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BUILDER GILDS, ANCIENT.
BURNS AS MASONIC LAUREATE.
BUILDER GILDS, ANCIENT.
Some thirty miles southwest of Cairo, west of the Nile, and on the Libyan desert, is an oasis in a sunken depression of many hundreds of square miles, in which from 300 B.c. to 300 A.D. circa existed a number of cities and a rich civilization.
This region was sustained by an irrigation system comparable in size and as an engineering achievement with our TVA; when that irrigation system was destroyed the Fayum, as its name was, reverted to desert, and its towns were covered by sand. In 1888 Dr. W. M. Flinders Petrie exeavated a tomb at Hawara and made the astounding discovery that mummy cases there were built up of and stuffed with written papyri. Later on he had among his assistants B. P. Grenfell and Arthur S. Hunt. These two young men began in 1896 to excavate the whole Fayum, and with such success that in 1897 in the ruins of the town of Oxyrhynchus they came upon the greatest find of written manuscripts ever made in the whole history of archeology, and sent back to England tons of documents.
These had been written, most of them, in the Koine, a form of Greek in use throughout the Eastern Mediterranean during the general period of the first three centuries of our era.
These documents were not of scholarly writings but were such as could be recovered from the wastebaskets of any modern city: letters, business ledgers, wills, recipes, poems, and songs, daily papers, sermons, pamphlets, financial reports, tax receipts, etc., etc.
For the first time they gave historians a detailed, dayby-day picture of men and their affairs in Egypt, Palestine, Greece, and Rome as things were in the first centuries of the Christian era.
The students and historians of Freemasonry will henceforth have to examine the Fayum papyri in their studies of ancient builder gilds and of that once favorite subject of Masonie writers, the Ancient Mysteries, because among these tens of thousands of documents are many which for the first time furnish written records of gilds of that period and of the Ancient Mystery cults. In the volumes of the papyri published in 1907 and in 1910 by the British Museum are a number of documents relating to the mason crafts. Legal forms used by the ironworkers, the carpenters, and the gild of masons show that such gilds (or collegia) of the years 100 A.D. to 200 A.D. were very like the gilds of masons in the Middle Ages.
It is only now beginning to be realized that the Mason gilds of the Middle Ages from which our Fraternity is descended were of dual nature, a fact made especially evident in the body of Medieval law ; on the one side a Mason gild was a trade association for the purpose of controlling hours, wages, the rules of daily work, etc. ; on the other side it was a fraternity, with a Patron Saint, a chapel to attend, with feasts at set times, with relief for widows, orphans, etc., and for Masons in distress. The Oxyrynchus manuscripts make it clear that the builder gilds of 2000 years ago also were dual organizations of the same kind ; they met in their own rooms, had the equivalent of masters and wardens, gave relief, had feasts, also acted as burial clubs, and also were trade, or craft, organizations.
The Egypt Exploration Fund (Graeeo-Roman Branch) published Part I of the documents found by Hunt and Grenfell as The Oxyrhynchus Papyri,' by Grenfell and Hunt; London; 1898; 37 Great Russell St., W.C., and 59 Temple Street, Boston, Mass. The latest volume at hand is Greek Shorthand Manuals, edited by H. J. M. Milne (from a family famous in Freemasonry for three centuries) ; London ; 1934. For non-archeologists one of the best introductions is the fascinatingly-written The New Archeologieal Discoveries, and Their Bearing Upon the New Testalnent, etc., by Camden M. Cobem; Fttnk & Wagnalls Co. ; New York; 1917. The Twentieth Century New Testament was based on the Fayum discoveries ; some authorities believe that the books of the New Testament were written in the Koine, others that it was written first in Aramaic and then translated into the Koine,' in either event New Testarnent Greek was the Koine instead of the Greek of Plato and Euripides.
(The shiploads of documents unearthed since 1885 in Egypt, Palestine, and Greece have swept away once and forever mountains of nonsense about the pyramid builders and the Egyptian Mysteries. Scores of Masonic writers, exercising their rights to guess, wrote pseudo-learned volumes to prove that Freemasonry began with the pyramids [a very common type of structure] or the Book of the Dead, etc. ; their theories are now rendered forever impossible. It is not an exaggeration to say that when the last of the tons of mss. are translated, edited, and published scholars can write a day-by-day history of the eastern Mediterranean countries from 300 B.c. to 300 A.D. It is an astonishing fact that less is known about the Twelfth Century in England and Europe than about that much more ancient period.)
During the first two or three decades after the fornling of the first Grand Lodge of Speculative Masons in London, in 1717, the daily papers of London, and to a lesser extent in Edinburgh, Dublin, and other cities, published news about Freemasonry on the same footing as other news
In its earliest years the new Grand Lodge published no Proceedings, and did not even keep Minutes; after the Lodges had multiplied not only in London, but elsewhere they began to demand reports from the Quarterly Grand Communilcations. The earliest Grand Lodge Minutes (reproduced in facsimile in Quatuor Coronati Antigrapha) were in reality not Minutes but reports, and in them the list of Lodges were deemed the most important portion. It was to save the Grand Secretary the drudgery of making many copies by hand that the "Minutes" were for some years engraved by Pine wld his successors hence the origin of the famous "Engraved Lists"upon which Bro. John Lane was the first and most eminent authority. (See Lane's Lists of Lodges.)
The earliest Lodges demanded that their members should attend, and in many instances fined them for non-attendance; to make this rule "all-square" the Lodge in turn had its Tiler (who was paid) go in person to notify each member of the next Lodge meeting.
This method gradually gave way to the issuing of printed summons, for which an engraved plate was made, leaving a blank for the date ; a number of these plates were masterpieces of the erlgraver's art---an art which had a large vogue in the Eighteenth Century.
The same methods were used in general by American Lodges until after the Revolution, when for about a quarter of a century they made a large use of newspapers. With the sudden explosion of the Anti-Masonic Crusade after the so-ealled "Morgan Affair"this publicity was stopped, and for many years was not encouraged even after the crusade had died away because it had been abused.
From the Civil War to the first decade of the Twentieth Century a Lodge either sent out no notices, or spread them by word of mouth, or published very brief and formal notices in papers.
In the beginning of this Century Lodges began the issuing of Bulletins, a method being used, or being adopted, by an ever-increasing number. In majority of instances a Bulletin is printed by the Lodge and prepared and mailed by the Secretary; in a minority of instances, especailly in cities, either Bulletins or small periodlcals are privately prepared and published by local printers who cover their costs and a very small margin of profits with an income from local advertising.
The typical Lodge Bulletin is a printed two or four pages leaflet, of envelope size; in it are names, addressed, and telephone numbers of Lodge officers, and oftentimes of Committee chairmen, or Committee members; notices of regular or special Communications, and of special occasions; and in some instances a small number of news items.
Lodge Bulletins have been discussed in Masonic jurisprudence; and both Grand Lodges and Grand Masters have made rules or decisions to regulate them.
It is generally accepted and established that a Lodge, or the Worshipful Master, or both, have the authority to exercise complete control of any information or news which emanates from or about a Lodge, whether published by the Lodge itself or by a private printer or publishing company.
BURNS AS MASONIC LAUREATE.
On page 164 of this Encyclopedia Bro. Dudley Wright is quoted in a passage which tries to show that the long tradition that Robert Burns had been named Poet-Laureate of Canongate Kilwinning Lodge was "a happy delusion" ; and Bro. Robert I. Clegg, when quoting him, makes use of a pamphlet which that Lodge had published in 1925. It is possible that both of these cautious editors overlooked the detailed and exhaustive History of the Lodge Canongate Kilwinning No. 2, by Allan MacKenzie; Edlnburgh; 1888 Bro. MacKenzie devotes the whole of one chapter to the Laureateship. Out of Lodge records, personal cerrespondence, the recollections of old members, newspapers, reports, and by use of internal evidence he constructs an argument solid enough and cogent enough to convince a Supreme Court.
Bro. Wright uses as an argument the fact that no record was made in the Lodge Minutes. It was never suggested that the naming of Burns as Poet Laureate had ever been made by the Lodge in an official action, and hence it naturally would not go into the Minutes ; it is more likely that it was made at a banquet, informally, by the body of the members acting spontaneously. Even so, Burns accepted it in all seriousness; as did also the Lodge, which went to great expense to have the painting made which is reproduced on the sheet following page 156.
As will be seen in the key on the sheet opposite that reproduction one of the notables whose portrait stands out conspicuously from a circle of notables is James Boswell, biographer of Dr. Samuel Johnson.
Boswell was made a Mason in the Lodge in 1759 ; was Junior Warden in 1761; was Depute Master in 1767-l768 ; and Right Worshipful Master from 1773 to 1775.
Bro. MacKenzie's book is a wonderfully moving picture of Lodge life in Eighteenth Century Scotland.
Through it move James Hogg, the ''Ettriek Shepherd, " successor to Bums as Scotland's poet, celebrated in a stanza by Wordsworth, who when asked to be Masonic Poet Laureate first refused, then relented and wrote a Masonic "shepherd's song" for his Lodge; Sir Wm. Forbes; the tremendous Lord Mondobbo; Henry Erskine ; some princes from Russia, etc. ; the Lockharts, father and son, the latter Sir Walter Scott's son-in-law and biographer ; and Professor Wilson, better known as Christopher North, author of the Noctes A Ambrosianae, which American booklovers still read ; and in the background, Sir Walter Scott and his father, both enthasiastic Craftsmen in their own Lodge.