The 1723 publication of Anderson's Constitution is the most famous of Masonic documents, but this was the rules as established by the Premier Grand Lodge, also known as the Moderns. The Grand Lodge of the Most Ancient and Honourable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons (1751-1813), or more commonly known as the Ancients or Antients, had its own Constitution that was known as Ahiman Rezon. This set of rules were compiled by Laurence Dermott who served as Grand Secretary and later Deputy Grand Master, and here is a brief description and history.
The first edition of the Ahiman Rezon was published in 1756 and a second one was published in 1764. There were would be editions published in 1778, 1787, 1800, 1801, 1807, and 1813. The first edition contains a parody of the histories of Freemasonry as written by Dr. Anderson and many believe there was a political purpose behind Dermott's writing of the Ahiman Rezon. In this write-up Dermott narrates a dream he has where four sojourners that were appointed by Solomon, appear before Dermott and inform him that he is to write a history of Freemasonry.
The exact reason behind Dermott's choice of "Ahiman Rezon" is not exactly known, but many believe it translates to "A help to a Brother", but there a few other translations offered up such as "will of select brethren", "secrets of prepared brethren", or "Royal Builders". These other translations are often not accepted as their translations require a stretch of the imagination or erroneous translations.
Once the United Grand Lodge of England was formed in 1813 and there was established a new Constitution so the Ahiman Rezon fell into disuse. Very few copies remain, but from the ones that still exist, we do have a brief review of what it contained. This Constitution begins with a Preface that contains the parodied history. Next follows the "Philacteri for such Gentlemen as may be inclined to become Freemasons" which is a guide to those wishing to become Freemasons as well as discussing what sort of Mason are fit to govern Lodges. Dermott then makes a comparison between the Moderns and Ancients which boils down to that Dermott saw the Moderns as inferior or lesser Masons and that the Ancients were in possession of secrets that the Moderns were not. In it is also found Old Charges as seen in the 1738 edition of Anderson's Constitution, a Charge to new Masons, ways to institute a new Lodge, some Masonic prayers, General Regulations (heavily influenced by Spratt and D’Assigny), and Mason Songs. The entirety only composes over a hundred pages. It was in the second edition that the Coat of Arms of the Ancient Grand Lodge appears. On the shield is depicted a lion in the first quarter, an ox in the second, a man in the third, and an eagle in the fourth, with the Ark of the Covenant as the crest and two cherubim as supporters. Underneath, in Hebrew and English, is the motto "Holiness to the Lord", all features that have special significance for Royal Arch Masons.
Many attribute much of the Schism's longevity to the attitude and beliefs of Dermott. Dermott originally was affiliated with a Lodge in London under the Moderns. By 1752 though he had affiliated with an unrecognized Irish Lodge and was soon elected as the second Grand Secretary of the Ancients. He had a great deal of contempt for the Moderns as he saw them as irregular who would sell the degrees for the price of a leg of mutton and thus said their greatest symbols were the knife and fork. Some wonder if the Grand Lodges would have united earlier if not for this document and its author.
1. Short Talk Bulletin - Ahiman Rezon. (1935, January). Retrieved from Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania: http://www.pagrandlodge.org/district37/D37_Pdfs/STB-Ahiman_Rezon.PDF
2. Ahiman Rezon. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahiman_Rezon
3. Ahiman Rezon. (n.d.). Retrieved from Valley of Schenactady, AASR: http://www.aasrschenectady.org/lib/Freemasonry/Freemasonry%20A-D/Dermott%20L%20-%20Ahiman%20Rezon%201756.pdf
4. Dermott and Grand Lodge. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laurence_Dermott#Dermott_and_Grand_Lodge
5. English Grand Lodge History. (n.d.). Retrieved from Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania: http://www.pagrandlodge.org/programs/masedu/qa/9-23.html
6. Mackey, A. G. (n.d.). Ahiman Rezon. Retrieved from Encyclopedia of Freemasonry: http://www.masonicdictionary.com/ahiman1.html
7. Mackey, A. G. (n.d.). Laurence Dermott. Retrieved from Encyclopedia of Freemasonry: http://www.masonicdictionary.com/dermott.html
8. Sheppard, R. (2006). History Resources. Retrieved from Association of Atholl Lodges: http://www.antients.co.uk/History%20-%20Ahiman%20Rezon.htm
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