“On the subject of our Lectures, we notice with pleasure, this day, the venerable Preston of England, whose ‘Illustrations of Masonry’ redound to the honor of the Craft, and whose estimable system of improvements, while with precision and certainty they define, with purity and eloquence, aggrandize, the immovable landmarks of our ancient Society.”
Brother Gleason then, did, upon his own statement, understand Preston’s “estimable system of improvements,” their “precision and certainty,” their “purity and elegance,” and their relation to our “immovable landmarks.” And with these and Webb’s teachings fully in his mind, was probably as good a judge as any modern critic, of the relations they bore to each other. Can any reasonable man, in this state of things, believe that if they had conflicted with each other he did not know it, or that, if conflicting, he would have taught both; or that he could have taught either “in Europe” without objection, had they not been substantially the same teachings, differing only in their length?
But my critic says:–“It is wrong to talk in this careless strain of the Prestonian lectures as existing in the United States, while in all probability they never did, and most certainly never will. It is time to quit writing Masonic history in this loose and random style.”
It is no part of my purpose to convince my reviewer that the “Prestonian lectures” exist in the United States, or to persuade him, that (though confessedly a strong Masonic writer), he does not quite embody in his learning all the Masonry of this Western continent. His liberality might perhaps concede that, among all who have made Masonry a study, or with their united investigations, enough of Masonic learning might have been preserved to
make itself respected at least as against simple negation. But I do not write to convince or satisfy him. I do so that the Craft may have an opportunity to understand something of their own affairs, as they exist; to examine and investigate them as matters of fact and principle; and that they may have no apology for “pinning their faith” upon the mere negations of any writer, whatever may be the strength of his masonic reputation. In an account of the Installation of Mount Lebanon Lodge at Boston, on the 29th of December, 1858, Brother Charles W. Moore, Editor of the Freemasons’ Monthly Magazine, has the following remarks: “Among the Past Masters of this Lodge we notice the name of the late Benjamin Gleason, Esq., who was the associate and co-laborer of the late Thomas Smith Webb, in introducing into the Lodges of New England, and subsequently into other sections of the country, what is known as the Prestonian system of work and lectures. The labor of promulgating the work mainly devolved on Brother Gleason, and it is not too much to say, that as an accurate, consistent, and intelligent teacher, he had no superior, if an equal, in this country. He was a thoroughly educated man, and he understood the literary as well as the mental requirements necessary to a faithful and creditable discharge of the important duty he had assumed. In 1804, the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts adopted the Preston ritual as its standard of work, and employed Brother Gleason to communicate it to the Lodges under its jurisdiction, then including what is now the State of Maine. In the performance of this duty, he was exclusively employed during the whole of the year named, on account of the Grand Lodge; and we think a large part of the following two or three years, on his own private account. Indeed he never ceased his labors, as a lecturer, until his death in 1847, and there are many brethren now living–among them myself–who will ever take pride in remembering and acknowledging him as their master and teacher, in the purest and most perfect Masonic ritual of ancient Craft Masonry ever practised in this country. It was the ‘work’ of Masonry, as revived by Preston, and approved and sanctioned by the Grand Lodge of England, near the close of the last century, and practised by authority of that body, until the ‘union’ in 1813, when, for the purpose of reconciliation, it was subjugated to a revision, which, in some respects, proved to be an unfortunate one, inasmuch as the revised system, though exceedingly beautiful, has so many incongruities and departures from the original, and is so elaborate withal, that it has never met with that cordial approval, even among our English brethren, which is necessary to its recognition and acceptance as a universal system. The verbal
Moe is the founder of GnosticWarrior.com. He is a father, husband, author, martial arts black belt, and an expert in Gnosticism, the occult, and esotericism.