Masonic Education

THE TRANSITION FROM OPERATIVE MASONRY

TO SPECULATIVE MASONRY

Part 2 – Additional Information

 

As with previous presentations, these papers will contain direct quotes, excerpts, and paraphrasing from sources used.

From our last session you will remember that “the term ‘Transition’ has been used to describe the change from strictly operative masonry through the mixed union of operatives and ‘Accepted Masons’, to the social and symbolic fraternity that we refer to as Speculative Masonry.” How long in time this took is open to differing views. Some stating that it began before the 1400’s, and other saying that it was not finished until the mid-1800’s. And you will remember that this Transition was occurring at different times in different places, and at differing tempos at different locations. In any event, enough Transition had occurred by 1717 to convince most later Masonic scholars to accept that date as the beginning of Modern Speculative Masonry.

One author states that by the 1600’s, operative masonry had gone into decline. Gothic architecture had lost its appeal lessening the need for highly skilled masons and architects. Operative masons were running out of work. Other events similarly contributed to falling membership and financial difficulties. What also was gradually appearing over this period of time was the Renaissance and the Age of Reason in which scientific and other learning increased across society. This further evolved into The Age of Enlightenment. The printing press and growing middle class gave more people (in our case, especially men) additional opportunity to gain knowledge and question the status quo in science, everyday (or common) knowledge, religion, and the rule of the monarchy. It was also a time of clubs, coffee houses, and taverns, where gentlemen and many of the middle class gathered together to talk, learn, and get away from life’s hard times for a while.

Masonry had a long tradition of “accepting” non-stone workers into its own. A wide spectrum of men over time, had become Masons, and the pace grew as operative masonry declined. What hadn’t declined, however, was the fine reputation of the fraternity of masons, and their ability to meet in private and keep secrets.

A man’s views on religion and government (be it on the monarchy or competing forms of government) could be dangerous to his welfare and his life. So, in addition to wanting a respected place for fellowship where a man could relax, feel welcome, and discuss deep and/or interesting matters, he needed a place where his views, even if different from others in the fellowship, were held secret and private. For example, the printing press now made the individual reading of the Bible possible. Such activity was seriously discouraged by the Catholic Church. The Lodge, then, was a safe place for that. Another point, striking for the times, men from virtually all social strata met together without such barriers.

To review and close out this presentation, we’ll use quotes and excerpt from the book, “The Builders” by J.F. Newton: “Why did soldiers, scholars, antiquaries, Clergymen, Lawyers, and even members of nobility ask to be accepted as members of the order of Freemasons?...What attracted them as far back as 1600’s? What held them with increasing power and an ever-deepening interest? Why did they continue to enter lodges until they had the rule of them There must have been something more in their motive than a simple desire for association, for they had their clubs, societies, and learned fellowships. Still less could a mere curiosity to learn certain signs and passwords have held such men for long… There is only one explanation’ That these men saw in Masonry a deposit of the high and simple wisdom of old, preserved in tradition and taught in symbols, little understood [perhaps] by many members of the order [themselves]… This is what it was that they sought to bring to light, turning history into allegory, and legend into drama and making it a teacher of wise and beautiful truth.”


MATERIAL DISCLAIMER

 The material in this papers was developed from a variety of sources: books, encyclopedias, magazine articles, M.S.A Publications, television, and the internet.  Most, but not all, of these sources were written and/or edited by Masons.  There is no claim made that the information in these papers is original, or was originally developed by this writer. Each paper contains: direct quotes, excerpts, and paraphrasing from the sources used.

These papers are presented one per month as part of the Masonic Education Program of Bellevue Lodge #325 A.M. & F.M. at the monthly Stated Communication. 

Br. William H. Miller,                                                                                                                     

Bellevue Lodge #325





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