Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Operatives

Officially known as the "Worshipful Society of Free Masons, Rough Masons, Wallers, Slaters, Paviors, Plaisterers and Bricklayers", the Operatives is an invitational body dedicated to the preservation of the history and workings of operative masonry. The legend of Operative Masonry goes back to the Assemblage held by King Athelstan back in 926 AD and by the 20th century only a few Operative Lodges still existed in England, and many feared the lessons and rituals would fall from human memory. On May 21st, 1913, the Channel Row Assemblage (now known as Bedford House) was reconstituted and this date is considered the founding date of the Operatives.
“Speculative masons are happy to trace their origins to the practices of the ancient stone masons, but many then tend to forget all about them.”
This organization exists to perpetuate a memorial of the practices of operative Free Masons existing prior to modern speculative Freemasonry. To be considered eligible for invitation into this body, one must be a Master Mason, Mark Master Mason, and a Companion of Royal Arch Masonry. 

It is governed by 3 Grand Masters in England, but there are also Deputy Grand Master Masons (also referred to as the Senior Passed Master of a Region) who govern Regions such as the USA. The base organization is called an Assemblage and is governed by a Deputy Master Mason. There are nearly 3,000 members and over 100 Assemblages around the world in countries such as England, Wales, France, Belgium, Canada, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, and the USA.

The regalia for this order are minimal and consists of a blue cord/collarette from which hangs the badge that designates the grade of the member; the badge changes as the member progresses through the grades. In addition this, members wear a distinctive tie.

Rather than degrees as seen in the Ancient Craft Masonry, members progress through grades. Like Lodge, there is a separate ceremony and furniture array for each degree in the Assemblage. In addition to one's grade, an ashlar is used to indicate the progress of a member, or rather "workman while in the quarries". There are 7-grades in the Operatives and progression through them is based on one's performance in the various offices held as well as the percentage of one's attendance in each office. The seven grades are: 
I° - Indentured Apprentice
II° - Fellow of the Craft
III° - Fitter and Marker
IV° - Setter Erector
V° - Intendent, Overseer, Super Intendent and Warden.
VI° - Passed Master (not Past Master)
VII° - The three Grand Master Masons (in addition to those appointed to that grade “Honoris Causa”) 
The first 4-grades are conferred in an Assemblage of Lodges, but there are separate Assemblages for the higher grades. To advance to the "Chair", to be the presiding officer, one must have progressed to the VI° or above, and one must have an attendance rate of 70% and presided over a Craft and Mark Mason Lodge.

Up until last year I had never heard of such a group, but, regardless, I find this group rather interesting not only for their mission but also their rank structure; they don't have any Grand ranks or Past ranks, but rather the grades designate one's standing within the organization. One can also see correlation between the work done in the Operatives and the rituals seen in Cryptic Masonry.

References

1. Introduction. (n.d.). Retrieved from The Operatives: http://www.operatives.org.uk/upload/operatives.pdf 

2. Pushee, D. (n.d.). Region of the USA. Retrieved from The Operatives: http://www.operatives-usa.org

3. Falconer, D. (n.d.). The Operatives. Retrieved from Pietre-Stones: http://www.freemasons-freemasonry.com/donoperatives.html

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Choosing Your Mark

The first of the Capitular or Royal Arch degrees is that of Mark Master. In this degree the candidate represents a Fellow Craft Mason during the construction of King Solomon’s Temple. The work he presents to the Overseers is rejected at first, but later becomes the piece necessary to complete the Temple as seen in the Most Excellent Master degree. It is a common desire of man to wish to leave a lasting record in this world and in this degree candidates are taught the importance of the Mark whereby one can distinguish his work from others and leave a lasting impression as testament of his efforts. Today, candidates choose a Mark of their own, and this Mark is recorded and kept in every Chapter of Royal Arch Masons.




The Mason's Mark should be seen as an equivalent of a signature, particularly when illiteracy was common place. It represents not only the name of the Mason, his character, but, for the operative Mason, it represented his skill and workmanship. By use of the Mark we are demonstrating that we believe our work is of quality to be used in the construction of a building and through such identification would a craftsman receive his wages for his labor. Knowing such things, the use of the Mark gave the craftsman incentive to do their best work before they identified a particular piece by placing their Mark on it. Alongside identifying a particular craftsman marks were used to indicate where a stone would be placed within the structure.

The use of the Mark is very ancient. Marks have been found that date back farther than 5,000 years. Marks have been found on stones in ancient Egypt; castles, churches, and cathedrals in Europe from about the 12th century on; on ancient Greek temples; Roman ruins; and in preserved cities such as Pompeii.

Mark Masonry is one of the oldest degrees in Freemasonry and helps bridge operative and speculative Freemasonry. Some of the earliest Marks found in England date back to the 12th century. Operative Masonry started emerged in England after Norman conquests. In the following centuries it would grow to such a level that required it to be regulated in custom and practices, thus Mason guilds arose. The first regulatory body was the Masons’ Company, formed in London sometime around 1375. This group would later known as the London Masons’ Company and was granted a coat of arms in 1472 during the reign of Edward VI. 

In 1598, William Schaw as Master of Works, named by King James VI of Scotland, published a set of statutes known today as the Schaw Statutes of 1598. These statutes established the duties and structure for Lodges among other things, but, more importantly, it required the recording of the Mason's Mark in a book:
No master or fellow of craft shall be received or admitted without there being present six masters and two entered 'prentices, the warden of the lodge being one of the six, when the day of receiving the new fellow of craft or master shall be duly booked and his mark inserted in the same book, with the names of the six admitters and entered 'prentices, as also the names of the intenders [intendaris-instructors] which shall be chosen for every person so entered in the book of the lodge. Providing always that no man be admitted without an essay and sufficient trial of his skill and worthiness in his vocation and craft.
Within the first half of the 17th century came the appearance of speculative Masons into the operative Mason's Lodge in Scotland. Many of these early Lodges have some existing records that show a combination of names of the Brothers with or without their Marks alongside the signature, but there are also some entries that are just the Marks themselves. Many of these ancient records also speak of men choosing their mark.

From recorded history it is seen that there wasn't much to the ritual of early Mark Masonry, but with the entry of speculative Masons, more elaborate ceremonies were established and enhanced throughout the years becoming more important. In the record books kept from early Lodges, we see entries talking about Mark Masons and Mark Master Masons, and this is still something seen outside of America were a Fellow Craft Mason would receive the Mark Man or Mason and a Master Mason would receive the Mark Master degree. 


The history of Mark Masonry in America is foggy due to lacking records. At various times, it has been conferred by Blue Lodges, the Scottish Rite, Chapters of Royal Arch Masonry, Knights Templar Encampments (now known as Commanderies), and independent Mark Mason Lodges. Eventually this degree would be absorbed and under the authority of Royal Arch Masonry in the 19th century. This was done through the efforts of Thomas Smith-Webb who published in 1798 a Monitor that became very popular and widespread in the US. Today for one to advance to the degree of Royal Arch Mason, one must go through the Mark Master Mason degree; this is true for Masonry in the US, Ireland, and Scotland. In England, Mark Masonry is an independent body known as Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons of England, Wales and the Dominions and Dependencies of the British Crown which was established in 1856 and oversees around 1,200 Mark Lodges.

The Mark Master Mason degree teaches and explains many valuable lessons such as how to receive the wages talked about in the Blue Lodge, the value of labor, integrity, individual responsibility, and humility. It also teaches one not to judge one by simply on outward appearances, but seek the inner, hidden truth. In this degree we are introduced to the Mallet and Chisel, which, alongside the keystone, are prominent symbols of this degree as both of these instruments are essential preparing stone for the builder's use.

We are taught that through the Mallet we are to correct our irregularities and superfluous habits, and is similar to the Gavel talked about in the 1st degree and can be aligned with the Cardinal Virtue, Temperance. The Chisel is to stone, what education and discipline are to our mind, which reveals the hidden beauty and virtues hidden beneath the surface. It was through these two instruments that our ancient Operative Brethren were able to place their Mark upon their piece of work. Although today, we use other devices to draw our Mark, which allows us to come up with all sorts of designs, Marks of old were primarily a combination of straight lines as they only used the Chisel and the Mallet. Like the old days, once a Mason chooses his Mark it can never be changed.




It has always been man's desire to make his Mark upon the world. With the Mason's Mark, operative Masons proved their work, and, today, while we speculative Masons still choose a Mark, we must show our work by building ourselves and showing the world we are better men for being Masons. What will be your Mark?

References

1. Are you Worthy to Receive your Mark? n.d. http://www.eastangliamark.org.uk/about-the-degrees. 

2. Capitular Degrees of Freemasonry. n.d. http://www.goldenstatechapter.org/pdf/Capitular%20Degrees%20of%20Freemasonry.pdf. 

3. Mark Masonry. n.d. http://utahmarkmasonry.org/mark-masonry/. 

4. Mason's Marks. n.d. http://freemasonry.bcy.ca/aqc/masonmarks/operative.html. 

5. Speidel, Frederick. The York Rite of Freemasonry. Mitchell-Fleming Printing, Inc., 1978. 

6. Turnball, Everett R., and Ray V. Denslow. A History of Royal Arch Masonry. Vol. 1. 2 vols. Highland Springs, VA: Anchor Communications, 1956. 

7. Wallace, George M. The Mason's Mark. n.d. http://www.masonicworld.com/education/articles/the-masons-mark.htm. 

8. Woolmer, George. A History of Mark Masonry. n.d. http://www.themasonictrowel.com/books/mark_history_by_George_Woolmer/files/origins_operatives_and_mark_masonry.htm.

Friday, September 6, 2013

This is Your Day

Author Unknown

Blessed is the man, indeed, 
Who in this life can find; 
A purpose that can fill his days, 
And goals to fill his mind! 

The world is filled with little men 
Content with where they are; 
Not knowing joys success can bring, 
Not willing to go that far! 

Yet, in this world there is a need, 
For men to lead the rest 
To rise above the "average" life, 
By giving of their best! 

Would you be one, who dares to try, 
When challenged by the task; 
To rise to heights you've never seen, 
Or is that too much to ask? 

This is your day--a world to win 
Great purpose to achieve; 
Accept the challenge of your goals 
And in yourself, believe! 

You will be proud of what you've done, 
When at the close of day; 
You look back on your battles won, 
Content, you came this way!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Invited into the Royal Order of Scotland

Last night I checked my mail and I can now officially say that I have been invited into the Royal Order of Scotland. I'd like to thank both David Grindle for the invite and Paul Gehrman for his continued support in Freemasonry. I received a letter from the Provincial Grand Lodge, USA, of the Royal Order of Scotland informing me that my petition had been accepted by the Screening and Selection Committee of my jurisdiction as well as by the Provincial Grand Master. There is one caveat that I must still be accepted by the members present at the meeting.

I am required to be initiated within one years time and I am excited that I will be able to attend the meeting that will be held in Seattle, WA, on November 9th. This Fall is going to be incredibly busy for me in Freemasonry. I can't wait!!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

My Top 10 Posts

I got to looking back at my old posts and I've decided to talk about my Top 10 favorite posts. These 10 posts have either become or were from the start one of my favorites for one reason or another.

In taking our degrees there is one thing you must remember, namely, the order in which events happen is seldom the order in which we learn about them. The successive degrees in Masonry picture events in the order we learn about them, not the chronological order in which they occurred. For instance, the Mark Master's Degree took place before those of the Master Mason's, but they were not presented to you in that order. The degree you are about to receive pictures events that happened prior to and after the Tragedy of the Third Degree, and we would have you notice how well they fill in the gaps in our knowledge of that Tragedy and its meaning.
This is one of my very favorites. This post was a long time coming as I had noticed from the very beginning of my York Rite journey that the degrees and orders were not invested in their chronological order. Before I posted I presented this to my Lodge and because of that was able to do some much needed revisions.

In closing, it's reasonable to assume that the sigils of these four Royal Arch banners were, depicted as they are, influenced by Ezekiel's vision of the four cherubim. Such use of tetramorphs is not unique to the Judeo-Christian traditions, but has been long seen in the ancient world. Tetramorphs are commonly used as divine guardians and we see this commonality with the Masters of the Veils and Royal Arch Captain who bear and protect the banners, and who represent the attendants who protected the four veils of the Tabernacle.
This post actually resulted from a discussion I had with what I thought was an anti-Mason, but actually was just a bit rough around the edges yet was very knowledgeable in esoteric studies and we got to talking about the Tribes of Israel, the zodiac, and astrology in general.

When discussing the Founding of the United States of America and influence of those who were members of the Masonic fraternity one may hear that all the Founding Fathers were Masons and that America is just one Masonic experiment. Well, when I was approached to speak at a local school on the subject of Masonry in American history, and I decided I would research and present on the subject on those men who were Masons and their influence during the Revolutionary War.
This post was originally a PowerPoint that I had presented to an AP History course at a local high school. One of the Brothers requested from the Idaho Lodge of Research to give a presentation for a class after a teacher had approached him. I later presented this to my Lodge and then decided to share this on m blog with revisions.

From the beginnings of our lessons in Masonry we see examples of chivalry. Many symbols can be shown to represent actions and beliefs that all good men should embrace, but I particularly want to focus on the 3 Tenets: Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth. By truth is every noble virtue we know founded upon and should dictate every thought, word, and action. As the Square teaches us to square our actions, the level to treat every person as equal, and the plumb to walk uprightly before God and man, so does Brotherly Love teach us to regard the whole human species as one family, thereby rendering us responsible to aid, support, and protect to the best of our ability. The last, but not least (I know, cliché) is Relief, and as the lecture tells us, all men are required to assist the distressed, destitute, and sorrowed. This last tenet can also be seen in the lessons given in the Order of the Temple where one must vow to defend the weak and defenseless.
This post took me a long time to write. I wrote a major portion of this during several nights when I had trouble sleeping. As a Knights Templar I find chivalry very important...obviously, but I also see the need that chivalry needs more emphasis in our world today. To practice chivalry I find it necessary to see where it originated and evolved to become what we see it and wish it to be.

From my early interest in the Templars of the Crusades, I always found their garments, and the distinction between the two, interesting as it was both simple, but highly symbolic. Fast forward to Fall 2008 and I have entered the Asylum for the first time to see the Sir Knights seated in their uniforms; one of a black jacket (similarly used by the Naval Petty Officer), a feathered Chapeau, and armed with a sword. I, as many people have, found the difference in uniform styles to be weird (for lack of a better word). For such a prestigious order to commemorate themselves by taking the name of those valiant knights of the Crusades, but veering away from them in such a manner.
I had always been curious about how the American Templars came to use the Chapeau and Jacket as well as the original outfit. This thread is my top post in my blog and at first I was shocked to see how popular it was among my other articles, but I started to notice that the uniform is a point of contention among many Templars and prospective members.

Throughout its history the rose has caught the imagination of the masses. This flower has been used as a symbol in a variety of forms, from one of romance to duality (celestial perfection and Earthly passion), to wisdom, and many more, by various groups, cultures, and individuals. As it is such a complex symbol let's take a look at some the uses and by whom.
I loved doing the research for this symbol. I've always liked the Rose as a symbol and enjoyed researching its connection to and application in Freemasonry.

Simplistic in its design, but unique with its many meanings, the Beauceant was and is the standard of the Knights Templar. The Beauceant consisted of a black sec­tion above a white one. Note that some say it was hung from a perpendicular pole near the top of the vertical one so that both of the colors could be seen without any wind.
Like I talked about it the article, I was a Guidon Bearer in my early days of military service. What I didn't explain was that the Guidon I received was in need of repair. My mother repaired the cloth and I refitted the staff with a stronger piece of leather to hold the top of the guidon to the staff. I took a great deal of interest in my duties and during my pre-deployment I had to march around. During my deployment I was also present at Ramp Side ceremonies where we would see our fallen brother depart the base on a C-130. Having served as a Guidon Bearer I understand the symbolism of the Guidon and its use. I had thought about going further back into the earlier uses of guidon/flags by ancient societies like the Romans.

History of the York Rite in Idaho: Part I & Part II
Masonry in Idaho can be traced back to the gold rushes that brought men to the territory in 1860. Until March 3rd, 1863, when the Idaho Territory was created, part of what is now Idaho belonged to Washington Territory. So, it is not unusual to find history of Idaho Masonry to be found in the Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Washington. The first remnants of Masonry were seen in the northern portions of the State until gold was discovered in the Boise Basin. As it was in the north, among the gold rushers were Masons and soon Idaho City (formerly Bannock City) became an epicenter of Masonry in the Idaho Territory.
The Grand Commander asked me to research this subject. This took me some time to write both parts as I had to sift through records. Researching the Royal Arch Masons was easy because of the published 4-volume set on its history which included Grand Chapters. The speed-bump came when researching for the Council and Commandery, but I pushed through it and with the help of the Grand Secretary/Recorder I got the needed information.

King Athelstan, the grandson of King Alfred the Great (known for his defense against the Viking invaders), Athelstan (also spelled: Athelstane, Athelstone, Athelston, Aldiston, Adelstan, Adelston, and Ethelstan) is historically known for his success in securing the submission of Constantine II, King of Scots, at the Treaty of Eamont Bridge in 927 AD through to the Battle of Brunanburh in 937 AD led to his claiming the title "King of all Britain". While overlooked by his grandfather, it is important to point out that Athelstan was the first King of a unified England from 927 AD. He reigned between 925 and 939 and was a distinguished and courageous soldier who pushed the boundaries of the kingdom further than anyone had done before. According to Masons, particularly those of the York Rite persuasion, he holds an endearing place in our history as great supporter of Masonry in England, establishing charges and articles given to the Craft to live by.
Since the time I first heard of the Regius Poem, I became very interested in King Athelstan and his legendary role in origins of Freemasonry. I enjoyed reading through the manuscripts and from this I've started researching the Comacine Masters, the Roman Collegia, and how or if it ties back to King Athelstan.

Throughout the history of Freemasonry there have been gatherings and events that have had a large impact on the fraternity in general, specific Orders within the Fraternity, or due to the lack of documentation has lead the theories abound. The history of Freemasonry is a complex topic, not always because of one's ability or inability to comprehend the subject, but often due to the lack of recorded evidence to support or reject a hypothesis. When faced with incomplete information one may let their imagination wonder which can sometimes lead to far-fetched and exaggerated speculations. One such event that many Masons and anti-Masons have theorized about is the 1782 Congress of Wilhelmsbad; Albert Mackey refers to this Congress as "the most important Masonic Congress of the eighteenth century". To the Masons, this meeting marks the impending doom of Rite of Strict Observance and the rise of the Rectified Scottish Rite. To the anti-Mason and conspiracy theorists, this is the meeting where the Bavarian Illuminati is said to have infiltrated and taken over Freemasonry to enhance their nefarious agenda for global domination.
Although it's one of more recent articles, this one is on my Top 10 list as it took me a long time to write. It took some time as there is very little information readily available and I refused to publish this for a very long time until I had exhausted much of my time and effort. This post was inspired by the dealings I have had with anti-Masons and their thought that the Masonic fraternity is a puppet organization of the fabled Illuminati.

There are several other posts that are some of my favorites, but are not relevant to Freemasonry. Some of these would include "Do it Anyway", which is a poem I heard recited at the first Job's Daughter meeting I attended, or "End Times", which I wrote for my World Religions class while in Iraq. I also made separate posts about my departure from Iraq and arrival back to Idaho, but this was prior my establishing a Facebook page. I hope you enjoy these posts as much as I have.