Formation of Speculative Freemasonry

Discussion in 'History and Research' started by Bevan Jones, Sep 21, 2018.

  1. Bevan Jones

    Bevan Jones Registered User


    Below are my research notes from Part V of my book, discussing the emergence of Speculative Freemasonry. Would be interested to discuss this area further with anyone interested.

    James I of England and VI of Scotland ruled during the “Golden Age” of Elizabethan literature and drama. William Shakespeare and Francis Bacon provided commentary on events taking place at the time, whilst James himself penned literary works on witchcraft (“Daemonologie”), and how to be an effective monarch, as well as sponsoring the translation of the Bible into English, to become known as the King James Bible.

    King James also spent lavishly, including on his masonry and stonework. In December 1583, James appointed William Schaw as principal Maister o' Wark (“Master of Works”) to the Crown of Scotland for life, responsible for all royal castles and palaces.

    Schaw, a loyal Catholic, replaced the Protestant Robert Drummond, most likely as a direct result of the Gowrie Regime. Around the time of Schaw’s installation as master, the 7th Lord Seton was sent as ambassador to France, accompanied by his son Alexander Seton and William Schaw, known to be friends due to their shared interest in architecture. Returning the following year, Schaw was intimately involved in building the Seton Collegiate Church and Seton Palace. George Seton remained in France, not liking the pro-Protestant turn of events in Scotland.

    The First Schaw Statutes, written in December 1598, were rooted in the “Old Charges” of stonemasonry, typically describing the duties, charges and regulations of a mason’s lodge. However, many also included a prayer and description of the Seven Liberal Arts, followed by a romantic history of the craft. Schaw included additional material to describe a hierarchy of wardens, deacons and masters. Apprentices joining a guild would be bound to their masters for seven years. Within Freemasonry, an initiate symbolically rolls up his trouser leg to show that he is not bound with chain irons, and is coming to the lodge of his own free will and accord.

    Out of interest, anyone joining one of London’s Trade Guilds today receives a copy of a little red book, known as the “Rules for the Conduct of Life”. In it masters are warned to inroll their apprentices in the guild within 12 months of binding, otherwise they could be freely discharged.
    Schaw spent more time in Edinburgh than Glasgow and his earlier trip to France with Lord Seton had been funded by the town of Edinburgh, considering the kings lack of funds at the time.

    This loyalty, and the fact that his great friend, Alexander Seton, had now become Provost of Edinburgh, goes a long way to explaining why Schaw favoured the Operative Lodge of Edinburgh (“Mary’s Chapel Lodge No. 1”) over Mother Kilwinning Lodge No. 0 near Glasgow, in his Statutes.
    Mary’s Chapel Lodge is in possession of the oldest known operative masonic lodge records, dating back to July 1599, shortly before the publication of Schaw’s Second Statute.

    In his Second Statute, Schaw attempted to make up to Kilwinning by declaring it the “head” lodge for the operative craft and giving it regional authority for west Scotland, whilst confirming all its previous practices. Interestingly the officials of the lodge were recommended to ensure that all fellows and apprentices "take trial of the art of memorie".

    Both Schaw and Seton, by now the Earl of Dunfermline, were associates of William Fowler, who had instructed James VI’s wife, Queen Anne of Denmark, in the art of memory. This was something he had learnt from the Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno. Bruno himself was heavily influenced by the works of Ibn Rushd, whom our Templar friends would also have known around 1198.

    Having placated operative lodges in the West of Scotland, Schaw now also encountered problems from the St. Clair Family. Over 100 years prior, William St. Clair, the builder of Rosslyn Chapel, had been a great employer of stonemasons, notably the Tironesian / Templar experts in gothic architecture. The St. Clair descendants thus felt they had some say in the matter of how operative masonic lodges should be run, even though Rosslyn Castle had by now been destroyed and the surviving male line of the family had fallen out of favour with the ruling elite of the time.

    However, the Setons and St. Clairs were still close and Dunfermline Lodge was supported by both the St. Clairs and Alexander Seton, Earl of Dunfermline. Schaw now placated them as well, by confirming the role of the Lairds of Rosslyn as “patrons and protectors of the Craft”, in his St. Clair Statutes of 1600 and 1601. Schaw died in 1602 and his tomb inscription, written by his great friend Alexander Seton, begins as follows:
    This humble structure of stones covers a man of excellent skill, notable probity, singular integrity of life, adorned with the greatest of virtues – William Schaw, Master of the King's Works, President of the Sacred Ceremonies, and the Queen's Chamberlain.

    Schaw’s Second Statue to Kilwinning Lodge is interesting, in that it appears to have opened the door for the transition from operative masonry, to speculative freemasonry. With King James VI (I of England) enjoying a largely peaceful reign, many noblemen had time on their hands and filled it with arts, culture and philosophy. The Seven Liberal Arts was emerging as the bedrock of any young gentleman’s education at the time, consisting of the:
    - Trivium (Three Roads) – Grammar, Rhetoric and Logic; and
    - Quadrivium (Four Roads) – Arithmetic, Geometry, Music & Astronomy
    Arithmetic is number, Geometry is number in space, Music is number in time, and Astronomy is number in space and time.

    Scotland was awash with hermetic and cabbalastic philosophers, mostly originating from France. The Art of Memory was proving highly popular among the intelligentsia of the time. Most royals had also maintained an interest in esotericism, including Queen Elizabeth. John Dee, the alchemist, occult philosopher and mathematician, was an advisor to Elizabeth in later life. He was one of the first fellows of Trinity College, having just been founded by Henry VIII. He especially loved the quadrivium, although astronomy was indistinguishable from astrology at the time.

    Even mathematics was regarded with suspicion by church authorities due to its association with Eastern Nubian “black arts”. Indeed, the terms “conjuring” and “calculating” were often used inter-changeably and Dee’s practise of communing with Angels was interpreted by a “divine language”, infused by numbers. Dee was eminent in both the worlds of magic and science, during a time when they were starting to become independent from each other. Universities still taught mostly religious dogma and the emerging scientists had to be careful of not dealing in “magical practise”, lest they be hauled before church authorities.
    Alongside, and out of the chaos of ideas constituting alchemy, astrology, cabala, magic and other hermetic beliefs, emerged the foundations of science. The rise of speculative Freemasonry might therefore be considered to be an attempt to unite traditional religion with the emerging scientific enquiry of the age.

    As well as having the oldest operative lodge minutes, Mary’s Chapel Lodge No. 1 also records the admission of Lord Alexander into the lodge in 1634. Was this Alexander Seton? And did Schaw, Seton and Dickson introduce the Art of Memory into masonic ritual? It’s certainly a strong possibility. We thus know that speculative masonry must have emerged sometime between the 1599 operative minutes and the 1634 initiation of a Lord into the lodge, who clearly would not have been an operative stonemason. This was also the period in which the movement known as Rosicrucianism rose to prominence.

    Emerging around 1615, shortly after John Dee’s death, Rosicrucianism seized on the confusion and interest in esoteric matters that society was gripped with at the time. Alchemy was being confused with chemistry, astrology with astronomy, and mysticism with mathematics. Francis Bacon did much to clarify things. He came to be known as a key advocate and practitioner of the scientific method, also called “the father of empiricism”. He advanced inductive reasoning and experimental observation as the only means of scientific knowledge.

    Rosicrucianism may have been a romantic counter-effort to scientific rationality. People have always been interested in the unknown and often fall prey to “self-styled gurus” who claim to provide answers. An interesting observation is that the Rosicrucianism movement was born out of the emerging Protestantism, as was most of the esoteric in general, supported largely by Frederick V, the “Winter King” of Bohemia, whose daughter Princess Sophia became the founder of the British Hanoverian line. Frederick had married Elizabeth Stuart, daughter of James VI.

    Catholic power was ultimately victorious over the esoteric movement and the Rosicrucian manifestos (“Fama Fraternitatis”, “Confessio Fraternitatis” and the “Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz”) went underground, only enhancing their mystical status and desirability.

    Seton and Schaw were to become acquainted with the Catholic Alexander Dickson, another student of Giordano Bruno. Dickson proposed learning the Art of Memory using an example of a hermetic Egyptian cult, transmitted by Celts, thus making it more palatable to the Scots. One can just imagine the confusing historical threads being invented and inter-woven at the time. Whilst earlier advocates of Hermeticism had found a receptive audience with Marie de Guise and her daughter, Mary Queen of Scots, proponents of the Art of Memory now found refuge at the court of King James VI and his wife, Anne of Denmark.

    Although baptised as a Roman Catholic, James was brought up Presbyterian and, following the Union of the Crowns, he leaned towards Anglican practise. James had great trouble with both Protestants and Catholics in Scotland. Anglicanism seemed like a reasonable compromise. Speculative Freemasonry appears to have emerged from Scots Protestant and Anglican families, such as Hamilton and Murray, splitting from the traditional Templar Catholic families of Seton and St. Clair. However, as Freemasonry tried to provide a united platform for reconciling science with spirit, it also appears to have tried to reconcile differing religious views, with a united reference to the “Great Architect of the Universe”.

    James VI would have had a clear insight into both sides of the coin. Having inherited Sandiland’s collection of Templar documents, he was free to interpret as he pleased. He is thought to have been quite interested in the emerging philosophy of Masonry and although he did not appear to have joined a lodge himself, he most likely shared much information with friends.

    First Scottish Freemasons
    James Hamilton, 1st Duke of Hamilton, was also initiated into Mary’s Chapel Lodge in May 1640. As a military leader, Hamilton went on to petition Robert Moray to join Freemasonry, which he later did whilst on campaign in England. As an experienced military engineer, Robert Moray was appointed quartermaster-general for the Scots Army invading England in 1640 near Newcastle upon Tyne. Although Moray was initiated into a Scottish lodge, the event took place south of the border, and is the earliest known example of a masonic initiation into speculative Freemasonry on English soil.

    Moray was to regularly use a five-pointed star, his masonic mark, on all his correspondence. Moray was directly descended from William Murray, of Tullibardine, father-in-law to James Sandilands, Hospitaller Prior at Torpichen who had previously surrendered all Templar records to the crown.

    James VI and the Murrays of Tullibardine were great grandsons of the 1st Earl of Atholl and Elizabeth St. Clair, via one daughter having married the Earl of Lennox and another marrying a Murray.
    Dorothea Stewart, heiress of Atholl, married the second Earl of Tullibardine, whose son then succeeded as Earl of Atholl through her inheritance. His son, John Murray, became the 1st Duke of Atholl and fathered a line of prominent Freemasons. See Bloodlines Figure VI.

    Later, when the various English and Scottish Grand Lodges were formed, the 3rd and 4th Dukes of Atholl presided over the Antient Grand Lodge for over half of its existence. Thus, the Antient Lodge, known as the “Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of England according to the Old Constitutions”, was also known as the “Atholl Lodge”. The Dukes of Atholl were also subsequently Grand Masters of the Grand Lodge of Scotland.

    Interestingly, the Queen Mother’s family is directly descended from the 1st Earl of Tullibardine, whilst her husband George Windsor VI, was directly descended from James Stuart VI. Thus, the formation of early Scottish Freemasonry is rooted in the ancestry of the current English Royal family.

    With King James VI having effectively moved his court to England, we can assume that any masonic activity, both operative and speculative, would have migrated accordingly. London was essentially now the centre of an emerging age of enlightenment, with many Scottish scientists moving south of the border. Clearly speculative lodges were being formed in England too.

    Elias Ashmole
    Ashmole was known as an antiquarian, politician, astrologer and student of alchemy. He believed in Bacon’s empirical methods and, together with Robert Moray, was one of the founding Fellows of the Royal Society, a key institution in the development of experimental science. The Ashmolean Museum at the University of Oxford was founded on his donation of his antiquarian library.

    As the earliest known speculative English Freemason, his diary entry for 16th October 1646 reads, “I was made a Free Mason at Warrington in Lancashire, with Henry Mainwaring…” Although there is only one other mention of masonic activity in his diary he seems to have remained in good standing throughout his life. He was still attending meetings in 1682, with a diary entry for March that year reading, “I was the Senior Fellow among them, it being 35 yeares since I was admitted... We all dyned at the halfe Moone Taverne in Cheapeside, at a Noble Dinner prepaired at the charge of the New-accepted Masons." It seems not much has changed over the years.

    Yours, Fraternally
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2018
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  2. Bevan Jones

    Bevan Jones Registered User

    The Invisible College
    The existence of an Invisible College of philosophical and scientific enquiry has been much speculated upon. It seems to have originated around the efforts of Samuel Hartlib, an “intelligencer” who tried to setup an educational institute around the concept of Francis Bacons’ Solomons House, as outlined in his “New Atlantis”. This would be equivalent today to a modern research university. The “Hartlib Circle” of scientific correspondents most likely came to be referenced as the Invisible College, with aims to lobby parliament for a centralised institution for the study of science and exchange of information.

    This was however to happen naturally, as an extended circle of men, convened under Theodore Haak in 1645, came to meet at Gresham College in London, to discuss exactly these matters. The College had been founded by Thomas Gresham in 1597 in London, and to this day, still holds free public lectures around the subjects of the trivium and quadrivium. The early success of the College led to the formation of the Royal Society around 1663.
    Of interest is the fact that the discussion of religion and politics was banned at Invisible College meetings and is still banned at any Masonic meeting to this day, for these are topics that divide men and cannot be dealt with on a rational basis.

    The climax of occult (hidden) magic, alchemy, cabala, hermeticism and finally Rosicrucianism is generally considered to be around 1620. Out of the chaos of the esoteric, came the order of science. For this was the point at which Francis Bacon and Rene Descartes were thinking about method, not as occultists, but as scientists. However, these were still dangerous times to be meeting as scientists. Perhaps Speculative Masonic lodges offered a safe location to meet, especially for those not sure about the emergence of this new science. Whilst the new scientists were threatening Church dogma, Freemasonry would have offered an ideal middle ground, retaining the requirement of a belief in a supreme being, but still being inquisitive about the hidden mysteries of nature and science.
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2018
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  3. Lightlife

    Lightlife Site Benefactor Premium Member

    Thank you for this. The Ashmolean Museum is one of my favorite places. I lived in England from 1983-87 and went there several times seeing something new every time.
  4. JamestheJust

    JamestheJust Registered User

    >Emerging around 1615, shortly after John Dee’s death, Rosicrucianism ...

    It is perhaps worth noting that the rose appears in the Bible for the first time in KJV. Prior to that the word, meaning a poisonous bulb, was translated as lily or crocus or flower of the field.

    The new translation as rose gave the Rosicrucians a claim to be Christian and therefore free of the Holy Inquisition.

    Hence I might wonder whether the Rosicrucians arranged to have the rose inserted and therefore whether they were in fact a powerful organization at the time of writing the KJV.
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  5. Warrior1256

    Warrior1256 Site Benefactor

    Wow! Lots of informative and interesting info.
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  6. MasonicHermit

    MasonicHermit Registered User

    I'm with you on this. That's a lot of info.

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