[Grand Lodge]
[Calendar] [Search] [Resources] [History] [Links] [Sitemap]

Ars Quatuor Coronatorum of the Twentieth Century
(with discussion of a single theme)
by Bro. Roeinton B. Khambatta
Inaugural Paper delivered to Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076 9 November 2000
BY 1886 THREE masonic publications had received particular recognition, namely the Freemasons' Magazine,1 the Freemasons' Quarterly Review2 and the Freemasons' Chronicle, each of which has received attention in previous volumes of AQC. Yet Ars Quatuor Coronatorum itself, the official Transactions of Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076, consisting of twelve volumes in the nineteenth century, and a full hundred volumes in the twentieth, has still to receive similar critical attention.
The history of the lodge commemorating its centenary has been diligently recorded by the late Bro. Colin Dyer3 and can bear neither repetition nor embellishment. However, just before the twentieth century closes, we should pause and observe what Ars Quatuor Coronatorum has achieved.
Quatuor Coronati Lodge was consecrated on 12 January 1886 at Freemasons' Hall, London, the petitioners being nine in number. Its main objective was to promote and publish masonic research based on the code of the 'authentic school'. The very names of the Founders show that interests were varied. The theory of the development of Freemasonry as stemming from the Old Charges held sway led by Hughan and Gould. Woodford, Irwin, Westcott and possibly, Besant, and Macbean had other interests — identifying different aspects of occult practice with Freemasonry, and they made more than a few contributions to the Transactions. The Transactions were first published in 1888, Vol. 1 being a composite for the first three years of the Lodge. Reprints of masonic documents were also published (QCA) which the Secretary, Bro. Speth, stored at home.
The early editions were quite large. Apart from the Transactions of the Lodge, they contained a varied menu to suit all tastes — papers read in the lodge, archaeological notes, biographies, international historical notices, literary notes, reports of various masonic bodies, reviews of books etc.
As the twentieth century opened, the Boer War (the last war of the nineteenth century and in which the first Master of the QC Lodge, Sir Charles Warren, had played a part) had been brought to a close. Peace reigned, and the subjects discussed in the Transactions were as varied as antiquities, catechisms, certificates, Freemasons' Hall, geometry, Gilds, jewels and medals, masons' marks, music, changes in the ritual, symbolism, etc.
By now the correspondence circle of the Lodge was flourishing. Among its first institutional members were the United Grand Lodge of England in September 1887 and the District Grand Lodge of the Punjab in May 1888.
The 1914-18 war burst upon an unsuspecting world. The effects on the Transactions can be summed up in one word: shortages. Shortage of paper resulted in the St. John’s card (an annual list of correspondence circle members) being dropped. Shortage of workers affected production, as AQC had a low priority in printing schedules. The price of paper had doubled and the cost of producing the 1918 edition was the then phenomenal sum of £1018.4 The QCA publications were also abandoned.
After the war was over, in 1919 and even later, its effects were still felt. There were restrictions on the length of papers, on the overall size of the volume and weight of paper used. Instead of the complete St. John’s card an annual list of new correspondence circle members was published and soon even this was discarded completely. Notwithstanding the war, the first Inaugural Address was delivered in 1916 and later published in the Transactions, a tradition faithfully continued and which, it is hoped, will be followed through the twenty-first century.
The years of peace followed by the Great Depression did not seem to affect the steady tenor and progress of the Transactions. The 1939-45 War caused the same problems as the Great War had — possibly even greater and whilst by 1940 publication was one-and-a-half years in arrears, it was two-and-a-half years in arrears by 1945.
In 1961 (AQC Vol. 74), for the first time, a supplement appeared within the main volume — 'Miscellanea Latomorum'. This had previously been published separately by members of the Quatuor Coronati Lodge, namely Bros. Songhurst, Vibert and Rickard. This happy practice was dropped from Vol. 102 (1989) when the section became known by the more mundane title of 'Other Papers'.
By 1945, Bros. Heron Lepper, Ivor Grantham and Douglas Knoop were regular contributors, Bro. Knoop being the most prolific. Later, Bros. Harry Carr, Dashwood, Eric Ward, Harry Rylands, Norman Rogers and George Draffen would dominate on a number of different topics.
In 1971 a Concise Index was published, which was a great help to masonic scholars, particularly as the whole list of contents had ceased to be published in AQC. (It is to be hoped that the start of the twenty-first century will be marked by an upto-date Index being published.) In November 1974 the QCCC Ltd. took over publication of the Transactions and relieved the burden on a limited number of active members of the lodge. 1983 saw the most felicitous appointment of Bro. Charles Carter as Secretary of QCCC Ltd. By his managerial expertise and business acumen, AQC was turned round financially and no longer had to face problems of being in arrears.
Our Transactions still served the 'authentic research' objective of the lodge, and the development of the Craft, including its byways and culs-de-sac, were now recorded and discussed. The continued discovery of versions of the 'Old Charges' led to their detailed study, and newer ways of analysing old manuscripts were defined, led by Hughan, Gould, Knoop, Jones, Hamer and Wallace McLeod.
'Authentic research' was reflected in the pages of the Transactions by resistance and even opposition to the theory of the descent of speculative Freemasonry from the builders of the Middle Ages.
However, esoteric subjects, more common in the first half of the twentieth century became less frequent. It is worthwhile reading a paper published by Dawes in 19095 to realise how far we have come from legend and supposition.
In the short time at my disposal, I can hardly do justice to the myriad subjects displayed, to the searching yet friendly discussions that took place. I have chosen to summarise (my summaries) the views expressed in AQC of the twentieth century on 'The Origins of speculative Freemasonry'.5
Harry Carr ('Transitional' Theory)
In AQC 81 (1968) Carr commented:
'There has never been a paper read to the Lodge (or printed in the Transactions) that attempted to deal with the whole broad pattern of ritual development from its earliest stages up to the time when it was virtually stabilised at the Union of the Grand Lodges in 1813 and in the following decades ... '7
'...It developed in Britain [my italics] out of the building trades and fraternities, whose history goes back some 600 years in England [my italics] ..."8
Carr placed reliance on the Old Charges, beginning c. 1390 and proceeding up to the eighteenth century. He also placed reliance on the fact that within the London Masons' Company there existed a separate select group called 'the Acception' whose function was to 'make' Masons hence, 'Accepted Masons'.
He further emphasised the pattern of craft ritual development to add substance to his contention, concluding:
'I do insist, however, that our present-day speculative Freemasonry is directly descended from the operative masonry whose beginnings we can trace back to the earliest record of organisation among masons in 1356.'9
In AQC 91 (1978) Carr clearly defined his view once again:
'The transition from operative to speculative masonry was not the take-over of an old business under new management. It was the original business, which gradually changed its character according to the needs of its time, but with perfect continuity throughout." 10
Eric Ward ('Original Birth' Theory)
Ward distinguished between Carr’s emphasis on ritual development and that of the 'birth' of speculative Masonry. He wrote:
'(If ritual be) ... the alpha and omega of our Society, it must seem a quite natural corollary that speculative Freemasonry as we understand it, also originated some six hundred years ago. " 11
His views may be summed up as:
a) There is paucity of evidence that the Free and Accepted Masons of today had their roots in the medieval craft of building in stone.
b) 'Accepted Masonry' as evidenced by the inner circle of the London Company of Masons was a new movement, which emerged in seventeenth century England, free from and independent of the trade. Ward considered that after the dismal days of the Commonwealth...
'...new masons of culture — start of the Royal Society, interest in scientific medicine, study and republication of old books and manuscripts they borrowed formularies of the Old Charges, used the tools of operative Masons as objects of symbolism, and even adopted the precepts of the Regius MS of 1390'
c) There must be a distinction between the age of the Ritual and the age of the Speculative Craft.
d) Masonic developments in England and Scotland, prior to the eighteenth century are quite separate entities in their own right with their own separate and distinct modes of development.
Frederick W. Seal-Coon (Theory of 'Conspiracy to Fellowship'12)
The very next volume of the Transactions focuses our attention on a new concept. Seal-Coon first questions whether speculative Freemasonry existed in the seventeenth century and discusses pieces of evidence from four sources:
a) Elias Ashmole — a Royalist — admitted to Masonry in an occasional lodge at Warrington in 1646 — (this is only a diary note.) (Ward had already questioned whether this was a lodge at all, or a meeting of friends for making masons 'by commission' a procedure already common in Scotland. The next mention of Freemasonry in Ashmole’s diary is 36 years later.)
b) Randle Holme III — was 'made' a mason in a lodge in Chester in 1665. Was this also really a lodge, or a convivial gathering of leading tradesmen, just after the Restoration, revelling in the absence of Cromwellian repression?
c) Robert Plot in The Natural History of Staffordshire (1686) refers to the ’society of Free-Masons' spread all over the nation.
d) John Aubrey — in Lives (1686) referred to the Fraternity of Adopted Masons or Freemasons.
After providing a good deal of evidence, Seal-Coon summarises that originally these 'lodges' were cover for conspiratorial meetings of Royalists who were identified by secret signs. They lay low during the Commonwealth period. They came into the light of day with the Restoration, and now used these 'lodges' to foster unity, comfort and goodwill. Hence, the message was changed to good fellowship, good feasting and prohibition of discussion of religion and politics.
Why would these individuals select a masonic theme? Seal-Coon explains it as the natural product of a burgeoning interest in archaeology and architecture.
Colin Dyer ('The Religious Base Theory')
A 'classic' paper which still excites a good deal of discussion.
Scottish influences?
Dyer felt very doubtful that there were Scottish influences from the building trade. The reasons he gives are:
a) Until the Union, Scotland and England were very much 'enemy' countries.
b) Building practices in Scotland and England were different.
c) It is very doubtful that Scottish operative Masonry could have influenced English speculative Freemasonry.
d) Speculative Freemasonry in England must have been well established by the middle 1660s. (If Ashmole was made a Mason in 1646, others must have already been Freemasons).
Religious Influences
After Henry VIII’s break with Rome in 1534, there was hardly any doctrinal change until, under Edward VI (1547), Calvinist theology became official. This extreme thinking was reversed by Mary I to another extreme — fundamentalist Roman Catholicism. With the accession of Elizabeth I (1558) the nation split three ways:
a) A great majority found a conscientious way of conforming to the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion of the Church of England — Anglicans.
b) Some Protestants would not espouse a Church containing an episcopal hierarchy, and remained on the fringe — extreme Protestants.
c) Those who wished to remain faithful to Rome — one group outwardly Protestants but at heart Catholic, another totally faithful to the Church of Rome — Catholics.
Dyer believes that the conception of speculative Freemasonry took place early in the reign of Elizabeth (c. 1560-80) and that it had a religious base.
'...(It) was a deliberate creation, almost certainly of a secret nature and not connected with building or the building industry'13
He then analyses the Grand Lodge MS which starts with a Trinitarian Invocation — hence, he concludes that Freemasonry (as we know it) had to have a Christian origin The ritual, from the beginning, was affected by the Trinity and not by the building trade. Also, it is to be noted that by the late 1500s all three groups mentioned above were Trinitarians. (The Unitarians were to come much later).
The harsh Cromwellian Puritanism replaced this spirit of accommodation in Elizabeth’s long reign. After the Restoration in 1660, when the Episcopal Church of England was re-established, we find words from the writings of Milton and Bunyan surreptitiously emerging in Masonic Ritual. To this evidence must be added the facts that Bro. James Anderson was a Calvinist and Bro. Desaguliers was of Huguenot descent.
Bro. Neville Cryer14 supported Dyer’s contention. He further emphasised that the distinctiveness of the Cooke MS and the Grand Lodge MS did not support the Transitional Theory. The inclusion of Solomon’s Temple in our ritual would have been from the Geneva Bible — a Calvinist influence.
A. Cosby F. Jackson (The Rosicrucian Origin15)
Bro. Jackson proposed that two fraternities — Speculative Freemasonry and Rosicrucianism — were started within a few years of each other by men of similar intellectual qualities. Both had similar aims — self-improvement and religious mysticism, and both started in the seventeenth century. Rosicrucianism spread quickly with ideas drawn from alchemy, whereas Freemasonry, whose ideas possessed a different appeal, spread more slowly as a consequence.
There were only two plausible links:
a) The importance of Christian piety and self-improvement.
b) Members of both persuasions may also have belonged to the newly founded Royal Society, established by gentlemen of culture.
A. Geoffrey Markham (The 'Associate' Theory16)
Bro. Geoffrey Markham notes that by the year 1723 there were widespread groups of men not engaged in the building trades but with convivial backgrounds. They were diffuse in age and social background, but maintaining harmonious relationships, with a common loyalty to government, exclusion of religion and politics in their meetings and practical charity to members. They had adopted some of the ceremonies and dress of the operative masons (the building trade). Bro. Markham wonders how this association could have been perfected in the 1700s, particularly as the evidence of Ashmole, Plot and Aubrey points to the existence of speculative Freemasonry some time before 1646 He concludes that church building where the donors (the nobility), the providers (the gentry) and the builders (lower classes) could all have become associated in a common and noble enterprise.
These associations could have led to the non-masons (non-builders) becoming 'associate' members. When church building ceased about 1540, these 'associates' could have become ’speculative', further supporting the 'Origin' in Elizabethan times.
Bro. Markham, after an extensive production of evidence and discussion, states in another paper:
'... One can thus see non-operative Masonry as an amalgam of ideas deriving primarily from an association on a widespread basis of laymen with operative masons before c. 1540 and, secondarily, but quite significantly, from the religious gilds, necessarily before the extinction of these gilds in 1547 .17)
Cyril N. Batham (Monastic Origins18)
Batham first remarks on the 'Transitional Theory' enunciated by Carr.19 He remarks that this theory was based on the idea that men not actively engaged in the operative masons' trade (that is, building) were admitted into operative masons' lodges. As the masons' trade declined, these outsiders became sufficiently numerous to be able to take control of the lodges. By entirely changing the trade aspects, they were able to change the ceremonies and form of the lodge and so gradually bring about the evolution of our present day non-operative or speculative Freemasonry.
Batham cites two pieces of evidence as against the Transitional Theory:
a) Except for one lodge at the border — more Scottish than English, there is no evidence that any non-operative was admitted into an operative lodge in England.
b) There is no evidence that any English operative lodge ever changed to a nonoperative basis.
Now Batham expounds his own theory:
'...(when England was just emerging from the Middle Ages and creating a new society) there were Inner Sancta with membership restricted to senior and learned brethren. On the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII in 1538, followed by dis-endowment of the religious fraternities in 1547, some of these Sancta survived as secret cells until the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century.
When conditions became more favourable after the Restoration, they emerged, expanded and evolved into the form of speculative Freemasonry known to us today. The carefully guarded signs of the secret societies were partially incorporated into the new Society.'
He concludes cautiously:
'I cannot prove this ... neither is there proof of the Transition theory nor of any other theory of Masonic origins that has been suggested from time to time.'
Cyril Richard S. E. Sandbach (Darwinian Concept20)
In his usual erudite and logical manner Bro. Sandbach considers the 'How, when where, who, why' of the Origin of the Freemason:
a) Operative masons offered safe lodging and freedom from betrayal to enemies or rogues, to one possessed of their recognition secrets even though there were no operative lodges. This ’safe haven' may have been extended even to those who wished to be 'made' masons — the 'Passport Theory'.
b) In c. 1690 the Age of Reason was dawning. Social contacts in the main areas of population would lead to discussion amongst Masons who had been 'made' in these havens, and create a feeling of independence.
c) The 'masonic movement' in the late sixteenth century also may have been influenced by religious factors leading to the question as to 'Why' and 'in what form' did masonic lodges survive into the sixteenth century.
d) In the world of social evolution (as in Darwinian evolution) events are more often shaped by circumstances, social and environmental conditions rather than by policies.
The only comment one may make is that in On the Origin of Species Darwin explains how individual species evolve, but not how new species originate — ’speciation' remains deeply puzzling to this day. Maybe, this is still true of the Original Freemason as well. One is reminded of Alexander Pope’s verse:
'Nature, and Nature’s laws lay hid in night:
God said, 'Let Newton Be!' and all was light.'
To which Sir J. C. Squire added:
'It did not last: the Devil howling 'Ho,
Let Einstein be', restored the status quo.'
Michael Spurr (The 'Age of Enlightenment' Theory21)
In a very elegant discourse, Spurr suggested that there was a 'two-way traffic' between the principles of Freemasonry and the ideals of the Enlightenment. These were the concepts of brotherhood, equality, respect for the law of the land, loyalty to the King and the belief in a Supreme Being — previously emphasised by Bro. Markham.22
This theory supports the evolutionary aspect of Freemasonry, but really not its origin.
Michael Baigent ('The Royal Society' Theory)
Bro. Baigent has concluded:
'There is no Origin ... It is a mythical beast.23
and he considers speculative Masonry’s connections with hermetic thought and with the establishment of the Royal Society of London. In the discussion various objections were raised:
a) Apart from the All-seeing Eye and the Hexalpha, the symbols of Freemasonry have no other connection to hermetic thought.
b) The members of the Royal Society in Freemasonry were few — certainly Ashmole, Moray and Kincardine; very doubtfully — Evelyn, Wren and Newton. However, none of these would have impacted on the origins of Freemasonry.
Ten theories from the pages of AQC in the twentieth century have been noted — surely there are many more, in thought or in preparation for research or publication.
As the twentieth century ends, the origins of speculative Masonry still remain shrouded in mystery, even though many of the veils have been lifted in the pages of Ars Quatuor Coronatorum.
One final word — may I be permitted to offer the concept, that in discounting the 'Transitional Theory' (for which little support exists) it may be that we would have greater success if we looked to a multi-factorial origin, rather than to a single one. In different parts of the country, and in differing circumstances, each of these 'theories' may have played a part in different amounts. When we are eating fruit salad, each spoonful will have a differing quantity of apples, oranges, bananas, pineapples — and maybe even passion fruit!
Let me draw another analogy. When one travels by a fast boat from Naples to Capri, nearing the end of the journey one sees two great rocks jutting out from the sea. When the craft turns to enter the harbour, one finds there are three rocks. Similarly, our viewpoint on one or more of the 'Origins' will be different at different times and from different angles.
If we can accept this 'fruit salad' concept and a multi-factorial approach, we could agree on a unified approach which may lead us to our goal. This is not a new thought to be propounded by me. The truth lies buried in a volume of AQC (as do most masonic truths).
In the very first volume, one of the Founders of this distinguished lodge, the Revd A.F.A. Woodford said:
'All thinkers and students are struck with one great difficulty attendant on masonic research, the impossibility of accounting for its origin, or in any one (my italics) distinct line of existence and development. It is in truth much more probable that Freemasonry does not depend on any one single (my italics) channel of progress, but it may have several co-existent and convergent sources of origin.'24
The search must continue for a Unifying Consensus on the Origins. Let us hope that the dawn of the twenty-first century will lead to progress in our knowledge of what Bro. Sandbach has stressed — the evolution of speculative Freemasonry as we know it today,25 and what Bro. Markham has so convincingly demonstrated,26 "that general historian must join we Masons in the endeavour to put Freemasonry in its proper perspective in the historical, evolutionary, social and environmental factors which have possibly all played a part. Not only this, but that twentieth century volumes of AQC are replete with thoughts for further masonic research.
Until then, we may commune with Isaac Newton:
'I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.'27

Editors of AQC, the Transactions of the Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076
G. W. Speth
W. H. Rylands
W. H. Rylands and W.J. Songhurst
W. J. Songhurst
W. J. Songhurst and L. Vibert
Colonel F. M. Rickard
The Revd H. Poole
J. R. Dashwood
H. Carr
R. A. Wells
C. N. Batham
C. N. Batham and Revd. N. B. Cryer
The Revd N. B. Cryer
F. Smyth
R. A. Gilbert
Members of the Lodge
Peter Hamilton Currie
1. ’some notes on the Freemasons' Magazine or General and Complete Library', Elkington, G., AQC 42 (1929).^
2. 'The Freemasons' Quarterly Review 1834-1840', Sandbach, R., AQC 106 (1993).^
3. The history of the first 100 years of Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076, Dyer, C. (QC Lodge, 1986).^
4. Ibid^
5. "Freemasonry among the Afghans', Dawes, A.J., A QC 22 (1909).^
6. "The Legend of the S.S. Quatuor Coronati', Chetwode-Crawley, W.J., AQC 27 (1914).^
7. '600 years of Craft Ritual', Carr, H., AQC 81 (1968).^
8. Op. cit., p 200. ^
9. Loc. cit.^
10. Carr, H., A QC 91 (1978).^
11. 'The Birth of Freemasonry'. Ward, E., AQC 91 (1978).^
12. 'The Birth of Freemasonry (Another Theory)', Seal-Coon, F.W., AQC 92 (1979).^
13. ’some Thoughts on the Origin of Speculative Masonry', Dyer, C., AQC 95 (1982).^
14. Op. cit., Cryer, N. comment.^
15. 'Rosicrucianism and its effect on Craft Masonry', Jackson, A.C.F., AQC 97 (1984).^
16. 'Characteristics and Origins in Early Freemasonry', Markham, A.G., AQC 100 (1987). ^
17. 'Further Views on the Origins of Freemasonry in England', Markham, A.G., AQC 103 (1990).^
18. 'The Origin of Freemasonry (A new Theory)', Batham, C.N., AQC 103 (1990).^
19. '600 years of Craft Ritual', Carr, H., loc. cit.^
20. 'Origin of Species -The Freemason', Sandbach, R. AQC 108 (1995).^
21. 'Freemasonry — Child of the Enlightenment? Or Vice Versa?', Spurr, M., A QC 109 (1996).^
22. 'Characteristics and Origins in Early Freemasonry', Markham, A.G., loc. cit.^
23. 'Freemasonry, Hermetic Thought and the Royal Society of London', Baigent, M., AQC 109 (1996).^
24. "'Freemasonry and Hermeticism', Woodford, Revd A.F.A., A QC 1 (1888).^
25. 'Origin of Species — The Freemason', Sandbach, F., loc. cit.^
26. ’some Problems of English Masonic History', Markham, A.G., AQC 110 (1997).^
27. Memoirs of the Life, Writings, and Discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton, Brewster, Sir David (Edinburgh, 1855 vol. 11 p. 407^

Reprinted with permission of Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, the Transactions of Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076, UGLE in Volume 114 for the year 2001. [pp. 1-9.] Minor typographical errors corrected and footnotes renumbered as endnotes. Illustrations are omitted.


© 1871-2023 Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon A.F. & A.M. Updated: 2002/01/29