Traveling Eastward: T-Shirts & Freemasonry's Origin

It’s amazing where the roads in Masonry can take you.  During my year as Worshipful Master, my Lodge had set up an endowment to fund scholarships which we had been awarding to local high school students.  For years the money came from our fund raising ventures, but now the Lodge felt that we were at a point where we could invest into a perpetual fund that could award these scholarships and exist on its own.  Endowments require quite a bit of money to begin to subsist in perpetuity, so our fund-raising transitioned toward meeting the financial goal of making our endowment vested. 

I had thought all year about some sort of project I could head to make some money for the endowment, and finally decided I would print up Masonic tee shirts to sell.  I needed something catchy that would be appealing to the Masons in the neighboring districts.  I wanted a message that presented to the profane the enduring monument that Freemasonry was.  I had always liked the advertising approach many older businesses used where the marquee would say “since 19xx”.  I thought that the tees could use a similar hook.  As Freemasonry’s message is influenced heavily by the building of King Solomon’s Temple, my reckoning was that the date for the beginning of The Craft should be the beginning of this great undertaking.  Albert Mackey places the date of the commencement of the Temple’s construction at 1012 B.C.[1]  Since, in my Grand Jurisdiction at least, Mackey is beatified as much as can be in a fraternal organization, this date was good enough for me.  I took this information to my print artist, and we (mostly she) came up with a design that said “Traveling Eastward since 1012 B.C.”

Sales were brisk, and the shirts seemed to be popular.  I did notice, however, that a Past District Deputy Grand Master of our Lodge had not purchased one, and he was generally known to be very supportive of our fund-raising ventures.  Curious, I asked him why he hadn’t bought a shirt.  “Well,” he said, “I just don’t understand it.”  I was a bit perplexed, so I asked him to clarify.  “I don’t understand the date, and what the message means.”  I explained to him my research and the conclusion I had come to.  He nodded and said, “Okay”. 

Okay.  If there was one thing I knew, it was when this man said, “okay”, it was never okay.  For someone who was never short on words, a two-syllable reply to my explanation meant that I needed to dig a bit deeper.  Thus, my adventure into this rabbit-hole which I still find myself in, began…

Freemasonry has an anniversary date.  During the Festival of St. John the Baptist in the year 1717, the four Lodges that met at the Goose & Gridiron Ale House, the Crown Ale House, the Apple Tree Tavern and Rummer & Grapes Tavern, convened at the Apple Tree Tavern and formed the Grand Lodge of England. [2]  This event is generally referred to as Freemasonry’s revival, but the Fraternity was functioning before the formation of the Grand Lodge.  The date of the Craft’s birth was what I was interested in.

A lecture given by Worshipful Brother Harry Carr, Past Junior Grand Deacon of the Grand Lodge of British Columbia & Yukon on May 7, 1976 titled “600 Years of Craft Ritual” was where I began my search.  “In 1356,” Carr explains, “12 skilled Master Masons, with some famous men among them, came before the mayor and aldermen of Guildhall in London and, with official permission, drew up a simple code of trade regulations.”[3]  This organization would become known as the London Masons Company within twenty years, and is one of the “direct ancestors of our Freemasons of today.”[4]  The operative guilds is where we are taught our speculative Craft is derived, so Carr’s assertion is worthy of consideration.  There are, however, other documents that purport even earlier dates.  For these, I turned to Albert Mackey.

In Mackey’s “The History of Freemasonry”, he presents the collection of manuscripts which constitute the body of Freemasonry’s earliest works.  These documents are commonly referred to as “The Old Charges” or “The Manuscript Constitutions”.  The earliest document in the collection is known as the Halliwell (or Regius) Manuscript (or Poem), dated around 1390.  The document gives us the earliest glimpse of “The Legend of the Craft”, but it also gives us “The York Legend”. 

The York Legend states that King Athelstan called a congregation of the Craft in the city of York in 926, and there the Assembly adopted a constitution.  The information contained in the Halliwell Manuscript has also been found in other, later manuscripts contained within the Old Charges.  While this tends to give the Halliwell Manuscript some legitimacy, it is far removed from being a first-hand account as the document is date four centuries later than the assembly in York.  It must also be stated that the date of the founding of the operative guilds may not necessarily coincide with the birth of what would become known as Freemasonry.  As the historical date of its founding is, for now, lost to antiquity, perhaps we should look toward the legendary beginnings of Freemasonry.

The Building of King Solomon’s Temple is alluded to in our ritual as being the beginning of the Craft as we know it today, with Hiram Abif at the center of the story.  The lessons taught to us during the journey through our Degrees present as a tradition which has been passed down since Freemasonry’s inception.  Research into the legendary beginnings of the Craft, however, tells us a different story.

The Legend of the Temple is presented to the Mason during his Third Degree.  Masonry, however, was not always a three degree system.  Masonic historians generally agree that Freemasonry operated under a two degree system for many years, and that the Third Degree is a fairly modern invention.  The earliest evidence of a Third Degree being conferred comes from the minutes of “Lodge Dumbarton Kilwinning, now #18 of the register of the Grand Lodge of Scotland.”[5]  In March of 1726, “Gabriel Porterfield, who appeared in January as a Fellow Craft was unanimously admitted and received a Master of the Fraternity and renewed his oath and gave his entry money.”[6] 

While it is not known what the format of the Degree Brother Porterfield received was, evidence from an expose published by Samuel Pritchard in 1730 “contains the earliest version of the Hiramic Legend.”[7]  It is “the universal sentiment of the Freemasons of the present day to confer upon Solomon, King of Israel, the honor of being their first Grand Master.”[8]  The Halliwell Poem, in its “Legend of the Craft”, gives another great builder from the Old Testament the title, if at least by inference.  Nimrod, the King of Babylon & Assyria, was given credit to the “first organization of the Fraternity”[9] where at “the building of the Tower of Babel, the Art & Mystery of Masonry was first (introduced).[10]

Other documents within the Old Charges have legends which go back even further than Nimrod.  The Graham Manuscript contains a “collection of legend.  One legend tells how three sons went to their father’s grave, to try if they could, find anything about him to lead them to the veritable secret which this famous preacher had.”  The sons attempted to raise their father from the grave, and “unsuccessfully attempted to retrieve (the secret) by raising the corpse, first by grips, and then by a ritual embrace.”[11]  “This is the earliest story of a raising in a Masonic context, apparently a fragment of the Hiramic Legend, but the old gentleman in the grave was Father Noah, not Hiram Abif.”[12]

Antediluvian Masonry, or Masonry before the flood, extends its reach into the modern ritual to at least the earliest part of the 18th century, as it is mentioned in Rev. James Anderson’s “The Constitutions of the Free-Masons” in 1723:  “The Great Ark, tho’ of wood, was certainly fabricated by Geometry, and according to the rules of Masonry.”[13]  The legend of Nimrod, according to Mackey, existed into the 18th century as well, where it “began to be repudiated…Masonry was no longer believed to have originated at the Tower of Babel; the Temple of Jerusalem was considered as the place of its birth and Solomon, and not Nimrod, was called the ‘first Grand Master”.[14]

It remains unclear why, but the fact is that the Legend of the Temple of King Solomon has become Freemasonry’s legendary origin.  Unfortunately, even the date of King Solomon’s Temple’s construction is up for debate.  While Mackey placed it at 1012 B.C., many biblical scholars place the construction closer to 832 B.C.[15]  There is even the debate whether the Temple was built at all.  No modern excavations have been made of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and there is currently no archeological evidence of the first Temple’s existence.[16]

The truth is that there isn’t any definitive proof of when, or even what was, the origin of our Fraternity.  Maybe it was ignorance, or perhaps hubris, that caused me to so easily assign 1012 B.C. as the origin of the Craft so I could sell a few tee shirts.  It just seemed odd to me that the date of the Craft’s beginnings was never mentioned.  We, as Masons, celebrate the beginning of the Age of Light as being four thousand years before the birth of Christ.  Regardless of one’s personal beliefs, it can be universally agreed upon that the exact date of God’s utterance of “Let There Be Light” probably was not on January First, six thousand eighteen years ago.  I just thought it would be clever marketing, to be honest.  In the end, the date of origin is irrelevant, Freemasonry is about the journey.  It’s the road that we travel toward enlightenment that teaches the lessons we seek.  Sometimes all it takes is one word to get started.       

 

[1] Albert Mackey – An Encyclopedia of Freemasonry and its Kindred Sciences:  Vol. 4, p. 218

[2] www.masonicsourcebook.com/grand_lodge_of_england.htm as quoted from Anderson’s Constitutions

[3] Harry Carr – 600 Years of Craft Ritual, May 7, 1976

[4] Carr

[5] Carr

[6] Carr

[7] Carr

[8] Albert Mackey – The History of Freemasonry, p. 63

[9] Mackey, p. 63

[10] Samuel Pritchard – Masonry Dissected

[11] Arturo de Hoyos – The Scottish Rite Ritual & Monitor

[12] Harry Carr – 600 Years of Craft Ritual

[13] de Hoyos

 

[14] Mackey, p. 60

[15] William G. Dever – Did God Have a Wife?  Archaeology & Folk Religion in Ancient Israel, pp. 96-97

[16] Science & Nature – Horizon, http://BBC.co.uk/

Dividing Our Precious Time

This age that we live in is fast-moving, forcing many of us to maintain very hectic schedules that are unforgiving in the demands on our time.  We find ourselves waking up in the morning, taking our kids to school, going to work, coming home, taking the kids to one or more extracurricular activities, fitting in dinner and homework and falling in to bed.  Our weekends consist of more extracurricular activities and playing catch-up on all the chores at home that we weren’t able to get to during the week.  As a Mason, I was told, “God is first, then your family and job.  If you have time after that, come to Lodge”.  It is a wonder that any of us are able to attend following that advice. 

So many times I have seen an initiate come into the Lodge and receive his First Degree, only to drop out soon after because the time required of him to study his catechism simply wouldn’t fit in to his already busy schedule.  Many Master Masons don’t attend meetings for the same reasons.  It is the fate of any institution that the lion’s share of the work involved in keeping the wheels turning fall on the dedicated few, which begs the question of “what now?” if these same Brothers burn out and call it quits.  In what is becoming an all too familiar story, Lodges have had to shut their doors and merge with neighboring Lodges in hopes of keeping the Fraternity alive in their area because of too few dues paying members and even fewer active members.  It becomes difficult enough with so little time afforded to us, just to keep the lights on in many Lodges, let alone perform our duties to Brotherhood that extend beyond the stated meeting.

One of the major recurring lessons of the Craft is time.  For man, time is finite.  This reason alone is why the twenty-four inch gauge is such a very important tool to the Freemason.  This world has become frantic place.  We are never without our computers or smart phones, being bombarded with information the instant it is available.  Our professions demand that we do more with less, and many times extend beyond the eight hours for our usual vocation.  Our sidewalks and highways are packed with people rushing to get to their destinations, horns and voices creating a cacophony the second the pace becomes inconvenient. 

What, then, can be done to remedy the deficit in time our society has created?  Are we forced into this existence because the world demands it?  A recent Gallup poll indicated that full-time workers averaged 47 hours per week.  About half of full-time workers worked more than 40 hours, and 40% worked at least 50 hours per week.[1]  A Harvard Business School Survey showed that 94% of business professionals worked at least 50 hours per week, and 50% worked 65 hours.[2]  If our professions require this much time from us, can we find the time we need elsewhere? 

Sixty-one percent of working Americans say they do not have enough time to do what they want.[3]  Perhaps, however, it is due to the fact that our culture has monetized our time, thereby making it even more precious a commodity.  “Once hours are financially quantified, people worry more about wasting, saving or using them profitably.  When economies grow and incomes rise, everyone’s time becomes more valuable. And the more valuable something becomes, the scarcer it seems.”[4] 

This monetization of our time is not completely unfounded, as many workers cite job security, rising housing and education costs, and a need to increase their retirement funds due to our longer lifespans as big motivators to work longer hours and choose to use what should be their leisure time for more profitable pursuits.  Despite the long hours that Americans are putting in, they are spending more time with their children than ever before.  A major reason is that we find the time we spend with our children “far more meaningful than time spent doing most other things, including paid work; and if today’s professionals value their time at work more than yesterday’s did, presumably they feel the time they spend parenting is more valuable still.”[5]

One certainly cannot begrudge the choices that a fellow Freemason makes with his time if he is in the laudable pursuit of his own betterment.  We must remember, however, that we are admonished to take the time to bring relief to some unfortunate Brother or to console someone in sorrow if we see the need arise.  The time that we spend in these duties to our fellow man is a choice that we, if it is at all possible, should make. 

I spoke with a Brother that I work with recently who had been involved in a motorcycle accident, along with his daughter.  He had been seriously injured, while his daughter escaped with a broken bone or two.  This Brother’ rehabilitation has lasted for more than a year, and it is still unclear whether he will require more surgeries in the future.  As we talked, I asked him if his Lodge Brothers had taken care of him while he was out.  This generally jovial man’s demeanor darkened as he told me, “The only time I heard from anyone in the Lodge was when I received a call about my dues.  I don’t care so much that they didn’t check up on me, but they could have at least called to ask about my daughter.” 

This man was a Warden of his Lodge when he was in that accident, so reason would dictate that he should have been missed when he stopped attending meetings.  I was dismayed as I heard his story, and wondered if we, the Fraternity, are spending our time wisely.  As I reflected upon this, I asked myself what I did to assist this Brother.  Did I call to check up on him?  I then realized that I, too, had not taken the time show this man Brotherly love at a time when he needed it the most.

Many members of the Craft still remember the lesson of the twenty-four inch gauge, and divide their time accordingly.  Others, myself included more often than I would like to admit, find it difficult to maintain the balance in our schedules to maintain our duties to Brotherhood.  If we, who falter, do not take the time to lift each other up when it is necessary, the cement that binds us together as a Fraternity will crumble away.  We must decide, when we can, to invest our precious time into one another.  The dividends that are returned are immeasurable.  It is, after all, a choice.   

 

[1] “The ‘40 Hour’ Workweek is Actually Longer—By Seven Hours” by Lydia Saad

http://www.gallup.com/poll/175286/hour-workweek-actually-longer-seven-hours.aspx

[2] “Why is Everyone So Busy?”  The Economist

[3] “Americans’ Perceived Time Crunch No Worse Than in the Past” by Frank Newport

http://www.gallup.com/poll/187982/americans-perceived-time-crunch-no-worse-past.aspx

[4] “Why is Everyone So Busy?”  The Economist

[5] “Why is Everyone So Busy?”  The Economist

Published in The Scottish Rite Journal, January/February 2018

They Called It Inman

In 2001, author James Walton Lawrence, Sr., published a book entitled, “They Called It Inman”.  An excerpt from the book on page 144 mentions Inman Masonic Lodge:

“Tradition says the Inman Masonic Lodge was founded by three Masons a year and four months after a Post Office was opened in Inman.  They have been listed as Dr. John Belton O’Neal Landrum, a physician of the Campobello area, Worshipful Master; P.B. Hall, Senior Warden; and J.C. Hamilton, Junior Warden.

Landrum was also the historian who compiled two volumes of history, one about upper South Carolina, and the other about Spartanburg County around 1900.  It was his father, the Rev. John Gill Landrum, a Baptist Minister, who established the Town of Landrum.  The good doctor is buried in Mount Zion Baptist Church’s cemetary beside the Blackstock Road.

The Lodge’s charter was granted by the Grand Lodge of South Carolina, while in session in the City of Charleston the evening of December 11, 1878.  The Grandmaster was Augustus Smythe.

The Inman Lodge has been very active in the practice of Masonry through the years, and has sustained a sizeable membership.  Currently, the Lodge has 311 Master Masons.

The brethren have been busy with fund-raising projects to finance college scholarships for students at Chapman High School, Support to Inman Youth Association, Inman Rescue Squad, the Scottish Rite Hospital and the York Rite Hospital.

Most recently, ten officers of the Grand Lodge of South Carolina are members of the Inman Lodge.

Current officers of the 123-year-old Masonic Body include Dean Chapman, Worshipful Master; David Grace, Senior Warden; Mark Dill; Junior Warden; J.E. Mitchell, Secretary; Grady Rhinehart, Treasurer.  The Tyler is Doug O’Shields.

The Lodge is housed in an attractive and comfortable Temple at 8 Blackstock Road and shares its facilities with the Inman Chapter of the Eastern Star.”