What is a cardinal?

Here is a definition of a word found within Masonic ritual that is not common outside of our Lodge rooms.

Cardinal

Look!  Is it a red bird?  Is it a baseball player?  Is it a leader of the Catholic church?  No.  It has something to do with virtues.  How can that be?  An outdoorsman, or navigator, or one who has worked with a compass to determine a direction might recall the four cardinal points of the compass being north, east, south, and west.  It is the educated man who understands that a ‘cardinal rule’ is the most profound rule, and that the ‘cardinal virtues’ are those natural virtues which are so important that all other virtues derive from them.  The cardinal virtues of prudence, temperance, fortitude, and justice, can be traced in both religion and philosophy to earliest times.  They are so fundamental, crucial, and important, that all other virtues hinge upon them.  The newly initiated Mason learns that when the four cardinal virtues are practised together with the three theological virtues (faith, hope, and charity), then within our fraternity may be found the three great social treasures of fraternity, liberty, and equality.  The cause of good then hinges on the cardinal virtues.

Provided for your daily advancement in Masonic knowledge from the Sarnia District Masonic Library.  Wor. Bro. Marshall Kern, Librarian & Historian. 

Masonic Library and Museum Association

On Saturday September 12, 2020, the Masonic Library and Museum Association presents their Annual General Meeting. It will be on-line, as so many events are this year.

I will be presenting at the AGM. Yes, I’ll talk about the Master’s Emblem — and my focus will be on the role that Libraries have to support research.

For more information and to register, visit this website:

UPDATE AFTER THE EVENT — Some AGMs are dull. Not this one. Dedicated librarians and museum staff attended from Europe, North America, and Australia. There was free-wheeling sharing of opinions and suggestions for software to catalogue books and publications. And even some good-natured comments about who has the largest personal library! As well, there were a couple of attendees just starting with Lodge or Grand Lodge libraries — all they have is a large pile of books and lots of questions. They were given lots of answers and encouragement. And my presentation was very well received. Next year’s AGM will be in Grand Rapids MI.

Appellations by any other name…

Here is another word used in Masonic ritual, and used not quite the same way outside our Lodges. Appellations.

The worldly man hears this word and immediately thinks of different wine regions around the world.  There are certain locales noted for producing a local grape variety which can become synonymous with the region.  But what does this have to with a lecture in a Masonic ritual?  Nothing. 

Masonic ritual traces its origin to an earlier age; when certain words held different meanings than are commonly encountered today.  Such it is with the word ‘appellations’.  In an earlier time this meant the naming of an object.  The word ‘appellations’ comes to English from the French language, where even now the verb ‘appeler’ means ‘to call’ something by a name.  Thus in Masonic ritual, it is noted that a specific object is known to Masons by one name, and a similar object is known by those working in other trades by some other names. 

Learning this more ancient meaning allows a Mason to expand his lexicon, and add esoteric meanings to his vocabulary.

James Agar and Contact Tracing

A significant challenge, and extremely important task, during the current COVID-19 pandemic is ‘contact tracing’.  Knowing who has been in contact with an infected person is key to interrupting the spread of the virus.  Major tech companies are launching apps!  Some governments are monitoring movements of their citizens!

Masons have them beat.  And we’ve been doing so for over two centuries!

The normal thing for Masons to do when they attend their own Lodge, or visit another Lodge, is to sign the Tyler’s Register.  This is a record of who attended a meeting; and when the meeting was held.  This information is so valuable to a Lodge that old Registers are kept in a secure location.  The Tyler’s Register is considered (along with the minutes) of the vitality of a Lodge.

Indeed, concordant and attendant bodies do likewise.  Scottish Rite, Order of the Eastern Star, Royal Arch, Shrine, all have some formal means of tracking attendance.

Thus – every Masonic body can use their Tyler’s Register to inform members who attended a meeting that someone later became ill.

Why do we have this very useful tool?  It is because of the insight and authority of RW Bro. James Agar.  In 1803 he proposed that a register be used so that all who entered a Masonic meeting would sign, and be confirmed as qualified to enter the meeting.  Now, over 200 years later, we can continue this tradition and use the Tyler’s Register to trace all Masons who might have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus if a Brother becomes ill after a meeting.

Let the dictates of right reason lead us.  Stay home if we are sick.  Wash your hands frequently.  Don’t touch your face.  Stay physically distant; and wear a face mask when you can’t.  Demonstrate brotherly love.  Offer relief.  Seek truth.

Who was RW Bro. James Agar?  A biography is posted here:  http://www.mastersemblem.com/JamesAgar.html

What is ‘Preferment’?

Here is a definition of a word found within Masonic ritual that is not common outside of our Lodge rooms.

Preferment. This is a uncommon word today and someone hearing for the first time might think it is a ‘preference’ or a sign of favouritism.

Indeed, such a misunderstanding could feed into conspiracy theories about our Craft, or the false idea that to become a Mason is a path to fame and fortune. To the educated man well-studied in English history or well-read in English literature, ‘preferment’ means one who has received an appointment to a higher position in the English court or the Church of England.

In this sense, a preferment is synonymous with a promotion. A well-studied Mason will recognize within our Ritual that we congratulate a candidate for his preferment and remind him that his behaviour and actions have earned the honour which leads him to have a new character or identity. It is not favouritism. To a Mason the word ‘preferment’ means a rank he has earned by his own labour and with the assistance of his Lodge. The challenge to all Masons is to assure ourselves we are assisting each candidate for our mysteries to attain their preferment.

We should honour those who by merit and ability have earned preferment and rank as Grand Lodge officers.

Parallelepipedon

Here is the definition of another word that is used in Masonic Ritual, but is not common outside the Lodge room.

Parallelepipedon.

The Entered Apprentice hears this word as a description of ‘the form of the lodge’. Every Entered Apprentice I’ve spoken with after his Initiation admits that he has never before heard the word parallelpipedon. And he admits he has no idea what it means!

I try to help with the explanation that it is a shape defined in the first English translation of the works of the geometrician Euclid. It is a shape or space having six sides of which the opposite sides are parallel.

And I can add that in this year of 2020, the word is now 550 years old! A detailed explanation of my research is accepted for publication in Ars Quatuor Coronati Volume 133, to be released in November 2020. You may subscribe to receive it at www.quatuorcoronati.com.

And here is a short video courtesy of Bro. Danny McLaughlin and ‘Squaring the Circle’.

I’ve never heard that word before!

Here is a definition of a word found within Masonic ritual that is not common outside of Masonic Lodge rooms.

Parallelepipedon. The Entered Apprentice hears this word as a description of ‘the form of the lodge’.  Every Entered Apprentice I’ve spoken with after his Initiation admits that he has never before heard the word parallelepipedon.  And he has no idea what it means.  I try to help with the explanation that it is a shape defined in the first English translation of the works of the geometrician Euclid: that of having six sides of which the opposite sides are parallel.

Image of a copy of the 1570 Billingsly Euclid at the University of Waterloo. The book includes many drawings which may be copied, cut out, and used to form the geometric shapes that are defined and described in the text.

And I can add that in this year of 2020, the word parallelepipedon is now 550 years old! A detailed explanation of my research is accepted for publication in Ars Quatuor Cornonati 133, November 2020.  Subscribe at www.quatuorcoronati.com

Is it just fantasy?

A Brother made a comment on a social media platform that is, in my opinion, quite valid.  He observed that explanations of old Masonic artefacts are often just fantasy.  No one can claim “this gavel was used when building the Temple at Jerusalem”.  I agree, and can add that doing any good Masonic research is hard work.  It demands time, creative problem-solving skills, and then communication skills to be able to share the result.

There are two goals with any good Masonic research.  One is to share knowledge, to inform, and to educate other Masons.  This is visible when the end product of research is delivered.  Whether in a tyled Lodge meeting, or published somewhere, good research adds to the body of knowledge of all men, and more particularly to the knowledge of Masons.

The second goal is to make a change in yourself.  This is achieved by ongoing examination of the process and products of research.  In my own case, it is easy to say that I have traveled down many false paths, and collected lots of irrelevant information, as I’ve looked at artefacts, and ideas.  I think my skills have improved, and my confidence grows that I am supporting the fundamental principle of truth.

So when I share my research I also share my sources of information. 

My article on a Highland Lodge Seal includes mention of my contacts with the current Regiment, and with the Grand Lodge of Ireland.

My biography of James Agar includes over a dozen of the most relevant primary sources of information so others can confirm my research.

My small book regarding the motto Audi, Vide, Tace has 20 references in the footnotes and 3 pages of images.

My book The Master’s Emblem Explained for Masons has 7 pages listing my sources.

But back to the observation of the Brother.  I am glad that he made the comment because it means he is looking for Masonic education.  He is searching for truth, for knowledge, and for understanding.  I commend him for doing so.  I hope that my efforts in Masonic education assist him in his researches.

A Military (and Irish) Masonic Lodge Seal

The Battle of Waterloo bi-centenary was marked on June 18th 2015.  It is of interest to note that a Masonic artifact of that time is presently owned by Victoria Lodge No. 56, GRC, in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada.

At a regular meeting of Victoria Lodge No. 56 on June 6, 1933, an interesting and historic presentation was made to Victoria Lodge by W. M. Lowery in the form of a Masonic Lodge Seal which had been in the possession of the family of the donor’s wife for over 115 years.  The Seal is now in a display case and bears the following inscription: “Masonic Seal of the 71st Regiment, Gordon Highlanders presented to Victoria Lodge No. 56 by W. M. Lowery June 6, 1933.  This Lodge disbanded after the Battle of Waterloo by order of the Government.  The Seal has been in the possession of the Treas. George McPherson’s Family since that time.  This attached ribbon is the same as used on Waterloo Medals presented by King George III in 1815.” 

Photograph of the display case, plaque, and Lodge Seal now in the possession of Victoria Lodge No. 56 GRC, Sarnia, Ontario

It is this Lodge Seal that is the subject of this blog.  I hasten to add that I could sub-title this blog “Ongoing research” for as I’ve reached out to others to confirm specific details, I’ve learnt that errors can, and have, crept into the story of this Masonic Lodge Seal.

First I shall remind you of the significance of a Lodge Seal.  Seals are ancient instruments of identification, rank, and authority. A seal is used to prove authenticity, or attest to the accuracy of a document.  In English, the term has come to mean both the instrument used to make the seal, and the seal itself. 

Sealing wax is seldom used now.  Instead, seals are commonly a device to emboss paper, leaving the desired image standing out on the page.  The seal may be applied over an official signature, or a decorative foil shape may be applied to the page and embossed with the seal.

Photograph of the face of the Lodge Seal that is the subject of this blog.

The Seal is circular, with a braided edge within the circumference. A large Triangle shape is inscribed 71st REGT LODGE No 895 MEMENTO MORI; which is Latin and is simply translated as “Remember your mortality”.  The 3 spaces between the triangle shape and the edge each bear 4 identical emblems, for a total of 12 emblems.  Within the triangle are recognizable symbols including a ladder of many staves, skull and bones, and a coffin.  A Mason (even one who has had his degrees conferred in a different Ritual in another jurisdiction) will recognize such things as a ‘cable tow’, Jacob’s Ladder from scripture, emblems of mortality, and the grave of one of the first Grand Masters of our Fraternity. The other items should provoke a sense of wonder, and respect, for the traditions and Ritual they represent.

The information given about the Lodge Seal is that it was owned by The Gordon Highlanders.  It is reasonable to ask “Who Are the Gordon Highlanders?”

There is a wealth of additional information about the military history of the Gordon Highlanders stored, appropriately, at the Gordon Highlanders Museum. The museum is located in Aberdeen, Scotland.  Some wonderful information is shared online.

The Gordon Highlanders were an active regiment at the time of the Battle of Waterloo.  Stirring legend has it that the Gordons and the Greys together charged the French column, crying “Scotland Forever!” and with the Gordons hanging on to the stirrups of the cavalry horses.   Who would not want to be connected in some way with such a history?

A thumbnail of the famous ‘Scotland Forever’ painting by Lady Butler. See Wikipedia for more information, including details of where this magnificent painting is on display — at Leeds Art Gallery, Leeds, United Kingdom

Available information shows that The Grand Lodge of Ireland issued Warrant 895, on 2nd April 1801 to the 71st Foot, Highland Light Infantry.  A duplicate warrant was issued the 3rd of May, 1808.  The warrant was returned to the Grand Lodge “in obedience to order of Commanding Officer, 3rd December, 1835.”

The Grand Lodge of Ireland was the first to issue what is called a Travelling Warrant to Masons serving in the military. 

There is available to us this information: that a warrant was issued to the 71st Regiment.  And the Warrant number was 895.   These numbers appear on the Lodge Seal with us today.

Please note as well that this reference speaks to a duplicate warrant issued in 1808, and the warrant being returned.  And the story accompanying the Lodge Seal states that the Lodge was disbanded after the Battle of Waterloo by the government.

Image of the Warrant issued in 1808 to Lodge 895. I photographed the actual Warrant on a visit to the Archives of the Grand Lodge of Ireland in June of 2017

BUT – there are inconsistencies.  While the Gordon Highlanders are quite famous for their role at the Battle of Waterloo, the present Seal does not belong to them.  The 71st Regiment was not part of the Gordon Highlanders.  The 71st Regiment is the Highland Light Infantry.

So, now some additional research is required.  We cannot accept the presented information at face value!

Fortunately the British Army has maintained a tradition of keeping detailed records.  And histories of various regiments have been prepared and made available by professional historians or zealous volunteers and supporters of some regiments.  So we can trace the history of the 71st Regiment from 1758 forward. 

The 71st Regiment served in a number of campaigns, in Europe and North America.  During the American War of Independence the Regiment was known as the Fraser Highlanders.

In 1801, when the Grand Lodge of Ireland issued Warrant No. 895, the Regiment was in India.

1802 the 71st Regiment returned to Scotland.  But in 1806 they were shipped to South Africa when Great Britain annexed the Cape Colony.  Their role was to provide security to new colonists.

But almost immediately they were off to South America and engaged in the battles for Buenos Aires and Montevideo.  These battles were disasters.  Many men were killed.  Many more were captured and held prisoner for a while.  The regimental colours were captured.  So too were the Masonic jewels of the Lodge 895.

When negotiations for the release of prisoners were successful, the British Army withdrew from South America.  The Regiment was shipped to Portugal in 1808 to join the Peninsular Wars in Portugal and Spain.

The Regimental history notes that new Colours were presented in April of 1808.  Recall as well that the Grand Lodge of Ireland issued a duplicate warrant in May of 1808.  This point of convergence of the timing of something significant for the Regiment as well as something significant for the Lodge must be noted.

It is a matter of official record that in 1815 during the Battle of Waterloo, Sir Henry Clinton led the 2nd Division, including the 71st Regiment Highland Light Infantry.  His troops helped to defeat and pursue Napoleon’s Imperial Guard at the end of the battle.

As an aside, the community of Clinton, Ontario, derives its name from a connection to Sir Henry Clinton. 

A photo of the official historical plaque in Clinton, Ontario. Photo by Alan L. Brown

For the purposes of this short presentation, it is sufficient to note that the 71st Regiment was at the Battle of Waterloo.  The 71st Regiment lost 16 officers and 171 men at Waterloo.

The 71st Regiment, the Highland Light Infantry, have evolved since the Battle of Waterloo.  The Regiment now proudly carries the name The City of Glasgow Regiment.   There is an active Association maintaining the history and traditions of the Regiment.

Many Masons were present at the Battle of Waterloo.  Three key military leaders were Masons:  the Duke of Wellington leading the British, Field Marshal Michel Ney leading the French Napoleonic army and Field Marshal Gehard von Blucher leading the Prussians.  Napoleon was not a Freemason; and he lost.

I will turn now to the ribbon on the Seal.  It is described as being that of The Waterloo Medal.

My photo of the Masonic Lodge Seal, with the ribbon wrapped and stitched around the grip.

The Waterloo Medal and ribbon are well-described in several sources.

What is of note is that this medal was the first award issued to all ranks, and set a precedent for the issue of campaign medals.  It was awarded to all those who served at the battles of Ligny, Quatre Bras and Waterloo 16th-18th June 1815. Some 36,000 medals were issued.  Masons might be impressed that on that occasion, all ranks met and left on the level.

The ribbon for the Waterloo Medal is crimson, with dark blue edging.  Thus it is certainly understandable that the ribbon on our Seal could be from one of the issued medals.

But there is another error in the information handed to us when the Seal was received by Victoria Lodge No. 56. The plaque within this display case states that Lodge 895 for the 71st Regiment was disbanded after the Battle of Waterloo by order of the Government.

Worshipful Brother Gerry McAuley, a Past Master and Lodge Historian for Lodge HLI No. 1459 in Glasgow, Scotland, prepared a history of the Lodges of the 71st Regiment.  He found the letter sent by the Lodge Secretary to the Grand Lodge of Ireland that accompanied the Warrant when it was returned.  In November 1835, the Commanding Officer of the 71st Regiment would not allow a “Secret Society” to exist in the Regiment under his command.  Thus, the warrant was surrendered not by order of the Government, but by order of the commanding officer.

We can conclude:

  • The 71st Regiment of the Highland Light Infantry held Warrant No. 895 from the Grand Lodge of Ireland at the time of the Battle of Waterloo.
  • This Regimental number and Lodge number appear on our Seal.
  • The Highland Light Infantry fought at the Battle of Waterloo
  • The Battle of Waterloo medal has a ribbon that looks like the ribbon on our Seal.
  • We can speculate that this Seal was present with the Highland Light Infantry at the Battle of Waterloo.
  • We can speculate that this artifact is over 200 years old and is the oldest item in Sarnia District — with a clear history — that represents Masonry.

We can be assured that this artifact will be respected for many years to come.

May 10th

May 10th! This year we celebrate Mother’s Day. Cards, calls, best wishes, and happiness. Even when apart, we can still care.
Back in 1805 there wasn’t the celebration of Mother’s Day.
For James Agar and Sarah Fletcher it was the celebration of their wedding. James was a successful lawyer. Sarah was the widow of a lawyer. Their marriage was noted in the newspapers of the day.
More of the biography of the esteemed Brother who gave us the Master’s Emblem is shared in the blog — see the Menu!