ITS LEGENDS AND TRADITIONS
ITS CHRONOLOGICAL HISTORY
BY ALBERT GALLATIN MACKEY, M.D., 33°
Volume 7 of 7.
SO comprehensive a title as the one selected for the present work would be a vain assumption if the author's object was not really to embrace in a series of studies the whole cycle of Masonic history and science. Anything short of this would not entitle the work to be called THE HISTORY OF FREEMASONRY.
Freemasonry as a society of long standing, has of course its history, and the age of the institution has necessarily led to the mixing in this history of authentic facts and of mere traditions or legends.
We are thus led in the very beginning of our labors to divide our historical studies into two classes. The one embraces the Legendary History of Freemasonry, and the other its authentic annals.
The Legendary History of Freemasonry will constitute the subject of the first of the five parts into which this work is divided. It embraces all that narrative of the rise and progress of the institution, which beginning with the connection with it of the antediluvian patriarchs, ends in ascribing its modern condition to the patronage of Prince Edwin and the assembly at York.
This narrative, which in the I5th and up to the end of the I7th century, claimed and received the implicit faith of the Craft, which in the I8th century was repeated and emendated by the leading writers of the institution, and which even in the 19th century has had its advocates among the learned and its credence among the unlearned of the Craft, has only recently and by a new school been placed in its true position of an apocryphal story.
And yet though apocryphal, this traditionary story of Freemasonry which has been called the Legend of the Craft, or by some the Legend of the Guild, is not to be rejected as an idle fable. On the contrary, the object of the present work has been to show that these Masonic legends contain the germs of an historical, mingled often with a symbolic, idea, and that divested of certain evanescences in the shape of anachronisms, or of unauthenticated statements, these Masonic legends often, nay almost always, present in their simple form a true philosophic spirit.