Thursday June 24, 2021’s Smile of the Day: Freemasons
On this Day:
In 1717, the first Free Masons’ Grand Lodge was reportedly founded in London, England. While this appears to have been the first Grand Lodge, the question remains when was the first Masonic lodge formed? The history of the Masons, like many of their practices and symbols, is shrouded in mystery…
Freemasonry or Masonry consists of fraternal organisations that trace their origins to the local guilds of stonemasons that, from the end of the 14th century, regulated the qualifications of stonemasons and their interaction with authorities and clients. Freemasonry has been the subject of numerous conspiracy theories throughout the years. Modern Freemasonry broadly consists of two main recognition groups:
Regular Freemasonry insists that a volume of scripture be open in a working lodge, that every member profess belief in a Supreme Being, that no women be admitted, and that the discussion of religion and politics be banned.
Continental Freemasonry consists of the jurisdictions that have removed some, or all, of these restrictions.
The basic, local organisational unit of Freemasonry is the Lodge. These private Lodges are usually supervised at the regional level (usually coterminous with a state, province, or national border) by a Grand Lodge or Grand Orient. There is no international, worldwide Grand Lodge that supervises all of Freemasonry; each Grand Lodge is independent, and they do not necessarily recognise each other as being legitimate.
The degrees of Freemasonry retain the three grades of medieval craft guilds, those of Apprentice, Journeyman or fellow (now called Fellowcraft), and Master Mason. The candidate of these three degrees is progressively taught the meanings of the symbols of Freemasonry and entrusted with grips, signs and words to signify to other members that he has been so initiated. The degrees are part allegorical morality play and part lecture. Three degrees are offered by Craft (or Blue Lodge) Freemasonry, and members of any of these degrees are known as Freemasons or Masons. There are additional degrees, which vary with locality and jurisdiction, and are usually administered by their own bodies (separate from those who administer the Craft degrees).
Since the middle of the 19th century, Masonic historians have sought the origins of the movement in a series of similar documents known as the Old Charges, dating from the Regius Poem in about 1425 to the beginning of the 18th century. Alluding to the membership of a lodge of operative masons, they relate it to a mythologised history of the craft, the duties of its grades, and the manner in which oaths of fidelity are to be taken on joining. The 15th century also sees the first evidence of ceremonial regalia.
There is no clear mechanism by which these local trade organisations became today’s Masonic Lodges. The earliest rituals and passwords known, from operative lodges around the turn of the 17th–18th centuries, show continuity with the rituals developed in the later 18th century by accepted or speculative Masons, as those members who did not practice the physical craft gradually came to be known. The minutes of the Lodge of Edinburgh (Mary’s Chapel) No. 1 in Scotland show a continuity from an operative lodge in 1598 to a modern speculative Lodge. It is reputed to be the oldest Masonic Lodge in the world.
Alternatively, Thomas De Quincey in his work titled Rosicrucians and Freemasonry put forward the theory that suggested that Freemasonry may have been an outgrowth of Rosicrucianism. The theory had also been postulated in 1803 by German professor; J. G. Buhle.
The first Grand Lodge, the Grand Lodge of London and Westminster, later called the Grand Lodge of England (GLE), was founded on St John’s Day, 24 June 1717, when four existing London Lodges met for a joint dinner. Many English Lodges joined the new regulatory body, which itself entered a period of self-publicity and expansion. However, many Lodges could not endorse changes that some Lodges of the GLE, which came to be known as Moderns, had made to the ritual, and a few of these formed a rival Grand Lodge on 17 July 1751, which they called the “Antient Grand Lodge of England.” These two Grand Lodges vied for supremacy until the Moderns promised to return to the ancient ritual. They united on 27 December 1813 to form the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE).
The Grand Lodge of Ireland and the Grand Lodge of Scotland were formed in 1725 and 1736, respectively, although neither persuaded all of the existing lodges in their countries to join for many years.
The Masonic lodge is the basic organisational unit of Freemasonry. The Lodge meets regularly and conducts the usual formal business of any small organisation (approve minutes, elect new members, appoint officers and take their reports, consider correspondence, bills and annual accounts, organise social and charitable events, etc.). In addition to such business, the meeting may perform a ceremony to confer a Masonic degree or receive a lecture, which is usually on some aspect of Masonic history or ritual. At the conclusion of the meeting, the Lodge may hold a formal dinner, or festive board, sometimes involving toasting and song.
The bulk of Masonic ritual consists of degree ceremonies conferred in meetings guarded by a “Tyler” outside the door with a drawn sword to keep out unqualified intruders to Masonry. (This officer, the Tyler, is necessarily senior because at the door he may hear the highest degree ceremonies, and often a less affluent elderly Mason is offered the office to relieve his need for Masonic company, refreshments and/or fees, without having to pay a subscription. He takes minor parts at the door of all meetings and ceremonies.) Candidates for Freemasonry are progressively initiated into Freemasonry, first in the degree of Entered Apprentice. At some later time, in separate ceremonies, they will be passed to the degree of Fellowcraft; and then raised to the degree of Master Mason. In each of these ceremonies, the candidate must first take the new obligations of the degree, and is then entrusted with secret knowledge including passwords, signs and grips (secret handshakes) confined to his new rank.
Another ceremony is the annual installation of the Master of the Lodge and his appointed or elected officers. In some jurisdictions an Installed Master elected, obligated and invested to preside over a Lodge, is valued as a separate rank with its own secrets and distinctive title and attributes; after each full year in the Chair the Master invests his elected successor and becomes a Past Master with privileges in the Lodge and Grand Lodge. In other jurisdictions, the grade is not recognised, and no inner ceremony conveys new secrets during the installation of a new Master of the Lodge.
Most Lodges have some sort of social functions, allowing members, their partners and non-Masonic guests to meet openly. Often coupled with these events is the discharge of every Mason’s and Lodge’s collective obligation to contribute to charity. This occurs at many levels, including in annual dues, subscriptions, fundraising events, Lodges and Grand Lodges. Masons and their charities contribute for the relief of need in many fields, such as education, health and old age.
Private Lodges form the backbone of Freemasonry, with the sole right to elect their own candidates for initiation as Masons or admission as joining Masons, and sometimes with exclusive rights over residents local to their premises. There are non-local Lodges where Masons meet for wider or narrower purposes, such or in association with some hobby, sport, Masonic research, business, profession, regiment or college. The rank of Master Mason also entitles a Freemason to explore Masonry further through other degrees, administered separately from the basic Craft or “Blue Lodge” degrees described here, but generally having a similar structure and meetings.
There is much diversity and little consistency in Freemasonry, because each Masonic jurisdiction is independent and sets its own rules and procedures while Grand Lodges have limited jurisdiction over their constituent member Lodges, which are ultimately private clubs. The wording of the ritual, the number of officers present, the layout of the meeting room, etc. varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
Almost all officers of a Lodge are elected or appointed annually. Every Masonic Lodge has a Master, two Wardens, a treasurer and a secretary. There is also always a Tyler, or outer guard, outside the door of a working Lodge, who may be paid to secure its privacy. Other offices vary between jurisdictions.
Each Masonic Lodge exists and operates according to ancient principles known as the Landmarks of Freemasonry, which elude any universally accepted definition.
The status of women in the old guilds and corporations of medieval masons remains uncertain. The principle of “femme sole” allowed a widow to continue the trade of her husband, but its application had wide local variations, such as full membership of a trade body or limited trade by deputation or approved members of that body. In masonry, the small available evidence points to the less empowered end of the scale.
At the dawn of the Grand Lodge era, during the 1720s, James Anderson composed the first printed constitutions for Freemasons, the basis for most subsequent constitutions, which specifically excluded women from Freemasonry. As Freemasonry spread, women began to be added to the Lodges of Adoption by their husbands who were continental masons, which worked three degrees with the same names as the men’s but different content. The French officially abandoned the experiment in the early 19th century. Later organisations with a similar aim emerged in the United States, but distinguished the names of the degrees from those of male masonry.
Maria Deraismes was initiated into Freemasonry in 1882, then resigned to allow her lodge to rejoin their Grand Lodge. Having failed to achieve acceptance from any masonic governing body, she and Georges Martin started a mixed masonic lodge that worked a masonic ritual. Annie Besant spread the phenomenon to the English-speaking world. Disagreements over ritual led to the formation of exclusively female bodies of Freemasons in England, which spread to other countries. Meanwhile, the French had re-invented Adoption as an all-female lodge in 1901, only to cast it aside again in 1935. The lodges, however, continued to meet, which gave rise, in 1959, to a body of women practising continental Freemasonry.
In general, Continental Freemasonry is sympathetic to Freemasonry amongst women, dating from the 1890s when French lodges assisted the emergent co-masonic movement by promoting enough of their members to the 33rd degree of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite to allow them, in 1899, to form their own grand council, recognised by the other Continental Grand Councils of that Rite. The United Grand Lodge of England issued a statement in 1999 recognising the two women’s grand lodges there, The Order of Women Freemasons and The Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons, to be regular in all but the participants. While they were not, therefore, recognised as regular, they were part of Freemasonry “in general”. The attitude of most regular Anglo-American grand lodges remains that women Freemasons are not legitimate Masons.
In 2018 guidance was released by the United Grand Lodge of England stating that, in regard to transgender women, “A Freemason who after initiation ceases to be a man does not cease to be a Freemason”. The guidance also states that transgender men are allowed to apply to become Freemasons. (per Wikipedia).
First, a Story:
Did you hear about the detective who became a Mason? All of his subsequent cases were based on concrete evidence.
Second, a Song:
The Grand Lodge of Russia is the Regular Masonic jurisdiction for Russia. The Grand Lodge was established on 24 June 1995. It was the first national grand lodge to be created in the country since the closure of the original Russian grand lodges in 1922, when Freemasonry was banned.
The Grand Lodge of Russia has jurisdiction across the entire nation, and enjoys mutual recognition with most of the regular Grand Lodges worldwide, including the three senior or “home” Grand Lodges, namely the United Grand Lodge of England (recognition in 1996), the Grand Lodge of Ireland, and the Grand Lodge of Scotland; more than 100 other Grand Lodges in the world also exchange recognition.
In July 2016 the GLoR reported over 700 members, in more than 33 Lodges nationwide. The current Grand Master of the GLoR is Andrei Vladimirovich Bogdanov.
The re-introduction of Freemasonry into Russia began in the early 1990s. In 1992 and 1993 the Grande Loge Nationale Française (GLNF) consecrated four lodges: Harmony Lodge (Moscow), Lotus Lodge (Moscow), New Astrea Lodge (St. Petersburg), and Gamayun Lodge (Voronezh).
Harmony Lodge was established on 14 January 1992 in Paris. The lodge then relocated to Moscow. Subsequently, New Astrea Lodge was established on St John’s Day, 24 June 1993, in St. Petersburg. The Voronezh-based Gamayun Lodge was established on 24 June 1993 in St. Petersburg. Lotus Lodge was established on 12 October 1993 in Moscow.
These four lodges became the founders of the Grand Lodge of Russia on St John’s Day, 24 June 1995, in a consecration ceremony performed in Moscow. The consecration was performed by the GLNF, with the support of other regular masonic authorities, including the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE), who extended official recognition to the new Russian body within its first year of operation. The first Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Russia was Georgiy Dergachev.
“Auld Lang Syne” is a popular song and poem, particularly in the English-speaking world. It is traditionally used to bid farewell to the old year at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. By extension, it is also sung at funerals, graduations, and as a farewell or ending to other occasions; for instance many branches of the Scouting movement use it to close jamborees and other functions.
The text is a Scots-language poem written by Robert Burns in 1788 but based on an older Scottish folk song. In 1799, it was set to a traditional tune, which has since become standard. “Auld Lang Syne” is listed as numbers 6294 and 13892 in the Roud Folk Song Index.
The poem’s Scots title may be translated into standard English as “old long since” or, less literally, “long long ago”, “days gone by”, or “old times”. Consequently, “For auld lang syne”, as it appears in the first line of the chorus, might be loosely translated as “for the sake of old times”.
The phrase “Auld Lang Syne” is also used in similar poems by Robert Ayton (1570–1638), Allan Ramsay (1686–1757), and James Watson (1711), as well as older folk songs predating Burns. Matthew Fitt uses the phrase “in the days of auld lang syne” as the equivalent of “once upon a time” in his retelling of fairy tales in the Scots language (per Wikipedia).
Here are members of the Masonry Grand Lodge of Russia performing “Auld Lang Syne” (in english). I hope you enjoy this!
Thought for the Day:
“Next week we’ll be investigating rumours that the president of the dairy council has become a Mason, and goes around giving his colleagues the ‘secret milkshake.'” – Ronnie Barker
Further to the Typewriter Smile, Frank Fowlie of Richmond, BC, Canada writes:
“I think I had the first typewriter at the Radville [R.C.M.P.] detachment
Have a great day!
Dave & Colleen
© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky
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