Masonic Education - August 2018
In this portion of our website, I will present various articles that I hope readers will find interesting and educational. Hopefully a new one each (calendar) month. Most, if not all articles will not be my own creation, so I will indicate my source of information. Should I depart from or add to the original script, I will indicate in brackets [ ]. As some of the entries on a website are done in ''code'', there may be slight variations from the original script which I may not indicate in the brackets.
'Provided always that the Old Land Marks be carefully preserved'. So runs a phrase from Payne's 'General Regulations' as published in the 1723 Book of Constitutions, and the Craft has since enjoined by obligation and in other ways never to depart from them.
But what are the old landmarks? Many different writers have proposed their own answers to the question but there is no pronouncement whatever from the founts of authority. The Grand Lodge in London has from time to time approached a definition but has stopped short of issuing one. Hawkins, in his Concise Cyclopaedia of Freemasonry (1908, and several reprints) described them as 'those boundary marks which have been set up to check any innovations or encroachments on the field of Freemasonry' but one wonders whether this gives the right emphasis. Who set them up, and when and where they empowered to do so for the Craft as a whole?
Among the attempts to specify them, many made in America, Mackey was able to suggest as many as twenty-five but his list and many others have attracted detailed criticism.
A curious pronouncement by the Lodge of Promulgation in 1810 was that the ceremony of Installation was one of the two landmarks of the Craft but it seems probable that a copyist had written 'two' instead of 'true'! The same authority gives its opinion that 'the form of the lodge, the number and situation of the officers, their different distinctions in the different degrees, the restoration of the proper words to each degree, and the making of the passwords between one degree and another instead of in the degree' were examples of landmarks. This view must be surely adjudged 'unsafe and unsatisfactory' as it refers mainly to domestic adjustment of the English ritual which differs in some of these important details from that practised in other countries. We would wish to add to such a list the presence in lodge of the Volume of the Sacred Law (open when the lodge at labour), a belief in the Great Architect, and several others. But the subject is capable of infinite debate and it is doubtful whether a solution acceptable to all freemasons will ever be reached. There have certainly been many occasions in lodges and in higher levels of authority on which it has been claimed that some offence or other 'against the landmarks' has been committed. Careful consideration then often discloses that it has been a rule in the Constitutions or a by-law that has been disobeyed and that the landmarks (whatever they are) have remained intact.
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from 'A Reference Book For Freemasons' - compiled by Frederick Smyth and published in 1998.
R.W. Bro. Robert South