Review of Freemasonry

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The Square Magazine for the DECENNIAL of PS Review of Freemasonry
10 papers published on The Square Magazine from 1996 through 2006 to celebrate the 10 years of PS Review of Freemasonry.
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This project is sponsored by Lewis Masonic, the leading Masonic publisher since 1886.

by Marc Domenic
Published in The Square Magazine Vol 30, December 2004

© All editorial matter contained in this Magazine is copyright and may not reproduced without written permission from the publisher

ACTUALLY IT WAS a deep discussion within my lodge about Craig Gavin's article 'Euclid on the Square' which was the genesis of this article. The Euclid piece opened our eyes to what we now call the 'spurious secrets' of Freemasonry. From the 'mysteries' we eventually came round to the 'landmarks' as a typical example of the waffle we masons have been subject to over the centuries. 

masonic_tools Exactly what are these' Antient Landmarks' which we must hold inviolate? Way back in 1721, the (English) 'General Regulations' made mention of the 'Old Landmarks' and every mason knows that these Landmarks are inviolable. Strangely, the United Grand Lodge of England - along with most other grand lodges around the world - has never. mentioned what they are. Which makes it rather difficult to adhere to! Now one of the American grand lodges has put the cat among the pigeons by suggesting that they accept the 25 landmarks described by the masonic writer Mackey in the 1800s. Why do they want to do this, nearly two centuries after Mackey laid them down? (I understand that some American GLs have accepted Mackey's Landmarks for years, but I am not sure). 

This is rather strange, because Mackey's A Lexicon of Freemasonry ( 1845) gives a little under half a page of waffle about the Landmarks, mentioning only that 'It is not in the power of any body of men to make innovations in Masonry'. Which tells us nothing. Mackey certainly did not list any Landmarks. 

However, in Kenning's Masonic Cyclopaedia of 1878,(edited by Woodford) we are told that 'Mackey, following some American writers, has laid down 25 as the number of Landmarks in Freemasonry...' and it is these that the American grand lodge is considering accepting as the definitive list of Landmarks. Now I do not have Mackey's original list, so I must comment on some of the ones listed by Kenning and assume they are correct. 

A Ouarter-Century of Landmarks 

No 1 is 'The Laws and Regulations of recognition'. As these varied gr.eatly even during Mackey's time, such an inclusion is an obvious nonsense. Number two is 'The three grades or degrees' -to which Woodford added, 'in England, this includes the Holy Royal Arch'. More nonsense. If a Landmark is inviolable, you just cannot have varying qualifications. Number three is a corker, because Mackey states that it is 'the teaching of the third grade' -which Woodford states can't be accepted 'because it is incorporated in the preceding ones'. The Revd. Woodford may well have been a Past Grand Chaplain of England, but he obviously knew nothing about masonic history. The third grade appeared well after the first and second and was not incorporated in the previous two. The fourth is 'the governing of the a Grand Master...' Which of course could include many other organisations such as liveries -it's even a top chess distinction! Number five is 'The prerogatives of the Grand Master'. What are these prerogatives? Mackey doesn't tell us! 

Likewise number six 'The privileges of Grand Lodge'. What are those privileges? Number seven 'Granting dispensations' is just too daft to comment on; and number eight 'Granting warrants and dispensations' not only covers half of seven but is just as idiotic. 

Now I am acquainted with the working of several countries, and in all of them the prime requisite is a belief in God. So it is strange that Mackey does not mention this early on. In fact He is not mentioned until Landmark 19 ' A belief in the existence of God'. Then Mackey goes into silly overdrive with 20, 'The immortality of the soul'. Surely this is a 'landmark' in every religion, otherwise it's pointless. 

It was when I got to Mackey's Landmark 21, that I suspected just why that American grand lodge wanted to adopt this particular list, because Mackey states 'The Holy Bible is an essential Landmark.' Woodford agrees here, stating that '...the Koran and the Vedas cannot take the place of the Bible...' Note that there is no reference to the Volume of the Sacred Law- only the Bible. 

Perhaps I am unjustly suspicious, but the way I read it, the acceptance of Mackey's 21st Landmark proclaims that Freemasonry is Christian. Full stop. Thus the blanket acceptance of Mackey's dog's breakfast of Landmarks, some of them quite ridiculous, is to carry in a Trojan horse which would in effect debar all non-Christians. What's more, Landmark 25 emphasises this by stating that 'The Landmarks cannot be changed'. In other words: 'Freemasonry is Christian and there's nothing anyone can do about it'. 

It may well be that this particular American grand lodge has not realised the implications of accepting Mackey's 25 Landmarks in their entirety. But if they do, there is the possibility that the other grand lodges might declare them irregular and boot them out. That'll teach 'em for messing around with the landmarks - whatever they are. 

Let's Ditch Them 

The squabble over landmarks continues. Bernard Jones, the masonic writer, was certain that Mackey's 21st Landmark did not really mean only the Bible -any of the others will do. Others disagree -and so on. One notable masonic historian of today insists that the only landmark is our ritual - which has changed completely over the centuries -and which puts us on a par with the Buffaloes, Odd Fellows etc. 

Which brings me to the whole point of this article. To my mind Craig Gavin's feature proves that the masonic mysteries of the Craft, in a modern context, are just in our collective mind. There are no secrets in the real sense. Equally those landmarks are also just in our collective mind. They do not really exist; but the fact that we talk about landmarks yet cannot define them, makes us look ridiculous in the eyes of many masons - and non-masons. After all, our ritual emphasises mysteries and landmarks -yet no-one knows what they are and whether they ever existed. 

If, after around 300 years, we still cannot prove whether Craft mysteries and landmarks exist, why bother? We have our secrets (passwords) and that's enough. Let's delete all ritual that runs along the lines of ' adhering to the ancient landmarks of the order...' and consign those two aspects to the dustbin of history. The fact that we hold, in high esteem, two facets that do not really exist, merely holds us up to ridicule.

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