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Article # 211
Illustrations of Masonry

Author: W.Bro.William Preston    Posted on: Saturday, May 27, 2006
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[William Preston, a great pioneer of the Masonic writers undertook from 1765 to 1772 personal research and correspondence with Freemasons at home and abroad, endeavoring to learn all he could about Freemasonry and the arts it encouraged. These efforts bore fruit in the form of his first book, entitled: "Illustrations of Masonry," published in 1772. He had taken the old lectures and work of Freemasonry, revised them and placed them in such form as to receive the approval of the leading members of the Craft. Encouraged by their favorable reception and sanctioned by the Grand Lodge, Preston employed, at his own expense, lecturers to travel throughout the kingdom and place the lectures before the lodges. New editions of his book were in demand and up to the present time it has gone through twenty editions in England, six in America, and several more in various European languages. Complying with the request of numerous brethren the book is posted here in four parts, corresponding to his dividing as Book 1 to 4.]

Illustrations Of Masonry

W.Bro.William Preston

A P.M. Lodge of Antiquity (No.1)


Book. I. The Excellency Of Masonry.

Section. 1. Reflections on the symmetry and proportion in the works of Nature and on the harmony and affection among the various species of Beings.

Whosoever attentively observes the objects which surround him, will find abundant reason to admire the works of Nature and to adore the Being, who directs such astonishing operations, he will be convinced, that infinite wisdom could alone design and infinite power complete, such amazing works. Were a man placed in a beautiful garden, would not his mind be affected with exquisite delight on a calm survey of its rich collections? Would not the groves, the grottos, the artful wilds, the flowery parterres, the opening vistas, the lofty cascades, the winding streams, the whole variegated scene, awaken his sensibility and inspire his soul with the most exalted ideas? When he observed the delicate order, the nice symmetry and beautiful disposition of every part, seemingly complete in itself, yet reflecting new beauties on the other and all contributing to make one perfect whole, would not his mind be agitated with the most agreeable sensations and would not the view of the delightful scene naturally lead him to admire and venerate the happy genius who contrived it?

If the productions of art so forcibly impress the mind with admiration, with how much greater astonishment and reverence must we behold the operations of Nature, which presents to view unbounded scenes of utility and delight, in which divine wisdom is most strikingly conspicuous? These scenes are, indeed, too expanded for the narrow capacity of man to comprehend, yet whoever contemplates the general system must naturally, from the uniformity of the plan, be directed to the original source, the Supreme Governor of the world, the one perfect and unsullied beauty!

Beside all the pleasing prospects that everywhere surround us and with which our senses are every moment gratified, beside the symmetry, good order and proportion, which appear in all the works of creation, something further attracts the reflecting mind and draws its attention nearer to the Divinity, the universal harmony and affection among the different species of beings of every rank and denomination. These are the cements of the rational world and by these alone it subsists. When they cease, nature must be dissolved and man, the image of his Maker and the chief of his works, be overwhelmed in the general chaos.

In the whole order of beings, from the seraph, which adores and burns, down to the meanest insect, all, according to their rank in the scale of existence, have, more or less, implanted in them the principle of association with others of the same species. Even the most inconsiderable animals are formed into different ranks and societies, for mutual benefit and protection. Need we name the careful ant, or the industrious bee, insects which the wisest of all mankind has recommended as patterns of unwearied industry and prudent foresight? When we extend our ideas, we shall find that the innate principle of friendship increases in proportion to the extension of our intellectual facultiesand the only criterion by which a judgment can be formed, respecting the superiority of one part of the animal creation above an other, is, by observing the degrees of kindness and good-nature in which it excels. Such are the general principles which pervade the whole system of creation. How forcibly, then, must such lessons predominate in our assemblies, where civilization and virtue are most zealously cherished, under the sanction of science and the arts?

Section. 2. The Advantages resulting from Friendship.

No subject can more properly engage the attention, than the benevolent dispositions, which indulgent Nature has bestowed upon the rational species. These are replete with the happiest effects and afford to the mind most agreeable reflections. The breast which is inspired with tender feelings is naturally prompted to a reciprocal intercourse of kind and generous actions. As human nature rises in the scale of beings, the social affections likewise arise. Where friendship is unknown, jealousy and suspicion prevail. But where that virtue is the cement, true happiness subsists. In every breast there is a propensity to friendly acts, which, being exerted to effect, sweetens every temporal enjoyment and although it does not remove the disquietudes, it tends at least to allay the calamities of life. Friendship is traced through the circle of private connexions to the grand system of universal benevolence, which no limits can circumscribe, as its influence extends to every branch of the human race. Actuated by this sentiment, each individual connects his happiness with the happiness of his neighbour and a fixed and permanent union is established among men.

Nevertheless, though friendship, considered as the source of universal benevolence, be unlimited, it exerts its influence more or less powerfully, as the objects it favours are nearer or more remote. Hence the love of friends and of country takes the lead in our affections and gives rise to that true patriotism which fires the soul with the most generous flame, creates the best and most disinterested virtue and inspires that public spirit and heroic ardour, which enable us to support a good cause and risk our lives in its defence.

This commendable virtue crowns the lover of his country with unfading laurels, gives a lustre to his actions and consecrates his name to latest ages. The warrior's glory may consist in murder and the rude ravage of the desolating sword, but the blood of thousands will not stain the hands of his country's friend. His virtues are open and of the noblest kind. Conscious integrity supports him against the arm of powerand should he bleed by tyrant hands, he gloriously dies a martyr in the cause of liberty and leaves to posterity an everlasting monument of the greatness of his soul.

Though friendship appears divine when employed in preserving the liberties of our country, it shines with equal splendour in more tranquil scenes. Before it rises into the noble flame of patriotism, aiming destruction at the heads of tyrants, thundering for liberty and courting danger in defence of rights, we behold it calm and moderate, burning with an even glow, improving the soft hours of peace and heightening the relish for virtue. In those happy moments, contracts are formed, societies are instituted and the vacant hours of life are employed in the cultivation of social and polished manners. On this general plan the universality of our system is established. Were friendship confined to the spot of our nativity, its operation would be partial and imply a kind of enmity to other nations. Where the interests of one country interfere with those of another, Nature dictates an adherence to the welfare of our own immediate connexions, but such interference apart, the true Mason is a citizen of the world and his philanthropy extends to all the human race. Uninfluenced by local prejudices, he knows no preference in virtue but according to its degree, from whatever country or clime it may spring.

Section.3. Origin of Masonry and its general Advantages.

From the commencement of the world, we may trace the foundation of Masonry. Ever since symmetry began and harmony displayed her charms, our Order has had a being. During many ages and in many different countries, it has flourished. No art, no science preceded it. In the dark periods of antiquity, when literature was in a low state and the rude manners of our forefathers withheld from them, that knowledge we now so amply share, Masonry diffused its influence. This science unveiled, arts arose, civilization took place and the progress of knowledge and philosophy gradually dispelled the gloom of ignorance and barbarism. Government being settled, authority was given to laws and the assemblies of the Fraternity acquired the patronage of the great and the good, while the tenets of the profession diffused unbounded philanthropy.

Abstracting from the pure pleasures, which arise from friendship so wisely constituted as that which subsists among Masons and which it is scarcely possible, that any circumstance or occurrence can erase. Masonry is a science confined to no particular country, but extends over the whole terrestrial globe. Wherever arts flourish, there it flourishes too. Add to this, that by secret and inviolable signs, carefully preserved among the Fraternity, it becomes a universal language. Hence many advantages are gained, the distant Chinese, the wild Arab and the American savage, will embrace a brother Briton and know, that besides the common ties of humanity, there is still a stronger obligation to induce him to kind and friendly offices. The spirit of the fulminating priest will be tamed and a moral brother, though of a different persuasion, engage his esteem, for mutual toleration in religious opinions is one of the most distinguishing and valuable characteristics of the Craft. As all religions teach morality, if a brother be found to act the part of a truly honest man, his private speculative opinions are left to God and himself. Thus, through the influence of Masonry, which is reconcilable to the best policy, all those disputes which embitter life and sour the tempers of men, are avoided, while the common good, the general object, is zealously pursued. From this view of our system, its utility must be sufficiently obvious. The universal principles of the art unite, in one indissoluble bond of affection, men of the most opposite tenets, of the most distant countries and of the most contradictory opinions, so that in every nation a Mason may find a friend and in every climate a home. Such is the nature of our institution, that in the lodge, which is confined to no particular spot, union is cemented by sincere attachment and pleasure reciprocally communicated in the cheerful observance of every obliging office. Virtue, the grand object in view, luminous as the meridian sun, shines refulgent on the mind, enlivens the heart and heightens cool approbation into warm sympathy and cordial attention.

Section. 4. Masonry considered under two Denominations.

Masonry passes under two denominations, operative and speculative. By the former, we allude to a proper application of the useful rules of architecture, whence a structure derives figure, strength and beauty and whence result a due proportion and a just correspondence in all its parts. By the latter, we learn to govern the passions, act upon the square, keep a tongue of good report, maintain secrecy and practise charity. Speculative Masonry is so far interwoven with religion, as to lay us under the strongest obligations to pay that rational homage to the Deity, which at once constitutes our duty and our happiness. It leads the contemplative to view with reverence and admiration the glorious works of creation and inspires them with the most exalted ideas of the perfections of the Divine Creator. Operative Masonry furnishes us with dwellings and convenient shelter from the inclemencies of seasons and whilst it displays the effects of human wisdom, as well in the choice as in the arrangement of the materials of which an edifice is composed, it demonstrates, that a fund of science and industry is implanted in man, for the best, most salutary and beneficent purposes.

The lapse of time, the ruthless hand of ignorance and the devastations of war, have laid waste and destroyed many valuable monuments of antiquity, on which the utmost exertions of human genius have been employed. Even the temple of Solomon, so spacious and magnificent and constructed by so many celebrated artists, escaped not the unsparing ravages of barbarous force. Freemasonry, notwithstanding, has still survived. The attentive ear receives the sound from the instructive tongue and the sacred mysteries are safely lodged in the repository of faithful breasts. Tools and implements of architecture, symbols the most expressive are selected by the Fraternity, to imprint on the memory serious and solemn truths and thus the excellent tenets of the institution are transmitted, unimpaired, under circumstances precarious and even adverse, through a succession of ages.

Section. 5. The Government of the Fraternity.

The mode of government observed by the Fraternity will give the best idea of the nature and design of the Masonic institution. Three classes are established among Masons, under different appellations. The privileges of each class are distinct and particular means are adopted to preserve those privileges to the just and meritorious. Honour and probity are recommendations to the first class, in which the practice of virtue is enforced and the duties of morality are inculcated, while the mind is prepared for a regular progress in the principles of knowledge and philosophy. Diligence, assiduity and application, are qualifications for the second class, in which is given an accurate elucidation of science, both in theory and practice. Here human reason is cultivated, by a due exertion of the intellectual powers and faculties nice and difficult theories are explained, new discoveries are produced and those already known beautifully embellished. The third class is restricted to a selected few, whom truth and fidelity have distinguished, whom years and experience have improved and whom merit and abilities have entitled to, preferment. With them the ancient landmarks of the Order are preservedand from them we learn the necessary instructive lessons which dignify the art and qualify the professors to illustrate its excellence and utility. Such is the established plan of the masonic system. By this judicious arrangement, true friendship is cultivated among different ranks of men, hospitality promoted, industry rewarded and ingenuity encouraged.

Section. 6. Reasons why the Secrets of Masonry ought not to be Publicly Expose and the Importance of those Secrets demonstrated.

If the secrets of Masonry are replete with such advantage to mankind, it may be asked, why are they not divulged for the general good? To this it may be answered, were the privileges of Masonry to be indiscriminately dispensed, the purposes of the institution would not only be subverted, but our secrets, being familiar, like other important matters, would lose their value and sink into disregard.

It is a weakness in human nature, that men are generally more charmed with novelty than with the intrinsic value of things. Innumerable testimonies might be adduced to confirm this truth. Do we not find that the most wonderful operations of the Divine Artificer, however beautiful, magnificent and useful, are overlooked, because common and familiar? The sun rises and sets, the sea flows and reflows, rivers glide along their channels, trees and plants vegetate, men and beasts act, yet these being perpetually open to view, pass unnoticed. The most astonishing productions of Nature, on the same account, escape observation and excite no emotion, either in admiration of the great Cause, or of gratitude for the blessing conferred. Even Virtue herself is not exempted from this unhappy bias in the human frame. Novelty influences all our actions and determinations. What is new, or difficult in the acquisition, however trifling or insignificant, readily captivates the imagination and ensures a temporary admiration, while what is familiar, or easily attained, however noble or eminent, is sure to be disregarded by the giddy and the unthinking.

Did the essence of Masonry consist in the knowledge of particular secrets, or peculiar forms? It might be alleged that our amusements were trifling and superficial. But this is not the case, they are only the keys to our treasure and having their use, are preserved, while, from the recollection of the lessons which they inculcate, the well informed Mason derives instruction, he draws them to a near inspection, views them through a proper medium, adverts to the circumstances, which gave them rise and dwells upon the tenets they convey. Finding them replete with useful information, he prizes them as sacred and being convinced of their propriety, estimates their value by their utility.

Many are deluded by the vague supposition that our mysteries are merely nominal, that the practices established amongst us are frivolous and that our ceremonies may be adopted or waived at pleasure. On this false basis we find too many of the brethren hurrying through all the degrees of the Order, without adverting to the propriety of one step they pursue, or possessing a single qualification to entitle them to advancement. Passing through the usual formalities, they consider themselves entitled to rank as masters of the art, solicit and accept offices and even assume the government of the lodge, equally unacquainted with the rules of the institution, that they pretend to support, or the nature of the trust which they are bound to perform. The consequence is obvious, anarchy and confusion ensue and the substance is lost in the shadow. Hence, men who are eminent for ability, rank and fortune frequently view the honours of Masonry with indifference and when their patronage is solicited, either accept offices with reluctance, or reject them with disdain.

Masonry has long laboured under these disadvantages and every zealous friend to the Order must earnestly wish for a correction of the abuse. Of late years it must be acknowledged, our assemblies are in general better regulated, of which the good effects are sufficiently displayed in the judicious selection of our members and the more proper observance of our general regulations. Were the brethren who preside at our meetings to be properly instructed previous to their appointment and regularly apprised of the importance of the offices, they are chosen to support, a general reformation would speedily take place. This conduct would establish the propriety of our government and lead men to acknowledge that our honours were not undeservedly conferred. The ancient consequence of the Order would be restored and the reputation of the Society preserved. Till genuine merit shall distinguish our claim to the honours of Masonry and regularity of deportment display the influence and utility of our rules, the world in general will not be led to reconcile our proceedings with the tenets of the profession.

Section. 7. Few Societies exempted from censure. Irregularities of Masons no Argument against the Institution.

Among the various societies of men, few, if any, are wholly exempted from censure. Friendship, however valuable in itself and however universal may be its pretensions, has seldom operated so powerfully in general associations as to promote that sincere attachment to the welfare and prosperity of each other which is necessary to constitute true happiness. This may be ascribed to sundry causes, but to none with more propriety than to the reprehensible motives which too frequently lead men to a participation of social entertainments. If to pass an idle hour, to oblige a friend, or probably to gratify an irregular indulgence, be the only inducement to mix in company, is it surprising that the important duties of society should be neglected and that in the quick circulation of the cheerful glass the noblest faculties should he sometimes buried in the cup of ebriety?

It is an obvious truth, that the privileges of Masonry have long been prostituted for unworthy considerations and hence their good effects have been less conspicuous. Many have enrolled their names in our records for the mere purposes of conviviality without inquiring into the nature of the particular engagements to which they are subjected by becoming Masons. Several have been prompted by motives of interest and many introduced to gratify an idle curiosity, or to please as jolly companions. A general odium, or at least a careless indifference, must be the result of such conduct. But the evil stops not here. Persons of this description, ignorant of the true nature of the institution, probably without any real defect in their own morals, are induced to recommend others of the same cast to join the society for the same purpose. Hence, the true knowledge of the art decreases with the increase of its members and the most valuable part of the institution is turned into ridicule, while the dissipations of luxury and intemperance bury in oblivion principles, which might have dignified the most exalted characters.

When we consider the variety of members of which the society of Masons is composed and the small number, who are really conversant with the tenets of the institution, we need not wonder that few should be distinguished for exemplary lives. From persons who are precipitately introduced into the mysteries of the art, without the requisite qualifications, it cannot be expected that much regard will be paid to the observance of duties which they perceive to be openly violated by their own initiation and it is an incontrovertible truth, that, such is the unhappy bias in the disposition of some men, though the fairest and best ideas were imprinted on the mind, they are so careless of their own reputation as to disregard the most instructive lessons. We have reason to regret, that even persons, who are distinguished for a knowledge in the art, are too frequently induced to violate the rules, a pretended conformity to which may have gained them applause. The hypocrisy, however, is speedily unveiled, no sooner are they liberated from the trammels, as they conceive, of a regular and virtuous deportment, in the temporary government of the lodge, than, by abusing the innocent and cheerful repast, they become slaves to vice and intemperance and not only disgrace themselves, but reflect dishonour on the Fraternity. By such indiscretions the best of institutions is brought into contempt and the more deserving part of the community justly conceives a prejudice against the society, of which it is difficult afterwards to do away the impression.

But if some do transgress, no wise man will thence argue against the institution, or condemn the whole Fraternity for the errors of a few misguided individuals. Were the wicked lives of men admitted as an argument against the religion, which they profess, the wisest and most judicious establishments might be exposed to censure. It may be averred in favour of Masonry, that whatever imperfections are found among its professors, the institution countenances no deviation from the rules of right reason. Those who violate the laws, or infringe on good order, are kindly admonished by secret monitors, when these means have not the intended effect, public reprehension becomes necessary and at last, when every mild endeavour to effect a reformation in their conduct is of no avail, they are expelled from the lodge, as unfit members of the society.

Vain, therefore, is each idle surmise against the plan of our government, while the laws of the Craft are properly supported, they will be proof against every attack. Men are not aware, that by decrying any laudable institution, they derogate from the dignity of human nature itself and from that good order and wise disposition of things, which the almighty Author of the world has framed for the government of mankind and established as the basis of the moral system. Friendship and social delights can never be the object of reproach, nor can that wisdom, which hoary Time has sanctified, be a subject for ridicule. Whoever attempts to censure what he does not comprehend, degrades himself and the generous heart will pity the mistakes of such ignorant presumption.

Section. 8. Charity the distinguishing Characteristic of Masons. Charity is the chief of all the social virtues and the distinguishing characteristic of Masons.

Charity is the chief of every social virtue and the distinguishing characteristic of Masons. This virtue includes a supreme degree of love to the great Creator and Governor of the universe and an unlimited affection to the beings of his creation, of all characters and of every denomination. This last duty is forcibly inculcated by the example of the Deity himself, who liberally dispenses his beneficence to unnumbered worlds. It is not particularly our province to enter into a disquisition of every branch of this amiable virtue, we shall, therefore, only briefly state the happy effects of a benevolent disposition toward mankind and show, that charity exerted on proper objects, is the greatest pleasure man can possibly enjoy. The bounds of the greatest nation, or the most extensive empire, cannot circumscribe the generosity of a liberal mind. Men, in whatever situation they are placed, are still, in a great measure, the same. They are exposed to similar dangers and misfortunes. They have not wisdom to foresee, or power to prevent, the evils incident to human nature. They hang, as it were, in a perpetual suspense between hope and fear, sickness and health, plenty and want. A mutual chain of dependence subsists throughout the animal creation. The whole human species are, therefore, proper objects for the exercise of charity. Beings who partake of one common nature ought to be actuated by the same motives and interests. Hence, to soothe the unhappy, by sympathizing with their misfortunes and to restore peace and tranquility to agitated spirits, constitute the general and great ends of the masonic system. This humane, this generous disposition, fires the breast with manly feelings and enlivens that spirit of compassion which is the glory of the human frame and which not only rivals, but outshines every other pleasure that the mind is capable of enjoying.

All human passions, when directed by the superior principle of reason, tend to promote some useful purpose, but compassion toward proper objects is the most beneficial of all the affections and excites more lasting degrees of happiness, as it extends to greater numbers and alleviates the infirmities and evils which are incident to human existence. Possessed of this amiable, this godlike disposition, Masons are shocked at misery under every form and appearance. When they behold an object pining under the miseries of a distressed body or mind, the healing accents which flow from the tongue mitigate the pain of the unhappy sufferer and make even adversity, in its dismal state, look gay. When pity is excited, they assuage grief and cheerfully relieve distress. If a brother be in want, every heart is moved, when he is hungry, we feed him, when he is naked, we clothe him, when he is in trouble, we fly to his relief. Thus we confirm the propriety of the title we bear and convince the world at large, that BROTHER, among Masons, is more than the name.

Section. 9. The discernment displayed by Masons in the choice of objects of charity.

The most inveterate enemies of Masonry must acknowledge, that no society is more remarkable for the practice of charity, or any association of men more famed for disinterested liberality. It cannot be said, that Masons indulge in convivial mirth, while the poor and needy pine for relief. Our charitable establishments and quarterly contributions, exclusive of private subscriptions, to relieve distress, prove that we are ready, with cheerfulness, in proportion to our circumstances, to alleviate the misfortunes of our fellow-creatures. Considering, however, the variety of objects, whose distress the dictates of Nature as well as the ties of Masonry incline us to relieve, we find it necessary sometimes to inquire into the cause of misfortune, lest a misconceived tenderness of disposition, or an impolitic generosity of heart, might prevent us from making a proper distinction in the choice of objects. Though our ears are always open to the distresses of the deserving poor, yet charity is not to be dispensed with a profuse liberality on impostors. The parents of a numerous offspring, who, through age, sickness, infirmity, or any unforeseen accident in life, may be reduced to want, particularly claim our attention and seldom fail to experience the happy effects of our friendly associations. To such objects, whose situation is more easy to be conceived than expressed, we are induced liberally to extend relief. Hence we give convincing proofs of wisdom and discernment, for though our benevolence, like our laws, be unlimited, yet our hearts glow principally with affection toward the deserving part of mankind. From this view of the advantages which result from the practice and profession of Masonry, every candid and impartial mind must acknowledge its utility and importance to the state and surely, if the picture here drawn be just, it must be no trifling acquisition to any government, to have under its jurisdiction a society of men, who are not only true patriots and loyal subjects, but the patrons of science and the friends of mankind.

Section. 10. Friendly admonitions.

As useful knowledge is the great object of our desire, let us diligently apply to the practice of the art and steadily adhere to the principles, which it inculcates. Let not the difficulties that we have to encounter check our progress, or damp our zeal, but let us recollect, that the ways of wisdom are beautiful and lead to pleasure. Knowledge is attained by degrees and cannot everywhere be found. Wisdom seeks the secret shade, the lonely cell, designed for contemplation. There enthroned she sits, delivering her sacred oracles. There let us seek her and pursue the real bliss. Though the passage be difficult, the farther we trace it the easier it will become.

Union and harmony constitute the essence of Freemasonry, while we enlist under that banner, the society must flourish and private animosities give place to peace and good fellowship. Uniting in one design, let it be our aim to be happy ourselves and contribute to the happiness of others. Let us mark our superiority and distinction among men, by the sincerity of our profession as Masons, let us cultivate the moral virtues and improve in all that is good and amiable, let the Genius of Masonry preside over our conduct and under her sway, let us perform our part with becoming dignity, let us preserve an elevation of understanding, a politeness of manner and an evenness of temper, let our recreations be innocent and pursued with moderation and never let irregular indulgences lead to the subversion of our system, by impairing our faculties, or exposing our character to derision. In conformity to our precepts, as patterns worthy of imitation, let the respectability of our character be supported by the regularity of our conduct and the uniformity of our deportment, then as citizens of the world and friends to every clime, we shall be living examples of virtue and benevolence, equally zealous to merit, as to obtain universal approbation.

William Preston, a great and pioneer Masonic Scholar and writer, whose name has been perpetuated by the institution of the prestigious Prestonian Lectures, was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on August 7th 1742. At an early age, he entered high school. He left the college on the death of his father and took employment as the secretary to Thomas Ruddiman, who was a distinguished linguist. While assisting his master, he had to study and carry on research in linguistic studies, which shaped him as an outstanding scholar and which faculty enabled him to study Freemasonry and shine as a great Masonic Scholar and his writings formed the basis of the subsequent Masonic Monitors. His literary talents were exhibited in the catalog of Thomas Ruddiman’s works prepared by him. He migrated to London in 1760 and joined William Stranhan, who was the King’s Printer. He worked for long hours and thereafter pursued his studies, associating himself with eminent intellectual men of his age, namely Blair, Gibbon, Hume and Robertson and many others, who appreciated his analytical and critical skill.He saw the light of Freemasonry in 1763 in the Lodge No.111 of the Ancient Grand Lodge, in London, which met at the Whitehart Tavern in Strand and which consisted mostly of Masons from Edinburgh. Later that Lodge was absorbed by the Modern Grand Lodge and became known as Caledonian Lodge (No,325) and is now Lodge No.134 of the United Grand Lodge of England. That Lodge consisted of many prominent Freemasons of that period, whose association induced Preston to make extensive study of Freemasonry. a few years later, he was installed as the W.M of that Lodge. Preston made extensive studies and research on the origin, symbolism and the mystical aspect of Freemasonry. He was recognized as a Masonic Scholar and was invited to visit several Lodges. During one of his visits to Lodge Antiquity (No.1) in 1774, he was elected a Member of the Lodge and also as its W.M., because of the great respect commanded by him. Appreciating his services and involvement in Masonry, he was appointed as Deputy Grand Secretary, during which period of office, using his personal contacts he revived the correspondence of the Grand Lodge. He organized the Order of Harodim, a Society of Masonic Scholars, in which he delivered his lectures, which found their way to America and became the foundation for the Monitors prepared in America. During his extensive research of the old documents of the Craft, he discovered a vast body of traditional and historical lore.From 1765 to 1772, Preston undertook personal research and correspondence with Freemasons at home and abroad, endeavoring to learn all he could about Freemasonry and the arts it encouraged. These efforts bore fruit in the form of his first book, entitled: "Illustrations of Masonry," published in 1772. He had taken the old lectures and work of Freemasonry, revised them and placed them in such form as to receive the approval of the leading members of the Craft. Encouraged by their favorable reception and sanctioned by the Grand Lodge, Preston employed, at his own expense, lecturers to travel throughout the kingdom and place the lectures before the lodges. New editions of his book were demanded, and up to the present time it has gone through twenty editions in England, six in America, and several more in various European languages. Preston's history of freemasonry is by turns learned, credulous, tendentious and sometimes positively fictitious. In this, it recalls very strongly the medieval chronicles which Preston evidently loved and which he assiduously quarried for information about the status of the stonemason's craft in the middle ages. Like medieval chronicles, Preston's history cannot be treated as a modern scholarly history, but is to be regarded as a primary source. Preston's work was exceptionally influential. It has been suggested that Preston's Illustrations was, together with the Book of Constitutions, one of the books owned by virtually every lodge in England. Preston's reputation as a historian has not, however, fared well in recent years, largely because of his supposed credulity in accepting the Leland-Locke letter and in adhering to the theory that the split between the Antients and the Moderns was due to a secession by the Antients. However, in repeating these tales, Preston was not any different from other masonic writers of his time.


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