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MASONIC PAPERS

by W.Bro. YASHA BERESINER

MASONIC EDUCATION - LODGES OF INSTRUCTION

Introduction

In England, the Lodge of instructions is a way of life for thousand of Masons, dispersed through the Country. We meet in pubs and taverns, old churches and synagogues, Masonic halls and in private homes. Each venue is properly vetted and the Secretary always obtains approval from the Grand Lodge Secretariat. The concept of the Lodge of Instruction, at its best, is exceedingly functional. Not only for the instruction of the Brethren climbing up the Masonic ladder, in search of progression, but for all those who attend to familiarise themselves with the other Brethren in their own Lodge. In London in particular, where the average number of times that a Lodge meets is between four or five times a year, the Lodge of Instruction evening is the one regular Ďsocialí gathering...otherwise the Brethren would almost certainly remain at an almost perpetual distance from each other

 

The very concept of a Lodge, to our operative forefathers of medieval times, would have had connotations of reflection and learning. It was in the Lodge, by the side of the great cathedrals, castles and other edifices being built, that the new working mason would be initiated into the secrets and mysteries of the Craft and begin to learn his trade. He would be taught not just his trade but also the social and moral values inculcated in the ancient charges and regulations of the operative freemasons. These same ancient charges and regulations that have survived to this day in the opening pages of our own Book of Constitutions and which are read to every Master Elect before he is installed as the Master of his Lodge.

 

In speculative terms, England today differs from many of the practices in other jurisdictions. We dedicate little time in Lodges to contemplation, philosophy, the search for truth and other similar esoteric concepts. In our Lodges these aspects of moralisation are limited to the lectures in our ritual first promulgated by that great Masonic scholar, William Preston in the 1770s.  The rest is left to the individual Masonís own thoughts and conscience. Thus our Lodges of Instruction serve, in my view, the very limited, though essential and commendable function of being a practice evening for the perfection of the perambulations and the unending endeavour to memorise the ritual of the various degrees.

 

Early Concepts

It would be nice to revert to the practices in much earlier days, for instance in York, where we find the first evidence of time being set aside for learning. In a resolution of the Ancient Society of Masons of York dated 1725, it states:

 

'..Every 1st Wednesday in the month a Lodge shall be held at the House of a Brother according as their turn shall fall out....and...an hour be set apart to talk Masonry..'

 

A wonderful concept which we could consider reviving today. This was not quite a Lodge of Instruction but getting close to what a Lodge of Instruction should be all about.

 

The earliest record mentioning a Lodge of Instruction as such does not appear until 1768. The minutes for 1st September of that year of the Lodge that met at the Kingshead in Hampstead, now St John's Lodge No 167, require that... Brother Marshall...should attend on the Lodge & Members thereof on Thursday Nights as a School of Instruction of the Younger Members...

 

Within just a few years, the concept of Instruction came to full bloom as a result of the activities of William Preston (1742-1818), mentioned above and a most prominent and dedicated freemason. His name is very familiar to English Freemasons because of the prestigious Prestonian Lectures.  Preston bequeathed £ 300.00 to a trust to be held by Grand Lodge. The interest from the loan was intended to be applied...to some well-informed Mason to deliver annually a lecture on the First, Second or Third Degree of the Order of Masonry according to the system practised in the Lodge of Antiquity.  The connection to the Lodge of Antiquity - one of the original four Time Immemorial lodges - was Prestonís very close associations with the Lodge, of which he was Master in 1774. Preston developed a well-known and complex system of Masonic instruction by way of questions and answers, in the form of catechisms and did so in close association with the Lodge of Antiquity. It was to continue these same lectures that he donated the fund to Grand Lodge. The Prestonian Lectures were delivered reasonably regularly between 1820 and 1862 after which the lectureship lapsed. It was revived in 1924, modified now to incorporate any lecture of Masonic interest selected by the Brother appointed to be the lecturer. The Prestonian Lecture remains today the only official lecture held under authority of the United Grand Lodge of England.

 

Illustration 17 Caption Preston ( Please send Image)

 

William Preston, who has been called the father of our modern ritual, was a Scotsman born in Edinburgh in 1742. He came to London in 1760 and was initiated in 1763, into a newly consecrated Antients Lodge, whose members soon changed their allegiance and received their warrant from the Premier Grand Lodge, known as The Moderns. This was the famous Caledonian Lodge No 325 now No 134. Prestonís better known association with the Lodge of Antiquity - of which he became a member and the Master on the same day in 1774! - was long and convoluted. In 1778 he and a number of other members of the Lodge of Antiquity were expelled from Grand Lodge by the Committee of Charity, the equivalent of todayís Board of General Purposes, for parading in full Masonic regalia on their return from a church service a year earlier. Although re-instated, he was again expelled and now formed a new Grand Lodge by the authority he obtained from the Grand Lodge of York. This new Grand Lodge established under Prestonís Deputy Grand Mastership, was called the Grand Lodge of England South of the River Trent. It only lasted until 1789 when all of the members were allowed to rejoin the Lodge of Antiquity.

 

Preston teacher and businessman

William Preston was a printer by trade and continued as such during his lifetime, achieving the standing of Assistant Grand Secretary to the premier Grand Lodge, as a result of which he provided services he would otherwise have been denied. In 1772 the first edition of his best known book, Illustrations of Masonry, was published. Starting from 1774, Preston, with other Brethren, began a series of demonstrations showing the working of the ritual of the various degrees and establishing his own distinctive system of ritual. The Lodge meetings and organised sessions arranged by Preston were all effective Schools of Instruction. We should remember, however, that there was here a definite element of commercial venture. The following advertisement appeared in a leaflet circulated by William Preston in that same year, 1774:

 

Bro Preston, desirous to remove the present difficulty of gaining...Instruction in Masonry...proposes to teach Masonry on its genuine and original principles, on the following reasonable terms:

            1st Degree 5 Shillings

            2nd Degree 5 Shillings 6 Pence

            3rd Degree 10 Shillings and 6 Pence

 

Business is business!!

 

All of the ritual we practice today was originally either established or strongly influenced by William Preston. There were a number of distinguished ritualists who followed in his footsteps and the names of William Hutchinson, John Browne and George Claret will be familiar to every student interested in the development of our ritual. Preston, however, can be seen as the first true Preceptor of the first true school of instruction. Its is only after him that other Lodges and Schools of Instruction began to be established and more celebrated preceptors became known. (The difference between a Lodge and a School of Instruction lies in that the former is limited to the members of the Lodge by which it was set up, whilst a school is open to any mason, whichever Lodge he may belong to). William Prestonís influence of our ritual is reflected in the many editions of his Illustrations of Masonry, which were published over the years. In addition to the basic ritual, the book covered various aspects of the craft and editions were published in America and translated into German. The last four of the English editions were edited and prepared by the famed Reverend Dr George Oliver, the final one in 1861, more than 40 years after Preston's death. 

 

Illustration 18 Caption Preston Leaflet ( Please send Image)

 

Standardisation after the Union

Much earlier, in the middle of the century, the great rift in English Freemasonry had occurred. It culminated, or as some claim, it was brought about, by the establishment of the Antients Grand Lodge in 1751, under the auspices of that most extraordinary freemason Laurence Dermott. The Antients were so called because they stated that they adhered to the ancient traditions and landmarks of the order, from which, so the Antients claimed, the Premier Grand Lodge of 1717 had deviated. Thus the earlier Premier Grand Lodge formed in 1717 was illogically dubbed the Moderns. The rift and antagonism between the two Grand Lodges continued for more than 60 years, until the final Union of 1813, from which our present United Grand Lodge of England emerged.

 

The members of the Antients Grand Lodge, who were strongly influenced by Irish working, remained constantly aware of the importance of Masonic education. In 1792 they formed a scholarly committee which became known as The Nine Worthies, or Excellent Masters appointed each year, to report on and ensure the standardisation of ritual work in the various Lodges under the jurisdiction of the Antients Grand Lodge. The term Worthies was almost certainly adopted by the Antients referring to the Nine Worthies of history listed by Richard Lloyd in 1584, as the ultimate heroes of history, namely: Jeshua, Hector, David, Alexander, Judas Macabee, Caesar, Arthur, Charlemagne and Guy of Warwick.

 

A special medal was later issued and highly prized by the elected Brethren to serve as one of the Nine Worthies. These were designed by Thomas Harper, Deputy Grand Master and a silversmith by trade, who is still remembered today as the well known engraver of many Masonic jewels, those of the Royal Arch in particular. This maybe the reason, inter alia, why the jewels have such a prominent depiction of a Royal Arch theme on one side. The other shows working operative masons, one climbing a ladder, others using winches and on the right an aproned mason with a square in his hand being guided by a master.  The text states one of the nine Worthies. The hallmark is placed in the centre of this text. The jewel was worn suspended from a broad blue ribbon until 1807 when a silver chain replaced the ribbons.

 

The Nine Worthies stopped their activities when the Union of the two Grand Lodges became a reality in 1813. Four years later, in 1817, as many of the jewels as possible were recovered and are now on display at the Museum of the United Grand Lodge in London. The recent establishment in London of the system of Visiting Grand Officers has been compared to and seen as a revival of the Antients concept of the appointments for identical purposes just 200 years ago!

 

As the possibilities of a Union between the two rival Grand Lodges began to become a reality, a body was set up by the Moderns or Premier Grand Lodge in 1809, known as the Lodge Of Promulgation. It consisted of a Master and his Wardens and 23 high ranking Masons appointed by Grand Lodge. Eleven of the members of the Lodge of Promulgation were either Provincial Grand Maters or Senior Grand Wardens and the remaining 9, Masters of Lodges. Rather curiously one of the nine was the Duke of Sussex, who was at the time the Master of Antiquity Lodge No 2. The directives to the members of the Lodge were to 'test' the feelings and views of members regarding the possibility of reconciliation between the two Grand Lodges and an eventual Union. The concept behind the formation of this prestigious Lodge, whose members were appointed by Grand Lodge, was to Ďrevert to the Ancient Land Marks of the Societyí and Ďpromulgate' these same landmarks amongst the Brethren. In that sense alone the Lodge of Promulgation may be seen as an educational body. It cease its activities in 1811 and a number of its members were later involved in the body set up to organise the administrative aspects of the Union.

 

The long awaited Union between the Antients and the Premier Grand Lodges finally took place on 27 December 1813. The Duke of Sussex was appointed the first Grand Master of the newly formed United Grand Lodge of England. He was aware of the innumerable problems that he would be facing. Not least was the reconciliation of the ritual working of two bodies that for more than 60 years been making a point of differentiating their various traditions.

 

Reconciliation

It is this situation that led to the formation of what may be considered the ultimate and first official School of Instruction: the Lodge of Reconciliation. Article V of the Articles of Union between the Two Grand Lodges of Freemasons of England reads as follows:

 

V. For the purposes of establishing and securing this perfect uniformity in all the warranted Lodges, and also to prepare for this Grand Assemble, and to place all the Members of both Fraternities on the level of equality on the day of Re-union, it is agreed that as soon as these presents shall have received the sanction of respective Grand Lodges, the two Grand Masters shall appoint each nine worthy and expert Master Masons, or Past Masters, of their respective Fraternities, with warrant and instructions to meet together at some convenient central place in London, when each party having opened in a separate apartment a just and perfect Lodge, agreeably to their particular regulations they shall give and receive mutually and reciprocally the obligations of both Fraternities, decided by lot which shall take priority in giving and receiving the same; and being thus all duly and equally enlightened in both forms, they shall be empowered and directed, either to hold a Lodge under the warrant or dispensation to be entrusted to them, and to be entitled the LODGE OF RECONCILIATION, or to visit the several Lodges holding under both Grand Lodges for purpose of obligating, instructing and perfecting the Master, Past Masters, Wardens, and Members, in both the forms, and to make a return to the Grand Secretaries of both the Grand Lodges of the names of those whom they shall have thus enlightened.

 

It is signed and sealed by the two respective Grand Masters and Grand Secretaries and dated the Palace of Kensington 25th Day of November 1813

 

The Lodge of Reconciliation was thus formed on 7 December 1813, a few weeks before the actual Union ceremonies and the installation of the Grand Master of the new United Grand Lodge of England were to take place,. It is an interesting coincidence that once more now nine worthies from each of the two Grand Lodges were appointed to form this special Lodge. The eighteen appointed Brethren, all expert Master Masons and Past Masters, were charged with the formulation of an agreed procedure for the obligation and Installation ceremony of Union, on December 27. The Rev Samuel Hemming, first Senior Grand Warden of the United Grand Lodge of England, was appointed Worshipful Master. They performed their duties during the ceremony of Installation of the Duke of Sussex and thereafter continued their duties throughout the Country. It was the raison díÍtre of the Lodge of Reconciliation to standardise the ritual throughout the Lodges dispersed across England and Wales. This they undertook by both receiving delegations in London as well as travelling to various Lodges. There are no written records of the many meetings held and formally attended by Brethren invited from all parts, to agree and assist in working on an accepted format for the ritual.

 

The activities of the Lodge of Reconciliation culminated in a rehearsal meeting which was held on 20 May 1816 and than, on 5 June, the proposed ritual for the three degree were performed 'live' by members of the Lodge of Reconciliation before an 'Especial Grand Lodge'. The United Grand Lodge formally adopted the proposed and amended ritual with only two alterations in the third degree. What those alterations were remains an intriguing mystery. The Lodge of Reconciliation completed its duties within a few months and ceased to exist.

 

Stability and Emulation

Following on the footsteps of the Lodge of Reconciliation two very early and important schools of instructions were established. In 1817 the Stability Lodge of Instruction was founded, some of its members having been associated with the Lodge of Reconciliation. The School continues to meet today, if with somewhat dramatically different ritual, under the sanction of Stability Lodge No. 217. It should be noted that there is no Lodge that can claim to be practising the original ritual as recommended by the Lodge of Reconciliation.   There is no record of what exactly the recommended ritual approved by Grand Lodge consisted of.

 

The second of the long standing schools is the famed Emulation Lodge of Improvement which, contrary to common belief, is sanctioned by the Lodge of Unions No. 256 (and not by the Lodge of Emulation No 21). It first received its authority as a Lodge of Instruction in 1823 from the Lodge of Hope No. 7. Since 1839 The Emulation Lodge of Improvement has been meeting every Friday at 6.15 PM at Freemasonís Hall without a single break. It is interesting to note that the Emulation ritual, though practised by many English Lodges and several in foreign countries, has no form of official sanction from Grand Lodge. This in spite of the fact that it is the Emulation ritual that is used in the opening and closing of Grand Lodge at its quarterly Communications. The Emulation Lodge of Improvement enjoys the status of an ordinary Lodge of Instruction. Its program of rehearsals of the degrees and lectures are published in advance so that members of the Lodge can attend and rehearse according to their need.

 

We should remember that the original concept and practical purpose of the Lodge of Instruction was to preserve the oral nature of our ritual. In the early days, well passed the Union of 1813, there was no such thing as a Book of Ritual. The first such book, an official ritual accepted as a lodge manual, is attributed to George Claret, mentioned above, which was only published in 1835.

 

Exposures versus Ritual

It is rather ironic that before that date, freemasons used Masonic exposures - publications disclosing the supposed secret activities of the Masons - as ritual books. The earliest of these exposures, first published in October 1730, was Samuel Prichardís Masonry Dissected. The fame of this booklet lies in that it reports for the first time on the Hiramic legend as we practice it today. It discloses in great detail and in the form of a catechism, all three degrees. Masonry dissected went into three editions in eleven days. Not because it was of great fascination to the general public but because freemasons themselves were snapping the book up!. Here was the first effective ritual book for a new degree, the third, only recently introduced and now available in print in Prichardís Masonry Dissected. A blessing to the Preceptors of the time and to every serious ritualist.

 

Within the context of exposures and ritual books, the question has often arisen as to when does a ritual book become an exposure, i.e. an attack on freemasonry. The answer lies in the recognition that there are only two secrets in freemasonry, namely the words and signs of the obligations leading from one degree to the next. Thus if any of the words are spelt out or the signs described or illustrated, the book must be considered an anti Masonic exposure, intended to improperly publicise our ritual. Where dots or dashes, without illustrations or descriptions of the signs, substitute the words, the publication can be seen as intended for use by the fraternity at large.

 

Administration

As I have indicated at the start of this paper, in England all meetings of Lodges and Schools of Instruction are official. Rules 132 to 135 in the Book of Constitutions of the United Grand Lodge of England are dedicated to the Lodge of Instruction. The Lodges and Schools of Instruction have to be sanctioned by Grand Lodge, through a sponsoring Lodge, and, in theory, approved by the Grand Master. They have to keep minutes, which must be presented on demand to an authorised body, be it Grand Lodge or the Worshipful Master of the sponsoring Lodge. The sponsoring Lodge takes responsibility for the activities of its Lodge of Instruction.

 

The Lodge of Instruction is an institution in its own right. I will recommend every Brother, whether experienced or a neophyte, to attend and enjoy those aspects of freemasonry that can often only be conveyed in the informal and important environment of a Lodge of Instruction.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

Cartwright, E H The Lodge of Reconciliation and the Ritual AQC 54 (1941)

Dyer, Colin William Preston and his Work Middx 1987

Hextall W B The Special Lodge of Promulgation AQC 23 (1910)

Jackson, A S F: 'Preston's England' (Prestonian Lecture for 1976) in AQC 1967.

Stokes, Dr John: 'Masonic Teacher of the Eighteenth Century' (Prestonian Lecture for 1928) in AQC

1967.