FC Brother John-Peter L. Cruz
4th Manhattan District
September 6, 2012
The Aged Old Comparison of Op & Spec Freemasonry*
“Freemasonry is a beautiful system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.” When asked, “Whence came you,” we all can, and should be able to quote from ritual. But when literally asked the same question about the derivative of the craft, do we have a definitive answer? In short, no.
Many masonic scholars have looked from primordial man to the rituals of ancient Egypt, and even the Knights Templar. More obviously, the search turned to the stonemason guilds of the past to track its origin. And to the latter, we will look that much closer.
We are all too familiar with the phrase “…are tools used by operative masons, but we as F & A M…” and extensive research, essays, talks, and speeches have gone into the comparison of the two.
From the readings I have done, to the various conversations I have had with Brothers, I have come up with the following synopsis: Operative masonry consisted of men in a trade working with stone to build ornate cathedrals sanctioned by churches. Because of the times, there was no schooling to pass on the secrets of stonemasonry, which they had to hold close and teach personally only to worthy students, identifying each other with grips and passwords. With the decline of need for operative masonry, the guilds began to include those of other professions and continued with the ritual and traditions in order to make good men better. This formed what we know and participate in today.
Needless to say, there has been no specific point in my findings of other masonic historians pointing to the direct and exact parent relationship. In The Hiram Key, Knight and Lomas conclude:
“…that the Stonemason theory of the origin of Freemasonry does not hold up under close examination for the simple reason that guilds of stonemasons did not exist in Britain. The fact that they existed on the Continent is not relevant because Freemasonry did not develop in the areas where these European Guilds were formed.”
H.L. Haywood references a statement in The Builder Magazine, by the person who discovered the Regius Poem saying that, “We possess no series of documents, nor even an approach to a series, sufficiently extensive to enable us to form any connected history of the ancient institutions of Masons and Freemasons. We have, in fact, no materials by which we can form any definite idea of the precise nature of those early societies.”