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Article # 213
Illustrations of Masonry- Book-3

Author: W.Bro.William Preston    Posted on: Thursday, June 1, 2006
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[ This is the III Book of the Illustrations of Masonry of William Preston. This book is devoted to a study and review of the letter of John Locke written in 1696 and addressed to Thomas, Earl of Pembroke enclosing a copy of Manuscript kept in Bodleian Library. The manuscript was about 160 years old in 1696 and was claimed to be a copy of an original written prior to 100 years. The Original was said to be in the handwriting of King Henry VI. The document is in old English and is in question and answer form about a Fraternity. The learned author has reviewed the views of John Locke and has added his views. The footnotes provided by him have been incorporated at the appropriate places of the main pages themselves.]


W.Bro.WILLIAM PRESTON (1742-1818)
Past Master of the Lodge of Antiquity


Book- 3 .  The Principles of Masonry Explained

A Letter from the learned Mr. John Locke to the Right Hon. Thomas Earl of Pembroke, with, an old Manuscript on the subject of Free Masonry.

 6 thMay 1696

My Lord,

I have at length, by the help of Mr. Collins, procured a copy of that MS. in the Bodleian library, which you were so curious to see and in obedience to your lordship's commands, I herewith send it to you. Most of the notes annexed to it are what I made yesterday for the reading of my Lady Masham, who is become so fond of Masonry, as to say, that she now more than ever wishes herself a man, that she might be capable of admission into the Fraternity.

The MS. of which this is a copy, appears to be about 160 years old, yet (as your Lordship will observe by the title) it is itself a copy of one yet more ancient by about 100 years, for the original is said to be the handwriting of K. Henry VI. Where that prince had it, is at present an uncertainty, but it seems to me to be an examination (taken perhaps before the king) of some one of the brotherhood of Masons, among whom he entered himself, as it is said, when he came out of his minority and thenceforth put a stop to a persecution that had been raised against them: but I must not detain your Lordship longer by my preface from the thing itself. I know not what effect the sight of this old paper may have upon your Lordship, but for my own part I cannot deny that it has so much raised my curiosity, as to induce me to enter myself into the Fraternity, which I am determined to do (if I may be admitted) the next time I go to London and that will be shortly. I am, My Lord,

          Your Lordship's most obedient,

               and most humble Servant, JOHN LOCKE.


Certayne Questyons, with Answeres to the same, concerning the Mystery of


MAÇONRYE, writtene by the hande of kynge HENRYE, the sixthe of the name and


faithfullye copyed by me, JOHAN LEYLANDE,

[John Leylande was appointed by Henry VIII. at the dissolution of monasteries, to search for and save such books and records as were valuable among them. He was a man of great labour and industry].

Antiquarius, by the commaunde of his  Highnesse.

[ His Highnesse, meaning the said King Henry VIII. Our kings had not then the title of majesty.]  

They be as followethe,


QUEST. What mote ytt be?

[What mote ytt be?] [That is, what may this mystery of Masonry be? The answer imports, That it consists in natural mathematical and mechanical knowledge. Some part of which (as appears by what follows) the Masons pretend to have taught the rest of mankind and some part they still conceal.]

ANSW. Ytt beeth the skylle of nature, the understondynge of the myghte that ys hereynneand its sondrye werkynges: sonderlyche, the skylle of reckenyngs, of waightes and metyngesand the true manere of façonnynge al thynges for mannes use, headlye, dwellingesand buyldynges of alle kindesand all other thynges that make gudde to manne.

QUEST. Where dyd ytt begynne?

ANSW. Ytt dydd begynne with the  fyrste menne yn the este, whych were before  the ffyrste menne of the westeand comyinge westlye, ytt hathe broughte herwyth alle comfortes to the wylde and comfortlesse.

[ Fyrste menne yn the este, &c.] [It should seem by this, that Masons believe there were men in the east before Adam, who is called the 'ffyrste manne of the weste,' and that arts and sciences began in the east. Some authors of great note for learning have been of the same opinion and it is certain that Europe and Africa (which, in respect to Asia, may be called western countries) were wild and savage, long after arts and politeness of manners were in great perfection in China and the Indies.]


QUEST. Who dyd brynge ytt westlye?

ANSW. The Venetians, whoo beynge grate merchaundes, comed ffyrste ffromme the este ynn Venetia, for the commodyte of merchaundysynge beithe este and weste beg the redde and myddlonde sees.

[The Venetians, &c-- In the times of monkish ignorance it is no wonder that the Phenicians should be mistaken for the Venetians. Or, perhaps, if the people were not taken one for the other, similitude of sound might deceive the clerk who first took down the examination. The Phenicians were the greatest voyagers among the ancients and were in Europe thought to be the inventors of letters, which perhaps they brought from the east with other arts.]

QUEST. Howe comede ytt yn Engelonde?

ANSW. Peter Gower, a Grecian,

 [Peter Gower-- This must be another mistake of the writer. I was puzzled at first to guess who Peter Gower should be, the name being perfectly English, or how a Greek should come by such a name. But as soon as I thought of Pythagoras, I could scarce forbear smiling, to find that philosopher had undergone a metempsychosis he never dreamt of. We need only consider the French pronunciation of his name, Pythagore, that is, Petagore, to conceive how easily such a mistake may be made by an unlearned clerk. That Pythagoras, travelled for knowledge into Egypt, &c., is known to all the learned and that he was initiated into several different orders of priests, who in those days kept all their learning secret from the vulgar, is as well known. Pythagoras also made every geometrical theorem a secret and admitted only such to the knowledge of them as had first undergone a five years silence. He is supposed to be the inventor of the 47th proposition of the first book of Euclid, for which, in the joy of his heart, it is said he sacrificed a hecatomb. He also knew the true system of the world, lately revived by Copernicus and was certainly a most wonderful man. See his life by DION. HAL.]    journeydde ffor kunnynge yn Egypteand in Syriaand yn everyche londe, whereas the Venetians hadde plaunted maçonryeand wynnynge entraunce yn al lodges of maçonnes, he lerned mucheand retourneddeand woned yn Grecia Magna,

[Grecia Magna, a part of Italy formerly so called, in which the Greeks had settled a large colony.]   wacksynge and becommynge a myghtye, wyseacre,

[Wyseacre-- This word at present signifies simpleton, but formerly had a quite contrary meaning. Wiseacre in the old Saxon, is philosopher, wise man, or wizard and having been frequently used ironically, at length came to have a direct meaning in the ironical sense. Thus Duns Scotus, a man famed for the subtilty and acuteness of his understanding, has, by the same method of irony, given a general name to modern dunces.]

and gratelyche renownedand her he framed a grate lodge at Groton

[Groton--is the name of a place in England. The place here meant is Crotona, a city of Grecia Magna, which in the time of Pythagoras was very populous.] 

and maked manye maçonnes, some whereoffe dyde journeys yn Fraunce and maked manye maçonnes, wherefromme, yn processe of tyme, the arte passed in Engelonde.

QUEST. Dothe maçonnes descouer here artes unto odhers?

ANSW. Peter Gower, whenne he jourueyede to lerne, was ffyrste made

 [The word Made, I suppose has a particular meaning among the Masons, perhaps it signifies initiated.] 

and  anonne techedde, evenne soe shulde all odhers beyn recht. Natheless maçonnes hauethe alweys,

[Maçonnes hauethe communycatedde, etc. This paragraph hath something remarkable in it. It contains a justification of the secrecy so much boasted of by Masons and so much blamed by others, asserting that they have in all ages discovered such things as might be useful and that they conceal such only as would be hurtful either to the world or themselves. What these secrets are we see afterwards.]

 yn everyche tyme, from tyme to tyme, communycatedde to mannkynde soche of her secrettes as generallyche myghte be usefulle, they haueth keped back soche allein as shulde be harmfulle yff they comed yn euylle haundes, oder soche as ne myghte be holpynge wythouten the techynges to be joynedde herwythe in the lodge, oder soche as do bynde the freres more stronglyche togeder, bey the proffytte and commodytye comynge to the confrerie herfromme.


QUEST. Whatte artes haueth the maçonnes techedde mankynde?


ANSW. The artes  agricultura, architectura, astronomia, geometria, numeres, musica, poesie, kymistrye, governmente and relygyonne.

[The artes agricultura etc-- It seems a bold pretence this of the Masons, that they have taught mankind all these arts. They have their own authority for it and I know not how we shall disprove them. But what appears most odd is that they reckon religion among the arts.]

QUEST. Howe commethe Maçonnes more teachers than odher menne?

ANSW. The hemselfe haueth allein in arte of ffyndynge neue artes, whyche arte the ffyrste maçonnes receaued from Godde, by the whyche they fyndethe what artes hem plesetheand the treu way of techynge the same. Whatt odher menne doethe ffynde out, ys onelyche bey chaunceand herfore but lytel I tro.

[Arts of ffyndynge neue artes.--The art of inventing arts must certainly be a most useful art. My Lord Bacon's Novum Organum is an attempt towards somewhat of the same kind. But I much doubt, that if ever the Masons had it, they have now lost it, since so few new arts have been lately inventedand so many are wanted. The idea I have of such an art is, that it must be something proper to be employed in all the sciences generally, as algebra is in numbers, by the help of which new rules of arithmetic are and may be found.]

QUEST. What dothe the Maçonnes concele and hyde?

ANSW. Thay concelethe the arte of ffyndynge neue artesand thatt ys for here owne proffytte and  preise

[Preise.-- It seems the Masons have great regard to the reputation as well as the profit of their Order, since they make it one reason for not divulging an art in common, that it may do honour to the possessors of it. I think in this particular they show too much regard for their own Society and too little for the rest of mankind].

they concelethe the arts of kepynge secrettes,

[Arts of kepynge secrettes.--What kind of an art this is, I can by no means imagine. But certainly such an art the Masons must have, for though, as some people suppose, they should have no secrets at all, even that must be a secret, which, being discovered, would expose them to the highest ridiculeand therefore it requires the utmost caution to conceal it.]

 that soe the worlde mayeth nothinge concele from them. Thay concelethe the arte of wunderwerckyngeand of foresayinge thynges to comme, that so thay same artes may not be usedde of the wyckedde to an euyell end. Thay also concelethe the arte of chaunges, [Arte of chaunges.-- I know not what this means, unless it be the transmutation of metals.]

 the wey of wynnynge the facultye of Abrac,

 [Facultye of Abrac.-- Here I am utterly in the dark]


the skylle of becommynge gude and parfyghte wythouten the holpynges of fere and hope and the universelle longage of maçonnes.

[Universelle longage of maçonnes.-- An universal language has been much desired by the learned of many ages. It is a thing rather to be wished than hoped for. But it seems the Masons pretend to have such a thing among them. If it be true, I guess it must be something like the language of the Pantomimes among the ancient Romans, who are said to be able, by signs only, to express and deliver any oration intelligibly to men of all nations and languages. A man who has all these arts and advantages is certainly in a condition to be envied: But we are told that this is not the case with all Masons, for though these arts are among them and all have a right and an opportunity to know them, yet some want capacity and others industry, to acquire them. However, of all their arts and secrets, that which I most desire to know is, 'The skylle of becommynge gude and parfyghte,' and I wish it were communicated to all mankind, since there is nothing more true than the beautiful sentence contained in the last answer, 'That the better men are, the more they love one another.' Virtue having in itself something so amiable as to charm the hearts of all that behold it.

QUEST. Wylle he teche me thay same artes?

ANSW. Ye shalle be techedde yff ye be werthyeand able to lerne.

QUEST. Dothe all maçonnes kunne more then odher menne?

ANSW. Not so. Thay only haueth recht and occasyonne more then odher menne to kunne, butt manye doeth fale yn capacityand manye more doth want industrye, that ys pernecessarye for the gaynynge all kunnynge.

QUEST. Are maçonnes gudder men then odhers?

ANSW. Some Maçonnes are not so virtuous as some odher menne, but, yn the most parte, thay be more gude then they would be yf thay war not maçonnes.

QUEST. Doth maçonnes love eidher odher myghtylye as beeth sayde?

ANSW. Yea verylycheand yt may not odherwise be: for gude menne and true, kennynge eidher odher to be soche, doeth always love the more as thay be more gude.

[Here endethe the questyonnes and awnsweres.]

A GLOSSARY of antiquated words in the foregoing Manuscript.


Antiquated Word


Antiquated Word

























absolutely necessary













Hem plesethe

they please








there, their








with it














working miracles

Make gudde

are beneficial












Section. 2. Remarks on the preceding Manuscript and the Annotations of Mr. Locke.


This dialogue possesses a double claim to our regard, first, for its antiquity and next for the notes added to it by Mr. Locke, who, though not at that time enrolled in the order of masons, offers just conjectures on their history and traditions. Every reader must feel a secret satisfaction in the perusal of this ancient manuscript, especially the true mason, whom it more nearly concerns. The recommendation of a philosopher of as great merit and penetration as this nation ever produced, added to the real value of the piece itself, must give it a sanction and render it deserving a serious examination.

The conjecture of the learned annotator concerning its being an examination taken before King Henry of one of the fraternity of masons, is just. The severe edict passed at that time against the society and the discouragement given to the masons by the bishop of Winchester and his party, induced that prince, in his riper years, to make a strict scrutiny into the nature of the Masonic institution, which was attended with the happy circumstance of gaining his favour and his patronage. Had not the civil commotions in the kingdom during his reign, attracted the notice of government, this act would probably have been repealed, through the intercession of the Duke of Gloucester, whose attachment to the fraternity was conspicuous.  

[Book. 3. Section 1] What mote ytt be ?] Mr. Locke observes, in his annotation on this question, that the answer imports, that masonry consists of natural, mathematical and mechanical knowledge, some part of which, he says, the masons pretend to have taught mankind and some part they still conceal. The arts, which they have communicated to the world, are particularly specified in an answer to one of the following questions, as are also those, which they have restricted to themselves for wise purposes.  Morality, however, ought to have been included in this answer, as it constitutes a principal part of the Masonic system.

[Book. 3.  Section 1] Where dyd ytt begynne ?] In the annotation to the answer on this question, Mr. Locke seems to suggest, that masons believed there were men in the east before Adam, which is indeed a mere conjecture. This opinion may be countenanced by many learned authors, but masons comprehend the true meaning of masonry taking rise in the East and spreading to the West, without having recourse to præadamites. East and west are terms peculiar to their society and when masonically adopted, are very intelligible

[And behold the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the East. Ezek. xliii.2.]

to the fraternity as they refer to certain forms and established customs among themselves. From the East, it is well known, learning extended to the Western world and gradually advanced into Europe.

[Book. 3. Section 1] Who dyd brynge ytt westlye ?] The judicious correction of an illiterate clerk, in the answer to this question as well as the next, reflects credit on the ingenious annotator. The explanation is just and the elucidation accurate.

[Book. 3. Section 1] Howe comede ytt yn Engelonde ?] The records of the fraternity inform us, that Pythagoras was regularly initiated into masonry and being properly instructed in the mysteries of the Art, propagated the principles of the Order in other countries into which he travelled.

Pythagoras lived at Samos, in the reign of Tarquin, the last king of the Romans, in the year of Rome 220, or, according to Livy, in the reign of Servius Tullius, in the year of the world 3472. He was the son of a sculptor and was educated under one of the greatest men of his time, Therecydes of Syrus, who first taught the immortality of the soul. Upon the death of his patron, he determined to trace science to its source and supply himself with fresh stores in every part of the world, where these could be obtained. Animated by this desire of knowledge, he travelled into Egypt and submitted to the tedious and discouraging course of preparatory discipline, which was necessary to obtain the benefit of Egyptian initiation. When he had made himself a thorough master of all the sciences, which were cultivated in the sacerdotal colleges of Thebes and Memphis, he pursued his travels through the East, conversing with the Magi and Indian Brahmans and mixing their doctrines with those he had learnt in Egypt. He afterwards studied the laws of Minos at Crete and those of Lycurgus at Sparta. Having spent the earlier part of his life in this useful manner, he returned to Samos well acquainted with every thing curious either in nature or art in foreign countries, improved with all the advantages proceeding from a regular and laborious course of learned education and adorned with that knowledge of mankind, which was necessary to gain the ascendant over them. Accustomed to freedom, he disliked the arbitrary of Samos and retired to Crotona in Italy, where he opened a school of philosophy and by the gravity and sanctity of his manners, the importance of his tenets and the peculiarity of his institutions, soon spread his fame and influence over Italy and Greece. Among other projects, which he used to create respect and gain credit to his assertion, he concealed himself in a cave and caused it to be reported that he was dead. After some time he came abroad and pretended that the intelligence which his friends gave him in his retreat, of the transactions of Crotona, was collected during his stay in the other world among the shades of the departed. He formed his disciples, who came from all parts to put themselves under his direction, into a kind of republic, where none were admitted till a severe probation had sufficiently exercised their patience and docility. He afterwards divided them into the esoteric and exoteric classes. To the former he entrusted the more sublime and secret doctrines, to the latter the more simple and popular. This great man found himself able to unite the character of the legislator to that of the philosopher and to rival Lycurgus and Orpheus in the one, Pherecydes and Thales in the other, following, in this particular, the patterns set him by the Egyptian priests, his instructors, who are not less celebrated for settling the civil than the religious economy of their nation. In imitation of them, Pythagoras gave laws to the republic of Crotona and brought the inhabitants from a state of luxury and dissoluteness, to be eminent for order and sobriety. While he lived, he was frequently consulted by the neighbouring republics, as the composer of their differences and the reformer of their manners and since his death (which happened about the fourth year of the 70th Olympiad, in a tumult raised against him by one Cylon) the administration of their affairs has been generally intrusted to some of his disciples, among whom, to produce the authority of their master for any assertion, was sufficient to establish the truth of it without further inquiry.

The most celebrated of the philosophical notions of Pythagoras are those concerning the nature of the Deity, the transmigration of souls into different bodies (which he borrowed from the Brahmans) and the system of the world. He was the first who took the name of philosopher, that is, a lover of wisdom. His system of morality was admirable. He made unity the principle of all things and believed that between God and man there were various orders of spiritual beings, who administered to the divine will. He believed in the doctrine of the metempsychosis, or transmigration of souls and held that God was diffused through all parts of the universe, like a kind of universal soul, pervading every particle of matter and animating every living creature, from the most contemptible reptile to mankind themselves, who shared a larger portion of the divine spirit. The metempsychosis was founded on this maxim, that as the soul was of celestial origin, it could not be annihilated and therefore, upon abandoning one body, necessarily removed into another and frequently did penance for its former vicious inclinations, in the shape of a beast or an insect, before it appeared again in that of a human creature. He asserted, that he had a particular faculty given him by the gods, of remembering the various bodies his own soul had passed through and confounded cavillers by referring them to his own experience. In his system of the world, the third doctrine, which distinguishes his sect, was a supposition, that the Sun was at rest in the centre and that the earth, the moon and the other planets moved round it in different orbits. He pretended to have great skill in the mysterious properties of numbers and held that some particular ones contained a peculiar force and significance. He was a great geometrician and admitted only those to the knowledge of his system, who had first undergone a probation of five years silence. To his discovery is attributed the 47th proposition of the first book of Euclid,

 [In any right angled triangle, the square which is described upon the side subtending the right angle, is equal to the squares described upon the sides which contain the right angle. Euclid, lib. i. prop. 47.]


which, in geometrical solutions and demonstrations of quantities, is of excellent use and for which as Mr. Locke observes, in the joy of his heart, he is said to have sacrificed a hecatomb. His extraordinary desire of knowledge and the pains he took to propagate his system, have justly transmitted his fame to posterity.


The pupils who were initiated by him in the sciences and study of nature at the Crotonian school, brought all their goods into a common stock, contemned the pleasures of sense, abstaining from swearing and eat nothing that had life. Steady to the tenets and principles which they had imbibed, they dispersed abroad and taught the doctrines of their preceptor, in all the countries through which they travelled.


[Book. 3. Section 1] Dothe maçonnes descouer here artes unto odhers ?] Masons, in all ages, have studied the general good of mankind. Every art, which is necessary for the support of authority and good government, or which can promote science, they have cheerfully communicated to the world. Points of no public utility, as their peculiar tenets, mystic forms and solemn rites, they have carefully concealed. Thus masons have been distinguished in various countries and the privileges of their Order kept sacred and inviolable.

[Book. 3. Section 1] Whatte artes haueth the maçonnes techedde mankynde ?] The arts which the masons have publicly taught, are here specified. It appears to have surprised the learned annotator, that religion should be ranked among the arts taught by the fraternity, but it may be observed, that religion is the only tie, which can bind men and that where there is no religion, there can be no masonry. Among masons, however, it is an art, calculated to unite for a time opposite systems, without perverting or destroying those systems. By the influence of this art, the purposes of the institution are effectually answered and all religious animosities happily terminated.

Masons have always paid due obedience to the moral law and inculcated its precepts with powerful energy on their disciples. Hence the doctrine of God, the creator and preserver of the universe, has been their firm belief in every age and under the influence of that doctrine, their conduct has been regulated through a succession of year. The progress of knowledge and philosophy, aided by divine revelation, having enlightened the minds of men with the knowledge of the true God and the sacred tenets of the Christian faith, masons have readily acquiesced in a religion so wisely calculated to make men happy. But in those countries where the gospel has not reached, nor Christianity displayed her beauties, they have pursued the universal religion, or the religion of nature, that is, to be good men and true, by whatever denomination or persuasion they may be distinguished and by this universal system, the be conduct of the fraternity still continues to be regulated. A cheerful compliance with the established religion of the country in which they live, is earnestly recommended in their assemblies and this universal conformity, notwithstanding private sentiment and opinion, is the art they practice and effects the laudable purpose of conciliating true friendship among men of every persuasion, while it proves the cement of general union.

It may not be improper to state, that this universal system teaches men not to deviate from the line of instruction in which they have been educated, or to disregard the principles of religion they have been originally taught. Though they are to suit themselves to circumstances and situation, in the character of masons they are advised never to forget the wise maxims of their parents, or desert the faith in which they have been nurtured, unless from conviction they are justified in making a change and in effecting that change, masonry has no share. The tenets of the institution interfere with no particular faith, but are alike reconcilable to all. Hence religious and political disputes never engage the attention of masons in their private seminaries, those points are left to the discussion and determination of other associations for whom the theme is better calculated and it is a certain truth, that the wisest systems are more frequently injured than benefited by religious cavil.

Notwithstanding the happiest events have arisen in many periods of the history of the world from the efforts of a wife, pious, learned and moderate clergy, seconded by the influence and authority of religious princes, whose counsels and examples have always had a commanding power, which has enabled them to do good, with a facility peculiar to themselves, it must have been observed with a generous concern, that those efforts have not been sufficient to extinguish the unhappy spirit of fanaticism, of whose deplorable effects almost every age has exhibited a striking picture. Enthusiastical sects have been perpetually inventing new forms of religion, by working on the passions of ignorant and unwary, deriving their rules of faith and manners from the fallacious suggestions of a warm imagination, rather than from the clear and infallible dictates of the word of God. One set of men has covered religion with a tawdry habit of type and allegory, while another has converted it into an instrument of dissension and discord. The discerning mind may easily trace the unhappy consequences of departing from the divine simplicity of the gospel and loading its pure and heavenly doctrines with the inventions and commandments of men. The tendency of true religion is to strengthen the springs of government, by purifying the motives and animating the zeal of those who govern, to promote the virtues which exalt a nation, by rendering its inhabitants good subjects and true patriots and by confirming all the essential bonds and obligations of civil society. The enemies of religion are the enemies of mankind and it is the natural tendency of infidelity and licentiousness to dissolve the most sacred obligations, to remove the most powerful motives to virtue and by corrupting the principles of individuals, to poison, the sources of public order and public prosperity.

Such are the mischiefs incident from zeal and enthusiasm, however laudably excited, when carried to excess. But if the principles of masonry are understood and practised, they will be found the best correctors of misguided zeal and unrestrained licentiousness and prove the ablest support of every well-regulated government.

[Book.3. Section 1] Howe commethe maçonnes more teachers than odher menne ? The answer implies, that masons, from the nature and government of their association, have greater opportunities than other men, to improve their talents and therefore are allowed to be better qualified to instruct others.

Mr. Locke's observation on masons having the art of finding new arts, is judicious and his explanation just. The fraternity have always made the study of arts, a principal part of their private amusement: in their assemblies, nice and difficult theories have been canvassed and explained, new discoveries produced and those already known, illustrated. The different classes established, the gradual progression of knowledge communicated and the regularity observed throughout the whole system of their government, are evident proofs, that those who are initiated into the mysteries of the masonic Art, may discover new arts and this knowledge is acquired by instruction from and familiar intercourse with, men of genius and ability, on almost every important branch of science.

[Book. 3. Section 1] What dothe the maçonnes concele and hyde ? The answer imports, the art of finding new arts, for their profit and praise and then particularises the different arts they carefully conceal. Mr. Locke's remark, “That this shews too much regard for their own society and too little for the rest of mankind,” is rather severe, when he has before admitted the propriety of concealing from the world, what is of no real public utility, left, by being converted to bad uses, the consequences might be prejudicial to society. By the word praise, is here meant, that honour and respect to which masons are entitled, as the friends of science and learning and which is absolutely necessary to give a sanction to the wife doctrines they propagate, while their fidelity gives them a claim to esteem and the rectitude of their manners demand veneration.

Of all the arts, which the masons profess, the art of secrecy particularly distinguishes them. Taciturnity is a proof of wisdom and is allowed to be of the utmost importance in the different transactions of life. The best writers have declared it is agreeable to the Deity himself, may be easily conceived, from the glorious example which he gives, in concealing from mankind the secrets of his providence. The wisest of men cannot pry into the areana of heaven, nor can they divine today, what tomorrow may bring forth.


Many instances might be adduced from history, to shew the high veneration, which was paid to the art of secrecy by the ancients. Pliny informs us, that anaxarchus, being imprisoned with a view to extort from him some secrets with which he had been intrusted and dreading that exquisite torture would induce him to betray his trust, bit his tongue in the middle and threw it in the face of Nicocreon, the tyrant of Cyprus. No torments could make the servants of Plancus betray the secrets of their master, they encountered every pain with fortitude and strenuously supported their fidelity, amidst the most severe tortures, till death put a period to their sufferings. The Athenians bowed to a statue of brass, which was represented without a tongue, to denote secrecy. The Egyptians worshipped Harpocrates, the god of silence, who was always represented holding his finger at his mouth. The Romans had their goddess of silence, named Angerona, to whom they offered worship. Lycurgus, the celebrated law giver, as well as Pythagoras, the great scholar, particularly recommended this virtue, especially the last, who, as we have before observed, kept his disciples silent during five years, that they might learn the valuable secrets he had to communicate unto them. This evinces that he deemed secrecy the rarest, as well as the noblest art.

 [The following story is related by a Roman historian (Aulus Gellius), which, as it may be equally pleasing and instructive, we shall insert at full length.

The senators of Rome had ordained, that, during their consultations in the Senate house, each senator should be permitted to bring his son with him, who was to depart, if occasion required, but this favour was not general, being restricted only to the sons of noblemen, who, in those days, were tutored from their infancy in the virtue of secrecy and thereby qualified, in their riper years, to discharge the most important offices of government with fidelity and wisdom. About this time it happened, that the senators met on a very important case and the affair requiring mature deliberation, they were detained longer than usual in the senate house and the conclusion of their determination was adjourned to the following day, each member engaging, in the mean time, to keep secret the proceedings of the meeting. Among other noblemen's sons who attended on the occasion, was the son of the grave Papyrus, a family of great renown and splendour. This youth was no less remarkable for the extent of his genius, than for the prudence of his deportment. On his return home, his mother, anxious to know what important case had been debated in the senate that day, which had detained the senators so long beyond the usual hour, intreated him to relate the particulars. The noble and virtuous youth told her, it was a business not in his power to reveal, he being solemnly enjoined to silence. On hearing this, her importunities were more earnest and her inquires more minute. By fair speeches and intreaties, with liberal promises, she endeavoured to break open this little casket of secrecy, but these proving ineffectual, she adopted rigorous measures and had recourse to stripes and violent threats, being determined that force should extort, what lenity could not effect. The youth, finding his mother's threats to be very harsh, but her stripes more severe, with a noble and heroic spirit, thus endeavoured to relieve her anxiety, without violating his fidelity,

“Madam, you may well blame the senate for their long sitting, at least, for presuming to call in question a case so truly impertinent, except the wives of the senators are allowed to consult on it, there can be no hope of a conclusion. I speak this only from my own opinion, I know their gravity will easily confound my juvenile apprehensions, yet, whether nature or duty instructs me to do so, I cannot tell. It seems necessary to them, for the increase of people and the public good, that every senator should be allowed two wives, or otherwise, their wives two husbands. I shall hardly incline to call, under one roof, two men by the name of father, I had rather with cheerfulness salute two women by the name of  mother. This is the question, Madam and tomorrow it is to be determined.”

His mother hearing this and he seeming unwilling to reveal it, she took it for an infallible truth. Her blood was quickly fired and rage ensued. Without inquiring any farther into the merits of the case, she immediately dispatched messengers to all the other ladies and matrons of Rome, to acquaint them of the weighty affair under deliberation in the senate, which so nearly concerned the peace and welfare of their whole lives. The melancholy news soon spread a general alarm and many conjectures were formed. The ladies, resolved to give their assistance in the decision of this weighty point, immediately assembled. Headed by young Papyrus's mother, next morning they proceeded to the senate house and though it is remarked, that a parliament of women is seldom governed by one speaker, yet the affair being urgent, the haste pertinent and the case (on their behalf) of the utmost consequence, the revealing woman must speak for all the rest. It was agreed, that she should insist on the necessity of the concurrence of the senators' wives to the determination of a law in which they were so particularly interested. When they came to the door of the senate house, such a noise was made for admission to sit with their husbands in this grand consultation, that all Rome seemed to be in an uproar. Their business, however, must be known, before they could gain an audience. This being complied with and their admission granted, such an elaborate oration was made by the female speaker on the occasion in behalf of her sex, as astonished the whole senators. She requested, that the matter might not be hastily determined, but be seriously canvassed according to justice and equity and expressed the determined resolutions of herself and her sisters, to oppose a measure so unconstitutional as that of permitting one husband to have two wives, who could scarcely please one. She proposed, in the name of her sisters, as the most effectual way of peopling the state, that if any alteration were to be made in the established custom of Rome, women might be permitted to have two husbands. The senators being informed of Papyrus's scheme to preserve his reputation and the riddle being publicly solved, the ladies were greatly confounded and departed with blushing cheeks, while the noble youth, who had proved himself worthy of his trust, was highly commended for his fidelity. To avoid, alike tumult in future, it was resolved, that the custom of introducing the sons of senators should be abolished. Papyrus, however, on account of the attachment to his word and his discreet policy, was excepted from this restriction and ever afterwards freely admitted into the senate house, where many honours were conferred upon him. The virtue and fidelity of young Papyrus are indeed worthy of imitation. But the Masons have still a more glorious example in their own body, of a brother, accomplished in every art, who, rather than forfeit his honour, or betray his trust, sell a sacrifice to the cruel hand of a barbarous assassin.]


Mr. Locke has made several judicious observations on the answer, which is given to the question here proposed. His being in the dark concerning the meaning of the faculty of Abrac, I am no ways surprised at, nor can I conceive how he could otherwise be. ABRAC is an abbreviation of the word ABRACADABRA. In the days of ignorance and superstition, that word had a magical signification, but the explanation of it is now lost.


[Mr. Hutchinson, in his ingenious treatise, intitled The Spirit of Masonry, gives the following explanation of the word ABRAC, which, as it is curious, I shall here insert in that gentleman's own words.


ABRAC, or ABRACAR, was a name which Basilides, a religious of the second century, gave to God, who, he said, was the author of three hundred and sixty-five.


The author of this superstition is said to have lived in the time of Adrian and that it had its name after ABRASAN or ABRAXAS, the denomination which Basilides gave to the Deity. He called him the Supreme God and ascribed to him seven subordinate powers or angels, who preside over the heavens and also, according to the number of the days in the year, held that three hundred and sixty five virtues, powers, or intelligences, existed as the emanations from God, the value, or numerical distinction of the letters in the word, according to the ancient Greek numerals, made 365.


A   B    P      A    X    A    Z

1   2    100  1    60   1    200


Among antiquaries, ABRAXAS is an antique gem, or stone, with the word ABRAXAS engraved on it. There are a great many kinds of them, of various figures and sizes, mostly as old as the third century. Persons professing the religious principles of Basilides wore this gem with great veneration as an amulet, from whose virtues and the protection of the Deity, to whom it was consecrated and with whose name it was inscribed, the wearer derived health prosperity and safety.


There is deposited in the British Museum such a gem, which is a besil stone of the form of an egg. The head is in camio, the reverse in taglio.


In church history, ABRAX is noted as a mystical term, expressing the Supreme God, under whom the Basilidians supposed three hundred and sixty five dependent deities. It was the principle of the Gnostic hierarchy, whence sprang their multitudes of the æons. From ABRAXAS proceeded their PRIMOGENIAL MIND, from the primogenial mind, the LOGOS, or word, from the logos, the PHRONÆSIS, or prudence, from the phronæsis, SOPHIA and DYNAMIS, or wisdom and strength, from these two proceeded PRINCIPALITIES, POWERS and ANGELS and from these, other angels, to the number of three hundred and sixty-five, who were supposed to have the government of so many celestial orbs committed to their care.]

Our celebrated annotator has taken no notice of the masons having the art of working miracles and fore saying things to come. But this was certainly not the least important of their doctrines. Hence astrology was admitted as one of the arts, which they taught and the study of it warmly recommended.

The ancient philosophers applied with unwearied diligence to discover the aspects, magnitude, distances, motions and revolutions of the heavenly bodies and, according to the discoveries they made, pretended to foretell future events and to determine concerning the secrets of Providence. This study became, in a course of time, a regular science.

That astrology, however vain and delusive in itself, has proved extremely useful to mankind, by promoting the excellent science of astronomy, cannot be denied. The vain hope of reading the fates of men and the success of their designs, has been one of the strongest motives to induce them, in all countries, to an attentive observation of the celestial bodies, whence they have been taught to measure time, to mark the duration of seasons and to regulate the operations of agriculture.

The science of astrology, which is nothing more than the study of nature and the knowledge of the secret virtues of the heavens, is founded on scripture and confirmed by reason and experience. Moses tells us, that the sun, moon and stars, were placed in the firmament, to be for signs, as well as for seasons. We find the Deity thus addressing Job, "Canst thou bind the sweet influences of the Pleiades, or loose the bonds of Orion ?" We are instructed in the Book of Judges, that "they fought from heaven, the stars in their courses fought against Sisera." The ancient philosophers were unanimous in the same opinion and among the moderns, we may cite Lord Bacon and several others as giving it a sanction. Milton thus expresses himself on the subject,

Of planetary motions and aspects

In Sextile, Square and trine and opposite,

Of noxious efficacy and when to join

In synod unbenign and taught the fixed

Their influence malignant when to shower, &c.

It is well known that inferior animals and even birds and reptiles, have a foreknowledge of futurity and surely Nature never intended to withhold from man those favours, which she has so liberally bestowed on the raven, the cat and the sow? No, the aches in our limbs and the shootings of our corns, before a tempest or a shower, evince the contrary. Man, who is a microcosm, or world in miniature, unites in himself all the powers and qualities which are scattered throughout nature and discerns from certain signs the future contingencies of his being, finding his way through the palpable obscure to the visible diurnal and nocturnal sphere, he marks the presages and predictions of his happiness or misery. The mysterious and recondite doctrine of sympathies in Nature, is admirably illustrated from the sympathy between the moon and the sea, by which the waters of the ocean are, in a certain though inconceivable manner, drawn after that luminary. In these celestial and terrestrial sympathies, there is no doubt that the vegetative soul of the world transfers a specific virtue from the heavens to the elements, to animals and to man. If the moon alone rule the world of waters, what effects must the combination of solar, stellar and lunar influences have upon the land? In short, it is universally confessed, that astrology is the mother of astronomy and though the daughter have rebelled against the mother, it has long been predicted and expected that the venerable authority of the parent would prevail in the end.

[Book. 3.  Section 1] Wylle he teche me thay same artes ? By the answer to this question, we learn the necessary qualifications, which are required in a candidate for masonry, a good character and an able capacity. 

[Book. 3.Section 1] Dothe all maçonnes kunne more then odher menne ? The answer only implies, that masons have a better opportunity than the rest of mankind, to improve in useful knowledge, but a want of capacity in some and of application in others, obstructs the progress of many.

 [Book. 3.Section 1] Are maçonnes gudder menne then odhers ? Masons are not understood to be collectively more virtuous in their lives and actions, than other men, but it is an undoubted fact, that a strict conformity to the rules of the profession, may make them better than they otherwise would be.

[Book.3. Section 1] Dothe maçonnes love eidher odher myghtylye as beeth sayde ? The answer to this question is truly great and is judiciously remarked upon by the learned annotator.

By the answers to the three last questions, the objections of cavillers against masonry are amply refuted, the excellency of the institution is displayed and every censure, on account of the transgressions of its professors, entirely removed. A bad man, whose character is known, can never be enrolled in our records and should we unwarily be led to receive an improper object, then our endeavours are exerted to reform him, so that, by being a mason, it is probable he may become a better subject to his sovereign and a more valuable member to the state, than he would have done had he not been in the way of those advantages.

To conclude, Mr. Locke's observations on this curious manuscript deserve a serious and careful examination and though he was not at the time one of the brotherhood, he seems pretty clearly to have comprehended the value and importance of the system it was intended to illustrate. We may therefore fairly conjecture, that the favourable opinion he conceived of the society of masons before his admission, was afterwards sufficiently confirmed after his initiation.










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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