Archive for December, 2008
While there probably are some actual stone-workers who are Masons, Masonry does not teach is membership the literal techniques of stonework. Rather, it takes the actual ‘operative’ work of Medieval Masons and uses it as an allegory for moral development. Thus, the symbols of Masonry are the common tools that were used by medieval stonemasons: the gavel, the rule, the compass, the square, the level, etc. Each of these has a symbolic meaning in Masonry. For example, Masons are said to meet ‘on the level’, meaning that all Masons are brothers, regardless of social status, personal wealth, or office within the Lodge or in the world at large. Similar symbolism exists for other tools.
Although it is not yet possible to say when, why or where Freemasonry originated it is known where and when “organized” Freemasonry began. On 24 June 1717 four London lodges came together at the Goose and Gridiron Ale House in St Paul’s Churchyard, formed themselves into a Grand Lodge and elected a Grand Master by the name of Anthony Slayer. The first few years the Grand Lodge was simply an annual feast at which the Grand Master and Wardens were elected. In 1721 other meetings began to be held and the Grand Lodge began to be a regulatory body. By 1730 it had more than one hundred lodges under its control (including one in Spain and one in India), had published a Book of Constitutions, began to operate a central charity fund, and had attracted a wide spectrum of society into its lodges.
In 1751 a rival Grand Lodge appeared, made up of Freemasons of mainly Irish extraction who had been unable to join lodges in London. Its founders claimed that the original Grand Lodge had departed from the established customs of the Craft and that they intended practicing Freemasonry ‘according to the Old Institutions’. Confusingly they called themselves the Grand Lodge of Ancients and dubbed their senior rival ‘Moderns’. The two rivals existed side by side, both at home and abroad, for 63 years, neither regarding the other as regular or each other’s members as regularly made Freemasons. Attempts at a union of the two rivals began in the late 1790s but it was not until 1809 that negotiating committees were set up. They moved slowly and it was not until His Royal Highness Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex became Grand Master of the Premier Grand Lodge and his brother, His Royal Highness Edward, Duke of Kent, became Grand Master of the Ancients Grand Lodge, both in 1813, that serious steps were taken.
In little more than six weeks the two brothers had formulated and gained agreement to the Articles of Union between the two Grand Lodges and arranged the great ceremony by which the United Grand Lodge of England came into being on 27 December 1813.
The formation of the premier Grand Lodge in 1717 had been followed, around 1725, by the Grand Lodge of Ireland and, in 1736, the Grand Lodge of Scotland. These three Grand Lodges, together with Antients Grand Lodge, did much to spread Freemasonry throughout the world, to the extent that all regular Grand Lodges throughout the world, whatever the immediate means of their formation, ultimately trace their origins back to one, or a combination, of the Grand Lodges within the British Isles. Examples of Masonic Rings can be found at Fox Jewelry.