THE MOTHER GRAND LODGE 3
THE SHORT TALK BULLETIN OF THE MASONIC SERVICE ASSOCIATION
REPRINTED BY PERMISSION OF MSA
THE MOTHER GRAND LODGE III
There is a reason for everything, even for a superstition, if we seek far
enough to find it. There was a reason, both in the spirit of the age and the
state of the Craft, for the "revival" of Masonry in 1717. It was the fad of the
day to form all sorts of queer clubs and secret societies, some of them with
odd, fantastic names. Our Craft was caught by that craze, but Masonry
lived, while the rest, were left in limbo. Why should it have been so ?
The cathedrals had long been finished and the work of the Craft seemed
done. The place of the Master Mason had been taken by the architect
who, like Sir Christopher Wren and Inigo Jones, was no longer a child of
the Lodge, but a man trained in books and by travel. By all the rules,
Masonry should have died, or else reverted to some kind of guild or trade
union. But it did not. Instead, men who were not working Masons had long
been joining its Lodges, in quest of truth they had not found elsewhere.
Put otherwise, why did Masonry alone of all trades live after its work was
done, preserving not only its identity and its old emblems and usages, but
transforming them into teachers of morality and charity? Of course, in the
end only that lives which is in accord with the need of man and the nature
of things; but we may go further and say that Masonry lived because it had
never been simply an order of architects, but a moral and spiritual
fellowship - the keeper of great symbols and a teacher of truths that never
Having reviewed the meager record, let us examine the facts more in detail.
The new Masonry was not merely a "revival"; it was a revolution. The Craft
had fallen to a low estate, following the rebuilding of London after the Great
Fire. The new Grand Lodge was intended to give it "a centre of union and
harmony," a community of action, such as it had not had for year; but it did
much more. It gave the Craft not only an old form with a new meaning, but
a new spirit, a new force, a new direction, and sent it forward to a new
destiny such as no one had ever dreamed.
More than one writer has told us that the leaders of the Masonry of that day
were fuzzy minded men who did not know what they were doing: but the
results show that they were wise men. Never more so than when they were
careful to say that what they were doing was "according to ancient usage,"
a phrase which still has magical power among us, because Masons love
things old, tried, and lovely. They were doing things never done before
"according to ancient usage" from "time immemorial," and that was surely
a rare feat! They made the past glide into the future without loss, using an
ancient form to clothe a new spirit and purpose.
The brethren who met in the Apple-Tavern "constituted themselves a Grand
Lodge pro tempore in Due Form, and forthwith revived the Quarterly
Communication of Officers of lodges, called the Grand Lodge." The
quarterly meeting was never before called a Grand Lodge, so far as we are
aware, but it became one none the less. Under the guise of reviving all old
usage they created a new form of organization - new, certainly, in its power.
No wonder there was a Great Schism later on, made; as we now know, by
Lodges not represented at the Apple-Tree Tavern, and who denied the right
of a few men to constitute themselves a Grand Lodge.
What was the "due form" with which the new Grand Lodge was constituted?
A postscript to the record tells us that "when the Grand Master is present
it is a Lodge in Ample Form; otherwise, only in Due Form." But what ritual,
if any, was used on that important occasion? Nobody knows, our Brethren
have practiced the virtue of secrecy too successfully for us to penetrate the
veil. Some sort of ceremony must have been employed, but we do not
know what it was, unless it was that found in the "Narrative of the
Freemasons Word and Signes" contained in the Sloane MS. The Grand
Lodge itself being a new invention, no doubt it set about revising and
elaborating such ritual as existed, which developed into the Ritual as we
now have it.
Under the guise of a "revival" still further innovations were made when the
Four Lodges met to elect a Grand Master and celebrate the Feast of St.
John in the Goose and Gridiron Ale-house. The office of Grand Master was
new both in its creation and in its amazing power - a power almost
absolute including the "sole" right of appointing both of his Wardens.
These must have been murmurs against it, because Anderson found it
necessary to say a little latter that it was found "as necessary as formerly,
according to ancient custom." Whereas he was in fact attempting to justify
a new fact by appeal to an old fiction, since no such office existed in former
Old usages were in evidence, to be sure, such as the observance of St.
John's Day, the manner of voting by show of hands, the badges of office,
the tyled Lodge, to name no others. But if the new Grand Master wore an
old badge of office, he himself was a new figure in Masonry, invested with
a new and vast power. His badge was a large white apron, though hardly
so large as the one we see in the Hogarth picture. The collar was of much
the same shape as that at present in use, only shorter. When the colour
was changed to blue, and why, is uncertain, but probably not until 1813,
when we begin to see both apron and collar edged with blue. By 1727 the
officers of all lodges were wearing "the jewels of Masonry hanging to a
white apron." Four years later we find the Grand Master wearing gold jewels
pendant to blue ribbons about the neck.
As regards innovations, it is pointed out by Gould that the new Grand
Lodge introduced three striking changes in English Masonry, besides those
already named. First, it prohibited the working of "the Master's Part" - now,
probably, the Master's Degree - in private Lodges, as if it intended to keep
the most sacred and secret part of the ritual within its own control. Not
unnaturally this provoked rebellion on the part of many, and was done
away with in November, 1725. However, it was a wise thing, because, as
Stuckeley said in his Diary, under date of January, 1721, "Masonry took a
run, and ran, itself out of breath through the folly of its members." It seems
that Masons were being made not only by Lodges, but by private groups.
The second innovation named by Gould was less important, but worthy of
mention. The new Grand Lodge arbitrarily imposed upon the English Craft
the use of two compound words new in its vocabulary - Enter Apprentice
and Fellow Craft. These words were known elsewhere in the Craft, but they
were new in England. More serious, by far, was the article on "God and
Religion" in the first Constitutions, by which Christianity was no longer to be
the only religion recognized by Masonry. As Gould remarks, "the drawing
of a sponge over the ancient Charge, 'to be true to God and Holy Church,'
was doubtless looked upon by many Masons of those days in very much
the same manner as we now regard the absence of any religious formulary
whatever in the so-called Masonry of the Grand Orient of France."
The full import of this article was not realized at first; but it was one factor
leading to the Great Schism which divided the Craft for fifty years. Indeed,
the "epoch of transition," as it has been named, from the old Masonry to the
new, covered a long period, say from 1717 to 1738, when the second book
of Constitutions was issued, and first Papal Bull was hurled at the Craft. It
was a period of ups and downs, all kinds of tangles, new and vexing
problems, when the Craft was attacked and defended by turns, with many
alleged "exposures" as well, as we know not only from the record of the
Craft, but from items in the papers of the time.
The old Diarist was right when he said that "Masonry took a run," and it did
not stop until it reached the ends of the earth. Lodges multiplied, charity
flourished, and the gentle influence of fraternity spread afar. In spite of
schism within and opposition without, the Craft grew almost too rapidly,
and measures had to be taken to restrain it, least it go too fast, making
members without making Masons. Those "fuzzy-minded old men," as they
have been called, knew what they were about, and while-they made more
than one sad mistake of policy, they helped forward the Brotherhood of
Man. Even the Great Schism helped, rather than hindered, the onward
march of Masonry.