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MOUTH TO EAR.
MUMFORD ON FREEMASONRY.
"MUSICIANS, WORSHIPFUL COMPANY OF."
To the article on Rob Morris at page 682 may be added the fact that he published in 1867 a Dictionary of Freemasonry; John C. Bailey; Chicago; 518 pages; five by seven inches. It is a scrap book, much of it is adapted from Mackey's Lencon; a certain amount of it consists of trifles collected from hearsay; but the bibliographies of Monitors, Encyclopedias, and other Masonic books is a necessity for researchers, because it represents a cross section of Masonic thought and literature as it was in the Civil War period. In his bibliographical comments Morris made a curious but revealing statement when he said that the Middle West "is full of Oliver." A second edition of the Dictionary was corrected, revised and issued by the publisher in 1876. The first edition is the more useful. and is now so hard to find that it may be classified as a rare book.
Morris accumulated a Masonic library of his own, an unusually large and creditable collection for his time, of about 1200 titles. For years it vanished from view, and admirers of Morris, of whom he had many, searched everywhere for it. It transpires that he sent it, or had it sent, to New York, and it is now a special collection in the Grand Lodge Library, at Masonic Hall, New York City, which is in the custody of the Grand Lodge of New York.
MOUTH TO EAR.
The "doctrine of mouth to ear" denotes the fact that the secret (or esoteric) Work, including the Modes of Recognition, is never written or printed but is transmitted orally from one Mason to another, or, as during Initiation, from a Mason to a qualified Candidate. Without that method the Fraternity would be in an impasse; it must keep its Esoteric Work in strict secrecy or there could be no Freemasonry, and therefore it cannot be written or printed; yet at the same time the Fraternity must be able to transmit those secrets to non-Masons else it would perish for lack of new members; the "mouth to ear" method is therefore more than a device to preserve secrecy; it is a device by which the secrets are passed on. It is a mistake to say that the secrets are never given to non-Masons; they are; a Petitioner is a non-Mason yet he receives them; the true doctrine is that the secrets are given away but are given only to qualified and selected men, and under certain conditions, which conditions are satisfied by the ceremonies of Entering, Passing, and Raising.
The paragraph on page 685 entitled Mouth to Ear is in error and is corrected in the above. That paragraph interprets the doctrine of Mouth to Ear as being that "The Freemason is taught by an expressive symbol, to whisper good counsel in his Brother's ear, and to warn him of approaching danger." This is the doctrine of the Faithful Breast and is in principle the opposite of the doctrine of NIouth to Ear; the latter is the doctrine that there are secrets which are passed on, but lays down the conditions under which that passing is lawful; the Faithful Breast is the doctrine that there are secrets which are not passed on, to any other man, or under any possible circumstances.
The Masonic doctrine of Mouth to Ear is in its full details peculiar to Freemasonry but it is also an instance of the general doctrine of Oral Transmission. That doctrine as a whole belongs in general to the history of civilization, and of culture in particular; vwhy historians have so largely either overlooked or ignored it is one of the puzzles of historical scholarship because the history of no people or empire or of any war has ever had an even remotely comparable role in the history of man. Civilization (as distinguished from culture) consists of a people's government, language, system of paths and highways, and of the means to communicate information to each man and woman. If any one of the four is lacking the other three collapse; if they collapse the people are in barbarism; if barbarism becomes criminal the people are in savagery. How was information (and thereby education and the other elements of culture) communicated before writing was discovered; or printing, the telegraph, the telephone, and radio were invented? The answer is, by a system of oral transmission, by Mouth to Ear. This method was used by each and every people prior to the Sixteenth Century; and it was developed in a nation-wide system, with elaborate machinery, carried on by professionally trained men, and under control by a separate set of laws drawn by the State especially for the purpose.
The system of Oral Transmission used by the Greek people is a typical example. Like everything else they used it was classical in its perfection, and is one of the many evidences that it was not any one art or skill that was classical among them, but that they were classical as a people. The news carried by couriers on the roads or on ships went out at regular times and w as posted on public bulletin boards. Reporters wrote important information in long hand-written letters and mailed them out from important centers at foxed times—a system still in use in Europe as late as the Eighteenth Century. Each community had its town-crier—millions of villages and towns in Europe and Asia still have them. Ambassadors, consuls, merchants, travelers, seamen, and caravans carried news (or message) bags. Information was relayed by mariners or by riders from one town to another, a messenger in one place carrying to a second place a communication sent by another messenger from a third place.
History was written down in condensed and picturesque form and learned by heart by professional story-tellers who had a gild of their own, and who would often recite a storia a week long to the same audience. The work of poets was learned by rhapsodists, and recited from town to town. What now goes into newspaper editorials, magazine articles, sermons, lectures, books of commentary, etc., went into plays performed before whole towns and cities—Aristophanes was very much the same kind of critic as the shrewd men who now write newspaper columns. In wars, catastrophes, and other times of crisis, fire and smoke signals, semaphores, drums, mirror telegraphs, and runners carried messages "which ran like light from hill to hill." The Romans added to the system a new form of transmission by their sonptoria, or publishing houses, where fifty, or a hundred, or two hundred scribes copied a manuscript while a reader read it aloud from a platform at one end of the room; these publishing houses made public libraries possible.
Where a people had an adequate system of transmission of information and news they were a literate people even though the larger number of men could not read or write. Where the transmission system was lacking or was destroyed the people sank into barbarism, and from barbarism it vvas but a short step to savagery; the Dark Ages are so called because for three centuries western Europe had no system of coral Transmssion. The Masonic Fraternity was founded and grew up under such a system, and within itself many of the methods belonging to Oral Transmission are still in use; among them are such as are called the doctrines of Initiation, of .Mouth to Ear, Faithful Breast, Silence, Circumspection, Symbolism, Initiation, Signs, WIodes of Recognition, Visitation, Inspection, Promulgation, Announcements, and Communications.
MUMFORD ON FREEMASONRY.
In 1934 Lewis Murnford published Technics and Civilization; in 1938, The Culture of Cities; and in 1944, The Condition of Man (the three published by Harcourt, Brace and Company; New York.). Together they form a trilogy which sets forth the Rumford theory of civilization. The last named is a volume to be noted by a student of Freemasonry because in it the learned author devotes too pages to an analysis of the Fraternity and to the part it played, as he believed, or attempted to play, in modern culture.
It would be difficult to crowd a larger number of mistakes (and blunders) into four paragraphs. If a catena of these is given here it is for a purpose to be explained later:
1. Mumford begins by saying that "the agitation for the abolition of corporate privileges" zwas partly the work" of Freemasonry—referring to the French Revolution. As a matter of known fact the Revolution was not the "work" of Freemasonry- moreover King Louis XVI was himself a Mason as were hundreds of other leaders of the very .\neien Regime against which the Revolution made war. The Craft was on both sides—and therefore belonged to neither.
2. "In 1717 the first Lodge of Masons appeared in London . . . " He should have said, the first Grand Lodge. Lodges are known to have existed (flee Old Charges) sinee at least as early as the Fourteenth Century. Since the Grand Lodge of 1717 was formed by "four old Lodges" they were in existenee before it was- and in fact it had held a meeting in 1716
3. He sap 'in one aspect" Masonry was an attempt "tc counter Jesuitism." There was no Jesuitism in England in i717. Roman Catholies were members of Lodges until about 1800, including hundreds of Jesuits.
4. It was also, he writes, a "bond between the members of the middle classes at a time when all other bonds were being loosened . . . " This presupposes that Freeb masonry was invented in 1717- in fact the new Grand Lodge did not invent a new Masonry but only perpetuated one which had been at work generations before that loosening of bonds occurred.
5. "Masonry was romantic, indeed neo-Gothic, in its ceremonial- its initation ritual was an earlier return to a fantastic Middle Ages than The Castle of Otranto and Walpole's domicile on Strawberry Hill." A more pompously absurd statement could not be written.
6. "It did not succeed in the self-imposed tasE of creating an artificial religion of humanity." This is false bee cause Masonry made no attempt to found a religion.
7. Masonry and other "orders" ("it fostered many imitators") "attached themselves to the modern practice of life insurance . . . " Masonic Lodges have never used "life insurance"; it is forbidden by Masonic law. Nor has it ever "fostered" imitators.
8. "It was, from the beginning, a sort of post-ecclesiastical museum piece: a hybrid of romanticism and revolution which, like the mule, remained sterile . . . " in America there are at this writing more than three million members in more than fourteen thousand Lodges; if that be "sterility" Mr. Mumford will have to make the best of it.
And so on forth.
This ignorance of Freemasonry, its history and its purposes, by non-Masonic writers is in the first iDstance their private and moral responsibility, and on their heads be it; but it is in another sense, and for reasons of another kind, also the Fraternity's responsibility. More than 99% of the thousands of books by and about Freemasonry are written for the Fraternity itself, are therefore full of its technical language and references to a history unknown to non-Masons; nonMasons do not read it, because they cannot understand it. Freemasonry was one of the European issues in World War II; an increasing number of nonMasons are writing about it; it has become impossible for it to remain indifferent to what is being said about it, because indifference means defenselessness. It ought to write, produce, foster, and support a literature prepared expressly for non-Masons to read. Mr. Mumford himself has read enough books to sink a ship, lout apparently he has never found a reliable book about Freemasonry that he could
"MUSICIANS, WORSHIPFUL COMPANY OF."
Musicians in the Middle Ages had their own gilds (as they have unions now), and in the course of time these became a fraternity in the sense that the local gilds had everywhere the same customs, and a member of one local gild could dimit to another could visit, and could find employment. After two or three centuries they began to be incorporated. The earliest known charter was granted in 1469. They had written constitutions (with a legend of their art), an
oath, modes of recognition, officers, and they had a custom of admitting non-operative members strikingly analogous to the admittance of non-Operatives by Masons in the Seventeenth Century.
The details and reasons for this "Speculative" class of membership
would have had the same weight with Freemasons of the earliest periods, and suggests the probability that Operative Lodges may have admitted a certain number of non-Operatives, or Honorary members, from the beginning of the Fraternity. (See The Worshipful Company of Musicians [second edition]; private circulation; London; 1905.)
Until about the Fifteenth Century "musicians" and "minstrels" were used interchangeably, but it would appear that from the beginning there was a certain distinction between them in fact if not in name. Musicians played their instruments on almost any occasion, and in any desired number, for they could adapt themselves easily to circumstances; minstrels were to some extent a prophecy of the theater, had story-tellers, jugglers, etc., often traveled in troupes,
and appear to have given set programs in which instrumental and vocal music was mixed with entertainment of another kind, perhaps with clowning.
(See Scenes & Characters of the Middle Ages, by Edward L. Cutts; Simpkins, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent; London; 1925. In it are chapters on minstrels, pilgrims [containing curious sidelights on "That Which Was Lost"}l, gilds of minstrels and musicians, knights,
merchant gilds, etc.)