Friday, September 10, 2010
Landmarks of Freemasonry 1 - 13 in Detail
THE MODES OF RECOGNITION are, of all the Landmarks, the most legitimate and unquestioned. They admit of no variation; and if ever they have suffered alteration or addition, the evil of such a violation of the ancient law has always made itself subsequently manifest. An admission of this is to be found in the proceedings of the Masonic Congress at Paris, where a proposition was presented to render these modes of recognition once more universal- proposition which never would have been necessary, if the integrity of this important Landmark had been rigorously preserved.
THE DIVISION OF SYMBOLIC FREEMASONRY INTO THREE DEGREE'S is a Landmark that has been better preserved than almost any other, although even here the mischievous spirit of innovation has left its traces, and by the disruption of its concluding portion from the Third Degree, a want of uniformity has been created in respect to the final teaching of the Master's order; and the Royal Arch of England, Scotland, Ireland, and America, and the "high degrees" of France and Germany, are all made to differ in the mode in which they lead the neophyte to the great consummation of all symbolic Freemasonry. In 1813, the Grand Lodge of England vindicated the ancient Landmark, by solemnly enacting that Ancient Craft Masonry consisted of the three degrees of Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason, including the Holy Royal Arch." But the disruption has never been healed, and the Landmark, although acknowledged in its integrity by all, still continues to be violated.
THE LEGEND OF THE: THIRD DEGREE is an important Landmark, the integrity of which has been well preserved. There is no rite of Freemasonry, practiced in any country or language, in which the essential elements of this legend are not taught. The lectures may vary, and indeed are constantly changing, but the legend has ever remained substantially the same. And it is necessary that it should be so, for the legend of the Temple Builder constitutes the very essence and identity of Freemasonry. Any rite which should exclude it, or materially alter it, would at once, by that exclusion or alteration, cease to be a Masonic rite.
THE GOVERNMENT OF THE FRATERNITY, by a presiding officer called a Grand Master, who is elected from the body of the Craft, is a fourth Landmark of the Order. Many persons ignorantly suppose that the election of the Grand Master is held in consequence of a law or regulation of the Grand Lodge. Such, however, is not the case. The office is indebted for its existence to a Landmark of the Order. Grand Masters, are to be found in the records of the Institution long before Grand Lodges were established; and if the present system of legislative government by Grand Lodges were to be abolished, a Grand Master would still be necessary. In fact, although there has been a period within the records of history, and indeed of very recent date, when a Grand Lodge was unknown, there never has been a time when the Craft did not have their Grand Master."
THE PREROGATIVE OF THE GRAND MASTER TO PRESIDE over every assembly of the Craft, wheresoever and whensoever held, is a fifth Landmark. It is in consequence of this law, derived from ancient usage, and not from any special enactment, that the Grand Master assumes the chair, or as it is called in England, "the throne," at every communication of the Grand Lodge; and that he is also entitled to preside at the Communication of every Subordinate Lodge, where he may happen to be present.
THE PREROGATIVE OF THE GRAND MASTER TO GRANT DISPENSATIONS for conferring degrees at irregular times, is another and a very important Landmark The statutory law of Freemasonry requires a month, or other determinate period, to elapse between the presentation of a petition and the election of a candidate. But the Grand Master has the power to set aside or dispense with this probation, and to allow a candidate to be initiated at once. This prerogative he possessed in common with all Master, before the enactment of the law requiring a probation, and as no statute cala impair his prerogative, he still retains the power, although the Masters of Lodges no longer possess it.
THE PREROGATIVE OF THE GRAND MASTER TO GIVE DISPENSATIONS for opening and holding Lodges is another Landmark. He may grant, in virtue of this, to a sufficient number of Freemasons, the privilege of meeting together and conferring degrees. The Lodges thus established are called "Lodges under Dispensation." They are strictly creatures of the Grand Master, created by his authority, existing only during his will and pleasure, and liable at any moment to be dissolved at his command. They may be continued for a day, a month, or six months; but whatever be the period of their existence, they are indebted for that existence solely to the grace of the Grand Master.
THE PREROGATIVE: OF THE GRAND MASTER TO MAKE FREEMASONS AT SIGHT, is a Landmark which is closely connected with the preceding, one. There has been much misapprehension in relation to this Landmark, which misapprehension has sometimes led to a denial of its existence in jurisdictions where the Grand Master was perhaps at the very time substantially exercising the prerogative, without the slightest remark or opposition. It is not to be supposed that the Grand Master can retire with a profane into a private room, and there, without assistance, confer the degrees of Freemasonry upon him. No such prerogative exists, and yet many believe that this is the so much talked of right of "making Masons at sight."
The real mode and the only mode of exercising the prerogative is this: The Grand Master summons to his assistance not less than six other Freemasons, convenes a Lodge, and without any previous probation, but on sight of the candidate, confers the degrees upon him, after which he dissolves the Lodge, and dismisses the brethren. Lodges thus convened for special purposes are called "Occasional Lodges." This is the only way in which any Grand Master within the records of the Institution has ever been known to "make a Mason at sight." The prerogative is dependent upon that of granting Dispensations to open and hold Lodges. If the Grand Master has the power of granting to any other Mason the privilege of presiding over Lodges working by his Dispensation, he may assume this privilege of presiding to himself; and as no one can deny his right to revoke his Dispensation granted to a number of brethren at a distance, and to dissolve the Lodge at his pleasure, it will scarcely be contended that he may not revoke his Dispensation for a Lodge over which he himself has been presiding, within a day, and dissolve the Lodge as soon as the business for which he had assembled it is accomplished. The making of Freemasons at sight is only the conferring of the degrees by the Grand Master, at once, in an Occasional Lodge, constituted by his dispensing power for the purpose, and over which he presides in person.
THE NECESSITY FOR FREEMASONS TO CONGREGATE IN LODGES is another Landmark. It is not to be understood by this that any ancient Landmark has directed that permanent organization of subordinate Lodges which constitutes one of the features of the Masonic system as it now prevails. But the Landmarks of the Order always prescribed that Freemasons should from time to time congregate together, for the purpose of either operative or speculative labor, and that these congregations should be called Lodges. Formerly these were ex temporary meetings called together for special purposes, and then dissolved, the brethren departing to meet again at other times and other places, according to the necessity of circumstances. But Warrants of Constitution, By-laws, permanent officers and annual arrears, are modern innovations wholly outside of the Landmarks, and dependent entirely on the special enactments of a comparatively recent period.
THE GOVERNMENT OF THE CRAFT, when so congregated in a Lodge by a Master and two Wardens, is also a Landmark. To show the influence of this ancient law, it may be observed by the way, that a conjugation of Freemasons meeting together under any other government, as that for instance of a president and vice-president, or a chairman and sub-chairman, would not be recognized as a Lodge. The presence of a Master and two Wardens is as essential to the valid organization of a Lodge as a Warrant of Constitution is at the present day. The names, of course, vary in different languages, the Master, for instance, being called Venerable in French Freemasonry, and the Wardens Surveillants, but the officers, their number, prerogatives and duties, are everywhere identical.
THE NECESSITY THAT EVERY LODGE, WHEN CONGREGATED, SHOULD BE DULY TYLED, is an important Landmark of the Institution, which is never neglected. The necessity of this law arises from the esoteric character of Freemasonry. As a secret Institution, its portals must of course be guarded from the intrusion of the profane, and such a law must therefore always have been in force from the very beginning of the Order. It is therefore properly classed among the most ancient Landmarks. The office of Tyler is wholly independent of any special enactment of Grand or Subordinate Lodges, although these may and do prescribe for him additional duties, which vary in different jurisdictions. But the duty of guarding the door, and keeping off cowans and eavesdroppers, is an ancient one, which constitutes a Landmark for his government.
THE RIGHT OF EVERY FREEMASON TO BE REPRESENTED in all general meetings of the Craft, and to instruct his representatives, is a twelfth Landmark. Formerly, these general meetings, which were usually held once a year, were called General Assemblies, and all the fraternity, even to the youngest Entered Apprentice, were permitted to be present. Now they are called Grand Lodges, and only the Masters and Wardens of the Subordinate Lodges are summoned. But this is simply as the representatives of their members. Originally, each Freemason represented himself; now he is represented by his officers. This was a concession granted by the fraternity about 1717, and of course does not affect the integrity of the Landmark, for the principle of representation is still preserved. The concession was only made for purposes of convenience.
THE RIGHT OF EVERY FREEMASON TO APPEAL from the decision of his brethren in Lodge convened, to the Grand Lodge or General Assembly of Freemasons, is a Landmark highly essential to the preservation of justice, and the prevention of oppression. A few modern Grand Lodges, in adopting a regulation that the decision of Subordinate Lodges, in cases of expulsion, cannot be wholly set aside upon an appeal, have violated this unquestioned Landmark, as well as the principles of just government.
Landmarks 14 - 25 in Detail in Tomorrow's Blog