MASONIC FRATERNITY, The, an or ganization of associated societies to which, by common consent, has been accorded the primacy among fraternal orders. Divided into groups of degrees, overlying one another like the foun dation and superstructure of a symmetrical building, these constitute the three great rites of universal recognition, namely, English, Amer ican and Scottish Masonry. The first and second are acknowledged to compose the great Masonic institution as it exists in Great Britain and dependencies, and in the United States; while the elaborate Scottish Rite of 33 degrees, comprising a more limited membership therein, is the one most widely disseminated in other portions of the world. Each rite is complex in its inter-dependent system of government, and is essentially cosmopolitan, bearing upon its rolls the names of emperors, kings, princes, presidents and governors, together with scholars, statesmen and men of affairs, as well as those of lesser stations in church and state. The full legal title is, °The Ancient and Honorable Fra ternity of Free and Accepted Masons and Con cordant Orders? The Appeal to During the 18th and first half of the 19th century Masonic writers laid great stress upon the possible origin of the society in the remote ages of the past. Absolutely without any historical basis of record as were most of these theories, yet men of learning loaned their influence to perpetuate the fables extant concerning the fraternity. Some asserted (a) that the history of the race was the story of Masonry, beginning with the migra tion from the Garden of Eden; others (b) that it sprang from the Patriarchal period; and still others contended (c) that the society was the successor of the ancient mysteries of the Orient; (d) that the Temple of Solomon was its cradle; (e) that the Crusaders and the Knights Templars carried it forward from their times; (f) that the Roman colleges of artificers and builders of the Middle Ages handed down the craft to posterity; (g) that the civil strifes in Great Britain of the 15th th and 16th centuries, and subsequent political events, made the in stitution possible; (It) and a later class of writers placed its origin to the credit of the Rev. James Anderson, D.D.. and the Rev. John Theophilus Desaguliers, LL.D., F.R.S., and their compeers of °The Revival of 1717 A.D.* Sev eral of these authors changed their views later in life; and, during the past 50 years, the in telligent Masons of Great Britain and the United States have attempted to build up from the broken fragments of the past,— ccmtained in fugitive lodge records extending back nearly three centuries,— a reasonable history of the °operative" Masonry of the British Isles and the continent of Europe, as well as that of the present ((speculative craft? In this effort assist ance has been rendered by scholars not con nected with the fraternity. The critical reader will note, in the enumeration above, that many plausible theories might be founded both on history and legend, but the strongest factor in the appeal to antiquity, nevertheless, is the °Legend of the Third Degree? In one form or another the allegory of the fall of man, the sacrificial redemption of the race, the doctrines of the resurrection and immortal life, permeated the peoples of every age and became the mo tive of many migrations. This fact is likewise of record,— established by the discoveries made in Bible lands during the 19th century,— dating four millenaries a.c. When, therefore, a society
arose which claimed to solve some of these mysteries,— nay, even to have descended from those periods,— it is not singular that the cult should have attracted disciples; especially when shielded from public gaze by a veil of secrecy, the universality of the printed page not having yet been established! In Great Britain and on the Continent.— The consensus of reliable historical opinion affirms that the premier Grand Lodge of Eng land, organized 24 June 1717 A.D., is the mother of all regular Masonic lodges of the three craft degrees, and, therefore, peculiar interest centres in the landmarks, legends and authentic narra tives pertaining to the English rite itself, as well as in the American rite, the daughter thereof, so to speak. The apocryphal history of Masonry recites that it was introduced into England by Prince Edwin, 926 a.n., and that lodges were °warranted at York," by King Athelstan. This °Legend of the Guild" and much other tra ditional story is based upon curious manuscripts called °Old Constitutions' or Old Charges of British Freemasons? The oldest of these is dated, by English antiquaries, 1390 A.D., and is registered as the °Regius MS., or Halliwell Poem? The next in age,— beginning of the 15th century,—is called the °Matthew Cooke MS."— both in the British Museum. In that century, also, Henry VI asked, °Where did Masonry begin?" On being told that it began in the East, his next inquiry was, °Who did bring it westerly?"— and he received for answer, °the Phoenicians.' These answers were predicated on the traditions of the order, as they had been transmitted from generation to generation. Many Freemasons believe this to be the true origin of their institution. Within recent years many more documents have been discovered and published in facsimile, so that the catalogue contains about 75 entries. These manuscripts have been grouped into families, because of certain characteristics common to two or more,— the whole forming a valuable collec tion of ancient Masonic remains. Each manu script consists of three parts: (a) the intro ductory prayer, declaration or invocation; (b) the alleged history of the order, or the °Legend of the Guild'; (c) the peculiar statutes and duties, the regulations and observations, which Masons in general, or the craft as a unit, were bound carefully to uphold and inviolably to maintain. The precise value of the °Old Charges' lies in the fact that they were the formulas used in the ceremonies of initiation by our Masonic ancestors of from two to five centuries antecedent. All known copies are of English origin, even those used in Scotland; and, being of a distinctly Christian character, it has been thought they indicate ecclesiastical supervision and composition. A manuscript version of 1583 A.D. in possession of the United Grand Lodge of England, has the following °introductory prayer,* and is quoted as an example: The mighte of the Father of Heaven and wysdome of y glorious Soonne through r grace & ye goodnes of ye holly ghoste, yt bee three psons & one God, be vs at or beginning and give vs grace so to govrne vs here in or lyving that wee maye come to his blisse that nevr shall have ending. AMEN.