Wales ⬩ The Word ⬩ Word in Kabalism ⬩ Work of the Modern Initiate ⬩ Workings ⬩ Worshipful Society of Freemasons ⬩ The Wrestle
Scotland and Ireland are of great importance in the rise, development and history of Emblematic Freemasonry; but the Principality of Wales does not seem to have contributed in any conspicuous sense to the life of the Order. The fact is strange, because—as we have seen—the land of Taliesin is thrice hallowed and haunted as a place of the Mysteries, while the study of its folklore, not to speak of Druidic remains, opens a wide world of creative mystic thought. The shapes of imagination are there, bodied forth in living forms. Taliesin was a lover of the Mysteries, and no one more than he was born a citizen of the sacred Isle of Apples. It may be that those who were nourished on lore like his, as on echoes from the Enchanted City of Hud, may have found our pictured moralities, in a tongue of the eighteenth century, a little like Dead Sea fruit. This is not to say that the story of Masonic Brotherhood in Wales is a thing negligible. The Order took root therein very early in the Grand Lodge period; but one hears nothing of indigenous Lodges belonging to the Operative age in the twilight sleep of the subject, before 1717. There is no Mother Kilwinning, full of omens and of signs; there is nothing corresponding to the Old Lodge at York; there are no early Prince Masons, as in Ireland, Keepers of the Royal Secret, or Encampments of Knights Templar, far in the uncertain past of these Christian Rites. On the other hand, we have rumours of Lodges at Chester and Congleton in 1724 and an English Grand Master constituted two Provincial Grand Lodges, for North and South Wales respectively, in 1727. There is nothing earlier of the kind than these memorable foundations. At this date the Principality is divided into four Grand Provinces, having a considerable number of ordinary Lodges under their obedience.
Language is the outer vesture or symbol of thought within: I conceive that this is a commonplace, though it is not after all of very usual and practical realisation. It has been said also that words hide thought, and they do so after two manners: (1) when there is a design of concealment in order to confuse issues, but this occasional characteristic of minds is without philosophical importance or indeed interest; (2) when—all our effort notwithstanding—thought passes into expression with difficulty, owing to abstruse subject-matter and not to want of clearness—which again is of no interest or importance for our Masonic purpose. At its best language is in a working sacramental analogy with the concepts of mind and communicates from mind to mind within those measures. When we hear of an Incommunicable Word we know that qua “word” nonsense is being talked, for that which exceeds communication exceeds also expression. If therefore the illuminated Councillor von Eckartshausen undertook a considerable journey to impart the Incommunicable Word to Baron von Liebistorf, both persons being serious, we know that the subject of communication was not a word at all and that the term incommunicable was used by way of subterfuge. So also when we hear of a Lost Word in Masonry and the collateral Rites, it is necessary to pause and consider. In the traditional history of the Third Degree that Word which passes into concealment is not by the hypothesis a thing of mystery, grace or power, but a conventional secret reserved to a certain rank. As such, it was of similar value to our old friend ABRACADABRA. But when, as Masters, we testify through all the years of our Masonic life that we are following the quest of this Word it assumes of necessity another aspect; it is no longer a conventional secret denoting a given status, no longer a literal word—unless indeed we are content, like De Quincey to believe that Emblematic Freemasonry is the great imposture of the modern world. This being so, what is the position of those Degrees—very high and important in Masonry—which exist for the purpose of communicating the Lost Word in the form of a verbal convention? They appear stultified by the very fact: such, however, is not the case. The Degrees in question are simply remaining as they must within the measures of Masonic sacrament and symbol. While it is essential, to justify Masonry, that its quest must end in attainment, it can end only as it began, namely, as a system veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols. But we have a right to expect that the meaning behind the allegory and the grace behind the symbols should be of such kind that we are not unwarranted in having followed the long quest through many Rites and Grades. Now, albeit on account of certain covenants I am limited to a simple affirmative, I place on record here, as one who has followed the quest and has reached its term in symbolism, that it is amply warranted by that infinite realm of grace and truth in God which opens out, for those who can discern it, beyond the scheme of the Grades as displayed in their Ritual procedure. I speak of the Third Degree, the Holy Royal Arch and certain Christian Orders in Masonry.
Word and Life.—It follows that when the lost arcanum is restored—within or without Masonry—it can only pass into expression as a word or words which will convey nothing to the uninitiated, nor does the bare fact of its communications within the Mysteries of a particular Fraternity signify anything of vital import to a member not otherwise prepared for the reception of real knowledge. The outer form is, so to speak, the vehicle or body of the grace, independently of which the latter cannot be conveyed, any more than the soul of a human being can function in the material world apart from a physical body as the means of communicating with that world. It may be that this is only an elaborate way of affirming that all the great things of life are outside evidence and that their appeal—in the last resource—is scarcely to the logical understanding, though I incline to think that something of the best and highest is reflected therein and is also represented thereby after its own manner. That Word, with the mystery of which I am dealing only so far as it is expressed in Masonic symbolism, is imparted—as we have seen—to the adept at one or another epoch of his advancement; but its meaning is not imparted, except by secret communication between his own soul and the truth which is behind the symbol. Explicitly or implicitly, it stands always for a Word of Life. It may act on those who can receive it as an awakening of the soul’s consciousness in the direction of things that are Divine and the first participation of human in Divine Nature. Here is the sense in which man is saved by the power of the Name YEHESHUAH; this is the abiding presence signified by that of IMMANUEL, the grace from everlasting to everlasting in the mystic cipher I ∴ N ∴ R∴ I ∴ and the eternal mercy which is JEHOVAH. But in the Lodges of Mount Sinai and the Chapters of Holy Sanctuary the Words and Names are recited as things spoken with the lips and received into physical ears: except to the very few they do not stand for life. There is no translation of symbols so that allegories testify full of meaning from within and that pageants move not only in ordered sequence but in the grace of God and His power. It comes about therefore that the Word is lost even in its recovery. Peace has departed from the Tabernacles and light out of the Holy Places, the Sacred Cities remain unfinished, and the Sanctuary can be erected only in the heart of the elect because the Word of Life is lost.
Word in Kabalism
The Most Holy and Eternal Logos of the Fourth Gospel has its analogue in Kabalism, and indeed the intimations thereon of this Secret Tradition in later Israel are very often of the nature of root-identity rather than of simple correspondence. In view of the fact that there is a quest pursued in Masonry, which is concerned with the loss and recovery of a Word, it is desirable to indicate briefly that there are other and not less pregnant aspects of the subject than have been dealt with already in my consideration of the Sacred Name Jehovah. According to the Zohar, when Scripture says that the Lord shewed Himself to Abraham in the plains of Mamre, that which manifested was the Word. The reference is to Genesis xviii. i. I believe that there are certain side-issues of Christian theology, according to which He Who is the Word appears as the self-revealing mode of Deity, in what I may call the personal manifestations of the Divine throughout the Old Testament. He it was therefore—on this understanding—Who walked with Adam in the cool of the evening, Who appeared to Moses in the burning bush. Who delivered the Law on Mount Sinai, Who spoke in the darkness to Samuel. In consonance herewith the momentous paraphrase of Onkelos substitutes Memrah = Word in place of Jehovah. So also the Targum of Jonathan translates Bereshith—the first word in Genesis—as Wisdom, which is wholly in consonance with the Secret Tradition, and Wisdom in this case is a synonym of the Word, considered as that Divine Seed which—according to the Zohar—brought forth the whole creation: “in the beginning”—which is the Wisdom of the Word—“God created the heaven and the earth.”
Work of the Modern Initiate
On the hypothesis that some or any of the old Instituted Mysteries were in the charge of true Masters of Experience—and not merely of titular heads—it would follow that the Candidate who entered within the sacred precincts was not only an actor filling the office of recipient in dramatic pageants of symbolism, and having authoritative instruction on their import, but was instructed how the things signified must be applied m his own case. For example—but expressing such a high canon of symbolism in exceedingly crude terms—were the Mystery that of Eros and Psyche, understood as the Divine Spirit in espousals with the individual soul, the Candidate would not witness only the displayed sacraments of spiritual union but would graduate in its doctrine and practice, nor would he behold the pageant unless and until he were pledged by acts of dedication to its performance in his own person. The end of initiation was to become and not merely see the mystery. The spectacle was shewn on the threshold of a life to come, and this was the life of adeptship. There is very little in the records of the past which can be called even presumptive evidence in support of the hypothesis, which stands forth only as a very beautiful speculation in a world of dream; but there is something more than presumption to countenance the view that the old Instituted Mysteries were holy things, and I think on my own part—outside all questions of evidence—that seeing there have been Masters of Divine Experience in the Christian world and other Masters in the East, so also there were men who had attained in the Sanctuaries of Egypt and Greece; that they had their disciples, as had Plato and the Platonic Successors at later periods; and that hence it is not inherently improbable that a high doctrine was taught in some of the Mysteries or lay behind their symbolism and outlines of a way of attainment. In the modern Mysteries we can trace vestiges of things which shadow forth a doctrine of experience, but that itself has passed away, and there is nothing communicated to the Candidate except pictures of living things which have long since departed. It is for him alone to restore in his own person, by means of the memorials afforded him, that life of which he is in search.
We have seen that a Lodge of Promulgation was constituted to smooth the way of the union between Ancients and Moderns. When that union became an accomplished fact there was founded—on December 27, 1813—a Lodge of Reconciliation to establish uniformity of working between the Lodges of the two Grand Obediences, now merged in the one United Grand Lodge. At the presumed completion of this work in 1816 the Lodge reached automatically its natural end. This notwithstanding, since the date last mentioned a variety of workings has developed, each with its own claims, and all of course lying within the measures of the Craft Degrees only. They are known under the following distinctive names: (1) Stability, (2) Emulation, (3) West End, (4) Oxford and (5) Logic. There could be nothing more unsuited to the present place and purpose than the exercise of any choice between them. The first two are the oldest in point of time. The exponents of Stability say that it has continued without interruption since the Lodge of Reconciliation and that eight of its original exponents were members of this Lodge. Peter Gilkes has been called the practical founder of Emulation working, but it is connected also with the name of William Williams, Provincial Grand Master of Dorset and editor of the Book of Constitutions issued after the Union. Prior to Williams we hear also of Dr. Samuel Hemming, who was appointed to revise the Lectures and—as it is said—to unify the widely different modes of Opening and Closing the Lodge in the Three Degrees. As regards West End, those who follow this working question whether it differs substantially from Emulation in point of age. The Installation Ceremony is similar in Stability and West End, being much more elaborate than Emulation. The Oxford working is referred to circa 1876 and has little following outside the English shire from which its name is drawn. The Logic was based on West End working about 1880 and is connnected with the name of the actor, John MacLean, who maintained that no existing Rituals were logical in development and arrangement. Under the auspices of the Emulation Lodge of Instruction there is no question that Emulation working is the most diffused and the most generally favoured of any. A codification of all the systems might produce an United Lodge of Instruction which would supersede all.
Worshipful Society of Freemasons
A new experimental departure in Masonic ceremonial might seem antecedently improbable at this day, yet a curious example is offered by that Worshipful Society of Freemasons—meaning Operative—which was established in London some years ago, presumably to formulate the researches and alleged discoveries of the late Mr. Clement E. Stretton. The question is exceedingly difficult (1) because there is no doubt that he spent many years among the vestiges of Operative workings, collecting a considerable mass of interesting points of fact and symbolism, from which he occasionally drew acute inferences; and (2) because there seems to be as little question that he made numerous claims and statements, all evidence for which is wanting. I understand that those who are connected most actively with the present Operative Society appear to be leaving him tacitly out of consideration. His primary affirmation was that a Guild of Masons, Wallers, Slaters, Paviours, Plasterers and Bricklayers has existed in England—even in London itself—from pre-mediaeval times and has continued to this day, without break or suspension, though in great secrecy, unknown to the Emblematic Craft. It holds—ex hypothesi—the true explanation of many symbols which have been construed erroneously by the latter, possesses in archaic forms the root-matter of certain well-known Grades and of the Hiramic Legend—apparently from time immemorial. We hear of a Padgett Ritual of 1686, affirmed to have been "rewritten for the Operative Society" between this date and 1663, but that which has been published by Dr. Carr is for those who can suffer it—being worthless from my standpoint. When the London Operatives—whose Society exists in the face of day and is open to all Master Masons who have taken the Mark Degree—began to work under the auspices of the late Colonel Walker and others, it had to construct its Rituals as it best could out of Stretton's scattered materials. Setting this aside, it seems to me that were all the claims of Stretton and his followers supported by full and irrefragable testimony, it would remain a debatable question whether such a Worshipful Society has any living object at this day. Speculative Masonry is a great thing because of its spiritual field, because of its mystic quest and its relation to all the quests and ceremonial formulae of past ages in other Instituted Mysteries; but Operative Masonry qua Operative has no such horizon before it. Moreover, the subject has had the peculiar misfortune of being expounded and defended by persons like the late Mr. John Yarker, who reflects Stretton with further dogmatic affirmations apart from reference, and by writers like Dr. C. H. Merz, President of the Masonic Library of Sandusky, Ohio, and C. E. Stretton himself, who has the assurance to suggest that Anderson formed the Grand Lodge of 1717. Yarker, who is frankly impossible, parades the advantage possessed by six of the alleged Operative Degrees because they have "neither nationality nor creed." This argument respecting creed appears final, for we know that Guild Masonry was Christian and Catholic. There are supposed to be Seven Operative Degrees governed by "three coequal Grand Masters." According to Yarker, they are: (1) Apprentice, in which the Candidate is "rough dressed"; (2) Fellow, in which he becomes a "polished stone"; (3) Super-Fellow, in which he is "marked as a living stone" ; (4) Mark Man; (5) Mark Master, in which he is "erected as a living Temple"; (6) Passed Master, in which his competence is tested; (7) Enthroned Master Mason, being the Grade of the three Grand Masters. According to another witness, Mr. L. M. B. Voge, this is “a noble Order of Knighthood “ and has been in existence for six hundred years. Yarker differs from Stretton, according to whom the First Operative Degree is like that of Entered Apprentice, but the latter has certain omissions. The Lodge represents the first Stoneyard, where Apprentices work on the Stone as it comes from the quarries. The Second Degree is like that of Fellow Craft, and the Lodge is the second stoneyard, where stones are smoothed and polished to exact gauges. The Third is in analogy with Mark Man, and the Lodge is the third stoneyard, where all fitting is done. The Fourth is like Mark Master, and the Lodge represents the site of the building, the work therein being the laying of foundation stones. The fifth is in analogy with an installation of Grand Officers and seems to be that of Superintendents of Works. The sixth, or that of Passed Master, is compared to the status of a Master-Elect, not yet enthroned. The seventh or Grade of the Three Grand Masters is not described, but the Masters are compared to the Principals of a Royal Arch Chapter and the Grade itself is likened to the Ceremony of Installed Master. The title in full is The Worshipful Society of Free Masons, Rough Masons, Wallers, Slaters, Paviours, Plaisterers and Bricklayers. There appears to be a further division into Stone Masons and Arch Masons, the latter being more highly skilled.
Divisions and Districts.—It is said that the Operative Craft is divided into Districts, an Annual Meeting being held at the centre of England, apparently on St. Andrew’s Day, and very often at Wakefield. One of the Lodges, located at Leicester, goes back—it is affirmed—to 1761 and was still meeting in 1913, having a Roll of seventy members. There is another at Bardon Quarry in Mount Bardon or Bardon Hill, fourteen miles from Leicester: the story is that it was founded by George Stephenson. Yarker testifies to the existence of Lodges in London, Norfolk, Derbyshire, Holyhead, York, Durham and Berwick, Stretton adding that all use the same Ritual, being that published by Carr and identified with the old York working. The claim is sufficiently condemned out of its own mouth by this one statement. Many Speculative Masons are said to have attended meetings in Bardon and other quarries. They were obviously convenient localities in which to practise what was claimed to be “ long-lost Rites.”
Hiramic Myth.—As regards the so-called Hiramic Ceremony, the Third Grand Master is slain symbolically at noon, on each October 2, and a new one is enthroned in his place. There is no raising, and this is final on the point of symbolical value. Had the procedure been shaped in the likeness of the Instituted Mysteries, the outgoing Third Grand Master would be slain and raised as the new one. In another ceremonial a “human sacrifice” is said to be put under a stone, the body being subsequently carried on two crossed planks seven times round, against the sun, and so conveyed to the tomb. This is the Ritual of Foundation, which appears to be worked on April 2 in each year, but I have met with no other particulars. It commemorates the old custom of walling up a living being in the crypts or foundations of a new building.
First Degree.—The Operative Candidate for the First Degree is told to eat and drink up to midnight on the previous day, and he comes to the Lodge fasting on the noon following, this being the hour of admission, for which purpose he wears a white Roman cloak. The pledge of the Grade is called the Oath of Nimrod. A mallet and chisel with a round head are presented to him, and he keeps them for life. The Apprentice’s apron is square, with a quarter-inch blue border all round: it is tied in front with blue strings twice round the body. He does not become a Freemason till he takes the Second Degree. It is perhaps in the Ritual of Apprentice that we hear of forming a Temple of Living Stones, with sixty men on each side, twenty at each end and four Officers at the corners.
Evidence Wanting.—It is obvious that even granting the fact of such a Society having been at work in quarries and elsewhere prior to the period of Stretton, we have no evidence of its antiquity. We have no evidence of the following statements among many others: (1) That the Masons’ Company had, from the earliest times, the same initiation that “we Operatives have to-day”; (2) that it ceased to use “our Ritual” in 1665; (3) that James Anderson became Chaplain of the St. Paul’s Guild of Operative Masons on January 1, 1710, and was expelled afterwards for disloyalty.
Conclusion.—I gather that the present Worshipful Society of Operative Freemasons in London originated about 1914, that its ceremonies are of considerable interest—apart from questions of symbolism—and that it makes no claim upon the past. It has, I believe, no connection with workings in quarries.
On the hypothesis that it may be needful or desirable to expound the inward meaning of Jacob’s mystical sleep at Paran and the Ladder of communion between things above and below, in a Degree of Masonry, there is a great opportunity for symbolism, and so also in that strange subsequent episode of his struggle with an angel. Such opportunity is missed utterly in the Side Degree which was once connected with the Mark under the name of Wrestle. It appears to have consisted in (1) the reading of Genesis xxxii. 24-32; (2) a few lines of Obligation respecting Official Secrets; and (3) the Signs, Tokens and Words, which are supposed to illustrate the two scriptural incidents. On the basis of these materials, it forms the Fourteenth Degree of the Early Grand Rite, which has dignified it with the egregious title of Sublime Master, explaining that it completes the series “known to our ancient Brethren as Ark, Mark, Link and Wrestle.” It follows immediately on the Degree of Link and Chain, without Opening or Closing, so that the Candidate makes a sudden leap backwards over several centuries. He remains, however, in the care of Noah. The Rite claims that the four antiquated trifles just enumerated are of interest to Masonic students and would have been lost altogether except for its own care and providence. It appears to have confused and shortened them in the process of editing. The proper title of the Degree is Jacob’s Wrestle.