This book has a controversial backstory which is part of the mythology of anti-Freemasonry. 'Captain' William Morgan, the author, was a disappointed Freemason in Batavia, New York. Rejected by the local lodge, he announced that he was going to publish a work exposing Masonic rituals and secrets. Shortly before publication in 1826, he disappeared, and three Masons were later convicted of kidnapping him. Although claims were made that Morgan had been murdered, some say that he was forced to leave the US. Either way, it was good publicity for this book, which was published in 1827, but bad for the Masons. The incident led to widespread protests against Freemasons in the US, and eventually an anti-Masonic Party, which at its height in 1832 got seven electoral votes for William Wirt for President.
So why read this book? Stripped of the fevered historical background, and ignoring the publisher's antimasonic introduction, this becomes simply one of the first published accounts of US Freemasonry in the early 19th century. It seems accurate, based on other published Monitors, such as Ducan's. At this perspective, Illustrations is no more offensive than Robert's Rules of Order, although it makes more interesting reading.
Production Notes: I have, as is the usual practice, silently cleaned up egregious punctuation errors in the text, particularly quotation marks. There were no obvious chapter breaks, so I have inserted file breaks at logical boundaries in the text. As usual, any text in small green type was added to the text by the transcriber.--J. B. Hare.
Be it Remembered, That on the fourteenth day of August, in the fifty-first year of the Independence of the United States of America, A. D. 1826, William Morgan, of the said district, hath deposited in this office the title of a book, the right whereof he claims as author, in the words following, to wit:—
"Illustrations of Masonry, by one of the fraternity who has devoted thirty years to the subject. 'God said, Let there be light, and there was light.'"
In conformity to the act of Congress of the United States, entitled "An act for the encouragement of learning, by securing the copies of maps, charts and books, to the authors and proprietors of such copies, during the time therein mentioned," and also to the act entitled "An act supplementary to the act entitled 'An act for the encouragement of learning, by securing the copies of maps, charts and books, to the authors and proprietors of such copies, during the time therein mentioned,' and extending the benefits thereof to the arts of designing, engraving, and etching historical and other prints."
By the Publisher, Col. David C. Miller, Batavia, N. Y.)
In the absence of the author, or rather compiler of the following work, who was kidnapped and carried away from the village of Batavia, on the 11th day of September, 1826, by a number of Freemasons, it devolves upon the publisher to attempt to set forth some of the leading views that governed those who embarked in the undertaking.
To contend with prejudice, and to struggle against customs and opinions, which superstition, time, and ignorance have hallowed, requires time, patience, and magnanimity. When we begin to pull down the strongholds of error, the batteries we level against them, though strong, and powerful; and victorious at last, arc at first received with violence; and when in our conquering career we meet with scoffs and revilings from the beseiged partisans of untenable positions, it the more forcibly impresses us we are but men; and that in every work of reformation and renovation we must encounter various difficulties. For a full confirmation of our statement we might refer to the history of the world. It is not our intention, however, to give a full detail of the whims and caprices man to bring forth the historic records of other years as roof of the windings and shiftings of the various characters who have "Strutted their brief hour on life's stage" in order to convince that customs, associations, and institutions are like the lives of the authors and abettors, fleeting and fragile. Many of them rise up as bubbles on the ocean, and die away. Circumstances give them existence, and when these causes cease to exist, they go into the same gulf of oblivion as countless exploded opinions and tenets have gone before them. The mind that formed and planned them, goes on in its dazzling flight, bounding over barrier after barrier, till it has arrived at the ultimate goal of consummation.
The daily occurrences before us bring forth the full conviction that the emanation from the God of light is gradually ascending to regions of greater intellectual brilliancy.
When we view man, in the infancy of society, as in the childhood of his existence, he is weak, powerless and defenceless; but in his manhood and riper years, he has grown to his full stature, and stands forth in commanding attitude, the favored and acknowledged lord of the world. For his comfort and well-being as a member of society, rules and regulations are necessary. In the various stages of his progress, these systematic improvements undergo various changes, according to circumstances and situations. What is proper and necessary in one grade of society, is wholly useless, and may be alarming in another. Opinions and usages that go down in tradition, and interfere not with our improvements in social concerns, adhere to us more closely and become entwined in all our feelings. It is to this we owe our bigoted attachment to antiquity—it is this that demands from us a superstitious reverence for the opinions and practices of men of former times, and closes the ear against truth, and blinds the eyes to the glare of new lights and new accessions of knowledge through which medium only can they break in upon the mind.
We have within ourselves the knowledge; and everywhere around us the proofs that we are beings destined not to stand still. In our present state of advancement, we lock with pity on the small progress of our fathers in arts and sciences, and social institutions; and when compared with our elevated rank, we have just cause of pride and of grateful feelings. They did well for the times in which they lived, but to the ultimatum of perfectability we are nearer, and in the monuments we have before us of the skill and genius of our times and age we have only fulfilled these destinies for which we were created; and we object to every obstacle that opposes or attempts to oppose the will of heaven.
In the present enlightened state to which society has advanced, we contend that the opinions and tenets and pretended secrecies of "olden times," handed down to us, should be fully, fairly and freely canvassed; that from the mist and darkness which have hung over them, they should come out before the open light of day, and be subject to the rigid test of candid investigation. These preliminary remarks lead as to the main object of our introduction.
A Description of the Ceremonies used in opening a Lodge of Entered Apprentice Masons; which is the same in all upper degrees, with the exception of the difference in the signs, due-guards, grips, pass-grips, words and their several names; all of which will be given and explained in their proper places as the work progresses. One rap calls the lodge to order—one calls up the Junior and Senior Deacons—two raps call up all the subordinate officers, and three, all the members of the lodge.
The Master having called the lodge to order, and the officers all seated, the Master says to the Junior Warden, 'Brother Junior, are they all Entered Apprentice Masons in the south?'
Ans. 'They are, Worshipful.'
Master to the Senior Warden, 'Brother Senior, are they all Entered Apprentice Masons in the west?'
Ans. 'They are, Worshipful.'
The Master then says, 'They are, in the east,' at the same time he gives a rap with the common gavel or mallet, which calls up both Deacons.
Master to Junior Deacon, 'Brother Junior, the first care of a Mason?'
Ans. 'To see the lodge tyled, Worshipful.'
Master to Junior Deacon, 'Attend to that part of your duty, and inform the Tyler that we are about to open a lodge of Entered Apprentice Masons, and direct him to tyle accordingly.' The Junior Deacon then steps to the door and gives three raps, which are answered by three raps from without; the Junior Deacon then gives one, which is also answered by the Tyler with one; the door is then partly opened and the Junior Deacon delivers his message, and resumes his situation
and says, 'The door is tyled, Worshipful.' (at the same time giving the due-guard, which is never omitted when the Master is addressed.)
The Master to Junior Deacon, 'Brother, by whom?'
Ans. 'By a Master Mason without the door, armed with the proper implement of his office.'
Master to Junior Deacon, 'His duty there?'
Ans. 'To keep off all cowans and eaves-droppers, see that none pass or repass without permission from the Master.' (Some say without permission from the chair.)
Master to Junior Deacon, 'Brother Junior, your place in the lodge?'
Ans. 'At the right hand of the Senior Warden in the west.'
Master to Junior Deacon, 'Your business there, Brother Junior?'
Ans. 'To wait on the Worshipful Master and Wardens, act as their proxy in the active duties of the lodge, and take charge of the door.'
Master to Junior Deacon, 'The Senior Deacon's place in the lodge?'
Ans. 'At the right hand of the Worshipful Master in the east.' [The Master, while asking the last questions gives two raps, which call up all the subordinate officers.]
Master to Senior Deacon, 'Your duty there, Brother Senior?'
Ans. 'To wait on the Worshipful Master and Wardens, act as their proxy in the active duties of the lodge, attend to the preparation and introduction of candidates, and welcome and clothe all visiting Brethren. [i.e., furnish them with an apron.]
Master to Senior Deacon, 'The Secretary's place in the lodge, Brother Senior?'
Ans. 'At the left hand of the Worshipful Master in the east.'
Master to the Secretary, 'Your duty there, Brother Secretary?'
Ans. 'The better to observe the Worshipful Master's will and pleasure, record the proceedings of the lodge; transmit a copy of the same to the Grand Lodge, if required; receive all moneys and money bills from the hands of the Brethren, pay them over to the Treasurer, and take his receipt for the same.'
The Master to the Secretary, 'The Treasurer's place in the lodge?'
Ans. 'At the right hand of the Worshipful Master.'
Master to Treasurer, 'Your duty there, Brother Treasurer?'
Ans. 'Duly to observe the Worshipful Master's will and pleasure; receive all moneys and money bills from the hands of the Secretary; keep a just and true account of the same; pay them out by order of the Worshipful Master and consent of the Brethren.'
The Master to the Treasurer, "The Junior Warden's place in the lodge, Brother Treasurer?'
If there are any candidates to be brought forward, that will be the first business to be attended to. I will therefore proceed with a description of the ceremonies used in the admission and initiation of a candidate into the first degree of Masonry.
A person wishing to become a Mason must get some one who is a Mason to present his petition to a lodge, when, if there are no serious objections, it will be entered on the minutes, and a committee of two or three appointed to enquire into his character, and report to the next regular communication. The following is a form of petition used by a candidate; but a worthy candidate will not be rejected for the want of formality in his petition:
To the Worshipful Master, Wardens and Brethren of Lodge No. —, of Free and Accepted Masons. The subscriber, residing in ——, of lawful age, and by occupation a ——, begs leave to state that, unbiased by friends, and uninfluenced by mercenary motives, he freely and voluntarily offers himself a candidate for the mysteries of Masonry, and that he is prompted to solicit this privilege by a favorable opinion conceived of the institution, a desire
of knowledge, and a sincere wish of being serviceable to his fellow creatures. Should his petition be granted, he will cheerfully conform to all the ancient established usages and customs of the fraternity.
A. B. At the next regular communication, (if no very serious objection appears against the candidate) the ballot boxes wilt be passed; one black ball will reject a candidate. The boxes may be passed three times. The Deacons are the proper persons to pass them. One of the boxes has black and white beans or balls in it, the other empty, the one with the balls in it goes before, and furnishes each member with a black and white ball; the empty box follows and receives them. There are two holes in the top of this box with a small tube, (generally) in each, one of which is black and the other white, with a partition in the box. The members put both their balls into this box as their feelings dictate; when the balls are received, the box is presented to the Master, Senior and Junior Wardens, who pronounce clear or not clear, as the case may be. The ballot proving clear, the candidate (if present) is conducted into a small preparation room, adjoining the lodge when he is asked the following questions and gives the following answers. Senior Deacon to Candidate, "Do you sincerely declare, upon your honor before these gentlemen, that, unbiased by friends, uninfluenced by unworthy motives, you freely and voluntarily offer yourself a candidate for the mysteries of Masonry?"
Ans. "I do."
Senior Deacon to candidate. "Do you sincerely declare, upon your honor before these gentlemen, that you are prompted to solicit the privileges of Masonry by a favorable opinion conceived of the institution, a desire of knowledge, and a sincere wish of being serviceable to your fellow creatures?"
Ans. "I do."
Senior Deacon to candidate, "Do you sincerely declare upon your honor before these gentlemen, that you will cheerfully conform to all the ancient established usages and customs of the fraternity?"
Ans. "I do."
After the above questions are proposed and answered and the result reported to the Master, he says, 'Brethren
at the request of Mr. A. B. he has been proposed and accepted in regular form. I therefore recommend him as a proper candidate for the mysteries of Masonry and worthy to partake of the privileges of the fraternity and in consequence of a declaration of his intentions, voluntarily made, I believe he will cheerfully conform to the rules of the order."
The candidate during the time is divested of all his apparel (shirt excepted) and furnished with a pair of drawers kept in the lodge for the use of candidates. The candidate is then blindfolded, his left foot bare, his right in a slipper, his left breast and arm naked, and a rope called a Cable-tow round his neck and left arm, [the rope is not put round the arm in all lodges] in which posture the candidate is conducted to the door where he is caused to give, or the conductor gives three distinct knocks, which are answered by three from within; the conductor gives one more, which is also answered by one from within. The door is then partly opened and the Senior Deacon generally asks, "Who comes there? Who comes there? Who comes there?"
The work of the evening being over, I will proceed to give a description of the manner of closing the lodge. It is a very common practice in lodges to close a lodge of Entered Apprentices, and open a lodge of Fellow Crafts, and close that, and open a Master Mason's lodge, all in the same evening.
Some brother generally makes a motion that the lodge be closed; it being seconded and carried:—
The Master to the Junior Deacon—"Brother Junior," [giving one rap which calls up both Deacons,] "the first as well as the last care of a Mason? (more…)
Having described all the ceremonies and forms appertaining to the opening of a lodge of Entered Apprentice Masons, setting them to work, initiating a candidate, and closing the lodge, I will now proceed too give the lecture on this degree. It is divided into three sections. The lecture is nothing more or less than a recapitulation of the preceding ceremonies and forms, by way of question and answer, and fully explains the same. In fact, the ceremonies and forms (generally Masonically called the work) and lectures are so much the same that he who possesses a knowledge of the lectures cannot be destitute of a knowledge of what the ceremonies and forms are. As the ceremonies used in opening and closing are the same in all the degrees it is thought best to give the whole in one insertion; it being the sincere wish of the writer that every reader should perfectly understand all the formulas of the whole Masonic fabric, as he then will thereby be able to form correct opinions of the propriety or impropriety, advantages or disadvantages of the same.
First Section of the Lecture on the First Degree of Masonry. "From whence come you as an Entered Apprentice Mason?"
Ans. "From the holy lodge of St. John, at Jerusalem." "What recommendations do you bring?"
Ans. "Recommendations from the Worshipful Master, Wardens and brethren of that right worshipful lodge, whom greet you."
"What comest thou hither to do?"
Ans. "To learn to subdue my passions, and improve myself in the secret arts and mysteries of ancient Freemasonry."
"You are a Mason, then I presume?"
Ans. "I am."
"How shall I know you to be a Mason?"
Ans. "By certain signs and a token."
"What are signs?"
Ans. "All right angles, horizontals and perpendiculars."
"What is a token?"
Ans. "A certain friendly and brotherly grip, whereby one Mason may know another, in the dark as well as in the light."
"Where were you first prepared to be made a Mason?"
Ans. "In my heart."
Ans. "In a room adjacent to the body of a just and lawfully constituted lodge of such."
"How were you prepared?"
Ans. "By being divested of all metals, neither naked nor clothed, barefoot nor shod, hoodwinked, with a Cable Tow † about my neck, in which situation I was conducted to the door of the lodge."
"You being hoodwinked how did you know it to be a door?"
Ans. "By first meeting with resistance, and afterwards gaining admission."
"How did you gain admission?"
Ans. "By three distinct knocks from without, answered by the same within."
"What was said to you from within?"
Ans. "Who comes there? Who comes there? Who comes there?
Ans. "A poor blind candidate who has long been desirous of having and receiving a part of the rights and benefits of this worshipful lodge, dedicated to God, and held forth to the holy order of St. John, as all true fellows and brothers have done, who have gone this way before me."
"What further was said to you from within?"
Ans. "I was asked if it was of my own free will and accord I made this request, if I was duly and truly proposed, worthy and well qualified, all of which being answered in the affirmative, I was asked by what further rights I expected
to obtain so great a favor or benefit."
Ans. "By being a man, free born, of lawful age and well recommended."
"What was then said to you?"
Ans. "I was bid to wait till the Worshipful Master in the east was made acquainted with my request and his answer returned."
"After his answer returned what followed?"
Ans. "I was caused to enter the lodge."
Ans. "On the point of some sharp instrument pressing my naked left breast in the name of the Lord."
"How were you then disposed of?"
Ans. "I was conducted to the center of the lodge and there caused to kneel for the benefit of a prayer." [See page 19.]
"Why was you divested of all metals when you was made a Mason?"
Ans. "Because Masonry regards no man on account of his worldly wealth or honors; it is, therefore, the internal and not the external qualifications that recommend a man to Masonry."
"A second reason?"
Ans. "There was neither the sound of an axe, hammer, or any other metal tool heard at the building of King Solomon's temple."
"How could so stupendous a fabric be erected without the sound of axe, hammer, or any other metal tool?"
Ans. "All the stones were hewed, squared and numbered in the quarries where they were raised, all the timbers felled and prepared in the forests of Lebanon, and carried down to Joppa on floats, and taken from thence up to Jerusalem, and set up with wooden mauls, prepared for that purpose; which, when completed, every part thereof fitted with that exact nicety, that it had more the resemblance of the hand workmanship of the Supreme Architect of the Universe, than that of human hands."
"Why was you neither naked nor clothed?"
Ans. "As I was an object of distress at that time, it was to remind me, if ever I saw a friend, more especially a brother, in a like distressed situation, that I should contribute as liberally to his relief as his situation required, and my abilities would admit, without material injury to myself or family."
"Why were you neither barefoot or shod?"
Ans. "It was an ancient Israelitish custom, adopted among Masons; and we read, in the book of Ruth, concerning
their mode and manner of changing and redeeming, 'and to confirm all things, a brother plucked off his shoe and gave it to his neighbor, and that was testimony in Israel.' This, then, therefore, we do in confirmation of a token and as a pledge of our fidelity; thereby signifying that we will renounce our own wills in all things, and become obedient to the laws of our ancient institutions."
"Why were you hoodwinked?"
"That my heart might conceive before my eyes beheld the beauties of Masonry."
"A second reason?"
Ans. "As I was in darkness at that time, it was to remind me that I should keep the whole world so respecting Masonry."
"Why had you a Cable Tow about your neck?"
Ans. "In case I had not submitted to the manner and mode of my initiation, that I might have been led out of the lodge without seeing the form and beauties thereof."
"Why did you give three distinct knocks at the door?"
Ans. "To alarm the lodge, and let the Worshipful Master, Wardens and brethren know that a poor blind candidate prayed admission."
"What does those three distinct knocks allude to?"
Ans. "A certain passage in Scripture, wherein it says, 'Ask and it shall be given, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you.'"
"How did you apply this to your then case in Masonry?"
Ans. "I asked the recommendations of a friend to become a Mason, I sought admission through his recommendations, and knocked, and the door of Masonry opened unto me."
"Why was you caused to enter on the point of some sharp instrument pressing your naked left breast in the name of the Lord?"
Ans. "As this was a torture to my flesh, so might the recollection of it ever be to my heart and conscience, if ever I attempted to reveal the secrets of Masonry unlawfully."
"Why was you conducted to the center of the lodge, and there caused to kneel for the benefit of a prayer?"
Ans. "Before entering on this, or any other great and important undertaking, it is highly necessary to implore a blessing from Deity."
"Why was you asked in whom you put your trust?"
Ans. "Agreeable to the laws of our ancient institution, no atheist could be made a Mason, it was therefore necessary that I should believe in Deity; otherwise no oath or obligation could bind me."
"Why did the Worshipful Master take you by the right hand and bid you arise, follow your leader and fear no danger?"
"We have been saying a good deal about a lodge; I want to know what constitutes a lodge?"
Ans. "A certain number of Free and Accepted Masons duly assembled in a room, or place, with the Holy Bible,
[paragraph continues] Square and Compass, and other Masonic implements with a charter from the Grand Lodge empowering them to work."
"Where did our ancient brethren meet before lodges were erected?"
Ans. "On the highest hills, and in the lowest vales."
"Why on the highest hills and the lowest vales?"
Ans. "The better to guard against cowans and enemies, either ascending or descending, that the brethren might have timely notice of their approach to prevent being surprised."
"What is the form of your lodge?"
Ans. "An oblong square."
Ans. "From east to west."
Ans. "Between north and south."
Ans. "From the surface of the earth to the highest heavens."
Ans. "From the surface to the center."
"What supports your lodge?"
Ans. "Three large columns or pillars."
"What are their names?"
Ans. "Wisdom, Strength and Beauty."
Ans. "It is necessary there should be wisdom to contrive, strength to support, and beauty to adorn all great and important undertakings, but more especially this of ours."
"Has your lodge any covering?"
Ans. "It has; a clouded canopy, or a starry decked heaven, where all good Masons hope to arrive."
"How do they hope to arrive there?"
Ans. "By the assistance of Jacob's ladder."
"How many principal rounds has it got?"
"What are their names?"
Ans. "Faith, Hope and Charity."
"What do they teach?"
Ans. "Faith in God, Hope in immortality, and Charity to all mankind."
"Has your lodge any furniture?"
Ans. "It has; the Holy Bible, Square, and Compass."
"To whom do they belong?"
Ans. "The Bible to God, the Square to the Master, and the Compass to the Craft."
Ans. "The Bible to God, it being the inestimable gift of God to man, for his instruction to guide him through the rugged paths of life; the Square to the Master, it being the proper emblem of his office; the Compass to, the Craft, by a due attention to which we are taught to limit our desires, curb our ambition, subdue our irregular appetites, and keep our passions and prejudices in due bonds with all mankind, but more especially with the brethren,"
"Has your lodge any ornaments?"
Ans. "It has; the mosaic, or chequered pavement, the indented tessels, the beautiful tessellated border which surrounds it, with the blazing star in the center."
"What do they represent?"
Ans. "Mosaic or chequered pavement represents this world, which, though chequered over with good and evil, yet brethren may walk together thereon and not stumble; the indented tessel, with the blazing star in the center, the manifold blessings and comforts with which we are surrounded in this life, but more especially those which we hope to enjoy hereafter; the blazing star, that prudence which ought to appear conspicuous in the conduct of every Mason, but more especially commemorative of the star which appeared in the east, to guide the wise men to Bethlehem, to proclaim the birth and the presence of the Son of God."
"Has your lodge any lights?"
Ans. "It has three."
"How are they situated?"
Ans. "East, west, and south."
"Has it none in the north?"
Ans. "It has not."
Ans. "Because this and every other lodge is, or ought to be a true representation of King Solomon's Temple, which
was situated north of the ecliptic; the sun and moon therefore darting their rays from the south, no light was to be expected from the north; we, therefore, Masonically, term the north a place of darkness."
"Has your lodge any jewels?"
Ans. "It has six; three movable and three immovable."
"What are the three movable jewels?''
Ans. "The Square, Level, and Plumb."
"What do they teach?"
Ans. "The Square, morality; the Level, equality; and the Plumb, rectitude of life and conduct."
"What are the three immovable jewels?"
Ans. "The rough Ashlar, the perfect Ashlar, and the Trestle-board."
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