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George Allan on Education
Dr George Allan
Education Pillar Head

Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth - these are the three grand principles on which Freemasonry is based.  This website needs more articles from masons throughout New Zealand and the rest of the world so, please think about these three grand principles and send your thoughts to me at drgeorgeallan@gmail.com for publication.

All past articles and video-links on the ARCHIVE PAGE (click on the drop-down box at the top of this page) - well worth a look. There is a whole bundle of masonic stuff there, including all the past quizzes. Feel free to use any of the material in your Lodges at any time.


George Allan


August 2019

2019 August Quiz

1. Name one of the Landmarks of Freemasonry.

2. If the Bhagavad-Gita was open on the pedestal in your Lodge room one of the masons present would belong to which religion.

3. Of the seven Liberal Arts and Sciences - how many are ARTS and can you name them?

4. Name one of the four 'tavern' involved in the initial meeting to set up the English Grand Lodge of London. 

5. The four corners of the mosiac floor represent four virtues - what are they?

6. What are the three sacred dictates that Freemasonry imprints on our heart?

7. The column on the Senior Wardens table is of what order of architcture?

8. The three Great Lights in your Lodge - where are they to be found and what are they?

9. What constitutes 'the furniture" of your Lodge?

10.  You owe duties to God, your neighbour and yourself - what is your duty to your neighbour?


The Apple-Tree Tavern Conspiracy

Our thanks to The Philalethes Society for the following interesting article

When did the Grand Lodge era begin? The generally accepted answer has been June 24, 1717 at an assembly and feast at the Goose and Gridiron Alehouse in London, as reported on page 109 of Dr. James Anderson’s 1738 Book of Constitutions. This same source reports a meeting in 1716 when the members of four London lodges together with some unaffiliated brothers met at the Apple-Tree Tavern and constituted themselves a Grand Lodge pro tempore in due form for the sole purpose of calling for quarterly meetings of the officers of the lodges present, one of which would be an Annual Assembly and Feast to choose a Grand Master among themselves. The June 24, 1717 meeting at the Goose and Gridiron Alehouse was held in response to that call, and Antony Sayer, a gentleman, was reportedly then elected Grand Master by a show of hands.

Anderson goes on to report the subsequent annual assemblies held on St. John the Baptist Day (June 24th) and the election of a new Grand Master at each until the quarterly assembly on Lady Day 1721 (March 25th, the Feast of the Annunciation) when John, the second Duke of Montague, the Master of a lodge, was elected Grand Master. He was reportedly installed Grand Master at the Annual Assembly on the following June 24th. From that point forward, it is clear from the historical portion of the 1738 Constitutions that Grand Lodge was no longer a modest group of Masons assembling annually to dine and choose a Grand Master to preside at the next year’s dinner. More Masons and more lodges wanted to participate and were represented at Grand Lodge meetings. At the September 29, 1721 Grand Lodge quarterly meeting, Grand Master Montague ordered Anderson to prepare what became Anderson’s 1723 Book of Constitutions, and the Grand Lodge began its evolution into the supreme Masonic power and authority over the lodges under its jurisdiction.

For more information on The Philalethes Society click on The Philalethes Society click here

Three Irregular Steps

An Explanation of the three irregular steps in the first degree of Freemasonry

To understand the significance and meaning of the three irregular steps in the first degree we need to set the scene. Consider the following points and see if you agree that they will cause any man to be anxious, concerned and fearful to some extent:

The Candidate knows that he is about to endue a rite of passage into a society of men he really wants to join.
He knows nothing of what is about to happen.
He is probably feeling humiliation at being in a state of semi-undress.

He cannot see because of the blind-fold.
He is probably having grave doubts about the whole experience but having come this far is unwilling to back out – although it has been known and some do.
He hears the knock and the doors open and he hears the voices of people inside the Lodge.
The doors close and he is still outside feeling confused.
The doors open again and he is now taken by the hand and lead over the thresh-hold.

At this point his heart is probably thumping, he is probably feeling really confused and doesn’t know what is happening to him.

He finds he is dependent on his guide (the Junior Deacon) who he may not know or trust at this stage.
He is questioned and his guide whispers words in his ear and he copies these words as his answers to the questions.

Then follows a series of events where he is guided around and hears people talking about him and what he is there for. He gets use to being lead by the hand in a firm way.
Then he hears someone addressing the Worshipful Master and hears a reply and a series of questions and again a friendly voice prompts him with answers. Then he hears the WM telling the SW to direct the Deacons to instruct him in the proper steps and gets lead off again on another blind journey.

He is told to stop or at least his guide stops him and now whispers in his ear how to position his feet at right angles and tells him to take a step forward. How do you think the Candidate feels right now? He has been pushed and pulled about all around the Lodge, which he cannot see, heard people speaking about him and now he is told to step forward. He is probably thinking – WHERE? – WHY?

This is where we are at when trying to understand the question about the irregular steps. An answer to the question emerges as follows.

Freemasonry appreciates all the above and so asks each Candidate to take a short step with his left foot because he is anxious, unsure, worried about what might happen to him. He is taking a step into the unknown.

When he has done this and feels that nothing bad has happened because of this step, he is asked to take another a little longer and because he learning to trust his guide – he does take another, slightly longer step.

The third step is even longer and represents the enormous step into Freemasonry where he arrives at the pedestal (even though he does not know this yet) where he is about to take his Solemn Obligation and become a Freemason.

Some masons attach significance to the fact that there are three steps – they say the number represents the three degrees. It is more probable that there are three steps and three degrees because the number three was and still is regarded as significant in many ways to do with human life. In the original Masonic ceremonies there were only two degrees, that of Apprentice and that of Fellow of the Craft. A freemason was not regarded as a Master Mason until he had been installed in the Chair of his Lodge.

Another modern add-on is the belief that the steps should be 9 inches, 12 inches and 15 inches representing a right-angled triangle. This is a misconception and was never laid down in the original ritual books.

I hope this helps some of us understand why we take three steps of unequal length.  Go to the page on Articles To Read and see more explanations.

George Allan

June 2019

The Forgotten Grand Principal

If there is one phrase that irritates me in Freemasonry it is when the junior warden stands up at the festive board to propose the toast to the visitors and refers to this as one of the most important toasts of the evening because ‘visiting is what Freemasonry is all about’.

Those few words highlight to me one of the real problems in Freemasonry: we do not know what Freemasonry is all about.

I am not saying that visiting a lodge does not have an important role in Freemasonry; it does, but this role is linked to supporting the lodge and developing one’s inner self. The presence of visitors swells the numbers and helps the lodge to create that energy which is so important at the initiation, passing or raising of a candidate and the continual witnessing of the degrees helps to imprint the sublime messages contained within those ceremonies on our minds.

As a young mason, initiated at the age of 25, I remember feeling disillusioned with Freemasonry as there did not seem to be anything more to it than just trying to reproduce a word-perfect ceremony consisting of obscure and outdated words and having a good time at the festive board. So many of us will have spent an inordinate amount of time lying in the bath, walking the dog or pacing up and down in the kitchen, trying to learn the words of the ritual and get them in the right order, but how many of us can honestly say we really understand why we have three degrees and what deeper message the ceremonies of initiation, passing and raising is supposed to convey to a candidate?

It was a visit to a German lodge that made me realise that there was something else to Freemasonry. The ceremony started not with the Master opening the lodge but with the Brethren preparing themselves for the ceremony by quietly meditating, while a pianist played some beautiful classical piece in the background. No one spoke and by the time the Master opened the lodge, the atmosphere was so highly charged with energy that the hairs on the back of my neck were standing on end.

Then we witnessed a highly moving and word-perfect ceremony delivered with feeling and emotion. Word-perfect because the book was open in front of them should they have required a prompt and delivered with feeling and emotion because they had learnt the ceremony and, more importantly, understood the spiritual or deeper message they were supposed to convey. Even today, I can remember nearly every part of that ceremony and it spurred me on to try and under- stand the philosophy of Freemasonry and its deeper, hidden meanings.

We are told that our order is founded on three grand principles – ‘Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth’ – and, for me, the key to the philosophy of Freemasonry is found in that last principle – Truth.

So what is ‘Truth’? It is the knowledge of yourself and through that knowledge you are able to discover your own potential and prepare your mind to reach a higher level of spiritual consciousness.

Initiation is the start of that journey to awaken those hitherto dormant higher faculties and enables a candidate to recover those genuine secrets that are buried within the centre or the innermost part of our soul.

Our potential is our real nature and is some- thing beyond words, judgement or intellectual analysis. Even if we studied the words in the rituals for years we would not arrive at this state of knowledge and understanding. Through words alone it is difficult to enter into real knowledge: we need experience.

That experience comes from our ceremonies and it is important that we create that energy I described above. To do this we need to ensure that our members understand the underlying philosophy of Freemasonry and are able to trans- late its symbolism and connect with its deeper meanings for themselves. Too often today our ceremonies are just a set of mumbled words, at best well delivered and without deviation from the script.

If we do not ‘spiritualise’ our ceremonies then Freemasonry will continue to become more and more of a philanthropical and social organisation just like Rotary or Round Table. The difference between us and them is three degrees and we should learn to value and understand the nature of that difference and not forget that as a person awakens ‘Truth’ within themselves then the other grand principles of Freemasonry – ‘Brotherly Love’ and ‘Relief’ – will flow naturally anyway.

Kai Hughes Grand Orator United Grand Lodge of England

Vitruvius Influence on Architecture



Is it possible to identify a universal sense of beauty - a definition of beauty that can be applied to all people at all times? Don't our ideas of beauty shift and fight and transform themselves in different times and spaces?

This image is by Marcus Vitruvius, the famous Ancient Roman architect. Vituvius's most famous work is entitled Ten Books on Architecture, and was written in approximately 20-30 BC. It is the only text on the subject of architecture to survive antiquity. It was also one of the first texts in history to draw the connection between the architecture of the body and that of the building.

Vitruvius believed that an architect should focus on three central themes when preparing a design for a building: firmitas (strength), utilitas (functionality), and venustas (beauty).

But the theory of venustas (or beauty) is a very complicated one. Vitruvius thought that a timeless notion of beauty could be learnt from the 'truth of nature', that nature's designs were based on universal laws of proportion and symmetry. He believed that the body's proportions could be used as a model of natural proportional perfection. He wrote of the way ancient scholars examined many examples of 'well shaped men' and discovered that these bodies shared certain proportions. He showed that the 'ideal' human body fitted precisely into both a circle and a square, and he thus illustrated the link that he believed existed between perfect geometric forms and the perfect body. In this way, the body was seen as a living rulebook, containing the fixed and faultless laws set down by nature.

So it followed, according to Vitruvius, that an architect's designs must refer to the unquestionable perfection of the body's symmetry and proportions. If a building is to create a sense of eurythmia - a graceful and agreeable atmosphere - it is essential that it mirrors these natural laws of harmony and beauty.

The Three Doors to Freemasonry

I have recently been asked two interesting questions.

One about the Wardens being called the guardianse of the Lodge.

The Wardens are guardians because one of their duties is to try Candidates in open Lodge to prove to the assembled members that the Candidate is who he says he is, and not a cowan.

The other about the three door to a Lodge

Here is what I think.......

The three Doors to a Lodge are: one physical, one spiritual and one intellectual.

The physical door is the physical entrance to the Lodge on which a man knocks 3 times when he is ready to be initiated.

The intellectual door is opened in the mind by my own free will, uninfluenced by mercenary or other unworthy motive, offering myself as a Candidate for the mysteries and privileges of Ancient Freemasonry.

The spiritual door is opened in my heart by the help of God being free and of good report. Later in masonry this spiritual foundation will be built upon by study and practice of the 3 spiritual virtues of Faith, Hope, Charity and reinforced further by Prudence, Temperance, Fortitude and Justice.

George Allan

July 2019


We thank our Brethren in The South Island for the following article, especially VW Bro Martin McGregor

The City of York, in the North of England, is celebrated for its traditional connection with Freemasonry in that kingdom. No topic in the history of Freemasonry has so much engaged the attention of modern Masonic Scholars, or given occasion to more discussion, than the alleged facts of the existence of Freemasonry in the tenth century at the City of York as a prominent point, of the calling of a Congregation of the Craft there in the year 926, of the organization of a General Assembly and the adoption of a Constitution.

During the whole of the eighteenth and the greater part of the nineteenth century, the Fraternity in general have accepted all of these statements as genuine portions of authentic history; and the adversaries of the Order have, with the same want of discrimination, rejected them all as myths; while a few earnest seekers for truth have been at a loss to determine what part was historical and what part legendary.

More recently, the discovery of many old manuscripts directed the labors of such Scholars as Hughan, Woodford, Lyon, and others, to the critical examination of the early history of Freemasonry, and that of York has particularly engaged their attention. For a thorough comprehension of the true merits of this question, it will be necessary that the student should first acquaint himself with what was, until recently, the recognized theory as to the origin of Freemasonry at York, and then that he should examine the newer hypotheses advanced by the writers of the present day.

In other words, he must read both the tradition and the history. In pursuance of this plan, we propose to commence with the legends of York Freemasonry, as found in the old manuscript Constitutions, and then proceed to a review of what has been the result of recent investigations. It may be premised that, of all those who have Subjected these legends to the crucible of historical criticism, Brother William James Hughan of Cornwall, in England, must unhesitatingly be acknowledged as Facile Pr7nceps, the ablest, the most laborious, and the most trustworthy investigator. He was the first and the most successful remover of the cloud of tradition which so long had obscured the sunlight of history.

The legend which connects the origin of English Freemasonry at York in 926 is sometimes called the York Legend, sometimes the Athelstane Legend, because the General Assembly, said to have been held there, occurred during the reign of that king; and sometimes the Edunn Legend, because that Prince is supposed to have been at the head of the Craft, and to have convoked them together to form a Constitution. The earliest extant of the old manuscript Constitution's is the ancient poem commonly known as the Halliwell or Regius Manuscript and the date of which is conjectured, on good grounds, to be about the year 1390. In that work we find the following version of the legend translated into modern English.

This craft came into England, as I tell you, in the time of good king Athelstan's reign; he made then both hall, and also bower and lofty temples of great honor, to take his recreation in both day and night and to worship his God with all his might. This good lord loved this craft full well, and purposed to strengthen it in every part on account of various defects that he discovered in the craft. He sent about into all the land, after all the masons of the craft, to come straight to him, to amend all these defects by good counsel, if it might so happen. He then permitted an assembly to be made of divers lords in their rank, dukes, earls, and barons, also knights, squires, and many more, and the great burgesses of that city, they were all there in their degree; these were there, each one in every way to make laws for the estate of these masons. There they sought by their wisdom how they might govern it; there they found out fifteen articles, and there they made fifteen points.

The next document in which we find this legend recited is that known as the Cooke Manuscript, whose date is placed at 1490. The details are here much more full than those contained in the Halliwell Manuscript. The passage referring to the legend is as follows:

And after that was a worthy kynge in Englond, that was callyd Athelstone, and his yongest son lovyd well the seiens of Gemetry, and he wyst well that hand craft had the praetyke of the seiens of Gemetry so well as masons; wherefore he drew him to eonsell and lernyd [the] practyke of that scions to his speculatyf. For of speculatyfe he was a master, and he lovyd well masonry and masons. And he bicome a mason hymselfe. And he gaf hem [gave theml charges and names as it is now usyd in Englond and in other countries. And he ordevned that they sehulde have resonabull pay. And purehesed [obtained] a fre patent of the kyng that they sehulde make a sembly when thei sawe resonably tvme a [to] eum togedir to her [their] eounsell of the whiehe charges, manors & semble as is write and taught in the boke of our charges wherefor I leve hit at this tyme.

This much is contained in the manuscript from lines 611 to 642. Subsequently, in lines 688-719, which appear to hasc been taken from what is above called the Boke of Charges, the legend is repeated in these words: In this manner was the forsayde art begunne in the land of Egypt bi the forsayd maister Euglat (Euelid), & so, it went fro lond to londe and fro kyngdome to kyngdome. After that, many yeris, in the tyme of Kyng Atdhelstone, whiche was sum tyme kynge of Englande, bi his counsell and other gret lordys of the land bi comin (common) assent for grete defaut y-fennde (found) among masons thei ordeyned a certayne reule amongys hem (them). on (one) tyme of the yere or in iii yere, as nede were to the kyng and gret lordys of the londe and all the eomente (community), fro provynce to provynce and fro countre to countre congregations scholde be made by maisters, of all maimers masons and felaus in the forsayd art. And so at such congregations they that be made masters schold be examined of the articulls after written, & be ransacked (thoroughly examined) whether thei be abull and kunnyng (able and skilful) to the profyte of the lordys hem to serve (to serve theru), and to the honor of the forsayd art.

Seventy years later, in 1560, the Lansdowne Manuscript was written, and in it we find the legend still further developed, and Prince Edwin for the first time introduced by name. That manuscript reads thus: Soon after the Decease of St. Albones, there came Diverse Wars into England out of Diverse Nations, so that the good rule of Masons was dishired (disturbed) and put down lentil the tonne of King Adilston. In his time there was a worthy King in England, that brought this Land into good rest, and he built many great works and buildings therefore he loved well Masons, for he had a sone called Edwin, the which Loved Masons much more than his Father did, and he was so practiced in Geometry, that he delighted much to come and talk with Masons and to learn of them the Craft. And after, for the love he had to Masons and to the Craft, he was made Mason at Windsor, and he got of the King, his Fathers a Charter and commission once every year to have Assembly, within the Realm where they would within England, and to correct within themselves Faults it Trespasses that were done ads touching the Craft, and he held them an Assembly, and there he made Masons and gave them Charges, and taught them the Manners and Commands the same to be kept ever afterwards. And tootle them the Charter and commission to keep their Assembly. and Ordained that it should he renewed from King to King, and when the Assembly were gathered together he made a cry, that 311 old Masons or Young, that had any Writings or Understanding of the charges and manners that were made before their Kings, wheresoever they were made Masons, that they should shew them forth, there were found some in French, some in Greek, some in Hebrew, and some in English, and some in other Languages, and when they were read and over seen well the intent of them was understood to be alone, and then he caused a Book to he made thereof how this worthy Craft of Masonic was first founded, and he himself commanded, and also then caused. that it should be read at any time when it should happen any Mason or Masons to be made to give him or them their Charges, and from that, until this Day, Manners of Masons have been kept in this manner and found, as well as Men might Govern it, and Furthermore at diverse Assemblies have been put and Ordained diverse Charges by the best advice of Masters and Fellows.

All the subsequent manuscripts contain the legend substantially as it is in the Lansdowne; and most of them appear to be mere copies of it, or, most probably of some original one of which both they and it are copies.

In 1793 Doctor Anderson published the first edition of the Book of Constitutions, in which the history of the Fraternity of Freemasons is, he Save, "collected from their general records and their faithful traditions of many ages." He gives the legend taken, as he says, from "a certain record of freemasons written in the reign of King Edward IV," which manuscript, Preston asserts, "is said to have been in the possession of the famous Elias Ashmole."

As the old manuscripts were generally inaccessible to the Fraternity, and, indeed, until comparatively recently but few of them have been discovered, it is to the publication of the legend by Anderson, and subsequently by Preston, that we are to attribute its general adoption by the Craft for more than a century and a half.

The form of the legend, as given by Anderson in his first edition, varies slightly from that in his second. In the former, he places the date of the occurrence at 930; in his second, at 926: in the forth, he styles the Congregation at York a General Lodge; in his second, a Grand Lodge. Now, as the modern and universally accepted form of the legend agrees in both respects with the latter statement, and not with the former, it must be concluded that the second edition, and the subsequent ones by Entick and Noorthouck, who only repeat Anderson, furnished the form of the legend as now popular.

In the second edition of the Constitutions (page 63), published in 1738, Anderson gives the legend in the following words:

In all the Old Constitutions it is written to this purpose, viz.:

That though the Ancient records of the Brotherhood in England were most of them destroyed or lost in the war with the Danes, who burnt the Monasteries where the Records were kept- yet King Athelstan (the Grandson of King Alfred), the first anointed King of England who translated the Holy Bible into the Saxon language when he had brought the land into rest and peace, built many great works, and encouraged many Masons from France and elsewhere, whom he appointed overseers thereof: they brought with them the Charges and Regulations of the foreign Lodges, and prevailed with the King to increase the wages.

That Prince Edwin, the King's Brother, being taught Geometry and Masonry, for the love he had to the said Craft, and to the honorable principles whereon it is grounded, purchased a Free Charter of King Athelstan his Brother, for the Free Masons having among themselves a Connection or a power and freedom to regulate themselves to amend what might happen amiss and to hold an yearly Communication in a General Assembly.

That accordingly Prince Edwin summoned all the Free and Accepted Masons in the Realm, to meet him in the Congregation at York, who came and formed the Grand Lodge under him as their Grand Master, AD. 926.

That they brought with them many old Writings and Records of the Craft, some in Greek, some in Latin some in French, and other languages; and from the contents thereof, they framed the Constitutions of the English Lodges, and made a Law for themselves, to preserve and observe the same in all Time coming, etc., etc., etc.

Preston accepted the legend, and gave it in his second edition (page 198) in the following words:

Edward died in 924, and was succeeded by Athelstane his son, who appointed his brother Edwin patron of the Masons. This prince procured a Charter from Athelstane empowering them to meet annually in communication at York. In this city, the first Grand Lodge of England was formed in 926 at which Edwin presided as Grand Master. Here many did writings were produced in Greek, Latin, and other languages, from which it is said the Constitutions of the English Lodge have been extracted.

Such is the York Legend, as it has been accepted by the Craft, contained in all the old manuscripts from at least the end of the fourteenth century to the present day; officially sanctioned by Anderson, the historiographer of the Grand Lodge in 1723, and repeated by Preston, by Oliver, and by almost all succeeding Masonic writers. Only recently has anyone thought of doubting its authenticity; and now the important question in Masonic literature is whether X it is a myth or a history—whether it is all or in any part fiction or truth—and if so, what portion belongs to the former and what to the latter category. In coming to a conclusion on this subject, the question necessarily divides itself into three forms:

1. Was there an Assembly of Freemasons held in or about the year 926, at York, under the patronage or by the permission of King Athelstan? There is nothing in the personal character or the political conduct of Athelstan that forbids such a possibility or even probability. He was liberal in his ideal, like his grandfather the great Alfred; he was a promoter of civilization; he patronized learning, built many churches and monasteries, encouraged the translation of the Scriptures, and gave charters to many operative companies. In his reign, the faith-giklan, free gilds or sodalities, were incorporated by law. There is, therefore, nothing improbable in supposing that he extended his protection to the Operative Masons.

The uninterrupted existence for several centuries of a tradition that such an Assembly was held, requires that those who deny it should furnish some more Satisfactory reason for their opinion than has yet been produced. Incredulity," says Voltaire, "is the foundation of history." But it must be confessed that, while an excess of credulity often mistakes fable for reality, an obstinacy of incredulity as frequently leads to the rejection of truth as fiction.

The Reverend Brother Moodford, in an essay on ache connection of forts with, the History of Freemasonry in England, inserted in Brother Hughan's Unpublished Records of the Craft, has critically discussed this subject, and comes to this conclusion: "I see no reason, therefore, to reject so old a tradition, that under Athelstan the Operative Masons obtained his patronage, and met in General Assembly." To that verdict Doctor Mackey subscribed.

2. Was Edwin, the brother of Athelstan, the person who convoked that Assembly? This question has already been discussed in the article Edwin, where the suggestion is made that the Edwin alluded to in the legend was not the son or brother of Athelstan, but Edwin, King of Northumbria.  Francis Drake, in his speech before the Grand Lodge of York in 1726, was, Doctor Mackey believed, the first who publicly aadvanced this opinion; but he does so in a way that shows that the view must have been generally accepted by his auditors, and not advanced by him as something new. He says: "You know we can boast that the first Grand Lodge ever held in England was held in this city, where Edwin, the first Christian King of Northumbria, about the six hundredth year after Christ, and who laid the foundation of our Cathedral, sat as Grand Master."

Edwin, who was born in 586, ascended the throne in 617, and died in 633. He was pre-eminent, among the Anglo-Saxon Kings who were his contemporaries, for military genius and statesmanship. So inflexible was his administration of justice, that it was said that in his reign a woman or child might carry everywhere a purse of gold without danger of robbery—high commendation in those days of almost unbridled rapine.

The chief event of the reign of Edwin was the introduction of Christianity into the kingdom of Northumbria. Previous to his reign, the northern metropolis of the Church had been placed at York, and the King patronized Paulinus the Bishop, giving him a house and other possessions in that city. The only objection to this theory is its date, which is three hundred years before the reign of Athelstan and the supposed meeting at York in 926.

3. Are the Constitutions which were adopted by that General Assembly now extant? It is not to be doubted, that if a General Assembly was held, it must have adopted Constitutions or regulations for the government of the Craft. Such would mainly be the object of the meeting. But there is no sufficient evidence that the Regulations now called the York Constitutions or the Gothic Constitutions, are those that were adopted in 926. It is more probable that the original document and all genuine copies of it are lost, and that it formed the type from which all the more modern manuscript Constitutions have been formed. There is the strongest internal evidence that all the manuscripts, from the Hallfwell to the PapltJorth, have a common original, from which they were copied with more or less accuracy, or on which they were framed with more or less modification. And this original Doctor Mackey supposed to be the Constitutions which must have been adopted at the General Assembly at York.

The theory, then, which Doctor Mackey concluded may safely be advanced on this subject, and which in his judgment must be maintained until there are better reasons than we now have to reject it, is, that about the year 926 a General Assembly of Freemasons was held at York, under the patronage of Edwin, brother of Athelstan, at which Assembly a code of laws was adopted, which became the basis on which all subsequent Masonic Constitutions were framed.

 VW Bro Martin McGregor can shed some light on this subject.   The Edwin of the legend is almost certainly Edwin the half-brother of Athelstan, both sons of Edward the Elder.   Athelstan was Edward’s eldest son by his first partner, Egwina, but born out of wedlock.  Edwin was Edward’s eldest son by his second partner and legal wife, Elfleda.  Edward appointed Edwin as sub-king of Kent, which was tantamount to proclaiming him heir apparent to the throne of Wessex.  However, when Edward died the Mercians proclaimed Athelstan as king because he was born and raised in Mercia.  The witan (parliament) of Wessex was still debating the succession when the Mercians made their move but, although taken by surprise, they reluctantly decided to go along with the Mercian wishes.  Thus Athelstan became king and he became arguably the most powerful king the Saxons ever had. One of his most notable acheivements was his defeat of the Vikings in 927, followed by his seizure of York.  The capture of York was a momentus occasion and the establishment of Athelstan’s court there was an event of great significence and it is highly probable that some of his statutes affecting the craft guilds were enacted there.  Also, it is highly probable that he was accompanied on his campaign by his half-brothers, including Edwin, and that Edwin was appointed to some important roles.  In those days the royal court was held wherever the king happened to be and the kings had a practise of being ever on the move throughout their realm.

Edwin was drowned at sea in 933 whilst crossing to Flanders and there was a strong rumour that the ship had been made unseaworthy on Athelstan’s orders.

Fidelity - A Theme Within The Craft Degrees

    By V.W. Bro. Graeme Martin Grand Lecturer, The Ashley Lodge No 28, Rangiora

In this discussion I didn’t want to focus on the number of times the word fidelity appears in the Craft ritual that this approach is not useful.  In reality Fidelity is a theme so ingrained in the ritual and our learning I have found it hard to limit the use of ritual to illustrate fidelity.  I run the risk of incorporating so much of the ritual that this paper could start to look like the ritual itself.  I haven’t quoted page numbers where ritual has been, but used suffice to say the book has been used extensively and I hope in a way that is interesting and will spark comment on my interpretation. A series of points of progressive learning have been placed in our ritual in order to prepare us for a progression of knowledge.  Fidelity as a concept has been placed there in order to support this progressive learning process.  In a form of replication of the test of fidelity I have placed a number of questions through-out this paper which I hope you will find useful. Fidelity is at first measured by other members of your lodge, but we slowly develop that capacity ourselves. “By this exemplary conduct, you will convince the world that merit has been your title to our privileges, and that on you our favours have not been undeservedly bestowed.”  Fidelity is the whetstone on which we are judged.  The favours bestowed are the processes ingrained in us by adhering to a ritual that will improve us. The points of learning that we have considered the so called “ss.” are not just a means of identification but a measure of our preparation within our mind and heart while our life journey is undertaken.  Fidelity is a tool that promotes the learning and discipline necessary.  It is used to eventually focus a freemason inwards toward self judgement and self discipline.  The outward trappings of status and personal regard from others are not as important as his own honour and virtue which is measured by himself.   Virtually every part of the ritual is teaching us an important tenet or standard of behaviour.  This checking process and its placement in Freemasonry is the central theme for this paper.   First we must start by understanding what fidelity means and where it is illustrated in the ritual.  It would be superficial if we just looked for use of the word itself, but instead we need to look for how the concept is used in the ritual as that has many interpretations.  In addition we have to look at our motives and behaviours, in and out of a lodge, to get a better understanding of that use. Questions 1. Where do the signs of fidelity appear in our ritual? 2. Can you think of any places in the ritual where a story or parable illustrating a value linked to fidelity is placed? 3. What other tests of fidelity appear in the ritual? Fidelity is more than a few of signs or spoken phrases, it about a range of actions on which we are judged and to reflect on and better understand ourselves.  To gain a better understanding of the word we need to look at its wider meaning.  We need then to look for the signs, tokens and words and the concepts they represent.  There are so many places where this concept is used that I have found it hard to limit their use in this paper.  There are just too many values we assimilate and if I include all of them this paper will become too long.  The beauty of our Masonic system is that it is not doctrinal but allows the freemason to dwell upon universal expectations of the right behaviour but leaves open the path for achieving our own personal destination or eventual reunification with God.   An abridged definition from The American Dictionary of the English Language we have: Fidelity (noun) 1. Faithfulness to obligations, duties, or observances. 2. Exact correspondence with fact or with a given quality, condition, or event; accuracy. Synonyms for fidelity:  allegiance, fealty, loyalty. It is interesting to note that all these nouns promote faithfulness to an idea.  Fidelity or faithfulness implies the unfailing fulfilment of one’s duties and obligations and strict adherence to vows or promises.  Every mason in New Zealand does this in many ways in every degree obligation.  These obligations require that the candidate not pass on any signs, tokens and words to anyone who is not yet ready to receive them.  These methods of recognition in themselves may have provided a living for the operative mason but now in our day they have a different purpose.  They restrict learning to a series of steps giving time for a candidate to learn important values.  This is a process of checking is now illustrated. Externally Communicated Standards of Fidelity If we think that faithfulness is a similar concept to us taking responsibility for all our actions then we have this illustrated in the Mark Master Degree ritual; “Every action will always bear our mark, that we can never escape responsibility for every single act of omission or commission and that the mansion of our daily living will stand the storms and stresses of life, if our labour has been faithfully true.”  Like the Entered Apprentice and the Fellow-craft degrees our responsibilities are outlined in a series of charges similar to the above.  Our fidelity will be checked by people other than ourselves - our lodge members and members of society in general will measure our faithfulness to our duties. Fealty is a useful substitute word for fidelity, so what do we have to be faithful to and pledge to uphold.  We swear fealty to the Constitution of the Grand Lodge of New Zealand and our Lodge bye-laws.  We have to show fidelity to The Antient Charges of Freemasonry.  These rules while in force are designed to regulate our behaviour and define what is acceptable.  Unacceptable actions therefore would be a contravention of fidelity. Finally if loyalty is to be used as a substitute for fidelity then loyalty to our family, our masonic brethren, our community and our country will be used as a measure.  Loyalty implies consistency of purpose, strength of will when it may be difficult and possibly even in a time when there may be a physical or mental cost to who is being measured.  Material well being should not be an important measure of the quality of a freemason. The external delivery of Masonic standards of behaviour is most commonly found in the ritual of the degrees in masonry.  These standards are set in the test questions, O. and charges.  These values become acquired through repetition and observation and given a period of time for reflection to the careful listener they become internalised values are practised.  The freemason learns to regulate and measure his own actions. Internal Setting of Standards of Fidelity As the freemason progresses through Freemasonry these standards become focussed on what the candidate feels is important from his own internal values.  The candidate begins to takes more personal responsibility for their own learning, what is perhaps missing from their life and as a result, fidelity becomes attached to a personal code of conduct throughout a mason’s life with an end in view.
Questions 1. From an external view will your fidelity to the tenets of the Craft measure up against those of H. A.?   2. How is fidelity being in the third degree? Fidelity as a Progression of Learning (Body – Mind – Soul) To start the degree system itself provides a learning focus for each candidate.  It would be useful to look at the messages contained in each degree as those are by which our fidelity will be measured.   Question 1. What are the obligations, what are our duties, what allegiances are owed and what do we have to observe?   The answers to these questions will provide a means of measuring a candidate’s progress as well as a benchmark for continuous learning through reflection.  This ritual delivery focuses on standards that bench mark our progress.  However as the members progress through the Craft Degrees there is an increasing expectation that members measure their own progress.  Is the candidate ready to rake the next degree; fidelity is the measuring stick of that readiness. Question 1. How should we measure when a candidate is ready to take the next degree? In the First Degree fidelity is measured in the physical world terms (it measures the Entered Apprentice’s relationship with the body of mankind). One good example of how we are taught to regulate our lives is given in the first degree where we are told;  “Your fidelity must be exemplified by a strict observance of the Constitutions of the Fraternity, by adhering to the Ancient Landmarks of the Order by never attempting to exhort, or otherwise duly obtain the secrets of a superior degree; and by refraining from recommending anyone to a participation in our secrets unless you have strong grounds for believing that by a similar Fidelity, he will reflect honour on your choice.”  (First Degree Charge After Initiation) The Craft uses this charge to convey to the initiate the duties they have to themselves, the craft and the country in which they reside.  The candidate also learns they have a duty to earn a living and represent themselves as a good citizen of the community.  They have a duty to improve themselves by making their mind ready to knock off the impure and the excrescences of base wants and to prepare themselves for the process of refinement to come.   This Entered Apprentice Degree represents the mason’s interactions with the world around them.  It is not a passive world but is a dynamic world of interaction. The w. ts. exemplify this change process.  The c g. and c. will be applied to the rough ashlar of the human body and the 24 i. g. will remind the apprentice of his obligation to his job, the society in which he resides and his God. The new freemason is also reminded his duty is foremost to his family.  The Entered Apprentice and his family will receive that which nourishes the body and keeps them alive.  His wage will be in the real world of c. and o.  From his continued existence there is a hope for personal improvement but that will only come after the fidelity check of the test questions of the first degree and his continued observation of his obligations.


Our thanks to our Brethren in the Southern Division for the following interesting Article from Mackey's Encyclopedia of Freemasonry.


The word "fellow" derived from early northern languages; the central meaning which persisted from one language or dialect to another was that of associate, one in full and equal membership. There are indications that the word first entered our nomenclature in Scotland, but the status or grade thus named was as old as Freemasonry.

In Medieval Freemasonry an Apprentice served a long period of years as a learner or student. He was under oath to the Lodge to obey its rules and regulations; and he was indentured or bonded to a Master. Data belonging to the Transition period suggest that formal papers of indenture were drawn under seal and signed by the youth's father or guardian—one Scottish Lodge admitted a lawyer for that express purpose. During the years of apprenticeship the youth acted as a servant to his master, lived in a dormitory or in his master's home (whence the old "oaths of chastity," etc.), received food and clothing; but worked without pay, and if an Apprentice's work was sold his master received the money.

At the end of his term, usually of seven years, he was "released from his indentures" and was made a fellow, or full member, of the Craft. As regards his art he was a master mason; as regards his status or grade he was a fellow. He could have an apprentice of his own; was paid wages; had a voice and a vote and could hold office; he could go to other communities or to other countries to work. He was "free of the gild." Such a man was called "journeyman" very frequently.

This word itself may have carried two meanings at once, as words often do: in its French usage it meant "worker by the day" it also probably meant "jour neying Masons," fellows who could travel; and in some periods newly-made fellows made it a rule to travel, working in one place after another in order to perfect their knowledge, during the first two years. The highest positions in the Craft, the best-paid and the most honored, were the officers, the Master of Masons in particular, supervisors, administrators, overseers, etc. Also, one experienced Mason might employ a number of Masons with their apprentices; he was the Master and they were journeymen. The word "master" therefore could mean a workman who had mastered the art, the chief officer of a Lodge, an employer, a supervisor, etc. As regards the art he was on a level with fellows; as regards official standing he was in a grade above them. 

There was in Medieval Freemasonry a wealth of ritualism, ceremony, symbolism—this could be said with safety even if there were no records, because in the Middle Ages, when almost every special form of work was separately organized, the gilds and fraternities were saturated with ritualism and symbolism even the gilds of yeomen, often consisting of farm laborers, and at the bottom of social classes, had their rites; but in the sense of the word as now used there were no Degrees in Medieval Freemasonry. There were, however, the germs or beginnings of what became Degrees in Speculative Freemasonry; the apprentice was examined, sworn, charged, etc. and it is almost certain that he was again sworn, charged, etc., before his raising to the status of fellow. In the Medieval period there were in the Lodges practices and customs both operative and speculative, with the major emphasis on the former; during the Transition Period the movement was away from the operative to the speculative; after 1717-1735 only the speculative remained. The work of the Lodge was no longer organized primarily for sake of the daily work of the members; it became organized around the teachings, rites, ceremonies, symbols, fellowship. In consequence there came into existence three separate Degrees—in reality they are Lodges, because each meets separately, has its own officers, and conducts its own business, and in the By-laws and Minutes is described as a Lodge.

The first Speculative Lodges went to extreme lengths to conceal their esoteric work; the Grand Lodge kept no Minutes for a number of years, and the Minutes of a local Lodge consisted of only one or two bare entries. Few facts are known about the Ritual of that period. There were, however, at least two parts, or sets of ceremonies, one fot Apprentices, one for Fellows; a Lodge sat first as a Lodge of Appren tices, and then as a Lodge of Fellows.

There could have been no proficiency tests because in thousands of known cases a Candidate received the two ceremonies in one evening. After some fifteen years or so, separate Master's Lodges were set up; apparently these were for Worshipful Masters, Past Masters, and "virtual" Past Masters who had received a ceremony called ''passing the Chair." There was no official, uniform Work. As time passed the "amount of Ritual material" increased, and this must have been especially true f the Ritual of the Masters' Lodges. In the next stage, so the meagre records suggest, this Masters' Ritual was divided in two; one part becoming a separate Master Mason Degree, the other the Royal Arch Degree. The Master Mason Degree, connected faith the first two, came under the jurisdiction of the Lodge; the Royal Arch was made over to the Chapter. It may be that this outline of events was not true of some particular Lodge (a number of them did not have the use of separate Masters' Lodges but it is a reasonable summarization of the few facts and hints which are available.

In the seven or eight centuries of Masonic history the phrase "Fellow of the Craft" has thus had a number of separate meanings: a craftsman free from his indentures of apprenticeship; a full member of the Lodge; a Master of the Mason art; a journeyman Mason (in both senses); in the first period of Speculative Masonry, a full-fledged Freemason; in the later period, a Mason with a half-way status between Apprentice and Master; and the name of the Second Degree (or, rather, Lodge).


NOTE. The Constitutions of 1723 provided that Apprentices could be made Fellows—and—Masters only in Grand Lodge except by dispensation; this attempt to rob Lodges of their ancient right to make Masons was so vigorously protested that in 1725 Grand Lodge ordained that "particular Lodges" could "make Masters at discretion"; the Grand Lodge itself was then using "fellows" and masters" interchangeably. Scottish Lodges were a full generation behind England in adopting a graded system.   One of the possibilities is that what became the Masters' Degree had been a portion of the Fellow Craft work but that the latter had given it only as a lecture in interpretation of symbols on the Tracing Board, whereas in the Masters' Lodges it was enacted in full, and in costume. In 1764 Old Dundee Lodge Minutes have "made a Mason" and "raised a Master." They unquestionably distinguished between "Mason" and "Master.


Mackey's Encyclopedia of Freemasonry

The Lonely Esoteric 

The Craft gather, the spirit is up. They share a meal, they share a cup.

Camaraderie and fellowship is everywhere,

yet the deeper meanings are lost.


The gavel cracks on stone, get to your seat.

The purging and Tileing and opening greet.

The Wardens the Deacons are doing their jobs,

but the words fall on deaf ears.


We do what we do 'cause its always been done.

The ritual the language for some are not fun.

But silently, the one who knows and learns

absorbs everything said and performed.

The Lonely Esoteric.


Everything has a reason to most it's just lost..

Every sound, every motion are friverously tossed

Round the secret closed room like

some silly old play without a worthy director.


Was it ever understood, or just simply hummed?

Like a familiar old tune with words that were dumbed.

So that more could learn it and spread it around

and not even know what they're singing.




Or maybe it's structure was carefully decided.

To carefully conceal it from ones we should hide it.

And gather stray seekers one spark at a time

who will see it for what it is worth.


A strange ancient beacon with knowledge just hidden.

For some small groups of men to great things are always bidden

like a bird to a flower that hides its sweet nectar.


Then one after one after disappointment and trial.

Gather themselves together Regardless the mile,

of distance they traveled and create a smoldering fire.


Be not lonely esoteric, just be patient and true.

For your comrades are waiting to come and join you.

They are lost and wondering and hungry for more learning and just need

a good place to gather.



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