By Larry J. Price, PM, April 27, 2019
That is the 15th and last item in the list of the Ancient “Landmarks” of Freemasonry in the “Tennessee Craftsman”. The old adage of saving the best for last may be appropriate in this instance because this final entry covers all the others before it.
There is no known origin of our Craft. To quote part of the Entered Apprentice Degree, “Although its origin is covered with darkness and its history is, to a great extent, obscure, yet we can confidently assert that it is the most ancient society in the world.” That constitutes a very admirable pedigree.
Note that the quote says “society”; that excludes churches and religious organizations. Some theorists, however, propound that our Order dates back to ancient times even before modern religions originated; these concepts do not conform to the opinion of most Masonic scholars.
Various instances have been found recognizing Masonic activity as far back as the 13th Century. Other than those scattered indications, recorded annals of the organized Craft essentially began in 1717 when the Grand Lodge of England was established. That is the source from which modern Freemasonry derives.
By extension backward from that momentous point, the traditions and lore of the Middle Ages stoneworker guilds form most of the basis for the technical aspects we use today in our rituals. Most “experts” on Freemasonry regard these guild guidelines as extant evidence for what we do.
There must be a reason that an organization that has existed intact for such a period of time is still viable and functioning in this day and age. That basis is the unchanging nature of who we are, what we do, and what we stand for: the Ancient Landmarks.
Two other concepts serve as examples of stasis as a proper condition for continuity: the Laws of Economics and the United States Constitution.
The Laws of Economics (self-interest, competition, and supply and demand) have worked flawlessly when they were allowed to do so. Any attempt to disrupt one or more of these basic factors results in chaos or, at least, significant disruption in the economic stability of a nation, even the world. Given enough opportunity, even those distortions will correct themselves in due time if no other interference is introduced, but the interim discomfiture to the populace can be very painful.
The U.S. Constitution was established by brilliant minds. They laid out a plan of governance that would serve as a guideline for a successful future for those under the purview its provisions. They were so sure of their decisions that the measures required to change the basic document are very difficult.
Tinkering with the law of the land, especially misguided decisions by judicial activists who base their rulings on personal bias rather than on the Constitution, has caused grievous harm to our society. Those actions have inflicted further mischief when the irrelevant decisions were used as precedents for additional meddling in what has been proven to work for more than two centuries.
The Ancient Landmarks are similar in nature to these two basic concepts. They lay out a system of governance, membership qualifications, and credo that have worked so admirably that the Order has existed unchanged for centuries.
Individual grand lodges have the right to lay out their constitutions and codes the way they see fit, but none of those provisions can violate the Landmarks; doing so would invalidate their Charters. The penalty is severe, as by violating this basic set of guidelines would change the essential fabric of this institution. Strict adherence is necessary to extend the historic nature of the Craft into the foreseeable future.
Every Mason is inculcated with the necessity to adhere to these ideals. He is told through his initiating, passing, and raising how the basic laws work, and the Landmarks are available to him in the back of his “Tennessee Craftsman”. In addition, the State Code is something to which he can refer at his will in order to understand how all the system works as a contiguous unit.
Recently, some members of the fraternity in this state have sought to change one of the stipulations regarding sexual morality. This attempt was defeated, and the perpetrators were expelled. “Freemasonry is a beautiful system of morality”, and that premise must be perpetuated at all costs.
Some modernists may claim that “we must change with the times”. If that were the case, why did we not change during the previous centuries? The longevity of the Fraternity exemplifies that such ideas are inappropriate in our institution.
In conclusion, Freemasonry has existed in our present state because it has not changed its primary ideals. There is no reason to alter those at this juncture.
“No innovation can [or should] be made in the body of Masonry.”