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Ancient Landmarks

Source: Mackey's Encyclopedia of Freemasonry

Until the year 1858, no attempt had been made by any Masonic writer to distinctly enumerate the landmarks of Freemasonry, and to give to them a comprehensible form. In October of that year, the author of this work published in the American Quarterly Review of Freemasonry (vol. ii, p.230), an article on " The Foundations of Masonic Law," which contained a distinct enumeration of the landmarks, which was the first time that such a list had been presented to the Fraternity. This enumeration was subsequently incorporated by the author in his Text Book of Masonic Jurisprudence. It has since been very generally adopted by the Fraternity, and republished by many writers on Masonic law; sometimes without any acknowledgment of the source whence they derived their information. According to this recapitulation, the result of much labor and research, the landmarks are twenty-five in number, and are as follows:

1. The modes of recognition are, of all the landmarks the most legitimate and unquestioned. They admit of no variation; and if ever they have suffered alteration or addition the evil of such a violation of the ancient law has always made itself subsequently manifest.

2. The division of symbolic Masonry into three degrees is a landmark that has been better preserved than almost any other; although even here the mischievous spirit of innovation has left its traces, and, by the disruption of its concluding portion from the third degree, a want of uniformity has been created in respect to the final teaching of the Master's Order; and the Royal Arch of England, Scotland, Ireland, and America, and the "high degrees" of France and Germany, are all made to differ in the mode in which they lead the neophyte to the great consummation of all symbolic Masonry. In 1813, the Grand Lodge of England vindicated the ancient landmark, by solemnly enacting that ancient Craft Masonry consisted of the three degrees, of Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason, including the Holy Royal Arch. But the disruption has never been healed, and the landmark, although acknowledged in its integrity by all, still continues to be violated.

3. The legend of the third degree is an important landmark, the integrity of which has been well preserved. There is no rite of Masonry, practiced in any country or language, in which the essential elements of this legend are not taught The lectures may vary, and indeed are constantly changing, but the legend has ever remained substantially the same. And it is necessary that it should be so, for the legend of the Temple Builder constitutes the very essence and identity of Masonry. Any rite which should exclude it, or materially alter it, would at once, by that exclusion or alteration, cease to be a Masonic rite.

4. The government of the Fraternity by a presiding officer called a Grand Master, who is elected from the body of the Craft, is a fourth landmark of the Order. Many persons suppose that the election of the Grand Master is held in consequence of a law or regulation of the Grand Lodge. Such, however, is not the case. The office is indebted for its existence to a landmark of the Order. Grand Masters, or persons performing the functions under a different but equivalent title, are to be found in the records of the Institution long before Grand Lodges were established; and if the present system of legislative government by Grand Lodges were to be abolished, a Grand Master would still be necessary.

5. The prerogative of the Grand Master to preside over every assembly of the Craft, wheresoever and whensoever held, is a fifth landmark. It is in consequence of this law, derived from ancient usage, and not from any special enactment, that the Grand Master assumes the chair, or as it is called in England, "the throne," at every communication of the Grand Lodge; and that he is also entitled to preside at the communication of every subordinate Lodge, where he may happen to be present.

6. The prerogative of the Grand Master to grant dispensations for conferring degrees at irregular times, is another and a very important landmark. The statutory law of Masonry requires a month, or other determinate period, to elapse between the presentation of a petition and the election of a candidate. But the Grand Master has the power to set aside or dispense with this probation, and to allow a candidate to be initiated at once. This prerogative he possessed before the enactment of the law requiring a probation, and as no statute can impair his prerogative, he still retains the power.

7. The prerogative of the Grand Master to give dispensations for opening and holding Lodges is another landmark. He may grant, in virtue of this, to a sufficient number of Masons, the privilege of meeting together and conferring degrees. The Lodges thus established are called" Lodges under dispensation."

8. The prerogative of the Grand Master to make Masons at sight is a landmark which is closely connected with the preceding one. There has been much misapprehension in relation to this landmark, which misapprehension has sometimes led to a denial of its existence in jurisdictions where the Grand Master was, perhaps, at the very time substantially exercising the prerogative, without the slightest remark or opposition.

9. The necessity for Masons to congregate in Lodges is another landmark. It is not to be understood by this that any ancient landmark has directed that permanent organization of subordinate Lodges which constitutes one of the features of the Masonic system as it now prevails. But the landmarks of the Order always prescribed that Masons should, from time to time, congregate together for the purpose of either Operative or Speculative labor, and that these congregations should be called Lodges. Formerly, these were extemporary meetings called together for special purposes, and then dissolved, the brethren departing to meet again at other times and other places, according to the necessity of circumstances. But warrants of constitution, bylaws, permanent officers, and annual arrears are modern innovations wholly outside the landmarks, and dependent entirely on the special enactment's of a comparatively recent period.

10. The government of the Craft, when so congregated in a Lodge, by a Master and two Wardens, is also a landmark. A congregation of Masons meeting together under any other government, as that, for instance, of a president and vice president, or a chairman and subchairman, would not be recognized as a Lodge. The presence of a Master and two wardens is as essential to the valid organization of a Lodge as a Warrant of constitution is at the present day. The names, of course, vary in different languages; but the officers, their number, prerogatives, and duties are everywhere identical.

11. The necessity that every Lodge, when congregated should be duly tiled, is an important landmark of the Institution which is never neglected. The necessity of this law arises from the esoteric character of Masonry. The duty of guarding the door, and keeping off cowans and eavesdroppers, is an ancient one, which therefore constitutes a landmark.

12. The right of every Mason to be represented in all general meetings of the Craft, and to instruct his representative, is a twelfth landmark. Formerly these general meetings, which were usually held once a year, were called "General Assemblies" and all the Fraternity, even to the youngest Entered Apprentice, were permitted to he present. Now they are called "Grand Lodges," and only the Masters and Wardens of the subordinate Lodges are summoned. But this is simply as the representatives of their members. Originally, each Mason represented himself; now he is represented by his officers.

13. The right of every Mason to appeal from the decision of his brethren, in Lodge convened, to the Grand Lodge or General Assembly of Masons, is a landmark highly essential to the preservation of justice, and the prevention of Oppression. A few modem Grand Lodges in adopting a regulation that the decision of subordinate Lodges, in cases of expulsion cannot be wholly set aside upon an appeal, have violated this unquestioned landmark, as well as the principles of just government.

14. The right of every Mason to visit and sit in every regular Lodge is an unquestionable landmark of the Order. This is called "the right of visitation". This right of visitation has always been recognized as an inherent right which inures to every Mason as he travels through the world. And is because Lodges are justly considered as only divisions for convenience of the universal Masonic family. This right may, of course, he impaired or forfeited on special Occasions by various circumstances; but when admission is refused to a Mason in good standing, who knocks at the door of a Lodge as a visitor, it is to he expected that some good and sufficient reason shall be furnished for this violation of what is, in general a Masonic right, founded on the landmarks of the Order.

15. It is a landmark of the Order, that no visitor unknown to the brethren present, or to someone of them as a Mason, can enter a Lodge without first passing an examination according to ancient usage. Of course, if the visitor is known to any brother present to he a Mason in good standing, and if that brother will vouch for his qualifications, the examination may be dispensed with, as the landmark refers only to the cases of strangers, who are not to he recognized unless after strict trial, due examination, or lawful information.

16. No Lodge can interfere in the business of another Lodge, nor give degrees to brethren who are members of other Lodges. This is undoubtedly an ancient landmark, founded on the great principles of courtesy and fraternal kindness, which are at the very foundation of our Institution. It has been repeatedly recognized by subsequent statutory enactments of all Grand Lodges.

17. It is a landmark that every Freemason is amenable to the laws and regulations of the Masonic jurisdiction in which he resides, and this although he may not be a member of any Lodge. Non-affiliation, which is, in fact, in itself a Masonic offense, does not exempt a Mason from Masonic jurisdiction.

18. Certain qualifications of candidates for initiation arc derived from a landmark for the Order. These qualifications are that he shall be a man unmutilated, free born, and of mature age. That is to say, a woman, a cripple, or a slave, or one born in slavery, is disqualified for initiation into the rites of Masonry. Statutes, it is true, have from time to time been enacted, enforcing or explaining these principles; but the qualifications really arise from the very nature of the Masonic institution, and from its symbolic teachings, and have always existed as landmarks.

19. A belief in the existence of God as the Grand Architect of the Universe, is one of the most important landmarks of the Order. It has been always admitted that a denial of the existence of a Supreme and Superintending Power is an absolute disqualification for initiation. The annals of the Order never yet have furnished or could furnish an instance in which an avowed Atheist was ever made a Mason.. The very initiatory ceremonies of the first degree forbid and prevent the possibility of such an Occurrence.

20. Subsidiary to this belief in God, as a landmark of the Order, is the belief in a resurrection to a future life. This landmark is not so positively impressed on the candidate by exact words as the preceding; but the doctrine is taught by very plain implication, and runs through the whole symbolism of the Order. To believe in Masonry, and not to believe in a resurrection, would be an absurd anomaly, which should only be excused by the reflection, that he who thus confounded his belief and his skepticism was so ignorant of the meaning of both theories as to have no rational foundation for his knowledge of either.

21. It is a landmark that a "Book of the Law" shall constitute an indispensable part of the furniture of every Lodge. I say, advisedly, Book of the Law, because it is not absolutely required that everywhere the Old and New Testaments shall be used. The "Book of the Law" is that volume which, by the religion of the country, is believed to contain the revealed will of the Grand Architect of the Universe. Hence, in all Lodges in Christian countries, the "Book of the Law" is composed of the Old and New Testaments, in a country where Judaism was the prevailing faith, the Old Testament alone would be sufficient; and in Mohammendan countries, and among Mohammendan Masons, the Koran might be substituted. Masonry does not attempt to interfere with the peculiar religious faith of its disciples, except so far as relates to the belief in the existence of God, and what necessarily results from that belief. The "Book of Law" is to the Speculative Mason his spiritual TrestleBoard; without this he cannot labor; whatever he believes to be the revealed will of the Grand Architect constitutes for him this spiritual TrestleBoard and must ever be before him in his hours of speculative labor, to be the rule and guide of his conduct The landmark, therefore, requires that a "Book of the Law," a religious code of some kind, purporting to be an exemplar of the revealed will of God, shall form an essential part of the furniture of every Lodge.

22. The equality of all Masons is another landmark of the Order. This equality has no reference to any subversion of those graduations of rank which have been instituted by the usage's of society. The monarch, the nobleman, or the gentleman is entitled to all the influence, and receives all the respect, which rightly belong to his position. But the doctrine of Masonic equality implies that, as children of one great Father, we meet in the Lodge upon the level that on that level we are all traveling to one predestined goal that in the Lodge genuine merit shall receive more respect than boundless wealth, and that virtue and knowledge alone should be the basis of all Masonic honors, and be rewarded with preferment. When the labors of the Lodge are over, and the brethren have retired from their peaceful retreat, to mingle once more with the world, each will then again resume that social position, and exercise the privileges of that rank, to which the customs of society entitle him.

23. The secrecy of the Institution is another and most important landmark. The form of secrecy is a form inherent in it, existing with it from its very foundation, and secured to it by its ancient landmarks. If divested of its secret character, it would lose its identity, and would cease to be Freemasonry. What ever objections may, therefore, be made to the Institution on account of its secrecy, and however much some unskillful brethren have been unwilling in times of trial, for the sake of expediency, to divest it of its secret character, it will be ever impossible to do so, even where the landmark not standing before us as an insurmountable obstacle; because such change of its character would be social suicide, and the death of the Order would follow its legalized exposure. Freemasonry, as a secret association has lived unchanged for centuries; as an open society, ii would not last for as many years.

24. The foundation of a speculative science upon an operative art, and the symbolic use and explanation of the terms of that art, for the purposes of religious or moral teaching constitute another landmark of the Order. The Temple of Solomon was the symbolic cradle of the Institution, and therefore, the reference to the Operative masonry which constructed that magnificent edifice, to the materials and implements which were employed in its construction, and to the artists who were engaged in the building, are all component and essential parts of the body of Freemasonry, which could not be subtracted from it without an entire destruction of the whole identity of the Order. Hence, all the comparatively modern rite of Masonry, however they may differ in other respects, religiously preserve this Temple history and these operative elements, as the substratum of all their modifications of the Masonic system.

25. The last and crowning landmark of all is that these landmarks can never be changed. Nothing can be subtracted from them nothing can be added to them ,not the slightest modifications can he made in them. As they were received from our predecessors, we are bound by the most solemn obligations of duty to transmit them to our successors.


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