Sunday, February 21, 2016

...In The Spirit of Critical Truth...

"It is the opprobrium of Freemasonry that its history has never yet been written in a spirit of critical truth*; that credulity, and not incredulity, has been the foundation on which all Masonic historical investigations have hitherto been built; that imagination has too often "lent enchantment to the view;" that the missing links of a chain of evidence have been frequently supplied by gratuitous invention; and that statements of vast importance have been carelessly sustained by the testimony of documents whose authenticity has not been proved.

"And this leads me to the important question: How is the history of Freemasonry to be written, so that the narrative shall win the respect of its enemies, and secure the assent and approbation of its friends?

"In the first place, we must begin by a strict definition of the word Masonry. If we make it synonymous with Freemasonry, then must we confine ourselves closely to the events that are connected with the Institution in its present form and organization. We may then say that Masonry received a new organization and a restoration in the beginning of the eighteenth century. We may trace this very Institution, with an older but not dissimilar form, in the Masonic gilds of Europe; in the corporations of Stone-masons of Germany; in the travelling Freemasons of the Middle Ages, and connect it with the Colleges of Architects of Rome. Such a history will not want authentic memorials to substantiate its truth, and there will be no difficulty in conferring upon the Institution an enviable antiquity.

"But if we confound the term Masonry with Geometry, with Architecture, or with Moral Science, we shall beget in the mind, equally of the writer and the reader, such a confusion of ideas as can never lead to any practical result. And yet this has been the prevailing error of all the great English writers on Masonry in the last, and, with a few exceptions, even in the present century. At one moment they speak of Masonry as a mystical institution which, in its then existing form, was familiar to their readers. Soon afterwards, perhaps on the same page, a long paragraph is found to refer, without any change of name, under the identical term Masonry, to the rise of Architecture, to the progress of Geometry ( or perhaps to the condition of the moral virtues.

  "No greater honor could accrue to any man than that of having been the founder of a new school of Masonic history, in which the fictions and loose statements of former writers would be rejected, and in which the rule would be adopted that has been laid down as a vital maxim of all inductive science, — in words that have been chosen as his motto by a recent powerful investigator of historical truth:

'Not to exceed and not to fall short of facts — not to add and not to take away. To state the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.' "

Source: OCR from Bro. Albert Mackey's Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, 1917 edition pages 333-335

* that is, until 2014 when "The Craft Unmasked: The Uncommon Origin of Freemasonry and its Practice" was published.

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