July 2017 Fraternal Review Cover

Anti-Masonry’s Origins

During the early Grand Lodge period, as the catechisms grew more lengthy and complicated, memorization became difficult. As one brother put it, “every one who is made a Mason, has not a memory to retain every particular contained in long lectures.” Therefore, a number of printed “aides-memoires” or exposures, appeared; and these were purchased by the brethren for use in lodge. The process of becoming a Mason changed forever, and was described for the whole world in three so-called exposures published between 1730 and 1764. The earliest, in 1730, by Samuel Prichard, who claimed to be a late member of a constituted lodge, was entitled “Masonry Dissected.” Another, entitled “Three Distinct Knocks” was published in 1760, and a third, called “Jachin and Boaz,” was printed in 1764.

These have value today in giving us the manner in which a brother was made a Mason during this period of the eighteenth century, as well as informing us how the ritual may have developed as the popularity of the ritual ceremonies increased. But, as in all exposures, it is wise to remember that these were likely written by profane, if not definitely anti-Masonic hands. … Today, we would know not to place too much credence in Masonic accuracy from such sources. But, in their time, these exposures were so popular that they were purchased in great numbers by Masons to help them with their work. When considered collectively, they likely represented a reasonably accurate rendering of the actual ceremonies of the period. There is no question they greatly influenced the development of the ritual finally adopted by the Grand Lodge of England.

[Excerpted and paraphrased from Robert G. Davis, The Mason’s Words, The History and Evolution of the American Masonic Ritual. (Guthrie, OK: Building Stone Publishers, 2013), 63–64.]

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