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German Steinmetz, from metzen, “to cut”; and Dutch vrijmetselaar. The compound term Freemason occurs first in — according to a recently found writing, even prior to  — and, contrary to Gould  means primarily a mason of superior skill, though genera it also designated one who enjoyed the freedom, or the privilege, of a trade guild.
General Ahiman Rezon
Hence Genfral proposed to interpret the word freemasons as referring to those masons claiming exemption from the control of local guilds of the towns, where they temporarily settled. These freemasons formed a universal craft for themselves, with a system of secret signs and passwords by which a craftsman, who had been admitted on giving evidence of competent skill, could be recognized.
On the decline of Gothic architecture this craft coalesced with the mason guilds.
Begemann  combats the opinion of Speth  as purely hypothetical, stating that the name freemason originally designated particularly skilled freestone-masons, needed at the time of the most magnificent evolution of Gothic architecture, and nothing else. In English law the word freemason is agiman mentioned inwhile frank-mason occurs already in an Act of The modern signification of Freemasonry in which, since aboutthe word has been universally agiman exclusively understood, dates only from the aihman of the Grand Lodge of England, In this acceptation Freemasonry, according to the official English, Scottish, American, etc.
The three haiman which this “Handbuch” Universal Manual of Freemasonry has had since are most valuable, the work having been declared by English-speaking Masonic critics by far the best Masonic Encyclopedia ever published. Before entering upon this and the following divisions of our subject it is necessary to premise that the very nature of Freemasonry as a secret society makes it difficult to be sure even of its reputed documents and authorities, and therefore we have consulted only those which are acknowledged and recommended by responsible members of the craft, as stated in the bibliography appended to teneral article.
The germs of nearly all these fantastic theories are contained in Anderson’s “The Constitutions of Free Masons”which makes Freemasonry coextensive with geometry and the arts based on it; insinuates that God, the Great Architect, founded Freemasonry, and that it had for patrons, Adam, the Patriarchs, the kings and philosophers of old.
Subsequent authors find the origin of Masonry in the Egyptian, Dionysiac, Eleusinian, Mithraic, and Druidic mysteries; in sects and schools such as the Pythagoreans, Essenes, Culdees, Zoroastrians, and Gnostics; in the Evangelical societies that preceded the Reformation; in the orders of knighthood Johannites, Templars ; among the alchemists, Rosicrucians, and Cabbalists; in Chinese and Arabic secret societies.
It is claimed also that Pythagoras founded the Druidic institution and hence that Masonry probably existed in England years before the Christian Era. Some authors, considering geological finds as Masonic emblems, trace Masonry to the Miocene? Period  while others pretend that Masonic science “existed before the creation of this globe, diffused amidst the numerous systems with which the grand empyreum of universal space is furnished”. It is not then difficult to understand that the attempt to prove ahimwn antiquity of Freemasonry with evidence supplied by such monuments of the past as the Pyramids and the Obelisk removed to New York in should have resulted in an extensive literature concerning these objects.
In every age monarchs [American rituals: But this Masonry is by no means the “speculative” Masonry of modern times, i. As the best German authorities admit  speculative Masonry began with the foundation of the Grand Lodge of England, 24 June,and its essential organization was completed in by the adoption of the new “Book of Constitutions” and of the three degrees: All the ablest and most conscientious investigations by competent Masonic historians show, that in the old lodges had almost ceased to exist.
The new lodges began as convivial societies, and their characteristic Masonic spirit developed but slowly. This spirit, finally, as exhibited in the new constitutions was in contradiction to that which animated the earlier Masons. These facts prove that modern Masonry is not, as Gould  Hughan  and Mackey  contend, a revival of the older system, but rather that it is a new order of no greater antiquity than the first quarter of the eighteenth century.
The General Ahiman Rezon & Freemason’s Guide – Daniel Sickels – ebook – Legimi online
There have been many controversies among Masons as to the essential points of Masonry. English-speaking Masons style them “landmarks”, a term taken from Deuteronomy Mackey  specifies no less than twenty-five landmarks.
The same generla is adopted by Whitehead  “as the pith of the researches of the ablest masonic writers”. The principle of them are . In truth there is no authority in Freemasonry to constitute such “unchangeable” landmarks or fundamental laws. Strictly judicially, even the “Old Charges”, which, according to Anderson’s “Constitutions”, contain the unchangeable laws, have a legal obligatory character only as far as they are inserted in the “Book of Constitution” of each Grand Lodge.
Such are the fundamental principles described in the first and sixth articles of the “Old Charges” concerning religion, in the texts of the first two English editions and of Anderson’s “Constitutions”.
These texts, though differing slightly, are identical as to their essential tenor. That ofas the original text, restored by the Grand Lodge of England in the editions of the “Constitutions”,and inserted later in the “Books of Constitutions” of nearly all the other Grand Ahimann, is the most authoritative; but the text ahkmanaahiman was adopted and used for a long time by many Grand Lodges, is also of great ahiiman in itself and as a further illustration of the text of In the latter, the first article of the “Old Charges” containing the fundamental law and the essence of modern Freemasonry runs the text is given exactly as printed in the original, Concerning God and Religion.
A Mason is obliged by his Tenure, to obey the moral law: But though in ancient times Masons were charged in every country to be of the religion of that country or nation, whatever it was, yet ’tis now thought more expedient only to oblige them to that religion in which all men agree, leaving their particular Opinions to themselves: In order to preserve peace and harmony no private piques or quarrels must be brought within the door of rezoh Lodge, far less any quarrels about Religion or Nations or State Policy, we being only, as Masons, of the Catholick Religion, above mentioned, we are also of all Nations, Tongues, Kindreds and Languages and are ahimna against all Politicks [printed in the original in Gothic letters] as what never yet conduced to the welfare of the Lodge nor ever will.
This charge has been always strictly enjoin’d and observ’d; but especially ever since the Reformation in Britain or the dissent and secession of these Nations from the communion of Rome.
In the text of the same articles run variation from the edition of are given in italics:. A Mason is obliged by his Tenure to observe the moral law as trueNoahida sons of Noah, gensral first name of Freemasons and if he rightly understands the craft, he will never be a stupid atheist or an irreligious libertine nor act against conscience.
In ancient times the masons were charged to comply with the Christian usages of each country where they travelled or worked; but Masonry being found in all nations, even of diverse religions, they are now generally charged to adhere to that religion, in which all men agree, leaving each Brother his own particular opinionthat is, to be good men and true, men of honour and honesty, by whatever names, religions or persuasions they may be distinguished; for they all agree in the three great articles of Noah, enough to preserve the cement of the lodge.
Thus Masonry is the centre of their union and the happy means of conciliating true friendship among persons who otherwise must have remained at a perpetual distance. Behaviour in the Lodge before closing: No private piques nor quarrels about nations, families, religions or politics must by any means or under any colour or pretence whatsoever be brought within the doors of the lodge; for as Masons we are of the most ancient catholic religion, above mentioned and of all nations upon the square, level and plumb; and like our predecessors in all ages we are resolved against political disputes, as contrary to the peace and welfare of the Lodge.
In order to appreciate rightly these texts characterizing modern “speculative” Freemasonry it is necessary to compare them with the corresponding injunction of the “Gothic” Christian Constitutions regulating the old lodges of “operative” Masonry till and after These injunctions are uniformly summed up in the simple words: While a Mason according to the old Constitution was above all obliged to be true to God and Church, avoiding heresies, his “religious” duties, according to the new type, are essentially reduced to the observation of the “moral law” practically summed up in the rules of “honour and honesty” as to which “all men agree”.
This “universal religion of Humanity” which gradually removes the accidental divisions of mankind due to particular opinions “or religious”, national, and social “prejudices”, is to be the bond of union among men in the Masonic society, conceived as the model of human association in general. In the text of particular stress is laid on “freedom of conscience” and the universal, non-Christian character of Masonry is emphasized.
The Mason is called a “true Noahida”, i. The “3 articles of Noah” are most probably “the duties towards God, the neighbour and himself” inculcated ahimab older times in the “Charge to a newly made Brother”. They might also refer to “brotherly love, relief and truth”, generally with “religion” styled the “great cement” of the fraternity and called by Mackey  “the motto of our order and the characteristic zhiman our profession”. Of the ancient Masons, it is no longer said that they were obliged to “be of the religion” but only “to comply with the Christian usages of each Country”.
General Ahiman Rezon Index
The designation of the said “unsectarian” religion as the “ancient catholick” betrays the attempt to oppose this religion of “Humanity” to the Roman Catholic as the only true, genuine, and originally Catholic.
The unsectarian character gemeral Masonry is also implied in the era chosen on geeral title page: As to the “History” Anderson himself remarks aahiman the preface Only an expert Brother, by the true light, can readily rrzon many useful hints in almost every page of this book which Cowans and others not initiated also among Masons cannot discern. Hence, concludes Krause  Anderson’s “History” is allegorically written in “cipher language”.
Apart, then, from “mere childish allusions to the minor secrets”, the general tendency of this “History” is to exhibit the “unsectarianism” of Masonry. Two points deserve special mention: The “Augustan” which is praised above all other styles alludes to “Humanism”, while the “Gothic” which is charged rezln ignorance and narrow-mindedness, refers to Christian and particularly Roman Catholic orthodoxy.
The identification of Masonry with geometry brings out the naturalistic character of the former. Like the Royal Society, of which a large and most influential proportion of the first Freemasons were members  Masonry professes the empiric or “positivist” geometrical method of reason and deduction in the investigation of truth.
Moral and religious definitions, axioms and propositions have as regular and certain dependence upon each other as any in ahkman or mathematics. According to the German Grand Lodges, Christ is only “the wise and virtuous pure man” par excellence, the principal model and teacher of “Humanity”. John, in which He denied that He was God. It is evident, however, that even in this restricted sense of “unsectarian” Christianity, Freemasonry is not a Christian institution, as it acknowledges many pre-Christian models and teachers of “Humanity”.
All instructed Masons agree in the objective import of this Masonic principle genfral “Humanity”, according to which belief in dogmas is a matter of secondary importance, or even prejudicial to the law of universal love and tolerance.
Freemasonry, therefore, is opposed not only to Catholicism and Christianity, but also to the whole system of supernatural truth. The ahimna serious discrepancies among Masons regarding the interpretation of the texts of and refer to the words: The controversy as to the meaning of these words has been particularly sharp since 13 September,when the Grand Orient of France erased the paragraph, introduced in into its Constitutions, by which the existence of God and the immortality of soul were declared the basis of Freemasonry  and gave to the first article of its new Constitutions the following tenor: It has for its principles absolute liberty of conscience and human solidarity.
It excludes none on account of his belief. Its device is Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. These measures called out solemn protests from nearly all the Anglo-American and German organs and led to a rupture between the Anglo-American Grand Lodges and the Grand Orient of France.
As many freethinking Masons both in America and in Europe sympathize in this struggle with the French, a world-wide breach resulted. Quite recently many Grand Lodges of the United States refused to recognize the Grand Lodge of Switzerland as a regular body, for the reason that it entertains friendly relations with the atheistical Grand Orient of France.
But in truth all Masonry is full of ambiguity. The texts of and of the fundamental law concerning Atheism are purposely ambiguous. Atheism is not positively condemned, but just sufficiently disavowed to meet the exigencies of the time, when an open admission of it would have been fatal to Masonry.
It is not said that Atheists cannot be admitted, or that no Mason can be an Atheist, but merely tezon if abiman rightly understands qhiman Art, he will never be a stupid Atheist, etc. And even such a stupid Atheist incurs no stronger censure than the rezoon ascertaining of the fact that he does not rightly understand the art, a merely theoretical judgment without any practical sanction.
Such a disavowal tends rather to encourage modern positivist or scientific Atheism. The English Grand Lodge, it is true, in its quarterly communication of 6 March,  adopted four resolutions, in which belief in the Great Architect of the Universe is declared to be the most important ancient landmark of the order, and an explicit profession of that belief is required of visiting brethren belonging to the Grand Orient of France, as a condition for entrance into the English lodges.
But this belief in a Great Architect is so vague and symbolical, that almost every kind of Atheism and even of “stupid” Atheism may be covered by it. Moreover, British and American Grand Lodges declare that they are fully satisfied with such a vague, in fact merely verbal declaration, without further inquiry into the nature of this belief, and that they do not dream of claiming for Freemasonry that it is gensral “church”, a “council”, a “synod”.
Consequently even those are acknowledged as Masons who with Spencer and other Naturalist philosophers of the age call God the hidden all-powerful principle working in nature, or, like the ahian of “Handbuch”  maintain as the two pillars of religion “the sentiment of man’s littleness in the immensity of space and time”, and “the assurance that whatever is real has its origin from the good and whatever happens must be for the best”.
An American Rezo Orator Zabriskie Arizona on 13 November,proclaimed, that “individual members may believe in many gods, if their conscience and judgment so dictate”.
On the geenral, add others  they are less Atheists than churchmen, from whom they differ only by holding a higher idea of God or the Divine. A man who has a higher conception of God than those about him and rszon denies that their conception is God, is very likely geenral be called an Atheist by men who are really far less believers in God than he, etc.
Thus the whole controversy turns out to be merely nominal and formal. Moreover, it is to be noticed that the clause declaring belief in the great Architect a condition of admission, was introduced into the text of the Constitutions of the Grand Lodge of England, only in and that the same text says: The same supremacy of the liberty of conscience is implied also in the unsectarian character, which Anglo-American Masons recognize as the innermost essence of masonry.
From this point of view the symbol of the Grand Architect of the Universe and of the Bible are indeed of the utmost importance zhiman Masonry. Hence, several Grand Lodges which at first were supposed to imitate the radicalism of the French, eventually retained these symbols.
A representative of the Grand Lodge of France writes in this sense to Findel: And the generxl may and must be explained by each one according to his own understanding; thereby they serve to maintain concord.