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Cracking the Freemason's Code: The Truth about Solomon's Key and the Brotherhood

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Prompted by mounting public interest and provoked by controversial stories on the Freemason Society, respected historian and Scottish Freemason Robert L.D. Cooper offers a rare inside look at this secret brotherhood. As curator of the Scottish Masonic Museum and Library, the author has unparalleled access to material dictating the history and function of the Masons.

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Overview


Prompted by mounting public interest and provoked by controversial stories on the Freemason Society, respected historian and Scottish Freemason Robert L.D. Cooper offers a rare inside look at this secret brotherhood. As curator of the Scottish Masonic Museum and Library, the author has unparalleled access to material dictating the history and function of the Masons.

In Cracking the Freemasons Code Cooper explains the structure of the Masonic interculture, its connections to covert organizations, the identities of historical Masonic members (who include George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle), the locations of famous Masonic sites, and much more.

Readers will discover the true role Freemasonry has played throughout history, its purposes, the functions of its many members, and the way in which it has helped shape our modern society. Laying out the symbolism, beliefs, and ethos of a Mason, Cooper addresses the considerable amounts of controversy surrounding those practices. His book includes never-before- published images and seldom-seen documents to give readers a privileged view of this elect brotherhood.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416546825
  • Publisher: Atria Books
  • Publication date: 9/4/2007
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 1,427,720
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.44 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert L.D. Cooper is a Scottish Freemason as well as a recognized historian and expert on Scottish Freemasonry, the Knights Templar, and the Sinclair family. He has authored numerous articles on Freemasonry and lectured in Masonic Lodges and other venues across the world. He lives in Scotland.

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Read an Excerpt

From Stonemasons to Freemasons

The true origins of Freemasonry are obscure and belong to a period when the academic discipline of history was not nearly as rigorous as it is at present, with the consequence that over the years a considerable number of different theories have been put forward regarding the beginnings and history of the Craft. The earliest records relating to a body of men with clear links to modern Freemasonry occur in Scotland during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Some of these men began to speculate regarding the origins of the Lodges and organizations of which they were members, and as they did so, the early Freemasons came up with an unusual way of speculating about the past and about life in general. That unusual method of exploration is the basis of modern Freemasonry. What it is, what it means and what it does is the subject of this book, but let us first consider the beginnings of Freemasonry itself.

The Knights Templar

There can be no doubt that the dominant theory regarding the origins of Freemasonry current at the time of this writing is that modern Freemasonry derives directly from the medieval order of the Poor Soldiers of Christ and Solomon's Temple, founded about 1118 and more commonly known as the Knights Templar. The order's country of origin was France, where it owned the most property and where the Knights Templar were most numerous. The order was monastic in that its members lived in closed communities and followed the Rule of the Cistercian Order, another monastic order of the Church.

When the order was first established, its members were given quarters on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on or very near to the site of King Solomon's Temple. Mysteriously, within a few years the order became extremely wealthy, and it was claimed that while stationed on Temple Mount they had excavated down to the foundations of King Solomon's Temple, where they had found something that made them not only wealthy but also enormously powerful. So powerful did they become that they were answerable only to the Pope himself. They were excused all taxes and were independent of all Church authority — in other words, they could do pretty much whatever they liked.

But what had the Knights Templar discovered in the foundations of King Solomon's Temple? What was it that made the Pope the only one who could command them? And what was it that attracted so many people to join them? There have been many rumors, speculations and suggestions: the Holy Grail, the Ark of the Covenant, the secret teachings of Jesus Christ or perhaps something else altogether — something called Solomon's Key.

The order continued to grow and become even wealthier as more and more people donated land and money. It owned land in every part of Europe and recruited people from all walks of life, although only knights could become full members. The knights had to take vows of chastity, obedience and poverty and were therefore in this respect monks much like any others. They differed from monks in that they were authorized to fight non-Christians, especially those who occupied the Holy Land (modern Israel), because that was the birthplace of Christianity. According to their principles, the Holy Land had to be freed from the infidel and re-Christianized. They were therefore warrior monks — knights of Christ. The Knights Templars' training and fanaticism caused their fighting abilities to become legendary, and they were a major element of the crusading forces in the Holy Land. Their rivalry with the Knights of St. John (the Knights Hospitaller) was fierce, and it would ultimately contribute to their undoing, as would the order's wealth.

The Knights Templar invented international banking. Because they owned property throughout Europe, it was possible to deposit money in one of their preceptories, on receipt of which they would prepare a note to be sent to another preceptory, where the creditor could collect the money. This meant that large sums of money no longer needed to be transported through dangerous country. Needless to say, the order charged a fee for this service.

After the fall of the last Christian outpost in the Holy Land at the Battle of Acre in 1291, the Knights Templar retreated to Cyprus, where they established their new headquarters. With the loss of the Holy Land, the Knights Templar had effectively lost the justification of their existence, but this did not prevent them from becoming arrogant and self-indulgent and flaunting their wealth.

Philip the Fair and the Fall of the Knights Templar

The theory that modern Freemasonry is directly descended from the medieval Order of the Knights Templar concerns Machiavellian intrigue and the affairs of both Crown and Church. As we have seen, the Knights Templar had strong links with France, a country that relentlessly promoted the belief that the monarchy, its own monarchy, was divinely ordained. Philip the Fair (1268-1314), so called because of his complexion, not his disposition, had been king of France since he was seventeen years old and ruled with a rod of iron. He was the eleventh Capetian king of France and came to a throne burdened with huge debts as a consequence of previous wars; he owed money to just about anyone who would lend it to him. The Jews, the Lombards (a people originally descended from North European tribes) and the Knights Templar were major creditors.

Philip struggled to free himself from debt but could never quite manage it: he could not raise enough or spent too much or both. He introduced special taxes on certain businesses, licenses on exports and forced loans. He also introduced special taxes on Jews, Lombards and the Church, which brought him into direct conflict with the pope, Boniface VIII, a conflict that only ended with the pope's death shortly after Philip had had him kidnapped. Benedict XI, who followed Boniface, died in mysterious circumstances after only nine months as pope, following a series of arguments between him and Philip. The election of the French Pope Clement V (1264-1314) in 1305 was supported by Philip, and these two characters were to play a central role in subsequent events concerning the Knights Templar.

In the 1290s Philip devalued the coinage to the extent that after ten years it was worth only a third of its original value. This temporarily increased income for the Crown but also reduced the amount received in taxes. In June 1306 Philip declared that the value of money would return to the level that had existed prior to the devaluations, which meant prices, and therefore taxes, would triple overnight. The people of Paris rioted, and Philip was forced to flee to a Templar preceptory for protection. It is known that a few years previously he had applied to join the order and had been rejected. It must therefore have been especially galling for the king of France to ask for protection from an organization that had not wanted him as a member, but during the three days he was under its protection he studied the order, how the preceptory operated and what its fortifications and security were like. After the riots a new strategy was necessary, and on emerging from the protection of the Knights Templar, Philip moved quickly. Secret orders were issued, and on June 21, 1306, every Jew in France was arrested and all their property stolen, thereby eliminating a group of the king's major creditors.

In 1306 Pope Clement V called a meeting to discuss a possible amalgamation of the Knights Templar with the Order of St. John (the Knights Hospitaller). The Grand Master of the Knights Templar, Jacques de Molay (ca. 1244-1314), traveled from Cyprus to France for the meeting, accompanied by a large retinue of sixty knights and a baggage train loaded with gold and jewels of an immense but unknown value. However, the Grand Master of the Hospitallers, William de Villaret, replied that he could not attend because he was overseeing the transfer of the order to Rhodes.

The Hospitallers had reinvented themselves. They had become a powerful naval force continuously engaged in keeping the Mediterranean sea lanes clear of infidel pirates. In complete contrast, the Knights Templar had changed hardly at all, having failed to recognize that the world and their role in it was changing, especially after Christians had been ejected from the Holy Land fifteen years earlier. Their failure to acknowledge the changing times was owing to their fixed belief that there would be another crusade; it was not a question of if, but when, and this was exactly what de Molay proposed to set in action when he arrived in France early in 1307.

He did not go directly to Poitiers, where the pope was residing, but instead went to Paris to deposit the treasure he had brought with him into the Knights Templar preceptory. He was received by Philip at the royal court and, with all seeming well between the order and the monarch, de Molay traveled on to Poitiers, unaware that Philip had already informed the pope that the Knights Templar were indulging in heretical and abominable practices in the secrecy of their preceptories.

As the order was part of the Church and answerable only to the pope, nothing could be done to follow up the allegations against it without his permission. The Church had no army of its own, relying on the secular authorities, so if the allegations had any basis in truth, Clement would have to ask Philip to arrest the Knights Templar and the Church would investigate. Clement was therefore in a very difficult position. He knew that he had been made pope with Philip's help and he was also aware of how Philip had treated his two predecessors. The pope that Philip had made could just as easily be unmade. It seems that Clement adopted the tactic of simply delaying making a decision until Philip finally resolved to take action himself.

Up to the very last minute de Molay was lulled into a false sense of security. On October 12, 1307, he was accorded the honor of being a pallbearer at the state funeral of Catherine of Valois, Philip's sister-in-law. But Philip had secretly instructed his officials to arrest every Knight Templar in France, and the very next day, Friday, October 13, nearly every one of the estimated five thousand Knights Templar in France was duly arrested.

Until this juncture, the Knights Templar theory about the origins of Freemasonry repeats accepted historical facts. However, it has been claimed, especially in recent years, that some Knights Templar were warned of their impending or imminent arrest and that they fled to the Atlantic port of La Rochelle, where Templar ships lay at anchor. These Knights escaped the clutches of the rapacious king of France and allegedly sailed to Scotland, specifically to the west coast of Argyll, where they went into hiding, taking with them their treasure from the preceptory in Paris.

The French Knights Templar and Robert the Bruce

The argument continues that the surviving Knights Templar chose to go to Scotland because Robert the Bruce (1274-1329) had been excommunicated the previous year by Pope Clement V, following the Bruce's killing of John "the Red" Comyn in the Greyfriars' church in Dumfries. For this reason, it is said, papal authority did not apply in Scotland, and, of course, Robert the Bruce would have welcomed the arrival of tried-and-tested knights during his struggle against English forces to maintain independence for Scotland. At the Battle of Bannockburn on June 24, 1314, just as the battle could have swung for or against the Scots, the story goes that there suddenly appeared on the field an unknown force whose unexpected appearance struck fear and terror into the hearts of the English knights. The English turned and ran and were slaughtered by the pursuing Scots; the King of England, Edward II (1307-1327; b. 1284), barely escaped capture after this terrible defeat. The cream of English knighthood died, but Scotland's independence for the next four hundred years was secured.

Victory may have been his, but Robert the Bruce wanted his newly independent country to be readmitted to Western Christendom. However, he faced the twin problems of having been excommunicated himself and of having heretic Knights Templar in his army. In the event, his excommunication was revoked shortly after his death, but in the process of trying to rejoin the Church while he was alive, he first had to assure the pope that there were no Knights Templar in Scotland. To achieve this, he resorted to subterfuge and invented an Order of Freemasonry, into which the Knights Templar who had helped him defeat the English were quietly integrated. He could now inform the pope that Knights Templar did not exist in Scotland. Moreover, by his actions Robert the Bruce rewarded the fugitive Knights Templar for assisting him in defeating the English army and also protected them from the Church. The Knights Templar under another name — Freemasons — simply continued to exist as they had before 1314.

Evidence of the Knights Templar who came from France is said to be found in the graveyards of Argyll, where there are a large number of anonymous Knight Templar gravestones. There is a range of additional evidence to prove the continued existence of the Knights Templar after 1314, including charters and other documents that mention the order by name. It is known that members of the St. Clair (Sinclair) family were Knights Templar; according to this theory, the family built Rosslyn Chapel in 1446 in order to provide a secret sanctuary for the Knights Templar treasure. The head of the Sinclair family was always hereditary Grand Master of the Masons of Scotland. The Freemasons today are therefore direct descendants of the Knights Templar who came from France in 1307. They possess the secret knowledge and treasure of the Knights Templar, which they protect in a hidden location known only to the highest initiates of the order.

When I first heard this fascinating story it stood my understanding of history on its head. It was only after I had become a Freemason myself that I discovered that this completely different, secret version of history existed. Throughout my education I had been taught the standard version of history, such as the events surrounding the Scottish wars of independence, including the Battle of Bannockburn and the reign of James II (1437-1460, b. 1430), during which the building of Rosslyn Chapel was begun. However, it is important to realize that only certain parts of Scottish Freemasonry contain this secret version of Scottish history. It was some years after I had joined a Masonic Lodge that I learned of the alternative history described above — when I became a Knight Templar.

The Underground Stream

Some theories, like the Knights Templar account described above, are fairly specific, but there are others that are rather vague and contain little factual evidence. One of these I shall call the theory of the underground stream, and it's probably the vaguest theory of them all. It is relatively simple and supported by hardly any factual material. It conjectures that the "knowledge of the ancients" originated on the fabled island of Atlantis and that the knowledge has been passed down to us today by a variety of means, principally by certain elites. After the destruction of Atlantis the knowledge was transferred to ancient Egypt, whose high priests preserved it within their religion before it was passed on to Greece, then on to Rome. There, with the fall of the Roman Empire, it became restricted to only an extremely few people. Some say that it was preserved by the Celts, and particularly through the Druid priesthood, before it was transferred from them to the court of King Arthur.

There was another route allegedly taken: the knowledge flowed from the ancient Egyptians to the court of King Solomon, where it remained hidden in the foundations of Solomon's ruined temple until it was discovered by the Knights Templar in the early twelfth century.

Whether it was discovered by the Knights Templar in Jerusalem or passed on to the court of King Arthur, some commentators point to the fact that both the Templars and the Knights of the Round Table became remarkably powerful and wealthy. This, it is claimed, was owing to their possession of the secret knowledge of the ancients, whatever that may have been. Both routes lead to Britain, and so Britain is the place where the knowledge now remains and is where all those who seek it must look.

The supposed involvement of the Knights Templar means that this theory links with the Knights Templar theory considered above, connecting at the point where the Knights Templar came to Scotland from France in 1307. It similarly continues thereafter with the idea that Robert the Bruce created Freemasonry in order to disguise the existence of the Knights Templar. The theme of the court of King Arthur, without the involvement of the Knights Templar, suggests that the secret knowledge was transferred from them to unknown others before finally being passed to the Freemasons of Scotland.

The problem with this theory is that the secret knowledge is never explained. Consider the theory in this light: a variety of writers describe, often in great detail, the various stages through which the knowledge is passed from group to group, yet no one provides any details of the nature of the knowledge itself.

The Stonemasons of King Solomon's Temple

The next theory is based entirely upon biblical evidence, specifically the building of King Solomon's Temple as described in the Old Testament books of Kings and Chronicles. This theory claims that the stonemasons who built the Temple must have possessed secret knowledge, but whether it was transferred to them from Atlantis via ancient Egypt and Greece as described above is not clearly stated. It is occasionally hinted that the "secret" was the knowledge of building in stone, a knowledge that only stonemasons possessed and that came directly from Yahweh. In any event, King Solomon's Temple, constructed to contain the Ark of the Covenant and as a place of residence on earth for the God of the Jews (Yahweh or Jehovah), clearly contained special and secret building techniques known only to those stonemasons.

By contrast, the Tower of Babel was a sinful building — an attempt by man to reach heaven by his own devices. This was an affront to God, who destroyed it and caused mankind to speak in many different languages so that people could no longer communicate to build the tower. As an unholy building, the tower was not suitable for the stonemasons to use as an example of their special, unique and God-given abilities. Moreover, the Tower of Babel was built out of brick and would therefore not have involved them. It was definitely not a worthy example of their knowledge and skills.

According to the King Solomon's Temple theory, since the time of King Solomon the special knowledge possessed by the first stonemasons was transferred, generation after generation, to other stonemasons through ceremonies that were only accessible to those in the craft. Those in possession of the secrets, sometimes called the knowledge of Sacred Geometry, were able to build some of the world's most awe-inspiring structures, such as the medieval cathedrals of Europe. The patrons who commissioned them were at a loss to explain how such humble men could erect such tributes to the glory of God. When nearly everyone lived in small, crude dwellings, when only nobles owned anything much larger than a hut, imagine the impact it must have made to round a bend or top a hill and suddenly come upon a huge structure that was God's house. The theory suggests that the secret knowledge that originated with the building of King Solomon's Temple now lies with modern Freemasons.

From Incorporations to Masons: the Transition Theory

This brings me to the most commonly accepted and historically credible theory of the origin of Freemasonry, which lies with the stonemasons of the medieval period and most particularly the stonemasons of Scotland.

Incorporations

This theory argues that Freemasonry begins with the political and social climate of medieval Scotland itself. In Scotland in the Middle Ages there existed "burghs," essentially walled towns,* administered differently from the countryside, which, with the exception of the Highlands, was governed feudally. A royal burgh was even further removed from the control of feudal barons. It was created by the monarch and was therefore answerable — and paid taxes — directly to the Scottish king or queen.

Associations of tradesmen such as bakers and stonemasons occupied an important place in the life of the burghs, but even collectively these tradesmen were not at first as powerful — economically or politically — as the merchants. Unlike the merchants they did not belong to guilds, but they were sufficiently well organized that their influence could not be completely ignored. The various trades agitated increasingly for recognition by the establishment and, on the basis that it is better to have potential troublemakers inside the establishment (where some control can be exercised over them) than outside the system, the burgh town councils eventually granted them charters. In Scotland such a charter is known as a Seal of Cause. The burgh establishment granted this new kind of status to the most important town trades, which were by this process incorporated into the burgh's political and economic life.

The nine Incorporated Trades of Edinburgh and the date of their Seal of Cause Baxters (bakers) 1456 Bonnet makers 1473 Skinners 1474 Masons and wrights (carpenters) 1475 Wobsters (weavers) 1476 Hammermen (blacksmiths, etc.) 1483 Fleshers (butchers) 1488 Coopers (barrel-makers) 1489 Cordiners (shoemakers and leather-workers) 1510

In granting tradesmen a charter, the town council conferred certain rights such as limited representation on the town council but expected certain responsibilities in return. The newly established incorporations agreed to keep their houses in order by controlling their members and regulating their wages, working practices and arrangements for apprenticeships and even their moral welfare. The incorporations became the point of contact between the tradesmen they represented and the town councils, thereby developing an economic and political role. In effect, to become an incorporation was to make a public announcement that a trade was respectable and had some status within the burgh.

The Incorporation of Wrights and Masons

For our purposes, the foundation of the Incorporation of Wrights and Masons in 1475 marks a key moment. The incorporation became the focal point of the wrights' and masons' economic activities; it was here that they agreed on the rules to govern their craft, such as how long someone would serve as an apprentice and what conditions had to be met before he was allowed to become a full member of the trade. It was here also that they formulated tactics for negotiating with their employers and established funds for one another's financial assistance.

As the economic cycle rose and fell, the Incorporation of Wrights and Masons came to include tradesmen who were not directly connected with building work, such as coopers (barrel-makers), and others who were indirectly connected with erecting buildings, such as plumbers. These trades probably became members because of the need to maintain membership numbers and thereby the income of the incorporation during difficult times. This created tensions within the incorporation and between the various trades in their efforts to create a united front to their employers, i.e., the town council and to a lesser extent the Church and private individuals.

Incorporations created monopolistic conditions for each trade within each town. This enabled the wrights and masons to exert economic pressure by maintaining a high income and high wage structure. However, the civic authorities retaliated by creating laws to curb the incorporations' high wage demands, and this occasionally led to violence. The wrights and masons were not unusual in attempting to maximize their income when they had the economic ability to do so. Other incorporations did exactly the same.

However, the masons were not concerned solely with maximizing income, although this was clearly important. They were also interested in the spiritual welfare of their members, an indication of which lies in the manner in which they often paid for the maintenance of a specific aisle for their own place of worship.

As a mark of their newfound respectability in 1475, the Edinburgh stonemasons were granted the use of the aisle of St. John the Evangelist within St. Giles' Cathedral. In return, the incorporation maintained the aisle by donating candle wax and paying the officiating priest, who said prayers and masses for the souls of deceased members. This link with the aisle in St. Giles' Cathedral is why the patron saint of Freemasonry in Scotland is St. John the Evangelist (feast day December 27), whereas virtually everywhere else in the world it is St. John the Baptist (feast day June 24). The stonemasons also ensured the burial of deceased members when their families could not do so and looked after their widows and orphans.

Lodges

There was yet another aspect that made the stonemasons of Scotland different from any other trade or incorporation. They had a secret level of organization that did not exist elsewhere: the lodge.

Exactly why they deemed it necessary to form a separate organization is not clear. One reason may be that because the Incorporation of Wrights and Masons had from time to time included other trades in addition to those of carpentry and stonemasonry, the stonemasons wished to have a meeting place that was exclusive to their particular craft. As it would not have been necessary to create a lodge of stonemasons in order to discuss matters that were already the responsibility of the incorporation (to do so would have been repetitive rather than constructive), the stonemasons must have had unique business of their own that they did not wish to share with non-stonemasons.

That masons had meeting places known as lodges is confirmed by a document dated 1491 entitled "statue anent [about or concerning] Masons of St Giles." The document stipulates the hours to be worked by master masons and states that they are allowed "to get a recreation in the common lodge." This demonstrates that the stonemasons' lodges were not simple huts for the storage of working tools but were structures large enough to be used for recreational purposes. In other words, they were places where stonemasons could congregate privately. And, as will become clear, the lodges became important centers where stonemasons could perform ceremonies in order to convey their special esoteric knowledge from generation to generation.

The lodges must have appeared fascinating to outsiders in awe of the stonemasons' abilities. Non-stonemasons were intrigued and slowly, even reluctantly, the stonemasons of Scotland permitted a few of them to join their lodges, passing on to them the secrets that had only ever been in the possession of the stonemasons themselves. What attracted these non-stonemasons to the lodges was most likely simple curiosity, the mystique created by rumors of the existence of secrets, and perhaps they were even happy to slum it occasionally with their social inferiors, experiencing the thrills of social voyeurism.

The Survival of Lodges

When considering the history of Freemasonry, it is worth remembering that until the early eighteenth century Scotland and England were separate countries. The union of the crowns in 1603 gave them a single monarch, but the parliamentary systems remained separate until 1707. The conditions in one country were not the same as in the other; laws enacted in Scotland had no effect in England.

This is one reason why the Scottish incorporations survived the Reformation, unlike the English merchant and craft guilds, which were suppressed in 1540 as superstitious foundations. Indeed, some Scottish incorporations still exist and possess continuous written records that date from medieval times, although they are now charitable institutions.

There is every reason to believe that like incorporations, the stonemasons' lodges also survived. In fact there is evidence to support the view that pre-Reformation lodges have a continued existence to the present day. Admittedly the evidence is scant until the end of the sixteenth century, but there is circumstantial evidence for their existence before and after the Reformation. Indeed, in the sixteenth, seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, the Lodge was the only unit of Freemasonry.

Prior to the late sixteenth century, lodges are very occasionally mentioned in town council records. Lodges themselves did not maintain written records at first, but by the end of the sixteenth century things were set to change, as will become clear in Chapter 2. As there are no known records of Freemasons' Lodges in England before 1716, the focus here must be on what records there are, and these are to be found only in Scotland. It must be made clear, however, that lack of records does not mean that there were no Lodges in England prior to 1716, merely that we know virtually nothing about them.*

What happened in the stonemasons' lodges of Scotland during the fading years of the sixteenth century had an impact that allows us to contrast them with the institutions that preexisted them and to make some educated guesses as to what they did and why they developed into modern Masonic Lodges. This before and after comparison can take place only in a Scottish context, as material of the same nature simply does not exist in any other country, and it is partly for this reason (there are others discussed below) that we can confidently claim that modern Freemasonry originated in Scotland.

The Transition

Eventually, over a period of approximately one hundred years, from the start of written records in 1599, many lodges came to include a large number of men who had no connection with the craft of stonemasonry whatsoever. This gradual change from stonemasonry to Freemasonry can be traced only within Scotland and is known as the transition theory. The transition from stonemasons' lodges to modern Masonic Lodges is witnessed within the written records of the Scottish lodges themselves.

One strand of the transition theory suggests that English gentleman visitors to Scotland decided that Freemasonry looked to be a pleasant pastime and decided to create lodges of their own on their return south. An alternative suggestion is that Scottish stonemasons seeking work in England created lodges there, admitting anyone in order to establish them quickly, which meant that from the outset the lodges created in this way were not strictly speaking stonemasons' lodges. Be that as it may, the main point is that by one means or another Freemasonry spread from Scotland to England.

With the spread of Freemasonry inside and outside its borders, three different types of lodges now existed within Scotland. There were the traditional stonemasons' lodges, such as those at Kilwinning, known to be in existence in 1599. There were lodges of mixed membership, such as that of Aberdeen, which was probably founded in about 1670. And there were lodges that had no connection with stonemasonry whatsoever, such as the one founded in 1702 in the hamlet of Haughfoot in the Scottish borders.

A form of speculative Freemasonry developed in some new Lodges in both Scotland and England. It was speculative in the sense that the Lodges themselves were established by men who had no direct connection with stonemasonry; its members were not stonemasons and so were therefore speculating about what stonemasons did in their lodges, what their secrets were and where their knowledge had originated.

In Scotland, the development of different Lodges, and with them different forms of Freemasonry, led to a curious situation. When the Grand Lodge of Scotland was founded in 1736, it was a speculative body. The majority of lodges that had been in existence for the last hundred and forty years wanted nothing to do with its newfangled Masonic system. Some saw no point in becoming part of a new speculative system when theirs was a lodge of stonemasons. Others did not see the need for a Grand Lodge given that they had managed independently and quite happily for more than one hundred years. Many remained independent until they ceased to exist or until they eventually joined the new Masonic system more than a hundred years later. But one or two strands still survive today (see Chapter 9).

The Big Bang Theory

The last remaining theory of origin that I wish to discuss very briefly is known as the big bang theory, which proposes that a small number of Freemasons existed in secret in London but decided to go public in 1717 by forming a Grand Lodge. This Grand Lodge, the first in the world, was formed by four Lodges, which had apparently only been in existence for a short time.

In this respect, English Freemasonry was created without a connection with any other group such as stonemasons. The purely speculative form of Freemasonry thus created could therefore have been molded by its creators into whatever form they wished. This would not have been possible in Scotland, where non-stonemasons had joined an existing organization that was not theirs to shape. Untangling precisely how and when the English Lodges first came into being and for what purpose is difficult, but it is not impossible that there was some synthesis with what was taking place in Scotland.

Copyright © 2006 by Robert L. D. Cooper

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2012

    Very interesting.

    This book really seems to give a better understanding towards who the Freemasons really are and how they have had a lot to do with our history. I also like how the author addresses the large amount of controversy towards the Freemasons. Over all I find it to be a very interesting and enlightening book.

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