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Article # 101
Oration at the Consecration of RAM Lodge Millenium

Author: V.W.Bro.R.Ratnaswami JRAMGO    Posted on: Monday, August 9, 2004
General Article | 1 comments  | Post your comment

Oration at the  Consecration  of  R

 

Oration at the  Consecration  of  R.A.M Lodge  Millennium (No.106)

Delivered by V.W.Bro.R.Ratnaswami  JRAMGO  on 25 th July 2004.

 

Let me commence the oration by first rendering my grateful prayers and obeisance to the Supreme Commander of the Universe for blessing me with this opportunity and thanking our beloved  M.W.Grand  Master  for conferring on me this rare privilege of delivering an oration at the consecration of this Lodge.

 

2. Let me also take this opportunity to congratulate the distinguished brethren, who as the founder members had arranged for the consecration of this new R.A.M Lodge, by our illustrious M.W.Grand Master, to be moored to the Mark Lodge Millennium (No.106)

 

3. The historical evidence available regarding the origin of the Degree of Royal Ark Mariners is meager and hence, the precise origin of the degree is not known with certainty. Most of the theories in this regard appear to be conjectures and surmises. The legend of Noah, his sons, the Ark and the Deluge were enacted in the Mystery Plays of the seventeenth century, which was a major entertainment with a religious tinge. The catechisms in many of the early Masonic rituals contained references to the legend of Noah. There was a degree known as the Degree of Noachites or Prussian Knights in the 1750s, whose rituals referred to Noah, but was not in anyway connected with Royal Ark Masonry. Masonic historians have opined that unlike the Craft, this degree was not worked from time immemorial, but that, the degree is 2 or 3 centuries old. Bro.Gould in his monumental book “History of Freemasonry throughout the World” has observed that “Very little is known as to the origin and early history of the Degree, which is claimed to have been worked from “time immemorial” (Volume 4, page 319). Relying on the circumstance that many new degrees originated between 1730 to 1780, some authors are of the view, that the Royal Ark Mariner degree also originated at that time. The earliest record we have of the degree having been worked and conferred on the candidate, Bro.William Boyce is dated 1790, at Bath in England. That fact establishes, that the degree should have been in existence and practiced even prior to 1790. Bro.R.M. Handfield  Jones  in  his book “The Royal Ark Mariner Degree” (page 20) has referred to the election to the Parliament in Ipswich in 1790 and that the Candidate Sir. Jno D’Oyly  was an Ark Mason and that  processions were taken with a model of Noah’s Ark and other insignia and that he won by a narrow majority with the active support of Ark Masons. Bro.A.G.Mackey has observed that the following News item about Ark Mariners was found in the London Monthly Magazine for December 1798 (Vol –VI Page 424) “one of the new degrees in Freemasonry….They profess to be followers of Noah and therefore call themselves as Noachidae or Sons of Noah”. That fact also confirms the functioning of the degree in England in the late 18 th century. The teaching of Noah subsequent to the deluge was said to be primitive but simple and comprehensive and centered around righteousness. The principles emanating from the saving of  Noah  and his family from annihilation in the deluge came to be known as Noachite traditions. It is  seen that the existence of Noachite traditions within the body of English Freemasonry has been recorded in Masonic documents as early as  in 1726, which will be adverted to a little later. The earliest documents now in the possession of the Grand  Lodge of  Mark Master Masons of England are a dispensation authorizing the working of the Degree dated 1796, signed by Bro.Robert Gill as ‘Acting Commander Noah’ and an undated list of officers in Bro.Dunckerley’s handwriting wherein  he had described  himself as Commander. That document should have been  prior  to his death  in 1795.

4. Bro.Thomas Dunckerley who was well known in many degrees in Freemasonry had described himself in 1793 as Grand Commander of the Society of Ancient Masons of the Diluvian Order of Royal Ark Mariners, which fact shows, that there was a Grand Lodge of Royal Ark Mariners then. “Freemason’s magazine”(Vol-3 page 147) of 1794 mentions about the celebration of the birthday of Duke of Kent on 16 th August , arranged by Bro.Thomas Dunckerley on behalf of the Masonic Orders of  Knights Templar and the Society of Antient Masons of the Diluvian Order. Bro. Dunckerley appointed  Bro. Ebenezer Sibley, who was a man of considerable ability in several fields, as his Deputy. Bro.Sibley welcomed  Lord Rancliffe as the succeeding Grand Commander. Rancliffe held the office until 1799 after which time the Grand Lodge gradually withered. The degree, however, survived and was worked in many places. “Freemason’s Quarterly Review” published in April 1834 mentions about the meetings of Ark Mariners in England.

5. The Grand Lodge of Royal Ark Mariners was revived in 1843 by Bro.John F.Dorrington, but the same also did not survive.  Bro.Morton Edwards, after installation as Commander revived The Grand Lodge of Royal Ark Mariners in 1870 with the help of Bro.Dorrington. Meanwhile, The Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons of England was established in 1856. M.Wor.Bro.The Reverend Canon Portal, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons announced in 1870, that  as the degree of Ark Mariner had been worked in Mark Lodges from 1790, the Grand Mark Lodge should protect the Royal Ark Mariner degree under a new Grand Master's Royal Ark Council. Conflict and dissension continued even after 1870 and the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons, ultimately purchased the Degree of Royal Ark Mariners from Bro.Morton Edwards for a sum of £25. The receipt for this transaction is preserved in the library of Mark Mason's Hall in St. James's Street, London. Since then, the Degree is being administered by the Grand Master of the Grand Mark Lodge with the Grand Master’s Royal Ark Council in England. We are also following the same practice in India  In Scotland the degree is attached to Royal Arch Chapter and the Irish Constitution does not have this degree.

6. This Degree is unique in the sense that is not related to any other degree in Freemasonry and is based on the theme that  God was displeased with the mankind on account of the sins committed by them and desired to wipe out all His creations by a deluge, but however He chose the righteous man Noah and instructed him to build an Ark and carry all species of animals and birds in pairs, besides his family and Noah obeyed God’s directions and all of them entered the Ark and thereafter there was deluge, but that the Ark safely floated and settled in Mount Ararat and all of them disembarked and multiplied. Genesis Chapters 6 to 8 contain the detailed account of the happenings and the saving of the mankind from perishing in the universal deluge.

7. The Great Flood as recorded in the Bible was confirmed by archaeologists, more particularly Sir Leonard Woolley, who had fixed its time as 6000 years ago. All the religions teach us that there was such a deluge, in which God’s chosen man obeyed His directions, built a boat and was saved.

8. We find a similar version in the Holy Quran   Sura 11  Verses 26 to 49. It has been declared therein that the ultimate victory is for the righteous.

9. The older Hindu mythology mentions that Manu Vaivasvate was advised to build a boat, which he complied and that the same was towed by the fish, which was the matsya incarnation of God Vishnu.

10. The Sumerian literature in the Sumerian King list also referred to a great flood ,so also the Epic of Gilgamesh and they are  remarkably similar to the Biblical version. Utnapishtim, as advised by a God, built a huge ark with the help of some craftsmen. He then loaded it with his family, the craftsmen, and the seed of all living creatures and then the boat floated in the flood waters and landed at the top of a mountain. Some birds were released and then there was disembarkation. Utnapishtim offered sacrifice to the Gods. Some authors suggest that the Genesis account was influenced by the older Sumerian depiction.

11. There is a similar version in Greek mythology. The wrath of Zeus was on the original inhabitants of Greece. Deucalion was forewarned to build an ark and store provision in it. He and his wife were the surviving pair of humans, when the waters receded and their ark landed on Mount Etna. The Egyptians, the Greeks, the Chinese, the Druids of Britain, the Polynesians, the Eskimos, Greenlanders, the Africans and the American Indians all have their Flood stories which are more or less similar to the Biblical version.

12. This degree is thus based on the universal deluge and the chosen righteous man obeyed God’s directions, escaped the great deluge and received God’s blessings and assurance as proclaimed by all the religions. Scriptures proclaim that Noah was “a just man, perfect in his generations and …. walked  with  God”. He was the very symbol of obedience to God’s directions, in spite of the scorn and ridicule of his other fellowmen. He, his family and the animals and birds that were with him in the Ark were saved from total annihilation because of his obedience to God. Holy Quran in  Sura 3-Verse 132 lays down that there should be obedience to Allah.  Bible says: Whoever obeys the divine law, and teaches others to do the same, will be great in the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 5.19) Bhagavad-Gita has also stressed the importance of obedience to divine law. Let me remind you that obedience is an excellence of character in Masonry.

13. The ritual is short and precise. The symbolism however is profound and the same appears to be the quintessence of the teachings of all the religions. The first and the foremost is that human beings should be righteous, which can be acquired by the obedience to all moral and religious injunctions. As Noah lived obeying all moral and religious law, the Scripture proclaims that “Noah was righteous and blameless among the people”. The righteousness of Noah has been extolled throughout in the ritual and as Royal Ark Mariners, we should strive to be righteous in our life and then only we will be worthy of the expression “Noachidae” meaning sons of  Noah.

14. His total surrender to God and implicit obedience to the Divine Commands are the qualities that endeared him to God and made him the chosen man. Total surrender to God has been prescribed as a guide to salvation in all religious texts. Let me draw your kind attention to Verse 66 in Chapter 18 of Bhagavad-Gita, wherein the Divine Teacher  has  undertaken  to liberate all those, who take refuge in him thus stressing the importance of surrender to God. Have we not been taught in our rituals “ to  bend with humility and resignation to the will of the Great Architect of the Universe”. Surrender to God is thus a Masonic virtue as well.

15. The first three steps symbolizing Beauty, Strength and Wisdom, represent the Divine attributes and make us ponder over and realize the beauty of the creations of God as well as the beauty of holiness, feel  the strength of  the Divine dispensation and the omni potency  of our Divine creator and acquiesce and abide in His Divine Wisdom, which is infinite and a part of which is granted to us to keep and develop in His service. On the proper and successful completion of those steps, the next  step, enables us to realize that we are surrounded by the said three divine attributes giving us reasonable safety transforming us to be fit to commence our ascent to higher levels of spirituality. This degree has revealed Five Cardinal Virtues (whereas Craft mentions only four) symbolizing the next five steps, which again are symbolic of our ascent to perfection and righteousness. Watchfulness prevents us from falling into pitfalls of sins. We must forever be vigilant and guard ourselves against commission of sins, ever bearing in mind that His all seeing eye observes us and it never slumbers, but pervades the universe. Discretion is another blessing conferred upon mankind enabling us to differentiate between good and evil, which facility helps us to think and avoid all evils besides preventing misunderstandings and dissentions. We then move on to Brotherly Love, which symbolizes the universal principle of the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of man. Along with Relief and Truth, the triad constitute the Grand Principles on which the Order of Freemasonry is founded. The final step symbolizes the distinguishing characteristics of Freemason’s heart. A brother attaining all those qualities will be a righteous man fit to be called a Noachida and achieving the excellence of  Noachite  traditions, which at one time was the best of the Masonic traditions.

16. Royal Ark Mariner degree is of great relevance in the overall scheme of Freemasonry as we know it today. The earliest reference to Noah in connection with Freemasonry is in the Regius Poem of about 1390, which is the earliest of the Code of Regulations relating to Freemasonry in England. Subsequent references  to Noah are found in Anderson’s  Constitutions of 1726 and the Graham Manuscript of 1726 (another of Old Charges) Graham Manuscript explicitly refers to the sons of Noah seeking the secret which their dead father had possessed in a manner similar to the Traditional History of the Sublime Degree. Noah story was the legend of the Craft long ago. In early ceremonies, it was Noah who was found dead in a grave, not Hiram Abiff, and that it was Noah’s three sons, Ham, Shem and Japhet, who raised the dead body on F. Pts of  F and obtained certain substituted secrets. Anderson describes himself in Constitutions of 1738 "as a true Noachida." and had further declared that “ Masons  were first known as Noachidae”.Bro. Mackey in his Encyclopedia referring to the expression has noted that it is “a term applied to Freemasons on the theory, derived from the Legend of the Craft that Noah was the father and founder of the Masonic system of theology. Hence, Freemasons claim to be his descendants ….Anderson first used the word in this sense in the second edition of the book of constitutions”, wherein he has mentioned that “ A Mason is obliged to by his tenure to observe the moral law as a true Noachida”. Rawlinson Manuscript contains a letter written by Grand Lodge of England in 1735 using that expression. It is therefore clear, that  long prior to the formation of  the Grand Lodge in England  Noah Legend

 was the main theme in the ceremony of the Craft and that freemasons prided themselves in being known as Noachidae. Bro.Herbert Poole, who publicized Graham Manuscript asserts that the legend of Noah was known to the craft in ample form at least for 21 years before the formation of the Grand Lodge in England. We find its legacy in the Craft, that the badge of office of a Deacon in our Craft lodges is a dove clasping an olive branch in its beak. 

 

17. The R.A.M. Lodges in this city are faring extremely well, with good attendance, good rituals and abundant enthusiasm exuded by the brethren and this useful addition will further promote Royal Ark Masonry. May the Supreme Commander of the Universe bless this Lodge and its members and may their united efforts meet with His approval and may all their activities tend to be to His Divine Glory. Let me conclude by beseeching the Supreme Commander of the Universe to grant His blessings to all the brethren present here and to make us worthy Noachidae.

 

 

 

 

 

The Editorial Board is happy to post this article, which is an oration delivered by our webmaster R.W.Bro. R.Ratnaswami P.Dy.G.M, who is a JRAMGO in Royal Ark Masonry, at the consecration of R.A.M Lodge Millennium in Chennai. He requires no introduction. Suffice it to mention that he is an erudite Masonic Scholar spending considerable time in Masonic research and Education. He lends a helping hand to all those, who wish to prepare articles on Masonic subjects. Having regard to the constraints of time, in delivering the oration at the Consecration, he has compressed a fund of information in this oration. We hope you will find the article useful to know more about Royal Ark Masonry.


Click Here To Post Your Comment

DHORAI wrote on Monday, August 9, 2004:

Subject: Oration at the Consecration of RAM Lodge

“Your oration at the R.A.M. consecration of LODGE MILLENIUM is very impressive and I congratulate you for your efforts”. R.W.Bro.D.Dhorrairaj P.Dy.G.M.,SRAMGO, O.S.M.



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