Distant Sun Lodge, No. OU812
Grand Lodge of the Universe, est. 0 hours, 0 Minutes, 0 Years
(The oldest continuously operating Grand Lodge in the Cosmos operating under the authority of God — and nothing trumps that.)
Copyright © 2007 by Jeff Peace. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced, republished, or mirrored by any means without prior permission in writing from the copyright holder.
Most Freemasons have heard mention of “The Ancient Landmarks” at one time or another in their Masonic journey. Most simply assume it is a list of the most fundamental aspects of Freemasonry that were written down long ago when the organization first came into being. Some believe it is the “Landmarks” as written down by Bro. Albert G. Mackey, Bro. Albert Pike or something their Grand Lodge printed in its Code or monitor. While all of these could be “The Ancient Landmarks” none of them can assert that claim with absolute certainty. The problem with “The Ancient Landmarks” arises out of a statement in Anderson’s Constitutions of 1723: "Every Annual Grand Lodge has an inherent power and Authority to make new Regulations or to alter these, for the real benefits of this Ancient Fraternity; provided always that the old Land-Marks be carefully preserved." Unfortunately, brother Anderson doesn’t bother to provide us with a list of the “Land-Marks” to which he is referring. This problem has plagued Masonic scholars for years.
As a historian with no particular interest in Masonic Jurisprudence I never spent any time in search of the Landmarks because there wasn’t a single document to support a valid argument regarding them. Other scholars had already speculated about them and adding to their speculations wouldn’t help to clarify the matter.
Every week I receive emails asking questions about the history of Freemasonry and its symbolism from brothers around the globe, and usually I am able to provide them with a quick answer or point them to other resources that can provide an answer. Then one day I received the grand daddy of all questions. It seemed like such a simple question at the time but it took two years for me to reply to the email with a twenty-five page essay.
The brother pointed to the definition of Freemasonry which says that “Freemasonry is a peculiar system of morality veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols” and asked what was “so peculiar or unique about the morals discussed in the degrees?” After thinking about it for a moment I realized there was nothing particularly peculiar or unique about them. The morality taught in the degrees is the same as one would learn from their parents or at Sunday School. Then an idea occurred to me; could the definition of Freemasonry actually be a Landmark? After all, wouldn’t the definition of Freemasonry be something that should be “carefully preserved” as Anderson had said? If it was a Landmark then what were the others? Did the founders have more than one definition of “Freemasonry”? I was soon to discover that indeed the founders left several “Landmark” definitions of the Craft.
Anderson’s Constitutions of 1723 are ninety-one pages long. They include the regulations of the Grand Lodge, constitutions of the fraternity, a lengthy mythical history, the charges of a Freemason, an approbation, and several songs. It would have taken Bro. Anderson a long time to compile this document and write everything out by hand, so it seems very strange that he would leave out something so fundamental as a list of Landmarks. Was it an oversight? If it were then he could easily have corrected it when he published a revised version of the Constitutions in 1734, but again the Landmarks are strangely absent from these as well.
I would put forth that there are only two possible reasons for this behavior by Anderson:
- “The Ancient Landmarks” were secret.
- “The Ancient Landmarks” were universally known by all Fellows and Masters of the Craft.
If they were a secret then the original Masons must have taken it to their graves. Why?
In 1753 there was a Masonic schism. A rival Grand Lodge appeared known today as the ‘Antients.’ The new Grand Lodge adopted the Royal Arch degree as an explanation for the supposed lost word of a Master Mason. The original Grand Lodge (est.1717) claimed that both the ‘Antients’ and their new degree was clandestine and irregular. They further stated that the “word” was not lost. Many modern readers will find this statement incredible because they have been told the word was lost and that they have its replacement.
There are some fragments from a Masonic catechism attributed to Bros. Anderson and Desauguliers written about 1720 that seem to verify this claim.
Q: What are you going to do there?
A: To seek for that which was lost and is now found.
Q: What is that which was lost and is now found?
A: THE MASTER MASONS WORD.
Since virtually all modern era Grand Lodges are derived from the Grand Lodge of the ‘Antients’ it makes sense that we are not in possession of “The Ancient Landmarks,” because they were the creation of the ‘Moderns’ of the Grand Lodge of London (est. 1717).
If “The Ancient Landmarks” were lost during the schism then might we be able to recover some part of them? While we can’t know for certain their exact wording I do believe we can at the very least come to a basic understanding of them. All we need to do is look at the definitions of Freemasonry handed down to us.
- Freemasonry is a peculiar system of morality veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.
- Freemasonry is dedicated to the brotherhood of man under the All-Seeing Eye of Deity.
- Freemasonry is a progressive science.
- Freemasonry is a natural philosophy, or system of natural philosophy.
From the second definition we learn the object of Freemasonry, or the peculiar system of morality; the brotherhood of man under God. Unfortunately, we do not know how this was to be accomplished. That would have been an aspect of the Landmarks that can only be speculated upon.
In the third definition we learn that Freemasonry was a progressive science. Science, as we know it today, was in its infancy at the time. One of the Landmarks must have promoted the need for a progressive science as a means to furthering the cause of the peculiar system of morality and the brotherhood of man.
Finally, in the fourth definition we discover that Freemasonry was a system of natural philosophy as opposed to a religion. It, like all natural philosophy, attempts to interpret the universe and our reality through the laws of nature. This definition is closely associated with the third definition (Freemasonry is a progressive science) because natural philosophy relies on a progressive science to further our understanding of the cosmos.
As Freemasons we may never know all of the details of the original “Ancient Landmarks” but now I believe we have a place to start our search. What we’re searching for isn’t obvious or easily uncovered. It will take time and perseverance, but in the end we may discover that which we have been seeking all along: the truth.
— Bro. Jeff Peace
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