliver, in his historical Landmarks of Freemasonry, "have been numerous; but they all unite in declaring it to be a system of morality, by the practice of which its members may advance their spiritual interest, and mount by the theological ladder from the Lodge on earth to the Lodge in heaven. It is a mistake, however, to suppose that Freemasonry is a system of religion. It is but the handmaiden to religion, although it largely and effectually illustrates one great branch of it, which is practice."
The definition in the English Lectures is often quoted, which says that "Freemasonry is a peculiar system of morality veiled in allegory and illustrated symbols."
But Brother Mackey believed that a more compressive and exact definition is that it is a science which is engaged in the search after Divine Truth, and which employs symbolism as its method of instruction.
Another definition is by Dr. S. Bein, who terms Freemasonry that religious and mystical society - hose aim is moral perfection on the basis of general quality and fraternity (see Vortaro de Esperanto, page 50).
A more elaborate definition is by Brother W. N. Pontone, P.G.M., of Canada, as follows Masonry is something more than a secret Society, ;though secrecy is an element in esoteric work, more than ritualism, though the ritual, simple in its dignity and quaint and rhythmic in expression, is a factor more thxn symbolism, though Symbolic teaching is significant and transfigures the commonplace; more than philosophy, though it speculatively teaches how to live wisely and well; more than religion, but not greater than religion, yet discerning the divinity in humanity; more than mere landmarks, though these have their defining, historical, and traditional place; more even than brotherhood, for as in the Pythagorean days, it is educational and intellectual as well as social and fraternal; more than constructive and practical philanthropy, though love crowns all; yet it is all of these together with that something more of which language is inadequate to express the subtle mystery, even to those few choice spirits who seek to penetrate to the heart of its often unconscious power, and the span of life too brief to enable those who endeavor to attain the ideal perfection of that living organism, whose countersign is manhood~ whose inspiration is the God-head—that Masonic edifice of which love and truth form base and spire—Nisi Dominus frustra (see Builder, volume viii, page 55).
The Latin phrase Nisi Dominus frustra may be expressed in English as meaning Except the Masler be cheated. Brother Roscoe Pound has contributed to the Dictionary of Religion and Ethics (Macmillan Company, 1921), the following definition of our Institution:
The art or mystery of the Freemasons or Free and Accepted Masons, a universal religious, moral, charitable and benevolent fraternal organization It is religious in requiring belief in God as a prerequisite of initiation and insisting on such belief as one of its unalterable fundamental points. Beyond this and belief in immortality it has no religious dogmas but expects the brother to adhere to some religion and obligates him upon the sacred oath of the religion he professes For the rest it seeks to promote morals by ceremonies, symbols and lectures, inculcating life measured by reason and performance of duties toward God, one's country, one's neighbor and oneself. It relieves needy Brothers, cares for their dependents, educates orphans, and insists upon duties of charity and benevolence.
.At the laying of a cornerstone with Masonic ceremonies, an old friend, the late Colonel Edward hI. L. Ehlers, Grand Secretary of New York, gave an eloquent oration in which he used with fine effect a magnificent tribute to Freemasonry as our gifted and beloved Brother understood the Masonic Institution. As a definition it may be appropriately inserted here and should be studied with a similar statement found elsewhere (see Charity).
Fraternities of men have existed in some shape or form during every period of the world s history. Doubtless in the primitive ages it became apparent that mutual protection would afford the greatest security against the unbroken forces of nature and the evil nature of man and secure sympathy, support and protection, to those whose bond of union was made a common cause. Hence originated Masonry.
The origin of Masonry, like other historical transactions, lies buried in the gloom of obscurity. Its philosophy may be traced to the remotest ages of the world's history. Its symbols are older than the Temple of Solomon and antedate the Pentateuch of Moses. Its ceremonials were practised in the ancient mysteries when Egypt stood as the first and the most enlightened power of the then known world. Its tenets were known by the nomadic tribes of the East and transmitted from father to son, generation after generation, so that even today the Bedouin of the desert recognizes the hail of the Craftsman.
The mission of Masonry is to curb intemperate passions and to reconcile conflicting interests; to extend to nations these principles of humanity and benevolence which should actuate individuals, to destroy the pride of conquest and the pomp of war; to annihilate focal prejudices and unreasonable partialities; to banish from the world every Source of enmity and hostility, and to introduce those Social dealings which are better r adulated to preserve peace and good order than penal laws or political regulations.
The advantages which mankind in genera! reap from this master Science are beyond calculation. Its blessings are confined to no country, but are diffused with the Institution throughout the world. Men of all languages, of all religions, of the remotest nations, and of every habit and opinion, are united in a bond of brotherly affection..
A Mason is at home in every country and with his friends in every clime. What Society other than our own could make the proud boast that we know no foreign land On the plane of Masonry we only know God and man We know no royal blood or peasant stock. Men of wealth and simple toil, philosophers and men of low degree. royal heirs and hard-handed peasants, meet hers upon a common ground as brothers and God is Father of them all.
Live on for ever, thou Genius of Masonry ! Bring light and gladness, toleration and rational liberty, to those who dwell in darkness and superstition! reach the millions yet unborn thy Faith, thy Hope, thy Charity!
The Old Constitutions declare that the candidate for Freemasonry must be a "perfect youth, having no maim or defect in his body." The Masonic law of physical qualifications is derived from the Mosaic, which excluded from the priesthood a man having any blemishes or deformities. The regulation in Freemasonry constitutes one of the landmarks, and is illustrative of the symbolism of the Institution. The earliest of the Old Constitutions, that of the Halliwell or Regius Manuscript (lines 153 to 156), has this language on the subject:
To the Craft it were great shame
To make a halt man and a lame,
For an imperfect man of such blood
Should do the Craft but little good.
This question is discussed in Doctor Mackey's Jurisprudence of Freemasonry.
The word degree, in its primitive meaning, signifies a step. The degrees of Freemasonry are, then, the steps by which the candidate ascends from a lower to a higher condition of knowledge. It is now the opinion of the best scholars, that the division of the Masonic system into Degrees was the work of the revivalists of the beginning of the eighteenth century; that before that period there was but one Degree, or rather one common platform of ritualism; and that the division into Masters, Fellows, and Apprentices was simply a division of ranks, there being but one initiation for all.
In 1717 the whole body of the Fraternity consisted only of Entered Apprentices, who were recognized by the thirty-nine Regulations, compiled in 1720, as among the law-givers of the Craft, no change in those Regulations being allowed unless first submitted "even to the youngest Apprentice."
In the Old Charges, collected by Anderson and approved in 1722, the Degree of Fellow Craft is introduced as being a necessary qualification for Grand Master, although the word degree is not used. "No brother can be a Grand Master unless he has been a Fellow Craft before his election." And in the Manner of constituting a New Lodge of the same date, the Master and Wardens are taken from "among the Fellow Crafts," which Derrnott explains by saying that "they were called Fellow Crafts because the Masons of old times never gave any man the title of Master Mason until he had first passed the chair." In the thirteenth of the Regulations of 1720, approved in 1721, the orders or Degrees of Master and Fellow Craft are recognized in the following words: "Apprentices must be admitted Masters and Fellow Crafts only in the Grand Lodge." Between that period and 1738, the system of Degrees had been perfected; for Anderson, who, in that year, published the second edition of the Book of Constitutions, changed the phraseology of the Old Charges to suit the altered condition of things, and said, "a Prentice, when of age and expert, may become an Enter'd Prentice or a Free-Mason of the lowest degree, and upon his due improvements a Fellow Craft and a Master-Mason" (see Old Charge Ill, Constitutions, 1738, page 145).
No such words are found in the Charges as printed in 1723; and if at that time the distinction of the three Degrees had been as well defined as in 1738, Anderson would not have failed to insert the same language in his first edition. That he did not, leads to the fair presumption that the ranks of Fellow Craft and Master were not then absolutely recognized as distinctive degrees. The earliest ritual extant, which is contained in the Grand Mystery, published in 1725, makes no reference to any Degrees, but gives only what we may suppose was the common understanding of the initiation in use about that time.
The division of the Masonic system into three Degrees must have grown up between 1717 and 1730, but in 80 gradual and imperceptible a manner that we are unable to fix the precise date of the introduction of each Degree. In 1717 there was evidently but one Degree, or rather one form of initiation, and one catechism. Perhaps about 1721 the three Degrees were introduced, but the second and third were probably not perfected for many years. Even as late as 1735 the Entered Apprentice's Degree contained the most prominent form of initiation, and he who was an Apprentice was, for all practical purposes, a Freemason. It was not until repeated improvements, by the adoption of new ceremonies and new regulations, that the Degree of Master Mason took the place which it now occupies; having been confined at first to those who had passed the chair.
See Ancient Craft Masonry.
Degrees that are conferred on females as well as males (see Androgynous Degrees).

[What is Freemasonry] [Leadership Development] [Education] [Masonic Talks] [Masonic Magazines Online]
Articles] [Masonic Books Online] [E-Books] [Library Of All Articles] [Masonic Blogs] [Links]
What is New] [Feedback]

This site is not an official site of any recognized Masonic body in the United States or elsewhere.
It is for informational purposes only and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion
of Freemasonry, nor webmaster nor those of any other regular Masonic body other than those stated.

DEAD LINKS & Reproduction | Legal Disclaimer | Regarding Copyrights

Last modified: March 22, 2014