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 ...

The Primitive Freemasonry of the antediluvians, or people of before the Flood times, is a term for which we are indebted to Doctor Oliver, although the theory was broached by earlier writers, and among them by the Chevalier Ramsay. The theory is, that the principles and doctrines of Freemasonry existed in the earliest ages of the world, and were believed and practised by a primitive people, or priesthood, under the name of Pure or Primitive Freemasonry; and that this Freemasonry, that is to say, the religious doctrine inculcated by it, was, after the flood, corrupted by the Pagan philosophers and priests, and, receiving the title of Spurious Freemasonry, was exhibited in the Ancient Mysteries. The Noachidae, however, preserved the principles of the Primitive Freemasonry, and transmitted them to succeeding ages, when at length they assumed the name of Speculative Freemasonry. The Primitive Freemasonry was probably without ritual or symbolism, and consisted only of a series of abstract propositions derived from antediluvian traditions. Its dogmas were the unity of God and the immortality of the soul.

Doctor Oliver, who gave this system its name, describes it (Historical Landmarks i, page 61) in the following language: "It included a code of simple morals. It assured men that they who did well would be approved of God; and if they followed evil courses, sin would be imputed to them, and they would thus become subject to punishment. It detailed the reasons why the seventh day was consecrated and set apart as a Sabbath, or day of rest; and showed why the bitter consequences of sin were visited upon our first parents, as a practical lesson that it ought to be avoided. But the great object of this Primitive Freemasonry was to preserve and cherish the promise of a Redeemer, who should provide a remedy for the evil that their transgressions had introduced into the world, when the appointed time should come."

In his History of Initiation Doctor Oliver makes the supposition that the ceremonies of this Primitive Freemasonry would be few and unostentatious, and consist, perhaps, like that of admission into Christianity, of a simple lustration, conferred alike on all, in the hope that they would practise the social duties of benevolence and good-will to man, and unsophisticated devotion to God.
He does not, however, admit that the system of Primitive Freemasonry consisted only of those tenets which are to be found in the first chapters of Genesis or that he intends, in his definition of this science, to embrace so general and indefinite a scope of all the principles of truth and light, as Preston has done in his declaration, that "from the commencement of the world, we may trace the foundation of Freemasonry." On the contrary, Doctor Oliver supposes that this Primitive Freemasonry included a particular and definite system, madte up of legends and syrnbols, and confined to those who were initiated into its mysteries. The knowledge of these mysteries was of course communicated by God himself to Adam, and from him received by his descendants.
This view of Doctor Oliver is substantiated by the remarks of Rosenberg, a learned French Freemason, in an article in the Freemasons Quarterly Review, on the Book of Raziel, an ancient Cabalistic work, whose subject is these Divine mysteries. "This book," says Rosenberg, "informs us that Adam was the first to receive these mysteries. Afterward, when driven out of Paradise, he communicated them to his son Seth; Seth communicated them to Enoch; Enoeh to Methuselah; Methuselah to Lamech; Lamech to Noah; Noah to Shem; Shem to Abraham; Abraham to Isaac; Isaac to Jacob; Jacob to Levi; Levi to Kelhoth; Kelhoth to Amram; Amram to Moses; Moses to Joshua; Joshua to the Elders; the Elders to the Prophets; the Prophets to the Wise Men; and then from one to another down to Solomon."

Such, then, was the Pure or Primitive Freemasonry, the first System of mysteries which, according to modern Masonic writers of the school of Oliver, has descended, of course with various rnodifications, from age to age, in a direct and uninterrupted line, to the Freemasons of the present day. The theory is an attractive one, and may be qualifiedly adopted, if we may accept what appears to have been the doetrine of Anderson, of Hutchinson, of Preston, and of Oliver, that the purer theosophic tenets of "the chosen people of Clod" were similar to those subsequently inculcated in Freemasonry, and distinguished from the corrupted teaching of the Pagan religions as developed in the Mysteries. But if we attempt to contend that there was among the Patriarchs any esoteric organization at all resembling the modern system of Freemasonry, we shall find no historical data on which we may rely for support.
This Rite was founded at Narbonne, in France, on April 19, 1780, by the pretended "Superiors of the Order of Free and Accepted Masons." It was attached to the Lodge of the Philodelphes, under the title of the "First Lodge of Saint John united to the Primitive Rite for the Country of France." Hence it is sometimes called the Primitive Rite of Narbonne, and sometimes the Rite of the Philadelphes. It was divided into three classes, which comprised ten Degrees of instruction. These were not, in the usual sense. Degrees but rather collections of grades, out of which it was sought to develop all the instructions of which they were capable. These classes and Degrees were as follows:
First Class.
1. Apprentice.
2. Fellow Craft.
3. Master Mason.
These were conformable to the same Degrees in all the other Rites.

Second Class.
Fourth Degree, comprising Perfect Masters Elu, and Architect.
Fifth Degree, comprising the Sublime Ecossais.
Sixth Degree, comprising the Enight of the Sword, Knight of the East, and Prince of Jerusalem.

Third Class.
7. The First Chaptcr of Rose Croix, comprising ritualistic instructions.
8. The Second Chapter of Rose Croix. It is the depository of historical documents of rare value.
9. The Third Chapter of Rose Croix, comprising physical and philosophical instructions.
10. The Fourth and last Chapter of Rose Croix, or Rose Croix Brethren of the Grand Rosary, engaged in researches into the occult sciences, the object being the rehabilitation of man in his primitive rank and prerogatives.
The Primitive Rite was united to the Grand Orient in 1786, although some of its Lodges, objecting to the union, maintained their independence It secured at one time, a high consideration among Freneh Freemasons, not only on account of the objects in which it was engaged, but on account also of the talents and position of many of its members.
This Rite claims to have been established in 1770, at Namur, in Belgium, by a body called the Metropolitan Grand Lodge of Edinburgh. But the truth, according to Clavel ( Histoire Pittoresque, page 220) is that it was the invention of one Marchot, an advocate of Nivelles, who organized it in 1818, at Namur, beyond which city, and the Lodge of Bonne Amitie, it scarcely ever extended. It consists of thirty-three Degrees, as follows:
  • 1. Apprentice;
  • 2. Fellow Craft;
  • 3. Master;
  • 4. Perfect Master;
  • 5. Irish Master;
  • 6. Elect of Nine;
  • 7. Elect of the Unknown;
  • 8. Elect of Fifteen;
  • 9. Illustrious Master;
  • 10. Perfect Elect;
  • 11. Minor Architect;
  • 12. Grand Architect;
  • 13. Sublime Architect;
  • 14. Master in Perfect Architecture;
  • 15. Royal Arch;
  • 16. Prussian Knight;
  • 17. Knight of the East;
  • 18. Prince of Jerusalem;
  • 19. Master of All Lodges;
  • 20. Knight of the West;
  • 21. Knight of Palestine;
  • 22. Sovereign Prince of Rose Croix;
  • 23. Sublime Scottish Freemason;
  • 24. Knight of the Sun;
  • 25. Grand Scottish Freemason of Saint Andrea;
  • 26. Master of the Secret;
  • 27. Knight of the Black Eagle;
  • 28. Knight of K H;
  • 29. Grand Elect of Truth;
  • 30 novice of the Interior;
  • 31. Knight of the Interior;
  • 32. Prefect of the Interior;
  • 33. Commander of the Interior.
The Primitive Scottish Rite appears to have been founded upon the Rite of Perfection, with an intermixture of the Strict Observance of Hund, the Adonhiramite, and some other Rites.
  • Fig. 1. Vishnu. a Hindu god.
  • Fig. 2. Brahama, chief Hindu god
  • Fig. 3. Venus and Hymen, vitality powers
  • Fig. 4. Sun and Moon gods
  • Fig. 5. Car of Cupid
  • Fig. 6. Mercury rooster and corn.
  • Fig. 7. Catalathus maidenhood symbol, on winged bearer
  • Fig. 8. Neptune, the sea god
  • Fig. 9. Goddess of the City Sidon.
  • Fig. 10. Oriental myth of mankind from fish.
  • Fig. 11. Venus raised from sea by Titans.
  • Fig. 12. Serpent rampled by Hindu god.
  • Fig. 13. Ashtaroth as goddess of night.
  • Fig. 14. Lotus and destructive emblems.
  • Fig. 15. Moon god.
  • Fig. 16. Tentyra Venus with dove.
  • Fig. 17. Four-horned goat from Spain.
  • Fig. 18. Mermaid myth.
  • Fig. 19. Horned head of the god Baal.
  • Fig. 20. Vine leaves and apples denoting fertility.

The fiord Prince is not attached as a title to any Masonic office, but is prefixed as a part of the name to several Degrees, as Prince of the Royal Secret, Prince of Rose Croix, and Prince of Jerusalem. In all of these instances it seems to convev some idea of sovereignty inherent in the character of the Degree. Thus the Prince of the Royal Seeret was the ultimate. and, of course, controlling Degree of the Rite of Perfection, whence, shorn, however, of its sovereignty it has been transferred to the Aneient and Aecepted Scottish Rite.
The Prince of Rose Croix, although holding in some Rites a subordinate position, was originally an independent Degree, and the representative of Rosierucian Freemasonry. It is still at the head of the French Rite. The Princes of Jerusalem, according to the Old Constitutions of the Rite of Perfection, were invested with power of jurisdiction over all Degrees below the Sixteenth, a prerogative which they exercised long after the promulgation of the Constitutions of 1786; and even now they are called, in the Ritual of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, Chiefs in Masonry, a term borrowed from the Constitutions of 1762. But there are several other Prince Degrees which do not seem, at least now to claim any character of sovereignty—such are the Prince of Lebanon, Prince of the Tabernacle and Prince of Mercy, all of whieh are now subordinate Degrees in the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite.
In Andaman Island villages there is a triple arrangement of houses, one set for married couples, one for bachelors, one for spinsters. Boys (at about twelve) can leave the care of women and enter the ranks of men only after severe initiation ordeals (not kept secret from women) designed to test self-control.
Among Australian Aborigines ("Abos") initiation ceremonies are performed at puberty, the purpose being to give males ascendancy over women; the rites are very severe, and sometimes fatal. Just as farmers in an agricultural country, and as owners and employees in an industrial country organize in every possible way to protect their crops or their production, so among tribes which must depend on the number of men in it everything is done to safe-guard marriage and child bearing; it is because of this, and not because they are "lustful," or "shameless," less still because they believe in any nonsense about "phallicism," that many non-civilized tribes and peoples punish unchastity by death, wall off women by taboos, isolate boys in "men's houses," and practice so-called "fertility rites."

Among the Mosai every male is initiated and circumcised (this latter was almost universal in the ancient world and never was peculiar to the Hebrews); the majes are divided into three grades: boys, warriors, elders.
The men in the Banks Islands comprise a secret society, but instead of entrance being by initiation it is gained by paying a fee—; the "men society" is really a gild. They live in "men's houses"; they live and work for sake of prestige and wealth; are divided into grades. There are secret clubs, called "ghost associations," with quarters in hidden places, and with entrance by initiation and payment of a fee.
In American Indian tribes and peoples (the Sioux, Pueblos, Navajo, Apaches, etc., are peoples) are and ever have been numberless clubs, fraternities, societies, w ith a lavish use of ceremonies of initiation, much symbolism, secret words and passwords. There are countless social clubs, both male and female, many charging fees. In the Crow Tobacco Society women are admitted on a par with the men—androgynous societies are very common among them today. There are many secret cults devoted to purposes analogous to religion. There are exceptions, however; a few Indian peoples, the Shoshones of the Great Basin being one of them, who have never had secret societies of any type.

Africa also is full of secret societies, and on the West Coast are many societies of women, of every sort. one of their commonest purposes is to enable a tribe to mislead other tribes about itself, and this applies to white men: the first generations of explorers and missionaries were lied to, and in consequence sent back fantastic reports which misled anthropologists for two generations—half the clippings and notes which Herbert Spencer so laboriously collected in his files were these "lie misleaders"; and for the same reason a large number of the early, and once popular, books on anthropology are now half worthless. There never was such a thing as "primitive man," or a "primitive culture" (Frazer and Levy-Bruhl to the contrary notwithstanding); men ten thousand years ago were what men are now but did different things, or the same things differently, because they did not have the same inventions, discoveries, machines that we have; nor were they any more "savage," or "warlike"—the Indian chiefs put on "war dances" not because their young men desired to fight but because they desired not to.

Many tribes and peoples have borrowed secret cults and ceremonies from each other. Sometimes the founder of a cult was a visionary, and received a revelation in the form of a vision, like saint-worshipping cults in the Middle Ages.
Secret societies differ fundamentally; after comparing those of the Melanesians with the American Pueblo Indians, Lowie wrote that "there is no analogy whatever either in constitution, function, or anything else but the exclusion of non-members." Nor w ere secret societies universal even in so-called "primitive times." The Dravidi3ns of India had them, but there were none in large parts of Asia. For 2000 years China had secret societies by the hundreds (as did, and do, the Japanese) but they were political organiza'ions, not initiation societies.
In Mexico and Central America the "men's house" system is still in use among the more remote Indian tribes, but differ much among themselves. It survives also among the Eskimos. Webster collected a long and gruesome catalog of the "ordeals" or "markings" used; in Australia alone he lists pulling out of hair, biting of head, pulling or filing of teeth, sprinkling with blood, immersion in dust or filth, floggings, scarification, painful tattooing, smoking, burning, subincision, circumcision, burials and raisings, burials in snow, immersion in water, handling serpents—he states that circumcision is the most nearly universal. After initiation the youth enters a new life, forgets the old, has a new name, a new language, and new privileges.

Frazer saw in almost every form of initiation ceremonies a dramatization of dying and rising again. Levy Bruhl saw in them evidences of a "pre-logical" culture—one of men not yet possessed of any mind. Both theories are become impossible. A man who has lived among "primitive" people long enough to know them finds that they have the same minds as ourselves. Russians have proved that so-called "primitives" are capable of becoming educated men, and even scientists, in one generation; the French proved the same in their African Colonies, and the Dutch in Java and Sumatra. The "primitive man" of Herbert Spencer and Lord Lubbock turned out to be a myth.

It is dangerous to generalize about ceremonies, rites, symbols, etc., of so-called "primitive rites," and impossible to argue that identical rites presuppose the same origin. The same sign which among Bushnegroes means "go," would among Zuni Indians mean "come." A "burial and resurrection" rite in an African tribe may mean "you will die"; among the Polynesians it may mean "you will not die."

At the beginning of the century American colleges and universities began everywhere to install departments of anthropology; the literature which a half century before had begun with a few simple books by Herbert Spencer (not an anthropologist) and Lord Avebury began so rapidly to increase that it now defies a life-time of reading, and a number of its titles have rivalled best-sellers in popularity. The following are recommended only as an introduction to a bibliography too large to enumerate:

Primitive Society, by Robert H. Lowie.
Primitive Secret Societies, by Hutton Webster- Maemillan- New York- 1908
The Mind of Primitive lIan, by Franz Boas- Macmillan New York- 1911.
The Golden Bough, by J. G. Frazer.
Source Books for Social Origins, by Wm. I. Thomasliniversity of Chicago Press- Chicago, 1909.
Myth. Ritual and Religion, by Andrew Lang; London; 1887.
Coming of Age in Samoa, by Margaret Mead. (This exploded G. Stanley Hall's famous theory of adolescence )
Hastings Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethies, the articles are dry and not fertile with thought, but they are often valuable for their bibliographies.
Initiation Introduction and Primitive, by Goblet d'AIviella. (Schure's popular books on the same subject are worthless.)
Oriantal Religions in Roman Paganism, by Franz Cumont; Chicago; 1911.
Region of the Semites, by Robertson Smith- London 1894. (This famous book raised a theological storm in Scotland. Though out of date factually it is a courageous massive, illumunating work.)

Books published in the past few years have been highly technicalized special studies; preference to older works was given above because theirs is a more general treatment. For a fictionalized treatment of primitive secret cults see The Delight Makers, by Adolph Bandelier; and The Man Tho Would be King, by Rudyard Kipling. Sir Samuel Dill's From Nero to Marcus Aurelius is not fiction, but reads as easily, and though it deals with the subject at one remove, illuminates it brightly; the same can be said of Ancient ArC and Ritual, by Jane Ellen Harrison.
See Adept. Prince.
in French the title is Grand Prince Depositaire. A Degree in the collection of Pyron.
On October 9, 1797, Saint John's Lodge was warranted at Charlottetown by the Grand Lodge of England. The island was then St. John's Island and continued to be so called until 1798. Seven Lodges, namely, Saint John's, Victoria, King Hiram, Saint George, Alexandra, Mount Lebanon, and True Brothers met on June 23, 1875 end fornod the Grand Lodge of Prince Edward Island . The Hon. John Yeo was elected Grand Master and was duly installed the following day by the Grand Master of New Brunswich.
A term applied in the old Scottish Rite Constitutions to the possessors ot the advanced Degrees above the Fourteemth. It was first assumed by the Council of the Emperors of the East and West. Rose Croix Freemasons in Ireland are still known by this name.

[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