An objective view of Freemasonry (V): – THE TRUE ORIGINS OF FREEMASONRY
By a blog reader
To be extremely brief, Freemasonry originated from British medieval Catholic craft guilds and masonic legendry and the dramatic and processional nature of masonic ritual clearly owes its origins to medieval passion and mystery plays performed by guilds and which were suppressed during the Reformation due to their perceived Catholic influences.
Just as importantly a philological and etymological study of obscure words extant in masonic ritual such as cowan, tyler, slipshod, ashlar etc have all been traced to have been introduced in English or in popular use in the 13th and 14th centuries.
Further evidence that the origin of speculative masonry lies conclusively in the stone masons guilds of medieval catholic Britain is the fact that the first written masonic constitution was unequivocally based on manuscripts from that era and which were known as the old charges used by the said guilds. These charges provide the first written evidence of English Masonic ritual, including passwords and non-verbal signs of recognition, and contain the traditional histories and codes of conduct of medieval stonemasons’ guilds. Such medieval documents such as those known as the Cooke and Watson manuscripts and commentary on them can be found here.
Even the appellation of the Triune God as being the Great Architect of the Universe, and a Geometrician owe their origins to the middle ages and to Catholicism. But we shall expand on this when we touch on the subject of Freemasonry and religion and the accusations that it is a Deistic cult or a pagan religion.
Another snapshot from the pages of Cooke’s manuscript
There is no clear mechanism by which these medieval guilds became today’s Masonic Lodges but the minutes of the Lodge of Edinburgh (Mary’s Chapel) No. 1 in Scotland show a continuity from an operative lodge in 1598 to a modern speculative Lodge. It is reputed to be the oldest (speculative) Masonic Lodge in the world.
Before the Reformation, there were relatively few problems on confessional matters in Europe, the Catholic religion ruled supreme – at least in the West. Older heresies had long been extinguished and yet within a few decades, Europe would be turned upside down. With the advent of the Reformation different denominations started sprouting everywhere and the Catholic Church, slow to react to the momentous developments, in a belated desperate attempt to retain Catholic unity, increasingly relied on the stick rather than the carrot. But the genie once out would not go back into the bottle. The result as stated was perpetual bloodshed and monumental social, political, and economic upheaval.
Europe was devasted by the eighty years war and the thirty years war which ultimately led to the peace of Westphalia. In this treaty, all parties would recognize the Peace of Augsburg of 1555, in which each prince had the right to determine the religion of his own state (the principle of cuius regio, eius religio), however, the ius reformandi was removed: Subjects were no longer forced to follow the conversion of their ruler. Rulers were allowed to choose between Catholicism, Lutheranism, or Calvinism, and Protestants and Catholics were theoretically to recognized as being equal before the law. The Holy See was very displeased at the settlement, with Pope Innocent X calling it “null, void, invalid, iniquitous, unjust, damnable, reprobate, inane, empty of meaning and effect for all time” in the bull Zelo Domus Dei.
In parallel with the Thirty Years’ War, England experienced its own civil war, where sectarian suspicions and intrigue also loomed large.
It is in this crucible of war and bloodshed between Christians that the tenets of speculative British Freemasonry were forged.
Many Christians of all persuasions were unsurprisingly disgusted by the wanton slaughter ostensibly committed in the name of Christ and wanted it to stop. Somehow they had to find a modus vivandi and it was Freemasonry that would provide it.