The Address And The Historical Lecture

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The phrase that the RA. is at once the foundation and the Keystone of the whole masonic structure naturally brings to our mind similar phrases which relate to Christ, and suggests that the RA. at one time was more Christian in character than it is to-day. If we try to interpret this literally it is manifestly untrue, for the RA. being only conferred upon M.M.s cannot be the foundation, which position is of course occupied by the EA. degree. Mystically, however, it is certainly true. If the real secret of the RA. is the Christ Spirit within us, as I have tried to show, or as some might prefer to put it, comprehension of God, then indeed this secret, though not the degree, is alike the foundation and the K. st..

The statement that the RA. is not a fourth degree is a piece of casuistry, hard to defend at this date. The Moderns seem to have been bitterly opposed to the Higher degrees, and did their best to destroy them, but the obviously incomplete nature of the third degree rendered it impossible for them to deny the necessity for a further degree in which the lost s..s were discovered. In their controversy with the Ancients they had, however, always adopted the attitude that the Higher Degrees were an innovation and not true masonry; and in order to save their faces adopted the formula that “Freemasonry consists of three degrees and three degrees only, including the Holy Royal Arch.” That they had not the courage to convert this maxim into a reality by giving the .A. as part of the third degree in a Craft Lodge, indicates that their historical knowledge was better than their logic.

According to every test we can apply, the RA. as another degree, and might almost be called another Order, for whereas the EA., FC, and M.M. are always called degrees, although given in the same Lodge by the same set of Officers, the RA. is given by an entirely separate body, with Officers whose names do not even correspond to Craft Officers and whose functions are very different. Indeed, the general lay out of a Mark Lodge and the arrangement of its Officers are much nearer to Craft working than is the RA., and it is not altogether without significance to find that the Mark is actually conferred by Craft Lodges in Scotland.

With regard to the statement that nearly 500 years elapsed, while this is true of the English and Scotch working, in the Irish workings the incident is connected, not with the second Temple, but with certain repairs to the old Temple, done by King Josiah, which were carried out about 100 years before its destruction. How this difference in “Date” between the English and the Irish working arose it is impossible to say, but there are certain facts in Jewish history which would support the view that the date of Josiah is more correct than the later one chosen by us.

Hezekiah and his successor Josiah put through a series of important reforms, which left a lasting impression on the Jewish Church. Deeply impressed by the fate which befell Israel, both these Sovereigns, urged on by the zeal of the prophets, took drastic steps to suppress the old beliefs of a more or less polytheistic nature, which had undoubtedly survived among the Jews despite their apparent allegiance to Jehovah. Some of the reforms included the abolition of customs as well as beliefs which savoured of the older creeds, and thus they impressed finally upon the Jews, and particularly upon the Bible, the strongly monotheistic teaching which we have ever since associated with Judaism. For example, modern Biblical critics are unhesitatingly of the opinion that it was during the reign of Josiah that the books of Deuteronomy were drawn up, and therefore a tradition which ascribed to this date the discovery of the true nature of God and also of the opening chapter of Genesis, has much to recommend it. Biblical critics are also of the opinion that at this date the old records of Genesis were revised and edited by the Priests at Jerusalem, with a view to stressing the monotheistic nature of God, and these critics in proof point unhesitatingly to certain passages in that book. A  characteristic example of the work of the later writer is the substitution of the word Elohim for Jehovah, the reason being that by this date a tradition had grown up that the name Jehovah should never be uttered, a rule which had not troubled the earlier “Mosaic” writer. For the purpose of my readers who are not students of Hebrew I may add that where in the revised version the translators have used the word “Lord,” they have followed the later Jewish custom which was, when reading a passage which contained the word Jehovah, to substitute verbally the word “Adonai,” which we translate “Lord.” On the other hand, the English translators translate Elohim by the word God. In view of what I have previously written with regard to the avoidance of the name Jehovah, these facts are peculiarly significant. Biblical criticism hardly existed at all in the 18th century, and therefore the Irish date of the incident could not have been evolved by a higher critic. It appears to be a genuine tradition going back to a very early date, and is therefore worthy of considerable respect from those who, like myself, believe that Freemasonry does contain a genuine old tradition running back into the distant past.

It will thus be seen that at the date of Josiah there was a genuine “Discovery” of the true nature of God, and a re- discovery or revision of the old books, which is actually recorded in the Bible in 2 Kings. 22. v. 8. and 2 Chronicles, 34. v. 15., whereas there is no very clear reference to it in Ezra, who gives an account of the building of the second Temple. The following dates will enable brethren to get the true chronological order of events which are somewhat mixed in the RA. tradition. Josiah put through his reforms in  621 BC; Jerusalem fell 586 BC; the Temple was re-built by Zerubbabel, according to Ezra, who was a contemporary, being commenced about 586 and finished about 519 BC. Nehemiah lived in 446 BC, and so could not have been present at the laying of the new foundations.

Let us now turn to the so-called Historical Lecture:- It is interesting to note the reiterated references to the number three in this lecture. The three Lodges, the three reasons why Mount Moriah was holy, and so forth. The reference to the first or Holy Lodge deserves our attention because of its connection with the sign which Moses is supposed to have made when God appeared to him in the burning bush, to which we shall refer later. In America this incident plays a much more important part in the ritual than it does with us, and a spirit lamp is used to symbolise it.

With regard to the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, brethren may have wondered why David was so anxious to obtain this particular site. From the fact that it belonged to a Jebusite and that he is mentioned especially by name it would appear as if it was a spot originally dedicated to the old Adonis cult of the Canaanite Priest-Kings of Jerusalem. We know that before David took the city it was the centre of this cult, and the tradition that it was here that Abraham was about to offer up his son Isaac undoubtedly indicates that it was a holy place, where human sacrifices, generally of the first born, had in the past been made to Moloch. In acquiring this old sacred spot and consecrating it for his new Temple, David did what other great religious reformers have done and grafted his higher form of religion on to the old, thus preventing the followers of the old faith from continuing to use the spot.

The Grand or Royal Lodge presents few difficulties to the RA. mason, although it is hardly historical to say that some vestige of the royal authority continued in Jerusalem up to the time of Titus. To go no further back than the time of our Lord, Herod was not of the Princely tribe of Judah, much less of the royal line of David, and he was not King of Jerusalem at all, the real ruler of that City being Pontius Pilate, a Roman Governor. On the other hand the High Priest did continue to function until the time of Titus. In reality there was no restoration of the Royal line at all, for Zerubbabel himself was never a King, at the most he was merely a Governor, and he left no descendants.

The last section contains one obvious error. Nehemiah lived nearly a hundred years later than Ezra, as has already been pointed out, but the other four were contemporaries.

The fact that the candidate. is supposed to be a member of the Sanhedrin explains why he is invested with a wand of Office. Although in most Lodges now only a pretence is made of handing him a staff, in reality he should have a white wand handed to him, as is done in Scotland, and henceforth when in Chapter should always carry it and also should wear the white robe, although usually both of these points are omitted for the sake of convenience to-day. In the Jewish state the Sanhedrin was, of course, a kind of Senate, and the number 72, which has a mystical meaning, was the number of members of this body.

J. S. M. Ward


Freemasonry is a moral order, instituted by virtuous men, with the praiseworthy design of recalling to our remembrance the most sublime truths, in the midst of the most innocent and social pleasures, founded on liberality, brotherly love and charity.            


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