From the Venerable Master (June 2023)
THE VOLUME OF THE SACRED LAW
If you were asked, “What do you consider the most important feature of Freemasonry?" you would undoubtedly say, “The Volume of the Sacred Law is essential to the institution of Freemasonry”. You would back up your opinion by quoting an extract from The Aims and Relations of the Craft.
The first condition of admission into, and membership of, the Order is belief in the Supreme Being; the Volume of the Sacred Law, is always open in Lodges. Every candidate is required to take his obligation on that book or the Volume that is held by his particular creed to impart sanctity to an oath or promise taken upon it.
But you don't even need that, because our Ritual proves it for us. You will recall what it says about the VSL.
* It teaches us the all-important duties we owe to God, to our neighbours and ourselves;
* Is to be regarded as the unerring standard of Truth and Justice;
* Teaches us to believe in the wise dispensation of Divine Providence;
* Is to rule and govern our faith;
* May be regarded as the Spiritual scripture of the GAOTU;
* Is one of the Great Lights of Freemasonry.
Despite the importance we, as Speculative Freemasons, attach to the VSL, we are surprised to learn that the records that have come down to us make no reference to the Bible or sacred writings or whatever name it is known by as occupying a particular place in Lodge ceremonial before the late 1600’s. This does not mean to say that there was no religious backThe Rite Word June 2023 Volume 17 Issue 6 ground to the ceremonies of our Masonic forebears.
In fact we have proof that there was The Regius Manual Script, an operative document thought to date from about 1390, and written in priestly language contains charges and statements such as these:
* He must love God well and Holy Church.
* They loved God well and all His lore and were in His service evermore.
Similarly, the second oldest of the surviving early Masonic manuscripts, the Cooke Manual Script. (about 1420) refers to:
* Man's debt to God.
* An invocation of the Trinity at the beginning, and a Closing Prayer. and, in particular, says a Mason is required.
* To love God and Holy Church and all Saints.
In addition to these, many of the old Manual Scripts, Constitutions, or “Old Charges" - documents concerned with operatives’ practices and requirements - contain instructions, often in Latin, prescribing a form of administering the oath. The earliest of these instructions appears in the Grand Lodge Manual Script, dated 1583. Translated from the Latin, its opening passage begins:
"Then one of the elders holds out a book and he or they (that are to be sworn) shall place their hands upon it and the following precepts shall be read".
This is very much like our present day practice of swearing on oath in Court, but it cannot be assumed that the "Book" here referred to is the Bible. It may be the "Book of Charges" – ie, a copy of the Constitutions - for it is to be remembered that the first complete Bible in Britain was not printed until 1535, and only fifty years later would not have been widely available.
The Colne Manual Script No 1, which appeared in about 1685, describes the manner in which a Candidate should receive the Charge. This refers to the oath or obligation taken.
"One if the eldest taking the Bible shall hold it forth that he or they which are to be made Masons may impose and lay their right hand upon it and then the Charge shall be read".
This appears to be the first clear reference to the VSL in the surviving Masonic documents. Many of the later documents point out the importance attached to the VSL in Masonic ceremonies, and, in particular, in the taking of the Obligation by the Candidate. Here are two examples:
The Edinburgh Register Manual Script, of 1696, in describing "The forms of giving the Mason Word", says: 'You are to take the person to take the word upon his knees, and after a great many ceremonies... you make him take up the Bible and laying his right hand upon it you are to conjure him to sec(r)ecie…‘
Samuel Prichard’s exposure, "Masonry Dissected", of 1730, describes the taking of the Obligation in somewhat similar terms: ‘… my naked Right Hand on the Holy Bible; there I took the Obligation (or oath) of a Mason'.
We can see from these the central place of the sacred writings in the ceremonies of the early Speculative Freemasons had thus been clearly established by the first few decades of the 18th Century.
Although there seems to be no evidence of any definite instructions by the Grand Lodge of England, or any official act of adoption by that body, it is fairly clear the term V of the SL was adopted somewhere about 1723 or just after, as a common title for the Holy Books of all religions - a term giving no offence to the adherents of any particular religion. But we cannot rule out that the use of the terms was associated with Charge 1 of the Charges in the 1723 Book of Constitutions. This provided, among other things, that
…though in ancient times Masons were charg'd in every country to be of the religion of that country or nation, whatever it was, yet 'tis now thought more expedient to oblige them to that religion in which all men agree, leaving their particular opinions to themselves…
A close reading of the Ritual reveals that the VSL is referred to both as part of the furniture of the Lodge, and also one of the Great Lights. This apparent inconsistency reflects one aspect of the development of our ceremonies. The sacred writings were first referred to as part of the furniture of the Lodge about 1730. A little later we find the Bible, Square and Compasses described as Pillars of the Lodge. The first known reference to Great Lights is to be found in France in 1745 but this meant what are now called Lesser Lights. The first reference to the VSL Square and Compasses as the Three Great Lights appears in English writings about 1760, and this usage was confirmed by the Lodge of Reconciliation set up in the early 1800’s to settle differences of practice at the time of the formation of the United Grand Lodge of England.
Freemasonry is non-sectarian and non-doctrinal in character. The presence of the VSL, on the altar of a Lodge may, therefore, appear at first glance at odds with this basic concept. But the VSL on our altars in New South Wales is not to be regarded as evidence that the Lodges of this Jurisdiction are Christian in character, although it is, of course, true that the majority of Lodge members are essentially Christian in their affiliations. Its presence is no more than a symbol, a representative of all the great books of the religious teachings, which have particular significance to particular groups of people. In some Jurisdictions other works replace the Bible on the altar. Singapore Lodge, a Lodge working under the English Constitution, uses no fewer than six Vs of SL of different faiths. As one Scottish Grand Lodge authority puts it: "The Volume of the Sacred Law, no matter though it be our Bible or the Sacred Writings of the Hindu, the Zendavesta of the Parsee, or the Koran of the Mohammedan, typifies the Mind or Will of the GAOTU, the Great First Cause - the Creator and Preserver of the Universe - the Great Life-Giver, that Great Unknown and Unknowable which is manifested in His Universe. As the VSL is not read in our Lodges, its teachings per se are of no consequence. It is a symbol and a symbol only, and it is shown as supporting the other two symbols, the Square and Compasses.
…for us it is an open Book, with only one word written thereon, and that word is "GOD".
Ref: g:\genoffic\grand library\lodge talk no 5.doc
San Jose Lodge of Perfection Naresh Rampershad, 32° 2022-2023 Venerable Master
From the Wise Master (June 2023)
In June we celebrate the end of the academic year with our children and get to experience their joy in seeing a fun summer ahead of them. We get to reflect on how fun those summers were when the bell rang for our last day of the school year and maybe even remember some of our childhood friends we haven't seen in a while. We get to experience this because we are Fathers and celebrate our own unique day this month also. Even for those who might not have kids of their own but serve as the positive fatherly role model for someone who needs it or perhaps as the mentor who is helping guide another when they need help, they get to share in the day as well.
While we celebrate our special day this month, let's remember to reach out to our Brothers and see how they are doing. There are some great events coming up which gives us more opportunities to get out and socialize. Also, as the weather is getting better, more lodges have begun using the members lounge much more. Often on Monday nights there are Brothers who come over after practice or degrees just to enjoy some of that social discourse we all need. Please come and enjoy the members lounge, take pictures, and share these good times with all of our Brothers.
San Jose Chapter of Rose Croix Timothy M. Lynch II, 32° 2022-2023 Wise Master
From the Commander of Kadosh (June 2023)
When Pope Leo Xlll, in his 1884 encyclical Humanum Genus, admonished the Roman Catholic faithful to expose Masonic subversions wherever found, the fervent response came from the least likely of quarters. Leo Taxil—the pen name of one-time Mason, longtime pornographer, and anti-Catholic polemicist Gabriel Jorgand-Pages—became an outspoken leader in the pontiff’s anti-Masonic crusade.
After authoring several pious tracts and performing a lengthy penance, he was ultimately absolved. He then devoted his considerable literary energy not only to extolling the Roman faith but to asserting Freemasonry’s impious roots.
The books were very well received, and in 1887 the publisher who confirmed Catholic suspicions about Masonic diabolism was granted a private audience with the Holy Father.
For a number of centuries before this unlikely team of pontiff and pornographer, the Roman Catholic Church was alternately Masonry’s benefactor and nemesis. Taxil’s exposes continued for more than a decade in books that were widely distributed throughout the Catholic world. In 1895, he was joined by Diana Vaughan, a former Palladian Grand Priestess who claimed lineage from the seventeenth-century Rosicrucian and alchemist Thomas Vaughan. Diana had recently converted to Catholicism and was now in hiding in France, fearing mortal consequences should the Craft ever discover her whereabouts.
Over a period of two years Vaughan, in volumes entitled Memoires d’une ex-Palladiste that were published by Taxil, documented female Freemasons’ role in the Palladium. She described ceremonies in which serpents seductively slithered across the bare breasts of Mistress's Templar. Moreover, she disclosed the sordid details of the Palladium’s recent history.
Taxil’s and Vaughan’s testimonies confirmed the Church's wildest speculations. Catholic scholars pounced on this miraculous wealth of firsthand material. Bishop Fava of Grenoble published a booklet exposing”women’s lodges” as harems and brothels for Freemasons. Leon Meurin, the bishop of Port Louis (now Mauritius), compared notes with Taxil, which Meurin later published in his treatise Lafranc-maconnerie, synagogue de Satan. Fava and Meurin’s polemics expanded on a long established line of Catholic anti-Masonic writing.
In 1738, about twenty years after the public debut of the first speculative lodge, the blind and all-but bedridden Pope Clement XII condemned, not only any particular Masonic secret but Freemasonry’s secrecy in general. “For if they were not doing evil,” he reasoned in his bull In eminent, “they would not have so great a hatred of the light.” Clement’s bull also vaguely mentioned “other just and reasonable motives” for placing Freemasonry under edict.
Taxil reluctantly organized a conference in Paris at which Vaughan promised to publicly address the world for the first time.
When the day came, in the spring of 1897, Taxil mounted the stage alone. He proceeded to announce to the assembled press, clergy, and disgruntled Freemasons that for the past twelve years he had duped them all. Diana Vaughan was no more than an employee of an American type-writer company who once worked for Taxil as a stenographer. As mischievous as her employer, she had agreed to lend her name and face to Taxil’s hoax.
The Palladium, for its part, was utter nonsense, as Freemasons and less naive Catholics had been saying for years. References to “real-life” Palladian Freemasons like Adriano Lemmi and Albert Pike were no more than elaborate libels a despicable but effective technique that Taxil had employed in his anti-clerical years to cast Pope Leo XIII as a homicidal maniac and Pope Pius IX as a sex fiend. Pike, though steeped in anti -Catholicism and racial bigotry, had nothing to do with global conspiracies or satanic rituals.
With a sneer, Taxil cynically thanked the Catholic press and prelates gathered at the conference. He had wanted only to expose their ignorance, and they had played along famously. The twelve-year charade also repaid a debt long owed to the Freemasons. In 1881 the Temple of Friends of French Honor, embarrassed by Entered Apprentice Taxil’s reputation for plagiarism and lewd fiction, had drummed him out of the Grand Orient.
San Jose Council of Kadosh David M. Kampschafer, 32° 2022-2023 Commander of Kadosh
From the Master of Kadosh (June 2023)
June, for many, is the start of summer and soon the Summer Solstice will arrive. There have been some articles in the Rite Word about the Winter Solstice but what about that other Solstice and Midsummer Day?
The word “solstice” comes from the Latin “solsistre” meaning “sun stood still”. When the sun changes direction and days start, again, to become shorter, it appears that the sun halts it’s movement, briefly.
The date of the Summer Solstice is often taken to be June 20 however that is not always the case. The astronomical year is 365.25 days. Because of this, in the Northern Hemisphere, the actual date of the event can shift from June 20 to June 22.
This longest day of the year has been observed by civilizations for a very long time. The Egyptians saw the Solstice as the start of the Nile River’s annual flooding which resulted in water for the crops and a guarantee of plentiful harvests, meaning plenty of food. At Stonehenge, on this day, the sun rose behind the entrance and the light was channeled into the center of the structure.
Midsummer Day is locked-in on June 24, first, due to the old Julian Calendar. Shakespeare used this date in the play Midsummer Night’s Dream. It seems there is a Celtic myth that on that night, fairies were active as the characters in play were to find out.
Second, Midsummers Day was set as the Feast of St. John the Baptist, one of Masonry’s two Saints John, by the early church. Their basis was that the Gospel of Luke placed his date of birth 6 months before the birth of Jesus, which they had set on December 24. Thus, June 24 became the Feast of St. John the Baptist.
Freemasonry observes June 24 as the Festival of St. John the Baptist and refers to him in our ritual. To Masons, this should be the time to renew and strengthen fraternal ties.
San Jose Consistory Richard M. Fisher, III, 33° 2022-2023 Venerable Master of Kadosh
From the Chief Knight (June 2023)
During the June dinner, the Knights of Saint Andrew will be performing Accolades for a couple of our members. While any black hat member of Scottish Rite can be a part of KSA, this knighting ceremony is particular to our group and extends that special display of our fraternal bond.
Our plans for the Highland Games on Labor Day weekend are coming together and we are looking forward to all interested Scottish Rite families (that's right, not just the men!) to come out and have a good time. We are working with other Valley's to make sure there is a place for folks to hang out and socialize between events. The games are surrounded with great vendors for all types of wares, a great venue for watching the athletic events, outstanding displays of Highland Dance as well as pipes and drums units performing, and perhaps one of my favorites.... the Whiskey Tasting experience. It might be one of my favorite experiences there because several years I would bump into Randy and Micki Downey and enjoy a few of the many many bourbons and whiskeys, then compare notes.
KSA is a service based organization that helps support activities throughout the Valley. Most of our work is done while we are at the monthly stated meetings which keeps the load light while helping things run smoother. During important visits, KSA provides an Arch of Steel salute to dignitaries as well as providing a Flag Presentation team. The Flag Presentation team is also often called upon for blue lodge installations. No kilt is needed and we have a cooler hat than the other bodies . Come out and see what we are about
San Jose Knights of St. Andrew Timothy M. Lynch II, 32° 2022-2023 Chief Knight, KSA