The Third Degree of Masonry
Before 1721, it appears that only two degrees in Masonry were recognized by the Grand Lodge of England, the degree of “Acceptance or Admission” given by the Lodges and the degree known as the “Master’s part” which was given only by the Grand Lodge. In 1725, the regulation giving the Grand Lodge the privilege to confer the “Master’s part” was abrogated. The “Fellowcraft” degree was introduced by splitting the “Acceptance” degree, hence preserving the “Master’s” degree. In 1751, the Grand Lodge of England started constituting new Lodges.
In the May 1925 issue of The Builder Magazine WB Lionel Vibert, of Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No. 2076 and editor of “Miscellanea Latomorum”, England wrote:
“It was evident very early in the career of the first Grand Lodge that there would have to be something in the nature of Regulations to deal with such matters as the election of the Grand Master and the conduct of the Annual Grand Feast; and it appears also to be the case that, as early as 1721, Grand Lodge proposed to retain in its own hands the privilege of conferring the degree known as the Master's Part, which was at that time the only degree practiced beyond that of Acceptance, or Admission. It being the recognized custom, at the time, that no one could be Master of a lodge who had not taken this degree, that conferred the rank of both Fellow and Master, it is obvious that this restriction operated to give Grand Lodge a large measure of control over the mastership of the lodges. Further, in 1721, it became apparent that another new departure was inevitable. The Four Old Lodges, that alone constituted Grand Lodge, were quite insufficient to cope with the numbers that now came into the Order, and some provision was clearly necessary to meet the requirements of the new brethren. What seems to have happened is that Grand Lodge formally took power to constitute new lodges, and ordered that all such lodges, to be regular, must have themselves constituted in accordance with the form prescribed by the central authority, the essential feature of which would seem to have been that they were enrolled in a list maintained in London, and their names were notified to all existing lodges. There is good reason to believe that the rules on this subject were first promulgated by Grand Master Payne, in 1721.
“We learn, from the official Minutes, that the direction of Grand Lodge, which appears in the Regulations, that the superior Degree, the Master's Part, was only to be conferred in Grand Lodge, was abrogated in November, 1725. It is obvious that as soon as there were lodges all over England--and the Craft had begun to spread to the country in the previous year--this restriction was unworkable. It is most probable that the restriction was in fact never observed. It would almost appear as though Payne, at the same time that he regularized the formation of new lodges in 1721, thought it wise to institute this check on their activities; but that the old lodges were not willing to allow what had been their time immemorial privilege to be thus taken from them, and that the Regulation was in fact a dead letter. This may indeed be the explanation of the introduction of the intermediate degree of the Fellowcraft, which was arrived at, not by interfering with the Master's Part, but by splitting up the Acceptance. By this means a Brother became a Fellow, and so technically eligible to be the Master of a lodge; and Grand Lodge's position being thus turned as it were, the abrogation of the Regulation was bound to follow sooner or later. The custom which makes it necessary that the Master should have taken the Third Degree is a development of later date.
“In the same way as the original restrictions as to conferring the higher degree had to go by the board, so the form of constituting a new lodge had to be modified when lodges had come into existence far away from the metropolis. Originally, the ceremony was to be conducted by the Grand Master or his Deputy in person; later the duty was delegated to a deputy appointed ad hoc, in the locality; and eventually the formalities were exchanged for the issue of a written certificate--the Warrant of today--the ceremony being carried out by the Provincial authorities. The Provincial system, which is peculiar to this country, is in its development closely connected with the constituting of new lodges.”
The "Moderns" and the "Ancients"
The transformation of Masonry from operative to speculative, and from lodges operating independently, into organized Grand Lodges, show a long period of development in the character of the Fraternity.
The Grand Lodge system brought about a new layer of organizational hierarchy, a system of governance and a codified set of rules. Rituals and practices were also adapted, modified, and codified. In 1723, James Anderson wrote and published The Constitutions of the Free-Masons, For the Use of the Lodges.
In the formative years of the Grand Lodge of England there remained many unaffiliated Masons and Lodges; referred to as "Old Masons," or "St. John Masons, and "St. John Lodges."
Also, between 1730-1740s, Scots and Irish Masons (Grand Lodges of Scotland and Ireland), visiting the “Premier” Grand Lodge in London were turned off by what they considered strong deviations from ancient usages, and the aristocratic demeanor of its members; thereby finding more affinity with the unaffiliated Masons. In 1751 a split in Freemasonry in England occurred when representatives of five Lodges gathered in Soho, London to form The Most Antient (Ancient) and Honourable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons. Laurence Dermott wrote a new constitution for the Ancients, the Ahiman Rezon as counterpart of the Constitution of James Anderson. Subsequently, believing that they practiced a more ancient and purer form of Masonry, they called themselves the Grand Lodge of the “Ancients” and the members of the Premier Grand Lodge, the “Moderns”. Thus, English Freemasonry was divided into the “Moderns” and the “Ancients.” The schism between the “Moderns” and the “Ancients” lasted for sixty-two years until the formation of the United Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of England in 1813.
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The Introduction of Warrants:
Authorization to hold lodges and make masons
From “A Sketch of the History of the Grand Lodge of Ireland”, written in 1925, by WB John Heron Lepper, then Master of Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No. 2076, England, it appears that the first warrants were a product of the Grand Lodge of Ireland, which was believed to have been established and in existence in Dublin in 1725.
“At some time during 1731, the Grand Lodge of Ireland determined to bind closer to the central authority all the lodges in Ireland that would acknowledge its supremacy, by issuing to them a document that should be the warrant for their Masonic proceedings; and accordingly on February 7, 1732 the first of these authorizations to hold a lodge and make masons were issued. This was a purely Irish invention that was copied later by the Grand Lodge of the Antients (Ancients) in England, and later still by the Grand Lodge of the Moderns, the title willingly assumed in the eighteenth century by the Mother of all Grand Lodges.”
Lodges and Grand Lodges that trace their charters' roots from the United Grand Lodge of Ancient Freemasons of England, the Grand Lodge of Ireland or the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Scotland use the expression, A.·.F.·.& A.·.M.·.
Grand Lodges that do not use the appellation "Ancient" claim descent from the Premier Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons (the “Moderns”), under the constitution of England during the period from 1717 until 1813.
The "Moderns" and "Ancients" united in November 25, 1813 to form the United Grand Lodge of Ancient Freemasons of England; now styled the United Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of England. The use of the appellation “Ancient” by some Grand Lodges today is said to be a matter of choice.
The Science and Art of Masonry
A holistic view of Masonry is one that considers it as consisting of the philosophical body (progressive moral science) and the structural body (fraternal organization). Speculative Masonry evolved out of Man’s desire to find the truth based on science and reason, a revolutionary philosophy during the Age of Enlightenment. That is why it is considered a science. The application of principles and tenets derived from this science, to our daily lives, our relationship with the Creator, our country, family and neighbors, renders it also an art.
Masonry is dynamic and can not be dissociated from the socio-political, societal, religious and economic climates under which Masons live. Amid these environments, the Mason tries to find harmony, and seeks perfection through his continuous search for Light.
Rather than the organization, it is the process, the reasoning and the philosophical search for truth that laid the foundations of Masonry. The fraternity is its physical body, charged with the continuity of building from these foundations. It is not by accident that the backdrop of Masonic degrees is the building of King Solomon’s Temple. Profound lessons in Masonry have been wisely veiled in allegory and taught in symbols, rendering them timeless and universal.
Coil, Henry Wilson. A Comprehensive View of Masonry. Mackay Publishing and Masonic Supply Co. Inc. Richmond , Virginia: 1996
Jones, Bernard E. Freemasons Guide and Compedium. (1950) Cumberland House, Nashville, Tennesse: 2006
Ridley, Jasper. The Freemasons, A history of the World's Most Powerful Secret Society. Arcade Publishing Inc. Nedw York: 2001
The Builder Magazine, 1915-1930. phoenixmasonry.org